Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Sat Mar 08, 2003 2:45 pm 
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On September 14th I first stated in writing that I was opposed to the US or its allies going to war, either sooner or later, over the horrendous September 11th terrorist attacks on the US's sacred institutions and people. I felt, and I then wrote, that it would be useless to call up thousands of men and an enormous range of weaponry: it would be aiming a sledgehammer to kill a flea - the flea being bin Laden and his al-Qai'da cadres in Afghanistan - which would escape and take up residence elsewhere. I remarked that US policy vis-a-vis other countries is forever lacking in subtlety, cunning and deviousness, which are what one needs to use against "these bastards," as I called them then. What should be done, I said three days after the attacks, is to infiltrate the ranks of the terrorists and remove them from within, wherever in the world they are. I affirmed that massive external attacks on nations will increase hostility towards the West and especially the US, thus increasing the cause of terrorism; and it will have a debilitating effect on the US's resources, its economy and its will.

Since the beginning of American action I have not deviated from this position. I think that nothing good is likely to come out of this war and that it is a clumsy move internationally. It further destabilizes the region, and it brutalizes a battered country, promising nothing of a more stable situation in Afghanistan itself, because there is no faction that can be relied upon to lead a new government. (Abdul Haq's untimely end at the hands of the Taliban did not improve this aspect one jot.) The kernel of my argument is that this war is unnecessary and unjustified, ill advised and unlikely to succeed in its aims. I am not a pacifist. I would reluctantly accept the deaths of innocent people if along with their deaths came the deaths of people we definitely want dead. But since the whole war effort in Afghanistan is unnecessary and ill advised, the killing - however limited by holding back and by the use of "precision" bombs, as some reporters have confirmed - becomes much more senseless than it would be anyway. (Naturally I hope that a time comes in the world when violence is reduced rather than ever increasing.) I am not opposed to the extent that the fighting has moved to the ground. Clearly attacking Afghanistan from the air is in some sense cowardly and brutal and, in practical terms, the only way to track down al-Qa'ida's command HQ and bin Laden is by using people on the ground.

We cannot regard the bombing of Afghanistan as retaliation, because the bombing chiefly affects Afghans and the Taliban, not Bin Laden or al-Qa'ida, and it is therefore too often directed against people not directly deserving of retaliation (like humble vegetable sellers). In a sense retaliation is impossible, because the perpetrators are all dead Nonetheless I tend to agree that killing bin Laden and al-Qa'ida's leaders would be a kind of retaliation. The bombing, however, has been a blatantly bullying gesture, because it has not been directed at bin Laden or al-Qa'ida's directly at all, not so far. So far it has not even hit the leader of the Taliban. It has mostly hit Taliban buildings and equipment - their ridiculous air power which was nil to begin with. It has killed Taliban fighters But who are these? Arabs, Pushtun, Pakistanis. Are they affiliated with al-Qa'ida? Perhaps their brothers will be, some day. Must we kill the whole world to catch these fleas?

Just as the huge massing of ships, planes, troops, arms, and material in the region guaranteed they would eventually be used, their presence guarantees that they will continue to be used. The hardest thing is to pull out. The masses of troops and material in the region now in action, continuing to remain in action, whether or not it is desirable to do so, is an example of inertia. So the politicians won't be able to stop seeing this thing through. They'll see it through and through and through - just like Vietnam. The US has never done well at guerrilla warfare. The winter is coming on. The terrain is mountainous and rugged. There are landmines and a network of caves. The US is unlikely to get bin Laden and even if it does, al-Qaida will be stronger than ever: for bin Laden's martyrdom if it occurs will motivate more to join.

And speaking of recruitment, the trouble is in Arabia, not Afghanistan. Fifteen of the 19 terrorists involved on 11th September were Saudis. Bin Laden is a Saudi. Today thousands of Parkistanis are clamoring to join the Taliban. If we want to choke off the sources of islamist terrorism, we should be bombing Saudia Arabia, not poor Afthanistan. But of course we will not do that, though Arabia is a powder keg that will explode one day.

One might venture to ask why America is making the mistakes it is making. As I said three days after the hijacking-bombing tragedies in New York and Washington, America lacks cunning. More than that, we are naïve, and we have a strong tendency to overreact. Being the richest, most powerful nation, and unopposed since the fall of the communist world, puts one in a bad position for exercising caution and restraint. Bombing has become a US habit. Attempting to save US soldiers goes back at least to Vietnam. As my English friend Coleridge has put it, "I'm against people who think they can wage war safely. It smacks of bullying and may prove too tentative for its own good." One should also point out that there are other motives, oil and regional domination being the most obvious, for Bush and Blair choosing Afthanistan as a target with the pretext of destroying bin Laden.

Crimes against humanity, should one use that term, would not be the bombing, but they - crimes against humanity - could indeed come if the war, as predicted, causes the humanitarian disaster of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, of Afghani civilians dying of starvation because the war keeps food aid, which was scheduled to be brought, from actually coming in now, with winter coming on and making it impossible to bring in the food. What is the strategy? What is the schedule? Without the one, you cannot have the other.

©Chris Knipp. Blog:

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