Sunday, October 07, 2001

annotated links

Apologies - but annotations will have to follow. For now, a very basic list (to be updated):


http://www.zmag.org/ZNET.htm
Throughout the events and aftermath and 911, ZMag has been the central hub for alternative comment and analysis - acting as a virtual archive for the reactions of Noam Chomsky, John Pilger and many others.

http://www.indymedia.org/
What begun as a means of enabling comunication outside of the necessarily compromised mainstream media has come into its own since 911. At no time is information so heavily filtered than during war, or an illegal approximation. Indiemedia is an essential resource.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/
The UK's leading, left-leaning paper has shown a commendable openness during the crisis - most notably in inviting some of the best political commentators of our time to analyse and question the West's response. Also a good source of well-researched and reliable news.

http://www.monbiot.com
George Monbiot, one of the founders of Globalise Resistance, has provided some of the best essays on genuinely progressive responses to the crisis. This is his homepage.

http://www.nologo.org/
Naomi Klein, who so ably summarised and helped unify the anti-globalisation movement, has continued her work since 911 with renewed urgency.

http://www.urban75.com/
An excellent switchboard for UK activists to discuss, protest and build a collective response.

http://www.fair.org/
The official site for Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting. It does what it says on the link.

other voices

The following is a list of relevant links myself and friends compiled, during the past weeks of crisis. They are ordered roughly chronologically.

The Attack on America
1. Noam Chomsky's initial reaction
2. From an interview with Phyllis Bennis
3. Michael Albert on indirect terrorism
4. Robert Fisk, one of the most respected journalists in the MidEast
5. Danny Schecter on faulty intelligence
6. David Beers, over at Salon
7. Simon Milne of The Guardian questions the New World Order
8. The view from Lebabon's Daily Star
9. John Pilger, perhaps the world's greatest crusading journalist
10. Naomi Klein's initial take
11. Middle East expert Edward Said
12. Richard Dawkins disassembles the kamikaze mindset
13. Tom Carver of the BBC
14. Norman Mailer keeps it short and snappy
15. Cult comix writer Grant Morrison polarizes opinion
16. Hunter S. Thompson's characteristically characterful view
17. From a FAIR interview with Colman McCarthy
18. The rightly famous email from Afghan American Tamim Ansary
19. The UK's one and only George Monbiot
20. Yusuf Islam - the muslim formerly known as Cat Stevens!
21. Charlotte Raven of The Guardian
22. David Clark, former advisor to Robin Cook
23. John Pilger cuts through the spin
24. Kofi Annan outlines the UN's position
25. Abul Taher, news editor of Eastern Eye
26. ...and the ideal, from George Monbiot


The Attack on Afghanistan
1. Noam Chomsky - composite reaction
2. Michael Albert vs vigilantism
3. Rahul Mahajan and Robert Jensen explode 'surgical strikes'
4. George Monbiot on token aid


The Attack on America
1.Noam Chomsky's inital reaction
'The terrorist attacks were major atrocities. In scale they may not reach the level of many others, for example, Clinton's bombing of the Sudan with no credible pretext, destroying half its pharmaceutical supplies and killing unknown numbers of people (no one knows, because the US blocked an inquiry at the UN and no one cares to pursue it). Not to speak of much worse cases, which easily come to mind. But that this was a horrendous crime is not in doubt. The primary victims, as usual, were working people: janitors, secretaries, firemen, etc. It is likely to prove to be a crushing blow to Palestinians and other poor and oppressed people. It is also likely to lead to harsh security controls, with many possible ramifications for undermining civil liberties and internal freedom.

The events reveal, dramatically, the foolishness of the project of "missile defense." As has been obvious all along, and pointed out repeatedly by strategic analysts, if anyone wants to cause immense damage in the US, including weapons of mass destruction, they are highly unlikely to launch a missile attack, thus guaranteeing their immediate destruction. There are innumerable easier ways that are basically unstoppable. But today's events will, very likely, be exploited to increase the pressure to develop these systems and put them into place. "Defense" is a thin cover for plans for militarization of space, and with good PR, even the flimsiest arguments will carry some weight among a frightened public.

In short, the crime is a gift to the hard jingoist right, those who hope to use force to control their domains. That is even putting aside the likely US actions, and what they will trigger -- possibly more attacks like this one, or worse. The prospects ahead are even more ominous than they appeared to be before the latest atrocities.

As to how to react, we have a choice. We can express justified horror; we can seek to understand what may have led to the crimes, which means making an effort to enter the minds of the likely perpetrators. If we choose the latter course, we can do no better, I think, than to listen to the words of Robert Fisk, whose direct knowledge and insight into affairs of the region is unmatched after many years of distinguished reporting. Describing "The wickedness and awesome cruelty of a crushed and humiliated people," he writes that "this is not the war of democracy versus terror that the world will be asked to believe in the coming days. It is also about American missiles smashing into Palestinian homes and US helicopters firing missiles into a Lebanese ambulance in 1996 and American shells crashing into a village called Qana and about a Lebanese militia ­ paid and uniformed by America's Israeli ally ­ hacking and raping and murdering their way through refugee camps." And much more. Again, we have a choice: we may try to understand, or refuse to do so, contributing to the likelihood that much worse lies ahead.'



2. From an interview with Phyllis Bennis
'Ward: Make the case for why the U.S. would be so hated in the Middle East.
Bennis: I think it's hated in the Middle East because, number one, it's uncritical support to the tune of between three and five billion dollars a year in unconditional support to Israeli occupation, including providing the helicopter gunships, the F-16s, the missiles that are fired from the gunships, that are used to enforce that occupation. It's hated, number two, because it has armed these, these, repressive Arab regimes throughout the region, in Saudi Arabia, In Egypt, in Jordan, throughout the region, that have suppressed their own people, that have taken either oil money or arms to build absolute monarchies in which citizens have no rights and where the U.S. claims to support democratization of every government in the world, don't seem to apply when the U.S. seems to think it's fine when one absolute monarch dies and passes on the baton to his son, you see every U.S. official and all of their European and other Western allies flocking to the funeral to say "The King is dead, long live the new King." We see it in Saudi Arabia, we see it in Morocco, in Jordan, throughout the region. And there's enormous resentment of that kind of support. So those two sectors alone, support for the Israeli occupation and the arming of these repressive Arab regimes is enough. Now that doesn't even get to the question of the impact of U.S. imposed sanctions on the civilian population of Iraq, the bombing of Iraq, that's been going on for ten years now, all of these are things that have dropped off the radar screen of the media coverage in the U.S. but are very much front and center in Arab consciousness in the region.'



3. Michael Albert on indirect terrorism
'Good-hearted Americans will mourn these innocent and horrible deaths with dignity and with respect. Media analysts and politicians, however, will soon use pictures of the rubble to seek increased police and military spending and greater state interventionary and surveillance powers. They will intone that killing civilians is cowardly and warrants swift and merciless punishment. They will however ignore having themselves supported the recent assault on Yugoslavia that terrorized that country’s civilian population to topple its despised government. They will also ignore that the U.S.-led embargo of Iraq has caused hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths, again to destabilize a hated government. Today’s terrorism was horrendously vile. It arose in a terror-infected world.
People throughout the third world have long had their destiny held hostage by distant rulers. First world diplomats and entrepreneurs year after year pursue power and profit imposing nearly unimaginable third world calamity. Due to our distance from the victims and the endless mass media obfuscation of their plight, we first world citizens fail to realize that when a million people starve because a poor country’s energies are commandeered to benefit multinational capital, it is murder. But, it is murder, and so third world populations have long endured near total dependence on choices made by distant authoritative leaders who are callous to their futures.'



4. Robert Fisk, one of the most respected journalists in the MidEast
'For journalists, even those who have literally walked through the blood of the Middle East, words dry up here. Awesome, terrible, unspeakable, unforgivable; in the coming days, these words will become water in the desert. And there will be, naturally and inevitably, and quite immorally, an attempt to obscure the historical wrongs and the blood and the injustices that lie behind yesterday's firestorms. We will be told about "mindless terrorism'', the "mindless" bit being essential if we are not to realise how hated America has become in the land of the birth of three great religions.

