Clare Short: Resign
for War Propaganda
Short, Secretary of State for International Development, has
launched disgraceful attacks on aid agencies trying to prevent
famine in Afghanistan (see ARROW Anti-War Briefing 7). The
Minister for Development has also contributed to the Government's
burgeoning stock of war propaganda.
Non Sequitar 1: no other problems?
true to say if the bombing stopped there wouldn't be any problem
in moving humanitarian supplies. To say we can't do anything until
the bombing stops is not true.' (Independent, 19 Oct.,
No one is making either of these statements. The aid agencies
are not saying that the only problem is the bombing, and
that a pause in the bombing (which they are advocating) would
solve all the problems. In fact, Anthony Morton-King of Christian
Aid wrote in a letter to the Guardian on 16 Oct., 'Even if the
allies could be persuaded to postpone their military campaign
so that aid could get into the country safely, the timing would
still be against us.... The crucial - and shocking - bottom line
is that it may already be too late to save Afghans from starvation;
from death by drought, cold and disease.'
However, despite their recognition of the problems they face in
Afghanistan, some of them posed by Taliban forces no doubt, the
aid agencies are saying that without a pause in the war,
their drivers and labourers in Afghanistan are too frightened
to do the work needed to deliver aid to the areas about to be
cut off by winter snow.
Non Sequitar 2: doing nothing?
On the second point, if the aid agencies really were saying that
there was nothing that could be done before the bombing stopped,
why would they be organising whatever aid distribution inside
Afghanistan that they can?
Recall that an Oxfam convoy was loading up in Kabul when a bomb
dropped nearby: 'Oxfam said it could not move a 250-ton wheat
convoy into a central mountainous area where 400,000 trapped people
are living on wild vegetation and essential livestock after a
missile exploded on Tuesday close to a food depot in the Afghan
capital Kabul. It would have been the first food into the area,
Hazajarat, since September 11.' (Telegraph, 19 Oct., p.
Dealing with Bin Laden
Insufficient aid getting in? 'I am really surprised everyone is
fixated on this simplistic question. You are saying you have to
let bin Laden do whatever he wants in order for humanitarian relief
to get in, and it's one or the other. But it isn't. You have to
get humanitarian relief in and you have to deal with bin Laden
and his plans to kill innocent people.' (Telegraph, 19
Oct., p. 11)
The argument against the war is precisely that nonviolent and
effective means of 'dealing with' Osama bin Laden have not been
exhausted - have barely been explored, in fact. If the primary
goal is to bring bin Laden to justice, war seems an unlikely way
of achieving it. There are other options.
On 14 Oct, Maulvi Abdul Kabir, Taliban deputy prime minister,
made the latest in a string of offers to extradite bin Laden to
a neutral country: 'It can be negotiated provided the US gives
us evidence and the Taliban are assured that the country is neutral
and will not be influenced by the United States.' (Guardian,
15 Oct., p. 1)
On 17 Nov., it was reported that 'For the first time, the Taliban
offered to hand over Bin Laden for trial in a country other than
the US without asking to see evidence first, in return for a halt
to the western bombing of his country, a source close to Pakistan's
military leadership said.' Taliban Foreign Minister Mullah Wakil
Ahmed Muttawakil met officials from the CIA and Pakistan's ISI
intelligence agency. ('US officials... appear to have dismissed
the proposal. Instead they are hoping to engineer a split within
the Taliban leadership.') (Guardian, 17 Oct., p. 1)
No one can know whether such offers are serious. There is only
one way of finding out: by testing them. If the overriding aim
is to bring bin Laden to trial, then there is nothing to be lost
by pausing the war (with enormous humanitarian benefits, according
to Western aid agencies) and seeing if the Taliban go through
with the extradition. Of course this means forgoing a US trial,
but is the British government really inflicting war and death
and possibly famine on Afghanistan simply to ensure that bin Laden's
trial takes place in New York rather than in, say, the Hague?
President Bush ruled out any deals: 'When I said no negotiations,
I meant no negotiations. There's no need to discuss innocence
or guilt.' (Independent, 15 Oct., p. 1)
If there is no need to discuss innocence or guilt, why did the
US trouble to brief NATO ambassadors behind closed doors with
the "evidence" against bin Laden? Why did the US brief President
Musharraf of Pakistan, again behind closed doors? Why did Tony
Blair publish the "dossier" of evidence against bin Laden? Why
should all concerned parties be given the available "evidence"
other than those actually holding bin Laden?
The UN Charter says that parties to 'any dispute, the continuance
of which is likely to endanger the maintenance of international
peace and security', shall, first of all, 'seek a solution by
negotiation, enquiry, mediation, conciliation, arbitration, judicial
settlement, resort to regional agencies or arrangements, or other
peaceful means of their own choice' (Article 33). President Bush
is breaching the Charter when he says, 'I said no negotiations,
I meant no negotiations.'
Taliban offers to extradite bin Laden are erased from history
as soon as they are reported. Thus it is not surprising to find
Clare Short saying two days after Mullah Wakil Ahmed Muttawakil's
nearly-unconditional extradition offer, 'It appears that you can't
get the Taliban to hand them over, so the Taliban government needs
to lose power.' (Guardian, 19 Oct., p. 3)
On 1 Oct., according to the Daily Telegraph, the Taliban actually
agreed to extradite bin Laden to Pakistan, where he would be placed
under house arrest and tried by an Islamic court, which would
decide whether to hold a trial in Pakistan or deport him to the
USA. (Telegraph, 4 Oct., p. 9) The deal was scuppered by
Pakistan's President Musharraf. (see The
Smoking Gun, ARROW Antiwar Briefing No. 5, for more details)
Given this extraordinary offer, it is bizarre but predictable
to find Tony Blair telling Parliament: 'The Taliban will not yield
up these terrorist networks... In those circumstances we really
have no alternative but to act...' (FT, 18 Oct., p. 7)
The Taliban agree to extradite the prime suspect to Pakistan -
without evidence. The Taliban agree to extradite him anywhere
neutral - without evidence. And our Prime Minister says, 'The
Taliban will not yield up these terrorist networks, we must carry
on bombing and ignore the pleas of humanitarian aid agencies.'
It is worth recalling that Britain is 'harbouring' seven suspected
terrorists with alleged links to bin Laden - in British jails.
(Sunday Times, 7 Oct., p. 5) One suspected al-Qa'eda terrorist,
wanted in the United States in connection with the US Embassy
bombings of 1998, has been in jail here since Sept. 1998, as the
legal machinery has slowly ground forward. Two others have been
in custody since July 1999. (Independent on Sunday, 7 Oct.,
Clare Short has suggested, 'The nightmare scenario in this part
of the world would have been the Talibanisation of Pakistan. Then
we would have had a Talibanised nuclear power with an unresolved
major conflict with India, another nuclear power. If this crisis
were badly handled, that is where it could lead, and that's got
to be avoided.' (Guardian, 19 Oct., p. 3)
So, handling the crisis "well" means bombing and possibly starving
the Afghan people, refusing to allow them over the Pakistan border,
refusing to negotiate with those who signal their willingness
to extradite bin Laden, and refusing to provide what "evidence"
exists of his guilt. Handling the crisis "well" seems to have
fired up militant Islamists in Pakistan, and to have made 'Talibanisation'
more rather than less likely, and not only in Pakistan.
'"It's unbelievable how the feeling here has changed from sympathy
to anger in such a short time," a Riyadh-based westerner quoted
by Reuters said yesterday. Another resident compared the mood
there to that of Iran before the overthrow of the Shah.' (Guardian,
16 Oct., p. 2)
'David Wurmser, director of Middle East studies at the American
Enterprise Institute in Washington said, "The US's entire foreign
policy structure in the region has been anchored in the strategic
relationship with Saudi Arabia. If everything we hear is true,
then we're facing a total meltdown. The whole war as currently
conceived would have to be reconsidered, because Pakistan won't
hold if Saudi support starts collapsing."' (Guardian, 16
Oct., p. 2) A "nightmare scenario" made more likely not by negotiation,
extradition and respect for the law, but by war, lies and state
Who said this?
'Fanatics want hatred, don't they? They want conflict, war, death.
They want to be against the evil one. So I think we should find
justice, which would undermine them. You can't be against justice
just because these unjust fanatics are calling for something which
has got justice in it. Surely our own lessons from Ireland show
that if you stop the use of force and unfairness, and create justice,
the cause of the protest and the potential suicide bombers go
away. I think we all understand that America feels so angry they
want to get somebody, but you can't just have lots of planes and
guns and ships, and make everybody do your bidding.' Clare
Short, Spectator, 22 Sept. 2001.
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