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Regarding Afghanistan: watch your language, please

By John Garfield - posted Thursday, 15 November 2001

I am a keen student of the use of language, particularly during a political debate. Mr Howard’s words were carefully chosen when he gave his "intellectual and moral" reasoning for the support of the military actions in Afghanistan. (Australian Defence Association 25/10.) He spoke only in generalised terms, talking about having to defeat "evil" , about a "blasphemous" enemy hiding in "dark corners" of the world.

If Mr Howard had had the courage however to speak in specific and detailed language, his whole argument would have come crashing down. Had he detailed the who, when where, why, how, and for how long, a different impression would have been made altogether. Instead he spoke in vague terms in a similar way to the U.S President who regularly talks about "evil-doers" and the "evil one".

Not one Afghan citizen was involved in the horrendous terror attacks on New York and Washington. Not one.


Yet American bombs fall on innocent Afghan men, women and children, killing and mangling their bodies.

Mr Howard is completely in favour of that. So is the ALP.

And please spare me the "collateral damage" defence. If I chase a murderer into your house, then blow your house up to get the murderer, knowing your family is inside, am I innocent of murdering your family? Can I say to you "Sorry about that, but we have to take aggressive action against murderers, and we have to recognise that such action may require the killing of innocent civilians, in the interest of our own survival." That is almost word-for-word what Des Moore had to say in support of the bombing of Afghanistan. Just substitute the word terrorists for murderers.

To drop large bombs on or near residential areas of Kabul and other cities, is to be culpable of murder, whether the bombs are "smart" or "dumb". Mr Howard is completely in favour of this. So is the ALP.

Please refer to it as ‘the bombing of Afghanistan’ not the ‘war on terrorism’, because that is actually what is happening. Large bombs are detonating on one of the poorest nations on Earth. The word ‘war’ refers to strife between nations, and categorising the actions in Afghanistan as a war is a severe diminution of the meaning of the word, and an affront to people of my father’s generation who fought in WWII.

There was 24-hour-a-day colour television coverage of the American side of this catastrophe, not so the Afghan side, mainly because of lack of infrastructure in Afghanistan, but also because of Western censorship. When details are seen of damage in Afghanistan, the Pentagon immediately befuddles us and states that their bombs didn’t necessarily cause that damage.


How clever we are at the beginning of the 21st century, making exactly the same mistakes as at the beginning of the 20th century. Using terror to fight a war on terror, and the end result will be? More terrorists!

Please bear in mind that nobody has declared war on Afghanistan, and nobody will. The Taliban are guilty of harbouring terrorists, undoubtedly so, but were willing to hand bin Laden over weeks ago to a neutral nation, if evidence was supplied of his involvement. That is a reasonable request. I am certain we provided evidence to Spain of Christopher Skase’s alleged crimes. When Spain didn’t hand him over, did we bomb Spain?

Please bear in mind that there are many, many countries harbouring terrorists. Obviously Palestine is one. Israel is another. Ireland is another. The United States is another. Emmanuel Constant is a vicious terrorist , wanted for extradition by Haiti, who has lived in the U.S. for years. The U.S. says it is "not in their best interests" to deport him. And that is the core of the matter. The United States is not really interested in justice, nor is it very concerned about human rights, unless the humans concerned are American. This is all about power, dominance, American hegemony. That is why the US will not allow the UN to handle this crime against humanity. The United Nations, the body born out of the cataclysmic tragedy of two devastating world wars, has been sidelined by the USA.

Please note the hypocrisy. Have there been memorial services for the innocent victims of Afghanistan? Have there been calls for donations to help the families of these victims? Have rock stars held concerts for them? Of course not, best just forget about them. Sweep them under the carpet. After all they’re only Afghans, their lives are worth little when compared to our lives – that seems to be the ugly message.

Contrary to Mr Howard’s foolishness, those opposed to the stupidity of the military action in Afghanistan, are not suggesting that nothing should be done re terrorism. There are many alternatives that have been detailed by cleverer people than myself. Unfortunately those people are not getting a fair hearing at the moment.

Soon the West will indulge itself in the consumer gluttony of Christmas, and hopefully some of the pro-bombing people will choke on the words "Peace on earth, good will to all men". We will be celebrating the birth of a man who tried to teach us to love our enemy and turn the other cheek. Both sides in this tragedy invoke the name of God. God Bless America! Or Allah Akbah! Take your pick. There is no difference.

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About the Author

John Garfield is an IT analyst who lives in Brisbane.

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