Different Valuations of Life
This print version has been auto-generated from http://www.globalissues.org/article/380/different-valuations-of-life
The following article from Cursor has been reposted here. It is an article by Professor Marc Herold of the University of New Hampshire, looking at how the loss of life in Afghanistan has been seen, as well as other aspects of the war on terror.This article can be found at its original location, http://www.cursor.org/stories/heroldon911.htm.
The Bombing of Afghanistan as Reflection of 9/11 and Different Valuations of Life
by Marc W. Herold
Departments of Economics and Women's Studies
Whittemore School of Business & Economics
University of New Hampshire
POSTED SEPTEMBER 11, 2002 --
Robert Fisk, one of Britain's most distinguished foreign correspondents and a person very familiar with central Asia, recently wrote in London's Independent:
"Why on earth are all my chums on CNN and Sky and the BBC rabbiting on about the "air campaign," coalition forces" and the "war on terror"? Do they think their viewers believe this twaddle? Certainly Muslims don't. In fact, you don't have to spend long in Pakistan to realize that the Pakistani press gives an infinitely more truthful and balanced account of the "war" - publishing work by local intellectuals, historians and opposition writers along with Taliban comments and pro-government statements as well as syndicated Western analyses - than the New York Times; and all this, remember, in a military dictatorship."1
1. Introduction: Attacks Then and Now
"About ten, another explosion was heard at the Capitol, and soon after, a fire was seen in the western part between the two houses, the north part of which burnt with great fury..."2
We, Americans, have grown so accustomed to being the citizens of a superpower that our collective memory of the above, the burning of Washington in August 1814 has been submerged. The burning of the Capitol and the White House are a nadir of U.S. military history, explaining why so little is known about this event. Add to that, a reality that 'our' wars with foreigners have always been carried out on their shores. But, on that hot and humid day of August 24, 1814, British troops quickly routed American militiamen, entered Washington, and that night set the young capitol ablaze in an inferno whose glow was seen miles away by frightened Americans in Leesburg, VA, and even Baltimore. The burn marks are visible today on the original stones of the White House. The confusion was complete: terrified residents fled, crowding streets with soldiers and senators, men and women, children, horses and carriages, and carts loaded with household furniture, all hastening towards a wooden bridge crossing the Potomac.
The decision by the British to burn public buildings and destroy public property was as much political as military, aimed at sending the message that nowhere was there safety from the long arm of the British Crown. But, that war was waged between militaries.
Anthony Pitch who wrote the definitive study, "The Burning of Washington," said that "when Americans returned to the ruined Capitol, their melancholy and lamentation was almost biblical."3 But contrary to Britain's intentions, the ruthless destruction galvanized American resistance then, just as similar attacks did on September 11th in New York city and on October 7th in Kandahar, Afghanistan during 2001.
The loss of historical memory and the comfort of living on a continent free of wars, made the attacks of September 11th so shocking. This land was quickly overcome with a dangerous mixture of confusion, fear and anger, all of which prevented 'seeing' the Other tragedy. A weak president was able to turn this into the quick-fix of a revenge attack upon Afghanistan. A quick response was also desired by our culture with its penchant for the fast, the instant, the get-to-the-solution. A strong president would, instead, have stood tall and demanded the patience and resolve of the American public in tracking down the criminal perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks, using the combined powers of the international intelligence communities.
A weak president opted to wage first an air and then ground war whose effects have been primarily felt by some of the most impoverished peoples of our earth, average Afghans, who already suffered from a two-year drought and twenty years of war. I say a weak president. Consider the political landscape of September 10th, 2001 here: an economic recession; a needless tax cut which turned budget surpluses into a deficit; an administration which distinguished itself by saying NO to the rest of the world on a range of important international issues; appointments like that of Attorney General Ashcroft who had lost to a dead man in Missouri's senatorial election. What a difference a day makes! It gave Bush an enemy whom the rest of us could not help but acknowledge.4 Suddenly enemies were everywhere and Bush's political star rose apace.
2. The Twin Tragedies: The Twin Lines of Ignominy
A little after 9 am on September 11th, hijacked planes began their deadly assaults on U.S. targets. A little before 9 pm on October 7th, U.S. and British planes and missiles hit 40 planned targets across Afghanistan with 50 cruise missiles and 40 planes.5 Questions were raised whether a target existed in Afghanistan worth Raytheon's $1 million Tomahawk missile.6 Revenge was underway.7 In both instances, thousands of utterly innocent civilians would perish, lives and landscapes would be changed forever - whether in Manhattan or in neighborhoods and villages across Afghanistan.
