• All governments lie, but disaster lies in wait for countries whose officials smoke the same hashish they give out.

  • I.F. Stone

zaterdag 21 december 2013

Boycot Israel 114

Subject: Joint Media Statement: Embassy of the State of Palestine to South Africa and BDS South Africa
Date: 20 December 2013 4:30:28 PM SAST

JOINT STATEMENT FROM "THE EMBASSY OF THE STATE OF PALESTINE TO THE REPUBLIC OF SOUTH AFRICA" AND "BDS SOUTH AFRICA"
 - Clarification regarding comments made by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas whilst in South Africa on boycott of Israeli settlements and products
 
Recent comments made in South Africa by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (and Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organisation), regarding the boycott of Israeli settlements and products, seem to have been taken out of context and misconstrued by some members of the media and members of the Israeli lobby. Some journalists and Israeli lobbyists have reported that President Abbas, at a South African press conference, said that he is opposed to the international boycott. This is untrue. The Embassy of the State of Palestine to South Africa and BDS South Africa would like to confirm the following positions:
 
1. We, together with international bodies including the United Nations, consider the Israeli settlements in the Palestinian territories occupied in 1967 illegal and all activities with those settlements in violation of international law;

2. Israel's settler colonies violate several UN resolutions and are continue to be the main obstacle to the peace processes;

3. With the view that  the Israeli settlements are illegitimate and an obstruction to a just peace, the Palestinian Authority has accordingly initiated an official boycott of all Israeli settlement products in the occupied Palestinian territory;

4. In 2010 the Palestinian Authority issued a law, signed by President Mahmoud Abbas, banning Israel's illegal settlement products, companies, relations and other activities with such illegal entities built in the occupied Palestinian territories occupied in 1967;

5. The Palestine Liberation Organisation and the State of Palestine is not opposed to the Palestinian civil society-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel. Palestinian officials and leaders respect and uphold the right of Palestinian civil society to initiate and lead local and global BDS campaigns against Israel as a means to achieve the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, paramount among which the right to self determination. Furthermore, the Palestinian leadership has always deeply appreciated the efforts of international solidarity groups and activists in South Africa and elsewhere, including those involved in the global BDS movement, to uphold international law and universal principles of human rights in supporting the Palestinian struggle for freedom, justice and self determination. We are keenly cognisant that international solidarity , particularly boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) was one of the four pillars of the struggle against apartheid here in South Africa.

6. Last year in December 2012, a representative member of the PLO in his speech at the African National Congress (ANC) said: "The [international arm of the] South African struggle began with the boycott campaign of South African grapes and wine, likewise, the illegal Israeli settlements can be defeated by the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS)”. On the 14th of December Fatah (the organisation leading the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Palestinian Authority) wrote an official letter to the South African President, Jacob Zuma, and members of the ANC communicating that “Fatah stands fully behind the BDS movement."

7. Whilst the BDS movement is concentrated within civil-society, at a government level, the State of Palestine is calling on all countries to fulfill their obligations under international law by immediately, as a first step, ending all trade and relations with companies from or involved in the illegal Israeli settlements.

8. We welcome the recent decision by the European Union to ban financial relations with Israeli entities operating in the illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied 1967 Palestinian territories; the UK government's recent instruction that no business must operate in East Jerusalem  and in any actives related to the illegal Israeli settlements; the academic boycott resolution adopted by the American Studies Association; and the decision last week of the Dutch Water Authority, Vitens, to ends its relations with the Israeli state-operated water company, Mekorot, complicit in the illegal Israeli settlements.
 
The Palestinian people will overcome, if Nelson Mandela and the South African people defeated apartheid, the Palestinians too will defeat the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands.
 

