Revolutionary Worker #1165, September 1, 2002, posted at http://rwor.org
In the desert plain near Kandahar in southeastern Afghanistan is the village of Showkar Kariz. Last October 22 the people of Showkar Kariz awoke after midnight to a scene of unbelievable horror.
Bombs dropped by U.S. warplanes flying high overhead exploded in the small community, destroying houses and killing dozens of people. As dazed and frightened survivors scrambled outside, the planes returned for a second bombing run, claiming more lives. A small boy pulled out of the rubble from the first explosions was among those killed when the planes returned. At least 45 villagers died from the air strikes.
U.S. military officials claimed the village was an al-Qaida-Taliban training camp and therefore a "valid military target." Mohammed Qasim, one of the few survivors, insisted there were no Al-Qaida or Taliban in the village. Reporters who went to the devastated village saw no signs of a military camp. "All that remains," wrote one journalist, "are tufts of singed human hair, scraps of clothing, and the clay foundations of homes and a mosque."
Looking at the rubble of what used to be his village, Mohammed Qasim said, "These are war crimes."
The U.S. war in Afghanistan began in October of last year. The Bush administration claimed to be acting in the name of the American people to avenge the September 11 attacks and to wage a "war on terrorism."
What the ordinary people of Afghanistan found was the terror of U.S. bombs raining down from the sky.
How many people--like the Showkar Kariz villagers--who had nothing to do with Al-Qaida or the Taliban have died from the U.S. operations in Afghanistan? No one knows the exact figures. Estimates run from about 2,000 to 8,000 or more civilians killed during the most intense period of the air war from October to February--when 18,000 U.S. bombs, missiles, and other ordnance pounded one of the poorest countries in the world. Many thousands more have been injured.
The war has dangerously disrupted the lives of millions, cutting off aid and food supplies and forcing many to become refugees--this in a country that already had one of the highest rates of infant mortality and lowest rates of life expectancy in the world before September 11. In May, the British Guardian newspaper estimated that in addition to those killed in the bombings, 20,000 people in Afghanistan may have died from other consequences of the U.S. military actions.
The situation in Afghanistan has now largely disappeared from the front pages and network newscasts of the U.S. media. But the war continues, and Afghani people continue to die from the U.S. bombs and guns.
Consider the airborne assault on the village of Bandi Temur in eastern Afghanistan in May. Dozens of U.S. commandos and U.S.-led Afghani troops in helicopters swooped into the village at 1 a.m. They blasted holes in the walls of the village compounds, shot several people, and took away 50 men for "interrogation."
The head of the village, a 100-year-old elder, was killed with a blow to the head while in custody. The mother of another victim, 3-year-old Zaghuna Bibi, said the little girl had run into the darkness of the night, frightened by the armed invaders: "We only found her the next day. She was in the well, she was dead." A woman villager named Naibo said, "They shot my husband, Abdullah, and they beat me and bound my hands and feet."
In July, a joyous wedding celebration in the village of Kakrak in southern Afghanistan turned instantly into a hell of blood and terror when U.S. AC-130 gunships attacked. Dozens of people were killed. One survivor recalled, "The airplanes were shooting rockets at the people running away. They were chasing us."
Saboor Gul, 11 years old, lost her mother in the attack and was injured in the back and legs by shrapnel. At the Kandahar hospital, she shrank away from foreign reporters. "I am scared," she said. "They are Americans, and they bombed us."
Many such brutal assaults are taking place throughout the dusty deserts and rough mountains of Afghanistan.
And scattered across the countryside are thousands of unexploded anti-personnel cluster bombs dropped from U.S. planes. Each of these duds is now a lethal land mine that sprays more than 200 bomblets when touched, killing and maiming children playing in the fields or adults collecting scrap metal.
U.S. military and government officials refuse to apologize or take any responsibility for these civilian deaths. General Franks, head of the U.S. campaign in Afghanistan, declared, "This has been the most accurate war ever fought in this country." Defense Secretary Rumsfeld coldly dismissed the significance of civilian casualties: "It is going to happen. It always has and I'm afraid it always will."
The U.S. says it has "liberated" the people of Afghanistan. But what the U.S. has dropped in the place of the old Taliban regime is a pre-fab puppet government with a president guarded by U.S. Special Operations troops. The government and large areas of the country are dominated by feudal warlords and strongmen--hated by the common people for the widespread murders, pillaging, rapes, and other brutalities carried out by their forces before the Taliban rose to power.
As the U.S. imposed its will on Afghanistan, Bush launched "Phase 2" of the U.S. war in January. Hundreds of troops landed in southern Philippines--3,000 miles from the battlefields in central Asia.
This deployment came wrapped in the guise of a "routine training exercise" with the Philippine army. Administration officials said they were also helping to fight the Abu Sayyaf, a small Islamic group that the U.S. accused of having "links" with Al-Qaida.
But the real mission of the U.S. troops quickly became clear: to help wage and intensify an unjust war aimed at the masses of people, in order to strengthen U.S. control over the Philippines and the oppressive rule of the central government.
The U.S. troops landed in a combat zone where the Philippine government has long carried out bloody wars against large separatist movements among the oppressed Muslim people. Nationwide, the Philippine regime faces a deeply rooted Maoist people's war waged by the New People's Army (NPA) led by the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP). In a move filled with dangerous threats, the U.S. government recently placed the CPP and NPA on its list of "foreign terrorist organizations."
The Bush administration has also sent hundreds of commandos into Yemen, Somalia, and Indonesia- -and more quietly dispatched military missions and supplies to dozens more countries.
This worldwide warfare launched by the U.S. has a rapidly expanding list of potential targets. Bush named Iraq, Iran, and North Korea as the "axis of evil" and threatened preemptive war. Rumsfeld declared, "If we have to go into 15 more countries, we ought to do it." U.S. officials talk of at least 60 countries around the world with "terrorist problems."
In August, the New York Times reported that Rumsfeld is considering proposals that "ultimately could lead Special Operations units to get more deeply involved in long-term covert operations in countries where the United States is not at open war and, in some cases, where the local government is not informed of their presence."
These global war moves are funded by the single largest increase in the military budget in 30 years-- bigger than the staggering Reagan increases of the 1980s when the U.S. went all out to prepare for world nuclear war against the Soviet Union.
A chunk of the U.S. budget--$3 billion a year--goes to finance and prop up Israel, the U.S.'s armed agent in the strategic Middle East. The military, financial, and political backing of the U.S. allows Israel to maintain its savage occupation of Palestine.
The Israeli F-16 jet that dropped a 1,000-pound bomb on a crowded neighborhood in Gaza City in July, killing 16 Palestinians, was "made in the USA."
The automatic rifles that Israeli soldiers use to shoot stone-throwing kids; the tanks and bulldozers that flatten Palestinian homes; the military checkpoints throughout the West Bank and Gaza Strip that keep Palestinians constantly under the gun--all these are supplied or paid for by the U.S.
Since early this year, the Israeli military has gone amok in the West Bank, carrying out vicious collective punishment against millions of Palestinians. The Sharon government claims to be on a mission of self-defense against suicide bombings--and says its offensive is part of the U.S. worldwide "war on terror."
But the reality is that Israel has been on a mission to wreck Palestinian society and crush any resistance to the occupation.
Facing a serious challenge to their survival as a people, the Palestinians are told that the U.S. is the only power that can guarantee peace and a Palestinian state. But the U.S. "peace initiatives" have nothing to do with justice for the Palestinian people. These schemes aim to keep Palestinians locked up in ghettos--bits and pieces of territory entirely at the mercy of Israeli power.
The crucial concern of the U.S. imperialists in Palestine is that the crisis there has touched off protests throughout the Arab world--and has disrupted plans for the next key phase in the U.S.'s global plans: a major war against Iraq.
The 1991 U.S. war in the Persian Gulf killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqi people. In the years since then, the U.S. has continued to attack Iraq in various ways, causing the deaths of hundreds of thousands more Iraqis.
U.S. and British warplanes carry out constant bombing attacks against Iraqi targets, often killing and injuring ordinary people on the ground. U.S. sanctions strangle the country, depriving the people of medicine and other vital supplies.
The UN reported in 1997 that over 1.2 million Iraqis had lost their lives since the Gulf War as a result of medical shortages. Every month, 5,000 Iraqi children die from preventable diseases and other effects of the war and the U.S. sanctions.
Now, the U.S. threatens to return to Iraq--this time to "take out" Saddam Hussein and carry out a "regime change." Different war scenarios have popped up in the media--including a huge invasion force of a quarter of a million or a "surgical" strike on Baghdad.
One thing is clear: A new U.S. war on Iraq will mean even more death, destruction, and suffering for the Iraqi people.
The threatened invasion of Iraq--and the whole permanent war declared by the U.S. rulers--have nothing to do with hunting down the masterminds of September 11. It's not about bringing security to people. And it's certainly not about bringing anyone freedom or justice.
The U.S. imperialists are making an aggressive and deadly serious move to restructure the world in their interests. The war they have declared is about who will decide and control the future of humanity--and about what kind of a future that will be.
The Bush White House is carrying all this out in the name of the people of the U.S. But this is a war for a nightmarish world defined by unrestrained capitalism--where the U.S. ruling class, wielding a massive war machine, is free to reshape regions, governments, and cultures. This monstrous vision of the future is against the interests of billions of people across the planet.
It calls for people here in the belly of the beast to say "Not in our name!" and to stand in unity with the people of the world.
This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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