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Veteran foreign correspondent Robert Fisk attacked in Afghanistan.
December 9, 2001 4:07 AM   Subscribe

Veteran foreign correspondent Robert Fisk attacked in Afghanistan. Fisk's been my dispassionate-knowledgeable-counterpoint-supplier-of-choice for the events of the last few months, and unfortunately he's been very badly beaten by a mob near Quetta . His reaction: "They had every reason to be angry... If I had been them, I would have attacked me".
posted by blackbeltjones (72 comments total)

 
To be honest, I have never liked Fisk, however I find it truely amazing that he is rationalizing his own attack.
posted by phatboy at 5:17 AM on December 9, 2001


The illustrated Stockholm Syndrome
posted by BentPenguin at 5:54 AM on December 9, 2001


"This food gave me gas, so I'm gonna go blow up that restaurant."
"But that restaurant wasn't even where you got the bad food."
"Oh hell, I don't care. I'm angry. You'd be angry too if you got gas this bad. C'mon, let's go blow up a Taco Bell."

Such is the logic of mob mentality.
posted by ZachsMind at 6:12 AM on December 9, 2001


Why, oh why, couldn't it have been Geraldo?
posted by MAYORBOB at 6:22 AM on December 9, 2001


This is nothing like Stockholm Syndrome, BentPenguin. If someone bombed your relatives wouldn't you want to kick the crap out of them?
posted by dlewis at 6:50 AM on December 9, 2001


dlewis,

I believe that what BentPenguin was referring to was Fisk's sympathizing with his attackers, if I'm not mistaken.
posted by MAYORBOB at 6:53 AM on December 9, 2001


I've been an outspoken critic of the US actions myself.

That doesn't sound "dispassionate" to me.
posted by MrBaliHai at 6:55 AM on December 9, 2001


Thanks but I realised that, MayorBob. Fisk has been a long time sympathiser of the Afghan refugees, and - as MrBaliHali has stated - hardly a dispassionate one. Stockholm Syndrome is a perceptual distortion of small kindnesses in a time of great personal peril. I doubt he suddenly become sympathetic to their plight because he was getting rocks thrown at him. BentPenguin was seeming to suggest his stance was an irrational one that derived merely from being involved in a fight.
posted by dlewis at 7:01 AM on December 9, 2001


Fisk is a dunderhead. That he believes the mob did the right thing only shows that he should never have gone to a place he believed we ought not have anything to do with. As for the mb: with luck, they can get the Taleban back and their lives will be all that much the better.
the mob got unruly when? When a little kid tossed a stone. Young Karl Marx rising up against the oppressors: a true leader inspiring the masses to join in.
posted by Postroad at 7:04 AM on December 9, 2001


Fisk doesn't believe they did the right thing, merely that their ire is understandable. Politics and the Taliban counts for little if you are a parent whose children have been killed by bombs.

Fisk : "I later found out that the village housed lots of Afghan refugees, whose relatives had been killed just last week in the American bombing of Kandahar. It doesn't excuse them for beating me up, but there was a real reason why they should hate Westerners."
posted by dydecker at 7:36 AM on December 9, 2001


Nasty shot of Robert Fisk in the Observer today, covered in bandages. IMO he has been writing some brilliant stuff recently on Afganistan. He may be pro-Arab and anti US policy, but at least he is upfront about it.
posted by laukf at 8:07 AM on December 9, 2001


Politics and the Taliban counts for little if you are a parent whose children have been killed by bombs.

There's no mention of any children being killed. The article doesn't say who these people were or who these "relatives" were that were supposedly killed in the bombing. These refugees could've been the wives and children of frontline Taliban or al-Qaida soldiers for all we know. Fisk makes his claims with absolutely no facts to back it up and the BBC just parrots it back. It's sloppy, irresponsible editorializing by an obviously biased journalist. I expect better from Auntie Beeb than this.
posted by MrBaliHai at 8:18 AM on December 9, 2001


Here's the photograph of a bandaged Fisk to which laukf is referring (AP via BBC).

And this link should point to most of Fisk's recent Independent articles.
posted by Owen Boswarva at 8:18 AM on December 9, 2001


This seems like a win-win. The angry Afghan mob gets to beat up a Westerner; the Westerner gets a visceral opportunity to wallow in self-loathing of his culture. And he gets a lot of publicity. If anyone wants to take up a collection to send Noah Chomsky to the region ...
posted by rcade at 8:48 AM on December 9, 2001


Fisk makes his claims with absolutely no facts to back it up and the BBC just parrots it back. It's sloppy, irresponsible editorializing.

You're right, it's just plain sloppy. The editor obviously neglected to put the obligatory "These reports could not been independently confirmed" after Fisk's unsubstantiated quote. Perhaps also a "We must keep in mind, after seeing reports like this, that the Taliban regime in Afghanistan continues to harbour terrorists who have praised the September 11 attacks that killed close to 5,000 innocent people in the US." would not have gone amiss at the end.
posted by dlewis at 8:55 AM on December 9, 2001


Fisk makes his claims with absolutely no facts to back it up and the BBC just parrots it back. It's sloppy, irresponsible editorializing by an obviously biased journalist.

