---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Mon, 29 Oct 2001 23:09:41 -0800
From: radtimes <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Antiwar News...(# 21)
(Anti-war links/resources at the end.)
Taliban says 100 dead as hospital hit
Taliban accuse US of chemical attacks
Staff and agencies
Monday October 22, 2001
The Taliban today accused the US of killing 1,000 Afghan civilians since
the start of aerial bombing raids two weeks ago, adding that up to 100
people were killed today in a hospital as a result of a US bombing raid
near the western city of Herat.
The Taliban's ambassador to Pakistan, Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef, told a news
conference that patients, doctors and nurses had been killed after the
100-bed hospital was bombed by American and British planes.
The Pentagon told the Reuters news agency that it could not confirm or deny
Mr Zaeef claimed the Taliban had shot down two US helicopters over the
weekend - one of which landed crippled in neighboring Pakistan, while the
other crashed in Afghanistan. The Taliban today showed off wreckage,
apparently of a downed helicopter.
The Pentagon has denied any of its helicopters were shot down, though it
said a Black Hawk helicopter crashed in an accident Saturday in Pakistan,
killing two US servicemen on board.
In a statement that echoed the current anthrax fears in the US, the Taliban
today also accused the US military of deploying chemical and biological
weapons in Afghanistan.
An official from the Taliban information ministry, Abdul Hanan Himat, told
Reuters: "Today in my contact with doctors in Herat and Kandahar, they told
me that they have found signs that Americans are using biological and
chemical weapons in their attacks. The effects are transparent on the
wounded. A state of poisonousness is one of them."
The Pentagon immediately said that it was "absolutely not true" that the US
had used biological weapons.
Today the defence minister, Geoff Hoon, said that British troops were on
standby to go into Afghanistan "at very short notice" as part of an
American ground force deployment. The US confirmed for the first time this
weekend that ground troops had entered Afghanistan on
Last night, the US continued to rely on its warplanes, which struck at
targets near the opposition-held frontlines outside the capital, Kabul, and
the northern, Taliban-held city of Mazar-i-sharif. The bombing at the front
lines suggested the start of a more aggressive American campaign on behalf
of the opposition Northern Alliance.
In Kabul, the Taliban's official Bakhtar news agency reported heavy bombing
today at front lines 30 miles north of the capital. Heavy bombardment last
night marked the most sustained US strikes to date against Taliban
positions defending Kabul from the Northern Alliance forces, which have
been stalled for years to the north of the city.
"We are hoping this will be a big help for the future of our forces," said
Waisuddin Salik, an opposition spokesman.
US attacks around Mazar-i-sharif damaged tanks and artillery sites and
destroyed an ammunition depot, an opposition commander said.
In Washington, the US secretary of state, Colin Powell, said the US was
"very interested" in seeing rebel forces take Mazar-i-sharif, but was still
"continuing discussion" about whether a rebel march into Kabul would be
"the best thing".
Pakistan is firmly opposed to the Northern Alliance taking power in a
possible post-Taliban Afghanistan, and opposition groups face widespread
doubts about their ability to govern.
In addition to the hospital in Herat, the Taliban said attacks last night
on Tarin Kot, the capital of Uruzgan province, killed 18 civilians and
wounded a further 25 to 35. The province is believed to be one of the
strongholds of Osama bin Laden.
Yesterday a US air raid shattered two homes in the city's northern Khair
Khana district - killing at least 13 civilians, including three women and
four boys ages 8 to 13. The neighbourhood holds no known Taliban military
sites, although a Taliban army garrison and other installations are several
Taliban: US Jets Hit Hospital, Kill 100
AP; Reuters. 22 October 2001
Taliban Leader Says He Looks to God for Victory.
ISLAMABAD -- The Taliban claimed Monday that U.S. and British planes
struck a hospital in the western Afghan city of Herat, killing more than
The claim was made by the Taliban ambassador to Pakistan, Abdul Salam
Zaeef, who said the dead included patients and hospital staff. He gave
no further details.
Zaeef repeated Taliban claims -- denied by the Pentagon -- that Afghan
fighters had shot down an American military helicopter in southwestern
"It is now clear that America plans are intentionally targeting the
Afghan people," he said. "The goal is to punish the Afghan nation for
having chosen an Islamic system."
Meanwhile, the spiritual leader of the ruling Taliban, Mullah Mohammad
Omar, said Monday that with God's help, the U.S.-led military campaign
in Afghanistan would be defeated, the Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic
Mullah Omar issued the statement from an unknown location near Kandahar,
expressing his condolences for those killed in U.S.-led air raids or
during anti-American protests around the world, AIP said.
"I hope that Almighty Allah will make the Islamic Emirate (Taliban
government) victorious over the oppressive American government," AIP
quoted Mullah Omar as saying in a statement.
Mullah Omar and the Taliban have been the targets of U.S. military
strikes as punishment for not handing over Osama bin Laden, accused of
being the mastermind behind the attacks on New York and Washington last
Mullah Omar also praised Taliban forces who he said had "achieved
significant successes recently" without giving any details.
Mullah Omar also lashed out at President Bush, saying his war on
terrorism was a war on Islam and Muslims.
"President Bush has told the truth that this is a crusade against
Islam," said Mullah Omar, the reclusive leader who lost an eye fighting
Soviet troops during the 1980s.
"Therefore, Muslims all over the world should continue their movements
for their defense," Omar said.
"Jihad (holy war) fought with sword, tongue and pen is all jihad. Death
is death and it must come one day," he said.
Local Afghans Condemn Attacks
St. Petersburg Times (Russia)
October 19, 2001
By Irina Titova
"This war will ruin both the Afghan nation and an
ancient civilization along with its culture."
Thirty-six-year-old Aref used to work at the Afghan
Ministry of Rehabilitation and Rural Development as
the chief engineer in the construction department. Now
he spends his days selling purses and wallets at the
"I've been standing like this for nine years now," he
said, pointing at his goods with indifference
bordering on disgust. "I'm not an engineer anymore."
According to Sergei Tarasevich, head of the St.
Petersburg Migration Service, there may be as many as
20,000 Afghan nationals living in and around St.
Petersburg. Naib Safi, head of the Afghan Citizens'
Union of St. Petersburg puts the figure at "at least
According to Tarasevich, however, only about 600 hold
official documents confirming their refugee status.
For the rest, this lack of status means an inability
to get local registration and, with it, access to
health care, public schools and official employment.
Aref, who asked that his last name not be published in
order to protect relatives still in Afghanistan, rents
a one-room apartment on the outskirts of the city with
his wife and his baby daughter. Life is particularly
hard for his wife, who doesn't speak Russian.
"She is afraid to step away from our building," Aref
said. "She and our daughter go for walks not more than
10 meters away from our house."
Safi, who is a lawyer by profession, also sells
clothing at the market.
"What else can I do when my 8-month-old daughter is
rejected at the local clinic? I have to pay for it,
for my wife's doctor, for transportation, rent and so
on," he said, holding a copy of his law-school
dissertation from the St. Petersburg Police Academy.
According to Safi, most of the Afghans currently
living in St. Petersburg came here to study during the
1980s, when the Afghan government maintained close
relations with the Soviet Union. After that government
was defeated by the mujahedin in 1992, it became
impossible for anyone tied to the former government to
At the same time, a torrent of refugees who had
supported or thrived under the Soviet-aligned regime
abandoned the country, fearing for their lives. This
group included the bulk of Afghanistan's doctors,
teachers, engineers and trained military officers.
When the current conflict erupted, local Afghans were
unanimous in condemning the attacks on their homeland.
"We all have relatives and friends back home. Now we
know nothing about them since there is no connection
with the country," Safi said.
On Oct. 8, the local Afghan Council of Elders issued a
statement on the U.S.-led air strikes against
Afghanistan, saying, "the Afghan diaspora in St.
Petersburg condemns the bombing of Afghanistan."
"This war will ruin both the Afghan nation and an
ancient civilization along with its culture," Safi
Safi said that local Afghans do condemn the Sept. 11
terrorist attacks in the United States and welcome the
international campaign against terrorism, but they do
not agree that bombing Afghanistan is an acceptable or
"The world must understand the militant Taliban
militia consists of just 30,000 people, whereas the
rest [of the country's estimated 26 million people]
are civilians," Safi said. "Bombings and other
military actions seriously hit the civilian
population, which will die not just from bombs but
from hunger and disease."
Now, however, as the campaign against their country
continues, a new sense of helplessness has gripped the
community. Local Afghans spend all their time
listening to the news, trying to find out what is
happening in the country they still call home.
Sher Gulakhmet, a representative of the Afghan Culture
Center, worries about his parents who live in Kabul.
"They called me on the eve of the war and said that
they hadn't left the capital. Now I can't reach them
anymore," he said.
Anti-war protests in Australian cities
By James Conachy
20 October 2001
Anti-war protests took place in a number of Australian cities last weekend
reflecting concerns among wider layers of the population about the
implications of the US bombardment of Afghanistan and Australian support
for it. The largest protest took place in Sydney on October 13, when around
3,000 people marched from the Town Hall through the centre of the city to
Martin Place, where speakers addressed the crowd.
The rally drew a broad cross-section of people, including professionals and
workers with their children
along with university and high school students and a layer of older people
who had campaigned against the Vietnam War. A diverse range of
organisations were involved, radical protest groups, green and
environmental associations, student groups, churches and pacifist
Members of the city's Afghani community distributed flowers in a call for
peace and carried banners condemning both the September 11 terror attack on
the US and the Bush administration's response. An Afghan Australian
detailed to the rally the horrific consequences the bombing would have on
the country after more than 20 years of war and under conditions of severe
Young people carried placards denouncing the bombing of the Afghani people
as answering terrorism with more terrorism. Others had hand-made signs
reading "No War, Global Equity" and "Unite for Peace". Banners called for
the lifting of sanctions against Iraq and opposing any commitment of
Australian military personnel to the war. While speakers condemned the war,
their perspective was limited to calling for bigger protests to pressure
the Howard government.
