Distortion, Deception, and Terrorism
The following article which appeared on Media Monitors Network, on October 9, 2001, has been reposted here. It is an in-depth article looking at various aspects of the terrorist attacks and resulting war. You can see the original article at http://www.mediamonitors.net/mosaddeq15.html
Distortion, Deception, and Terrorism; The Bombing of Afghanistan
by Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed, Executive Director of the Institute for Policy Research & Development
October 09, 2001
The United States has finally begun a massive military assault on Afghanistan, with military support from the United Kingdom. Cruise missiles, bombers and submarines have been used to attack what has been described as "a broad range of targets", purportedly ranging from Taliban training camps to garrisons. The strikes, which began at 1625GMT, first targeted the Afghan capital Kabul and later hit the cities of Kandahar, Jalalabad, and the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif. The attack has been justified on the basis of forming, in the words of U.S. President George Bush Jnr., "a new front" against terrorism, which will not target the Afghan people, but is aimed at the prime suspect Osama Bin Laden and the regime protecting him. Indeed, the President claimed, America is "the friend of the Afghan people." An analysis of the facts illustrates that this is hardly the case.
I. Afghanistan Strikes Planned Since Last Year
The current military strikes against Afghanistan were planned long before the terrorist assaults on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. As early as December last year, Frederick Starr, Chairman of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute at Johns Hopkins's Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, reported that:
Meetings between government American, Russian and Indian government officials took place at the end of 2000 "to discuss what kind of government should replace the Taliban." Starr observed that: "[T]he United States is now talking about the overthrow of a regime that controls nearly the entire country, in the hope it can be replaced with a hypothetical government that does not exist even on paper." The U.S. also supported a one-sided UN resolution:
Canadian journalist Eric Margolis reported in the same month the existence of extensive military plans to invade Afghanistan, topple the Taliban regime, and install a government subservient to Western interests:
The plans clearly have little to do with aiding the Afghan people, and more to do with eliminating the current danger to US interests in the region. As the Guardian rightly observes, "Another missile attack will merely add to Afghanistan's misery."
The international U.S. rights monitors Human Rights Watch (HRW) elaborated on such concerns, pointing out that all factions, including the main opposition the Northern Alliance, are responsible for grave human rights abuses against Afghan civilians. HRW criticised UN Security Council measures to increase sanctions on the Taliban, urging instead "the adoption of an arms embargo against all combatants, not only the Taliban." Indeed, a joint US-Russia draft resolution ignored the ongoing civil war, responsible for the humanitarian crisis, focusing instead "on the Taliban's harboring of Osama bin Laden... [The resolution] would impose new sanctions only on the Taliban until it gives up bin Laden for extradition and closes camps allegedly used to plan criminal activities overseas. But the draft resolution does not directly address the ongoing civil war in Afghanistan, which has been accompanied by a severe humanitarian crisis." Executive Director of HRW, Kenneth Roth, has pointed out that the international community's failure to "address abuses by the warring parties now because they are an important cause of the continuing humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan", signifies that they are "inexcusably abandoning the Afghan people to suffer atrocities at home while focusing exclusively on the Afghan government's role in attacks on foreigners."
II. Humanitarian Intervention? U.S. Support of Afghan Opposition Terrorists
Indeed, atrocities by the Northern Alliance - now being backed by the United States - against the Afghan people, are of exactly the same nature as those committed by the brutal Taliban regime that rules the majority of Afghanistan. British Middle East specialist Robert Fisk reports in The Independent that:
Human Rights Watch has also noted the anti-humanitarian nature of U.S. support of the Afghan opposition. Sidney Jones, Executive Director of the Asia division of HRW, urged that: "The U.S. and its allies should not cooperate with commanders whose record of brutality raises questions about their legitimacy inside Afghanistan. Any country that gives assistance to the Afghan opposition must take responsibility for how this assistance is used." Abuses by the opposition in late 1999 and early 2000 have included "summary executions, burning of houses, and looting, principally targeting ethnic Pashtuns and others suspected of supporting the Taliban." HRW also describes the parties comprising the 'United Front' as having "amassed a deplorable record of attacks on civilians between the fall of the Najibullah regime in 1992 and the Taliban's capture of Kabul in 1996." 
Clearly then, the United States had planned to invade Afghanistan and topple the Taliban regime a year ago, and had drawn up its military plans in coordination with Russia and India. The terrorist attacks against the WTC and the Pentagon in the U.S. have apparently provided a pretext to justify executing these long-standing plans. U.S. support of the Northern Alliance — which is as responsible for the terrorization of the Afghan people as the Taliban is — demonstrates that the motive behind the invasion of Afghanistan is hardly genuinely humanitarian. The United States is apparently perfectly happy with supporting undemocratic terror-toting proxies, as long as they serve regional U.S. interests. Indeed, U.S. indifference to tyranny, repression, gender-apartheid, genocide and ethnic cleansing is further demonstrated by the fact that the U.S. supported the Taliban from 1994-99 in order to secure its strategic and economic interests in Afghanistan.
