Monday, February 16, 2009


It has been announced that the “War on Terror” in Afghanistan will be the focus of a joint “study” between the Afghan government and the United States.
The first step should be the elimination of the words “War on Terror.” It’s a well-worn cliché that “wars” cannot be fought against ideas and “terror” is an idea. “Terror” does not have a universally agreed upon definition but in general “terror” is defined by acts of violence perpetrated against “innocents” -- non-combatants – by non-state actors for a political impact.
One must ask: Is it not “terror” when state-sponsored embargos and wars deprive non-combatants, civilians, babies, mothers, families, of food, health care, shelter, and, oh yes, in the process destroy their homes and kill or imprison them (without due process).
As for the word “war,” maybe this word too should be eliminated. Metaphors aside, haven’t we seen enough of the horror of “war”?
How can the Afghan “government” (remember we’re not really talking a unified country) and the U.S. government approach this issue?
A modest suggestion: switch the focus from “terror” to hunger, education, health care, and human rights.
Instead of “war,” which suggests opposing sides, look for common ground with the people of the mountains and tribal territories, with the poppy growers and the starving people in the cities.
Look at history. Since the first Afghan farmers – we’re talking farming 50,000 years ago -- faced off with the first tribal invaders and more recently (4000 years ago) Persians followed by Alexander the Great, this land of strong people has defeated all comers, most recently the British Empire followed by the Soviet Union.
If the last several thousand years have demonstrated anything it is that Afghanistan cannot be unified by invaders nor tribal wars.
Forget bin Laden. Undercut his power. Talk with the people. Eliminate bin Laden’s base.
Village-by-village, tribe-by-tribe, work with people instead of carpet-bombing them. Learn languages, cultures. Don’t force our values. Don’t demand subservience.
Share life.
Attend weddings; don’t target them because suspects are dancing in celebration.
Share our humanity.
Not easy?
Beats the last several thousand years of war.