In recent days the tabloid media have rushed to praise the role of Prince Harry in Britain’s occupation of Afghanistan. The Sun described him as a "born leader" and a "poster boy of Britain". BBC journalists heaped praise on the prince and Gordon Brown said that the "whole of Britain will be proud of the outstanding service he is giving".
However, the real media blackout has been of the shameful current reality of occupation. The current headlines about Harry’s deployment to Afghanistan and the jingoistic celebration have served as diversions from the true reality of the situation in Afghanistan. Only yesterday (29/2/2008), the US State Department 2008 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report revealed that opium poppy production in 2007 had reached a record high under the US and British occupation of Afghanistan. The report revealed that in 2007, Afghanistan grew 93 per cent of the world’s opium poppy.
Despite the tabloid headlines, Afghanistan, more than six years on, has become a metaphor for everything that is wrong with the West’s ‘war on terror’. Violent occupation, inhumane treatment of prisoners, chronic insecurity, minimal reconstruction and a huge growth in narcotics are the key emblems of modern day Afghanistan. Corruption, poverty and insecurity have all worsened in Afghanistan under occupation and violent incidents are up 20 per cent in the past year. This ‘free, democratic’ Afghanistan has levels of poverty comparable to sub-Saharan Africa and now has 120,000 women and 60,000 children who are amongst its new drug users, giving a meaning to ‘liberation’ that is entirely in keeping with intervention by liberal capitalist states. In stark contrast, almost half of the US’s aid budget goes directly to boosting the profits of five US contractors.
The real hypocrisy of Britain’s occupation of Afghanistan cannot be overlooked. In April 2006, the then Defence Secretary, John Reid, announced in Kabul that the British "would be perfectly happy to leave in three years time without firing a shot because our job is to protect the reconstruction." However, the British ambassador to Kabul, Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on 20 June 2007: "The task of standing up a government of Afghanistan that is sustainable is going to take a very long time…We are going to win this, but it’s going to take time. It’s a marathon rather than a sprint – we should be thinking in terms of decades." In January 2008, the Defence Secretary Des Browne said that Britain’s occupation of Afghanistan "could last decades".
The glowing tributes to Harry and the British Army generally are merely an attempted diversion from the disatrous reality of Afghanistan under foreign occupation. It is a false sense of pride and loyalty that allows the politicians and media to whip up jingoistic sentiments to defend the actions of the British Government when it has committed crimes, injustice and oppression. Governments should not be defended by their people, politicians and media in these circumstances. Unfortunately, when patriotic and nationalistic sentiments are whipped up amongst the populace, loyalty to principles is sacrificed and the masses sleep comfortably at night, in the assumption that their fellow countrymen are exhibiting ‘bravery’ in the trenches for some ‘just cause’. Instead, the reality is the stuff of nightmares and would make no decent person proud.
It is high time that Western governments admit that their repeated intervention – trying to ‘fix’ what they broke – only creates more problems. They show no signs of wanting to leave the Muslim world to shape its own future and political destiny. Stability can only come when a system of government enjoys the trust and confidence of the people and that will only come when Islam lies at the heart of that system. People want to choose their rulers rather than being forced to accept stooges who represent foreign interests.
Hizb ut-Tahrir Britain
23rd Safar 1429
1st March 2008