---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Tue, 20 Nov 2001 12:57:33 -0800
From: radtimes <email@example.com>
Subject: Antiwar News...(# 34)
Antiwar News...(# 34)
--US and UK Bombs Create Terror in Afghanistan
--A War Against Civilians?
--Afghanistan bombing still not justified
--Demonstrators in Pakistan, Indonesia, Bangladesh protest bombing
--Misdirected air strikes kill more civilians in Kabul
--CNN staffers are told to blame Taliban
--Anti-war protesters target Government building
--Acts of Hypocrisy: Why They Hate Us
--Taliban's Foes Say Bombing Is Poorly Aimed and Futile
--Afghanistan's biggest power station hit
--War without witnesses
--List of incidents where US bombs have struck non-military targets
--Drop in support for war
--CNN Says Focus on Civilian Casualties Would Be "Perverse"
Also of interest (links only):
*PHONEY BOMB HUMOR FOOLS TALIBAN?
(Anti-war links/resources at the end.)
US and UK Bombs Create Terror in Afghanistan
Bombing Mud Houses, Buses and Hospitals
by Heather Cottin
The war in Afghanistan is creating what United Nations official Stephanie
Bunker is calling, "the most serious, complex emergency in the world ever."
"As many as 100,000 more children will die in Afghanistan this winter unless
food reaches them in sufficient quantities in the next six weeks," said Eric
Laroche, UNICEF spokesman in an interview with the Times of India on October
29th. "If you have turned on the television over these past few days, you
have seen injured bodies of young children, I ask you all: What could be
"If you are a child born in Afghanistan today, you are 25 times more likely
to die before the age of five than an American or a French or a Saudi Arabian
child." Laroche said. More than half the children in Afghanistan were
already malnourished and 300,000 children died each year from preventable
causes inside the country.
Afghanistan is one of the poorest countries of the world. Their infant
mortality rate is 165 per 1000 births. Their life expectancy is 46. UNICEF
statistics show the problem of stunting affecting over 50% of all children.
The American press is nearly devoid of information about the conditions of
the impoverished Afghanis. The British press is slightly better. The British
tabloid, The Mirror is usually supportive of British foreign policy. But
author and former Mirror editor John Pilger wrote a scathing critique of
Downing Street's Afghan policy. "One of the poorest, most stricken nations
has been terrorized by the most powerful - to the point where American pilots
have run out of dubious "military" targets and are now destroying mud houses,
a hospital, Red Cross warehouses, lorries (buses) carrying refugees".
The London Observer on October 28th, reported that US warplanes hit a
residential area in the Afghan capital of Kabul killing at least 13 civilians
and virtually wiping out one family.
In Islamabad, Stephanie Bunker confirmed that a hospital was hit in the
Afghan city of Heart in an air raid carried out by American military
aircraft. Taliban ambassador to Pakistan, Mullah Abdul Sallam Zaeef, stated
that there were around one hundred victims among the doctors, nurses, and
patients when the hospital received a direct hit from a bomb dropped during
a US air raid over the city.
Every time the Afghanis claim that there are civilian casualties, the United
States government discounts the reports. Yet According to United Nations
officials up to 70 percent of the populations of the towns of Herat and
Kandahar have now fled from bombing raids.
Agence France Presse reported on October 12 that Britain's International
Development Secretary Clare Short on Friday denied Taliban reports that the
US-led bombing campaign in Afghanistan had killed hundreds of innocent
The staff of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) countered that
claim. People arriving at the Pakistan border told of seeing dead and
starving children and many homeless and desperate families. And they expect
the situation to worsen. According to UNHCR spokesman Yusuf Hassan, the
60,000 refugees presently fleeing will climb to 300,000 within weeks and up
to 1.5 million in the longer term.
When the snows begin and temperatures plummet to 20 degrees below zero, the
situation for those who remain in their homes and for the refugees on the
run who are now starving and homeless will be horrific.
Already, conditions in the villages where poor peasants and workers live far
from Taliban positions have become nightmarish. By October 25, stories began
to emerge which horrified the British.
"Not long after 7 PM on Sunday, Oct. 21 the bombs began to fall over the
outskirts of Torai village. Mauroof saw a massive fireball rising from the
ground." He realized that "bombs had fallen over the little cluster of
houses a mile away where his sister and his other relatives were living." So
wrote the Times of London, describing the destruction of an entire family.
"The roll call of the dead read like an invitation list to a family wedding:
his mother-in-law, two sisters-in-law, three brothers-in-law, and four of
his sister's five young children, two girls and two boys, all under the age of
A Killing Field in a Canister
The agony of Afghanistan is intensified by the use of weapons known as
cluster bombs. The Times of London writes, "Prime Minister "Tony Blair
constantly parades his humanitarianism. This must extend to the
choice of bombs. Of choice in the US/UK bombing raids "is a CBU-87/B,
containing bright yellow submunitions. for attacking soft target areas
(including human beings) with detonating bomblets".
The cluster bombs also serve as land mines and detonate later, even years
later, when they are unearthed. The Times noted that the US lobbied at a
landmine conference some years ago against classifying cluster bombs as
landmines. But they serve this secondary and murderous purpose. "35,000
unexploded bomblets in Kosovo still kill one person a week." They are still
killing people in Laos, 30 years after the war there ended.
The Times added. "Unexploded cluster bombs are a horror, (since) the bright
yellow coloring of the canisters makes them horribly appealing to children.
As reported in The Times, these weapons are "a killing field in a canister,
designed to massacre anything within 100 feet."
Such a massacre took place in the village of Shakar Qala. The UN confirmed
that eight people had been killed immediately when the village was attacked.
A ninth person died after picking up the parachutes attached to the cluster
"He went to look at the object, touched it and it blew up," Stephanie Bunker
said. Fourteen others were injured and 20 of the village's 45 houses were
destroyed or badly damaged.
The endless exodus from major cities and little hamlets of Afghanistan is
growing. As a "humanitarian gesture," the United States has dropped
approximately one million packages of food on the refugees. But because it
is wrapped in yellow packaging, and because US planes have also bombed
refugee columns, unsuspecting and starving refugees have grabbed yellow
cluster bombs, thinking they were food. The result has been death and
To counteract this, the US has dropped pamphlets explaining the difference
between the bomb canisters and the food packets, said the BBC. Since most
Afghanis are illiterate, it is doubtful they understand the written
instructions., which begin, "Attention, noble Afghan people," and conclude
with the statement." Do not confuse the cylinder-shaped bomb with the
rectangular food bag,"
Reports on Refugees
To make the situation more ghastly, US planes is dropping food into the
largest minefield in the world, a leftover from the mining done during the
ten years of war the US funded against the Marxist government of
Pravda reported that "refugees arriving in the Pakistani city of Qetta
yesterday claimed that a column of refugees trying to escape the bombing
after their houses had been destroyed was strafed, also by American aircraft,
and that 20 members of the column, including nine children, had been killed.
The incident took place at Tarine Khot, near Kandahar. One refugee who
witnessed the event stated that there were no Taliban bases within a radius
of three kilometres from where the homes were destroyed.
Eyewitnesses stated that a 1,000-pound bomb had been dropped on October 23rd
in a field near an old people's home near Kandahar. The British Ministry of
Defense admitted that there had been military activity against Taliban camps
in the area on that day.
Although Pravda calls reports by the Taliban suspect, labeling the "Taliban
pathological and compulsive liars," the paper admitted, "reports of
collateral damage are true."
The Times of India reported on Thursday, November 1 that 'The Kajaki
hydro-electric power station in Helmand province was bombed on Wednesday
afternoon," October 31. "So far water has not started gushing out of the dam
but any further bombing will destroy the dam. It may cause widespread
flooding, putting at risk the lives of thousands of people," said an Afghani
spokesman. The electricity the dam generated has been cut.
So now Afghanistan is without electricity to two major cities, and water
processing facilities have also been destroyed.
When the death toll reached 1500, the United States began to complain about
the unreliability of the reports, and CNN began to downplay the visual
depictions of the anguish of Afghanistan. As US military action in this
beleaguered nation intensifies, as Condoleeza Rice and Donald Rumsfeld
escalate their shrieks for revenge, the victims multiply.
The weapons the US is using in Afghanistan are already causing injuries
consistent with those caused by Depleted Uranium and other chemical weapons
used in Iraq and Yugoslavia. Pravda noted "Deputy public health minister,
Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai, said the government did not having testing
facilities," and urged outside observers to view the injuries from the
The Pentagon has admitted this week bombing an old people's home in Herat
but claimed a "targeting error". Two weeks ago, bombs killed dozens in the
village of Karam. Steven Gutkin, Associated Press writer, reported Thursday,
Oct. 25 from KORAK DANA, Afghanistan of a U.S. attack on Kandahar which hit
a bus at the city gates Thursday, killing at least 10 civilians in a fiery
The AP reported on October 26. "In separate raids late Thursday and early
Friday, F/A-18 jets dropped two one-ton bombs on the Red Cross warehouse
complex, the Defense Department said in a statement." They claimed this was
an error, but the bombing took place in broad daylight and the Red Cross was
clearly painted on the roof of this building. This was the second time these
facilities had been bombed, and the supplies, now destroyed, would have fed
and clothed many Afghans.
