LETTER:War on terrorism everybody’s war

Gary Michael Tartakov

Last week I saw a tiny, three-sentence newspaper article quoting Kofi Annan, Secretary-General of the United Nations. “What I am saying is that we would want to see this whole military operation ended as soon as possible, particularly the air action, so that we can begin to move in our supplies,” he said.

Kofi Annan and the U.N. have just been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, not because they are saints or above reproach or question. It was because of the conventional wisdom of the world’s great powers that the way to handle international justice is through collective action and careful preservation of life, not careless infliction of international revenge. Their peace prize was awarded for the humanitarian protection the U.N. has been offering in places like Macedonia, Bosnia, Serbia and Kosovo, where the U.S. contribution was to stop the wanton killing by high-level bombing that insured no American casualties at the price of great collateral carnage.

Are the Taliban people guilty of defending Osama bin Laden and holding the people of Afghanistan hostage? Certainly. Shouldn’t we seek them out, to protect ourselves from further devastation, and bring them to justice? Of course. Is it then acceptable to shoot the rape victims in order to get at the rapist? No. Not if we have any pretensions to being civilized.

Is Osama bin Laden a horrifying monster, endangering the lives of thousands of Americans and other innocent people throughout the world? Most certainly. Shouldn’t we put a stop to his marauding before he kills more? Unquestionably. But is it moral or even useful to punish him in a manner that kills more innocent people than he can, by exponential numbers?

In an attempt to please our voters quickly and to appeal to the basest sentiments of revenge and the need for a fast end to American fears of terrorism, the government of the United States, who hit Pakistan the last time they aimed missiles at Afghanistan, is playing loosely with the lives of millions of war-ravaged refugees. The potential for starvation is real. Let’s not kid ourselves about accidents. When starvation is imminent, vast amounts of disease and infant mortality are guaranteed.

We are killing Afghans to save Americans at this moment. That is unavoidable and unarguable. If the Red Cross victims in the big cities are reported, we must recognize that larger numbers in the countryside are unreported. The only question is how many collateral deaths we are willing to accept for our peace of mind.

This is our government, operating in our name. It has run like an enraged and drunken elephant over large numbers in the past, and it is our shame if it does this again. We are talking about millions of lives.

If bin Laden and the Taliban are our enemy, we should send in soldiers to take them, not gamble with famine and disease for the millions of innocent people they use a shields.

As educated adults we can not allow our government to operate without scrutiny or without realizing that we are responsible for their actions.

We must demand accountability.

We must demand that care for human life be made the first rule of action. Every Afghan is as valuable as any American.

This is not just a war against terrorism. It is a war on the soil of Afghanistan, where 26 million Afghans are being held hostage, pillaged and terrorized at this very moment. It is their lives that should be our first concern now.

This is not just the Taliban’s war or al-Qaida’s war, or the U.S. armed forces’ war against the Taliban and al-Qaida. This is my war and this is your war.

Gary Michael Tartakov


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