Enlarged version: challenges to comprehension
Home/Search
Documents  >>
Themes  >>
Visuals  >>
Context  >>
FAQ/Contact  >>

Joy in the Present
      

18 November 2001 | #48

Justice and Terrorism

911+ Questions in Seeking UnCommon Ground (Part 7)

- / -



Justice and double standards

From the perspective of Mohamed Heikal, the Arab world foremost political commentator (Guardian, 10 Octobr 2001): The US supports that status quo whatever it is. They talk about democracy and then ignore it; they talk about the UN and ignore it; in every way you can accuse them of double standards. It is revolting to see them talking about democracy and then supporting undemocratic regimes. they talk about international legitmacy and then support what the Israelis are doing". Has the USA ever recognized any substance to the perception by the Muslim world that American concepts of justice are principally characterized by double standards and hypocrisy in so far as the Middle East is concerned -- and notably with respect to the application of United Nations resolutions?

Why is the execrable violence of the attacks deemed less illegitimate when turned upon Arabas in Gaza or Sudan or Iraq?

Will the process of "bringing terrorists to justice" exemplify western double standards by carefully avoiding any effort to bring terrorists of western nationality to justice -- and notably those accused of terrorist action by people in countries in which the coalition countries have intervened directly or through proxies?

What international treaties and structures -- so painfully elaborated over many decades -- will be ignored or by-passed by the proposed US-led operations against "terrorism"? What future citizen confidence will remain in the rule of law? Will the coalition be perceived as "taking the law into its own hands" in ways similar to those adopted by terrorists and totalitarian regimes?

Which international treaties, if any, does the US value and why? Why should other countries not abandon the intellectual copyright treaty which prevents them from manufacturing their own pharmaceutical drugs essential to the health of their populations? Would it not be in their "national interests" to set these aside following the US initiative in this respect?

The legitimacy of the US-coalition's response has been challenged in terms of international law -- it derived initially from an interpretation of a loosely worded Security Council resolution and from self-defence provisions in the UN Charter. Will the weak international legal framework for the US-led attack create a precedent for future evasion of international law?

To what extent will the UN's resolution of 29 September on terrorism be subsequently perceived to have been rammed through under duress without adequate debate and consultation?

Article 7 of the European Convention on Human Rights, incorporated into English law by the Human Rights Act (1998) commences as follows: "No one shalll be held guilty of any criminal offence on account of any act or omission which did not constitute a criminal offence under national or international law at the time when it was committed." Does the UK government, in announcing retrospective leigislation to make anthrax hoaxes a criminal offence, recognize its departure from the rule of law it had previously upheld? What does this imply about the lawfulness of the Afghanistan operation? (Nic Coidan, Independent, 27 October 2001)

On 6 January 1999, 5,000 civilians were killed by rebel gunmen in Sierra Leone leading to UK intervention -- an example used by Tony Blair to justify intervention in Afghanistan. Again the UK protrayed the conflict as one between good and evil -- which served as a continuing excuse for the neglect of rural populations -- with many of the worst perpetrators later absorbed into the UK-trained army. Do these moral ambiguities foreshadow the coalition's future relationship to the Northern Alliance? Is there a kind of racist arithmetic in which western lives are valued so much much more than others? Do our own reactions to catastrophe give any clue as to why this might be? (David Keen, Guardian, 7 November 2001)

Although the Taliban offered to negotiate (3 October 2001), both George Bush and Tony Blair have focused on the non-negotiable nature of their demands. There is to be "no compromise". Does this not mean that when the US-led coalition goes to war it will be in clear violation of Article 33 of the UN Charter obliging states "to seek a solution by negotiation, enquiry, mediation, conciliation, arbitration, judicial settlement, resort to regional agencies or arrangements, or other peaceful means"?

In the search of a just solution, has any dialogue with the Taliban been attempted in more than token fashion? In contrast to the practice with regard to US representations to the Palestinians would it not be preferable that such negotiations make extensive use of those of Muslim faith?

In claiming the capacity to dispense "infinite justice" -- through the US-led coalition's Operation Infinite Justice -- does this not confirm the suspicions of many concerning the insensitivity and presumption of the USA as to its own limitations -- especially its blindness with respect to the injustices to which its actions have directly given rise in the recent past (notably in Latin America, the Middle East, Cambodia, etc)? Where would people go for a comprehensive list of crimes on which the international case has been closed -- if it was ever opened?

