It's the Body Bags Stupid
By Iftekhar A. Khan
"The West won the world not by the superiority of its ideas or values or religion but rather by its superiority in applying organised violence. Westerners often forget this fact, non-Westerners never do" (Samuel P Huntington).
August 04, 2009 "Information Clearing House" -- It's irrelevant to discuss who was responsible for 9/11. The western world knows who engineered it and rest of the world fearful for its safety is silent about it. Why to destroy the Towers by demolition when the West could invade sovereign countries without the stratagem would remain a mystery. Iraq had no link to WTC destruction yet the West invaded and occupied it. The FBI said it had "no hard evidence connecting Bin Laden to 9/11." Neither did FBI in its Most wanted terrorist web page, implicate Laden in 9/11, but US attacked Afghanistan nonetheless. Muslims' perception that the West has no qualms about unleashing its violence against them is therefore a stark reality. The West marches its armies anywhere it fancies.
Violence follows a preconceived method far from madness. Muslim states marked for occupation must not only overflow with energy resources but also possess strategic importance. However, occupation isn't a free course through a country; it entails blood, death, and body bags. Afghans seem to rephrase Bill Clinton's "it's economy stupid" to "it's body bags stupid."
US has occupied Iraq, established its largest embassy and 14 military bases, after massacring more than 1.3 million civilians. Had the US-UK-NATO alliance, veritably renamed Anti-Muslim Western Alliance (AWA), invaded Iraq without the mendacity of WMD, none of the Muslim leaderships would have stirred. Leaving Iraq to its fate, Barack Obama has focused on war in Afghanistan, assumed as his war. Will he win it? Not likely. Pashtuns are more tenacious than are the Iraqis. Taliban is another name of the Pashtuns striving to rid their country of foreign occupiers. Account of a British soldier in the UK Guardian unravelled the mystery of Taliban and Pashtuns for those who confuse the two: "One minute these...are Afghan farmers another minute Taliban." The soldier later lost his life in Helmand.
Many who thought Obama would change US policies in Iraq and Afghanistan have been disappointed. Obama and Brown don't formulate policies; reps of powerful interest groups do. How could Robert Gates, who outlasted Bush regime, take a U-turn on the AfPak strategy he himself devised? He has been at the centre stage of conceiving and planning the brutal military offensive Panther's Claw in Helmand - Southern Afghanistan. Richard Holbrooke on the AfPak scene is another face for Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld.
AWA has slim chance of winning the war in Afghanistan as Guardian's editorial (July 23) explained: "Two major thrusts by US and British troops into territory the Taliban once dominated have resulted in record US and Isaf casualties: 31 US troops and 23 Isaf, 22 of them British, have been killed so far this month and many more (57) grievously injured. The Taliban have lost men, but they have an endless supply of recruits. And they would be even less bothered by loss of territory. The battlefield has merely grown." AWA has endless supply of military hardware but it lacks the nerve to supply more boots on ground.
Merely 22 British soldiers' death this month taking the tally to 189 so far has set off wide public resentment in UK. Mourners continue to protest against keeping the royal blood in jagged Afghanistan. Compare it with the slaughter of 1.3 million Iraqis and hundreds of thousands of Afghans when none of the two nations had aggressed against the West. After ruthless AWA bombing of their mud hamlets, Pashtuns have been collecting bits and pieces of their men, women, and children to bury them in mass graves, while civilised West grieves over the death of its few soldiers.
Even if US-led AWA bombs every inch of Southern Afghanistan, it will ultimately need hundreds of thousands boots on ground to put down the resistance, which will mean thousands of body bags. AWA cannot afford to take casualties because the dead arriving home draped in national flags exact political cost. Yet military commanders in Helmand "insist that troops morale remains high" even though ruthless Taliban exploitation of sophisticated IEDs make every foot and vehicle patrol a potentially lethal last journey. Some morale it is that remains high when taking each step is a lethal last journey.
However, situation in Afghanistan has begun to change despite Messrs Brown and Miliband's lofty assertions a fortnight ago that troops would remain there to secure British lives in UK, not explaining the nature of danger the Pashtuns posed. Five days, 22 British and 31 US soldiers' lives later, operation Panther's Claw envisioned to put down resistance in southern Afghanistan has run aground. Both Britain and US have decided to open talks with the Taliban - the moderate Taliban. Both powers even consider an exit strategy. Why the sudden change in policy? Perhaps caskets reaching home and their consequent political fallout have compelled them to rethink their strategy. So far, AWA only wants to negotiate with moderate Taliban; soon it will be willing to negotiate with all of them.
The writer is a freelance columnist - E-mail: email@example.com
This item was first published in the Nation: Pakistan