Here is a collection of four articles compiled by my friend Tom Atlee <email@example.com> that also suggest alternatives to war. I find the last one especially useful.
At the end, I’ve added a short piece providing background about the World Court.
Here are four good articles about how to approach our current situation, and the reasoning behind them. These articles are all creative variations of the “stop the bombing” approach. It has been pointed out by Doug Carmichael and others, however, that any effort to advocate stopping military action MUST include a realistic alternative on how to deal with the terrorist threat. Changing U.S. foreign policy to reduce America’s earned resentment is necessary, but this approach does not address the issue of what will ease the threat NOW—for that is what the US public is obsessed with and what the Bush administration’s military/security approach -- as intensely problematic as it is—is (at least publicly) designed to handle. Much more and better thought has to be put into actively dealing with this threat.
Much legitimate disagreement right now among well-intentioned people has to do with whether current military actions increase or decrease the threat. Although many alternatives have been suggested, none seems to yet be compelling enough to meet people’s need for urgent response....
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The Inescapable World
October 20, 2001 New York Times
By ANTHONY LEWIS
After Sept. 11 it was said by many that our world had
irrevocably changed. That is true in a sense that we have
not yet grasped.
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No Glory in Unjust War on the Weak
LA Times, Oct 14, 200
By BARBARA KINGSOLVER
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10 Reasons to Stop Bombing Afghanistan
October 19, 2001
Despite almost universal agreement that America “needs to do something” in response to terrorism, our heavy bombing of Afghanistan increasingly looks like a bad idea. While virtually all of us feel that strong steps should be taken to apprehend anyone behind the massive murders on September 11, when you add up all the facts, the pulverizing of a battered country just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Instead, by bombing Afghanistan, we are ...
1. Creating new terrorists. Hundreds, perhaps thousands of innocent civilians have already been killed by U.S. bombing in pursuit of Osama bin Laden. The Pentagon has confirmed numerous instances of “collateral damage,” including a 2,000-pound bomb that struck a residential area near Kabul.
The United States’ perceived disregard for collateral damage may lead many to conclude that we are waging a war against Muslims writ large. In so doing, we are losing the battle for the hearts and minds of people who are necessary in the fight against terrorism.
2. Generating refugees. Our attacks on population centers are causing a huge refugee problem that neighboring countries can’t handle. By October 12, 350,000 people had amassed in the northern Panjsher Gorge and over 150,000 had fled to the provinces of Tahor and Badakhshan. United Nations officials predict that 1.5 million will leave their homes, risking mass starvation in the brutal Afghan winter to escape the bombings.
Moreover, the U.N. refugee agency has been forced to halt work at six planned refugee camps on the Pakistan border because of opposition from Afghan tribal groups. Food convoys that previously entered Afghanistan by truck have been forced to indefinitely halt their shipments.
3. Ushering in regime as bad as the Taliban. The bombing campaign may well usher into power the Northern Alliance, a group some say is even more brutal than the already brutal Taliban. To many, this is a proposition fraught with peril. During their brief time in power from 1992 to 1996, the Northern Alliance scored poorly in the peaceful governance and human rights departments. And while intense efforts are underway at forming a broad pan-Afghan political coalition of anti-Taliban parties, some veteran diplomats and intelligence officers are skeptical that such a confederation would survive after a victory over the Taliban.
4. Increasing drug flow from Central Asia. A corollary to #3 -- if the Northern Alliance takes power, experts predict a new flood of heroin across the globe. According to U.N. officials, Afghanistan produces about 75 percent of the world’s opium, which is used to make heroin.While the Taliban government attempted to slow down heroin production in large parts of Afghanistan (and largely succeeded), the Northern Alliance has continued to distribute heroin to help fund their efforts. If our bombing campaign helps ousts the Taliban, opium growth and sales will instantly soar.