In Melbourne, over 1,000 people assembled at the Arts Centre and marched on
the US Consulate. An estimated 1,500 protested in Adelaide and 500 in
Perth. On October 14, women's groups organised a rally of 500 in Melbourne,
demonstrating against the persecution of Muslim women in the weeks since
the terror attack.
The protests last weekend followed several on October 9, when hundreds of
people assembled in Sydney, Melbourne and other cities immediately after
the commencement of US strikes.
Earlier, on October 6, more than 2,500 people marched in
Brisbane. Originally planned as an anti-globalisation rally at the British
Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), the Brisbane protest was
transformed in a demonstration against the looming attack on Afghanistan.
CHOGM was postponed after a number of government leaders, including the
British and Indian prime ministers, announced it was unlikely they would
In line with a virtual blackout in the Australian media of any dissenting
views, there has been very little coverage of any of the anti-war
protests. Last weekend's Sydney rally, for instance, was briefly reported
by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, but not in either of Sydney's
two daily newspapers.
A common theme in the rallies has been opposition to the racist attacks
taking place against Australia's Arabic and Muslim communities.
In Melbourne, the Equal Opportunity Commission has recorded 50 physical
assaults on Muslims and Arabs. The Islamic Council of Victoria has reported
two cases of rape and the stabbing of a Middle Eastern boy while at school.
Sheik Fouad Nachar from a Melbourne mosque told news.com.au: "We live in
fear here. People try to assault us in markets, streets and in shopping
Islamic communities are maintaining 24-hour guard on their mosques, schools
and facilities due to a wave of arson and vandal attacks. On September 22,
a temporary mosque in the Brisbane suburb of Kurbay was firebombed and
burnt to the ground. Another Brisbane mosque, in the suburb of Holland, has
also been bombed. On October 11, arsonists attempted to burn down a mosque
in Adelaide, causing $20,000 damage. In Sydney, threats have been made
against the large Lakemba mosque and an arson attempt was made on the
Tensions are particularly acute in the Sydney suburb of Bankstown where
there have been four vandal attacks on mosques in the area as well as the
firebombing of six churches. Fear of further racist violence has led to the
cancellation of the Bankstown "Arabic Carnival", a four-week festival
celebrating Middle Eastern culture. Executive director of the Australian
Arabic Communities Council, Randa Katten, condemned the "general tense
atmosphere of anti-Arab sentiments that permeate our lives".
Prior to the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, the Howard
government had already been fuelling racist sentiment through its
vilification of refugees and its extraordinary measures to prevent those
aboard the Norwegian freighter Tampa from landing in Australia. In the wake
of September 11, government ministers further stoked up anti-immigrant
prejudice by claiming that refugees, particularly from Afghanistan and the
Middle East, could be terrorists.
Academics critical of war face harassment in US
By Shannon Jones
22 October 2001
Free speech is under attack on university campuses across the United
States, with those critical of US policies facing mounting harassment and
In many cases university officials are caving in to pressure to discipline
or censure faculty and staff that engage in protests against US militarism
or express opposition to the patriotic hysteria whipped up by the media and
government officials since the September 11 terrorist attacks. Professors
have faced threats and calls for dismissal for expressing even mildly
oppositional views or engaging in "inappropriate speech." In the majority
of cases those victimized have been left-wing critics of US foreign policy.
City College of New York faculty and students who attended an October 2
teach-in sponsored by the Professional Staff Congress were denounced by the
media and the City University of New York (CUNY) Board of Trustees. The
event, "Threats of War, Challenges of Peace," sponsored by the campus
professors union, was open to all points of view, including support for US
military intervention in Afghanistan. During the course of the teach-in a
number of participants attempted to explain the historical context
underlying the resort to terrorism by Islamic fundamentalists.
An October 4 op-ed piece in the New York Post, titled, "CUNY vows crackdown
on Anti-US hatefest," called the event "a hard core America-bashing
festival." It quoted CUNY trustee Jeffrey Wiesenfeld who declared, "They're
fortunate it's not up to me. I would consider that behavior seditious at
CUNY Chancellor Matthew Goldstein denounced the teach-in and announced his
intention to convene a special meeting of the board of trustees to consider
resolutions condemning the event.
At Brooklyn College, the school administration blocked a scheduled public
meeting on campus opposing the war in Afghanistan organized by the Third
World Within-Peace Action Coalition. Campus officials imposed additional
fees and demanded identification checks of all attendees. Further, the
school issued a warning about holding campus activities that challenged the
so-called consensus in the US supporting the war against Afghanistan. As a
consequence organizers were forced to move the event to an off-campus location.
The University of South Florida placed Professor Sami Al-Arian on
indefinite leave after he appeared on a TV news program where he discussed
his previous association with several academics now labeled suspected
terrorists by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Following the TV
appearance the university received angry phone calls, including death
threats. The university claimed the suspension was to protect Al-Arian.
A library assistant at the University of California at Los Angeles received
a five-day suspension without pay after he sent out an e-mail criticizing
US support for Israel and the ongoing bombing of Iraq. He was responding to
a patriotic mass e-mailing by a coworker. In issuing the suspension the
school cited a policy banning the sending of unsolicited electronic
communications and a new policy against the sending of political, religious
or patriotic messages. The suspended staff member, a 22-year employee of
the university, said he was unaware of the policies and noted that he was
the only person disciplined in the incident.
A professor at the University of New Mexico was forced to leave campus for
one week after he made an off-the-cuff joke in class about the attack on
the Pentagon the day of the terrorist hijackings. Several state legislators
called for the academic to be fired. University officials said they were
conducting an internal investigation of the incident.
The school's provost defended the administration's actions against the
professor. "Our position is that faculty members have certain
responsibilities to their students. It's not a free speech issue, it's a
professional issue," he claimed.
The Foundation for Individual Freedom, a Philadelphia-based organization
that provides legal help to faculty members who feel their rights have been
abused, said academic freedom of expression has been eroded since September
11. The group is currently providing assistance to 10 professors who say
they have been victimized because of their views.
The fact that the attempt to silence academic free speech enjoys support at
the highest levels of government was indicated by the reaction to remarks
made by one New York City school official, Judith Rizzo, deputy chancellor,
who said the terrorist attacks demonstrated the importance of teaching
about Muslim culture. She was denounced by Lynne Cheney, wife of US Vice
President Dick Cheney, who claimed the statement implied the events of
September 11 were the fault of the United States.
A number of media reports have noted the attacks on academic free speech
but have downplayed the incidents, suggesting they are an understandable
overreaction. They have pointed out that there have also been attempts by
school officials to censor views deemed excessively chauvinist or racist.
As history has shown, all suppression of democratic rights, no matter
against whom it is initially directed, inevitably rebounds hardest against
the most progressive elements in society. By seeking to crack down on views
deemed outside the mainstream within the educational establishment, the
ruling elite and its academic lackeys are seeking to stifle all critical
thought. Such policies pose a grave threat not just to academics, but to
the democratic rights of the entire working population.
Beyond Carnivore: FBI Eyes Packet Taps
By Max Smetannikov
October 18, 2001
Expect the FBI to expand its Internet wiretapping program, says a source
familiar with the plan.
Stewart Baker, a partner with law firm Steptoe & Johnson, is a former
general counsel to the National Security Agency. He says the FBI has spent
the last two years developing a new surveillance architecture that would
concentrate Internet traffic in several key locations where all packets,
not just e-mail, could be wiretapped. It is now planning to begin
implementing this architecture using the powers it has under existing
The FBI has acknowledged a program called Carnivore, which sniffs e-mail
messages, but the new program is more extensive, Baker says.
"The FBI has been gradually developing a set of guidelines, standards -
call it what you will - a list of what law enforcement wants from packet
data communications systems," Baker said. "And they are in the process of
unveiling that over the next few months to ISPs and router manufacturers
and the like."
ISPs, Web hosters, vendors and other firms handling critical Internet
infrastructure should expect the FBI trying to schedule meetings to deliver
the details of their offering, and show the document containing the
technical specifications, Baker said. He indicated that details of what
this new surveillance architecture should look like are not clear. It is
also possible the FBI has retained some well-known data infrastructure
consulting firms to develop its new technology.
The new architecture is different from Carnivore because it would likely
ask for certain types of data communications to be centralized, he said.
"The goal might be to get companies that use packet data to have those
packets go to one place for purposes of wiretap and other intercept
capabilities," Baker said. "It's clear they [the Bureau] have decided that
in the next year or so they are going to make a big push on packet data and
they are going to use whatever leverage they can to get people to cooperate
and to build a set of packet data systems that are more wiretap friendly
than the ones we have today."
The FBI spokesman overseeing Carnivore and other wiretapping issues didn't
immediately return calls seeking comments.
Whatever the new initiative ends up looking like, the Internet service
provider community could be more likely to cooperate, shaken up by Sept.
11, said industry executives. But no one has heard of the FBI going beyond
Carnivore at this point.
"The FBI are trying to get Carnivore with a lot more ISPs," said Patrick
Sweeney, president and chief executive of ServerVault, a Web hosting firm
specializing in secure hosting.
Reportedly, the FBI is trying to use sections of Title 18, the wiretapping
law, to extend its eavesdropping coverage to e-mail, Sweeney said. While he
was not familiar with the initiative Baker described, Sweeney said Bureau's
interest in tracking data communications is not shocking, and might go
beyond the FBI.