Mandela R.I.P. 11

Eyewitness to America's Betrayal of Mandela's South Africa: The Gore - Mbeki Commission, Part II

Saturday, 21 December 2013 09:29By Dr Marsha Coleman-AdebayoGreen Shadow Cabinet | Op-Ed
Nelson Mandela waved to supporters after he voted in South Africa's first post-Apartheid election, near Durban, April 27, 1994. Mandela was elected president after leading the African National Congress through the negotiations that led to the first fully democratic elections in 1994 and the end of white minority rule. (Photo: Ozier Muhammad / The New York Times)Nelson Mandela waved to supporters after he voted in South Africa's first post-Apartheid election, near Durban, April 27, 1994. Mandela was elected president after leading the African National Congress through the negotiations that led to the first fully democratic elections in 1994 and the end of white minority rule. (Photo: Ozier Muhammad / The New York Times)
As the Executive Secretary for the Gore-Mbeki Commission Environment Committee, I sat at the negotiating table while the newly elected government of Nelson Mandela formulated its environmental policies. This position provided a unique vantage point for an African-American woman who had marched in front of the South African embassy against apartheid. I was privy to both the U.S. and South African dialogues. I observed that EPA managers felt a solidarity with white Afrikaner officials and were suspicious of the new African National Congress (ANC) leadership. From conversations with colleagues from other departments, I learned that this EPA/Afrikaner solidarity was widespread. The U.S. was giving lip service to the Mandela government while back channeling support to the old-guard Afrikaner hard-liners.
From that perspective in 1998, it was hard to see how the horrific economic situation in South Africa would be any different with the U.S. and the global community fighting to maintain the status quo. Today, largely owing to the success of having bolstered the status quo, there is a 50% unemployment rate among African youth, white families possess five times the income of black families, continued multinational corporate control of the economy and the mining sector, African Economic disenfranchisement—and most notably—the abandonment of the Freedom Charter.
I observed former South African Deputy Minister of Environmental Affairs General Bantu Holomisa and his predecessor the late Deputy Minister Peter Mokaba valiantly resist U.S. determination to re-define the goals of the Gore-Mbeki Commission from one of humanitarian assistance to a private sector feeding frenzy. In public meetings, the U.S./EPA was most accommodating but behind closed doors a different strategy was in play. Although I was the Executive Secretary of the environment committee, EPA—without my knowledge—dispatched a white EPA official to South Africa to consult with former apartheid leaders and to enlist their help in opening markets to the U.S. private sector. The EPA official, in an unclassified memo lays out the problems posed by Black South African Department of Environment and Tourism (DEAT) officials concerning EPA’s private sector proposal:
“As you are aware, DEAT (ANC) officials have been resistant to the co-operative agreements we have signed with the U.S. Environmental Training Institute…They have raised concerns that the involvement of the U.S. private sector in these programs threatens the development of South Africa’s fledgling environmental industry and would do more to increase U.S. exports than achieve South African environmental and economic goals.”
The memo indicates that EPA through back channels had contacted Afrikaners still operating inside the Environment Department (per a negotiated agreement) and requested guidance as to how to proceed. The memo also informed EPA that whites inside the Department had been identified who would work with U.S. officials to advance U.S. economic interests. The paternal relationship between the U.S. and the minority whites in South Africa was still operational although forced underground in the immediate aftermath of South Africa’s independence. An EPA official was dispatched to South Africa to collude with Afrikaners and develop a strategy to pressure the new Mandela government to open its economy to U.S. environmental industries. This information was confirmed in court testimony during my 2000 trial in which I prevailed. (Carol Browner v. Marsha Coleman-Adebayo 2000)
A sympathetic colleague observing the fireworks between me and the agency on its back channel dealings with former apartheid officials anonymously slid a document under my office door. I had not been copied on it. The memo stated that a colleague and I were not in support of EPA’s back channel dealings with apartheid era holdovers—clearly signaling that we could not be trusted with sensitive information and that we would oppose efforts by the U.S. government to pressure South Africa to accept unfavorable private sector programs. Recall that Gore-Mbeki was suppose to provide humanitarian assistance:
