September 11 Digital Archive

[MAPC-discuss] [Fwd: Q &A on the War - Circulate]


[MAPC-discuss] [Fwd: Q &A on the War - Circulate]



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September 11 Email: Body

This is a very useful Q & A series from ZNET.

"The average American is not surprised that corporations and the
seek to use fear of terror to redistribute funds upward by means of
tax reforms and boondoggle military spending, to gut public programs, to
public debate by calls for patriotism from the media, and to restrict
rights by
draconian legislation. But not as commonly understood is that active
dissent can
curb these trends
and can foster opposite ones on behalf of the poor, of those who work,
and of
those who need civil liberties. And dissenters continuing to dissent and
to make
known the power of dissent, are thus absolutely essential, in this, now
as at any
other time."

Eight Questions on the Direction the US
"War on Terror" is Taking

More Q & A On Terror and War
By Michael Albert & Stephen R. Shalom

1. You have expressed skepticism that Osama bin
Laden was
involved in the Sept. 11 attacks. Are you still skeptical?

Actually, what we and other advocates of democratic judicial values
argued was not bin Laden's innocence, but that evidence regarding
his involvement was not presented. On November 14 -- more than
five weeks after the bombing began -- British Prime Minister Tony
Blair declared that the evidence "now leaves no doubt whatever"
that bin Laden was responsible. But isn't the evidence supposed to
precede, not follow, the punishment? In any event, however, Blair's
evidence even at this point is not decisive -- the only real addition to

Blair's earlier dossier are quotes from an unpublicized bin Laden
video -- that Britain doesn't have a copy of, but has knowledge of,
reports the Los Angeles Times (15 Nov. 2001) --
that are not given in context and fall short of an admission.

Bin Laden's guilt seems very likely, but the point is not to
Blair or one allied government or another or even us, but public
opinion in the Muslim world. Despite Washington's initial promise to
present evidence publicly, it has yet to do so.

Not only did we never dispute the possibility that bin Laden was
involved in some way, we instead offered an explanation of why he
might very well have been involved, what he was seeking, etc. We
suggested that his motive, were he responsible, was probably to
draw the U.S. into a massive response, destabilizing the region, a
result that still may occur.

More to the intent of the question, if, when a vigilante mob tries to
lynch someone, it turns out that their suspect actually was guilty, that

doesn't make the mob's actions any less vigilante. And this is true
even if the mob doesn't kill a great many people (mostly victims, not
culprits) in the process of going after their suspect, as has been
occurring in Afghanistan.

2. Critics of the war have warned about mass
starvation, genocide,
and catastrophe. Weren't these warnings exaggerated?

No. Opponents of U.S. policy, ourselves included, indicated that
human rights and aid organizations warned that the bombing could
lead to a million or even millions of deaths. And we pointed out that
ignoring this warning, regardless of whether the horror came to
or not, was an absolutely devastating commentary upon our
and media elites, and on others as well. That remains exactly the
case. We also urged that it was a priority to pressure the U.S. to
stop the bombing, stop the war, and aid in averting this catastrophe.
That is still the priority, in fact.

As to what damage has already been done, no one knows. What has
happened, for example, to the large fraction of the population that
has fled to the heavily-mined countryside? And many harmful
consequences of U.S. policy will not be felt until later. What will be
the future effects, for example, of losses in grain planting that was
disrupted in October? When eyes turn away, who will be there to
assess it?

That a country embarks on a policy that puts a million or more
innocent civilians at risk for political purposes is mass-scale
terrorism. If -- and it remains a big if, regrettably -- the catastrophe
averted that will certainly be a reason to celebrate, but it will not be

not reason to laud those who aggravated the prospects of disaster in
the first place. Playing Russian Roulette is stupid -- even if you don't

end up blowing your head off. Shooting a gun with a bullet in a
random chamber at someone else is immoral, whether or not you
end up committing murder.

At the current time prospects are still very unclear. Yes, the U.S.
could cease hostilities and assist food distribution, thereby reducing
the prospect of catastrophic starvation. But the U.S. seems intent on
rejecting any military let-up, and any pressure we can bring to
urging this course of action is no less a priority now than it was
yesterday or last week. Aid agencies warned that the crucial factor
was how much food could be gotten in place before the winter snows
and that the bombing interfered with getting the food in. Whether
enough time now remains and whether the necessary effort is made
before the snow arrives remains the critical question.

