Thursday, 20 August 2009

Afghanistan - an ongoing crime

So - today Afghans go to the polls. Or, rather, those who are able to do so go to the polls. Some of them, probably not a majority, may even be uncoerced. Few of them will be voting for candidates who are untainted by monstrous war crimes, human rights abuses, and misogyny on a scale that boggles the mind.

Sometimes, it's easy for those of us who live in Britain to forget the ongoing nightmare that is the war in Afghanistan. It's not so easy for those who live there, and for those British troops who are charged with completing an impossible mission, devised by politicians who are driven by ego, greed, and the desire not to lose face. The disaster has been going on for so long, sometimes it almost fades from view for UK civilians. The first bit of political activism I did at University, eight years ago, was founding Oxford University Stop The War to organise demonstrations against the initial bombing. And it's still going on.

As this article, by the incredibly brave female Afghan MP Malalai Joya, points out, Afghan democracy is nothing but a myth - a collection of brutal warlords trading influence with each other, and spending aid money on anything but the people of the country.

After all, as Human Rights Watch recently pointed out, "President Karzai has made an unthinkable deal to sell Afghan women out in return for the support of fundamentalists in the August 20 election". Anyone who watched Douglas Alexander's pitiful squirming on Newsnight yesterday evening will be well aware that the British government intends to do nothing whatsoever about the new law that allows Afghan men to rape and starve their wives at will, nor about Karzai's alliances with bona fide war criminals. All that matters is preserving face - after all, "we are winning".

For these reasons, and many more, I am honoured to have been asked to speak at Hackney Stop the War Coalition's Naming of the Dead ceremony on Saturday. The conflict has now claimed 204 British dead - and no one even seems to be counting the thousands of innocent civilians who have died. And for what?

I was proud to have proposed one of the motions that committed the Green Party to withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan. We cannot solve terrorism by force, and this Labour government still hasn't learnt - despite thousands upon thousands of deaths. Shame on them.

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