“Kathy Washington and Marsha Coleman-Adebayo have expressed concerns that moving ahead with these programs outside the Gore-Mbeki framework could undercut other work they are planning with DEAT under Gore-Mbeki."
Despite concerns voiced by the ANC in which they opposed U.S. private sector initiatives, the EPA sent officials to South Africa to strategize with Afrikaner old guards still operating inside the Mandela government and devised a plan to impose pressure points from both inside the South African government and outside from the U.S..
EPA was not operating in isolation from the U.S. and the global community. The goal was to strengthen the long-terms allies of the U.S. government, namely the white hang-overs from the apartheid regime and to seek “friendly” allies within the new ANC government that might be amenable to U.S. economic (and ultimately their personal) interest.
What tragic challenge confronted the ANC as they attempted to implement the Freedom Charter immediately post independence:
“Want to redistribute land? Impossible – at the last minute, the negotiators agreed to add a clause to the new constitution that protects all private property, making land reform virtually impossible. Want to create jobs for millions of unemployed workers? Can’t – hundreds of factories were actually about to close because the ANC had signed on to the GATT, the precursor to the World Trade Organization (WTO), which made it illegal to subsidize the auto plants and textile factories. Want to get free AIDS drugs to the townships? That violates an intellectual property rights commitment under the WTO, which the ANC joined with no public debate as a continuation of the GATT.”  - Naomi Klein,The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism
The ANC had been trapped through its commitments to international monetary organizations whose goals were in complete opposition to the Freedom Charter. The South African Freedom Charter—penned by thousands of South Africans under the vicious oppression of white supremacy—expressed the deepest goals and visions of a new South Africa. Adopted on June 26, 1955 at the Congress of the People, the Freedom Charter begins with the declaration: “The People Shall Govern!" The declaration demands that:
“The People Shall Share in the Country’s Wealth - The national wealth of our country, the heritage of South Africans, shall be restored to the people, the mineral wealth beneath the soil, the Banks and monopoly industry shall be transferred to the ownership of the people as a whole; All other industry and trade shall be controlled to assist the wellbeing of the people. The Land Shall be Shared Among Those Who Work It! Restrictions and land ownership on a racial basis shall be ended, and all the land re-divided amongst those who work it to banish famine and land hunger"
Mandela must have understood the difference between fighting a national liberation struggle and fighting the forces of global capital. Had he attempted to implement the Freedom Charter, he would have had a target on his back and his name would still be on the U.S. terrorist list. Mandela and his colleagues were aware that moving forward to implement the Charter would be considered an act of aggression against global capital. They decided to adopt neo-liberal economic policies that have exploded the inequalities within South Africa. In fact, Deputy President Thabo Mbeki signaling a complete surrender to the demands of global capital referred to himself as a “Thatcherite”– identifying himself with the conservative economic policies of former UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher who was a critic of Mandela and the ANC.
It is hoped that with the passing of Mandela, a new generation of Black South Africans will re-commit to the spirit and implementation of the Freedom Charter’s declaration “The People Shall Govern". Without a re-distribution of wealth and the nationalization of the banking and mining sectors, poverty among Black people will continue to spiral out of control and another generation of Black South Africans will continue to suffer exploitation as cheap labor. For my part, I blew the whistle on the EPA looking the other way while a U.S. multinational corporation subjected South African vanadium mine workers to lethal working conditions. Anything less would have betrayed the blood sacrifice of countless everyday people who gave their lives for freedom in South Africa.
This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license. It may not be reproduced in any form without permission or license from the source.

DR MARSHA COLEMAN-ADEBAYO

Dr. Marsha Coleman-Adebayo is the author of No FEAR: A Whistleblower's Triumph over Corruption and Retaliation at the EPA, which is available through amazon.com. Dr. Coleman-Adebayo worked at the EPA for 18 years and blew the whistle on a US multinational corporation that endangered vanadium mine workers in South Africa. Her successful lawsuit led to the introduction and passage of the first civil rights and whistleblower law of the 21st century: the Notification of Federal Employees Anti-discrimination and Retaliation Act of 2002 (No FEAR Act). She is director of transparency and accountability for the Green Shadow Cabinet.

    vrijdag 20 december 2013

    The Zionist Lobby Demands War 4

    Alan Elsner

    GET UPDATES FROM ALAN ELSNER

    Proponents of Iran Sanctions Bill Are Playing With Fire

    Posted: 12/20/2013 2:26 pm

    Philosopher and essayist George Santayana famously said that those who cannot learn from history are condemned to repeat it.
    How true this is right now for the United States, which after years of tragic and costly combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, now finds itself at a crossroads in its efforts to reach a peaceful, diplomatic solution to the crisis created by Iran's nuclear program.
    Last month, the Obama administration, backed by five other major world powers, reached a preliminary agreement with Iran to freeze its nuclear program and roll back some of its most dangerous components for six months. During this time, the parties will try to reach a permanent solution that would place the Iranian program under strict and enforceable limitations and constant international supervision. Such an outcome would make Israel, the Middle East and the entire world infinitely safer.
    This is not good enough for some in the US Senate, who have been backed by AIPAC, the American Jewish Committee and several other organizations. Far from trusting President Obama and allowing the administration to pursue negotiations, they are actively trying to sabotage the process. The result may well put the United States, Israel and the international community back on a course with only two outcomes, both catastrophic. Either Iran will move forward to develop a nuclear weapon -- or military action will be taken, not to destroy but only to delay, the Iranian program.
    Of course, nobody wants to see Iran develop a nuclear weapon. But it's been clear for years that the goal of sanctions is to bring the Iranians to the negotiating table. Now that we've succeeded in this, why would we be trying to drive them away?
    If we have learned anything from our disastrous military entanglement in Iraq, it should be that it is easy to begin wars -- but very difficult to end them or to predict where they might lead. The American people were sold a bill of goods on Iraq. We were promised a simple, clean operation aimed at destroying weapons of mass destruction, which it turned out did not exist. We were told it would be easy to topple the Iraqi dictator and replace him with a democracy. Instead, we virtually destroyed a nation, setting off a sectarian conflict which has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives and cost trillions of dollars and which still continues. We lost thousands of our finest men and women and condemned tens of thousands others to debilitating physical and mental trauma. And we created a political vacuum that allowed Iranian influence to expand -- and Iran's nuclear program to proceed.
    Some of those who advocated most strongly for that war are behind this week's Senate bill to "expand sanctions imposed with respect to Iran and to impose additional sanctions with respect to Iran, and for other purposes."
    The bill was introduced despite clear warnings from the administration that it risks derailing the negotiations with Iran and isolating the United States from its allies. The bill's sponsors also ignored a letter from 10 Senate committee chairmen which stated that enacting new sanctions now simply plays into the hands of Iranian hardliners who want the negotiations to fail. Lastly, the bill's sponsors choose to disregard the assessment of the US Intelligence Community that new sanctions undermine the chance of a negotiated end to the Iranian nuclear crisis.
    Not only the bill's timing is extremely suspect but its content is also designed to ensure the failure of the talks. The bill demands the total dismantlement of Iran's nuclear program - a demand Israel has made but one that is entirely unrealistic -- as President Obama himself has stated. The goal of the talks has to be to convert the program into a peaceful, non-military endeavor under strict international supervision. The bill seeks to tie the President's hands in many different ways. No wonder he has stated clearly that he will veto it if it ever reaches his desk.
    Once again, J Street stands almost entirely alone among major American-Jewish organizations in opposing this bill. Our aim will be to persuade enough Senators to join the 10 senior committee chairs to stop the bill moving forward.
    We simply must give these negotiations a chance to succeed. They are the only way to stop Iran developing a nuclear weapon while avoiding the threat of war. Those advocating for new sanctions, it seems, have learned nothing from history and are determined to repeat it. It's up to us to stop them.

