A Roll of the Bombs. (Comment)

The Progressive, November 2001 | Go to article overview

A Roll of the Bombs. (Comment)


It's hard to get over the shock of September 11, even several weeks later: the grotesque audacity of the act, the canyon of pain and grief that it has left behind. More than 5,000 people murdered. More than 5,000 families shattered. On the scales of horror, this terrorist action weighs heavy.

And now there is more horror.

By bombing Afghanistan, George W. Bush has rolled the bombs as if they were dice. And for all his protestations to the contrary, he has treated the people of Afghanistan as if they were playthings.

On October 7, when the United States and Britain began bombing Kabul, a city of more than two million people, they guaranteed that innocent Afghans would lose their lives. It's impossible to bomb a city of that size, along with three other cities, Kandahar, Herat, and Jalalabad, and not kill people. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld went on the air in the first twenty-four hours to argue that all the Afghan dead were guilty. "There is no question but that any people who were around those targets were around those targets because they were part of the Al Qaeda and the Taliban military," he said.

But why should we believe Rumsfeld? According to The New York Times, he loves to quote Churchill's hideous line: "In wartime, truth is so precious that she should always be attended by a bodyguard of lies."

The innocent Afghans killed in Bush's war did not fly the planes that crashed into the World Trade Center or the Pentagon. They did nothing to deserve death at the hands of Washington.

How many innocent Afghans will ultimately die in this war we cannot know.

But what we do know is that Bush calculated that they were expendable.

They are not.

Killing innocent people is never justified.

Bush says the war will make us safer. "The only way to pursue peace is to pursue those who threaten it," he told the nation on October 7.

We've had many wars in the name of peace. And this one, like most, will not make the United States any safer; it will make this country more imperiled.

Already, the government is warning us of additional, and perhaps imminent, terrorist attacks on our soil.

Already, riots have broken out in Pakistan, raising the specter that the government of General Musharraf may fall to forces allied with the Taliban, and that Pakistan's nuclear weapons may not be secure.

Other riots have roiled Palestine and Indonesia, and more riots may erupt throughout the Muslim world, threatening U.S. allies from Egypt to the Philippines.

If you think our economy is in bad shape right now, imagine what it would be like if the corrupt Saudi monarchy were to fall. Saudi Arabia, after all, sits atop 25 percent of the world's oil supplies.

War is a terribly risky and dangerous game. "The men who have embarked on wars in this century repeatedly, almost exclusively, substituted their interests, desires, and preconceptions for accurate assessments of the most likely possibilities once they began," historian Gabriel Kolko wrote in Century of War: Politics, Conflicts, and Society Since 1914 (New Press, 1994).

But Bush embarked anyway.

Like his father in the prelude to the Gulf War, George W. spurned a last minute offer to negotiate. The Taliban said they were prepared to release the eight Americans under arrest, apprehend Osama bin Laden, and try him under Islamic law. But the United States opted for bombs, not negotiations.

Bush has vowed to wage an unlimited war. "You will have every tool you need," he assured his soldiers on Sunday, echoing his words of September 20, when he said the United States would use "every necessary weapon of war."

He thus went out of his way to keep nuclear weapons on the table.

The war is unlimited not only in weaponry but in time and targets. Bush and Rumsfeld say it may last ten years or more. …

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