This article was originally published November 16 on a LabourStart discussion board

The War Is Over
by Eric Lee

The Taliban is finished as a fighting force, with its troops having withdrawn from every Afghan city and its 'capital', Kandahar, now apparently  under siege. 

In a matter of weeks—perhaps days—its leader, Mullah Omar, and his partner in crime, Osama bin Laden, will almost certainly be in the hands of the United States (if they're lucky) or the Northern Alliance. 

Humanitarian aid is already pouring into Afghanistan through the newly liberated zones in the north. Women are returning to work. Television and radio are broadcasting again. Men are even allowed to shave their beards if they wish. Children can fly kites, previously banned by the Taliban. For millions of Afghans, the nightmare is ending and new hope is born. 

And all this happened because the United States reacted with overwhelming force to the attack on New York City and Washington on September 11th. It is entirely thanks to US and British cruise missiles, B-52s, daisy cutter bombs, the CIA, and special forces troops that this is happening. 

There is some hope that Afghanistan might have a broad-based coalition government, that some kind of peace might yet return to the country   after more than 20 years of war, that Afghan women might be treated somewhat more decently, and that international terrorism may have lost  its most important base. 

This is all cause for celebration by all human beings, including the Afghans themselves. This is why they are dancing in the streets of Mazar and  Kabul—and soon Kandahar. 

And I repeat: it is thanks to the war waged by the United States and Britain with the full support of the international community. Had they not gone to war, the Taliban would certainly be in power today. 

I had hoped that this discussion forum would not degenerate into mud-slinging and personal attacks. Most participants have been fine, though several have engaged in the kind of ad hominem attacks that have no place here. I was particularly struck by one or two angry participants challenging my own credentials as a trade unionist, choosing to call me a 'so-called labor activist'. Oh well. 

I also find it funny to be challenged regarding my views on Northern Ireland—I guess whoever wrote that thinks that I'm British. If only they could hear my accent! 

In any event, those few personal attacks aside, on the whole the discussion has proceeded without too much shouting. 

What I don't understand at this stage of the discussion is this: 

Those of you who think that everything the US and Britain do is morally wrong, who believe that Osama bin Laden is innocent, who claimed that  the bombing would lead either to thousands of deaths or a strengthening of the Taliban, or both—shouldn't you concede that maybe—maybe!— you might have gotten something a bit wrong? 

I'm not saying confess your sins, repent, admit that your views were, as Humphrey Bogard says in Casablanca", misinformed. Just admit that maybe you, um, erred. I guess not. 

That was just a rhetorical question. Not one of you—not a single one—is going to come out and say, OK, we were wrong. The war on Afghanistan did have a positive result. We still hate the United States and George Bush and Tony Blair and the CIA and globalization and the WTO with all our hearts—but OK, the bastards did free Afghanistan from the grip of something worse than Starbucks, even worse than McDonalds. No, you're not going to admit even that? That's fine; you're entitled to your opinions. 

However, SERIOUS trade unionists now face other questions, questions that in my view are more important than challenging the 'anti-imperialist' credentials of this or that 'so-called labor activist'. They include the following: 

1. What kind of Afghanistan do we want to see come out of this war? Is a democratic Afghanistan possible? 

2. What role for trade unions would there be in the new Afghanistan—and what can we do as trade unionists to promote their emergence as  part of the new civil society in post-war Afghanistan? What should be the role of the ICFTU and international trade secretariats in this process? 

3. What demands should we be making on our governments now? Do we support UN peace-keeping troops? Would we prefer a multi-national  force from Islamic countries? 

4. How should the world proceed with the war on terrorism following the collapse of the Taliban? 

5. Are all the measures announced in the west to curtail civil liberties absolutely essential? Or should we be campaigning for a rescinding of some of these? (Or all of these?) 

6. How do we move forward to resolve other ethnic conflicts in the region which fuel the growth of terrorism—particularly in Kurdistan,  Kashmir, and Palestine? 

These are the issues I would like to see us discussing in this forum, my friends. 

The war—or this phase of it—is ending. There are important tasks ahead.