No one has much clarity, as yet, about today's events. In coming days we will have both coverage and analysis. We know a little, only, at this time.
We know, for example, that according to the CIA Fact Book the population of Afghanistan, a few months back, was just under 27 million people. Life expectancy at birth was 47 years. More than two thirds of Afghanistan's citizens were not only unlikely to reach 50 years of age, but were also illiterate. Telephone service and use was sporadic. There were about 100,000 TVs, or less than one for every 200 citizens. In the whole country, there were 24 kilometers of
railroad-yes, that's what the CIA site I consulted said-and under 3,000 kilometers of paved road, or roughly the same as a single highway across the U.S. If that's off, the point is still evident. There were ten airports with paved runways.
Even worse than the stark poverty of the country, Afghanistan had undergone nearly ten years of war with the Soviet Union and the aftermath of that had been ruinous. Thus, weeks back UN and other international AID agencies announced that without a substantial effort at relief this winter could see up to 7 million deaths from starvation.
Into this already woeful context the U.S. first infused panic that in turn aggravated hunger by demanding that Pakistan close its borders and curtailing food for nearly four weeks. The threat of bombing provoked mass migrations of fearful civilians seeking solace. Not satisfied with that contribution to this desperate country, the U.S. has now added to the mix B1 and B52 bombers, stealth missiles, and who knows what other deadly ordnance. And having
put the population into hysteria and flight, having disrupted meager paths of travel and what little electrification and other services the country had, having closed borders, having curtailed food deliveries, having induced an exodus of AID workers, all at a time of possible calamitous starvation, we have begun dropping along with the bombs enough food to feed about 30,000 people a day, assuming it continues. Asked whether food was dropped in Taliban regions its been reported that the answer offered was no, so, supposing that was accurate, we are dropping the food in regions covering about 10% of the country.
The current strategy of all this is not complex. First throw the nation into turmoil. Aggravate conditions of life and death desperation in the population. Undermine, in that way, support for the Taliban. Collapse the Taliban, and presumably, in time, find and kill bin Laden. Leave to acclaim. Turn the journalistic cameras in another direction. Hope the innocent deaths go unnoticed, obscured by the hoopla proclaiming our largesse.
Of course, international law has been violated. Worse, the
mechanism for attaining illegal vigilante prosecution has been a policy which knowingly and predictably will kill many, perhaps even huge numbers of innocent civilians. We take access to food away from millions and then give food back to tens of thousands while bombing the society into panic and dissolution. This is terrorism, attacks on civilians to gain political ends, with a patina of public
relations. It is utmost injustice, masked by utmost obfuscation.
Why? The answer is not to reduce the prospects of terror attacks. Everyone says their likelihood will increase, in fact, both out of short term desire to retaliate, and, over the longer haul, due to producing new reservoirs of hate and resentment. The answer is not to get justice. Vigilantism is not justice but the opposite, undermining
international norms of law. The answer is not to reduce actual terror endured by innocent people. Our actions are themselves hurting civilians, perhaps in multitudinous numbers.
No, all the rhetoric aside, the answer is that the U.S. wishes to send a message and to establish a process. The message, as usual, is don't mess with us. We have no compunction about wreaking havoc on the weak and desperate. The process, also not particularly original since Ronald Regan and George Bush senior had similar aspirations, is to legitimate a "war on terrorism" as a lynchpin rationale for both domestic and international policy-making.
This "war on terrorism" is meant to serve like the Cold War did. We fight it with few if any military losses. We use it to induce fear in our own population and via that fear to justify all kinds of elite policies from reducing civil liberties, to enlarging the profit margins of military industrial firms, to legitimating all manner of international polices aimed at enhancing U.S. power and profit, whether in the MidEast or elsewhere.
The coming days are not going to be easy. The attacks of Sept 11 produced immediate fear and reflex nationalism devoid of attention to evidence and logic. But progressive voices were heard, and were making great progress, opening ever wider constituencies to consider broader issues of international policy and prospects. There will be a reversal in that momentum in the next few days, but if
progressive voices persist, lost ground will quickly be regained. Questions as to the morality and rationality of answering huge and awful Sept 11 terror with even greater terror, of answering barbaric calamity with barbaric catastrophe, of answering ignorant fanaticism with highly educated jingoism will surface, and such questions will
begin to turn back the tide of this militarism.
Z Magazine / ZNet