Written by Katrina Plotz, Anti-War Committee member, for the AWC Zine for LGBT Pride 2010.M
Shortly after September 11, 2001, President Bush announced plans for a “War on Terror,” and U.S. troops began bombing Afghanistan, killing thousands of civilians. In 2003, the U.S. preemptively attacked Iraq despite protests from millions of people around the world. Today, President Obama seldom uses “War on Terror” rhetoric, yet he has continued the same pattern of U.S. aggression overseas. In Iraq, U.S. troops maintain an unjust occupation, while a recent surge of troops to Afghanistan has only escalated the war there. It’s now more important than ever to demand justice for the people of Iraq and Afghanistan, to refuse participation in these wars, and to urge our elected officials to bring the troops home now.
In 2003, President Bush called Iraq “the central front in the war on terror,” and ordered an attack by the U.S. military that destroyed infrastructure, leveled neighborhoods, and killed thousands of people. Today, all the reasons for going to war with Iraq have proven to be false. Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction, there was no connection between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda, and Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11. When these lies were exposed, the remaining justification for a U.S. presence in Iraq became the “liberation of the Iraqi people.” But after 7 years of occupation, living conditions in Iraq are much worse than before the U.S. invasion.
The initial bombing campaign and subsequent “counter-insurgency operations” have led to over a million deaths and a sharply increased mortality rate in Iraq. Unstable conditions and damage to infrastructure has caused 1.9 million people to be displaced within Iraq, while 2 million Iraqi refugees have fled to neighboring countries. According to the United Nations, “1/3 of Iraq’s population lives in poverty, education has broken down, and Iraq’s basic needs for drinking water, food, sanitation, and electricity are not being met while hospitals are understaffed and lacking in basic supplies.”
The U.S. military is clearly not in Iraq to improve the lives of the Iraqi people. The “War on Terror” in Iraq is really a war for control of oil and power in the region. 92,000 U.S. troops remain in Iraq, and Obama recently announced an indefinite delay in the withdrawal of combat troops “due to escalating instability in the country.” The Iraqi people have a right and many reasons to oppose the occupation. The invasion of Iraq was wrong in the first place and the continued presence of U.S. troops is only making it worse.
The same phenomenon is currently unfolding in Afghanistan, where President Obama has more than tripled the size of the U.S. military presence since he took office in 2009. Obama deployed 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan last December, and today over 94,000 U.S. troops are stationed there, a number that will reach 105,000 by the end of the summer, according to Pentagon officials. The expanded U.S. military presence corresponds with a dramatic increase in civilian casualties. In May 2010, Afghanistan’s Interior Ministry reported that civilian casualties jumped by 33% in a recent month-long period. Afghan officials reported 173 civilian deaths from March 21-April 21 of this year and stated that “an increasing number are at the hands of U.S. and foreign forces.” On May 10, the New York Times reported that shootings of Afghan civilians by U.S. and NATO convoys at military checkpoints have spiked sharply. At least 28 Afghans have been killed and 43 wounded in convoy and checkpoint shootings this year.
Obama has referred to the war in Iraq as a “war of choice, unlike the war in Afghanistan.” He implies that Iraq may have been the wrong war, but wants Americans to believe Afghanistan is the right one. He suggests the Afghan war is justified because the U.S. is fighting “extremists,” which is really no different than Bush’s “War on Terror” rhetoric. And who are these “extremists”? The U.S. media broadly refers to those who resist the U.S. in Afghanistan as the Taliban. But according to Adnand Gopal, Afghanistan correspondent for the Christian Science Monitor, there are at least 3-4 groups fighting the U.S. occupation with varied goals in mind. Some envision global struggle. Others focus their fight within the borders of Afghanistan. And some see themselves as merely defending their homes and their families against foreign occupiers.
Despite the recent escalation, the U.S. military is actually fueling the insurgency in Afghanistan. The U.S. military quickly defeated the Taliban in 2001. But 8 years later, the U.S.-installed government led by Hamid Karzai only controls about 10% of the country and the Taliban is back. Other insurgent groups that didn’t exist or had little power a few years ago have emerged. Why? Because the Afghan people are disillusioned with the current government and angry at the U.S. occupation. Promises of jobs, development, and security have been broken. And despite the many differences among Afghans, nearly all can be united in outrage at violations of their sovereignty.
On June 14, the New York Times reported that U.S. geologists have discovered $1 trillion in untapped mineral reserves in Afghanistan, including large deposits of gold, copper, cobalt, and lithium – a key mineral in the manufacture of batteries for laptops and cell phones. American geologists have been studying the potential for mining in Afghanistan since at least 2004. The Pentagon has already hired international accounting firms with mining expertise and is preparing to turn over technical data to multinational mining companies and American investors. Like the war in Iraq, the war in Afghanistan is really about controlling a region in order to exploit natural resources and make profits.
While U.S. military deaths in Iraq are down, American casualties in Afghanistan have risen sharply. Overall death tolls have increased 273% so far this year compared to the same period in 2008. Nearly 5,500 Americans have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, and on June 1, U.S. war spending topped $1 trillion. We can’t afford these wars and we can’t allow them to continue unopposed. You can help build the anti-war movement by contacting your senators and representatives, attending a protest, or joining the Anti-War Committee.