Ask an Arab how he responds to 20 or 30 thousand innocent deaths and he or she will respond as good and decent people should, that it is an unspeakable crime. But they will ask why we did not use such words about the sanctions that have destroyed the lives of perhaps half a million children in Iraq, why we did not rage about the 17,500 civilians killed in Israel's 1982 invasion of Lebanon, why we allowed one nation in the Middle East to ignore UN Security Council resolutions but bombed and sanctioned all others who did. And those basic reasons why the Middle East caught fire last September - the Israeli occupation of Arab land, the dispossession of Palestinians, the bombardments and state sponsored executions, the Israeli tortures ... all these must be obscured lest they provide the smallest fractional reason for yesterday's mass savagery.

Eight years ago, I helped to make a television series that tried to explain why so many Muslims had come to hate the West. Last night, I remembered some of those Muslims in that film, their families burnt by American-made bombs and weapons. They talked about how no one would help them but God. Theology vs technology, the suicide bomber against the nuclear power. Now we have learnt what this means.'



5. Danny Schecter on faulty intelligence
'I heard no one saying that violence breeds violence or that a massive retaliation may only invite more of the same. The only critical edge to the coverage involved raising the question about why so many official predictions about imminent terrorist threats went unresponded to for so long. These concerns were raised, but quickly sidelined by discussions of national complacency and/or naïveté about the world. How the U.S. intelligence apparatus could have missed this was taken only as evidence that it needs more money, not a different policy. No mention was made of the cutbacks in international news coverage that keeps so many Americans so out of touch with global events.

Missing was any discussion of possible motives by the alleged terrorists, why would they do it and why now? What was their political agenda? There was no mention of September 11th as the anniversary of the failed Camp David accords. There was certainly no mention of the fact that State terrorism by countries be they the U.S., Russia, Iraq, Afghanistan or Israel often trigger and harden counterterrorism by guerrilla forces. There was virtually no international angle offered in most of the coverage except a few snatches of file footage of Osama Bin Laden fondling an AK47.'



6. David Beers, over at Salon
'Sept. 12, 2001 | As the Pentagon and World Trade Towers crumbled on television, so too did a grand construct of the American psychology. Shattered is the sense that ordinary U.S. citizens are immune from the ruthless rage of any enemy of America. Gone is the disconnect Americans have been encouraged to feel between the overseas actions of their leaders -- their politicians, diplomats, CEOs, generals -- and the personal safety of their neighbors and loved ones.

This psychology of immunity, this imagined cocoon, has been woven over the years from various threads. One assumption is moral: Given the basic goodness of American democracy, no enemy with popular support could stay mad at the U.S. for long. A second is technological: No enemy but a madman would take on Fortress America's high-tech security apparatus. A third rests on a cultural assumption: So sophisticated are America's "best and brightest" technocrats, they could never be outsmarted by wild-eyed peasants living in the world's still-medieval hinterlands.'



7. Simon Milne of The Guardian questions the New World Order
'As Mahatma Gandhi famously remarked when asked his opinion of western civilisation, it would be a good idea. Since George Bush's father inaugurated his new world order a decade ago, the US, supported by its British ally, bestrides the world like a colossus. Unconstrained by any superpower rival or system of global governance, the US giant has rewritten the global financial and trading system in its own interest; ripped up a string of treaties it finds inconvenient; sent troops to every corner of the globe; bombed Afghanistan, Sudan, Yugoslavia and Iraq without troubling the United Nations; maintained a string of murderous embargos against recalcitrant regimes; and recklessly thrown its weight behind Israel's 34-year illegal military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza as the Palestinian intifada rages.

Already, the Bush administration is assembling an international coalition for an Israeli-style war against terrorism, as if such counter-productive acts of outrage had an existence separate from the social conditions out of which they arise. But for every "terror network" that is rooted out, another will emerge - until the injustices and inequalities that produce them are addressed.'



8. The view from Lebabon's Daily Star
'In the long run, this could actually help America and all parties in the Middle East by causing them to see that they in fact have a common interest in achieving a fair and comprehensive peace that portends a better life for Arabs and Israelis alike. Tuesday’s events establish quite clearly that no one, anywhere, is immune to such acts, making it incumbent on everyone who values human life to help prevent similar occurrences in the future. America has been made to know the suffering that so many other countries understand all too well. Now it should lead the way in finding solutions to the problems that breed violence and desperation.'



9. John Pilger, perhaps the world's greatest crusading journalist
'Far from being the terrorists of the world, the Islamic peoples have been its victims - principally the victims of US fundamentalism, whose power, in all its forms, military, strategic and economic, is the greatest source of terrorism on earth.
This fact is censored from the Western media, whose "coverage" at best minimises the culpability of imperial powers. Richard Falk, professor of international relations at Princeton, put it this way: "Western foreign policy is presented almost exclusively through a self-righteous, one-way legal/moral screen (with) positive images of Western values and innocence portrayed as threatened, validating a campaign of unrestricted political violence."

That Tony Blair, whose government sells lethal weapons to Israel and has sprayed Iraq and Yugoslavia with cluster bombs and depleted uranium and was the greatest arms supplier to the genocidists in Indonesia, can be taken seriously when he now speaks about the "shame" of the "new evil of mass terrorism" says much about the censorship of our collective sense of how the world is managed.

One of Blair's favourite words - "fatuous" - comes to mind. Alas, it is no comfort to the families of thousands of ordinary Americans who have died so terribly that the perpetrators of their suffering may be the product of Western policies. Did the American establishment believe that it could bankroll and manipulate events in the Middle East without cost to itself, or rather its own innocent people?

It is not only the rage and grievance in the Middle East and south Asia. Since the end of the cold war, the US and its sidekicks, principally Britain, have exercised, flaunted, and abused their wealth and power while the divisions imposed on human beings by them and their agents have grown as never before.

An elite group of less than a billion people now take more than 80 per cent of the world's wealth.

In defence of this power and privilege, known by the euphemisms "free market" and "free trade", the injustices are legion: from the illegal blockade of Cuba, to the murderous arms trade, dominated by the US, to its trashing of basic environmental decencies, to the assault on fragile economies by institutions such as the World Trade Organisation that are little more than agents of the US Treasury and the European central banks, and the demands of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund in forcing the poorest nations to repay unrepayable debts...

...imperialism is being rehabilitated. American forces currently operate with impunity from bases in 50 countries.

"Full spectrum dominance" is Washington's clearly stated aim.

Read the documents of the US Space Command, which leaves us in no doubt.

What has this to do with this week's atrocities in America? If you travel among the impoverished majority of humanity, you understand that it has everything to do with it.

People are neither still, nor stupid. They see their independence compromised, their resources and land and the lives of their children taken away, and their accusing fingers increasingly point north: to the great enclaves of plunder and privilege. Inevitably, terror breeds terror and more fanaticism.

Their distant voices of rage are now heard; the daily horrors in faraway brutalised places have at last come home.'



10. Naomi Klein's initial take
'...war is most emphatically not a game. And perhaps after Tuesday, it will never again be treated as one. Perhaps September 11, 2001 will mark the end of the shameful era of the video game war.

Watching the coverage on Tuesday was a stark contrast to the last time I sat glued to a television set watching a real-time war on CNN. The Space Invader battlefield of the Gulf War had almost nothing in common with what we have seen this week. Back then, instead of real buildings exploding over and over again, we saw only sterile bomb’s-eye-views of concrete targets – there and then gone. Who was in these abstract polygons? We never found out.

Since the Gulf War, American foreign policy has been based on a single brutal fiction: that the U.S. military can intervene in conflicts around the world – in Iraq, Kosovo, Israel – without suffering any U.S. casualties. This is a country that has come to believe in the ultimate oxymoron: a safe war.

The safe war logic is, of course, based on the technological ability to wage a war exclusively from the air. But it also relies on the deep conviction that no one would dare mess with the U.S. – the one remaining superpower -- on its own soil.

