Time To Liberate Afghanistan

Time To Liberate Afghanistan

After 18 years of war in Afghanistan– America’s longest – US and Taliban negotiators are said to be close to an agreement that may see the withdrawal of many of the 14,000 US soldiers in that remote nation.

That’s the official version. President Donald Trump keeps changing his mind about the number of US troops to be withdrawn. The latest version from the White House has 5,000 US troops remaining in Afghanistan as a permanent garrison to guard the major air bases at Bagram and Kandahar and protect the US-installed puppet Afghan government in Kabul.

Without US troops to defend it, the Afghan regime of Ashraf Ghani would be swept away in days. Even Trump has admitted this. Keeping the Ghani regime safe in Kabul would at least provide a fig leaf to claim the US-backed government was still in charge.

The pro-war right in Washington is crying to high heaven at this prospect. Senators and congressmen who never heard a shot fired in anger are ready to fight to the last 18-year-old American soldier and keep the trillion-dollar war sputtering on.

To date, 2,426 American soldiers have been killed in combat in Afghanistan, with some 20,000 wounded, many of them permanently maimed. Thousands of US-paid mercenaries and foreign troops dragooned into this conflict have been killed or wounded. Heavy Afghan civilian casualties, mostly caused by air strikes, are covered up by US occupation authorities. Without 24/7 US air support, American forces would have long ago been driven from Afghanistan, as were their British and Soviet predecessors.

Proponents of the Afghan War insist that ‘terrorists’ will take over if US troops withdraw. By now, it’s unclear who the so-called ‘terrorists’ really are. Previously, the US branded Taliban as terrorists. But now that the US is negotiating with Taliban to end the war, Washington claims the threats are the Islamic State from Iraq and something called ‘the Khorasan Group,’ a figment of Washington’s imagination.

The US warns that if Taliban wins, it will turn Afghanistan into a base for international terrorism. This is absurd. Taliban today controls more than half the nation by day, and 80% by night. There is plenty of room left for anti-US groups.

Contrary to US claims, Taliban was never a terrorist group. I was in Afghanistan and Pakistan when Taliban was created. Civil war in Afghanistan after the Soviets pulled out led to wide scale banditry, rapine and anarchy. A preacher named Mullah Omar, a veteran of the anti-Soviet war, cobbled together a force of ethnic Pashtun (Pathan) fighters and students to attack the bandits, rapists, and opium-producing Communist forces causing mayhem. This rag-tag movement came to be known as ‘talibs,’ or religious students. Thus was born Taliban.

Mullah Omar and his Pashtun fighters went on to drive the Communists from Kabul and take most of the country. According to the UN, Taliban eliminated 90% of Afghanistan’s opium production and brought a rough justice to the nation.

But then came the 9/11 attacks on the United States. Caught sleeping on guard duty, the embarrassed Bush administration claimed Taliban was somehow behind 9/11 because it had given refuge to Afghan war hero Osama bin Laden. There was no hard evidence against bin Laden but he became the target of America’s wrath and desire for revenge.

Washington demanded Taliban turn over bin Laden. But the Afghan mountain warriors held to their tradition of defending guests and refused, claiming bin Laden would never have gotten a fair trial in the US. But they offered to send him for trial in another Muslim nation like Turkey or Egypt. The US spurned this offer and invaded Afghanistan, oblivious to its title ‘Graveyard of Empires.’

And so, under the banner of the faux War on Terrorism, the US bombed and rocketed Afghanistan, one of the world’s poorest but proudest nations, for 18 years, using B-1 heavy bombers and fleets of killer drones against mountain tribesmen armed with old rifles and fierce courage.

America faces historic defeat in Afghanistan. By not winning, it loses. How this loss would affect the rest of America’s empire remains to be seen. But the sooner America ends this shameful colonial war the better.

Copyright Eric S. Margolis 2019

Republished from ericmargolis.com.

 

Escape from the Aleppo Zoo

Escape from the Aleppo Zoo

I haven’t seen many miracles in my decades of travel around the globe, particularly not in the strife-torn Mideast.

But last week I participated in a real miracle in Jordan as the splendid Four Paws International group staged a daring rescue of 13 wild animals trapped in the wartime hellhole of Aleppo, Syria.It appeared to be a mission impossible.

Syria has been torn apart for the past six years by a bloody civil war that has killed over 400,000 people and reduced many parts of this beautiful country to ruins.Half the population has become refugees.The ancient northern city of Aleppo, Syria’s largest, was laid waste.

Just outside Aleppo lies a wrecked 40-acre amusement park cum zoo that once held hundreds of imprisoned wild animals to entertain children.The animals were abandoned in their cages in the midst of constant gunfire and shelling.Many were killed; the rest were left to starve to death or die of thirst.Some starving Syrians shared their meager rations with the animals.

No one else cared about these abandoned creatures that included five lions, two tigers, two Asian black bears, two hyenas and two Husky dogs.

