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To Punish Innocent Afghans Would be Immoral
by Chris Buckley
Monday Sep 17th, 2001 2:32 PM
This, I think you must agree, is not a voice from a country of dedicated international terrorists or religious fanatics. But it is a voice from the real Afghanistan, unrecognisable from the demonised image we are being urged to accept.
To Punish Innocent Afghans Would be Immoral

September 14, 2001

Chris Buckley, Christian Aid Programme Officer for Afghanistan

I have just returned from Afghanistan, and cannot avoid a growing feeling of
dread at what may be about to befall the people I have left there. The
bellicose statements being issued by America and her allies about revenge
and retaliation for Tuesday\'s horrific terrorist attacks against New York
and Washington seem to be softening up western electorates for some kind of
massive military action against the Afghan people.

Because of these threats, aid organisations have been forced to pull out
their foreign workers - fearing both that they may be caught in the expected
raids, or that they would be attacked as westerners after the NATO bombers
have flown away. The effects of this withdrawal could be infinitely more
tragic and devastating than the worst that a wounded America may now throw
at this long, long-suffering country.

For, although it has gone largely unreported, Afghanistan is in the grip of
a three-year drought and on the verge of mass starvation. According to the
UN-run World Food Programme, by the end of the year 5.5 million people will
be entirely dependent on food aid to survive the winter - that\'s a quarter
of the Afghan population.

As Christian Aid\'s programme officer responsible for Afghanistan, I have
been helping supply food and seeds to communities in desperate need. In a
few weeks the winter snows will come, cutting off the hundreds of isolated
villages whose only links to the outside world are rutted dirt tracks.
Without seeds they will be unable to replant for next year. Without food aid
now, thousands could be dead before the spring.

Already fears on the ground about this pending catastrophe are filtering
through. Only yesterday (Thurs) I received this message from one of the local
organisations funded by Christian Aid.

\'What will happen to the people if aid agencies remain reluctant to resume
full operations? The consequences are quite clear that people who are
already suffering would be the victims. And if any military action is taken,
Afghan staff and civilians will be in real danger.

\'Terrorism is the worst thing and it shows how blind these people are as
human beings. But if the leaders do not have patience and tolerance they can
only do further damage.\'

This, I think you must agree, is not a voice from a country of dedicated
international terrorists or religious fanatics. But it is a voice from the
real Afghanistan, unrecognisable from the demonised image we are being urged
to accept.

The real Afghanistan is one where 85 per cent of the population are
subsistence farmers. Most Afghans don\'t have newspapers, television sets or
radios. They will not have heard of the World Trade Centre or the Pentagon,
and most will have no idea that a group of zealots has attacked these icons
of western civilisation. There isn\'t even a postal service.

Now, in these isolated villages, families are down to their last few weeks
of food and already men women and children in the bulging refugee camps are
dying of cholera and malnutrition. I have spoken to orphans with swollen
bellies. I have spoken to men who have no money to hire trucks to escape the
drought and make it to the camps. I have spoken to families who say they
will wait in their villages for death.

And that was before the aid agencies were forced to withdraw. Afghans are
not willing victims - they are hardy peoples, as any Soviet general will
testify. For the past three years they have been doing all they can to
survive - sharing food, borrowing money to buy food, crossing the borders
with Pakistan and Iran to find illegal, badly-paid work. Many used to work
on the opium farms as casual labourers.

But all these sources of income have dried up. Pakistan and Iran are
throwing thousands of Afghans out each month, the Taliban have banned opium
production and there is no food or credit to be had after three years of

And as I write this, our worst fears have just been realised. I have just
received the following message from a friend who works for another of our
partner organisations in western Afghanistan. He writes: \'I hope you are
fine. We have spoken to the World Food Programme in Herat, and asked them to
release food so we can distribute it to our beneficiaries who are in severe
need. But WFP has stopped their activities right now. Could you please see
if it is possible to get the release from WFP?\'

That is a real cry for help. Other friends there have stressed the need for
the world to adopt a comprehensive approach to the terrorist threat -
addressing the underlying causes of this terrifying phenomenon rather than
just seeking to extract revenge.

Let me be clear. The murder of thousands of innocent Americans has shocked
and appalled us all. But any military action which disrupts the flow of aid
to millions of equally innocent Afghans would be equally immoral.

Christian Aid urges everyone involved to show civilised restraint in
responding to an act of barbarism. Thousands of innocent people have died in
the United States. We must now make sure that even more innocent lives are
not lost.
by Matt Brown
Tuesday Sep 18th, 2001 6:38 PM
I thought this was an excellent article.

I do think President Bush has done well so far in that he has shown restraint.

I think we should take what ever decisive actions are necessary to end the terrorist threat.

It's clear that leveling all of Afghanistan would only increase world suffering, and not achieve any useful objective. I hope our political leaders are aware of that, and act accordingly.

This isn't about blood lust, but doing the right thing. The right thing is to take decisive actions to end terrorism, whatever those action might be.
by Marian
Friday Sep 21st, 2001 8:36 AM
I feel a horrid suspicion: the real brains of this are in the CIA, may be not all the agency, but they have the means, they have millions of dollars to motivate.
So, what is going to happens is the most awful crimes of the next century. I listen to that: is GOING TO happen.
The talibans are only saying: we want proves. Why are you preparing to war but not investigating?
I will say you: the US goverment don't want to punish a crime, it don't even want to prevent another attack.
It only want to risen the military budget, totally control oil suppliers, and gave total freedom to CIA to torture and kill dangerous dissent all over the world.
by MAZ
(MAZIBEAR [at] YAHOO.CO.IN) Tuesday Sep 25th, 2001 6:45 AM
I Agree with the article. It is very easy for the people of western nations to quickly assert certain views based on what they see or hear via the media. All Afghans are not terrorists as many ignorant people that i have encountered assume. When I tell them that I am Afghan, they sigh & say, oh but you're still Maz to us. Afghanistan is once again being used as the most convenient scapegoat, for all.
My people have suffered over so many years. I left Afghanistan at the age of 5, when the Russians first began to invade, yet I still have memories of tanks & rifles and the taste of fear in the air. The situation has become worse since the Taliban have taken rule.
However, their shelter to Bin Ladin, ill practice of islam & tribal laws does not in any way justify another assault on Afghanistan. Bin Laden is one man, who for all we know has nothing to do with the atrocities committed in the US. President Bush should be ashamed deep down for all the lives that he has taken, and got away with, and all the lives that he is about to take.
What makes him any better that the terrorists. Is he not going to terrorise Afghanistan for the sole purpose of getting at one man? Is he not going to be the cause of helpless, innocent lives being taken. For what?
I hope President Bush sleeps these nights, for he has no idea what he is about to cause. If he so much as touches the innocent civilians of Afghanistan, he will have hell to pay to my people.

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