This conviction has, until Tuesday, allowed Americans to remain blithely unaffected by – even uninterested in -- international conflicts in which they are key protagonists. Americans don't get daily coverage on CNN of the ongoing bombings in Iraq, nor are they treated to human-interest stories on the devastating effects of economic sanctions on that country's children. After the 1998 bombing of a pharmaceutical factory in Sudan (mistaken for a chemical weapons facility), there weren't too many follow up reports about what the loss of vaccine manufacturing did to disease prevention in the region.

The era of the video game war in which the U.S. is always at the controls has produced a blinding rage in many parts of the world, a rage at the persistent asymmetry of suffering. This is the context in which twisted revenge seekers make no other demand than that American citizens share their pain.

A blinking message is up on our collective video game console: Game Over.'



11. Middle East expert Edward Said
'What is bad about all terror is when it is attached to religious and political abstractions and reductive myths that keep veering away from history and sense. This is where the secular consciousness has to try to make itself felt, whether in the US or in the Middle East. No cause, no God, no abstract idea can justify the mass slaughter of innocents, most particularly when only a small group of people are in charge of such actions and feel themselves to represent the cause without having a real mandate to do so.
Besides, much as it has been quarrelled over by Muslims, there isn't a single Islam: there are Islams, just as there are Americas. This diversity is true of all traditions, religions or nations even though some of their adherents have futiley tried to draw boundaries around themselves and pin their creeds down neatly. Yet history is far more complex and contradictory than to be represented by demagogues who are much less representative than either their followers or opponents claim. The trouble with religious or moral fundamentalists is that today their primitive ideas of revolution and resistance, including a willingness to kill and be killed, seem all too easily attached to technological sophistication and what appear to be gratifying acts of horrifying retaliation. The New York and Washington suicide bombers seem to have been middle-class, educated men, not poor refugees. Instead of getting a wise leadership that stresses education, mass mobilisation and patient organisation in the service of a cause, the poor and the desperate are often conned into the magical thinking and quick bloody solutions that such appalling models pro vide, wrapped in lying religious claptrap.

On the other hand, immense military and economic power are no guarantee of wisdom or moral vision. Sceptical and humane voices have been largely unheard in the present crisis, as 'America' girds itself for a long war to be fought somewhere out there, along with allies who have been pressed into service on very uncertain grounds and for imprecise ends. We need to step back from the imaginary thresholds that separate people from each other and re-examine the labels, reconsider the limited resources available, decide to share our fates with each other as cultures mostly have done, despite the bellicose cries and creeds.

'Islam' and 'the West' are simply inadequate as banners to follow blindly. Some will run behind them, but for future generations to condemn themselves to prolonged war and suffering without so much as a critical pause, without looking at interdependent histories of injustice and oppression, without trying for common emancipation and mutual enlightenment seems far more wilful than necessary. Demonisation of the Other is not a sufficient basis for any kind of decent politics, certainly not now when the roots of terror in injustice can be addressed, and the terrorists isolated, deterred or put out of business. It takes patience and education, but is more worth the investment than still greater levels of large-scale violence and suffering.'



12. Richard Dawkins disassembles the kamikaze mindset
'If death is final, a rational agent can be expected to value his life highly and be reluctant to risk it. This makes the world a safer place, just as a plane is safer if its hijacker wants to survive. At the other extreme, if a significant number of people convince themselves, or are convinced by their priests, that a martyr's death is equivalent to pressing the hyperspace button and zooming through a wormhole to another universe, it can make the world a very dangerous place. Especially if they also believe that that other universe is a paradisical escape from the tribulations of the real world. Top it off with sincerely believed, if ludicrous and degrading to women, sexual promises, and is it any wonder that naive and frustrated young men are clamouring to be selected for suicide missions?

There is no doubt that the afterlife-obsessed suicidal brain really is a weapon of immense power and danger. It is comparable to a smart missile, and its guidance system is in many respects superior to the most sophisticated electronic brain that money can buy. Yet to a cynical government, organisation, or priesthood, it is very very cheap.

Our leaders have described the recent atrocity with the customary cliche: mindless cowardice. "Mindless" may be a suitable word for the vandalising of a telephone box. It is not helpful for understanding what hit New York on September 11. Those people were not mindless and they were certainly not cowards. On the contrary, they had sufficiently effective minds braced with an insane courage, and it would pay us mightily to understand where that courage came from.'



13. Tom Carver of the BBC
'This is war without the warfare. A battle without an army. Death without an occupying force.

The missile was one of America's own civilian planes, turned against herself. Passengers were hurled at stockbrokers and military clerks working at their desks. How could Mr Bush's missile shield have stopped that?

As George Bush says, this is the first war of the 21st Century. No border has been transgressed. No enemy troops swarm in the streets. Instead, this city of my home for the last four years looks just the same - a mosaic of green trees and cool white marble.

Everything is standing. Except, that is, part of the Pentagon - the world's safest office block, which is now in ruins.

...I see a glint in the eyes of the Pentagon. If I was Mr Bush, I would be worried. Paul Wolfowitz, the under-secretary of defence was almost licking his lips at Congress's promise of $20bn to fight this war.

And that, said Mr Wolfowitz, puffing his chest up, is only the down-payment.

The warriors, who have been pacing the corridors of the Pentagon like unquiet ghosts ever since the cold war ended, have found their new role.

And, of course, this time it's personal. The Pentagon itself has been attacked, and the warriors are out for revenge.

But if they thought the Viet Cong were an elusive enemy, they haven't seen anything yet.

A successful war needs a beginning, a middle and an end. But in this war there will be no targets to fix on, no land to occupy and conquer, no enemy to come out at the end waving a white flag.

One of the wiser heads in the Pentagon said: "I realise we cannot extinguish religious fanaticism with missiles." But I'm afraid that some in the Pentagon are now about to try.'



14. Norman Mailer keeps it short and snappy
'Which corporation is now going to invest trillions in something that can be destroyed by terrorism? So globalism takes a blow. Star Wars takes a blow. Those are the two ironies I can withdraw from this with some feeling that it has not been a total disaster.'



15. Cult comix writer Grant Morrison polarizes opinion
'Islamic Fundamentalists will kill anyone and anything in the name of religious JIHAD.
Capitalist Fundamentalists will kill anyone and anything in the name of MONEY.'



16. Hunter S. Thompson's characteristically characterful view
'The towers are gone now, reduced to bloody rubble, along with all hopes for Peace in Our Time, in the United States or any other country. Make no mistake about it: We are At War now -- with somebody -- and we will stay At War with that mysterious Enemy for the rest of our lives.

It will be a Religious War, a sort of Christian Jihad, fueled by religious hatred and led by merciless fanatics on both sides. It will be guerilla warfare on a global scale, with no front lines and no identifiable enemy. Osama bin Laden may be a primitive "figurehead" -- or even dead, for all we know -- but whoever put those All-American jet planes loaded with All-American fuel into the Twin Towers and the Pentagon did it with chilling precision and accuracy. The second one was a dead-on bullseye. Straight into the middle of the skyscraper.

This is going to be a very expensive war, and Victory is not guaranteed -- for anyone, and certainly not for anyone as baffled as George W. Bush. All he knows is that his father started the war a long time ago, and that he, the goofy child-President, has been chosen by Fate and the global Oil industry to finish it Now. He will declare a National Security Emergency and clamp down Hard on Everybody, no matter where they live or why. If the guilty won't hold up their hands and confess, he and the Generals will ferret them out by force.

Good luck. He is in for a profoundly difficult job -- armed as he is with no credible Military Intelligence, no witnesses and only the ghost of Bin Laden to blame for the tragedy.'



17. From a FAIR interview with Colman McCarthy
What should Bush do?
"He should say that the United States will no longer be the world's largest seller of weapons, that we will begin to decrease our extravagantly wasteful military budget, which runs now at about $9,000 a second."

What will Bush do?
"Within the week, we will be bombing somebody somewhere," McCarthy says. "This is what his father did, this is what Clinton did."

"In the past 20 years, we have bombed Libya, Grenada, Panama, Somalia, Haiti, Afghanistan, Sudan, Iraq, and Yugoslavia. There are two things about those countries -- all are poor countries, and the majority are
people of dark colored skin."

