The real face of Washington's war
December 14, 2001 | Pages 6 and 7
NICOLE COLSON and ALAN MAASS expose Washington's lies about the U.S. war on Afghanistan--and look at what comes next. Also below, an interview with ANTHONY ARNOVE about U.S designs on Iraq.
TO LISTEN to the Pentagon, the village of Kama Ado is alive and well. Sure, U.S. warplanes dropped bombs nearby--on targets where Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda network are supposed to be hiding.
But Pentagon spokespeople dismissed reports of civilian casualties from bombs that went off target. "It just didn't happen," one said.
Reporter Richard Parry has a different story to tell. In a December 4 article in Britain's Independent newspaper--headlined "A Village Is Destroyed. And America Says Nothing Happened"--Parry tells what he saw in the village of Kama Ado.
Or more accurately, what used to be the village of Kama Ado. "Until nothing happened here, early on the morning of Saturday and again the following day, it was a large village with a small graveyard, but now that has been reversed," Parry wrote.
"The cemetery on the hill contains 40 freshly dug graves, unmarked and identical. And the village of Kama Ado has ceased to exist From the moment I woke up, I was confronted with the wreckage and innocent victims of high-altitude, hi-tech, thousand-pound nothings [V]illagers swore they hadn't seen Arab or Taliban fighters for a fortnight. Certainly there could not have been enough terrorists to fill the 40 fresh graves. One person told me a few holes contained not intact people, but simply body parts."
Parry says that up to half of the area's residents may have been killed. But the Pentagon doesn't care enough to admit that its bombs missed their targets.
There could be no clearer illustration of the fact that some lives are more important to Washington than others. A war that was justified with the claim that it would "bring to justice" those who took thousands of innocent lives in the U.S. on September 11 has taken thousands of innocent lives in Afghanistan.
Then there's the fate of those who have survived--so far. "Around-the-clock bombing raids designed to shatter the nerves and morale of the people of Kandahar have produced a kind of mass nervous breakdown, according to refugees fleeing the besieged Taliban stronghold," the Toronto Globe and Mail reported in early December. "'It was like being inside a nightmare,' said a man who arrived at the Pakistan border. 'Everyone was crying. There were dead people everywhere.'"
Afghanistan will face the threat of mass starvation this winter--but the Pentagon knows nothing about that either. Relief agencies say that they are unable to operate in more than half of the area that the Northern Alliance controls in northern Afghanistan--because of robbery and looting, often carried out by Northern Alliance soldiers.
In the past seven weeks, the International Organization for Migration has only been able to hand out aid for six days. "In situations where aid can't be delivered, the most vulnerable people are always the first to go," spokesman Jean-Philippe Chauzy told the London Times. In the camp of Dasht-i-Shor, 8,000 refugees live in what the New York Times describes as a "muddy spread of tents half a mile long between an open sewer and a cemetery."
"My little sister died from the cold when we were refugees in Afghanistan," an 11-year-old named Hamasa told representatives from the human rights group Global Exchange. "We went days without food. We slept on the cold ground with no blankets. Many people died."
Haziza, a 12-year-old, tells a similar story. "We lived in Kabul near one of the Taliban military bases," Haziza told the Global Exchange delegation. "One day, I was out with my father, when we heard planes roaring overhead and scary, loud sounds like thunder. When we returned home, we found my mother and younger brother lying dead in a pile of rubble that was once our house. My father went into shock and lost his mind. Now I'm the one in charge of our household, taking care of my five brothers and sisters. We have no money, and it's hard for me to find them enough food to eat."
And Bush dares to talk about "liberation."
Washington's man in charge
THE INTERIM government for Afghanistan, brokered at a summit in Germany convened by the United Nations, has Washington's stamp all over it.
Consider the new interim prime minister, Hamid Karzai, a Pashtun tribal leader who will head the government for six months until former King Zahir Shah can preside over a traditional assembly.
