U.S., Afraid to
Use Its Own Soldiers to Guarantee Food Aid to Starving Millions, Also
Refuses to Let Europeans Do So
November 30, 2001
While many thought that the
conquest of northern Afghanistan by the Northern Alliance and the resultant
end of U.S. bombing there would allow food shipments to resume in
significant enough quantities to prevent mass starvation of millions of
Afghans, the opposite has been happening.
According to The New York
Times, the level of tonnage being delivered has actually dropped
by 50% in the last two weeks.
The main problem is
insecurity. Towns and cities are so chaotic that relief agencies cannot
safely operate. Many roads are off limits because of lawlessness and
Most foreign aid workers
have yet to return to Afghanistan because their organizations fear for
their safety, a fear underlined by the killings of eight foreign
"Our expectations for
returning quickly and resuming our work were certainly not met," said
Oliver Ulrich of the United Nations Office of the Coordination of
Humanitarian Affairs. "The general lawlessness is a huge problem —
not knowing who is in control and who can assure your safety."
Instead of new supply
routes opening up to fleets of trucks, old routes are shutting down.
The U.S. bombing campaign
forced a halt to the truck convoys carrying food aid at a crucial time,
right before the harsh Afghan winter. The U.S. has a moral obligation
to quickly establish law and order so that millions don't starve because of
What is completely and
absolutely disgusting is that not only won't the U.S. send its own troops to
do the job, but it won't let anyone else do it either!
Several European nations
have been eager to send thousands of troops to parts of Afghanistan no
longer controlled by the Taliban to bring order and ease aid shipments,
but American officials so far are resisting.
The Bush administration
said today that it was too soon to send international peacekeepers to
Afghanistan, calling the conditions there too uncertain and too dangerous
for that mission.
Huh?! Conditions are
"too uncertain and too dangerous" for soldiers?!
The European nations
understand that "uncertain" and "dangerous" areas are
precisely where soldiers are supposed to go. That's what
they're trained for.
Early in the war, aid groups
asked for a short bombing halt to allow food shipments in. The U.S.
Then after the Taliban fell,
the British started landing troops near Mazar-i-Sharif to establish security
in that area. The Northern Alliance objected, and the British scuttled
Since then, the Northern
Alliance has shown that it either cannot establish order or doesn't want
to. And it won't let anyone else do so either.
It's almost like the United
States and its best new friend, that band of human rights abusers and former
dictators of Afghanistan known as the Northern Alliance, actually want
to see mass starvation.
It's really quite
incomprehensible. Unless, of course, the explanation is that we have
some "evil-doers" among those leading us.
as Russians Re-enter Kabul To Set Up a Field Hospital: Where Is U.S.
Emergency Medical Aid?
November 29, 2001
After the Soviet Union
invaded and occupied Afghanistan in 1979, many leaders of the Northern
Alliance sided with the Soviet Union, and fought alongside the Soviets
against the mujahideen "freedom-fighters" and the main benefactor
of the freedom-fighters, the United States. Now, of course, the Northern Alliance is our great
According to a report
in The New York Times, the Northern Alliance -- without notifying the
U.N. or anyone else -- recently invited the Russians into Kabul to build a
field hospital, as well as to prepare a new embassy. The Russians
arrived earlier this week.
While the Northern Alliance
insisted that there would be no lingering hostility towards the Russians
based on the Soviet Union's brutal occupation of Afghanistan, many Afghans
have expressed continuing intense hatred for the Russians, and have vowed to
kill them if they can get away with it.
Inviting such a reviled force
into the capital indicates that the Northern Alliance is quite tone-deaf
concerning the sentiments of the vast majority of Afghans, who strongly
opposed the Soviet occupation of their nation. Time will tell if this
is an isolated faux pas by the Northern Alliance, or the beginning of
a consistent pattern of conduct, which would create a huge obstacle in the
way of establishing a broad-based government to rule post-Taliban
The presence of the Russians
to set up a field hospital raises another important question: where is the
As I wrote earlier, we have a moral
obligation to provide medical care and other assistance to innocent bombing
victims as soon as practicable.
Yet such does not seem to be
happening at all.
For example, after the
liberation of Kunduz, the hospital there was essentially non-functional,
able to provide no health care at all. A report
describes a 12 year-old girl dying from shrapnel wounds in her stomach:
The child rested on her
back on a dirty bed, looking trance-like at the ceiling and biting a green
Her abdomen had been
pierced by shrapnel in the morning when an unexploded bomb in her
neighborhood suddenly detonated, and now, as evening approached, her belly
was swollen from the bleeding inside. Dr. Abdulhadi Jawid pressed his
finger lightly near the trickling wound, causing tears to run from the
child's eyes. He pulled back his hand.
"We have no medicine
for this patient, and no way to operate to take out the pieces of
bomb," the doctor said.
Why hasn't the U.S. set up a
field hospital in Kunduz, or at least airlifted this poor girl to a hospital
ship for treatment?
