Supposedly "Accidental" Bombing: U.S. Destroys Al Jazeera Office
Media Buries Story
November 15, 2001
Two days ago a U.S. missile
destroyed the Kabul offices of Al Jazeera, the only independent television
station in the Arab world.
The mainstream U.S. media
seem to have deliberately ignored or all but buried the story, with the
exception of an AP report.
The Bush administration has
frequently criticized Al Jazeera for broadcasting Osama bin Laden's videos,
and for giving voice to those in the Arab world opposing the U.S. bombing
campaign in Afghanistan. Secretary of Defense Colin Powell tried to convince the emir
of Qatar, where Al Jazeera is based, to modify its news reporting.
The Bush administration
recognized the importance of the 24 hour satellite channel recently by
providing top administration officials for interviews.
Does anyone on earth really
believe that the bombing was accidental? A little deliberate payback
and intimidation is more likely.
I guess Bush et al figured a
little violence might accomplish what Colin Powell's pressure and some
The Al Jazeera attack brings
to mind the bombings twice in a two
week period of the same Red Cross warehouse in Kabul, supposedly from
And remember during the
Serbian conflict when we "accidentally" bombed the Chinese
embassy, our excuse being that the CIA had an out-of-date map!
Do those excuses seem
credible to anyone?
At least the bombings of the
Red Cross warehouse and the Chinese embassy received appropriate
publicity. It's alarming that the attack on Al Jazeera's Kabul offices
has been all but ignored, so Americans don't know about their own
government's attack on freedom of speech abroad.
the Doctor Did Not Order: Secret Military Trials of Suspected Terrorists
November 14, 2001
George Bush has signed an
executive order that would allow secret military tribunals to try suspected
terrorists who are not U.S. citizens. The secret trials could take
place in the United States or abroad. The death penalty would be
available as a sentencing option. Only a two-thirds vote of a military
panel would be required for conviction, even for application of the death
This order, which does not
require Congressional approval, has been condemned across the political
spectrum. Perhaps no stronger indictment came than from the far right
in the person of William Safire, who opened his New York Times column with
Misadvised by a frustrated
and panic-stricken attorney
general, a president of the United States has just assumed what
amounts to dictatorial power to jail or execute aliens.
In addition to the civil
liberties concerns, there are two devastating practical consequences to this
course of action:
First, utilizing secret
trials would open us up to a never-ending stream of accusations from around
the world that we have secretly tried and executed this person and that
person and this person and that person. How could anyone believe a
denial that we have done so?
Second, aren't terrorists
precisely the kind of defendants we want to try publicly? Public
trials would establish for the world the guilt of those we accuse of
terrorism. Public trials showcase our system of justice, with its
checks-and-balances and concern for fairness. Public trials
distinguish us from the totalitarian systems we claim to oppose.
Secretly trying those very
defendants whom we accuse of attacking our American way of life is the
ultimate irony, as we adopt the methods of the very people we are putting on
With all due respect to the
men and women of genius in the Bush administration: this may well be your
worst idea yet.
Northern Alliance Splash Blood on U.S. Hands?
November 13, 2001
Events are unfolding so
rapidly in Afghanistan that as soon as I write a few paragraphs and check
the news wires, what I've written has become obsolete. Here goes
The Taliban have apparently
withdrawn from the Afghan capital of Kabul and Northern Alliance forces have
entered the city.
That's great news in the
sense that it puts the ultimate defeat of the Taliban that much closer, and
it means additional multitudes of Afghan civilians have been liberated from
oppressive Taliban rule.
The problem is, most
observers felt the Northern Alliance should not enter the city by
itself. Many elements of the Northern Alliance have a terrible human
More specifically, the last
time the Northern Alliance took over Kabul, widespread atrocities
followed. The citizens of Kabul are reported to hate the Northern
Alliance even more than the Taliban, if that is possible.
Already there are unconfirmed
reports from U.N. officials of summary executions and abductions of
civilians in Mazar-i-Sharif, which the Northern Alliance just took
over. It's not clear who are the perpetrators and who are the victims.
The New York Times has
that Northern Alliance forces summarily executed Taliban prisoners and
engaged in widespread looting in an area under their control about 10 miles
north of Kabul. As the reporter dryly put it:
The killings here suggested
that alliance soldiers might prove difficult to control as their victories
Were any Northern Alliance
forces to commit atrocities in Kabul, that could precipitate a rallying of
the Pashtuns in southern Afghanistan to the Taliban, making defeating the
Taliban infinitely more difficult that it would otherwise have been.
The Northern Alliance is made
up primarily of ethnic Tajiks and Uzbeks, so even without any atrocities,
the Pashtuns may well feel threatened enough simply by the Northern Alliance
presence in Kabul to cause the Pashtuns to rally to the Taliban.
Many military analysts
believe that in the best of circumstances at least a division of U.S. forces
will be needed to achieve victory against the Taliban in their stronghold of
Kandahar. Were the Pashtun population there to vigorously support the
Taliban, that would increase the requirement for U.S. troops and undoubtedly
increase U.S. casualties.
Moreover, any innocent
blood spilled by the Northern Alliance is also blood on U.S. hands.
Before the Afghan War
started, the Northern Alliance controlled somewhere between 5-10% of the
country, and they were being slowly squeezed out of the rest by the
Taliban. It is beyond doubt that the only reason the Northern Alliance
is enjoying its current string of successes is because of the effect of
sustained U.S. bombing on the Taliban, as well as new weapons, equipment and
supplies just received by the Northern Alliance from our country and allies.
