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Monday, 8 October, 2001, 16:31 GMT 17:31 UK
America retaliates: What are its options?
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The world holds its breath as the US gears up for possible military strikes in response to attacks in New York and Washington.
Afghanistan is top of the list of targets, as it is known to be harbouring the number one suspect for the attacks, Osama Bin Laden.
Two US aircraft carriers are already in the Persian Gulf and another one is on its way.
Meanwhile, diplomatic efforts are continuing, aimed at building support for the expected actions over the next weeks and months.
But how far can diplomacy go? How long can this international coalition hold together? What can military action achieve?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
S. M. Salman, Dhaka, Bangladesh
The 'Northern Alliance' briefly held power between the withdrawal of the Soviet Union and the Taliban taking power. Their human rights record was little better than the Taliban's. The US and its allies should look for a third way.
Maybe Bin Laden is responsible for the terrorist acts in the US, maybe not. However, the fact is that the USA needs a very good excuse to attack Afghanistan and overthrown the Taleban they have created and can no longer control. The country would very much like to establish safe routes for the natural gas and oil pipes coming from the former republics of the Soviet Union, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. These pipes cannot pass through Soviet soil or Iran (of course) so it has to be through Pakistan and India. What is in the middle?
Everyone is talking about the military action that will occur. Everyone saw that Russia would co-operate. Apparently no one is concerned about the Chinese silence.
Those respondents on your website who demand unremitting military action against "craven, hate-filled nations" or against everyone involved, including "direct participants or the citizens of those who are implicated", represent a reactionary segment of public opinion. The problem is that this section enjoys a small, but important presence in American politics and the military. It's an irony that a country that until a month ago was busy reneging on its undertakings to international treaties and multilateral organisations and opting to pull out of them, is now seeking a broad, international coalition to pursue its interests.
One only hopes that this spirit of multi-lateralism lasts, and that the U.S. sees the U.N. as more than a forum to bully the rest of the world through its veto power in the Security Council and seeks to play a more constructive role as a leading member of the international community of nations. While the American establishment refuses to acknowledge its role in the creation of Frankensteins like Bin Laden during the Cold War, one hopes that sensible public opinion will prevail and this war against terrorism will target all sources of this phenomenon in all parts of the world - including Pakistan, which is the West's new (and shall we say dubious) ally in this scheme of things.
JH, Loughborough, UK
I can't understand all of the comments about the USA needed to do more to help these poor people and maybe terrorism wouldn't happen. Do any of you have any idea how much aid we have given to these poor countries? Last year alone the USA gave billions of dollars in humanitarian aid to Afghanistan in food and medicine did that stop the attack on us. That figure doesn't even come close to the total amount we have given to the rest of the world in humanitarian aid. Before you start saying that maybe the USA should build schools in Afghanistan, you should tell the Taleban to let the children attend those schools that are already there standing empty because the Taleban won't let the children be educated by anyone. Take a good long look at all of the good, humanitarian things that the USA does around the world everyday before you say that needs to be the first thing that should be tried by the USA.
Why is it politicians in the US and Europe pretend that military action against terrorists could be successful? Why is it these politicians fail to point out that military action is an inappropriate means and will most probably result in more terror? It is a difficult question how the violent death of more than 6,000 people can be justified or even avenged. But an answer cannot be found by creating new battle fields to satisfy the emotionalised US public and to save clueless politicians' faces. Although, the scale of the atrocities of New York and Washington is breathtaking and leaves us speechless, hunting down the terrorists is a police task to be supported by the intelligence services and not soldiers, it was civilians that were killed. Who in Washington is going to carry the responsibility for the loss of innocent civilian lives - this time in another country?
Why do I get the feeling that those now quickly denying the Americans the right to self-defence, and accusing them of being bad listeners and insensitive to others, are themselves not the best listeners or the most sensitive people? I agree with the American saying that regardless of what the USA does, it will still be hated. The two reasons are the power and the democracy of the USA. The USA will always be envied, and will always be the main target for hatred among fundamentalists of all kinds, not just the religious ones. The America-hater's Utopianist, predestinate ideologies - with no room for individual freedom, capitalism etc. - could just as well be preached in the name of Marx as that of Allah or anyone else.