Of Osama bin Laden, George Bush claims repeatedly that "We know he's guilty." So no chance of a trial then? (Paul Teedon, Guardian, 18 October 2001)

If neither George Bush nor Tony Blair envisages putting Osama bin Laden on trial, do they really want to catch him? Is killing him the best way of ensuring justice for the September 11 victims and of upholding international law? (Guardian, 26 October 2001)

Now that Jack Straw, UK Minister for Foreign Affairs has identified Osama bin Laden as a "psychotic and paranoid" (Guardian, 6 November 2001), will these conditions be taken as mitigating factors in any future trial? (Steve Sheppardson, Guardian, 7 November 2001)

Is the sale of arms to regimes with a policy of political assassination on a massive scale to be construed as support for mass terrorism -- notably in such cases as Indonesia in the 1960s and in Eat Timor in the 1970s and 1980s, using arms obtained from the UK and the USA?

Should the massacre of 7,500 Muslims by Serbs in July 1995 not evoke the same retributive force, regardless of convenience or, within reason, risk? Why is this not a comon view? Why were the victims of Srebrenica never properly acknowledged in the west? Why is outrage on behalf of some dead so short-lived? (Henry Porter, Guardian, 17 October 2001)

On 21st October it was reported that President Bush formally ordered the CIA to conduct "the most sweeping and lethal covert action" since the agency was founded in 1947 with the assistance of a $1 billion budget. Forbidden since 1976 -- notably because of its failures against Fidel Castro -- what judicial constraints are there on this re-activation by the USA of the secretive strategy of state-sponsored political assassination or "targeted killings" (now openly used by the Israelis), as a means of removing all those who express any opposition to the dominant American view of civilization?

If "terrorist" acts are to be treated as acts of "war" -- providing legal justification for responses under conditions of "war" -- does this transform the legal status of such "terrorists" in the light of the Geneva Convention? Or are such terrorists to be considered as unworthy of the human rights accorded to Nazis? Or perhaps this international treaty is also to be set aside?

President Bush (17th September 2001) asserts that Osama bin Laden is to be brought to justice "dead or alive". Given that the evidence against him has not been presented in a court of law, how could bin Laden be "brought to justice" if he is dead? Is this a new precedent to be set by American law -- by the country that has opposed establishment of the International Criminal Court?

Given that "international terrorism" is not restricted to any country, is not the new International Criminal Court the most appropriate venue in which its perpetrators should be brought to justice?

How will those who bring the perpetrators to justice ensure the protection of the charged during the judicial process? Will that protection ensure that "lynch mobs" do not get access to them? Will they have "accidents" when under police protection? Is there any country that is sufficiently neutral -- and invulnerable to external pressures -- to enable a fair trial to be held?

How will the US-led coalition explain to history the "justice" of its demands for extradition from Afghanistan of bin Laden and his unnamed followers -- without the slightest semblance of due process under international law?

How victory in Afghanistan will look to the outside world depends on how the USA behaves in victory. Will Islamic fundamentalists and others not have every reason to continue dismissing the UN human rights convention as a "western" construct -- and rejecting democracy, freedom for women, and the rule of law -- if they still see double standards in how the west treats Israel and Palestine, or in the double dealing in trade with poor countries? (Polly Toynbee, Guardian, 7 November 2001)

Amnesty International, 1996: "Throughout the world, on any given day, a man, woman or child is likely to be displaced, tortured, killed or "disappeared", at the hands of governments or armed political groups. More often than not, the United States shares the blame." How is justice is to be served if the USA is unable to recognize its role in exacerbating human tragedy?

What are the implications of the UK Shadow Foreign Secretary declaring that there is no place for "idealistic" human rights legislation when there is any terrorist threat?

Why is support for "terrorism" by individuals, groups and networks considered totally unacceptable under international law in contrast to "supporting repressive regimes" -- as practiced by many governments, including the USA? Has not the loss of life associated with the second been far in excess of that associated with the former?

Will those opposing the coalition strategies in any way also be considered legitimate targets?Or will they simply be subject to the forms of intimidation and harassment characteristic of extremist groups?

If those who are not "with us" are "against us", and only the USA and the UK are prepared to commit ground forces -- does this rise the question why others are not prepared to d so? Or rather the question whether it is right for UK forces to take part at all? (Independent, 27 October 2001)

What principles of justice will be permanently distorted in the process of bringing the perpetrators to justice?

Given that the International Committee of the Red Cross claims not to be an international NGO, is the al-Qu'ida network the first and only international NGO to be fully recognized under international law? If it is not so recognized, what is the legal mandate for recognizing its existence in order to declare its annihilation to be the principal objective of an undertaking sanctioned by the UN Security Council? Is it not ironic that the full military resources of the western world should be deployed to annihilate the first NGO to be so recognized?

Does the concept of an international terrorist network, and its recognition, provide the necessary legal precedent for finally providing international legal recognition of other international nongovernmental organizations?

