March 1, 2008 by patriceayme

Abstract: Afghanistan is not the American west,  battles of ideas are settled at school, not on a firing range.

After Al Qaeda attacked on 9-11, the countries of NATO determined that, for the first time, the mutual collective defense clause had been activated: the attack on the USA was an attack on all. But the USA haughtily refused help, and bombed, invaded, and cleverly pushed Al Qaeda and the Taliban into Pakistan, all by its little neoconserved self. That policy of bombing first and thinking later came short, and Uncle Sam soon begged NATO to come and help. In early 2008, Afghanistan is held by 26,000 US troops, and 37,000 NON US NATO troops (plus 35,000 Afghans). But Uncle Sam is whining ever louder, begging the Franco-Germans, for example, to send thousands more troops (although the French army has thousands more in a shooting war in the Central African-Chad-Darfur theater). Relative to their population, the Franco-Germans have already 40% of the troops in Afghanistan that the USA has, so the whining and begging now has been that the areas the Franco-Germans administer are more peaceful (!). Such calm may be related to the reticence of the Europeans to massacre the populations.

In US controlled areas, the Taliban is doing better everyday. Why? A long report, “Subduing the Korengal Valley” (New York Times, 24 Feb. 2008), is revealing. A 26 year old US captain, has been made “Lord of the Korengal”. That US citizen has right of life and death on the natives. The US Army has forts in a valley, and uses helicopters, flying gun ships, and giant supersonic bombers against the natives. The rambunctious natives methodically resist, and occasionally get lucky and kill US troops. It’s all very personal: the US Army knows the names of who is trying to kill them, and where their homes still are. Occasionally, the Americans shoot anti tank rockets into these houses, killing a few more women and children (obviously Afghan houses are built much better than US houses, because they keep on striking the same houses!)

The greatest moral victory occurs when a local boy admits to the captain that a local resistance fighter is “bad”. The captain wanted the child to say that for months, he feels he is getting somewhere, he is relieved. The child suggests that next time the American does not shoot a TOW into his home, but rather into the cemetery.

Far from destroying some mysterious Taliban, in the entire story, US troops are actively searching and killing natives of the Korengal valley. It feels like the nineteenth century, with the US army bringing forth the destruction of the last Apaches. It’s a picture of utter, would be genocidal devastation, rather than of a high moral ground.

But WARS ARE MOSTLY WON BY FINDING AND OCCUPYING THE HIGH MORAL GROUND. The Allies occupied the high moral ground in WW I and WW II (democracy fighting fascism), so they won. In the Algerian or Vietnam wars, the moral situation was murky (so resistance to the war developed within France and the USA). Where is the moral high ground in Afghanistan? It’s certainly not in killing people in the very valley where they were born, with wild abandon.

The moral system of the Taliban is Islamist. ISLAM IS A RELIGION WHICH CLAIMS TO BE A CIVILIZATION: Islam is the law, the government, the entire universe: ISLAM IS AUTOCRATIC. The Western Europe of the Franks never had this problem: in the early Middle Ages, Catholics, Jews (and, in places, even Muslims), governments, the schools, women, and the law, were all nominally independent and powerful: THE WEST IS PLURIPOTENT, THEREIN ITS STRENGTH (actually the Franks were more pluripotent, hence potent, than the Romans, and that is why they replaced them).

Some of the potent mental structures used in the West were immensely old, perfectly honed. In particular, the West had thousands of books for centuries (although the fanatical theocratic Roman Catholics had just destroyed most of them). In 700 CE, Islam had just one book, just one, only one small little book, and it was written with a still incomplete Arabic alphabet (so it’s not clear what it said). While in south west France the twin cameral parliamentary system was in a sense 3,700 years old (from Sumer, north east of Mecca, but long very civilized).
What is usually viewed as the basics of Islam are described in the 400 pages Qur’an. Most people in the West, who, like Bush, evoke the Qur’an with respect, have never read it.
Pity, because it would make an excellent comic strip. Women are subjugated, slave girls are enjoyed even before being sold, non believers are killed, those who insult God or the Prophet are killed, the highest way to God is war in the name of God, God creates non believers so He can make them swallow molten lead, Jews have been turned into apes and pigs, and, at the end of the Book, all cities are destroyed by God.

Pity too because the Qur’an is NOT Muhammad’s work. Verily it was commandeered by Uthman, a successor (“caliph”) of Muhammad, who was widely viewed as a dictator in his time (he faced a rebellion for writing the Qur’an, and burning alternatives, and was killed for it).

