U.S. Bombing of Afghanistan

Portrait of an Unjust War

Revolutionary Worker #1123, October 21, 2001, posted at http://rwor.org

"I have never seen such a sight. Bombs were dropping in and around the village, and there was fire and smoke everywhere. I grabbed my family and some clothes--we must have walked about 10 kilometers in the night before we found a car that would bring us to the border.''

Agha Jan Agha, farmer near Kandahar

"This war has become darker and darker. Our country has been completely destroyed. I don't care who's responsible. But when the Americans decided to attack, I was overcome by sadness. I hope all the enemies of Afghanistan will be destroyed."

Fatemeh, Afghan refugee speaking
to Western reporters

Day after day, U.S. and British war planes have attacked Afghanistan, often starting as night falls. A rain of massive 5,000 pound GBU-28 bombs pounded the ground, shattering everything in sight. Cruise missiles snaked through the valleys at high speed before exploding. After several days, the American bombers started dropping 1000-pound CBU-89 Gators, anti-personnel cluster bombs that explode into a spray of deadly needle-like fragments and shred any living thing within hundreds of yards. Among the announced targets was traffic on the refugee-clogged highways.

In their briefings, the warmakers of Washington used their usual bureaucratic language of "target acquisition" and "the destruction of assets." They are devastating one of the poorest, most war-ravaged countries on earth, and brutally punishing its population.

War Comes to Kakrak

"It was about 11.30 p.m. and we were awakened by a huge explosion. My friend was just lighting the lamp to see what had happened when there was a second explosion and the whole room fell in on us. I only realized I had broken my arm when I was dragged from the mud and debris. All I could see was that all the houses around had been leveled."

Fazl Rehman, truckdriver, interviewed in a
Peshawar hospital by the British Times

The small farming village of Kakrak sits 18 miles from the northern Afghan city of Jalalabad, surrounded by fields of rice and wheat and shaded by orange trees.

Late at night on Wednesday, October 10, the missiles came--at least two, one after the other. Forty homes were flattened, killing many people instantly, and burying others under walls of mud brick. Desperate in the darkness, survivors dug for their families and neighbors, using their bare hands and farm tools. Local authorities claim that 200 people died--overwhelmingly women and children. Afghanistan's national news agency said there were "horrific injuries" and rescuers found body parts scattered across the harvest-ready fields.

Trucks and cars came from all over the area to take the injured to the nearest hospital--winding over pitted mountain roads to Jalalabad for 90 minutes. There were only beds for the most critically injured. Many of the wounded were sent for the even longer drive across the border into Pakistan--to hospitals in Peshawar.

Deep in the Pentagon, Kakrak was picked on some aerial map as a ground zero. It is said that there had once been a military camp a mile from this town (which is called Karam in some accounts). But that was long ago and now there is nothing in Kakrak but a few surviving farmers and the ruins of their village.

One refugee, Sher Sha Hamdard, said, "I was on my way from Kabul to the border and walked to the village. I arrived at about 2 p.m. and there were mass funerals going on. I saw many bodies in coffins. Eight people were being buried here, five there, it was a very emotional scene. So many people were crying. There were hundreds of people who had come from surrounding villages to help carry the bodies, dig graves and attend the funerals. I hate to say this, but I'm glad I saw these things because the world has to know what the Americans have done here."

Refugees crossing the border near Jalalabad gave reports of mass burials in several places in the region.

The first wave of cruise missiles hitting the capital Kabul killed four Afghans working with a United Nations project that was helping to clear land mines from the countryside. Secretary Rumsfeld refused to acknowledge U.S. guilt--and insisted the U.S. was only hitting targets outside the city. In fact Kabul has suffered major new damage--reporters say that after the bombing, the Hotel Intercontinental was the only building standing undamaged. On Saturday, October 13, one raid in the pre-dawn darkness hit a neighborhood near Kabul's airport. "Osama is not in Kabul--he is not living in mud houses of poor people,'' the moneychanger Mohammed Wali told a reporter. "We should not be attacked.'' This is a war of the "haves" on the "have-nots."

Afghanistan's Taliban government said that 15 people were killed in a Jalalabad mosque.