III. U.S. Support of the Taliban
Professor William O. Beeman, an anthropologist specialising in the Middle East at Brown University who has conducted extensive research into Islamic Central Asia, points out:
Professor Beeman observes that the U.S.-backed Taliban "are a brutal fundamentalist group that has conducted a cultural scorched-earth policy" in Afghanistan. Extensive documentation shows that the Taliban have "committed atrocities against their enemies and their own citizens... So why would the U.S. support them?" Beeman concludes that the answer to this question "has nothing to do with religion or ethnicity - but only with the economics of oil. To the north of Afghanistan is one of the world's wealthiest oil fields, on the Eastern Shore of the Caspian Sea in republics formed since the breakup of the Soviet Union." Caspian oil needs to be transhipped out of the landlocked region through a warm water port, for the desired profits to be accumulated. The "simplest and cheapest" pipeline route is through Iran - but Iran is essentially an 'enemy' of the U.S., due to being overtly independent of the West. As Beeman notes: "The U.S. government has such antipathy to Iran that it is willing to do anything to prevent this." The alternative route is one that passes through Afghanistan and Pakistan, which "would require securing the agreement of the powers-that-be in Afghanistan" - the Taliban. Such an arrangement would also benefit Pakistani elites, "which is why they are willing to defy the Iranians." Therefore, as far as the U.S. is concerned, the solution is "for the anti-Iranian Taliban to win in Afghanistan and agree to the pipeline through their territory."
In 1996, Cable News Network (CNN) reported that the "United States wants good ties [with the Taliban] but can't openly seek them while women are being repressed" - hence they can be sought covertly. The Intra Press Service (IPS) reported in 1997 that underscoring "the geopolitical stakes, Afghanistan has appeared prominently in US government and corporate planning about routes for pipelines and roads opening the ex-Soviet republics on Russia's southern border to world markets." Hence, amid the fighting, "some Western businesses are warming up to the Taliban despite the movement's" responsibility for terror, massacres, abductions, and impoverishment. "Leili Helms, a spokeswoman for the Taliban in New York, told IPS that one U.S. company, Union Oil of California (Unocal), helped to arrange the visit last week of the movement's acting information, industry and mines ministers. The three officials met lower-level State Department officials before departing for France, Helms said. Several US and French firms are interested in developing gas lines through central and southern Afghanistan, where the 23 Taliban-controlled states" just happen to be located, as Helms added, to the 'chance' convenience of American and other Western companies.
An article appearing in the prestigious German daily Frankfurter Rundschau, in early October 1996, reported that UNOCAL "has been given the go-ahead from the new holders of power in Kabul to build a pipeline from Turkmenstein via Afghanistan to Pakistan. It would lead from Krasnovodsk on the Caspian Sea to Karachi on the Indian Ocean coast." The same article noted that UN diplomats in Geneva believe that the war in Afghanistan is the result of a struggle between Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, Russia and the United States, "to secure access to the rich oil and natural gas of the Caspian Sea." Other than UNOCAL, companies that are jubilantly interested in exploiting Caspian oil, apparently at any human expense, include AMOCO, BP, Chevron, EXXON, and Mobile.
It therefore comes as no surprise to find the Wall Street Journal reporting in 1997 that the main interests of American and other Western elites lie in making Afghanistan "a prime transhipment route for the export of Central Asia's vast oil, gas and other natural resources". "Like them or not," the Journal continues without fear of contradiction, "the Taliban are the players most capable of achieving peace in Afghanistan at this moment in history." The Journal is referring to the same faction that is responsible for the severe repression of women; massacres of civilians; ethnic cleansing and genocide; arbitrary detention; and the growth of widespread impoverishment and underdevelopment. In a similar vein, the International Herald Tribunal reported that in the summer of 1998, "the Clinton administration was talking with the Taleban about potential pipeline routes to carry oil and natural gas out of Turkmenistan to the Indian Ocean by crossing Afghanistan and Pakistan".
Even members of the U.S. Government have criticized U.S. covert support of the Taliban. One should note, for instance, the authoritative testimony of U.S. Congressman Dana Rohrabacher concerning American policy toward Afghanistan. Rohrabacher has been involved with Afghanistan since the early 1980s when he worked in the White House as Special Assistant to then U.S. President Ronald Reagan, and he is now a Senior Member of the U.S. House International Relations Committee. He has been involved in U.S. policy toward Afghanistan for some 20 years. In 1988 he traveled to Afghanistan as a member of the U.S. Congress with mujahideen fighters and participated in the battle of Jalalabhad against the Soviets. He testified before a Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee:
Yet U.S. plans fell through. The Taliban has simply proved incapable of playing a suitably stabilising role in the region, particularly due its inability to remain subservient to U.S. orders. P. Stobdan reports that the terrorist antics of Taliban favourite Osama Bin Laden caused a rift in the blossoming U.S.-Taliban relationship, leading the American corporation UNOCAL to indefinitely suspend work on the pipeline in August 1999. It thus appears that not long after the U.S.-Taliban relationship soured, U.S. plans to topple the regime and install a new government began to be explored and even discussed with other powers.
The establishment of a strong client state in Afghanistan would strengthen U.S. influence in this crucial region, partly by strengthening Pakistan — formerly a prime supporter of the Taliban — which is the region's main American base. Of course, this also furthers the cause of establishing the required oil and gas pipelines to the Caspian Sea, while bypassing Russia and opening up the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) bordering Russia to the U.S. dominated global market. This has been U.S. intention all along. Previously, it was hoped that the Taliban — regardless of its domestic record of terror, genocide and gender-apartheid — would be this strong client state; yet since that is not the case, a band of murderers of the same ilk as the Taliban — the Northern Alliance — can be installed most probably under the leadership of a former undemocratic King. Canadian foreign affairs commentator Eric Margolis — a specialist in the Middle East and Central Asia — observes that:
"The first phase of the U.S. 'war on terrorism' will likely be the attempted overthrow of the Taliban regime, which currently rules 90% of Afghanistan. Washington is massing powerful strike forces around Afghanistan and has unleashed a fierce propaganda offensive against Taliban.