The genocidal bombing and heartless devastation of the Afghani people is
part of the "great game" of the great powers, which has nothing to do with
"fighting terrorism." As Pilger points out, "The "war on terrorism" is a
cover for this: a means of achieving American strategic aims that lie behind
the flag-waving facade of great power."
The Great Game
In the book, The Grand Chessboard, Zbigniew Brzezinski urged a major role
for the US in Central Asia and the Middle East. Brzezinski was Jimmy Carter's
national security advisor, and was he who instigated the CIA's arming and
training of the Mujahadeen in Pakistan and Afghanistan. It was his policy
that helped to create those fundamentalist pawns including the Taliban. They
were organized to overthrow Afghanistan's Marxist government and to draw the
USSR into a terrible quagmire. This policy was instrumental in fomenting the
destruction of socialism in the USSR.
"For America" after the Cold War, Brzezinski wrote, "the chief prize is
Eurasia." Why? Because it contains the "Central Asian region and the Caspian
Sea basin, known to contain reserves of natural gas and oil that dwarf those
of Kuwait, the Gulf of Mexico, or the North Sea."
Brzezinski warned against "a grand coalition of China, Russia, and perhaps
Iran" as "the most dangerous scenario." What nation stands in the middle of
those three nations? Afghanistan.
It was Brzezinski who was a leading architect for the expansion of NATO. He
wrote, "A comprehensive U.S. policy for Eurasia as a whole will not be
possible if the effort to widen NATO, having been launched by the United
So the war in Afghanistan is a continuation of the wars on Yugoslavia. And
it continues to expand the reach of NATO eastward. Brzezinski even called
Central Asia the "Eurasian Balkans" and noted that they are "infinitely
more important as a potential economic prize: an enormous concentration of
natural gas and oil reserves located in the region, in addition to important
minerals, including gold . . . "
John Pilger in the Mirror wrote, "the overwhelming majority of the Islamic
peoples of the Middle East and south Asia have been victims of the West's
exploitation of precious natural resources in or near their countries." As
George W. Bush and Tony Blair blather on about terrorism, millions of people
are watching them murder Afghani children.
The war is one month old and a peace movement is burgeoning in over 20
countries. This is an anti-imperialist movement which understands this war
is about the profits of British and US oil companies. It is clear to all who
look: the Great Game is based on murder of innocents and plunder of
In the 19th century Britain attempted to take over Afghanistan. It bogged
down and one of its leading generals said, "Mark my words, it will not be
long before there is some signal catastrophe." The war for Central Asia may
prove to be imperialism's "signal catastrophe." Pilger writes, "the British
Royal Marines, who will do the real dirty work, will be little more than
mercenaries for Washington's imperial ambitions."
The British 19th century poet,Thomas Campbell, writng about another
imperialist war and the men who died for Britain penned,
"The snow shall be their winding sheet,
And every turf beneath their feet
Shall be a soldier's sepulchre."
As the snows of winter descend on this tragic nation, they may well prove to
be the winding sheet of imperialism. Support for the US/UK war in
Afghanistan is waning worldwide as the death count rises.
A War Against Civilians?
November 2, 2001
by Mark Weisbrot
President Bush has declared a "war on terror," and political leaders such as
House minority leader Dick Gephardt insist that "this is not a strike
against the people of Afghanistan."
But the evidence is accumulating that our current military campaign is
indeed, as most of the world sees it, being waged against the Afghan people.
Consider this statement from Admiral Michael Boyce, Chief of the British
Defense Staff. Referring to the bombing campaign, he said, "The squeeze
will carry on until the people of the country themselves recognize that this
is going to go on until they get the leadership changed."
It seems clear from this statement that Admiral Boyce sees the punishment of
Afghan civilians, including their children, as an important part of the
US/British strategy. On September 16 the New York Times reported that our
government had demanded from Pakistan "the elimination of truck convoys that
provide much of the food and other supplies to Afghanistan's civilian
Food shipments fell drastically, although the border has remained porous,
especially to those who pay bribes. The Taliban is even able to make money
by exporting things as big as logs.
In recent weeks the UN World Food Programme has increased its shipments.
But these are still far short of the amount needed to prevent mass
starvation during the winter. The increased risk to truck drivers, the
breakdown in law and order, and other disruptions due to the war are taking
their expected toll.
There are currently about 5.3 million people receiving food aid, and this is
expected to increase to 7.5 million in the near future. In about two weeks
winter will begin, many roads will become impassible, and people will have
to rely on stockpiled food. Relief groups have called for a halt in the
bombing so that food as well as blankets and medicines can get through
before it is too late. But their appeals have so far gone unheeded.
And everyone acknowledges that the air drops of food from US planes are so
small that they are little more than an exercise in public relations.
What is terrorism? Edward Herman, Emeritus Professor from Pennsylvania's
Wharton School of Business, has offered a politically neutral,
straightforward definition of terrorism that is difficult to argue with:
"the use of force or the threat of force against civilian populations to
achieve political objectives."
A strategy to "squeeze" Afghanistan, through bombing and starvation, "until
the people of the country themselves . . . get the leadership changed"
would certainly qualify as terrorism under this definition.
Most Americans would like to see Osama Bin Laden, and anyone else that was
responsible for the atrocity of September 11, brought to justice. But they
would certainly be ashamed if they knew that their government was pursuing a
strategy that involved starving hundreds of thousands, and possibly even
millions, of innocent people.
Of course this is not the first time that our government has used collective
punishment, or terrorism, in order to achieve its political goals: there was
Nicaragua in the 1980s, Vietnam prior to that, and many other examples. In
fact, by any objective definition of terrorism one that includes the
terrorism of states as well as individuals the United States has been its
largest single sponsor over the last half-century.
This war is different, in that it originated with a horrific terrorist
attack on Americans. But the collective punishment of the people of
Afghanistan is no more excusable than the crimes of September 11. As such,
it will only inspire more hatred and terrorism against us.
There is no military solution to the problem of terrorism within our
borders. We will have to change our foreign policy, so that our government
does not make so many enemies throughout the world. Those who collaborated
in the crimes of September 11 will have to be pursued through legal and
political channels, including the United Nations.
A good start would be to cut off the major source of Bin Laden's funding and
support, which is not in Afghanistan but in Saudi Arabia. The Bush
Administration has done very little on this front, due to a combination of
big oil and other "geopolitical" interests. Our government is willing to
risk American lives, at home and abroad, and kill any number of innocent
Afghanis, but it is apparently not willing to risk disturbing its relations
with the Saudi royal family.
Going the legal route won't boost the President's approval ratings the way a
war does, nor will it make the world fear our military power. But at least
we won't be fighting terrorism with more terrorism, and fueling an
escalating cycle of violence.
Mark Weisbrot is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research
in Washington, DC.
Afghanistan bombing still not justified
The Irish Times
Wednesday, October 31, 2001
By Vincent Browne
There is so much else to write about - the failure in
Northern Ireland to resolve conclusively by far the
most important issue: policing; the deepening poverty
here and the widening of the inequality gap; the
continuing nonsense of the Garda obsession with
cannabis and their "triumph" with the "biggest ever
haul"; the disappearance of the Celtic Tiger almost
overnight; the impact of the recession on the media.
But how can we divert our horrified gaze from the
awfulness of what is going on in Afghanistan? After
nearly 24 days of bombardment you wonder what is there
left to bomb in Afghanistan? They are dropping
hundreds of bombs per day - say 300, each of about
2,000 lbs: that's 600 times per day what was detonated
at Omagh and for each of 24 days. We know now they
have twice bombed the warehouse of the International
Committee of the Red Cross, they have bombed a mosque,
a hospital, a village, wiped out a family: that's what
is admitted. The Taliban says there were more than
1,000 civilians killed in the first week. We can
discount that but are we to believe that only a
handful have been killed by these "surgical strikes",
when we know the strikes are not "surgical" and we
know the explosives used are anything but "surgical"?
I am referring particularly to the thousands of
"cluster bombs" that are being dropped every day.
These bombs were used extensively in the 78-day
bombardment of Yugoslavia two years ago. A House of
Commons Defence Committee report, Lessons of Kosovo,
commented on these cluster bombs: "Each of these
weapons contains 147 bomblets, primarily firing a
plasma-jet able to penetrate armour but having a
secondary anti-personnel effect with over 2,000
sharpened pieces cutting into the casing." The report
states that between eight and 12 per cent of these
cluster bombs (i.e., between 42 and 64 bombs), each
with 147 bomblets and 2,000 shrapnel pieces, failed to
explode and therefore are lying around on the ground
in Yugoslavia. It quotes a report which states that
only 31 per cent of these cluster bombs hit their
targets and a further 29 per cent cannot be accounted
So we can believe that about 70 per cent of these
bombs, each with 147 bomblets and 2,000 shrapnel
pieces, do not hit their target and that thousands of
them have been dropped in the last 24 days? How could
it be that thousands of civilians have not been maimed
by these bombs? How could it be, even if the bombing
stopped now, that thousands more civilians will not be
maimed or killed by the unexploded "bomblets" that
will lie around on the ground for years to come?
