---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Sun, 02 Dec 2001 16:19:54 -0800
From: radtimes <email@example.com>
Subject: Antiwar News...(# 38)
Antiwar News...(# 38)
--[British MP] Alan Simpson on bombing Afghanistan
--The Wizard of Bombs
--Pakistani paper says 45 US special forces killed after raid
--Relief Effort Races Winter to Save Millions
--Depleted Uranium Toxicity in Afghanistan
--26 more body bags in Jacobabad
--U.S. is Dropping World's Biggest Non-Nuclear bomb in Afghanistan
--130-plus civilians killed: report
--Women Oppose War
--Embrace the refugees
--Appeals to halt cluster bombs
Also of interest (links only):
*Afghanistan Through the Eyes of an Aid Worker
*The War's Dispensable People
*Generals leery of war?
*Global toll; Various Reports
*The war at home
(Anti-war links/resources at the end.)
[British MP] Alan Simpson on bombing Afghanistan
Question: Why have you called for a pause in the bombing of
Alan Simpson: Partly because I think the war is wrong full stop. It's
just the wrong way of seeking to track down terrorists and bring them
to justice. The second is that I am really fearful that we're sitting
on the edge of a humanitarian catastrophe in Afghanistan for which
the West will legitimately be blamed.
The aid agencies reckon that there's maybe ten more delivery days
before the Afghan snow cuts the lorries off. They have fallen behind
the delivery rate that they needed to be able to keep people alive
through this winter. The current position, irrespective of the
numbers who are in refugee camps on the Pakistani/Iranian borders, is
that two million people have been displaced inside the country. One
million children are at the edge of starvation. When the winter snows
go and we start to count the bodies of those who didn't make it
through, I believe the Muslim or Arab countries within the region
will blame us for that catastrophe.
It won't wash that it was the Taliban that delayed things. Everyone
knows that the aid agencies have delivered food through famine or war
zones in the past. They are used to having to pay food taxation, they
are used to the delays and frustrations that they've had to face from
both the Taliban and the Northern Alliance, and in the past three
years under the Taliban governments when the droughts have still been
in place, the aid agencies have managed to get the food through.
Simpson on humanitarian efforts
Question: But the US and UK governments say that the action they are
taking is in co-ordination with humanitarian efforts. Does that not
wash with you?
Alan Simpson: It doesn't make any sense at all. You can't drop bombs
and bread in alternating consignments. The absurdity is compounded by
the fact that some of the food packages look like the cluster bombs
that have been strewn across the landscape, and children have been
sent out to collect them. This is just a wretched and stupid way of
trying to deliver humanitarian aid.
We've changed the targets this is the worst part about the
strategy. All of a sudden we talk about this war with the Taliban -
it has become a war with Afghanistan. We're not pursuing Bin Laden in
the mountains where he is, we're bombing the plains and the cities,
and we're taking out the power and the infrastructure, the fragmented
infrastructure that existed to prop the country up. And the people on
the frontline are those who are homeless, starving, or living on
grass. They are the frontline of reprisals and the rest of the world
knows this. In fact large numbers of people in Britain know this,
which is why I think that the whole momentum of public opinion has
shifted dramatically over the last couple of weeks. There is now a
majority of people who oppose bombing. They want to let the food get
through to the people of Afghanistan who really need it.
Question: What's your proof of that?
Alan Simpson: The opinion polls in last week's press found that 54
per cent of the population in Britain currently favour halting the
bombing to get the food through.
Simpson on the role the UK should be playing
Question: So how do you think the US and UK should have reacted to
the atrocities of September 11?
Alan Simpson: I think the role the UK should have played was to
rescue America from a mindset that makes it its own worst enemy. At
the moment it's almost as though if America can't bomb, it can't
think. And our own experience of terrorists' attacks and atrocities
across mainline Britain has given us definite experience of how you
deal with terrorism. It never made the outrages any more acceptable.
Never once did we say that the sensible strategic response was
saturation bombing of Dublin, or if the killings and atrocities were
committed by protestant paramilitary groups, that we should flatten
the protestant communities in the North to `smoke out' the
terrorists. We have learned that the way you tackle terrorism is by a
combination of infiltrating the networks, undermining their
credibility, attempting to close off the financial and arms supply
routes. And creating a space somewhere in that domestic agenda for a
peace dialogue between the majority sections of communities who are
looking for a solution of some sort that isn't found down the barrel
of a gun. Now we have done this with heroic patience and resilience
in relation to Northern Ireland. We are still in the process of doing
that. No one ever pretends that there is a quick fix solution to be
found just by nuking North or Southern Ireland. It is that we have
learned to deal with this in a different manner and that is what we
should have been saying to the USA. The mistake was even talking
about it as a war it was a horrendous act of terrorism that should
be pursued and tried as an international crime, but it wasn't an act
of war by one country on another. And there is nothing in human
history that ever shows that you can successfully bomb an idea or an
ideology out of existence.
Simpson on an international court
Question: But some would argue how do you manage to get hold of
suspected terrorists through an international court because the
Taliban are not going to release them?
Alan Simpson: Early on in the proceedings Pakistan made a call not
for international leaders to see the evidence against Bin Laden and
Al-Qaeda but for an independent, international panel of judges. And I
believe we should have taken them up on that offer because at the
moment it is still a question of those of us who were involved in
perpetrating the bombing response saying we have incontrovertible
evidence that proves we're right. We've now become a hanging that
dispenses with a trial.
If we want other countries to sign up to a framework of international
law, we also have to be seen to be acting within it ourselves. We
should have taken up Pakistan's offer to set up a panel of judges; we
should then have set up an international court. If they'd said
there's a prima face case against Bin Laden then that case should
have been referred to an international court. It is possible for
courts to try people in their absence and that would be the worst-
case scenario but we could still do that. It wouldn't stop us
continuing to pursue Bin Laden. We already have shown on our screens
evidence of satellite photographs that have Mullah Omar talking to a
group of people, there were two clear identifications of Bin Laden
once in Sudan and once in Afghanistan, so the technology of
surveillance from space is so sophisticated today that with patience,
we could do that. We could also send special units into the mountains
of Afghanistan in pursuit of him and his guards. If we had been
serious about that, we could have gone to the UN Security Council in
the very early ages and secured an international mandate for the
international coalition to do precisely that.
Simpson on the chief whip and Paul Marsden
Question: How did MPs react to the reported `strong-arm' tactics of
the Chief Whip against Paul Marsden?
Alan Simpson: I think there were mixed feelings: about whether those
sort of strong-arm tactics were acceptable but also whether it was
sensible to report it across all the front pages of the national
I expected, when I came into Parliament, that it was going to be a
robust environment and if you had strong beliefs then it was your job
to stand up to them. And whatever rough housing you got from the
Whips, it was up to you to decide whether you slunk away to hide
somewhere or whether you stood your ground. I just think that the
public have a right to expect that the MPs they select and elect have
enough about them that they stand their ground.
In terms of whether this is a sensible strategy from the position of
the party, the answer has to be no. It is an extremely counter
productive one because all that that leaves the public with is the
strong belief that the issues don't count. It's a question of
enforced loyalty rather than a willingness to practise the democracy
that we say we're attempting to defend.
Simpson on the Commons vote
Question: There was a recent Commons vote on the campaign and it was
373 votes to 13 in favour of the government's approach. Therefore the
vast majority of the Parliamentary Labour Party supports it?
