The Alan Sondheim Mail Archive

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Sun, 28 Oct 2001 13:39:47 -0500
From: Tom Ritchford <>
Subject: [extreme] Why America must stop the war now, By Arundhati Roy

[disclaimer:  this is not intended as a political list;  most of this list
 is silly art stuff;  and while I have strong political interests, I have
 no political affiliations.

 However, this next article is strong.  I find it hard to refute any
 of it.  So I sent it to the list.

 Please accept my apologies in advance if you feel this is off-topic;
 I promise I shall do this rarely... /t]

From: Yvonne Liu <>
Mailing-List: list; contact
Subject: [infornography] Why America must stop the war now, By Arundhati Roy

   Forwarded information

Why America must stop the war now. By Arundhati Roy
 Arundhati Roy
 Tuesday October 23, 2001
 The Guardian

As darkness deepened over Afghanistan on Sunday October 7 2001, the US
government, backed by the International Coalition Against Terror (the
new, amenable surrogate for the United Nations), launched air strikes
against Afghanistan. TV channels lingered on computer-animated images of
cruise missiles, stealth bombers, tomahawks, "bunker-busting" missiles
and Mark 82 high drag bombs. All over the world, little boys watched
goggle-eyed and stopped clamouring for new video games.

The UN, reduced now to an ineffective acronym, wasn't even asked to
mandate the air strikes. (As Madeleine Albright once said, "We will
behave multilaterally when we can, and unilaterally when we must.") The
"evidence" against the terrorists was shared amongst friends in the

After conferring, they announced that it didn't matter whether or not
the "evidence" would stand up in a court of law. Thus, in an instant,
were centuries of jurisprudence carelessly trashed.

Nothing can excuse or justify an act of terrorism, whether it is
committed by religious fundamentalists, private militia, people's
resistance movements - or whether it's dressed up as a war of
retribution by a recognised government. The bombing of Afghanistan is
not revenge for New York and Washington. It is yet another act of terror
against the people of the world.

Each innocent person that is killed must be added to, not set off
against, the grisly toll of civilians who died in New York and

People rarely win wars, governments rarely lose them. People get killed.

Governments moult and regroup, hydra-headed. They use flags first to
shrink-wrap people's minds and smother thought, and then as ceremonial
shrouds to bury their willing dead. On both sides, in Afghanistan as
well as America, civilians are now hostage to the actions of their own

Unknowingly, ordinary people in both countries share a common bond -
they have to live with the phenomenon of blind, unpredictable terror.
Each batch of bombs that is dropped on Afghanistan is matched by a
corresponding escalation of mass hysteria in America about anthrax, more
hijackings and other terrorist acts.

There is no easy way out of the spiralling morass of terror and
brutality that confronts the world today. It is time now for the human
race to hold still, to delve into its wells of collective wisdom, both
ancient and modern. What happened on September 11 changed the world

Freedom, progress, wealth, technology, war - these words have taken on
new meaning.

Governments have to acknowledge this transformation, and approach their
new tasks with a modicum of honesty and humility. Unfortunately, up to
now, there has been no sign of any introspection from the leaders of the
International Coalition. Or the Taliban.

When he announced the air strikes, President George Bush said: "We're a
peaceful nation." America's favourite ambassador, Tony Blair, (who also
holds the portfolio of prime minister of the UK), echoed him: "We're a
peaceful people."

So now we know. Pigs are horses. Girls are boys. War is peace.

Speaking at the FBI headquarters a few days later, President Bush said:
"This is our calling. This is the calling of the United States of
America. The most free nation in the world. A nation built on
fundamental values that reject hate, reject violence, rejects murderers
and rejects evil. We will not tire."

Here is a list of the countries that America has been at war with - and
bombed - since the second world war: China (1945-46, 1950-53), Korea
(1950-53), Guatemala (1954, 1967-69), Indonesia (1958), Cuba (1959-60),
the Belgian Congo (1964), Peru (1965), Laos (1964-73), Vietnam
(1961-73), Cambodia (1969-70), Grenada (1983), Libya (1986), El Salvador
(1980s), Nicaragua (1980s), Panama (1989), Iraq (1991-99), Bosnia
(1995), Sudan (1998), Yugoslavia (1999). And now Afghanistan.

Certainly it does not tire - this, the most free nation in the world.