Maybe, but you can't blame the BBC for reporting what he says. It's quite clear that Fisk is making the claims not the BBC.
posted by Summer at 9:01 AM on December 9, 2001


Perhaps also a "We must keep in mind, after seeing reports like this, that the Taliban regime in Afghanistan continues to harbour terrorists who have praised the September 11 attacks that killed close to 5,000 innocent people in the US." would not have gone amiss at the end.

The day the BBC starts printing stuff like this is the day I move to the Australian outback.
posted by Summer at 9:04 AM on December 9, 2001


Summer:
Why the Austalian outback and not the American frontier, like West Texas? You'll be pretty safe from the BBC there as well.
posted by rks404 at 9:15 AM on December 9, 2001


National Review is going to have a field day with this.
posted by Ty Webb at 9:17 AM on December 9, 2001


Somehow I don't think that would solve my issues with war coverage, rks404.
posted by Summer at 9:22 AM on December 9, 2001


Speaking of dead children, Fisk visits a mother yet to have the news broken to her that all five of hers are dead
posted by dydecker at 10:07 AM on December 9, 2001


Fisk visits a mother yet to have the news broken to her that all five of hers are dead.

Of course, "these reports have not been independently confirmed....."

As before, the humanitarian focus of this campaign has not been on minimizing the "collateral damage" itself, but on minimizing the publicity fallout from it. Reporters of civilian casualties are not to be trusted, and are embroidering what is at best circumstantial evidence. Whatever your standard of proof is, one thing that is a statistical surety is that 90% of casualties of modern warfare are civilian. This disgusting figure has emerged time and again, from World War II to Operation Desert Storm. Of course - there's the possibility that this war is the exception that proves the rule, but I doubt it. I don't understand why some people are in such denial about how many innocents we kill.
posted by dlewis at 10:41 AM on December 9, 2001


dlewis, would it not also be correct then to report that in many instances, non-combatants (i.e. innocents) are strategically placed in harms way by their own people in an effort to create civilian casualties as a PR event? In the firefight that occurred during the failed mission in Somolia, it was reported that Somali men would stand behind women and children and fire on US troops with their weapons placed under the arms of their "cover" because the Somali's knew that US troops would hesitate and resist from firing upon innocent women and children even when fired upon. We cannot control the actions of our enemies but we can show them that placing civilians in harms way is not likely to deter our actions. And while innocents do get killed during armed conflicts, I would say that as our weapons of war have improved, we have become much more cautious in regards to how we apply them. I can only imagine what kind of civilian casualties there would be if we tried to take Afghanistan using WWII weapons. Thousands, perhaps tens of thousands would be dead vs. the possible hundred or so that have occurred. Any civilized person, including our military leaders, must weigh the possible civilian casualties against the hoped for outcome. I would argue against your statement that the focus has not been on minimizing "collateral damage". I think much of the war has been just on that. In fact, many of our enemies have used that very fact against us in conflicts. So while you may not believe it, enemies of the US surely do. We could have just bombed many of the Taliban strongholds into dust and taken many civilian lives in the process. Instead, we have attempted to hit very specific targets of strategic importance to the Taliban's ability to wage war against the US or troops friendly to the US. Do bombs fall off target? Yes. Do ground troops make errors when targeting grid coordinates? Yes. I don't want to sound like I don't care about civilian casualties because I do find it deeply disturbing but it is impossible to wage war without some civilian deaths (at least with the weapons we have today). I would also challenge you for proof on your statement that "90% of casualties of modern warfare are civilian". I have never seen that number reported anywhere except your post so if you could provide the source, I would very much be interested in reviewing it myself.

Also, to blackbeltjones, how can you call Fisk "dispassionate" when he admits to being biased? Could it be that you are not quite looking for "dispassionate" press, rather, you are looking for news coverage that supports your own pre-conceived notions? How does that make one view better or worse than Fox news for reporting with a patriotic slant? I'm just curious if what applies for the right, also applies on the left.

Just curious as to whether or not refugees will be throwing stones and beating Afghan anti-Taliban forces when they return from the camps. Since the US bombings that supposedly killed their relatives were in support of native forces conducting military actions against the Taliban, wouldn't they also share in the refugee's ire? Oops, sorry, I forgot, only the US and the UK deserve any sort of blame. Silly me.
posted by billman at 11:36 AM on December 9, 2001


Yeah, civilians were strategically placed in those hospitals we accidentally bombed. In another masterful stroke of tactical genius, the Taliban thought to stockpile citizens in villages, cities, and private residences. It's they're fault, not ours.

Anyway, to offer another dispassionate counter-point, I agree with Fisk that it's perfectly reasonable to be angry at people who bomb you when you haven't done anything to them. Which is why I sympathize with the feelings of anger and resentment that rose up in America and around the world following the September 11th attacks.

