NOV 2001

... If We Don’t Stop This Bombing

While anthrax gets an overwhelming share of media (and so public) attention, with a few nods to death-from-the-sky in NYC and Kabul, these horrors pale compared to the looming Afghan famine. It is the single most important, and single most neglected, result of the US bombing war. Here is a compilation of quotes from relief agencies and European corporate media, leading into some analysis by the US government and its critics ...

The United Nations estimates that when winter sets in [in mid November], up to 7.5 million Afghans could require outside aid to survive.—UN Population Fund, 9/28 (

As many as 100,000 Afghan children [i.e., under 5 years of age] could die this winter unless food reaches them in sufficient quantitites in the next six weeks [by November 26th].—Eric Laroche, UN Children’s Fund, 10/15

Relief officials on the ground are warning that millions—literally millions—of Afghan civilians will starve to death this winter unless the U.S. military suspends its attacks and allows the UN to re-establish effective food distribution. We are talking about women, children and the poorest of the poor, who have no means to access food in this war zone.—Sarah Zaidi,

If the battle drags on into the winter, hundreds of thousands, perhaps even millions of Afghans may starve.—Economist (UK) 10/12

As many as seven million Afghan citizens may perish in the months to come unless food convoys resume immediately. Even if the UN’s pleas for a ceasefire are heeded, it will be too late for many. Last year, one in four Afghan children died before the age of five. This year, they will not be so lucky.—Observer (UK), 10/14

After the first week of bombing, the New York Times reported on a back page inside a column on something else, that ... there will soon be 7.5 million Afghans in acute need of [food aid], but with bombs falling the delivery rate is down to half of what is needed. Casual comment. Which tells us that Western civilization is anticipating the slaughter of, well do the arithmetic, 3-4 million people or something like that.—Noam Chomsky, 10/18

The situation seems to be even worse than Chomsky envisions ...

The World Food Programme estimates that a stockpile of 250,000 metric tons of food is needed in the country within the next five weeks [i.e., by November 20], when the winter snows will cut off large parts of the country. ... Transporting these vast piles of grain would require 715 trucks full each day .... On some days last week [October 9-16] just four trucks were arriving in Afghanistan.—Anthony Morton-King, Christian Aid, 10/16

The simple fact is that less than 20 percent of what needs to is getting into Afghanistan and even less is getting distributed. ... It’s going to get worse and worse; you could see entire villages wiped out. Governments [i.e., US and UK] have effectively sponsored the Taliban regime; it’s a bit hypocritical, we think, for them to say that now it’s crucial that they bomb the Taliban. Can’t you wait four weeks for us to feed millions of innocent people at risk of starvation?"—Dominic Nutt, Christian Aid 10/29

If 20% of the needed aid gets through, this raises the expected death toll to 80% of the 7.5 million who face famine, or 6 million. Holocaust proportions. No one--not even the US government--expects the "food drops" (or the $1 donations from American schoolchildren) to help ...

[F]ood dropped in the dark from several thousand feet is quite likely to fall on an empty mountainside far from where the people who need it actually are. Afghanistan is so rugged and roadless that even if its hungry citizens knew exactly where the food parcels had landed, the long walk to pick them up could burn up more calories than the parcels contain.—Economist 10/12

It is quite true that 37,000 rations in a day do not feed millions of human beings. ... We will root them out and starve them out [i.e., a few Taliban leaders ... but apparently only by starving millions] Donald Rumsfeld 10/8

All this is known to the US government, which seeks to blame the Taliban alone, as in this missive from the State Department ...

Two of [the World Food Program’s] grain warehouses—one in Kabul, the other in Kandahar—were seized by the Afghan regime October 16. The Taliban relinquished control of the Kabul facility within days, but still holds on to the Kandahar storage site. After more than two weeks, WFP reports now that it has received unconfirmed reports that the grain—1,600 tons of it—is gone .... "The biggest obstacle to getting food and medicine to the people of Afghanistan is the Taliban," White House spokesman Ari Fleischer told reporters at a briefing October 31.—US State Dept report, 11/1

But for all we know, the food has "gone" to the intended needy. And if not for the bombing, even with the Taliban, food could get to people or vice versa ...