I have chosen, today as we remember, to focus upon Afghanistan because it is the lesser known of the twin tragedies. It is the 'Other' tragedy.8 Them not us. Natasha Walter wrote eloquently about those 'Others' - far away, allegedly inured to suffering caused by years of war, yet
"And don't think that just because they have suffered so much during the last generation that their grief is any the less now. Or because they don't get obituaries in The New York Times that each of the civilian lives lost in Afghanistan isn't as precious to their loved ones as the people who died in the Twin Towers. Frankly, that's the way that terrorists think, that some civilian lives matter less than others, and that some - or even hundreds, or even thousands - of innocent people can be expended in the pursuit of the "greater good"."9
In the wars of the late twentieth century, bodies caused by 'our' military are neigh invisible, that is, there are worthy and unworthy bodies. Ira Chernus, a professor of religious studies, wrote:
"The days of Vietnam-style 'body counts' ended long ago. Now, since nearly all the killing is done from high above, there may be no way to get even a close approximation [of the price of war in terms of casualties]. This is the new way of war. We destroy the enemy's air defenses and then bomb at will, never counting the human cost. All we know for sure is that many very real human beings are dead, maimed, or scarred for life...the dulling of consciousness is another hidden price we pay for war. In Afghanistan, as in Serbia and the Persian Gulf, it all seems so effortless, so painless, and so right. Why bother to ask moral questions? Since the price in U.S. lives is so small, why bother our consciences at all?"10
If "no one" - please read, no Western reporter - reported from Kabul, well, that suited the generals fine.11Al-Jazeera reports from Kabul and Kandahar naturally enraged U.S. political and military elites.
This notion of the 'Other' and its construction figured powerfully the dual elaboration of the so-called West and the Rest.12 A fascinating literature now exists on how the so-called West - or First World - went about as of the 16th century constructing in discourse an imaginary description of those inhabiting the rest of the world. Needless to say, these constructed 'Others' embodied all the less valued, the distorted, the irrational, the rude and even feared attributes. Such an ideational construct provided the justification for colonialism then and neo-colonialism today. It also underpins differential valuations of life. Such distinction between 'West' and the 'Rest' is at the heart of how Bush II decided to carry out the bringing to justice of the 9/11 perpetrators.
The following Table 1 plots the civilian victims in each tragedy. As the body count of the World Trade Center [WTC] was revised downward from the initial high of 6,700 to the current 2,819, that in Afghanistan rose from 20-37 on October 8th to 3,215 today. The twin lines of ignominy cross around January 15th. But in truth, the Afghan civilian casualties far exceeded the WTC deaths already during the second week of the U.S. airstrikes in real terms - experienced pain parity - that is in terms of the collective pain felt by a society. Why? The U.S. population is 13 times larger than the Afghan one  and hence to make Afghan casualties relevant in U.S. terms we need to multiply Afghan numbers by thirteen.14 A calculation of the twin tragedies then reveals 2,819 dead at the WTC and an equivalent pain parity of 41,795 dead Afghan civilians.
Arundhati Roy adds an important point:
"The bombing of Afghanistan is not revenge for New York and Washington. It is yet another act of terror against the people of the world. Each innocent person that is killed must be added to, not set off against, the grisly toll of civilians who died in New York and Washington."15
I believe that the revealed differential values put upon lives is also rooted in the constructs of the separate tribe, civilization and nation-state in more 'modern' times. A person's philosophico-moral attachment to a nation as opposed to seeing oneself as a citizen of the world sharing a pool of finite common resources, lies at the heart of a self-perception of 'being better', that is worth more. You are well aware, I am sure, of the barbarities which have been carried out over centuries by one group upon the other, "in the name of _____" [fill-in the blank]. My point is that a citizen of a nation will tend to put different valuations upon life, whereas a citizen of the world will assign more equal valuations.
Table 1. The Twin Tragedies: Cumulative Civilian Deaths
Note: Sources can be provided upon request from the author. The Afghan civilian casualties figures are derived from my daily casualty count data base, available at: http://pubpages.unh.edu/~mwherold.
"Amazingly, we still ask the question "Why do they hate us?" with a straight face. In a recent visit to a hospital treating Afghan war victims in the Pakistani border town of Quetta, journalist Robert Fisk encountered a man named Mahmat who had been asleep in his home when a bomb from an American B-52 fell on his village of Kazikarez. "The plane flies so high that we cannot hear them and the mud roof fell on them," Mahmat said, referring to his wife Rukia and their six children. He told Fisk that Rukia, who lay in the next room, did not yet know that her children were dead. What was particularly disturbing to Fisk was the vision of desperate rage that he saw in Mahmat's eyes. "I could see something terrible: he and the angry cousin beside him and the uncle and the wife's brother in the hospital attacking Americans for the murders that they had inflicted on their family..."16
3. The U.S. Air [and Ground] War and Different Valuations Put Upon Lives
"I was a pilot. Now I am a porter...Fighting has created a desert in this country. One leader is the same as another. The people are not important, only power [is]," spoken at a shop in the Khair Khana neighborhood in northern Kabul by Saeed Ghana who flew MIG-21s for the pro-communist government.17
High levels of Afghan civilian casualties have been caused less from mechanical or human errors, malfunction, or faulty intelligence, and more because of the decision by U.S. political and military planners to use powerful bombs in 'civilian-rich' areas where perceived military targets were located.18 Proximity to what these planners defined as military targets caused 3,100 - 3,600 Afghan civilian impact deaths19, or in equivalent U.S. terms 40 - 47,000 deaths.
On February 13th, Peshawar's daily newspaper, the Frontier Post, got it more right than all the U.S. media war pundits, headlining a brief article:
"Proximity to Taliban was Fatal!"
"The bomb craters are like enormous footsteps a few hundred yards apart, marching in the direction of a Taliban radio transmitter. Along the way, four men died...a fatal proximity to a site considered militarily useful to Afghanistan's Taliban or Osama."
