Welcome to Orwell's World

Obama's lies over the Afghanistan war remind us of the lessons of Nineteen Eighty-Four

In Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell described a
superstate, Oceania, whose language of war inverted lies that "passed
into history and became truth. 'Who controls the past,' ran the Party
slogan, 'controls the future: who controls the present controls the

Barack Obama is the leader of a contemporary Oceania. In
two speeches at the close of the decade, the Nobel Peace Prize-winner
affirmed that peace was no longer peace, but rather a permanent war
that "extends well beyond Afghanistan and Pakistan" to "disorderly
regions, failed states, diffuse enemies". He called this "global
security" and invited our gratitude. To the people of Afghanistan,
which the US has invaded and occupied, he said wittily: "We have no
interest in occupying your country."

In Oceania, truth and lies
are indivisible. According to Obama, the American attack on Afghanistan
in 2001 was authorised by the United Nations Security Council. There
was no UN authority. He said that "the world" supported the invasion in
the wake of the 11 September 2001 attacks. In truth, all but three of
37 countries surveyed by Gallup expressed overwhelming opposition. He
said that America invaded Afghanistan "only after the Taliban refused
to turn over Osama Bin Laden". In 2001, the Taliban tried three times
to hand over Bin Laden for trial, Pakistan's military regime reported,
and they were ignored.

"Hearts and minds"

Even Obama's
mystification of the 9/11 attacks as justification for his war is
false. More than two months before the twin towers were attacked, the
former Pakistani diplomat Niaz Naik was told by the Bush administration
that a US military assault would take place by mid-October. The Taliban
regime in Kabul, which the Clinton administration had secretly
supported, was no longer regarded as "stable" enough to ensure US
control over oil and gas pipelines to the Caspian Sea. It had to go.

most audacious lie is that Afghanistan today is a "safe haven" for
al-Qaeda's attacks on the west. His own national security adviser,
James Jones, said in October that there were "fewer than 100" al-Qaeda
operatives in Afghanistan. According to US intelligence, 90 per cent of
the Taliban are hardly Taliban at all, but "a tribal localised
insurgency [who] see themselves as opposing the US because it is an
occupying power". The war is a fraud. Only the terminally gormless
remain true to the Obama brand of "world peace".

Beneath the
surface, however, there is serious purpose. Under the disturbing
General Stanley McChrystal, who gained distinction for his
assassination squads in Iraq, the occupation of Afghanistan is a model
for those "disorderly regions" of the world still beyond Oceania's
reach. This is known as Coin (counter- insurgency), and draws together
the military, aid organisations, psychologists, anthropologists, the
media and public relations hirelings. Covered in jargon about winning
hearts and minds, it aims to incite civil war: Tajiks and Uzbeks
against Pashtuns.

The Americans did this in Iraq and destroyed a
multi-ethnic society. They built walls between communities which had
once intermarried, ethnically cleansing the Sunnis and driving millions
out of the country. Embedded media reported this as "peace"; American
academics bought by Washington and "security experts" briefed by the
Pentagon appeared on the BBC to spread the good news. As in Nineteen Eighty-Four, the opposite was true.

similar is planned for Afghanistan. People are to be forced into
"target areas" controlled by warlords, bankrolled by the CIA and the
opium trade. That these warlords are barbaric is irrelevant. "We can
live with that," a Clinton-era diplomat once said of the return of
oppressive sharia law in a "stable", Taliban-run Afghanistan. Favoured
western relief agencies, engineers and agricultural specialists will
attend to the "humanitarian crisis" and so "secure" the subjugated
tribal lands.

That is the theory. It worked after a fashion in
Yugoslavia, where ethnic-sectarian partition wiped out a once-peaceful
society, but it failed in Vietnam, where the CIA's "Strategic Hamlet
Program" was designed to corral and divide the southern population and
so defeat the Vietcong - the Americans' catch-all term for the
resistance, similar to "Taliban".

Behind much of this are the
Israelis, who have long advised the Americans in both the Iraq and the
Afghanistan adventures. Ethnic cleansing, wall-building, checkpoints,
collective punishment and constant surveillance - these are claimed as
Israeli innovations that have succeeded in stealing most of Palestine
from its native people. And yet, for all their suffering, the
Palestinians have not been divided irrevocably and they endure as a
nation against all odds.

Imperial cemeteries

The most
telling forerunners of the Obama Plan, which the Nobel Peace
Prize-winner and his general and his PR men prefer we forget, are those
that failed in Afghanistan itself. The British in the 19th century and
the Soviets in the 20th century attempted to conquer that wild country
by ethnic cleansing and were seen off, though after terrible bloodshed.
Imperial cemeteries are their memorials. People power, sometimes
baffling, often heroic, remains the seed beneath the snow, and invaders
fear it.

"It was curious," wrote Orwell in Nineteen Eighty-Four,
"to think that the sky was the same for everybody, in Eurasia or
Eastasia as well as here. And the people under the sky were also very
much the same - everywhere, all over the world . . . people ignorant of
one another's existence, held apart by walls of hatred and lies, and
yet almost exactly the same - people who . . . were storing up in their
hearts and bellies and muscles the power that would one day overturn
the world."