    Afghanistan 13

    Obama Pursues "Occupation-Lite" in Afghanistan

    Friday, 20 December 2013 10:16By Sonali KolhatkarTruthout | News Analysis
    Obama White House.President Barack Obama gestures during a meeting in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, December 18, 2013. (Photo: Pete Souza / White House)
    Back in June 2011, with an eye toward his re-election campaign, President Obamaannounced a drawdown of US forces in Afghanistan, saying "our troops will continue coming home at a steady pace as Afghan security forces move into the lead. Our mission will change from combat to support." While he never actually used the word "withdrawal" in his speech, he made it clear that, "By 2014, this process of transition will be complete, and the Afghan people will be responsible for their own security."
    At that time, the only hint of what Obama meant by making Afghans "responsible for their own security," could be found in his statement of US objectives: "to refocus on al-Qaeda, to reverse the Taliban’s momentum and train Afghan security forces to defend their own country."
    Today, the United States has ensconced such language in a security agreement, which Washington is keen for Afghanistan to sign by the end of 2013. It is not clear, however, that the Afghan government will play along.
    Karzai Throws a Wrench Into the Works
    Despite being snubbed by Iraq's government two years ago over a "Status of Forces" Agreement, the United States has had high hopes for signing a similar agreement with Afghanistan. Unfortunately for Secretary of State John Kerry, Afghanistan's lame-duck President Hamid Karzai has unexpectedly balked at the last minute at signing the agreement. Karzai had led the United States to believe he would sign the pact and even organized a "Loya Jirga” - a traditional assembly of 2,500 tribal elders, officials, and others - to debate the details of the deal. Despite the Loya Jirga's attendees approving it, Karzai has now resorted to delaying tactics, announcing to everyone's surprise that his successor in next April's presidential elections might be the one to sign the deal.
    It appears that for once in this ongoing diplomatic game, Karzai has the upper hand. The United States just announced that the December 31deadline to sign the deal was not in fact set in stone. This comes after weeks of insisting that a deal had to be signed by year's end for the Defense Department to plan properly for 2014 troop levels.
    And NATO, whose soldiers serve alongside US forces in Afghanistan, is also desperate for a deal. Bizarrely, one NATO official announced that it would acceptany Afghan official's signature on the agreement, indicating that the existence of the deal is more important for Western governments than whether it is legally binding. Presumably, it would aid in selling the unpopular war at home if governments can point to a document agreed on by "Afghans” that continues the war, but limits its scope.
    "Occupation-Lite": The Devil Is in the Details
    The Security and Defense Cooperation Agreement, as it is officially called, specifies the scope of foreign troops' activity in Afghanistan for the next decade and follows from an earlier pact signed in 2012 called the Enduring Strategic PartnershipAgreement, which laid out the joint political interests of both governments.
    In essence, this new deal would cement a continuing role for thousands of US troops in Afghanistan (the document covers the next 10 years) while pronouncing the 12-year-long occupation officially over. If that sounds like a game of semantics to justify a reduced version of the status quo, "occupation-lite," it is exactly that.
    If Karzai signs the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA), as it is more commonly referred to, the United States will reduce the current number of 47,000 US and 24,000 NATO troops down to about 8,000 to 12,000 troops, two-thirds of which would consist of US military. It should be noted that the agreement does not actually specify the number of troops and whether they would remain through 2024 - it simply outlines the scope of actions by any US and NATO troops over the 10-year period that the agreement is in effect. But actual troop numbers can be gleaned fromnews reports.
    These remaining forces would operate from current US military bases, ostensibly to help train the Afghan National Army, while a smaller elite group of Special Operations Forces would continue to conduct controversial raids to track, capture and kill militants the US deems affiliated with al-Qaeda or simply dangerous to US interests.
    The legal immunity that US forces can enjoy while deployed to Afghanistan has been a public sticking point over signing the deal. Article 13 of the BSA requires that "the United States shall have the exclusive right to exercise jurisdiction over [United States forces] in respect of any criminal or civil offenses committed in the territory of Afghanistan."
