Unspeakable acts of violence were committed on September 11. The
perpetrators of the horrific attack of September 11 must be brought to
justice, using the instruments of domestic and international law. The
unconscionable slaughter demands prosecution.
But bombing a desperately poor country under the yoke of a repressive
regime is a wrongheaded response. The U.S. bombing of Afghanistan should
It is a policy that will diminish U.S. security, ignores overriding
humanitarian concerns, and precludes more sensible approaches to achieving
justice and promoting security in the United States and around the world.
1. The policy of bombing increases the risk of further terrorism against
the United States.
This is an uncontested claim.
The Bush administration along with virtually every commentator
acknowledges that the U.S. bombing and military response is likely to
worsen the possibility of additional terrorism on U.S. soil.
The recent Congressional leak that so outraged the White House involved a
Washington Post report that an intelligence official, responding to a
senator's question, "said there is a '100 percent' chance of an attack
should the United States strike Afghanistan, according to sources familiar
with the briefing."
The horror of September 11 allows for no satisfactory response. But surely
the United States must not act to increase the risk of terrorism.
No matter how great one's outrage at September 11, no matter how intense
one's desire to "do something" -- it doesn't make sense to pursue a course
of action that intensifies the very problem the Bush administration says
it is trying to solve.
And the increased risk of terrorism will not be short-lived. Secretary of
Defense Donald Rumsfeld says the war against terrorism will take years to
win. Former CIA chief James Woolsey and others have talked about a two- or
three-decade war. That's coming from proponents of the U.S. military
action, people who view terrorism as something that can be defeated,
rather than as a tactic assumed by weak and disgruntled parties.
2. The bombing is intensifying a humanitarian nightmare in Afghanistan.
"The terrorist attacks of 11 September, in terms of security and access
within Afghanistan, have created the potential for a humanitarian crisis
of massive proportions," according to the UN's World Food Program (WFP).
The WFP estimates 7.5 million people are in danger of starvation in
The U.S. threat of military response to September 11, and now its bombing,
has made a horrible situation worse. The WFP has predicted nearly two
million additional people will need food assistance due to the disruptions
caused by the expectation, and now the reality, of a U.S. military
"It is now evident that we cannot, in reasonable safety, get food to
hungry Afghan people," says Oxfam America President Raymond C.
Offenheiser, "We've reached the point where it is simply unrealistic for
us to do our job in Afghanistan. We've run out of food, the borders are
closed, we can't reach our staff and time is running out."
After September 11, relief agencies pulled their staff out of Afghanistan,
though the WFP has managed to continue to deliver some food supplies via
But aid agencies warn that time is running out to deliver food supplies.
By mid-November, heavy snows block key roads, making it impossible to move
trucks into many areas of the country.
"If WFP is to meet its target of delivering 52,000 tons of food aid each
month to millions of hungry people inside Afghanistan, it urgently needs
to fill-up its warehouses before the region's harsh winter sets in," said
Mohamed Zejjari, WFP assistant executive director and director of
Oxfam has called for a pause in the bombing on humanitarian grounds. "We
just don't know how many people may die if the bombing is not suspended
and the aid effort assured," Offenheiser says.
Here the humanitarian imperative is aligned with the most narrowly defined
U.S. national interest. No action can better serve to reduce the risk of
future terrorism than providing sufficient food aid to the suffering
3. There are better ways to seek justice.
If law is to have meaning, it must constrain and guide our actions in the
times of greatest stress and challenge, not just when it is convenient.
Reviewing the principles of international law, Michael Ratner of the
Center for Constitutional Rights, urges the United States to:
* Convene a meeting of the UN Security Council.
* Request the establishment of an international tribunal with authority to
seek out, extradite or arrest and try those responsible for the September
11 attack and those who commit or are conspiring to commit future attacks
* Establish an international military or police force under the control of
UN and which can effectuate the arrests of those responsible for the
September 11 attacks and those who commit or are conspiring to commit
future attacks. It is crucial that such force should be under control of
the UN and not a mere fig leaf for the United States as was the case in
the war against Iraq.
A fair trial of bin Laden -- one perceived as fair not just in the United
States but around the world -- is essential to avoid turning him into a
martyr and worsening the spiral of violence.
Opponents of the war should not be content to be a dissenting minority.
While there are many compelling arguments against the war, it is critical
to emphasize those with the best prospect of moving the U.S. public and
The widespread U.S. public support for military action against Afghanistan
is based in part on a desire for a modicum of justice and for action to
reduce the risk of future terrorist action.
These are both vital goals, but both -- especially reducing the risk of
future terrorism -- can be better achieved through peace than war.
Russell Mokhiber is editor of the Washington, D.C.-based Corporate Crime
Reporter. Robert Weissman is editor of the Washington, D.C.-based
Multinational Monitor. They are co-authors of Corporate Predators: The
Hunt for MegaProfits and the Attack on Democracy (Monroe, Maine: Common
Courage Press, 1999; http://www.corporatepredators.org)
(c) Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman