Monday, November 16, 2009

Afghanistan: success is possible

The Green Party has consistently opposed the war in Afghanistan. In common with the majority of British opinion, we want to see the NATO troops withdrawn.

An IPSOS Mori poll in July found that 41% wanted to stay in Afghanistan, and 51% wanted our troops withdrawn. Yesterday the Independent on Sunday found this has moved up to 71%.

We Brits are not alone.
According to a November 11th poll, 58 percent of Americans oppose the conflict.
Of Afghans themselves, a poll in February showed that only 32% think US forces are doing a good or excellent job now, compared with 68% in 2005.
In Canada, a massive 76% oppose keeping any Canadian military forces in Afghanistan.

This amount of public opposition to a war is unprecedented, because normally in any war the corporate media supply automatic support.

Poor Gordon keeps murmuring his mantra that the boys and girls are there to keep the streets of our cities safe from Al Qaeda. Even my cat understands that the presence of our boots on Muslim soil is the best recruiting motivator for that bunch of fundamentalist killers. The best and most successful defence against terrorists lies in intelligence, police and financial controls, even though the latter efforts are pretty flaky at times, certainly in the case of Abu Musa al_Zarqawi.

What would happen in Afghanistan if NATO just pulls out?

We would leave a country at war, with an incompetent corrupt government, armed insurgents, some of whom are Taleban fundamentalists thirsty to get back in control of the Afghan Government, and active war lord culture, and an economy 50% of which is dependent on the illegal opium trade.

Now some will argue that all of this badness is the result of our presence, and will resolve itself when NATO pulls out, just as the inflammation is resolved when a splinter is removed.

I really wish I could believe this. But wishes are not much good in politics. The reasonable expectation is that Afghanistan will move to the state that Somalia has been in for two decades, with no central government, and the regions dominated by war lords fighting to maintain their manor. The Taleban could form a government in at least part of the country, with all that means in terms of subjugation of women and girls.

We should also expect a fresh wave of immigration, legal and illegal, from Afghanistan.

All this is not a good outcome. There is an alternative, one that could let our troops come home with honour, a job done successfully, leaving behind a peaceful, prosperous and stable country.

Here's how:

Every year, some 6 million people die of cancer in the Global South without the benefits of opiate painkillers. The Afghan opium crop, which at present supplies 90% of the heroin used on our streets, should be bought up by the World Health Organisation, purified to medical grade, and used to treat terminal pain. Green Party leader Caroline Lucas has been conducting a long correspondence with the Foreign Office, who respond with the absurd argument that some of the produce “might leak onto the black market” – absurd because at present ALL of it is leaking onto the black market.
They are deaf to the argument that it is impossible to win the hearts and minds of the Afghan farmers when their livelihoods are dependent on the opium crop, which is valued at up to 50% of the Afghan economy.
They are deaf to arguments that to legitimise and purchase the opium would pull the financial rug out from under the feet of the Taliban.
They refuse to understand that the policy would slash the criminal activity and health problems associated with illegal Afghan heroin.
They are blind to the corruption associated with the drugs trade, which penetrates high into the Afghan administration.
And they are blind to the immense suffering associated with untreated terminal pain in Africa.

The Green Party’s policy is shared by the International Council on Security and Development, the Afghan Red Crescent and the Italian Red Cross. The core objection by the Government to the is that the Afghan Government does not have the necessary control mechanisms in place; but this puts the cart before the horse. At present, the Afghan Government’s writ does not run in opium producing areas because the crop is illegal, and the Taliban is the farmers’ buyer. If the Government were to become the buyer, the allegiance of the farmers would change. We have a strong case for our policy, and should use every opportunity to publicise the irrationality of the Government’s position.

No comments: