For Afghanistan, Apologies are not enough

Dominic Turner

Image © U.S. Army

Last month saw a spate of terrorist atrocities in Afghanistan, a reaction to the unintentional burning of the Quran by American soldiers. I have no reason to cast aspersion on the claims this affront was entirely accidental. It seems it was, President Obama has apologised for the burning, and for this incident it should suffice. But the touch paper for this carnage was not lit merely by the destruction of Islam’s Holy book, however sacrosanct that is. The horror that has engulfed Afghanistan for the last ten years rises out of the fertile, festering swamp that we have created through occupying that land for over a decade. And for that, there is no apology great enough.

Make no mistake, these acts of extreme violence are obscene. But like all resistance to occupations, they are a cathartic endeavour against forces of aggression as we saw in India and Vietnam in the 20th century. It is hard enough for our own Government to cling to some far-fetched justification for the decade long occupation of Afghanistan.  Just think how hard it is for the Afghan people, 92% of them who do not even know of the events of September 11th. How would you react if an invading army occupied your country, flattened your town, and killed your family? This is without even considering the fact that the United States armed and funded Osama Bin Laden and the Mujahideen during the Soviet invasion of the 1980s, leaving the forces that they organised in power to slaughter and rape tens of thousands of civilians, a period that ‘Human Rights Watch’ characterises as the “worst period in Afghan history”.

This war of aggression has been in violation of international law since its fruition. The hidden secret of the last ten years is that the Taliban offered to hand over Osama Bin Laden, to prevent the humanitarian disaster we see before us. And George W Bush, in all his pugnacious mendacity rejected this offer. I have no truck with those who wish to blame ordinary troops for the bloodshed in the Middle East. There is no one who opposes the imperialistic crusades in Iraq and Afghanistan more than I. But the predominantly young working class boys and girls sacrificing themselves are victims of the same system that indoctrinates people to die in the name of a patriotism which is as false as that of jihad. Similarly, the people of Afghanistan who are so incensed by the illegal occupation and every asinine act associated with it are victims. They are the victims of our occupation, just as they were the victims of the Taliban and the Soviet Union before hand. And only when we finally leave can a better future await them. And until then, do not offer your apologies, for they will never be enough. What you and I must do is fight for an end to this war.

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