3. Some have been critical of the U.S. food drops. But
weren't these
helpful until the war provided a means to get food in by
No. The food drops were pure PR, perhaps doing more
harm than

And while left critics of the war certainly argued this, they did
so by quoting the World Food Program, the Red Cross, and others
aid agencies, and even the Financial Times, all of whom issued
scathing denunciations of this propaganda tool. Nothing has
changed about that. What has now occurred is that the Northern
Alliance has occupied Kabul, and what's left of the Taliban has
retreated, it appears, to the mountains, virtually without a fight,
under the weight of the most powerful non-nuclear bombs ever
created, perhaps with the intention of waging an ongoing guerilla war
from outside the main cities.

The end to major fighting in the north may well have welcome
humanitarian consequences. But what does that lead us to conclude
about the morality of U.S. actions? Suppose the Taliban were to
release, tomorrow, a proclamation declaring "we left the cities for the
mountains so that the bombing would halt -- not having us as a
target -- and the way would be clear for food aid to get to our fellow
citizens. We have sacrificed our hold on power, to avert starvation
among our people."

Would we take that seriously? It would be true that their having left
the field of battle created the conditions mentioned in the question. It

would be true that it was a choice on their part, and that they could
have instead fought on, leading into the winter, etc. Nevertheless,
we would deduce based on our knowledge of their past policies that
they made the choice out of their own strategic concerns, not out of
concern for those suffering hunger. When the U.S. claims to care
about the Afghan poor, we should not relinquish our critical
just as we wouldn't were the Taliban to make the claim.

Note, incidentally, that it was not the case that U.S. planners "knew"
they could force the Taliban out of the northern cities before winter.
Every indication suggests that the Taliban retreat was as much a
surprise to the Pentagon as to everyone else. Just two days ago
Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld was warning that though victory
wouldn't take years, it would take months (which, he observed,
meant that he had 23 months in which to operate).

4. Do you still think we're targeting civilians in our

We never thought or stated that the bombing was targeting civilians
per se. We did say that the direct violent affects on civilians were
predictable. U.S. military planners know how often their smart
bombs, not to mention their dumb bombs, miss, and how often their
cluster bombs fail to detonate, thereby spewing future death traps
across the land.

But the real issue, from the beginning, was not the hundreds of
civilians killed by bombs, horrible as that is, but the tens or
of thousands, or maybe more, who might succumb quietly out of
camera range.

Some will be victims of the destruction of what little
civilian infrastructure there is in the country: for example, electrical

transmission from the power station at the Kajaki Dam has been
knocked out, creating (according to UN officials) the risk of massive
flooding and crop failures (Independent, 8 Nov. 2001). Some will be
driven into the landmine-infested countryside. But the potentially
most disastrous effect of the bombing -- as we always maintained,
and as various aid agencies have warned -- has been to put huge
numbers of people at risk of starvation. And this remains the case.

And we said that the latter was the most abominably heinous aspect
of the project -- beyond that it [the War] was undertaken outside
the law,
indeed specifically to delegitimate the law, and to maintain
credibility, and to propel a "war on terrorism" whose purpose to
small degree is to organize domestic fear in pursuit of elite
of financial redistribution from poor to rich and draconian social
reaction against civil liberties.

5. There's been lots of criticism of the Northern
Alliance. But haven't
they proven pretty effective?

Criticism of the Northern Alliance has been not that they are
incompetent soldiers, but social monsters, slightly different in kind
from the Taliban, but small improvement morally. Nothing in the
past few days changes the historical record of the Northern Alliance,
and indeed, the first sketchy reports of executions and looting in
cities newly fallen under their control suggests that their thuggish
practices continue.

As RAWA, perhaps the foremost organization
fighting for the rights of women in Afghanistan, announced as the
Northern Alliance entered Kabul, "The retreat of the terrorist Taliban
from Kabul is a positive development, but the entering of the rapist
and looter Northern Alliance in the city is nothing but dreadful and
shocking news for about 2 million residents of Kabul whose wounds
of the years 1992-96 have not healed yet. Thousands of people who
fled Kabul during the past two months were saying that they feared
coming to power of the NA in Kabul much more than being scared
by the US bombing."