Alan Simpson: Let's look at that vote. The first thing you have to
say is a huge number of MPs just weren't there at all. And the second
thing you have to face is if you look at the vote, one of the issues
that makes a lot of MPs very cross, whatever position they take on
the war itself, is that Parliament has denied the right to vote on
any substantive resolution of whether you support the war, or whether
you are opposed to it. The resolution that was voted on was that the
House do now adjourn. Well what difference is that going to make to
someone sitting under the shadow of a B-52 bomber in Afghanistan?
They'll think that's great news the House of Commons has adjourned,
or tough luck it hasn't adjourned. It's a nonsense vote but it was
the only way that MPs could, in frustration, force a recognition that
genuinely does divide the House and that we are in a minority of
international Parliaments that doesn't have the right to vote on
issues of war and peace. So I think there are constitutional issues
here about whether this is a Prime Ministerial or Presidential right
to declare war in the name of the country or whether this a
Parliamentary right where we have both an opportunity and a duty to
try and represent the views of the constituents who elect us. It's a
big issue not adequately addressed on voting whether the House should
adjourn or not.
Simpson on the Prime Minister's style of leadership
Question: There have been newspaper reports describing the Prime
Minister's `presidential' style of leadership. Are there concerns
amongst the backbenchers over Tony Blair's leadership style?
Alan Simpson: It's a very easy style to support if it's a
consistently winning style, but the risk that it runs is if it all
goes pear-shaped for you, then you're pretty much out on your own.
And one of the fears that have been expressed over the last few days
is that the experience of this recent visit around the Middle East
and discussions with other European leaders has left the Prime
Minister in a fairly isolated position. There was a consistency of
outcome in the trip to the Middle East in that the Arabs didn't want
to talk to him and nor did the Jews, that he will have come back from
there having been sand bagged by almost everyone, and that really
raises some serious and ominous questions not only about the
viability of holding the coalition together but the implications for
the stability of the region after the bombing stops. And I think it's
at that point that those big international issues will become much
harder to deal with inside the House of Commons.
But in a practical sense you know, it is always the case that a
Government can only conduct a war whilst it has the support of the
population. During the Norway Debate in 1940, we saw that although
Chamberlain won a majority vote in the Commons, the scale of public
opposition to the strategy that he was pursuing meant that his tenure
as a government became impossible. Now I don't think that it is of
the same proportions because technically Britain is not centrally
involved in a war to defend our own shores. But there are going to be
very serious ramifications that run back through the way our society
works if we are seen to be responsible for (a) having polarised one
of the poorest countries on the planet, (b) having left it in a state
which is still riven by feudal conflicts, (c) having set trains of
fundamentalism loose in other countries in the region, (d) having
left ourselves with more declared enemies in the region than passive
friends. All of these issues are going to roll back into the standing
of the UK government within the international community, and will
affect domestic relations with people within the UK of different
faiths and races.
Simpson on racial tensions in the UK
Question: But do you feel that the government's involvement in the
bombing of Afghanistan has added to racial tensions in the UK?
Alan Simpson: I've spoken to a lot of people in mosques and Muslim
communities around the country and I don't think Parliament properly
understands the nature of the divide that they are trying to prevent
from opening up. I have yet to come across any part of the Muslim
communities that are in favour of the bombing of Afghanistan. There
are substantial numbers who are fearful of where it will take us but
who wish to remain quiet for fear of making it worse. And there are
growing sections of their own communities that are openly saying what
are we doing standing around giving tacit support to the saturation
bombing of innocent people, our people, who are no closer to
terrorists than you or I, and this display of overwhelming American
military power has to be challenged, and that is the new evil. And
we're in real danger of opening up a divide where the on going
battles after the bombing of Afghanistan ceases, will end up being
fought within our own communities here.
Simpson on British Muslims fighting for the Taliban
Question: How do you deal with these British Muslims who are going
off to fight for the Taliban? Isn't there an issue of religion versus
Alan Simpson: I think there are two aspects of this. The first is the
great tragedy in respect of however many young Muslim men are willing
to go off to fight for Afghanistan, is that we haven't interceded in
a way that says if you're willing to put yourself into a zone of such
instability, leave the weapons to one side, why don't you drive the
lorries to deliver the food? The region is paralysed now because
there aren't enough people willing to drive the food lorries through.
And so we've had an opportunity to say to people you can be part of
the process of keeping people alive by feeding them rather than by
becoming embroiled in a war which will only produce losers.
Question: But their argument is that they have to defend a Muslim
nation that's being attacked this means they must take up arms
against the aggressor?
Alan Simpson: And that's the danger about how internationally this is
being seen. You cannot say credibly that this is a war in pursuit of
Bin Laden when the bombing is not taking place in the mountains but
in the plains and the cities where ordinary Afghan citizens live. And
if that was happening to us, we would say this isn't a war against
the IRA or the UDA, if Britain was being saturation bombed, we'd see
it as a war against us as a country. And I think there is a degree of
hypocrisy in the language that we have used, that internationally
other countries aren't going to sign up to.
The other thing that strikes me in terms of a massive contradiction,
is that we have the wretched double standards about this notion of
people willing to go and fight for other causes. We have a number of
companies openly and legally recruiting paramilitaries to go and
fight in other countries, they are based across the UK. There is one
in Aldershot which recruits mercenaries to go and train and fight
alongside the Death Squads in Colombia, and with the Colombian
Government as part of their so-called Plan Colombia, the war on
drugs. That's despite the fact that the UN in their last report made
it quite clear that the vast majority of drugs coming out of Colombia
now come either from government agencies or the Death Squads. Now
those people are UK citizens going off killing in other countries are
some how legitimate because they are doing it for money they are
part of a market economy. Forget the moral issues, forget the
constitutional ones, forget citizenship, this is different because
it's for cash. If people are willing to go and kill for conscience or
conviction, then you can brand them as traitors. Now I don't favour
either of them, I think if we're serious about taking up a moral
position that is willing to challenge terrorism, then we have to say
that doing it for cash isn't any better than doing it out of
conviction. And we tackle the notion of recruitments to kill and we
do that on a consistent basis and you don't say that killing for our
tyrants is OK, but killing for someone else's tyrants isn't.
Simpson on the Government's response and public opinion
Question: If you're right and public opinion is changing over this -
how will the government respond?
Alan Simpson: I don't know where Britain goes on this. I think the
public is moving in one direction and I think the government is
continuing in a different direction along with the US. The problem
we've seen to have got ourselves into is having tied ourselves so
tightly into America and being unable or unwilling to say that this
doesn't carry with it an endorsement of the military strategy. We
are seen as not the junior partner but the sort of front row PR
system for whatever America decides to do. And I think that is going
to take the UK government further away from the UK public with every
week that the war goes on.
Question: And what's at stake if that continues?
Alan Simpson: I think that will present real credibility problems for
the whole of the government's domestic and economic policies as well.
If there is a backlash that withdraws support for the government,
then it's likely to be of a presidential scale. If you lose faith in
what the President stands for, then you cease making excuses or
concessions for aspects of other policies that don't feel right
either. It becomes much more openly condemnatory.
