Afghanistan – Deadly Circle of Questions

After the Afganistan and Sudan anti-terrorist missile strikes, the world is aware their were numerous condemnations of the US strikes. Much of this was quite predictable, from expected sources, such as from Islamic clerics or heads of state (in those states where the two offices might actually be discernably different), or from Islamic citizens of those states themselves.

There have been the usual charges and counter-charges focusing on harboring terrorists, violating state sovereignty, harming innocent civilians, and the perception of heavy-handedness on the part of good old anti-Islam, pro-imperialist Uncle Sam.

The face of the “enemy” presented to American media: screaming, hate-twisted faces against a backdrop of burning cars, burnings in effigy, riots and demonstrations. We’ve seen it all before.

We know darn well that some of these are the faces of the ideologues, the zealots and the paid demonstrators. Paid demonstrators? Just another idea borrowed from the CIA bag of dirty tricks. But what about the others?

Ever-skeptical of the machinations and verbal maneuvering of governments of both “sides”, we were more concerned for those we never get to hear from: folks who live and work there.

Centerville, California hosted a demonstration of its own. Centerville is known to locals as a quaint, turn of the century throughfare between Fremont, CA and the bay’s Dumbarton bridge.

Thanks to perceptive reporting by San Mateo San Mateo County Times (ANG) staff writer Bryce G. Hoffman, a different and healthier perspective emerges on the Islamic view. Centerville hosts a large Afghan population. The following quotes were excerpted from Hoffman’s Times article Saturday, August 22, 1998

Besides the standard charges of “American terrorist agression”, Hoffman reported observations like this:

¬†“No room for terrorism in Islam”, read one sign.”Those that commit these acts contradict themselves.” This speaker explained that Islam is a religion of peace and forbids such actions. “They are not Muslims”.Hoffman probed why Muslims are seemingly always singled out as terrorists.”There are terrorist groups around the world. In Ireland, in Israel — even in America … You cannot just go around bombing countries because there are terrorists there.”

Now, there you go. Ordinary Islamic people, who are not only not involved in any kind of terrorist activity themselves, and who are themselves condemning the terrorists, are saying:

Would the United States launch a cruise missile against Dublin? London? Tel Aviv?

You want to remember that Afghanistan has already been through this before. Convinced that Afghanistan harbored an anti-Soviet guerrilla group led by clerics (it did), The old Soviet Union lambasted Afghanistan with missile launches, napalm, aerial strafing, helicopter SWAT squadrons, ground-to-ground combat and a scorched-earth policy. This went on from December 1979 to February 1989. The Afghanistan of that time was aptly compared to America’s VietNam.

Vivid media film footage of Afghanistan of the 1980’s painted a picture of pure living hell.

Centerville Muslims are pointing out that Afghanistan is essentially defenseless against such strikes. And they are saying they do not like the strikes and don’t approve of them, even if they are aimed at terrorist groups.

Remember that CIA military and financial support helped build the Afghan camps we bombed on Thursday, August 20, 1998. Our motive then was to build and clandestinely support a fanatic mujahedeen stronghold to fight foreign agressors, i.e., the USSR.

I don’t recall reading that the 1998 strikes were implemented by the direct invitation of the Afghani or Sudanese governments. It gets a little harder each day to credibly defend ourselves against the charge we are painting all Islamic governments with the same Khadafi/Saddam Hussein stripes.

I agree that terrorism must be crushed forcefully and immediately wherever it originates. And I mean, wherever.

When first word of the cruise missile strikes came, our first hope was, “At last, we’ve done something decisive!”

As the dust settles, it’s critical that we look at exactly what we’ve done.

It’s becoming clearer we went about it the wrong way. We’ve done it before. We totally mis-read VietNam. We could be preparing to do it wrong again.

It looks like the evidence justifying this Afghani strike is a lot stronger and less circumstantial than the Sudan strike. But if we do the right thing, yet do it in a wrong way, we have lost again.

