THE MEDIA last week relegated the impact of the bombing of Afghanistan to the third or fourth item on news bulletins, behind gung-ho tales of derring-do by 'special forces'.
That didn't change the horrific reality of what is happening. US and British bombs are smashing into civilian areas in Afghanistan. There is nothing clean or surgical about the effect of those bombs. They cause real pain and real deaths. They rip people apart, and tear into the bodies of young children.
As well as the bombing, seven and a half million people now face starvation in Afghanistan, according to the United Nations. The threat of famine meant that six leading aid agencies-including Oxfam International, Christian Aid and ActionAid-last week called for a halt to the bombing.
Their pleas were dismissed by Tony Blair and international development secretary Clare Short. Short claimed the pleas were 'emotional'.
Christian Aid's Dominic Nutt called that comment 'sickening', and accused the government of 'showing a callous disregard for life'.
ONE WEEK after the attack on the World Trade Centre Clare Short claimed that 'it would be unbearable if the response was a lot more innocent people losing their lives'.
Innocent people are dying now, and it is unbearable. Yet Short is peddling lies to justify the killing. She said, 'We are trucking in huge amounts of food' to Afghanistan, and that 50,000 tonnes of food a month were reaching the starving.
Aid agencies say less than 15,000 tonnes have got into Afghanistan over the last three weeks. Last week there were just 9,000 tonnes of UN food stocks in Afghanistan. Aid agencies say Afghanistan needs 52,000 tonnes of food per month to avoid mass deaths. On top of this it needs a stockpile of 70,000 tonnes for the two mountainous regions.
To get the food needed into Afghanistan would require 715 full trucks each day over the next five weeks. Last week just four trucks arrived. Short also claims that 'bombing doesn't prevent us from getting the food in'.
Oxfam spokesperson Sam Barrett says, 'The fact is that our staff in Afghanistan have not received any food in the most critical areas. Halting the bombing is the only way we are going to feed people.'
Ardag Meghdessian, a director of the World Food Programme, says, 'Until the first strike by the Americans we were hitting 500 tonnes a day. Now it is nothing like that.' The UN children's fund, UNICEF, says that up to 100,000 children under the age of five will die before spring as a direct result of the war.