"There are so many agencies that are working on procedures where they can
make sure than entire comprehensive wireless and wireline tapping can be
put into place if need be," he said.
APEC fails to support US forces in Afghanistan
Ian McPhedran, Phillip Coorey and Damon Johnston
22oct01 - SECRET US forces have been given a presidential kill order to
destroy Osama bin Laden and his Al-Qaeda terror network at all costs.
President George W. Bush's extraordinary command emerged yesterday as US
commandos opened the ground war in Afghanistan although a meeting of
Asian-Pacific countries failed to endorse the action.
A declaration issued yesterday by the 20 leaders attending the Asia-Pacific
Economic Co-operation forum in Shanghai condemned terrorism unequivocally
but stopped short of endorsing what the US troops were doing.
The declaration did not mention the military action, bin Laden, Al-Qaeda,
Taliban or Afghanistan.
The nations agreed to collectively stem any flow of funds to terrorists,
boost customs surveillance, increase air and maritime security and increase
protection of the energy, transport and communications sectors, with the
United Nations taking the leading role.
Prime Minister John Howard, who attended the APEC forum, said he accepted a
"range of views" from other countries.
"Some are involved militarily such as Australia and Canada, and others
involved in different ways," he said.
"This meeting sends a very important message that the leaders of this region
and a significant part of the world leadership was determined to get on with
governing and that the wrong response was not to turn up," he said.
Indonesia and Malaysia were foremost in deleting references to Afghanistan
and bin Laden.
China and Russia took the lead in refusing to support explicitly the US
It emerged yesterday that Mr Bush signed what he hoped would be bin Laden's
death warrant last month by directing the CIA to launch its most widespread
and lethal action in its 54-year history.
"The gloves are off," a senior official said.
"The President has given the agency the green light to do whatever is
necessary. Lethal operations that were unthinkable pre-September 11 are now
The Pentagon yesterday released grainy, green images of the first ground
combat of Operation Enduring Freedom.
About 120 Rangers raided an airfield, clashing with Taliban forces.
General Richard Myers said the Americans had a couple of minor injuries.
"We met resistance at both objectives, the airfield and the other objective.
It was, I guess you could characterise it as light," General Myers said.
Mr Howard and Opposition Leader Kim Beazley today will farewell 150 Special
Air Service soldiers heading from Perth to join US ground forces in
The political goodbye had been planned for several days and will take place
at least two days before the troops will deploy in secret.
APEC refuses to back US attack
Phillip Coorey in Shanghai
22oct01 - THE US has failed to get support from its Asia-Pacific neighbours
for its military action in Afghanistan - to which Australia and Canada also
The 20 leaders at the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation forum in Shanghai,
China, issued a declaration yesterday condemning terrorism unequivocally but
stopped short of endorsing what the Americans were doing.
It did not mention the military action, chief suspect Osama bin Laden and
his Al-Qaeda group, the Taliban or Afghanistan.
The diplomatically worded statement, signed by APEC nations including
Russia, China, the US, Canada, Australia, Malaysia and Indonesia, only
agreed to "strengthen international co-operation at all levels in combating
terrorism in a comprehensive manner".
"Leaders consider the murderous deeds, as well as other terrorist acts, in
all forms and manifestations, committed wherever, whenever and by whomsoever
as a profound threat to the peace, prosperity and security of all people, of
all faiths, of all nations," the statement said.
The nations decided to collectively stem funding flows to terrorists and to
boost customs surveillance and air and sea security.
They also agreed to step up protection of the energy, transport and
communications sectors, giving the United Nations a leading role. They also
pledged not to let terrorism threaten already slowing world economies and
Prime Minister John Howard said he was not surprised by the APEC statement.
"Given the diversity of countries represented, you're not going to get
something that in an ideal world you yourself would have wanted," he said.
Mr Howard, criticised by Opposition Leader Kim Beazley for going to APEC in
the middle of the election campaign, said the meeting and his presence at it
showed solidarity against terrorism.
During negotiations, Indonesia and Malaysia were foremost in deleting
references to Afghanistan and bin Laden.
China and Russia took the lead in refusing to support explicitly the US
Mr Howard said it was significant that three of the countries which signed
the statement were predominantly Islamic. The terror statement was referred
to briefly in the leaders' communique read by Chinese President Jiang Zemin
at the end of yesterday's meeting.
Mr Howard also played down Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri's
refusal to meet him to discuss boat people and other regional issues despite
her having private talks with eight other leaders over the weekend.
"There are no personal difficulties between the President of Indonesia and
the Prime Minister of Australia," he said.
"I understand some of the challenges she has in her country . . . it's not
an easy job being President of Indonesia."
Sunday strikes kill 8 civilians in Kabul
Monday Oct 22 2001
US-LED bombardment hit two homes in Kabul's north on Sunday, killing at
least eight civilians, including four children, neighbors said.
An Associated Press reporter at the scene in the Khair Khana residential
district saw bodies of five of the dead -three women and two small children.
Corpses of the others, including another two older boys and a man, had been
taken away, neighbors said. Residents pushed and shoved to get a look at the
"This pilot was like he was blind. There are no military bases here - only
innocent people,'' said one resident, Haziz Ullah.
As the bulldozers searched for more bodies, another jet screamed in high
overhead and the residents scrambled for cover - with even ambulances on the
scene roaring away.
However, no more bombs were dropped by that aircraft.
The daytime strikes had hit two, concrete houses in the area.
The neighborhood holds no known Taliban military sites, although a Taliban
army garrison and other installations are housed several miles away.
The United States has expressed regrets for any civilian deaths in its now
two-week-old military campaign, saying it is targeting terror suspect Osama
bin Laden and his Taliban allies.
25 US commandos killed, says Taliban
Monday Oct 22 2001
AFGHANISTAN'S ruling Taliban talked defiance today as US war planes began a
third week of strikes by bombing the capital in blistering raids that
officials said killed 18 civilians and wounded 23.
A Taliban minister said the ruling movement's militia had killed 20 to 25 US
commandos on their first lightning strike of Operation Enduring Freedom on
Afghan soil, and insisted again they had downed a helicopter with a
Our message to the Americans is that if they want to be safe they mustn't
come to Afghanistan," education minister Amir Khan Muttaqi said, speaking
shortly after US planes launched a series of attacks against targets in
Kabul in the early hours of the 15th day of strikes.
"There have been a lot of planes overhead and I've heard at least seven
explosions," one witness in Kabul said. Witnesses said the morning raids by
US planes had appeared to target the entrenched positions of the Taliban
front line north of Kabul, facing the opposition Northern Alliance.
Information ministry official Abdul Hanan Himat said 18 civilians,
including women and children, had been killed and 23 wounded in the raids.
Taliban fighters fired at the planes mostly with mobile truck-mounted
anti-aircraft guns that can more easily evade attack.
Most of their ground air-defences have already been destroyed in two weeks
of US air attacks, the Pentagon has said.
The aircraft roared overhead just hours after the Taliban moved fighters
through the streets of the curfew-bound capital.
Power was cut as an aircraft that sounded like a helicopter or a propeller
plane flew low overhead twice and tanks rumbled down the streets
accompanied by the sound of plain chant religious hymns, apparently
broadcast by loudspeakers.
Wounded four times, tortured and exiled again -
but Abdulsalam keeps on smiling
By Robert Fisk in Peshawar
19 October 2001
In 22 years of war, Abdulsalam Jamalzai has lost count of the number of
times he has fled Afghanistan.
As a schoolboy of 14, he watched the first Soviet invasion troops arrive in
Kandahar to struggle, so he was told, against "international terrorism''. He
was wounded four times in his country's army while fighting what his
officers called "terrorism''. He was even tortured by the Afghan communist
government for disobeying an order to fight pro-American "international
terrorism''. And now he has arrived back in Pakistan with his wife and eight
children after fleeing America's war against "international terrorism''.
Abdulsalam's smile when he tells his terrible story is both infectious for
his family and shameful for us. He hopes to return to Kabul. His older
sons born during the Soviet occupation grin broadly. Perhaps they
understand the irony.
Perhaps, like Abdulsalam's 35-year-old wife, Nahid, they are just brave.
While Abdulsalam rotted in a military prison after fighting on the Panjshir
front line against Ahmed Shah Masood's guerrillas, Nahid wrote a letter to
her husband: "I pray to God that I will see you in jail rather than
Abdulsalam's father, Abdulkarim, was a soldier who supported the Afghan
communist regime. The family didn't join their neighbours to protest against
the Soviet invasion by crying Allahu Akbar (God is great) from the rooftops
of Kandahar. "I first saw Russian soldiers in 1979 when they were on their
way to the airport,'' Abdulsalam remembers. "They were big men on tanks with
furry hats with a star on the front and huge coats. They were overthrowing
the despotism of Hajibullah Amin and we thought that with Babrak Karmal
things would be better. The Russians had come to defend him. The Russians
had come to rescue our people from dark times."
Or so Abdulsalam thought. He married Nahid when he was still a 17-year-old
schoolboy; she was chosen by his parents. Nahid's father had been arrested
by President's Amin's intelligence services and never seen again. Within a
year, Abdulsalam had joined the police academy. "It had always been my dream
to be of service to may people,'' he says now, as innocently as he must have
said it when the Kabul academy was placed under the intelligence ministry,
and as innocently as he must have thought it when he was told he had
volunteered for a three-year training course in the Soviet Union. But when
he reached the Soviet army base at Tashkent, he found he was being groomed
as an army commando.
"They taught us how to use small arms, Kalashnikovs, tanks,'' Abdulsalam
says with some residual astonishment. The course lasted just six months.