I also agree with many of you, when you say that it is not ok to take your frustration out by attacking more innocent people, like Mr. Fisk, or the citizens of Afghanistan.
posted by Hildago at 12:39 PM on December 9, 2001


"If I had been them, I would have attacked me"

So Osama wants vengeance, and slaughters innocent people. The US wants vengeance and slaughters innocent people. This crowd wants vengeance and nearly kills an innocent man. The innocent man apparently supports the crowd action, basically saying he deserved it, but has been busily explaining why seemingly identical US action should lack support.
I'm glad he made it out alive, but this confirms for me Fisk's complete lack of insight.
posted by quercus at 12:40 PM on December 9, 2001


"The illustrated Stockholm Syndrome"

I thought it was the Helsinki syndrome. As in Helsinki, Sweden.

Seriously, I was intrigued at this passage:

"...but then a little kid threw a stone at me."

For some reason my mind went straight to Isaiah 11:6. I have no idea why.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 1:29 PM on December 9, 2001


Hildago, the point I was getting at is that we did not intentionally hit hospitals or places that hold no strategic value. Hell, we hit our own guys with some of these bombs so it's not like we're going out and targeting "villages, cities, and private resdences" with the intent to cause civilian casualties. Like I said, civilian casualties are always disturbing but there doesn't seem to be a way to wage war without some unintended casualties. All of which does not negate the fact that many of the people the US has waged a military campaign against do use civilians as pawns. You don't think that they stick military targets smack in the middle of residential neighborhoods because they know that if the US bombs it they can run to the press showing all of the civilians who were hit? During the Gulf War I remember reading at least one journalist who commented that when taken on a tour of hospitals to view the civilian casualties, it was not uncommon to see some of the same patients at several different hospitals, obviously being transported back and forth with the intent of creating PR spin.

And to quercus, bravo! You hit the nail right on the head. It's funny how in all of this people keep forgetting that we're doing this in response to people ramming jets into our buildings and killing thousands of people AND who fully intend on committing similar acts in the future. This isn't an attack so much as it is self-defense.
posted by billman at 2:17 PM on December 9, 2001


Like I said, civilian casualties are always disturbing but there doesn't seem to be a way to wage war without some unintended casualties.

That's really his point isn't it? Its one thing to be an american armchair general and go on about moral high grounds and another to hear the scream of bombers overhead dropping explosives on your city. What Fisk understands is not justification but blind revenge on a target that just happened to land near your refugee camp. He admits that he could be part of a mob and partake of mob mentality. Is that so surprising?
posted by skallas at 4:57 PM on December 9, 2001


I thought it was the Helsinki syndrome. As in Helsinki, Sweden.

No, it's the Stockholm syndrome, as in Stockholm, Sweden. Helsinki is in Finland, of course.
posted by kindall at 5:13 PM on December 9, 2001


kindall:

My fault for sticking a movie reference in my post. I assumed everyone (and his dog) had seen it.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 5:26 PM on December 9, 2001


Reporters of civilian casualties are not to be trusted, and are embroidering what is at best circumstantial evidence.

One need not respect Fisk's journalism, or have reservations about the American war tactics, to find claims like this one a tad too sweeping. For example, the Pentagon's stated belief that they're hitting military targets in instances like this recently near Tora Bora doesn't inspire absolute confidence. Cf. Doctors Without Borders reports, and a Pentagon spokesman's claim, "I don't have any reports of any villages being struck," which is incredible in the extreme based on what Richard Lloyd Parry has seen on the ground.
posted by Zurishaddai at 5:39 PM on December 9, 2001


PS - sorry, I need to clarify some poorly chosen words - when I called the Pentagon's "no villages struck" claim "incredible in the extreme," I didn't mean I thought the spokesperson was lying. I'm sure the U.S. thought it was hitting military targets (though it could be blamed for its often inept targeting procedures). But it is clear that villages were taken out near Tora Bora with massive women & children casualties, so I am pretty stunned at the level of ignorance evinced by the Pentagon's comments. Are the deaths worth it as we throw together urgent tactics to assault al-Qa`ida in its caves? Maybe. Is it a case of our 21st century illusions about war's inevitable costs (as in today's NYT)? Maybe.

But one thing seens fairly clear: our state of military intelligence + our tactical decisions = villages bombed by mistake + awkward and confused denials.
posted by Zurishaddai at 5:46 PM on December 9, 2001


Human Rights Watch has complained that the Taliban are using human shields -- so at least some people are willing to see what others are not.

Of course, that BBC article notes in passing that the deaths were of some 12 "anti-Taleban fighters" and only 5 civilians (early reports of "hundreds" have not been substantiated, but these numbers come from the district commander and the reporter on scene); and from Parry's own original article we find that they were, apparently, a military detail sent up into the mountains the day before who took refuge in a "government building" for the night. Did US spotters know which side this military patrol was on? Did Commander Gamsharik have good communication with the American bombers on the location of his front lines? Was Gamsharik trying to get to Tora Bora in advance of an organize Northern Alliance assault, the one which has now been there several days? Was he motivated by the reward money, rather than part of a coordinated campaign? Would a group of anti-Taliban guys with guns in the back of a pick-up look any different from a group of al-Qaeda bodyguards in the back o f a pick-up? I think these are the questions that should be pursued by an intelligent reporter, not baffling disconnects between "nothing" and "something". Then, maybe, we could find out the nature of this error and assign blame.

