Downloading PDF. Please wait... Issue 1774

It’s a war on the world’s poor

This article is over 22 years, 5 months old
Debt kills 19,000 children worldwide every day; Bombs and famine threaten millions in Afghanistan...
Issue 1774

Pretence of ‘smart’ bombs abandoned

Now they just blast the lot

The US began carpet-bombing Afghanistan with B-52 bombers last week. It is a tactic straight out of the US war on Vietnam over 30 years ago. It exposes Bush and Blair’s claims that this war would be different, using ‘smart’ bombs.

Even the pro-war Guardian commented last week, ‘If ever there was a new Vietnam-style quagmire in the making, Afghanistan must surely be it.’ Since the bombing began on 7 October the US has been raining down missiles and cluster bombs on the people of Afghanistan. Then last week the US decided to step up its brutal campaign.

The B-52s began dropping streams of unguided bombs all over the country. They carry up to 51 500-pound and 30 1,000-pound bombs on each attack. The combined explosion is equivalent to a small nuclear weapon. From miles away it can seem like an earthquake has happened.

During the Vietnam War B-52s went on some 126,000 attacks, dropping two million tons of bombs. In a single engagement the B-52 bombs killed 30,000 people. The US used B-52s to carpet-bomb Iraq during the 1991 Gulf War, causing thousands of civilian deaths.

‘I can only suggest that it is like trying to eradicate cancer with a blowtorch,’ said historian Sir Michael Howard last week of the US decision to use B-52s again. Bush and Blair have not been moved by the reports of the civilian casualties or starving refugees that their bombing has already delivered.

As the chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff General Myers outlined, ‘We are going to use the full capability of US military, and that is not just air power, it’s not just ground forces-it’s everything we can bring to bear.’ That can only mean more destruction and death at the hands of Bush and Blair.

Aid agencies proved tragically right

Death from starvation has started already

‘We are seeing starving people in Afghanistan 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.’

That is the chilling message from John Fairhurst of Oxfam. Up to seven and a half million people in Afghanistan face the threat of starvation, with the first snows of winter already falling. Some people have left their homes to flee the bombing and are stuck in refugee camps in Pakistan.

Many more are trapped, facing a winter without food. The northern province of Badghis and nearby Ghor have been devastated by three years of drought. If more food does not arrive half a million Hazaras who live in the central highlands face starvation.

The relentless bombing of Kabul and Kandahar has prevented much of the aid getting distributed around Afghanistan. Yet international development secretary Clare Short again ignored the aid agencies’ pleas to stop the bombing to allow aid to get in. In October only 24 percent of the food that was needed in Afghanistan was delivered, and only 21 percent was distributed to those in need.

Terrible example

US group Human Rights Watch is demanding an investigation into the civilian deaths in the village of Chakoor Kariz on 22 October. The group estimates that 25 to 35 people were killed after US bombs were targeted on the farming village.

Last week Times journalist Paul Rogers was one of those invited into the village. He reported, ‘Not a single house has been left intact.’ A shepherd explained, ‘One plane came in from those hills and dropped its bombs. ‘Then another one came. Nobody was able to escape. The people were all trapped. Anybody who ran out was also killed, and some were trampled underfoot.’

Mangal Khan’s brother Dawlat was killed. Dawlat’s wife, four daughters and three sons were also killed. ‘We had to put more than one corpse in each grave because the bodies were blown apart,’ said Mangal Khan.

Shaida Ahmed, aged 14, saw her mother cut down by bullets fired from a helicopter gunship. By the time the attack was over 18 members of the family were dead.

US officials are continuing to defend their attack as ‘a fully legitimate target’. One Pentagon official said, ‘The people there are dead because we wanted them dead.’

US won’t let kids get jabs

Thousands of Afghan children could be left vulnerable to killer diseases because the US bombing is preventing an immunisation programme from going ahead. The World Health Organisation (WHO) is due to carry out the vaccination programme. It includes protection against polio.

But the US bombing means the organisation is fearful of ordering volunteer staff to travel across Afghanistan to give the vaccinations. The WHO carries out national immunisation days all over the world. It has secured ceasefires even in bitter wars such as the one in the Democratic Republic of Congo. But the US has refused to call a halt to the bombing.

Debate stifled at school

The Department for Education has warned teachers not to say anything against the military action in Afghanistan. Peter Stevenson, the head teacher of Exeter Road Community School in Exmouth, Devon, vowed to defy the government’s crackdown. He said, ‘I am a member of CND and I oppose the bombing in Afghanistan. I am worried that the action will make the situation worse and create widespread suffering in Afghanistan because of the bombing of civilians.’

‘I’m going to say what I think. I’m going to wear my CND badge every day.’ At the same time as curbing anti-war opinions, a Ministry of Defence ‘school adviser’ service is being created. ‘Defence presentation teams’ will go into schools to drum up support for the military.

Anger at NY mayor

Around 1,000 uniformed firefighters clashed with police last week when officers tried to keep them from continuing the search for the bodies of people and colleagues that died in the World Trade Centre.

City leaders, including the mayor, have cut the number of firefighters searching at the site. The mayor’s decision sparked anger from the firefighters, who marched on the site last week and broke down security barriers. Eleven firefighters were arrested, including three top union officials.

Just 17 MPs oppose bombs

Just 17 MPs voted in parliament last week to end the bombing campaign. The 11 Labour MPs who went against the government were Diane Abbott, Jeremy Corbyn, Tam Dalyell, George Galloway, Lynne Jones, Bob Marshall-Andrews, Alan Simpson, Mike Wood, Paul Marsden, Kerry Pollard and John McDonnell. Four Plaid Cymru MPs and two Scottish National Party MPs also voted to stop the bombs.

Almost half of MPs did not bother to come to parliament for the vote. Over half of the ‘hard left’ Campaign Group of Labour MPs were also not present to vote.

‘Why are we bombed?’

US bombs destroyed a Red Crescent dispensary hospital and a house, killing up to 15 people in Kandahar, southern Afghanistan, on Wednesday of last week. The Times admitted the ‘killing of the innocent’ in Kandahar was ‘driving potential friends and allies of the attacking force into the enemy’s arms, binding the civilian population and the militia in shared grief and anger.’

The uncle of Haji Mohammed was shot nearby by a helicopter gunship six days previously. He was hit so many times that only his hand remained. ‘I saw the plane flying low and very slowly, and it just kept firing,’ said Haji Mohammed. ‘Why are they killing the common people in the civilian population? They are forcing us to stand up with the Taliban against the Americans.’

Stop Bush and Blair Demonstrate: Sunday 18 November, London

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