[R-G] Couldn't we build, not bomb, in Afghanistan?
fentona at shaw.ca
Sun Nov 12 17:31:41 MST 2006
Copyright 2001 Toronto Star Newspapers, Ltd.
November 11, 2001 Sunday Ontario Edition
SECTION: SPORTS; Pg. 02
LENGTH: 1024 words
HEADLINE: Couldn't we build, not bomb, in Afghanistan?
BYLINE: Michele Landsberg
TODAY MARKS A double Remembrance Day; it is also the two-month
anniversary of the World Trade Center catastrophe, and no one can be
sanguine about where we are headed. After all these weeks of bombing
and political posturing, I still can't see what shape a "victory over
terrorism" will take.
John Le Carre, the British author, writes in the current issue of The
Nation that "the war is long lost. By us. What victory can we
possibly achieve that matches the defeats we have already suffered,
let alone the defeats that lie ahead?"
Indeed, the breadth and depth of the terrorist triumph was bitterly
evident by Sept. 12. Thousands of lives were destroyed; the symbolic
heart of capitalism reduced to rubble; stock markets reeling; tens of
thousands of jobs wiped out and millions more imperilled; entire
industries shaken to the core; long-cherished freedoms curbed in the
name of the war against terror.
It's Le Carre's theory, and that of many other war-resisters, that
"we cannot prevent another suicide bomber being born each time a
misdirected missile wipes out an innocent village."
The image that keeps coming to my mind, however inappropriately, is
that of a gigantic global carnival game of Whack-A-Mole. Slam one
terrorist into the ground, and up pop a dozen more, their desolate
lives kindled with the pure fire of meaning by the drive for revenge
It would be one thing if we could really extinguish terrorism by the
war in (or on) Afghanistan. But even if the Taliban are driven out of
Kabul, what then? It's hard to believe that any surviving Afghans
will be in the mood for a democratic election, or that there will be
visionary contenders for leadership.
Even a massive United Nations presence - supposing the U.N. could
marshal the resources, after years of being starved by a delinquent
U.S. - couldn't guarantee a peaceful and constructive transition to a
Anyway, we're all being sidetracked here. Loathsome as the Taliban
are, they did not create the terrorist plot against America. And the
plot's very birthplace - Saudi Arabia, where almost all the criminals
in the plot originated - is supposedly our great ally.
How would we regard the Saudis (think of them as Taliban in clean
clothes, Rolexes and Mercedes-Benzes) if we didn't need their oil?
The hypocrisy surrounding this anti-terrorism "coalition" reeks
almost as foully as the burning oil wells in Kuwait during the Gulf War.
My prediction is that two seconds after the "end" of the bombing of
Afghanistan, with the entire countryside reduced to a parched and
emptied desert, Unocal will be building its long-lusted-after oil
pipeline across Afghanistan, bringing Caspian black gold to the gas-
guzzling west. Then the true meaning of the war will be made clear.
Remember, just last year the proposed Unocal deal with the Taliban
was stopped at the last moment, and only thanks to the ferocious
women's protest lobby led by the Feminist Majority organization. At
that time, the Texas oil barons didn't seem very troubled by the
Taliban's denial of all human rights to half their population. And
just let me hazard the guess that, should the Northern Alliance
replace the Taliban, the U.S.-led coalition will miraculously forget
its recent dedication to the cause of Afghan women.
Everywhere in the world where fundamentalism takes hold, there is
terrorism. Are we forgetting the Christian fundamentalist acts of
terror against abortion clinics in the U.S. and Canada? Just to show
their kinship with their Islamic counterparts, Christian
fundamentalists mailed anthrax threats and hoaxes to 450 U.S. women's
clinics and family planning organizations in the last few weeks.
How can we attack fundamentalism at its roots, if not by bombing?
Recently, I pounced on an article in New Africa magazine that boasted
of Tunisia's grand success in defusing Islamic fundamentalists by a
huge push toward universal education, women's liberation and
eradication of poverty.
It sounded wonderful, every democratic socialist's dream, until I
recalled that Tunisia has been harshly criticized in recent years for
its brutal repression of political dissent.
Still, there's a lesson there. Habib Bourguiba, who led Tunisia to
independence in the 1950s, abolished polygamy, legalized abortion,
raised the literacy level to two-thirds of the population, and laid
the groundwork for rising prosperity. As a result, for decades,
Tunisia escaped the turmoil of fundamentalism that plagued its North
African neighbours, Egypt and Algeria.
Of course, wherever women have access to education, property and
inheritance rights and control of their own reproduction, the well-
being of the entire society rises. The children are healthier,
families stronger and economies more productive. Conversely, wherever
people are desperate for the most elementary services for their
families, fanatical churches of every kind have a field day.
More than a decade ago, in a meeting with Mariam Ma'ari, the Israeli
Arab feminist, I asked plaintively why Hamas, the fundamentalist
fanatics, were making such headway in the West Bank and Gaza. The
answer was crushingly simple.
It was not the religion that was so attractive, she said, but rather:
"They offered free schools, health clinics and day care."
We know now the true cost of those "free schools," the same kind of
indoctrination barracks where the boys of the Taliban learn to burn
with a joyful hatred of Islam's enemies.
Now the theatre of war provides a different kind of negative
instruction. Even so soberly conservative a source as The Economist
reported recently that "as the bombing of Afghanistan proceeds, the
extremists are also gaining new converts."
In the years when the Soviets and Americans fought their proxy war in
Afghanistan, they poured in a total of $45 billion in weaponry. Forty-
Just think if, instead, they had competed in pouring money into
building schools, training agronomists and teachers, creating rural
health services and increasing food production.
Make dinner, not war.
Maybe, someday, we'll try it.
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