Ten years after al-Qa’eda’s 11 September attacks on New York and Washington, the global antiwar movement is preparing to mark the tenth anniversary of the US-led invasion of Afghanistan.
Three official lies stand out.
The first lie is that the war was inevitable, that it was the only way of bringing the perpetrators of 9/11 to justice.
In October 2001, not only had the Taliban rulers of Afghanistan offered in principle to extradite Osama bin Laden to a third (Muslim) country if evidence could be produced against him, they had agreed in fact to extradite the head of al-Qa’eda to Pakistan, in a deal brokered by Pakistani religious parties.
This agreement was revealed in the Daily Telegraph on 4 October 2001, just as then-prime-minister Tony Blair was explaining to the house of commons that war was the only way to make bin Laden accountable.
It may be that extradition would not have produced bin Laden for trial, but it was not tried, despite the opportunities. Military action was not the last resort.
Tellingly, the “extradition-to- Pakistan” deal reported by the Telegraph was scuppered not by the Taliban, or by bin Laden, who reportedly consented to the process; it was cancelled by the Pakistani government (after the US government got wind of the plan).
The second great lie is that the Afghan war reduces the threat of terrorism. The statement of responsibility for the 7 July 2005 terror attacks in London said that it was “time to take revenge against the British Zionist Crusader government in retaliation for the massacres Britain is committing in Iraq and Afghanistan”. This was the year before the major UK deployment to Afghanistan.
Shehzad Tanweer, one of the 7/7 bombers, said in a video released in 2006: “What you have witnessed now is only the beginning of a string of attacks that will continue and become stronger until you pull your forces out of Afghanistan and Iraq.”
The joint home office-foreign office report “Young Muslims and Extremism”, drawn up in 2004, concluded that a major driver of “extremism” among young British Muslims was “a perceived ‘double standard’ in the foreign policy of western governments... in particular Britain and the US”. The report stated: “the war on terror, and in Iraq and Afghanistan are all seen by a section of British Muslims as having been acts against Islam.”
The third lie is that this war is being fought for the people of Afghanistan. If policymakers cared at all about the wishes of the Afghan people, they would pay heed to the polls that have shown time and again that most people in Afghanistan, while strongly opposed to the rule of the Taliban, want a negotiated settlement, in which the Taliban would become part of the government, to bring about a nonviolent resolution of the current war.
The latest poll, conducted in April-May for the pro-war International Council on Security and Development, showed that in southern Afghanistan, 61% of interviewees supported negotiations to end the war and in northern Afghanistan the figure was 53%. (See PN 2534.)