What freedoms does it uphold? Within its borders, the freedoms of
speech, religion, thought; of artistic expression, food habits, sexual
preferences (well, to some extent) and many other exemplary, wonderful

Outside its borders, the freedom to dominate, humiliate and subjugate -
usually in the service of America's real religion, the "free market". So
when the US government christens a war "Operation Infinite Justice", or
"Operation Enduring Freedom", we in the third world feel more than a
tremor of fear.

Because we know that Infinite Justice for some means Infinite Injustice
for others. And Enduring Freedom for some means Enduring Subjugation for

The International Coalition Against Terror is a largely cabal of the
richest countries in the world. Between them, they manufacture and sell
almost all of the world's weapons, they possess the largest stockpile of
weapons of mass destruction - chemical, biological and nuclear. They
have fought the most wars, account for most of the genocide, subjection,
ethnic cleansing and human rights violations in modern history, and have
sponsored, armed and financed untold numbers of dictators and despots.
Between them, they have worshipped, almost deified, the cult of violence
and war. For all its appalling sins, the Taliban just isn't in the same

The Taliban was compounded in the crumbling crucible of rubble, heroin
and landmines in the backwash of the cold war. Its oldest leaders are in
their early 40s. Many of them are disfigured and handicapped, missing an
eye, an arm or a leg. They grew up in a society scarred and devastated
by war.

Between the Soviet Union and America, over 20 years, about $45bn (�30bn)
worth of arms and ammunition was poured into Afghanistan. The latest
weaponry was the only shard of modernity to intrude upon a thoroughly
medieval society.

Young boys - many of them orphans - who grew up in those times, had guns
for toys, never knew the security and comfort of family life, never
experienced the company of women. Now, as adults and rulers, the Taliban
beat, stone, rape and brutalise women, they don't seem to know what else
to do with them.

Years of war has stripped them of gentleness, inured them to kindness
and human compassion. Now they've turned their monstrosity on their own

They dance to the percussive rhythms of bombs raining down around them.

With all due respect to President Bush, the people of the world do not
have to choose between the Taliban and the US government. All the beauty
of human civilisation - our art, our music, our literature - lies beyond
these two fundamentalist, ideological poles. There is as little chance
that the people of the world can all become middle-class consumers as
there is that they will all embrace any one particular religion. The
issue is not about good v evil or Islam v Christianity as much as it is
about space. About how to accommodate diversity, how to contain the
impulse towards hegemony - every kind of hegemony, economic, military,
linguistic, religious and cultural.

Any ecologist will tell you how dangerous and fragile a monoculture is.
A hegemonic world is like having a government without a healthy
opposition. It becomes a kind of dictatorship. It's like putting a
plastic bag over the world, and preventing it from breathing.
Eventually, it will be torn open.

One and a half million Afghan people lost their lives in the 20 years of
conflict that preceded this new war. Afghanistan was reduced to rubble,
and now, the rubble is being pounded into finer dust. By the second day
of the air strikes, US pilots were returning to their bases without
dropping their assigned payload of bombs. As one pilot put it,
Afghanistan is "not a target-rich environment". At a press briefing at
the Pentagon, Donald Rumsfeld, the US defence secretary, was asked if
America had run out of targets.

"First we're going to re-hit targets," he said, "and second, we're not
running out of targets, Afghanistan is ..." This was greeted with gales
of laughter in the briefing room.

By the third day of the strikes, the US defence department boasted that
it had "achieved air supremacy over Afghanistan" (Did they mean that
they had destroyed both, or maybe all 16, of Afghanistan's planes?)

On the ground in Afghanistan, the Northern Alliance - the Taliban's old
enemy, and therefore the international coalition's newest friend - is
making headway in its push to capture Kabul. (For the archives, let it
be said that the Northern Alliance's track record is not very different
from the Taliban's. But for now, because it's inconvenient, that little
detail is being glossed over.) The visible, moderate, "acceptable"
leader of the alliance, Ahmed Shah Masud, was killed in a suicide-bomb
attack early in September.
The rest of the Northern Alliance is a brittle confederation of brutal
warlords, ex-communists and unbending clerics. It is a disparate group
divided along ethnic lines, some of whom have tasted power in
Afghanistan in the past.