So it will present us with real problems as a Labour government
getting a whole series of our domestic policies through. The other
thing though that it will almost certainly do is it will leave an
international vacuum that Britain will find it's incapable of
filling, and that is that we will have surrendered the role of
diplomats and peace makers, which arguably has been one of Britain's
greatest strengths over the last 50 years or so. We have brought a
great deal of skill in the peace brokering process, and I think you
just throw you credentials in that sphere out of the window if you're
simply seen an adjunct to American bombing policies. And if some of
the American generals and the hawks have their way and the bombing,
when it finishes in Afghanistan, fails to identify Bin Laden, and
fails to satisfy the military personnel that the whole of the Al-
Qaeda network has been destroyed, my fear is that on their way back
large numbers of the American military would quite like to stop off
in Iraq, and several other places and finish off what they regard as
unfinished business. Well the international ramifications of that
would just be catastrophic. We would have a region, if not a world,
at war with itself, for maybe the first quarter of the century. And
given that America has a number of strategic interests in access to
oil that it's going to run out of soon, to have a whole region that
is sitting on oil supplies and deep anti-American hostilities doesn't
bode well for anyone.
The Wizard of Bombs
November 8, 2001
by Gene Callahan
There is a concerted effort underway among the war camp to make sure that
the American people do not pay attention to civilian deaths in Afghanistan.
Too much focus on such unpleasantness could cool the war fever. "Pay no
attention to those bodies behind the curtains!" shout the keyboard
Rich Lowry pitches in to the effort with a recent article in NRO. Lowry
complains about the "...current handwringing over collateral damage from the
U.S. attacks in Afghanistan." First of all, notice the verb chosen to
describe the reaction of those who object to the killing of innocent people:
"handwringing." Such a concern is apparently akin to what is felt by an
uptight hostess who worries about mismatched silverware. Then, Lowry
employs the Orwellian "collateral damage," and, in the next sentence,
"casualties," but never the obvious and truthful word "deaths." This is the
kind of language one might expect from sensitive guests talking around the
fact that their host's son has just come out of the closet and walked in the
house with his partner: "Oh, I see Timmy Junior has a friend visiting?"
The Afghan civilian casualties which may be in the dozens or, if you
believe the Taliban, in the hundreds are taken as an indictment of the
U.S. campaign, a sign that we are no better than the terrorists (the
Washington Post has a long front-page piece today detailing such nonsensical
views from around the world).
Here, Lowry first off ignores the great likelihood that there will be
thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, of deaths this winter due to
massive famine. Secondly, if Joe has killed someone and Bill has stolen a
loaf of bread, to point out that Bill's action is wrong does not mean you
think he is "no better" than Joe. The fact that someone else has acted
really badly doesn't excuse my acting badly.
The idea behind this sort of thinking is that everything is our fault: We
started the war, and therefore everything bad that comes from it is our
responsibility. Of course, it's the other way around: They started the war,
and the inevitable unfortunate consequences such as civilian casualties
are on the heads of Osama bin Laden and the Taliban. But critics of the
U.S. campaign have trouble grasping this, because they have trouble ever
recognizing the perfidy of our enemies.
Here, one suspects that Lowry is trying to confuse the reader. Who is
"they," and what is "the war"? Let's say that we accept both the (unproven,
at least to the public) idea that bin Laden was behind the 9/11 attacks and
the questionable use of terminology in calling a crime by private parties,
who do not claim to represent any government, a war. Then we might say that
bin Laden started a war on the U.S., and that we're justified in fighting
back. (Since it's clear that bin Laden is behind other terrorist attacks,
I'm all for fighting him and his organization, even if he wasn't behind
9/11.) But the Taliban didn't start a war with the U.S.! No one has
contended that they aided in the attacks, or even knew that they were to
occur. Is their asking for evidence before turning over bin Laden an act of
war? No, it just won't work: Osama bin Laden may have started a war on us,
but we started a war on Afghanistan.
But let's say, against all logic, that it turns out that the Taliban did
plan the attacks. Then we'd have a case for war against them. But the
question of how to conduct the war would still arise. It may be that a few
civilian casualties are practically inevitable in any conflict, but it's
obvious that different ways of conducting war will result in different
civilian "risk profiles." For instance, carpet bombing from high altitude
and dropping cluster bombs, both of which the U.S. is doing, are likely to
result in far more civilian casualties than infantry action. The note at
the end of the paragraph about the "perfidy of our enemies" is again an
attempt to distract: it is the same fallacy mentioned above, where my acting
badly is "defended" by pointing out that someone else acted really badly.
But back to Lowry:
To the extent this view holds in the West, it is essentially a suicidal
impulse. Followed to its logical conclusion, it would make it impossible
for us ever to defend ourselves and ever to fight for a flawed, but morally
superior goal against an evil enemy because the evil of our enemy never
actually registers with anyone. This is what happened in Vietnam, when
Western outrage was focused on U.S. napalm runs rather than on the
murderous and oppressive character of our enemy.
Well, no: Followed to its logical conclusion, it would make it impossible
for us to ever defend ourselves using immoral means. And that, I think, is
an eminently logical conclusion Lowry would like to avoid.
Gene Callahan has just finished a book, Economics for Real People, to be
published this year by the Ludwig von Mises Institute.
Pakistani paper says 45 US special forces killed after raid
8th November 2001
A Pakistani newspaper says the Taliban have killed 45 US special forces
after a raid inside Afghanistan.
The Frontier Post says the Taliban shot down a B-52 after a raid on Osama
bin Laden's suspected hide-out near Kandahar.
It says the troops didn't find bin Laden or any of his colleagues during the
The paper says Taliban forces attacked as helicopters picked them up after
The Taliban claims a B-52 crashed near Dalbandin while it was giving cover
to the helicopters.
The Frontier Post says it can't confirm the number of Taliban casualties.
Pakistani sources say several US special forces operations have been going
on in recent weeks.
Relief Effort Races Winter to Save Millions
November 7, 2001
By TIM WEINER
New York Times
NOWSHERA, Pakistan, Nov. 6 ^ Sixty Afghan refugees worked in a dusty
warehouse this morning, bent under backbreaking sacks of wheat, toiling
like men building a levee against a flood, racing to keep two million
fellow Afghans alive.
Every man was paid a nickel a sack. Every sack held 110 pounds of wheat.
Every man loaded a truck by day's end. Each truck held up to 700 sacks,
enough to get 400 people through the five-month winter.
Each trucker was off for a week or more, the time needed to travel up over
the Khyber Pass and down 350 miles or more of the world's worst roads,
keeping "one eye on the sky for the bombs and one eye on the road for the
holes," said Ishaq Khan, just returned from a run.
This is the other half of the battle for Afghanistan: the international
effort to save as many as six million people on the brink of starvation
after a generation of war, four years of drought and a month of American
"The world is mobilizing to deal with this," said Kenneth H. Bacon, the
president of Refugees International in Washington and a former Pentagon
The wheat, nearly a quarter of a billion pounds of it, may mean survival
for millions in the mountains north and west of Kabul, said Mike Huggins, a
34-year-old Australian who helps organize the shipments for the United
Nations World Food Program.
This month, Mr. Huggins said, his goal is to ship more than 30,000 tons of
wheat to the mountain villages in the heart of Afghanistan.
The World Food Program supports the air drops of ready-to-eat rations by
the American military, Mr. Huggins said, but few other international aid
organizations do. They say the wheat deliveries are far more effective ^
and more likely to be eaten ^ than the air-drop food.
