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Fourteen more US troops killed in Afghanistan: What are they dying for?

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Another 14 US troops have been killed in Afghanistan since Saturday, with the death toll so far this year already rising to the level reached for all of 2010.

A pair of roadside bombings took the lives of seven soldiers on Monday, five of them dying in a blast that tore apart a Humvee in which they were riding. Bomb blasts took the lives of four others in southern Afghanistan over the weekend, while three were killed in clashes with armed groups resisting the US-led occupation.

These latest deaths bring US fatalities for the month to nearly 50, after the record 65 killed in July.

NATO has announced that it is investigating yet another report of civilians killed in a US bombing. The air strike last Thursday hit children who were collecting scrap metal on a mountain in the province of Kunar, which borders Pakistan. A local police commander said that the six children killed by the US bombs were aged six to 12. Another child was seriously wounded.

After a much-reported decline in US air strikes, attributed to orders from sacked US senior commander in Afghanistan Gen. Stanley McChrystal that were designed to reduce civilian casualties, such strikes are back up again. According to figures released by the Air Force, US warplanes flew 5,500 "close air support" missions in June and July of 2010, compared to 4,600 in the same months last year.

With the Obama administration's Afghanistan surge having brought US troops up to the full strength of nearly 100,000, together with another 40,000 troops from NATO and other allied countries, fighting has intensified and casualties among both US troops and Afghan civilians are up sharply. New revelations of rampant corruption and CIA payoffs to the US-backed Kabul government raise the inescapable question: What are they dying for?

Among the bodies shipped back to the US through Dover Air Base in flag-draped coffins this past week was that of a 20-year-old from Elizabeth, New Jersey, Army Specialist Pedro Millet, who was killed by an improvised explosive device in southern Afghanistan.

"I feel like someone ripped my heart out. I have no heart. My baby is gone," the soldier's mother, Denise Meletiche, told reporters outside her home after making the painful journey from the base in Delaware. She said that her son had joined the Army without telling her, explaining only afterwards that he did it to get money to go to college. "I was against the Army," she said. "I'm against war."

The soldier's stepfather said that Army recruiters had been allowed into Pedro's high school and enticed him into joining the military. "We're losing kids in a war, and what are they doing about it?" he said. "This is ridiculous."

What can justify such human sacrifices? Obama, like Bush before him, has tried to frighten the American people into supporting this brutal war by claiming it is necessary to defeat terrorism. This is just as much a lie coming out of the Democratic president's mouth as it was when uttered by his Republican predecessor.

US military and intelligence officials have repeatedly acknowledged that there are less than 100 Al Qaeda members in all of Afghanistan--compared to 100,000 US troops. Moreover, the 91,000 classified documents released by WikiLeaks, most of them battlefield reports, make virtually no mention of American troops pursuing terrorists. On the contrary, they are fighting to suppress resistance to foreign occupation, a resistance that enjoys broad support from the Afghan people.

A recent poll taken in Helmand and Kandahar provinces by the International Council on Security and Development, a London-based think tank, bears this out. It found that three quarters of the male population believed it was wrong to collaborate with the US-led occupation forces. Roughly the same share said that the Afghan government officials in the area were connected either to drug traffickers or to the armed groups opposing the occupation.

These figures are essentially in sync with those reported by the Pentagon itself in the spring, indicating that less than a quarter of the people in the areas where US forces are battling to suppress Afghan resistance support the government of President Hamid Karzai.

Another study released by the United Nations last January provided a vivid illustration of why Karzai and his cronies are so hated. It found that 52 percent of Afghan adults had been forced to pay at least one bribe to a public official in the previous 12 months, and that, collectively, Afghans had paid out $2.49 billion in bribes in 2009, an amount equal to nearly one-quarter of the country's gross domestic product.

In a television interview broadcast at the beginning of this month, Obama admitted to the American people that "Nobody thinks that Afghanistan is going to be a model Jeffersonian democracy."

What an understatement! As media revelations of the past several days have made clear, the US-backed regime in Afghanistan is made up of warlords, drug dealers and kleptocrats, most of whom are on the payroll of the US Central Intelligence Agency.

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Bill Van Auken (born 1950) is a politician and activist for the Socialist Equality Party and was a presidential candidate in the U.S. election of 2004, announcing his candidacy on January 27, 2004. His running mate was Jim Lawrence. He came in 15th (more...)
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