Dr Muzaffar Iqbal is a distinguished scholar who has been contributing to Opinion Maker for a long time but then for some reasons it got discontinued. Now that he has consented to resume his contributions there his “Quantum Note” will appear every Thursday/Friday.
So they are gone, we are told, but 50,000 remain. Active combat mission in Iraq is over, Mr. Obama declared on August 31, 2010, but the largest embassy on earth with scores of CIA staff is there to coordinate the work of remaining soldiers who are ostensibly there to train Iraqis so that the made-in-America stamp is engraved deep into the soil where 1.5 million US troops toiled for seven-and-a-half-years. We are told 4,400 Americans lost their lives and 900bn dollars went down the drain in a war that was based on concocted reports and outrageous dishonesty on both sides of the Atlantic. But that is not all. There is an untold, unacknowledged misery that no one is talking about at this hour of so-called end of war in Iraq: the cost of war for the Iraqis.
“We don’t do body counts,” General Tommy Franks, the top officer in the U.S. Central Command for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, had summed up the American military’s attitude back in 2003. He was right. The Pentagon officially stopped counting the people US soldiers kill after the Vietnam war. So, when Mr. Barack Obama “turned the page” on August 31st, what did he actually turn? A virtual page that exists in imagination only.
In reality, nothing has changed in Iraq over this so-called watershed: life for Iraqis is filled with the same horror and suffering as it was before this turning of the page took place in the White House. No one has come forward and said: let us do a broad counting of the damage we have caused to Iraq in this ill-justified invasion; no one is ready to acknowledge the wrong done to the Iraqis, no one is ready to acknowledge the death of several thousand Iraqis and destruction of the fabric of life for the whole nation.
Even the British Iraq Inquiry, announced by Prime Minister Gordon Brown on June 15, 2009, “to identify lessons that can be learned from the Iraq conflict”, with its so-called “very broad mandate” excludes Iraqis from the terms of reference. Soon after the announcement of the Inquiry, the Iraq Body Count (IBC) project, a UK-based non-governmental organisation that has been tracking and analysing Iraqi civilian deaths from violence since the military intervention of 2003, “urgently requested that the Inquiry take full and proper account of Iraqi casualties resulting from the conflict, and the subsequent breakdown in civil security,” but that formal request did not move any heart in the hierarchy of British government.
Hidden behind that cold official silence are crimes against humanity: use of prohibited chemicals, torture of innocent civilians, death and destruction of scores of human lives, the untold misery of countless mothers and the continuing ordeal of thousands of orphaned children. And all of this is supposed to remain untracked, unmarked, unrecorded.
Then there is Afghanistan, the longest American war in history. There is little doubt that soon there will be a lot of bloodletting in Kandahar. Occupying Kandahar and its hinterland was one of the main goals of General Stanley McChrystal, the US commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan, before his sacking by Barack Obama. It is now the first big object of General David Petraeus, his successor, who has stated that he does not consider himself bound by a July 2011 deadline set by President Obama to begin the withdrawal of US forces—a deadline that increasingly isolated Hamid Karzai does not want either.
The Battle for Kandahar may even be more symbolic than real, for it is the heartland of the Taliban movement and taking its control would mean a display of American power for a while, as everyone knows that the Taliban will simply melt and then return when suited. After his summer’s operation, Kandahar will not change; it will still be run by local strongmen holding sway over segregated areas, running private armies, unanswerable to any authority. All that will happen will be more money for people like Ahmed Wali Karzai, the brother of Hamid Karzai, who was dubbed “a CIA asset” during the Congressional hearing in Washington, DC.
What America faces in Afghanistan is not a war but a double-sided genocide. On the one side of this atrocious war is the obvious ruthless killing by the NATO forces of whoever comes in front of them and on the other side is the indiscrete cold-blooded murder of countless human beings out of mutual hostility of Afghans themselves; in between, is a large body of terrorized and traumatized citizens who have seen nothing but war and destruction throughout their lives.
Today, very few Afghans have a choice to live their lives normally. The long war has left deep scars. Everyone has been affected: from the high profile leaders to the vegetable seller on the streets of Kandahar whose cart is the only possession he has, there is constant fear, constant killing in the air: from tribal elders to religious scholars, to the so-called “elected” representatives, and policemen, district chiefs, school teachers, and just about everyone.
America faces the same dilemma in Afghanistan as it did in Iraq; there simply are not enough Afghan security forces to fight for America. Thus, no matter how many claims are made by the NATO commanders, everyone knows the ground realities: there is nothing on the horizon for them except a long-drawn out battle with years and years of despair in a land where no army has ever won. So, no matter how many times Generals and Major Generals, like Major General Nick Carter, the British commander of NATO forces in southern Afghanistan, claim that “much progress has taken place since phased, low level, security operations got under way in Kandahar last April,” they always have to put caveats: “The nature of the problem in Kandahar City is one characterised by Moscow in the 1990s. When you needed a patron, mobs and the mafia prevailed, protection rackets were the order of the day. Within that environment it’s very easy for the insurgents to intimidate and threaten those associated with the government. But we are getting on with it and I would hope by the time the parliamentary elections come around [in mid-September], Kandaharis would feel a little bit more secure. I’m a great believer in Afghanistan in doing things quietly if you can, under-promising, then hopefully overachieving.”
That hope, however, is a forlorn hope and the Generals know it.
Dr Muzaffar Iqbal who is a Pakistani Canadian is the President of Center of Islam and Science in Canada. He did his PhD in Chemistry but later switched to study of Islam. He has authored several books and presently he is working on Islamic Encyclopedia.
He also has a very critique eye on the current affairs and more so the conflicts going on in the Muslim World. He has been a regular contributor to Opinion Maker. His travels to Pakistan are not that frequent.