Hundreds of individual stories exist, as yet mostly untold, of how proximity to what U.S. war planners deemed a military 'target', is at the heart of why so many innocent Afghan civilians died. Ghulam and Rabia Hazrat lived on the outskirts of Kabul near a Taliban military base. One day, a U.S. missile landed in the family's courtyard and the neighborhood was showered with cluster bombs. Mrs. Hazrat remembers,
"There was no warning. I was in the kitchen making dough when I heard a big explosion. I came out and saw a big cloud of dust and saw my children lying on the ground. Two of them were dead and two died later in the hospital."20
Abdul and Shakila Amiri lost their five-year-old, Nazila, in an American air strike on the morning of Oct. 17th.21 Nazila was playing with her younger brother and sister close to their home in Kabul's Macroyan apartment complex when it was hit by a type of bomb glorified on the pages of glossy magazines hawked from newsstands across America.
Along with the U.S. military planner's decision to bomb perceived military targets in urban areas, the use of weapons with great destructive blast and fragmentation power necessarily results in heavy civilian casualties. The weapon of choice during the first three weeks of the air campaign was the 500 lb. bomb which has a lethal blast range of 20 meters; later, the 2,000 lb. pound became the weapon of choice and it has a lethal blast range of 34 meters. The Navy's favorite has been the 1,000 lb. Mark 83 bomb. In order to be safe from a 2,000 lb. bomb, a person need be close to one-half kilometer away. The JDAM technology consists of a $21,000 kit produced by Boeing which transforms 1,000 and 2,000 lb. conventional 'dumb' bombs into 'smart' bombs which rely upon the global positioning system. When global positioning updates are available the JDAM-outfitted bomb can strike within 13 meters [43 feet] of its target. When updates are not available due to jamming or other problems, it can 'still hit within 30 meters [or 98 feet].',22 The B1-B bombers flying out of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean, can carry 24-30 Mark 84 2,000 lb. JDAM bombs. Each bomb is 14 feet long and will destroy military targets within a 40 foot radius from the point of impact. Using only an inertial guidance system [INS], the Mark 84 bomb has a circular error radius of 30 meters, but with a GPS guidance unit this gets reduced to 13 meters.
I am not arguing that in a strict sense, U.S. military planners intentionally targeted civilians. This was not a strategic bombing campaign.23 But, I believe it has been a case of second-degree intentionality24. A 1,000 pound JDAM bomb dropped upon a residence or upon a tank parked in a residential area, will necessarily kill people in proximity. And all the more so, since most of the U.S. bombing attacks were carried out at night when people were in their homes. Moreover, most Afghan homes whether in urban neighborhoods, mountain or plains villages, are made out of mud-bricks.
Abdul Malik mourns the loss of his family in Kakarak, July 2002. [Source: AFP photo at http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/2242428.stm]
Vijay Prashad argues the same point,
"To say that the civilian deaths from aerial bombardment are unintentional is sophistry, because if there is a probability that the bombs will hit civilian targets, then ipso facto the civilian deaths are not unintentional. This is tantamount to saying that a drunk driver who did not intend to kill someone in an "accident" should be set free for lacking of such intention...aerial bombardment always already intends to kill civilians, despite the best intentions of military planners."25
The U.S. air war upon Afghanistan is best described as being of low bombing-intensity though with elevated civilian casualty intensity, precisely the opposite of the air war carried out in Iraq a decade ago. The American bombing was carried out from altitudes beyond the reach of Taliban anti-aircraft fire and relied heavily upon sophisticated targeting technology, but this technology could not prevent the inevitable killing of thousands of innocent Afghan civilians. The effects of technology as anyone familiar with the process of economic development knows, are heavily determined by context. To talk about precision guided munitions outside of context is rather meaningless.
Afghan civilians in proximity to alleged military installations will die, and must die, as 'collateral damage' of U.S. air attacks aiming to destroy these installations in order to make future military operations from the sky or on the ground less likely to result in U.S. military casualties. The military facilities of the Taliban were mostly inherited from the Soviet-supported government of the 1980s which had concentrated its military infrastructure in cities, which could be better defended against the rural insurgency of the mujahideen. This reality is compounded insofar as the Taliban maintained dispersed facilities: smaller units spread out. U.S. military strategists and their bombers, thus, engaged in a very widespread high intensity of bombing. Such intense urban bombing causes high levels of civilian casualties. From the point of view of U.S. policy makers and their mainstream media boosters, the 'cost' of a dead Afghan civilian is zero as long as these civilian deaths can be hidden from the general U.S. public' view. The 'benefits' of saving future lives of U.S. military personnel are enormous, given the U.S. public's post-Vietnam aversion to returning body bags.
The absolute imperative to avoid U.S. military casualties meant flying high up in the sky, increasing the probability of killing civilians:
"...better stand clear and fire away. Given this implicit decision, the slaughter of innocent people, as a statistical eventuality is not an accident but a priority -- in which Afghan civilian casualties are substituted for American military casualties."26
The documented Afghan civilians killed were not participating in war-making activities [e.g., working in munitions factories, etc.] and, therefore, had not forfeited their right to immunity from attack.27 In effect, as an astute scholar has noted, I am turning Michael Walzer's notion of 'due care'28 upside down: that is, far from acknowledging a positive responsibility to protect innocent Afghans from the misery of war, U.S. military strategists chose to impose levels of harm upon innocent Afghan civilians to reduce present and possible future dangers faced by U.S. forces.
