A lot has happened over the last week, not least the wildfires raging around the Mediterranean (indicative of the reality of the climate crisis we are facing). Undoubtedly, however, much of the world’s attention is rightly turned towards Afghanistan.
After twenty years of conflict and occupation, costing tens of thousands of lives and hundreds of billions of dollars, very little seems to have been achieved. The Taliban, whom the US-led NATO forces unseated in 2001, have returned to power seemingly undiminished.
Is this really a surprise though? What have most of the military interventions and adventures launched since the end of World War Two accomplished? Other than creating death and destruction and enmity, the only ones to have profited have been arms manufacturers and fossil fuel companies.
On face value, what we are seeing as a global population seems desperate and demoralising. It feels as if life and time and effort have been wasted. But with these feelings, I believe the world has learned many valuable lessons. If the world is now more reluctant in going to war, if governments think twice about launching military interventions, then all need not have been in vain.
Even more encouragingly, the NATO countries involved in Afghanistan over the past two decades have raced to open their arms to refugees; the realisation that their actions have led to those people requiring sanctuary abundantly clear. Media which have previously vilified and scapegoated migrants and asylum-seekers (quite often driven by The West’s military or economic actions in the first place) have markedly changed their tone about potential refugees from Afghanistan.
Many brave and dedicated service people, and even more innocent civilians, have paid the price of political decisions with their blood. The best we can do in their memory is not to repeat the same mistakes again. This responsibility, however, does not only lie with our governments. It lies with all of the people who elected them, and who they are accountable to: us. We, the people, must ensure our voices are loudly and clearly heard.
Thoughts have also turned to the women and girls of Afghanistan. What will become of their recent freedoms and participation in education, employment and government? At the moment, it is difficult to tell. The Taliban are presenting a very different face to the world than that prior to 2001. Their words have been conciliatory, measured. Their actions remain to be seen. We will be watching.
When showing concern for the rights of women, and girls, and of minorities, under the strict ideological rule of The Taliban, we are also obliged to do the same with countries such as Saudi Arabia, where The Taliban’s ideology originated and which has been creating a human catastrophe in Yemen over the past seven years with British and American equipment and munitions.
Lest we forget the role the US and UK played in the creation of The Taliban and Al Qaeda (as a force to undermine the former Soviet Union in the region), we bear responsibility in the outcomes we are witnessing. Let us stop excusing and arming and cosying up to these ‘allies’.
Perhaps now, after so much intervention and interference with truly appalling outcomes, we might finally come to realise that prioritising profit above people is no longer acceptable.
Once again, I’ll leave you with the words of the late Tony Benn:
If we can find the money to kill people, we can find the money to help people.