I'm not talking here about
caring for every sick person in the world (although there would be nothing
wrong with that idea!).
I'm addressing our moral obligation to help those innocent civilians in this
one country whom we have directly and severely harmed.
Given how easy it would be to
accomplish that goal, our failure to do so is appalling.
Is One Purpose
of Secrecy of Bush Military Tribunals to Hide Incompetence of Intelligence
November 28, 2001
William Safire has reported
that when eight German saboteurs were tried by a military court during World
War II, at least part of the reason those trials were held in secret was to
keep an embarrassing law enforcement foul-up in that case from becoming
It seems that those German
saboteurs had landed on U.S. shores from U-boats. Immediately, one of
them called the FBI to alert them about the mission. The FBI, however,
wrote the guy off as a crackpot. The guy called again and this time
convinced the FBI he was for real. That is the chain of events that
Safire says was being hidden by the secrecy of the military trials of the
saboteurs that followed.
Many Americans are familiar
with the case of Zacarias Moussaoui, who was arrested
by federal authorities
on Aug. 17 on immigration
charges after a Minnesota flight school contacted the F.B.I. to report
that he had been acting suspiciously. Instructors were especially alarmed
by his request to learn how to fly large jet aircraft but not how to take
off or land.
American law enforcement
officials say they suspect that the man, Zacarias Moussaoui, a French
citizen of Moroccan descent, was meant to be the 20th hijacker in the
wonder whether a closer look at Mr. Moussaoui before Sept. 11 might have
prevented the attacks.
As my detailed timeline points out, top FBI and
Department of Justice officials repeatedly refused the requests of field
agents for search warrants to continue their investigation of Moussaoui.
Now, lo and behold, Bush
administration officials are considering
making Zacarias Moussaoui the very first suspected terrorist to be tried by
military tribunal. Might that have anything to do with the desire to
hold a secret trial and thus prevent further embarrassing details of their
incompetence from being divulged?
Is Guilty Once More of Sloppy, Misleading Journalism, This Time About
the United Way
November 27, 2001
Bill O'Reilly, in his
November 26 Talking Points memo which always opens his program, charged that
the United Way had misled contributors to a TV telethon which raised money
to aid victims of the September 11 attacks and their families.
O'Reilly charged that while
contributors were told all the money would go to the victims and their
families, in fact, some of the money was being diverted to other uses:
[W]ith your donations, the
United Way has lent the Brooklyn Philharmonic, for example, $200,000. The
Institute for the Development of Earth Awareness got a grant for $5,000.
The Jennifer Muller Dance
Troupe got a grant for $25,000. And the New York Scandia Symphony got as
much as $20,000. The Mothers' Voice AIDS prevention program got a grant
After giving more such
examples, O'Reilly makes his accusation. His language is so strong
that it is worth quoting at some length:
Now, the United Way says
that these and other organizations like them were all adversely affected
by the terror attack, and we have no argument with that. But that's not
what Americans were told by the Hollywood celebrities who pitched us on
TV. We were pitched helping the families...
[T]hese organizations may
be very worthy of support, but they should be under the banner of the 9/11
fund. Should they be under that banner?
The fact is that the United
Way has changed the mandate in midstream, saying now the entire 9/11 fund
will not go directly to the grieving families, as was the telethon pitch.
In the new turn, the fund will go toward, quote, "immediate and
longer-term needs of the victims, their families, and communities affected
by the tragedy."
So now the canvas is much
wider, and some Americans believe they've been snookered. So the right
thing to do is for the United Way to give refunds if people want them. A
canceled check or credit card slip would be proof.
If the United Way is not
willing to do that, it will be forever marked as an outfit that cannot be
And that's the memo.
Before utilizing such strong
language, one would assume that a journalist, especially one with as large
an audience as O'Reilly, would be responsible enough to check his facts and
be sure of them before making any accusations. As it turns out,
O'Reilly -- not so unusually -- had no idea what he was talking about, as
became evident when later in that program, he interviewed Joshua
Gotbaum, the CEO of the United Way's September 11 Fund:
O'REILLY: What say you, Mr.
GOTBAUM: The telethon money was specifically reserved for victims and
their families, and not one dime of that money is going to cultural
...There is the General September 11 Fund, whose doors were opened on
September 11. There is a separate fund, also administered jointly by the
United Way and the New York Community Trust, that was set up specifically
to receive the contributions...
O'REILLY: No telethon money's going into that general fund.
GOTBAUM: The telethon money is not going into the general fund. The
telethon money is reserved specifically for the victims and their
O'REILLY: All right. Now, is all of it going to go to the victims and
GOTBAUM: One hundred percent...
O'REILLY: I'm just hearing tonight now there's two funds. I just thought
there was one. Everybody else in my organization just felt there was one
fund. Now you're telling me there's two. This is confusing, very confusing
GOTBAUM: Well, then I think it's very important that we set the record
O'Reilly immediately switched
issues, and berated Mr. Gotbaum for not having yet set up a data base
identifying all the victims. O'Reilly also pointed out that while Mr.
