August 18, 2021
From World Socialist Web Site
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The collapse Sunday of the neo-colonial US puppet regime in Kabul, and the humiliating US defeat in the war in Afghanistan, have staggered the European imperialist powers. Having joined in the 20-year war of occupation of this impoverished country, they are exposed by the Afghan people’s victory, despite overwhelming odds, against a coalition of the world’s most heavily-armed countries.

French President Emmanuel Macron responded to this historic debacle for US and world imperialism by calling an emergency prime-time national TV address on Monday night. Despite the vague language chosen by Macron, his speech could not hide the French ruling elite’s shock at the sudden defeat of Washington and its allies.

A gendarme guards a government plane carrying people coming from Kabul at the Roissy Charles Gaulle airport, north of Paris, on August 17, 2021. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)

He declared, “A historic turning point is underway in Afghanistan, far from our borders, but with profound consequences for the entire international community, for Europe, and for France. After a war lasting 20 years, after the decision for the withdrawal of American troops taken first by President Trump and then by President Biden, Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, fell in a few hours, without resistance, into the hands of the Taliban.”

Macron’s account, examined critically, shatters the argument that NATO invaded Afghanistan to free it from terrorism or build democracy. If a city of six million people fell without resistance into the hands of a militia—one armed, moreover, only with light weapons—this is because the existing authorities, set up by NATO, had not a shred of popular support. The nominal Afghan military, which French troops helped train, like the nominal government, proved to be a political zero, with the Taliban enjoying substantial popular support.

Nonetheless, Macron cynically hailed NATO’s imperialist occupation of Afghanistan, in which France participated from 2001 to 2014 and lost 90 soldiers, as a just and honorable war. He said, “In Afghanistan, our fight was just and France defended its honor by joining in it. France only had but one enemy: terrorism.”

Macron continued, explaining that his main concern in addressing the French people was to tell the armed forces that their sacrifices had not been in vain. He said, “Many units of the French armed forces passed through [Afghan mountain] valleys in these 13 years: legionnaires, riflemen, marsouins, Alpine infantry, sailors, aviators. It is above all to them that tonight I want to speak—to those who fought, to the families of those who died or were seriously wounded. We will not forget our troops, we will not forget our dead.”

Macron’s defense of imperialist war is a pack of lies and evasions. In reality, the over 150,000 officially-recorded Afghan dead, the thousands of NATO soldiers’ lives, and the trillions of dollars spent on the war were a horrific, politically-criminal waste. What gives meaning to these losses is the great political lesson that flows from it: the realization of the reactionary character of imperialist war, which must at all times be irreconcilably opposed.

The debacle with which the Afghan war ended has torn to pieces Macron’s arguments that it was a just and honorable war waged for democracy against terrorism. In reality, it was a war of plunder, based on lies, and sold to a skeptical and hostile public at home.

Workers in France were overwhelmingly opposed to the war. In 2011, as then-President Nicolas Sarkozy massively escalated French troop deployments in Afghanistan as he tried to tack closer towards Washington, polls found that 76 percent of the population were hostile to the war. Only 38 percent believed that Afghanistan was progressing towards democracy, while 87 percent thought that the NATO powers were trapped in a quagmire.

The concluding portions of Macron’s speech underscored the neo-fascistic turn carried out by the European ruling class in the course of the Afghan war. The main initiative Macron proposed, coordinated with Berlin, was to launch talks with the Turkish, Iranian and Pakistani governments to set up concentration camps and detain any Afghans who might try to leave the country to find asylum in Europe.

While proposing to grant asylum to a few hundred Afghan interpreters, drivers and cooks who assisted French troops, Macron insisted that no one else would be allowed to enter Europe. This new denial of the fundamental democratic right to asylum marks an intensification of the Fortress Europe policy that has seen tens of thousands of migrants drown in the Mediterranean and hundreds of thousands detained, beaten or sexually abused in European Union (EU) camps.

Macron said, “We will thus launch, together with the Federal Republic of Germany—and I spoke a few moments ago with Chancellor Merkel about this, and to other European states—an initiative to build without delay a robust, coordinated and unified response involving the struggle against irregular migration flows, solidarity in effort, harmonization of protection criteria, and the preparation of cooperation agreements with transit and host countries such as Pakistan, Turkey, or Iran.”

Despite the reactionary schemes the NATO powers are developing to boost their influence and redeploy their forces in the Middle East and Central Asia, the decisive consequences of the Afghan debacle will not flow from imperialist chancelleries and foreign ministries.

Like the US defeat in Vietnam in 1975, the US debacle in Afghanistan will resonate powerfully for decades in the working class and oppressed masses of every country. It is not to promote the Islamism of the Taliban to say that billions of people worldwide are celebrating the Afghan people’s defeat of NATO. Coming amid an unprecedented economic and political crisis due to the NATO powers’ policy of spreading the COVID-19 coronavirus, at the cost of millions of lives, it will have the most far-reaching political consequences.

Above all, it will lead to a far-reaching re-evaluation, among decisive layers of workers and youth, of the middle-class forces that the ruling elite has for decades promoted as the “left.” These forces, drawn from more privileged sections of the anti-Vietnam War student movement in the era of the May 1968 French general strike, decisively threw in their lot with imperialism in the 1980s and the lead-up to the Stalinist dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991.

In this century, they tacitly backed the Afghan war and hailed proxy wars in Libya and Syria launched by France and other NATO powers in 2011 in alliance with Al Qaeda-linked militias. These pro-imperialist politicians are now aghast at the US debacle in Afghanistan. While Stalinist French Communist Party secretary Fabien Roussel demanded that Paris “impose diplomatic and political solutions” on Afghanistan, the most revealing comment on the rightward trajectory of these forces came from former 1968 student protester Jean-Luc Mélenchon.

“I applauded the US defeat in Vietnam. I am horrified by their setback in Afghanistan. … Because if wars solve nothing, defeats can change everything,” Mélenchon declared.

While Mélenchon has made a specialty of launching limited, cynical appeals to anti-war sentiment in an attempt to paper over the record of his Unsubmissive France (LFI) party, the Afghan debacle, like every great political crisis, is exposing these bankrupt forces for what they are. Against Stalinism and its other pseudo-left allies, the decisive struggle is to build an international, anti-imperialist and anti-war movement in the international working class.

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Source: Wsws.org