"When I got back to Kabul, I started work in the Interior Ministry court
because I was a police officer. Then they said I was in the army. I said I
was a policeman. They said, 'You have no choice you have to fight
terrorism.' What could I do?" Within a week, he was defending the copper
mines of Messaynak in Logar province, watching his first killing as a
comrade was shot in the face by the American-armed Afghan mujahedin five
feet from him.
Back in Kabul, Abdulsalam's first child, Shehsar, a boy, was born. Ordered
by his officers to undertake a one-day pursuit of Kabul bank officials who'd
absconded with the day's takings, he found himself on a convoy to Panjshir
to fight Masood's men. "I don't think there were any bank robbers," he says.
"It was a lie to get us to Panjshir. I didn't go home for three months."
When he did it was as a prisoner on a military helicopter. Sergeant
Jamalzia, as he then was, had disobeyed an order from a Russian advisor to
take a position with his men 500 metres up a mountain which would have
exposed him to mujahedin fire. "This is our decision and no more questions,"
the Russian had told him. When Abdulsalam eventually climbed the mountain,
he found the guerrillas had turned it into a minefield. Then he refused to
betray his new position by firing flares into the sky. "One of my soldiers,"
Abdulsalam says, "was a spy for the Russians and told them I had disobeyed
the order.'' Freighted back to Kabul, Abdulsalam managed to call his father
before incarceration in the Centre for the Directorate of the Revolution
where he was tortured with electricity for "wanting to join the mujahedin".
Two more children were born Ahmadshah and Zohra, a daughter. His wife and
family lived with his father, now retired, and mother. The scars of the
electrodes are still on Abdulsalam's fingers. So are the livid wounds of
three bullets and a shell burst from his subsequent battles in the army.
When shrapnel pierced Abdulsalam's leg and shoulder, his blood sprayed over
his colleagues of the 3rd Battalion in the Pagman Valley. "My heart stopped
beating for 11 seconds,'' he says.
In a Kabul hospital Abdulsalam was told Nahid had given birth to his second
daughter, Sahahbanah. "I had been in the ward for just two days and then
they told me about the new baby and I forgot everything else in my life."
Army friends arranged for him to convalesce at home. "They were very kind to
me," he remembers. Others were not.
"When the Russians left, Dr Nadjibullah was our president but I saw the
people didn't trust him. The mujahedin did not accept the 'national peace'
he had proclaimed. Sometimes I thought of joining them but they were not
The government split between the Parcham and Khalq parties. "The Parcham
people thought the intelligence ministry, for whom I worked, was Khalqi. The
Khalq thought anyone with a bit of an intellect was a Parcham. My officer
thought I was a Parcham and threw me out. I was put under house arrest, then
a friend in the Ministry of the Interior warned me to get out of Kabul."
Abdulsalam was sent back as a soldier to Logar province. Then the mujahedin
took over the Afghan capital. "I thought I knew them,'' he says. "Things
were calm. Prices went down. Everyone thought they had a beautiful future.
Then the mujahedin started fighting between each other. It was the beginning
of a new tragedy. I had no money. All I could do was walk among the people
in the city and be a witness to history." Abdulsalam found himself trapped
in a relative's house in the Kabul suburbs.
Guerrillas of the Hezbi-Islami heard he'd been in the army and tried to
arrest him. "They said: 'We must arrest the communist.' My relatives took me
back by a small road to Kabul."
The family fled to Pakistan. When they heard there was a ceasefire a month
later, they returned and hung on for six months. "It was a terrible, cold
winter. We had no money. Our house was burned. We lost everything. We
returned to Pakistan." But they went back to Kabul again, this time to a
cousin's house. But Gulbudin Hekmatyar's guerrillas fired their
American-supplied rockets into the city. Abdulsalam's elderly father was
badly wounded. The family set off for the north, to Mazar-e-Sharif.
Back in Kabul, Abdulsalam and his family began to sell their remaining
furniture to survive. They had three more children now, Muska and Laima
twin girls and another daughter, Sadia.
"On 26 October 1996, the Taliban arrived and they brought peace and we no
more heard the sound of explosions,'' Abdulsalam says. "But then they put my
father in jail. The Taliban gave no reason. I pretended to come from the
Taliban 'capital' of Kandahar because I could speak with a Kandahari accent.
I got to the Taliban base and said 'my father is from Kandahar.' But they
said: 'your father says he's from Mandoushah'. So I said: 'No, it's my
mother that's from Kandahar.' Amazingly, they freed my father. But for us,
it was the end.''
Abdulsalam's brother was sent illegally to Moscow to earn money enough to
send their parents to Pakistan. There was no money for Abdulsalam and his
family. He worked as a trader in Kabul. "Then the Taliban came to the
house we are not Pashtun like them. My wife had been teaching some girls
but the education of women was now forbidden. So the Taliban claimed we were
trying to convert the women to Christianity.'' After an explosion at Kabul
airport, many of Abdulsalam's friends were arrested. They sent word that he
was next on the Taliban's arrest list.
Leaving his family behind he fled to Pakistan for a month. He was back in
Kabul when he heard of the attacks on New York and Washington. "I thought
that if bin Laden was blamed, Afghanistan would be attacked. People were
panic stricken. I called my father in Peshawar and asked his advice. He said
it would be all right, that I should stay.
"He was wrong. When the American attack started, I listened to 'comrade
Bush' on the Voice of America and he said the attack would continue, that
his target was clear. I remembered my children and wife who were very
frightened and three nights later we fled again." Turned round by Pakistani
guards at the frontier and by a Taliban soldier they went back once more to
Kabul and then, as American planes streaked over the city, returned within
24 hours to the frontier, this time on a mountainside. They reached
"I criticised this attack," Abdulsalam says now. "Osama [bin Laden] is one
person and his organisation is in every country. These countries are all
round the world, not just Afghanistan. What can we do? Now they are
destroying our ruins. I would like to stay here for now. But if it's better
maybe we should go back to Kabul.''
It looks as if Abdulsalam Jamalzai has forgotten all of the "international
terrorism'' he was asked to fight against. Or maybe he'll remember how the
Russians were first to claim to rescue his people "from dark times''.
US Considers Torturing Suspects
Silence of 4 Terror Probe Suspects Poses Dilemma
By Walter Pincus
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, October 21, 2001; Page A06
FBI and Justice Department investigators are increasingly frustrated
by the silence of jailed suspected associates of Osama bin Laden's al
Qaeda network, and some are beginning to that say that traditional
civil liberties may have to be cast aside if they are to extract
information about the Sept. 11 attacks and terrorist plans.
More than 150 people rounded up by law enforcement officials in the
aftermath of the attacks remain in custody, but attention has focused
on four suspects held in New York who the FBI believes are withholding
FBI agents have offered the suspects the prospect of lighter
sentences, money, jobs, and a new identity and life in the United
States for them and their family members, but they have not succeeded
in getting information from them, according to law enforcement
"We're into this thing for 35 days and nobody is talking," a senior
FBI official said, adding that "frustration has begun to appear."
Said one experienced FBI agent involved in the investigation: "We are
known for humanitarian treatment, so basically we are stuck. .
. . Usually there is some incentive, some angle to play, what you can
do for them. But it could get to that spot where we could go to
pressure . . . where we won't have a choice, and we are probably
Among the alternative strategies under discussion are using drugs or
pressure tactics, such as those employed occasionally by Israeli
interrogators, to extract information. Another idea is extraditing the
suspects to allied countries where security services sometimes employ
threats to family members or resort to torture.
Under U.S. law, interrogators in criminal cases can lie to suspects,
but information obtained by physical pressure, inhumane treatment or
torture cannot be used in a trial. In addition, the government
interrogators who used such tactics could be sued by the victim or
charged with battery by the government.
The four key suspects, held in New York's Metropolitan Correctional
Center, are Zacarias Moussaoui, a French Moroccan detained in August
initially in Minnesota after he sought lessons on how to fly
commercial jetliners but not how to take off or land them; Mohammed
Jaweed Azmath and Ayub Ali Khan, Indians traveling with false
passports who were detained the day after the World Trade Center and
Pentagon attacks with box cutters, hair dye and $5,000 in cash; and
Nabil Almarabh, a former Boston cabdriver with alleged links to al
Questioning of "the two with the box cutters and others have left us
wondering what's the next phase," the FBI official said.
One former senior FBI official with a background in counterterrorism
said recently, "You can't torture, you can't give drugs now, and there
is logic, reason and humanity to back that." But, he added, "you could
reach a point where they allow us to apply drugs to a guy. . . . But I
don't think this country would ever permit torture, or beatings."
He said there was a difference in employing a "truth serum," such as
sodium pentothal, "to try to get critical information when facing
disaster, and beating a guy till he is senseless."
"If there is another major attack on U.S. soil, the American public
could let it happen," he said. "Drugs might taint a prosecution, but
it might be worth it."
Even some people who are firm supporters of civil liberties understand
the pressures that are developing.
David Cole, a professor at Georgetown University Law Center who
obtained the release of Middle Eastern clients after they had been
detained for years based on secret information, said that in the
current crisis, "the use of force to extract information could happen"
in cases where investigators believe suspects have information on an
"If there is a ticking bomb, it is not an easy issue, it's tough," he
Kenneth W. Starr, the independent counsel during the Clinton
administration, wrote recently that the Supreme Court distinguished
terrorism cases from cases where lesser threats are involved. He noted
that five justices in a recent deportation case recognized that the
"genuine danger" represented by terrorism requires "heightened
deference to the judgments of the political branches with respect to
matters of national security."
Former attorney general Richard L. Thornburgh said, "We put emphasis
on due process and sometimes it strangles us."
In the aftermath of Sept. 11, he said, "legally admissible evidence in
court may not be the be-all and end-all." The country may compare the
current search for information to brutal tactics in wartime used to
gather intelligence overseas and even by U.S. troops from prisoners
during military actions.
