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|From: Irish Political Review: Editorials|
|Date: September, 2021|
The Irish representative on the United Nations Security Council condemned the overthrow of the democratically-elected Government of Afghanistan by the Taliban.
A reactionary back-bench Labour MP in Britain, who is a member of the Parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs, Norman Stringer, said, in an interview on Sky News on August 13th:
"I don't think we should have been there for the last twenty years. It has been a disaster for the people of Afghanistan. It has been a disaster for the British troops—more than 400 died and many more have come back maimed mentally and physically. We went in there originally to catch Bin Laden. We didn't catch him. And there has been terrible mission creep. It has been stated that we went there to introduce democracy, stabilise the country, defeat the Taliban, give better education to women. And that's an indication that we really didn't know what we were doing. And we left after 20 years, coming out as quickly as possible——
Sky: But nevertheless we were there for 20 years… You're saying we should get out as quickly as possible, but getting out as quickly as possible is exactly what we're doing now, and exactly what is proving to be a complete dismal failure. The Taliban are making huge strides across the country.
Stringer: I think whenever we got out it was going to be fraught. The Government that's in place is corrupt, it's not supported in any sense by the military forces in Afghanistan, or by the people of Afghanistan. So there was always going to be chaos when we left. It would have been better had we left before. A quarter of a million lives have been lost. Staying in Afghanistan for 20 years just led from one crisis to another, and many people dying and being maimed. We're getting out now. It won't be pleasant getting out. But at least we are getting out."
We inquired about the 'democratically-elected Government', mentioned by the Irish representative on the Security Council. It was elected by less than a twentieth of the adult population.
Government and Opposition between them polled about a million and a half votes in a population of about 20 million.
That was the extent of the democratic façade established by the NATO Occupation. It melted away when the Occupation Force decided to stop bombing the country and let the issue be decided by internal Afghan forces.
The British Defence Minister, Ben Wallace, made a remarkable statement on August 17th:
"I'm absolutely worried that failed states are breeding grounds for those type of people [i.e., the Taliban]. It's why I said I felt it was not the right time or decision to make, because of course Al Qaeda will probably come back… Failed states around the world lead to instability, lead to insecurity, a threat to us and our interests. We're very clear about that. That's why the West has to learn that you don't fix problems; you manage problems. You have to go into a country, if that's what you're going to do, and you manage it. There's no such thing as an instant fix."
This is a tacit admission that the people of the world are not yearning to live life in the British way, and that all that needs to be done is set up British-type institutions for them and tell them to get on with it. It is a rejection of the assumption underlying British progressive ideology that the English way of life arises directly out of human nature, and that, if other peoples are not living life as the English do, it can only because evil forces are oppressing them. Brush aside those evil forces, and the world will become English.
That is the Cromwellian view, given classical expression by Cromwell's Secretary of State, John Milton (the poet) in his Address To Parliament in 1641: "Let not England forget her precedence of teaching nations how to live".
In Milton's day the force of Evil was identified as the priestcraft of the Roman Church. When Cromwell landed in Ireland, he told the Irish he would bring them freedom by abolishing the Mass. But now an English War Minister admits that there is no English Freedom lurking in other peoples and needing only a nudge from Britain to express itself. Those other peoples simply lack the potential to live in the English way. They can only be managed into compliance with it.
The liberal-democratic regime in Afghanistan, that has now disappeared like snow off a ditch at a touch of the sun, was a kind of Potemkin Village. Potemkin was Catherine the Great's Minister. When Catherine wanted to see the country that she governed as an Enlightened despot, he arranged for a series of villages filled with happy peasants to be constructed for her to see.
The NATO Occupation constructed a thin sliver of Western life in Afghanistan. It was never more than a border around the Occupation. It had no organic connection with the life of the country. The Taliban remained the major presence in three-quarters of the country, waiting for NATO to stop bombing so that normal life could be resumed.
The NATO project in Afghanistan was not to liberate the Afghan people. Liberation could only mean enabling them to live even more freely according to their own desires. In the mouth of NATO, "the Afghan people" was an imperialist ideological project. The way that the actual peoples of Afghanistan lived was unacceptable to NATO minds. It was scandalous. It was an intolerable affront to an orderly world.
For Britain, the war it took part in twenty years ago was the Fourth Afghan War. The First had been about a century and a half earlier. The Afghans had proved to be unimprovable. They wouldn't take a hint. So now a proper job was going to be done on them. The whole force of the Free World was going to be applied to them. They were going to be liberated from themselves and remade into the kind of people that they ought to be.
But once again they seem to have escaped back into themselves. And it is NATO that is taking on the appearance of being a Doll's House—a plaything of the United States.
