They Talk Peace but Wage War

John Lannon of Shannonwatch attended a one day International Alternative Conference entitled "For a self-determined Afghanistan" in Bonn on December 4th. This is a brief report on the conference. 

"There are few countries in the world that require as much solidarity as Afghanistan". These were the words of Matin Baraki, a political scientist born in Afghanistan, speaking in Bonn at the weekend. "The people of Afghanistan have been traumatised" he said. "But we have not given up hope".

Matin Baraki was speaking at a one-day International Alternative Conference which coincided with a war summit that is also taking place in Bonn. The BBC and other international media call this war summit "a major global conference on Afghanistan's future". Sponsored by Germany and chaired by the puppet president of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, the publicly stated intention of the conference is to work out a roadmap for Afghans’ self-sustenance for economic development, and for peace after the NATO mandatory mission supposedly expires by the end of 2014.

Afghan participants at the Alternative Conference were clear about what Afghanistan needs. Their country is crippled by poverty, conflict and lack of education. and one of the primary causes of these ongoing problems is the US/NATO occupation. This occupation is what Afghan politicians like Malalai Joya see as one of three enemies faced by the country, the other two being warlords and fundamentalism. It is intended to continue well beyond the much-touted withdrawal date of 2014, and in so doing it will create even greater problems for the people of Afghanistan.

Participants at the Alternative Conference also emphasised the fact that the US/NATO occupation of Afghanistan is all about strategic interests. In their plundering and destruction of the country, fundamentalists and warlords have now become important allies. Lawlessness and failure to respect human rights - especially the human rights of women - are excuses given for the ongoing occupation. All the while the US ignores the voices of the Afghan people, especially the liberal forces that seek real change. 

The Alternative Conference was attended by peace activists from around the world. They came together to create space for discussions with progressive Afghan voices and to outline alternatives to the occupation.  It was an honour to be part of the programme, to meet people like the incredibly brave, independent and outspoken Afghan activist and politician Malalai Joya, and to hear first-hand from her and others about the suffering - and the hope - of the people of Afghanistan. It was also shameful to have to tell them that Ireland, a supposedly neutral country, is actively participating in the US/NATO occupation by allowing Shannon Airport to be used for troop movements.

Ireland has also got 7 troops serving with NATO in Afghanistan. It is therefore part of the war strategy that has fragmented and polarised societies around the world in order to control and dominate.

Over the coming days the future of Afghanistan is being discussed in a small city 3,200 miles away from its capital Kabul. It must seem strange to the people of Afghanistan - to those who know about the conference, that is - that their futures are being decided so far away. But it is no accident that they have no say; respecting the  human rights of Afghan men, women and children is not what the Bonn war conference is about. Indeed as the US/NATO discourse moves from "counter insurgency" to "counter terrorism", the conference is being used to re-establish old strategies of cooperation with the Taliban and other recent  enemies. And the only certainty is that this strategy will bring more violence and suffering to the people of Afghanistan.

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