our undeclared war on afghanistan is the culmination of a decade of U.S. aggression with a humanitarian facade. Once the natural sympathies of the American people were touched by the plight of the long-suffering Afghan people, public opinion swung toward helping them. In response to this, the administration concocted the most shameless and cynical cover story for military strikes in recent memory.
The idea, leaked last Thursday, went like this: the Afghan people are starving, so we need to do food drops. (Never mind that all those experienced in humanitarian aid programs are opposed to food drops because they are dangerous and wasteful, and, most important, preclude setting up the on-the-ground distribution networks necessary to delivering aid effectively.)
The bombing will seriously hinder existing aid efforts. The World Food Program operates a bakery in Kabul on which thousands of families depend, as well as many other programs. A number of United Nations organizations have been mounting a major new coordinated humanitarian campaign. These efforts were not endangered by the Taliban before, but the chaos and violence created by this bombing, combined with a projected assault by the Northern Alliance, will likely force UN personnel to withdraw, with disastrous results for the Afghan people.
To add insult to injury, in the first day the United States dropped only 37,500 packaged meals, far below the daily needs of even a single large refugee camp.
Those who starve or freeze will not be the only innocents to die. It should finally be clear to all that "surgical strikes" are a myth. Military officials have already admitted that not all of the ordnance being used is "smart," and even the current generation of smart weapons hit their target only 70 to 80 per cent of the time.
Contrary to U.S. propaganda, civilian targets are always on the list. The defence ministry in Kabul -- surely no more military a target than the Pentagon, and located in the middle of the city -- has been destroyed.
Military analysts suggest that the timing of the strikes had to do with the weather. Another possible interpretation is that the Taliban's recently expressed willingness to negotiate posed too great a danger that peace might break out. The Orwellian use of the term "diplomacy" to describe the consistent U.S. policy of no negotiations -- accept our peremptory demands or else -- helps to mask the fact that the administration always intended to launch this war.
The same tactic was used against Serbia; demands were pitched just high enough that the Serbian government could not go along.
In this case, the Taliban's offer to detain bin Laden and try him before an Islamic court, while unacceptable, was a serious initial negotiating position and would have merited a serious counter-offer -- unless one had already decided to go to war.
The U.S. administration has many reasons for this war.
The oil and natural gas of Central Asia, the next Middle East. Afghanistan's location between the Caspian basin and huge markets in Japan, China and the Indian subcontinent gives it critical importance. A U.S.-controlled client state in Afghanistan, presumably under exiled octogenarian former king Zahir Shah, would give U.S. corporations great leverage over those resources. Just as in the Middle East, the United States does not seek to own all those resources, but it wants to dictate the manner in which the wells and pipelines are developed and used.
Judging from initial polls, the war has been popular, since the administration trades on people's desire for revenge -- but we should not confuse the emotional reaction of the public with the motivation of the administration. Governments do not feel emotions.
This war will not make us more secure. For weeks, careful commentators have been saying that military action was playing into bin Laden's hands, that he may have been hoping for such an attack to spark the flames of anti-American feeling in the Muslim world. His pre-taped speech, broadcast on al-Jazeera television after the bombing started, vindicates that analysis.
Bin Laden's appeal to the "ummah," the whole Islamic world, echoed this logic: "The world is divided into two sides -- the side of faith and the side of infidelity." A world divided as Bush and bin Laden seem to want would have no place in it for those of us who want peace with justice.
Rahul Mahajan serves on the National Board of Peace Action. Robert Jensen is a professor of journalism at the University of Texas. Both are members of the Nowar Collective.