The way forward, in the long run, is to encourage the democracy, freedom of speech and respect for individual freedom of choice, still all too rare in the world. But in the meantime the terrorist networks and those supporting them have to be fought (which includes overthrowing the Taleban and depriving the Bin Laden network of its safe haven).
Ron, Norwich UK
The US are right to respond with military action. If Bin Laden is not handed over, then they must go in and find him. It's time to stop negotiating and start the campaign.
People say the way to stop terrorism is to give economic aid to nations like Afghanistan, but that can only be part of the solution. The US gave 134 million to the UN humanitarian effort in Afghanistan and has promised to give more to help with the current refugee crisis (though these facts are generally ignored by the media). This alone will not prevent more terrorist attacks, there needs to be some military action to try to stop these things from happening again.
Kien Pham, London, UK
Is it not apparent that the US is proceeding with "cooler heads" prevailing? We did not exact a knee-jerk response with massive bombings. Thankfully, Bush and his advisors know that those responsible for 11th September are a sub-group of people imbedded in many nations, including our own and those of our allies. They know that Islam is not the enemy. The majority of the thousands of Muslims in America (as elsewhere in the world) are noble and good people. Unfortunately, this sentiment, which is held by the vast majority of Americans, does not reach the Middle East. It is certainly not our desire to start WWIII. This "war" is not about retaliation, but about prevention - prevention of anything like what happened on 11th September from happening again.
Carol Baker, Alexandria, VA
Flatten Afghanistan and any other country that supports Bin Laden. No more diplomacy. It's time for war against the Fundamentalists.
I am upset to see so many Americans so eager for a battle. The justification seems to be to defend their way of life and make sure people never do such a horrific act again as we saw on 11th September.
But the US going to war in the middle East again will do the complete opposite - more orphans will grow up hating the US and waiting for the time when they can get involved in terrorism themselves. You cannot bully people into submission while going on about human rights etc at the same time. No one in the Middle East, or the rest of the world believes in the US anymore after all the CIA activity around the world. Why do the US public buy it? Someone should tell the US people the truth!
Terrorists don't only target America, they are targeting all countries. If we want to destroy terrorists we need global support. But all countries don't have the full capability to destroy this evil. Hopefully the US has money, arms and intelligence power so it's others duty to assist US to destroy the common evil. It's not a time to challenge US for their other acts it's time to co-operate with them.
Felix Tan, Singapore
The US shouldn't take any military action without proof.
The US must show the world the evidence linked to the terrorist attacks and give reasons for military action.
You cannot negotiate with those who attack without warning. You cannot be diplomatic with an enemy you cannot see. The only option, for America and any other country that wants a peaceful future is to attack, attack and attack until the terrorists want to talk. If not then the attacks must not stop, the coalition must hold together and be prepared to stick this out to the end. When facing terrorists the most committed wins, and the US and its allies must be committed.
This is not vengeance, it is justice.
Extremism in one form or another has been the bane of humanity since the beginning of recorded history. In the past century our world has seen horrifying human circumstances created by extremism left unchallenged. From the Nazis in Europe to the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia the lesson and the legacy is always the same. By now we should have learned it is unwise to allow extremism to exist at all. Those who believe that the extremists are small in number and are not worthy of military action should think again. Many of us would be surprised to find out how many people would want to see all of western society disappear forever.
Some people believe we will invite more attacks by striking back. I believe that more attacks are coming simply because of who we are regardless of our actions.
Hit the Taleban and terrorists hard, but at the same time drop food supplies to the Afghan people. Hearts and minds will win this war, not wholesale destruction.
At the same time I worry that the American people are not looking at military action from this point of view but instead see it as a chance to reassert their global dominance.
It would be a better world for us all if rather than using a military response for revenge the US combined it with a shift in foreign policy that would mean they actually listened to other cultures and civilisations. Terrorism needs to be wiped out but maybe it only exists because people haven't been listening.