As the enablers of the
Northern Alliance, we're responsible for what they do.
We can't enable an army and
then disavow the consequences.
Remember the Sabra and
Chatilla massacre? General Ariel Sharon, commander of Israeli forces
who had invaded Lebanon in 1982, allowed Christian Phalange militia allies
of Israel to enter the Sabra and Chatilla refugee camps, even though
everyone knew from past history that massacres would result. Over the
next 38 hours 7-800 Palestinian refugees were massacred by the Christian
We reportedly told the
Northern Alliance not to enter Kabul until arrangements had been made for a
government to replace the Taliban. Northern Alliance officials agreed,
that they would have to enter the city were a "political vacuum"
In a statement that insults
the intelligence of the American people, Secretary of Defense Donald
Rumsfeld said that
it might be difficult to stop
the Northern Alliance if they tried to seize the capital.
"We don't have enough
forces on the ground to stand in their way," Mr. Rumsfeld said.
If the United States
explicitly told the Northern Alliance not to enter the capital, does
anyone believe they still would?
If the U.S. warned them of a
cut-off of further assistance, would they Northern Alliance dare defy us?
If the U.S. merely parked a
helicopter gunship in front of the advancing Northern Alliance troops, does
anyone believe the Northern Alliance would fire on us?
Rumsfeld's statements are
actually a public relations effort to avoid the appearance that the Northern
Alliance is under U.S. control.
The reality is, if the
Northern Alliance has entered Kabul, it has done so with U.S. approval.
Pray for the civilians there
that the Northern Alliance troops conduct themselves properly.
Earlier today, even before it
was known that the Northern Alliance had taken Kabul, the U.N. issued
an urgent call for
Afghan politicians to meet
within days, make interim arrangements for the Afghan capital and provide
the nucleus for a broad-based government to replace the Taliban.
Now that the Northern
Alliance is already in Kabul, the urgency is magnified, and the U.S. -- as
the creator of this new and highly volatile situation on the ground -- must
work to ensure that the people of Kabul, and the rest of Afghanistan now
under Northern Alliance control, are protected.
Is the Anthrax
Terrorism Really the Work of a Disgruntled U.S. Loner?
November 12, 2001
I previously wrote that it seemed ridiculous, considering
the timing and the level of expertise required, to think that the anthrax
mailings were anything other than the work of Al Qaeda.
Now the FBI has issued a
profile which indicates they believe the mailings were indeed an incidence
of domestic terrorism, perpetrated by a disgruntled loner with access to,
and skills to utilize, a laboratory which could produce such highly
dangerous anthrax -- sort of a biochemical Unabomber.
Now that the letters have
been made public, it does seem odd that they were dated September 11 but not
postmarked until a week later, sort of like somebody was ex post facto
trying to make it seem as if the letters were part of the September 11 plot.
Also, the text of the letters
is simplistic, not characteristic of Al Qaeda's long, detailed tirades.
And, the phrase used in the
letter "God is Great" is usually rendered "Allah is
Great" by Muslims.
So these three factors would
point to a domestic terrorist, trying to divert attention away from himself
and point the finger at Al Qaeda.
Yet, I have my doubts.
There is still the
extraordinarily coincidental timing.
Trenton, New Jersey ,where
the letters were mailed, is not far from places like Newark where there are
known terrorist cells.
Also, given the chess-playing
nature of all this and the necessity to think many moves ahead, perhaps Al
Qaeda operatives did send the letter, but wanted to make it look like a
domestic terrorist himself was trying to make it look like Al Qaeda.
Remember, bin Laden hasn't
claimed credit for the World Trade Center attack (or waited until now, two
months later, if certain foreign press reports are to be believed). So
if his group perpetrated the anthrax mailings, he would want to deflect
attention away from himself there also.
Perhaps the letters weren't
mailed for a week because Al Qaeda operatives didn't want to risk being
caught in the very first emotional days after the World Trade Center attack
when everyone of Arab descent was most likely to be intensely watched on the
street. This would especially apply if they mailed the letters from a
location different from where they lived.
I also heard another
scenario, which seems plausible, to explain why the anthrax mailings were
not on the scope of Al Qaeda's other attacks. The mailings were a
"'quickie" by Al Qaeda, merely intended to distract the
authorities and drain security and investigative resources, so as to more
easily enable the terrorist group to perpetrate another major assault on the
scope of the World Trade Center destruction. This could still be the
case, and only our heightened security and/or the FBI roundup of hundreds of
suspects prevented Al Qaeda from carrying out that second major attack.
This is all just speculation,
but then, until the perpetrators are caught, so is the FBI profile.
apologies to Ghostbusters...
U.S. Under Big Attack,
Mail Full of Anthrax,
Civilization May Be Whacked,
Who You Gonna Call?
November 11, 2001
If your life were on the
line, who would you want backing you up: the U.S. military, or the Northern
If your entire country were
in mortal danger, who would you want to protect it: the U.S. military, or
the Northern Alliance?
If human civilization itself
were threatened, who would you want to ride to the rescue: the U.S.
military, or the Northern Alliance?
In his speech Thursday night,
George Bush literally claimed that "We wage a war to save civilization
That may be so, but judging
from U.S. actions to date, the prevailing sentiment seems to be,
"What's the big rush?"