Until the US air strikes, the Northern Alliance controlled about 5% of
the geographical area of Afghanistan. Now, with the coalition's help and
"air cover", it is poised to topple the Taliban. Meanwhile, Taliban
soldiers, sensing imminent defeat, have begun to defect to the alliance.
So the fighting forces are busy switching sides and changing uniforms.
But in an enterprise as cynical as this one, it seems to matter hardly
at all.

Love is hate, north is south, peace is war.

Among the global powers, there is talk of "putting in a representative
government". Or, on the other hand, of "restoring" the kingdom to
Afghanistan's 89-year old former king Zahir Shah, who has lived in exile
in Rome since 1973. That's the way the game goes - support Saddam
Hussein, then "take him out"; finance the mojahedin, then bomb them to
smithereens; put in Zahir Shah and see if he's going to be a good boy.
(Is it possible to "put in" a representative government? Can you place
an order for democracy - with extra cheese and jalapeno peppers?)

Reports have begun to trickle in about civilian casualties, about cities
emptying out as Afghan civilians flock to the borders which have been
closed. Main arterial roads have been blown up or sealed off. Those who
have experience of working in Afghanistan say that by early November,
food convoys will not be able to reach the millions of Afghans (7.5m,
according to the UN) who run the very real risk of starving to death
during the course of this winter. They say that in the days that are
left before winter sets in, there can either be a war, or an attempt to
reach food to the hungry. Not both.

As a gesture of humanitarian support, the US government air-dropped
37,000 packets of emergency rations into Afghanistan. It says it plans
to drop a total of 500,000 packets. That will still only add up to a
single meal for half a million people out of the several million in dire
need of food.

Aid workers have condemned it as a cynical, dangerous, public-relations
exercise. They say that air-dropping food packets is worse than futile.

First, because the food will never get to those who really need it. More
dangerously, those who run out to retrieve the packets risk being blown
up by landmines. A tragic alms race.

Nevertheless, the food packets had a photo-op all to themselves. Their
contents were listed in major newspapers. They were vegetarian, we're
told, as per Muslim dietary law (!) Each yellow packet, decorated with
the American flag, contained: rice, peanut butter, bean salad,
strawberry jam, crackers, raisins, flat bread, an apple fruit bar,
seasoning, matches, a set of plastic cutlery, a serviette and
illustrated user instructions.

After three years of unremitting drought, an air-dropped airline meal in
Jalalabad! The level of cultural ineptitude, the failure to understand
what months of relentless hunger and grinding poverty really mean, the
US government's attempt to use even this abject misery to boost its
self-image, beggars description.

Reverse the scenario for a moment. Imagine if the Taliban government was
to bomb New York City, saying all the while that its real target was the
US government and its policies. And suppose, during breaks between the
bombing, the Taliban dropped a few thousand packets containing nan and
kebabs impaled on an Afghan flag. Would the good people of New York ever
find it in themselves to forgive the Afghan government? Even if they
were hungry, even if they needed the food, even if they ate it, how
they ever forget the insult, the condescension? Rudi Guiliani, Mayor of
New York City, returned a gift of $10m from a Saudi prince because it
came with a few words of friendly advice about American policy in the
Middle East. Is pride a luxury that only the rich are entitled to?

Far from stamping it out, igniting this kind of rage is what creates
terrorism. Hate and retribution don't go back into the box once you've
let them out. For every "terrorist" or his "supporter" that is killed,
hundreds of innocent people are being killed too. And for every hundred
innocent people killed, there is a good chance that several future
terrorists will be created.

Where will it all lead?

Setting aside the rhetoric for a moment, consider the fact that the
world has not yet found an acceptable definition of what "terrorism" is.
One country's terrorist is too often another's freedom fighter. At the
heart of the matter lies the world's deep-seated ambivalence towards

Once violence is accepted as a legitimate political instrument, then the
morality and political acceptability of terrorists (insurgents or
freedom fighters) becomes contentious, bumpy terrain. The US government
itself has funded, armed and sheltered plenty of rebels and insurgents
around the world.