Extradition of Moussaoui to France or Morocco is a possibility, one
law enforcement official said. The French security services were quick
to leak to journalists in Paris that they had warned the CIA and FBI
in early September, before the attacks, that Moussaoui was associated
with al Qaeda and had pilot training.
The leak has irritated U.S. investigators in part because "it was so
limited," one FBI official said. "Maybe we should give him [Moussaoui]
to them," he said, noting that French security has a reputation for
The threat of extradition to a country with harsh practices does not
In 1997, Hani Abdel Rahim al-Sayegh, a Saudi citizen arrested in
Canada and transferred to the United States under the promise that he
would tell about the bombing of the Khobar Towers military barracks in
Saudi Arabia, refused to cooperate in the investigation when he got
The FBI threatened to have al-Sayegh sent back to Saudi Arabia, where
he could have faced beheading, thinking it would get him to talk. "He
called their bluff and went back, was not executed and is in jail," a
government official said.
Robert M. Blitzer, former chief of the FBI counterterrorism section,
said offers of reduced sentences worked to get testimony in the cases
of Ahmed Ressam, caught bringing explosives into the country for
millennium attacks that never took place, and Ali Mohammed, the former
U.S. Army Green Beret who pleaded guilty in the 1998 embassy bombings
and provided valuable information about al Qaeda.
The two former al Qaeda members who testified publicly in the 1998
bombing trials were resettled with their families in the United States
under the witness protection program and given either money or loans
to restart their lives.
Torture "goes against every grain in my body," Blitzer said. "Chances
are you are going to get the wrong person and risk damage or killing
them." In the end, he said, there has to be another way.
Susan Sontag, "The Traitor," Fires Back
by David Talbot, Salon
October 17, 2001
Writer Susan Sontag has produced many texts during her four-decade career,
including historical novels and reflections on cancer, photography and the
war in Bosnia. But it was a brief essay, less than 1,000 words long, in the
Sept. 24 issue of the New Yorker that created the biggest uproar of her life.
In the piece, which she wrote shortly after the terror attacks of Sept. 11,
Sontag dissected the political and media blather that poured out of the
television in the hours after the explosions of violence. After subjecting
herself to what she calls "an overdose of CNN," Sontag reacted with a
coldly furious burst of analysis, savaging political leaders and media
mandarins for trying to convince the country that everything was OK, that
our attackers were simply cowards, and that our childlike view of the world
need not be disturbed.
As if to prove her point, a furious chorus of sharp-tongued pundits
immediately descended on Sontag, outraged that she had broken from the
ranks of the soothingly platitudinous. She was called an "America-hater," a
"moral idiot," a "traitor" who deserved to be driven into "the wilderness,"
never more to be heard. The bellicose right predictably tried to lump her
in with the usual left-wing peace crusaders, whose programmed pacifism has
sidelined them during the current political debates.
But this tarbrush doesn't stick. As a thinker, Sontag is rigorously,
sometimes abrasively, independent. She has offended the left as often as
the right (political terms, she points out, that have become increasingly
useless), alienating some ideologues when she attacked communism as
"fascism with a human face" during the uprising of the Polish shipyard
workers in the 1980s and again during the U.S. bombing campaign against the
Serbian dictatorship, which she strongly supported.
Sontag, 68, remains characteristically unrepentant in the face of the
recent attacks. On Monday, she talked with us by phone from her home in
Manhattan, reflecting on the controversy, the Bush war effort and the
media's surrender to what she views as a national conformity campaign.
Did the storm of reaction to your brief essay in the New Yorker take you by
Absolutely. I mean, I am aware of what a radical point of view is; very
occasionally I have espoused one. But I did not think for a moment my essay
was radical or even particularly dissenting. It seemed very common sense. I
have been amazed by the ferocity of how I've been attacked, and it goes on
and on. One article in the New Republic, a magazine for which I have
written, began: "What do Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein and Susan Sontag
have in common?" I have to say my jaw dropped. Apparently we are all in
favor of the dismantling of America. There's a kind of rhetorical overkill
aimed at me that is astonishing. There has been a demonization which is
What has been constructed is this sort of grotesque trinity comprised of
myself, Bill Maher and Noam Chomsky. In the Saturday New York Times, Frank
Rich tried in his way to defend us by arguing for our complete lack of
importance, by saying that any substitute weather forecaster on TV has more
influence than any of us. Well, it's not true of course. Excuse me, but
Noam Chomsky is quite a bit more than a distinguished linguist. Our critics
are up in arms against us because we do have a degree of influence. But our
own "defenders" are reduced to saying, "Well, leave the poor things alone,
they're quite obscure anyway. "
Look, I have nothing in common with Bill Maher, whom I had never heard of
before. And I don't agree with Noam Chomsky, whom I am very familiar with.
My position is decidedly not the Chomsky position
How do you differ from Chomsky?
First of all, I'll take the American empire any day over the empire of what
my pal Chris Hitchens calls "Islamic fascism." I'm not against fighting
this enemy -- it is an enemy and I'm not a pacifist.
I think what happened on Sept. 11 was an appalling crime, and I'm
astonished that I even have to say that, to reassure people that I feel
that way. But I do feel that the Gulf War revisited is not the way to fight
There was a very confident, orotund piece by Stanley Hoffman in the New
York Review of Books, he's a very senior wise man in the George Kennan
mold, certainly no radical. And I felt I could agree with every word he was
saying. He was saying bombing Afghanistan is not the solution. We have to
understand what's going on in the Middle East, we have to rethink what's
going on, our foreign policy. In fact, since Sept. 11, we're already seeing
the most radical realignment of policies.
Bill Maher has abjectly apologized for his remarks, but you don't seem to
be getting any more docile in the fact of this storm of criticism. Why not?
Well, I'm not an institution, and I don't have a job to lose. I just get
lots of very nasty letters and read lots of very nasty things in the press.
What do the letters say?
That I'm a traitor. The New York Post, or so I've been told, has called for
me to be drawn and quartered. And then there was this Ted Koppel show, the
producer invited me onto the show a week ago. It's not my thing, but I did
it. And they got someone from the Heritage Foundation [Todd Gaziano], who
practically foamed at the mouth, and said at one point, "Susan Sontag
should not be permitted to speak in honorable intellectual circles ever
again." And then Koppel said, "Whoa, you really mean she shouldn't be
allowed to speak?" And he said, well maybe not silenced, but disgraced and
"properly discounted for her crazy views."
So there's a serious attempt to stifle debate. But, of course, God bless
the Net. I keep getting more articles of various dissenting opinions
e-mailed to me; naturally, some of them are crazy and some I don't agree
with at all. But you can't shut everyone up. The big media have been very
intimidated, but not the Web.
I don't want to get defensive, but of course I am a little defensive
because I'm still so stunned by the way my remarks were viewed. What I
published in the New Yorker was written literally 48 hours after the Sept.
11 attacks. I was in Berlin at the time, and I was watching CNN for 48
hours straight. You might say that I had overdosed on CNN. And what I wrote
was a howl of dismay at all the nonsense that I was hearing. That people
were in a state of great pain and bewilderment and fear I certainly
understood. But I thought, "Uh-oh, here comes a sort of revival of Cold War
rhetoric and something utterly sanctimonious that is going to make it very
hard for us to figure out how best to deal with this." And I have to say
that my fears have been borne out.
What do you think of the Bush administration's efforts to control the
media, in particular its requests that the TV networks not show bin Laden
and al-Qaida's video statements?
Excuse me, but does anyone over the age of 6 really think that the way
Osama bin Laden has to
communicate with his agents abroad is by posing in that Flintstone set of
his and pulling on his left earlobe instead of his right to send secret
signals? Now, I don't believe that Condoleezza Rice and the rest of the
administration really think that. At least I hope to hell they don't. I
assume they have another reason for trying to stop the TV networks from
showing bin Laden's videotapes, which is they just don't want people to see
his message, whatever it is. They think, Why should we give him free
publicity? Something very primitive like that. Which is ridiculous, because
of course anyone online can see these tapes for themselves. Although I see
the BBC, our British cousins who are of course ever servile, are discussing
whether to broadcast the tapes. We can always count on the Brits to fall in
Why has the media been so willing to go along with the White House's
Well, when people like me are being lambasted and excoriated for saying
very mild things, no wonder the media is cowed. Here's something no one has
commented on that I continue to puzzle over: Who decided that no gruesome
pictures of the World Trade Center site were to be published anywhere? Now
I don't think there was single directive coming from anywhere. But I think
there was an extraordinary consensus, a kind of self-censorship by media
executives who concluded these images would be too demoralizing for the
country. I think it's rather interesting that could happen. There
apparently has been only one exception: one day the New York Daily News
showed a severed hand. But the photo appeared in only one edition and it
was immediately pulled. I think that degree of unanimity within the media
is pretty extraordinary.
What is your position on the war against terrorism? How should the U.S.
My position is that I don't like throwing biscuits and peanut butter and
jam and napkins, little snack packages produced in a small city in Texas,
to Afghani citizens, so we can say, "Look, we're doing something
humanitarian." These wretched packages of food that are grotesquely
inadequate, there's apparently enough food for a half day's rations. And
then the people run out to get them, into these minefields. Afghanistan has
more land mines per capita than any country in the world. I don't like the
way that humanitarianism is once again being used in this unholy way as a
pretext for war.
As woman, of course, I've always been appalled by the Taliban regime and
would dearly like to see them toppled. I was a public critic of the regime
long before the war started. But I've been told that the Northern Alliance
is absolutely no better when it comes to the issue of women. The crimes
against women in Afghanistan are just unthinkable; there's never been
anything like it in the history of the world. So of course I would love to
see that government overthrown and something less appalling put in its place.
