As usual, all the warnings were there. Three Anglo-Afghan wars. Russia's Vietnam. The
Graveyard of Empires. Poppy capital of the world. The most bombed, crushed, corrupted,
mined nation on the globe.
So off we set in our righteous war of revenge for the Twin Towers and the dead of 9/11
to bomb Afghanistan all over again and -- a new twist, this -- to bring "democracy" to the
land though which Alexander the Great passed en route to India. Osama bin Laden was our
latest Hitler, although his protective screen of Salafist obscurantist Taliban legions
could hardly be compared to the Wehrmacht.
Bin Laden was a Saudi -- so were 15 of the 19 hijackers who committed the international
crime against humanity of 11 September 2001 -- and Saudis supported the Taliban. But, as
usual, Saudi Arabia was not part of the media story. This was to be a retelling of
Victorian children's books; of brave if bearded Afghan fighters struggling to take back
their country, of high-altitude American bombers that killed the Taliban and wiped out a
score or more of innocent villages, of US Special Forces riding bareback with Afghan
horsemen to play "Bouskache" with a dead goat between battles. Carry On Up the Khyber.
With what arrogance we began the whole wretched adventure 15 years ago. This time, we
would not forget the brave Afghans (as we did after they drove the Russkies out of their
country) and there would be freedom, aid, security and democracy. But as the years went
by, the newly installed and "democratically elected" Afghan government became as
wretched and corrupt as its communist predecessors.
The NGOs arrived with millions to spend -- all competing with each other and with the US
military which offered even more millions in humanitarian aid in return for intelligence
information. There were the usual massacres, an atrocity or two -- Afghans loyal to
General Abdul-Rashid Dostum suffocated Afghan Taliban prisoners in container trucks, US
jets and armed Americans liquidating prison mutineers at only occasional cost to
themselves -- but Kabul was swiftly "liberated" by journalists and a clutch of tribesmen
from the Panjhir Valley.
A few women were persuaded to take off the evil burqa, in which their ancestors in parts
of the country had covered themselves for hundreds of years, and George W Bush and our
beloved Tony Blair quickly diverted themselves to the more lucrative rewards of a not
dissimilar war in Iraq.
Allegedly, we "took our eye off the ball" by abandoning Afghanistan for Mesopotamia, but
contemporary documents clearly prove that Iraq was
Bush's target all along. Afghanistan was never intended to be anything but a side-show. . . .