The CIA and Pakistan's ISI trained and armed the mojahedin who, in the
80s, were seen as terrorists by the government in Soviet-occupied
Afghanistan. Today, Pakistan - America's ally in this new war - sponsors
insurgents who cross the border into Kashmir in India. Pakistan lauds
them as "freedom-fighters", India calls them "terrorists". India, for
its part, denounces countries who sponsor and abet terrorism, but the Indian
army has, in the past, trained separatist Tamil rebels asking for
a homeland in Sri Lanka - the LTTE, responsible for countless acts of
bloody terrorism.

(Just as the CIA abandoned the mujahideen after they had served its
purpose, India abruptly turned its back on the LTTE for a host of
political reasons. It was an enraged LTTE suicide bomber who
assassinated former Indian prime minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1989.)

It is important for governments and politicians to understand that
manipulating these huge, raging human feelings for their own narrow
purposes may yield instant results, but eventually and inexorably, they
have disastrous consequences. Igniting and exploiting religious
sentiments for reasons of political expediency is the most dangerous
legacy that governments or politicians can bequeath to any people -
including their own.

People who live in societies ravaged by religious or communal bigotry
know that every religious text - from the Bible to the Bhagwad Gita -
can be mined and misinterpreted to justify anything, from nuclear war to
genocide to corporate globalisation.

This is not to suggest that the terrorists who perpetrated the outrage
on September 11 should not be hunted down and brought to book. They must

But is war the best way to track them down? Will burning the haystack
find you the needle? Or will it escalate the anger and make the world a
living hell for all of us?

At the end of the day, how many people can you spy on, how many bank
accounts can you freeze, how many conversations can you eavesdrop on,
how many emails can you intercept, how many letters can you open, how
many phones can you tap? Even before September 11, the CIA had
accumulated more information than is humanly possible to process.
(Sometimes, too much data can actually hinder intelligence - small
wonder the US spy satellites completely missed the preparation that
Preceded India's nuclear tests in 1998.)

The sheer scale of the surveillance will become a logistical, ethical
and civil rights nightmare. It will drive everybody clean crazy. And
freedom - that precious, precious thing - will be the first casualty.
It's already hurt and haemorrhaging dangerously.

Governments across the world are cynically using the prevailing paranoia
to promote their own interests. All kinds of unpredictable political
forces are being unleashed. In India, for instance, members of the All
India People's Resistance Forum, who were distributing anti-war and
anti-US pamphlets in Delhi, have been jailed. Even the printer of the
leaflets was arrested.

The rightwing government (while it shelters Hindu extremists groups such
as the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the Bajrang Dal) has banned the Islamic
Students Movement of India and is trying to revive an anti- terrorist
Act which had been withdrawn after the Human Rights Commission reported
that it had been more abused than used. Millions of Indian citizens are
Muslim. Can anything be gained by alienating them?

Every day that the war goes on, raging emotions are being let loose into
the world. The international press has little or no independent access
to the war zone. In any case, mainstream media, particularly in the US,
have more or less rolled over, allowing themselves to be tickled on the
stomach with press handouts from military men and government officials.
Afghan radio stations have been destroyed by the bombing. The Taliban
has always been deeply suspicious of the press. In the propaganda war,
there is no accurate estimate of how many people have been killed, or
how much destruction has taken place. In the absence of reliable
information, wild rumours spread.

Put your ear to the ground in this part of the world, and you can hear
the thrumming, the deadly drumbeat of burgeoning anger. Please. Please,
stop the war now. Enough people have died. The smart missiles are just
not smart enough. They're blowing up whole warehouses of suppressed

President George Bush recently boasted, "When I take action, I'm not
going to fire a $2m missile at a $10 empty tent and hit a camel in the
butt. It's going to be decisive." President Bush should know that there
are no targets in Afghanistan that will give his missiles their money's

Perhaps, if only to balance his books, he should develop some cheaper
missiles to use on cheaper targets and cheaper lives in the poor
countries of the world. But then, that may not make good business sense
to the coalition's weapons manufacturers. It wouldn't make any sense at
all, for example, to the Carlyle Group - described by the Industry
Standard as "the world's largest private equity firm", with $13bn under

Carlyle invests in the defence sector and makes its money from military
conflicts and weapons spending.

Carlyle is run by men with impeccable credentials. Former US defence
secretary Frank Carlucci is Carlyle's chairman and managing director (he
was a college roommate of Donald Rumsfeld's). Carlyle's other partners
include former US secretary of state James A Baker III, George Soros and
Fred Malek (George Bush Sr's campaign manager). An American paper - the
Baltimore Chronicle and Sentinel - says that former president George
Bush Sr is reported to be seeking investments for the Carlyle Group from
Asian markets.

