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November 26, 2001

Just the Facts, Please


by Heather Wokusch

The folks who prepared the U.S. Government's leaflets raining down with the bombs on Afghanistan can be forgiven for having left out a few key points. Here are excerpts from the leaflets, with some facts afterward.


From "The Partnership of Nations is Here to Help," Leaflet #2:

"Since the time of the Soviet invasion, Afghanistan has been a country in conflict. War and strife have been a constant part of the daily life of its citizens. Yet time and again, it has not been the people of Afghanistan, but outsiders who have been the real cause of this pain and destruction."

Fact: The United States has been one of these sources of "pain and destruction." The CIA provided $5 billion in military aid, not to mention specialized training, to Islamic fundamentalists fighting the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s. The US government provided an additional $3 billion in the mid 1990s, which many see as directly contributing to the Taliban's eventual rise to power.


From "The Partnership of Nations is Here to Help," Leaflet #3:

"On Sept. 11, 2001, thousands of people were killed en masse in the United States. Among them ... was a two year-old girl. Barely able to stand or dress herself. Did she deserve to die? Why was she killed, you ask? Was she a thief? What crime had she committed?"

Fact: While none of the deaths on Sept. 11 were justified, neither are the civilian deaths caused by the US bombing justified. The Red Cross has called for a ban on cluster bombs – which scatter about 150 "bomblets," many of which do not explode immediately upon impact. US B-52 bombers are dropping these bombs on women, children and the elderly in Afghanistan, such as in Karam, a civilian area with no military targets. These yellow cluster bombs are reportedly similar in appearance to US food-drop packages, making it difficult to distinguish between the two. Children often mistake the colorful bomblets for toys, with disastrous consequences. UNICEF estimates that up to 100,000 Afghan children could die before spring as a direct result of the current war.


From "Taliban Actions Are Non-Islamic," Leaflet #1:

"We do not want to take over your nation; we want to give it back to its rightful owners, the people of Afghanistan."

Fact: According to a Dec. 2000 US government energy fact sheet, "Afghanistan's significance from an energy standpoint stems from its geographical position as a potential transit route for oil and natural gas exports from Central Asia to the Arabian Sea. This potential includes proposed multi-billion dollar oil and gas export pipelines through Afghanistan...."

Vice President Dick Cheney is familiar with the region. As CEO of Halliburton, a top global energy-services contractor, he, for years, conducted business deals with US enemies and dictatorial governments – such as in Iraq, Azerbaijan and Libya – and actively ignored existing US sanctions. In the mid 1990s, Cheney helped broker a huge deal in Kazakhstan for Chevron, whose board of directors included none other than National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice. Speaking in 1998, Cheney said, "The good Lord didn't see fit to put oil and gas only where there are democratically elected regimes friendly to the United States. Occasionally we have to operate in places where, all things considered, one would not normally choose to go. But, we go where the business is."

And "the business" is in Afghanistan. Whoever takes control of the region could be a major player in the oil industry in years to come. Former Pakistan Foreign Secretary Niaz Naik told the BBC on Sept. 18 that US officials had informed him in mid-July of a US Government plan to overthrow the Taliban by October.


When the war eventually ends, the United States may have to drop another leaflet. It should say, simply, "We're sorry."


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