After a week of raids, the U.S. announced they were using their "bunker-buster" bombs to attack the massive natural caves scattered through the northern mountains. The massive bombs can supposedly penetrate deep into rock and then explode.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said that the caves were most likely being used to hide Afghan troops and military equipment. But there were reports that villagers were taking shelter in the country's many underground irrigation canals and those mountain caves.

The British government announced that they believed that reports of civilian casualties were exaggerated. The U.S. government refused to comment on the reports from Kakrak.

An Air Force sergeant, Evander Earl Andrews, from Maine, was the first casualty reported among U.S. forces. He died on a U.S. base "in the northern Arabian peninsula" in an accident involving heavy equipment.

The Shameless Talk of "Bombs and Biscuits"

The U.S. specializes in "death from above"--using bombs and missiles to "dismantle" opposing forces and terrorize populations from afar. Their raids come wrapped in lies--lies about "precision bombing," lies that this war is about "protecting the American people."

But it is hard to imagine more shameful war propaganda than the attempt to portray the first week of air raids on Afghanistan as a "humanitarian mission."

As the air attack started, Secretary Rumsfeld repeatedly claimed that the U.S. was bombing Afghanistan to wipe out Afghan anti-aircraft batteries, "to clear the skies," so that U.S. planes could provide food for the Afghan people. As 50 cruise missiles and untold numbers of bombs landed that first day, the U.S. spokesmen reported that their C-17 cargo jets were also dropping thousands of MREs (military speak for single meal rations).

High explosives plus trail mix--the welcome wagon of the New World Order!

It is hard to imagine who this madness was supposed to convince. Clearly not the Afghan people.

Millions of Afghani people live in refugee camps, driven from their homes by 20 years of war--that the U.S. spent billions of dollars to inflame. The U.S. bombs are now forcing more people to flee Afghan cities. The weakening of Taliban forces north of Kabul is causing hundreds of thousands of people to abandon their fields right at harvest time--as the danger of renewed civil war rises on the fertile Shomali plain.

And, after all that, this same U.S. air force is talking about winning Afghan "hearts and minds" by scattering some freeze-dried meals from 30,000 feet across barren, mine-infested mountainsides of the Hindukush?

Jean-Herve Bradol, president of Doctors Without Borders, denounced the American food drops as a cynical public relations move, "The U.S. dropped 37,500 daily ration units during each of two nights, with no precise idea of where they went nor who might collect them, and there are 8 or 10 million people to feed.''

Meanwhile, the U.S. bombings have stopped many of the food distribution programs that operated in Afghanistan for years. Nearly 10,000 tons of food are stored in Afghanistan. There were no reports that these reserves have been looted, but the distribution systems for this food have been disrupted. "As far as we know it's all safe," said Stephanie Bunker, a spokeswoman for the United Nations. The World Food Program operates a bakery in Kabul on which thousands of families depend. It is believed their operations are now shut down.

There were reports from the Afghan town of Khost of angry villagers making bonfires of the American droppings.

The War So Far and the War to Come

"American and British military officials said they were preparing for a military operation stretching at least into next summer.... The bombing of Taliban and Al Qaeda targets in Afghanistan continued round-the-clock for the fifth day, confronting Mr. Bush with just the sort of situation he denounced during the campaign--a military operation likely to keep American forces in Central Asia for months or years, followed by the long, costly and difficult task of building a viable Afghanistan. Even as bombs continued to fall...the indications were that the Americans were deliberately leaving the Taliban intact on the northern front to keep the opposition Northern Alliance out of Kabul until there was an agreement in place on a new government."

Serge Schmemann,
New York Times military writer

The first waves of U.S. attacks targeted Afghan government and military targets hard: seeking to destroy anti-aircraft batteries, aging fighter planes sitting on runways, arms depots, concentration of Taliban troops, communications and the central "command and control" facilities.

On the second day of raids, the attacking planes hit the home of the Taliban leader Mullah Muhammad Omar in the southern city of Kandahar. The Pakistani newspaper Jang quoted refugees saying that Omar's stepfather and his only child, a 10-year-old boy, were killed.

When Secretary Rumsfeld was asked if the U.S. raids were slowing down because the Air Force was running out of targets, he smirked and said, "We are not running out of targets, Afghanistan is running out of targets." The gathered Pentagon press corps laughed out loud at his ugly joke.

Afghanistan has few roads and almost no planes or railroads. Within a week, there were few stationary "assets" left undamaged. U.S. planes switched to pounding the hillsides with "bunker busters" and hitting vehicles.

