Annals of Liberation: Afghanistan

Ted Rall tells some hard truths about "The Other Bad War" – the highly popular Afghan expedition, which is largely a mirror-image of the now much-derided disaster in Iraq. Some excerpts:

Everyone loves Bush's war against Afghanistan, even though it was based on just as many lies as his assault on Iraq: Osama bin Laden probably wasn't in Afghanistan on 9/11 and was certainly not there by the time bombs began falling. People approve even though, as in Iraq, Bush didn't send enough troops--8,000 where 500,000 were required--to provide basic security. Even though Afghans didn't greet us as liberators. Even though, as in Iraq, he installed a government composed of corrupt, violent and vengeful minorities, guaranteeing sectarian bloodshed and civil war.

And even though the news from U.S.-occupied Afghanistan--if you can find any--is as relentlessly bleak as that from Iraq. Afghanistan suffers its own litany of roadside bombs, suicide bombs, massacres of foreign aid workers, citizens terrorized by kidnappers and rapists. It even has its own Abu Ghraib.

U.S. troops are jailing, torturing and occasionally murdering about 500 uncharged (and therefore legally innocent) inmates at a top-secret makeshift concentration camp at a disused Soviet-era machine shop at Bagram, about 40 miles south of Kabul. "Some of the detainees," reports the New York Times, "have already been held at Bagram for as long as two or three years." The paper says that the Bagram camp is "in many ways rougher and more bleak" than the notorious U.S. gulag at Guantánamo. "Men are held by the dozen in large wire cages...sleeping on the floor on foam mats and, until about a year ago, often using plastic buckets for latrines." And if Abu Ghraib serves as a guide, check out what Army interrogator and self-admitted prisoner abuser Anthony Lagouranis says about those "terrorists": "90 percent of them were probably innocent."

It's widely accepted that the torture at Abu Ghraib, combined with U.S. troops' rough and intimidating treatment of civilians on streets and in their homes, motivates Iraqis to join, fund and provide logistical support to a growing resistance movement. Now we know that the same thing is going on in Afghanistan. When will American public opinion catch up with reality?

Both wars, in Iraq and Afghanistan, are equally unjustifiable, illegal, corrupt and unwinnable. Both make us less humane and less safe. Anti-Iraq War liberals who have given the Administration a free pass on Afghanistan have merely encouraged more abuse. "For some reason," a senior Bush official marvels to the Times, "people did not have a problem with Bagram. It was in Afghanistan."