The U.S. momentarily has scruples against attacking civilian targets, the Northern Alliance doesn't.
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B-52 bombers like this one targeted Taliban military facilities and airbases, and Al Qaeda camps. Air Force files
by Chuck 45
OCTOBER 9, 2001. The attack has begun. Since Sunday, the United States has been dropping bombs and missiles on Afghani airports, military installations, and the training camps of Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda terrorist network.
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld made the bombings sound almost benevolent as he told reporters that one of the military's goals was to open up air space so that the U.S. could safely deliver humanitarian aid to the starving Afghani people whom we Americans love.
He also said that by weakening the Taliban, the Northern Alliance and groups opposing the Taliban would be able to take control of the country, and even take a hand in destroying the Saudi-born bin Laden and his network of "foreign terrorists," basically freeing Afghanistan for a bright new future.
When asked if the U.S. was actively arming the Northern Alliance, which reportedly has new uniforms and more up-to-date weaponry than a few weeks ago, Rumsfeld hemmed and hawed. Perhaps because our new ally and former Taliban supporter, Pakistan, has denounced the possibility of a takeover by the Northern Alliance, which they fear would diminish their regional influence in favor of Iran and Russia.
Or maybe because the U.S. is still pondering how many Northern Alliance eggs to put in the post-Taliban basket. That's the real conundrum. That there are no knights in shining armor waiting to take over.
While global peaceniks decry allied bombings, most of the danger to civilians even in the current attack actually comes from the Afghani Northern Alliance and, of course, the Taliban. The U.S. momentarily has scruples against attacking civilian targets, the Northern Alliance doesn't.
Like the rest of the participants in Afghanistan's 21-year civil war, they've never hesitated to engage in "indiscriminate aerial bombardment and shelling, direct attacks on civilians, summary executions, rape, persecution on the basis of religion, and the use of antipersonnel land mines," according to a recent Human Rights Watch report.
Supporting the Northern Alliance now, will make them the front runners to seize sole control of Afghanistan for the first time since 1996. Afghanis, though, even sick of the Taliban, may not all be eager for the return of the Alliance. It was the violent turbulent reign of the Northern Alliance and their ilk which allowed the Taliban to seize control in the first place. And as far as women and queers go, they are only the Taliban-lite.
The U.S. faces its own dangers if it heavily arms the anti-democratic Alliance. Like the once U.S.-supported Taliban, the Northern Alliance may eventually turn our rocket launchers against us.
The Bush administration's other post-Taliban solution, retrieving Afghanistan's former King Mohammed Zahir Shah from his Roman exile, and putting him at the head of a coalition including tribal leaders, Northern Alliance members, and "moderate" members of the Taliban, has its own pitfalls. Remember what happened when the U.S. supported the Shah over the heads of the Iranian people? The Iranian Revolution and the takeover of the U.S. Embassy.
The only hope for a new, peaceful Afghanistan lies in a transition government that is convincingly representative, which should include the female half of the Afghani population. It probably won't. At the UN AIDS conference just this summer, the Bush administration, the Vatican, and fundamentalist Muslims were anti-queer allies. They were expected to hook up again to deprive girls of their rights at the UN Special Session on Children; the September session was postponed due to the WTC attack.
Even with a new Afghan government in place, Bush would have to combine the "nation-building" he despises, with a truly international effort to demilitarize the country.
It is an almost prohibitive task. Civil war and the Taliban have destroyed what little infrastructure there was after the USSR was evicted in 1989, leaving arms trading, smuggling, and opium dealing as the country's predominant economic activities. The various ethnic splits inside the country are exacerbated by the grasping hands of foreign interests without.
As a result, international efforts to bring peace have a history of failure. According to Human Rights Watch, the "Six Plus Two" group, the six countries bordering Afghanistan, plus Russia and the U.S., that signed the 1999 Tashkent Declaration, agreeing "not to provide military support to any Afghan party and to prevent the use of our territories for such purposes," have almost all subsequently provided funds, arms, or advisors to combatants.
They just couldn't keep their hands to themselves. I doubt they will now. Even U.S. relief packages addressing the country's devastating famine are as much food for outside political manipulation as for empty stomachs.
The real danger to Afghani civilians isn't the current bombing it's history repeating itself to the mesmerizing tune of the foreign-interest rhumba.
For Human Rights Watch: Afghanistan 2001. Analysis and recommendations.
Testimony from Women's Alliance for Peace and Human Rights in Afghanistan (WAPHA). Includes recommendations for action.
Behind the media veil. Afghan women say what should be done to foster peace.
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