- In his book "Freedom Next Time," John Pilger
used CIA Vietnam terminology calling Afghanistan "the grand illusion
of the American cause," describing long-suffering Afghans victimized
by conflict, violence, occupation, extreme deprivation and genocide.
- A December 15 ICRC press release expressed deep concern
about how dire conditions have gotten, their worst ever since America's
illegal war of aggression began in October 2001.
- Headlined, "Afghanistan: a people trapped between
sides," it cited "civilian casualties, internal displacement,
and insufficient access to medical care, all of which are occurring against
the background of a proliferation of armed groups."
- Its head of Afghanistan operations, Reto Stocker, said:
- "The sheer fact the ICRC has organized a press conference
is an expression of us being extremely concerned of yet another year of
fighting with dramatic consequences for an ever growing number of people
in by now almost the entire country."
- By every measure ICRC uses, its account presents an appalling
picture, the worst ever in its 30 year history of providing Afghans aid.
As a result:
- "Many people are fleeing as their only solution
and many end up in camps for the displaced or with relatives in neighboring
- The best estimates show the numbers of internally displaced
(minimally) rose 25% compared with last year. The ICRC acknowledged a likely
undercount because too many parts of the country aren't safe to access.
- In fact, however, safety is virtually nonexistent throughout
the country. As conflict escalated and spread, civilian casualties soared.
America's "grand illusion" indeed.
- In one hospital alone, Kandahar's Mirwais Regional Hospital
(serving an astonishing four million people), 2,650 wounded patients have
been admitted in 2010 compared to 2,100 in 2009. ICRC's prosthetic/orthotic
centers have fitted nearly 4,000 people with prostheses this year alone.
However, conditions are so unsafe in much of the country that ICRC staff
can't operate there even though it maintains dialogue with all belligerents
to treat victims regardless of their allegiances.
- Most are civilians in harm's way, suffering under America's
presence. It's why US forces are so hated. In contrast, Taliban ones are
freedom fighters struggling to liberate their country.
- ICRC's health coordinator, Dr. Bart de Poorter, cites
one of many issues:
- "The number of mothers coming in with children from
easily preventable diseases such as measles or chronic diarrhea is staggering.
But what doctor....is brave enough to venture into (some) areas given the
appalling lack of security and lack of respect for medical staff?"
- Yet international humanitarian law mandates that noncombatants
be treated humanely at all times. Article 51 of Geneva's 1977 Protocol
I requires they be "protect(ed) against dangers arising from military
operations," including "indiscriminate attacks." In addition,
"constant care shall be taken to spare the civilian population, civilians
and civilian objects."
- Under Geneva's Common Article 3:
- (1) Noncombatants "shall in all circumstances be
treated humanely, without any adverse distinction found on race, colour,
religion or faith, sex, birth or wealth, or any other similar criteria."
- Specifically prohibited is "violence to life and
person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment
- "The wounded and sick shall be collected and cared
for. An impartial humanitarian body, such as the (ICRC), may offer its
services to the Parties to the conflict" as well as civilians in harm's
- Reto Stocker added:
- "The humanitarian principles that we have insisted
on constantly in the past decade are as relevant, if not more so, than
ever. In today's Afghanistan, it unfortunately remains urgent and necessary
to abstain from attacks against civilians, to spare medical services and
to ensure that detainees receive decent treatment."
- Because of Afghanistan's conflict and dire conditions,
ICRC maintains its largest operation anywhere with over 1,750 staff in
15 offices with a 2011 budget of $89 million. It's a small amount for an
immense task in a nation with over 30 million people, including out of
country refugees wanting to come home.
- A Day at Afghanistan's Mirwais Hospital
- As mentioned above, it serves four million Afghans, an
impossible load. It's a 350-bed facility with over 500 staff, including
ICRC doctors, surgeons, nurses, and nutritionists working heroically under
- Christian Shuh, a pediatric nurse, discussed a typical
day in the children's ward. "We receive many young emergency patients
here," she said. "Mirwais is the only public hospital within
a radius of several hundred kilometers," providing free treatment
to as many patients as possible.
- This morning, three year old Jacoub and his family arrived.
For over a week, he suffered from pneumonia. His condition was very serious.
"My colleagues (diagnosed) septic shock, and began administering infusions
of essential antibiotics."
- He was breathing too fast. He needed oxygen and a saline
infusion. Finally his condition stabilized. If he survived, he was lucky.
Many others don't, and most get no care because Afghan need far exceeds
available resources and personnel to provide it.
- Overnight, five new young patients were admitted "with
a range of injuries, wounds and ailments." Later, a newborn was struggling
to breathe and stay alive. Afghanistan's infant mortality rate is the world's
highest. More on that below.
- Shuh explains that "Every day we see malnourished
children, children with infectious diseases that could have (easily) been
prevented....children with chronic illnesses that need regular treatment,
or children with diarrhea caused by dirty water," as well conflict
- Another case is described, seven year old Khadija suffering
from life-threatening meningitis and TB. Luckily she's improving, but she's
still very weak and could relapse. For every successful outcome, so many
others perish despite Shuh and her colleagues "mak(ing) enormous efforts
and unimaginable sacrifices to bring relief to those in need" who
get so little of it most often.
- Conditions in Afghanistan
- A March 2010 UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human
Rights analysis can be accessed through the following link:
- It explained tht "Abject poverty remains widespread;
it is closely related to inequality and frequently accompanied by a sense
of powerlessness and exclusion."
- Most Afghans are affected, exacerbated by "a massive
human rights deficit...." Two-thirds of Afghans are impoverished.