One of my correspondents (having got 330 emails after
my column of two weeks ago I got over 400 to last
week's column, this time most of them supportive of
the anti-war stance) has challenged me on what my
attitude would be if a loyalist gang had hijacked
three Aer Lingus aircraft and flown them into office
areas of Dublin, killing 5,000 people, and if this
gang was harboured by a loyalist government in
Northern Ireland, that the gang had gone on to call
for a holy war to kill all Catholics, including all
Catholics in the South, what would be my attitude
then? Would I favour the kind of response to the
Northern state that the Americans are making to the
Taliban regime in Afghanistan, assuming that the
Dublin government had the military prowess to respond?
The answer is: I do not know how the emotional trauma
of that event would colour my judgment but how should
I respond? I believe it would be wrong to bomb
Northern Ireland in the way that the Americans and
British are bombing Afghanistan. I believe it would be
wrong to use cluster bombs or any other kind of
indiscriminate weapons. I believe that before anything
was done militarily every effort should be made to
secure the extradition of the culprits either to the
Republic or to an agreed third state. And I think that
would be the right response even if my own children
were victims of the attack on Dublin (although, of
course, in that event my judgment would be entirely
overwhelmed by the catastrophe that had occurred).
But what is going on in Afghanistan is worse than just
the killing and the maiming caused by the bombing.
There is also the vast humanitarian crisis. More than
six million people were "causing concern" to the aid
agencies prior to the commencement of the bombing -
"causing concern" is a nice way of saying on the verge
of death from starvation. Surely thousands of these
have died by the withdrawal of aid since October 7th,
when the bombing started? And, as I have written
before, what is the point of it all? John Ashcroft,
the US Attorney General, said last week the attack on
America of September 11th was planned in Germany. Most
of the hijackers were from Saudi Arabia and a few from
Egypt. Some of these may have been in Afghanistan at
some time, but so what? They could not have learnt any
skills in Afghanistan relevant to what they did on
September 11th. Their fundamentalism was engendered
not in Afghanistan but in Saudi Arabia (the major
centre for that kind of fanaticism but that can't be
mentioned because of the oil) or Egypt or Germany.
Demonstrators in Pakistan, Indonesia, Bangladesh protest bombing
Friday, November 02, 2001
Mardan, Pakistan -- Urging the army to overthrow President Gen. Pervez
Musharraf, thousands of Islamic militants marched in this northwestern city
Friday to protest their government's support for the U.S. military campaign
"Musharraf is a risk for Pakistan," Islamic cleric Qazi Hussain Ahmad told
the crowd of 10,000, many of them ethnic Pashtuns, the largest ethnic group
in neighbouring Afghanistan.
Qazi said Musharraf -- an army general who seized power in 1999 -- should be
deposed. "The sooner, the better," the cleric said.
The protest in Mardan was the largest of several throughout Pakistan on
Friday, the Muslim holy day and the usual time for pro-Taliban
demonstrations against the United States.
Smaller rallies were also held in the cities of Lahore, Karachi and Quetta.
Musharraf has endorsed the U.S.-led military campaign, and allowed Americans
to use Pakistani bases for what his government says is logistical support.
The overwhelming majority of Pakistan's 145 million people are Muslim, and
the anti-U.S. rallies have attracted relatively modest numbers considering
the national population.
However, Islamic militants have vowed to step up protests against Musharraf
and pledged a countrywide civil disobedience campaign Nov. 9.
At Mardan, protesters cheered when Qazi asked if they were ready to join a
holy war against America. They raised their hands, volunteering.
"Bush has waged war against Islam and we will defeat him with the power of
faith," Qazi said. "It is the duty of every Muslim to support Taliban who
are fighting against a mighty power."
Qazi, president of Pakistan's main Islamic party Jamaat-e-Islami, insisted
his call for a coup was not designed to cause a rift in Pakistan's military.
"I have just asked the generals to protect the country's last disciplined
and organized national institution by removing Musharraf, who wants to use
it for appeasing America," Qazi said.
Police and paramilitary troops stood guard by the hundreds at the rallies,
keeping the protests in check.
Meanwhile, anti-U.S. rallies attracted thousands of protesters Friday in
Bangladesh and Indonesia.
After a night of special prayers, nearly 2,000 Muslim men and children in
flowing white robes and prayer caps held a protest rally outside Baitul
Mokarram, the main mosque in downtown Dhaka, capital of Bangladesh.
Another group of about 600 marched toward the U.S. Embassy, but were stopped
by police outside Dhaka's diplomatic enclave and they dispersed peacefully.
Chanting anti-American slogans and holding placards in support of the Afghan
people and the Taliban militia, the protesters demanded an immediate stop to
the bombing, saying it is "killing innocent civilians."
Some burned paper and straw effigies of President George W. Bush.
In Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim country, some 3,000 people
protesting the U.S. attacks marched through the country's second-largest
city, Surabya, after midday prayers, chanting "God is Great."
That demonstration came a day after Indonesian President Megawati
Sukarnoputri called on Washington to halt the military campaign during the
Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, which starts in mid-November.
Bush rejected that notion in remarks Friday in a question-and-answer session
at the White House.
"The enemy won't rest during Ramadan and neither will we," Bush said.
Misdirected air strikes kill more civilians in Kabul
Monday, October 29, 2001
By Kathy Gannon, The Associated Press
KABUL, Afghanistan -- American airstrikes meant to punish the Taliban
spilled over yesterday into residential neighborhoods of the Afghan
capital, killing 13 civilians, witnesses said. It was the second time in as
many days that missiles have accidentally hit homes and killed residents.
Later yesterday, U.S. jets were back over the skies of the beleaguered
Afghan capital, and strong explosions could be heard in the direction of
the main road from Kabul to the opposition-controlled Bagram air base.
Weeping families buried their dead hours after the morning bombardment,
apparently aimed at Taliban targets to the north and east of Kabul. "I have
lost all my family. I am finished," said a sobbing woman in the Qali Hotair
neighborhood on Kabul's northern edge.
In Washington, Pentagon spokesmen had no immediate comment on the latest
strikes and civilian casualties involved. It has stressed repeatedly that
civilians are never deliberately targeted.
Three weeks after the U.S.-led air assault against Afghanistan began,
British Prime Minister Tony Blair expressed confidence the allies would
prevail. However, his foreign secretary, Jack Straw, told the British
Broadcasting Corp. that the war could drag on "indefinitely" and that the
coalition was considering a pause during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan,
which begins around Nov. 17.
When asked about a pause in bombing for Ramadan, Pentagon spokesman Jim
Turner pointed to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's comment earlier in
the day that "the northern alliance and the Taliban fought through Ramadan
year after year."
"There was a Middle East war during Ramadan. There is nothing in that
religion that suggests that conflicts have to stop during Ramadan,"
Rumsfeld said on CNN's "Late Edition."
In neighboring Pakistan, where the government has had to work to keep a lid
on pro-Taliban unrest, there was growing concern over civilian casualties.
"We feel the military action should possibly be short and targeted in order
to avoid civilian casualties," Pakistan's president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf,
said after meeting German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.
Pakistan's government has allied itself with the United States in the
confrontation over Osama bin Laden, chief suspect the Sept. 11 terror
attacks against the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
In a token of that cooperation, Pakistani officials said yesterday they had
turned over to U.S. officials a man wanted in connection with another bin
Laden-linked attack, the October 2000 bombing of the USS Cole. The handover
of the suspect, a Yemeni microbiology student, was the first known arrest
outside Yemen in connection with the Cole attack.
Elsewhere in Pakistan, at least 16 Christian worshippers were killed in the
southern town of Behawalpur when attackers suspected of belonging to a
fundamentalist Muslim group sprayed the church with gunfire.
It was not known if the attack was related to the U.S. air campaign. But
the parish priest, Rev. Rocus Patras, suggested it was linked to tensions,
saying, "Whenever something happens with America, they attack Christian
Pakistan's main radical Islamic party vowed to step up the challenge to
Musharraf, saying it and other religious groups would meet Monday to plan a
10-day protest in the capital to topple the president.
Qazi Hussain Ahmad, head of the Jamaat-e-Islami, said the protest would
involve a march into Islamabad and a sit-in.
Elsewhere in Pakistan, hundreds of armed pro-Taliban Pakistanis seized a
remote northern town yesterday, demanding that the government stop
supporting the U.S.-led strikes, witnesses said. The rebels, armed with
rocket launchers, Kalashnikov assault rifles, handmade guns and swords,
took over most government offices in Chilas about 200 miles northeast of
In yesterday morning's airstrikes, witnesses said 10 people were killed in
the Qali Hotair area. An Associated Press reporter saw six bodies, four of
A wailing father hugged the dead body of his son, who looked barely 2.
Bereaved women slapped themselves with grief.
Three other people died near an eastern housing complex called Macroyan,
In Kabul's Wazir Akbar Khan Hospital, a semiconscious 13-year-old named
Jawad did not yet know that all eight other people in his family had been
"He asked me, 'How is my family?'" said a neighbor, Mohammed Razi, ushering
a journalist out of the boy's hospital room. "I said, 'They are all OK. You
were walking in your sleep, and you fell down the well by your house, and I
In the Pakistani frontier city of Peshawar, another memorial for the dead
took place yesterday, but without the corpse.
The Taliban refused to return the body of Afghan opposition figure Abdul
Haq, executed Friday after he crossed over into Afghanistan in hopes of
drumming up support for the anti-Taliban cause. The Taliban said they had
buried Haq in his home village in Afghanistan.
