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Thursday, 4 October, 2001, 14:31 GMT 15:31 UK
War Views: US must meet its super-responsibilities
Glenys Kinnock
MEP Glenys Kinnock says that the US - and the rest of the world - must realise it faces huge responsibilities. And that doesn't just mean military action.

I am not a military strategist, and I do not understand what words like 'precise', 'proportionate' or 'collateral damage' actually mean. However, I do accept that there is now no choice about the need to take military action which, as we all hope, will ensure that the cost to human life is minimal.

Clearly a wholly military response will not be the answer. It should, I believe, be the role of the UN to broker a long term solution, which must include the installation of a government which respects the rule of law and upholds human rights for all of the Afghan people - in particular the long neglected rights of women and children.

The Afghans are left with a regime which systematically destroys human rights

Those who committed the outrages in the US must be brought to justice, and then there must be justice for the people of Afghanistan.

Ten years ago the Soviet Union defeat in Afghanistan was a victory for freedom, and after the fighting ended the US contributed funds, training and arms to the Taleban regime believing that they would bring stability.

Little interest was shown in dealing with the wretched poverty of the Afghan people, or with a lethal cocktail of drugs, extremism and the millions of refugees. Now, we are left with a regime which does not only disrespect human rights, but actually systematically destroys human rights.

One in four of their babies die before their fifth birthday. 75% of the people are illiterate and life expectancy is just 44 years.


The people of Afghanistan need to be given some hope that a solution can be found which will restore security, and peace, to their country. Let us do what we are doing in the Balkans and build homes, schools and clinics for the Afghan people.

The Northern Alliance should not be - automatically - seen as central to a long term solution.

Afghanistan needs a government which earns broad-based support, and perhaps the Grand Assembly (Loya Jurga) could be an effective forum for beginning that process. Then - at last - the Afghan people could feel that they are in charge of their own future.

Global action which is designed to bring this about must now be put in place, and it is essential that the UN plays a central, and leading, role in the peace building process.

The US has unfortunately had a habit of walking away from the table

I very much hope that lessons about the critical importance of working together will be learnt, and remembered, particularly in the US - which has not in the past subscribed with any great enthusiasm to international agreements, or to an understanding that ours is an interconnected world.

On everything from landmines to children's rights, or from climate change to the International Criminal Court and the Convention on Biological Weapons, the US has unfortunately had a habit of walking away from the table.

The world's sole superpower must realise that its super power status carries super responsibilities.

Global governance

I also hope that there will be a better understanding of the fact that we can only achieve a safer world through international agreement, and by giving greater legitimacy to the institutions of global governance.

Our history in Europe clearly proves that we don't have a clean record of tolerance or generosity towards our fellow human beings.

Poverty breeds resentment, which provides desperate and fertile minds

But we now have a duty to assert that there are universal values to which we should all subscribe. The terrible events of 11 September make an understanding of this fact more urgent that ever.

Finally, if anything comes out of the horror of 11 September, and this mass murder, surely it will be that the wealthy of the world must, once and for all, understand a basic truth.

It is that if they do not systematically work to combat poverty, they will contribute to conditions which breed resentment, and provide desperate and fertile minds which can be captured by extremism.

Poverty can never excuse terrorism, but it can explain why human beings are recruited to terrorism.

This is one of a series of differing opinions on the War on Terror which we shall be publishing in the coming days. You can send your view about this or other articles by using the form below.

Your comments

Nice to read someone approach the subject of the US's conduct in the global community. Which has not, on numerous occasions, even though they have tried to impress on anyone who may listen, been solely the pursuit of democracy or freedom. By not conducting itself in the manner of a conscientious member of a community they have created fertile grounds for resentment.
Glen Rainsbury, UK

I take great issue with some of the comments made. It is much easier to sit and criticize Americans, than to suggest a substantial solution to the situation. Americans have been proactive in aiding the impoverished. In fact, one of the largest complaints about Americans is that they like to involve themselves in everybody's buisness. Of course we are flawed, as is every nation.
Maureen Salmon, USA and Ireland

We Americans are not a perfect people and don't claim to be. We believe in the right of the individual to achieve as much as he/she can so long as it doesn't injure others. The offense we have committed is to threaten the theocracies and petty tyrannies which govern most of the world. While most Americans don't believe it's right to interfere in the business of others, clearly, any society which provides aid and comfort to terrorists must be treated as what they are, our enemies.
Jim Silberman, US

The end of Bin Laden will not mark the end of this will only intensify the anti US feelings.
Shafi, Germany

It is easy to knock the US. It will never get everything right but bear in mind who is feeding the population of Afghanistan now? Who donates more money to poor states, who time and time again involves itself in conflicts that do not threaten its sphere of influence economic or political? We take the United States for granted and expect it to sort out the world's problems that are not the United States fault.
Ben Moores, UK

I applaud Glenys Kinnock's remarks regarding the US' super-responsibilities. America must learn from history that no empire lasts forever, whether it is a religion based, economically based or capitalist based empire.
Sandeep Sirah, Holland

The global impact of human rights, poverty and the environment is clear, but let's not be so quick to link our pet concerns to the current terrorist events. All of the hijackers and Osama Bin Laden are from middle class or better families, well educated and with the ability to travel the world and get good jobs and worship their god in their own way. There is no record of them working for the poor oppressed people of the world. The article rightly asserts issues the US must address better, but let's not imply a strong link to the current problem.
Carl Hess, USA

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