Half of those can't meet their basic needs. Many will perish. Conflict
conditions exacerbate conditions. The extent of human suffering is appalling.
There's no security, clean water, enough medical care, food, shelter, or
other essential services. Serious disease, injury, grievous suffering or
death has threatened everyone since America arrived.
- "Poverty is a multi-faceted phenomenon that, in
the Afghan context, has significant ramifications for the survival and
well-being of a high proportion of the population."
- International human rights law defines it:
- "as a human condition characterized by sustained
or chronic deprivation of the resources, capabilities, choices, security
and power necessary for the enjoyment of an adequate standard of living
and other civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights."
- To one degree or other, most Afghans are affected, their
situation worsening, not improving. It's "neither accidental nor inevitable."
It reflects an occupying power and its puppet government's agenda, their
contempt for human need, with no regard whether Afghans live, die, or suffer
grievously while alive. Washington, of course, makes policy. It destroyed,
subjugated and occupied Iraq and plans the same fate for Afghanistan, slaughtering
millions of civilians to solidify control.
- In November/December 2009, the Afghan Independent Human
Rights Commission (AIHRC) issued a report on "the Situation of Economic
and Social Rights in Afghanistan." In a word, they're dire. The full
report can be accessed through the following link:
- Appalling conditions exist despite the mandate of the
Afghan Constitution, International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural
Rights (ICESCR), Afghanistan's Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and
its National Development Strategy (ANDS) to protect the rights of its citizens,
including their security, health, education, and ability to have an adequate
standard of living. At war under occupation and a corrupted puppet government,
meeting those conditions is impossible.
- As a result, unemployment and poverty are rampant. The
absence of basic services is appalling, and the ability of millions of
Afghans to survive is gravely jeopardized. Except for sheltered elites,
the entire population is vulnerable and deprived.
- "There is no effective social security mechanism,
despite (years) of international aid and assistance....there are no mechanisms
in place to protect severely vulnerable people....The assistance of the
international community to Afghanistan has been far less than the assistance
provided to (other) countries."
- Washington has done virtually nothing unrelated to its
military and occupation agenda. How Afghans fare is of no consequence whatever.
- A September 2008 Institute for Afghan Studies.org (IAS)
report can be accessed through the following link:
- A snapshot cites:
- -- most youths deprived of education, creating an unskilled
- -- Afghanistan is one of the world's least developed
countries, suffering from a "high infant mortality rate, low life
expectancy rate, high prevalence of infectious diseases such as tuberculosis,
malaria, gastrointestinal diseases especially among children and a high
rate of mortality among expectant mothers;"
- -- the Karzai regime paid little more than lip service
to an out-of-control problem;
- -- "unemployment is rising and there is barely any
effective social service system to deal with the great need for social
service in the country;"
- -- millions of refugees create an added burden;
- -- most people live in abject poverty; and
- -- war and occupation exacerbate everything, including
pervasive fear, lack of security, and human suffering affecting everyone.
- An IAS November 11, 2010 commentary cites power corrupting
"the already corrupt system of government. All the powerful, or so-called
leaders....claim that they have the solution up their sleeves to rectify
the situation and put the country back on track. Yet it has been almost
a decade since (America arrived) and there is still no security, no prosperity,
no sound governance and hopes are eroding for a future that never comes,"
nor will it under conflict and US occupation.
- Reliable statistics are hard to come by. Those available,
however, make depressing reading:
- -- unemployment is around 45%;
- -- most with jobs earn a meager $200 a year, those in
the opium trade around $300;
- Under US occupation and puppet Karzai regime, Afghanistan
is a corrupted narco-state, by far the world's largest opium producer,
providing around 93% of global heroin. Washington, the CIA and drug laundering
banks are deeply involved. The drug trade exceeds half the nation's economy,
controlled by America and Karzai, not the Taliban who eradicated most opium
in the 1990s. Now it flourishes as a valued profit source for corrupted
locals, crime bosses, and America's financial interests. Washington is
the hub of the problem, not Kabul, and for sure not the Taliban.
- -- poverty is overwhelming;
- -- at least one-fourth of the population depends on scarce
hard to get food aid;
- -- at 44.5 years, life expectancy is perhaps the world's
- -- at 161 per 1,000 births, infant mortality is the world's
- -- one-fifth of children die before age five;
- -- an Afghan woman dies in childbirth every 30 minutes;
- -- homelessness is extensive and deplorable;
- -- at most, about one-fourth of the population has access
to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation;
- -- on average, one doctor serves 6,000 people, one nurse
per 2,500 people;
- -- war-related violence kills dozens daily, disease and
deprivation countless numbers more;
- -- children are kidnapped, sold into slavery or killed
for their organs;
- -- few Afghans have access to electricity;
- -- women's literacy is less than 20%;
- -- to survive, many women beg in streets or turn to prostitution;
- -- lawlessness, violence, and lack of essential services
makes daily Afghan life dangerous, appalling, and for many impossible.
- A Final Comment
- Afghanistan today is the reality of Washington's agenda.
Except for Haiti's five centuries of suffering, it highlights John Pilger's
- "Through all the humanitarian crises in living memory,
no country has been abused and suffered more, and none has been helped
less than Afghanistan."
- Washington's genocidal agenda accentuates that view.
Millions of post-9/11 corpses bear it testimony. Why else would fierce
resistance persist to expunge America's presence. For long-suffering Afghans,
it can't come a moment too soon.
- Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at
firstname.lastname@example.org. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com
and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the
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