    This is a sensitive issue given the cruel and even criminal behavior of some US troops during the 12-year-long occupation. In just the last few years, US troops have burned Korans, inciting riots that killed dozens, and urinated on the corpse of a dead Taliban soldier. Most recently, Staff Sargent Robert Bales was convicted of a fatal shooting spree that left 16 unarmed civilians dead. 
    But Secretary Kerry insists that legal immunity for US troops is non-negotiable. In an interview with NPR, he laid out the US' terms, saying, "Needless to say, we are adamant [that the jurisdiction for US troops] has to be the United States of America. That's the way it is everywhere else in the world." He went further, threatening to exercise the so-called "zero option" of pulling out all troops, saying, "And they [the Afghans] have a choice: Either that's the way it is or there won't be any forces there of any kind."
    Another major part of the US's global "War on Terror," has been the freedom that Special Operations Forces have enjoyed in conducting raids on Afghan homes in the middle of the night and detaining Afghan civilians. The night raids are incredibly controversial, provoking the ire of Afghan civilians and politicians alike. A report by Open Society Foundations concluded that the raids, "continue to provoke popular and political blowback that risks seriously undermining relations with the Afghan government." Just this November, in the midst of negotiations with the US, Karzai accused Americans of killing civilians during one such night raid.
    An earlier version of the BSA included a brief but crucial section on the detention of Afghans by the United States, with the US making "their commitments to placing Afghan detainees under the sovereignty and control of Afghanistan." The Karzai government, however, insisted on strengthening the language further to state that, "No detention or arrest shall be carried out by the United States forces. The United States forces shall not search any homes or other real estate properties." As of this writing, it appears as though the United States and Afghanistan have not been able to come to agreement over the US' ability to conduct night raids.
    The Games Karzai Plays
    Karzai has already called the United States' bluff on the December 31deadline to sign the deal, daring Kerry to pull all troops out, saying, "I don't think America is thinking of the zero option; it’s brinkmanship they play with us, and even if they did [pull out], then come what may."
    The war of words between Karzai and Kerry is obscuring the power dynamics between both nations. While Karzai may appear to be standing up to US imperial interests, the reality is far more complicated. After all, Karzai owes his power and position to the United States more so than to any other entity. Given the resurgence of the Taliban, the poor state of the Afghan National Army, the fractious nature of his Parliament, and the extreme poverty, corruption and violence plaguing his nation, he relies on outside help to maintain his power.
    What then is the meaning of his reluctance to sign an agreement with the United States? One reason is that Karzai appears to be using his leverage over the United States to curry favor with regional powers in the last few months of his tenure, perhaps in search of new benefactors. The Afghan President met with Iran's newly elected leader, Hassan Rouhani, to discuss a "pact of friendship and cooperation." Iran, whose historically icy relations with the United States may be warming only slightly, has long been concerned about the presence of US troops so close to its border.
    Karzai has also met with the Indian government to finalize a deal to purchase military equipment (including weapons), in direct defiance of the United States. India has long backed the central Afghan government with billions of dollars in training and aid to balance its rival Pakistan's influence over the Taliban. Karzai is hoping that India's support now translates into military aid.
    But Karzai is playing both sides of the subcontinent's proxy war, having met with Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to make headway on peace talks with the Taliban. One of the obstacles that Karzai has publicly raised over signing the BSA deal is his stated desire to see the United States and Pakistan lead public negotiations with the Taliban, rather than conduct secret talks, which have dragged on for years and produced no results.  Karzai told the press, "Secret talks won't help. United States and Pakistan have enough influence over the Taliban to relaunch the peace process." Pakistan's military and intelligence apparatus has long been associated with the Taliban. When the Taliban first entered Afghanistan, the majority of their troops emerged from within Afghan refugee camps inside Pakistan and were known to be trained by Pakistan's intelligence service.