4. The Revealed Different Valuations of Life
Another way to document the differential value put upon lives, is to look at the compensation offered for wrongful deaths. The point is sometimes argued that cross-country comparisons of monetary values should be made in purchasing power parity terms.29 To do this in the Afghan case - that is to make $18,500 in Afghanistan match an equivalent $ amount in terms of purchasing power in the United States - would amount to about multiplying the $18,500 figure by five. But in fairness, then we should also translate into U.S. terms the numbers of Afghan civilian deaths from bombing estimated at 3,100 - 3,600, or in U.S. terms given a U.S. population 13 times as large, 40,000 - 47,000.
When we make the comparisons in purchasing power parity terms, we find the following very clear gradient in the valuation of life:
Table 2. Revealed 'Value' of Life of Different Nationalities
|Nationality||In nominal $'s||GDP PPP$'s/GDP US $'s ratio||In PPP US $'s|
|Chinese||$ 150,000||4.58||$ 687,000|
|Iranians||$ 132,000,000||2.5 - 3||$ 535,000|
|Afghans @ lifetime earnings||$ 3,300 - $ 5,000||~5*||$16,500 - $25,000|
|Afghans @ Karzai||$200||~5||$1,000|
* The Afghan ratio of 5 is estimated on basis of GPD data and it is close to that for Pakistan where prices are similar, a ratio of 4.25 in Pakistan. The Afghan and Pakistani economies have been very tightly linked monetarily.
The Afghan figure is a fraction of what compensation was paid for Italian, Chinese, Iranian and South Korean lives lost to U.S. official negligence, though almost identical to the paltry amount offered by Union Carbide Corporation to Indians. But then, each Bhopal victim received $ 3,200 on average, while an article in The Times of India caustically noted that approximately US $40,000 was spent on the rehabilitation of every sea otter affected by the Exxon Valdez oil spill. An Alaskan sea otter is revealed to be worth more than ten times the value of an Indian citizen of Bhopal.
Such starkly differing monetary valuation of lives by Euro-America has an old history. One need only mention slavery and colonialism, or more recently the scandalous notion that dumping the world's toxic wastes in the Third World would be a 'world welfare enhancing policy' [as argued in the famous leaked World Bank memo of 1992 signed by economist Larry Summers - who now reigns as president of Harvard University].
More importantly, in my view, is that Table 2 clearly reveals that the West 'values' life in direct proportion to a nation's level of material development. This practice is supported by the two commonly used methods in the West of valuing life monetarily: either the discounted future earnings approach or the willingness to pay to extend life, approaches necessarily put a higher value upon life in rich than in poor countries and, hence, are merely refined versions of the centuries-old White Man's Burden.
5. One Year Later: Failures and Successes of the U.S. Military Campaign in Afghanistan
Naturally, different vantage points offer different assessments of these failures and successes, but let me briefly try to draw a balance sheet.30 The stated successes might include:
- Dismantling the network of training camps in Afghanistan;
- Drying up the source of funds flowing to support al-Qaeda by blocking $112 million of its funds;
- Ouster of the Taliban government;
- Detained or killed one-third of al-Qaeda's leadership.31
These successes are questionable. The training camps were very low-tech facilities easily re-established elsewhere. Certainly, future operation of such camps will have to be more clandestine and without the support of a host government.32 But the decentralization and dispersal of al-Qaeda caused by U.S. bombing has resulted in a more dissimulated and dangerous structure. Eric Margolis reported that:
"According to a secret government report revealed last week by the New York Times, the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan not only 'failed to diminish the threat to the United States,' but actually complicated the U.S. counter-terrorism campaign by dispersing its radical foes across the Muslim world."33
A recently leaked U.N. report has warned that al-Qaeda's finances are in good shape and that the early successes in choking off its funding by freezing 'terrorist-related assets' have tailed off.34
The ouster of the Taliban has not given way to a popular, multi-ethnic, national government. Ethnic strife continues, possibly even worse than during the Taliban era with Pashtun victimization and rising Pastun ire towards Karzai and his U.S. backers.35 Opium production after a hiatus under the Taliban, is soaring despite Karzai's ban.36 The Karzai regime is an American invention - and hence widely seen as a U.S. puppet - and is de facto a weak mayoralty - dominated by the old Northern Alliance and a coterie of returned pro-U.S. exiles - supported by 5,000 foreign troops and a special 46-strong U.S. contingent which serves as Karzai's private body guards.37 U.S. tax payers are paying for a foreign leader's private protectors! Karzai's weakness is exposed insofar as he does not even have a platoon of troops that is both trustworthy and capable of protecting him. When he ventures out of Kabul's presidential palace, he likely suffers assassination attempts.38
The un-stated 'successes' are much more compelling:
- 9/11 provided Bush II with a much needed powerful domestic political boost [and an 'enemy'];
- The military campaign has allowed a major U.S. politico-military-economic presence to be established in Central Asia at the heart of the Muslim world, something the U.S. had not possessed since the Shah of Iran was overthrown in 1979 by a militant Muslim movement. What had began as a limited operation to capture al- Qaeda leaders and disrupt that organization, has evolved into a full-fledged empire-building scheme with major regional projection.