As for Fisk, well, quercus definitely has it all in a nutshell.

Afghan anger for collateral damage in a military campaign == understandable.
American anger for deliberate murder of civilians in a terror campaign == the last stand of colonial imperialism.

They get a pass for anything; we get a pass for nothing. ANd intent is, of course, irrelevant. Stockholm Syndrome doesn't begin to describe it, though "propaganda" is a good word to start with.
posted by dhartung at 6:31 PM on December 9, 2001


Incidentally, in Fisk's own column about the incident, he backs off on the claim that the town was filled with just-bombed refugees from Kandahar; in this version (how interesting that his claim has changed), they were enraged by video from the Mazar-i-Sharif prison uprising. Then there is the very interesting justification of self-defense:

For 25 years, I have covered Lebanon's wars and the Lebanese used to teach me, over and over again, how to stay alive: take a decision ? any decision ? but don't do nothing. So I wrenched the bag back ... then I turned on the man on my right, the one holding the bloody stone in his hand and I bashed my fist into his mouth. I couldn't see very much ? my eyes were not only short-sighted without my glasses but were misting over with a red haze ? but I saw the man sort of cough and a tooth fall from his lip and then he fell back on the road.
So, when Fisk is attacked, it's all right to use self-defense.

And I'll say it again. If I was an Afghan refugee in Kila Abdullah, I would have done just what they did. I would have attacked Robert Fisk. Or any other Westerner I could find.

When Afghans are attacked, it's all right to use self-defense.

Can the United States stop bombing villages? Can Washington persuade its special forces to protect prisoners? Can the Americans control their own people? (From Dec 4 column)

But when it's the US, well, gosh, we shouldn't use self-defense. Hell, it isn't even self-defense, because we "made" the terrorrist in the first place, and thus we "made" the attack on ourselves. No, the US doesn't get to use self-defense, because Robert Fisk is a reactor; Afghans are reactors; Taliban and alQaeda terrorists are reactors; and bin Laden is a reactor. Only the US is an actor with responsibility to "control" itself. Only the US is denied self-defense.

Everybody else gets a pass. Including himself.

Fisk, in other words, is a hypocrite.
posted by dhartung at 7:15 PM on December 9, 2001


But when it's the US, well, gosh, we shouldn't use self-defense. Hell, it isn't even self-defense, because we "made" the terrorrist in the first place, and thus we "made" the attack on ourselves. No, the US doesn't get to use self-defense, because Robert Fisk is a reactor; Afghans are reactors; Taliban and alQaeda terrorists are reactors; and bin Laden is a reactor. Only the US is an actor with responsibility to "control" itself. Only the US is denied self-defense.

i find it hard to consider bombing targets, accruing the collateral damage that we seem to, "self-defense." the notion of "self-defense" does not exactly evoke thoughts of collateral damage at all, really, and i think it's an inappropriate term to use in the case of the US bombing afghanistan. (maybe that's just me.) i only wish that we'd be more careful.
posted by moz at 7:41 PM on December 9, 2001


"i only wish that we'd be more careful"

In what way? Even "smart bombs" have something like a 90% success rate which means that 10% of the bombs are likely to stray off target. And the weapons we are using today are the most sophisticated bombs anywhere in the world. How can we be more careful?

Personally, I think both the bombed village and prison uprising rationalizations are bs. I think they read one of Fisk's columns and beat him silly because he was a self loathing idiot. At least that would have been my excuse.
posted by billman at 8:21 PM on December 9, 2001


billman:

How can we be more careful?

that's a question that should be posed to the military in command; anything that can be done would be a help. at least, i hope that no one simply "settles" for 10% failure rates.
posted by moz at 8:39 PM on December 9, 2001


moz:

I don't think anybody "settles for 10% failure rates" but given the shrinking military budget (until recently) and the post-cold war emphasis on peace keeper rather than fighting force and it's easy to see why military leaders have not placed more emphasis on improving weapony such as smart bombs. Perhaps that will change now that the US has been woken up to the post 9-11 world.
posted by billman at 9:07 PM on December 9, 2001


"Civilians" my ass. I've seen the videotape. Al Qaeda trains women and children as terrorists, too.

Any dead kid, any dead woman is a civilian? Nope. Not that these casualties are all terrorists, but these are some sneaky fuckers the modern world is up against.

The US misses with some of their bombs, sure. Big deal. Wring your hands and whine and complain. Boo hoo, Mr. Fisk. Serves you right. I hope it hurts for a while.

This whole thing isn't a matter of US self-defense. It's a matter of the US wiping a threat to the entire world off the map. It's pretty damn nice of them to do it so carefully.

