Tariq Ali vs. Mike O’Brien: ‘So, was it worth it?’

‘So was it worth it?’ by Tariq Ali and Mike O’Brien for The Guardian, October 11, 2003

Tariq Ali and Mike O’Brien discuss the aftermath of the war in Afghanistan, which began two years ago this week

Dear Mike,

It was hugely entertaining to see Hamid Karzai appear on the platform at the Labour party conference next to the Dear Leader. Two of Washington’s favourite politicians doing their party turns for the faithful. Pity Sharon and Chalabi couldn’t make it. Next year, perhaps?

The difference between Britain and Afghanistan, of course, is that in Afghanistan there is a strong opposition. Karzai is so confident of his popularity in Kabul (his writ does not extend beyond the capital) that no Afghan is permitted to guard him. Elsewhere the various factions of the Northern Alliance and remnants of the Taliban control the country.

The aim of the war and occupation was to capture and kill Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar and shackle al-Qaida. The result has been a dismal failure. The video earlier this year of Osama and his deputy wearing their Chitrali hats and strolling cheerfully in the Hindukush was a cheeky reminder that on this front the war has been a dismal failure.

Removing the Taliban from power was always a secondary aim. The condition of the population is certainly not better today than before the war. The reconstruction has turned out to be a joke. The women’s liberation talked about so eagerly at the time by the first ladies of Bush and Blair has come to nought. More money is being spent on feeding and housing Western troops than on the war-weary citizens of Afghanistan. And it will end badly, just like the Soviet intervention did in the 80s. I fear another civil war is waiting in the wings.

Yours, Tariq

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