From Wed Nov 28 12:00:16 2001
Date: Tue, 27 Nov 2001 15:38:29 -0600 (CST)
From: MichaelP <>
Subject: Welcome to our world
Article: 130985
To: undisclosed-recipients:;

The west wants to rebuild Afghanistan in its own image—whether the locals like it or not

By Jeremy Seabrook, The Guardian (London), Tuesday 27 November 2001

In spite of having ransacked the academies and thinktanks of America and Europe in order to consult experts on Afghanistan, the western powers appear to have learned nothing, either from the September terror or from their much-lauded prosecution of the war.

Even while the B-52s make their parallel furrows in the sky over Kunduz, and a boletus of dust rises over each bombfall, western politicians have already turned their attention to creating a better sort of Afghanistan

in the words of Clare Short. She joined James Wolfensohn of the World Bank in recognising that rich countries remain in constant danger while poverty persists and resentment at injustice smoulders.

The model for rebuilding, however, bears small relation to the social and human reality of Afghanistan: it is clearly to be an off-the-peg version of economic restructuring, crafted by the global financial institutions with such conspicuous success elsewhere in the world. The conference in Pakistan to discuss the reconstruction of Afghanistan this week is being hosted by the World Bank; a conclave not be confused with the meeting in Bonn to ensure the emergence of a broad-based government for an Afghanistan freely determined by its own people.

In Washington last week, yet another cabal, co-sponsored by Japan and the US, was looking at ways of transforming Afghanistan into a market economy.

This is no doubt all being facilitated by what British ministers have hailed as the restrained behaviour of the Northern Alliance - illustrated perhaps by the historically modest scale of its latest massacres in Kunduz and Mazar-i-Sharif - and evidence of a new political maturity. Indeed, the new rulers of a large part of Afghanistan are being treated with fresh respect. No longer cut-throats, dealers in heroin, arms and variants of fundamentalism, Doctor Abdullah, General Basir, Professor Rabbani and General Rashid Dostum have, as a sign of their rehabilitation, had their titles restored to them by the western press.

While Kabul was exulting in new freedoms to fly kites and watch the war film Uroj at the cinema, the anti-terrorism, crime and security bill was being passed in Britain, curtailing ours.

In the US President Bush signed an order allowing military tribunals to try suspected terrorists in private and without a jury; while the possibility of using, not torture, but physical interrogation of suspects was being widely discussed in order to safeguard our way of life.

In fact, so desirable is our way of life that the purpose of this week's conferences is to find ways of exporting it to Afghanistan. This time,

said Tony Blair, among others, and with an undertow of menace which was not missed by Islamic countries, we will not walk away from Afghanistan.

No indeed. We are going to re-create it in our image.

This means setting up a democracy after the fashion of our own thin and depleted electoralism, from which a majority, even here, are in danger of severe estrangement.

No matter.

This is the only model in the globe and the Afghans must be brought to see the unalterable wisdom and truth of it. Loya jirgas? Councils of elders?

These are only for local colour, a prelude to entry into the modern world; even though the very demographic composition of Afghanistan suggests that it is no nation-state, but an arbitrary agglomeration of peoples owing allegiance to elsewhere, a consequence of ancient colonial divisions, a far cry from a single governable entity.

Would it not have been thought by now that the historical antecedents of attempts to impose external models onto these disputatious territories would speak for themselves?

The desire to bring the warring peoples of the North West Frontier under the sagacious umbrella of the Raj led to the deaths of 16,000 British soldiers in the first Afghan war of 1839. The wish to visit upon them the somewhat limited benefits of Soviet socialism contributed in no small way to the dissolution of that ill-fated experiment in human progress.

The intention of uniting them under the joyless shadow of a version of Islam, unrecognisable even to a majority of Muslims, is now also drawing to its close in so much pain and blood.

The only thing not yet tried is the ideal of representative democracy and free market - the final experiment-in-waiting for this tormented land, and one which will require as stringent an enforcement as all the other alien ideologies brought by the wisdom of others. Let Kabul be transformed into a fun-loving capital of lap-dancing clubs, obesity clinics and lonely-hearts ads, where its women may seek employment as strippers, and the drugs it produces will no longer be exported, but consumed by the strange hungers that torment its own young. Then Afghanistan will at last have joined the world civilisation from which it has so long been estranged. It has been estimated that the cost of reconstruction in Afghanistan could be as much as $20bn (somewhat less than that for restoring a small part of New York).

The west believes that it alone knows the secret of engineering social peace, which is by the healing balm of a large application of cash. This, after all, is the real western ideology, the solvent of all conflict, the restorative of universal amity and concord. The rebuilders of Afghanistan are themselves motivated by fundamentalism, unnamed and unrecognised, committed, as they are, to the coercive dogmas of an economic reason which bears so slender a relationship to human need.

Clearly, the vision - or is it the fate? - for the future of Afghanistan is identical to that currently being experienced by every country in the world, apart from a handful of recalcitrants like North Korea, Cuba and Iraq: integration into the global economy, under the superintendence of the warlords of the G7.

The limits of the mindset of the combatants could not be more clear. To impose upon Afghanistan an intensification of injustice and inequality which has made it so hospitable to terrorism; to have understood so little about Islam that a broad-based collection of nominally democratic fiefdoms, with elections to be held in three years time, is the only offer to be conjured out of the atrophied imagination of the victors in this war against evil.

Surely the western powers are not animated either by the promise of oil pipelines, those aortas of their economic lifeblood, or by the possibility of contracts for their construction conglomerates, with profits even more bloated than the corpses now littering the landscape of the liberated territories.

In other words, what the west dreams of doing to Afghanistan represents the further spread of its doctrines of light all over the world. They are so busy crying success over the melting away of the Taliban, the triumph in the north, the comradeliness of the United Front, the net closing in on Bin Laden, that they do not see the millions of displaced in the dun-coloured tent cities in the dust, hunger and drought, the ruin of subsistence agriculture and, above all, the bitterness and resentment of a new generation, so many of whom have witnessed the death of their parents, the maiming of their siblings, the humiliation of their people. The parched fields of a pulverised agricultural production may go to waste, but the fertile terrain of hatred and, alas, possibly of future terrorism, is being ploughed, enriched and fertilised by the instruments of heavenly vengeance.