The rest of the world has had to deal with terrorism for 30 years or more. The US experiences it and now the whole world is expected to go to war. Wake up people! The time is now to set about resolving our differences and looking at alternatives to sanctions that can only provoke suffering innocents to take such extreme actions. Waste Bin Laden but not more innocents.
Jo Clayton, London, UK
The only way to get the Taleban's cooperation is to bomb their forces fighting in the north, and supply their enemies with weapons and ammunition. This will have a two-pronged effect. Firstly, no allied forces will have to go in on the ground and secondly it will threaten the only thing they value - staying in power.
The USA has absolutely nothing in common with what these maniacs think or perpetrate on the free world, other than feeding leftist rhetoric against the USA and all freedom loving people everywhere. I am sickened and disgusted by the usual anti-American crowd who think that the USA should revise its foreign policy to accommodate these criminals. Without American leadership and military and intelligence capabilities there is no hope for the free world. This must include the unqualified support of all who believe in freedom and democracy. As Bush says, "those who are not with us are against us". God Bless America!
If we're going to have a war, then I hope America gets this evil out of Afghanistan and wipes out the Taleban and their partners in crime. Thousands of innocent lives will be lost because of this terrorist regime. America and its allies must realize that they need the intelligence guidance of the northern alliance to prevent another Vietnam.
Matthew Wilde, Britain
Suicide terrorists can't be stopped in the type of world we live in. The G8 economies are based on freedom of movement both monetarily and physically. Simply eliminating a scapegoat (like Bin Laden or McVeigh) makes them symbolic martyrs. Revenge for their deaths will be exponentially worse with each strike. It's obvious that the world will only learn to clamp down on terrorism by adopting police state qualities. The unfortunate question we must ask ourselves is, what is freedom worth? so that more innocent people don't become targets? Should we sacrifice economies in order to maintain peace? Only the future is malleable.
It's OK all these do-gooder people saying don't fight fire with fire, let's hear an alternative then - bearing in mind that these people are brought up from day 1 to hate democracy and the US. OK, so we don't retaliate, do these do-gooders honestly believe that these evil terrorists will stop and say, OK looks like we've won? I doubt it, they are more likely to say, we got away with that one, let's do it again.
Ordinary Afghans are quite sympathetic to the American cause as they have helped them during the 1979 Soviet invasion. Further massacring the Afghan people will solve nothing. The only way Americans can win their so called "war on terrorism" is to change, stop the aggression and the cowardly policies. Palestinians should not have to use rocks to defend themselves against their occupants, while being shot at with American weapons. Just one of the many injustices caused by Americans all over the world.
Wars against Afghanistan are illegal. The US has NO RIGHT to attack Afghanistan.
If America and the civilised world does not respond to the attack on the WTC, it will be seen as the green light for anybody to have a go at them. There has to be a line drawn somewhere and that line was crossed on that Tuesday.
I only hope that after going into Afghanistan, that some kind of support and help is given to the country to rebuild an infrastructure, not leaving the Afghans to struggle alone as happened after the war with the USSR communist regime.
Yes, people should understand that Americans have a right to defend themselves for these barbaric acts. People should not rush and pick on America and alleging that USA has bad foreign policy. USA has been generously is most of the international issues that I can remember so far. So people in this world should rally behind USA to defeat these people.
- A definitive and MEANINGFUL link to bin Laden has not been established.
- He may or may not be in Afghanistan
Any attempt to associate bin Laden with WTC/Pentagon is only circumstantial.
Despite all this, America wants to attack Afghanistan and such an attack, without proof of either of the above, can only be regarded as a terrorist assault.
John McLean, Zurich, Switzerland
Those saying the US should look at what it has done to deserve this might as well just come out and say you support the terrorists. The people in those buildings did not do anything to deserve this, the US has certainly made mistakes in the past but no more than your own countries, and I can assure you the US does more to help all countries than any one of yours a look at YOUR own country's history.
Diplomacy will continue but it can only go so far. Bin Laden needs to be brought to justice. But what are we supposed to do - send him an engraved invitation. If Afghanistan's neighbours spent less time burning President Bush in effigy and supporting a government that not only treats women as some sort of sub-species and puts aid workers on death row, and instead worked towards turning this murderer over, maybe diplomacy would work.