On September 16, the New York Times reported that "Washington has also demanded [from Pakistan] a cutoff of fuel supplies, ... and the elimination of truck convoys that provide much of the food and other supplies to Afghanistan’s civilian population." … In the following days, those demands were implemented. On September 27, the same NYT correspondent reported that officials in Pakistan "said today that they would not relent in their decision to seal off the country’s 1,400-mile border with Afghanistan, a move requested by the Bush administration because, the officials said, they wanted to be sure that none of Mr. bin Laden’s men were hiding among the huge tide of refugees". According to the world’s leading newspaper, then, Washington demanded that Pakistan slaughter massive numbers of Afghans, millions of them already on the brink of starvation, by cutting off the limited sustenance that was keeping them alive. Almost all aid missions withdrew or were expelled under the threat of bombing.—Noam Chomsky, 9/1

You can’t blow up fuel dumps, as the US has done in Herat and Kabul, without crippling the distribution of aid. You can’t bomb a country from high altitude without hitting depots and spreading fear amongst truck drivers and warehouse labourers. The point is that the aid is piling up in warehouses but not reaching the hungry stomachs that need it, a problem exacerbated by the fact that thousands have fled the cities for the countryside for fear of the bombs.—Guardian (UK), 10/18

The Taleban have told us several times how much they’d welcome our presence and assistance, but they’ve also warned us of the huge anti-Western sentiment among part of the population. ... For years, we have been working with the Taleban. True, we have serious difficulties with many of their policies. But we are respected and even now, the Governor of Mazar-I-Sharif has ordered that our compound be protected against further looting and says that he hopes for our relief materials to be distributed as soon as possible among the populations who need them urgently.—Marc Blot, Doctors W/o Borders, 10/26

We were very pleasantly surprised to find our staff alive and functioning as best they can …. Assistance is going forward. On the inside supplies are going forward. None of our supplies have been taken.—Daniel O’Neill, Mercy Corps, NYT 10/23

We do have disruptions from the ground, from the Taliban, where in some cases they have looted our warehouses and interfered with our humanitarian workers. But the air operation is also an impediment. Although we are able to get in some food, I think this is due to the courage of our staff and the truck drivers who are prepared to take the risks. We are going to try and get as much food in as we can. We are not meeting our target. We need about 50,000 to 60,000 tonnes a month and we are doing about half of that. So obviously it will be in our interest to see air action end as soon as possible so that we can step up our deliveries to ensure that we are prepared for the winter.—Kofi Annan 11/1

In addition to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and UN High Commisioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson, every nongovernmental relief agency active in Afghanistan joins the call for a stop to the US bombing: Oxfam (, Christian Aid, Islamic Relief, ...

Distribution and timing are crucial—you could have food in Kabul and not distribute it to the people who need it in the countryside. Time is of the essence: we must act now before winter. The bombing has to halt, we need to get food in or Afghan people will begin starving in great numbers at about the same time Americans sit down for their Thanksgiving feast.—Jim Jennings, Conscience International 10/29

So what prize could be "worth" this calculated, genocidal policy? ...

And what is Washington’s agenda? Remarkably the stated aim is to get bin Laden and to try him or perhaps just execute him ourselves. We could stop the bombing and have him tried in a third country, the Taliban has noted, but that’s not acceptable. So for this minuscule gradation of difference, we are told that Washington is willing to risk 7 million people. Behind the rhetoric, to me the real goals appear to be to delegitimate international law, to establish that Washington will get its way regardless of impediments and that we can and will act unilaterally whenever it suits us – the technical term for which is to ensure that our threats remain "credible" —and to propel a long-term war on terrorism to entrench the most reactionary policies in the U.S. and around the globe, and, along with all that, to terminate bin Laden and others. Risking seven million people’s lives for these aims is worse than doing it only for the minuscule gradation of trying bin Laden ourselves rather than having a third country do it, because the additional reasons are all grotesquely negative, supposing such calculus is even manageable by a sane mind.—Michael Albert,

The October Agenda discussed self-defense alternatives to brute force, without appeasement.

—Eric Lormand

NOV 2001

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