"The Bush Administration says it will embark on 'nation-building' in Afghanistan. Translation: imposing a pro-U.S. regime in Kabul that will battle Islamic militants and open the way for American oil and gas pipelines running south from Central Asia to the Arabian Sea. Washington clearly hopes to make the Northern Alliance, a motley collection of anti-Taliban insurgents, the new ruler of Afghanistan, perhaps under its 86-year old exiled king, Zahir Shah."
Concerns for democracy, human rights and socio-economic development are simply public relations exercised designed to deflect from the actual objectives.
IV. Was Osama Bin Laden Really Behind the U.S. Terror Attacks?
The Western powers have failed to produce any credible evidence proving clearly that Osama Bin Laden was responsible for the attacks on the WTC and the Pentagon. Indeed, they appear to have been eager, under U.S. leadership, to scapegoat Osama Bin Laden so as to provide an adequate justification to execute longstanding plans to invade Afghanistan and destroy the Taliban regime. While President Bush was singling out Bin Laden as the prime suspect for the attacks, Juergen Storbeck, Director of the European Union's law enforcement arm — Europol — "warned on Saturday against rushing to blame the Saudi-born militant Osama bin Laden for masterminding Tuesday's attacks on New York and Washington," reported Reuters.
"It's possible that he was informed about the operation, it's even possible that he influenced it, but he's probably not the man who steered every action or controlled the detailed plan. As for the idea that, sitting in Afghanistan, he could have controlled the last phase of the operation is something we should not accept without a lot of doubt. Bin Laden is not the automatic leader of every terrorist act carried out in the name of Islam."
Indeed, the British Government's 21-page dossier released on Thursday 4th October 2001, purportedly providing clear proof of Bin Laden's guilt in relation to the attacks in the U.S., is in fact entirely devoid of actual evidence. The document collects together the principal evidence against Bin Laden gathered by Western intelligence agencies. The dossier was compiled by a committee that included senior members of MI5 and MI6, under the guidance of Washington. Yet as the London Independent observes on analysis of the document:
"What the Government's dossier against bin Laden doesn't say and can't say: One thing is missing from the document 'proving' Bin Laden's guilt - the proof.
"It was too good to be true. We were told we would be getting evidence of Osama bin Laden's guilt. Instead, close analysis of the 21-page document put out by the Government on Thursday reveals a report of conjecture, supposition and unsubstantiated assertions of fact. It uses every trick in the Whitehall drafter's arsenal to make the reader believe they are reading something they are not: a damning indictment of Mr bin Laden for the events of 11 September... Ministers believe the document has sealed the propaganda war, convincing the country of the need to move against Mr bin Laden and al-Qa'ida and to accept limited British and civilian casualties. To their relief they are not being subjected to rigorous questioning on the report, either from their own supporters, the Opposition, or much of the media.
"Officials are also pleased: the document successfully papers over the cracks in their own intelligence operations... The document carries a health warning that intelligence material has been withheld to protect the safety of sources. But, lawyers point out, this is not good enough. Assuming one aim of the military build-up is to try to capture Mr bin Laden and put him on trial, that so-far-unseen evidence would have to be displayed — because on the basis of what has been released there is no chance of his being prosecuted, let alone convicted."
British legal expert Robert Gordon QC thus notes that: "The Prime Minister told Parliament that this evidence was of an even more direct nature indicating guilt. The document makes it clear that the additional evidence is 'too sensitive to release'. That may be so, but in any criminal prosecution against bin Laden the necessary evidence would have to be adduced for the case to be proved." Commenting on the evidence presented, "All this shows in the language of lawyers, propensity, but it proves little."
The London Guardian similarly highlights the utter lack of direct evidence demonstrating Bin Laden's responsibility for the attacks, or even the responsibility of elements within Afghanistan:
"Like almost everyone on earth, I want to believe that the attack on New York was the work of a single despot and his obedient commando. But the more evidence US intelligence presents to this effect, the less credible the story becomes.
"First there was the car. A man had informed the police, we were told, that he'd had a furious argument with some suspicious-looking Muslims in the parking lot at Boston airport. He led investigators to the car, in which they found a copy of the Qur'an and a flight manual in Arabic, showing that these were the fundamentalists who had hijacked one of the planes. Now flying an airliner is not one of those things you learn in the back of a car on the way to the airport. Either you know how to do it or you don't. Leaving the Qu'ran unattended, a Muslim friend tells me, is considered sinful. And if you were about to perpetrate one of the biggest terrorist outrages the world has ever seen, would you draw attention to yourself by arguing over a parking place?
"Then there was the passport. The security services claim that a passport belonging to one of the hijackers was extracted from the rubble of the World Trade Centre. This definitive identification might help them to track the rest of the network. We are being asked to believe that a paper document from the cockpit of the first plane - the epicentre of an inferno which vapourised steel - survived the fireball and fell to the ground almost intact.
"When presented with material like this, I can't help suspecting that intelligence agents have assembled the theory first, then sought the facts required to fit it... The West, in the name of civilisation, was insisting that Bin Laden was guilty, and it would find the evidence later.
"For these reasons and many others (such as the initial false certainties about the Oklahoma bombing and the Sudanese medicine factory, and the identification of live innocents as dead terrorists), I think we have some cause to regard the new evidence against Bin Laden with a measure of scepticism... [I]f the West starts chasing the wrong man across the Hindu Kush while the real terrorists are planning their next atrocity, this hardly guarantees our security."