Gotbaum was saying that the United Way would take no administrative costs
out of the telethon money, that was misleading, since the United Way
operates by giving grants to grass roots charities who actually distribute
the funds to victims, and those grass roots charities may retain a small
portion to cover their own administrative costs.
On both those latter points,
O'Reilly raises valid issues concerning which the United Way can be validly
But after opening his program
with what amounts to an accusation of fraud against the United Way, O'Reilly
never once apologized for his erroneous charge.
Shouldn't he have checked
with Mr. Gotbaum or another United Way official before making his charge?
Compounding the matter,
O'Reilly's Talking Points memo from yesterday which makes the charge is
today posted on O'Reilly's web site. Why is O'Reilly still publicizing
that charge when he knows it's untrue?
Let's even give the benefit
of the doubt to O'Reilly, and assume that he reasonably tried to ascertain
the facts from the United Way before his broadcast, and was unable to get
from that organization the kind of clarification that Mr. Gotbaum later
provided. Even so, why, again, does O'Reilly continue to publicize the
charge in his posted Talking Points memo?
O'Reilly does provide a
transcript of the Gotbaum interview, but under the misleading banner
"Why is some of the money that was raised for families of terror
victims being funneled to arts groups?"
To top it all off, in today's
Talking Points memo, O'Reilly broadcast a snipped of yesterday's Gotbaum
interview, but not the portion which makes clear Gotbaum's correction of
O'Reilly's erroneous charge.
Talk about a No-Spin
Zone! O'Reilly runs an All-Spin Zone.
[more about Bill O'Reilly]
the Marines Have Landed in Afghanistan
A Life-long Anti-War Activist Intends
No Sarcasm By These Words
November 26, 2001
Many of us who support
military action to eliminate the threat of Osama bin Laden and his Al Qaeda
terrorist group have been highly
critical of the specific military policies the Bush administration has
employed to accomplish that end. Foremost among my criticisms has been
the reliance on high altitude bombing
which has had as its reasonably expected and inevitable outcome many
civilian deaths and injuries from mistargeted or malfunctioning bombs and
missiles, even the "smartest" ones.
A second great concern of
mine has been our reliance on the Northern Alliance to do our fighting for
us, given that loose coalition's horrific
past human rights record.
So it is with great relief
that I greet the arrival of the Marines in Afghanistan. Let me count
1) The Marines are far less
likely to commit human rights violations against captured Taliban prisoners,
or innocent civilians for that matter, than the Northern Alliance. I
think the captured Taliban soldiers, certainly the non-Afghan ones, should
be imprisoned for a long period of time so that they cannot simply go to
another country and commit terrorist acts there. Such of them as may
be guilty of torture or murder during their time as Taliban soldiers should
be tried by the new Afghan government. All that being said, I would
not want the Northern Alliance torturing or summarily executing them, since
whatever the Northern Alliance does we are, given our enabling of them,
morally responsible for.
2) If the Northern Alliance
does start committing atrocities against civilians or others, Secretary of
Defense Donald Rumsfeld can no longer use as an excuse that we do not have
troops on the ground to stop such occurrences.
3) If the Northern Alliance,
or local warlords, or anyone else should interfere with the critical efforts
now underway to bring in and distribute enough food to prevent up to 7.5 million starvation deaths this winter
in Afghanistan, the Marines could be used to end such interference and
guarantee that the starving men, women and children will be fed.
4) Last but not least, these
and other U.S. ground forces which may follow will be able to more quickly
eradicate the remaining pockets of Taliban and Al Qaeda resistance, as well
as bring the hunt to find Osama bin Laden himself to a relatively quicker
conclusion than would otherwise be the case. One of my big complaints
about the Bush administration strategy, especially during the early days of
the war, was the glacial,
we-have-all-the-time-in-the-world pace of the effort. Prolonging
the war meant prolonging and increasing the amount of civilian casualties
from bombing and starvation. Prolonging the war also meant that the
period of time in which we were under serious threat from Al Qaeda was
extended. So a quicker end to the war will allow the bombing to halt,
help to be given to the beleaguered Afghan people, and the rebuilding of the
country to begin -- and for our country to be safer from terrorist attack.
After being opposed to
virtually every use of U.S. military force from Vietnam to Central America,
it feels a bit unusual to be celebrating the arrival of the U.S. Marines in
a Third World country. I certainly would not have been celebrating had
the Marines landed in Nicaragua
in 1988 to overthrow the Sandinistas!
But a fair, and yes rational
evaluation of events must admit that the proper use of military force is
sometimes required, and it is with such a hope for the proper use of
military force that I write these words of support for the arrival of U.S.
Marines on Afghan soil.
It is worth noting that it is
just such sentiments -- acknowledging that in some circumstances, the use of
military force is required to avoid even more bloodshed -- that animated the
German Green party to vote
to support the German government's decision to commit their troops to the
Afghan war effort.
