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THE WORLD WILL NOT FORGIVE US Seven Million Afghans May Die Preventable Deaths This Winter
Geov Parrish is a columnist at the Seattle Weekly.
Editor's Note: This article was originally published by WorkingForChange.com, and is republished with permission.
Does anybody in this country get it?
Does anybody understand what the United States is on the verge of doing?
Experienced, respected food aid organizations warn that even before the bombing of Afghanistan began on October 7, some 7,500,000 Afghans were -- through a gut-wrenching combination of poverty, drought, war, dislocation, and repression -- at risk of starving to death this winter. When the bombing began, almost all delivery of food from the outside world stopped. Now, roads and bridges are destroyed, millions more people are dislocated, and the snow is steadily approaching from higher elevations and from the north.
For weeks, aid organizations, along with voices from throughout the region, have been begging the United States to call off its bombing campaign, at least for long enough so that aid agencies can conduct the massive transfer of food into and throughout Afghanistan that is necessary to prevent death on a scale the world has not seen in a long, long time. On our newscasts, it's politely referred to as a "humanitarian crisis." That's a euphemism that makes "collateral damage" seem humane.
Seven and a half million people at risk of dying in a matter of months. That's almost four times the number of people Pol Pot took years to kill. Thirty-five times the number that died in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, combined. If 5,000 died on September 11 (a number that reports are now suggesting is vastly inflated), we're talking the equivalent number of deaths to ten World Trade Centers, every day, for 150 days. Slow, painful deaths. Entirely avoidable deaths. Deaths whose sole cause is not the United States, but most of which can still be prevented -- except that the United States is refusing to allow them to be prevented.
It repulses me to say this, but I suspect a lot of Americans don't care. They'd rather see the United States "get" Osama bin Laden (though there's no actual evidence that we're any closer to that today than we were two months ago, and probably the task is harder as he becomes more popular and protected). A lot of people in this country do not care that a staggering number of innocent people are on the verge of being condemned to death, or that most of the world will blame the United States. Correctly.
We should care. If the object of this war was to thwart terrorism -- to bring existing terrorists to justice, and to isolate them politically and culturally so that others won't throw in their lot -- in less than a month, the United States has perpetrated one of the most abject failures in military history. It still does not know where any of Al Qaeda's leadership even is. It is on the verge of succeeding in its goal of creating a unified Afghanistan government -- unfortunately, Afghans are uniting behind the Taliban, as warlord after warlord sets aside long-standing differences to stand shoulder to shoulder to fight the American invaders. Tens of thousands more young Muslim men are lining up to cross the borders into Afghanistan to join them. The ones that survive the experience will carry a lifetime of hate: living, breathing proof that within a month, America bombed a country but lost its war in spectacular fashion.
A situation is unfolding in which there is absolutely no moral ambiguity at all, and for which many people will want to hold each of us as accountable as the world held post-war Germans. Where were you?
That's today. What will happen if millions of Afghans die this winter? How much future terrorism will the dunderheads of the Bush Administration have inspired then? If several million Islamic sisters and brothers starve to death, innocent civilians trapped between winter and the rage of America, how many of Islam's 1.2 billion adherents -- or the five billion other people on earth -- are going to take George Bush's proclamations about eradicating "terrorists" and "evildoers" to heart, and label him, and us, as the prime examples?
In less than two months, the United States government has gone from the moral high ground of being victimized by one of the most heinous crimes in world history, to being within a week or two of quite visibly committing a crime so much larger as to obliterate the world's memory of September 11. Remarkably, almost nobody in the United States seems to have either noticed, understood, or cared. While even progressives wring their hands over the ambiguity of a war fought under the auspices of America's legitimate right to defend itself, a situation is unfolding in which there is absolutely no moral ambiguity at all, and for which many people will want to hold each of us as accountable as the world held post-war Germans. Where were you? What did you say? How could you allow this to happen? Or, a more likely reaction in the Islamic world: Why should millions of you not die as well? America will have set out to isolate one man, and instead killed millions and isolated itself. And much of the world will not rest until we are brought to our knees.