Are you saying that we should just turn the other cheek?
"No, that's passivity," McCarthy says. "Pacifism is not passivity. Pacifism is direct action, direct resistance, refusing to cooperate with violence. That takes a lot of bravery. It takes much more courage than to use a gun or drop a bomb."

How to break the cycle of violence?
"The same way you break the cycle of ignorance -- educate people," McCarthy responds.

"Kids walk in the school with no idea that two plus two equals four. They are ignorant. We repeat over and over -- Billy, two plus two equals four. And Billy leaves school knowing two plus two equals four. But he doesn't leave school knowing that an eye for an eye means we all go blind."

"We have about 50 million students in this country," McCarthy says. "Nearly all of those are going to graduate absolutely unaware of the philosophy of Gandhi, King, Dorothy Day, Howard Zinn, or A.J. Muste."

Instead of bombing, we should start teaching peace.
"We are graduating students as peace illiterates who have only heard of the side of violence," McCarthy laments. "If we don't teach our children peace, somebody else will teach them violence."'



18. The rightly famous email from Afghan American Tamim Ansary
'Some say, why don't the Afghans rise up and overthrow the Taliban? The answer is, they're starved, exhausted, hurt, incapacitated, suffering. A few years ago, the United Nations estimated that there are 500,000 disabled orphans in Afghanistan -- a country with no economy, no food. There are millions of widows. And the Taliban has been burying these widows alive in mass graves. The soil is littered with land mines, the farms were all destroyed by the Soviets. These are a few of the reasons why the Afghan people have not overthrown the Taliban.

We come now to the question of bombing Afghanistan back to the Stone Age. Trouble is, that's been done. The Soviets took care of it already. Make the Afghans suffer? They're already suffering. Level their houses? Done. Turn their schools into piles of rubble? Done. Eradicate their hospitals? Done. Destroy their infrastructure? Cut them off from medicine and healthcare? Too late. Someone already did all that. New bombs would only stir the rubble of earlier bombs. Would they at least get the Taliban? Not likely. In today's Afghanistan, only the Taliban eat, only they have the means to move around. They'd slip away and hide. Maybe the bombs would get some of those disabled orphans; they don't move too fast, they don't even have wheelchairs. But flying over Kabul and dropping bombs wouldn't really be a strike against the criminals who did this horrific thing. Actually it would only be making common cause with the Taliban -- by raping once again the people they've been raping all this time.

So what else is there? What can be done, then? Let me now speak with true fear and trembling. The only way to get Bin Laden is to go in there with ground troops. When people speak of "having the belly to do what needs to be done" they're thinking in terms of having the belly to kill as many as needed. Having the belly to overcome any moral qualms about killing innocent people. Let's pull our heads out of the sand. What's actually on the table is Americans dying. And not just because some Americans would die fighting their way through Afghanistan to Bin Laden's hideout. It's much bigger than that, folks. Because to get any troops to Afghanistan, we'd have to go through Pakistan. Would they let us? Not likely. The conquest of Pakistan would have to be first. Will other Muslim nations just stand by? You see where I'm going. We're flirting with a world war between Islam and the West.

And guess what: That's bin Laden's program. That's exactly what he wants. That's why he did this. Read his speeches and statements. It's all right there. He really believes Islam would beat the West. It might seem ridiculous, but he figures if he can polarize the world into Islam and the West, he's got a billion soldiers. If the West wreaks a holocaust in those lands, that's a billion people with nothing left to lose; that's even better from Bin Laden's point of view. He's probably wrong -- in the end the West would win, whatever that would mean -- but the war would last for years and millions would die, not just theirs but ours.

Who has the belly for that? Bin Laden does. Anyone else?'



19. the UK's one and only George Monbiot
'If Osama bin Laden did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him. For the past four years, his name has been invoked whenever a US president has sought to increase the defence budget or wriggle out of arms control treaties. He has been used to justify even President Bush's missile defence programme, though neither he nor his associates are known to possess anything approaching ballistic missile technology. Now he has become the personification of evil required to launch a crusade for good: the face behind the faceless terror.

The closer you look, the weaker the case against Bin Laden becomes. While the terrorists who inflicted Tuesday's dreadful wound may have been inspired by him, there is, as yet, no evidence that they were instructed by him. Bin Laden's presumed guilt appears to rest on the supposition that he is the sort of man who would have done it. But his culpability is irrelevant: his usefulness to western governments lies in his power to terrify. When billions of pounds of military spending are at stake, rogue states and terrorist warlords become assets precisely because they are liabilities.

Now Tuesday's horror is being used by corporations to establish the preconditions for an even deadlier brand of terror. This week, while the world's collective back is turned, Tony Blair intends to allow the mixed oxide plant at Sellafield to start operating. The decision would have been front-page news at any other time. Now it's likely to be all but invisible. The plant's operation, long demanded by the nuclear industry and resisted by almost everyone else, will lead to a massive proliferation of plutonium, and a high probability that some of it will find its way into the hands of terrorists. Like Ariel Sharon, in other words, Blair is using the reeling world's shock to pursue policies which would be unacceptable at any other time.

For these reasons and many others, opposition has seldom been more necessary. But it has seldom been more vulnerable. The right is seizing the political space which has opened up where the twin towers of the World Trade Centre once stood.

Civil liberties are suddenly negotiable. The US seems prepared to lift its ban on extra-judicial executions carried out abroad by its own agents. The CIA might be permitted to employ human rights abusers once more, which will doubtless mean training and funding a whole new generation of Bin Ladens. The British government is considering the introduction of identity cards. Radical dissenters in Britain have already been identified as terrorists by the Terrorism Act 2000. Now we're likely to be treated as such.

The governments of Britain and America are using the disaster in New York to reinforce the very policies which have helped to cause the problem: building up the power of the defence industry, preparing to launch campaigns of the kind which inevitably kill civilians, licensing covert action. Corporations are securing new resources to invest in instability. Racists are attacking Arabs and Muslims and blaming liberal asylum policies for terrorism. As a result of the horror on Tuesday, the right in all its forms is flourishing, and we are shrinking. But we must not be cowed. Dissent is most necessary just when it is hardest to voice.'



20. Yusuf Islam - the muslim formerly known as Cat Stevens!
'Today, as a Muslim, I have been shattered by the horror of recent events; the display of death and indiscriminate killing we've all witnessed has dented humanity's confidence in itself. Terror on this scale affects everybody on this small planet, and no one is free from the fallout. Yet we should remember that such violence is almost an everyday occurrence in some Muslim lands: it should not be exacerbated by revenge attacks on more innocent families and communities.

Along with most British Muslims, I feel it a duty to make clear that such orchestrated acts of incomprehensible carnage have nothing to do with the beliefs of most Muslims. The Koran specifically declares: "If anyone murders an [innocent] person, it will be as if he has murdered the whole of humanity. And if anyone saves a person it will be as if he has saved the whole of humanity." British Muslims feel nothing but sympathy for those families who lost loved ones. I know people who were directly involved in the tragedy; my own brother, who lives in New Jersey, was going to fly out from Newark last week. In that respect we all feel the same.

The Koran that our young pupils learn at Islamia is full of stories and lessons from the history of humanity as a whole. The Gospels and the Torah are referred to; Jesus and Abraham are mentioned. In fact there is more mention in the Koran of the prophet Moses than of any other. It acknowledges the coexistence of other faiths, and in doing so acknowledges that other cultures can live together in peace. "There is no compulsion in religion," it states, meaning that people should not be compelled to change their faith. Elsewhere it states, "To you, your religion; to me mine." Respect for religious values and justice is at the Koran's core. The Koranic history we teach provides ample examples of interreligious and international relationships; of how to live together.

But some extremists take elements of the sacred scriptures out of context. They act as individuals, and when they can't come together as part of a political structure or consultative process, you find these dissident factions creating their own rules, contrary to the spirit of the Koran - which demands that those recognised as being in charge of Muslims must consult together regarding society's affairs. There is a whole chapter in the Koran entitled Consultation; in Arabic the word for that is Shura.'



