A Veil on the Truth: U.S. Ensures Famine for Afghanistan

The facts are simple. Massive food distribution
programs put in place prior to 9-11 in response to
widespread famine were derailed by the anticipation of and then the actual U.S. bombing campaign, and have been even further set back by the Taliban’s
retreat…The U.S. is actually blocking efforts
to bring in the very peacekeepers that might
secure the roads and borders, and facilitate the
transport of life-saving aid.

The facts are simple. Massive food distribution
programs put in place prior to 9-11 in response to
widespread famine were derailed by the anticipation of and then the actual U.S. bombing campaign, and have been even further set back by the Taliban’s
retreat.

According to the New York Times (11/30/01), “In the past two weeks, the tonnage [of aid] delivered dropped to a pace less than half of what it had been in the previous two weeks.”

The problem is that the “towns and cities are so chaotic that relief agencies cannot safely operate. Many roads are off limits because of lawlessness and
banditry.”


Those of us who opposed the U.S. war in Afghanistan nevertheless saw its apparent rapid resolution as an opportunity to at least get much needed supplies into the country.

Having routed the enemy, perhaps the United States would stop the bombing, allowing food trucks to move in from across the border. But, instead, the opposite is true.

As of this writing (December 5), the bombing
continues, civilian populations are left at the mercy
of marauding gangs, and food aid dwindles.


There are a few simple things we could do that
would immediately turn down the torture in
Afghanistan.


First, the U.S. should stop bombing.

There is no real accounting yet of the civilian casualty rate, but reports in the last few days claim that U.S. bombs hit four villages near Tora Bora, possibly killing hundreds (NYT 12/3/01).

This is an unethical and illegal use of U.S. firepower. If it’s Osama bin Laden who we are still after, it is never too late to apprehend him in a manner that accords with international law


Second, the bridge to Uzbekistan, which is a key passage for aid trucks, should be secured.

American military officials are saying that although they “recognize the urgency of opening the bridge from Uzbekistan, [U.S.] troops will not be protecting the border.”


There is callous disregard for human life in this casual acknowledgement of the urgency.

American officials understand the consequences of
their inactivity, but are blithely sitting back and saying they want Afghan forces — not foreign troops — to police the roadways, when the only Afghan forces that exist in the country are “lawless bandits,” and it is American officials themselves that installed them.

Having destabilized the country to the point where it is not even safe for aid trucks to travel, it seems the U.S. is washing its hands of the disaster.


If only that were the case.


Instead, the U.S. is actually blocking efforts to bring in the very peacekeepers that might secure the roads and borders, and facilitate the transport of life-saving aid.

“Citing Bush Administration officials, the
Washington Post reported that `the U.S. Central
Command…is opposing the imminent deployment of
peacekeepers in areas freed from Taliban control out of concern this could encumber U.S. military operations.'”


Specifically, since November 12 when the Northern Alliance took Kabul, the Pentagon has blocked proposals by France and Britain to send thousands of troops to secure Kabul, the northern half of the country, and aid routes.


Third, the U.S. should reconsider food airdrops.

Dropping “Humanitarian Daily Rations” —
bright yellow packages, decorated with the American
flag and containing 2200 calories worth of peanut
butter, shortbread, and fruit pastries — is
counterproductive.

“If you would give peanut butter to a severely malnourished child, you are likely to do more harm than good,” says Lucas Van den Broeck of Action Against Hunger (Boston Globe 10/25/01).

And the airdrops bypass crucial distribution methods, which ensure food gets to all who need it, not just to those nimble enough to gather the yellow packets as they drop from the skies, assuming, that is, that they land where people can reach them and not among land mines (10 million of which litter the Afghan landscape).

We should expose and demand an end to a war that
has turned Afghanistan into a world stage for the
theatrical display of U.S. might and banal disregard for human life.


[ Cynthia Peters is a political activist, writer and editor. She can be contacted at:
cppk@email.msn.com

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Author: Cynthia Peters

News Service: ZNet

URL: http://www.zmag.org/petersveil.htm