I just hope they don't let a bunch of terrorist "refugees" through the net just because they're still in short pants.
posted by dfowler at 9:30 PM on December 9, 2001


Crash: Sorry for not getting the movie reference. I've never seen that one, believe it or not. I only know it by its catchphrases, and that one had eluded me. My excuse: in 1988, I was still morally conflicted over whether going to R-rated movies was sinful or not.
posted by kindall at 9:34 PM on December 9, 2001


dfowler:

The US misses with some of their bombs, sure. Big deal. Wring your hands and whine and complain.

yah, big deal, right dfowler? it's only the lives some of whom want nothing to do with terrorism.
posted by moz at 9:56 PM on December 9, 2001


Do people think Robert Fisk is a bad guy or just way too passionate about his criticism of the West?

I think he's too passionate. But I also think we need people like him and others (not naming names in case this gets out of control) to bring things to our attention, to play devil's advocate, as it were.

Bombs that go astray are a bad thing. The fact that we need to use bombs at all is a bad thing. As a species, we are so, so doomed to extinction.
posted by jetgrrl at 10:53 PM on December 9, 2001


Fisk just called the way he saw it. Take it or leave it.

I'll just go back to loathing and self-loathing now.
posted by lagado at 11:30 PM on December 9, 2001


Fisk, in other words, is a hypocrite.

And your average American liberal is not, I take it.
posted by lagado at 11:35 PM on December 9, 2001


lagado: hypocrites of many stripes are in abundance at all times. I simply won't be lectured to by one.

jetgrrl: A bad man? No, simply a giant with feet of clay. He's given far too much moral authority to speak simply because of the side he chooses -- which is always, always, the Arab/Islamic side. Here, he reveals his biases -- and his ever-present blame-shifting -- more clearly than ever before.
posted by dhartung at 1:33 AM on December 10, 2001


Reality check: The ascendance of meat and muscle reflex triggered by fear of imminent painful death is not necessarily a symptom of hypocrisy.
posted by Opus Dark at 2:31 AM on December 10, 2001


lagado, frankly I can't tell from the photos given. Were they carrying AK47s when they were injured? Everyone in a hospital looks innocent. Adolescents have been given weapons and shoved to the front lines by the Taliban as fodder so there's really no way to tell from the shown images.
P.S. I would include a link to some WTC victims but the photos only show piles of dust, much harder to relate to.
posted by HTuttle at 4:05 AM on December 10, 2001


Those children looked like they hadn't killed too many Americans yet. It may come as a shock but the overwhelming majority of Afghans are non-combatants.

I'm sorry to hear about the WTC, I really am, but revenge really doesn't justify erasing villages and "smart" carpet bombing civilians. Bombing prisoners of war isn't really cricket either.
posted by lagado at 4:58 AM on December 10, 2001


Those children looked like they hadn't killed too many Americans yet

That's an amazing talent you have, to be able to tell that from a single photo.

Oh, by the way, there seems to be a bug on that unbiased, open-minded site where the 'YES' button fails to show up...hmmm...must be my browser.

Yes, children dying and injured is horrific. But BS propaganda serves little legitimate purpose.
posted by HTuttle at 5:23 AM on December 10, 2001


Afghan anger for collateral damage in a military campaign == understandable.
American anger for deliberate murder of civilians in a terror campaign == the last stand of colonial imperialism.


Fisk on numerous occasions has described September the 11th as an atrocity and labelled it a crime against humanity. Maybe we could reformulate that:

Anger felt by many Americans after WTC == understandable.

Anger felt by powerless villagers after their homes have been destroyed and their families killed or injured == understandable.

What would you expect otherwise? Gratitude?
posted by lagado at 5:28 AM on December 10, 2001


Oh, by the way, there seems to be a bug on that unbiased, open-minded site where the 'YES' button fails to show up...hmmm...must be my browser.

So you got the punchline then? I know it was subtle.
posted by lagado at 5:32 AM on December 10, 2001


It's not propaganda HTuttle, it a satire site making fun of people who think like YOU.
posted by dydecker at 5:34 AM on December 10, 2001


I'm sorry to hear about the WTC, I really am, but revenge really doesn't justify erasing villages and "smart" carpet bombing civilians. Bombing prisoners of war isn't really cricket either.

Do you have sources for these claims, aside from the notion that every negative report that comes from the Arab world is true? I haven't read any reports about carpet bombing civilian targets, and the prisoners at Mazri-al-Sharif had acquired weapons and killed some of their captors. How can you consider them POWs?

Civilians die in large numbers in wartime, because war is inherently reckless. For some, this is more than enough reason not to wage war. I'd love to hear from one of you how we should have proceeded after Sept. 11 and made ourselves safer from Al Qaeda and the other groups that would commit mass murder on our soil, absent military action.
posted by rcade at 5:54 AM on December 10, 2001


You're right, no bombing of civilians has ever taken place.

There are however some questions about the official account of the prison uprisings at Kala-i Janghi. Certainly enough to warrant an enquiry.

It is my contention, and take it for what it's worth, that military action will do nothing to make your country safer from international terrorism. The United States has just entered the same world that Europe has been a part of for atleast thirty years. The shock comes from realizing that it has taken this long.

