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What is an appropropriate response?
Political and philosophical considerations after the attack on the Word Trade Center

10 Reasons to Stop Bombing Afghanistan

Don Hazen, AlterNet
October 19, 2001

Despite almost universal agreement that America "needs to do something" in
response to terrorism, our heavy bombing of Afghanistan increasingly looks 
like a bad idea. While virtually all of us feel that strong steps should 
be taken to apprehend anyone behind the massive murders on September 11, 
when you add up all the facts, the pulverizing of a battered country just 
doesn't make a whole lot of sense. Instead, by bombing Afghanistan, we are

1. Creating new terrorists. Hundreds, perhaps thousands of innocent 
civilians have already been killed by U.S. bombing in pursuit of Osama bin
Laden. The Pentagon has confirmed numerous instances of "collateral damage,"
including a 2,000-pound bomb that struck a residential area near Kabul.

The United States' perceived disregard for collateral damage may lead many
to conclude that we are waging a war against Muslims writ large. In so 
doing, we are losing the battle for the hearts and minds of people who are
necessary in the fight against terrorism.

2. Generating refugees. Our attacks on population centers are causing a 
huge refugee problem that neighboring countries can't handle. By October 
12, 350,000 people had amassed in the northern Panjsher Gorge and over 
150,000 had fled to the provinces of Tahor and Badakhshan. United Nations 
officials predict that 1.5 million will leave their homes, risking mass 
starvation in the brutal Afghan winter to escape the bombings.

Moreover, the U.N. refugee agency has been forced to halt work at six 
planned refugee camps on the Pakistan border because of opposition from 
Afghan tribal groups. Food convoys that previously entered Afghanistan by 
truck have been forced to indefinitely halt their shipments.

3. Ushering in regime as bad as the Taliban. The bombing campaign may well
usher into power the Northern Alliance, a group some say is even more 
brutal than the already brutal Taliban. To many, this is a proposition 
fraught with peril. During their brief time in power from 1992 to 1996, 
the Northern Alliance scored poorly in the peaceful governance and human 
rights departments. And while intense efforts are underway at forming a 
broad pan-Afghan political coalition of anti-Taliban parties, some veteran
diplomats and intelligence officers are skeptical that such a confederation
would survive after a victory over the Taliban.

4. Increasing drug flow from Central Asia. A corollary to #3 - if the 
Northern Alliance takes power, experts predict a new flood of heroin 
across the globe. According to U.N. officials, Afghanistan produces about 
75 percent of the world's opium, which is used to make heroin. While the 
Taliban government attempted to slow down heroin production in large parts
of Afghanistan (and largely succeeded), the Northern Alliance has continued
to distribute heroin to help fund their efforts. If our bombing campaign 
helps ousts the Taliban, opium growth and sales will instantly soar.

5. Aiming at the wrong target. The suicidal hijackers who crashed into the
World Trade Center and Pentagon where all from Egypt and Saudi Arabia, not 
Afghanistan. Rich Saudis fund and encourage the violent, fundamentalist 
breed of Islam from which the hijackers came. The religious schools that 
breed the radical mujahdeen, including many who have joined the Taliban 
Army, are mostly in Pakistan. Iraq and Iran fund and support terrorists. 
In other words, the terrorists are spread across many nations and not all 
harbored in Afghanistan.

Furthermore, numerous experts link the September 11 hijackers to an 
Egyptian group, Gama'at al-Islamiyya. Founded by Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman,
currently serving a life sentence for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, 
Gama'at al-Islamiyya is best known for the November 1997 massacre of 62 
tourists at the Temple of Luxor in Egypt and the assassination of Egyptian
president Anwar Sadat in 1981.

6. Destabilizing Pakistan. Our bombing raids are destabilizing Pakistan, 
our reluctant ally with nuclear capabilities to the South and East of 
Afghanistan. Pakistan's president, General Pervez Musharraf, has presented
his country as wholly allied with the U.S. against terrorists, but in fact 
many of his top officials remain dependent on a little-known but powerful 
fundamentalist party called Jamiat-e-Ulema Islam. Known more simply as JUI,
this group helped incubate the Taliban - and it may now spark civil war
in its home country.

7. Turning bin Laden into a media superstar. By focusing huge amounts of 
energy on demonizing and pursuing one person (despite the existence of 
thousands of terrorists in the al Queda network), we have made Osama bin 
Laden larger than life.

Among many groups, bin Laden is viewed as a strong and powerful person who
has evaded U.S. capture in the three years following his suspected 
involvement in the 1998 bombing of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and 
Tanzania. People's affection for him lies not in his alleged terrorist 
activities, but in the strong anti-American sentiment that grips this part
of the world. If our bombs finally strike him, or he is otherwise killed, 
he will become a celebrated martyr of the Muslim world.

8. Unfairly punishing a helpless population. To bring one man and his 
small band of followers to justice, we are heaping devastation on a 
powerless population that is already completely impoverished by war. 
Nobody in Afghanistan voted the Taliban into power in 1994; they seized 
and now maintain power by force. To "pressure" the Afghan people with a 
deadly bombing campaign, when they have no political power anyway, defies 
America's sense of fairness.

9. Being lured into a trap. Afghanistan is historically a quagmire, the 
only Central Asian country never conquered by Europeans. From 1979 to 1989,
the Soviet Union poured untold monies and lives down the drain in an 
unwinnable guerilla war against Afghanistan. By being sucked into 
investing huge resources to find bin Laden, we could find ourselves stuck,
ambushed and preoccupied, while terrorists go on with their work from many 
other Muslim countries.

10. There are smarter ways of fighting terrorism. Call it what you want -
"blowback," the law of unintended consequences, bad karma - but we 
continue to dismiss the long-term impact of our powerful desire to find 
bin Laden. Lots of smart, experienced people suggest that the large-scale,
clumsy, overkill approach of the U.S. military is the opposite of what we 
need to contain terrorism and find bin laden.

Why not treat terrorists like the criminals they are, building a long-term,
world-wide coalition to stop terrorism that includes the U.N. and world 
court? If we use the media more effectively instead of operating in secret,
and invest the billions of dollars we are spending to pulverize 
Afghanistan to address social and economic needs around the globe, we will
be on a more productive path toward making the world safer from terrorism.