William Blum has summarized such expansion:
"Washington's war on terrorism is primarily a euphemism for extending US control in the world. Following its bombing of Iraq, the US wound up with military bases in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar. Following its bombing of Yugoslavia, the US wound up with military bases in Kosovo, Albania, Macedonia, Hungary, Bosnia and Croatia. Following its bombing of Afghanistan, Washington appears on course to wind up with military bases in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and perhaps elsewhere in the region. Thus does the empire grow."39
I underscore here the U.S. politico-military presence rather than the fanciful notion that getting access to Caspian oil reserves motivates the U.S. war.40 No major corporation will make major investments in Afghanistan as the political risks are far too large and the economic payoff paltry.
- Certain key industries here - in oil, defense contractors and security branches - have prospered enormously from the new military buildup.41 War has enriched the likes of Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon, General Atomics, Northrup Gruman and General Dynamics.42 9/11 has also been used to roll-back the environmental movement's successes and benefit the raw materials industries;
- 9/11 has heightened the tensions between an aggressive, consumerist, individualist McWorld and what Benjamin Barber calls 'jihad' [or resistance].43 I do not wish to support the 'clash of civilizations' argument, but it strikes me that two very different visions of living and happiness do exist in, say, Beverly Hills and Kandahar. We know how expansionist the capitalist individualist consumer system has been through the centuries of modernity.
The failures [or costs] of the U.S. military campaign are formidable. I believe these are:
- A world which is no safer than before 9/11;
- The perpetrators of 9/11 roam free. As others have pointed out, this war against enemies has dispersed the al-Qaeda network once firmly centered in Afghanistan, making for a much more decentralized, horizontal organization which is far more difficult to combat. Al- Qaeda was disrupted but not destroyed. And the perpetrators of 9/11 remain at large - two exceptions being Mohammed Atef killed by a CIA missile on November 14th and Abu Zubaydah captured in Pakistan in March. The much ballyhooed discoveries of weapons caches are simply no substitute for apprehending the perpetrators of 9/11. Recently, the inability of U.S. troops to engage and/or locate al-Qaeda and Taliban forces has demoralized U.S. special forces who state that the hunt for al-Qaeda in Afghanistan is now "a waste of time";44
- The likely prospect of an expanding regional war including a long, drawn-out replay of the Soviet-Afghan war as the al-Qaeda and Taliban have re-grouped.45 These elements had grossly underestimated the damage a U.S. air campaign might inflict and hence, suffered near total dis-organization during the months after October 7th. The Taliban were never systematically disarmed, but simply faded into villages and hills, often linking up with disgruntled warlords [e.g., the still powerful Hekmatyar]. The backlash against American actions and its Panjshiri-Tajik proxy force in Afghanistan, is just beginning.46 Pamphlets in Pashto were widely distributed in late August in Paktia, Jalalabad and Kandahar stating that "the mujahideen were committed to turn Afghanistan into a graveyard of U.S. troops";47
- A deteriorating financial-economic domestic condition, manifested by capital flight from the U.S. towards a resurgent Euro, deteriorating federal budget and international trade balances, and a stalled economy. The U.S. military campaign in Afghanistan is estimated to be costing $1 billion a month.48 U.S. government expenditures at all levels will now run close to $100 billion to improve 'first responders' and tighten security. This is bankrupting cities and states and siphoning funds away from vital unmet needs like Medicaid;49
- Attacks at home on civil liberties of immigrants and U.S. citizens and the stifling of dissent.50 Let us remember that after seven months and more than 1,200 arrests in the U.S., only one man, Zacarias Moussaoui, has been charged with terrorism offenses tied to 9/11 and he was picked up a month before the hijackers hit the twin towers. For most Americans, the domestic crackdown has meant standing in line a little longer to get on a flight, for many Muslims [and Sikhs, etc.] it has meant arbitrary detention;
- The Bush II reaction to 9/11 has increasingly isolated the United States from erstwhile Allies in Europe and, of course, the Muslim world, exacerbating the Administration's 'go-it-alone' unilateralist penchant. Whereas Europe puts greater faith in supranational institutions and covenants, the U.S. elevates its national interest above all else.51
Jim Lobe writes,
George Monbiot argues that the U.S. treats the rest of the world as its doormat53 and Harold Meyerson speaks of the shambles that is the Bush foreign policy.54 Paul Kennedy while recognizing the truly overwhelming U.S. military might - the U.S. 'defense' budget is higher than that of the next 15 countries combined, or represents 45% of world military spending and in 2003 will equal that of all its NATO allies plus Russia and China - argues that the colossus has an Achilles' heel;55
"The Bush presidency, especially after September 11, has shifted U.S. engagement in global affairs out of the post-WW II framework of multilateralism toward an unapologetic unilateralist approach.....not just a superpower, America is the global hegemon."52
- Most importantly and troubling, the U.S. Administration has shown no signs of addressing the deep grievances behind Muslim extremist anger, whether on the issue of Palestine or sanctions upon Iraq.56
Just like father, George W., has used foreign policy to build domestic political support - that is, foreign policy is an appendage to domestic concerns and the political is privileged over the economic. Only this time around, the 'Fortress America' mentality is far more pronounced.57 As father, George W. has pursued a foreign policy which has weakened the U.S. economy and promises to do more so if a war upon Iraq is launched.58
As the tri-color flags on pick-up trucks' antennae have faded and become ragged in these months after 9/11, greater clarity is slowly emerging over the human costs of the U.S. air and ground campaigns. Let this be a caution to further military adventurism. When we begin seeing ourselves more as citizens of the world than defenders of a nation, then we may move towards equal valuations of life across space. We might then begin to question past and future uses of air power to achieve military-political ends and understand how such bombing campaigns flow directly from a differential valuation of life - in this sense, the bombing of Afghanistan is no different from that of Guernica or Dresden [note: Guernica and Dresden went down in history because we - Euro-Americans - were the ones who died.59 Who knows about the Spanish bombing Chechaouan, the French bombing the neighborhoods of Damascus on October 18, 1925 and Madagascar in 1948 killing 89,000 - 100,000 simple people, etc.].60 The bombing and killing of average Afghans is the reflection of the carnage perpetrated in Manhattan on 9/11. In both tragedies, thousands of innocents perished.