It is worth noting that although one of the hijacker's passports, as Monbiot reports, allegedly survived the WTC inferno — consisting of fire and heat over a 1,000 degrees Farenheit — according to FBI officials, all the Black Boxes were in contrast totally destroyed and rendered unusable. The Black Boxes, constituting a Flight Data Recorder and a Cockpit Voice Recorder in each plane, are specifically designed to withstand massive explosions. According to ABC News:
"Although investigators look for an entire black box, sometimes the only parts of the device that survive are the recorder's crash-survivable memory units (CSMU). The CSMU is almost indestructible. It is housed within a stainless-steel shell that contains titanium or aluminum and a high-temperature insulation of dry silica material.
"It is designed to withstand heat of up to 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit for one hour, salt water for at least 30 days, immersion in a variety of liquids such as jet fuel and lubricants, and an impact of 3,400 G's. By comparison, astronauts are typically exposed to up to six Gs during a shuttle takeoff."
Each plane has two separate Black Boxes designed to be indestructable in the event of crashes, which in total means that there were eight Black Boxes — since there were four planes in total used in the attacks on U.S. targets. Yet the FBI is asking us to believe that while all eight Black Boxes were completely and utterly destroyed in the crashes, a mere paper passport survived to be discovered a few blocks away. CNN reported that: "The searchers found several clues, he said, but would not elaborate. Last week, a passport belonging to one of the hijackers was found in the vicinity of Vesey Street, near the World Trade Center. 'It was a significant piece of evidence for us,' Mawn said." "In New York, several blocks from the ruins of the World Trade Center, a passport authorities said belonged to one of the hijackers was discovered a few days ago, according to city Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik." Not only then did a passport survive a plane crash that was allegedly so intense it obliterated the virtually indestructable Black Box, the same passport is also supposed to have flown down a few blocks from the WTC. It is true that due to the sudden shattering of the windows in the WTC, all paper materials in the building were immediately ejected out before incineration. Yet a passport in the pocket of a hijacker sitting within a plane that explodes will naturally undergo the same process as the hijacker and the plane he is sitting in, along with the other passengers: absolute cremation.
Robert Fisk has also highlighted some of the fatal inconsistencies in the Bin Laden-theory that many, including those critical of U.S. policy, have failed to take proper note of, choosing instead to repeat the allegations of U.S. officials unthinkingly. One of the alleged hijackers, Ziad Jarrer, hardly fit very well into the category of "Islamic fundamentalist", particularly the kind that would be recruited, trained and commanded by Bin Laden. He drank alcohol, had girlfriends, and went to nightclubs. As Fisk observes: "And that, as they say, is the hole in the story. Everyone I spoke to in Almarj told me that Ziad was a happy, secular youth, that he never showed any interest in religion and never visited the mosque for prayers, that he liked women...
"Mohamad Atta, his friend - or fellow murderer - was also known to knock back five stiff drinks in an evening. If they were Osama bin Laden's boys, they didn't behave like it. Bin Laden would not let his men smoke cigarettes, and drinking alcohol would have led to banishment from the ranks of his Al Qa'ida movement... Who would believe that a young man drinking in a bar - with a Turkish girlfriend back in Germany with whom he'd been living - would be planning to crash an airliner on to the White House with 49 passengers aboard?"
Fisk also points out inconsistencies within the five-page document allegedly discovered by the FBI in Atta's baggage, extracts of which were published in the Washington Post. The document, writes Fisk, "raises more questions than it answers":
The document begins with the words: 'In the name of God, the most merciful, the most compassionate... In the name of God, of myself, and of my family.' The problem is that no Muslim -however ill-taught - would include his family in such a prayer. Indeed, he would mention the Prophet Mohamed immediately after he mentioned God in the first line. Lebanese and Palestinian suicide bombers have never been known to refer to 'the time of fun and waste' - because a true Muslim would not have 'wasted' his time and would regard pleasure as a reward of the after-life. And what Muslim would urge his fellow believers to recite the morning prayer - and then go on to quote from it? A devout Muslim would not need to be reminded of his duty to say the first of the five prayers of the day - and would certainly not need to be reminded of the text. It is as if a Christian, urging his followers to recite the Lord's Prayer, felt it necessary to read the whole prayer in case they didn't remember it.
American scholars have already raised questions about the use of '100 per cent' - hardly a theological term to be found in a religious exhortation - and the use of the word 'optimistic' with reference to the Prophet is a decidedly modern word. However, the full and original Arabic text has not been released by the FBI. The translation, as it stands, suggests an almost Christian view of what the hijackers might have felt - asking to be forgiven their sins, explaining that fear of death is natural, that 'a believer is always plagued with problems'. A Muslim is encouraged not to fear death - it is, after all, the moment when he or she believes they will start a new life - and a believer in the Islamic world is one who is certain of his path, not 'plagued with problems'. There are no references to any of Osama bin Laden's demands - for an American withdrawal from the Gulf, an end to Israeli occupation, the overthrow of pro-American Arab regimes - nor any narrative context for the atrocities about to be committed.
The FBI claims that it discovered "essentially the same document" in the wreckage of the plane that crashed in Pennsylvania. However, no text of this version has been released. Worse still, the five-page pamphlet is supposed to have survived the same crash in which two virtually indestructible Black Boxes were destroyed and/or damaged beyond use. Fisk points out that: "In the past, CIA translators have turned out to be Lebanese Maronite Christians whose understanding of Islam and its prayers may have led to serious textual errors. Could this be to blame for the weird references in the note found in Atta's baggage?" — and if this is the case, then certainly the use of these documents as proof of the terrorists' connections to Islamic fundamentalism — and particularly to Bin Laden — is clearly unwarranted. Indeed, Fisk's observation illustrates that U.S. intelligence is clearly open to subjectivity and the imposition of personal — possibly anti-Muslim — prejudices on to alleged findings. Fisk thus asks whether there is "something more mysterious about the background of those who committed a crime against humanity in New York and Washington, just over two weeks ago?"