In terrorism-troubled lands, try to imagine removing the governments of Dublin, London, Tel Aviv and Palestine (etc.) from the picture, for a moment, so that we can focus on the people in whose name those governments are supposed to be acting.

What you have left is millions upon millions of victims: exploited, at-risk, unhappy and uprooted citizens of the target territories. That’s not counting the others who are killed before they can get a chance to endure the horrible aftermath of civil and military turmoil.

People deserve better than this.

In trying to resolve an improved national terrorist policy, we’re going to have to re-think our answers to questions like “why do these people keep doing this?”

Why did the Irish do it? Do we have an answer for the cycle of violence there yet?

I don’t know about Ireland’s problem, and I don’t know anybody who claims to. But I do know it’s the “British” problem and the “Irish” problem, not an “American” problem, and maybe that’s the problem. English-speaking governments have a remarkably similar negotiating tactic in response to foreign force: we escalate. We’re too important to have to take into consideration the legitmate interests of all the human beings who have to live in the huts. homes, villages and cities we decimate.

This is a pretty remarkable posture from a nation which won’t even pay its own arrears on delinquent United Nations dues. It seems Senator Jesse Helm’s reach is even further than we thought.

Because I Told You So

No matter what language people speak, under whatsoever kind of government they endure, people don’t like to be told: “because I say so.” They don’t like to be told their lives are about to be disrupted or destroyed. They don’t appreciate it when the actual edict originates across oceans, in the august halls of wig-hatted barristers and smooth-talking, florid-faced, baby-kissing politicians.

Sure, it may be difficult to deal with so many foreign nations, particularly when you don’t know who’s in charge from week to week (isn’t that what we pay these people in Washington to find out?), and particularly when you don’t pay your dues.

What is it which fans the hatred of the suicide bombers, mujahedeen, PLO, or organized terrorists anywhere? I don’t buy it that it’s a pure genetic hatred of America or Israel or the USSR. I don’t even buy it that it’s a pure hatred of the occupying or controlling country, though I think we’re getting warm.

Never mind whether you agree with the fanatics who join the causes. Of course you don’t. But what is the rhetoric which attracts wide-eyed kids to join the cause, receive military or guerrilla training, strap a bomb to their chests, and take out hundred of innocents as they die? What is the attraction?

It’s beginning to look more and more to me like the explanation for “why do these people keeping doing these things” may be even simpler than we thought: they don’t like our attitude.

Specifically, they don’t like our attitude about their rights and interests. Why should they?

No matter how poor, or how humble one’s origins or beginnings: it is human nature to want to acquire some control over one’s own destiny. When outside forces rip this possibility away for indefinite periods of time, for even generations, I think focused or unfocused resentment is a reasonable consequence, with which we will have to reckon.

 Governments exist, at a minimum, to secure the right of a people to see at least the promise of peace and prosperity, in their own lifetime. When a government cannot do this, or does not do this, it has no earthly right to exist.

“He is the friend of my enemy” and “he is the enemy of my friend” still has a long reach in a shrinking world. Human lives are not throwaway. The ideology of the bully matters not a whit to the victim. It becomes easier to see how crude theories of crackpots like Karl Marx provided the ideological fuel of credibility to entire continents of human beings.

“My way or the highway” is hardly the image we want to be projecting to the UN. But, as communications with peoples all over the world continues to improve, that’s the perception that’s coming back across the oceans.

We may not be able to clean up the screwed-up geopolitical powerstructure in the middle east and elsewhere. I do think we could clean up our own act a lot just be sending our principle players to charm school.

Next time we send a cruise missile on a course to take out a stronghold of terrorist activity, maybe we ought to be consulting that little old Afghani lady who’s taking care of the kids in the target neighborhood. We have the means to do it. I’m serious, too.

My take on the Centerville demonstration: A publically vocal subgroup of Muslims there are saying they basically feel just about the same way that we would feel, if Tel Aviv pre-emptively took out Denver for allegedly harboring skinhead and antisemitic hate groups.

I know this, and you know it, too: we wouldn’t like it. One little bit.

Alex Forbes ©August 27, 1998

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