December 17, 2010
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 districts."
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 and torture."
"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 way.
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 dire conditions.
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 casualties.
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 unemployed population;
-- 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 lowest;
-- at 161 per 1,000 births, infant mortality is the world's highest;
-- 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; and
-- 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 belief that:
"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 email@example.com. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.