In reminding people of the justness of the coalition's cause, Tony Blair recalls the tragic mobile phone calls from aircraft about to be crashed. Has he considered the situation of innocent civilians in Afghanistan in the seconds before a bomb is dropped upon them -- unfortunately unable to make such calls to their relatives? Does whether killing someone is right or wrong depend upon whether they have access to a phone? (Peter Cave, Independent, 1 November 2001)

The UK has considerable experience with terrorism in Northern Ireland and the challenge of self-perpetuating cycles of violence through tit-for-tat killings. Is the inability to forgive, forget and move on due to the fact that underlying issues of justice and equality had still to be acknowledged and addressed? Is not further progress in this respect hampered by the legacy of emotions over years of conflct -- causing what is felt to be true thus validating atrocity, blotting out understanding, analysis and good sense? (Ronan Bennett, Guardian, 3 November 2001) Would this be true with respect to the dynamic between terrorists and those they attack?

In bombing Afghanistan, the US-coalition is pursuing political aims through the use of violence -- justified by the time-honored criteria of a "just war" and made legitimate by international coalitions, organizations and the law and directed against organized international terrorism. To use violence from inside a legitimate state such as Afghanistan is a quite different thing. But who decides it a particular state is legitimate? (Timothy Garton Ash, Guardian, 10 November 2001)

Apart from a UN Security Council resolution condemning terrorism, the procedure for dealing with threats under the UN charter has been set aside in responding to the crisis. But invoking Article 5, does NATO absolve itself from the responsibilities laid down in the NATO treaty to abide by the provisions of the UN charter? (Tony Benn, Guardian, 12 November 2001)

The attack on the trade centre was a massive criminal act -- not an act of war as understood under international law. Is dropping millions of pounds of bombs on Afghanistan then also a crime? (Carole Ashley, Guardian, 8 November 2001)

In his infamous emergency order, George Bush admits to dismissing "the principles of law and the rules of evidence" that undergird the US system of justice; he seizes the power to circumvent the courts and set up secret tribunals that (like kangaroo courts) will sit in judgement on non-citizens whom he needs only to claim to have "reason to believe" are members of "terrorist" organizations -- concealing evidence by citing "national security", finding the defendent guilty even if a third of the pale disagree, and execute the alien with no review by any civilian court. Misadvised by a frustrated panic-stricken attorney general, has George Bush now assumed dictatorial power? (William Safire, New York Times, 15 November 2001)

If it emerges that Osama bin Laden's responsibility is limited to that of providing those in his network with a clear, simple ideology, which they are encouraged to put into practice on their own initiative (James Meek, Guardian, 18 October 2001) -- how is this to be distinguished from the responsibility of the head of any training establishment that would deny reponsibility for the specifc acts of their alumni? At what point does incitement call for punishment to equal the crime? Where else should this crierion be applied?

Do the military tribunals proposed by George Bush to try suspects represent such a travesty of justice that it would be wrong for any country to extradite a defendant to undergo their process? Would such countries then be defined as "harbouring terrorists" and subject to American intervention?

Will only a public hearing in a fair and independent forum impress upon the world the true evil of al-Qaida's philosophy, expose Bin Laden and his lieutenants before they acquire martyr status, and expound the irresponsible misuse of soveriegn power by the Taliban? Will these values be lost, as well as the bedrock value of a fair trial, in special military commissions -- sacrificed to a foolish fear that "justice" will not be up to the job? (Geoffrey Robertson, Guardian, 5 December 2001)

According to Danny Shek, Director of the Israeli Foreign Ministry's Europedepartment (commenting on the proposed trial of Ariel Sharon in Belgian courts): "There is no country in the world that has the right or the moral purity to be able to judge all the others" (Guardian, 29 November 2001). With what right or moral purity does Israel's principal ally envisage its military actions against countries it judges to be harbouring terrorists?

How much longer can democratically elected governments hope to get away with justifying policies that punish the Iraqi people for something that they did not do through economic sanctions -- targeting them in the hope that those who survive will overthrow the regime? Is international law only applicable to the losers? Does the UN Security Council only serve the powerful? As permanent members, are the USA and the UK not fully aware that the UN embargo operates in breach of the UN convenant on human rights? (Denis Halliday and Hans von Sponeck, Guardian, 29 November 2001)

How is it possible to reconcile the average compensation of $25,000 per family of those 25,000 bereaved or affected by the WTC attacks with the average $1,300 per head for the 14,824 Indians killed by the toxic gas fumes from the American-owned Union Carbide pesticide plant in Bhopal in 1984? (Anne Karpf, Guardian, 28 November 2001)

Has the United nations shut up shop? Is there no Geneva convention? Why is it that America is able to bomb civilians indiscriminately, tearing apart women, children, men, the young and the old? As a sovereign state -- and member of the United Nations -- did Afghanistan not also have the right to protect itself? (Gherat Yousafzai, Guardian, 28 November 2001)

Do the detailed arguments advanced in support of secret military tribunals set an extremely unfortunate precedent? In the absence of any international framework to legitimate such a national initiative, can any country then consider itself to be free to seize those it considers to be (or have been) a terrorist threat, and to try them in secret under similar conditions -- for exactly the reasons articulated in the USA? If the definition of terrorism is to a significant degree in the eyes of the beholder, what would then be the status of US citizens that would be secretly seized, tried and executed in the light of such arguments? How do such actions differ from those already taken by some terrorist groups?