Karzai has spent most of the last 18 years living in neighboring Pakistan. So what qualifies him to run Afghanistan? He's popular in Washington. Karzai speaks perfect English and has been a frequent visitor to the U.S.
Like the U.S. government, he initially welcomed the Taliban's rise to power in 1996, but turned on his new friends in the coming years. Karzai reportedly worked for the CIA during the ex-USSR's occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s, and his links to U.S. spymasters almost certainly continued.
Leaders of Washington's old "best friends," the Northern Alliance, are angry with Karzai's selection, and at least one--Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum, who presided over the slaughter of prisoners at the Qala-i-Janghi fort last month--says that he'll boycott the new government.
But in the "new" Afghanistan, Washington calls the shots. And if they want Hamid Karzai, they get Hamid Karzai.
"More bombing would be a disaster for Iraq"
ANTHONY ARNOVE is editor of the book Iraq Under Siege, which exposes conditions in Iraq after the 1991 Gulf War and a decade of United Nations sanctions. He talked to Socialist Worker about the U.S. government's threats to target Iraq in the next stage of its "war against terror."
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
WHAT ARE conditions like for ordinary Iraqis today?
CONDITIONS ARE dire for millions of Iraqis. The elite have money and access to food and medical supplies, but most Iraqis are barely surviving.
Unemployment is rampant. The health care system has collapsed. Schools are falling apart. And the food ration from the United Nations is just enough to keep people from starving, but not enough to keep them healthy.
Easily preventable diseases that were once rare in Iraq are now widespread. And because Iraq's water sewage system has been so badly damaged, the drinking water is unsafe.
The war and the sanctions have led to 500,000 "excess" deaths of children under the age of five, according to UNICEF.
The idea that somehow Iraq is going to launch an attack on the United States--which hacks like William Safire at the New York Times and Paul Wolfowitz in the Bush administration have been peddling--is a cruel joke. Iraq would be lucky if one of its missiles could hit Jordan.
Iraq's military has been badly damaged by the war and the sanctions, and there's no evidence that Iraq has any meaningful weapons of mass destruction capacity. Last January, William Cohen, the Republican who served as Bill Clinton's defense secretary, admitted, "Saddam Hussein's forces are in a state where he cannot pose a threat to his neighbors."
WHY IS the White House talking about forcing Iraq to again accept arms inspectors to search for weapons of mass destruction?
AS HOWARD Zinn said recently, we live in an age of irony.
The United States just told the world that it wouldn't open American biological or chemical weapons plants--the most likely source of the strain of anthrax that was mailed this fall--because that might threaten "proprietary commercial interests" and state secrets. Imagine if Iraq said the same thing.
This is just a pretext to escalate the conflict with Iraq and to justify expanding the brutal war against Afghanistan into Iraq.
The media don't talk about this, but the last inspectors in Iraq were discovered passing intelligence information to the Israeli and U.S. governments. That's an important bit of information for understanding the current standoff.
WHAT ABOUT the Iraqi opposition that the U.S. government is promoting?
THE SO-CALLED Iraqi opposition is a joke. It's a gang of corrupt opportunists, most of whom live in London and have no social base in Iraq, but who are hoping for a nice handout from the Bush administration. A number of them want to see the Iraqi monarchy restored. That's their vision of democracy.
These people are completely discredited within Iraq by their ties to the United States. The real opposition to the government is within Iraq, living under the threat of U.S. bombs and suffering the embargo.
But when Iraqis rose up against the government in 1991, at the end of the Gulf War, Bush Sr. and Colin Powell preferred that they be crushed rather than risk a real outbreak of democracy in Iraq. Real democracy would be a threat to U.S. oil interests and could spread to Iraq's neighbors, Turkey and Saudi Arabia.
More bombing would only cause more suffering for Iraqis. It would be a disaster. We have to do everything we can to make sure that Bush can't extend his brutal war in Afghanistan into Iraq--or anywhere else they hope to take it.