Bombs are not an effective solution

There is no question that the bombing campaign against Afghanistan is effective.

It is effectively killing civilians, hampering humanitarian aid and recreating the desperate situation that provided the impetus for the rise of the Taliban.

As citizens of the United States, we must recognize this, for in this great democratic nation of ours, we are given a voice and can be held accountable for our nation’s actions.

Are we ready to take responsibility for 3-year-old Rahmat Bibi, her legs broken and her head bandaged, crying aloud while asking to be taken to her dead mother, a victim of air strikes?

Are we ready to take responsibility for 1-year-old Jan Bibi and her 3-year-old brother Gul Khan, lying in the same hospital bed, unaware that they have been orphaned?

I am not ready to take this responsibility.

Bombing Afghanistan is killing innocent civilians and is taking us further from our stated objective of bringing down the Taliban.

When the Taliban first rose to power in Afghanistan, the people welcomed it as a unifying force, a government that would bring a small measure of peace to a country ruled by tyrannical local despots and engulfed in civil war. The bombing campaign has once again reduced Afghanistan to this base state.

Who will the people look to to take them out of their misery? To America, whose bombs have fallen on hospitals, mosques and villages, or to the Taliban?

Prior to the bombing, the Taliban was faced with mounting dissatisfaction with its application of religious law, but even this was better than a bombing campaign that disrupted humanitarian aid and rained death upon everyone.

It is this bombing that has lent a new legitimacy to the Taliban, cementing its authority as the protector of the Afghan people. Afghans see trails of wounded civilians left behind screaming jets juxtaposed against Taliban fighters manning anti-aircraft guns.

The people draw a simple conclusion: This is a war not against Islam or the Taliban, but against themselves, the ordinary people of Afghanistan.

“”Why has America attacked us?,”” an elderly Afghan man asked. “”We are civilians. We thought America was our friend. Please tell them to stop bombing us.””

While civilian casualties are an unavoidable byproduct of any air campaign — hence the military’s anesthetic term “”collateral damage”” — there have been inexcusable instances of it, such as the bombing of Red Cross warehouses.

On Oct. 26, U.S. Navy fighters and B-52 bombers mistakenly bombed six warehouses used by the International Committee of the Red Cross, destroying vital stocks of food. Not only is this the second time ICRC buildings have been hit since U.S. air strikes began on Oct. 7, but two of the warehouses hit this time were struck the last time as well. And this was after the Red Cross met with American military officials and pinpointed locations to ensure that it would not happen again.

These are “”smart”” bombs. These are the pilots and planes and systems we spend billions of dollars on to ensure this sort of thing will not occur. What happened?

Sept. 11 happened. The bombing campaign is the reflex of a people who have suffered though a great tragedy and are understandably frightened and angry.

But we must not let our anger occlude our judgment and preclude justice. Bombing Afghanistan is not a solution but a worsening of the fundamental problem — and that is the generations of Afghans who have known nothing but war.

An Amnesty International report states, “”War violates every right of a child: the right to be with family and community, the right to health, the right to development of personality and the right to be nurtured and protected.”” We must give these children peace and their rights.

The United States needs to halt its bombing campaign, help to formulate an acceptable multi-ethnic, broad-based Afghan government, resume humanitarian aid and seek a political solution to this problem.

In the words of Taliban ambassador Abdul Salaam Zaeef: “”The way of solving a problem is negotiation, understanding and dialogue.””

We must use this method because, as President George W. Bush said, “”In our anger, we must never forget that we are a compassionate people. While we firmly and strongly oppose the Taliban regime, we are friends with the Afghan people.””

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