Seven and a half million people. The snowline is creeping down the mountainsides. The food is almost gone. The infrastructure is in shambles. There will be no "independent verification" of the body count. There wasn't in the Holocaust or Rwanda or Cambodia, either.
The judgment of the world did not need one. The clock is ticking. Where were you?
Originally published at: http://www.tompaine.com/features/2001/11/06/4.html
-- Joseph Antaree (email@example.com), November 07, 2001
VERY well put! It makes my body shiver! BUT: It must be remembered that the Taliban shares in the blame for this. Even Saudi Arabia acknowledges this.
-- Robert Riggs (firstname.lastname@example.org), November 07, 2001.
I don't think this is very well put, at all.
The Taliban is the main reason. The drought is part of it, but the major reason for so little food grown in Afghanistan is ALL the best land, with working irrigation from reservoirs, created by dams, in place since the 1950s, has been taken over for the production of opium for years. They truned the "Afghani Bread basket" into the source for 75% of all the opium grown in the world. I've posted excerpts here on two UN reports on just that in the past month.
Also, part of a story posted earlier today --
Why do Afghanis starve ""The United Nations Security Council has blamed Taliban misrule in Afghanistan for the worsening humanitarian crisis in the country. The Taliban have called on the U.N. to help thousands of displaced Afghans who are facing rapidly deteriorating conditions as a result of worsening weather and continued U.S. bombing.
But the U.N. has hit back at the Taliban, saying that they have been hindering humanitarian relief efforts.
On Tuesday Security Council President, Ambassador Patricia Durrant of Jamaica, called on the Taliban not to impede the aid effort, saying that the Council "deplored the looting of UN offices, and the Taliban's takeover of humanitarian relief sites, including food and supply warehouses."""
[[snip]] rest at
There is a lot more to show this article to be mostly drivel, but I won't waste the effort repeating it all.
As to whether the US will be blamed, it is a certainty.
-- Jackson Brown (Jackson_Brown@deja.com), November 08, 2001.
Let's get past the blame game and get to work. It doesn't matter right now whose fault it is that the aid is not getting through. Right now, a telephone blitz campaign to President Bush is taking place on this matter, and President Bush is reportedly eager to hear from us on this.
You can call and talk to one of his operators at (202)456-1111 or (202) 456-1414. You might have to wait your turn to be heard. Even if you are completely in favor of the war, all you need to do is tell the President to stop the bombing long enough to let the massive amounts of aid that are stalled at the Afghanistan borders to cross over. Aid organizations are not concerned about the Taliban, they are impeded by the bombing alone right now.
It is not a question of 7 million people going hungry this winter. It is a question of 7 million people starving to death before the winter is finished.
Please do your part today. It will only take a few minutes.
-- Lori Cabirac (email@example.com), November 08, 2001.
Yeah, lets get to work and get the troops in; the sooner the better. This country will not tolerate another WTC type incident!!!!
It's not just one man were after, it's all those misled Arab terrorist trainers fighting for the Taliban.
REMEMBER THE WTC!!!!!!!!!!!!!
-- Steve McClendon (firstname.lastname@example.org), November 08, 2001.
In markets, perception creates reality. This includes the "marketplace of ideas", unfortunately. While there is convincing evidence that the Taliban deserve a very large part of the blame, will this be the perception of the world community?
The "blame" issue is NOT irrelevant. It is highly mission-critical to the primary core objective, which is the War Against Terrorism (actually a war to defend civilization itself): If the U.S. and West get the lion's share of the blame (whether deserved or not), then terrorism will increase, even if the war ultimately succeeds in its tactical objectives of overthrowing the Taliban and killing Osama Bin Laden and his senior aides. Increased terrorism will result in even more mass deaths, in the U.S. and West; which will then evoke an even stronger U.S. response (possibly even the use of thermonuclear weapons). This would then dramatically accelerate the "spiral of violence" that could ultimately cascade into InfoMagic's "devolutionary spiral" and The End Of The World As We Know It.
It is thus critical for the U.S. and West to take whatever drastic measures are needed to minimize the U.S. share of the blame for this impending genocidal holocaust; to win rather than ultimately lose the War Against Terrorism and the preservation of our complex technological civilization.
-- Robert Riggs (email@example.com), November 08, 2001.