There are unconfirmed reports
in the last days that bin Laden has suitcase nuclear bombs that could easily
be smuggled into the U.S. Even if he doesn't have them now, he's
certainly trying to get them. Bin Laden's videos make clear that
he is aware of current events on a day-to-day basis, and has the ability to
quickly smuggle out videos to television networks. He could also
obviously smuggle out marching orders to set off the nukes. Or to
implement any other of a myriad of possible terrorist actions.
So shouldn't we be trying to
overthrow the Taliban and neutralize bin Laden AS QUICKLY AS POSSIBLE?
Yet our war strategy is to
let the Northern Alliance do the fighting at whatever pace it is capable of,
and then if it ultimately can't do the job, then we'll step in with our own
Can't we even equip the
Northern Alliance decently?
A Pentagon briefer said
today that some of the alliance's attacks involve cavalry charges against
Taliban tanks. He said the United States was air-dropping horse feed to
the alliance. [The
New York Times, November 8, 2001]
This whole situation is
ridiculous! If civilization is at stake as Bush claims, if we're
trying to head off a nuke attack on American cities, why on earth aren't we
using not only U.S. high altitude bombers, but U.S. ground troops to get the
job done immediately?!
I know the Northern Alliance
has had great success in the past few days. But that's due to the
Taliban's decision to quickly retreat with the apparent intention of
regrouping to defend Kabul and/or the Taliban's spiritual home and
Hopefully the Northern
Alliance will have swift success in those battles also. Unfortunately,
relative troop strengths and ethnic loyalties would indicate much tougher
going for the Northern Alliance there.
Even if not, the bottom line
is, all of this could have been wrapped up weeks ago has the U.S. used the
military power readily available to it.
Instead, while bin Laden
issues commands from his cave "command and control center," we're
dawdling around and hoping the Northern Alliance can achieve victory fast
enough to safeguard our national security.
It just makes no sense.
Reporters in Mazar-i-Sharif Yet?
November 10, 2001
It's heartening that the
Northern Alliance took the strategic town of Mazar-i-Sharif from the
Taliban. The sooner the war is
won, the sooner we are safer and the sooner the suffering people in
Afghanistan can be helped.
What's strange to me is that
the Northern Alliance has apparently not brought any reporters into
Mazar-i-Sharif to witness its triumph.
The people of Mazar-i-Sharif
hated that Taliban with a passion, not least because the Taliban massacred
several thousand civilians when they captured the city. (This massacre
was vengeance for a Northern Alliance massacre of Taliban forces the
previous time the Alliance had gained control of the city.)
Further, the population of
Mazar-i-Sharif is made up of the same ethnic groups as the Northern
Alliance, while the Taliban are predominantly of a different ethnic
group, the Pashtuns. And among the Taliban are thousands of militants
from Arab nations, who are widely unpopular in the city.
So Mazar-i-Sharif would be
expected to welcome the Northern Alliance with open arms. Indeed, one reason the Taliban left
the city without putting up much of a fight was because they feared the
population would turn on them the first chance they got!
When Allied Forces in WWII
liberated Paris from German occupation, there was dancing in the streets and
flowers and kisses for the soldiers. I was hoping to see something
similar in Mazar-i-Sharif.
Above all, it would have been
wonderful to see a burqa-burning rally, with thousands of women ripping off
those horrible emblems of enslavement, casting them into the flames.
Maybe we'll see something
like this later on. It just seems odd that some 48 hours after the
first reports that the city had been taken, there are no reporters in there.
It's not that I doubt the
city has been taken. Even the Taliban have conceded that
fact. In a war where both sides are lying so much, however, it would
be refreshing to receive some real-time information from independent
The Taking of Mazar-i-Sharif
Should Have Come Much Sooner
Many Lives Would Have Been Saved
November 9, 2001
As I write this evening, news
are ever-more-conclusively confirming that the Northern Alliance has taken
the strategic Afghan city of Mazar-i-Sharif. Most Taliban forces
reportedly withdrew rather than fight the incoming Alliance troops.
While in past wars the city
has changed hands many times, it will probably be quite difficult for the
Taliban to launch a counter-offensive, since any Taliban troop
concentrations would be easy targets for U.S. fighter jets and -- should we
finally choose to introduce them on the Afghan battlefield -- helicopter
In addition to the tactical
military advantages the capture of this city will have for U.S. war efforts,
humanitarian efforts to feed starving Afghans will get a much needed
boost. About three-quarters of the people in need are in northern
Afghanistan, and it should now be much easier to get them supplies by land,
the much preferred method and the only real way to feed large numbers of
That's the good news.
The bad news is how
unnecessarily long this military success took to achieve.
At the beginning of the
Afghan War, the U.S. took out all Taliban anti-aircraft sites in a day or
two. But then we flew relatively few bombing sorties, and utilized
almost nothing but fighter jets. And the targets were not Taliban
troops, but suddenly discovered additional "strategic assets" of
the Taliban, which were near civilians. Mistakes and carelessness led
to many civilian deaths for what many considered to be dubious military
advantage. Where were the B-52's, and why weren't the Taliban
front-line troops being hit in the field, people began to ask.
After mounting public
complaints by pundits and former military officials commenting on news
programs, the B-52's came and started bombing the Taliban front-line
troops. But again, the sorties were few and results unclear. Our
Northern Alliance allies complained that the slow pace and inaccurate
targeting were leaving Taliban troops relatively unscathed.