Look at all the American "democratic" adventures in the Middle-East and Asia in the last, say 40 years. Nothing even borders on the word "humane". Numerous killings of innocent people.. Political overthrows, assassinations, cruise missiles? All in the name of peace? Let America do some conscience cleansing and put an end to the meaningless rhetoric. Terrorism is not a finite thing to destroy. Its a terrible psychology. No one has the right to play God.
The US gets blasted no matter what it does: Bin Laden is upset because we helped in Saudi Arabia during the Gulf War...the Afghan Northern Alliance is upset because we DIDN'T help them in their struggle against the Taleban.
Quote from Ghandi:
Samir Saikali, Minnesota, USA
Modern governments have never been ruled by morality or feelings of compassion and this situation will not be an exception. If morality were the issue, the Americans and the world leaders now crying for vengeance would have at least acknowledged that the inequalities that they have either actively cultivated or simply ignored have served as fuel for the passion of the terrorists they now hound. Make no mistake, I abhor all acts of terrorism in all ramifications, but I also believe that true justice is never going to be achieved in this present world. True justice, like Shylock's pound of flesh exacts the exact penalty, not more nor less. Now, who in this world is capable of that?
Where the hell is James Bond? To label Osama Bin Laden as a terrorist is generous. He is in fact the head of an international criminal organisation. Why is there even the possibility of this international crisis? There are few Muslim nations who are willing to claim ownership of Osama but somehow an international effort to retrieve him will probably be viewed as an attack on Islam generally.
Terrorism must be dealt with in the only way they understand - WAR.
These fanatics keep blaming the Americans for something but I have not heard exactly what this may be. Perhaps somebody could explain the problem with the Muslim fanatics.
The United States was under attack pure and simple. Who cares what the radical Muslims
reasons were for doing this. If they have a problem with the United States
policies then they should have taken it up with the UN peacefully and not commit murder
of totally innocent people. The United States needs to return fire in the harshest
way. President Bush is a fine man and will seek total justice for those who have died for
no reason on Sept. 11.
Connie Junghans, Bristol, UK
This coalition won't last 2 minutes if it is another game of "round up the usual suspects". I want to see absolute proof that Iraq is involved before the Iraqi people are subject to more bombing. I support the search for the real culprits and I'm not too fussy if they get due process. I am absolutely opposed to condemning whole nations. Dropping bombs onto a city from a military aircraft is no different than what the terrorists did. Innocent people die in either case.
I feel sympathy for the families and loved ones of those who died, as I feel blind retaliation would be yet another disaster for the world to deal with. The point is being repeated over and over that there is no proof leading to one particular figure or organisation.
At this point in time, I can imagine the hurt that world criticism must cause for the people of America. Try to realise though, that from this point on, the difference between another world war and effective resolution is in controlling this desire for retaliation. What would it achieve against an unknown enemy? America - please look before you leap.
Nasser, Abu Dhabi, UAE.
I'm frightened by many of the things that I hear some other Americans saying. I hoped that this might be an opportunity for compassion to rise above political interests in the world, but there seem to be too many people who are ruled by their anger. I believe that those who are responsible in any way for the attacks should be tried as war criminals, but we certainly shouldn't be destroying a nation of impoverished people who will never know the conveniences that so many of us have, just to accomplish that goal.
America needs to look at its policies and try to understand the problem. It needs to understand why did this happen, why is there so much hatred against America, why do certain people feel like this.
The answer is not to bomb defenceless countries, the answer is to find the root of cause and bring to justice those people who are responsible.
I hope that the tragic events in New York last week, and the tragic events that will surely follow as America takes her revenge, will lead the USA and Britain to consider the effects of its foreign policy in greater depth. In particular their policy towards Iraq, which the UN estimates has lead to the death of 500,000 Iraqi children since the end of the Gulf War. Policies the like of which inspire the hatred that leads people to commit acts of gross violence against the USA and her allies.
