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Out Of The Frying Pan
Deaths caused allegedly by Al Qa'ida on September 11: nearly
Civilian deaths in Afghanistan because of the US led attacks
they call 'Enduring Freedom': up to 28,000.
What war on terrorism?
Before September 11 there were already over a million Afghanistani
refugees fleeing a country ravaged by decades of war, political
instability and drought. Immediately after September 11, when it
looked like US attacks were imminent, nearly 250,000 Afghanis escaped
across closed borders - the UN claiming that about 160,000 went
to Pakistan, 60,000 went to Iran, and 10,000 remained in refugee
camps within Afghanistan. Much trauma resulted from the upheavel,
with only the wealthier ones able to bribe border guards and maintain
provisions during the journey. The toll of Afghani civilian deaths
is far higher than just those known to have been killed by bombs.
The US air strikes since October 7th turned a dire situation
into a total catastrophe for the average Afghani. While it is figured
that up to 8,000 civilians have been killed by the US bombing -
now it is estimated that another 20,000 could have died indirectly
because of the war*. The droughts have compounded the hazards of
displacement from home with people forced to travel long distances
cut off from food and other supplies. They have spent the last winter
in tents, at the mercy of aid. With the firm arm (and gun) of the
Taliban rule gone, many have been murdered during incidents of looting
and local ethnic conflict. And then there's the matter of depleted
uranium bombs being used, the long term consequences of which may
not yet be known.
When the US started bombing Afghanistan they mouthed empty promises
that aid would accompany the attack to make up for the inconvenience
of being bombed back to the stone age for the second time in twenty
five years. What eventuated was that the international aid already
being given to the country pre-September 11 was disrupted - and
existing aid deliveries were lowered by 40% during the three month
period after the bombing began.
The media made out that the 'war on terrorism' had done the people
of Afghanistan a big favour by removing the Taliban - who had ruled
since 1996. The Taliban's strict Islam fundamentalism - which involved
public hangings for those opposing them and other public atrocities
(see www.rawa.org for the gory details) make them hardly ideal,
but the removal of their heavy control and the ascendency to power
of the Northern Alliance introduced rampant lawlessness, reminding
people of the last time this alliance were in power before 1996.
The US agenda to take out the Taliban involved arming and assisting
an 'emerging coalition of oppositional forces' - a well-thought-out
strategy which saw the Northern Alliance re-taking control. This
alliance featured many of the same war criminals (such as Abdul
Rashid Dostum, head of the Junbish militia), who as the Mujehadeen
had ruled from 1992-1996. Their legacy was four years of massacres,
rape and pillage leaving 50,000 dead in Kabul. Northern Alliance
drug lords grow 70-90% of the world's opium, which mostly goes to
the Triads in China - a huge racket involving banks and money laundering
which the Taliban tried to crack down on.
Since October the people most subject to violence and oppression
are the majority Pashtuns - who happen to be the same ethnic group
as the Taliban. Despite all the maniacal fundamentalism, it is understandable
that for many the Taliban would be preferable.
A lot of the homeless are in refugee camps because their houses
were bombed - but many more are in the camps because their towns
are subject to looting and ethnic persecution and they don't want
With the US showing no regard whatsoever for the human consequences
as they help a load of war criminals back into power, their agenda
is obvious: putting Afghanistan on the path towards political stability?
- you can eliminate that red herring immediately. Gaining military
control of the region at any human cost because of its proximity
to large petroleum reserves? You can read Bush like a book.
* These figures are given by Jonathan Steele in The
Guardian, May 20, 2002.