PUCL Bulletin, December 2001

America's Afghan War
-- By K.G. Kannabiran

The news of the daily bombardment of Afghan tows and the pounding of the important cities into rubble reducing vast stretches of territory into unlivable waste for a long time to come is disturbing. This is not the first time though. Such events foreclose thoughts about future. A retrospective search for sense and sanity reminded me of Shelly's commemoration of the despair of Ozymandias of Egypt, king of kings, at his own works and the devastation and the colossal waste, which crowned his greatness. Afghanistan, within a span of fifty years was laid to waste by one super power after another successively.
Speaking about the Soviet occupation, Doris Lessing in her excellent account of the Afghan war with the Soviets writes, "Beautiful parts of Afghanistan have been reduced to desert; ancient towns, full of art treasures bombed flat, one out of three Afghans is now dead or in exile or living in a refugee camp. And the world remains largely indifferent.

As one Muhjahid Commander, the famous Abdul Haq Afghani, said: 'The only really hard thing is this: in the beginning we felt the whole world was with us, now we know we are alone.' She goes on to point out the most modem tanks were confronted by ragged men women and children armed with home made grenades, catapults, stones, ancient rifles and the Afghans have won again and again'. They tied hand grenades to kites and flew them!

In 1979 the Russians with a view to subjugate Afghanistan and rule through their puppet regime entered Afghanistan with a hundred thousand troops, along with the sophisticated weapons, tanks, and MIG Jets which she had. The cynicism of social imperialism can match the cynicism of arrogant capitalism of America. Their anti personnel bombs in the form of toys pens and fruits attracted the young and disabled thousands of children. Their butter fly land mines are still a life hazard apart from disabling quite few thousand innocents. They waged a continuous war against Russians for almost a decade. They were fighting Communists so the US supported fundamentalist forces against the Soviets and encouraged Pakistan to send in trained guerillas to fight the Soviets. US distributed hand held anti aircraft missile known as "Stingers" and launchers, wholesale to the anti communist guerillas.

Their courage, ruggedness were praised. Then the Afghans were not faulted for their spirit of jihad or their fundamentalist faith. Speaking of the American role in this conflict on 30th. Jan 1980, Mrs. Gandhi sharply reacted to the events in Afghanistan saying, "We could not but feel apprehension because of the reaction on the part of some powers to the events in Afghanistan. Pakistan asked for military aid worth thousands of million dollars. The US has already promised it such aid amounting to hundreds of million dollars and is trying to persuade other countries to contribute to turning Pakistan into a military arsenal." Indian foreign policy hanging on to the coat tails of US now did not make any difference. We are told rather bluntly that the focus is on world terrorism and not on our local cross border terrorism.

The present war by US is against Afghans and not just Talibans and Osama- bin-Laden and his terrorist outfit. In the process of smoking out Osama, who is not an Afghan, and his followers, the decimation of Afghans is inevitable. High altitude bombing despite claims to precision targeting will lead to collateral deaths of civilians and damage to their properties. The dropping of food and jam with spoons, forks, and knives in plastic will be perceived as an effort at conversion to the American way of life. It is a strange war. It is punitive in character. It is an undefended and to use the lawyer's expression it is uniquely an "exparte" war. The repeated aerial bombardment and the unleashing of Tomo Hawk missiles and other laser devices are intended to secure the presence of Osama and his unidentifiable comrades dead or alive. Better dead than alive, as the culture of gun slinging west will tell us. The present war is unsurpassed in history and no other country ever undertook such large-scale destruction of empty territory at such great cost and never at any time with such orchestrated approval of all governments, Islamic and non-Islamic, for this death dance. The Second World War, it was said then, was for preserving democracy.

This war is for freedom and the American way of life. This is a war against terrorism, which still remains undefined. The debate on the definition is still inconclusive, but governments have an ad hoc understanding of terrorist activities. And these have always been of their political adversaries. The definition and the decision has been unilateral and the declaration that either you are with us or with them left little choice to the governments of the world. The consequence is that a Country whose people cannot all be terrorists is reduced to rubble and the noise and heat that is generated by this continuous bombing is likely to create an unforgettable trauma for several generations to come. The environmental devastation may make living impossible for some years to come. Freedom and the American way of life do not make sense in the context of this bombardment.

While the attack on the World Trade Centre was undoubtedly an act of maniacs the response, which unfortunately is drawing support and applause, need not be megalomaniac. The screaming banner headline this news is drawing, I believe, is not a sign of healthy journalism. It tends to stoke war hysteria and the consequent responses may not be rational.

Children and Trauma of War

Satvik is about three and a half years old. His speech is still not clear. His parents subscribe to the OUTLOOK, a weekly news magazine. Satvik saw the photograph of a child injured in the bombing of Kabul, published on the cover page of the November 12 issue of the magazine. The photograph hurt his sensibility greatly and he questioned his parents about the cause of the injuries received by Jawad whose face was published on the cover of the magazine. On the next visit of his parents to their doctor, a homoeopath, he insisted on accompanying them and took the issue of OUTLOOK along. He showed it to the doctor and insisted that he should send medicine, somehow, for Jawad who was lying injured.

We need not point out that the trauma caused to Satvik by the photograph is nothing as compared to the trauma that must have been inflicted on countless children of Kabul because of a war imposed on them.

Every war, the world over has always traumatized children and they grow into traumatized adults. Such children and adults need special care and medical rehabilitation. Bushs and Ladens will never understand the havoc they are playing on humanity. -- Chief Editor

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