A Roll of the Bombs
October 7, 2001
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.
When the United States and Britain bombed Kabul, a city of more than two million people, and at least three other cities-Kandahar, Herat, and Jalalabad-they guaranteed that innocent Afghans would lose their lives. These Afghans did not fly planes into the World Trade towers or the Pentagon. They did nothing to deserve death at the hands of Washington.
How many innocent Afghans ultimately die in this war we will not know.But what we do know is that Bush calculated that their deaths were worth it.They are not.
Killing innocent people is never justified.
And this war 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, the government is nervous that Pakistan may fall to forces allied with the Taliban, and that Pakistan's nuclear weapons may not be secure.
Already, there is great anxiety in Washington about the negative response this war will spark in the rest of the Muslim world.
War is a terribly risky and dangerous game. But Bush was eager to play it.
Like his father in the Gulf War, George W. spurned a last minute offer to negotiate. The Taliban offered to release the eight Americans under arrest and apprehend Osama bin Laden and try him under Islamic law; the United States didn't give it a second thought.
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."
Does that include nuclear weapons?
The war is also unlimited in time and in location.
It was not reassuring to hear Bush say on Sunday that this war in Afghanistan was just "phase one."
How many phases does he have in mind?
"Today, we focus on Afghanistan, but the battle is broader," he said. "Every nation has a choice to make. In this conflict, there is no neutral ground. If any government sponsors the outlaws and killers of innocents, they have become outlaws and murderers themselves. And they will take that lonely path at their own peril."
Wait a second here.
Congress did not grant Bush the title of grand executioner of global terrorism.
As vast as the Congressional resolution authorizing the use of force was, it was limited to the culprits behind the September 11 attack.
But Bush is not content to stop there. He sees himself on a zealous mission, and he is unilaterally and illegally grabbing power to undertake it.
The most powerful man in the world, unchecked by Congress and the media, now suffers delusions of military grandeur, and innocent people will pay with their lives.
It's a mission that is doomed from the start.
He cannot kill every terrorist in the world.
(And by the way, is he going to bomb Bogot� because it works with the paramilitaries, who are "outlaws and killers of innocents"? Unlikely, since Colombia is our ally in the war on drugs.)
What's more, the bombings are probably already creating more terrorists at this very moment, who will be willing to kill and die to stand up to an America they see as the aggressor.
Yes, Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda, or whoever were the authors of the atrocity of September 11, need to be brought to justice. They should be apprehended and hauled before an international tribunal for committing a crime against humanity.
And yes, the United States needs to secure itself against future attacks.
But terrorism itself will not disappear after bin Laden and Al Qaeda are gone.
It will not disappear if Bush levels Kabul, Baghdad, Khartoum, and Damascus, all at once, as some on the far reaches of the Republican Party seem to be proposing.
War is not the answer. The answer is getting at the roots of terror.
And there are many roots, some of them watered by the United States.
It watered them in Afghanistan in the 1980s by recruiting, arming, and training tens of thousands of Islamic fundamentalists and by virtually reviving the very concept of jihad.
It watered them during the Gulf War and especially afterwards, when the United States insisted that the U.N. impose economic sanctions that have killed more than 500,000 Iraqi children.
It watered them for the last thirty-four years by backing Israel even as it maintained its illegal occupation of Palestinian land and repressed Palestinians on a daily basis.
Some roots are separate, watered by one of the longest polluted rivers in the world, which is anti-Semitism, or watered by another rancid pool, which is religious fundamentalism.
Add to that the combination of Third World poverty and repressive rule (both of which the United States bears some responsibility for), and you can get a handle on the complex phenomenon that is terrorism.
These roots cannot be eradicated at gunpoint; they cannot be pulled up by bombs.
But many of them can be dried up if the United States adopted a more benign foreign policy. (And it certainly would help if Bush spoke in a secular, not a religious, voice. There he was again Sunday telling us all about his prayers.)
Bush has set the nation upon an endless course of war.
For the moment, the people are behind him.
But this might change.
The costs of war may soon be excessive: in innocent lives killed abroad; in the deaths of U.S. soldiers; in a wobbly and swooning economy; in world chaos.
Bush has rolled the bombs. Now we all may feel the fallout.