So we then dropped in some
Special Ops forces to improve the targeting, ratcheted up the number of
strikes dramatically, and as a result the Taliban started to hurt.
But still, the Northern
Alliance complained about a lack of logistical support from us. Once
again, after the public complaints, the logistical support started in
The result: the capture of
If there had not been a
public outcry about the feeble war effort at the beginning, and thereafter
during each successive stage of not-enough incremental increase, I think
we'd still be hitting a half-dozen Taliban "strategic assets" a
day and that would be all that was happening.
What is shameful is that
during this entire time period when it took public complaints to get the
Bush administration to prosecute the war like they meant it, many civilians
were killed by unnecessary bombing, and an untold number of civilians died
from hunger or lack of medical care. A more vigorous prosecution of
the war from the beginning would have shortened the process considerably and
spared many civilians, who wouldn't have had to be bombed, and saved the
lives of many others, who could have been fed and medically treated.
It's wonderful that the
people of Mazar-i-Sharif are no longer under harsh Taliban rule.
I only hope that -- unlike
its strange, foot-dragging approach to date -- the Bush administration now
makes a focused effort now to rapidly take over Kabul, so the overt
bombing/heavy ground fighting phase of the war can be concluded, and the
urgent humanitarian needs of the Afghan population can be attended to.
And of course, the sooner
Kabul is taken from the Taliban, the greater the likelihood we'll also have
of completing the uprooting of Al Qaeda and the capture of Osama bin
Laden. That's the real point of all this, isn't it?
Considering that Bush has
said the fate of civilization is in the balance, it would not seem a time
for him to continue his dawdling ways.
The Six Most
Dangerous Words: "They Must Know Something We Don't"
November 8, 2001
One can support the goal of
eliminating Osama bin Laden and his Al Qaeda group as threats to the United
States -- and I do support that goal -- and at the same time still differ
with the Bush administration on the proper tactics and strategy to achieve
In the context of just such
discussions -- not whether, but how to get rid of bin Laden and Al
Qaeda -- I'm beginning to hear a certain six disquieting words that
reverberate down from the days of the Vietnam War: "They must know
something we don't."
Those of us protesting the
Vietnam War were often told by our opponents that we did not have all the
facts, that there was undoubtedly top secret intelligence-type information
which would put a lie to our otherwise seemingly intelligent
arguments. Accordingly, our opponents told us, they would continue to
support the Johnson or Nixon administration in prosecuting the war because,
as the conveniently short, all-purpose, and conclusive (at least in their
eyes) counter-argument went: "They must know something we don't."
As eventually became obvious,
not only did "they" not "know something we
don't," but they didn't even know what we knew: that the war was
not winnable because we were on the wrong side, and that we never should
have intervened in the first place.
The present situation with
the Afghanistan War is quite different in that I believe the war is quite
winnable, and that we are properly intervening there. As I've written
elsewhere, it is our war
tactics and strategy that I vehemently object to.
And in that context of
discussing the proper means to win the war, I've had "They must know
something we don't" thrown in my face.
No, they don't know anything
we don't that will support their position. If they did, they would
offer it to bolster their arguments. I just don't buy this
"national security concerns and a desire to protect our sources prevent
our disclosing this information" line. Bin Laden et al know we
can intercept any and all of their electronic communications, so revealing
the content of such intercepted communications doesn't compromise anything
-- at least not according to any logical line of reasoning I've ever heard.
Indeed, to the extent
"they know something we don't" is true, "what they know"
would be precisely that information which discredits their position,
and which they therefore simply don't want to reveal.
That this is the case is
borne out by a recent revelation
concerning the Gulf of
Tonkin resolution. After a reported attack on U.S. warships by
North Vietnam in the Gulf of Tonkin in 1964, Congress authorized President
Johnson "to take all necessary measures to repel any armed attack
against the forces of the United States and to prevent further
This resolution was used by
the Johnson administration as the basis for escalating the war. As
many historians have long concluded, and as the recent disclosure confirms,
President Johnson knew at the time that the attack had never occurred.
So the only thing they knew that we didn't was a fact which would have
undermined their entire authorization to fight the war in the first place.
In 2001, of course, in direct
contrast, the attack on America did occur, and -- as I
apparently can't state often enough since many readers still accuse me of
not wanting America to protect itself -- we do now have the right to go
after bin Laden and al Qaeda.
But that doesn't mean that we
have to accept everything the Bush administration tells us about the war
effort as gospel, and follow in lock-step supporting every aspect of their
war policy. We have the right -- indeed the duty -- to think for
And if something doesn't
smell right, if our own eyes and ears and sense of logic and propriety tell
us something is seriously amiss
with our war effort, those six most dangerous words -- "They know
something we don't" -- should not be allowed to deter us from speaking
out and achieving changes in U.S. policy.
Why Should We Be
Surprised That When the Wealthy Design an Economic System, It Works to
Enrich Them The Most?
November 7, 2001
I was trying to convince my
friend to get health insurance. Even before you reached your
deductible, I told him, you would benefit greatly because of the
"allowed amount" concept. He didn't know what that was, so I
Doctors who are signed up
with the Blue Shield preferred provider system agree to accept as payment in
full for each procedure an "allowed amount," which is established
by the terms of the preferred provider contract between the doctors and Blue
Shield. The allowed amount is often a fraction of the doctors' usual
(quite high!) fee.