5. Aiming at the wrong target. The suicidal hijackers who crashed into the World Trade Center and Pentagon where all from Egypt and Saudi Arabia, not Afghanistan. Rich Saudis fund and encourage the violent, fundamentalist breed of Islam from which the hijackers came. The religious schools that breed the radical mujahdeen, including many who have joined the Taliban Army, are mostly in Pakistan. Iraq and Iran fund and support terrorists. In other words, the terrorists are spread across many nations and not all harbored in Afghanistan.
Furthermore, numerous experts link the September 11 hijackers to an Egyptian group, Gama’at al-Islamiyya. Founded by Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, currently serving a life sentence for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, Gama’at al-Islamiyya is best known for the November 1997 massacre of 62 tourists at the Temple of Luxor in Egypt and the assassination of Egyptian president Anwar Sadat in 1981.
6. Destabilizing Pakistan. Our bombing raids are destabilizing Pakistan, our reluctant ally with nuclear capabilities to the South and East of Afghanistan. Pakistan’s president, General Pervez Musharraf, has presented his country as wholly allied with the U.S. against terrorists, but in fact many of his top officials remain dependent on a little-known but powerful fundamentalist party called Jamiat-e-Ulema Islam. Known more simply as JUI, this group helped incubate the Taliban—and it may now spark civil war in its home country.
7. Turning bin Laden into a media superstar. By focusing huge amounts of energy on demonizing and pursuing one person (despite the existence of thousands of terrorists in the al Queda network), we have made Osama bin Laden larger than life.
Among many groups, bin Laden is viewed as a strong and powerful person who has evaded U.S. capture in the three years following his suspected involvement in the 1998 bombing of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. People’s affection for him lies not in his alleged terrorist activities, but in the strong anti-American sentiment that grips this part of the world. If our bombs finally strike him, or he is otherwise killed, he will become a celebrated martyr of the Muslim world.
8. Unfairly punishing a helpless population. To bring one man and his small band of followers to justice, we are heaping devastation on a powerless population that is already completely impoverished by war. Nobody in Afghanistan voted the Taliban into power in 1994; they seized and now maintain power by force. To “pressure” the Afghan people with a deadly bombing campaign, when they have no political power anyway, defies America’s sense of fairness.
9. Being lured into a trap. Afghanistan is historically a quagmire, the only Central Asian country never conquered by Europeans. From 1979 to 1989, the Soviet Union poured untold monies and lives down the drain in an unwinnable guerilla war against Afghanistan. By being sucked into investing huge resources to find bin Laden, we could find ourselves stuck, ambushed and preoccupied, while terrorists go on with their work from many other Muslim countries.
10. There are smarter ways of fighting terrorism. Call it what you want—“blowback,” the law of unintended consequences, bad karma— but we continue to dismiss the long-term impact of our powerful desire to find bin Laden. Lots of smart, experienced people suggest that the large-scale, clumsy, overkill approach of the U.S. military is the opposite of what we need to contain terrorism and find bin Laden.
Why not treat terrorists like the criminals they are, building a long-term, world-wide coalition to stop terrorism that includes the U.N. and world court? If we use the media more effectively instead of operating in secret, and invest the billions of dollars we are spending to pulverize Afghanistan to address social and economic needs around the globe, we will be on a more productive path toward making the world safer from terrorism.
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Hearts and Minds: Avoiding a New Cold War
By Rahul Mahajan and Robert Jensen
This is a different kind of war. That much of what we are being told, at least, is true. And because of that, a different kind of analysis is required.
The single most common question antiwar activists are confronted with is, “What’s your solution?”
Although many elements of a sensible solution have been offered, the antiwar movement has reached no general consensus on the fundamentals.
In the past, activists who critiqued and/or resisted unjust U.S. foreign policy and militarism faced three main scenarios in which U.S. actions were blatantly unjust and the raw exercise of U.S. power was obviously wrong:
· U.S. attempts to overthrow democratically elected governments, such as Iran in 1953, Guatemala in 1954, and Chile in 1973.
