The international press examines the Afghanistan war’s collateral damage. The London Independent interviews a man from Tarin Kot, Afghanistan, whose entire family was killed by a U.S. bomb gone off target. The injured man says, “[W]e didn’t feel afraid because everyone said that American bombs were accurate, and that they would bomb the Talibs, but not the innocent people.” Other injured locals in the same hospital claim that U.S. bombs are hitting Osama Bin Laden camps that haven’t been used for years, suggesting that “in some cases American intelligence is simply out of date.”
The London Times reports that the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund has called for an end to the use of cluster bombs in Afghanistan. The bombs are “notoriously inaccurate” with a “high failure rate,” which means they can lie dormant for years before exploding. Cluster bombs dropped in Kosovo are still detonating and killing people. The United States has been dropping cluster bombs on the Taliban front line. The Moscow Times chimes in that the United States is killing Afghan civilians with heavy incendiary bombs—a type previously used in Iraq and Vietnam. The weapon is “barbaric,” and its use on a military target with civilians nearby may constitute a war crime under international law. What’s more, the Pentagon has been less than forthcoming about civilian casualties, repeatedly blaming stray Taliban anti-aircraft fire even though this scenario is improbable.
Two papers run commentaries examining the basis of terrorist attacks on America. In the Independent, an essay claims the United States, even if it succeeds in the current war, will still face hatred abroad. Its “duplicitous” foreign policy defends democracy at home but supports dictators elsewhere, and it had veered toward isolationsim before calling for world support in Afghanistan. In the last sentence, the author lays his cards on the table: “For as long as there is no Palestinian state and the US continues to be partisan in the conflict, so long will the US continue to be hated in the developing world.” And a piece in the Guardian argues that we have not adequately defined terrorism. Anyone who resists a regime he views as despotic—including rebels we have celebrated throughout history—will be termed a terrorist by those he fights against. Terrorism is simply a last resort: “Political violence emerges when other avenues are closed.”
A speech from the British foreign secretary, reprinted in the Independent, claims that the real problem is failed states, wherever they may be, and that the failure of states is preventable. Any time a political state fails, evil and thuggery rush in to fill the vacuum. The result harms not only civilians there, but civilians everywhere, as evidenced by the Sept. 11 attacks and by the fact that most of Britain’s heroin is brought in from Afghanistan.
Asahi Shimbun says that because Japan is constitutionally barred from participating militarily in Afghanistan, debate has focused on how best to use economic aid as a diplomatic tool. Japan has a real opportunity to influence the region because it has no “historical baggage” there, will not be involved militarily, and is not perceived to be a lockstep follower of the United States (as other countries are).
What do Susan Sontag and a 25-year-old Aboriginal boxing champ have in common? Both have criticized U.S. policy as a factor in the World Trade Center bombings. The difference, according to the SydneyMorning Herald: Sontag has not retracted her comments or apologized and has faced little repercussion. Meanwhile, Anthony Mundine, a world top-15 boxer who said, “America’s brought it upon themselves [for] what they’ve done in the history of time” but has since apologized, has become public enemy No. 1 in Australia, and “word is that his promising international career is over, his play for a world boxing title in December is doomed and that he will never get a promoter in the US to touch him.” Draft-age Australians other than Mundine can breathe a sigh of relief, though—the SMH reports that Prime Minister John Howard has ruled out conscription as a possibility in the war on terrorism.