In a final act of savagery, just as the US evacuation from Afghanistan was drawing to its end, a US drone strike ripped to pieces ten members of one Afghan family in Kabul, among them children as young as two years old.
More than all the newspaper columns that have been published in Washington and London these past two weeks, lamenting the end of the West’s presence in Afghanistan, more than the nauseating attempt to ascribe honor and nobility to what was a squalid and brutal colonial occupation, the slaughter of members of the Ahmadi family in the aforementioned drone strike places the last 20 years in Afghanistan in its proper historical context.
Perhaps the most salient if unsurprising point when it comes to this crusade, is that it was unleashed on the back of a lie. This lie, it must never be forgotten, was that the Taliban refused to hand over Bin Laden, prime suspect as the man who ordered and organized the attack on the Twin Towers on 9/11.
The truth is that the Taliban made clear that upon receiving evidence from Washington that Osama Bin Laden was behind this atrocity, they would hand him over to a third country - i.e Pakistan – in return for the US to cease a bombing campaign against the country that was by then underway.
Bush and his neocon cohort in Washington were not interested in justice, however. It was revenge they were after, along with the opportunity presented by 9/11 to prove that Western cultural and political values – defined as democracy and women’s rights - were by definition universal, and should and could be righteously forced on uncivilized and backward regions and peoples of the world at the end of bayonets.
Conveniently abstracted from this ‘war for civilization’ drivel was the underlying economic motives behind the war in Afghanistan – the very same that have underpinned every empire and colonial project there has been.
When it came to Afghanistan this economic motive, just as it drove the war in Iraq thereafter, was domination of the world’s energy resources. The US had long sought to establish gas and oil pipelines from the Caspian Basin down through Turkmenistan and Afghanistan into Pakistan and India to meet and profit from the rising demand for energy in this part of the world.
The US oil giant, Unocal, drove the project, one heavily supported by both the Clinton and Bush administrations. Both negotiated with the Taliban in an attempt to win their support and cooperation, and indeed a Taliban delegation was flown from Kabul over to Unocal headquarters in Texas in 1997, where they were treated like visiting dignitaries and provided with lavish hospitality. Their relegation to the status of terrorist sympathizers and brutal oppressors of women came later.
In the end the pipeline project was shelved when talks with the Taliban leadership reached an impasse, and were subsequently ended in July 2001, a few months before the Twin Towers in New York came down. Afghanistan also happens to be a country rich in minerals, particularly lithium, which is a key component in the manufacture of batteries. An internal Pentagon memo in 2010, after a US geological survey revealed even larger deposits of lithium in Afghanistan than originally thought, stated that the country had the potential to be ‘the Saudi Arabi of lithium.
As we then see, looking beyond the usual hoopla about democracy and freedom, a major imperative behind the installation of a government in Kabul friendly to Washington and the West’s prolonged occupation of the country thereafter was greed. It led directly to suffering and death on a biblical scale. Over 47,000 civilians, dead. 66,000 Afghan soldiers and policemen, dead. 51,191 Taliban and other opposition fighters, dead. Over 2,500 US service personnel, dead. 3,846 US contractors, dead. 1,144 NATO and other allied soldiers, dead. 444 aid workers, dead. 72 journalists, dead. This does not include the thousands more maimed, many for life, and left traumatized.
When it comes to governance and democracy under the US-led occupation of Afghanistan, the record shows that less an outpost of Western so-called civilization, the was turned into a casino of rampant corruption and theft. The flight of Ashraf Ghani from the country with, if reports are to be believed, a horde of cash, does more to characterize the character of the society Washington and its allies helped to establish in Afghanistan over two long decades than any amount of propaganda around the issue of women’s rights.
While the myths sown and perpetuated by those with an ocean of Afghan blood and the blood of others on their hands may allow them to kiss their children goodnight in good conscience, the mothers and fathers of the US, British and NATO troops killed doing imperialism’s work will struggle now to find meaning in those deaths, left questioning their own governments and finding it impossible to shake off the gnawing truth that it was all for nothing.
In the last analysis, the barbarity of Western imperialism knows no bounds. It cries out for justice and redress, and will continue to do so until justice is done and redress made. In the meantime, as Major General Chris Donahue of the US 82nd Airborne stepped onto a C-17 transport plane as the last American soldier to leave Afghanistan, one wonders if he did so with the screams of the Ahmadi children slaughtered in Sunday’s drone strike ringing in his ears.
John Wight is an author and political commentator based in Scotland.
(The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of Press TV.)