Many people understand how
they benefit from this after they have exceed their deductible for the
year: Assume you have reached your deductible for the year, and that
you have a 20% co-payment responsibility. If you then undergo a
procedure for which the doctor usually charges $1000, the allowed amount
might be, for example, $350. So you would pay the doctor 20%, or
$70. Blue Shield would pay the doctor the remaining 80% of the allowed
amount, or $280.
What many people don't
understand, and I didn't fully realize until it benefited me, was that the
allowed amount concept is of great benefit even before you reach the
In the example above, assume
you had not met your deductible for the year even after the procedure.
So the insurance company would not pay any part of the bill. The
benefit, however, is that the doctor is still obligated to accept from you
the allowed amount as payment in full!
So instead of you personally
owing the doctor $1000 for the procedure, you only have to pay $350.
I recently had an in-patient
hospital procedure and had not met my deductible, so my insurance didn't pay
any of it. But I saved so much money from only having to pay the
allowed amount, that I more than covered an entire year of insurance
After I told my friend this,
he was flabbergasted. "You mean, people like you who can afford
private health insurance pay a vastly reduced rate, and the people who can't
afford insurance, who are usually very low-income, are stuck with the full,
sky-high prices?" he rhetorically asked.
Since my friend is pretty
politically savvy, I was surprised that he was surprised at this
So I just rhetorically asked
him in return, "Do you think that an economic system designed by the
wealthy will do anything but benefit them?"
My friend agreed, "Yeah,
I guess that makes sense," but was annoyed at the injustice of it all.
I mentioned to him one other
such example among many, the fact that homeowners are allowed to take an
income tax deduction for mortgage interest payments, while renters have no
comparable benefit. Of course, home owners, as a group, are more
wealthy than most renters.
The wealthy became wealthy by
devoting their time, intelligence and resources to amassing wealth.
One would assume that in a game where they make the rules, the rules will
favor them, and indeed will serve to enhance their position -- that is,
increase their wealth relative to others.
This applies internationally
as well as domestically. Could anyone seriously deny that the world economic system is
deliberately set up in a way that will result in a net transfer of wealth
from the Third World to the industrialized nations who set up the
system? Do you think those who own and control the world are
interested in setting up a system to make them less wealthy and less
As our discussion neared an
end, my friend was muttering in resignation about the injustice of it
all. While I didn't want to press the point at the time, I could have
added that, if all we do is mutter, nothing will ever change. Exactly
what the powers that be want.
[To do more than
mutter, check out the 50
Years is Enough campaign]
Leader We Rescue, One We Don't: Our Way of Silencing a Critic of Bombing
November 6, 2001
When anti-Taliban leader
Abdul Haq called for help to avoid being captured by Taliban forces, the
U.S. response failed.
Haq was executed by the Taliban shortly after his capture.
In direct contrast, when
another rebel against the Taliban, Hamid Karzai, got into trouble with
Taliban troops closing in on him, he was successfully rescued
and whisked out of Afghanistan by U.S. soldiers.
Some might argue that after
we failed to rescue Haq, we revised our procedures, devoted more resources
and paid more attention, and that's why we were able to successfully rescue
My suspicion is that's not
The answer, I would suggest,
is that the U.S. was happy to get rid of Haq because he was a severe critic
of the U.S. bombing campaign.
Abdul Haq, a former
guerrilla commander... was seen by some American officials as the
potential leader of an anti-Taliban uprising.
...after Oct. 7, the day
air attacks on Afghanistan began, his confidence seemed to erode. He said
that the bombing was a terrible mistake, that it was rallying Afghans
around the besieged Taliban.
Last week mourners paid their
condolences to Haq's 16 year-old son, who lives in Union City, California.
There, Haq's vocal anti-bombing stance was confirmed
by Khusal Arsala, whom Haq raised in Pakistan after Arsala's father was
killed fighting the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
...Khusal Arsala, whose
conversations with the uncle he thought of as a second father were both
soul- baring and sophisticated, had much to say about Mr. Haq's position
on the current bombardment of Afghanistan.
"Before that tragic
event in New York and Washington, he was trying to form a coalition
government to replace the Taliban," Mr. Arsala said. "Before
that tragic event, there were lots of tribal leaders who wanted to defect,
join the anti-Taliban forces. But once the U.S. bombardment began, the
Taliban's position was strengthened. His position was clear: he believed
the bombardment would backfire."
Mr. Arsala, who spoke with
Mr. Haq two weeks before his death, said his uncle told him he had never
seen such support for the Taliban as after the bombing.
The New York Times
that Haq's death was considered avoidable, if not downright deliberate on
the part of the U.S., by some of his supporters:
It is too soon, too
difficult, for the family to discuss Mr. Haq's capture and execution. If
they harbor opinions on the bitter tales told by his American associates
(like Robert C. McFarlane, the national security adviser to President
Ronald Reagan) who criticize the United States as failing to help Mr. Haq
during his last desperate hours, they keep them to themselves. Questions
on the subject were politely deflected.
It isn't hard to read between
the lines of all this. The U.S. is always happy to abandon an ally,
like the Kurds, or even acquiesce in their murder, like Diem in Vietnam,
when it suits our purposes.
We demand obedience from our
Third World clients. Those with an independent mind and a mouth we
can't control do not fare well.
