Humanitarian crisis: stop the bombs

Isn’t it time to step back from the relentless bombing of Afghanistan? Isn’t it time for suspension of bombing?

For one thing, the stated objectives of the administration – capturing bin Laden and replacing the Taliban government – are no closer to being realized.

For another, innocent people and especially the most vulnerable – children and the elderly – are dying because of the daily and massive bombing raids, something that the Bush administration said would not happen because of the surgical accuracy of our new weapons.

For still another, the Muslim people would greet such a gesture on the eve of Ramadan, their holiest month of the year.

But more compelling, the unceasing bombing of Afghanistan makes it virtually impossible to transport and distribute food and other supplies to people living in the war zones and at risk of starving.

According to international relief organizations, literally millions of Afghani people could starve to death this winter. Some observers say as many as 7.5 million are at risk.

Their deaths will not be instantaneous like they were for the thousands who died on Sept. 11; indeed, they would be slow and painful.

Are we ready to accept in the name of the American people this level of what Bush and Rumsfeld call “collateral damage?” Are we ready to allow millions of Afghani people to receive a death sentence in our name?

Or, to come at this developing humanitarian crisis from another angle, will our nation and the world be any closer to eradicating terrorism if millions of Afghani people starve to death over this winter because of the Bush administration’s refusal to suspend, even if only temporarily, the relentless bombing?

To the contrary, the death of innocent people on such a scale will inexorably aggravate tensions and violence to the extreme. It makes retaliation against innocent people in our own and other countries much more likely. It will escalate the conflict a thousandfold. It will bring humankind closer to the danger of mass annihilation.

In short, the non-stop bombing and the imminent humanitarian crisis foreclose any possibility of ending terrorism and set the stage for a much wider war.

Thus, the struggle to force the Bush administration to halt the bombing is a political and moral imperative at this moment.

All this may sound apocalyptic, but it would be irresponsible to underestimate the gravity of this impending human disaster enveloping millions in Afghanistan and the consequences that will follow.

An enormous weight falls on the American people to compel the Bush administration to bring an immediate stop to the bombing.

Everything humanly possible should be done to win public opinion to support such a bombing pause. While sections of the American people may not yet be ready to support a permanent halt to the attacks, they may well welcome a call for a bombing suspension in order to forestall mass famine among the Afghani people.

Moreover, a pause would be greeted by tens of millions of people worldwide. Public opinion polls in Europe show rapidly declining support for the bombing. And in other parts of the world, there never was much enthusiasm for Bush’s war on terrorism to begin with.

So a broad, worldwide coalition to halt the bombing in order to save millions of Afghani lives is possible as well as necessary. No stone should be left unturned in this effort.

The author can be reached at Swebb@cpusa.org.