    Ordinary Afghans Want an End to US Occupation
    In addition to the diplomatic chess he is playing, the other reason why Karzai has appeared increasingly hostile to his American benefactors is the extreme unpopularity of the US occupation among the general Afghan public. On December 10, International Human Rights Day, hundreds of Afghans held a rally to commemorate civilian victims of war. In a country where organizing public demonstrations is extremely risky, protesters criticized both Afghan perpetrators, and United States and NATO forces. Waida Ahmad, a spokesperson for the Social Association of Afghan Justice Seekers, which organized the rally, told a local newspaper, "American forces have bombed the homes of Afghans, and they have killed civilians during the 12-years-old war in Afghanistan."
    Earlier this year, on October 7 - the 12thanniversary of the US war in Afghanistan - the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA), with whom I have worked closely for over a decade, issued a statement entitled "Independence, the first condition for the prosperity of our homeland and people." The statement is accompanied by a gruesome image of dead Afghan children killed in a US strike, sporting the slogan, "Down with the US Occupation." RAWA, the oldest women's political organization in Afghanistan, doesn't hold back, saying:
    The US government and its allies promised our people democracy, but imposed upon them the most undemocratic, corrupt, and mafia government of our history; they spoke of 'war on terror' but brought the murderers and terrorists of the Northern Alliance, gun-lords and drug kingpins to power, and have now extended their hands in friendship to the Taliban; the US used human rights and women’s rights as an excuse, but Afghanistan still faces the worse kinds of human rights violations and horrifying catastrophes against its women; they promised our people liberation and freedom, but practically turned our country into a narco-state and the center of their longest-running criminal war.
    Members of RAWA support poor Afghans struggling to survive between the pressures of the US occupation and the corrupt Afghan government. In an email interview, I asked RAWA how ordinary Afghans feel about the presence of US troops. A spokesperson replied that there is "a very wide and systematic propaganda campaign by the US and its puppets to make people afraid of the US withdrawal and working to brainwash them to accept long-term occupation of Afghanistan." But even so, says RAWA, "ordinary Afghans, especially those in countryside, are against permanent bases of the US in the country. They see it as a threat to independence and national sovereignty of the country. They say 12 years of US/NATO existence in Afghanistan was full of treason against common people, and they pushed our country towards many new crisis and problems."
    RAWA had opposed the US invasion right from the start in 2001, despite their groundbreaking work to document and expose the crimes of the Taliban. They saw the US as being driven by its own interests rather than the interests of ordinary Afghans. Today, that sentiment remains stronger than ever. RAWA told me, "We are for complete withdrawal of the US/NATO forces from Afghanistan. Their permanent presence will lead Afghanistan towards demise and tragedies. Their over one decade of presence show that they push our country to nowhere in order to fulfill their strategic, military and economic plans in their new game in Asia."
    Former Afghan Parliamentarian and author of "A Woman Among Warlords,"Malalai Joya, concurs. She told me in an interview during her recent US tour, "I speak on behalf of the suffering and oppressed people of the nation of Afghanistan that these troops should leave Afghanistan as soon as possible because their presence is making much harder our struggle for justice and peace."
    The Misogynist Legacy of Occupation
    During her speech to American audiences in October 2013, Joya routinely displayed Time Magazine's August 9, 2010 controversial cover image of Bibi Aisha, the young woman whose nose was brutally cut off by the Taliban husband she was forcibly married off to, as a punishment for attempting to run away. Joya asserted that rather than the headline Time chose, "What Happens if We Leave Afghanistan," it would have been more accurate to say, "What Happens While We are In Afghanistan."
    When the Taliban was accused in July 2012 of executing a woman for adultery, and in 2010, of stoning to death a couple accused of adultery, there was international outrage. But there has been little outrage in response to the news that Afghanistan's US-backed Parliament is now considering amending the nation's penal code toreturn to the repulsive practice of publicly stoning those who commit adultery.
