"First of all, I want to say that the soldiers, and the families, we owe them a huge debt of gratitude. We've got brave, courageous, dedicated professional people risking their lives and in some cases losing their lives in Afghanistan." - Gordon Brown
A major issue is the war in Afghanistan, an invasion which was originally orchestrated to defeat al-Qaeda. But for some reason that never happened. Possibly, because Bush refused to negotiate with the Taliban when they offered to turn over some of the wanted terrorists (including Osama bin Laden) to a third-party. The invasion turned into a war against the Taliban, and an exercise in state craft, after it became apparent that al-Qaeda were not in Afghanistan. The way the war is often talked about in the Western media is often in relation to the number of British troops killed, as well as the quality and the amount of equipment they have been allocated. The real reasons for the war are almost never discussed in the media. Afghanistan is valuable to the West in strategic terms, close to the main energy providers in the Middle East and Central Asia, and could be used against disobedient states like Iran. China and India are potential superpowers in waiting, maintaining control of energy resources is a way for the US government to maintain power in future decades. The conflict over who will control energy in Central Asia has yet to "conclude".
Despite all of this, there is no mention of the immoral nature of the invasion in the media, the commentary is effectively focused on the well-being of "our lads". This is down to the widely accepted assumption of the war in Afghanistan, that we are fighting against terrorism. "If we don't fight them over there, we will be fighting them over here." This is an old argument, now used by the chickenhawks of Washington and London. President Johnson once said of the Vietnamese communists: "We have to stop the communists over there [Vietnam] or we'll soon be fighting them in California." The implication of this commentary is that the war and the invasion is fine, the only thing wrong are the deaths of British soldiers. It wouldn't matter that just a few months ago 90 Afghan children were blown to bits, and it wouldn't matter if 9,000 more were blown up. So long as "our lads" are doing fine and have the best weapons money can buy, so they can keep on killing and keep on living. Would we have accepted this kind of commentary from the Soviets during their invasion of Afghanistan? The obvious answer is a resounding "No."
Even a child can see past such a transparently warped logic. The majority of people British and American forces are killing are not defenders of Osama bin Laden, they are the victims of the Taliban and the Northern Alliance. Back in the 80s, Afghanistan was torn apart by Soviet troops and the Mujahideen, which consisted partly of religious fanatics and some of the future leaders of al-Qaeda - Afghanistan is where Ayman al-Zawahiri met Osama bin Laden. Prince Bandar bin Sultan, also known as "Bandar Bush", recalls meeting with bin Laden in Afghanistan, bin Laden thanked Bandar for helping to bring the US to support the Afghans against the Communists. The Mujahideen were backed by American and British politicians among others. The Soviet Union was defeated in this conflict and the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan was founded. This led to probably the worst period of Afghan history, during which the Mujahideen killed each other over opium, committed mass rapes and slaughtered 50,000 people. When the Taliban turned up many Afghans supported them because they wanted to see the madness stop.
"You've got to ask yourself the question all the time: is this the right thing for a country like ours to do? My answer has got to be 'Yes'. Because the security of our country, and every country, depends on the ability to deal with a terrorist threat." - Gordon Brown
Now the majority of the forces that used to serve as part of the Mujahideen, who fought the Russians before tearing apart Afghanistan, are known as the Northern Alliance. Now they are an ally of the US and the UK in the war in Afghanistan. In case you've been living on the moon for the last 15 years, the Taliban are a reactionary group with an extremist interpretation of the Qu'ran, possibly the most extreme of extremist, that originates in Pakistan. The Taliban were supported all the way by the US government and the Saudi Royals once they seized power in the mid 90s. They received $6 billion from the Clintonites and the House of Saud, as the Taliban were overseeing the construction of a fossil fuel pipeline to the Caspian Sea. The rise of the Taliban was due to years of war and conflict internal of Afghanistan. It was the distribution of "jihadist manuals", most of which had been printed at the University of Nebraska, throughout Pakistan in the early 80s that provided the ideological backdrop for the Taliban to seize power.
It wasn't until the politicians in Washington decided that the Taliban regime was too unstable to maintain the oil and gas pipelines to the Caspian Sea. The 2001 invasion of Afghanistan was not backed by the United Nations Security Council and 34 out of 37 nations, surveyed by a Gallup poll, were totally opposed to the war. The invasion was carried out with the full knowledge that the consequences could be the deaths of millions of Afghans. It was estimated that there were around 5 million Afghans on the verge of starvation in 2001, it had been predicted that as aid agencies fled the number of Afghans facing starvation could rise by 2.5 million. Thankfully, that has not happened, but that does not change the conditions under which the choices were made. As Chomsky recently emphasised, some party hacks in the Soviet Union might have said it was fine to put missiles in Cuba because it didn't result in a nuclear war, but that doesn't vindicate the decision to do so.
According to US intelligence, most of the so-called Taliban are actually localised tribal terrorists who are reacting to the occupation. Much like the term "Viet-Cong", which became an all-encompassing derogative word for any opposition within Vietnam, "Taliban" is similarly being applied to all terrorists in Afghanistan regardless of their reasons or affiliations. Though, clearly the authorities are aware of the reasons and affiliations of many of the terrorists, as they are currently looking to pay many of them off. In the eloquent words of George Orwell "It's not a matter of whether the war is not real or if it is. Victory is not possible. The war is not meant to be won. It is meant to be continuous. A hierachical society is only possible on the basis of poverty and ignorance. This new version is the past and no different past can ever have existed. In principle, the war effort is planned to keep society on the brink of starvation. The war is waged by the ruling group against it's own subjects. And its object is not victory over either Eurasia or East Asia but to keep the very structure of society intact."
Some interesting links:
For Britons, the Party Game is Over by John Pilger
Welcome to Orwell's World 2010 by John PilgerConservations with History - Tariq Ali Brown and Karzai Debate in 2010