APHA condemns war

In a strongly-worded resolution titled “Opposing war in southwest Asia,” the annual meeting of the 50,000-member American Public Health Association (APHA) expressed its opposition to “military actions against Afghanistan and other nations,” and called such action “an undertaking that runs counter to the health and well-being of our populations.”

Dr. Muhammad Akhter, APHA executive director, told the World the resolution was a “reaffirmation of the historic mission of APHA of promoting the public health. War is the enemy of all people: it destroys the infrastructure such as sewage and water systems, creates refugees and leads to the death and disablement of thousands, even millions, of the civilian population.”

Ahkter said one way to enhance public health is to bring about a peaceful resolution to conflict. “We should be providing humanitarian assistance in the form of shelter, food and medical supplies, instead of bombs,” he said.

The APHA statement endorsed “in strongest terms” the efforts of international organizations to bring the perpetrators of all terror attacks to justice and called upon the Bush administration “to end military actions” and offer “humanitarian aid to the people of Afghanistan.” The resolution added that such aid should be offered in a manner “consistent with local culture and beliefs.”

The resolution said APHA “specifically condemns intentional killing of civilians as a crime against humanity,” also condemning “the staggering levels of death and human suffering” brought about by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

The 12,000 participants at the Oct. 21-25 Atlanta meeting reaffirmed APHA’s “opposition to wars motivated by economic objectives, such as dominance over regions rich in petroleum reserves,” adding that that these conflicts on this scale are not in the interests of ordinary civilians but are, rather, “conflicts [that] serve the needs of energy corporations interested in exploiting resources in the region of conflict.”

The resolution noted the strategic value of Afghanistan in the control of important pipeline routes for oil and natural gas exports from Central Asia to the Arabian Sea. The resolution said these and similar proposals have been under serious consideration since the mid-1990s.

The resolution warned of the “intense alienation” among Muslims brought about by the military action in Afghanistan and expressed concern about the danger of expanding military activities to other oil-rich countries, notably Iraq, which, it said, “is becoming the object of renewed military interest.”

Akhter said wars leave heavy burdens in their aftermath, “even on the victors. Men and women return for the war zone suffering from new diseases such as those caused by Agent Orange or psychological disabilities such as Gulf War” and that others return as drug addicts.

“The reordering of U.S. budgetary priorities for war results in dramatic cuts in a number of urgently needed domestic programs, especially those for low-income families,” Akhter added.