Eight years ago this week, President George W. Bush announced massive U.S. air strikes in Afghanistan, in response to the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on America that killed 3,000 people. As a result, a far greater number of people have died, mostly civilian, according to human rights groups. Now, the question that should have been asked in the first place remains: Why fight terror with more terror? And are we, as Americans, safer because of such blood-thirsty, pathological thinking?
Now, eight years and an allegedly benevolent president later, the carnage continues, with far greater intensity.
Obama's ""Pakistan policy"" demonstrates a culmination of American violence in the region. The Washington Post reported earlier this year that among Obama's first achievements in office were U.S. air strikes (by unmanned ""Predator drone aircraft"") which have now moved from Afghanistan into Pakistan, targeting ""suspected"" terrorists, and killing 20 people in two separate attacks. At the time of the report, ""At least 132 people have been killed"" in 38 missile strikes, ""all conducted by the CIA, in a ramped-up effort by the outgoing Bush Administration.""
Through the present date, according to various world press agencies, literally hundreds more people have been killed in dozens of drone attacks in Pakistan alone by the Obama Administration, which obviously has willfully continued the tradition of Bush's terror program.
So this is the level of savagery the U.S. has regressed to? Not even due process for our victims — the very suspicion of ""terrorism"" is punishable by death.
I remember reading Arthur Miller's ""The Crucible"" in high school, wherein merely being accused of the crime of ""witchcraft"" in 17th-century Salem was enough to prescribe the death sentence. There is a particular twist of the witch-hunt story that parallels today's supposedly civilized era of American politics: In the course of the play, certain well-to-do Salemites start using the anti-witch hysteria as a weapon to get rid of their economic or political rivals by planting a suspicion of ""witchcraft"" against them. The predictable result is death by accusation.
Not unlike any variety of metaphorical witch hunts, U.S. policy in the Middle East is doubtless one of terror, injustice and political expediency.
Five days after Sept. 11, The New York Times reported on an agitated U.S. belligerently mustering all its weapons — economic, military and diplomatic — against Afghanistan, a country widely known to be exceedingly weak and defenseless. One of these ""weapons"" was the ""elimination of truck convoys that provide much of the food and other supplies to Afghanistan's civilian population.""
Notice that our enemy in this instance was not the Taliban, nor al Qaeda. It explicitly was the ""civilian population"" that was the target of our brutal attacks, against whom we were using all the options that could possibly inflict the highest levels of human pain and suffering: bomb them, starve them and economically strangle them, with the victims numbering in the tens of millions.
All of this was carried out with utter disregard for international law, which protects civilians in a time of war. This past June, Reuters reported that the U.N. special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Philip Alston, expressed ""strong concern at the continuing problem of preventable civilian casualties, especially in the context of aerial bombing,"" referring to U.S. drone attacks in the region, and called for accountability based on independent investigations. Groups such as Human Rights concur, and have repeatedly called for the respect of international law, which the U.S. continually rejects.
Meanwhile, no one can satisfactorily explain what this war is even about, apart from mouthing the usual high-falutin expressions of ""defeating"" terror and ""helping"" Afghans.
President Barack Obama calls our occupation a ""war of necessity,"" though like many politicians, he doesn't quite say what that means. All we see him doing is increasing American troop levels to ""a record 68,000,"" as CBS reported Monday.
Although no one can explain U.S. actions, much less government officials, at least the American people seem to have an overwhelming feeling against this so-called ""choiceless"" war. According to a Washington Post-ABC News poll taken in August, 51 percent of Americans oppose the war as ""not worth fighting.""
And it is with particular insult to say that we are ""helping"" Afghans in any way, although it's instructive to see what Afghans think about our levels of violence in their country. A Washington Post article earlier this year reported that the increase of U.S. forces into Afghanistan would meet two opposing forces: an armed insurgency and Afghan public opinion. As the report stated, the majority of Afghans reject the violence of the Taliban as well as the infinitely greater violence of the U.S.; Afghans themselves would rather attain political settlements through negotiation among Afghans.
Meanwhile, according to UA history and political science professor David Gibbs, a specialist on Afghanistan, the American people are ""tiring of war,"" with the disaster that is Iraq and now the ""quagmire"" that is Afghanistan, both coming at a time of financial crisis. Gibbs asks the obvious question: ""How much longer will the public be willing to put up with it?""
It is a question we might well ask ourselves when we hear the daily reports of new U.S. atrocities that ironically are already yesterday's news. In a sense, today's and tomorrow's news are still uncovered. It is the will and choice of the United States, the American people, what such coverage may be.
— Gabriel Matthew Schivone is a junior majoring in art, literature and media studies. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.