"We are now getting food to about two million people," he said, riding
shotgun in a Land Cruiser to the wheat warehouse in Nowshera, outside the
frontier city Peshawar, close to the foot of the Khyber Pass. "We need to
be getting food to about six million. And people need to understand that
this is not a refugee story. It's a food crisis in Afghanistan.
"There are regions, like the central highlands, where we are absolutely
desperate to get food in, desperately trying to get people enough food to
last the winter. The real race against the clock is that the snow is
starting to fall."
This effort faces obstacles far deeper than the refrigerator-sized ruts in
Afghanistan's most-traveled highways, trickier than the death-defying
curves of mountain roads better suited for goats than overloaded trucks in
First, the Taliban seized the World Food Program's warehouse in Kabul, then
demanded more help from the United Nations, like the son who killed his
parents and asked the judge for mercy as an orphan. Then there are the
occasional bombs from American warplanes along the wheat trucker's
roadways, the soaring cost of fuel, and the scarcity of small flatbed
trucks and intrepid drivers to negotiate the snowy mountain passes.
The logistics inside Afghanistan are made even more maddening by the lack
of reliable communications. Every lost day might mean many lost lives.
But then there are the means to overcome them: the kindness of strangers.
The World Food Program gratefully accepted the donation of a fleet of
sturdy trucks once used to haul weapons to the Afghan rebels when they were
fighting Soviet invaders in the 1980's. The donor was the Central
Intelligence Agency, officials said.
Pakistan, which has problems feeding its own people, much less sustaining
more than two million Afghan refugees, most of whom arrived during the
Soviet invasion, loaned the wheat, 110,000 tons of it, and the United
States vowed to replace it.
The Soviet war against Afghanistan sent some six million Afghans into
exile, mostly to Pakistan and Iran. But Western diplomats say the real
refugee problem today, after a month of bombing, is inside the country, not
at its borders.
They believe that somewhere between 200,000 and 400,000 people are refugees
in northern and western Afghanistan, in and around the cities of Herat and
Mazar-i-Sharif, on the run from the war and the other scourges of life that
have befallen them, and that the number could double by year's end.
Officials of the United Nations Children's Fund, Unicef, say that in
Afghanistan, which had the world's fourth-highest infant mortality rate
last year, 100,000 children may die this winter from hunger, disease and
the rigors of migration.
Mr. Bacon of Refugees International said there may already be one million
internal refugees in Afghanistan.
Pakistan and Iran, to the east and west of Afghanistan, have all but closed
their borders to most of those fleeing the war. Pakistan is now negotiating
with the United Nations over its demand that any new refugee camps for
Afghans be built inside Afghanistan, war or no war.
At the Jalozai refugee camp outside Peshawar, hundreds of Afghan refugee
families, mostly women and children, have arrived in the last month; the
Pakistani authorities have permitted their entry but consider them
invisible, aid workers say.
Nasir Kakar, himself a refugee from the Soviet war, said that "the food
problem is the worst problem" that the refugees have faced.
"When the bombing started from America, people started arriving here,
mostly women and their children, and they have nothing, nothing," said Mr.
Kakar, who works at the Jalozai camp for the French organization Doctors
Without Borders. "They are one week, two weeks on the way, their babies get
sick and die on the way."
But the ones who reach Jalozai, wretched as it is, might be considered
lucky, since the World Food Program can feed them and the doctors in the
camp can treat them.
For despite all the wheat going in to Afghanistan, precious little hard
information about the people who receive it is coming out.
Assaults by the Taliban and the threat of American bombs have cut the World
Food Program's staff inside Afghanistan to 120, from 330; communication
with them, difficult in the best of times, is next to nonexistent.
Today, at the Nowshera wheat warehouse, Mr. Huggins was yearning to talk to
drivers who had made it to the remotest reaches of central Afghanistan, the
Hazarajat, long one of the nation's poorest regions. But no word came.
"I need to hear from them," he told his warehouse manager, Tauheedullah
Babar. "Do you understand? I need to know what they've seen."
Depleted Uranium Toxicity in Afghanistan
by Richard S. Ehrlich
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- American warplanes are attacking Afghanistan with
depleted uranium weapons which could poison combatants and civilians,
especially children, according to U.S. officials.
The possibility of radioactive dust storms sweeping across Afghanistan and
polluting rivers has meanwhile sparked fears in Pakistan.
"The radioactive dust released by the impact of these weapons can easily
get into the food chain and the water supply through the Kabul River in
Afghanistan and thus into Pakistan's Indus [River]," reported Dawn newspaper.
"There are simply no contingency measures to brace people against such a
disastrous humanitarian fallout," Dawn added.
The narrow Kabul River cuts through the center of the heavily bombed,
mile-high Afghan capital and provides drinking water for the people who
After meandering east along the highway past Jalalabad and other U.S. bomb
targets, the Kabul River crosses into Pakistan and feeds the Indus River,
the country's biggest waterway. The Indus provides much of the liquid
nourishment to Pakistan's farms and people along its route south to the
Pakistani Dr. Ali Rind warned Dawn's readers: "All flying bombs
Tomahawk, JDAM etc. are made of depleted uranium metal."
Many experts insist the dangers of depleted uranium are often exaggerated.
Dr. Michael H. Repacholi of the World Health Organization, however, said in
a January report: "DU [deleted uranium] is released from fired weapons in
the form of small particles that may be inhaled, ingested or remain in the
Dr. Repacholi said, "For smaller particles, a larger fraction will deposit
in the lungs, where they may remain for months or years, unless they
dissolve. Very small amounts may be retained in the lymphatic system for
He added, "Breathing ultra-fine particles could lead to a theoretical risk
"In arid regions, most DU remains on the surface as dust. It is dispersed
in [non-arid] soil more easily, particularly in the areas of higher rainfall."
Dr. Repacholi stressed, "Children rather than adults may be considered to
be more at risk of DU exposure when returning to normal activities within a
war zone through contaminated food and water, since typical hand-to-mouth
activity of inquisitive play could lead to high DU ingestion from
Depleted uranium is "used in several types of munitions, but primarily in
two types: it's used in 120-millimeter tank rounds and it's used in
30-millimeter rounds fired by the A-10," Defense Department spokesperson
Kenneth H. Bacon told a newsconference in January.
The dreaded A-10 "Wart Hog" is a so-called a "tank killing" aircraft.
Every 30-millimeter round it fires has a 0.3-kilogram, depleted uranium
"penetrator" to bust through armor, according to military reports.
Depleted uranium is "primarily for anti-armor, and those are its main
uses," Mr. Bacon said.
"We obviously put out instructions about avoiding depleted uranium dust,"
"Troops are instructed to wear masks if they're around what they consider
to be atomized or particle-ized depleted uranium that is if rounds have
struck tanks, there could be depleted uranium dust around.
"So if they were working around an [enemy] tank that had been disabled by a
depleted uranium round, they would be instructed to wear some sort of mask
to prevent breathing in particles," Mr. Bacon said.
"All our studies show that in cases where there is dust, it [depleted
uranium] is washed away and nullified by the first heavy rain.
"But there aren't a lot of heavy rains in the desert, so obviously, when we
were advising our soldiers how to deal with depleted uranium damage, or
damaged vehicles in the desert, we were careful to point out that they
should wear masks."
Depleted uranium is described as uranium that is 40 percent less
radioactive than natural uranium, though it retains identical chemical
Natural uranium is found in everyday air, water and soil and, as a result,
is also in each person's body.
