By David Sole
The United States government suffered a humiliating defeat as it finally withdrew from Afghanistan on August 31, 2021. For over 20 years, 1979 to 2001 the CIA and State Department financed and armed Islamic fundamentalists to overthrow the socialist revolution that had taken power in Afghanistan and then tried to create a stable puppet government in Kabul, but to no avail. From 2001 to 2021 U.S. and allied troops fought on the ground to defeat the Taliban – an outgrowth of the earlier U.S. efforts.
President Joseph Biden, following the steps taken by former President Donald Trump, ordered the final evacuation from that country. Now begins a drawn out campaign to demand to know “who lost Afghanistan?” It appears that most of the corporate media, conservative as well as liberal, are chiming in. One can ignore the attacks on Biden by top Republican Party officials who had defended Trump’s actions along the same line. That is just pure partisan politics.
The unified front across most media indicates that the entire U.S. ruling class is upset with this outcome. But the question shouldn’t be “who lost Afghanistan?” Poor and working people in this country ought to be asking “why were we in there in the first place?”
For many years we were told that this intervention and invasion was part of the “war on terror.” The U.S., the story went, was nation building to provide Afghans with democracy. U.S. bayonets were going to protect women’s rights from reactionary, theocratic fundamentalists.
The real reason for all the death and destruction at the cost of perhaps a trillion dollar price tag may be found in, of all places, an article published online by Sharon Simpson in Scientific American (September 29, 2011). The article is titled “Afghanistan holds enormous bounty of rare earths, minerals.” It is enlightening to quote from this piece:
Recent exploration of rare volcanic rocks in the rugged, dangerous desert of southern Afghanistan has identified world-class concentrations of rare earth elements, the prized group of raw materials that are essential in the manufacture of many modern technologies, from electric cars to solar panels….
That’s enough to supply the world’s rare earth needs for up to 10 years…points out Robert Tucker, the U.S. Geological Survey scientist…
Afghanistan could provide an alternative source of rare earth elements for industrial countries concerned that China currently controls 97 percent of the world’s supply….
This new science, funded by the Pentagon’s Task Force on Business and Stability Operations, also characterizes 24 areas of economic interest, half a dozen of which are world-class mineral deposits in the norther two thirds of the country…
Vast deposits of copper and iron in the northeast near the nation’s capital, Kabul, are together worth hundreds of billions of dollars….
Wall Street bankers and corporate bosses are furious that they have “lost” the opportunity to loot Afghanistan and reap perhaps hundreds of billions in profits. The ordinary people of the U.S., however, have no stake in war and occupation by the imperialists and the weapons manufacturers.
If securing Afghan the right to vote and protecting the women of Afghanistan were truly of concern to the U.S. ruling elite, then why are they going along with voter suppression and the attacks on women’s rights in Texas?
On August 31 the Texas legislature sent to Governor Greg Abbott for his approval a bill aimed to suppress voting rights. The governor is expected to sign it into law. The bill had been held up when over 50 Democratic members of the House and Senate left the state for many weeks to keep the Republicans from having a quorum.
On September 1 a harsh anti-abortion law passed by Texas was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court’s conservative majority in a 5 to 4 vote. The bill outlaws almost all abortions and makes no exception for pregnancy due to rape or incest. Any individual who suspects a person is having an abortion or is assisting in any way for a person to obtain an abortion, can bring suit in court. This is reminiscent of the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act that required all persons to assist slave catchers in all states in apprehending alleged runaway slaves.
These actions by the Texas fanatics have not drawn the condemnation one would expect for such reactionary policies when one looks at the broad national media. The explanation must take into account the interests of the same ruling class that pursues profits around the world no matter what the suffering it brings.
The one thing that makes it possible for the tiny capitalist class to hold onto power amidst a sea of hundreds of millions of exploited workers and oppressed people here at home is their perfection of “divide and conquer” tactics. They desperately need racism, bigotry and anti-woman prejudice to keep the profits flowing.
It would be a mistake to confuse the temporary successes of the Texas fanatics and the reactionaries in many other states with real strength. Just look at the Women’s March on Washington on January 18, 2017, the day after Donald Trump’s inauguration. It is estimated that at least 470,000 women and their supporters packed the District of Columbia that day while up to 5 million more demonstrated in other cities.
Following the police murder of George Floyd in May 2020 demonstrations broke out across the U.S. of a size and duration never before seen in this country. The makeup of these Black Lives Matter protests also terrified the ruling class because they were thoroughly diverse, having all races and ages participating.
It will not be the courts, certainly not the U.S. Supreme Court that ends the wave of reaction around the country. Congress itself is too beholden to the big money interests to protect the rights of the people. No doubt the Democratic Party will continue to make promises to their base while at the same time tailoring their actions to please Wall Street and the Pentagon.
It is only the mass struggle in the streets and the workplaces that ever won any of the things now being threatened. Union rights, voting rights, environmental protection, women’s rights, LGBTQ+ rights all were the result of intense struggle.
Texas women cannot and should not be expected to defeat this assault on their own. A national fund must be established to pay the travel expenses of any woman in Texas so that she can get to another state where abortions are legal. Poor women might need additional assistance to make arrangements to be away from home. The medical profession ought to volunteer to provide medical abortion services for free as a “Texas exception.”
When Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a white man and was arrested, the Montgomery, AL bus boycott began. It lasted from December 5, 1955 to December 20, 1956. It was an intense and hard fought year long battle. It continued even after the U.S. Court of Appeals ruled on June 5, 1956 that Alabama segregation laws for buses were unconstitutional. It continued even after the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed that decision on November 13, 1956,
Just as the Civil Rights Movement often traces its roots to the Montgomery Bus Boycott, a strong, national mobilization to defeat the Texas fanatics could easily become the beginning of a movement that could roll back reaction in all its forms and, perhaps, go on to confront and defeat the entire capitalist system.