It is only a little over a month ago that the unheard of state of Kyrgyzstan climbed out of the shadows and onto the front page of newspapers everywhere. It is incredible how fast it has fallen back into the shadows. Perhaps its echo should resonate longer. For Kyrgyzstan belies America’s intentions in Afghanistan.
America maintains a military base in Kyrgyzstan that is crucial to its war in Afghanistan: a war, we are told, that is meant to replace the brutality of the Taliban with the civilization of democracy. But in order to maintain the base in Kyrgyzstan, America had to turn a blind eye to the corruption and abuses of its very nondemocratic government. And there’s the problem with keeping Kyrgyzstan in the news. The irony unmasks the truth. If you are willing to foster nondemocracy in Kyrgyzstan to establish democracy in Afghanistan, then the goal is obviously not democracy. If democracy was what you wanted in one place, you wouldn’t purchase it at the cost of democracy in another. Kyrgyzstan reveals once and for all that Afghanistan was never about democracy.
In this story of “stans”, the most powerful “stan” of all, Pakistan, also belies the truth. For Pakistan is, and always has been, one of the great beneficiaries of strife in neighbouring Afghanistan. Strife in Afghanistan has always given Pakistan the duplicitous ability to benefit from being America’s partner while siding with sister Afghanistan. In the first Afghan war, America allied with Pakistan. In order to do so, the U.S. had to embrace Pakistani dictator General Zia al-Huq. Embracing Zia meant turning a blind eye to the fact that his two primary goals were obtaining illegal nuclear weapons and imposing what Stephen Zunes has called “rigid and reactionary” Islamic law. It also had to ignore that he overturned the democracy in a coup and executed the prime minister. So much for democracy (not to mention the spread of weapons of mass destruction). Billions of U.S. dollars poured in to the dictator while the Pakistani intelligence agency, the ISI, funneled U.S. money to the Afghan warlords who were most under their influence. Pakistan emerged from the first Afghan war significantly more powerful, significantly more influential in Afghanistan, and significantly further ahead in its nuclear weapons program, while the U.S. lied and covered for them. Though in the current war, Pakistan says she sides with America and benefits from billions in aid, Musharraf, who was still in power when the Americans entered Afghanistan, was another U.S. backed dictator who shoved democracy aside and backed and recognized the Taliban.
So, Pakistan too lost its democracy (twice) with support from the U.S. to wage its wars in Afghanistan. Democracy has never been the goal in Afghanistan.
The goal has never really been the ouster of the Taliban for their complicity in 9-11 either. Afghanistan and the Taliban had nothing to do with 9-11. They didn’t supply the money, the men or the machination. The money came from Egypt, the pilots were Saudis and the plan was hatched in Western Europe. So all they could have done was harbour the terrorists. But they didn’t do that either—even if that was an excuse for war (and if it was, Venezuela, Cuba and others would have just as much right to bomb America). Gareth Porter has reported that declassified U.S. State Department documents show that as early as 1998, the Taliban was trying to prevent bin Laden from carrying out any plots against the U.S. The Taliban only allowed bin Laden to stay in Afghanistan under the restriction that he not plan attacks on U.S. targets, whilst they went about trying to create the conditions to nudge, or even push, bin Laden out of Afghanistan. No planning, no participating, no financing, no harbouring. No 9-11.
So what is the goal in Afghanistan? Who knows? There are probably many reasons. Not least of which is that if you have Iraq and Afghanistan, you have Iran surrounded. But recent comments by Hamid Karzai may furnish further clues.
When I was a grad student in philosophy, a common question in the philosophy of mind was the difference between conscious and unconscious entities and whether a conscious, self-aware computer could ever be created. Well, now we know. Hamid Karzai is the world’s first self declared self-reflexive puppet. Karzai is a puppet who knows he’s a puppet. Criticizing the United States, Karzai recently declared, “They wanted to have a puppet government”. He went on to bemoan that “ . . . there is a thin curtain between invasion and cooperation-assistance”.
So what was the American intention in installing a puppet? What strings did they want to pull? What did they want to make the puppet do? Why not ask the puppet himself? Karzai says the U.S. wanted to occupy Afghanistan so that they could control the energy laden Caspian Basin region, not liberated it from the Taliban of al Qaeda.
The Caspian Basin is rich in oil, and it turns out that the most direct pipeline to the richest markets goes straight through Afghanistan. Now back in the Taliban days, the U.S. oil company Unocal wanted to control the trans-Afghan pipeline. And they hired Hamid Karzai as a consultant. But the Taliban proved uncooperative. When the Americans invaded, they installed Karzai, the former Unocal consultant and CIA asset, as the president. Zalmay Khalilzad, also of Unocal, became, first the U.S. envoy, and then the ambassador to Afghanistan. In other words, Unocal took over Afghanistan. And the first thing Karzai did was sign the contract to build the pipeline. So the self-reflexive puppet may be right.
So what are we fighting for? Not democracy: Kyrgyzstan and Pakistan rule that out. Not the war on terror: Afghanistan neither carried out nor harboured the people who carried out the attack. Not for the war on drugs: the Taliban had gone a long way toward eliminating opium in an Afghanistan that now, post invasion, produces 92% of the world’s opium. Not for a better, more democratic, more humane government: the government that we are fighting to protect is just as undemocratic, just as corrupt, just as cruel and just as misogynistic as the Taliban. So what are we fighting for? Ask the self-reflexive puppet.