Depleted uranium, however, has a half-life of 4.5 billion years.
In 1998, the Pentagon noted: "Depleted uranium is the most effective
material for [military] uses because of its high density and the metallic
properties that allow it to 'self-sharpen' as it penetrates armor.
"Armor containing depleted uranium is very effective at blunting anti-tank
weapons," the Pentagon added.
"The major health concerns about DU relate to its chemical properties as a
heavy metal rather than to its radioactivity, which is very low."
Shrapnel from a depleted uranium weapon's explosion can pepper a victim's
body much like a shotgun blast.
If the shrapnel remains embedded in a person, then the radiation "isn't
eliminated," an expert said at a Defense Department briefing.
"By accumulation, is the [radioactive] dose increasing with time?
Yes, it is," the expert added.
Dr. Ross Anthony, from the Rand Corporation, told the Defense Department
briefing, "The kidney is the part that is the most susceptible."
In experiments with animals, however, "there seem to be no real highly
negative effects until you get a very, very high dose," Dr. Anthony said.
In 1999, Steve Fetter and Frank von Hippel wrote in the Bulletin of the
Atomic Scientists: "Radiation doses for soldiers with embedded fragments of
depleted uranium may be troublesome.
"Apart from radiation, however, the risks related to the heavy-metal
toxicity of uranium inhaled and ingested by soldiers in direct and
unprotected contact with vehicles struck with DU munitions could be
"Primarily at risk are those who were in vehicles when they were struck, or
their rescuers, as well as those who worked for extended periods in cleanup
efforts inside the vehicles without adequate respiratory protection," they
"Very prolonged exposure to high concentrations of depleted uranium is
required to give radiation doses significantly above [normal] background"
"Pieces and particles of depleted uranium lying about would be sources of
most of the external radiation dose, which would come primarily from
penetrating gamma rays.
"Inhalation of DU-contaminated dust either directly or after resuspension
[in the air] would be the source of most of the internal dose, which would
be primarily from very short-range alpha particles."
Referring to desert dust storms, the bulletin said, "The ground the
DU-contaminated plumes passed over would be coated with a thin layer of DU
dust, some of which would be later kicked up by wind and human activity.
"The munitions could deposit a layer of [depleted uranium] dust on crops
that could be eaten directly by humans or by animals later consumed by humans.
"However, rough estimates suggest that the cancer risk from consumption of
contaminated produce would be less than from inhalation."
As a result of the U.S.-Gulf War, "the number of Iraqi soldiers with
embedded DU fragments could be in the thousands," the bulletin said.
"Natural curiosity may also lead children and other passersby to
investigate the interiors of destroyed tanks and other vehicles...which
would subject them to danger from DU dust," it warned.
"Such vehicles should be made inaccessible, perhaps by being buried and
then pumped full of concrete."
Critics have expressed concern over depleted uranium contamination on
battlefields which do not receive environmental clean-ups.
Some critics claimed birth defects among babies born in Iraq after the Gulf
War including headless victims and others with deformed limbs may be
linked to the U.S. use of depleted uranium.
Richard S. Ehrlich lives in Bangkok, Thailand. His web page is located at
http://members.tripod.com/ehrlich, and he may be reached by email at
26 more body bags in Jacobabad
Casualties suffered in storming of bin Laden hideout
by Naveed Miraj
Updated on 11/8/2001
ISLAMABAD: Twenty six more bodies of United
Special Forces members have reached Jacobabad
air base for onward transportation to the
United States, The Frontier Post learnt on
These commandos were killed in an operation
involving storming of a suspected hideout of
alleged terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden,
well placed sources said.
Their bodies were flown to Jacobabad Tuesday
evening after US Special Forces were able to
airlift them out of Afghanistan.
The sources said that US Special Forces unit
raided a suspected bin Laden hideout near
Kandahar Monday night.
The unit met some resistance from the guards,
but were successful in going inside the hideout
and undertaking intelligence tasks.
However, they did not find bin Laden or anyone
of his close associates there.
But the real trouble arrived when the Special
Forces were being picked up by US helicopters.
The unit and the helicopters cam under intense
fire from Taliban forces, and received started
A US bomber, claimed to be B-52 by the Taliban,
is believed to be covering the helicopters at
the time of the skirmish.
Taliban hit low-flying bomber, and it crashed
The Frontier Post has learnt from other sources
that 45 US commandos were killed in this
The number of causalities on Taliban side could
not be confirmed, but it is certain that death
toll on their side was also high.
The general impression is that no commando
operations have been launched since October 20,
but Pakistani sources confirm that several such
operations have been undertaken by the US
Observers say the Pentagon has kept mum about
these operations to avoid questions about
Weapons of Mass Destruction
U.S. is Dropping World's Biggest Non-Nuclear bomb in Afghanistan
Published on Thursday, November 8, 2001 on WorkingforChange.com
by Laura Flanders
They have the destructive power of an atomic bomb, but they can barely make
a dent in U.S. news coverage. I'm talking about the 15,000-pound bombs the
United States is using against Afghanistan this week. The so-called Daisy
Cutters, named BLU-82, are the world's biggest non-nuclear device.
In many places, the development received a 10-second mention on the evening
news, five or six items down in the program lineup. Newscasters broadcast
video footage of an enormous black dust cloud rising above an Afghan
mountain range, accompanied by the assurances of Defense Secretary Donald
Rumsfeld that the "stepped up" assaults would hasten the collapse of the
AP describes the Blu-82, nicknamed "Big Blue," as being "as large as a
Volkswagen beetle, but heavier." Digging for the less charming details, one
finds that the bomb got its other name, "Daisy Cutter," because of the shape
of the crater it leaves -- and that it has the ability to clear a
3-mile-long path. Dropped from huge transport aircraft, "Big Blue" releases
a cloud of inflammable ammonium nitrate, aluminum dust, and polystyrene
slurry which is then ignited by a detonator. The result is a firestorm that
incinerates an area the size of five football fields, consumes oxygen, and
creates a shock-wave and vacuum pressure that destroys the internal organs
of anyone within range.
"As you would expect, they make a heck of a bang when they go off," General
Peter Pace, vice-chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff told a press
conference. "The intent is to kill people."
The United States has used at least two of these "Big Blues" so far. David
Williams described one attack from northern Afghanistan, where he is
reporting for the Daily Mail of London.
"The sound and impact was unmistakably different ... Each of the previous
explosions -- and there had been more than 100 -- had been similar in sight
and sound," wrote Williams.
"The sound split the air. It was like a thunder clap directly overhead at
the height of a ferocious storm. I could see the massive oily black cloud of
the explosion as it rolled across the hillside, a mixture of thick smoke,
chunks of earth and debris."
"Big Blue" was used in Vietnam, to create instant helicopter landing pads in
jungle areas. It was employed in the Gulf War, to detonate minefields, and
more controversially, to terrorize Iraqi troops. From the ground, the
columns of dust and smoke that the bombs produce are indistinguishable from
mushroom clouds. In Iraq, some British patrols reported thinking they were
in a nuclear war. This reporter saw U.S. Gulf veterans cry as they recalled
watching, from miles away, the deadly impact.