I hope with all my being that
the landing of the U.S. Marines in Afghanistan will be a blessing, not a
curse for the people of that nation. Such a course of events could
begin to make up for the harm done by the U.S. military in so many Third
World nations since World War II.
Being Maimed and Killed As They Pick Up Unexploded U.S. Cluster Bombs
November 25, 2001
The food packets being
dropped on Afghanistan are yellow. The cluster bombs being dropped on
Afghanistan are designed to break up and disperse dozens of smaller bombs,
which are yellow. A concern immediately expressed by humanitarian
officials was that children looking for food would see a yellow unexploded
cluster bomb and think it was a food package. They would grab the bomb and
be killed or maimed.
That is what is now
happening. Even The New York Times, a newspaper which has been
notoriously averse to doing any serious
investigations of civilian casualties, just reported
that a 10 year old, mistaking a cluster bomb for a food package, lost
three fingers and is expected to lose his whole hand.
A 16 year-old was decapitated
after picking up a piece of that same bomb. Two other children were
also injured. This is just in one neighborhood.
[It can't help but be noted
that the "parent" cluster bomb in question, when it initially
landed, killed twelve people, most from the same extended family. This
was not reported by The New York Times until now, in the context of
the yellow color issue.]
Of course, even children not
looking for food can pick up these and other types of unexploded
ordinance. Not to mention the fact Afghanistan is strewn with millions
of land mines from its previous wars.
Now that the fighting is
almost over, the United States must take responsibility to spend whatever it
takes to rid the country of all this unexploded ordinance, certainly that
portion of it resulting from our present bombing campaign.
Addressing the immediate
issue of the common yellow color of cluster bombs and food packages, one
must ask, what is wrong with the U.S. government?
They said they would change
the color of the food packages to blue, after the supply of yellow
food packages ran out. That's obscene! Why didn't they
immediately change the color of the food packages?
Certainly they can find a use
for the yellow packages. They can be utilized the next time we distribute
food to hungry people on whom we are not also dropping cluster bombs.
When the Soviet Union was
fighting the mujahedeen in Afghanistan, it scattered land mines disguised as
toys. Our actions now are not much better. Every yellow cluster
bomb dropped after the U.S. military became aware of the
confusion-with-food-packages issue is akin to a war crime!
Every child who loses an arm
or a foot, we cut it off. Every child who is killed, we cold-bloodedly
It would have been the
simplest thing in the world to have switched the color. But we
didn't. And we still haven't.
All that blood is on our
Silence On Civilian Casualties Is Deafening
November 24, 2001
The U.S. media has carried
sporadic reports of
"accidental" bombings where civilians have been killed, but has
ignored many other incidents reported in the foreign press. Moreover,
there has been no systematic investigation by the press of the entire
bombing campaign in Afghanistan to determine and evaluate the overall extent
of civilian deaths and injuries caused directly by U.S. bombs and missiles
(the number of starvation deaths caused indirectly by the chaotic conditions
resulting from the bombing campaign will never be known).
The Bush administration
claims there have been few civilian casualties, but has not provided any
details, has not made available their figures on the total number of
civilian dead and injured.
Instead, the administration
officials have complained about the
reporting of civilian casualties by Al Jazeera, the independent Arab news
network based in Qatar. Again, if the Bush administration has
counter-evidence that the Al Jazeera reports are false, let administration
officials present it. Instead, Colin Powell tried to convince the emir
of Qatar to muzzle the station, and a U.S missile destroyed the Kabul office
of Al Jazeera, an attack the U.S. says was accidental, but which Al Jazeera
claimed was deliberate.
The U.S. media seem fully
capable of investigating and reporting on the intricacies of Northern
Alliance infighting: we'll read that a Northern Alliance official
offended the nephew of a tribal chieftain, which led to complications in a
nearby village when the cousin of the chieftain... you get the idea.
Details ad infinitum about this, but self-censorship about civilian
The situation is reminiscent
of mass media coverage of U.S. intervention in Central America in the
1980's. U.S. and foreign human rights organizations screamed as loud
as they could about torture and mass murder being committed by forces
supported by the United States, such as the Salvadoran and Guatemalan
governments, and the contra terrorists in Nicaragua. Yet by and large,
the media ignored these atrocities.
Then decades later,
institutions such as The New York Times would report that, hey, a mass grave was
found in this village, and a massacre did occur back then. But
the newspaper could have found the mass grave and reported on it just as
easily back then.
Since the Bush administration
has repeatedly stated that the war in Afghanistan is just the first phase in
a military campaign to destroy terrorist networks around the world, it is
especially incumbent upon the U.S. mass media to undertake now the
type of systematic investigations which can establish clearly whether the
warfare methods adopted by the Bush administration are or are not killing
innocent men, women and children in a manner that could easily be avoided by
a change in tactics, for example, bombing only from low altitudes, and
relying more on ground troops who
can actually see whom they are firing upon.
