Parlaying Tragedy into Empire. (Watch on the Right)

By Swomley, John M. | The Humanist, September-October 2002 | Go to article overview

Parlaying Tragedy into Empire. (Watch on the Right)


Swomley, John M., The Humanist


The events of September 11, 2001, are said to have changed everything. George W. Bush announced that the United States would declare war against any nation harboring terrorists and sent U.S. armed forces into Afghanistan to oust the Taliban, eliminate al-Qaeda, and catch Osama bin Laden. Not only did a sense of foreboding pervade the U.S. population but it was fostered by the media. Following the attacks in New York and Washington, Dan Rather, anchor of CBS Evening News, said, "George Bush is the president. He makes the decisions. Whenever he wants me to line up, just tell me where. And he'll make the call."

The U.S. Catholic bishops as a body announced publicly their vote--267 to 4--to support the war in Afghanistan. As reported in the Jesus Journal, "Most of the heads of the other monotheistic religions in the United States," from Billy Graham on down, didn't mince words "about their desire to give spiritual and conscience comfort to the American war effort."

Throughout the ensuing war, Americans have received no official reports of the civilian casualties in Afghanistan, as Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, accompanied by men in uniform, brief the press and the population. Only Extra!--the magazine of Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting--reported that there may be over 3,500 civilian deaths and that "both Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have voiced strong concern about the loss of civilian lives and separately called for a moratorium on the use of cluster bombs."

Agence France Presse noted on December 6, 2001, that refugees from Kandahar "spoke of tremendous civilian casualties" when wave after wave of U.S. bombers targeted the city. It further reported that "two months of relentless bombardment have reduced the city of Kandahar to a ghost town," with no water or electricity, scarce food, and "housing only [for] the famished who were too poor to leave."

What has the war accomplished? It hasn't led to the capture of Osama bin Laden, who as recently as July 10, 2002, is reported alive and well. It liberated Afghanistan from Taliban rule, but it hasn't stopped terrorism--as evidenced by the assassination of the interim government's vice-president. It hasn't eliminated the al-Qaeda, pockets of which continue to mount armed resistance and to issue threats of future violence against the American people. In fact, if the frequent Bush administration alerts about impending terrorist attacks aren't simply psychological ploys to maintain citizen support for Bush's war policies, the war in Afghanistan has increased rather than decreased threats of terrorism.

While the war in Afghanistan and the attacks of September 11 dominated television, radio, and print media, it is important to view these events in a wider context. Bruce Cumings of the University of Chicago has written, "Despite the mainstream media's verdict on the great success of the war, it will lead to an even greater U.S. military occupation of the world and hence to a U.S. `garrison state.'" Cumings notes in the March 4, 2002, Nation the Pentagon's announcement of a new commitment to bases in Central Asia--"an air base near Bishtek, the capital of Kyrgzstan, that would hold up to 3,000 troops; massive upgrading of existing military bases and facilities in Uzbekistan ... and Pakistan" where several bases now house U.S. forces with next-to-no media access or scrutiny; creation and expansion of remaining military bases in Afghanistan and other "airfields in locations on the perimeter of Afghanistan."

Uri Averney, former member of the Israeli Knesset and activist for peace and international affairs, wrote in the Israeli journal Ma'ariv in February 2002:

 
   If one looks at the map for the big American bases created for the war, one 
   is struck by the fact that they are completely identical to the route of 
   the projected oil pipeline to the Indian Ocean. … 

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