For reasons I have elaborated elsewhere61, the U.S. mainstream corporate media has resisted portraying the carnage caused by U.S. bombs in Afghanistan. Times of London foreign correspondent Anthony Lloyd wrote that "seldom in a modern conflict have the facts been so manipulated as in Afghanistan."62 In late October, CNN Chairman Walter Isaacson said that a focus in news reporting on civilian casualties would be 'perverse.'63 Too many people here still believe in the myth of precision-guided munitions which only or mostly kill the 'bad guys.'
The "Others" see it differently.64 Let me end by mentioning one Other, Mahtab, 20, an Afghan refugee living in a squatter camp in Peshawar,
"...But it was the bombing that made her leave Kabul on Oct. 18. Her house was hit during a raid and her mother-in-law was killed by shrapnel, she said. "It pierced her heart.'' She is angry at America, and when she is told that the United States is trying to minimize civilian casualties, she answered with a list of neighborhoods where innocents have been killed: Khuja Bughra, Maidan Hawai and others. Her patience wore away quickly at this subject. "It is easier to understand if it is you being bombed,'' she said."65
Afghans' collective memory of war's horror burns. Yes, it is easier to understand if it is you being bombed.
-- 30 --
1. Robert Fisk, "Hypocrisy, Hatred and the War on Terror," The Independent [November 8, 2001] at http://www.commondreams.org/views01/1108-08.htm
2. From a letter by Chester Bailey in "From Washington," New Hampshire Gazette [September 6, 1814]: 2.
3. Anthony S. Pitch, The Burning of Washington: The British Invasion of 1814 [U.S. Naval Institute Press, 1998]
4. I owe these lines to Dr. Whitney Azoy, "Descartes, Pashtuns and President Bush," The Bangor Daily News [August 29, 2002]
5. Official daily target information on the U.S military campaign may be found at the site of Global Security : http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/ops/enduring-freedom-ops.htm
6. By one of the Arab world's foremost political commentators, Mohammed Heikal, " 'There Isn't a Target in Afghanistan Worth a $1m Missile'," The Guardian [October 10, 2001]
7. This point has been repeatedly made by Tariq Ali, for example in his "Q and A on the War. An Interview with Tariq Ali by La Jornada," Counterpunch [November 9, 2001]
8. I owe this phrase to Mike King who had begun a beautiful memorial for those Afghans killed by U.S. bombs and missiles, at : http://www.thetwintragedy.org
9. Natasha Walters, "These Refugees Are Our Responsibility," The Independent [November 22, 2001] at : http://www.commondreams.org/views01/1122-05.htm
10. Ira Chernus, "Is Afghanistan Was Worth the Price?" Common Dreams News Center [November 19, 2001] at http://commondreams.org/views01/1119-07.htm
11. Magnus Linklater, "Not News, Just Propaganda," The Times [October 12, 2001]
12. Stuart Hall, "The West and the Rest: Discourse and Power," in Stuart Hall and Bram Gieben [eds], Formations of Modernity [Cambridge: Polity Press, 1992]
13. The figure of 37 killed is reported in Sunday's strikes by the Pakistan Observer [October 9, 2001]. My research, however, indicates the following civilian death toll: 4 in Kandahar; Jalalabad @ 2-6; Kabul @ 9 - 12; and Mazar @ 8 - 20. A daily count of civilian Afghans killed by U.S. bombs can be found at my constantly updated and revised data base, at http://pubpages.unh.edu/~mwherold . I have reviewed eight studies to-date which seek to count the civilian dead in Afghanistan in "Counting the Dead. Attempts to Hide the Number of Afghan Civilians Killed by US Bombs are an Affront to Justice," The Guardian [August 8, 2002] at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,3604,770915,00.html . Some might object to my comparison of these two counts, claiming that those who perished in the WTC did so as a result of a terrorist act. But, I believe that states can and do practice terrorism - that is, use violence against innocent people and property to achieve political ends. Political scientist, C. Douglas Lummis has written that "air bombardment is state terrorism. It is the terrorism of the rich. It has burned up and blasted apart more innocents in the past six decades than have all the anti-state terrorists who ever lived." From Stephen Gowans, "Terrorism as Foreign Policy," MediaMonitors  at http://www.mediamonitors.net/gowans57.html
14. The U.S. population in 2001 was 283.2 million, that of Afghanistan 21.8 million. From United Nations, Human Development Report 2002 : 162, 251.
