The views of the populations invaded, bombed, or otherwise on the receiving end of US foreign policy are rarely discussed in the US mainstream. That is, of course, outrageous, and as of the last few days we have another case in point.

As far as I know, there has been no public study by the US government or media of what the Afghan “beneficiaries” of its policies think of it.

The usual US voluntary censorship regime aside, that’s actually somewhat surprising, since the evidence suggests that the news could be spun positively for the foreign invaders. When it has been studied, the Afghan public is largely in favour of the foreign presence, although universally condemning night house raids and air strikes (precisely the part of the invasion that is expanding). The foreign presence is associated with foreign aid, reduced crime, and the local militias and police are often corrupt and incompetent; at least, this is what the evidence suggests. If one goes into the detail, however, the evidence suggests that the Afghan population strongly supports negotiations with the “Taliban”, possibly a coalition government including them: that is, a political solution.

(“Taliban”, used to describe opponents of the Karzai “government”, is a terrible term which fails to capture the heterogeneous and complex nature of the conflict — recently leaked documents on wikileaks show how the word “Taliban” is deliberately used inaccurately in this blanket fashion, for propaganda purposes, in NATO public relations.)

In essence, then, the Afghan public is strongly opposed to a policy of expanded bombing and airstrikes, such as Obama and NATO are implementing right now.

This silence on Afghan opinion within the US, despite the potential for positive spin, suggests that, so far as US media and political elites are concerned, Afghan people are not simply uninteresting or irrelevant as far as policymaking is concerned, but do not arise the first place as a voice to be considered — they are “unpeople”, arising only tangentially as the recipients of bombs and missiles and the source of public relations difficulties.

On Wednesday, a coalition of humanitarian groups released a report on Afghan views of “security”. They report that they could not visit as many parts of the country as in their previous 2004 report — and even though they could only visit less violent parts of the country, in contrast to a general mood of optimism in 2004, “the picture painted today is bleak”. They call for international organisations to recognise that Afghans “consistently identify poverty and unemployment as the driving forces behind insecurity and call for these issues to be addressed as a priority.”

Study: Afghans View Security as Deteriorating Humanitarian groups call on U.N. forces to increase focus on civilians
Press release: http://www.care.org/newsroom/articles/2009/03/Afghanistan-HRRAC-report-security-research.asp?s_src=170960110000&s_subsrc=
Report: http://www.care.org/newsroom/articles/2009/03/Afghanistan-HRRAC-report-security-research.pdf?s_src=170960110000&s_subsrc=

Just google-news-ing now, I could find this report covered in the UK,
Canadian and Australian press, but not a single article in the US,
apart from a triumphalist neo-con journal applying the aforementioned
spin.

Afghans losing hope: aid groups
http://www.theage.com.au/world/afghans-losing-hope-aid-groups-20090319-93cb.html
Afghans’ sense of security evaporating, poll shows
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/mar/19/afghanistan-nato

The most recent previous study of Afghan public opinion, so far as I
know of, is a Canadian one from 2007:

http://erg.environics.net/media_room/default.asp?aID=653

See also discussion by Noam Chomsky on this topic in his recent article in Z Magazine:

Elections 2008 & Obama’s “Vision”
What we can expect in 2009, given both parties are well to the right of the population
http://www.zmag.org/zmag/viewArticle/20424

On the legal side, the invasion of Afghanistan was as much an aggressive war as Iraq, waged in supreme violation of international law, the same crime for which the Nazis were hanged at Nuremberg. Was it in self-defence following the terrorist atrocities of September 11, 2001? Of course not — international law grants a (very limited) right to self-defence, not to retaliation and vengeance; if it was permissible to invade Afghanistan on this ground, then it must also have been permissible to invade Saudi Arabia, Germany, and much else. Was there UN Security Council authorisation? No. Peacekeepers were later authorised — as they were after the initial invasion of Iraq. The first Afghan peacekeeping force was authorised December 2001, two months after the initial invasion. As we all should recall, the invasion began in October 2001, with humanitarian organisations forced to pull out, warning of mass starvation in the millions. Fortunately, that appears not to have happened — but that was the assessment at the time, and the assessment in the face of which the US decided to invade anyway. The possibility of mass starvation is no matter when it applies to “unpeople”.

The proper way to deal with such vast criminal acts as the September 11 attacks would have been to bring the perpetrators to criminal trial. Indeed, there were offers from the Taliban to extradite Bin Laden for criminal process.

Nonetheless, war continues and escalates, bringing with it the certainty of escalating civilian casualties. This is “the good war”.

Afghan public opinion
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