A war supposedly brought on by Taliban intransigence was actually provoked by our own government.
A war that the majority of the American people believe is about their grief, anger and desire for revenge is really about the cold-blooded calculations of a small elite seeking to extend its power.
And a war that is supposed to make us safer has put us in far greater danger by increasing the likelihood of further terrorist attacks.
Let's take those points in order.
Our undeclared war on Afghanistan is the culmination of a decade of U.S. aggression with a humanitarian facade.
Once the natural sympathies of the American people were touched by the plight of the long-suffering Afghan people, public opinion swung toward helping them. In response to this, the administration concocted the most shameless and cynical cover story for military strikes in recent memory. The idea, leaked last Thursday, went like this:
To add insult to injury, in the first day the United States dropped only 37,500 packaged meals, far below the daily needs of even a single large refugee camp. With 7.5 million people on the brink of death and existing programs disrupted, this is a drop in the bucket compared to the damage caused by this new war.
Those who starve or freeze will not be the only innocents to die. 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.
This is standard U.S. practice. In the Gulf War, virtually every power station in Iraq was destroyed, with untold effects on civilians. A correspondent for al-Jazeera TV reported that power went out in Kabul when the bombing started, although it was restored in some places within hours. Targeting of any pitiful remnants of civilian infrastructure in Afghanistan would be consistent with past U.S. policy.
George Bush said we are not at war with the Afghan people -- just as we were not at war with the Iraqi people or the Serbian people. The hundreds of thousands of Afghans who fled the cities knew better.
Military analysts suggest that the timing of the strikes had to do with the weather. Another possible interpretation is that the Taliban's recently-expressed willingness to negotiate posed too great a danger that peace might break out. The Orwellian use of the term "diplomacy" to describe the consistent U.S. policy of no negotiations -- accept our peremptory demands or else -- helps to mask the fact that the administration always intended to launch this war.
The same tactic was used against Serbia; at the Rambouillet negotiations in March 1999, demands were pitched just high enough that the Serbian government could not go along.
In this case, the Taliban's offer to detain bin Laden and try him before an Islamic court, while unacceptable, was a serious initial negotiating position and would have merited a serious counteroffer -- unless one had already decided to go to war.
The administration has many reasons for this war:
This war will not make us more secure. For weeks, many in the antiwar movement -- and some careful commentators in more mainstream circles -- have been saying that military action was playing into the hands of Osama bin Laden, who may have been hoping for such an attack to spark the flames of anti-American feeling in the Muslim world. Bin Laden's pre-taped speech, broadcast on al-Jazeera television after the bombing started, vindicates that analysis.
"Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists," Bush said on Sept. 20. Bin Laden's appeal to the ummah, the whole Islamic world, echoed this logic: "The world is divided into two sides -- the side of faith and the side of infidelity."
The American jihad may yet be matched by a widely expanded Islamic one, something unlikely had we not bombed. Remember, we have seen only the opening shots of what many officials are calling a long-term, multi-front war in which the secretary of defense has told us there will be no "silver bullet." The administration has clearly been preparing the American people to accept an extended conflict.
Bin Laden's world is Bush's, in some strangely distorted mirror. A world divided as they seem to want would have no place in it for those of us who want peace with justice.
All is not yet lost. The first step is for us to send a message, not just to our government but to the whole world, saying, "This action done in our name was not done by our will. We are against the killing of innocents anywhere in the world."
The next step is for us to build a movement that can change our government's barbaric and self-destructive policy.
If we don't act now to build a new world, we may just be left with no world.
Rahul Mahajan serves on the National Board of Peace Action. Robert Jensen is a professor of journalism at the University of Texas. Both are members of the Nowar Collective.
Copyright (c) 2001 Rahul Mahajan and Robert Jensen.