In the case of Al Qaeda, it is far from clear that levelling Afghanistan has even dented its organization. For that you might have to start bombing your allies like Egypt, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia next, although that seems unlikely. More likely targets will include countries that don't have the resources or ability to defend themselves.
posted by lagado at 7:03 AM on December 10, 2001


So let me get this straight:
If a McVeighesque militia from Montana blew up a building in NY, you all wouldn't have a problem with "collateral damage", say in the few hundreds of civilian victims, in Helena, as a result of aerial bombardment against militia hideouts?
Fisk calls it as he sees it, and I'd certainly take his word on what's happening over anybody's military propaganda machine.
posted by talos at 7:06 AM on December 10, 2001


You're right, no bombing of civilians has ever taken place.

I never stated anything of the kind, and it's pretty cheap rhetoric for you to pretend otherwise. Neither of the stories you linked to appears to describe carpet bombing (unexploded cluster bombs would have been found).

Also, from the link you provided on the prison uprising:
"They did get plenty of guns, but they got them after the start of the rebellion from the large weapons repositories that were also in the castle in which they were being held."
Once a large group of POWs acquires "plenty of guns" in a fortified position such as a castle, describing them as prisoners of war is ludicrous.

Also, I note that you did not take up the challenge to offer a non-military solution that makes the world safer from Al Qaeda post Sept. 11.
posted by rcade at 8:06 AM on December 10, 2001


lagodo: Let's see. When did any country in Europe have thousands of people die from a terrorist act committed at one time, and at the center of its capitals of government and commerce (the very heart of those too)? America also had seen terrorist acts committed here before too, not constant as with the IRA or the Basque rebels, but c'mon.
posted by raysmj at 8:16 AM on December 10, 2001


rcade:Also, I note that you did not take up the challenge to offer a non-military solution that makes the world safer from Al Qaeda post Sept. 11.
The question is whether the military solution is making the "world" safer from Al Qaeda. Do you think that Al Qaeda is localized and has a single base? Did you happen to notice that the vast majority of the people involved in the terrorist bombings were Saudi citizens? So when does the US start bombing the Saud family's palaces? The Taleban seem to have a collective IQ of 5 and that rich Saudi brat cum gangleader wouldn't be able to plan something like 11/9 by himself.
I admire your optimism rcade but not your realism.
posted by talos at 8:48 AM on December 10, 2001


haven't the bombing objectives been met weeks ago? as a past supporter of a military solution in this case, i now increasingly wonder when it will end.
posted by danOstuporStar at 8:54 AM on December 10, 2001


The question is whether the military solution is making the "world" safer from Al Qaeda. Do you think that Al Qaeda is localized and has a single base?

That's a different question.

There were thousands of Al Qaeda forces operating freely in Afghanistan prior to the war. Their training facilities and chemical and biological warfare facilities have been destroyed, their forces routed, thousands of them are dead, and their patron government has disbanded. Seems safer to me, though it's too early to really judge with any certainty.
posted by rcade at 9:16 AM on December 10, 2001


danOstuporStar : the bombings objectives have not been met. Osama bin Laden and Omar as still at large. In fact, as I write this reports have bin Laden in "fierce" combat with anti-Taliban forces with the US supplying air support.

And, I'm sorry on this one but when POW's stage a revolt and take weapons, they are no longer prisoners but combatants and the use of force seems to be authorized under the Geneva Convention.

I also have to agree with the critique of the labeling anything we've done as carpet bombing. The claim is in and of itself intended to be inflammatory and cause the sort knee-jerk reaction the anti-war crowd craves. Sorry, it just didn't happen. Oh and some of the facts are in dispute about the uprising: DUH! Let's see, several hundred people, the chaos of a prison uprising, people being killed, you just might have more than one or two versions of what happened. And lagado, that link is a blog piece that does nothing but throw out speculation upon speculation. Seems unlikely, wants us to believe, doesn't exactly jibe. If you're going to use a link to support your pov at least have the respect to link to a credible news outlet, even if the news outlet is biased. Reading the ramblings of someone's personal opinion on a Texas A&M university website hardly seems like evidence.

Ok for the strawman fans out there who like to continue propping up the "If McVeigh . . . " scenario despite its numerous flaws, let's just make the situation more comparable. If McVeigh had bombed NY and was up in the hills in Montana protected by 2000 or 3000 of his highly trained ex-military buddies AND the mayor of Montana had refused the FBI's requests for his capture AND mobilized many of the citizens of the town to fight against the FBI and/or military to protect McVeigh, then . . . only then might you be drawing up a scenario that remotely reflects what has happened in Afghanistan.

Lastly, yes the world is a safer place because of US actions against al Queda. bin Laden's operation has been set back 5+ years. And with a stepped up intelligence effort and the change in public opinion about terrorism, the bin Laden hopeful of tomorrow is more likely to be found with a bullet hole in his head in some remote desert camp than he is to coordinate an organization capable of conducting another 9-11. I also believe that because of our new attitudes about terrorism, more will be done to counter the anti-West spin of the militant Islamic factions and many foreign governments will be pressured into taking harsher actions against groups advocating violence. Prior to 9-11 many foreign leaders were scared to crack down on militant Islamic groups fearing violent backlash by the groups. Today, many like Yemen, are secretly seeking the aid of the US in putting these groups down. So, yes, I do believe the world to be a safer place because of our actions. Not safe, the world never has been safe, but safer than 9-10.
posted by billman at 10:12 AM on December 10, 2001


To add on to rcade's points, furthermore foreign governments who may have been of a mind to export away their troublemakers (Saudi Arabia, Egypt) or pretend they dont' exist (Pakistan) will have less leeway now that the United States has shows what happens to terrorists and those that harbor them.

