a threat not just to terrorism but to the world

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Posted by George Monbiot ( on February 14, 2002 at 18:44:20:

In Reply to: Re: what ABC News says posted by pancho on February 14, 2002 at 09:07:18:

Never was victory so bitter. Those liberals who supported the war in Afghanistan, and so confidently declared that their values had triumphed in November, must now be feeling a little exposed. Precisely who has lost, and what the extent of their loss may be, has not yet been determined but there can now be little doubt that the dangerous and illiberal people who control the US military machine have won. The bombing of Afghanistan is starting to look like the first shot in a new imperial war.

In 30 years' time we may be able to tell whether the people of Afghanistan have benefited from the fighting there. The murderous Taliban have been overthrown. Women, in Kabul at any rate, have been allowed to show their faces in public and been readmitted into professional life. Some $US3 billion ($6 billion) has so far been pledged for aid and reconstruction. But the only predictable feature of Afghan politics is its unpredictability.

In the absence of an effective peacekeeping force, tensions between the clan leaders may burst into open warfare when the fighting season resumes in the northern spring. Iran, Russia and the US are beginning, subtly, to tussle over the nation's future, with potentially disastrous consequences for its people.

In the meantime, 7million remain at risk of starvation. Some regions have been made safer for aid workers; others have become more dangerous as banditry fills the vacuum left by the Taliban. For the Afghans, the only certain outcome of the war so far is that thousands of civilians have been killed.

But other interests in Afghanistan are doing rather nicely. On January 29, the IMF's assistant director for monetary and exchange affairs suggested that the country should abandon its currency and adopt the dollar instead. This would, he explained, be a "temporary" measure, though, he said, "when an economy dollarises, it takes a little while to undollarise". The day before, the administrator of the US Agency for International Development said that part of its aid package to Afghan farmers would take the form of genetically modified seed.

Both Hamid Karzai, the interim President, and Zalmay Khalilzad, the US special envoy, had been employed as consultants to Unocal, the US oil company which spent much of the 1990s seeking to build a pipeline through Afghanistan. Unocal appears to have dropped the scheme but smaller companies such as Chase Energy and Caspian Energy Consulting are lobbying for its revival. In October the President of Turkmenistan wrote to the United Nations, pressing for the pipeline's construction.

Moreover, the temporary US bases in Afghanistan, Pakistan and the Caspian states appear to be putting down roots. US military "tent cities" have been established in 13 places in the states bordering Afghanistan. New airports are being built and garrisons expanded. In December, the US Assistant Secretary of State for Eurasian affairs, Elizabeth Jones, promised that "when the Afghan conflict is over we will not leave Central Asia. We have long-term plans and interests in this region."

This is beginning to look rather like the "new imperium" which commentators such as Charles Krauthammer have been urging on the US Government. Already there are signs that confrontation with the "axis of evil" is coming to involve more than just containing terrorism.

An asymmetric world war of the kind George Bush and his Defence Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, have proposed provides the justification, long sought by the defence companies and their sponsored representatives in Washington, for a massive increase in arms spending. DwightD. Eisenhower warned us to "guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist." But we have disregarded his warning, and forgotten how dangerous the people seeking vast state contracts can be.

Now Bush has secured a further $US48 billion for the defence contractors who helped him into office, and those who contested the first phase of his war are still reviled, by people such as Britain's Minister for Europe, Peter Hain, as "rejectionists" and "isolationists". In truth, it is those who supported the war who have endorsed US isolationism.

Hain insists that Britain will use its influence to restrain the "hawks on Capitol Hill", but I fear Henry Kissinger comes closer to the truth when he suggests that "Britain will not easily abandon the pivotal role based on its special relationship with the US that it has earned for itself ... A determined American policy thus has more latitude than is generally assumed." The new-found enthusiasm for the US missile defence program (which necessitated the unilateral abandonment of the anti-ballistic missile treaty) of the British Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, suggests that Kissinger is better versed in British politics than Hain.

Over the past few weeks, the men who run the military-industrial complex have shoved aside the government of the Philippines, dispatched 16 Black Hawk helicopters to Colombia, arrested the Cuban investigators seeking to foil a bomb plot in Miami, alarmed Russia and China by scrambling for Central Asia, begun developing a new tactical nuclear weapon and all but declared war on three nations. Yet still the armchair warriors who supported their bombing of Afghanistan cannot understand that these people now present a threat not just to terrorism but to the world.

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