DOES ANYONE BELIEVE WE CAN WIN THE WAR IN AFGHANISTAN AND ACHIEVE A LASTING PEACE?
Since 1215 various powers have invaded Afghanistan. There have been 77 wars in this country since the year 962! In 1979 the Russians (1979-1991) attempted to overcome Afghanistan Resistance (the Americans financed, armed and trained the local Resistance movement known as the Taliban to fight against the Russians), then Civil war racked the country (1991-1995) resulting in its partition amongst various War Lords. In 1995 the Taliban began to bring Afghanistan under its control until 2001 when the ‘Allies’ led by the American and British forces smashed their way through the country as they had their try at conquering successfully where all others had failed.
It is a problem to understand what they are all after.
Afghanistan is not reputed as containing oil or any other wealth making minerals so unless the invaders know something that they are not telling us then the only wealth in the country seems to come from poppy growing for the Opium trade. I know a number of famous Western companies owe their success to the Opium trade and smuggling in the 1800s but surely we didn’t invade Afghanistan to seize control of the production of Opium. We cannot control drug use on the streets of the Western cities, towns and villages and until we do (and this may be an impossible task) there will always be market for Opium production. If we close down Afghanistan for supply somewhere else will open.
Torching all the Opium fields will not stop the drugs trade and will kill the only real source of income to many Afghanistans. If we fail to replace the poppies with a crop that is acceptable to the Western powers then we are condemning the farmers and the country dwellers to absolute poverty. This is hardly the way to win hearts and minds and end the Taliban’s influence.
The invasion of Iraq was easy to understand. The major oil companies have been trying to seize control of Iraq’s oil since the early 1930s. In those days the ‘Seven Sisters’ (5 American Oil Companies and 2 European) were the only ones with sufficient experience and wealth to undertake the exploration of oil in any country of the world. However the Achnacary Agreement of 1928 led to this cabal of Oil Companies defining that to maintain the price of oil and thus grow their profits the extraction of Oil in the world would increase at an approximate rate of 9.55% per year. Incredibly in all the years since and despite (or maybe with the assistance of) wars, OPEC, catastrophes, new findings of oil throughout the world, new technologies to bring up the oil, the increase in the amount of oil actually coming on the market each year averages just about 9.55% per annum!
The key to holding the price to maintain maximum profit for the oil companies is controlling the amount of oil extracted and to do that you must control exploration and production. In Iraq this was achieved in the 1930s by the major oil companies drilling ‘shallow holes’. Their equipment told them that oil was present in vast quantities and at that time they were the only companies with the know-how, skills and wealth to develop the oil fields. If they convinced the Iraq people that the holes they drilled failed to find sufficient oil to make them viable they could keep the oil underground – under the oil companies control – and keep prices and profits high by avoiding the oil glut that would occur if they brought all the oil they were finding to the surface.
A similar thing happened in the 1960 when oil had been discovered in the North Sea and production was commencing. British politicians were hoodwinked sufficiently to stand up in parliament and announce that there was just 30 years of oil under the North Sea and we must conserve it for future generations.
At that time I was working on an audit team put into a major oil field development in the middle of the North Sea to report on why the development was taking twice as long as the time originally quoted and was costing many hundreds of millions of dollars more to construct. The minutes of key meetings were available to us and these revealed that oil field alone would supply all the oil Norway would need for 50 years ahead and half the field was in British waters. We also discovered that the oil drilling platform had been located in such a position that another would be necessary in 30 – 50 years’ time to extract the rest of the oil in this field!
That was just one oil field under the middle of the North Sea. How many more were there that were still to be explored. We knew that there was – and still is – an oil bonanza under the seas around Britain but what is it we still hear from the ‘experts’ 50 years on from the original ‘30 years of oil’? We are told that ‘we have to be careful not to over exploit the oil around Britain as there is only 30 years of supply left’. Believe that and you will believe anything!
Unfortunately all those who could insist in greater production to bring the market price of oil down have a vested interest in keeping the price high. A high price increases the Oil Companies profits but also increases the governments take from the high level of tax that is included in Petrol and Diesel prices. Many of the agreements with the countries in which oil is extracted are royalty based and many of those fluctuate in sympathy with the price of oil. The chances of their ever being an oil glut to bring the prices down are therefore extremely remote despite the preponderance of oil that exists in the world. The oil may not last forever but it will comfortably outlast the technology that uses it
Incidentally it is interesting to note that in early 1970s our audit team worked alongside some folk from the ships that take seismic soundings of the land under the seas to determine the likelihood of oil being present. They had just come back from the Falklands and confided to us that the Falkland Islands sit on a huge oil field but the news of it was being kept under wraps. My curious nature got me to research who had the extraction rights to anything found under the Falklands and 50% were owned by a British Company that had some very interesting Directors and Shareholders.