· U.S. wars against national liberation movements, such as Vietnam in the 1960s, or against attempts to consolidate national liberation, such as Nicaragua throughout the 1980s.
· U.S. wars in response to clearly illegal acts, but where the U.S. short-circuited negotiations and used indiscriminate, gratuitous violence that killed huge numbers of civilians (directly and indirectly), such as in the Gulf War in 1991.
In all those cases, there was no threat to the people of the United States, even though many of the interventions were carried out in the context of the Cold War project of making people afraid of threats-that-might-come. The solutions were simple—in the first two cases, no intervention by the United States, and in the third, diplomacy and negotiations within the framework of international law while keeping the United States from unilateral military action.
But this war was sparked by attacks on U.S. soil, and people feel threatened and afraid, for understandable reasons.
In a climate of fear, it doesn’t matter to many that the military strategy being pursued by the United States is immoral (the civilian death toll from bombing and starvation resulting from the attack will no doubt reach into the tens, possibly hundreds, of thousands without immediate action) and ineffective (it will most likely breed more terrorism, not end it). Americans are confronted with a genuine threat and want to feel safe again.
As a result, proposals offered by some in the antiwar movement have been difficult for the public to take seriously. It is clear that pacifism is of interest to virtually no one in the United States. That is not said out of disrespect for principled pacifists who consistently reject violence, but simply to point out that any political argument that sounds like “turn the other cheek” will be ignored. It is also hard to imagine how it would have an impact on the kind of people who committed the crime against humanity on Sept. 11.
The only public display of pacifism that would be meaningful now would be for pacifists to put their bodies on the line, to put themselves somewhere between the weapons of their government and the innocent victims in Afghanistan. Short of that, statements evoking pacifism will be worse than ineffective; they will paint all the antiwar movement as out of touch with reality.
Also inadequate are calls for terrorism to be treated solely as a police matter in which law enforcement agencies pursue the perpetrators and bring them to justice through courts, domestic or international. That is clearly central to the task but is insufficient and unrealistic; the problem of terrorist networks is a combined political and criminal matter and requires a combined solution.
So, what should those who see the futility of the current military strategy be calling for?
First, we must support the call made by UN-affiliated and private aid agencies for an immediate bombing halt to allow a resumption of the serious food distribution efforts needed to avoid a catastrophe.
There will need to be a transitional government, which should be— as has been suggested for the past decade—ethnically broad-based with a commitment to allowing international aid and basic human rights. It must, however, be under UN auspices, with the United States playing a minimal role because of its history of “covert” action in the region. It should also be one that does not sell off Afghanistan’s natural resources and desirable location for pipelines on the cheap to multinational corporations.
While all that goes forward, the United States should do what is most obviously within its power to do to lower the risk of further terrorist attacks: Begin to change U.S. foreign policy in a way that could win over the people of the Islamic world by acknowledging that many of their grievances—such as the sanctions on Iraq, the presence of U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia, Israel’s occupation of and aggression against Palestine—are legitimate and must be addressed.
This shouldn’t be confused with “giving in to the terrorists” or “negotiating with bin Laden.” It is neither. It is a practical strategy that demonstrates that a powerful nation can choose to correct policies that were rooted in a desire to extend its dominance over a region and its resources and are now not only unjust but untenable. It is a sign of strength, and it is the right thing to do.
Some have argued against any change in U.S. foreign policy in the near term. International law expert Richard Falk wrote in The Nation, “Whatever the global role of the United States—and it is certainly responsible for much global suffering and injustice, giving rise to widespread resentment that at its inner core fuels the terrorist impulse—it cannot be addressed so long as this movement of global terrorism is at large and prepared to carry on with its demonic work.”
In fact, the opposite is true: Now is precisely the time to address these long-term issues.
