What has 'Victory' Achieved?
by Harry Browne
January 11, 2002

On September 11, foreign terrorists killed several thousand people by destroying the World Trade Center and damaging the Pentagon.

Some people considered this a criminal act – not an act of war by a foreign nation. They said the U.S. government should concentrate on finding, capturing, and bringing to trial anyone connected with the attacks.

The people who wanted war said this approach was laughable. They demanded that the doves lay out a fool-proof plan that would guarantee the capture of Osama bin Laden and anyone else involved in the attacks.

Of course, no one could do that. And so the warmongers carried the day – and the U.S. went to war against Afghanistan.

What Has Happened?

Now, four months later, what has been achieved?

Many things . . . 

  1. Afghanistan has been bombed and bombed and bombed, just as many people wanted. The entire village of Kama Ado was wiped out, for example, killing 115 people who had nothing to do with the September 11 attacks. Reporters visited the remains and saw the fragments of U.S. Air Force bombs. Another bombing, at Qalaye Niazi, killed at least 50 civilians – apparently because a local anti-Taliban tribal leader, trying to intimidate local citizens, told the U.S. military that Al-Qaeda forces were there. (For some reason, these events hold little interest for the American news media.)

  2. Throughout Afghanistan, thousands of people have died from the U.S. bombing – even though American TV news channels rarely report these deaths. No one has claimed that a single one of the dead people had anything to do with the September 11 attacks. Their guilt lies in not overthrowing the Taliban or in possibly being members of Al-Qaeda – not in any knowledge that they participated in the attacks.

  3. Hundreds of thousands of Afghans have fled their homes – trying to get into Pakistan to escape the American bombing. Imagine how you'd feel if you had to leave your home and all your possessions to avoid being killed.

  4. Tens of thousands of Afghans are starving to death – in many cases eating grass to stay alive as long as possible. Afghanistan has always been a poor country; now it is a devastated one.

  5. Because of the destruction, Afghanistan will have to be rebuilt – at a cost of billions of dollars. And guess who's going to pay for it. That's right – you and I.

  6. Tens of millions of people around the world have been added to those who believe the U.S. is a big bully that tyrannizes small countries.

Eggs & Wars

According to the brave warriors, all these tragedies are the necessary collateral damage that occurs in a war. After all, you can't make an omelet without breaking a few eggs.

(Did you ever notice that the people who believe this rarely volunteer their own eggs? It's almost always someone else who must suffer the "collateral damage"?)

But where is the omelet?

Despite all the deaths and destruction, the devastation hasn't produced the capture of a single person claimed to be involved in the September 11 attacks. In fact, the only arrest so far of an actual suspect occurred in the United States, not in Afghanistan.

Was the Right Choice Made?

On September 12, America faced two choices:

  1. Treat the attacks as a crime, recognizing the possibility that the perpetrators might never be captured.
  2. Treat the attacks as war – and rain death and destruction on a backwards, third-world country that was powerless to fight back.

Because choice #1 couldn't guarantee the capture of those responsible for the September 11 attacks, America went to war and decimated another nation. But that choice didn't produce the capture of a single perpetrator.

And so we have nothing to show for all the death and devastation – nothing except the increased hatred of millions more people around the globe.


We're told the U.S. has simply acted in self-defense. After all, America was attacked.

But what we've seen wasn't retaliation. If you hit me and I hit you back, I'm acting in self-defense. But if you hit me and I respond by hitting your sister, that isn't self-defense – it's aggression against your sister.

The U.S. hasn't retaliated against the people who caused the September 11 attacks. It has attacked an innocent nation and achieved nothing for it.

And if retaliation is the right way, why is President Bush pressuring India and Israel not to retaliate for terrorist acts?

Eliminating Terrorism?

Our government says the war in Afghanistan is wiping out Al-Qaeda, so that there can be no more terrorist acts. But our government also says Al-Qaeda has members in 60 countries around the world. Does that mean there are only 59 more countries to bomb?

So long as we're bombing defenseless countries, there will be widespread resentment against the U.S. – and there will be terrorist acts against us, with or without Al-Qaeda.

Teaching a Lesson?

It is also said that, if nothing else, the bombing of Afghanistan will make would-be future terrorists think twice about attacking us.

But why should the bombing intimidate a terrorist? After all, terrorists don't care when innocent people die. And no evidence has been presented that anyone involved in the September 11 attacks has been killed by the bombings.

Certainly Osama Bin Laden has no reason to feel intimidated by the American response. After all, the September 11 attacks have caused us to spend tens of billions of dollars in warfare and new domestic security procedures, turn our lives upside down, give up portions of the Bill of Rights, and delegate vast new powers to the government. What more could he want?

Freedom for Afghans?

TV news clips show happy Afghans shedding their beards and veils – while providing little or no coverage of the refugee camps and villages where people are starving.

Even if we could be sure that a majority of Afghans – or even all of them – approve of what the U.S. has done, the question remains: is it the responsibility of America to replace all the world's tyrants? If so, when does the bombing of Saudi Arabia or Zimbabwe begin? And is the U.S. going to invade China to supervise its "human rights" activity?

And who could be so naοve as to believe the Northern Alliance is going to rule Afghanistan in a more kindly way than the Taliban did? U.S. troops will no more guarantee a free country than do the U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia. But once the war is over, our government and the press will no longer pay attention to the Afghans.

(The Kosovo Liberation Army – on behalf of which the U.S. bombed Serbia in 1999 – has driven Serbs, Gypsies, Jews, Turks and other non-Albanians out of Kosovo, "ethnically cleansing" the area far more efficiently than Slobodan Milosevic ever did. But how much interest have TV journalists shown in returning to Kosovo to see what the U.S. intervention achieved?)


Lastly, has the bombing of Afghanistan at least given people the feeling they've avenged the Americans who died on September 11?

No. Revenge can be achieved only by hurting those who have hurt you – not by killing innocent bystanders.

The U.S. war on Afghanistan has produced nothing but misery.

I don't know about you, but I feel no pride in knowing my government has slaughtered a lot of innocent people in my name.

What to Do

We will end the terrorist threats to America only when America changes its foreign policy.

Our President must assure the world that he's repudiating the foreign policy of his predecessors – which rained bombs on countries like Serbia, Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, and the Sudan – and has propped up tyrannical dictators in countries like Iran, Indonesia, Vietnam, and Saudi Arabia – and invaded countries like Iraq, Nicaragua, Somalia, and Lebanon.

When America becomes a friend to the world, rather than a dictator, evil people will no longer be able to rally the support they need to commit evil acts against us.

When America is no longer a threat to the world, the world will no longer threaten us.

(For a more realistic foreign policy, click here.)

Previous articles by Harry Browne on Antiwar.com

Bush's Coup d'Etat

Secret Trials Endanger Security

Brute Force Doesn't Solve Conflicts

Who Gave Your Rights Away?

I Love America. Do You?

Isn't It Time for the Truth?

Preventing Future Terrorism

Do We Choose Death or Peace?

What Can We Do About Terrorism?

The Overlooked Flaw in Retaliation


The Cycle of Violence

When Will We Learn?

What is War?

Harry Browne is the Director of Public Policy at the American Liberty Foundation. You can read more of his articles on his website, and his books are available at HBBooks.com.


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