Socialist Worker

Afghanistan: Their blood on Blair's hands

Issue No. 1773

As Blair demands support for US war

Picture of slaughter

At last this week some sections of the British press gave a glimpse of the real horror of the war on Afghanistan. The Mirror, the Herald and the Daily Record showed pictures of the slaughter in Kabul when Gul Ahmed and his seven children were killed. Two youngsters were also killed in a nearby house.

Their mudbrick homes in Kabul were blasted apart by a bomb. Four victims were crushed to death and the others were riddled with shrapnel. Press agency reporters said that on a mattress on the floor lay the bodies of three of the children, two boys and a girl, none aged more than six.

It is not 'surgical'. It is not 'targeted against evil'. It is mass murder of the innocent. This slaughter is carried out on Bush and Blair's orders every day.

Saturday 27 October:

Mother of three Koko Gul was killed and seven people were injured by a US bomb when two houses were hit in the village of Ghani Khil. This is in an area north of Kabul controlled by the West's ally, the Northern Alliance.

Friday 26 October:

Two sisters, aged six and 11, died when US bombs destroyed their home in the village of Wazir Abad near Kabul airport. US bombs also hit two Red Cross warehouses, destroying food intended for widows and disabled people, Red Cross officials said. This is the second time Red Cross buildings have been hit by US bombs, even though they are clearly marked.

Thursday 25 October:

US bombs hit a bus passing Kandahar's city gates. It burst into flames and incinerated ten passengers. On the same day a UN mine clearance centre in Kabul was destroyed by US bombs.

Tuesday 23 October:

At least 25 civilians were killed in the bombing of Chakoor Kariz village near Kandahar by a US AC-130 Flying Sceptre gunship, according to survivors. The Arabic news station Al Jazeera put the death toll at over 90 and broadcast film of victims of the attack.

Monday 22 October:

US aircraft dropped cluster bombs and killed nine people in the village of Shakar Qala near Herat, the UN says. On the same day US bombs hit a mosque and a military hospital in Herat, according to the UN. The US only acknowledged 36 hours later that a bomb had 'gone astray' and landed near an old people's home. The Afghan government said that a 100-bed civilian hospital was also destroyed.

Sunday 21 October:

At least 23 civilians, the majority of them children, were killed when US bombs hit the remote village of Thori, according to the New York based group Human Rights Watch.

Lethal, faster

The US and Britain are to spend over £140 billion on a new joint strike fighter, it was revealed last week. When the plane was first unveiled in 1995 then US defence secretary William Cohen said it 'brings a more lethal package into the theatre of war, and brings it there faster'.

The obscene sums being spent on the plane mean huge profits for Lockheed Martin. It won the contract to build the fighter. If the same amount of money was used differently it would ensure there was access to education, health, nutrition, water and sanitation for four years for everyone presently sufferring in the Third World.

Left to starve

Only a quarter of the food needed is reaching Afghanistan. Less than one fifth can be distributed, according to the Christian Aid charity. Clare Short says she is aiming to get 1,700 tonnes of food a day into Afghanistan.

Christian Aid says that even if that was achieved it would still leave a 55 percent shortfall of what is needed. Last week just 900 tonnes of food a day reached Afghanistan, a shortfall of 75 percent of what is needed to prevent mass starvation.

Denied tests

'The postal management only cares about moving the mail, not its employees.' That is how US postal worker Keith Beckett summed up the growing anger at the lack of safety measures for workers handling mail during the current anthrax scare.

Top politicians got automatic tests for exposure to anthrax when the spores that cause the disease were discovered in Washington. Yet postal management delayed tests for workers in offices that may have handled anthrax-contaminated letters until the end of last week. Then two Washington postal workers were confirmed to have died from inhaled anthrax.

No one knew the source of the anthrax poisoning at the start of this week. But the FBI, despite pressure to find links to Osama Bin Laden, suggested it could be the work of right wing extremists in the US.

WHO alert

The World Health Organisation has produced a devastating report about the miserable sanitation and living conditions of the people of Afghanistan. It warns of the danger in the coming months of:

An outbreak of one of the deadliest forms of malaria. Some 300 children near *Jalalabad were already seriously ill in September and healthcare resources are under strain.

An increased risk of measles and other diseases which are often fatal to children.

The spread of diseases like cholera and dysentery.

Increased maternal mortality.

Increased injuries because of the war, including landmines, with depleting hospital resources.

Years of terror

'No landmines have been dropped, but a few cluster bombs may have been deployed.' That was international development secretary Clare Short's dismissive reaction to growing outrage at the US and Britain's use of cluster bombs in Afghanistan. The Ministry of Defence insisted, 'Cluster bombs remain an effective weapon.' Cluster bombs are effective at killing and maiming ordinary people.

They are dropped in a casing which splits open, scattering up to 200 bomblets the size of soft drink cans. The bomblets scatter over an area the size of 20 football fields. Each one contains a 'shaped charge' capable of penetrating armoured steel up to five inches thick.

Peter La Sueur of the UN Mine Action Programme Afghanistan says that cluster bombs will lead to many more casualties after the conflict ends as about 10 percent fail to explode.

'They are a bright yellow colour and very attractive for children. But they are so sensitive that just picking them up could cause them to detonate,' he said. During its war on Kosovo two years ago NATO dropped 22,000 cluster bombs in one month.

Some 15,000 faulty ones remained on the ground, effectively becoming landmines. More than 150 civilians have been killed by the bomblets since the end of the war.

As John Pilger put it in the Mirror, 'If ever a weapon was designed specifically for acts of terrorism, this is it.' The chief executive of the Diana Princess of Wales Memorial Fund, Andrew Purkis, and Richard Lloyd of Landmine Action said in a letter to the Times, 'There is evidence from Kosovo and the Gulf War that the components of these weapons are prone to missing their targets and fail in significant numbers to explode.

'The presence of highly sensitive unexploded cluster munitions will increase the number of casualties caused by the severe landmine problem in Afghanistan for years to come, and will deny people facing starvation the use of their land.'

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Article information

Sat 3 Nov 2001, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1773
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