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Will U.S. Rejection of Request for Pause in Bombing Cause 7.5 Million Afghans to Starve to Death?

October 21, 2001

The latest estimates are that up to 7.5 million -- yes, that's right, seven and one-half million -- Afghans could starve to death this winter unless truck convoys of food are able to resume deliveries to Afghanistan.

U.S. bombing has effectively halted these deliveries.  Current U.S. airdrops of food would meet less than 1% of the need, even if the supplies were assured of getting to the people who need them, which is unlikely.

Already, the British charity Christian Aid says that 600 people have died in northern Afghanistan from starvation, malnutrition and related diseases.

There are other reports of deaths in refugee camps around the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif.

Afghanistan Starvation: The Plea

While there was an earlier story that "the Pentagon and British Defense Ministry have agreed to coordinate the air strikes so that they will not hit relief convoys," such does not appear to be the case.

Given this backdrop, the United Nations itself apparently plans to make an unprecedented appeal for the bombing to at least temporarily stop so that a huge aid operation can be undertaken.

Such an appeal has already been made by Raymond C. Offenheiser, president of Oxfam America, who explained:

We've run out of food, the borders are closed, we can't reach our staffs and time is running out.


American officials rejected the request for a bombing halt, asserting that the Taliban, not American air raids, were blocking food distribution.

While there have been reports of Taliban troops levying "taxes" on food convoys, the American response is disingenuous at best, since without the food entering the country in the first place, there is absolutely no hope to feed the starving people.

The winter snows have already come to part of Afghanistan.  Once the winter fully settles in, getting food to remote villages will be near impossible.

The war can be resumed after a short period of time, but once the opportunity passes to deliver the food before the winter, that will be an irrevocable death sentence for millions of men, women and children.

What a humanitarian disaster it would be, and what a geopolitical nightmare, if a continued U.S. refusal to temporarily halt the bombing were to cause millions of Afghans to starve to death.

Afghanistan Starvation: The Media's Role

The media silence on this impending disaster is scandalous.  The New York Times, for example, buried the Oxfam call for a bombing halt, and the U.S. rejection of that request, way down in an inside story that was focused on the crew of one of the planes making the U.S. airdrops.

If such a disaster does, God forbid, occur, I can already see the solemn front-page stories in the New York Times and other U.S. publications, as well as the editorials lamenting that not enough was done to prevent such a tragedy, that a bombing halt should have been undertaken.

The New York Times will not, of course, explain that its own failure to adequately report on the disaster-in-the-making when there was still time to prevent it was one of the causes of its occurring.

This was a selection from The Daily Diatribe

More on Afghanistan Starvation

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