War and peace 9-24-01
From: Bill Weinberg [journalist, writer, wbai producer]
Date: Mon, 24 Sep 2001 14:48:03 -0400
WAR IS NOT THE ANSWER
by Bill Weinberg
The first thing that needs to be said is that attacks on civilians are not acceptable--under any circumstances. This means that the military response now being planned by the Bush administration is wrong for exactly the same reason that attacks on our city were wrong.
We are legitimately angry, we feel personally violated, and we want desperately to believe that we can "do something" to win retribution and expunge this invisible enemy. But I offer only the following bitter pill: Opposing our government's war moves is the ONLY action which holds any hope whatsoever of de-escalating the situation, rather than making it worse.
The usual Pentagon pseudo-surgical strikes against a country which hasn't known a minute of peace for twenty years will only feed the power of the Taliban and Osama Bin Laden. And suppose the Pentagon succeeds in taking out the Taliban? Then what? Occupy Afghanistan and wage a counter-insurgency war against the Jihad for the next twenty years
The US has absolutely no power--much less responsibility--to give Afghanistan a stable government. The country is already destroyed, thanks to two decades of superpower proxy wars. There is no infrastructure, no indigenous managerial class, no economy other than opium. Getting all that back would take another Marshall Plan, and this is not what Bush has in mind
Those tribes and ethnic and religious minorities in Afghanistan which are being persecuted by the Taliban--Uzbeks, Tajiks, Shiites--would certainly like to be liberated. But we must also recall that the Taliban achieved power by promising order and redemption to a desperate population, and to a certain extent they've been able to deliver on the former at least. They doubtless have their partisans and fanatic cannon fodder, just as the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia did for similar reasons.
The medieval-minded Taliban is in power because Afghanistan has already been bombed into the Middle Ages. Bombing them into the Stone Age is not going to help. It will just assure that the new generation there is even more desperate, vengeful and desensitized to the value of human life, that the rule of fanaticism and fundamentalism will become even more entrenched.
Afghanistan has a reputation as the graveyard of empires, and the counterinsurgency quagmire there played a key role in the collapse of the Soviet Union. Of course the Soviets made a pretense of "liberating" Afghanistan from backwards feudalism and Islamic orthodoxy. An American Waterloo in Afghanistan would be far more probable, because of the staggering costs of waging such an operation across the planet rather than on our southern border. US troops are unlikely to be welcomed by a population which has already been bombed to hell by US warplanes. And that's just the way the Pentagon does things today.
An occupation of Afghanistan would be a hemorrhage of America's national wealth and possibly the same kind of hopeless quagmire that was instrumental in bringing down the Soviet empire. It would also dramatically escalate terrorist attacks against us, strengthen anti-West fanaticism throughout the Islamic world, destabilize America's Arab allies and likely spark the Jihad that Bin Laden and his pals are pining for.
Americans have a very profound double standard about their moral right to exact justice on the global stage. Bin Laden is a very, very petty war criminal compared to Henry Kissinger, who is responsible for perhaps two million dead in Southeast Asia, 200,000 dead each in East Timor and Central America, plus the some 3,000 dead in the Chile coup. If the US has the right to bomb Afghanistan for harboring Bin Laden, why don't Vietnam and East Timor and Chile and Nicaragua have the right to bomb the US for harboring Kissinger?
If this attack on our city gives our government the right to bomb foreign countries, then--by *precisely* the same logic--US-sponsored war crimes (whether in Vietnam, El Salvador, Colombia or Palestine) give foreign countries the right to bomb us.
Osama and his crowd will certainly continue to hate us and plot to destroy us no matter what we do. But the strength and appeal of his politics in the Islamic world has EVERYTHING to do with US foreign policy.
What "radicalized" the fundamentalist fringe? There is a whole generation in Afghanistan which has never known peace, and two generations of Palestinians who have known precious little. Every kid who is being born today in Kabul under threat of US airstrikes, or in a Gaza refugee camp under threat of Israeli airstrikes, is one more piece of potential cannon fodder for Bin Laden and his ilk.
Do you want the fanatics marginalized? Do what you can to oppose the war moves, and to pressure Israel to get serious about a just peace with the Palestinians. You want their pool of suicidal cannon fodder to expand exponentially? Bombs away, and Israel right or wrong!
Of course Bin Laden and his ilk are religious extremists. But religious extremism breeds in a political context. We got bombed because our government has underwritten two generations of oppression and expropriation of the Palestinians, for raining death down on Iraq, and Sudan and Somalia and Afghanistan and Libya, and for keeping in power corrupt and autocratic regimes throughout the Arab and Islamic worlds. And surely the irony and hypocrisy of claims to moral superiority and world leadership by the authors of genocide in Southeast Asia and Central America is not lost on Bin Laden's cannon fodder.
Furthermore, this is not Pearl Harbor. War has not been officially declared against us, as it was in '41. There is no Imperial Japan to attack. We are facing a molecularized enemy which is everywhere and nowhere, a hydra-headed monster that becomes stronger the more it is attacked, a chimeara.
Bin Laden and the Taliban are creations of US imperalism. Bin Laden's terrorist techniques, his intelligence network, his organizational power-all are a product of the the US Central Intelligence Agency. In the 1980s, the CIA, working with the Pakistan secret service, set up Bin Laden to coordinate volunteers from throughout the Islamic world into militias to fight the Soviet occupation in Afghanistan. At this time the US was pouring billions of dollars into the Afghan Mujahedeen-far more money than was ever spent on the better-known Nicaragua destabilization campaign at the same time.
Even after the Soviets withdrew in 1989, the CIA continued to funnel covert aid to fundamentalist Mujahedeen militia factions who were fighting Russian-backed militias. This was a part of the secret war for the oil wealth of the Caspian Basin in post-Soviet Central Asia, which Chevron and Texaco hope to exploit in the 21st century. Securing this oil meant further reducing Russian imperial ambitions in the region. Already Kazakhstan and other Central Asian states have been drawn into NATO's Partnership for Peace alliance. This is seen by Moscow as a military encirclement of the Caspian Basin, and securing this Eurasian heartland for multinational corporate control may yet be a motivating factor in the current US war drive.
The Taliban was but the most recent faction to receive covert aid from the CIA and US ally Paksitan. Just this year, the Bush administration gave Afghanistan $43 million, ostensibly for famine relief to be distributed by non-governmental organizations, but including $10 million for "other livelihood and food security programs," a reference to the Taliban's alternative crop program intended to wipe out opium cultivation in the country. This frees up other funds for the Taliban's armed forces which are carrying out a campaign of ethnic cleansing against Shiites and other minorities, making the two-and-a-half million refugees from Afghanistan the largest refugee population in the world now. And before his recent resignation, United Nations Drug Czar Pino Arlacchi arranged $25 million dollars per year in anti-narcotics aid to the Taliban over the next decade.
Our government's actions have made us the targets of terror. Looking to the government to save us from terrorists is like trying to sober up by drinking martinis.
What "we"--that is, you and me--should do is affirm the principle that attacks on civilians are not acceptable, under any circumstances. We should do this by opposing any military retaliation by the United States government.
The second thing that needs to be said is that if we surrender
The third thing that needs to be said is that the wave of xenophobic attacks on Muslims and Arab immigrants which has been reported from across the country must be militantly opposed. Protect your neighbors, and let them know that you will defend them in the event of racist attacks.
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