By Debbie Menon
THE Afghan people have a great strength; a dignity in their lives, and a pride in their culture. Long years of war and struggle have put the Afghan people in a position of hopelessness. They are now weary of war. They are determined to make the best of the situations they live in. Much depends of course, on the seldom talked-about $15 billion international aid shortfall in Afghanistan.
We know that the purpose of the USAid is, and has always been, wherever in the world it is given, is to provide them with sufficient US public funds to buy goods and services from American corporate interests, to the vulgar and obscene profit of such said corporations. This aid is used to achieve military and political objectives, not to reduce poverty.
The corporations, of which I speak, see no short-term profits of sufficient levels in peace. Coordinating, and sharing for more meaningful development, flies directly in the face of their limited policies of “dominate or destroy. For, after they have destroyed, they can go in and dominate the restoration. Yes, I am pessimistic!
Set up a separate, independent body, to monitor aid delivery and identify where they can do things better? No, American corporations will never give up any sort of body, government, and advisory, investigatory or inquisitional which they do not control.
The way aid is spent is crucial. There are a number of ways aid is failing to maximize its potential. It needs to be approached differently in Afghanistan or anywhere for that matter. It is essential that local people are the owners and leaders of the aid projects that affect their lives.
Let’s face it… nobody wants to feel that anything is imposed on them. Local control, involvement and consent are essential. If such steps are taken, you could build on the strength of the Afghan people and help bring peace to some of the people if not all of the people after years of conflict and struggle. There are no short cuts, nor quick deals. Aid and Assistance usually comes with too many strings attached which ignore the needs of the people.
We do not need to build dams and power stations and shopping malls, for a people who basically barely have electric lights, and who need a well in the yard, in which to purify river water!
Unfortunately, the ones who make the money decisions see more profit in building dams than providing wells. They would prefer to build four lane highways for a people who do not have automobiles, instead of providing a man with a donkey and a cart, with which he can run a farm and haul his crops to market! And, no one has ever asked that man what he really needs!
The local council concept, empowered with real powers of decision, is the way. This is what the Viet Cong offered and, although much like the Taleban, did not always deliver. But, it was a more appealing offer than government by an absentee Governor in some palace high on a hill or a foreign capital in a far-off land.
Remember when John McCain went to Iraq, for three days I believe, he strolled through a marketplace clad in armour, surrounded by armed guards, and came away knowing all there was to know about Iraq? This is symptomatic of the problem. Experts who know nothing! McCain is not unique! He is representative!
My other crucial exception is, as I have said before, that I believe, we cannot win in a firefight with the Taleban, and as long as, the small group of extremists among them, has the guns and the keys to the palace, they must be dealt with in an amicable manner. They are, after all, men, not too unlike most others. Show them the benefits, political, personal and financial of co-operation, they can be bought or won over. Following that, they will self-destruct as a fanatic and ignorant gun-slinging mob and start showing up in business schools all over the world looking for MBA’s!
Remember, when the Taleban reigned, they destroyed the only cash crop and profitable Industry in Afghanistan. They are going to have to fill that vacuum with some other profitable and productive industry?
Anyone who expects to survive in Afghanistan, Pakistan or that area, must eventually come to terms with the Taleban, like them or not. It is the people of this spirit and dogged determination, who have repelled every invader since Alexander the Great.
The invaders know this. The Americans are blind, and their “dominate or destroy” foreign policy stands in the way of any dialogue or accommodation.
How many people will have to be killed before peace descends on Afghanistan? Waziristan? All of them? Fighting and killing people, local and foreign, in villages in Afghanistan, no matter how successful the effort, no matter how many they kill in how many villages, will not resolve the problem of war and fighting. It merely promotes, pursues and prolongs the fighting and killing. It benefits the US and the coalition when they destabilize these countries, and maintain a docile and obedient puppet government, which sustains the flow through the pipelines and the political instability in the area.
The best way of restoring some semblance of order in Afghanistan is engaging with the overwhelming Pashtun majority. The only way forward is a dialogue with Pashtuns. It is always wiser to hold dialogue with an armed fanatic than it is to try to fight him. Especially when he is on his own turf and has the persuasive power of “.we’re being invaded, again!” on his side.
Sneak in his back door, convert him or corrupt him, and he will self-destruct! When will they realize the futility of armed confrontation, and what has to be done?
“Winning the Hearts and Minds of the People” was an official programme in Vietnam, but it soon became a joke, when the policy shifted to: “Kill As Many As Necessary To Protect Them From Themselves.”
“Winning Hearts and Minds” is more than a slogan. It is the solution. It must begin with and include the people, at the base local level. Self-determination, self-involvement and development, starting at grass roots, not in some palace or far-off foreign Congress!
All of this US military adventurism is doomed to fail. There are more and better ways, less violent, less costly in lives and money of doing that. Which would achieve the same ends, leaving everyone involved living in peace. But, that does not seem to be the policy or the American way, which seems to have become, “if you can’t defeat and dominate them, destroy them!” Obliterate or flatten! No one has ever defeated or subdued the Afghans. It is a great folly.
NATO forces, or whomever this ad hoc NATO coalition is, is not even a competent and professional army. It is a group of diverse, mostly ill-prepared, ill-equipped “soldiers”, sent there on a fools’ mission, which they are well aware of. They are going to suffer one of the most ingenious defeats in history and, in time, will crawl home, to pronouncements of great victories and honors!
The Western powers have been recycling history in Afghanistan for almost 300 years, at the expense of the Afghan people! Time to stop it!
About the author: Debbie Menon is an independent writer based in Dubai. She can be reached at email@example.com.