Admissible evidence and deniable responsibility

Will the evidence against the terrorists be "classified" for reasons of "national security" to prevent any independent evaluation? Is the coalition not aware of the dangers of claiming that the evidence is "too sensitive" to be released (4th October)? Why do governments continue to believe that their statements and conclusions are credible to an increasingly educated population? Has the conviction of people on the basis of classified evidence not been a much-challenged pattern associated with repressive regimes?

The initial focus on Osama bin Laden, and the attack on Afghanistan, has been based on presentation of circumstantial evidence which would be readily attacked in normal judicial proceedings. How strong a case can be made against those who incite to murder and human rights violations but whose directive links to those who engage in such attacks are not clearly established? How will judicial history compare the case being developed against Henry Kissinger with the case being developed against Osama bin Laden?

How can western justice demonstrate unequivocally to the Arab world that those accused -- before or after their deaths -- have not been framed with dubious, conjectural evidence -- using an approach indistinguishable from increasingly publicised expedient practices in western police and security forces? Would framing of some Muslims be a convenient solution for western governments and intelligence agencies in the absence of incontrovertible evidence?

In making a non-negotiable case for extradition of Osama bin Laden from Afghanistan as the prime suspect in the death of 5,000 based on circumstantial evidence, how is it that the USA is totally unresponsive to the Indian request for the extradition of US citizen Warren Anderson -- chairman of Union Carbide, responsible (in the light of extensive documentation) for the Bhopal gas leak that killed 16,000 people in 1984?

To what extent will any retribution be justified by hard and incontrovertible evidence rather than by evidence that some might have reason to consider questionable - as in the case of the US attack on the Khartoum pharmaceutical factory after the East African bombings of US embassies?

Given the quality of evidence presented after 11th September, on what basis did Bill Clinton (on his own admission) order the CIA to assassinate Osama bin Laden three years previously? (Akhtar Raja, Guardian, 15 October 2001) If Clinton indeed ordered his assassination, why was it necessary for George Bush to attempt to bypass Executive Order 11905 (signed by President Ford, February 1976) and reaffirmed by Executive Order 12333 (signed by President Regan, 1981) forbidding such political assassination by agents of the USA?

Will the absence of effective checks and balances encourage a "shoot first and ask questions afterwards" policy by government agents -- justified post-facto by labelling any killed as "terrorists" without provision of any credible evidence?

What standards of evidence will be required in convicting "terrorists"? Will the same standards of evidence be applied to others accused of crimes against humanity? Will these standards of evidence also be applied to citizens of the USA accused of such crimes against other countries?

What evidence is there that bin Laden possesses either chemical or biological weapons? Is the USA preparing to use suspicions linking him to anthrax outbreaks as a pretext to attack Iraq -- and other countries and groups? (Guardian, 26 October 2001)

In reviewing bin Laden's video message on the occasion of the start of the coalition's riposte, western observers interpreted his approval -- though denying any personal responsibility -- as implying an admission of that he was behind the original attack. Since when was approval of an act considered as evidence that someone was responsible for it?

What implications follow from the recommendations of Colonel Bob Stewart (Former UN Commander in Bosnia, CNN, 23 Sept 2001) that the US-led coalition should not need to seek proof of involvement whilst executing their missions -- and that the burden of "proof of innocence" was on those the coalition selected as targets?

Arguing that "on the basis of what has been released there is no chance of his being prosecuted", why does a responsible paper (Chris Blackhurst, Independent, 7 October 2001) state that the evidence supplied against bin Laden and in justification for the attack on Afghanistan takes the form of a "report of conjecture, supposition and unsubstantiated assertions in fact...short on checkable detail; long on bold assertions; highly selective with the choice of facts" ?

How was the FBI so easily trapped into over-confidence regarding the identities of the suiciding hijackers? In the early days of the investigation one of the accused Saudis was found to be have been dead for a year before the attack; another was arrested and then released; five others were found to be alive and at home with their friends? Is "misdirection" not predictable under such circumstances? Does this suggest that inappropriate action will be prematurely and erroneously taken against others on the basis of such mistaken identity or tainted evidence? How will it be possible to rectify such miscarriages of justice?