I believe Haq was just
another such example of how U.S. foreign policy is, unfortunately, all too
Requests for Help Establishing Democracy May Come Back to Haunt Us
November 5, 2001
The United States appears
close to gaining rights to use airfields in Tajikistan, which borders
northern Afghanistan. Permission to use air bases is also being sought
in two other neighboring countries. Bombing raids, as well as Special
Forces operations, could be launched from these airfields to strike at the
Taliban in support of the Northern Alliance.
This is well and good
now. But what happens after the war?
All three countries -- Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan -- have
horrible human rights records, and are essentially dictatorships.
After we help establish
"democracy" (we'll see what form that really takes) in
Afghanistan, I would expect that opposition groups in the three
"stans" would come to us and say "Hey, you helped establish
democracy across the border in Afghanistan. Help us also."
Having become buddy-buddy
with the "stans" dictators during the war, do we then turn on them
and help the opposition groups? We probably won't, because we'd be
afraid other dictatorships wouldn't help us when we need their help in our
Do we tell the human rights
groups "Sorry, but you have enough democracy in your country already,
so we really don't think we need to get involved"? That would
certainly open us up to charges of hypocrisy. Of course, this really
shouldn't bother us, because it never has in the past, as evidenced by our
history of support for dictatorships all over the post-World War II globe.
There are also the opposition
groups in some of our main "allies" in the war on terrorism --
Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Egypt -- none of which countries have any democracy
either. Such opposition groups, or even revolutionary
"freedom fighters" in these nations may well request our help
I'm sure we won't help any of
them. The best they'll get out of us is that "We are consulting
with your government in order to open up the democratic space in your
country." But nothing will ever come of it.
We support democracy only
when it's convenient to us. And we support dictatorship whenever it's
convenient to us.
But we talk a good game.
Truth of Our
Murderous Intent Towards Afghan Civilians Leaks Out
November 4, 2001
In the most well-managed war,
through the thickest veil of propaganda, the truth will leak out.
Despite the Bush
administration's claim that it means the Afghan civilian population no harm,
statements have recently started cropping up that put the lie to that
For example, there are these
kind words from Admiral Michael Boyce, Chief of the British Defense
Staff. Speaking of 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.
In other words, we'll squeeze
-- meaning blow up, starve and otherwise terrorize -- the people of
Afghanistan until they get rid of the Taliban. Note to Admiral:
starving, sick people are unable to conduct a revolution.
Another example of loose lips
sinking the Bush administration's propaganda ship comes from the Pakistani
dictator, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, who until recently, of course, was the
Taliban's (and hence Osama bin Laden's) main supporter.
Apparently feeling quite
loquacious in a Reuters interview
the other day, General Musharraf indicated that
heavier bombing, even if
politically difficult to sustain in the short run, was the most likely way
of weakening the Taliban to the point where widespread defections would
"One has to achieve
the objective of a military operation," he said, adding:
"Afghanistan has suffered, the people are suffering so much that I am
reasonably sure that there are many people who question the wisdom of
suffering for somebody who is there and not an Afghan, like Osama bin
Laden and his people."
All his verbiage boils down
to: when the people suffer enough from the bombing, the Taliban will fall.
Finally, there is the
following chilling example, which gets to the most basic truth of the
Chowkar-Karez is a small
farming village about 35 miles from Kandahar, the so-called "spiritual
home" of the Taliban. The village was demolished in a U.S.
bombing raid October 22, with great loss of civilian life.
Witnesses talked to by the
Western reporters claimed there were no Taliban troops in the village and
that U.S. planes opened fire on people as they attempted to flee the bombs.
The Pentagon has confirmed
that Chowkar-Karez was attacked by AC-130 Spectre gunships, which fly low
and are armed with cannons. But it has made no further statements, even
though the attack was raised in three different press briefings.
Defense Secretary Donald
Rumsfeld -- asked again this week about the incident after the journalists
visited the site -- professed ignorance. "I cannot deal with that
particular village," he replied. [emphasis added]
This would be bad enough,
deliberate gunning down of fleeing civilians. Administration
apologists, however, would say it was a mistake, or a rogue pilot. But
they couldn't get away with such dissembling after this admission:
Pentagon officials told CNN that Chowkar-Karez was "a fully
legitimate target" because it was a nest of Taliban and al-Qaeda
sympathizers. "The people there are dead because we wanted them
dead," an official said.
In other words, if unarmed
civilians sympathize with the Taliban, we will kill them. That
morally repugnant concept violates every modern rule of warfare.
Our valid goal of eliminating
the threat of Osama bin Laden and his group al Qaeda has been twisted by the
Bush administration into a general attack on the Afghan civilian population.
[more: Bush's policies are cowardly]
Perverted Our Just Cause Into a Dishonorable, Immoral and Cowardly
Slow-Motion Slaughter of Innocents
November 3, 2001
Our use of military force to
overthrow the Taliban would be just.
But instead, the Bush
administration is crucifying a civilian population in order to keep our
professional soldiers out of harm's way. That's dishonorable, immoral
Only High Altitude Bombing
We won't let our airmen get
close enough to the enemy to adequately identify what they are
Instead, we keep them at
30,000 feet, beyond the range of any Taliban weapon, even though we know
that many civilians will be killed by such a method of bombing because of
known and consistent imperfections in the technology.
No Ground Troops
Afghanistan is on the verge
of mass starvation. Our bombing has prompted an ever-growing exodus of
refugees, also at risk from lack of food and medical care. Continued
warfare will prevent aid from reaching those who desperately need it.