Such an investigation is
needed right now to influence policy for the immediately upcoming additional
military actions; we don't need ex post facto exposés a decade from
Latest estimates are that the
United States lost about 4200 innocent people in the horrific September 11
terrorist attacks. The United States has 11 times the population of
Afghanistan. So if more than 381 Afghans have been killed by U.S.
bombs and missiles, Afghanistan would have suffered, proportionally, a
greater loss than the U.S. did on September 11. And of course,
Afghanistan is a terribly poor nation, beleaguered by hunger and incipient
famine, so it has far less capacity to rebound from the destruction wrought
upon it than do we.
The mass media, at least some
of them, need to prove that they are more than mouthpieces reading aloud or
printing the latest Bush administration press release.
[UPDATE: study shows over 3500 bombing deaths!]
Time! Tobacco Smokers Can't Blow Smoke Into Someone Else's Home Under
November 23, 2001
Under a law just passed
in Montgomery County, Maryland, if a neighbor's tobacco smoke wafts from
their home into yours, you can file a complaint with the county's Department
of Environmental Protection.
If it is found that the smoke
in question poses "a health hazard to humans, plants or animals"
or unreasonably interferes "with the use or enjoyment of residential or
non-residential property," that neighbor would have to mitigate the
problem, or face fines of up to $750 per violation.
Opponents of this long
overdue measure, including, of course, the tobacco companies, are all
atwitter, assailing what they call an unprecedented attempt to interfere
with "what one does in one's own home."
A few points they
1) You already can't do
whatever you want in your own apartment without regard to its effect on
neighbors. If you play your stereo too loud "in your own
home," neighbors can force you to lower it if the volume they hear in
their home unreasonably interferes with their use of their
2) Tobacco smoke presents an
even stronger case. With the stereo, only sound waves enter the
neighbor's unit. With smoke, the actual odor and carcinogen molecules
enter the neighbor's home. And to the extent those molecules alight on
the neighbor, an "assault," defined as an "unwanted
touching," has actually been committed.
3) Worse, while the sound
waves vanish after the stereo is shut off, tobacco odor (and, for all we
know, the carcinogenic effects) linger on for hours or even days.
4) Turning the smokers'
argument around against them, the neighbor is doing what he wants in his own
apartment -- breathing non-polluted air -- so the smoker is actually
preventing the neighbor from doing what the neighbor wants in the neighbor's
5) This entire notion of
"in my own apartment" just doesn't make any sense. Can I
fill a water pistol with urine and every time you walk by, squirt you?
After all, I'm doing what I want in my own apartment. Of course, what
I'm doing in own apartment is also extending beyond my own apartment, and
that's precisely the point the smokers ignore about their own activities.
6) Civil libertarians who
warn about Big Brother and related blather are way off base. The law
doesn't prevent you from smoking in your house. Smoke 24 hours a day,
seven days a week. Smoke ten cigarettes and twelve cigars at
once. Invite all your smoking friends over to do the same.
You're free to do all that and more.
Just don't let any of
that stinking, carcinogenic smoke escape out of your house to get the rest
of us sick in our homes.
UPDATE: The county
executive vetoed the bill. It's unclear whether the board will be able
to override the veto.
Admonition: Don't Be So Stingy, America!
"More people are going hungry in
the richest city in the richest country in the history of the world."
November 22, 2001
One way to show one's
thanksgiving for being blessed with unprecedented abundance would be to
share some of that abundance with others less fortunate.
Unfortunately, while in their own minds Americans consider themselves to be
a generous people, in reality they are proving to be anything but.
I'll just briefly mention
here the fact that the United States devotes far less a percentage
of its Gross Domestic Product to foreign aid than any other industrialized
nation. Many of those other countries, for their size, actually give
several times as much as we do, and one is literally ten times more
generous than we are.
What is particularly galling
in this post-9/11 period, is hearing the continual drumbeat from the media
about how wonderfully generous we Americans have been in rallying to
contribute $1.5 billion to the victims of the terrorist attacks.
As I wrote five weeks ago, what's been
contributed is a lot of money, but for our population size, does not
represent a heck of a sacrifice on most people's part. There are about
105 million households in the United States. So the average donation
per household is about $15.
What's worse is the
"robbing Peter to pay Paul" trade-off. In other words, as
the previous column detailed, people were simply taking the charitable
donations they would have made to other charities, and sending them instead
to 9/11-related funds. Those other charities were left wanting and
unable to help the needy ones who depended on them.
It was hoped that as the
weeks went by, people would dig a little deeper and also send desperately
needed contributions to those charities unrelated to September 11.
Unfortunately, the New York Times reports
that organizations that provide food to hungry people in the New York region
continue to suffer drastically reduced donations:
Interviews with food
pantries and soup kitchens around the region indicate that several are
forgoing the free turkeys for Thanksgiving, and many others are warning
that they may have to eliminate year-round meal programs and other
services for the poor if things do not improve.