Of any "evidence" produced in a situation in which "national security" justifies consideration of "any measures", is it not necessary to ask key questions regarding the possibility that the evidence was planted or tampered with: Was there motive to do so (who would benefit)? Did those providing the evidence have the means to tamper with it? Was there opportunity to do so?

In the depths of the apartheid crisis in South Africa, one of the most courageous groups to demonstrate in South Africa was the Black Sash Movement. The international network Women in Black is one of its spiritual successors in struggling for democracy and freedom. How valid is the evidence which enables the FBI to place such organizations on a terrorist suspect list -- following a pattern established in the McCarthy era?

To what degree are military training academies (Sandhurst, West Point, School of the Americas, etc), and their directors, to be held responsible for actions subsequently undertaken by their alumni? To what extent are arms manufacturers and traders responsible for the deaths that their weapons cause? To what extent is the founder of any religion responsible for the actions taken in his/her name?

Were it possible to bring to trial the "freedom fighters" responsible for each country's independence over the past century, what kinds of evidence would be considered admissible? Are those who fight for new freedoms necessarily to be defined as "terrorists"?

Suspension of human rights provisions, notably in the UK, has been designed to tighten the constraints on "suspected terrorists". But who will determine the membership of this category? By whom "suspected" and against whom "terrorist"? Without a judicial process (possibly partly in camera) will this not become a conveniently fluid group, dependent on the unchallenged word of the security service? (Hugo Young, Guardian, 23 October 2001)

What criteria lead to the placement of Pierre Boulez, a major French composer of world renown, on a list of potential threats to Swiss national security -- due to a critic of his music having complained of an anonymous bomb threat six years previously?(Jon Henley, Guardian, 5 December 2001)

Given that the evidence linking the US-funded School of the Americans (now the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation) to continuing atrocities in Latin America is rather stronger than the evidence linking the al-Qaida training camps to the attack of 11th September, what should be done about the "evil-doers" who perpetuate this programme? Should the school's commanders be extradited for trial on charges of complicity in crimes against humanity? Should citizens of other countries demand that their governments attack the USA, bombing its military installations, cities and airports -- in the hope of overthrowing its unelected government and replacing it with a new administration overseen by the UN? (George Monbiot, Guardian, 30 October 2001)

Will every effort be made to avoid bringing bin Laden to justice alive, precisely because it has been acknowledged that it may be tricky to produce a "direct chain of evidence" linking him to the 11th September attacks? (Janathan Freedland, Guardian, 22 November 2001)

During the operation of the Roman Catholic Inquisition to eradicate heretics: "The judge, or inquisitor, could bring suit against anyone. The accused had to testify against himself/herself and not have the right to face and question his/her accuser. It was acceptable to take testimony from criminals, persons of bad reputation, excommunicated people, and heretics. The accused did not have right to counsel, and blood relationship did not exempt one from the duty to testify against the accused. Sentences could not be appealed" (Albert Van Helden, 1995). To what extent will the administration of justice with respect to suspected terrorists be equivalent to this? What arguments justified the suppression of the Inquisition?

It is difficult to understand how someone who may never have left the Asian continent (or Afghanistan) could be treated as having damaged the USA to a degree that is to remain secret. There are many foolish and deluded people who subscribe to silly beliefs -- some of them are insane. Has the US approach to evidence for the guilt of those they have chosen to attack been based on legitimizing guilt by association? If this is the case, should it not be so stated? Is it not bizarre that the "suspects" should be tried in secret, because they are "known" in advance to be guilty? How does this differ from the processes of the Inquisition or of Stalinist times? Who is trying to prove what to whom? If it is a case of bypassing the law, why even bother to bring them back to the USA? Is it to exact some further punishment before executing them? To pillory them in some way? To gloat? Why even engage in the pretence of due process? Surely it then becomes logical that the US has the right to kill anyone in the world who expresses a view contrary to that currently upheld by the US government -- and therefore known to be a threat to American national security?

Given that their existence is "secret", how much effort would be required to construct "Osama bin Laden" and the "al-Qaida network" in order to create an excuse for a "war against terrorism"? What "facts" would need to be planted as "evidence" to be "verified" by independent investigators? What effort would be required to ensure that alternative interpretations of such "facts" would be discredited?

Appropriate retribution

Deepak Chopra (14 Sept 2001) asks: Why he and others did not feel equivalent anguish at previous horrors to which innocents have been exposed? What was the root cause of this evil? Can any military response make the slightest difference to this underlying cause? Is there not a deep wound at the heart of humanity? Who gave birth to the satanic technologies now being turned against us? If all of us are wounded, will revenge work? If you or I are having a single thought of hatred against anyone in the world, are we not contributing to the wounding of the world?

