Freedom and Democracy in Afghanistan? Only so long as you don't tell the truth

The Independent today leads with a story that highlights the shallowness of Washington’s claims that their occupation of Afghanistan is humanitarian based, that they’re there to liberate the country, for freedom’s sake, for democracy.

Sayed Pervez Kambaksh, a journalism student has been sentenced to death, accused of blasphemy, for downloading and distributing a piece from a website that challenges fundamentalist claims that that the Koran justifies the oppression of women. Mr Kambaksh’s case is that he was only trying to stimulate open debate, but he apparently upset someone who reported him. He was then arrested, tried by a religious court, without legal representation, and sentenced.

One would think the ‘powers that be’ in Afghanistan would have come to his defence; after all he was only doing what journalists are supposed to do – uncover the truth, disseminate information, but no. As the BBC reports today: “Afghanistan's upper house of parliament has issued a statement backing a death sentence for a journalist for blasphemy in northern Afghanistan.”

So here we are six years after the US invaded the country, supposedly ousted a reactionary Taliban, installed a pro-western leader Hamid Karzai and even had a malleable press back home brag about just how free women felt in Kabul. Bush even reiterated the bollocks in his state of the union address on Monday:

"In Afghanistan, America, our 25 NATO allies, and 15 partner nations are helping the Afghan people defend their freedom and rebuild their country. Thanks to the courage of these military and civilian personnel, a nation that was once a safe haven for al Qaeda is now a young democracy where boys and girls are going to school, new roads and hospitals are being built, and people are looking to the future with new hope. These successes must continue, so we're adding 3,200 Marines to our forces in Afghanistan, where they will fight the terrorists and train the Afghan Army and police. Defeating the Taliban and al Qaeda is critical to our security, and I thank the Congress for supporting America's vital mission in Afghanistan.”

To be sure, you’d be hard pressed to think of any country the US has invaded or intervened in which democratic freedoms have improved during their stay or involvement. Look for instance at yesterday’s piece on Suharto’s Indonesia. The simple truth is that so long as the US is occupying and intervening it is pursuing its imperialist ambitions, seeking out mineral wealth, securing trade routes, foreign markets and areas of influence on behalf of its corporate elite, and to do this with maximum efficiency the host nation has to oppress dissent, erode its democratic processes, see to it that compliant US leaders are installed. This invariably involves turning a blind eye to human rights abuses perpetrated by reactionary forces within a host country, reactionary forces who, in their own way, control dissent. Again, turning to yesterday’s piece, it is instructive that Islamic militants joined with Suharto’s forces in the massacre of communists in Indonesia.

Undoubtedly, Mr Kambaksh could be released with one phone call from Washington. As I write he still remains in custody, because Washington quite simply needs the forces of reaction in place there to help them quell dissent. It all makes sense when you realise the Caspian basin contains an estimated $12 trillion worth of oil and that to be able to control who has access to it you first have to subdue Afghanistan and Iran.

A petition to free Mr Kambaksh can be found at the Independent here.

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