Joel Berg, executive
director of the New York City Coalition Against Hunger, said some of the
city's 1,000 soup kitchens and food pantries had reported turning away
hungry people more often since Sept. 11...
"As a result, more
people are going hungry in the richest city in the richest country in the
history of the world."
Could it be said any more
clearly: in the richest city in the richest country in the history of the
world, more people are going hungry.
Hopefully between now and
Christmas, Americans suffering from "donor fatigue" can perhaps
"cure" themselves of this affliction by foregoing one or two
doodad purchases and transferring the money they thus save to the less
fortunate among us.
Americans see themselves as a
deeply religious people. All religions stress the need to give
generously to those in need. Perhaps nowhere is this ethical
injunction stated more powerfully than in Matthew 25:32-46. Asked
on Judgment Day by those condemned to Hell the reason for their punishment,
42... I was hungry and you
gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43. I was a
stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick
and in prison and you did not visit me.' 44. Then they also will answer,
'Lord, when did we see thee hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or
sick or in prison, and did not minister to thee?' 45. Then he will answer
them, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it not to one of the least of
these, you did it not to me.'
As we treat the least of
those among us, is how we treat God. Would any religion deny that
America, wake up!
November 21, 2001
What are those incredibly
strange noises we hear coming out of the White House? When cats start
barking and dogs begin meowing, you know something's amiss.
George Bush, Colin
Powell and even Laura
Bush, among others, have a new big cause, loudly proclaiming their deep
concern for the rights of women in Afghanistan.
Of course, they said nothing
about this issue in the five years prior to the Afghan War. And even
after the Afghan War started, they waited several weeks to bring up the
subject in any meaningful way.
Why the sudden interest in
the human rights of Afghanistan's horribly beleaguered women?
First, it's one element of
the Bush administration's just recently expanded effort to win the
propaganda war, which they feared they were losing to the Taliban. The
Taliban mistreatment of women is so universally condemned that merely
raising the issue is an easy way to score points.
Second, there's not a little
hope among the White House's re-born suffragists that as a byproduct, this
pro-women's rights rhetoric will help shrink the gender gap in the U.S.
electorate between Republicans and Democrats.
Does anyone seriously believe
that had the events of 9/11 not taken place, Laura Bush would be taking over
one of her husband's weekly radio addresses to announce her solidarity with
the suffering women of Afghanistan?
All this being said, I'm not
Better that Bush does the
right thing for the wrong reasons, than -- as is most often the case -- the
wrong thing for the wrong reasons.
Put another way, Bush and his
cohorts never do a damn thing for anyone other than themselves and those in
their wealthy, ruling class-type circles -- unless they themselves will
benefit at least as much as those they are purporting to help. So if
the Bush administration can ensure that women's rights are guaranteed in
post-Taliban Afghanistan, more power to them, regardless of whether such a
success also narrows the U.S. electoral gender gap. (I would hope that no
one would be fooled by this transparently non-heartfelt policy, but assume
that many people will be.)
The operative word is if.
Talk is cheap. Let's see what type of treatment is accorded women in
Afghanistan after a new government takes over.
Beyond that, let's see
whether Bush's newfound concern for women's rights extends beyond just where
it's politically expedient, and continues to where it's not, e.g., Saudi
Arabia, where women face some of the same drastic restrictions the Taliban
imposed on them.
I suspect George Bush,
feminist will quickly disappear. I could be wrong. And I hope I
Aid Worker Admits They Were Guilty of Proselytizing
November 20, 2001
In the midst of celebrating
the rescue of the eight Christian aid workers imprisoned in Afghanistan, not
much mention was made of the fact that one of them -- American Dana Curry --
has now admitted
that they were guilty as charged.
"Eighty percent of the
charges against us were false," Ms. Curry said, acknowledging that
some accusations were correct.
She said they had gone into
an Afghan home and that she had given one Afghan family a photocopy of a
book of stories about Jesus in Persian and English. She also said Afghans
had been shown a film about Jesus.
I certainly believe that the
Taliban law against teaching any religion other than Islam is unjust,
violating the fundamental human right of freedom of religion.
That being acknowledged, one
would hope that the happy ending to this episode will not encourage
similarly reckless behavior by other religious aid workers or missionaries.
The eight foreigners,
including two Americans, probably felt a bit protected by their Western
status in Afghanistan and assumed they would not face any severe punishment
The problem is that their
illegal preaching endangered their indigenous co-workers and those whom they
were proselytizing. Sixteen Afghans who worked with them at Shelter
Now, a German-based Christian organization, were arrested along with the
eight foreigners. Many observers felt that the sixteen Afghans would
likely receive the death penalty after being found guilty.
Their illegal proselytizing
endangered not only the lives of their co-workers, but countless others: the
aid workers were there are part of an international effort to feed starving
Afghans, and the Taliban could well have halted the entire aid effort in
This is not just my
supposition, it is the conclusion
of their fellow aid workers:
"These laws were
well-known to everyone," said Fayaz Shah, head of the United Nations
World Food Program in Kabul. "It's like walking in a minefield, and
when one blows, you yell, 'Why did this happen?' But you should know. You
were in a minefield."