But the Vienna-based Four Paws Charity did, and so did I.Four Paws had rescued a majestic lion named Simba and a charming honey-colored bear named Lula from Iraq’s abandoned Mosul zoo. Both had been starving.I agreed to sponsor much of the rescue operation in Aleppo.

I spent a morning in the New Hope Refuge outside Amman, Jordan, presided over by Jordan’s Princess Alia, the king’s sister.Over lunch, she showed remarkable compassion and understanding for wild animals.

Previously, Four Paws, led by its veterinarian, Dr. Amir Khalil, had rescued numerous starving or sick animals from the ghastly zoo in Gaza, Palestine.

Last week, a security team engaged by Four Paws International finally entered war-ravaged Aleppo which is besieged by feuding jihadist bands supported by competing outside powers that include al-Qaida and even Israel. Throw in Kurds, Turks, the Syrian government, Iranians, Hezbollah and the US for a total madhouse – and a very dangerous one.

Risking their lives, the security team managed to get around the jihadists and then into the Aleppo zoo.Over two trips, the thirteen remaining animals were coaxed into cages, then lifted onto flatbed trucks.Then the convoy headed for the Turkish border.This was the second attempt.A previous one had been held at the border, then forced to turn back.

The daring rescue team had to negotiate with the bands of trigger-happy jihadists surrounding them.A team of well-armed ‘security consultants’ came in to guard the convoy escaping from Aleppo. There was talk that the Israeli army might come to aid the animals, or a Turkish-backed militia. In any event, the little mercy convoy finally got to the Turkish border under the cover of darkness.

But the gate leading into Turkey was locked. Four Paws, with the help of Turkish volunteers, managed to talk the guards into opening it – yet another small miracle.

The animals were then driven for over 24 hours to an animal sanctuary near Bursa, south of Istanbul.There, one of the tigers, an imposing male that I named Sultan, went into cardiac arrest.Another wonderful veterinarian, Dr. Frank Goeritz, got into his cage and managed to bring him back to life, warning his aides ‘leave the gate open in case he wakes up.’Sultan was saved.

Wheels had to be cut off the cages to fit them into a commercial aircraft.Finding the right tool to do this in the middle of the night in Istanbul was another challenge.

After long delays, the mercy flight finally got to Amman where we met them at 5:30 am.Four Paws director Heli Dungler was waiting with us.Thanks to the patronage of Princess Alia we got the animals through border controls and then onto flat-bed trucks for a two hour journey north to the al-Ma’wa animal refuge near the ancient Roman city of Jerash.Drivers on the road could not believe their eyes as our convoy of big predators rolled by.

After a labor of Hercules, the heavy cages were unloaded from the trucks and the 13 new residents were gently introduced into their new enclosures.The animals were of course confused, exhausted and testy, but we were thrilled that our wards were finally safe in their new homes.

We humans were also exhausted, but elated. I had slept no more than a few hours for days and was groggy from jet lag and fatigue.But Four Paws had achieved the impossible and shone a beacon of humanity into the boiling darkness of Syria’s civil war.

As a final sign of good karma, lioness Dana gave birth to a feisty little girl who begins her life in a far better place.

Reprinted with permission from EricMargolis.com.

Hands Off the Iran Deal!

Hands Off the Iran Deal!

President-elect Donald Trump vows to either tear up or rewrite the recent international nuclear deal with Iran, calling it ‘disastrous,’ and ‘the worst deal ever negotiated by Washington.’

Iran, which has closed important nuclear facilities, shut down half its centrifuges, and neutralized its stores of nuclear material under the international agreement, must be wondering if it’s nuclear deal was not really, really disastrous.

In his rush to condemn the Iran deal, Donald Trump seems to be forgetting that the pact was co-signed by Britain, France, Russia, China, Germany and the UN. Backing out of the pact will be no easy matter and sure to provoke a diplomatic storm.

The outgoing CIA director, John Brennan, calls Trump’s plan to junk the Iran deal ‘the height of folly.’ Brennan warns that doing so would further destabilize the Mideast and embolden hard-liners on all sides. He could have added that if Iran resumes nuclear enrichment, Israel’s far right government will likely go to war with Iran in order to preserve its Mideast nuclear monopoly.

An Israeli attack on Iran could quickly drag in the United States and become a major Mideast conflict. The Pentagon is not anxious to get involved in yet another war in the Muslim world. Interestingly, some Iranian hardliners actually hope the US will attack Iran: ‘America will break its teeth on Iran, and that will be the end of its Mideast empire,’ as one overconfident Iranian told me.

Adding to tensions, the Iranian nuclear deal has been under heavy attack in the US that may sabotage the pact even without Donald Trump’s intervention. The US Israel lobby has made sabotaging the deal with Tehran a priority. Equally important, Israel’s extraordinary influence over the US Congress and media has been directed at overturning or at least derailing the nuclear accord.

Read the rest at Unz.com here.

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