He is reportedly paid not inconsiderable sums of money to make
"presentations" to potential government-clients.

Ho hum. As the tired saying goes, it's all in the family.

Then there's that other branch of traditional family business - oil.
Remember, President George Bush (Jr) and Vice-President Dick Cheney both
made their fortunes working in the US oil industry.

Turkmenistan, which borders the north-west of Afghanistan, holds the
world's third largest gas reserves and an estimated six billion barrels
of oil reserves. Enough, experts say, to meet American energy needs for
the next 30 years (or a developing country's energy requirements for a
couple of centuries.) America has always viewed oil as a security
consideration, and protected it by any means it deems necessary. Few of
us doubt that its military presence in the Gulf has little to do with
its concern for human rights and almost entirely to do with its
strategic interest in oil.

Oil and gas from the Caspian region currently moves northward to
European markets. Geographically and politically, Iran and Russia are
major impediments to American interests. In 1998, Dick Cheney - then CEO
of Halliburton, a major player in the oil industry - said, "I can't
think of a time when we've had a region emerge as suddenly to become as
strategically significant as the Caspian. It's almost as if the
opportunities have arisen overnight." True enough.

For some years now, an American oil giant called Unocal has been
negotiating with the Taliban for permission to construct an oil pipeline
through Afghanistan to Pakistan and out to the Arabian sea. From here,
Unocal hopes to access the lucrative "emerging markets" in south and
south-east Asia. In December 1997, a delegation of Taliban mullahs
travelled to America and even met US state department officials and
Unocal executives in Houston. At that time the Taliban's taste for
public executions and its treatment of Afghan women were not made out to
be the crimes against humanity that they are now.

Over the next six months, pressure from hundreds of outraged American
feminist groups was brought to bear on the Clinton administration.

Fortunately, they managed to scuttle the deal. And now comes the US oil
industry's big chance.

In America, the arms industry, the oil industry, the major media
networks, and, indeed, US foreign policy, are all controlled by the same
business combines. Therefore, it would be foolish to expect this talk of
guns and oil and defence deals to get any real play in the media. In any
case, to a distraught, confused people whose pride has just been
wounded, whose loved ones have been tragically killed, whose anger is
fresh and sharp, the inanities about the "clash of civilisations" and
the "good v evil" discourse home in unerringly. They are cynically doled
out by government spokesmen like a daily dose of vitamins or
anti-depressants. Regular medication ensures that mainland America
continues to remain the enigma it has always been - a curiously insular
people, administered by a pathologically meddlesome, promiscuous

And what of the rest of us, the numb recipients of this onslaught of
what we know to be preposterous propaganda? The daily consumers of the
lies and brutality smeared in peanut butter and strawberry jam being
air-dropped into our minds just like those yellow food packets. Shall we
look away and eat because we're hungry, or shall we stare unblinking at
the grim theatre unfolding in Afghanistan until we retch collectively
and say, in one voice, that we have had enough?

As the first year of the new millennium rushes to a close, one wonders -
have we forfeited our right to dream? Will we ever be able to re-imagine

Will it be possible ever again to watch the slow, amazed blink of a
newborn gecko in the sun, or whisper back to the marmot who has just
whispered in your ear - without thinking of the World Trade Centre and

� Arundhati Roy

NOTE ON FORWARDED INFO -- This listserv has been established to
facilitate communication of upcoming events responding to the events
of 9/11.  Unless indicated as a TWW PAC action, information listed
does not necessarily represent or reflect the official position of

Third World Within - Peace Action Coalition (TWW-PAC) was initiated by the
NYC Coalition Against Police Brutality (CAPB), in the aftermath of September
11th.  TWW-PAC consists of over 20 NYC-based organizations run by & for
People of Color -- many that have worked together against police violence,
the prison industrial complex, racism, xenophobia, homophobia/transphobia,
sexism and other issues.  In mourning the lives lost on September 11th, we
have come together at this time to help build a movement to mourn and honor
lives lost; resist racist/xenophobic backlash; oppose war and US-sponsored
retaliation; and demand social and economic justice for Third World and
Indigenous peoples within and outside the US.

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