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Friday, 19 October, 2001, 11:21 GMT 12:21 UK
'Suspend the bombing'
By Alan Simpson MP

The case against bombing Afghanistan is a simple one.

Bombing unplugs the brain. All the years of experience, thought and effort, built up in counter-terrorist strategies in our own country, have been lost within the devastation of the World Trade Center.


I want to see Bin Laden tried as a criminal rather than bombed as a martyr

The US government mistakenly redefined an act of terrorism as an act of war, and has ended up bombing a country rather than pursuing a criminal.

The international coalition, so brilliantly brought together to combat terrorism, will not survive a war any better than Afghanistan will.

Arab and Muslim countries in particular face seismic reactions from their own people to the daily television coverage of uninterrupted bombing raids. And these upheavals are all coming from the fundamentalist right rather than the secular left.

Far away in his mountain retreat Osama Bin Laden exploits this to the full, his home videos using the bombing as a clarion call to the faithful and the dispossessed.

Robo-mullah

Bin Laden presents himself almost in Hollywood anti-hero terms - a defiant Robo-mullah taking on the undisputed military power of the west.


Inside Afghanistan, the bombing is likely to recruit more terrorists than it kills

I want to see Bin Laden tried as a criminal rather than bombed as a martyr. If he is to be caught it will be in the mountains, not in the cities.

It will be on the basis of space technology tracking and special forces pursuit, both of which would secure a legal mandate from the United Nations and a political one from the international coalition.

And Afghanistan would not have to be bombed to deliver this.

At present, the international aid agencies tell us that 400,000 people are surviving on a diet of grass and natural vegetation. A further two million do not have enough food to survive the winter.

International leaders put it all down to the Taleban but aid agencies tell it differently.

Suspend the bombing

Both the Taleban and the Northern Alliance "tax" food convoys and frustrate their movements, but the overriding problem now is the unwillingness of drivers to risk being bombed.

That is why we are being asked to suspend the bombing, and why we should do so.

Inside Afghanistan, the bombing is likely to recruit more terrorists than it kills.

Beyond its borders, bombing could destabilise the region for decades to come, leaving the west with fewer friends and many more enemies, more likely to resemble the Taleban than to reject their fundamental tyrannies.

It would be a wretched memorial to the innocent lives destroyed in the 11 September terrorist attacks if the best we could offer is that millions of equally innocent Afghans will follow suit in the miserable weeks and winter ahead.

Alan Simpson is the Labour MP for Nottingham South


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