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A Just War

category international | arts and media | opinion/analysis author Tuesday September 19, 2006 01:02author by David Manning - toirtap Report this post to the editors

Or a conscious act to murder

Five years on since the terrorist attacks of 9/11, the wars that precipitated from that act are now discussed in frustratingly candid terms. While the thousands of American deaths are fittingly remembered as avoidable tragedies, the military responses, claiming the lives of many more innocent people, are described as 'mistakes' and 'necessities'.

A legitimate response to terror

In a recent RTE Questions & Answers discussion all but the token 'left of centre' panelist described the war in Afghanistan in much the same way, a necessary response to an act of terror, which has resulted in a more favourable situation in the region. The removal of the Taliban was, though not the principal goal of the conflict, a welcome result. [1]

Noel Whelan and Stephen Collins, Political Correspondent with The Irish Times, laid out the fundamentals of the war as they see them. Noel commented that the war was a 'necessary issue that had to be dealt with', Mr. Collins reinforced the point stating that the 'Americans were right to go in... they have improved the lives of people in the long term... they were attacked by Al Qaeda and were entitled to respond.'

The principle point the panelists wished to bring across was that while one could criticise the rights and wrongs of the Iraq war, the war in Afghanistan was an act beyond reproach. It was a legitimate response to an act of aggression.

A media so detached from reality

In a lecture held by the Technology and Culture Forum of MIT in 2001 Noam Chomsky addressed the idea of a 'Just War' in Afghanistan. [2]

He was asked whether Richard Falk's (who incidentally also opposed the Iraq war [3]) October 2001 article in the Nation [4] provided a valid justification for the Afghan conflict. The article read: “The war in Afghanistan against apocalyptic terrorism qualifies in my understanding as the first truly just war since World War II...The perpetrators of the September 11 attack cannot be reliably neutralized by nonviolent or diplomatic means; a response that includes military action is essential to diminish the threat of repetition, to inflict punishment and to restore a sense of security at home and abroad.“

Chomsky's answer was quite simple, “if you can't find out who did it you can't punish anyone... [you] certainly can't do it by aiming activities against hundreds of thousands of people who had nothing to do with it.”

Many of these people, Chomsky noted, were in need of basic food supplies prior to the attack. These supplies were then severely hampered by US bombing:

“After the first week of bombing, the New York Times reported on a back page inside a column on something else, that by the arithmetic of the United Nations there will soon be 7.5 million Afghans in acute need of even a loaf of bread and there are only a few weeks left before the harsh winter will make deliveries to many areas totally impossible, continuing to quote, but with bombs falling the delivery rate is down to half of what is needed. Casual comment. Which tells us that Western civilization is anticipating the slaughter of, well do the arithmetic, 3-4 million people or something like that.”

Taking into account what we knew before the invasion, including what we could predict would happen, the invasion of Afghanistan amounts to a conscious act to murder.

With reference to the fact the US was 'requesting' the Taliban hand over Bin Laden, Chomsky proposes that the Taliban were probably quite sincere their request for evidence before any handover. A letter to the New York Times in October 2001 [5] made the same point; “If NATO has ''clear and compelling proof'' of Mr. Bin Laden's involvement in the Sept. 11 attacks, why doesn't it just hand that evidence over to the Taliban so that they can give their people a legitimate reason for surrendering him?”

This is all quite irrelevant though. The purpose of the war was to capture those found responsible for the attack of 9/11. If we assume that the Taliban were protecting Osama bin Laden, we must also accept that it was the Taliban, a regime unpopular with it's people, were the ones protecting him, not the Afghan people. In contributing to the starvation of thousands of people and the bombing of many others it is obvious that it was the victims of the Taliban who were attacked, not Bin Laden.

