Dimitri Devyatkin on Mon, 25 Feb 2002 05:07:01 +0100 (CET)

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[Nettime-bold] A view of U.S. War from Hindustan Times

Counterpoint: Operation Enduring Failure
Vir Sanghvi
Hindustan Times

So, where is Osama bin Laden. The Daily Telegraph (London) tells us that
theyıre looking for him in Kashmir. Nonsense, says the Indian government.
And as for the US, its position is unchanged: Osama Who?

The stubborn refusal of the Americans to even mention bin Laden is curious
because the rationale behind the war in Afghanistan was supposed to be the
search for bin Laden. US intelligence believed that he was hiding in
Kandahar and the Taliban were asked to hand him over or face the
consequences. It was only when Mullah Omar, the Talibanıs one-eyed leader,
refused to yield to the American ultimatum that Afghanistan was attacked.
Well, that attack is over. The Taliban are no longer in charge. A new
government, headed by a well-known American stooge, is in place.

And guess what? Thereıs still no sign of Osama bin Laden.

But hereıs the funny thing: nobody seems to have noticed! The same George W
who once told us that his army would track down bin Laden wherever he was,
doesnıt even mention his name now.

Instead, the Afghanistan operation which was once supposed to be a means to
an end < finding bin Laden < is now being seen as an end in itself. If you
believe what they say on CNN, the real reason why the US went into
Afghanistan was to overthrow the Taliban regime and instal an American
stooge in Kabul.

But why should the US want to start invading faraway countries? It couldnıt
be because of September 11. Even the worst American propagandist has not
claimed that the Taliban organised the attack on the World Trade Centre.
>From what we now know of the mad men of the Taliban, their only link to
September 11 was that bin Laden was supposed to have been based in

It could be < and this claim has been tentatively advanced by some Americans
< that the US invaded Afghanistan to restore civilisation. But if this was
so, then why wait till the autumn of 2001? Why not go in when the first
reports of massacres by the Taliban came in? Why not invade when you hear
that the Taliban have set up a Nazi-like society in which Hindus have to
wear yellow bands identifying them as infidels? Why not replace the Taliban
when, in an act of unprecedented vandalism, they blew up the Bamiyan

If you examine all the evidence and give the Americans as much of the
benefit of the doubt as possible, there are still some conclusions that seem

One: The Afghanistan operation was a failure. They went in to find bin Laden
and theyıve failed to do this successfully.

Two: To allow themselves to claim victory, theyıve now changed the rules of
the game of the operation was to overthrow the Taliban.

Three: The moral basis for this operation is now beginning to seem extremely
dubious. The most recently revised figures for the death toll in the WTC
attack suggest that 4,000 civilians died. According to the Pentagonıs own
figures of accidental civilian deaths in Afghanistan at least 4,000 Afghan
civilians were killed by mistake.

Of course, there is a difference. The 4,000 killed at WTC died by design;
the 4,000 killed in Afghanistan died by error. But the mistakes would seem
less morally repugnant if the Americans could say that these deaths were the
price that had to be paid to capture bin Laden. Instead, it now seems that
they were the cost of installing Hamid Karzai in Kabul < in moral terms, a
less elevated ambition.

Four: The Americans cannot talk publicly about their failure to capture
almost all the important Taliban leaders, including Mullah Omar. Or about
the fact that not only has bin Laden disappeared but that they havenıt found
a single member of his family or his personal protection squad. To draw
attention to this would be to admit failure.

Five: To make matters worse for them, it now seems highly probable that bin
Laden and his Taliban friends are hiding in Pakistan. (Think about it. Where
else could they have gone?) If you use the same moral doctrine that allowed
them to invade Afghanistan then they now have a right to send special forces
into Pakistan and to tear the place apart (even if they donıt want to bomb
civilians this time) in search of bin Laden.

But they have suddenly lost their enthusiasm for the search for bin Laden <
the very search that compelled them to invade Afghanistan < because they
don't want to do anything that would embarrass their new friend, the
peace-loving, Kargil-covetting Pervez Musharraf.

Musharrafıs position in Pakistan, they say, is very fragile. If he allows
American commandos to enter his border areas to look for bin Laden then his
own people may rise up in revolt. And this would be a Very Bad Thing because
Pervez is such a regular guy and a true friend of America.
So, far better to let bin Laden enjoy his exile in Pakistan than endanger
poor Musharraf's position.

Six: If the convoluted argument in favour of letting bin Laden remain in
hiding does not completely destroy the moral justification for Operation
Enduring Freedom or Infinite Justice or Invincible Pretzel or whatever they
are calling their invasion this week, then hereıs another hard reality: the
threat from global terrorism has not reduced merely because Karzai has taken
over in Kabul.

The barbaric murder of Daniel Pearl by Islamic fanatics reminds us of how
real the threat is < even in the very area (Afghanistan and Pakistan) where
the US now claims to be in control. Far from eradicating terrorism the
Americans are actually turning a blind eye to it by letting Pervez stash
Osama and his friends away.

The tragic saga of the Pearl kidnapping demonstrates how much Musharraf lies
in an effort to keep his new American pals from finding out what is really
going on in Pakistan. Why, for instance, do the Pakistanis blame the Pearl
murder on the Jaish-e-Mohammad when everybody knows that those arrested
belong to the Harkat-ul-Ansar (also known as Harkat-ul-Mujahideen)? Simple.
Jaish is already banned because of US pressure so, in effect, Musharraf is
saying to the Americans: you made me ban Jaish, now theyıve taken revenge.
There is also a second reason. Not only is Harkat not banned, but it is also
a body with close links to both the ISI and bin Ladenıs Al Qaeda. And
Musharraf does not want these connections to come out into the open.
But anybody who hears how they murdered Pearl will recognise the style. They
slit his throat just as they slit Rupin Katyalıs throat and just as they
slit the throats of the passengers on board the planes that crashed into the

Can anybody really believe that Musharraf is on the side of the good guys?
Or even, that he is in control?

Anybody who watches American TV channels or reads American magazines cannot
fail to be struck by the manner in which the whole Afghanistan operation is
being treated like a Commando comic or a Rambo movie. We hear about the War
Room. We read about the military geniuses who planned the strategy. And we
are told stories of bravery and action.

The truth, alas, is much less glamorous. In essence what happened was this:
the richest nation in the world bombed the hell out of the poorest < and
still couldnıt find bin Laden. American soldiers are probably the bravest in
the world but weıll never know for sure because the US was so unwilling to
commit them to a ground war. Instead, the battle was fought by cruise
missiles, high flying aircraft and the mercenaries of the Northern Alliance.
At the end of the day, the war did not make the world safe for Americans; it
only made America nicer to Pervez Musharraf. The General may have gained
from the post-September 11 situation, but America is just as vulnerable as
it was before the fall of Kabul. The Pearl murder is just one portent.
Nobody with any brains believes that bin Laden and the Al Qaeda cells all
over the world will give up terrorism and choose happy retirement instead.
At some stage they will regroup and retaliate < because the US has left them
free to do so.

What will the Americans do then? They will have to find a more permanent
solution than simply bombing Afghanistan and cuddling up to Pervez.

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