The strikes that hit Kabul came only 12 hours after stray bombs landed
Saturday evening behind the rebel military alliance's battle lines north of
the capital. Areas behind Taliban lines were also reported hit.
Eight or nine civilians were killed, most of them in alliance-held areas,
according to witnesses.
In the opposition-held village of Ghanikheil, villagers said a 20-year-old
woman died in the ruins of her mud-brick house, and six were hurt. Four
others were injured in a nearby house, they said.
"The sound was huge. The plane swooped downI could hear it dive," said an
eyewitness, Amin Ullah, 70.
Rebels confronting Taliban troops north of the capital had been complaining
publicly that the American airstrikes weren't doing enough to advance their
cause. It wasn't known if Saturday's heavy raids were in response to that.
The opposition's spokesman, Abdullah, who uses only one name, called the
damage to the Taliban front lines from Saturday's raids significant and
said if such heavy bombardment were routinely employed, "the objective of
eradicating terrorism could be achieved much quicker."
The civilian deaths, he said, were an unfortunate mistake.
"Of course we know this wasn't a deliberate targeting," Abdullah said. "We
have to coordinate."
CNN staffers are told to blame Taliban
Nov 1 2001
NEW YORK (Variety) - In an effort to balance reports of
significant civilian casualties in Afghanistan, CNN began
emphasizing to viewers on Wednesday that the Taliban leadership
is to blame for the situation.
An internal memo from the network's standards and practices
department was issued to all CNN staffers on Tuesday suggesting
"we must remain careful not to focus excessively on the casualties
and hardships in Afghanistan that will inevitably be a part of this
war, or to forget that it is the Taliban leadership that is responsible
for the situation Afghanistan is now in."
The memo -- which was circulated after CNN News Group
chairman/CEO Walter Isaacson raised the issue of editorial
balance -- said that since it could be difficult for correspondents
inside dangerous areas in Afghanistan to make these points,
anchors should be sure to follow each of the reports with a
Standards and practices suggested that while reporters should put
the commentary in their own words, they might want to note that
"these U.S. military actions are in response to a terrorist attack
that killed close to 5,000 innocent people in the U.S."
On CNN's Web site, transcripts of reports from Nic Robertson in
Kandahar, Afghanistan, and Bill Delaney in Islamabad, Pakistan,
both had a new editor's note at the bottom, which read:
"The Pentagon has stressed that it is trying to minimize civilian
casualties in Afghanistan. The U.S.-led coalition launched its
offensive on Oct. 7 after Afghanistan's ruling Taliban refused to
hand over members of the Al Qaeda terror network, which is
suspected of orchestrating attacks in the United States that killed
close to 5,000 people."
After Robertson's report was aired, CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer
instructed viewers that the Taliban restricted Robertson's access.
A CNN spokeswoman noted that "this is certainly something we
were doing even before the memo," adding that the memo served
as a reminder to staffers since Robertson was going to be in
Kandahar when the U.S. was likely going to increase collateral
In recent days, U.S. newsies have begun to put increased pressure
on the Bush administration to explain civilian deaths and injuries in
Afghanistan. The administration has, no doubt, noted that
worldwide support for the U.S.-led military action has been
eroding as international TV channels carry images of relentless
bombing raids in Afghanistan.
One Capitol Hill insider says the Bush administration is especially
skittish about CNN, since journalists around the globe rely on the
24-hour channel as a source for breaking news. CNN has been
carrying footage provided by the Arab satellite news channel
Al-Jazeera, which is one of the few networks up and running in
TV newsies have been on the frontlines in the propaganda wars,
with the Bush administration asking news executives to think twice
before airing Taliban or Al Qaeda statements.
Anti-war protesters target Government building
Fri, 2 Nov 2001
Anti-war protesters have occupied a Government department demanding an end
to the bombing campaign in Afghanistan.
Some members of the action group "Justice not Vengeance" have chained
themselves to railings inside the Department for International Development
Reporters are being kept out of the building by police, but a spokesman for
the group said there are 12 people protesting peacefully against the
bombing and calling for more food aid to be delivered to the Afghan people.
Acts of Hypocrisy: Why They Hate Us
The Black World Today
October 22, 2001
By Rufus G. W. Sanders <firstname.lastname@example.org>
During this unprecedented period of national trauma I have
been asked time and time again why do so many other nations,
especially many in the Arab world, hate Americans so much.
Many of my inquisitors have been young people who are
seriously historically and politically clueless.
Unfortunately, it is usually only during times of grave
international turmoil that we Americans take the opportunity
to step back and take an honest introspective view of
ourselves and what others really think of us.
Of course from our perspective, we are the greatest nation
on the face of the earth. We believe that we are the
greatest society that has ever existed. We have been the
most generous, sensitive, and caring country of any
nation-state on the planet. Of the 39 different forms of
democracy within the global community we consider ours to be
the best and the most unique. We find it very easy to extol
our virtues of patriotism and freedom, disseminating our
values around the globe in an arrogance matched only by the
legendary Pax Romana.
We extol the values of Democratic Capitalism, but those
values are actually an oxymoron of both language and
morality. Because for every group that thrives under the
American system of capitalism there is a larger group that
suffers injustice at the hands of that same system.
Therefore, in reality, what America actually exposes is a
double standard. This is the beginning reason why we are
hated so much by other nations. It's the economic and social
exploitation that we perpetuate, while preaching democracy
and human rights for all, that makes us so politically
vulnerable. The world wonders openingly, how can America
talk about global human rights when we won't even discuss
Reparations for African-Americans? Of course, bar none, not
only is that our greatest shame and sin, but it is also our
How can America call the Taliban terrorist, they wonder,
when we have always permitted terrorism in the Middle East
by our major allies against displaced Palestinian people?
How can we sit silently by and watch the Indian government
commit acts of terrorism in disputed Kashmir against
Pakistan and then blame Pakistan for defending herself? Why
did we not do anything when the Soviets rushed in to
terrorize the Afghan people in the first place? It was
America who then helped to foster the growth of the Taliban
to terrorize the Soviets. It was America who funded the
Taliban terrorist operations. Something we continued to do
right up to the September 11th attack.
It is America's inherent hypocritical policies that make us
such a hated people. America talks human rights, but we then
allow Saudi Arabia, one of our major Arab allies, to
practice some of the same human rights violations against
their people that we demonize the Taliban for. We bomb the
Iraqi people for supporting Saddam Hussein, but there was a
time when we closed our eyes as Hussein repressed his own
country. Our concerns seem to have been, as long as he did
not threaten our oil interests, he could do whatsoever he
wanted. It was only when Saddam invaded Kuwait and
threatened American oil claims that we went after him and
then labeled him an evil man. And why won't we go after the
Russians for the acts of terrorism that they are committing
in Chechnya? We are hated because of our glaring and
infamous foreign policy double-standards of economic and
political imperialist arrogance.
We are hated because we are viewed by much of the Arab
world, who are used to terrorism, as using September 11th as
an excuse to further our imperialist hegemony worldwide in
the name of combating terrorism. After all, we have always
known that Osama bin Laden was diabolical, but for years we
have sat back and watched him amass power and influence and
did virtually nothing to stop him until recently. Now we are
bombing the Afghanistan people to smithereens in an attempt
to flush him out of hiding.
We are hated because some Arabs see these bombings as an
excuse to get the kind of control over the rich oil routes
of Afghanistan, which the Soviets wanted so desperately, as
well as the Iranians and the Pakistan government. Unknown to
most Americans is the fact that, "Afghanistan's significance
from an energy standpoint stems from its geographic position
as a transit route for oil and gas exports from Central Asia
to the Arabian Sea. This potential includes proposed
multi-billion dollar oil and gas export pipelines through
Afghanistan." Many Arabs feel that the only time the Arabic
world is of any importance to America is when oil is the
It's time that the United States take another look at her
foreign policies, in the Middle East, but especially
throughout the Arab world. Because until we fairly deal with
the issues that cause this hate against us, it will be
America that is actually helping to keep the global
community a place of instability.
Taliban's Foes Say Bombing Is Poorly Aimed and Futile
New York Times. 2 November 2001.
CHAGATAI -- At first glance, the scene along the Taliban front lines
appeared to be one of utter devastation: huge circles of charred earth,
the footprints left by a daylong assault by American B-52's.
And then, rising from the ashes, came a Taliban soldier in his black
turban, alive and armed.
"All day they have been shooting at us," said Muhammad Shah, a 20-
year-old Northern Alliance soldier at his front-line post.
"The American bombs were the biggest I have seen in my life, but they
missed the Taliban."
All along this stretch of rolling hills two miles south of the
Tajikistan border, where Taliban and Northern Alliance soldiers are
separated in some places by no more than a few hundred yards, the
soldiers gave identical reports: that the waves of American bombs that
fell here today delivered plenty of flash and thunder but appeared to
have largely missed their targets.
Shells and bullets flew out of the Taliban positions almost as soon as
the smoke had cleared, the soldiers said, and hardly let up through the
The reports from the front were amplified today by a senior official of
the Northern Alliance, who complained that the American bombing campaign
appeared increasingly misguided and ineffectual.