I like Robert Fisk's reporting in general, I am also critical of the Afghanistan war, but sometimes all the other options just aren't sufficient.
posted by cell divide at 10:43 AM on December 10, 2001


billman: so under the militia scenario you described you wouldn't have a problem with hundreds of civilians in Montana dying (including children) as "collateral damage"?

cell divide: Saudi Arabia doesn't export away "troublemakers", it actively supported , and still supports the most fundamentalist strain of Islamism world wide.

In Pakistan, a really close ally of the US now, the religious schools and the fundamentalist leaders still enjoy high status and protection , while it actively supports islamist terrorists in Kashmir. Finally I remind you that the threat of death is not really a disincentive for a suicidal maniac and becomes of questionable usefulness when it aggravates the conditions under which terrorist recruitment thrives.
posted by talos at 3:41 AM on December 11, 2001


In Pakistan, a really close ally of the US now, the religious schools and the fundamentalist leaders still enjoy high status and protection , while it actively supports islamist terrorists in Kashmir.

Don't be so sure. Some of those leaders are losing face because they sent hundreds to die in Afghanistan as "jihadis" while keeping themselves and family members out of harm's way. Pakistan is using their new unpopularity as an opportunity to crack down on them, according to a recent TV report.
posted by rcade at 6:17 AM on December 11, 2001


"I can't blame the American crowd for harassing the mosque goers to Friday prayer and the killing of the Sikh gas station attendant. If I had civilians of my country attacked by Middle Easterners I would have killed the Sikh myself."

Same ridiculous logic of Fisk.
posted by scottfree at 9:40 AM on December 11, 2001


talos:


billman: so under the militia scenario you described you wouldn't have a problem with hundreds of civilians in Montana dying (including children) as "collateral damage"?


That's not what I said at all. First off, I said that if you wanted to even make a fair comparison, that would be a far more equal scenario than the constant, "Well we should blow up McVeigh" anti-war argument that gets thrown around A LOT! No, I said, my scenario is closer to what the situation we are facing with bin Laden is like. Now secondly, neither did I say that I would not have a problem with it. I have a problem with killing innocent people in Afghanistan. I have said that over and over. The thing that is being missed is that if old McVeigh is up there trying to cook up chemical weapons and likely to launch another massive attack, then, given the choice between possibly killing some civilians or letting McVeigh take another crack at mass murder, I'm going to have to take McVeigh down.

Now, I think the problem really comes down to whether you believe those to be our only choices. I really think that's what it comes down to. Diplomacy wouldn't work for numerous reasons already pounded into the ground immediately following the attack and even if there was a chance it would help, what kind of message does that send to every crackpot with a gripe agains the US? Blow up one of their buildings and then they'll listen to you. That's not a good message to send. Now, you point out that "threat of death is not really a disincentive" and I agree with you which is why they have to be killed on your terms or they will kill you on theirs. In fact, I think you make the point you are trying to cast doubt on. If the threat of death is not a disincentive, then our options are to appease a small minority of militant extremists. If that's your solution, then I'm not buying it. You think caving into bin Laden's demands would make the world a safer place? The guy has stated that the weak response for previous attacks was one of his main motivations.

I think you really need to think this one through. I invite anybody who has a different point of view AND a viable alternative to step up and offer it. I'm not afraid of being wrong but as of Dec. 11, 2001, I really haven't heard a compelling, logical, and realistic plan. I've heard a lot of complaining about what we are doing. Yep, plenty of that. I've heard plenty of self-loathing. But what I haven't heard is an alternative proposal. Until I do, I'm sticking with the plan we got and the leaders making it happen.
posted by billman at 12:28 PM on December 11, 2001


Neither of the stories you linked to appears to describe carpet bombing (unexploded cluster bombs would have been found).

Found by whom? Given that the United States only bombs and then fails to "independently confirm" anything. We can only use the information we have in front of us, your information is as flawed as mine.

Here is one person's crack at starting to collate this information. 3000+ "unconfirmed" casualties. We will have to wait until genuinely independent investigators report back but I certainly don't expect the Pentagon to provide much help. Their too busy moving their headquarters to Kuwait to be bothered worrying over spilt milk.

Also, from the link you provided on the prison uprising:

"They did get plenty of guns, but they got them after the start of the rebellion from the large weapons repositories that were also in the castle in which they were being held."

Once a large group of POWs acquires "plenty of guns" in a fortified position such as a castle, describing them as prisoners of war is ludicrous.


Again, there is enough reason to doubt the official account including that retold by the BBC and The Times.

"but there is no evidence that the captured Taleban expected to be treated in accordance with the Geneva Convention, or had a clue any such thing existed. Warfare in Afghanistan has its own, bloodier conventions."