Only a quick end to the war will allow these people to be saved.
Yet we are unwilling to use
our ground troops, who would win the war quickly and decisively.
Kabul is defended by just six
to eight thousand Taliban fighters with 20 year old weapons and absolutely
no air cover. They are located on a wide open plain north of the
city. We could easily amass enough U.S. soldiers and close-in air
support to quickly destroy them and take the capital.
Soldiers engaged in direct
combat on the ground could get hurt, however, so our leaders won't let them
Even now, hunger and disease
have begun to kill off the civilian population. Because we fail to
prosecute the war with the means readily available to us, the likelihood of
a famine which will kill millions this winter grows ever more certain.
Richard Nixon utilized a
tactic he called "plausible deniability." He would take
actions that most observers assumed were his doing, but Nixon would create
just enough of a "cover" so he could deny responsibility with a
The Bush administration has a
policy of plausible deniability with respect to its war against the Afghan
We're not directly
"targeting" civilians, it claims. Seemingly true as narrowly
construed, but in reality we've chosen a bombing method that we know to a
certainty will kill many civilians, and terrorize the rest. So in
effect, civilians are being targeted because they are within the
known error range of the weapons we have chosen to use, instead of the more
accurate low altitude bombing available to us.
It isn't out to starve them,
the Bush administration claims, because it's dropping the Afghans
food. Of course, the food represents less than 1% of the need, and we
refuse to even temporarily halt the bombing to allow truck convoys in, which
is the only way, according to all aid groups, to prevent millions of famine
deaths this winter. Not to mention the fact that we're waging the war
in slow-motion fashion -- e.g., it was three weeks before we even started
bombing Taliban front-line troops -- thus prolonging the agony of the
civilian population and guaranteeing the conflict extends into the harsh
A War Against the Afghan
We are waging war
against the Afghan people. We're doing it subtly, with plausible
deniability, but we're doing it nevertheless.
We accuse the Taliban of
using civilians as shields. We should look in the mirror. We're
willing to kill civilians by bombs and starvation in order to keep our
soldiers 100% out of harm's way.
In moral terms, the life of
an Afghan child, old man or woman is worth no less than the life of a 19
year old American soldier.
For those of a religious
persuasion: does God care more about the American soldier than the Afghan
How could it be a just war
when scores if not hundreds of civilians die from our bombs, and not one of
our soldiers? When we're willing to cause mass starvation to avoid
putting our ground troops in harm's way?
Our troops are undeniably
brave and willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for their country. It
is their leaders who are at fault. I am certain that if you asked our
troops, they would rather go in and directly fight and win the battle
quickly and decisively.
I don't want any
American casualties. But basic decency demands that such a goal not be
achieved by sacrificing innocent civilians.
The Army Field Manual
provides that commandos behind enemy lines can not execute prisoners, even
if necessary to save their own lives.
We shouldn't be "pulling
the trigger" either against a defenseless Afghan civilian population
which is effectively a prisoner to our high-tech warfare capability.
We shouldn't be willing to
blow up women and children, and starve millions of innocent people, in order
to keep our soldiers out of harm's way.
Such a course of action is
dishonorable, immoral and cowardly.
Aid To World Trade Center Victims Get to Those Who Need It Most?
Bill O'Reilly, Who Has Been
Monitoring the Disbursement of Monies Collected, Should Step Up to the Plate
on This Particular Issue
November 2, 2001
Something like $1.2 billion
has been collected by scores of charities to help the victims of the World
Trade Center attack.
Much of the coverage I have
seen has focused on the financial plight of the families of deceased
financial industry workers.
I've seen very little
concerning the economic difficulties that will face the families of the
low-income service industry workers who lost their lives.
In addition, thousands of
low-wage workers from just one union, the Hotel and Restaurant Workers, have
been laid off as a direct or indirect result of the tragedy.
When a brokerage office was
destroyed on September 11, by and large the surviving workers moved to
different quarters. But the service workers who supported them didn't
move along with the brokerage firm. Their jobs just vanished.
I certainly have as much
emotional sympathy for the family who lost a well-paid bond trader as for
the family who lost a minimum-wage dishwasher in the Windows on the World
restaurant atop the World Trade Center. But the financial
ramifications for each are quite different.
Financial workers with six-
or seven-figure salaries would likely have had hefty life insurance
policies. Companies like Cantor Fitzgerald are providing generous
monetary support for the families of their deceased employees. Such
employees were often from solid middle-class backgrounds, and the surviving
families will often have a network of financially solvent, if not equally
well-to-do relatives and friends from whom to garner financial support.
None of this is true for the
low-income service workers. One recent account
An enormous number of
low-wage workers, many without health or unemployment benefits... are
finding themselves confronted by the horrifying parlay of hunger and
imminent eviction from their homes.
I hope the charities involved
are making a special effort to seek out and aid the low-income
workers. These are the people who, past experience shows us, will be
least able to find such aid on their own.
Bill O'Reilly Can Help
Bill O'Reilly, star of the Fox
News cable talk show "The O'Reilly Factor," has been doing a good
job monitoring the various charities to make sure that all the money donated
for World Trade Center victims goes directly to them, and not to the
overhead or other programs of the charities.
O'Reilly also appropriately
made a big stink when Cantor Fitzgerald was slow on the draw in disbursing
its promised financial aid. I recall him proudly noting that as the
result of his efforts, the wife of a deceased bond trader soon received over
$20,000 in assistance from the company.
