Mar 18, 2002
Marking the six-month anniversary of September 11, Bush declared that the U.S. is winning the “war on terrorism” in Afghanistan and that it is preparing to step up this war to other countries: among them, the Philippines, Yemen, Georgia (formerly part of the Soviet Union) and, implicitly, Iraq.
Whatever is happening in Afghanistan – and it’s certainly not the crushing victory that Bush has been proclaiming ever since December 11 – it is not essentially a war against “terrorists.”
It is first of all a U.S. bombing war on the people of Afghanistan. Bush, himself, in describing the recent battle in the Shah-i-Kot Mountains, announced that hundreds of al Qaeda terrorists had been killed. In fact, only three bodies have been found from that battle although hundreds were killed in that campaign – in the “mistaken” bombing of two villages, which completely wiped them out.
What’s going on in Afghanistan is also fighting between different warlords based on different ethnic groups – fighting which holds the promise of another bloodbath like that in the former Yugoslavia when it broke apart. Those warlords are today’s “good guys,” according to the current U.S. script – just as Osama bin Laden was himself once one of the “good guys” of U.S. foreign policy. And they are just as bloody and disgusting as Osama bin Laden ever was.
This U.S. war against the people of Afghanistan may wipe out a few al Qaeda. It may even interfere with its network. But this war is hardly protecting the U.S. from further terrorist attacks. Just the opposite.
In countries throughout Asia, the Middle East and Africa, people watch with horror and disgust at what the U.S., with all its military might, is doing to the impoverished and already desperate people of Afghanistan. Out of these enormous populations can spring the next group of terrorists. If there has been a sudden growth of terrorists in the Philippines and Indonesia – as Bush says there is – this is in great measure a response to the picture Bush has painted of this country. Bush’s U.S. is the bully of the world.
For years, Israel, with enormous U.S. support, has counted on being able to use its military might against the Palestinians to dominate the area of the Middle East. Its leaders have tried to convince the Israeli people that they can be safe doing this. The current situation proves how much of a lie that is. The military actions and repression carried on by the Israeli army simply created the preconditions for the current bloody situation.
On the scale of the world, the U.S. plays the same role that Israel plays in the Middle East. Of course, the magnitude of the problem is different. The U.S. has more protection provided by the oceans. It is larger, with more military force. But it also creates a reserve of terrorists around the whole world, not just in one tiny population.
In the long run, there can be no permanent protection afforded to a people who agree to repress another people. And that is what the U.S. population is doing today – repressing another people, even if not very
many people are happy about this war.
During the war in Viet Nam, the people of the U.S. won respect from around the world, precisely because a significant part of the population did stand up to their own war-mongering government. And they did, by their actions, make it impossible for that government to carry out the much wider war it wanted to carry out. That opposition to the war extended to many of the troops, even under military discipline.
Today, the U.S. population has lost whatever credit that earlier generation won. It’s time to earn it back.