To what extent do the attacked appreciate that the "American way of life" is perceived by many to have been achieved at the cost of ways of life in other cultures? Does retribution serve only to impoverish the ways of life in all cultures -- especially if it escalates uncontrollably into widespread war?

How will it be possible to ensure that the treatment of the perpetrators does not simply transform them into martyrs -- empowering an even more savage and dangerous escalation of terrorism?Is bin Laden more dangerous dead than alive?

What would have been the nature of the retribution sought if the attackers had been less competent and had instead killed 5,000 innocents in Haarlem?

Can the US-led coalition bring the terrorists to justice and work to eliminate terrorism around the world without harming civilians -- and without hating the terrorists and thus engendering more hatred in the world?

In the eyes of the rank-and-file Muslim, will a drawn out military offensive against terrorist groups mean only one thing: the extirpation of Islam as a political threat to the west's exploitation of their countries? (Faisal Bodi, Guardian, 18 October 2001)

Does the US-led coalition really believe that punching holes in aiorports in Afghanistan is going to have any military effect on men who smash TVs and hang videotapes from tres? (Robert Fisk, Independent, 14 October 2001)

George Bush -- "wanted dead or alive" -- for crimes against the environment? [Protester poster]

The 4th Psychological Operations Group (operating out of Fort Bragg) is disseminating messages in Pashtun. In preparation for any act of retribution, and to ensure support for it prior to any judicial process, will those responsible for western psychological warfare (psy-ops) now be obliged to locate, fabricate and disseminate every negative factoid about Osama bin Laden, his network -- and by implication Afghans and Muslims? Will this propaganda be able to avoid condemning Muslim attitudes towards women and the sharia?

Does the mindset identifying civilization's "Public Enemy No. 1" constitute a displacement of blame to a safely distant, personified target of abhorrence -- thereby completely avoiding, through a scapegoating process, any uncomfortable questions and learnings about the weaknesses of modern society and its leadership?

If the "war on terrorism" is not a war on Islam, what is the policy on the use of Muslims within the military forces of the US-led coalition?

How can you punish and deter people who are literally dying to give their life for their cause?

Is their a target in Afghanistan worth a million dollar missile? Could the million dollars have been better spent on refurbishing the building it destroyed?

On the first night of the US-coalition response, according to the following briefing, 85 percent of the ordnance hit their targets successfully? What happened to the other 15 percent -- probably more than 13 bombs and missiles? (Chris Blackhurst, Independent, 14 October 2001)

How is it that "precision bombing" in Kabul by the US-coalition has on several occasions destroyed Red Cross warehouses, appropriately marked -- and of which the Amercians had been informed? Does this suggest another interpretation of "surgical" strikes? Or has the US military decided to starve the Taliban into submission?

It has been estimated that 60 percent of the "cluster bombs" used in Kosovo missed their target or remained unaccounted for. The Red Cross has asked for them to be banned. Is their use in Afghanistan justifiable other than as a means of testing military weaponry? (Guardian, 26 October 2001)

How are we to concentrate on retribution when armies of Afghan civilians are appealing for us to save their lives? (Robert Fisk, Independent, 14 October 2001)

If it's wrong for Osama bin Laden to kill civilians, how can it be right for us to do so? (Ros Hancock, Guardian, 29 October 2001)

The coalition insisted that all targets of their precision bombing were of military significance. How tragically ironic is the fact that one of them, of which the USA had been fully informed, was a UN landmine clearance agency housing people -- four of whom were killed -- after devoting years of their lives in dangerous effort to relieve Afghanistan of this military scourge?

How "smart" are bombs that miss their target by a mile -- and kill civilians, or foreign embassies?

Will renewed restrictive and repressive measures, including the use of force against people striving to preserve their distinct identity and protect their right to self-determination, serve no other purpose than to endanger fundamental freedoms, destabilize society, and perpetuate violence?

In the traditional Arab culture, if someone had taken one of my planes full of my people and crashed it into one of my buildings killing even more of my people, then I would hold each of their families responsible for the attack and extract from them reparations in full form; either through payment for the wrong, or by killing all the relatives and animals of each of the families involved in the attack. Indeed, for such an attack I would be justified in raising their towns, destroying their homes and farms and leaving no trace of their family names. That is what history would record. Is this not the obvious answer to "suicide bombers?" Is there such a thing as "parental responsibility" for "suicide bombers?" Is there a morally acceptable equivalent?

What will be the cost of the envisaged acts of retaliation? What could be done with that sum to relieve the human suffering from which (perhaps) the suicide attacks sprang?