15. In her " 'Brutality Smeared in Peanut Butter. Why America Must Stop the War Now," The Guardian [October 23, 2001]
16. From Aaron G. Lehmer, "Inviting Future Terrorism: Rising Afghan Death Count and US Policy in the Mideast," Counterpunch [December 27, 2001]
17. "Praying for Peace in War-Ravaged Country," The Northern Echo [December 11, 2001]
18. In a strange critique of my work, Professor Jeffrey C. Isaac claims that I ignore "why the US has bombed these areas is simply because that is where the targeted facilities are located. But Herold strangely chooses to ignore this possibility" [Jeffrey C. Issac, "Civilian Casualties in Afghanistan: the Limits of Marc Herold's 'Comprehensive Accounting'," OpenDemocracy [March 14, 2002], at : http://www.opendemocracy.net/forum/document_details.asp?CatID=98&DocID=1143 ].
19. By impact death I mean death caused at the moment of explosion of the bomb or missile. This seriously underestimates the actual number of deaths as it omits all those injured who later die. My estimates indicate that for every impact death about two persons were injured.
20. Carlotta Gall, "Shattered Afghan Families Demand U.S Compensation," New York Times [April 8, 2002].
21. For details on the Amiris, see Kelly Campbell, "Six Months On. Part II. The Victims," ARROW Briefing #13 [March 11, 2002], at : http://www.j-n-v-org/ARROW_aw_briefings/ARROW_briefing013.htm
22. Loren Thompson, What Works? VIII. The Joint Direct Attack Munition: Making Acquisition Reform a Reality [Arlington, VA.: Lexington Institute, November 1999].
23. Kenneth Hewitt, "Place Annihilation: Area Bombing and the Fate of Urban Places," Annals of the Association of American Geographers 73,2 [June 1983]: 257-284.
24. On this matter of 'errors' in US bombing, see Edward S, Herman, " 'Tragic Errors' in U.S. Military Policy," Z Magazine 15,9 [September 2002]: 27-32.
25. Vijay Prashad, "Aerial Bombardment in the Racist Contemporary," Little India [November 2001] at http://www.littleindia.com/India/nov2001/aerial.htm
26. John MacLachlen Gray, "The Terrible Downside of 'Working the Dark Side'," The Toronto Globe & Mail [October 31, 2001]:R3.
27. Nicholas J. Wheeler, "Protecting Afghan Civilians From the Hell of War" [New York: Social Science Research Center Viewpoint Essay #9, December 2001]: 5-6 at http://www.ssrc.org/sept11/essays/wheeler.htm
28. Michael Walzer, Just and Unjust Wars: A Moral Argument with Historical Illustrations [London: Allen Lane, 1977]: 156.
29. For a definition of such, see "What is Purchasing Power Parity?" at http://pacific.commerce.ubc.ca/xr/PPP.html
30. An outstanding reflection on the U.S. 'war' in Afghanistan may be found in Juergen Todenhofer, "We Can't Simply Bomb a Just World Into Shape. It's a Lot Easier to Declare Victory Than to Earn It," The Chicago Tribune [June 30, 2002] at : http://commondreams.org/views02/0630-04.htm . See also Hubert G. Locke, "What Has War Brought Us So Far?" Seattle Post-Intelligencer [February 22, 2002] at http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/opinion/59290_lockcol.shtml . A fascinating assessment made from a women-centered perspective made be found in Saba Gul Khattak, "The U.S. Bombing of Afghanistan: A Women-Centered Perspective" [New York: Social Science Research Center Viewpoint Essay #0, December 2001] at http://www.ssrc.org/sept11/essays/khattak.htm
31. Mentioned in, for example, Faye Bowers, "Al Qaeda Network Frayed," Christian Science Monitor [September 6, 2002]
32. From Frank Gardner, "War on al-Qaeda: One year on," BBC News [August 30, 2002 at 16:14 GMT] at http://www.afgha.com/article.php?sid=16233&mode=&order=0
33. Eric Margolis, "Anti-U.S. Militants Showing Up All Over," Ottawa Sun [June 23, 2002]
34. Gardner, op. cit.
35. For example, see Scott Baldauf, "Newest Flood of Afghan Refugees: Pashtuns Fleeing South," Christian Science Monitor [August 30, 2002], at : http://www.csmonitor.com/2002/0830/p07s02-wosc.htm . On Pashtun anger, see Paul Wiseman, "Frustration Boils in Afghanistan's Pashtuns," USA Today [July 30, 2002] at http://ww.usaday.com/usatonline/20020730/4316801s.htm and Anthony Shadid, "Pashtun Ire Towards US Grows," The Boston Globe [January 22, 2002]
36. Scott Baldauf, "Poppies Bloom in Afghan Fields Again," Christian Science Monitor [August 21, 2002]
37. See STRATFOR.com, "If You'll Be My Bodyguard, I'll Be Your Long Lost Pal" [July 25, 2002], at http://www.e-ariana.com/ariana/eariana.nsf/ allArticles/610D0338B07CD2F587256C1000553FB3?OpenDocument
38. Rahimullah Yusufzai, "Attack Exposes Karzai's Weakness," BBC News Online [September 5, 2002 at 22:12 GMT]
39. William Blum, "The Truth About the U.S. Bombing of Afghanistan," The Ecologist [March 22, 2002]
40. Ken Silverstein, "No War for Oil! Is the United States Really After Afghanistan's Resources? Not a Chance," The American Prospect 13,14 [August 12, 2002]
41. See James M. Cypher, "Return of the Iron Triangle: The New Military Buildup," Dollars and Sense no.239 [Jan/Feb. 2002]
42. see Anne Marie Squeo, "Budget Plan to Brighten Skies for Defense Contractors," Wall Street Journal [February 1. 2002]: A20.
