August 12, 2002
Fisk in Afghanistan

Robert Fisk is back in Afghanistan, paying attention to what's apparently no longer newsworthy.

For the Forgotten Afghans, the UN Offers a Fresh Hell

Things might be different if the warlord battles ended in the north, if the Americans allowed the international peace-keeping forces to move out of Kabul and collect the weapons in the north and damp down the ethnic fires. More than half the frontier refugees could then go back to their homes. But Afghanistan is becoming more lawless by the week. Refugees remain the linguistic definition of much of this country. And the Yellow Desert, the latest UN prison for the 60,000 destitute of Chaman and Spin Boldak, will soon be on all our maps.

Collateral Damage

The Pentagon initially said that it found it "difficult to believe" that the village women had their hands tied. But given identical descriptions of the treatment of Afghan women after the US bombing of the Uruzgan wedding party, which followed the Hajibirgit raid, it seems that the Americans--or their Afghan allies--did just that. A US military spokesman claimed that American forces had found "items of intelligence value", weapons and a large amount of cash in the village. What the "items" were was never clarified. The guns were almost certainly for personal protection against robbers. The cash remains a sore point for the villagers. Abdul Satar said that he had 10,000 Pakistani rupees taken from him--about $200 (lbs130). Hakim says he lost his savings of 150,000 rupees--$3,000 (lbs1,900). "When they freed us, the Americans gave us 2,000 rupees each," Mohamedin says. "That's just $40 [lbs25]. We'd like the rest of our money."

Explosives that the US Knew Would Kill Innocents Continue to Take Their Toll

The family think they will receive about lbs12,000 in compensation, not much in comparison to the lbs53,000 that a dead American mine-clearer's family might expect. But these are Afghan prices for Afghans dying in Afghanistan while trying to destroy America's weapons.

In sum: we've left at least 60,000 refugees in the middle of the desert, we've stripped civilians naked and taken their life savings, we've left the landscape strewn with unexploded shells that have the additional attribute of being brightly colored and attractive to children, we've dismantled countless villages because some northern alliance types (known for gruesome murder and gang-rape) told us there were Al-Quaeda folks there, and we are keeping people in cages and interrogating them with impunity. But it's all for the greater good and future prosperity of Afghanistan.

Neve Gordon sums up Sharon:

Despite harsh international criticism, Sharon remained unrepentant. The Israeli press has suggested that his triumphant cry has less to do with the operation's formal objective -- the extra-judicial execution of Hamas leader Salah Shahada -- than with the successful annihilation of a unilateral ceasefire agreement formally finalized by the different Palestinian military factions a day before the massacre.


Sharon will now most likely use the Hamas attack in order to justify Israel's further reoccupation of Palestinian territories. His overall objective, though, is not to wipe out the Palestinian Authority, as some commentators seem to suggest, but rather to forcibly change its role. Regardless of whether or not Yasser Arafat remains in charge, if Sharon gets his way, the "reformed" Palestinian Authority will no longer serve as the political representative of an independent state. Rather, it will operate as a civil administration of sorts, responsible for education, health, sewage and garbage collection.

The strategy is clear: confer on the Palestinians the costly role of managing civil life, but eliminate their political freedoms. South Africans called it Bantustans.

posted by dru in us