21. Charlotte Raven of The Guardian
'When America speaks from its heart, it retreats into a language that none but its true-born citizens can begin to understand. At the root of this is an overwhelming need to control meaning. America can't let the world speak for itself. It was taken unawares last Tuesday and part of the trauma of that event was the shock of being forced to listen to a message that it hadn't had time to translate. The subsequent roar of anger was, amongst other things, the sound of the US struggling to regain the right to control its own narrative.

It did this by declaring war. By this means, Bush ensured that America only had to sit with the inexplicable for a couple of anxious days. After that, the sense, so unfamiliar to them, of not knowing what had happened or what it meant was replaced by the reassuring certainties of John Brown's body and calls for national unity. By turning what should have been a criminal manhunt into an all-out war, Bush was asserting his right to define America's reality. Instead of submitting to the reality, he created the situation he wanted, fashioning a plausible, beatable enemy that bore only a passing relation to the ragbag of loons in Bin Laden's camp. They weren't a worthy enemy of America, so rather than confront what this might mean, Bush has made one up. "International terrorism" has been talked up in the past week to the point where it almost looks like an ideology. Much as the US might want this to be the case, it isn't. Saying you're going to "eradicate" it is like pledging to defeat shooting.

Rather than run the risk of seeing what might happen if it listened to the rest of the world, America is going full square into a war that doesn't exist. It would rather have a virtual victory than submit to someone else's agenda. While understandable, this tendency is one of the reasons why some people still have issues with it.'



22. David Clark, former advisor to Robin Cook
'The debate on the implications of last week's terrorist atrocities in the US has provoked a typically unthinking response from sections of the political right: these were acts of pure evil to which a more assertive application of western power is the only necessary response; there are no other conclusions to be drawn and anyone who suggests otherwise is an "apologist for evil".

The proper starting point for any analysis ought to be sympathy for the victims and revulsion for the perpetrators. But it is absurd to claim, as some commentators have, that any attempt to set these events in a wider political context is tantamount to saying America "had it coming".

A mature debate will depend on our ability to separate issues of cause and effect from questions of moral responsibility. Historians have correctly identified the punitive terms of the treaty of Versailles as a factor in the rise of Hitler. That does not turn them into Holocaust deniers. Pointing out that the suppression of a legitimate civil rights movement in Northern Ireland provided the context for the emergence of the Provisional IRA does nothing to justify its 25-year campaign of murder. To explain is not to excuse.

Counter-insurgency experts have long recognised that to be operationally effective extremist organisations need the support, or at least acquiescence, of a wider community of people who don't necessarily share all their aims. Mao Zedong, the 20th century's most successful exponent of what is now fashionably termed "asymmetrical warfare", understood this dynamic very well: "The people are water, the Red Army are fish; without water the fish will die."

We will need to understand and address the deep-rooted alienation from which terrorists derive legitimacy and support in order to deny them their life-stream: tough on terrorism, tough on the causes of terrorism, if you like. It may be true, as Jonathan Freedland argued this week, that those who masterminded these atrocities cannot be appeased since they seek nothing less than the complete destruction of the state of Israel. But it is surely obvious that their ideas would find less resonance among a wider Arab audience if the search for a workable and just solution had not been frustrated by a combination of Israeli intransigence and western indifference.

This is not only a question for America. One of the greatest injustices in the world trade system is the refusal of the European Union to open its market to agricultural produce from developing countries that remain open to our manufactured goods and investment. The next world trade round must put the developing world at the centre of its agenda.

There also needs to be a rethink of relations with the Islamic world. It is no coincidence that Osama bin Laden draws so many supporters from countries such as Saudi Arabia and Algeria. Too often our engagement with the Muslim world has consisted of support for despotic regimes against their own people. The lesson of Algeria is that each time political expressions of Islam are suppressed they reappear in more militant form.'



23. John Pilger cuts through the spin
'Blair's being "shoulder to shoulder" with Bush means allying this country to a willingness to kill large numbers of non-Americans in pursuit of uncertain immediate goals that has long been a feature of US policy. This list is long. Remember, if you can, the "free fire zones", including the use of chemical weapons, that killed as many as 50,000 civilians every year in Vietnam; the bombing of Cambodia that killed 600,000 people; the unnecessary slaughter of tens of thousands of Iraqis during the 1991 Gulf war, the beginning of a silent holocaust that has since claimed half a million children, according to the UN. For Blair and Bush to say that war has been declared upon America is rich.
During my lifetime, America has been constantly waging war against much of humanity: impoverished people mostly, in stricken places. Moreover, far from being the main perpetrators of terrorism, Islamic peoples have been its victims - more often than not of an American fundamentalism and its proxies.

Blair is acting like a schoolboy who has never seen war and what cluster bombs do to human beings. He and the Queen shed tears for the victims in America; they have yet to shed tears for his - yes, his - victims in Iraq. Nor will St Paul's cathedral be reconvened to mourn the innocents who will die when he and Bush attack the shadows of Osama bin Laden.

In these surreal days, there is one truth. Nothing justified the killing of innocent people in America last week and nothing justifies the killing of innocent people anywhere else.

For the prime minister to behave responsibly, he would have to speak out with a very different voice. He could say: "Our response must not be to sink to the level of this criminal outrage and kill for the sake of killing." He could seize this extraordinary historic moment and call for the redirection of western politics away from war and towards peace - specifically peace in those regions of the world where one type of terrorism is the product largely of imperialism, old and new. Britain is deeply implicated. As John Cooley writes in Unholy Wars: Afghanistan, America and International Terrorism: "It was only Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's British government which supported the jihad with full enthusiasm." The CIA passed responsibility for backing mojahedin terrorism to the British - much of it coordinated by an MI6 officer in Islamabad. Osama bin Laden was given "free rein" in Afghanistan.

After more than a century of invasion, plunder and bombing (since the 20s by the RAF), we in the west owe the people of Afghanistan and the Middle East peace. The start of peace would be the establishment of a Palestinian homeland, as laid down in international law by a 34-year-old UN resolution; the lifting of the horrific embargo on the civilian population of Iraq; and the careful, negotiated ending of Afghanistan's isolation.

A tall order, yes. But these are the root causes of a grievance and rage we can barely imagine, and there is no other enduring solution than peace with justice. Unless real politics replaces the autocratic impositions of power, the understudies of those who murdered so many in America will appear and act; nothing is surer. They cannot be bombed into oblivion. Only justice for the millions of ordinary people, who are not murderers, will bring the peace and security that is, after all, a universal right.'



24. Kofi Annan outlines the UN's position
'At a time like this, the world is defined not only by what it is for, but by what and whom it is against. The United Nations – and the international community – must have the courage to recognise that just as there are common aims, there are common enemies. To defeat them, all nations of goodwill must join forces in a common effort encompassing every aspect of the open, free global system so wickedly exploited by the perpetrators of last week's atrocities.

The United Nations is uniquely positioned to advance this effort. It provides the forum necessary for building a universal coalition, and can ensure global legitimacy for the long-term response to terrorism. United Nations conventions already provide a legal framework for many of the steps that must be taken to eradicate terrorism – including the extradition and prosecution of offenders and the suppression of money laundering. These conventions must be implemented in full.

Essential to this response, however, is that it deepen and not fracture the global unity of 11 September. While the world must recognise that there are enemies common to all societies, it must equally understand that they are not – they are never – defined by religious or national descent.

No people, no region and no religion should be condemned, assaulted or targeted because of the unspeakable acts of individuals. In Mayor Giuliani's words, "that is exactly what we are fighting here." He and President Bush have shown admirable leadership in condemning attacks on Muslims in the United States, and around the world other leaders have done the same. To do otherwise, and to allow divisions between and within societies to be exacerbated by these acts, would be to do the terrorists' work for them, and no one could wish for such an outcome.

Terrorism today threatens every society, every people, and as the world takes action against its perpetrators, we have all been reminded of the necessity of addressing the full range of conditions which permit the growth of this kind of hatred and depravity. We must confront violence, bigotry and hatred even more resolutely. The work of the United Nations must continue as we address the ills of our time – conflict, ignorance, poverty and disease.

