The War Thus Far
“America’s New War on Terrorism” is not even two months old, and the extent of the damage is not clear to the American public. Still, what little information has trickled through the wire has disturbed me. Not that any of what I have to say strays from the current patterns of war. On the contrary, the people suffering now have always suffered during war, the people benefitting now have always benefitted from war, and the people being lied to now have always been lied to during war.
Twenty-five straight days of U.S. attacks have crippled an already disabled country. We have already hit International Red Cross Stations in Afghanistan, not once, but twice. Seems that big red cross on top of the building wasn’t a clear enough indication of a humanitarian operation.
Maybe it was.
The U.S. food drops have made us feel all warm and cozy knowing that we may be going after terrorists, but not innocent civilians. It’s reported that the drops, which are nowhere near enough for the population, have already hit and killed civilians. In addition, children have mistaken cluster bombs for food packages, both having been painted yellow. Meanwhile, the bombings have driven away the food relief agencies that the population depends upon for survival. If the bombings continue for another couple weeks, it’s likely that 7 million people -- flesh and blood, remember -- will starve to death. We’re dropping landmines on the second most heavily mined nation in the world while at the same time, we’re restricting food from millions of starving people.
Oh, and the friends we’re making across the globe. Despite all the rhetoric about having so many nations support the war effort, the popular sentiment in several Muslim nations has been resoundingly against the attacks on Afghanistan. Thousands have demonstrated against the attacks; a few have died protesting. Surely, war is a great peacemaker.
Now we are working with the Northern Alliance rebels to overthrow the Taliban. The United States would be doing such a noble thing by ousting that corrupt government. But didn’t we help put the Taliban into power? Of course I wasn’t there, but I seem to remember reading something about the United States backing the Mujahardeen out of which sprang the Taliban. If they’ve been corrupt for all these years, why is it now that we decide to point out their terrible abuses of power? Does the suffering of the Afghani people for the past twenty years really matter when it doesn’t suit our needs? And what kind of track record does the Northern Alliance have? Are we supposed to assume it is better than the Taliban just because our government is allied with them? Who are we to determine the government of another nation anyway?
Those are some of the questions I have been thinking about. Here are some more: How many dead Afghanis will it take to avenge the deaths from the World Trade Center? Four hundred? Six thousand? How many children in Afghanistan will starve or get blown up before the horror of war reaches us? One million? We’re already well on our way to that number in Iraq. But I guess we’re not really after Iraqi children, we’re after Saddam. And we’re not really after Afghani children; we’re after bin Laden. The children -- collateral damage -- will just have to understand, I guess. Meanwhile, nine years after an attack on Iraq, Saddam is still in power. Likewise, a month and a half of decimating Afghanistan, and bin Laden is still alive by all accounts. We don’t even know where the man is. But bombs make good press don’t they? When and if we do find bin Laden, will that justify the deaths caused by the United States?
Just as an exercise with absolutely no practical value, let’s ask ourselves who is benefitting from this war? Surely, the majority of the people in Afghanistan aren’t benefiting too much. Are you better off because we’re destroying another country? Do you have a sense of security; do you feel more free, more democratic? Is your financial situation looking better now that we’re at war? Not too many people I know have had their sense of self-worth improved by the war. If history holds true, the people that should be benefitting are few, and have a great deal of power.
Indeed, that is exactly what is happening. Lockheed-Martin recently secured a $200 billion contract for 3,000 new planes. Given that this huge deal was in the works prior to the terrorist attacks, it still speaks of the profiteering of the defense sector during times of war. While the economy goes southward and unemployment reaches dizzying heights, we can take comfort in the fact that the “defense” sector will have a good showing in the third quarter. Or maybe, just maybe, with the long, drawn-out war that is being promised, ours can become a permanent war economy -- just like the one president of General Electric had dreamed of so long ago.
We can’t forget about the benefits reaped by Bush, though. Bush’s approval rating has gone up considerably since the war began, with the bulk of that increase coming from liberals (I’m assuming). To throw one’s support behind leaders who are fighting for the common interest, and even to forgive past grievances of those leaders in times of crisis is natural, almost. One would have to assume that these deserving leaders have any notion of what the common interest is. For the past ten months, the Bush administration has shown time and again that they do not. But the nationalism and patriotism is stirred up in the media, showing only one opinion, one option: that of complete support for Bush and for the war.
All the while, we at MIT go on like nothing has ever happened. While our government tears apart a country far off in the distance, we continue with classes, problem sets, and laundry. We confine our involvement to a simple glance at the television, or maybe even conducting research that will eventually be used in war. Are we that isolated that we don’t care? Will we continue thinking that our DOD-funded research won’t be used for war? Will we just not think about it at all? That’s what the people who will gain from a prolonged war want: your overt approval, your active participation, or your complete apathy. Either way, the rich get richer, and everyone else becomes afraid, repressed, emaciated or gets killed.