October 22nd, 2001

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War and Peace Update

"As a gesture of humanitarian support, the US government air-dropped 37,000 packets of emergency rations into Afghanistan. It says it plans to drop a total of 500,000 packets. That will still only add up to a single meal for half a million people out of the several million in dire need of food. Aid workers have condemned it as a cynical, dangerous, public-relations exercise. They say that air-dropping food packets is worse than futile. First, because the food will never get to those who really need it. More dangerously, those who run out to retrieve the packets risk being blown up by land mines. A tragic alms race.
Nevertheless, the food packets had a photo-op all to themselves. Their contents were listed in major newspapers. They were vegetarian, we're told, as per Muslim Dietary Law (!) Each yellow packet, decorated with the American flag, contained: rice, peanut butter, bean salad, strawberry jam, crackers, raisins, flat bread, an apple fruit bar, seasoning, matches, a set of plastic cutlery, a serviette and illustrated user instructions.
After three years of unremitting drought, an air-dropped airline meal in Jalalabad! The level of cultural ineptitude, the failure to understand what months of relentless hunger and grinding poverty really mean, the U.S. government’s attempt to use even this abject misery to boost its self-image, beggars description.
Reverse the scenario for a moment. Imagine if the Taliban government was to bomb New York City, saying all the while that its real target was the U.S. government and its policies. And suppose, during breaks between the bombing, the Taliban dropped a few thousand packets containing nan and kababs impaled on an Afghan flag. Would the good people of New York ever find it in themselves to forgive the Afghan government? Even if they were hungry, even if they needed the food, even if they ate it, how would they ever forget the insult, the condescension? Rudy Giuliani, mayor of New York City, returned a gift of $10 million from a Saudi prince because it came with a few words of friendly advice about American policy in the Middle East. Is pride a luxury that only the rich are entitled to?"

from "Insult and Injury in Afghanistan: America's Ill-Conceived War on Terror" by Arundhati Roy


and

"The United Nations is set to issue an unprecedented appeal to the United States and its coalition allies to halt the war on Afghanistan and allow time for a huge relief operation.
UN sources in Pakistan said growing concern over the deteriorating humanitarian situation in the country - in part, they say, caused by the relentless bombing campaign - has forced them to take the radical step. Aid officials estimate that up to 7.5 million Afghans might be threatened with starvation.
'The situation is completely untenable inside Afghanistan. We really need to get our point across here and have to be very bold in doing it. Unless the [US air] strikes stop, there will be a huge number of deaths,' one UN source said."

from "UN Set to Appeal for Halt in the Bombing " by Jason Burke
Two excellent pieces of news - that the mainstream MSNBC website carried Arundhati Roy's article, and that the United Nations remains very much saner than the United States.

In other news, I was having a rotten day but Embryomystic salvaged my sanity at the last moment so now I'm going to bed happy.
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