    Under the US occupation, Afghan women's rights have declined very predictably given the political and military power wielded by misogynist warlords who were rewarded by Washington in exchange for helping to defeat the Taliban. Many of those warlords acquired seats in Afghanistan's parliament and have overseen numerous laws eroding women's and human rights.
    Even the moderate Hamid Karzai, upon winning his presidency, appointed a judiciary so fundamentalist that it put the Taliban to shame. Under Afghanistan's current legal framework, constructed while under US occupation, the number ofAfghan women in prison has soared - most of them incarcerated for so-called "moral crimes," including the "crime" of being raped or running away from home.
    That this turn of events has not generated alarming headlines in the West reveals the indifference American and European elites have always had toward women's rights. When it is convenient to paint the Taliban as monsters, Western leaders invoke the systematic violation of women's rights as a reason to occupy Afghanistan. But when the Western-backed central government has done the same, there is relative silence. And today, ordinary Afghans are paying a heavy price.
    The Narcotic Legacy of Occupation
    Another little-reported legacy of the US-NATO occupation of Afghanistan has been the sharp rise in drug production over the past 12 years. In the years before the October 2001 US invasion, the Taliban successfully suppressed poppy production in response to international sanctions. Now, Afghanistan has become an international center for drug production. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime released a report this year detailing the "sobering record-high" opium poppy production in Afghanistan and how provinces previously poppy-free were no longer so.
    According to RAWA, the US occupation has resulted in the creation of a "drug mafia" that "threatens our existence as a nation." Not only do illicit opium sales provide independent funding for the Taliban and the private militias of druglords, they also hurt ordinary Afghans, about 1.3 million of whom are addicts.
    What Happens If the US Withdraws All Troops?
    If a deal between the United States and Afghanistan does not materialize, it is possible that the US will indeed pull out all troops completely. The Obama Administration hinted that such a scenario was a distinct possibility as early as this past July, and there are indications that some parts of the administration feel that this would be popular with the US public. If all US troops do leave Afghanistan, the antiwar community in the United States will rightly celebrate the end of the longest war in US history.
    But for ordinary Afghans, although a complete withdrawal will mean one less source of violence, it will certainly not mean the end of violence. The United States unleashed a series of disastrous policies in Afghanistan over 12 long years on a nation that was already terminally wasting away from 25 years of prior war and violence. In their statement on the 12th anniversary of the war, RAWA said, "It is clear that the situation will get worse after 2014, but not because of the withdrawal of the troops of the criminal US and NATO, but because the Taliban and Gulbuddini [warlords in Parliament] murderers will join the circle of other criminals who have been backed by the US and Karzai for many years now."
    American taxpayers must accept the moral responsibility that we have funded the suffering of ordinary Afghan women, men and children and ensured through our government's policies during the failed occupation that they will continue to suffer long after the troops leave. Our only hope of redemption lies in supporting the grassroots and underground efforts of Afghan activists who risk their lives every day to wrest their nation back from armed elements and pursue true democracy, peace and justice.
    Visit RAWA's website and Afghan Women's Mission, which is overseen on a volunteer basis by the author, and Malalai Joya's websiteOther worthy Afghan organizations include the Solidarity Party of Afghanistan, the Organization for Promoting Afghan Women's Capabilities, the Afghan Child Education and Care Organization, and Humanitarian Assistance for the Women and Children of Afghanistan.
    Copyright, Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.

    SONALI KOLHATKAR

    Sonali Kolhatkar is the host of Uprising, a daily radio program produced at KPFK Pacifica, and the author ofBleeding Afghanistan: Washington, Warlords, and the Propaganda of Silence. She is also the codirector of the Afghan Women's Mission, and a contributor to Truthdig.