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Do The Lives Of Afghanis Count? 

by Ramzy Baroud  


Middle East News Online,  16 November  2001 

Centre for Research on Globalisation (CRG),  globalresearch.ca,  23 November 2001

Afghanistan is one of these countries that extracts its political significance from its strategic location, natural resources, or the prestige of its enemy.

The country is remembered for its war against the British decades ago, because the British empire was the greatest in the world.

The collapse of the Soviet Union can hardly be mentioned without having Afghanistan mentioned, for the latter was a tool with which the two greatest powers of the time, the USSR and the USA fought their cold war.

It's not the 1.8 million Afghanis who were brutally killed, nor is it the millions of orphans and widows that most of us remember. What we remember is how the war shaped world politics thereafter, and particularly how the war affected the Americans and the Soviets.

The Afghanis as a people only matter to those who genuinely care about the plight of humanity. Those who only care for their own interests have managed to use Afghanistan to advance their interests, and have ditched it when it was no longer a hot commodity in the global arena Following the departure of the Soviet Union from Afghanistan, the US applauded. It was in part a US victory, after all. But since the threat of communism was eliminated, nothing was done to combat the threat of civil war, famine, disease and the culminating refugee problem.

Afghanistan was then insignificant because the conflict then involved Pashtun, Tajik and Osbeik, who were neither relevant to US foreign policy, cold war, or anything else, beside tribal contentions of the region.

Occasionally, we would hear of Afghanistan in the news, just to remind us of how oppressive the Taliban are to women, a bit of defamation of Muslims and Islam here and there, a campaign often led by American self-proclaimed human rights activists.

In recent years however, the problem of girls not being allowed to go to school and the destruction of a few Buddha statues were hardly the core of Afghani suffering.

UN and relief agencies' constant warnings of the human tragedy developing in Afghanistan in recent years failed to get our attention. They were only Afghanis, not many pitched in to help, very few cared.

A statement issued by the World Food Program in Geneva early last year said that dozens of Afghani refugees are dying from cold every day.

According to Christiane Bethiaume, the organization's spokeswomen, in the matter of two days, in the period between Jan 29-31 nearly 500 people froze to death.

At the time it was announced that only $3.5 million was needed to save the lives of 80,000 Afghanis at six refugee camps in the western Hirat province.

Children were freezing to death. Medical workers hadn't much to do save actively amputating limps of those who were lucky enough to survive. Most of the unlucky ones were of course, the children.

Nothing can even be worse than being a child in Afghanistan, nothing.

Little was done. Few countries offered help, and fewer actually carried out their word.

And as winter passed, new dangers loom. Landmines, millions of them are still claiming lives, foreign powers continued to fuel a deadly civil war, the UN stood back and watched for the superpowers of the security council who were unmotivated to help, or perhaps interested in prolonging the conflict.

The tragedy hardly stops at this, the former foes of the Cold War began working diligently, imposing sanctions on Afghanistan, rallying the UN to carry out similar policies, as if the very hurt country needed further destruction.

And yet Afghanistan would become important again, for a few days when former US President Bill Clinton, desperate to defer his people's attention from his affairs with an intern, bombed Afghanistan and Sudan. 30 innocent people were killed by US missiles in the Afghani city of Khost in August of 1998.

It was not the lives of those Afghanis that mattered to the world media, but how their death was related to Monica Lewinsky's affair. But what really matters in history is the fact that Clinton remained in office, and Lewinsky appeared on television as a popular celebrity. The dead Afghanis? Irrelevant.

Yet here they become relevant. They are falling victim to cluster bombs and the highest tech weapons of the greatest powers on earth, falling silently in their impoverished towns and villages.

The lucky ones who managed to escape and who crowded refugee camps far from Kabul and Qandahar might not think of themselves as so lucky when the temperature plummets under zero degrees in camps that lack food, warm shelter or blankets.

To pacify the concern that some around the world might have, the US is dumping food supplies jointly with cluster bombs, enough rations to feed a third of Afghanistan for just one day. Meanwhile, those who dare to provide aid to Afghanistan like the Red Cross and Red Crescent find themselves targets to American bombs as well.

It seems that when food is a political tool, then no one should be allowed to use it but the US.

The various ways in which an Afghani can be killed are uncounted. The various levels of suffering that a child in Afghanistan can experience are incomprehensive. But is the world even concerned enough to count or comprehend? If the seemingly united international community cared, it could have done something to help when the invading Soviet union departed, or when the civil war ignited without much protest or peace keeping efforts, or when the children needed blankets to fight the fatally cold winter, or when landmines hunted them every day.

We only fussed whenever we had the chance to defame Muslims and Islam, selectively championing whatever causes tickled the fancy of the western propaganda.

And here must of the world stand again, applauding as the Afghanis are dying with more modern weapons and more sophisticated bombs.

Once the US war is over, the Afghani suffering will remain, yet the news about Afghanistan will dive back into the back pages of our newspapers, and will be placed at the lower agendas of our political institutions, and the Afghani people will once again become less relevant.

What is even more depressing about all of this is that since the Soviet invasion of 1979 until the US war, those who have contributed to the destruction of Afghanistan, exhort that their motive is to help the poor Afghani people. Yet since then they have managed to do nothing but greaten their misery.



2001 Middle East News Online. . For fair use only

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