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Posted by andreas on September 16, 2001 at 14:04:36:

SEPTEMBER 14, 2001


By Tamim Ansary

You can't bomb us back into the Stone Age. We're already there.
But you can start a new world war, and that's exactly what Osama
bin Laden wants.

I've been hearing a lot of talk about "bombing Afghanistan back
to the Stone Age." Ronn Owens, on San Francisco's KGO Talk Radio,
conceded today that this would mean killing innocent people,
people who had nothing to do with this atrocity, but "we're
at war, we have to accept collateral damage. What else can
we do?"

Minutes later I heard some TV pundit discussing whether we "have
the belly to do what must be done."

And I thought about the issues being raised especially hard
because I am from Afghanistan, and even though I've lived in
the United States for 35 years I've never lost track of what's
going on there. So I want to tell anyone who will listen how
it all looks from where I'm standing.

I speak as one who hates the Taliban and Osama bin Laden.
There is no doubt in my mind that these people were responsible
for the atrocity in New York. I agree that something
must be done about those monsters.

But the Taliban and bin Laden are not Afghanistan. They're not
even the government of Afghanistan. The Taliban are a cult of
ignorant psychotics who took over Afghanistan in 1997. Bin Laden
is a political criminal with a plan. When you think Taliban,
think Nazis. When you think bin Laden, think Hitler. And when
you think "the people of Afghanistan" think "the Jews in the
concentration camps."

It's not only that the Afghan people had nothing to do
with this atrocity. They were the first victims of the
perpetrators. They would exult if someone would come in there,
take out the Taliban and clear out the rats' nest of
international thugs holed up in their country.

Some say, why don't the Afghans rise up and overthrow the
Taliban? The answer is, they're starved, exhausted, hurt,
incapacitated, suffering. A few years ago, the United Nations
estimated that there are 500,000 disabled orphans in
Afghanistan -- a country with no economy, no food. There are
millions of widows. And the Taliban has been burying these
widows alive in mass graves. The soil is littered with land
mines, the farms were all destroyed by the Soviets. These are
a few of the reasons why the Afghan people have not
overthrown the Taliban.

We come now to the question of bombing Afghanistan back to
the Stone Age. Trouble is, that's been done. The Soviets took
care of it already. Make the Afghans suffer? They're already
suffering. Level their houses? Done. Turn their schools into
piles of rubble? Done. Eradicate their hospitals? Done.
Destroy their infrastructure? Cut them off from medicine and
healthcare? Too late. Someone already did all that. New
bombs would only stir the rubble of earlier bombs.

Would they at least get the Taliban? Not likely. In today's
Afghanistan, only the Taliban eat, only they have the means
to move around. They'd slip away and hide.

Maybe the bombs would get some of those disabled orphans;
they don't move too fast, they don't even have wheelchairs.
But flying over Kabul and dropping bombs wouldn't really be
a strike against the criminals who did this horrific thing.
Actually it would only be making common cause with the Taliban
-- by raping once again the people they've been raping all
this time.

So what else is there? What can be done, then? Let me now speak
with true fear and trembling. The only way to get Bin Laden is
to go in there with ground troops. When people speak of "having
the belly to do what needs to be done" they're thinking in terms
of having the belly to kill as many as needed. Having the belly
to overcome any moral qualms about killing innocent people.

Let's pull our heads out of the sand. What's actually on the
table is Americans dying. And not just because some Americans
would die fighting their way through Afghanistan to Bin Laden's
hideout. It's much bigger than that, folks. Because to get
any troops to Afghanistan, we'd have to go through Pakistan.
Would they let us? Not likely.

The conquest of Pakistan would have to be first. Will other
Muslim nations just stand by? You see where I'm going. We're
flirting with a world war between Islam and the West.

And guess what: That's bin Laden's program. That's exactly what
he wants. That's why he did this. Read his speeches and statements.
It's all right there. He really believes Islam would beat the West.
It might seem ridiculous, but he figures if he can polarize the
world into Islam and the West, he's got a billion soldiers.

If the West wreaks a holocaust in those lands, that's a billion
people with nothing left to lose; that's even better from Bin
Laden's point of view.He's probably wrong -- in the end the West
would win, whatever that would mean -- but the war would last for
years and millions would die, not just theirs but ours.

Who has the belly for that? Bin Laden does. Anyone else?

About the writer:
Tamim Ansary is a writer in San Francisco, and the son
of a former Afghani politician.

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