Saturday, 24 December 2011

The Absence of Public Dissent On the War Objectives in Afghanistan.

The omission of any stated and coherent war objectives in Afghanistan is the most sinister aspect of the way the war has become normalised. So too the way discussions about what's actually at stake are infantilised by celebrity culture and TV "awards" and trivialised by mingling the position the soldiers have been put in with prime time entertainment.

The death of 391 British troops is low by historical standards but almost every week another soldier is killed and made for bad PR about the war. So the ritual of Wootton Basset welcoming home funeral corteges was stopped and the coffins rerouted to avoid public attention and the town renamed Royal Wootton Basset.

Instead, there is the subtle propaganda inherent in interweaving the virtues of selfless military endeavour with the notion of Afghanistan as unquestionably a 'Good War' , one implanted in popular culture and entertainment through Help for Heroes Concerts and ITV's A Night of Heroes ( "the millies" ) which gives Oscar style awards for bravery.

At the same time as this entertainment extravaganza, the British government seldom makes any attempt to explain why the troops are in Afghanistan beyond vague statements about 'terrorism', even though Al Qaida has not been present in Afghanistan for a long time. Nor does it explicitly use "The War on Terror", the War on Drugs or Women's rights to sell the war any more.

The subliminal message behind The Sun sponsored awards is that support for 'our brave boys' by extension also means mean support for the mission they are on. That this should be put beyond mere politics. It's curious that this has taken place at a time when the media and politicians remain silent on the war objectives and there is virtually no coherent opposition.

A J P Taylor in The Trouble Makers wrote that dissent over British foreign policy had ensured that there was never a time between the French Revolution and World War Two when it had followed a broad line of national interest that transcended the ordinary controversies of domestic policies.

In that light never in British history has there been such a lack of principled objection to a futile war where one essential geopolitical ambition-the security of the route along which the TAPI Pipeline is planned to be constructed by 2016-is not mentioned in Parliament nor press.

The fact that Britain is part of a NATO led coalition dominated by the US tends to lead to the belief that it is a war "in the notional interest". In fact, the interests are stated in documents and press releases and 'think tank' publications as clearly being related to the TAPI Pipeline

Almost every British soldier since 2007 has been killed in the most intense fighting in Helmland. The TAPI pipeline is planned to run through this traditional low lying Taliban dominated region. Now they cannot be defeated, US Vice President has stated peace talk will happen with them.

Indeed Mr Biden even made it clear that the Taliban now must not be referred to as 'the enemy of US Interests'. No mention of NATO here nor even 'the allies or 'western'. Those interests are clearly less to do with the prospect of Al Qaida returning to Afghanistan as to the unfinished business of the TAPI Pipeline.

The soldiers are dying for a pipe dream as the strategy of building a 'pipeline of peace' that will unite all the regional powers-Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India-together is fraught with problems. Pipeline transit states are notoriously unstable.

The plan to construct a New Silk Route is intended to diversify Turkmenistan's gas away from monopoly Russian control ( hence the special interest of Central European powers such as Poland which had five troops killed yesterday ) . It is also conceived as a plan to encircle and destroy Iran economically.

The TAPI pipeline ensures that Pakistan is brought under Western influence as well as getting the supplies of gas it needs and blocking off Iran's export of gas to the east and potentially to India and even Chinese markets. Despite the fact this is causing problems in Pakistan.

The Pakistani elites are not happy at being threatened with sanctions if Pakistan opts for the IPI pipeline which would bring in Iranian gas at a price four times as cheap than would be gas the more risky TAPI pipeline. Funding and support from the Taliban thus comes from Iran and certain factions in Pakistan.

The potential for increased as opposed to diminished conflict in Central Asia and the Middle East is a result of the lack of realism inherent in NATO's botched war and one that ought to have ended with the destruction of Al Qaida's base after 9/11. As Jason Burke has pointed out, Al Qaida is a global 'network of networks' that can operate from anywhere in the world.

The TAPI project and vast mineral deposits have ensured that NATO, and hence Britain, is 'staying the course' along with other objectives that have been euphemised as "mission creep"-the War on Drugs- and others used as pretexts to stay the course-women's rights, school building, aid work etc.

Whilst the humanitarian objectives were worthy, the fact remains it has never been the reason why NATO remained as no war is ever exactly fought for one reason alone. But the idea British soldiers are risking their lives in a selfless humanitarian mission is simply untrue. They fight to protect one another from the Taliban: the organisation the US wants to cut a deal with.

The public have the right as well as a need to know why this war was fought.

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