In an interview at his headquarters just a few miles from the Taliban
targets that the American bombers were trying to destroy, the alliance's
deputy defense minister, Atiqullah Baryalai, complained that the
American use of heavy bombers to strike Taliban targets was a largely
"Mr. Rumsfeld chooses the targets in America," Mr. Baryalai said,
referring to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld. "This is our country.
We know it best. If I were the defense minister of America, I could use
his weapons better than he."
[N.B.] Still, Mr. Baryalai gave a somewhat rosier view of today's
American airstrikes than many of his local commanders, who said as few
as 3 bombs out of 30 had struck Taliban positions.
But he said the B-52's -- the heaviest bombers in the United States
arsenal -- were too lumbering to hit the zigzag pattern of Taliban
positions, and were unable to fire into hillsides where many Taliban
soldiers hide in caves.
Mr. Baryalai said the B-52's were showing the same disappointing results
on the Taliban lines near Kabul, the capital, where, he said, they
apparently missed all their targets.
Taliban soldiers appeared defiant.
Mr. Shah, the Northern Alliance soldier, said he was wakened before dawn
by the first bombs, which landed near the Taliban post a few hundred
yards in front of him. The ground shook, his dug-out began to cave in,
and flames shot into the sky.
"It was like an earthquake," Mr. Shah said, crouching in his trench.
When the bombs fell, he said, he allowed himself a moment of
Then the Taliban troops started firing.
"I grabbed my gun," Mr. Shah said, "because I thought they were going to
Afghanistan's biggest power station hit
THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 01, 2001
THE TIMES OF INDIA
ISLAMABAD/KHWAJA BAHAUDDIN: US bombs severely damaged Afghanistan's
biggest dam and power station, cutting electricity to two major cities,
a Taliban minister was quoted as saying by Afghan Islamic Press on
The Kajaki hydro-electric power station in Helmand
province was bombed on Wednesday afternoon and
electricity supplies to the cities of Kandahar and
Lashkarga have been completely halted, a Taliban
official told AFP in Kabul.
But Amir Khan Muttaqi, the Taliban education minister,
told the Pakistan-based AIP that the dam has also been
"So far water has not started gushing out of the dam
but any further bombing will destroy the dam. It may
cause widespread flooding, putting at risk the lives
of thousands of people," Muttaqi was quoted as saying.
Earlier, the Taliban said they had repulsed a major
opposition attack Thursday on their positions in a key
valley in northern Afghanistan, the Afghan Islamic
Press (AIP) reported.
A Taliban spokesman was quoted as saying that an
offensive in the Dara-e-Souf valley, about 70 km south
of the northern bastion of Mazar-i-Sharif, started
just after midnight.
The attack came after US warplanes had heavily bombed
the Taliban frontlines, said the AIP report.
"Opposition forces failed to advance an inch," the
spokesman told the Pakistan-based agency. "There is no
change in the frontline."
Fighting raged for three hours, said the report. One
Taliban fighter was killed and five wounded, according
to the spokesman. There was no estimate of losses on
the side of the opposition Northern Alliance.
Meanwhile, US B-52 bombers pounded Taliban positions
on the northeastern frontline close to the border with Tajikistan early
on Thursday, opposition officials said.
It was the third time the key frontline area in
northeastern Afghanistan has come under attack from US warplanes after
similar raids on Tuesday and Sunday.
The latest pre-dawn attack which started around 4 am
seemed to be the heaviest so far with the explosions
shaking the town of Khwaja Bahauddin and shattering
windows some 25 km away.
General Baryalai, deputy defence minister for the
opposition Northern Alliance, said by telephone that
about 15 bombs had been dropped on the same Taliban
positions targetted earlier this week. More than four
hours later the raids were continuing.
But Taliban foreign minister Wakil Ahmed Mutawakel
made a rare appearance in front of foreign reporters
in the militia's headquarters of Kandahar late on
Wednesday to insist the regime's leadership was
determined not to give in to the military assault.
The foreign minister, who has been at the centre of
rumour that he might be at the centre of a breakaway
movement, said: "There is no split in the Taliban.
This is the claim of our opponents."
He added: "Afghanistan is passing through a crucial
phase. We are compelled to defend ourselves because
nobody will give us protection."
Normally a prominent Taliban spokesman, Mutawakel has
been quiet since the start of the US-led airstrikes
against the militia over its alliance with alleged
terrorist Osama bin Laden.
His absence led to rumours he had gone to Pakistan to
defect or hold secret negotiations. But he strongly
denied this and said fighting the United States was
the only way left for the Taliban.
"The time for talks with the United States is over,"
he said. "They want a military solution and they have
closed the door on negotiation."
US warplanes have pounded Kandahar since air strikes
started on October 7. Reporters were taken to one
dispensary where the Taliban said 13 people were
killed in a dawn raid on Wednesday.
The militia now says the death toll from more than
three weeks of bombing had risen to 1,500 civilians,
500 more than previously claimed.
The United States has strongly contested the figures
and said on Wednesday its bombing was causing
crippling damage to the Taliban command.
"I can say that their command and control has been
cut, severely degraded," Rear Admiral John
Stufflebeem, deputy director of operations of the US
Defence Department's Joint Staff said in Washington.
"They are having extreme difficulty communicating one
to the other."
Taliban forces still looked to Mullah Mohammad Omar as
their leader, but were having difficulty communicating
with him and getting re-supplied and reinforced, he
"We believe that puts a terrific amount of stress on
their military capabilities, as their regional
commanders who have been used to a lot of top-down
control may not be getting that now," he said.
US warplanes rained bombs on Taliban forces on
Wednesday as US forces stepped up strikes in support
of opposition forces in the north, defense officials
A B-52 Stratofortress bomber was seen in action in the
heaviest bombings to date on the Taliban frontlines
north of Kabul, reporters said.
Stufflebeem, while not commenting directly on
Wednesday's strikes, said B-52s had and would be used
to carpet Taliban positions with unguided bombs.
"That is part of our campaign, it is part of our
capability," he said. "We do use it, we have used it
and will use it when we need to."
Meanwhile, the huge flow of refugees heading away from
the major cities suffered a new blow when Pakistan
suspended the humantarian entry of sick, injured and
UN High commission for Refugees (UNHCR) spokesman
Yusuf Hassan said the order to halt processing was
given after a temporary camp near the Chaman border
post, in southwest Pakistan, started to overflow.
Hundreds of refugees, mostly women and children, were
told to return to the nearest Afghan town across the
Pakistan had agreed to allow the most desperate Afghan
refugees into the country with some 500 women and
children crossing the border on Tuesday and more than
500 on Wednesday.
The refugees were to be housed at a temporary site at
Killi Faizo, outside Chaman, before being sent to
permanent sites. However, Hassan said the camp had
already exceeded its capacity of 325 families.
Hassan said on Wednesday that up to 130,000 Afghan
refugees had fled into Pakistan since the terror
attacks on the United States on September 11. The
figure had previously been put at 80,000.
War without witnesses
Every war needs its writers. But as long as they are excluded from the
battle zone the Afghan conflict will never capture the popular imagination
- and we will never know the truth
Sunday October 28, 2001
The war in Afghanistan is a puzzle. Barely three weeks old, it has inspired
a mass of images, soundbites and commentary. Despite this intense scrutiny,
it remains remote and mysterious, as enigmatic to the West as the country
in which it is being fought.
Objectively, the Afghan war is terrifying. Not only has America deployed
state-of-the-art military hardware from Tomahawks to Stealth bombers, its
response to 11 September has roused the spectre of biological warfare. More
generally, the assault on Osama bin Laden and the Taliban threatens a
showdown between the worldwide forces of Islam and the equally determined
forces of American consumerism.
Despite, or perhaps because of, this awesome threat, and the wall-to-wall
media coverage it has sponsored, the war itself seems not yet to have
captured the popular imagination. Subjectively, it is strangely
uninvolving. There are many possible explanations. Confusion is one.
Perhaps our uncertainty about our military deployment has something to do
with the fact that, when you examine it from a literary perspective, the
Afghan war has virtually no points of comparison with the historic wars of
a uniquely bellicose and bloody twentieth century, notably the First and
Second World Wars, Korea and Vietnam. This is not as abstract or as
pointless as it might sound. Literature is always a reliable guide.
Each of those wars, whose legends are imprinted on our consciousness, threw
up a memorable and influential literature, from Graves and Owen to Mailer
and Herr. As the children of a century of war, our imaginations have been
shaped by a voluminous, slightly dog-eared library which has profoundly
affected our approach to any understanding of international conflict. Say
what you like about those war stories, and many of them are probably best
forgotten as expressions of sentiments many intelligent readers are now
ashamed of, they none the less add up to a formidable inherited grammar of
So perhaps part of the trouble with the current war is that when one
consults the anatomy of war we grew up with, expressed in the classic
journalism of reporters like George Orwell and William Shirer, in countless
war poems, war novels, war memoirs and war films from Goodbye to All That
to Apocalypse Now , one finds almost no connection with what's happening in
First of all, there's been no foreboding, no eerie premonition. There were,
no doubt, experts in Muslim affairs who warned of the menace of the
al-Qaeda organisation, but they went unheard. By contrast, the wars of the
last century were characteristically preceded by as much as a decade of
steadily escalating nervous tension. Throughout the 1900s (and 1930s),
writers and intellectuals all over Europe shared a sense that war would come.