A more favourable situation

The Senlis Council published a report on Afghanistan's current situation paints a bleak picture:

“After five years of intensive international involvement in Afghanistan, the country remains ravaged by severe poverty and the spreading starvation of the rural and urban poor. Despite promises from the US-led international community guaranteeing to provide the resources and assistance necessary for its reconstruction and development needs, Afghanistan's people are starving to death. Afghanistan continues to rank at the bottom of most poverty indicators, and the situation of women and children is particularly grave. One in four children born in Afghanistan cannot expect to live beyond the age of five and certain provinces of the country lay claim to the worst maternal mortality rates ever recorded in the world.

...[t]hose who do not want to turn to the Taliban are forced to do so in order to survive and support their families.

Taliban now control southern Afghanistan. Since 2001, the day-to-day security of ordinary Afghan people has deteriorated markedly. Despite the concerted focus on military and security issues in the country, the Taliban are tightening their grip on the southern half of Afghanistan. In addition to their current de facto military control of entire towns, districts, and neighbourhoods in the provinces capitals, the Taliban have psychological control over nearly half of Afghanistan. A doctor in Kandahar City reported that parents are no longer sending their daughters to school, women only rarely venture outdoors, and even then only when wearing a full burka." [6]

A tragedy of errors

The Independent [7] reported earlier this month: “The Senlis Council claimed that the campaign by British forces against the Taliban had inflicted lawlessness, misery and starvation on the Afghan people.

Thousands of villagers fleeing the fighting and a continuing drought, as well as farmers who have lost their livelihood with the eradication of the opium crop, were suffering dreadful conditions in refugee camps.

In a separate intervention, the influential International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS) said that a vital opportunity was lost when the West failed to carry out adequate reconstruction work after the 2001 war.”

While the Times hears the opinion of someone 'on the ground':

“The former aide-de-camp to the commander of the British taskforce in southern Afghanistan has described the campaign in Helmand province as a textbook case of how to screw up a counter-insurgency.

'We're now scattered in a shallow meaningless way across northern towns where the only way for the troops to survive is to increase the level of violence so more people get killed. It's pretty shocking and not something I want to be part of.'” [8]

The Media's Role

RTE's summary of the 'Removal of the Taliban':

"It was suspected that the hardline Islamic regime in Afghanistan, the Taliban, was sheltering Bin Laden and his followers. US President George W Bush issued the ultimatum that the Taliban must either hand over Bin Laden and other suspects immediately or "share in their fate". This did not happen." [9]

Note there is no reference to the Taliban's offer to hand over Bin Laden.

"The US and Britain began air strikes on Afghanistan on 7 October, knowing that bombing alone would not overthrow the ruling Taliban regime."

Note no mention of the other 'repercussions' to bombing.

And then follows the typical account of a media approved conflict. All told through the prisim of truth that is Donald Rumsfeld. Shockingly, there is no reference to the civllian death toll since US intervention in this summary. It is not even alluded to. It seems an efficient journalist must make no association between 'benevolent' military machines and civilian casualties. In fact, it would appear from this distilled version of events the only people to die as a result of this invasion were those killed in 2002's earthquake.

Based on this account of the war there is little wonder why five years on RTE's idea of balance is as skewed as it is. A balance that offers 'debate' on a war that claimed thousands of lives with not one dissenting voice.

Whatever the 'blunders' and lack of forethought those behind the Afghan conflict are guilty of, there remains one elementary truism. The humanitarian situation was well known and the risks clearly identified prior to the attack on Afghanistan. The dangers posed to the Afghan people were considered and the bombing was sanctioned.

The death of thousands of Afghans was not accidental, it was inevitable. But this is not an acceptable truth in the studios of licensed liberal discourse.