Britain is disgruntled. The House of Commons assembled itself in the middle of what in better times was known as the Silly Season—the season for grouse shooting, when politics was on 'Hold' and any nonsense could be uttered—in order to hold an Emergency Debate on the Afghan crisis. It found that it had nothing to say.
It knew that what it should be saying was that, with the USA reneging on its moral obligations, the moment had come for Britain to reassert itself as a Global Power in the business of civilising the uncivilised world. But nobody said it.
An article in The Times (August 16) said: "Six decades after Suez, we remain impotent in the face of US policy". That Suez affair happened 65 years ago. Baathist Egypt, under Nasser, had taken State power from the British Ambassador. (The official British position had been that Egypt was an independent state, governed according to helpful advice from the British Ambassador.)
Nasser nationalised the Suez Canal. Britain declared that act to be illegal, and described the Egyptian Government as Fascist. It made laborious preparations for War on Egypt, and entered into a secret war conspiracy with France and Israel.
The Prime Minister, Anthony Eden, had been an early anti-Fascist in the 1930s. He seemed to believe that the World War launched by Britain in 1939 was a war on Fascism. He made a pretty good case that a Fascist movement was in power in Egypt, and that, in making war on it, he was doing what should have been done with Germany in 1933. But the United States had not made war on Fascism at all in 1939. It had entered the European War a couple of years later for altogether different reasons.
For the second time in a generation, it had saved Britain from having to call off its war on Germany and make terms—which to the British mind would have been "surrender"—and enabled it, or forced it, to scramble back onto the Continent after three years' absence, at a time when the Soviet Union was making huge advances against Hitler. But it was understood that America saved the British Empire only to dismantle it to its own advantage.
Freely-operating Capitalism in a democratic political medium was restored in Western Europe on foundations provided by the USA, after Fascist State power was broken by Communist Russia. This Anglo-European freedom was a dependency of the US. When Britain sought to reinforce its Empire with another war on Fascism in Egypt, the US brought it to heel by threatening to wreck its currency.
Fascism has never been a major concern of the USA. Its Capitalism has never been under any danger from Socialism. The methods by which it created itself are not easily distinguishable from the methods usually described as Fascist. And it had good reason for not signing the UN Genocide Convention after 1945.
Its concern was Communism—which Britain's ideologically-confused and incompetently-conducted War brought to dominance in half of Europe. Fascism was the means by which Communism had been warded off in the chaotic situation brought about by Britain's First World War. And, after 1945, the USA took up the anti-Communist crusade from Nazism, having no scruples about taking Nazi experts into its service.
Sixty years ago, academic propagandists of British civilisation liked to think that the Catholic Church was a major source of Nazism—when it was in fact a major source of resistance. In more recent times Islam has been a preferred source for demonization.
The Taliban are, of course, Islamic in general culture. But Taliban Islam is an interweaving with particular social cultures in Afghanistan, tribal and ethnic. And, if Fascism is a throwback to mediaevalism—a widely-held opinion—then tribal paritcularism is also an element of it.
(Europe may eventually apply itself to discovering from the investigation of circumstances why Fascism arose in it in the 1920s and 1930s, why it actually did become a New Order in Europe, and why Europe was 'saved' from Fascism by an external Power which it hates. There is no sign of that happening yet. But, unless it happens, how can Europe have anything coherent to say to the World?
President Reagan admired the Taliban. He said "These gentlemen are the moral equivalents of American Founding Fathers". Higher praise than that it is impossible to imagine in this American world.
The Founding Fathers were bands of religious fanatics who laid waste half a Continent, making the United States possible.
The Taliban do not deserve such praise. Their purpose is only to preserve the culture of the people from which they emerged. Their war was against alien intrusions. They have organised force to preserve a way of life which the progressive world is intent on destroying.
The progressive world is a world caught in a process of continuous and rapid change in pursuit of ever-increasing power. It has no settled beliefs or customs. It discards today what it insisted on yesterday. Homosexual marriage is one of its basic human rights today, but it was not so twenty years ago when it invaded Afghanistan, and LGBT rights scarcely had then been heard of—but. if a Taliban does not include both of these things, it will be held to be in breach of Human Rights.
The virtue of the Taliban in President Reagan's eyes was that it was what would now be called barbaric. A Communist Government, supported by the Soviet Union but independent of it, had come into being in Afghanistan. The United States found that the advanced liberal culture of the West did not make effective material for raising a subversive force against the Afghan Communist regime, so it turned to the force that was being curbed by the Communists—the force of religious fundamentalism.
It fostered a religious war against atheistic and liberal Communism in Kabul. It supported Islamist extremism as an effective cultural weapon. It modernised the spirit of the Mahdi and created the ideological ground from which ISIS developed. It launched Islamic terrorism against the Communist regime in Afghanistan. Moscow withdrew its support, but Afghan Communism continued for three years without it. When the Taliban came to power, it was as the terrorist instrument of the American war on Communism.