Americans will find that they have a good friend in the United Kingdom but we will level criticism where it is due. America is a very powerful and successful country and has become very complacent in the way it deals with other nations. Although nothing can justify what happened in NY, this should serve as a wakeup call to take a fresh look at foreign policy.
I don't want a war but unfortunately we've been forced into a position where we have to do something. Great thought is going into this and the US has demonstrated our desire to prevent loss of life - even in battle. Face the ugly reality; a gruesome heartless attack has been committed. These perpetrators are evil and must be stopped.
Brian, Urbana, USA
The long term solution should be modernizing Afganishtan. To do that the Taliban must be removed. Air strikes cannot do that.
So the solution should be to create a massive ground based army and overwhelm the Taliban and remove them with few causalities on either side.
I recently attended the funeral for the pilot of one of the hijacked planes that hit the WTC. (He's from my town.) It made a bigger impression on me than hearing of 6,000 people dead. A thousand dead is beyond comprehension, but one person dead, with a grieving widow and daughters is very, very real. Multiply that feeling by 6,000 and all you can feel is sadness. Not revenge, not anger, but pure and utter despair for how many lives have been shattered by this. I'm not sure exactly what should be done, but clearly this is something we can't just "let go".
This "war" is different than the Civil War, WWI and WWII in the US, because if actions are not handled correctly, some fanatic could hurt even more innocent people, but on a larger scale. It's difficult...if you wait there are risks...if you run into an attack there are risks. Even with my fears, I believe in calm, "focused", determined motions in the coming months, with tough action and intelligent reason. In this day and age, it is imperative that a "campaign" is handled with care. The risks are too high.
However, what little we know about what the US has planned, and the rhetoric both from our President and US commentators here - well, all of this seems more about anger and retribution and bloodthirstiness than reason and necessity. I find myself dismayed, appalled, and repulsed.
I can't help but thinking that the principle aim behind this act of terrorism was to draw the US and its allies into an action that would cause longer lasting harm than the original act of terrorism. Should the US mount an all-out-offensive, it will polarize otherwise neutral players into choosing sides. With all of the alliances that are quickly forming around the world, I can't help but draw some parallels to the early days before World War One. These are perilous times, and I'm afraid America's thirst for vengeance will draw it down the very road its attackers were hoping for.
Adam Floyd, Valdosta, Georgia, USA
The overwhelming desire of most Americans is peace. However, no nation can ignore a challenge such as this terrorist attack.
This war on terrorism must be fought on all levels, monetary, media and, if enough evidence is uncovered, even military. The world will never be safe against terror unless we all stand together. If you don't want freedom just sit back and let the evil take over. The free world is at a crossroads.....Choose a direction.
There seems to be an unhealthy and unconvincing preoccupation with one person in one location. While he may be partly responsible, along with those next to him, this is but a minute part of the whole problem. This is why we need a truly international response to the question, involving Arabs, Africans and Asians, not just Europeans and Americans. In this way, it will no longer resemble a personal vendetta which is what it looks like to me, at present.
Isn't it clear yet that retaliation does not work? Hasn't the Israeli/Palestinian conflict taught us anything? If we bomb Afghanistan, what will we gain? Osama bin Laden certainly has the means to get out before getting killed, leaving behind only the poorest Afghans, those who have gone through years of war and drought and hunger already.
Yes, find the terrorists and bring them to justice. But bombing countries that may harbour terrorists is simply going to create even more desperate people, eager to follow any path that might lead them out of their darkness. We should use all of the means at hand to find the terrorists responsible (with all of our money and technology, how difficult could it be?), but responding with bombs is, as an earlier writer so aptly said, like burning the house down to catch the rat.
Brooks, Columbia, SC, USA
Our neighbours to the south have been engaged in unofficial wars against many poorer nations and organisations for quite some time. It is no surprise that such unconventional warfare has been brought to America's soil in retribution for its imperialist foreign policies.
A shift in foreign policy coupled with military restraint in the upcoming weeks will go far to eliminate anti-US terrorism in the future.
I feel very sorry for the people who died on September 11 and their families because I come from a country that was bombed while dealing with terrorism within its own borders.