Aisha, Muhammad’s beloved widow, was strenuously opposed to the sexism in the Qur’an, and claimed that She, and people in Muhammad’s close family knew well that He was not sexist (there is direct objective evidence this was true, because women played a crucial role in combat during the two battles that saw Islam crushed the Persians and the Romans). Aisha did not just talk, she went to war about preserving the Prophet’s work. But she lost the “Battle of the Camel” (circa 660 CE).

The Qur’an was very convenient to would-be dictators. God supposedly asserted that any Muslim in position of authority had to be obeyed as a religious duty. Muslim “scholars” were well rewarded to comfort this view with the writing 50,000 pages of the alleged life of the long dead Muhammad (the “Sunnah”). Then, they invented the “Shariah. Islam was soon dry frozen, imagined from Qur’anic fumes. It’s clear that Muhammad would not have been happy with what happened.

This is a bleak picture, but such is the problem. Denial is futile. This does not mean Muslim individuals are “bad”. But, in many Muslim regions, the one and only book people have learned from is Uthman’s “Mein Kampf”, the Qur’an, or derivatives of it, and that cannot be very good. That is why one should not pooh pooh efforts to build secular schools. An objective would be to teach what truly happened (and thus why there are so many different versions of Islam).

Initially the war in Afghanistan started when government and its Soviet allies were confronted to Islamists who killed to prevent little girls to go to school (Pakistan, officially an Islamist state since 1961, was behind it, because, as many a fascist state, it lives best by causing a mess in the neighborhood). With Machiavellian hubris, crafty operators in Washington saw that Qur’an fanatics could be used to make the USA overlord of Afghanistan. It worked. And so here we are.

After He acquired control of Mecca, Muhammad marched into (Greco-Roman) Palestine (Palestina, in Old Hebrew), at the head of a gigantic army of 35,000. It was the first razzia in 1,000 years. Romans and Sassanids were exhausted, it was now or never: the Greek, Roman and Persian empires had prevented the Jihad way of life out of Arabia for a millennium. The Romans refused combat, Muhammad went home, caught a fever and died. Lesson? Gandhi was about peace, Muhammad was about war.

His family and generals led the next invasion. They should have been crushed, but they had God on their side. In a few months that small army of maniacs crushed the giant Persian and Roman armies. Ever since the Islamists have been dreaming of repeating that incredible feat. For two generations, they did.

But Constantinople’s walls and its high tech, flame throwing navy repealed them (711 CE). So it was decided to go around the other way, through Spain (killing 20%), and then Francia, Italia, Switzerland. The war in Francia was terrible. The Muslims did not know about the Franks, but the Franks knew about them, and viewed them as a particularly deranged Christian sect. The Franks liked their Christian sects subdued. They had been for centuries the world’s greatest experts at war, even inventing some methods their enemy the Mongols would become famous for. The Franks fought like crazy, nationalizing the Catholic church to finance total war, forging the best steel, inventing heavy cavalry and the feudal system.
The war started in 721 and is still going on in March 2008 in Darfur. Its very first phase was the most violent, an eighteen years war culminating in the huge crucial, and very bloody extermination battles of Toulouse, Poitiers, and Narbonne (721-737 CE). As a warning, the spiteful Franks left the Muslim dead to rot. In the end, the Syrian army was annihilated. So the vengeful Persians seized the defenseless Caliphate in Damas, and moved the capital to Baghdad (749 CE).

Thereafter a Golden Age blossomed; bin Laden, and many a deluded obsequious western intellectual anxious to please Muslim fanatics, have claimed this enlightened age had to do with Islam. Yes, in a trivial way, no, in reality. Verily, most of the population of “Islam” was Christian and Jewish, but being protected from the rabidly anti intellectual theocracy in Constantinople by the awesome Muslim warriors, they were allowed to flourish. So, in an important sense, those three centuries became golden because they were more secular than what came before, or after (and they had the books and intellectuals saved by the Persians from the theocrats in Constantinople, and the caliphs were generally well conscious of the superiority of the West, and not just because they married Greek women).

When Islam was fully frozen into fascist Shariah laden rigidity, it collapsed onto thinking, and crushed it completely. A millennium of darkness followed. This has to be taught in Afghanistan too, but it can be made understandable only after many years of school. Muslim children should be interested to learn that the spiritual founder of Wahhabism (the state religion in Saudi Arabia) opposed finding understanding with the Franks (as Saladin did), and the Mongols (c. 1300 CE). Muslim authorities imprisoned him for “literalism” (namely dangerously asserting that the Qur’an had to be taken literally, so that, for example, when it orders to kill non believers, this is not a poetical way of speaking, but a mandatory course of physical action). Now, here we are, seven centuries later, and it’s the entire planet which has a problem with “literalism”.