(spin, spin, spin)

One might alternatively jump to the conclusion that the Northern Alliance has a tendency to murder its prisoners of war and then blame it on their innate "suicidal" tendencies.

Yesterday, 80 survivors of the massacre emerged from the basement of the ruined fortress. They had hidden without food for days in the hope of escaping the Northern Alliance.

Gen Dostum was in the process of bringing two Taliban leaders from Kunduz - Mullah Faizal and Mullah Dadullah - to persuade the prisoners to accept their defeat, when the men apparently took a decision to commit suicide en masse by setting off at least one grenade.

"There was a loud rumble from inside one of the containers," said Abdullah Ismail, one of Gen Dostum's commanders. "We opened it up to find that one or more of the Taliban had triggered an explosion inside. It was a mess. There were about 80 in there. There was stinking smoke and the walls were smeared with flesh."


Funny how they failed to search these prisoners for weapons a second time in succession. Uncanny!

Also, I note that you did not take up the challenge to offer a non-military solution that makes the world safer from Al Qaeda post Sept. 11.

Sorry, rcade, there are no easy fixes here, but bombing destitute and lawless countries doesn't really do all that much much except make armchair generals feel better (at least until their eyes glaze over).

As Talos says, international terrorists have no national territory and the Taleban were not their "sponsors". Sure, no one will miss the Taleban but in essense it was the wrong war. Al Quaeda and related underground networks will continue to operate with impunity throughout Europe, Asia and United States.

Best not to think too much about it. Next stop Somalia...
posted by lagado at 3:46 PM on December 11, 2001


In Pakistan, a really close ally of the US now, the religious schools and the fundamentalist leaders still enjoy high status and protection , while it actively supports islamist terrorists in Kashmir.

Don't be so sure. Some of those leaders are losing face because they sent hundreds to die in Afghanistan as "jihadis" while keeping themselves and family members out of harm's way. Pakistan is using their new unpopularity as an opportunity to crack down on them, according to a recent TV report.


Don't be so sure. The current government of General Pervez Musharraf is doing its best to survive. They have lost their influence in Afghanistan and have alienated their Pashtun citizenry.

Hopefully the recent injection of 1.3bn by the IMF will help them buy enough military hardware to stop them being overthrown (let alone call elections).
posted by lagado at 4:01 PM on December 11, 2001


America's New War: A Progress Report
To date, the U.S. has dropped 10,000 bombs on Afghanistan, killing sizable numbers of civilians - in the range of 1,500-2,000, according to Afghan sources. U.S. bombing of cities, towns and villages has driven over 160,000 people into refugee camps.

The late Pashtun leader Abdul Haq warned the U.S. before his death that bombing Afghanistan was unnecessary and a grave mistake. Taliban control could be broken, where needed, by financing tribal uprisings - the standard form of Afghan warfare - without foreign intervention. Otherwise, he warned, the Northern Alliance would take over and bring in the Russians. He pleaded with Washington for restraint, but to no avail. Haq was captured by the Taliban during a bungled CIA operation and hanged.

Osama safe in Pakistan?
Osama bin Laden escaped the embattled Tora Bora base to Pakistan 10 days ago with the help of tribesmen from the Ghilzi tribe

The Taleban safe in Pakistan?
HUNDREDS of Taleban officials who have fled Afghanistan and taken refuge in Pakistan look likely to escape investigation by either the United States or the new Kabul Government.

U.S. Bars Surrender of Qaida
U.S. military advisers stepped in Wednesday to block a surrender deal offered by Osama bin Laden's remaining fighters, pressuring Afghan leaders to renew their attack
posted by lagado at 3:17 PM on December 13, 2001


3,500 Civilians Killed in Afghanistan by U.S. Bombs according to University of New Hampshire Economics Professor Marc Herold.
posted by ferris at 6:33 PM on December 13, 2001


In Village Where Innocents Died, Anger Cannot Be Buried
MADOO, Afghanistan, Dec. 15 — Perhaps someday there will be a reckoning for this tiny village of 15 houses, all of them obliterated into splintered wood and dust by American bombs. United States military officials might explain why 55 people died here.

An Afghan Village Where Errant Bombs Fell and Killed, and Still Lurk in Wait
HARYKARI, Afghanistan, Dec. 12 — The errant bombs landed on this northern village more than three weeks ago, in a terrifying and rolling barrage that the villagers believe was the payload of an American B- 52. Some bombs landed in the rice paddies, sending up enormous showers of dirt. Others leveled houses. The villagers say 30 people died.

Taliban's trail leads to Pakistan
KARACHI - The former director-general of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Lieutenant-General Hamid Gul, nicknamed the "godfather of the Taliban", is believed to be behind moves to help the Taliban establish a base in Pakistan's autonomous Pashtun tribal belt, which borders eastern Afghanistan.

Bin Laden trail goes cold
Al-Qaida routed, but battle fails to unearth terror leader
posted by lagado at 3:15 AM on December 17, 2001


Analysis: Al-Qaeda likely to survive
posted by lagado at 4:51 AM on December 18, 2001


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