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Proletarian issue 22 (February 2008)
Film: The Kite Runner
Dir: Marc Forster
The Kite Runner, based on the popular book by Khaled Hosseini, tells the story of a boy in Kabul and his relationship with his best friend, the son of his father’s servant. When the Soviets enter Afghanistan (in 1979), the boy’s father – a prominent anticommunist – takes the boy to Pakistan and then to the US, where the boy becomes a successful novelist. He returns to Kabul in 2000 to save the life of his former best friend’s son, who has fallen into the hands of the Taliban.

At a personal level, the film is very powerful and moving, relaying the importance of courage and of standing up for one’s principles. At a political level, it is an insidious attempt to justify the imperialist intervention in Afghanistan and to hide the dirty role that the US and Britain have played in that country over the course of the last 30 years.

While the brutality of the Taliban is shown extensively, there is no mention of the US’s role in bringing the Taliban to power. The Taliban was a splinter group of the Mujahideen movement, a coalition of fundamentalist muslim groups brought together by the CIA and its Pakistani proxy, the Inter-Services Intelligence Agency (ISI), to overthrow the government of the progressive and pro-Soviet People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) and to fight against the Soviet Red Army (who had been asked by the PDPA to assist in defending its government against the imperialist-sponsored insurgents). The Taliban was the result of the efforts of Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the US to prepare a new ruling class for Afghanistan out of the scattered Mujahideen.

When the Taliban captured Kabul in 1996, the US State Department was quick to recognise its government, and Taliban leaders were soon invited to Texas for negotiations with the big oil company Unocal.

The Telegraph of 14 December 1997 reported: “The Taliban, Afghanistan’s Islamic fundamentalist army, is about to sign a £2 billion contract with an American oil company to build a pipeline across the war-torn country. The Islamic warriors appear to have been persuaded to close the deal, not through delicate negotiation but by old-fashioned Texan hospitality. Last week Unocal, the Houston-based company bidding to build the 876-mile pipeline from Turkmenistan to Pakistan, invited the Taliban to visit them in Texas. Dressed in traditional salwar khameez, Afghan waistcoats and loose, black turbans, the high-ranking delegation was given VIP treatment during the four-day stay.”

At the time these negotiations were taking place, the Taliban’s feudal brutality and despicable repression were well known across the world. The US had no objection to the stoning of women or hanging of communists. Relations between the US and the Taliban only soured when it became clear that the Taliban wasn’t able to bring about sufficient stability to build pipelines and was starting to make noises about the US dominance of oil resources in the muslim world.

Needless to say, the US/British invasion of Afghanistan has been a disaster for the Afghan people. Thousands have been killed by US bombs; opium production is back up to pre-Taliban levels (one of the Taliban’s few progressive acts was to ban poppy cultivation); the people are enduring crushing poverty; and the ‘democracy’ installed by the imperialists is nothing but a comprador government whose sole aim is to allow the total economic and political dominance of Afghanistan by its imperialist masters.

Lalkar of March/April 2002 described the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in the following terms:

“In this ‘crusade of civilisation’ against ‘barbarism’ and ‘international terrorism’, hospitals, mosques, Red Cross warehouses, villages, schools, residential areas and refugee convoys have been sprayed with 450kg cluster bombs – the resulting casualties being dismissed, with characteristic imperialist disregard for human life, as ‘collateral damage’. The massacres at Uruzgan (January 24) and at another village near the town of Gardez, as well as the cold-blooded mass murder of more than 500 prisoners of war in Mazar-i-Sharif stand as an eloquent testimony not only to the brutality and barbarism of imperialism, but also to its cynical hypocrisy, for it commits these crimes against humanity in the name of humanitarianism and portrays them as the highest achievements of humanity.

“In this ‘war of civilisation’ for the triumph of ‘good’ against ‘evil’, thus far over 70,000 cluster bombs have been left unexploded; hundreds of buildings have been torched, hundreds of people, with their hands tied behind their backs, have been shot dead, and hundreds of thousands of Afghans have been forced to become refugees; 500 prisoners of war, shackled and masked, have been taken to a concentration camp in Guantanamo, Cuba, there to be put in cages, exposed to the elements and denied prisoner-of-war status contrary to the Geneva Conventions, and later to be tried in military tribunals in the US, where the normal rules of even bourgeois justice are to be suspended.”
(‘Afghanistan – the continuation of the two-decade long war of imperialist terrorism’)

In the current geo-political context, where the US and Britain are still engaged in war with the resistance forces in Afghanistan, The Kite Runner’s failure to mention the origins of the Taliban and the history of the US and British involvement in Afghanistan can only be intended to bolster support for the US/British war effort in that country.

Phenomenal cinematography and heart-warming tales of personal courage aside, it is a thoroughly reactionary film.
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