Given that 7.5 million Afghans are at risj of starvation, according to the United Nations, if 6 million die will the coalition buiold a holocaust museum to remind itself of what it has done? (P L Hurst, Guardian, 23 October 2001)

Is a reasonable test of the war aims of the US-led coalition to ask whether its actions have made a terrorist attack more or less likely? Plainly put, do people feel more secure after the response of the coalition than before? (Gary Younge, Guardian, 15 October 2001)

How is the USA going to recognize when they have won the war? What precisely are the conditions for satisfaction that will enable them to say "the war is over"? How would these criteria relate to those of Vietnam? Will the appropriateness of retribution for the 6,000 killed be measured on the Israeli criteria for exchange of Palestinian prisoners for Israelis? How many dead Afghans for every dead American? How many dead women and children for every dead man? How many dead mujahideen for each dead investment banker?

For Donald Rumsfeld, the US Defense Secretary, a "victory" in America's new war would be when he could convince the world that Americans must be allowed to continue with the American Way of Life. Do Americans appreciate how much investment they have in avoiding change and transformation in a rapidly evolving world society?

What are the dangers that the coalition's response will reinforce precisely the perceptions of those who have some sympathy with the frustration, of the cultures of despair from that engendered the attack?

After all that has happened in Afghanistan, can there be anything more ironic than Russia and America joining hands to re-destroy Afghanistan? Dropping more bombs on Afghanistan will only shuffle the rubble. Can past destruction be further destroyed?

What is the point of bombing a benighted, backward people who have little culpability for the events of 11th September 2001"?

Would the police action equivalent to bombing Afghanistan be to set fire to a crowded hotel because a suspected murderer had taken refuge there? (Stephen Plowden, Independent, 27 October 2001)

Smart weapons depend of many factors to be smart rather than go astray? Why is more than one strike often necessary to destroy a target? If less than 10 percent of the attacks have the desired effect -- as suggested by analysis of the Balkan campaign -- what collateral damage are the 90 percent likely to have?

Given the proposed response of the USA to Afghanistan, why is it inappropriate for the UK to consider bombing Boston and "rooting out" support for IRA "terrorists" there?

Given the declarations of the the leadership of the US-coalition that "all options" were being considered in response to the attack, do these necessarily include use of weapons of mass destruction -- nuclear, biochemical, and the like -- as well as the use of hired criminals (and their networks) and torture?

What action on the part of western leadership would be best calculated to reduce tension? How could such action be reconciled with the need to stay in political power long enough to complete the action?

The Mayor of New York returned a reconstruction gift of $10 million from Saudi prince because it came with a few words of friendly advice about American policy in the Middle East. Is pride a luxury to which only the rich are entitled? (Arundhati Roy, Guardian, 23 October 2001)

The media have noted the elation with which pilots have undertaken bombing sorties over Afghanistan. Veteran Vietnam pilot Frank Elkins stated (1 July 1966): "The deep shame that I feel is my own lack of emotional reaction. I keep reacting as though I were simply watching a movie of the whole thing. I stilll don't feel that I have personally killed anyone." He asks: "Have I become so insensitive that I have to see torn limbs, the bloody ground, the stinking holes and guts in the mud, before I feel ashamed that I have destroyed numbers of my own kind"?

What of the rest of us? Shall we look away and eat because we are hungry, or shall we stare unblinking at the grim theatre unfolding in Afghanistan until we retch collectively and say, in one voice, that we have had enough? (Arundhati Roy, Guardian, 23 October 2001)

The bombing is killing and injuring civilians and damaging the country's infrastructure, which will result in the loss of many more llives, especially of children, deprived of clean water, food and access to medical treatment; it is also impeding the delivery of aid to people already facing famine. Must millions die in Afghanistan to atone for the thousands killed in New York? (Ros Hancock, Guardian, 29 October 2001). When will the bloodlust of the US-led coalition be satisfied?

How much suffering must the people of Afghanistan bear before they have their government changed for them -- by a US-coalition of champions of democracy? (Charles Norrie, Guardian, 29 October 2001)

How have societies throughout history adjusted to the continuing threat of violent marauders (eg barbarian attacks on Rome, Viking attacks on England, Indian attacks on American settlements, Hamas attacks on Israeli kibbutzim)? How do those in modern settlements and urban neighbourhoods adjust to marauding gangs -- in the absence of effective police protection?

As a media exercise, would honour not have been satisfied if tens of thousands of tons of bombs had been dropped in empty valleys in Aghanistan immediately after the attacks? Followed by an extensive media campaign promoting the illusion that terrorist encampments had been effectively obliterated? Further terrorist attacks would have followed of course. But will they not follow anyway -- even if some terrorist networks can be destroyed?