Many legal experts have condemned this rather ominous void of evidence. Vice-President of the Center for Constitutional Rights and an expert on war powers, U.S. Attorney Michael Ratner, has highlighted the fact that:
The West thus simply does not have proof of Bin Laden's guilt — but that is irrelevant. Clearly, the United States has been able to exploit the tragedy which left up to 6,000 American civilians dead or missing to implement its longstanding war plans in Afghanistan, plans which had nothing to do with humanitarian concerns, and everything to do with securing regional strategic and economic interests revolving particularly around the establishment of pipeline routes to Caspian oil. Although Bin Laden, in reality, may have had no connection to the U.S. terror attacks — and while no actual proof of his guilt has been produced — Anglo-American forces have nevertheless seen fit to invade the country, seal the borders, impose devastating sanctions, and bomb heavily-populated cities. The reason the Western powers under U.S. leadership are unperturbed by the absence of decisive proof of Bin Laden's involvement is that fighting against terrorism is not the real concern; securing strategic and economic interests by removing the Taliban and establishing an equally brutal regime subservient to U.S. demands, is the primary objective.
V. A 21st Century Holocaust in Afghanistan
The imposition of sanctions on Afghanistan in the wake of the U.S. embassy blasts in East Africa attributed to Bin Laden, has not only failed to affect the Taliban, but has served primarily to devastate the Afghan population even more. "The U.S. engineered a punishing Iraq-style embargo of war-ravaged Afghanistan at a time when many of its 18 million people are starving and homeless," observes the Toronto Sun. The London Guardian reports that:
Indeed, the imposition of sanctions amidst the ongoing famine in Afghanistan has quite predictably resulted in the exacerbation of the country's crisis. "The country is in the grip of an unreported humanitarian disaster", notes Luke Harding reporting from Kandahar. "In the south and west, there has been virtually no rain for three years. The road from Herat, near the Iranian border, to Kandahar, the southern desert city, winds through half-abandoned vil lages and swirlingly empty riverbeds. Some 12m people have been affected, of whom 3m are close to starvation." A joint Special Alert from United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) and World Food Programme (WFP) reported in June 2001 that an estimated 5 million Afghans now "have little or no access to food".
With U.S. plans to conduct a military invasion of Afghanistan in place, international policies designed to ruthlessly subjugate the entire country escalated to an unprecedented degree. The New York Times reported around mid-September that: "Washington has also demanded [from Pakistan] a cutoff of fuel supplies,... and the elimination of truck convoys that provide much of the food and other supplies to Afghanistan's civilian population." By the end of that month, America's 'newspaper of record' reported that officials in Pakistan "said today that they would not relent in their decision to seal off the country's 1,400- mile border with Afghanistan, a move requested by the Bush administration because, the officials said, they wanted to be sure that none of Mr. Bin Laden's men were hiding among the huge tide of refugees."
The U.S., in other words, effectively called for the mass slaughter of millions of Afghans, most of them already on the brink of starvation thanks to sanctions imposed under U.S. pressure, by severing the country's last few sources of limited sustenance. Additionally, almost all aid missions withdrew or were expelled from Afghanistan in anticipation of the coming bombing campaign, while several million innocent Afghans fearfully fled to the borders creating a massive refugee crisis. With the borders of surrounding countries sealed for several weeks under U.S. pressure, the refugees were trapped, deprived of sustenance and largely destined to die with international community barely even batting an eyelid. Indian journalist Arundhati Roy commented aptly on what was at first dubbed Operation Infinite Justice, now euphemistically retitled Operation Enduring Freedom: "Witness the infinite justice of the new century. Civilians starving to death while they're waiting to be killed."
This, indeed, is the assessment of UNICEF, the World Food Programme, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the United Nations Programme for Humanitarian Affairs, the Office for the Coordination of Development, and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. A joint statement issued towards the end of September by the above named warns that:
According to UN estimates, about 7-8 million Afghans are now at risk of imminent starvation. The New York Times noted, for instance, that nearly 6 million people depend on food aid from the UN. Another 3.5 million in refugee camps outside the country, many of whom fled just before the borders were sealed, also face imminent starvation. Meanwhile, the U.S. has been dropping a meagre amount of food aid daily, knowing full well that the aid will leave the vast majority of millions of Afghans facing death through hunger, for the purpose of public relations. According to the Christian Science Monitor: "Experts also urge the United States to improve its image by increasing aid to Afghan refugees." On the first day of the bombing campaign, the U.S. dropped only 37,500 packaged meals, a number far below the daily needs of even a single large refugee camp.
The duplicity of the U.S. propaganda campaign through minimal food drops has been noted by veteran aid worker Jim Jennings. Jennings, who as President of Conscience International, a humanitarian aid organization, has been involved in humanitarian aid work for 20 years around the world — and most recently was in Afghan refugee camps in Pakistan in May 2001 — observes that:
"The conditions of the Afghan refugee camps in Pakistan earlier this year were the worst I have ever seen — and I have seen a lot. The camps inside Afghanistan are in even worse shape; for example in Herat there are 600,000 people on the verge of starvation. Food drops from high altitudes alone absolutely cannot provide sufficient and effective relief that is urgently necessary to prevent mass starvation. If you provide one pound of food per day, the minimum for bare survival, it would take 500 planeloads a month to supply the one camp in Herat alone, and Afghanistan is the size of Texas. The administration has stated that two aircraft are being used for food relief so far - for all of Afghanistan. Three weeks ago the head of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) in Islamabad said that the food would run out - in three weeks."