Popular fiction, reflecting a pervasive nationalism, articulated popular
fantasies of future war. Thrillers like Erskine Childers's The Riddle of
the Sands traded on widespread English fears of invasion and sponsored a
genre of 'invasion scare' fiction. At a more elevated level, Childers's
fellow Irishman, W.B. Yeats, typical of his generation, dreamt of violence
in a way that was echoed widely among the poets of continental Europe.
In Germany, among the poets affected by a half-heard drumbeat of imminent
catastrophe, Alfred Lichtenstein, who was to die on the Western Front in
1914, wrote 'Prophecy' in 1913:
Soon there'll come - the signs are fair -
A death storm from the distant north.
Stink of corpses everywhere,
Mass assassins marching forth.
The war we're fighting now had no such harbingers. It came, seemingly, out
of nowhere. While it's probably true to say that one had only to study
Osama bin Laden's vengeful rhetorical programme to realise that a day of
reckoning was due, the hard fact is that the CIA, the Foreign Office, the
FBI, the Pentagon and the secret intelligence agencies within MI5 and MI6
had no inkling of 11 September. Unlike Sarajevo, unlike the invasion of
Poland, it came, literally, out of a clear blue sky.
In the aftermath of the World Trade Centre atrocity, and before the bomb
ing and shooting began, this war did have at least one thing in common with
the onset of twentieth-century wars - hysteria. Bush and Blair share this
with Asquith and Woodrow Wilson, Neville Chamberlain and FDR. They were
propelled into action by a tide of outraged public opinion that insisted on
a mobilisation of the Anglo-American war machine.
America, certainly, has been touched by a defiant, patriotic fervour
similar to the war fever that swept Europe in August 1914. But here, too,
there are important differences, and they help to explain why this war is
quite unlike its twentieth-century precursors.
The young men who so eagerly enlisted in the summer of 1914 were supremely
patriotic in a way that their Stars and Stripes-waving great-grandchildren
are not. They were joining up to be heroes and to risk death in the service
of their country. Their patriotism was wholehearted, even naive. The
patriotism of 1914 was glorious, honourable and uplifting. Rupert Brooke,
who has come to represent, unfairly, the voice of traditional jingoism,
wrote, famously, of 'swimmers into cleanness leaping', of young men purging
the corruption of the Edwardian age in the 'release' of belligerent action.
It would be interesting to know what the men of the 82nd Airborne think
about their deployment from the flight deck of the USS Kitty Hawk, but it's
a fair bet they are not turning 'glad from a world grown old and cold and
weary'. More accurately, they are the military expression of the Western
world's sense of outrage at the horror of 11 September.
Ther were many components to that outrage - horror, shock, fear, grief. The
decision to go to war has not yet unleashed a frenzy of killing. Rather, it
was preceded by an unimaginable slaughter. In this topsy-turvy scenario,
grief has ushered in warfare, not been sponsored by it.
In the twentieth-century wars we remember on Armistice Day, grief (and an
accompanying guilt) is the terrible, unappeasable legacy the survivors have
to work through. In Testament of Youth, a typical interwar memoir, Vera
Brittain explores the life of a young woman blighted by the deaths of both
her brother and her fianc. The widows and orphans from the World Trade
Centre will identify with Brittain's account of that bereavement: 'I began
to cry Edward! Oh Edward!' in dazed repetition, as though my 'persistent
crying and calling would somehow bring him back'.
But the essential contrast between then and now is that the agony of loss
occurred as a consequence of war, and was not a cause of it. Which brings
us to another crucial difference. From the day the first troopships steamed
across the Channel in 1914 to the moment the last US marine scrambled
aboard the hovering Huey on the US embassy rooftop in Saigon 1975, the wars
that shaped our imaginations involved a colossal and tangible mobilisation.
Not for a minute do I underestimate the astounding feat of organisation
involved in getting the Anglo-American task force into position around the
borders of Afghanistan, but for the average man or woman living in London
or New York, Birmingham or Pittsburgh, the current mobilisation has
involved almost none of the social dislocation we traditionally associate
with warfare. By the standards of warfare in living memory, this is,
mercifully, still a phoney war.
Nor are we seriously exposed to what the military historian John Ellis has
called 'the sharp end of war'. To the Vietnam War photographer Tim Page:
'This war is closer than any conflict we've ever seen to a virtual reality
computer game. It's very abstract, even more than Kosovo.' Technologically,
its remoteness comes easily. In 2001, it is possible to be a spectator at a
daring night raid on a Taliban bunker outside Kandahar without stirring
from our armchairs. Like the Gulf War, but unlike the other
twentieth-century wars, this is a living-room war and our experience of the
front line has become a new kind of voyeurism.
Another celebrated war photographer, Don McCullin, who spent time in
Afghanistan during the Soviet occupation, and who says that 'the Americans
have got themselves into a terrible mess', also believes that this is
partly due to new limitations of public tolerance: 'War has become tailored
to suit public taste,' he says. 'Especially in America, we want our wars to
be public relations successes... but the truth is that it's impossible to
have a war without civilian casualties.'
We have watched every moment of this crisis, from its horrific beginnings
to its quotidian military development, on television. And the writers who
have responded to it in print, the Austers and the McEwans, have been
articulating thoughts inspired by television images.
It's a far cry from Stephen Crane (The Red Badge of Courage) or John Reed
(Ten Days That Shook the World). Here is Crane describing the aftermath of
a battle in the Spanish-American War of 1898: 'Pushing through the throng
in the plaza, we came in sight of the door of the church, and here was a
strange scene. The church had been turned into a hospital for Spanish
wounded who had fallen into American hands.'
Traditionally, there were two kinds of report from the front line: the
testimony of soldiers in letters home, in poetry and in memoir (the Sassoon
response) and the reportage of journalists (the pioneering William Russell
of The Times) sent to cover the conflict. A hundred years ago, the ratio of
Sassoons to Russells was at least 10 to one.
The experience of the Suffolk farm-boy Leonard Thompson, who found himself
at Gallipoli in June 1915, is typical. He writes: 'We arrived at the
Dardanelles and saw the guns flashing and heard the rifle fire... later
that day, we marched through open country and came within a mile-and-a-half
of the front line. It was incredible. We were there - at the war! The place
we had reached was called "dead ground" because it was where the enemy
couldn't see you. We lay in little square holes, myself next to James
Spears from the village.'
In the present war, that Sassoon-Russell ratio is reversed. Military news
management ensures that we have virtually no knowledge of what the troops
are actually experiencing. At the same time, in page after page of
newsprint and roll after roll of videotape, there is a seemingly endless
supply of commentary. W.F. Deedes, who first went to war in 1935 when he
covered the Italian-Abyssinian War, believes that it's precisely the
novelty and uncertainty of the war that's encouraging speculation and
commentary, rather than reportage.
'In a war of conflict like the First or Second World Wars, it's much harder
to speculate because the facts are clearly established. This is a war
without landmarks, it's much more amorphous.' Would he call it a war in the
accepted sense of the word? Deedes hesitates. 'N-n-n-no. I don't think I
would. Whatever else it is, it's certainly the vaguest war we've ever been
From a journalistic point of view, this vagueness is punctuated less by
reporting than by long-range photographs. In the present crisis, the
significant military event that has been on all the front pages is the
pre-dawn parachute drop of the US Rangers on a Taliban stronghold near
Kandahar, an operation that was narrated in a series of arresting
photographs. With a few exceptions, notably Robert Fisk in the Independent
and some of the reportage in the New Yorker, the hi-tech character of this
war, combined with the iron control of the military authorities, has
reduced much print journalism to the level of caption writing.
It was not always like this. In 1854, W.H. Russell began his report on the
Battle of Balaclava and 'the Charge of the Light Brigade' with the words:
'I shall proceed to describe what occurred under my own eyes, and to state
the facts which I have had from men whose veracity is unimpeachable.'
Russell's heirs are not so fortunate. They get little or no access to the
troops; they must rely on briefings and are vulnerable to military 'spin'.
William Shawcross, the author of Sideshow, an expos of America's secret
bombing of Cambodia, recalls what he calls the 'glory days' of
late-twentieth-century war journalism. 'It was incredible. The US military
gave you this MACV card [which I still have]. This card, which assigned the
war correspondent the rank of major, guaranteed you a seat on any US
military aircraft, going anywhere. So, in Vietnam, you could be right
inside the war zone. It was Liberty Hall. Nowadays, I think reporting is
much harder. Now you couldn't do the things we used to do. They [the
military] learnt their lesson, of course.'
Tim Page, who also saw twentieth-century war at first-hand in Vietnam,
complains that 'you can't verify anything. We don't know what the hell is
going on in there'. Reporters today are rarely, if ever, granted the kind
of exposure to combat that enabled Russell to report how 'soon after eight
Lord Raglan and his staff turned out and cantered towards the rear of our
position'. Later in the same report, it was Russell, the journalistic
eyewitness, who so brilliantly described the flashing sabres of the Light
Brigade as 'like the turn of a shoal of mackerel'.
McCullin is even sceptical about many reporters' actual exposure to the
conflict. 'There are people claiming to be at the front but I get the
impression that they were bused there in groups and don't have much
freedom... everyone is being manipulated and controlled.' Page agrees.