(A few) Conclusions:

0) The two countries most responsible of the inception of the present bad situation in Afghanistan are Pakistan and the USA. It would be good for the EU to remind them that they drove the bus into the ditch, that’s what they do best, and they don’t own the tow truck.

1) The US ways of fighting in Afghanistan can be highly immoral, and ought to be stopped immediately, on that ground only. Intense aerial bombing borderlines on war crimes, it should be used only as a last resort (as it was in WW II). Moreover, that US way of war will lead to certain strategic failure. We are not in the wild West: there are 32 million Afghans, not just a few last Apaches to exterminate. It is hard to see why the EU would support such a would-be genocidal policy, but still it is what the EU would be doing were it were to obey blindly the spastic Bushmen in Washington.

2) Occupying higher moral ground in Afghanistan means contradicting the Qur’an, and exposing it for what it is. The Qur’an is thoroughly responsible of the decay of the Middle Earth in the last millennium. Exhibiting the massively murderous violence and obscurantism of the Qur’an cannot be done by bullets alone. Secular schools are more important. Bullets ought to protect schools, not replace them. And leave the mayhem at that. Don’t go around chasing the Taliban as if they were American Indians. Extermination is neither hoped for, nor feasible. Fight only in self defense, or exerting the right to protect lives.

3) More legal income should be given to Afghanistan immediately. Western countries already grow opiates for pharmaceutical purposes, so let’s allow Afghanistan to do it legally. The warlords, mafias and the Islamists have dominated the massive, illegal drug trade, and made themselves popular that way. Legalization will stop that. Countries such as France do not need the revenue from opiates, but Afghanistan does.

4) Unspoken is the geographical position of Afghanistan. It cannot have escaped the attention of NATO strategists: between the nuclearizing and Islamized Iran and Pakistan, and central Asia and the ocean. Western troops and aircraft in Afghanistan are part of a western “defense” (best defense being attack) system in Central Asia. Well, there is no need to keep a war going at vitam eternam to keep a military presence. If Afghanistan was treated well, and was secularist enough, western troops would be there to stay (amicably).

But Afghanistan is not well treated now. And blindly sending more storm troopers will only make the situation worse, because the operating paradigm was fixed by the dumb, ignorant and vicious US neoconservatives. In other words, unsaid, some in the US, in the guise of fighting the Islamists, are still fighting the “Great Game” (I. e., Britain barring Russian access to the Indian ocean). Instead, the UN (including Russia, India, China) should be invited to help (even if mostly symbolic), in an ecumenical spirit.
Patrice Ayme


  1. Zoe99 Says:

    Completely agree with your assessment of Afghanistan (not sure I’m convinced that the USSR’s motives in Afghanistan were as pure as you make them out to be, however, so I would include the USSR as being responsible for the current situation in Afghanistan, along with Pakistan and — in a completely different way, the US).

    However, I’m not sure I agree with your 4th conclusion. Certainly we should help Afghanistan as much as possible in terms of supporting their sending ALL children to schools, helping provide or protect a source of income for them, etc. And I agree that just “sending in the stormtroopers” would be a mistake. But I’m not sure we can get away with not sending troops.

    Is it your contention that as long as we only send ground troops, that’s okay, but allowing aerial bombing is wrong? If that’s what you’re saying then I support that too — I completely agree that aerial bombing should be a tactic of last resort.

    Unfortunately the American people (and most other people in the world) have a low tolerance for the deaths of their own countrymen, first and foremost. So it is difficult at best to send our men into harm’s way in order to protect people who are perceived as “the enemy.” I don’t think your way of reducing Islam to its worst components is helpful here, as it allows everyone to think of the Afghanis as less than human, and therefore one of their lives is not worth as much of one of our lives.


    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      I was all for the invasion of Afghanistan in the begining, and even for the aerial bombing, even with B52s. But now it’s eight years later, and the USA, and now NATO, have clearly become part of the problem. Supporting an Islamist constitution is the fundamental contradiction. Even if we make diplomatic accords with Islamist regimes (that includes Saudi Arabia or Morocco), we should make clear we will not support any non secular constitution. That is why Barack’s celebration of islamism in Turkey was highly inappropriate. He certainly would not have done that, if Ataturk had been there.

      The robotic bombing of the Pakistani public (whatever the smarty pants at CIA say) is highly unwise. I am an enemy of Islamist Pakistani constitution, but not of the innocents who die under CIA bombing from grainy videos.

      The USSR’s methods and motives in Afghanistan were not pure, right, but they got right the support of a secular regime. That should be the ground of it all, with democracy next (but only next, namely only after secularism in ingrained).

      Building democracy on top of Islam is like building a house on top of boiling lava. It has never worked, and can never work, just ask the Young Turks.



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