But, in fact, the destruction of these "assets" has not meant victory in war and Rumsfeld told reporters on October 12, "We have to acknowledge the reality that there is still an air defense threat to the United States.'' Mobile anti-aircraft guns and stinger rockets can evade air attacks.

Now the U.S. faces the prospect of pursuing a war on the ground. Air Force Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, suggested that the week of airstrikes was designed as a prelude for a campaign of ground action. "Many of the conventional efforts that you see today are stage-setters for follow-on operations."

The U.S. power structure faces an intense political dilemma in Afghanistan --there are no forces capable of creating a stable, future pro-U.S. government in Kabul. The central government of Afghanistan has always been extremely weak. And, in fact, for 20 years, no central force has controlled the whole country. As the U.S. attack weakens the Taliban, it has caused panic among all political forces in the region--and warnings that a "pre-mature" collapse of the Taliban might trigger a new many-sided civil war and even a new attempted takeover by Pakistan.

The Northern Alliance, which is fighting the Taliban north of Kabul, is notoriously corrupt, brutal and reportedly involved in the regional heroin trade. These traits are usually not a problem for the U.S. ruling class. What really bothers Washington is that the Alliance's main base of support is among Tadjik people, a minority within Afghanistan living along the northern border. Any government the Alliance formed would be isolated and very unstable.

Meanwhile, the military government of neighboring Pakistan has loudly warned the Northern Alliance not to seize Kabul and not to try to establish a government. Pakistan was a sponsor of the current Taliban government and is openly demanding a veto over any future government in Kabul.

U.S. agents have tried to form a "transitional government" using, as a figurehead, the deposed Afghan king, Mohammad Zahir Shah, who has lived in Rome as an exiled playboy for 30 years. This Shah--who has not spoken in public and according to his son is severely depressed--has no organized party, no policies and little support. The efforts to unite various patriarchal tribal forces behind him appear to be deadlocked.

Britain's Admiral Sir Michael Boyce said the looming land war was likely to last through the bitter Afghan winter until next summer--with the hopes that this time will enable some coherent U.S.-puppet forces to congeal.

Meanwhile, U.S. ground forces are arriving in the region and commando forces are infiltrating into Afghanistan to act as forward observers and assassination squads. Pakistan now admits that U.S. forces have been given the use of two military bases. More than 15 U.S. military aircraft, including C-130 transport planes, are reported to have arrived at one of the bases in Jacobabad.

The U.S. aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk is also prepared to launch troop-carrying helicopters. British military officials say that the U.S. and British forces intend to seize an airfield within Afghanistan to use as their base of operations.

Britain's Royal Marines' 3 Commando Brigade, currently on maneuvers in the Persian Gulf state of Oman, is scheduled for deployment in Afghanistan. France has announced plans to involve its forces more directly. And the government of Turkey is reportedly sending commandos to participate in the ground campaign. One press account noted: "This would give the coalition forces a Muslim component they lack." Major military maneuvers involving over 5,000 NATO troops are now going on in northwest Turkey.

The "Blank Check" Doctrine

"A tight-knit group of Pentagon officials and defense experts outside the U.S. government is working to mobilize support for a military operation to oust President Saddam Hussein of Iraq as the next phase of the war against terrorism, according to senior Bush administration officials and defense experts. The group, which some in the State Department and on Capitol Hill refer to as the 'Wolfowitz cabal' after the deputy secretary of defense, Paul Wolfowitz, is laying the groundwork for a strategy that envisions the use of air support and the occupation of southern Iraq with American ground troops to install an Iraqi opposition group based in London at the helm of a new government, the officials and experts said. Under this notion, American troops would also seize the oil fields around Basra, in southeastern Iraq, and sell the oil to finance the Iraqi opposition in the south and the Kurds in the north, a senior official said. 'The takeover would not be dissimilar to the area we occupied in the Gulf War,' the official said."

International Herald Tribune, October 13

"Nobody in this world--with the possible exception of Tony Blair--gives us the right to decide who rules Iraq."

Edward Peck,
former U.S. ambassador to Iraq

"If this war overflows from Afghanistan, it threatens to put a fire to the whole region. If this occurs, Turkey could inescapably be dragged into this firestorm.''

Mesut Yilmaz, Deputy Prime Minister of Turkey

"Our rulers, why are you silent? Have you got orders from America?''