'We're getting as good a picture as we're intended to have. It's all
McCullin adds that the further problem of this 'armchair war' is that the
absence of firsthand experience extends to the planners. 'When the troops
actually get down there on the ground, I can tell you from experience that
their biggest problem is going to be the millions of anti-personnel mines.'
This, of course, is the deadly legacy of the Russian occupation of the
1980s, another slightly distorted point of contact with the wars of the past.
In the Crimea, the Russians were the enemy. In the Great War, the Russians
began as dynastic allies and ended as Bolshevik pariahs. In the Second
World War, Stalin became an uneasy (and opportunistic) ally who eventually
ushered in an era of Cold War. Vietnam was, at least in part, inspired by
the misguided belief that the 'domino effect' of south-east Asian
'communism' had to be stopped in Indochina.
In the anatomy of war we have inherited from the twentieth century, the
declaration and prosecution of international war seems always to involve
facing up to Russia, and perhaps China, and to involve acute geo-political
risk, notably a nuclear exchange. In 2001, post-Soviet Russia is a passive
member of Bush's Grand Alliance and the risk of bombing Kabul and Jalalabad
does not include the threat of reprisals from Moscow or Beijing. At this
moment, indeed, the chief reprisal seems to be the still-unsourced threat
of anthrax poisoning.
It gets stranger still. We have been told that 'Muslim fundamentalism' is
the enemy, yet President Bush, after his fumbling and inept invocation of
'crusade', has subsequently been at pains to stress that America has no
quarrel with the Muslim world at large.
Contrast this with the morale-boosting anti-Nazi rhetoric of Winston
Churchill in June 1940: 'We must defend our island, whatever the cost may
be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds,
we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the
hills; we shall never surrender.'
Part of Churchill's blood-tingling certainty derived from his bizarre but
instinctive sense of destiny. More important, and quite different from the
Bush-Blair position of October 2001, the sureness of his rhetoric derived
from the breathtaking simplicity and clarity of his war aims.
Where the Allied powers of the Second World War were committed to
eliminating the evils of Nazism, starting with Adolf Hitler and ultimately
extending to the rackety apparatus of the Nazi state, the Allied powers of
2001 are loosely united against an ill-defined 'terror network' and are
unable, really, to answer convincingly some quite simple questions: who,
exactly, are we fighting? How, and where, will we engage them in combat?
How will we know when we have won?
What's more, allied spokesmen are terrified, rhetorically speaking, of
alienating moderate (ie pro-Western) sections of Muslim society. As the
veteran BBC reporter Charles Wheeler has pointed out: 'Official statements
about the war and its aftermath throw up more questions than answers. Are
the Taliban now the main enemy? What of bin Laden? Does Washington know
that he is still in Afghanistan? Or is that no more than a working
assumption?' In Afghanistan, we seem to have exchanged the fog of war for
the fog of communiqu.
W.F. Deedes, who says he accepts the Bush-Blair line that the West is up
against a uniquely malevolent enemy intent on destruction, notes: 'Nobody
has developed a war aim. This is paradoxical because this is the first war
[in his experience] in which there is absolutely no room for negotiation.
No accommodation is on offer. There are simply no terms on which this
conflict could be settled.'
Where previous wars have been characterised by tub-thumping rhetorical
flourishes, the war against Afghanistan has been prosecuted with the softly
spoken soundbites and fuzzy answers appropriate to television.
Television, the medium by which we have acquired our knowledge of the war,
and the medium that first brought us the dreadful news of 11 September is,
famously, a 'cool' medium. Perhaps it will only be when the experience of
the war finds its way on to the pages of books and before that into
newspaper and magazine pieces based on a real experience of what Deedes
calls the 'formidable terrain' of Afghanistan that it will begin to grip
our imagination and become intelligible.
Not until the confusion begins to be organised into words and we begin to
draw a literary map of this experience will this peculiar war start to make
What the reporters say
Maggie O'Kane, The Guardian
The other day, 5,000 metres up the Hindu Kush mountains, after six days of
climbing from Pakistan into Afghanistan, the last 24 hours non-stop, I sat
down on a rock and cried hard bloody tears. There must be easier ways to
cover a war than this.
But the reality is that except for desperate measures like Yvonne Ridley's
[the Express reporter held captive after being smuggled in wearing a burqa]
we are simply not covering what appears to be the most reported war in
world history. The catchline: 'so and so reporting from northern
Afghanistan' is somewhat misleading as we stand on mountain tops and watch
for puffs of smoke. Remember the market place bombing in Sarajevo that
finally moved Clinton's hand on peace in Bosnia? The world powers involved
in this war have decided that those kind of horrors offer, as Asquith said
to the former Guardian editor C.P. Snow about the First World War, 'too
There is, is there not, something terribly uncivilised about what a
Tomahawk missile does to human beings when it blows their bodies apart. And
this after all is the battle of 'civilised nations' against international
terrorism. Isn't it?
Robert Fisk, The Independent
When you don't have access to the real facts in a situation you have to
rely on sources such as al-Jazeera TV and Pentagon generals - and you can't
cross-question these people. This means there is a tendency for
journalists, when they are not allowed to report on a situation 'on the
ground', to become mouthpieces for authority.
The war has to be covered and we have a duty to to cover it but this is
probably the most undercovered war I've come across in my life as a
journalist. It's not the fault of the reporters who are not being allowed
in Afghanistan. But it means the Taliban can claim 100 dead civilians under
US bombing and the Americans can deny it, and we are not there to check.
I'm really not certain how one gets round this situation. Increasingly,
since Vietnam, wars involving major powers have become more and more
difficult to cover.
The real tragedy is that we are unable to give first-hand accounts of the
suffering of Afghan civilians inside the country who are being killed and
wounded by the bombing and who are fleeing in a state of starvation. These
people are just as innocent as those who died in the crimes against
humanity in New York and Washington. But our inability to get inside the
Taliban-controlled areas means that they are not real to us, they are vague
statistics that the Taliban can manipulate and the Americans can deny.
Jason Burke, The Observer
What has become absolutely clear to me is that the US is prepared to go as
far as it can without lying to obfuscate what is really going on. Again and
again we've had a situation in which there have been reports of civilian
casualties and the US has called the Taliban liars and then had to admit
that the original claims by the Taliban were accurate. I've got to the
point where I'd be more inclined to believe what the Taliban is saying than
what the American authorities are telling us.
There is also absolutely nobody from either the UK or the US on the ground
in Pakistan telling us what's happening - everything comes from the
Pentagon or Whitehall. Anything we find out on the ground comes from the
direct accounts of refugees and the two stories differ to the extent that
Clare Short can claim - astonishingly - that the refugees her
representatives have spoken to don't report any casualties whereas those we
speak to report casualties on a considerable scale.
Christina Lamb, The Sunday Telegraph
This war is different from any other I've covered in that they've banned
all foreigners from Taliban-held Afghanistan and those who have tried to
get in have been caught. They've threatened to hang anyone using a
satellite telephone. Usually there are some rules with regard to respecting
journalists but that isn't the case here. You're relying on speaking to
people coming in and out of the area and most of the people are
anti-Taliban, so you're getting a slanted view.
We can't know what they are actually doing on the ground as there is no
independent verification of what they've done and Afghans love to tell
stories. When I covered the conflict there with the Russians in the
Eighties, they'd claim to have shot down a helicopter only the day before
but of course when you asked where the wreckage was it had just been
cleared away. It's a similar situation with the Pentagon's 'before and
after' photos - there was nothing in Afghanistan to start with. Even the
airports were incredibly primitive. So you are always left wondering quite
what they are doing.
Interviews by Molloy Woodcraft.
List of incidents where US bombs have struck non-military targets
ISLAMABAD (AFP) ^ The UN reported Thursday that nine Afghan civilians had
been killed when a US warplane dropped a cluster bomb on their village on
Taleban officials said over 1,000 civilians have died since US airstrikes
began on October 7. Only a handful have been confirmed independently.
Following is a list of incidents where there is some evidence from
witnesses or non-Taleban sources to support claims that non-military
targets have been hit by US bombs:
VILLAGE BOMBING: At least 52 civilians killed in the bombing of Chakoor
Kariz village, near Kandahar, according to Taleban officials. The Arabic
news station Al Jazeera put the death toll at over 90 and broadcast film of
victims of the attack in hospital in Kandahar. The Taleban claims the
village was mistaken for a training camp, as others have been.
VILLAGE BOMBING: Nine people died in the village of Shakar Qala near Herat
after US warplanes dropped a cluster bomb on it, the UN said. Eight died
instantly and a ninth was killed after picking up one of the bombs,
according to a UN demining team which visited the village after the attack.
HOSPITAL BOMBINGS: A US bomb struck a military hospital in a military
compound in Herat, western Afghanistan, according to the UN. The US
acknowledged a bomb went astray over the city and landed near an old
people's home. The Taleban says a 100-bed civilian hospital in the city was
destroyed by bombing, as well as the military clinic.
REFUGEE CONVOY: At least 20 civilians, including nine children, killed when
the tractor and trailer on which they were fleeing US attacks on the
southern town of Tirin Kot was bombed, according to survivors of the attack
now hospitalised in Pakistan. The Taleban reported two similar incidents
near Kandahar and Jalalabad, both on October 17.