Do I think bombing is the way to do it? Of course I don't. It's not for me
to speculate on this, but there are all sorts of realpolitik outcomes that
one can imagine. Afghanistan in the end could become a sort of dependency
of Pakistan, which of course wouldn't please India and China. They'd
probably like a little country to annex themselves. So how in the world
you're going to dethrone the Taliban without causing further trouble in
that part of the world is a very complicated question. And I'm sure bright
and hard-nosed people in Washington are genuinely puzzled about how to do it.
Do you really think it could be done without bombing?
Absolutely. But it's a complicated and long process, and the United States
is not very experienced in these matters. The point is, as I said in my New
Yorker piece, there's a great disconnect between reality and what people in
government and the media are saying of the reality. I have no doubt that
there are real debates among military and political leaders going on both
here and elsewhere. But what is being peddled to the public is a fairy
tale. And the atmosphere of intimidation is quite extraordinary.
And I think our protectors have been incredibly inept. In any other country
the top officials of the FBI would have resigned or been fired by now. I
mean, [key hijacking suspect] Mohammad Atta was on the FBI surveillance
list, but this was never communicated to the airlines.
The authorities are now responding to the anthrax scareto what I think are
99 percent certain to be just domestic copycat crazies on their own war
path -- by spreading more fear. We have Vice President Cheney saying,
"Well, these people could be part of the same terrorist network that
produced Sept. 11." Well, excuse me, but we have no reason to think that.
As a result of these alarming statements from authorities, the public is
terrified. I live in New York and the streets were empty after the FBI
announced that another terrorist attack was imminent. You have these idiots
in the FBI saying they have "credible evidence"I love that phrasethat an
attack this weekend is "possible." Which means absolutely nothing. I mean
it's possible there's a pink elephant in my living room right now, as I'm
talking to you from my kitchen. I haven't checked recently, but it's not
And meanwhile our ridiculous president is telling us to shop and go to the
theater and lead normal lives. Normal? I could go 50 blocks, from one end
of Manhattan to another, in five minutes because there was no one in the
streets, no one in the restaurants, nobody in cars. You can't scare people
and tell them to behave normally.
We also seem to be getting contradictory messages about Muslims in the U.S.
We're told that not all Islamic people are our enemy, but at the same time
there's a fairly wide dragnet, which some civil liberties defenders have
criticized as indiscriminate, aimed at rounding up Islamic suspects.
Well, people are very scared and Americans are not used to being
scared. There's an American exceptionalism; we're supposed to be exempt
from the calamities and terrors and anxieties that beset other countries.
But now people here are scared and it's interesting how fast they are
moving in another direction. The feeling is, and I've heard this from
people, about Islamic taxi drivers and shopkeepers and other people, we
really ought to deport all the Muslims. Sure they're not all terrorists and
some of it will be unfair, but after all we have to protect ourselves.
Racial and ethnic profiling is now seen as common sense itself. I mean how
could you not want that if you're going to take an airplane and you don't
want a fellow in a turban and a beard to sit next to you?
What I live in fear of is there will be another terror attacknot a sick
joke like the powder in the envelope, but something real that takes more
lives, that has the stamp of something more professional and thought out.
It could be another symbolically targeted buildingmaybe not in New York
this time, but in Chicago or some other heartland city that scares the rest
of the country. And then you could get something like martial law here.
Many Americans, who as I say are so used to not being afraid, would
willingly accede to great abridgements of freedom. Because they're afraid.
You called the president "robotic" in your New Yorker essay. But the New
York Times, among other media observers, has editorialized that Bush has
shown a new "gravitas" since Sept. 11. Do you think the president has grown
more commanding since the terror attacks?
I saw that in the Times, I love that, gravitas. Has Bush grown into his
role of president? No, I think he's acquired legitimacy since Sept. 11,
that's all, I don't call that "growing" at all. I think what we obviously
have in Washington is some kind of regency, run presumably by Cheney and
Rumsfeld and maybe Powell, although Powell is much more of an organization
man than a real leader. It's all very veiled. And Cheney has not been much
seen latelyis this because he is ill? It's all very mysterious. I hate to
see everything become so opaque.
It seems important to the Times and other major media to shore up the
president's image these days.
Yes, I just don't understand why debate equals dissent, and dissent equals
lack of patriotism now. I mean, look, I cry every morning real tears, I
mean down the cheek tears, when I read those small obituaries that the New
York Times publishes of the people who died in the World Trade Center. I
read them faithfully, every last one of them, and I cry. I live near a
firehouse that lost a lot of men, and I've brought them things. And I'm
genuinely and profoundly, exactly like everyone else, really moved, really
wounded, and really in mourning. I didn't know anyone personally who died.
But my son [journalist David Rieff] had a former classmate who worked for
Cantor Fitzgerald who died. A number of people I know lost friends or loved
I want to make one thing very clear, because I've been accused of this by
some critics. I do not feel that the Sept. 11 attacks were the pursuit of
legitimate grievances by illegitimate means. I think that's the position of
some people, but not me. It may even be the position of Chomsky, although
it's not for me to say. But it's certainly not my position.
Speaking of your son, he seems to favor a tougher military response to
Islamic terrorism than you do.
Well, I don't want to go deeply into it, but clearly we don't see it
exactly the same way. Whatever David thinks is tremendously important to
me, but we do start from a different point of view. I feel that it's just a
difference of emphasis, but without speaking for him, he feels it's deeper
than that. But he's still the love of my life, so I won't criticize him.
This is one thing I do completely agree with David on: If tomorrow Israel
announced a unilateral withdrawal of its forces from the West Bank and the
Gaza stripwhich I am absolutely in favor of --- followed by the
proclamation of a Palestinian state, I don't believe it would make a dent
in the forces that are supporting bin Laden's al-Qaida. I think Israel is a
pretext for these people.
I do believe in the unilateral withdrawal of Israel from the Palestinian
territories, which is of course the radical view held by a minority of
Israeli citizens, but certainly not by the Sharon government. And it's a
view I expressed when I received the Jerusalem Prize there in May, which
created quite a storm. But just because I am a critic of Israeli policy,
and in particular the occupation, simply because it is untenable, it
creates a border that cannot be defended, that does not mean I believe the
U.S. has brought this terrorism on itself because it supports Israel. I
believe bin Laden and his supporters are using this as a pretext. If we
were to change our support for Israel overnight, we would not stop these
I don't think this is what it's really about. I think it truly is a jihad,
I think there is such a thing. There are many levels to Islamic rage. But
what we're dealing with here is a view of the U.S. as a secular, sinful
society that must be humbled, and this has nothing to do with any
particular aspect of American policy. So I don't think we have brought this
upon ourselves, which is of course a view that has been attributed to me.
Let me ask you about another part of your essay that has riled your
critics. You said the hijackers displayed more courage than those,
presumably in the U.S. military, who bomb their enemies from a safe distance.
No, I did not use the word "courage", I did use my words carefully. I said
they were not to be called cowards. I believe that courage is morally
neutral. I can well imagine wicked people being brave and good people being
timid or afraid. I don't consider it a moral virtue.
My feeling about this type of safe bombing goes back to the U.S. air
campaign against the Serbs in Kosovo, which I strongly supported, though I
was criticized by many of my friends on the left for being too bellicose. I
did support the bombing of the Serb forces, because I had been in Sarajevo
for three years during the siege and I wanted the Serbs checked and
rebuked. I wanted them out of Kosovo as I had wanted them out of Bosnia.
When the U.S. campaign in Kosovo began, I happened to be staying with a
close friend in a town on the tip of Italy, the boot, about 40 miles across
from Albania, and the Apache helicopters were literally passing over my
head. They landed at the Tirana air base in Italy, but they never took off
for Kosovo because it was calculated that they might be shot down and the
crew killed. And the U.S. was unwilling to accept these casualties.
But in order to bomb precisely, without hitting hospitals and other
civilian targets, you have to fly low to the ground with aircraft like
these. And you have to risk being brought down by antiaircraft fire. So I
was dismayed by the loss of civilian life in that U.S. bombing campaign,
which I had hoped would be very precise.
And so thinking about this, as I was writing my essay for the New Yorker, I
became very angry. And I wrote, if you're going to use the word "cowardly,"
let's talk about the people who bomb from so high up that they're out of
the range of any retaliation and therefore cause more civilian casualties
than they otherwise would, in what is supposedly a limited military bombing.
What about those in the antiwar camp who see a moral equivalence between
the destruction of the World Trade Center and the U.S. bombing of Afghanistan?
Well, I don't share that view. I'm not a pacifist, but I am against
bombing. And I do think that if you want to conduct a military operation,
you have to be willing to take casualties. There are not, strictly
speaking, very many military targets in Afghanistan. We're talking about
one of the poorest countries in the world. What they can do is bomb the
soldiers, the camps where the Taliban soldiers are based. And you can
imagine who they are, it's a lot of kids. We can drop a lot of napalm, and
uranium-tipped bombs, and kill many thousands of people. We haven't been
doing a lot of that yet. That's next. And then we'll get these other awful
people to come in, this Northern Alliance, and it will be horrible.
David Talbot is the founder and editor in chief of Salon, where this
article originally appeared.
WAR IS PEACE
Outlook Magazine | Oct 29, 2001
The world doesn't have to choose between the Taliban and the US government.
All the beauty of the world-literature, music, art-lies between these two
by ARUNDHATI ROY
As darkness deepened over Afghanistan on Sunday, October 7, 2001, the US
government, backed by the International Coalition Against Terror (the new,
amenable surrogate for the United Nations), launched air strikes against
Afghanistan. TV channels lingered on computer-animated images of Cruise
missiles, stealth bombers, Tomahawks, 'bunker-busting' missiles and Mark 82
high-drag bombs. All over the world, little boys watched goggle-eyed and
stopped clamouring for new video games.