1. http://www.rte.ie/news/2006/0911/qanda.html
2. http://web.mit.edu/tac/past/2001-2002/index.html
3. http://www.transnational.org/forum/meet/2002/Falk_Again....html
4. http://www.thenation.com/doc/20011029/falk
5. http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9D00E0DA...an%20
6. http://www.senliscouncil.net/modules/publications/014_p...er_02
7. http://news.independent.co.uk/world/asia/article1367185.ece
8. http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2087-2350795,00....html
9. http://www.rte.ie/news/features/oneyearon/war1.html

Related Link: http://toirtap.blogspot.com/
author by Siobhanpublication date Tue Sep 19, 2006 14:13Report this post to the editors

Where we (as I am an Irish-American) justified in retaliating against the Taliban after 9-11? Of course. Unfortunately, and much to Bin Laden's luck, or cunning, we have one of the worst presidents in office, and little has been done correctly.

We went into Afghanistan seeking revenge for September 11. While our people called for swift punishment of those who murdered our people, our president saw an opportunity.

All too quickly, the war in Afghanistan was considered won, the Taliban whipped, despite the fact that we've not yet captured Bin Laden. Troops were spread out, and security weakened. Bush had another war in mind, and didn't want to spare troops in a country in which he incorrectly considered the war won.

Bush's preferred war: Iraq: the place of his father's major screw-up (surprise, surprise, another Bush screw-up). With Desert Storm, his father tried, and failed miserably to change things in Iraq. Bush Jr. comes along and is handed the perfect opportunity to fix it with September 11. It's not hard to convince a group of people who have suffered such losses as we did on that fateful day that there is a threat from a country who we have not exactly considered friends. In the months and years to come, Bush has involved our men and women in a war in Iraq which seems to have no end in sight, despite the fact that he has declared some sort of victory no less then 3 times. Only very recently has Bush admitted that our war in Iraq truly has nothing to do with September 11.

And what of the actual war there? Another round of costly mistakes. Despite the downward slide in control in Afghanistan due to inadequate troop numbers, Bush cannot seem to figure out that troops are one of the most important of basic needs in Iraq. If it is even remotely possible to create peace amid so many differing fractions, you would need a large number of troops to pull it off. Otherwise, as is the case now, the troops coming to bring peace end up being no more than one more fraction of people creating and dealing with violence.

Will the Bush Administration ever get it right? My guess is no. Fixing any of these problems involves admitting they were wrong and are responsible for the death of thousands. Can't have that.

Before I get hammered for not supporting my country’s men and women....I am supportive. I'm also realistic. I believe very strongly in our original mission in Afghanistan. One look at New York's sky line will explain that. However, I believe in order to make our mission there, we needed many more troops. All of us would have been willing to go after 9/11. Our mission in Iraq, however is a mistake taken in order to fix a previous mistake. I don't believe we should have gone there in the first place, but we're there now. Can we simply pull out? No. The country is in more disarray than it was when we came. Before we pull out, we need more troops to provide security, eliminate insurgent violence, and help the country establish a strong and lasting government.

author by David Manning - toirtappublication date Tue Sep 19, 2006 14:52Report this post to the editors

Thanks Siobhan, but you failed to explain why 'you' were "justified in retaliating against the Taliban."

author by PaddyKpublication date Tue Sep 19, 2006 16:00Report this post to the editors

Im afraid Siobhan's piece represents almost everything that is wrong with the "Irish American" worldiew.

"We" went in to Afghanistan seeking revenge, Siobhan states.
Dear Oh Dear! The day that revenge becomes an acceptable platform for the formation of International foreign policy amongst the community of nations will be a very scary day indeed.

Justice, Siobhan, not revenge, is the only acceptable qualification for the disaster in Afghanistan. Even at that you have already made a cosmic leap from the island of Manhattan to the streets of Afghanistan's towns. The Taliban did not do 9/11, nor did Osama Bin laden. The people who perpetrated that act were already dead.
The Taliban connection with Osama Bin laden is vague to the point of being almost irrelevant to 9/11. The US has no legitimacy in Afghanistan, they are an occupying force dispatched to further US corporate and strategic military interests in the region. They should be removed immediately as all they are achieveing is the consolidation of the drug industry by the previously defeated warlords and the legitimising of extremist Taliban factions in their war to liberate the Land from the infidel.

