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Thursday, 22 November, 2001, 11:45 GMT
War View: This is no time for eating words
Ghada Karmi, an academic and leader of the UK's Palestinian Community Association, says she was right to criticise the bombing of Afghanistan.

Last week the supporters of the "war against terrorism" were celebrating the rapid fall of the Taleban and jeering at those who had doubted the wisdom of the Afghan bombing campaign.

Those who had opposed the war were told that they should now eat their own words.

The show is far from over

US bombing, the argument ran, had removed the Taleban government that supported Osama Bin Laden and his terrorist network. Finding and killing him along with his lieutenants was now just a matter of time. That would eradicate the terrorist threat.

Show not over

At the same time, and in order to deflect criticism from the American action, a rehabilitation package for Afghanistan is being drawn up.

But, as at the beginning of the attack on Afghanistan, there are more questions than answers.

The show is far from over.

There are no guarantees of good behaviour from the Northern Alliance

The war was supposedly against terrorism. Yet, these are so far its major gains: the removal of an evil Afghan regime and what looks like its replacement with another.

The Northern Alliance, which only massive American bombing enabled to defeat the Taleban, has a reputation for human rights abuses as unsavoury if not worse than that of its predecessor.


Despite the Alliance's willingness to accept a broad-based government at the moment, there are no guarantees of its cohesion and continued good behaviour.

If the US abandons the Afghans to their fate... the impetus towards more anti-US terrorism will be irresistible
Already snippets of information have penetrated the information fog that surrounds this war to show that massacres and abuses have already occurred - in Mazar-e-Sharif and Kunduz, for example - under Alliance command.

Osama Bin Laden and his men, the arrest or killing of whom was supposed to be the objective of the whole enterprise, remain at large. Despite reports that the net is closing in, there are no reliable indications as to exactly where he is.


And even if he were caught and eliminated, would that disable his entire network and mean the end of anti-US terrorism? If Bin Laden's al-Qaeda organisation were demolished, would that prevent the re-emergence of new groups with similar aims in other places?

If the American attack on Afghanistan is indeed a war on terrorism, and is not related (as some suspect) to the longstanding US aim of building a pipeline to carry oil and natural gas from the central Asia through Afghanistan, then its outcome is likely to be the opposite.

This war has not yet addressed the root causes of anti-American feeling

If the military action is widely seen, and not just in the Islamic world, as having disproportionately punished ordinary Afghans, destroyed their county further and created millions of refugees, it can only have engendered bitterness and resentment.

If the US abandons the Afghans to their fate, moves on to other countries "harbouring terrorism" (such as Somalia, Yemen and Iraq) and dishes out similar punishment, the impetus towards more anti-US terrorism will be irresistible.

Root causes

This war has not yet addressed the root causes of anti-American feeling so violent that it drove some men to commit the horrific acts of 11 September.

To understand, Americans will need to examine their foreign policy which, according to the writer Madeleine Bunting is driven by a lethal mixture of righteous anger, superior military/economic power and ignorance of the rest of the world.

Unless these attitudes change, the war of anti-US terrorism will not have ended with Afghanistan but only just begun.

You can add your comments to this or other personal opinions we are publishing during the current situation. Add them using the form below.

Your comments:

I don't agree with you, but defend your right to disagree. Would the Taleban encourage that, especially as a woman?
Steve, UK

Amen to Ghada Karmi. I agree fully with her point of view. What America is doing in Afghanistan, and Sharon is doing in Palestine will ignite further terror.
Muhannad al Nabulsi, Jordan

The removal of the Taleban is a welcome change for many Afghans, both at home and abroad, but as Ghada Kharmi has said, there is much doubt about what will happen in the void that now exists. Only 10 years ago we witnessed the massacre of many thousands of Kurds and Shia Muslims in Iraq, who were encouraged to rise up against Saddam Hussein, but were abandoned by Bush senior. Unless the US and allies (ideally Muslim nations such as Indonesia) take positive action soon, there will be a return to the shocking anarchy that allowed the Taleban to prosper.
Steve W, UK

Does Ghada Karmi recall the dark depths of the Cold War, the Cuban missile crisis, the Hungarian uprising? American "foreign policy" protected Europe against Soviet expansionism. How quickly people forget about the possible nuclear war that could have taken place if it were not for US "foreign policy". I think this foreign policy has been successful and people who criticise it only think of their own short-sighted, selfish, minority interests.
Robert Edwards, UK

Yes indeed. America does indeed need to examine its foreign policy but does that also mean they have to sit on their hands when attacked. And it is amazing that if the US kills some innocent people they are reviled but those same people were being killed far more ruthlessly by their own so called government. Grow up Ms Karmi. Yours is not the only path to righteousness.
Tom, New Zealand

The diplomatic alternative was offered to the Taleban by their only friend in the region, Pakistan. The Taleban rejected it.
Lin Hai Sheng, Singapore

Courageous and starkly honest article. The warmonger types will obviously react with hostility, but that is their nature. By its predictably violent, lethal and disproportionate reaction to the crimes of 11 September, the US has simply proved the point that the terrorists may have been trying to make.
S Degu, US

If Indian terrorists flew a plane into a mosque in Islamabad and killed thousands would Ghada Kharmi suggest that Pakistan "examined its foreign policy"?
Neil Macaskill, England

Oh ye of little faith! After 10 weeks, I am still waiting to hear of any viable alternatives to the action. Does Ghada Karmi really believe that if the US withdrew support for Israel (which would then lead to Israel's total destruction) the West would no longer be under threat? Remember Bin Laden started his war on the US because American soldiers - including "dreaded" women - are soiling the holy places in Saudi Arabia.
Paul, UK

Let us all hope that this time the big powers get Afghanistan on the right track but whether or not they succeed is hardly an argument for letting Bin Laden continue to operate there.
Robert Blood, UK

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