By Gary David Ghirardi
Historically Informing Expectations for Progressive Citizenry
The Afghanistan War cannot be Barack Obama’s war anymore than it is historically correct to call it George W Bush’s war – because there is a history revealed that says different. They inherited a stage in a conquest that has been playing out in modern times from as far back as 1839. It is all part of something called the “Great Game,” a competition to control Central Asia of which Afghanistan is the geographical bridge.
When Great Britain colonized India, under the interests of their corporation, “The East India Company,” The Anglo-afghan wars, that extended over three periods from 1839 to 1842, 1878 to 1880, and May 1919 to August 1919, were wars of territorial conquest between the British Empire and the Russian Empire, and now is the venue of the American Empire.
Hearing Obama invoke 9/11 again in his speech yesterday night is the same propagandistic subterfuge for our benefit as it was when we needed to struggle against Communism and now Islamic terrorism. These are ideological justifications for what has been a struggle of control for economic reasons, then and now, designed to create an enemy and have little to do with the true motivations other than to give us a reason to rally to war. What have changed are the resources; oil and energy was not in the mix in 1839 but it in 2009.
Afghanistan’s history of Anglo Occupation and Resistance
In 1907 an accord was signed between Britain and Russia called the Anglo-Russian Convention that divided up the region of Persia, (now Iran), Afghanistan, and Tibet. Iran was divided into a northern zone for the Russians and a southern zone for the British. The Emir of Afghanistan accepted an agreement with Britain to be positioned as a semi-protectorate to serve as a hedge against the Russian Empire. Both China and Tibet rejected this agreement but lacked the power to forestall the occupations. This is how the region entered the 20th century.
After over 80 years of struggles between the British forces and Afghan resistance in 1919 was accomplished an armistice with the Afghans that established the Durand Line which established a political boundary between Afghanistan and British India. It also won the Afghans the right to administrate their own affairs as an independent state.
The 1920’s saw the beginning of the political chess game between the newly established Soviet Russia, British interests in India, and internal tribal conflicts of the newly independent Afghan state. The Soviets, eager to establish better relations with Muslims inside their own eastern borders promoted cooperative agreements with neighboring Muslim regions and used these relations to threaten Britain, which was one of the western states supporting counter-revolution in the Soviet Union. British relations with Afghanistan soured with Soviet military aid to Afghanistan and Indian nationalists being given asylum in Kabul. By 1928 the Pashtun tribal majority rebelled against the reform government of Afghanistan that had liberalized and secularized much of Afghani Urban life to reassert Islamic laws as a form of governance. The British assisted in the overthrow of a Soviet friendly, liberal government and backed the conservative Islamic takeover of Kabul by fundamentalist tribes in retaliation.
The New Great Game: The Politics of Cold War and Corporate Interests in the Oil Era
The war in Afghanistan is not and has not been for the last 30 years about ideological alliances between the “democratic” west and the previously “communist” Soviet Union; it is about control of massive oil fields in central Asian countries and how to secure pipeline routes to deliver that oil to market. The Soviet Afghanistan war was an attempt by the Russians to support a Soviet friendly government in Afghanistan that had stood in power since 1973 from an overthrow attempt by U.S. funded Mujahedeen liberation fighters. This political alliance for the U.S. Interests undid nearly a 40 year process of modernization in Afghanistan and led to the repressive fundamentalist revolution that resulted in the Soviet withdrawal in 1989. What we have been fighting since then is a native resistance that has been used as political pawns between oil interests trying to prevail in securing and winning the race of cheaper oil to access ports, east and south from the Caspian basin area. On our “side” of the struggle is the interest of UNOCAL, the spearhead for Standard Oil interests, which has been trying to build the north-south pipeline through Afghanistan and Pakistan to the Indian Ocean for several decades. This is documented fact that has somehow managed to avoid much press inside the U.S. media, and appears to be headed to the same fate in the Obama Administration, if recent speeches by Obama are any indication of what the U.S. Citizenry is likely to be led to believe.
It seems that you cannot sell empire on the business facts alone, you need to rally people around a belief that they have about their country and themselves. As the next chapter for the anti-war movement takes shape in the next months, the contradictions for the progressive front within the U.S. culture between those who hold on to the belief in the Republic and those who are on the verge of accepting the need for regime change need to come to a different understanding about their choices and instilled prejudices before any realignment of movement strategies are likely to build a coalition of leaders rather than a coalition of the led.