Never did I imagine that I would endorse anything said by former White House chief schemer Stephen Bannon who was dismissed by President Trump on 18 August. Bannon had advised the president to cease immersion in the hideous shambles in Afghanistan and refrain from committing more troops to a country that is terminally corrupt and whose war has cost the US taxpayer over a trillion dollars and killed 2,403 members of the US military. Over a thousand European and Canadian NATO soldiers were killed, too. For nothing.
The place is an utter shambles, where, as Human Rights Watch reports, «The government continued to expand its use of illegal militias, some of which were responsible for killings and assaults on civilians. Afghan National Security Forces were also responsible for civilian casualties from indiscriminate aerial and mortar attacks… Hundreds of thousands of Afghans became newly internally displaced, including many returned refugees and migrants».
The US State Department puts it bluntly, advising that «Travel to all areas of Afghanistan remains unsafe due to the ongoing risk of kidnapping, hostage taking, military combat operations, landmines, banditry, armed rivalry between political and tribal groups, militant attacks, direct and indirect fire, suicide bombings, and insurgent attacks, including attacks using vehicle-borne or other improvised explosive devices. Attacks may also target official Afghan and US government convoys and compounds, foreign embassies, military installations, commercial entities, non-governmental organization offices, restaurants, hotels, airports, and educational centres».
Bannon’s advice to get out of Afghanistan simply echoed his master’s voice in 2012 when Trump declared that the war was «a total disaster… wasting our money» and then in 2013 tweeted «We should leave Afghanistan immediately. No more wasted lives. If we have to go back in, we go in hard & quick. Rebuild the US first». He continued his criticism of the war all the time he campaigned against Hillary Clinton for the Presidency.
And now he’s changed his mind and totally reversed course. He’s not going in «hard & quick», and because of him his country will sink further into the squalid morass that has taken so much of its blood and treasure in all these years of erratic military fandangos.
Naturally, he received unconditional support from the Pentagon’s sub-office in Brussels — the headquarters of the US-NATO military alliance which is desperately seeking justification for its existence and for the enormously escalating tax bill on its members’ citizens. Trump announced that «We will ask our NATO allies and global partners to support our new strategy, with additional troops and funding increases in line with our own. We are confident they will».
Of course he was sure they would jump on the sinking stinking Afghanistan bandwagon, and within minutes Washington’s puppet, NATO secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg, fawningly proclaimed that «NATO remains fully committed to Afghanistan and I am looking forward to discussing the way ahead with Secretary Mattis and our Allies and international partners».
Then Stoltenberg indulged in fantasy and said «Our aim remains to ensure that Afghanistan never again becomes a safe haven for terrorists who would attack our own countries». The country is full of terrorists, mainly thanks to the ham-handed US-NATO treatment of so many Afghans over the years — but none of the terrorists who have committed atrocities in Europe were Afghans or had been trained in Afghanistan. Trump declared that «today, 20 US-designated foreign terrorist organizations are active in Afghanistan and Pakistan — the highest concentration in any region anywhere in the world», but they haven’t been attacking America or Europe.
The BBC recounts that the 9/11 attacks were planned in Hamburg where the terrorist cell «consisted of eight members: three suicide pilots, three logistical planners and two others whose role remains vague, but who might also have become suicide pilots. The cell was active and embarking on the plot to attack US targets by the summer of 1999».
And the dozen fanatics who carried out the attacks in Barcelona on 17 August that killed fifteen people and injured over a hundred didn’t learn their fiendish skills in Iraq, Libya, Syria or any other country that the US and NATO have subjected to their military attention and thereby encouraged growth of terrorist bands.
The Islamic terrorists who slaughtered eight people in London on 3 June 2017 were Khuram Shazad Butt (British citizen born in Pakistan), Rachid Redouane (claimed to be Moroccan and Libyan) and Youssef Zaghba (Moroccan-Italian). They were all radicalised in Britain. Scores of extremist savages have committed atrocities in Europe, but only a handful had ever travelled out of the continent.
It is not clear how Stoltenberg equates committing European NATO countries to the Afghanistan quagmire with keeping Europe free of jihadi terrorists. It should be borne in mind that Stoltenberg comes from Norway, whose only terrorist attack was in 2011 and involved the massacre of 77 people by Norwegian citizen Anders Behring Breivik who had not even the remotest connection with any «safe haven». He was entirely home-grown, just like US citizen James Hodgkinson who shot House of Representatives Majority Whip Steve Scalise and four others playing baseball in Virginia in June 2017. (Being a white American, he wasn’t a terrorist, of course, although he had a hit list in his pocket. Trump described him as an «assailant».)
The Trump war-manifesto on Afghanistan is based on direction by his generals, three of whom are in dangerously influential White House appointments. His National Security Adviser, General McMaster, apparently tried to persuade Trump, the Vietnam War draft-dodger, that he could «win» in Afghanistan «by convincing him that it was not a hopeless place. He presented Trump with a black-and-white snapshot from 1972 of Afghan women in miniskirts walking through Kabul, to show him that Western norms had existed there before and could return».
If this is so, then it was a crass, devious and wicked act by McMaster. Many of us saw that photograph, taken at the height of the western hippies’ hash-inspired trips to Afghanistan, and know well that, while it was pleasant to see pretty Afghan girls in miniskirts, they were far from any «norm» and that Afghanistan, given its culture of male bigotry and supremacy and strictly selective interpretation of the teachings of the Koran, will never permit miniskirts anywhere in the country.
To quote one authority, «Islam has no fixed uniform of dress for Muslim women. But there are two requirements, which come from the Qur’an and Hadith (the verified sayings of the Prophet Muhammad): First, a woman’s body should be covered such that only her face, hands, and feet are revealed. Secondly, the clothing must be loose enough so that the shape of a woman’s body is not visible».
Does General McMaster, in his military wisdom, truly believe that this uncompromising decree will ever be interpreted in other than the manner that every single Afghan man agrees with? Of course he doesn’t.
Certainly, many Afghans (and Saudis — especially Saudi Princes and other gilded potentates and similar Islamic sophisticates around the world) are all in favour of miniskirts, and much less besides, but this doesn’t mean to say they will come out (as it were) publicly and approve the baring of female legs in Kabul or Herat or anywhere in their benighted country.
But McMaster is clever and manipulative. He wants war in Afghanistan and knew exactly how to appeal to the worst characteristics of the lecherous degenerate Trump, just as Trump knows how to appeal to the American public and the ingenuous but power-hungry head of NATO.
The miniskirt merry-go-round of war will now continue indefinitely. Bannon was right.