Tuesday, 17 December 2013

David Cameron "Mission Accomplished"

Prime Minister of England, David Cameron has announced the end of the war in Afghanistan during a pre-Christmas trip to troops. Cameron's claim of "mission accomplished" came after being asked if basic levels of security provided since the beginning of the international coalition invasion in 2001 were sufficient to prevent terrorist training occurring in the country. He responded "That is the mission, that was the mission and I think we will have accomplished that mission". His predecessor, Tony Blair, had stated in 2001 "We act for justice. We act with world opinion behind us and we have an absolute determination to see justice done and to see this evil of mass international terrorism confronted and defeated". So what's happened in the past decade to allow this claim of 'mission accomplished'?

The invasion of Afghanistan, spearheaded by the US and the UK brought the 'Coalition of the Willing' to attempt to oust Taliban influence from the country and disrupt various terrorist groups' training activities. Since then, calculations relating to the number of wounded and killed have been difficult to verify. The challenges in verification are caused by the lack of security and that violent action can go unreported in the remote areas of rural Afghanistan. In the 2013 Mid Year Report from the United Nations Assistance Mission to Afghanistan (UNAMA), found that the number of civilians dying violent deaths has increased every year for the past five years. The deaths have been primarily caused by anti-government/coalition forces carrying out car-bombings and targeted killings. Unexploded ordinance from coalition air-strikes will be a legacy issue for decades into the future.

Increased access to health care, education and improved women's rights are cited as the positives of the war. Couldn't these aims have been achieved without killing an estimated sixteen to nineteen thousand civilians? Tony Blair cited the need to provide stability of the UK economy in going to war with Afghanistan. The Nato mandate on constructing the Afghan armed forces is set at $4.1 billion dollars per year until 2024. This is beneficial for the two of the world's largest weapons exporters: invade a country, then sell their new, self-imposed government forty billion dollars of military equipment.

In achieving the aim of defeating the ideology of terror, an oft-repeated refrain from the British media is addressing the threat of "Muslim terrorism" around the world. Rather than viewing the action of terrorist actors for what might could be a perspective of anti-imperialism in reaction to British involvement in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, it is easier to cast terrorists as irrational actors who suffer from religious delusion. Participants involved in violent acts in the United Kingdom have sought to refute this portrayal. Looking to the comments from the men involved in the killing of Lee Rigby and the 7/7 bombers, they see themselves as participants and soldiers fighting in the "war on terror". The process of othering is engaged in to provide a socially-accepted distancing of radicalised and violent young men and can legitimise a decade long incursion into the Middle East and Central Asia.

In the past ten years, the establishment of prisons such as Guantanamo Bay and extraordinary rendition programmes have become normalised. The devaluation of law and human rights has been accepted and facilitated by the British government through its persistent use of the 'Five Techniques' in detention facilities abroad, alleged assistance in the United States' assassination programmes and the possible prosecution of journalists who exposed government spying. A long lasting campaign of inhumane and degrading treatment, Geneva convention breaches and aggression against one of the poorest countries in the world is now being considered by David Cameron as "mission accomplished". This, apparently, is the new meaning of justice.

The true lasting legacy of the war in Afghanistan will be a nation with a future of instability, fractured governance and a traumatised population. The language and rhetoric being used by those in power should be considered with the realities of the situation on the ground, for those most closely affected by an international coalition of those with the power and capacity to perpetuate the military industrial complex.

The Swans are Asleep