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From hype to horrors

November 2, 2001 | Page 3

"IS THIS baby a Taliban fighter?" That was the caption that Akhbar el Yom, one of Egypt's biggest newspapers, gave to a photo showing an Afghan child whose family was killed by U.S. bombs.

The comment captured the growing anger with Washington's war on Afghanistan as its true cost is exposed.

After a month of nonstop air strikes, the number of civilian casualties has climbed into the thousands. Almost every day brings stories of a new "mistake"--like the second air strike last week on a clearly marked Red Cross warehouse.

When the war started, pundits predicted that the Taliban would surrender in a matter of weeks, if not days. Now a top British military chief says that the war may go on for four…years!

The much-hyped first U.S. ground attack in Afghanistan--a Special Operations assault carried out in mid-October, mainly for public relations purposes--nearly ended in disaster, with American commandos beating a hasty retreat, according to reports emerging in the British media.

Meanwhile, plans for a post-Taliban government of U.S. stooges are stalemated--with a summit meeting of opposition warlords put off until "sometime before the end of November," according to a Northern Alliance leader.

The reality of this war is exposing Washington's rhetoric about justice and democracy--and fueling outrage within Afghanistan and around the region. "Instead of a thankful Afghan population, popular support for the Taliban appears to be solidifying," the Wall Street Journal admitted.

Little of this questioning has leaked into the gutless U.S. media. And Democrats in Washington have fallen in line behind Bush at every turn.

Because of this, many people in the U.S. with doubts about Washington's war may still feel isolated. But the U.S. slaughter in Afghanistan--and the relentless war at home--will only cause more polarization.

If demonstrations have been smaller recently than during the opening week of the war, veteran antiwar activists say there is an unprecedented "appetite for information," as author Howard Zinn put it.

The challenge facing the antiwar movement is to reach out and answer the questions of this growing audience--to turn doubts into anger, and anger into action. That means building our presence on campuses, in unions and workplaces, and in communities--and spreading this struggle to every corner of society.

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