While George W. Bush lectures the world about Osama bin Laden's lust for
nuclear weapons, U.S. forces are employing weapons that, while not banned by
international treaty, come as close to nukes as one can get without smashing
The Daisy Cutter attacks come less than a week after the United States
crippled Afghanistan's biggest hydroelectric complex. Afghan Education
Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi said seven U.S. raids last Wednesday and Thursday
severely damaged the Kajaki hydroelectric complex in southern Helmand
province, knocking out the power supplies of Kandahar and Lashkarga. The
report was corroborated by refugees interviewed by Agence France Press (AFP,
"So far water has not started gushing out of the dam but any further bombing
will destroy (it)," Minister Muttaqi told DAWN, Pakistan's English language
paper, last week. "It may cause widespread flooding, putting at risk the
lives of thousands of people."
According to DAWN, Kajaki, 90 kilometers northwest of Kandahar, contains 2.7
billion cubic meters of water and irrigates land farmed by 75,000 families
in a desert area.
In their search -- ostensibly -- for Osama Bin Laden and those who
facilitated the criminal attack on the United States on September 11, wave
after wave of U.S. bombers, including giant B-52s, are carpet bombing
frontlines in northern Afghanistan. In another new development this week,
U.S. forces are also using 5,000 pound GBU-28 "Deep Throat" bunker-busters,
which burrow through as much as 20 feet of rock before exploding
The Geneva Protocol is not unclear. You don't have to be in Afghanistan. You
can read it on the Web.
Protocol 1, Article 51.2. states: "The civilian population as such, as well
as individual civilians, shall not be the object of attack. Acts or threats
of violence the primary purpose of which is to spread terror among the
civilian population are prohibited."
Article 57: "Works or installations containing dangerous forces, namely
dams, dikes and nuclear electrical generating stations, shall not be made
the object of attack, even where these objects are military objectives, if
such attack may cause the release of dangerous forces and consequent severe
losses among the civilian population. "
Article 51 explicitly outlaws carpet or area bombing tactics: "Among others,
the following types of attacks are to be considered as indiscriminate: an
attack by bombardment by any methods or means which treats as a single
military objective a number of clearly separated and distinct military
objectives located in a city, town, village or other area containing a
similar concentration of civilians or civilian objects; and an attack which
may be expected to cause incidental loss of civilian life, injury to
civilians, damage to civilian objects, or a combination thereof, which would
be excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage
Article 55: "Care shall be taken in warfare to protect the natural
environment against widespread, long-term and severe damage."
The press talked for weeks about whether it was acceptable for U.S. forces
to violate the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Is it unreasonable to expect at
least equal attention to the question of whether U.S. assaults are violating
130-plus civilians killed: report
MORE than 130 Afghan civilians were killed in three villages near the
Taliban's southern stronghold of Kandahar after intense US bombing raids,
the Afghan Islamic Press has reported.
It said the final civilian death toll from the attacks in the three
villages could exceed 300, with 133 bodies
already recovered from one community called Shah Aga.
The Pakistan-based news agency said Shah Aga was one of two villages in
Khakrez district, about 70km
north-west of Kandahar, which were completely destroyed in three nights of
heavy air attacks.
The third village was not identified.
From Delhi women
WOMEN OPPOSE WAR
"AS A WOMAN I HAVE NO COUNTRY. AS A WOMAN MY COUNTRY
IS THE WHOLE WORLD."
With most of the world, we the undersigned women's organisations, condemn
both the tragic events of September 11 and the war unleashed by the US on
the people of Afghanistan as deplorable acts of terrorism. We condemn the
slaughter of thousands of Afghans, the destruction of cities, the bombing
of hospitals and old people's homes, and most of all the trauma, horror and
suffering caused by this war to ostensibly avenge the crimes committed by
Osama Bin Laden and the Taliban. Victimising thousands of poor ordinary
people who have already suffered 23 years of the destruction and devastation
of war in no way can wipe out the roots of terrorism.
It is common knowledge that the terrorist groups the US is trying to
eliminate were its own creation. In addition, the US has trained, supported,
and supplied with arms various groups, invasions, and dictators all over the
world. The millions killed in Korea, Vietnam and Cambodia, in Israel's
invasion of Lebanon, the 200,000 Iraqis killed in Operation Desert Storm,
the thousands of Palestinians who have died fighting Israel's occupation of
the West Bank, the millions who died in Yugoslavia, Somalia, Haiti, Chile,
Nicaragua, El Salvador, the Dominican Republic, Panama - are all victims of
such state terrorism. Nor has the US been alone in this, for in Afghanistan,
if the killing squads were financed by the US, the Russian occupation too
was responsible for colossal death and destruction.
And it is well known too that wherever fundamentalism has taken root, women
are among its first victims. In Afghanistan, after the Taliban came back to
power with CIA support, it unleashed a reign of terror whose fist victims
were its own people, particularly women. It closed down girls' schools,
dismissed women from government jobs, and enforced Shariat laws under
which women deemed to be "immoral" are stoned to death, and widows assumed
to be guilty of being adulterous are buried alive.
OPPOSE RELIGIOUS FUNDAMENTALISM ACROSS THE GLOBE
Religious fundamentalism and military aggression are two sides of
patriarchy, that aim to seek control and wield power over women and other
oppressed sections. The struggle for abortion rights by women in the US and
other parts of the western world is a struggle against such fundamentalist
governments and policies. The denial of education to women in Afghanistan,
acid throwing attacks on young women to impose the burkha in Kashmir, the
attacks by the Hindu Right in India on films depicting lesbian love or the
travails of widowhood are all part of the same orchestrated campaign of
religious fundamentalists to terrorise and control women. The women's
movement opposes the forces of religious fundamentalism whether they are
from the US or Afghanistan or from India or Pakistan because fundamentalist
forces in essence trample upon all democratic and women's rights and seek to
reverse the gains made by women's liberation movements.
WAR IS PATRIARCHY
We see the violence, death and destruction caused by wars as an extension
of the violence we confront daily within the family, in the community, and
by the state. We have seen the aftermath of war and related crimes;
thousands of women have lived through the burden of bearing the "honour" of
the community and nation in war after war. Bruised minds and battered
that is all war achieves. In 1992, more than 20,000 women and girls were
raped in the Balkans followed by 15,700 in Rwanda. The disruption of normal
life in military situations adds additional burdens and dangers to women's
continuing responsibility for subsistence and household provisioning. The
militarisation of our societies has made brutalisation a way of life. War
films, war toys and video games, and daily violence in films and on
television have created a militaristic chauvinistic macho culture. For
women, this means an increase in violence within the home and by the
"custodians of law". As women, we are deeply concerned about the increased
regional hostility, fanning of communal hatred and violence, and the
deepening of inequality and prejudices being caused by this war.
THE POLITICS OF MILITARISATION
The increasing communalisation of politics can lead to more violence and war
and in both India and Pakistan. In the name of 'security', the state is
already becoming more repressive and intolerant of dissent in both these
countries. National security is being used as an excuse for both Pakistan
and India to increase their levels of militarisation. National and religious
chauvinism built on mutual hostility becomes the binding force to maintain
the nation state. It becomes possible, even commendable, to kill, humiliate,
maim and threaten citizens of another country, religious or ethnic group, or
nationality in the name of preserving the unity of one's own country. The
existence of any manufacturing base for armament production in India creates
a demand for more and more wars and lays the material basis for Indian
dominance in the South Asian region. In the 1980s, India's defence
expenditure shot up from Rs 4, 329 cores to 14, 500 crores in 1989-90.
