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WHAT WE THINK
Death toll climbs in Afghanistan as U.S. looks for new targets
Stop Bush's war machine

January 11, 2002 | Page 3

IRAQ, YEMEN, Somalia. Each has been floated as the potential next target of George W. Bush's "war against terrorism." But among the leading cheerleaders for war, it doesn't even matter which country the U.S. picks--as long as the bombs keep dropping.

"What talks in the region? Power," ranted right-wing Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer. "Fear. Respect for American power. The Somalis and Yemenis know that if they do not go after al-Qaeda, the laser-guided, precisely addressed bombs might fall on them."

Meanwhile, some liberals were demanding that the U.S. "finish the job" in Afghanistan--continuing the war until Osama bin Laden is found "dead or alive."

Salon magazine editor and self-proclaimed "former dove" David Talbot lavished praise on the U.S. war machine--from Iraq to Kosovo to Afghanistan. "These demonstrations of America's awesome firepower were clearly on the right side of history," Talbot claimed. "President Bush has it right: pursue [the terrorists] to the ends of the earth, until they're captured or dispatched to their feverishly awaited Paradise."

But millions of Afghans know the true consequences of "America's awesome firepower." Last week, U.S. warplanes attacked the village of Qalaye Niazi, a suspected "Taliban hideout," according to the Pentagon.

After the bombing had reduced the village to rubble, Cmdr. Matthew Klee, a spokesperson for U.S. Central Command, told reporters, "Follow-on reporting indicates that there was no collateral damage."

"Some of the things his reporters missed: bloodied children's shoes and skirts, bloodied school books, the scalp of a woman with braided grey hair," journalist Rory Carroll wrote in Britain's Guardian newspaper. "The charred meat sticking to rubble in black lumps could have been Osama bin Laden's henchmen, but survivors said it was the remains of farmers, their wives and children, and wedding guests."

University of New Hampshire professor Marc Herold, who is tracking Afghan civilian casualties based on Western press reports, says that the number stands at more than 4,000. But just try asking Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld about civilian casualties.

"I can't imagine there's been a conflict in history where there has been less collateral damage, less unintended consequences," he declared at a Pentagon briefing last week. "The lives of the people of Afghanistan today are so vastly better off than they were three months ago that it's breathtaking."

Rumsfeld might want to ask any of the estimated 500,000 war refugees at the Maslakh camp near Herat if their lives are "better off." In English, the name of the camp means "slaughterhouse." That's precisely what it has become for the hundreds of thousands of refugees who are slowly starving and freezing to death.

The lucky ones have plastic sheets or thin tents to shelter them from freezing temperatures each night. For others, the only escape from the wind is to take shelter in holes they dig in the frozen ground. "I always judge everything by what I have seen in Africa, and this is on the scale of Africa," said Ian Lethbridge, executive director of the British-based charity Feed the Children.

As UNICEF spokesperson Alfred Ironside told Newsweek, "We don't know how many children are dying on a day-by-day basis. But we do know that they are. They're dying of cold. They're dying of hunger."

These are the consequences of Bush's "war on terrorism." As long as the U.S. war machine continues to operate, millions of people across the globe will suffer.

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