What I haven't seen O'Reilly
do is use his self-appointed "watching out for the little guy"
role to really watch out for the little guys in this tragedy, the low-income
workers with no financial cushion, for whom the tragedy may mean not just a
decline in life-style, but hunger and homelessness.
The $20,000 the Cantor
Fitzgerald widow received is nearly two years salary for a minimum wage
So I hope O'Reilly gets on
the case about this aspect of the tragedy, and helps ensure that generous
financial assistance reaches those who need it most.
Any readers who want to make
a donation to a charity that has been primarily focusing on aiding such
low-income workers, can visit The Robin
Hood Relief Fund.
UPDATE: I should have
mentioned that O'Reilly did do one segment before I wrote this on the family
of a window washer who lost his life in the collapse of the World Trade
Center. O'Reilly did a follow-up on the family after I wrote
this. That's still not the level of low-income, minimum wage workers
I'm talking about, but it's a step in the right direction.
Also, here's a link
to a subsequent New York Times article on this subject.
Plays Word Games While Women and Children Suffer and Die
November 1, 2001
As someone who supports
military action to eliminate Osama bin Laden and his Al Qaeda terrorist
group, recent events are quite disconcerting.
At a press conference today,
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was asked about recent criticism that
the war was progressing too slowly. Rumsfeld replied that we are only
in the early stages of the war on terrorism, and that the president had
repeatedly told the country that this effort could take a long time, years
Whom is Rumsfeld trying to
kid? The "war on terrorism" that everyone understood could
take years was the entire global war against terrorists, which would
involve, at the minimum, "smoking out" bin Laden from his hiding
places in Afghanistan, destroying his terrorist cells there and in many
other countries, and going after other terrorist groups which had global
reach and could threaten us.
No one thought that when the
president said the war on terrorism could take a long time, he meant the
part of the war against the Taliban. The talk before the war
began was that Afghanistan was so target-deficient that we would run out of
targets in a day or two. The Taliban would fall in a few weeks, if not
days. It would be a complete walk-over.
That of course has not
happened. Some Bush administration officials would have us believe
that they didn't know the Taliban were such tough fighters, and would hang
on for so long.
The reason for the glacial
pace of the war effort is that the Bush administration is conducting this
war like it has all the time in the world. It waited three weeks
before beginning even minimally heavy bombing with B-52's of Taliban front
line troops. Without the public and pundit outcry about the lack of
such heavy bombing, I doubt it would have started yet.
What disgusts me about this
attitude is that it ignores -- indeed seems not to give a damn about --
what's happening to the civilian population of Afghanistan. Hundreds
of thousands, if not millions are being displaced, fleeing the
bombing. What untold misery these and other already impoverished
Afghan men, women, children and babies are being subjected to, lacking
adequate food and having no available medical care.
In addition to the steadily
mounting toll of dead and wounded civilians from our bombs and missiles, it
is impossible to believe that thousands of additional civilians are not
succumbing to the deteriorating conditions as they flee, or cower in fear in
their homes under the American onslaught.
Americans feel anxiety, not
knowing when the next terrorist attack will hit. But at least when
Americans are in their homes, they can feel relatively safe.
But 24 hours a day, 7 days a
week, no Afghan can feel safe at all. It must induce mind-numbing
terror to know that even in the sanctuary of one's home, at any moment an
American bomb or missile can come crashing through and obliterate you and
all you love.
This is not just in cities
like Kabul, but even in remote villages, which have been hit by errant
bombs, or sometimes apparently even deliberately targeted
under the mistaken impression that they are Taliban hideouts.
The Bush administration's
take-our-time attitude just needlessly prolongs civilian suffering in
Afghanistan. Plus in a geopolitical sense, the longer the bombing
drags on, the more the Muslim world is enraged because the more it looks
like it is the Afghan people, not the Taliban who are being made to
suffer. And of course, the longer the bombing goes on, the greater the
number of previously pro-American Afghans who will rally to the Taliban, a
phenomenon that has been reported in recent days.
Don't we want the Taliban out
of power as soon as possible, so whatever resources that Afghanistan still
possesses will be denied to bin Laden and Al Qaeda? Shouldn't
speed be one of our goals, since as long as bin Laden is still at large, he
can be planning new assaults against us?
And shouldn't we want to wrap
us this phase of the war before the fierce Afghan winter arrives, torturing
even more brutally the Afghan people, and making any further military
Are we just going to bomb and
bomb and use small numbers of Special Forces advisers, and hope the Northern
Alliance can at some undetermined point in the future defeat the
Taliban? Polls show Americans are willing to suffer tens of thousand
of Americans killed in order to defeat the terrorists. No one wants to
see American casualties, but shouldn't we be using massive numbers of ground
troops to get the job done quickly, once and for all?
I can't help but think of the
Vietnam War and the U.S. contra war against Nicaragua, where the American
attitude seemed to be, if we can't defeat you militarily, we'll destroy your
country as an example to the rest of the world of what happens when you dare
oppose the United States.
Again, I want us to
destroy the Taliban and Al Qaeda. It's our interminably slow, almost
lackadaisical effort that is so deeply disturbing.
The bottom line is: if, as
the Bush administration claims, our war isn't against the Afghan people,
then why are we conducting the war in a manner guaranteed to intensify and
prolong their suffering?