Doing so will not end every source of hatred and every act of violence – there are those who will hate and who will kill even if every injustice is ended. But if the world can show that it will carry on, that it will persevere in creating a stronger, more just, more benevolent and more genuine international community across all lines of religion and race, then terrorism will have failed.'



25. Abul Taher, news editor of Eastern Eye
'Fundamentalist groups, armed with paranoid anti-Muslim conspiracy theories, accounts of Muslim sufferings in Iraq and Bosnia (and later Chechnya), and even apocalyptic prophecies, were able to convince these impressionable men of the need to go on jihad against the West. It seems to me that this disillusionment with the West, and especially the US, is the heart of the problem. As long as this remains, there will be fodder in this country for hardline and terrorist groups.

It is crucial to remember that "belief" drove these students to go and train abroad to wage holy war, not poverty or deprivation. Unlike the British Muslim youths who have been involved in the race riots in northern England, these are from well-to-do, middle-class backgrounds, people who were studying to become engineers and accountants. Now we know that their backgrounds were uncannily similar to the backgrounds of the suicidal pilots who attacked the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon.

George Galloway, the Labour MP, has argued that bombing Afghanistan will only create a thousand more Osama bin Ladens. That might not be true, but it will certainly create thousands of volunteers who would be glad to train in his camps to wage war against America, by whatever means.

If the West truly wants to rid the world of Islamic terrorism, then it needs to re-examine its relationship with the Muslim world. If Britain does not want a disillusioned and bitter Muslim community in its midst then it should consider carefully what sort of military action it will take against Afghanistan and other terrorist targets.

The Government should categorically state that it is waging war on terrorists, and will draw the line if the US decides to bomb Kabul or Kandahar, as it did Baghdad over a decade ago.

Whatever war will be unleashed in the coming days, it should be waged with caution and justice, and with the support of the Muslim world and the community here. This must be a war against terrorism. It must not be allowed to explode into a clash of civilisations. That would push the young Muslims of this country further away.'



26. ...and the ideal, from George Monbiot
'Assuming the unassumable, namely that Bin Laden was responsible and that he and his lieutenants are still in Afghanistan, how would we deal with them? The answer is obvious: let's cut out the world war and go straight to Nuremburg.

This begs the question, of course, of how we would extract the defendants. I believe that this is a lot less complicated than the militarists have made it. Until a few years ago, the Afghan people regarded the western powers as their allies, as they fought to rid themselves of Soviet occupation. We squandered their goodwill when we encouraged the Taliban to move in as an ideological bulwark against communism. But reclaiming it, in Afghanistan's desperate circumstances, is surely only a matter of months.

Vast humanitarian interventions, dragging the population back from the brink of famine, would show the people that, unlike the Taliban, the west is on their side. The Taliban thrive on the fear of outsiders, which, as far as Afghans are concerned, has so far been amply justified. If the outside world proves that it is friendly, not hostile, the regime's grip begins to weaken. As the debilitated population begins to recover, the Taliban's chances of retaining power will be approximately zero. Bin Laden, long hated and feared by most Afghans, would be handed over just as soon as they could grab him.

All this, of course, will take time, and it's not hard to see why the American people want instant results. But justice requires patience, and infinite justice requires infinite patience. The great advantage of this strategy is that it's safe. Far from spawning future conflicts, it is likely to defuse them. Far from immersing a new generation in hatred of the west, it's likely to inculcate a hatred of those who would deprive them of friendly contact with outsiders. Far from triggering off fundamentalist uprisings all over the Muslim world, it could lead to a new understanding between cultures, even a sense of common purpose. The likes of Bin Laden would then have nowhere to hide.

And there is an accidental by-product, which has nothing to do with the west's strategic objectives. Rather than killing thousands of civilians, we would save the lives of millions. Let's make this the era of collateral repair.'



The Attack on Afghanistan
1. Noam Chomsky - composite response
"So far, the US-UK response is about what had been expected. What has been reported is attacks by cruise missiles and high-altitude bombers, accompanied by some food drops outside of Taliban-controlled areas (most of the country), such a transparent PR gesture that there is no attempt even to conceal it. The attacks appear to have been based entirely outside the Muslim world, presumably because of fear of protests. It is far too early, and we have much too little information, to say anything with confidence, but it is not unlikely that the mood is captured by story from Cairo in the Boston Globe with the headline "Protests, horror greet US assault," quoting an Egyptian waiter as saying "I give you food and I kill you? It makes me crazy to think about that."


I was rather surprised to see how thin the evidence was that the US presented, transmitted via Tony Blair. After what must be the most intensive international investigative effort in history, they were able to find very little -- much less than I speculated on my own, without resources -- to link bin Laden to the Sept. 11 crimes. That tends to support the conclusion of many specialists that the perpetrators come from decentralized networks, probably with limited communication, and very hard to penetrate. Charges against the Taliban were virtually non-existent: if harboring suspected terrorists is a crime that merits bombing, then much of the world, including the US, should be instantly attacked. That should be too obvious even for comment. And we do not know whether Taliban offers of negotiation and transfer of bin Laden were serious because the West simply dismissed them, preferring to bomb -- a traditional stance, though it is obscured in the rewriting of history. The systematic falsification of the past is deplorable in itself, but has serious human consequences, as we see once again.

...There are further problems in the background. To quote Roy again, "The Taliban's response to US demands for the extradition of Bin Laden has been uncharacteristically reasonable: produce the evidence, then we'll hand him over. President Bush's response is that the demand is non-negotiable'." She also adds one of the many reasons why this framework is unacceptable to Washington: "While talks are on for the extradition of CEOs can India put in a side request for the extradition of Warren Anderson of the US? He was the chairman of Union Carbide, responsible for the Bhopal gas leak that killed 16,000 people in 1984. We have collated the necessary evidence. It's all in the files. Could we have him, please?"

...It [the US response] should follow the rule of law and its treaty obligations, a course for which there are ample precedents. For example the case of Nicaragua, just mentioned -- and recall that the US attack against Nicaragua was a serious affair, leaving tens of thousands killed and the country ruined. True, Nicaragua's efforts to follow the rule of law were blocked by a violent superpower, but no one will block the US. That is far from the only example. If half the pharmaceutical facilities and supplies in the US were destroyed by the bin Laden network, the crime would be considered horrendous, and there might be a violent response. Sudan however, went to the UN, where it was of course blocked by its attacker. When IRA bombs went off in London, the government did not send the RAF to bomb the source of their finances; where I live in Boston, for example. Even if that had been feasible, it would have been criminal idiocy. A more constructive response was to consider realistically the background concerns and grievances, and to try to deal with them seriously, while at the same time following the rule of law to punish criminals. Or take the bombing of the Federal building in Oklahoma City. There were immediate calls for bombing the Middle East, and it probably would have taken place if there had been even a remote hint of a connection. When the perpetrator was found to be a militia sympathizer, there was no call to obliterate Montana and Idaho and Texas, and other places where the ultra-right militias are based. Rather, there was a search for the perpetrator, who was found, brought to court and sentenced, and to the extent that the reaction was sensible, there were efforts to understand the grievances that lie behind such crimes and to address the problems."



2. Michael Albert vs vigilantism
"Of course, international law has been violated. Worse, the mechanism for attaining illegal vigilante prosecution has been a policy which knowingly and predictably will kill many, perhaps even huge numbers of innocent civilians. We take access to food away from millions and then give food back to tens of thousands while bombing the society into panic and dissolution. This is terrorism, attacks on civilians to gain political ends, with a patina of public relations. It is utmost injustice, masked by utmost obfuscation.

Why? The answer is not to reduce the prospects of terror attacks. The U.S. government and all mainstream media warn their likelihood will increase, both out of short term desire to retaliate, and, over the longer haul, due to producing new reservoirs of hate and resentment. The answer is not to get justice. Vigilantism is not justice but the opposite, undermining international norms of law. The answer is not to reduce actual terror endured by innocent people. Our actions are themselves hurting civilians, perhaps in multitudinous numbers.