The UN, reduced now to an ineffective abbreviation, wasn't even asked to
mandate the air strikes. (As Madeleine Albright once said, "The US acts
multilaterally when it can, and unilaterally when it must."
The 'evidence' against the terrorists was shared amongst friends in the
'Coalition'. After conferring, they announced that it didn't matter whether
or not the 'evidence' would stand up in a court of law. Thus, in an
instant, were centuries of jurisprudence carelessly trashed.
Nothing can excuse or justify an act of terrorism, whether it is committed
by religious fundamentalists, private militia, people's resistance
movements--or whether it's dressed up as a war of retribution by a
recognised government. The bombing of Afghanistan is not revenge for New
York and Washington. It is yet another act of terror against the people of
the world. Each innocent person that is killed must be added to, not set
off against, the grisly toll of civilians who died in New York and
People rarely win wars, governments rarely lose them. People get killed.
Governments moult and regroup, hydra-headed. They first use flags to
shrink-wrap peoples' minds and suffocate real thought, and then as
ceremonial shrouds to cloak the mangled corpses of the willing dead. On
both sides, in Afghanistan as well as America, civilians are now hostage to
the actions of their own governments. Unknowingly, ordinary people in both
countries share a common bond-they have to live with the phenomenon of
blind, unpredictable terror. Each batch of bombs that is dropped on
Afghanistan is matched by a corresponding escalation of mass hysteria in
America about anthrax, more hijackings and other terrorist acts.
There is no easy way out of the spiralling morass of terror and brutality
that confronts the world today. It is time now for the human race to hold
still, to delve into its wells of collective wisdom, both ancient and
modern. What happened on September 11 changed the world forever. Freedom,
progress, wealth, technology, war--these words have taken on new meaning.
Governments have to acknowledge this transformation, and approach their new
tasks with a modicum of honesty and humility. Unfortunately, up to now,
there has been no sign of any introspection from the leaders of the
International Coalition. Or the Taliban.
When he announced the air strikes, President George Bush said, "We're a
peaceful nation." America's favourite ambassador, Tony Blair, (who also
holds the portfolio of Prime Minister of the UK), echoed him: "We're a
So now we know. Pigs are horses. Girls are boys. War is Peace.
Speaking at the FBI headquarters a few days later, President Bush said:
"This is our calling. This is the calling of the United States of America.
The most free nation in the world. A nation built on fundamental values
that reject hate, reject violence, rejects murderers and rejects evil. We
will not tire."
Here is a list of the countries that America has been at war with-and
bombed-since World War II: China (1945-46, 1950-53); Korea (1950-53);
Guatemala (1954, 1967-69); Indonesia (1958); Cuba (1959-60); the Belgian
Congo (1964); Peru (1965); Laos (1964-73); Vietnam (1961-73); Cambodia
(1969-70); Grenada (1983); Libya (1986); El Salvador (1980s); Nicaragua
(1980s); Panama (1989), Iraq (1991-99), Bosnia (1995), Sudan (1998);
Yugoslavia (1999).And now Afghanistan.
Certainly it does not tire-this, the Most Free nation in the world. What
freedoms does it uphold? Within its borders, the freedoms of speech,
religion, thought; of artistic expression, food habits, sexual preferences
(well, to some extent) and many other exemplary, wonderful things. Outside
its borders, the freedom to dominate, humiliate and subjugate-usually in
the service of America's real religion, the 'free market'. So when the US
government christens a war 'Operation Infinite Justice', or 'Operation
Enduring Freedom', we in the Third World feel more than a tremor of fear.
Because we know that Infinite Justice for some means Infinite Injustice for
others. And Enduring Freedom for some means Enduring Subjugation for
The International Coalition Against Terror is largely a cabal of the
richest countries in the world. Between them, they manufacture and sell
almost all of the world's weapons, they possess the largest stockpile of
weapons of mass destruction-chemical, biological and nuclear. They have
fought the most wars, account for most of the genocide, subjection, ethnic
cleansing and human rights violations in modern history, and have
sponsored, armed and financed untold numbers of dictators and despots.
Between them, they have worshipped, almost deified, the cult of violence
and war. For all its appalling sins, the Taliban just isn't in the same
The Taliban was compounded in the crumbling crucible of rubble, heroin and
landmines in the backwash of the Cold War. Its oldest leaders are in their
early 40s. Many of them are disfigured and handicapped, missing an eye, an
arm or a leg. They grew up in a society scarred and devastated by war.
Between the Soviet Union and America, over 20 years, about $45 billion
worth of arms and ammunition was poured into Afghanistan. The latest
weaponry was the only shard of modernity to intrude upon a thoroughly
medieval society. Young boys-many of them orphans-who grew up in those
times, had guns for toys, never knew the security and comfort of family
life, never experienced the company of women.
Now, as adults and rulers, the Taliban beat, stone, rape and brutalise
women; they don't seem to know what else to do with them. Years of war have
stripped them of gentleness, inured them to kindness and human compassion.
They dance to the percussive rhythms of bombs raining down around them. Now
they've turned their monstrosity on their own people.
With all due respect to President Bush, the people of the world do not have
to choose between the Taliban and the US government. All the beauty of human
civilisation-our art, our music, our literature-lies beyond these two
fundamentalist, ideological poles. There is as little chance that the
people of the world can all become middle-class consumers as there is that
they'll all embrace any one particular religion. The issue is not about
Good vs Evil or Islam vs Christianity as much as it is about space. About
how to accommodate diversity, how to contain the impulse towards
hegemony-every kind of hegemony, economic, military, linguistic, religious
and cultural. Any ecologist will tell you how dangerous and fragile a
monoculture is. A hegemonic world is like having a government without a
healthy opposition. It becomes a kind of dictatorship. It's like putting a
plastic bag over the world, and preventing it from breathing. Eventually,
it will be torn open.
One and a half million Afghan people lost their lives in the 20 years of
conflict that preceded this new war. Afghanistan was reduced to rubble, and
now, the rubble is being pounded into finer dust. By the second day of the
air strikes, US pilots were returning to their bases without dropping their
assigned payload of bombs. As one pilot put it, Afghanistan is "not a
target-rich environment". At a press briefing at the Pentagon, Donald
Rumsfeld, US defence secretary, was asked if America had run out of
"First we're going to re-hit targets," he said, "and second, we're not
running out of targets, Afghanistan is..." This was greeted with gales of
laughter in the Briefing Room.
By the third day of the strikes, the US defence department boasted that it
had "achieved air supremacy over Afghanistan". (Did they mean that they had
destroyed both, or maybe all 16, of Afghanistan's planes?)
On the ground in Afghanistan, the Northern Alliance-the Taliban's old
enemy, and therefore the International Coalition's newest friend-is making
headway in its push to capture Kabul. (For the archives, let it be said
that the Northern Alliance's track record is not very different from the
But for now, because it's inconvenient, that little detail is being glossed
over.) The visible, moderate, "acceptable" leader of the Alliance, Ahmed
Shah Masood, was killed in a suicide-bomb attack early in September. The
rest of the Northern Alliance is a brittle confederation of brutal
warlords, ex-communists and unbending clerics. It is a disparate group
divided along ethnic lines, some of whom have tasted power in Afghanistan in
Until the US air strikes, the Northern Alliance controlled about 5 per cent
of the geographical area of Afghanistan. Now, with the Coalition's help and
'air cover', it is poised to topple the Taliban. Meanwhile, Taliban
soldiers, sensing imminent defeat, have begun to defect to the Alliance. So
the fighting forces are busy switching sides and changing uniforms. But in
an enterprise as cynical as this one, it seems to matter hardly at all.
Love is hate, north is south, peace is war.
Among the global powers, there is talk of 'putting in a representative
government'. Or, on the other hand, of 'restoring' the Kingdom to
Afghanistan's 89-year-old former king, Zahir Shah, who has lived in exile
in Rome since 1973. That's the way the game goes-support Saddam Hussein,
then 'take him out'; finance the mujahideen, then bomb them to smithereens;
put in Zahir Shah and see if he's going to be a good boy. (Is it possible
to 'put in' a representative government? Can you place an order for
Democracy-with extra cheese and jalapeno peppers?)
Reports have begun to trickle in about civilian casualties, about cities
emptying out as Afghan civilians flock to the borders which have been
Main arterial roads have been blown up or sealed off. Those who have
experience of working in Afghanistan say that by early November, food
convoys will not be able to reach the millions of Afghans (7.5 million
according to the UN) who run the very real risk of starving to death during
the course of this winter. They say that in the days that are left before
winter sets in, there can either be a war, or an attempt to reach food to
the hungry. Not both.
As a gesture of humanitarian support, the US government air-dropped 37,000
packets of emergency rations into Afghanistan. It says it plans to drop a
total of 5,00,000 packets. That will still only add up to a single meal for
half-a-million people out of the several million in dire need of food. Aid
workers have condemned it as a cynical, dangerous, public-relations
exercise. They say that air-dropping food packets is worse than futile.
First, because the food will never get to those who really need it. More
dangerously, those who run out to retrieve the packets risk being blown up
by landmines. A tragic alms race.
Nevertheless, the food packets had a photo-op all to themselves. Their
contents were listed in major newspapers. They were vegetarian, we're told,
as per Muslim Dietary Law(!) Each yellow packet, decorated with the
American flag, contained: rice, peanut butter, bean salad, strawberry jam,
crackers, raisins, flat bread, an apple fruit bar, seasoning, matches, a
set of plastic cutlery, a serviette and illustrated user instructions.