Are the United Nations, and those of its members participating in the US-led coalition, not embarrassed and ashamed at the amazing disproportion between the billions of dollars allocated to root out a few terrorists in tents from Afghanistan in comparison with the minuscule amounts allocated to token humanitarian relief and reconstruction in that country? Is the UN exercise merely a cynical public relations pretence -- compassionate camouflage for further depredations to an already battered country? Is this to be the pattern for future UN crisis responses? Is it to be the pattern covering the future operations of its Global Compact partner corporations?

Although any cessation of the bombing to permit humanitarian intervention would be welcome, is keeping the Afghan population alive in order to resume bombing them really a humanitarian concept? (Mary Dickins, Guardian, 31 October 2001)

Is it any consolation, at the death of one's family by bombing, to know that as civilians they were "not deliberately targeted"? Who will say on behalf of the coalition: "we regret killing your family, but we are really your friends"? Who would assume that this experience would not radicalize someone in support of the terrorism that the bombing was designed to eliminate? (Ronan Bennett, Guardian, 3 November 2001)

Are chickens not being countered before they are hatched in triumphantly crying victory at the fall of the Taliban? Is the self-congratulatory tone not misplaced? The Russians believed they had won an easy victory when the mujahedin abandoned Kabul, but the alleged object of the war was to punish and prevent terroprism. Why are we supposed to settle for overthrowing the Taliban despite the fact that the perpetrators of the attack were not Afghans and did not train in Afghanistan? (Dorothy Macedo, Guardian, 17 November 2001)

If terrorist suspects ae detained, they have to be released at some point -- unless life-long detention is the intention. When such detainees are released -- as in Northern Ireland -- are they likzely to be better disposed to the liberal values of those who imprisoned them? Or will they, like others before them, find in the prison experience reason, opportunity and means to refine their strategy and deepen their commitment? (Ronan Bennett, Guardian, 14 November 2001)(

Questions raised by Amnesty International in response to the massacre at the Qala-i-Jhangi fort of Mazar-i-Sharif: Why were the Taliban not properly disarmed? Was the response of the detaining powers proportionate? Was only minimum force used, as required by the Geneva convention? Who ordered planes in and why? Could this situation have been contained without such use of force? Were those who were killed still bound? Did summary executions take place? Were people deliberately left in harm's way? Are those who descrated bodies to be held responsible? Why did the US and UK governments reject a call for an inquiry? (Guardian, 1 December 2001)(

Was the revolt at Mazar-i-Sharif by all the captives (including those tied up), or by only some of them? If the latter, why was it necessary to kill all of them? Did the dozen or so British and American special forces reportedly directing the entire operation, including the bombing of the fort from the sky, want merely to quash the revolt, or were they seizing the opportunity to do away with the hated foreign Taliban whom few want kept alive as inconvenient prisoners? What do we make of Time magazine's Alex Parerry, on the spot throught the battle, who said: "The mission by the Americans and Northern alliance is to kill every single one of them now"? How does that square with international law? (Jonathan Freedland, Guardian, 28 November 2001)

Did America breach international law by ordering warplnaes to bomb the Taliban forces in Mazar-i-Sharif -- many of whom were tied up and unable to move?(Guardian, 29 November 2001)(

To what degree are allies using proxy forces to fight their battles to be held legally or morally responsible for massacres carried out by their proxies -- especially when representatives of the allies are actively involved in advising and assisting in the action that results in that massacre, or stand passively by as it is carried out?

The US Defence Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, indicated that America was "not inclined to negotiate surrenders" and that he hioped al-Qaida forces would "either be killed or taken prisoner." Is "disquiet" felt in the UK at such tough language the limit of the responsibility of the UK government for the actions undetaken by its allies? (Guardian, 29 November 2001)

The war against the Taliban has the backing of an American people wounded and enraged by the attacks against them, but does that mean that any savagery should be used in retribution? Surely the point about civilization is that it does not descend lightly into terror and barbarism? Is it right to dismiss calls for inquiry into barbaric acts in the execution of such retribution? (Isabel Hilton, Guardian, 29 November 2001)

Estimates suggest US bombs killed at least 3,767 civilians in Afghanistan -- in addition to the upwards of 10,000 military deaths or deaths of prisoners. These civilians had nothing to do with the atrocities in the USA, did not elect the Taliban, and had no say in the hospitality extended to bin Laden and al-Qaida. How should these deaths be assesed in relation to the 3,324 currently estimated to be have been killed by the attacks of 11th September? (Seumas Milne,Guardian, 18 December 2001.)If the Afghan civilian causalites are considered by some to be an unfortunate, but necessary, byproduct of a just campaign to root out global terror networks, is it not understandable that their opponents may use similar logic to consider that the deaths in New York and Washington were an unfortunate byproduct of a campaign in pursuit of some other kind of justice?


Creative Commons License
This work is licenced under a Creative Commons Licence.