Even then we were warning the rest of the world about the growing threat of Muslim extremists and their favourite weapon - terror on innocent civilians.
Somebody will call those people " freedom fighters" just as the US called them that during the Nato operation in my country.
Now those freedom fighters are showing their real face.
RK, Chicago, USA
As an American, I feel that my government must - and will - bring these terrorists to justice. However, I believe that the US also has a responsibility to re-examine its policies in the Middle East and not repeat its self-serving actions of the past. If we want to punish nations and individuals for their aggression, then it only stands to reason that we should, under no circumstances, support other acts of aggression that benefit us. I love my country dearly but I pray that my government responds wisely to these sickening acts of terror.
There is a false premise here. "Retaliation" is not possible, because the perpetrators are dead and the alleged conspirators are mostly detained already. Issues of evidence are vital before anything even qualifies as "retaliation".
You can't beat terrorism without looking to its roots. In this case, American foreign policy has a lot to answer for. Thousands have already died and we need to put an end to the loss of life. Military action and bringing instability to a region which has nuclear power, will achieve the complete opposite.
Anu Srinivasan, San Diego, CA, USA
I am rather surprised and disgusted at the amount of anti-US sentiment shared by Europeans on the internet. How come we are the only ones who have to play by the rules? I am not in favour of an invasion or a massive bombing campaign as this would only create more terrorists. However we also need to send a clear message that America will not sit idly by and allow its citizens (as well hundreds of Britons and other Europeans) to be destroyed by such cowardly acts.
We can clearly feel the emotions behind a few of the above comments. I grief with them. But let me add that many children in Indonesia have lost parents, brothers, sisters and their homes in attacks not meant for them. Later they participated in ethnic clashes (Maluku), guerilla (Aceh) or even terrorism. It is up to us whether we let hate govern or not.
Shannon E, NC, USA
I was shocked to hear that a Sikh and an Egyptian Christian were killed in the US, after the recent violent attack on the country. I do not think this is the way forward- neither are ANY attacks on Afghanistan or other Muslim nations. If we do get our hands on the person(s) responsible for this vile deed, then they need to be killed.
The radical elements that exist in Afghanistan hate the US and other western countries for our open. It seems they are going to hate us anyway, maybe we should give them a real reason to. If it's going to be us or them... I say finish them now.
Pradeep Nair, Satara, India
Peace and Freedom are not free, just ask the people of Afghanistan who are oppressed and exploited (specifically women!) while the rich terrorists of their nation plan cold blooded attacks on other countries "to fight their cause". Why isn't Osama Bin Ladin spending his millions on the poor in Afghanistan, instead of declaring war on innocent people? There is no "Western" policy "bad" enough that justifies them being irresponsible and neglecting their own, ... and declaring war on others! I'm sure the people that have lost their lives in America last week would want justice, and action to keep this from happening to others.
The demand by the Taleban for proof of Bin Laden's involvement in the WTC attack is fair, by any right-minded person. The ramifications of the US attacking Afghanistan are enormous. There are signs that Pakistan's people will revolt against their government over supporting a US raid, and this could lead to nuclear weapons being made available. The US must decide whether it wants to start world war three for the sake of getting hold of one person (Bin Laden). I certainly hope they don't.
Dr Barnard's comments outline the real threat of this situation; if South Asia is destabilised, there is a very very real danger of nuclear weapons being used in anger by terrorists. If that happens, the deaths last week, which were appalling and totally wrong, will be but a tiny drop against the forthcoming overall death toll. For all our sakes, please tread carefully.
A. Robinson, UK
Is any American proud of Hiroshima and Nagasaki? I don't want to offend anyone, but may I dare to ask again, as everyone seems to be calling upon a new Pearl Harbour, is a new Hiroshima what you want?
And what do you expect bombs to achieve? Do you really think that Bin Laden will sit in Afghanistan waiting to die? The crater in New York is on every TV, newspaper, website.. It's horrible; each time I see it I feel in pain. But please, get out a history book and look at the craters after WW2 and then think again whether you want New York to become a second Pearl Harbour.
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