Here we can actually take a page from “liberal” counterinsurgency experts who saw that the best way to defeat movements of national liberation was to win the hearts and minds of people rather than try to defeat them militarily. In those situations, as in this one, military force simply drives more people into resistance. Measures designed to ease the pressure toward insurgency, such as land reform then and changing U.S. Middle East policy now, are far more likely to be effective. The alternative in Vietnam was a wholesale attempt to destroy civilian society—“draining the swamp” in Donald Rumsfeld’s phrase. The alternative now would be unending global war.
In the past, such strategies were part of a foreign policy “debate” in which the end goal of U.S. economic domination of Third World countries was shared by all parties, and so they were entirely illegitimate. Now, it is different—these terrorists are not the voice of the dispossessed and they are not a national liberation movement. Their vision for their own societies is grotesque.
But they do share something with the wider populace of their countries.
There is tremendous justified anger in the Islamic world at U.S. foreign policy. For the vast majority of the populace, it has not translated to anger at the United States as a nation or at Americans as a people. For groups like al-Qaeda, it has. Their aims and methods are rejected by that majority, but the shared anger at U.S. domination provides these terror networks their only cover. A strategy to successfully “root out” those networks must isolate them from the populace by eliminating what they hold in common. It is necessary to get the cooperation not just of governments of Islamic nations but of their people as well. The only way is to remove their sources of grievance.
These changes in policy must be preliminary to a larger change. The United States must drop its posture of the unilateralist, interventionist superpower. In lieu of its current policy of invoking the rule of law and the international community when convenient and ignoring them when it wishes, it must demonstrate a genuine commitment to being bound by that law and the will of the international community in matters of war and peace.
Many have said of the Afghans, and perhaps by extension of many other deprived peoples, “Feed them and you’ll win them over.” This attitude dehumanizes those people. Nobody will accept bombs with one hand and food with the other. Nor will anyone feel gratitude over food doled out by an arrogant superpower that insists on a constant double standard in international relations and makes peremptory demands of other nations on a regular basis. To win the support of Afghans and others for the long term, which will be necessary to substantially reduce the danger of terrorism, the United States must treat other peoples with dignity and respect. We must recognize we are simply one nation among many.
This strategy will not win over bin Laden or other committed terrorists to our side; that’s not the objective. Instead, we have to win over the people.
The choice we face as a nation is similar to that faced at the end of World War II. The capitalist West, the Communist world, and many of the colonies had united to defeat fascism. That could have been the basis of building an equitable world order, with the United States helping to equalize levels of wealth and consumption around the world. Had that path been taken, the world would be a far safer place today, for Americans and others.
Instead, U.S. leaders chose the path of the Cold War, which was not so much an attempt to contain Soviet-style communism as it was to destroy any example of independent development in the Third World, to extend and entrench our economic superiority. That effort harmed democracy in our country and in others, killed millions, and has led in the end to the creation new and terrifying threats to all our safety.
Government officials are already speaking as if we are fighting a new Cold War, with President Bush calling the war on Afghanistan “the first battle of the war of the 21st century.”
We cannot let history repeat itself.
Tom Atlee * The Co-Intelligence Institute * PO Box 493 * Eugene, OR 97440 http://www.co-intelligence.org * http://www.democracyinnovations.org Please support our work. * Your donations are fully tax-deductible.
If the International Criminal Court were up and running, this terrorist attack and serious violation of territorial integrity that the U.S. has suffered would be a perfect case to take to it. But, although almost every country in the world has signed on to it, it’s not up and running. Why? Because the U.S. continues to withhold its critical support unless (get this) the U.S. military is exempt from its jurisdiction. And we wonder why people around the world view the United States as an arrogant bully.
>From what I’ve seen, there’s almost nothing about the International Criminal Court and U.S. obstruction of it in the U.S. mainstream/corporate media, so that few people in the U.S. have even heard about it.
The last vote of the Internation Court was 14 to 2 against the US incident in Lebanon. The US has dismissed the court ever since.
Author of Inciting Democracy: A Practical Proposal for Creating a Good Society and initiator of the Vernal Education Project:
Working to increase the skills and support of progressive activists
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