No, all the rhetoric aside, the answer is that the U.S. wishes to send a message and to establish a process. The message, as usual, is don't mess with us. We have no compunction about wreaking havoc on the weak and desperate."



3. Rahul Mahajan and Robert Jensen explode 'surgical strikes'
"It should finally be clear to all that “surgical strikes” are a myth. In the Gulf War, only 7 percent of the munitions used were “smart,” and those missed the target roughly half the time. One of those surgical strikes destroyed the Amiriyah bomb shelter, killing somewhere from 400 to 1,500 women and children. In Operation Infinite Reach, the 1998 attacks on Afghanistan, some of the cruise missiles went astray and hit Pakistan. Military officials have already admitted that not all of the ordnance being used is “smart,” and even the current generation of smart weapons hit their target only 70 to 80 percent of the time.

Contrary to U.S. propaganda, civilian targets are always on the list. There are already reports that Mullah Omar, the leader of the Taliban, was targeted for assassination, and the Defense Ministry in Kabul -- surely no more military a target than the Pentagon -- and located in the middle of the city, has been destroyed."



4. George Monbiot on token aid
"Yesterday morning, some 15 hours after the air strikes began, the United Nations announced that it had halted convoys of food to Afghanistan. From now on, and for as long as the conflict lasts, the humanitarian aid that both Blair and Bush promised would be an integral component of this campaign must be delivered primarily with the help of the armed forces. But they don't seem to have any idea what this responsibility entails.

The military answer to the country's crisis so far has taken the form of 37,500 yellow ration packs, dropped from transport planes into regions in which hungry people are believed to live. Each pack contains around 2,200 calories: roughly enough to sustain one person for one day.

If you believe, as some commentators do, that this is an impressive or even meaningful operation, I urge you to conduct a simple calculation. The United Nations estimates that there are 7.5m hungry people in Afghanistan. If every ration pack reached a starving person, then one two hundredth of the vulnerable were fed by the humanitarian effort on Sunday. The US department of defence has announced that it possesses a further 2m of these packs, which it might be prepared to drop. If so, they could feed 27% of the starving for one day.

Four weeks remain before winter envelops Afghanistan, during which enough food must be delivered to last until March. Yet the US is prepared to drop, at its own best estimate, barely one quarter of one day's needs.

Some of these rations will, of course, be lost. Many, perhaps most, will be eaten by people who are not in immediate danger of starvation, as they are more mobile than the seriously hungry and better able to reach the packs. Some will remain untouched. One of the warring factions may discover that an effective means of eliminating its enemies is to remove the contents of these packs and replace them with explosives. This is just one of the problems associated with dispensing kindness at 20,000 feet: no one can be completely sure whose generosity they are about to enjoy. The usefulness of any feeding programme, moreover, is greatly diminished if it is not carefully targeted. People in different stages of starvation require different preparations.

Children, especially infants, are more vulnerable than any others. Yet all the packs being dropped on Afghanistan are identical, and all are equipped only to feed adults. The packs contain medicine as well as food but, unlike aid workers on the ground, the pilots delivering them can offer no diagnosis. This blanket prescription is likely to be either useless or dangerous.

So western governments have terminated what may have been an effective humanitarian programme and replaced it with a futile gesture. The bombing raids, moreover, have persuaded thousands to flee from their homes. Yet Afghanistan's borders remain closed, while the camps the UN is building in Pakistan will not be ready for another two weeks. The refugees have nowhere to go."

Direct links to sources to follow.
peacenik protest on and offline

There are protests being staged all over the first world right now - if you're in the UK, this is a good place to find out more. If not, try here.

Peaceful protests are incredibly important - in a democracy, it means a lot when we come together in numbers. What's more, it is a visible sign for the depoliticised public to see, on the streets of the town where they live. And again, if it is a large demonstration it shows there are people - many people, hopefully - who do not agree with the party line.

However, if for whatever reason, you cannot reach a protest in the real world - there are alternatives. In the days immediately following 911, myself and some friends took part in several chat room occupations and interventions. This is in every way, a valid form of protest - and has some signal advantages over those on the streets (not to say it should replace the former, but may increasingly become a useful supplement). First of all, it is always possible to have your voice heard - and with no physicality in the equation, no prospect of idiot violence taking precedence over words. That's all there can ever be. It's pure dialogue.

I have personally interacted with individuals who have lost friends and family in the WTC attack, combat veterans, and the wives and children of serving military personnel. To each, i have tried to combat the disinformation that has been rife duing this campaign, bring new perspectives to bear on the problem (that may not have made it through the mainstream media) ...and perhaps most importantly, allowed them to come (virtually) face-to-face with a real-life peacenik. And interact with them as a human being. And maybe come away, even if unconvinced, a little less inclined to dismiss all out of hand as 'radicals' or 'traitors'...

When there were a group of us taking part, the effects were even better. Not only could we flood the room with more text, it was possible to support each other by means of quotes, cited statistics and so on - and the very fact of our solidarity shifted opinion in our favour at some points.

suggested tactics
1. Have a word document or URL waiting in another window so you can cut + paste relevant quotes, facts, stats etc.
2. In the same doc - web addresses. Best to use these more sparingly, i think - but if anyone wants to source your arguments, it's good to be able to refer them.
3. Think on your feet - and remember that the best way to persuade people is by establishing a dialogue.

lo-tech terror

Well, they got me. Up until the bombing of Aghanistan began, a couple of nights ago, I was actually about ready to believe we were maybe witnessing a major change in US foreign policy. Embarrassing in retrospect, but I excitedly mailed people asking whether they thought we were witnessing the end of neo-colonialism. Now, with cruise missiles splashing down in Afghanistan for the third night running, and the US war machine using the same tried and tested tactics as always - attacking a vastly inferior country by remote control - it all seems like a bad joke.

My logic went like this: the only way I could make sense of how the unapologetically belligerent military-industrial American Axis had suddenly gotten wise to international opinion etc (and bear in mind – though many nations were cautious about action, there was a much better level of approval than there was for Kosova or even Iraq) – was that they’d realised they had no choice.

Their superpower status had just ceased to mean anything. After years of rambling on about ‘rogue states’ like some kind of bedtime nasty, the US realised the rules of the game had changed – and nothing. Would ever make them. Safe. Again.

You hijack a plane. You plough it into the concentrated population of a city. Or a nuclear power plant.

Or you get your average lab, with your averagely-educated technicians, and you mix up a cocktail of anthrax, or smallpox. Hire a cropduster and and go drizzle down poison on the swelling streets, downtown.

In military terms, 911 marks a massive destabilisation of military power. In one fell swoop, the US has learned, for all its superiority, it is vulnerable to widespread attack - and that being the world's lone superpower is as much of a curse as a blessing.

Imaginative guerilla tactics plus a willingness to go kamikaze for a cause cuts through all conventional military thinking. And renders obselete half of their obscene oxymoronic 'smart weapons'.

The US knows it cannot win the 'war against terrorism', any more than it could the 'war against drugs'.

tactical support
The way i'm thinking...

"You agree to the estimation that "in 9/11/2001 the world changed?
Undoubtedly. The history of modern Europe and its North American offshoot is one of carrying out shocking crimes against others -- or mutual slaughter, as in the American civil war or Europe's wars. This is the first time that the guns have been pointed in the opposite direction, at least on any significant scale. The Congo did not attack Belgium, or India England, or Algeria France, or Mexico or the Philippines the United States. The atrocities of September 11 were unique, not -- regrettably -- in scale, but in the target." (Noam Chomsky)

to:

"There is no doubt that the afterlife-obsessed suicidal brain really is a weapon of immense power and danger. It is comparable to a smart missile, and its guidance system is in many respects superior to the most sophisticated electronic brain that money can buy." (Richard Dawkins)

to:

"President Bush says that the September 11 attack on the United States marks a new kind of war, the first war of the 21st century. There is a sense in which that's true, but what's chilling is the sense in which it's not - the sense in which the attack was old-fashioned. The terrorists didn't use biological or nuclear weapons, and next time they could. A future enemy assault could kill not 6,000 people on American soil, but 600,000." (Robert Wright, The Guardian)

and:

"Before September 11, analysts had assumed terrorists would not want to indiscriminately kill thousands of civilians by releasing diseases such as anthrax or pneumonic plague. But, Professor Malcolm Dando, from Bradford University's peace studies department, says the attacks in New York ended that assumption." (reported in The Guardian)

Now that the bombs are flying again - regardless of the new dangers - all bets are off. The US Government realises its own citizens are for the first time genuinely potentially at risk from facing the fallout of their oppressive foreign policy abroad - and apperently, this counts for nothing.