Moreover, while they are no doubt capable warriors, what has
occurred has little or perhaps even nothing to do with their battlefield

abilities, since there was no battle. The Taliban essentially withdrew
without a fight, apparently choosing to cede the cities to continue
struggle from the mountains, depending on how much there is left to
them, under the onslaught of the bombing.

6. Since the anthrax probably has a domestic source
and since the
crash of American Airlines Flight 587 probably was
accidental, don't
your concerns about creating more terrorists seem a
little alarmist?

Not at all -- unfortunately -- since people who are newly pushed to
desperation by current policies, by the starvation, by the other
continuing policies in the region, all now highlighted and aggravated,
do not overnight manifest their commitment via terrorist attack, of

The assessment of this miserable and depressing prediction
against actual outcomes is in the future, not the present. It is not
unlike when critics warned back in the 1980s that supporting bin
Laden and the Mujahideen would have horrible future blowback
ramifications. To say a week or two, or even a year or two after that
prediction that it was proved false would have been a bit premature,

7. And your worries about uprisings throughout the
Arab and Muslim
worlds (including nuclear-armed Pakistan) -- weren't
these too rather

We and other critics said that the policies undertaken in
and proposed for the rest of the world risked such
They did, and they still do. Does anyone think that Pakistan's
stability is assured as the battle moves to the southern Pashtun
region of Afghanistan, a region with many cross-border ties to
Pakistan? And if the U.S. decides to expand the "war on terrorism"
to some new defenseless venue, say the Sudan, or perhaps a not
entirely defenseless venue, say Iraq, the prospects of general social
dissolution in the region will enlarge, again.

Numerous surveys in Arab and Muslim nations show extremely
levels of opposition to the U.S. war, even in supposedly friendly
states. Most people are not inclined to heed bin Laden's call to holy
war, but as the U.S. pushes its dictatorial allies to join Washington's
holy war, instability is likely to spread.

8. Isn't it time to celebrate the demise of the Taliban
and return to
healing our country, setting aside all the negative talk
about U.S.
criminality, and all the opposition to U.S. policies?

If the Taliban were finished as a social force, that would be
something worth "celebrating" in that the Taliban is a horrendously
reactionary and violent organization impeding justice by its very
existence and practices. But, regrettably, it is quite possible that
are off planning their next actions, not disintegrating.
As to setting aside criticisms of the U.S., nothing could be less

First, to continue to criticize and more importantly raise dissent to
pressure an end to bombing and undertaking food aid in all
endangered regions is paramount. The alternative is too horrible to
even entertain.

Second, addressing the just grievances of people throughout the
Middle East and the world regarding U.S. foreign policies is
necessary both on behalf of those who suffer the impact of those
policies, and also to eliminate the cause of support for terrorism
against the U.S.

And third, the events in NYC, Washington, and Afghanistan, we are
told by our government, auger a larger project, a war on terrorism,
whose character, as we can already see, is to be quite like that of
the Cold War. It will, if it actually transpires as intended, marshal
hate and fear through manipulation and misrepresentation into
support for policies that further enrich and empower the already rich
and powerful.

Everyone, at some level, knows this. The average
American is not surprised that corporations and the government
seek to use fear of terror to redistribute funds upward by means of
regressive tax reforms and boondoggle military spending, to gut
public programs, to stifle public debate by calls for patriotism from
the media, and to restrict rights by draconian legislation. But not as
commonly understood is that active dissent can curb these trends
and can foster opposite ones on behalf of the poor, of those who
work, and of those who need civil liberties. And dissenters
continuing to dissent and to make known the power of dissent, are
thus absolutely essential, in this, now as at any other time.

September 11 Email: Date

Monday, December 03, 2001 2:56 AM

September 11 Email: Subject

[MAPC-discuss] [Fwd: Q &A on the War - Circulate]


“[MAPC-discuss] [Fwd: Q &A on the War - Circulate],” September 11 Digital Archive, accessed September 27, 2020,