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Issue #1792      August 30, 2017

End the endless war

BRITAIN: Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is right to warn Theresa May’s government not to “obediently applaud” Washington’s planned escalation of the war in Afghanistan. Defence Secretary Michael Fallon was already falling over himself to do so, gushing that he “welcomed” President Donald Trump’s U-turn on a war he repeatedly attacked his predecessor for waging.

Characteristically, Fallon did not appear to have paid attention to what was actually being said.

“We have to stay the course in Afghanistan to help build up its fragile democracy ... it’s in all our interests that Afghanistan becomes more prosperous and safer,” he droned.

Since the US president was explicit that “we will no longer use American military might to try to construct democracies in far off lands. We are not nation-building again,” his poodles in Westminster weren’t quite on message. These semantics will matter little to the people of Afghanistan.

Whether the misery and death inflicted on their country continuously now for 16 years, following an invasion that began a cycle of blood-soaked interventions across the Middle East, is labelled “nation-building” or “killing terrorists,” as Trump now defines his mission, is irrelevant.

Trump says he has changed his mind on the war in Afghanistan because “decisions are much different when you sit behind the desk in the Oval Office.”

We can speculate as to why that is – whether Washington’s mammoth arms lobby, in hock with top brass, have him in their clutches, or whether a new burst of violence abroad distracts usefully from his apologia for neo-Nazis and white supremacists in Charlottesville.

It’s even possible that this loudmouth thug of a president, who could not even remember which country he was bombing when he fired missiles at Syria, actually believes that if you send soldiers to foreign countries to “kill terrorists” (a notoriously broad category as defined by US forces in Afghanistan, including every male of military age) you end up with fewer terrorists rather than more.

This dangerous naivety is echoed by “experts” on our side of the Atlantic, such as retired British General Simon Mayall who argues that extra troops would make “a big difference to the confidence and competence of the Afghan security forces” as if vast numbers of Western soldiers had not been deployed to the country for years already.

As Corbyn points out, this is a war which has failed. The Taliban have not been driven out 16 years after an invasion which promised to do exactly that.

Other terrorist forces which did not exist in Afghanistan when it was invaded in 2001 are now also active there, most notoriously ISIS, the genocidal Al-Qaida offshoot born out of the equally criminal invasion of Iraq.

Tens of thousands of Afghans have died, alongside thousands of US and allied troops. If we include the other fronts of the “war on terror,” Iraq, Libya, Mali, Syria, Yemen, we are talking about a death toll in the millions.

All that bloodshed has only increased the terrorist threat, both in the war-torn countries themselves – and by far the majority of terror victims are innocent civilians murdered as they go about their business in the Middle East – and in the West, where deadly outrages like those in Paris, St Petersburg, Manchester, London, Barcelona and more show that endless war does not keep us safe.

“The British government should make clear to Donald Trump that his strategy of more bombing and a new troop surge will continue this failure,” Corbyn advises May.

The Prime Minister, like the US president, would rather opt for more of the same.

Morning Star

Next article – Taking Issue – Trump’s fire and fury

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