...The potential of more
arrests has left the aid agencies in fear. People say the Shelter Now
episode could eventually lead to a huge withdrawal — or expulsion — of
the agencies. That would be catastrophic for the needy.
That dreadful prospect
complicates the moral judgments of aid workers who would ordinarily ache
with sympathy for their jailed colleagues. As it is, commiseration often
is coupled with anger. Many people here presume that the arrested
foreigners were guilty of reckless proselytizing; however well-intentioned
the preaching, that forbidden endeavor to save a few dozen souls has
imperiled thousands of lives.
"Why did they break
the law, especially this law?" asked an American who insisted on
anonymity. "Worse yet, they dragged their Afghan workers into this.
After some political games, the foreigners will probably be kicked out of
the country as their punishment. But the Afghans, I am afraid they are
going to be killed."
Happily, the 16 arrested
Afghans also escaped.
It is interesting to note
that the same law against proselytizing that is so properly condemned when
instituted by the Taliban, is also enforced by our great ally, Saudi
Arabia. But that's a whole other story.
In any event, one can both be
glad the eight foreign aid workers and their 16 Afghan co-workers are free,
and still trust that the next time, they -- as well as others in similar
circumstances -- will consider the consequences more carefully before they
start proselytizing where it's forbidden.
Al Jazeera Charge that U.S. Deliberately Destroyed Its Offices in Kabul
November 19, 2001
As I wrote earlier, the mass media virtually
ignored the story last week that a U.S. missile destroyed the Kabul offices
of Al Jazeera, the only independent television station in the Arab world.
Since then, the media have
also ignored a serious accusation
by Al Jazeera, and the pro forma denial by the United States.
Ibrahim Hilal, chief editor
of Al Jazeera, charged that the Kabul office had been deliberately
selected as a target by the Pentagon since the Afghan War began. He
believes it was not hit until last week because "the US did not want to
bomb it while the broadcaster was the only one based in Kabul."
By last week the BBC had reopened their office there.
Hilal added that his network
had passed on its location coordinates to the U.S. military several times.
Replying to Halil's
accusation, U.S. military spokesman Colonel Brian Hoey denied that
Al-Jazeera was a target:
"The US military does
not and will not target media. We would not, as a policy, target news
media organizations - it would not even begin to make sense."
He said that the bombing of
Serb television in Belgrade during the Kosovo conflict was a different
issue - the targets in question "appeared to have government
facilities associated with them."
Col. Hoey denied that the
Pentagon even had the location coordinates of the Al Jazeera Kabul offices.
The Bush administration has
reportedly been very unhappy with 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 even tried to convince the emir
of Qatar, where Al Jazeera is based, to modify the network's news reporting.
A number of journalists at
last week's News World conference in Barcelona agreed with Al Jazeera's
charge that the station's office had been deliberately targeted.
This past Sunday, The New
York Times Magazine cover story was about Al Jazeera. The Table of
Contents summary of the article (repeated in the newspaper's web page description
of the piece) reads as follows:
The Bush administration is
trying to figure out how to combat Al Jazeera, the incendiary Arabic news
station. But as an extended viewing makes clear, this is one war that
can't be won.
Apparently the New York
Times, in concluding that the Bush administration couldn't win a war of
words with Al Jazeera, hadn't contemplated that the U.S. might substitute
violent destruction for mere counter-information.
More disturbingly, if the
station merits a Magazine cover story, why hasn't the missile attack on the
Al Jazeera Kabul office even been mentioned in the newspaper?
The New York Times,
like the rest of the U.S. mass media, seems to feel this story is too hot to
Tribunals: The Ultimate Global Arrogance
How Would the U.S. React Were Another
Nation to Authorize Itself To Conduct Secret Trials of U.S. Citizens?
November 18, 2001
Imagine if Saddam Hussein,
after declaring an extraordinary emergency caused by attacks on his country,
issued an order which purported to give him the legal authority to:
- utilize Iraqi agents to
abduct U.S. citizens from the United States
- have those U.S. citizens
tortured by a third country until confessions were extracted
- set up an Iraqi military
tribunal with judges of his own choosing
- appoint lawyers for those
U.S. citizens of his own choosing
- try those U.S. citizens in
- use the torture-induced
confessions to convict the U.S. citizens
- deny any right of appeal
to any Iraqi court or to any international body
- execute those U.S.
The U.S. government would
react with barely contained outrage!
Well, the powers
hypothetically ascribed to Saddam Hussein above are the powers actually now
enjoyed by George Bush with respect to non-U.S. citizens under his November
Upon what principles of law
or equity can we argue against other nations having the right to take the
same actions in their self-protection that we deem suitable to take in our
own? That we're the good guys, and they're the bad guys, and therefore
they shouldn't have such rights?