Whatever happens next - whether the US chooses to believe it or not - one thing's for certain - the New World Order just got disordered.


"justice, not revenge..."

ZNet's '5 arguments against war':
1. Guilt hasn't yet been proven.
2. War would violate International Law.
3. War would be unlikely to eliminate those responsible for the September 11 attacks.
4. Huge numbers of innocent people will die.
5. War will reduce the security of U.S. citizens.

a sane response?
Supposing scrutiny by the international community leads to other nations, NGOs and people broadly agreeing with the US interpretation of the facts, and maybe even the culprit - the UN sanctions an international operation to capture the prime suspect. Military opinion seem to agree the best means of doing this is with elite special forces units.

When the prime suspect is captured, s/he stands trial in an international court, presided over ultimately by the UN, not the US. The victim of a crime cannot pass judgement on the crime - transfer the analogy to a domestic criminal case and you can easily see how this is an absolute law.

In the full glare of the world's media, mainstream and indie, the court reaches a decision.

Put it another way -

Q: What, then, if not war?
A: International law.


fighting war with words

The first point has already been made - the qualitive difference between the description of the attacks by the UN and the more responsible members of the international community - and the illegitimate use of the term 'war', which not only muddles the nature of the crisis 911 has triggered, but also acts to simplify what is a complex situation - and, in using absolute terms, allows only one response.

the 'war against terrorism'
A deeply unfortunate (and problematic) phrase, which unfortunately seems to have gotten itself no small measure of currency. It follows naturally on from Bush's interpretation of 911 as an 'act of war'. As has already been stated, the use of the word 'war' in this context is incorrect. Its chief use for the US and allies seems to be that it couches their response in emotional terms, whilst simultaneously simplifying the conflict immeasurably. Furthermore, war in the proper sense is conducted between nation states (and civil war between factions within a single state). To declare war on an abstraction is nonsensical - except for the extended powers it delivers to the nation doing the declaring.

And that's without entering the minefield of what exactly, is terrorism. Luckily, Noam Chomsky is on hand to analyse this - 'I understand the term "terrorism" exactly in the sense defined in official us documents: "the calculated use of violence or threat of violence to attain goals that are political, religious, or ideological in nature. This is done through intimidation, coercion, or instilling fear."

In accord with this -- entirely appropriate -- definition, the recent attack on the us is certainly an act of terrorism, in fact, a horrifying terrorist crime. There is scarcely any disagreement about this throughout the world, nor should there be.

But alongside the literal meaning of the term, as just quoted from us official documents, there is also a propagandistic usage, which unfortunately is the standard one: the term "terrorism" is used to refer to terrorist acts committed by enemies against us or our allies. Political scientist Michael Stohl is quite correct when he writes that "we must recognize that by convention -- and it must be emphasized only by convention -- great power use and the threat of the use of force is normally described as coercive diplomacy and not as a form of terrorism," though it commonly involves "the threat and often the use of violence for what would be described as terroristic purposes were it not great powers who were pursuing the very same tactic."' (from ZNet).

The perpetrator of the horrific attack that was 911 has still not been identified. And while Osama bin Laden is the obvious choice, the evidence against him persuasive - he has not as yet been tried in an international court. Considering some of the US' previous failures in responding to suspected enemies - most famously, the al-Shifa pharmeceuticals factory in Sudan, it seems ill-advised at best to launch punitive strikes before such guilt is established to the satisfaction of the international community (and this has to be a wider coalition than just NATO - who after all, are a far from disinterested group of allied players on the world scene).
index:
1. fighting war with words
2. justice, not revenge
3. lo-tech terror
4. peacenik protest on and offline
5. other voices
6. annotated links
intro
Ok: first off - this site is not intended to belittle, in any way, the events of 911. I fully support the term given by the UN, when it described it as a 'crime against humanity'. In my opinion, this is not the same thing as an 'act of war'. Make no mistake, the ideological difference between the two is immense. A 'crime' calls out for justice, an 'act of war' for retaliation - meaning revenge. President Bush has already shown how he could exploit the huge popular support at this time by a sinister intimation: "whether we bring our enemies to justice or bring justice to our enemies, justice will be done." While one can, of course, understand the strong sentiment in the US, the only way justice will be done is to ensure any action - whatever it may be - to be first ratified by the UN security council. Any other method will be illegal under international law.

It has been widely reported that this has already happened. That, through the invocation of Article 51, the UN has effectively handed the US a 'blank cheque' for it to do what it will. This is not the case. The UN has agreed that the attack should be counted as an offence against the entirity of the international community - and made the following demand: "[the UN} Calls on all States to work together urgently to bring to justice the perpetrators, organizers and sponsors of these terrorist attacks and stresses that those responsible for aiding, supporting or harbouring the perpetrators, organizers and sponsors of these acts will be held accountable..."

However, it concluded its response by saying the Security Council "Decides to remain seized of the matter." This means that any action taken by the victim state and its allies must seek a specific UN mandate for any military response. Failing to obtain such a mandate would be in breach of international law, would serve to undermine the UN, and would therefore be an illegitimate and unlawful act. .This cannot be stressed enough. The UN is there to safeguard the rights of all states, rich and poor, weak and strong. To sidestep its judgement is to show utter contempt for the procedures in place for all our safety.

As stands, the US and UK have submitted letters to the Security Council, using Article 51 as justification for their campaign: "...the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations." This has been widely reported and barely questioned. But the lengths to which 'self-defence' can apparently be stretched is surely a cause for concern - and enough to render it almost useless as a meaningful term. Using 'self-defence' as a motive when there is no visible, immediate threat sets worrying precedents. And the UN's silence does not serve those who may be caught in the crossfire and trapped in the fall-out of an ill-advised military campaign.

If we are to have a fair world for all, the UN must exert the authority it has over international law to stop abuses of the Charter's more obscure points. The US and UK, as fully signed-up members, have pledged obedience, and must comply with its decisions or become, in the purest sense, 'rogue states'. International law is there for all, and applicable in any and every instance. One cannot support it when it favours one's interests and disregard it as an inconvenience when it does not. International law must be an absolute. There is no other way to settle conflicts without slipping backwards into a world of realpolitik-induced total war, where might settles every argument, and innocents have no way to be heard. The expression of foreign policy in such a worst case scenario is the exchange of massive death and destruction on a truly global scale.

And before you refuse to believe that innocents could possibly be caught up in such a conflict - please note the following statistic - at the close of the 20th century, 84% of the victims of war were civilians. If anything, the situation has degenerated since, with the easy availablity of assorted weapons, small and large. And as for 'surgical strikes' - "Fewer than half the bombs the RAF dropped during the Kosovo campaign hit their intended targets...British forces flew 1,618 raids in the 78-day operation, of which 1,008 were strike sorties, dropping more than 1,000 bombs, according to a report by the national audit office in June. " (The Guardian) So, that's what? 500 bombs - OFF-TARGET. Not good news for innocents who might stray too close to camps, power stations, airports or major cities... (though remember last time America bombed Afghanistan, some missiles managed to wind up in the wrong country - coming down in Pakistan).

I am neither an expert on politics, nor a politician. I am putting this site into the public realm to provide as exhaustive a set of resources I can manage - because I believe a terrible injustice is unfolding before our eyes, because I believe that our Governments are not unaccountable - and that we can - and must - come together to protect our fellow civilians wherever in the world they may be. This site exists for those who oppose this war to more easily access non-mainstream information and resources - to support a legal response to 911 - and hopefully, to inspire justice and peace for all, when we come out the other side.