And now to make matters worse, the World Food Programme suspended all food convoys to Afghanistan on 8 October in response to the Western bombing campaign.
As for the allegedly "surgical strikes" of the Anglo-American forces now bombarding the major cities of Afghanistan, which are purportedly "selective" and targeted only at military installations, such claims can hardly be taken seriously by anyone aware of the West's bloody record. Indeed, Middle East expert Stephen Zunes, Associate Professor of Politics at the University of San Francisco and senior policy analyst at the Foreign Policy in Focus Project, points out that:
In the Gulf War, for example, while the Western public were informed by military and political leaders of the pinpoint targeting of Iraqi military structures by the Allied forces, with Iraqi civilians rarely in any danger, the fact of the matter was that the West had covertly included the Iraqi civilian population as an official target of the bombing campaign. A report by the U.S. General Accounting Office, for instance, explicitly affirms that the Desert Storm air campaign of 1991 was aimed at: "Five basic categories of targets - command and control, industrial production, infrastructure, population will, and fielded forces." The bombing of civilian infrastructure - including electricity, water, sanitation and other life-sustaining essentials - was intended, according to the report, to "degrade the will of the civilian population." Middle East Watch (MEW), affiliated to the international U.S.-based rights monitor Human Rights Watch (HRW). MEW has documented numerous cases of the intentional mass destruction of civilian buildings and areas, all of which occurred largely in broad daylight with no governmental or military structures in the vicinity. The Western Allies under U.S. leadership embarked on the purposeful destruction of almost the entirety of Iraq's civilian infrastructure. Eric Hoskins, a Canadian doctor and Coordinator of a Harvard study team on Iraq, observed that the bombing "effectively terminated everything vital to human survival in Iraq - electricity, water, sewage systems, agriculture, industry, health care. Food, warehouses, hospitals and markets were bombed. Power stations were repeatedly attacked until electricity supplies were at only 4 per cent of prewar levels." Francis Boyle, Professor of International Law at the University of Illinois, points out that:
To this day, Anglo-American forces operating over the Iraqi no-fly-zones on the pretext of monitoring and protecting the population from Saddam Hussein's atrocities, continue to routinely bomb not only military targets, but specifically civilian targets as well, as recorded in an internal UN Security Sector report for a single five-month period:
NATO's military intervention in Kosovo under U.S. leadership was similar. In April 1999, the Washington Times reported that NATO planned to hit "power generation plants and water systems, taking the war directly to civilians."
The New York Times similarly reported that: "[T]he destruction of the civilian infrastructure of Yugoslavia has become part of the strategy to end the war on Kosovo... We are bringing down terror on the Serbian people".
In May, NATO Generals admitted that: "Just focussing on field forces is not enough... The [Serbian] people have to get to the point that their lights are turned off, their bridges are blocked so they can't get to work."
"NATO officials also have said they believe that putting pressure on the civilian population will undermine the regime," reported the San Francisco Examiner.
A British Harrier pilot who had been bombing Serbia in April 1999 was led to remark: "After a while you've got to ignore the collateral damage [i.e. civilian casualties] and start smashing those targets" — in other words, bomb indiscriminately with no regard for the civilan death toll. NATO's attacks were therefore aimed against civilian targets right from the outset of the campaign, when a tractor factory was destroyed by cruise missiles. According to an employee of a U.S. intelligence organisation, the CIA had been charged with crafting lists of Yugoslav economic assets — the official testified that "basically, everything in the country's a target unless it's taken off the list." So brutal was the bombing campaign that former U.S. President Jimmy Carter stated:
Given this grim record, one can only expect more of the same in Afghanistan. The official disregard for civilian life is clear in the arbitrary prevention of food aid to the Afghan people despite the Holocaust-like proportions of the consequences. There is therefore no doubt that Anglo-American forces are employing the traditional methods of indiscriminate bombardment, methods that also amount to acts of terrorism.
The official FBI definition of terrorism states that: "Terrorism is the unlawful use of force or violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives." The Western powers under U.S. leadership have violated international law by undertaking a military intervention without consent from the UN Security Council, and have violated the Geneva Conventions by imposing fatal sanctions and border-closures, combined with a day-to-day bombing campaign, on Afghanistan. Even if a UN mandate exists, it is illegal to endanger the civilians and civilian infrastructure.
However, a UN mandate does not exist. Article 2(4) of the UN Charter prohibits the use of force except in two circumstances: where the UN Security Council authorises the use of force under Chapter VII of the Charter; and where a country resorts to self-defence in the face of an armed attack. The U.S. has publicly cited the latter right as a legal justification for its current policy. But while Article 51 of the UN Charter allows a country to defend itself against an armed attack, the U.S. response must conform to the International Court of Justice's landmark ruling on the scope of Article 51, as issued in relation to its Nicaragua judgment of 1986. The Court defined armed attack as either an event in which one State directly sends troops into another or "the sending by or on behalf of a State of armed bands... which carry out acts of armed force against another State... [amounting to] actual armed attack by regular forces".