The hallmark of valid legal
authority is reciprocity. If we maintain that no other nation can
abduct, try in secret and execute U.S. citizens, then there is no way for us
to maintain that we should have those rights with respect to their citizens.
What if in 1989 President
Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua had issued such an order and used it to
"authorize" the kidnapping, secret trial and execution of Oliver
North for organizing, funding and directing the terrorists -- the contras --
who were at that time killing thousands of Nicaraguan civilians?
Get the point?
Such international terrorism
trials need to be conducted in the open so that the world can judge the
fairness of the proceedings and the strength of the evidence
As to which entity should
conduct such trials, international tribunals are best, since however much
faith we may have in the integrity of the U.S. courts, others don't.
And we -- quite often with great justification -- have no faith in the
integrity of the judicial systems of many other nations.
So the use of open trials
conducted by international tribunals would protect not only non-U.S.
citizens whom we want to try, but would also afford protection to U.S.
citizens charged with terrorism by other countries.
This is all admittedly
hypothetical, since no other nation would likely dare assert such global dictatorial
rights as Bush did in his military order.
The arrogance of the United
States is, admittedly, in a class by itself.
[more on Bush Military Tribunals]
Prior Use of
Military Tribunals Involved Wars With Clearly Ascertainable Endings
Bush Has Set Himself Up to Retain His
Dictatorial Powers Forever
November 17, 2001
Imagine a system where the
prosecutor -- in his sole and non-reviewable discretion -- can decide to
bring charges, empanel a jury composed of people who work for him, select
the defendant's attorney, and use hearsay evidence. The defendant has
no right of appeal to any court, only to the prosecutor.
That prosecutor is George
Bush under his decree establishing military tribunals. Even
right-wingers like William Safire agree that
the decree gives Bush "dictatorial power to jail or execute
Military tribunals have been utilized
in many prior wars the United States has fought. The justification for
the use of such tribunals is that when a nation is at war, certain civil
liberties must be modified in the interest of national security.
But those prior wars were
formally declared, against a finite number of clearly identifiable
enemies. In all those instances, the American public would know that
the war was over when all of the enemies had surrendered. Then the
justification for the use of military tribunals would vanish, and so would
With the war on terrorism, in
contrast, the enemies are terrorist groups which don't occupy defined
territory and are invisible unless sought out and uncovered by law
enforcement. These are groups, according to Bush's criteria, with
worldwide reach, some of which, like Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda, have cells
in some 60 countries. New groups can be formed, or previously unknown
groups can surface, and they would be enemies in our war on terrorism also.
The American public has no
way of independently determining when the war on terrorism will be
over. There won't be a nation physically overrun, like Germany in
World War II. There won't be a formal surrender ceremony, as with
Japan in World War II.
We're totally dependent on
the government telling us that all terrorist groups with worldwide reach
have been effectively dismembered and no longer have the capacity to do us
harm. That would, in the Bush administration's war framework,
constitute victory. Only when such victory is achieved would the
justification for the military tribunals be removed.
The critical problem is that
Bush, should he choose not to, never has to tell the public that such
conditions constituting victory have been achieved. Bush, or a
successor, can always claim, without fear of definitive contradiction, that
some of the terrorist groups are still alive and well, or that a new group
has been formed which presents a danger to our national security.
For as long as he wants,
therefore, Bush can keep his dictatorial powers to try any non-U.S. citizen
he says is a terrorist.
Even worse, who knows what
expansion of such powers Bush will decree as the potentially endless war on
terrorism extends months and years from now?
Could Bush even apply his
kangaroo court military tribunals to U.S. citizens whom Bush claims are
enemy agents? For example, protesters against the war, or critics of
the methods being used in the war?
Very scary indeed.
Tribunals: He's Judge, Jury and Executioner!
November 16, 2001
If George Bush wants to get
rid of any non-U.S. citizen in the world, he can now
- order that person's
abduction by the U.S. military
- have that person tortured
by a third country to extract a confession
- set up a military tribunal
with judges of his (or his Secretary of Defense's) own choosing
- try that person in secret
- use that torture-induced
confession to convict the person
- execute that person.
There is no judicial
review at any stage of the process. The accused cannot select
their own attorney. No one need be told that the abduction, torture,
trial and execution ever happened: not the person's family, the U.S. press,
the U.S. public-- no one!
The above totalitarian
scenario is perfectly permissible under George Bush's order
establishing military tribunals to try suspected terrorists.
Bush has been roundly
criticized for using the terror attacks on the United States as a cover to
foster adoption of some of his pet causes -- e.g., a missile shield, and tax
refunds to the wealthy -- that have nothing to do with fighting terrorism.
Now a reasonable person could
well fear that Bush is using the war on terrorism as a cover to establish a
Once when Bush was discussing
difficult relations with Congress, he "joked"
that "A dictatorship would be a heck of a lot easier, there's no
question about it."
Unfortunately, he doesn't
seem to have been joking.