After three years of unremitting drought, an air-dropped airline meal in
Jalalabad! The level of cultural ineptitude, the failure to understand what
months of relentless hunger and grinding poverty really mean, the US
government's attempt to use even this abject misery to boost its
self-image, beggars description.
Reverse the scenario for a moment. Imagine if the Taliban government was to
bomb New York City, saying all the while that its real target was the US
government and its policies. And suppose, during breaks between the
bombing, the Taliban dropped a few thousand packets containing nan and
kababs impaled on an Afghan flag.
Would the good people of New York ever find it in themselves to forgive the
Afghan government? Even if they were hungry, even if they needed the food,
even if they ate it, how would they ever forget the insult, the
condescension? Rudy Giuliani, Mayor of New York City, returned a gift of
$10 million from a Saudi prince because it came with a few words of
friendly advice about American policy in the Middle East. Is pride a luxury
only the rich are entitled to?
Far from stamping it out, igniting this kind of rage is what creates
terrorism. Hate and retribution don't go back into the box once you've let
them out. For every 'terrorist' or his 'supporter' that is killed, hundreds
of innocent people are being killed too. And for every hundred innocent
people killed, there is a good chance that several future terrorists will
Where will it all lead?
Setting aside the rhetoric for a moment, consider the fact that the world
has not yet found an acceptable definition of what 'terrorism' is. One
country's terrorist is too often another's freedom fighter. At the heart of
the matter lies the world's deep-seated ambivalence towards violence. Once
violence is accepted as a legitimate political instrument, then the
morality and political acceptability of terrorists (insurgents or freedom
fighters) becomes contentious, bumpy terrain.
The US government itself has funded, armed and sheltered plenty of rebels
and insurgents around the world. The CIA and Pakistan's ISI trained and
armed the mujahideen who, in the '80s, were seen as terrorists by the
government in Soviet-occupied Afghanistan. While President Reagan posed
with them for a group portrait and called them the moral equivalents of
America's founding fathers. Today, Pakistan-America's ally in this new
war-sponsors insurgents who cross the border into Kashmir in India.
Pakistan lauds them as 'freedom fighters', India calls them 'terrorists'.
India, for its part, denounces countries who sponsor and abet terrorism,
but the Indian army has, in the past, trained separatist Tamil rebels
asking for a homeland in Sri Lanka-the LTTE, responsible for countless acts
of bloody terrorism. (Just as the CIA abandoned the mujahideen after they
had served its purpose, India abruptly turned its back on the LTTE for a
host of political reasons. It was an enraged LTTE suicide-bomber who
assassinated former Indian prime minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1991.)
It is important for governments and politicians to understand that
manipulating these huge, raging human feelings for their own narrow
purposes may yield instant results, but eventually and inexorably, they
have disastrous consequences. Igniting and exploiting religious sentiments
for reasons of political expediency is the most dangerous legacy that
governments or politicians can bequeath to any people-including their own.
People who live in societies ravaged by religious or communal bigotry know
that every religious text-from the Bible to the Bhagwad Gita-can be mined
and misinterpreted to justify anything, from nuclear war to genocide to
This is not to suggest that the terrorists who perpetrated the outrage on
September 11 should not be hunted down and brought to book. They must be.
But is war the best way to track them down? Will burning the haystack find
you the needle? Or will it escalate the anger and make the world a living
hell for all of us? At the end of the day, how many people can you spy on,
how many bank accounts can you freeze, how many conversations can you
eavesdrop on, how many e-mails can you intercept, how many letters can you
open, how many phones can you tap? Even before September 11, the CIA had
accumulated more information than is humanly possible to process.
(Sometimes, too much data can actually hinder intelligence-small wonder the
US spy satellites completely missed the preparation that preceded India's
nuclear tests in 1998.)
The sheer scale of the surveillance will become a logistical, ethical and
civil rights nightmare. It will drive everybody clean crazy. And
freedom-that precious, precious thing-will be the first casualty. It's
already hurt and haemorrhaging dangerously.
Governments across the world are cynically using the prevailing paranoia to
promote their own interests. All kinds of unpredictable political forces
are being unleashed. In India, for instance, members of the All India
People's Resistance Forum, who were distributing anti-war and anti-US
pamphlets in Delhi, have been jailed. Even the printer of the leaflets was
arrested. The right-wing government (while it shelters Hindu extremists
groups like the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the Bajrang Dal) has banned the
Students' Islamic Movement of India and is trying to revive an
anti-terrorist act which had been withdrawn after the Human Rights
Commission reported that it had been more abused than used. Millions of
Indian citizens are Muslim. Can anything be gained by alienating them?
Every day that the war goes on, raging emotions are being let loose into
the world. The international press has little or no independent access to
the war zone. In any case, mainstream media, particularly in the US, has
more or less rolled over, allowing itself to be tickled on the stomach with
press hand-outs from militarymen and government officials.
Afghan radio stations have been destroyed by the bombing. The Taliban has
always been deeply suspicious of the Press. In the propaganda war, there is
no accurate estimate of how many people have been killed, or how much
destruction has taken place. In the absence of reliable information, wild
Put your ear to the ground in this part of the world, and you can hear the
thrumming, the deadly drumbeat of burgeoning anger. Please. Please, stop the
war now. Enough people have died. The smart missiles are just not smart
enough. They're blowing up whole warehouses of suppressed fury.
President George Bush recently boasted: "When I take action, I'm not going
to fire a $2 million missile at a $10 empty tent and hit a camel in the
butt. It's going to be decisive." President Bush should know that there are
no targets in Afghanistan that will give his missiles their money's worth.
Perhaps, if only to balance his books, he should develop some cheaper
missiles to use on cheaper targets and cheaper lives in the poor countries
of the world. But then, that may not make good business sense to the
Coalition's weapons manufacturers. It wouldn't make any sense at all, for
example, to the Carlyle Group-described by the Industry Standard as 'the
world's largest private equity firm', with $12 billion under management.
Carlyle invests in the defence sector and makes its money from military
conflicts and weapons spending.
Carlyle is run by men with impeccable credentials. Former US defence
secretary Frank Carlucci is Carlyle's chairman and managing director (he
was a college roommate of Donald Rumsfeld's). Carlyle's other partners
include former US secretary of state James A. Baker III, George Soros, Fred
Malek (George Bush Sr's campaign manager). An American paper-the Baltimore
Chronicle and Sentinel-says that former President George Bush Sr is
reported to be seeking investments for the Carlyle Group from Asian
markets. He is reportedly paid not inconsiderable sums of money to make
'presentations' to potential government-clients.
Ho Hum. As the tired saying goes, it's all in the family.
Then there's that other branch of traditional family business-oil.
Remember, President George Bush (Jr) and Vice-President Dick Cheney both
made their fortunes working in the US oil industry.
Turkmenistan, which borders the northwest of Afghanistan, holds the world's
third largest gas reserves and an estimated six billion barrels of oil
reserves. Enough, experts say, to meet American energy needs for the next
30 years (or a developing country's energy requirements for a couple of
centuries.) America has always viewed oil as a security consideration, and
protected it by any means it deems necessary. Few of us doubt that its
military presence in the Gulf has little to do with its concern for human
rights and almost entirely to do with its strategic interest in oil.
Oil and gas from the Caspian region currently moves northward to European
markets. Geographically and politically, Iran and Russia are major
impediments to American interests. In 1998, Dick Cheney-then CEO of
Halliburton, a major player in the oil industry-said: "I can't think of a
time when we've had a region emerge as suddenly to become as strategically
significant as the Caspian. It's almost as if the opportunities have arisen
overnight." True enough.
For some years now, an American oil giant called Unocal has been
negotiating with the Taliban for permission to construct an oil pipeline
through Afghanistan to Pakistan and out to the Arabian Sea. From here,
Unocal hopes to access the lucrative 'emerging markets' in South and
Southeast Asia. In December 1997, a delegation of Taliban mullahs travelled
to America and even met US State Department officials and Unocal executives
in Houston.At that time the Taliban's taste for public executions and its
treatment of Afghan women were not made out to be the crimes against
humanity that they are now. Over the next six months, pressure from hundreds
of outraged American feminist groups was brought to bear on the Clinton
administration. Fortunately, they managed to scuttle the deal. And now
comes the US oil industry's big chance.
In America, the arms industry, the oil industry, the major media networks,
and, indeed, US foreign policy, are all controlled by the same business
combines. Therefore, it would be foolish to expect this talk of guns and
oil and defence deals to get any real play in the media. In any case, to a
distraught, confused people whose pride has just been wounded, whose loved
ones have been tragically killed, whose anger is fresh and sharp, the
inanities about the 'Clash of Civilisations' and the 'Good vs Evil'
discourse home in unerringly. They are cynically doled out by government
spokesmen like a daily dose of vitamins or anti-depressants. Regular
medication ensures that mainland America continues to remain the enigma it
has always been-a curiously insular people, administered by a
pathologically meddlesome, promiscuous government.
And what of the rest of us, the numb recipients of this onslaught of what
we know to be preposterous propaganda? The daily consumers of the lies and
brutality smeared in peanut butter and strawberry jam being air-dropped
into our minds just like those yellow food packets. Shall we look away and
eat because we're hungry, or shall we stare unblinking at the grim theatre
unfolding in Afghanistan until we retch collectively and say, in one voice,
that we have had enough?
As the first year of the new millennium rushes to a close, one wonders-have
we forfeited our right to dream? Will we ever be able to re-imagine beauty?
Will it be possible ever again to watch the slow, amazed blink of a
new-born gecko in the sun, or whisper back to the marmot who has just
whispered in your ear-without thinking of the World Trade Center and
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/studentsnowar/files (members only)
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