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Afghanistan shows folly of militarizing foreign policy | READER COMMENTARY

A Taliban fighter patrols in Wazir Akbar Khan in the city of Kabul, Afghanistan, Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2021. The Taliban declared an "amnesty" across Afghanistan and urged women to join their government Tuesday, seeking to convince a wary population that they have changed a day after deadly chaos gripped the main airport as desperate crowds tried to flee the country. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)
A Taliban fighter patrols in Wazir Akbar Khan in the city of Kabul, Afghanistan, Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2021. The Taliban declared an "amnesty" across Afghanistan and urged women to join their government Tuesday, seeking to convince a wary population that they have changed a day after deadly chaos gripped the main airport as desperate crowds tried to flee the country. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul) (Rahmat Gul/AP)

Thank you for the editorial, (“The fall of Afghanistan: A sudden collapse years in the making” Aug. 17). In 2010, I traveled to Afghanistan to find out for myself what was really going on, a “fact-finding” mission on behalf of Peace Action. I interviewed as many people as I could from all walks of life. What I found there was quite different from the narrative that we were being fed in the U.S.

The people I talked to often named their three enemies: the Taliban, the Afghan government, and the United States. No one I met liked the Taliban, which they viewed as ruthless and primitive. They hated the Afghan government, which consisted of war criminals with violent pasts at least as horrible as the Taliban. As for the U.S., no one viewed the country favorably. Our bombing campaign was killing civilians in huge numbers and Kabul was overrun with internally displaced refugees living in the most horrible conditions. No one believed that the U.S. was in Afghanistan for benign reasons. They believed, with good evidence, that the U.S. presence was due to its desire for new bases that could threaten Iran, Pakistan, and China, all of which has common borders with Afghanistan. Or, they believed that it was to protect a new pipeline being built across Afghanistan, one that would benefit the West, but not Afghanistan.

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It is only those of us in the U.S. who seemed to believe that we were there to help the Afghan people — they certainly didn’t see it. All the pundits and U.S. government leaders are explaining the American defeat by saying that Afghan soldiers didn’t fight for their country. Well, some 70,000 Afghan soldiers and police have already died in the fighting (more than the number of Americans who died in the Vietnam War), and really, why should those still alive be willing to die for a corrupt and venal government that was put in place by the U.S. — and that the U.S. had already said it was no longer supporting?

There were some clear winners of the American war in Afghanistan: the U.S. weapons manufacturers and contractors who made a fortune off it. The editorial mentions the number of Americans killed there (2,372), and the amount of money that was spent on the war (over $1 trillion, most of which went to the contractors and weapons manufacturers), and that is a terrible price that was paid. But too often the American media neglect to mention what the people of Afghanistan suffered: at least 47,000 civilians killed (thousands more indirectly), hundreds of thousands displaced, the country in ruins. This war was first of all waged for revenge (on people who were not to blame for 9/11), and for the very geopolitical reasons that the people of Afghanistan believed from the start. Women’s rights? Please.

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Like the people of Afghanistan, we should be very angry about this war, and it is time that we as a people stopped allowing the weapons manufacturers and contractors who donate so heavily to members of Congress — our own form of deep corruption — to continue the militarization of foreign policy that has cost us so much and that have destabilized so much of the world. Can we not summon the political will to stop this murderous cycle?

Jean Athey, Baltimore

The writer is executive director of Maryland Peace Action.

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