While it is entirely obvious that that the U.S. terror attacks amount to the use of armed force committed by armed bands, in order to justify an attack on Afghanistan, the United States would at least have to prove beyond doubt firstly that Bin Laden was responsible, and secondly that he acted "on or behalf of" the particular State it is attacking, i.e. the Taliban regime. As is noted by one of the most eminent American scholars of international law, Professor Louis Henkin, the right of self-defence stipulated in Article 51 is:
Yet the Western powers under U.S. leadership have scorned other remedies. It has failed to provide reasonable proof of Bin Laden's responsibility; it has refused to seek authorisation from the UN Security Council; it has dismissed out of hand the Taliban offer to extradite Bin Laden given proof of his responsibility for attacks in New York and Washington, although international law requires that parties first seek a peaceful resolution. As noted by Rahul Mahajan, National board member of Peace Action and a specialist on South and Central Asian affairs, "The Taliban have recently shown willingness to negotiate - just releasing a British journalist and, within the last 24 hours, offering to try bin Laden before an Islamic court. Instead of making a reasonable counteroffer, the Bush and Blair governments started bombing."  In this way, the U.S. has demonstrated its sheer contempt for international law and thus qualified itself — once again — as a "rogue state". As U.S. international law expert, Professor Francis Boyle advises:
The political or social objectives of Anglo-American terrorism in Afghanistan are the removal of the Taliban regime, and its replacement with a subservient puppet-government made up of murderers and rapists of exactly the same ilk as the Taliban. The ultimate hope is that a route can be opened up for the United States to access Caspian oil, influence the Central Asian states on Russia's borders, and penetrate this lucrative region to extend its hegemony and secure its interests, while establishing a strong military-political foothold in the region to protect these interests. Human life is merely an insignificant obstacle to this process.
Afterword: "Not in Our Names"
"I mourn the death of my uncle, and I want his murderers brought to justice. But I am not making this statement to demand bloody vengeance. A senator from my state, Dianne Feinstein, said: 'U.S. must spare no effort to uncover, ferret out and destroy those: who commit acts of terrorism; who provide training camps; who shelter; who finance; and who support terrorists. Whether that entity is a state or an organization, those who harbor them, arm them, train them and permit them must, in my view, be destroyed.' How does one destroy states? Through the covert subversion of their societies? Through carpet bombing? Afghanistan has more than a million homeless refugees. A U.S. military intervention could result in the starvation of tens of thousands of people. What I see coming are actions and policies that will cost many more innocent lives, and breed more terrorism, not less. I do not feel that my uncle's compassionate, heroic sacrifice will be honored by what the U.S. appears poised to do."
U.S. citizen Matthew Lasar, whose uncle Abe Zelmanowitz, died in the World Trade Centre because he refused to abandon his wheelchair-using colleague after the first plane hit on the 11th September
(Institute for Public Accuracy, Washington DC, 27 September 2001)
"We read enough of the news to sense that our government is heading in the direction of violent revenge, with the prospect of sons, daughters, parents, friends in distant lands dying, suffering, and nursing further grievances against us. It is not the way to go... not in our son's name."
U.S. citizens Phyllis and Orlando Rodriguez, who lost their son Greg in the WTC attacks
(The Guardian, 4 October 2001)
"Bombing Afghanistan is just going to create more widows, more homeless, fatherless children."
Judy Keane, who lost her husband Richard in the 11th September attacks
(CNN, 25 September 2001)
"If you choose to respond to this incomprehensible brutality by perpetuating violence against other innocent human beings, you may not do so in the name of justice for my husband."
Amber Amundson, who lost her husband, Craig, in the Pentagon
(Chicago Tribune, 25 September 2001)
 BBC News, 'US strikes at Afghan targets', 7 October 2001.
 Starr, S. Frederick, 'Afghanistan Land Mine', Washington Post, 19 December 2000.
Toronto Sun, 4 December 2000.
Guardian, 24 November 2000.
 HRW press release, 'Afghanistan: Ban Weapons to All Warring Factions', Human Rights Watch, New York, 15 December 2000.
 Fisk, Robert, 'Just who are our allies in Afghanistan?', The Independent, 3 October 2001.
 Beeman, William O., 'Follow the Oil Trail - Mess in Afghanistan Partly Our Government's Fault', Jinn Magazine (online), Pacific News Service, San Francisco, 24 August 1998, web-site at http://www.pacificnews.org/jinn. Thus, we may note the observation of Hizb ut-Tahrir: "The importance of Pakistan [to the US] comes from the effect it has on neighbouring countries like Iran, Afghanistan and India. Pakistan is a powerful tool of American which has established, supported and guarded the Taliban in her control of Afghanistan." ('An Army General in Pakistan Overthrows the Prime Minister', Hizb ut-Tahrir,15 October, 1999, http://www.khilafah.com )
 Ibid. As Beeman points out, the U.S. bombing of a Bin Laden outpost in Afghanistan in response to his alleged prior bombing of U.S. embassies was designed to send a message to the Taliban that they must "ditch Bin Laden", whose anti-Americanism threatened the U.S.-Taliban relationship. However, the action may not ultimately be successful in this regard. That the U.S.-Taliban relationship has consequently degraded irreparably is not because of U.S. concern for human rights, since U.S. support of the Taliban has been an ongoing reality for many years - a geopolitical/business-orientated strategy that utterly (and knowingly) disregards the human rights of millions of Afghans. Any such degradation is an effective result of Bin Laden's anti-Americanism, and its effects on the Taliban's approach to the U.S., in light of the U.S. response to the latter.
 CNN, 'U.S. in a diplomatic hard place in dealing with Afghanistan's Taliban', 8 October 1996.
Frankfurter Rundschau, October 1996. Also see Catalinotto, John, 'Afghanistan: Battle deepens for central Asian oil', Workers World News Service, 24 October 1996.
 Goltz, Thomas, 'The Caspian Oil Sweepstakes - A Great Game Replayed', Jinn Magazine (online), Pacific News Service, San Francisco, 15 October 1997, http://www. pacificnews.org/jinn.
Wall Street Journal, 23 May 1997.