The USA then had to set about destroying what it had created. The War on Terror began. But it found that it was not easy to undo what it had done.
It would not have been easy, even if the task had been approached systematically and realistically, which it was not. Islam is not removable from the life of the world. There is a wide variety of opinion within it, giving it the flexibility required for dealing with different circumstances.
Tony Blair may read the Koran, and decide that he knows better than any Imam what the true doctrine is for each circumstance, but there is no Pope within Islam that he can turn to in order to get his opinion dogmatised.
The possibility of having an orderly presence of Islam in the world lay with the Caliphate and the Ottoman Empire. German foreign policy before 1914 was to consolidate the Ottoman Empire as a centre of Islamic affairs in the world. British policy was to destroy the Ottoman Empire and seize as much as possible of it for its own Empire. The Ottoman Empire was destroyed and the Caliphate was abolished. Islam survived without State support, and it expanded. It development was sometimes disorderly, but was on the way to re-establishing order. It was Christianity—still in the ascendant when it destroyed the Mahdi—that withered.
The net effect of American engagement in the matter has been, by its zig-zag approach, to increase the effectiveness of what it hoped to destroy.
Twenty years ago the USA demanded that Osama Bin Laden be handed over to it as he was the organiser of the attack on the three Twin Towers. Mullah Omar, founder of the Taliban, said he would like to see some evidence that Bin Laden was responsible before handing him over. President Bush treated the request as a piece of impudence and brushed it aside.
The USA, accompanied by Britain and the rag-bag of other states that is called NATO, went into Afghanistan to catch Bin Laden for itself. Ten years ago it caught him in Pakistan. It did not arrest him and put him on trial. As Hillary Clinton (then Secretary of State) put it, paraphrasing Caesar: "We came, we saw, he died". The killing was filmed and was shown to the White House elite.
NATO stayed on in Afghanistan for a further ten years. It had established a puppet Government, given it an Army, got it 'democratically elected' by a miniscule electorate, and created around it a veneer of California-style social life which was entirely disconnected from the life of the country—as the Protestant Ascendancy Kingdom of Ireland was from the actual life of the Irish people. The idea was, presumably, that the Afghan people should be remade by the extension of the California veneer across the whole country. But the greater part of the country remained with the Taliban, and the Taliban observed and learned. And, in the moment of truth, the Occupation democracy proved to be no more than a Quisling facade, or a Potemkin village.
When 'NATO' took over Afghanistan, Russia had been brought to the brink of ruin by Yeltsin's democracy of oligarchic capitalism, China was uncertain of itself, and the USA was the unchallenged Superpower of the world. Only Iran was independent of it, and hostile to it. But, instead of invading Iran and trying to bring it to order, it invaded Iraq—who power it had already broken in 1990.
The occupation of Iraq, a liberal state under the Baath regime, which effectively subordinated religion to the ideal of nationality, set loose, and encouraged, the religious elements which had been curbed by the Baathists. ISIS emerged from the chaos. Iran, instead of being invaded, entered the fray in Iraq in support of its own interests there. And, down to the present day, there has not been a national Government in Iraq, except as an empty form.
While 'NATO' was involved in these adventures, the democratic disintegration of Russia was ended, a centre of authority was restored, and Russia became a regional Power with spheres of interest in which it was active. And China found a way of enabling Capitalism to develop freely without endangering the Communist State, and it became the first Power since 1914 that equalled the USA in world capitalism.
In the face of this great change in the world, President Trump decided to call a halt to the practice of raising Potemkin Villages around the world in order to give a superficial appearance of liberal democracy to its rule of the world as its only Superpower, to cut its losses in marginal areas, and to prepare for war with the Great Power that had arisen independently of it, and therefore against it.
And President Biden, the Great White Hope of the rag-bag of NATO dependencies, has let them down. He defeated Trump only to continue his policy.
The Corkman of August 19th has a thoughtful editorial on world affairs:
"Had the U.S. stayed the course after the invasion of 2001 rather than switching most of its attention to Iraq and Saddam Hussein then it is entirely probable that the Taliban could have been stamped out entirely. Instead a rump of the movement, including some of its most senior leaders, was allowed to survive. Subsequent years of mismanagement, wasteful spending and poorly conceived 'peace' plans allowed the Taliban to return to its former strength. We have now seen the result of these failures. Afghanistan has long been a troubled nation but the region is now home to another terror state…"
This could be the Irish Times in 1920, commenting on the consequence of the failure of the authorities in 1916 to take its advice and make sure that every trace of the cancer of Republicanism was cut out.
Of course the Taliban could be stamped out entirely. But the way to do it is by abolishing Afghanistan.