It is 66,382 crores (2000-2001) today, which is more than what the central
government spends on health, education, women and child "welfare" and other
social services put together!! This is also 89% higher than the entire
country's expenditure on primary education!! The doubling of the defence
expenditure in just the last 5 years in India, the biggest ever increase
since independence, shows the priorities of our war mongers in a country in
which people continue to die of starvation deaths.
The global arms export market is valued at 54.2 billion dollars of which US
controls 50% while Britain, France together control 30%. Russia, China,
Germany, Israel, South Africa, Belgium etc control the rest. Only because
weapons of war, huge military machines exist everywhere that genocides/war
take place. If organised violence, terror, genocide, wars have to end, the
military establishment and also the monstrously big police and torturing
apparatuses have to be abolished from the face of this. But can one hear
even faintly about any such measures from the US and other big powers or any
WHOSE FREEDOM, WHOSE JUSTICE, WHOSE DEMOCRACY ?
While claiming to fight for freedom, justice and democracy, the USA is
itself behaving in the most unjust and undemocratic manner. Their President
has the audacity to threaten the world at large with the words, "If you are
not with us, you are against us." No nation, organization, or individual has
the freedom to even express a contrary opinion, let alone act on it.
The USA seeks to avenge the tragic loss of 5,000 lives through bombing
Afghanistan. But if the rest of the world were to live by the same logic,
then who shall we destroy for the 16,000 who perished at the hands of the
US multinational Union Carbide in Bhopal, the 500,000 Iraqi children who
died due to US sanctions, the thousands killed in Vietnam by the US
military....? Even after victory was already assured for US in the 2nd World
War they dropped the horrific nuclear bombs on the people of Hiroshima and
Nagasaki to demonstrate their awesome killing power to the world.
Generations bear the torture and the scars of such irreparable damage.
And yet, if this were a concern about peace and democracy, it should start
by destroying its own monstrous stockpile of nuclear, chemical and
biological weapons. All peace loving people will welcome such a move. But in
spite of tens of millions of people around the world, especially in western
Europe demanding total nuclear disarmament, the US and other nuclear
countries have turned a deaf ear to this. Western powers and US have used
every violent means to keep their stranglehold over all resources of the
world, particularly oil. Often they have used the weapon of economic
blockade to starve people to death, to strangulate them economically. This
is almost like a permanent class war waged by the rich and the powerful
against the poor and the powerless. Hundreds of millions died and are dying
in just over five decades after the 2nd WW due to hunger, disease, wars,
genocide, violence and due to the poisoning of the biosphere and ecological
Large sections of the media everywhere are of course part of the apparatus
to manufacture and force consent for the war in the name of democracy, to
spread misinformation, to wage campaigns for the rulers, to whip up war
hysteria, rabid nationalism, and hatred of the 'OTHER'. To speak the truth
is to invite the wrath of the local global rulers.
We believe that armed conflict can never be and will never be a substitute
for dialogue. The failure to pursue democratic dialogue is to betray the
aspirations of millions, to jeopardies the future and to put into question
the very existence of democratic institutions and mechanisms.
If we want to end terrorism we need to address all the structured sources of
injustices that are increasingly widening the gap between the rich and the
poor, men and women, nature and humans and create the pauperization and
hopelessness that leads to terrorism. The women's movement seeks to
challenge the structures of oppression that people all over daily face:
* the fear of domestic violence within the home
* persistent poverty and the desperation it leads to such as to the sale of
body and life organs
* the loss of our children to a culture of violence and to all kinds of
conflicts and wars
* the loss of jobs, home, homeland, family and community and becoming a
* the invisibility and violation that comes along with being lesbian, gay,
bisexual and transgendered in a predominantly homophobic and patriarchal
* the fear of enforced prostitution as a means of survival
* the fear of living in a society where rape, molestation, female
infanticide, widow burning and witch hunting are daily realities
* the authoritarianism of having our voices silenced when ever we dare to
THIS IS NOT OUR WAR. WE REJECT IT UNEQUIVOCALLY.
WE DO NOT BELIEVE IN THIS WAR FOR IT SNATCHES AWAY
FROM US THE MOST BASIC RIGHT: THE RIGHT TO LIVE.
We represent forces that are engaged in struggles and processes based on
respect for human life, on yearnings, desires, and dreams for a pluralistic
peaceful egalitarian world. We raise our voice for peace and freedom against
repression, war, terrorism, and pogromist politics to make the world a
better place to live in. We are protesting against this war along with
thousands and thousands from the US, Britain, France, Germany, Pakistan,
Indonesia, Nigeria, Indonesia, Korea, Japan and India.
FOR LOVE PEACE FREEDOM EGALITARIAN VALUES AGAINST
DEATH, TERROR AND WAR!!!
ANKUR, ACTION INDIA, CALERI, FORUM AGAINST SEXUAL HARASSMENT (D.U.),
JAGORI, KALI FOR WOMEN, SAHELI, SANGINI, STREE ADHIKAR SANGATHAN
Embrace the refugees
by Fergal Keane
I am in Quetta, Pakistan.
Ten minutes ago Fatatoumah Kaba walked up to a group of journalists in the
lobby of our hotel and said: "It's happening." She comes from Guinea and has
seen the worst of Africa's many humanitarian disasters.
But even this veteran of refugee crises was taken aback by the influx across
As I write, the UN is saying that nearly 4,000 Afghan refugees have entered
Pakistan at the Chaman crossing about two hours drive from here.
It's nearly double the number that came yesterday and they are still coming.
The interesting thing is that this is only the number that has come across
the main border between the two countries.
Nobody knows how many others are coming over on mountain trucks or hidden in
the back of smugglers' lorries.
Something terrible is happening on the other side of the border.
Where we are, Quetta, is the nearest listening post to the Taliban's
spiritual home in Kandahar.
But we can only sketch together the vaguest picture of the chaos on the
In the space of a few days the area around Kandahar has gone from being the
heartland of a brutal and oppressive regime into a zone of terror filled
with fleeing civilians.
If you've had any experience of refugee problems there is a certain look in
the eyes, which you quickly recognise.
It is a mix of terror, helplessness and pleading.
That look is everywhere on the Afghan border right now.
You don't tell these people about big politics or about the war on
What can we teach them about terror, these anguished thousands who have
lived under the tyranny of the Taliban, who have watched their children die
of hunger and disease? While the West is convulsed with worry about anthrax,
the Afghans live in the country with the second highest child mortality rate
in the world.
For more than two decades they have endured and endured and now panic is
driving thousands onto the roads.
Reports are filtering in here by the minute.
Heavy bombing around Kandahar.
Taliban troop concentrations hit.
US Special Forces are on the ground.
Things are moving faster than anybody knows.
The Taliban ambassador to Pakistan passed through here on his way back from
Kandahar about an hour ago and said morale was holding.
I don't think anybody believed him.
I'd sat behind him on the plane on the journey up to Quetta and he seemed
relaxed, singing a religious verse to himself as the plane descended towards
the dusty plains of Baluchistan.
After five days on the other side of the border he looked distinctly uneasy.
This is unlike any refugee crisis I have ever reported.
We are used to seeing the full panoply of Western agencies flooding into
disaster zones within days of the first big influx.
That is not the case in this most beleaguered of border zones.
The agencies are here but they are restricted in where they can go and what
they are able to do.
For all the promises of a humanitarian operation to match the war effort, it
still looks distinctly limited on this side of the border.