 Fitchett, Joseph, 'Worries Rise that Taleban May Try to Export Unrest', International Herald Tribunal, 26 September 1998; also see Gall, Carlotta, 'Dagestan Skirmish is a Big Russian Risk', New York Times, 13 August 1999.
 Statement of Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, 'U.S. Policy Toward Afghanistan', Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on South Asia, 14 April 1999.
 Stobdan, P., 'The Afghan Conflict and Regional Security', Strategic Analysis (Journal of the Institute for Defence & Strategic Analysis [ISDA]), August 1999, Vol. XXIII, No. 5, p. 719-747.
 Margolis, Eric, 'Spare Afghanistan from U.S. Nation Building', Toronto Sun, 30 September 2001.
 Reuters, 'Europol Questions Bin Laden's Role in the Attacks', 15 September 2001.
 Blackhurst, Chris, 'Missing: crucial facts from the official charge sheet against Bin Laden', The Independent, 7 October 2001.
 Cited in ibid.
 Monbiot, George, 'Collateral Repair: How to Win the War with Peace', The Guardian, 25 September 2001.
 It is worth noting that United Airlines flight 93 crashed into a field in Pennsylvania, without any explosion or impact into a building, thus escaping the same inferno that engulfed the WTC. Amazingly, both its Black Boxes are supposed to have been destroyed or unusable.
 See Zaman, Shibli, 'FBI's Investigation of the WTC Tragedy Exposed', Houston Tx, 18 September 2001, Shibli@Zaman.Net.
 Fisk, Robert, 'Stunned into disbelief as their normal son is blamed', The Independent, 16 September 2001.
 Fisk, Robert, 'What Muslim would write 'The time of fun and waste is gone'?', The Independent, 29 September 2001.
 Margolis, Eric, 'US-Russian Crusade Against Osama Bin Laden', Toronto Sun, 4 December 2000.
 Harding, Luke, 'Chasing monsters', Guardian, 24 November 2000.
 Special Alert, 'FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission to Afghanistan', Food and Agricultural Organization and World Food Programme, No. 315, 8 June 2001.
New York Times, 12 September 2001.
New York Times, 27 September 2001.
The Guardian, 29 September 2001.
 Joint Statement, 'In Afghanistan, A Population In Crisis', Geneva/New York, 24 September 2001. Signed by Carol Bellamy, Executive Director UNICEF; Catherine Bertini, Executive Director World Food Programme; Ruud Lubbers, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees; Mark Malloch Brown, Administrator United Nations Programme for Humanitarian Affairs; Kenzo Oshim, Emergency Relief Coordinator Office for the Coordination of Development; Mary Robinson United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.
New York Times, 25 September 2001.
Christian Science Monitor, 28 September 2001.
 IPA Press Release, 'As Bombing Proceeds: Now What?', op. cit.
 U.S. General Accounting Office, Cruise Missiles: Proven Capability Should Affect Aircraft and Force Structure Requirements. 04/20/95, GAO/NSIAD-95-116. Cited in Abunimah, Ali, letter to National Public Radio News, 25 January 1999, http://www.abunimah.org/nprletters/nprindex.html
 MER Report, Needless deaths in the Gulf War: Civilian casualties during the air campaign and violations of the laws of war, Middle East Watch (Human Rights Watch), New York, 1991.
 'Killing is killing - not kindness', New Statesman and Society, 17 January 1992.
 Boyle, Francis A., 'International War Crimes: The Search for Justice', symposium at Albany Law School, 27 February 1992; reprinted as 'U.S. War Crimes During the Gulf War', New Dawn Magazine, September-October 1992, No. 15.
The Guardian, 4 March 2000. It is worth noting Pilger's exceptional documentary aired on British television, Paying the Price: The Killing of the Children of Iraq, ITV Carlton, 6 March 2000, in which the devastatingly anti-humanitarian Anglo-American war on Iraq was uncompromisingly exposed.
Washington Times, 25 April 1999
The New York Times, 9 April 1999
Philadelphia Inquirer, 21 May 1999
 Hundley, Tom, 'NATP bombs Serbs into survival mode', San Francisco Examiner, 26 May 1999
Officer, September 1999
 Hayden, Robert, 'Humanitarian Hypocrisy', Jurist: The Law Professor's Network, 1999, http://jurist.law.pitt.edu/
 Carter, Jimmy, New York Times, 27 May 1999
 Cited in Varadarajan, Siddharth, 'Bush's war plans likely to violate international law', Times of India, 21 September 2001.
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This article is part of the following collection:
- War on Terror Geopolitics
- Oil Politics in Central Asia
- Unintended Consequences
- Distortion, Deception, and Terrorism
- Why is there a War in Afghanistan?
- The Great Game
- Reaching the Parts Other Empires Could not Reach
- The Colder War
- Europe’s Cry That U.S. Won’t Consult
- The U.S. War on Terror and East Asia
- Axis Of Evil—in Washington
- Blair’s Britain Wants a Return to Age of Empire
- Diplomatic Impunity
- Why is America Hated in the Middle East
- New Crusade: The U.S. War on Terrorism
- Terror and Just Response
- Mourn on the Fourth of July
- Sweeping Military Aid Under the Anti-Terrorism Rug
- Bali and Imperialism
- New World Disorder: Arms Dealers Profit from War on Terror
- A New Pearl Harbor
- U.S. Cold War Propaganda in the Middle East
- U.S. military in Europe: The Pentagon’s Eastern obsession
- Harold Pinter—Nobel Lecture: Art, Truth & Politics
- War On Terrorism Leaves South Asia in Turmoil
- Gates Dealing with Blowback from His CIA Policies
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