43. Benjamin Barber, Jihad vs. McWorld. How Globalism and Tribalism are Reshaping the World [New York: Ballantine Books, 1995]
44. Roland Watson, "Hunt for Al Qaeda in Afghanistan 'A Waste of Time'," Times [September 4, 2002]
45. powerfully and cogently argued in STRATFOR, "Situation Deteriorating Rapidly in Afghanistan" [August 28, 2002], at : http://no-war.1accesshost.com/stratfor1.html
46. Robert Fisk, "Return to Afghanistan: Americans Begin to Suffer Grim and Bloody Backlash," The Independent [13, 2001], at : http://new.independent.co.uk/world/asia_china/story.jsp?story=324164
47. "Four Afghan Troops Die in Friendly Fire," The Balochistan Post [September 2, 2002]
48. Calvin Woodward, "War May be Costing $1 Billion a Month," Associated Press [November 11, 2001 at 1:54 PM EST]
49. See article by John Tirman, "One Year Later: Unintended Consequences of 9/11 and the War on terrorism," Alternet [August 31, 2002], at : http://www.alternet.org/story.html?StoryID=13979
50. See the excellent review in Marissa Wilkinson, "Civil Rights Missing in Action," Sydney Morning Herald [September 9, 2002]
51. See Lionel Barber, "Not Against You But Not Always With You," Financial Times [September 3, 2002]
52. Jim Lobe, "Unilateralist Path Scored as Self-Defeating," Foreign Policy in Focus [FPIF] [July 2, 2002]
53. George Monbiot, "US Treats the Rest of the World as its Doormat," Dawn [August 7, 2002] at http://www.dawn.com/2002/08/07/int11.htm
54. Harold Meyerson, "Axis of Incompetence. On the Shambles that is the Bush Foreign Policy," The American Prospect 13,9 [May 20, 2002] at http://www.prospect.org/print-friendly/print/V13/9/meyerson-h.html
55. Paul Kennedy, "The Colossus With an Achilles' Heel," New Perspectives Quarterly 19,3 [Summer 2002]
56. Gardner, op. cit
57. On this I disagree with Paul Kennedy [2001, op. cit.] who argues against 'Fortress America,' pointing to the nation's global corporations, its global cultural and commercial superiority, its 'liberal' immigration policies, and the openness of its universities to foreign students.
58. For an elaboration, see Patrick E. Tyler and Richard W. Stevenson, "Profound Effect on U.S. Economy Seen in a War on Iraq," New York Times [July 30, 2002]
59. Point made by Vijay Prashad, op. cit.
60. these and countless other examples of bombing are described in the masterful volume by Sven Lindqvist, A History of Bombing [New York: The New Press, 2000]
61. See my "Truth About Afghan Civilian Casualties Comes Only Through American Lenses for the U.S. Corporate Media [our modern-day Didymus]," in Peter Phillips and Project Censored [eds], Censored 2002: The Year's Top 25 Stories [New York: Seven Seas Publishing, 2002]. See also Kurt Nimmo, " 'Yes, We Censored News About Afghanistan' The Lapdog Conversion of CNN," Counterpunch [August 23, 2002] at: http://www.counterpunch.com/nimmo0823.html
62. In his "Don't Believe all the Major Tells you," The Times [May 10, 2002]. Lloyd is referring to the inane press briefings held in Bagram air base by military personnel.
63. Fair & Accuracy in Reporting [FAIR], "Action Alert: CNN says Focus on Civilian Casualties Would be 'perverse'," FAIR Action Alert [November 1, 2001] at http://www.fair.org/activism/cnn-casualties.html
64. For example, Afghan women refugees interpret the bombing differently, see Saba Gul Khattak, op. cit.
65. Barry Bearak," Escaping Afghanistan, Children Pay the Price," New York Times [October 31, 2001].
General Fair Use Notice
This reposted page may contain copyrighted material whose use has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. Globalissues.org is making this article available in efforts to advance the understanding of the workings, impact and direction of various global issues. I believe that this constitutes a “fair use” of the copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the U.S. Copyright Law. If you wish to use this copyrighted material for purposes of your own that go beyond “fair use,” you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.
This article is part of the following collection:
- Sept 11 Reaction and in Context
- War is Peace
- Solidarity against all forms of terrorism
- The Algebra of Infinite Justice
- Shocked and Horrified
- Muslims ask: Why do they hate us?
- Americans must now feel what the rest of us have known
- Chomsky: The World After Sept. 11
- Terrorism As Cannibalism
- Different Valuations of Life
- 11 Things to Remember on September 11
- Remembering the Nonviolent September 11
- 9/11 and Manipulation of the USA
- 100 years later: “Satyagraha”, Gandhi’s Non-violent Resistance Movement, September 11, 1906
Back to top