In fairness that may have something to do with the fact that Pakistan is
already host to two million Afghan refugees, victims of the long civil war.
An already poor nation is having to deal with a huge extra burden.
That is why the borders are closed and why so many are forced to flee across
But the continuing outflow of refugees makes the closure of borders an
unsustainable proposition: both on practical and moral levels.
The most powerless people in the world are fleeing for their lives and they
simply cannot be left to fend for themselves.
The Allies are correct to point out that it is the Taliban that steals aid
and that has refused to allow foreign aid workers to operate in the country.
It is also true that in the past few days both the US and Britain have
pledged millions in aid to Pakistan.
At the moment we are told that sites for refugee camps are ready in areas
near the border.
But most of the refugees are filtering into the miserable and overcrowded
settlements around Quetta.
People seek out their relatives or other members of their own ethnic group.
The stories we hear every day in Quetta are heart-rending.
You could set out at dawn and record and listen until night and you could do
it every day for weeks, and still the stories would still keep coming.
I met Nematallah Popolzoi in the Quetta hospital.
We'd gone there because there were reports of war wounded being brought in.
One of them was Nematallah's son, a 10-year-old dark-eyed boy called Said.
He had been playing in the market when a bomb struck a Taliban munitions
Munitions started to explode and bullets were flying everywhere.
One struck Said in the base of the skull.
He will live but the bullet cannot be removed from his skull, according to
Said was luckier than the child in the next bed.
He was a different kind of war victim.
He was injured in a road traffic accident but because he lived in a country
with no proper hospitals and no neurosurgeon he had to endure a long
agonising journey across potholed roads into Pakistan.
The boy was severely brain damaged and lay with his eyes wide open and
terrified, his hands shaking.
The doctor told me there were probably thousands like him trapped on the
other side of the border.
The sick and helpless for whom the arrival of this new war is a blow of
In another ward a man called Nazir Mohammed sat on a bed surrounded by what
appeared to be village elders.
He wore a large bandage over his eye and rocked gently back and forth on the
It appeared his son was hit in the same explosion, but in this case the
flying bullet had killed the five-year-old.
"Only someone who has lost a son can understand what I feel," he said.
I have a five-year-old son and I live in dread of ever having to know that
So I was in no position to commiserate or to say anything at all.
The grandfather was standing among the men gathered around the bed.
"What has my family done to anybody? We never harmed anybody and now I have
lost my grandson," he said.
As he spoke his voice broke and tears filled his eyes.
These hardy Pathans of the border region are not given to such displays of
emotion, particularly in front of strangers.
But the old man was beyond worrying about what anybody else might think.
The family had run a stall in the bazaar.
It was a meagre living, but in Afghanistan it was at least a means of
The stall is gone and now so is the child.
Nazir Mohammed has lost the world.
The war in Afghanistan has been going on for more than 30 years and tens of
thousands have died at the hands of the Taliban and the other warring
The misery did not begin with this latest war.
However, if we are to accept the pledges that the long-term aim is to bring
about a world based on justice, the cause of the refugees should be placed
at the top of the international agenda.
The next week could see a huge outflow of desperate people across
In the name of humanity our arms should be there to embrace them.
Appeals to halt cluster bombs
Healey and Kennedy try to turn Blair against weapon
Richard Norton-Taylor and Lucy Ward
Thursday November 8, 2001
Tony Blair yesterday rejected a call by the Liberal
Democrat leader, Charles Kennedy, to persuade the US
to stop dropping cluster bombs on Afghanistan, saying
they are "legal and are necessary in certain
Mr Kennedy told the prime minister that many people
shared a sense of "unease" over the use of cluster
bombs. "Will you seek an assurance when you see the US
president later today that no more of these will be
deployed?" he asked. Mr Blair replied: "No, I won't
seek that assurance."
The prime minister said cluster bombs had been used
four times, against a training camp of Osama bin
Laden's al-Qaida group and Taliban front lines far
from civilian areas.
Cluster bombs, dropped by US B-52 bombers based on the
British territory of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean,
scatter scores of "bomblets" over a wide area. In past
conflicts many have failed to explode. Their bright
colour makes them attractive to children.
Mr Blair said the type used in Afghanistan was not the
"sub-munition" cluster bomb. The type in use had
exploded on impact, he said.
However, the UN has said one civilian was killed and
another injured when they touched a cluster bomb in a
village called Eshaq Sulaiman Zai, and two children
were seriously injured when they picked up a cluster
bomb near the village of Qala Shaker.
General Richard Myers, chairman of the US joint chiefs
of staff, said this week it was "unfortunate" that
cluster bombs were bright yellow, a similar colour to
food parcels dropped by US planes.
The food parcels would be changed to blue, he said.
Meanwhile, leaflets dropped by air would warn Afghans
not to touch cluster bombs.
The former Labour defence secretary, Lord Healey,
called yesterday for an end to the bombing, citing
"overwhelming" humanitarian arguments for a halt and
saying the campaign was turning the Muslim world
against the west.
The prime minister's spokesman said: "Denis Healey
remains a very respected figure and his views have to
be taken account of seriously. Equally, however, there
is actually no alternative. There is an active
terrorist threat. It has to be dealt with." But the
government was also pursuing diplomatic and political
The former Labour deputy leader is the most senior
party figure publicly to challenge the US-led assault.
He told BBC radio that the bombing was "killing a lot
of innocent women and children", while having "[no]
chance whatever of killing Bin Laden or destroying his
al-Qaida movement"; and it was creating more
terrorists in the Muslim world, he said.
In a letter to the Times, Lord Healey urged Mr Blair
to ask George Bush to stop the bombing. His plea was
backed by Labour peers Lord Rea and Lord Young and
crossbencher Lady Warnock.
Lord Healey wrote: "What are the disadvantages of
continuing? More civilians killed; more discord in
Pakistan, which could end in fundamentalists getting
power and with nuclear weapons at their disposal;
possible overthrow of the Saudi and Egyptian regimes
and a general flare-up in the Middle East."
On the Today programme, he argued that the right way
to target al-Qaida's international network of
terrorists was to arrest them. The best way to get Bin
Laden, if he was in Afghanistan, was to use the SAS
and American special forces.
Also of interest:
Afghanistan Through the Eyes of an Aid Worker
Aid workers in Afghanistan believe that they are witnessing
the worst humanitarian disaster of their lives and, because
of the fighting and the onset of winter, the most difficult
The War's Dispensable People
Do We Truly Understand The Scope of What Is Happening In Afghanistan?
Many have resigned themselves to the idea that Afghan refugees
already have many odds against them and it is inevitable that they will
be the casualties of this war.
Generals leery of war?
Philip Wilcox, the nation's top counterterrorism officer from
1994 to 1997, writes that unlike some of the president's more
hawkish civilian advisers, "many American military officers are
skeptical about using military force against terrorists." They
are concerned about the logistical challenges of using
soldiers to capture Usama bin Ladin, and of the backlash a
large-scale military campaign could engender.
Global toll; Various Reports
This chart from the London Times graphically shows that the terrorist attack
on the twin towers of New York City's World Trade Center was a crime against
innocent people of many countries, not just of the US. It thus makes a
powerful point that every country involved has a stake in ensuring that
justice, and not revenge, is done.
The war at home
It's not just about peace ^ it's about surviving.
New this issue:
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/studentsnowar/files (members only)
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