In Iraq, Bush Snr. did not screw up things "trying to make a change", he screwed things up further in trying to keep things the same. The US Admin. feared change, and thats what Saddam's Kuwait Adventure represented. A change in the regional balance of power that saw a massive swell of support for Saddam and a very nervous Israel in the middle. So in order to put things back the way they were, they attacked Iraq and killed thousands, then left once their man, Saddam, was back in his rightful box. It mattered not the price that the Kurds and the Shiites were to pay for their naivety in believing that a wind of change was blowing.

The US has no business being in Iraq. They should get out now.

Can you simply pull out?

Yes, Siobhan, Get out of Afghanistan and get out of Iraq, Now.

author by Siobhanpublication date Wed Sep 20, 2006 14:09Report this post to the editors

PaddyK, I wonder if you were even anywhere the telly on 9/11. I was. I remember vividly watching in horror as smoke billowed from the south tower, the shocking understanding of what was happening as the second plane hit, the desparate question of when the attack was going to end, the despare that thousands of inocent civilians were dying for some unknown reason, and finally, as the towers fell, that hundreds of firemen, like my husband (thankfully not near the city at the time), were dead.

It is inconsevable to me that anyone would be able to look at the widows, the children, the parents of those murdered that day and tell them they've no right to seek revenge. Call it whatever you like, we just want those responsible to feel the same pain that those left behind feel. You say those responsible died alongside our people. I disagree. Those who were selected to carry out the attack are dead. Those who came up with the idea in the first place, those who financed the mission, those who worked to ensure at least some measure of success need to be punished as well.

Do I feel bad for the citizens of Afghanistan? Of course. They've suffered a great deal as well...even more than we have. Should our war in Afghanistan been handled differently? YES! Unfortunately, I cannot go back and time and give Bush the common sense to send adequate troop numbers along with addequate supplies for Afghanistan's inocent civilian population. I think I've made it fairly clear that I think the man and his admin. are idiots, and border-line zelots in their desparate, never ending fight against "terror."

I will agree with you on the Iraq issue. Whethor or not we agree on the reasons why we are there doesn't matter. The fact remains that we should never have entered in the first place.

As for leaving Iraq and Afghanistan now? I've mixed feelings here. Because of the stupidity of our current administration, it probably would be better all around for us to pull out. Ideally, I would like to see our admin clean up their act, take responsibility for their short-fallings, and help set up a peaceful govenment in both countries, as well as provide aide to all the people we hurt, wounded, and displaced.

author by MichaelY - iawmpublication date Wed Sep 20, 2006 15:03Report this post to the editors

Dear Siobhan,

It's rare event in Indymedia to get a person from the US [and your name/spelling suggests at least some Irish roots] to talk so clearly about feelings, and emotions, and revenge - and how they relate to the foreign policy of the most powerful state in the world - with or without a "stupid administration" as you call it. I will not dwell on what's going on in Iraq and Gaza and what went on in Lebanon last July and August with the full complicity of the US State. Neither will I focus on Bush's outrageous statements yesterday re:his warmongering on Iran. I guess we are probably on the same wavelength on these issues. Am I right?
However, as far as 9/11 and the invasion of Afghanistan goes, I will argue three points:

1. Whether the Bush Administration was complicit in the 9/11 attack, or knew about it and let it go ahead [and there is a growing body of evidence re:both] the fact remains that they used the attack as a p r e t e x t and an a l i b i to put into operation a pre-existing plan. You, along with the widows, the children and the parents of those killed may or may not have had serious wishes of revenge. But those feelings were manipulated and instrumentalised for a ferocious attack on a country which had little to do with 9/11. You do know that the Taliban had offered to hand over Osama a couple of weeks before the invasion started...and most of the hijackers were Saudis. So, is revenge blind? Is justice completely headless?
2. The Bush Admin's foreign policy has meant the death of over 2,500 young American men and women over the last three years. Nearly the number of the 9/11 deaths. If we follow your analysis are we to condone revenge operations towards those, to quote you, "who came up with the idea in the first place, those who financed (and continue to profit) from these missions".
3. The number of non-Americans killed in these wars exceeds, by the most conservative estimate, the 150,000. Do you have any advice for the widows, the children and the parents of those killed? Would they develop any feelings of revenge? And whom should they direct those feelings against?