Student chants in Zagazig,
town in Egypt's Nile delta

"It is embarrassing how the U.S. is becoming nosy and acting like a fascist nation. Indonesians will not bow to that, even if the government acts like the slave to the U.S."

Indonesian student

On Sept. 19 and 20, the Defense Policy Board, a major "bipartisan" committee of top ruling class national security experts that advises the Pentagon, met for 19 hours. They called for targeting Iraq as soon as the intial "Afghan phase" of the U.S. war is over. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, his number 2 man Paul Wolfowitz, Republican leader Newt Gingrich, and the sinister Cold Warrior Richard Perle were all part of the meetings. The 18-member board also includes Harold Brown, President Jimmy Carter's defense secretary; former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger; James Woolsey, director of central intelligence in the Clinton administration; Admiral David Jeremiah, the former deputy chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; former Vice President Dan Quayle, and James Schlesinger, a former defense and energy secretary.

As soon as the U.S. and British bombing started in Afghanistan, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations delivered a letter to the Security Council describing their attack as a legal act of "self-defense." The letter contained the chilling sentence: "We may find that our self-defense requires further action with respect to other organizations and other states." UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan called this "disturbing."

Echoing Washington, NATO's Secretary General Lord Robertson said that the current war cannot be "restricted geographically."

The U.S. has declared open-ended war--and demands that everyone in the world accept and support its actions.

At the birth of the U.S. republic, its ruling class declared the "Monroe Doctrine" --announcing that all of the Western hemisphere belonged to the U.S. More recently there was the "Carter Doctrine" which declared that the U.S. had the right to use nuclear weapons against anyone threatening its control of the Persian Gulf. Now, in the most arrogant and sweeping imperialist proclamation in history, the U.S. is putting forward a policy that can be called the "Blank Check Doctrine." They insist they now have the right to attack anyone, anytime, and the rest of the world only has the choice of being on their side or facing attack themselves.

The White House and spokespeople throughout the U.S. government refer to this attack on Afghanistan as "Phase 1" --and the world is left to wonder where the bombs will drop during Phase 2, Phase 3 and so on. This speculation inside and outside Washington was itself a form of international threat.

With great fanfare, President Bush released a list of 22 "most wanted terrorists"--to put a face on his international hit list. At a time when the U.S. is pounding Afghanistan mercilessly, this list included many Saudis, Egyptians and Lebanese fundamentalists, and even a man born in Indiana--but not a single Afghani. Also revealing is that the list included someone linked to the Hezbollah organization of Lebanon--serving as a not-so-subtle threat against Syria and Iran, who are accused of backing the Hezbollah.

Philippines military chief of staff Diomedio Villaneuva announced that U.S. military advisers would be arriving to train the Philippines' brutal armed forces. The pro-U.S. national government in the Philippines has been fighting the rebel forces in the southern Muslim regions of the country and also the armed struggle led by the Maoist Communist Party of the Philippines.

There was discussion of also targeting anti-U.S. forces in Malaysia and Indonesia--but few details were revealed publicly. Indonesia, the world's largest Muslim nation, is strategically important for U.S. exploitation of the labor and resources of Southeast Asia. "There's a huge concern that Indonesia could be the world's biggest powderkeg," one diplomat in Washington said.

However, it is Iraq that is most often mentioned as a possible target of the next major "phase." As the bombing of Afghanistan started, Ambassador Negroponte reportedly told Iraq's representatives that their country faced "crushing response" if Iraq took any actions in the near future. There are loud demands within the U.S. ruling class, especially within conservative Republican circles, for an armed invasion of Iraq and the forcible removal of its government.

Pro-U.S. governments in the Middle East warn they could lose control of their countries if the U.S. attacked Iraq. Many forces point out that there is no evidence at all connecting Iraq's government with the September 11 events--while U.S. conservatives cynically respond that this does not matter.

Unjust war is raining down on the people of Afghanistan, and the U.S. ruling class has declared its right to threaten and attack anyone who opposes them--to send advisers, troops, commandos, and secret agents wherever they want, kicking in doors, crossing borders, launching full-scale invasions.

It is not at all clear what will come next. The fear of mass rebellion among pro-U.S. governments in the Middle East reveals how fragile their power is...and how intense the next period could become.

This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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