'It was necessary to destroy the town in order to save it.' They were the words of an American major in 1968 after the US military demolished the town of Dentre in South Vietnam. The same crazy logic that was used to defend the Vietnam War is being used again today.
We must destroy Afghanistan in order to save it-to save it from the Taliban, to save it from Bin Laden, to save it from fundamentalism. There is even a feminist version of the argument-we must bomb women in order to liberate women. It is George Orwell's newspeak. There can be no doubting the evils of the way that women are treated in Afghanistan.
Women are forced to wear the burqa. They are not allowed to go to school. They are forced out of their jobs. 'Adultresses' have been shot. But the hypocrisy of the US and other Western governments is almost unbelievable. The CIA was fully aware of the Taliban's stance on women-and everything else-when it funnelled money to it through the Pakistani intelligence services. The US raised no objection when the Taliban came to power-aided by the Pakistani military, and funded, armed and trained by the CIA.
But now we are presented with almost the ultimate cruelty-the way to liberate the oppressed women of Afghanistan is to bomb and starve them. We must terrorise and murder the population with B-52s, destroy what remains of the country's infrastructure, and leave the rest of the population famine stricken.
The November edition of New Internationalist magazine contains a very moving article about the conditions of those in rural Afghanistan before the bombing began.
It describes their parched villages after three years of drought, the long walks that family members must make to get water, the agony of families that are starving to death. Since the bombing began, Oxfam confirms that more have died from starvation. John Fairhurst, Oxfam's Afghanistan director, says, 'We are seeing starving people become so weak they eventually die from diarrhoea. 'In many places people are eating wild plants. In some areas even the wild plants have run out.'
These horrific conditions are ignored by the pro-war lobby. Polly Toynbee in the Guardian describes the repression of women in Afghanistan and says, 'In decency, this is a chance to free the Afghans from a monstrous regime of terror.' How interesting, then, that the makers of a new film about Afghanistan and the position of women, which even George Bush says he is keen to see, are incensed about the bombing.
The lead actress in Kandahar, an Afghan-Canadian, says, 'We are bombing a people who already have ten million unexploded landmines. The politicians in the West are making a terrible mistake. In the 1980s they supported these guerrillas. They gave them incredible support while knowing they were religious fanatics. Now we are told that the bombing is the only answer. This is quite simply wrong.'
Polly Toynbee says that only tough-minded liberals like her are standing up to terrible reactionaries like the Taliban. Last week she used her column to attack the striking Benefits Agency workers. Yes, she attacked low paid-at times battered-women.
Gone was the sympathy with the plight of women. Out comes a denunciation of 'a hard left leadership defending old union turf against the interests of consumers'. Toynbee should be ashamed, and all those opposed to the bombing should be proud.