So, justifying barbarism directed by the powerful + the rich against the dispossessed of this world in terms of revenge is, I am sorry to say, a feeble argument. Human emotions play an important part in our lives...however the conduct of foreign policy and the decision, if need be, to send young white and black working class people to murder, shoot and bomb others like them along with children and old folks...that, in my opinion, should be guided by rationality, circumspection and basic human compassion. Hope we agree that the Bush cabal is not exactly overflowing with those attributes.

PS You probably do know that over 3,500 Irish people have been killed in the war that took place in the 6 Counties of this divided island over the last 20 odd years. Revenge did you say?

author by Siobhanpublication date Wed Sep 20, 2006 22:06Report this post to the editors

Having read your post, I'm not sure you, MichaelY, and I are on all that different wavelengths on anything. As you said, I've fairly strong Irish roots, and have not qualms about voicing either my feelings or my opinions on any matter.

Whethor or not anyone in the US government was aware of the 9/11 attack ahead of time does not change the fact that it happened. I would hate to think anyone was aware prior to it and did nothing. Ignoring evidence of such an act constitutes treason as well as murder in my book. I cannot help but want revenge on those who sought to create such desolation and destruction despite the loss of inocent lives. Sounds a bit contradictory when you take into consideration the actions of our military after the 9/11 attacks doesn't it?

Do we have a right to seek revenge? Yes. Do we have a right to wound, displace, create havak, even murder inocent civilians in the name of preventing "terror?" NO. Unfortunately in attacking America in such a horrific mannar, those responcible have helped a zelot show his true colors.

9/11 has been used as a reason or an excuse for a great many actions by the administration. Politicians have used our feelings of hurt, bewildermint, terror, and anger to blind us to the lies that needed to be told in order to convince us that the wars they wished to fight were not only necessary, but would provide some sort of punishment for those responsible. For better or worse, many of those lies are coming to light. Saying that many American citizens are fustrated and appaled at what has happened as a result of those lies would be an understatement.

Since 9/11 happened, little has been handled in a humanitarian, civilized mannar as should have been considering the fact that the US considers itself a humanitarian and civilized country. Our president and his administration has acted much like those who brutalized this country on 9/11; he has brought about the deaths of many without taking into account the loss of inocent civilians. He has brought us into a seamingly never ending war in Iraq, and now seems to want to enter into another in Iran. He seems to have chosen to become the world's policemman against terror. In doing so, he has become a zelot, and a terror threat to many other countries. If we were to enter Iran, who would be next? Korea? How many more must die before he realizes that in policing the rest of the world against terror, he is creating a huge target on our own country, and become a terrorist himself? (Ok, enough ranting about Bush...sufice it to say I cannot stand the man.)

Where does all of this leave us now? I've no idea. I do know that I do not feel comfortable completely withdrawing our troops, and leaving the people of Iraq and Afghanistan to deal with the despare and destruction that we have inflicted all by themselves.

I'll support our troops, as many joined with the goal of seeking revenge in mind. And lets face it, the need all the support they can get when you consider the fact that they don't get any helpful support from the very government that sent them in the first place. I'll support rebuilding projects. I will not ever support anyone in the current administration as they've become terrors and zelots themselves.

author by Philpublication date Wed Sep 20, 2006 22:17Report this post to the editors

As far as Bush and his cronies are concerned it's JUST A WAR!

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