Under the Bush administration his inner circle that controlled American policy were predominantly from - or had interests in - the major Oil Companies and the ancillary companies they owned or controlled. It is easy to see why the Oil Companies wanted to invade Iraq and why America invaded but why on earth did the British go along with it?
I recognise the enormous kudos Tony Blair would get in America if he supported them in their invasion of Iraq and the undoubted financial returns it would bring him personally but why on earth did the British Parliament back him?
If Sadam Hussain was really the problem Blair made him out to be why didn’t the American and British Forces use their tremendous might, stealth and power to just take the individual and family out? Why was it necessary to kill more than 100,000 Iraqis, hundreds of British, American and Allies service people, hideously maim thousands more, traumatise nearly every young person who fights in this and the Afghanistan war and bomb these countries to pieces?
I know the military leaders act like boys with their toys when they have a massive advantage in arms and resources that would overwhelm the intended ‘enemy’ and America is reputed to have bombed 25 countries since the end of the Second World War but what are the British doing in Afghanistan?
In 2001 when we invaded there were 26,813,057 Afghanistans recorded on their ‘census’. To the end of 2009 the cost of the War to Americans is recorded as $185.1 billion. The cost to other countries is recorded as $19 billion with overall costs presently projected as more $500,000,000,000 to the US taxpayers alone. Goodness knows what the full costs will be when all the other countries costs are added and full reparations are made.
Just taking the costs to the USA it works out at more than $20,000 for every man, woman and child living in Afghanistan at the start of our invasion. In an average Afghan family has 3 children that would be $100,000 per family!
Surely this money would have been far better spent on building a farming industry outside Opium and into produce that the aggressors feel to be more acceptable and then sponsoring and training the families to produce and market their products. I feel this would have won far more hearts and minds than kicking down front doors and shooting anything that moves, or by employing drones controlled from deep inside America to bomb any party or house they deem to be suspicious. It will also have saved all the killing and bloodshed.
We hear daily about the deaths in British and American forces in Afghanistan but how many of our brave young people are being hideously crippled and have normal life ended for them in this conflict? Even those who come back with bodies intact are going to take a lifetime to get over the killing and maiming of their colleagues and of the Afghanistans they were involved with in the conflict.
This is not like wars of old where the ‘enemy’ were dressed in uniforms and you knew it was a matter of killing them before they killed you. The Taliban wage war in the way Lawrence of Arabia described so well in the ‘Seven Pillars of Wisdom’. They choose not to stand up and fight toe to toe against the far superior military might of the Americans and their allies. When faced with the oncoming might they fade away back to their lives away from the conflict only to take up arms again when the situation favours them with a quick strike and then retreat. The Americans, British and Allies truly do not know if they are killing Taliban or innocent farmers and their families. It is all very well for their rulers to describe all casualties as insurgents but the troops on the ground know how often that is just not so and innocent people are killed. Many of them will find it increasingly difficult to forgive their part in the killings once they are out of the forces and trying to live ‘normal’ lives.
So what right do we have to be occupying Afghanistan?
I can remember the British Parliament discussing the forthcoming invasion of Iraq and all the ‘untruths’ that were included in the documents that were used to ‘justify’ that invasion. I don’t remember the media covering the intention to invade Afghanistan in the same way. Was there a National Discussion on our role in this invasion and occupation of Afghanistan?
For all the reasons given above I cannot see any way we can ever win this war. If you know of a way then please use the Forum to inform us all. In meanwhile we watch daily the bodies of brave British forces being transported back to the UK for burial.
For goodness sake it is surely time we told our very good friends – the Americans – that we can no longer support the war in Afghanistan. We have gone as far as we can go. Economically, emotionally, temperamentally, religiously, in all humanity - we cannot go on. It is time to make peace with the Afghans.
Whether we can make peace or not it is time for the British to pull out and to concentrate on the defence of their own country and never again get involved in the aggressive invasion of other countries.
It is time to bring our brave forces home!
5 Nov 2010.
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