KABUL: A stray US bomb lands on the neighbourhood of Parod Gajaded in the
Khair Khana district of northeastern Kabul, killing ten people, nine of
them from the same extended family, witnesses told an AFP reporter who
visited the scene shortly after the bombing.
KABUL: Five members of the same family are killed when six houses are
destroyed by US bombs in the Kalae Zaman Khan area of Kabul, witnesses and
relatives told AFP at the scene. An eight year old girl was killed in the
eastern suburb of Macroyan. Other residential areas were struck the same
day but casualties could not be confirmed.
RED CROSS WAREHOUSES: US bombs hit warehouses of the International
Committee of the Red Cross in Kabul, destroying supplies and injuring at
least one worker. The compound had a large red cross on the roof. After a
Red Cross protest, the US admitted dropping a 1,000 pound bomb close to the
warehouse, saying Taleban vehicles were in the area. A World Food Programme
warehouse in Kabul has also been damaged in raids.
KABUL AIRPORT: a US bomb missed a target at Kabul airport and struck a
nearby village, killing at least four people, according to witnesses. The
Pentagon confirmed the bomb had gone off course due to technical error.
VILLAGE BOMBING: At least 160 people reported killed in Kadam, a mountain
village near Jalalabad. An AFP reporter who visited the remote village saw
dozens of collapsed houses, one unexploded bomb and more than 18 fresh
graves. But the numbers of dead could not be confirmed. The US said it had
attacked caves in the area which were packed with ammunition.
KABUL: Residents of a village near Kabul airport said a 12-year-old girl
died when a bomb landed near her house, causing it to collapse.
KABUL: Office of a UN-backed demining agency in Kabul is bombed, killing
four security guards. US expressed regret following UN protest.
UTILITIES: Since the start of the campaign US attacks have targeted power
plants, telecommunications facilities and broadcasting infrastructure.
Power in Kabul has been intermittently cut. Kandahar has been without power
or water since the start of the second week of bombing. Kabul's telephone
exchange has been badly damaged and the Taliban's Radio Shariat has been
forced off air.
Drop in support for war
Hindu - India's National Newspaper October 31, 2001
By Hasan Suroor
LONDON, OCT. 30. An emotional offensive by the British Prime Minister, Mr.
Tony Blair, today against the critics of the war in Afghanistan was
overshadowed by contradictory signals from the political establishment
and the military brass even as a new poll showed a drop in public support
for continued military action. A majority, according to the poll in The
Guardian this morning, want a pause in the bombing to allow humanitarian
relief to reach the people.
``It provides clear evidence that there has been a significant change in
the mood of the country towards the war and explains why Ministers have
spent the past weekend trying to shore up public opinion...,'' the
newspaper said. The media also highlighted the conflict between London and
Washington over a bombing pause during Ramadan with the U.S. Defence
Secretary, Mr. Donald Rumsfeld, ruling it out, a day after the British
Foreign Secretary, Mr. Jack Straw, said such a move was being considered.
The Times said Mr. Rumsfeld's statement ``put him in direct conflict with
London where senior Ministers and government officials have discussed the
desirability of a temporary halt to hostilities.''
In another embarrassing development, two high-ranking British army
officers contradicted official claims about the role of ground troops,
earmarked for action in Afghanistan and their preparedness. Rear Admiral
James Burnell-Nugent, commander of a British task force committed to the
U.S.-led coalition, triggered a controversy saying the role his personnel
were expected to play was not clear. ``I do not think that it is clear in
anyone's mind...That is the challenge,'' he was quoted as saying,
contradicting the Defence Secretary, Mr. Geoff Hoon's claim that the
Marines were ready to go ``immediately''.
Another officer, Brigadier Roger Lane, voiced concern about the quality of
intelligence on the ground. ``It's a concern...and that may limit exactly
what we do,'' he told journalists in Oman. Mr. Hoon blamed the media for
taking the remarks out of context and insisted that the Government and
military brass were on the same wavelength, but critics seized on the army
officers' comments to question the U.S.-led coalition's war aims and
strategy. A former Labour Armed Forces Minister, Mr. Doug Henderson, said
there seemed to be no strategy, and the decision to commit British troops
was ``partly a political act'' to show solidarity with the U.S. The
intelligence on the ground, he claimed, was ``so flimsy'' that there was
nothing specific for British personnel to do. He described the continued
bombing as ``counter- productive'' which was likely to ``alienate'' even
moderate Muslim opinion around the world.
The novelist, Mr. Martin Amis, said Mr. Blair's defence of the war was
``hollow'' and questioned its direction. ``We are flailing,'' he said. The
Prime Minister, in a widely publicised speech in Wales today, made what
one newspaper termed as an ``unashamedly emotional appeal'' to the critics
of the war not to forget what happened in New York and Washington on
September 11. ``It is important that we never forget why we have done this
(launched military action), never forget how we felt as we watched planes
fly into the trade towers, never forget those answer-phone messages, never
forget how we imagined how mothers told their children they were going to
die, never forget the firefighters and police who died trying to save
others,'' he said ahead of yet another diplomatic mission to West Asia to
bolster support for the coalition. But his appeal was preempt by The
Guardian poll showing a 12-point drop in public support for the war in the
past fortnight with 54 per cent favouring a pause in bombing.
Mr. Robin Cook, leader of the Commons, dismissed the fall in support as
``tiny'' and said the majority were still behind it
CNN Says Focus on Civilian Casualties Would Be "Perverse"
November 1, 2001
From: FAIR-L <FAIR-L@FAIR.ORG>
According to the Washington Post (10/31/01), CNN Chair Walter Isaacson "has
ordered his staff to balance images of civilian devastation in Afghan cities
with reminders that the Taliban harbors murderous terrorists, saying it
'seems perverse to focus too much on the casualties or hardship in
Post media reporter Howard Kurtz quotes a memo from Isaacson to CNN's
international correspondents: "As we get good reports from
Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, we must redouble our efforts to make sure we
do not seem to be simply reporting from their vantage or perspective. We
must talk about how the Taliban are using civilian shields and how the
Taliban have harbored the terrorists responsible for killing close to 5,000
The memo went on to admonish reporters covering civilian deaths not to
"forget it is that country's leaders who are responsible for the situation
Afghanistan is now in," suggesting that journalists should lay
responsibility for civilian casualties at the Taliban's door, not the U.S.
Kurtz also quotes a follow-up memo from Rick Davis, CNN's head of standards
and practices, that suggested sample language for news anchors:
" 'We must keep in mind, after seeing reports like this from
Taliban-controlled areas, that these U.S. military actions are in response
to a terrorist attack that killed close to 5,000 innocent people in the
U.S.' or, 'We must keep in mind, after seeing reports like this, that the
Taliban regime in Afghanistan continues to harbor terrorists who have
praised the September 11 attacks that killed close to 5,000 innocent people
in the U.S.,' or 'The Pentagon has repeatedly stressed that it is trying to
minimize civilian casualties in Afghanistan, even as the Taliban regime
continues to harbor terrorists who are connected to the September 11 attacks
that claimed thousands of innocent lives in the U.S.' "
Davis stated that "even though it may start sounding rote, it is important
that we make this point each time."
The New York Times reported (11/1/01) that these policies are already being
implemented at CNN, with other networks following a similar, though perhaps
not as formalized, strategy. "In the United States," the Times noted,
"television images of Afghan bombing victims are fleeting, cushioned between
anchors or American officials explaining that such sights are only one side
of the story." In other countries, however, "images of wounded Afghan
children curled in hospital beds or women rocking in despair over a baby's
corpse" are "more frequent and lingering."
When CNN correspondent Nic Robertson reported yesterday from the site of a
bombed medical facility in Kandahar, the Times reported, U.S. anchors "added
disclaimers aimed at reassuring American viewers that the network was not
siding with the enemy." CNN International, however, did not add any such
During its U.S broadcasts, CNN "quickly switched to the rubble of the World
Trade Center" after showing images of the damage in Kandahar, and the anchor
"reminded viewers of the deaths of as many as 5,000 people whose 'biggest
crime was going to work and getting there on time.'"
If anything in this story is "perverse," it's that one of the world's most
powerful news outlets has instructed its journalists not to report Afghan
civilian casualties without attempting to justify those deaths. "I want to
make sure we're not used as a propaganda platform," Isaacson told the
Washington Post. But his memo essentially mandates that pro-U.S. propaganda
be included in the news.
ACTION: Please tell CNN to factually report the consequences of the U.S. war
in Afghanistan without editorializing. Including a justification for the
bombing with every mention of civilian casualties risks turning CNN from a
news outlet into a propaganda service.
CNN, Walter Isaacson, Chairman and CEO
Phone: (404) 827-1500
Fax: (404) 827-1784
As always, please remember that your comments are taken more seriously if
you maintain a polite tone. Please cc email@example.com with your
For further details, see Howard Kurtz's full Washington Post story:
Also of interest:
PHONEY BOMB HUMOR FOOLS TALIBAN?
David Cassel, AlterNet
An abandoned Taliban building in Kabul contained an alarming
document that apparently described how to make an atomic bomb.
But a webmaster recognized it as a 1979 parody.
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/studentsnowar/files (members only)
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