I am still testing our new approach to mailing Free Updates. There may
still be some wrinkles. If so, I apologize. And ain't hi tech wonderful!

And speaking of hi tech, can I make a friendly recommendation to you

I am the opposite of an alarmist. But the situation with computer
viruses is rapidly worsening. Everyone should have anti-virus software
and everyone should keep it updated. Whether it is Norton, or McAfee, or
a good freeware program - get something and use it. You can get advice
online or at any computer store. 

And trust me, there are lots of you who have an infected machine, don't
know you have one, and are spewing messages to people whose addresses
are on your system. The number of these infected messages I get is great
enough that we have to create a special virus server to run interference
for our email server to efficiently catch and deal with it all. 

Okay, all that said...even since yesterday there are numerous updates on

We have placed all articles from the July/August, September, and October
print issues of Z Magazine online. That's quite a haul. 

We have placed numberous new articles on Afghanistan, the Mideast
situation, the draconian legal machinations of Bush and Co., and so on,
online, also an excellent Monbiot interview on globalization, and so on.

And, by way of substance for this message...


A Veil on the Truth
By Cynthia Peters

A few privileged Afghan women have been caught smiling for AP cameras,
but many Afghan women, men and children are silently dying behind the
burqa of U.S. deceit.

The facts are simple. Massive food distribution programs put in place
prior to 9-11 in response to widespread famine were derailed by the
anticipation of and then the actual U.S. bombing campaign, and have been
even further set back by the Taliban's retreat. According to the New
York Times (11/30/01), "In the past two weeks, the tonnage [of aid]
delivered dropped to a pace less than half of what it had been in the
previous two weeks." The problem is that the "towns and cities are so
chaotic that relief agencies cannot safely operate. Many roads are off
limits because of lawlessness and banditry."

Those of us who opposed the U.S. war in Afghanistan nevertheless saw its
apparent rapid resolution as an opportunity to at least get much needed
supplies into the country. Having routed the enemy, perhaps the United
States would stop the bombing, allowing food trucks to move in from
across the border. But, instead, the opposite is true. As of this
writing (December 5), the bombing continues, civilian populations are
left at the mercy of marauding gangs, and food aid dwindles.

There are a few simple things we could do that would immediately turn
down the torture in Afghanistan.

First, the U.S. should stop bombing. There is no real accounting yet of
the civilian casualty rate, but reports in the last few days claim that
U.S. bombs hit four villages near Tora Bora, possibly killing hundreds
(NYT 12/3/01). This is an unethical and illegal use of U.S. firepower.
If it's Osama bin Laden who we are still after, it is never too late to
apprehend him in a manner that accords with international law -- present
proper evidence and allow the UN to mount a prudent, ground-based
multilateral campaign to capture him. In any case, since there is no
Afghan enemy mounting any kind of defense or engaging in battle, there
is no excuse for large-scale bombings -- whether directed by the U.S. or
the UN.

Second, the bridge to Uzbekistan, which is a key passage for aid trucks,
should be secured. And we should meet Uzbekistan's demand that an
international force provide security at their Afghan border. Instead
American military officials are saying that although they "recognize the
urgency of opening the bridge from Uzbekistan, [U.S.] troops will not be
protecting the border."

There is callous disregard for human life in this casual acknowledgement
of the urgency. American officials understand the consequences of their
inactivity, but are blithely sitting back and saying they want Afghan
forces -- not foreign troops -- to police the roadways, when the only
Afghan forces that exist in the country are "lawless bandits," and it is
American officials themselves that installed them. Having destabilized
the country to the point where it is not even safe for aid trucks to
travel, it seems the U.S. is washing its hands of the disaster.

If only that were the case.

Instead, the U.S. is actually blocking efforts to bring in the very
peacekeepers that might secure the roads and borders, and facilitate the
transport of life-saving aid. Buried in an article about how the
Northern Alliance, during negotiations in Bonn, finally relented on
allowing foreign peacekeepers into the country, the Boston Globe
(11/30/01) reported that some U.S. officials believe peacekeepers will
be a nuisance to their unilateral conduct of the war. "Citing Bush
Administration officials, the Washington Post reported that `the U.S.
Central Command, which oversees the war in Afghanistan, is opposing the
imminent deployment of peacekeepers in areas freed from Taliban control
out of concern this could encumber U.S. military operations.'"

In a New York Times article (12/3/01) about the Bonn negotiations, a
brief aside mentions the "Pentagon's unwillingness to take part in any
peacekeeping force or to favor placing peacekeepers anywhere where they
could get in the way of the war against Al Qaeda." Specifically, since
November 12 when the Northern Alliance took Kabul, the Pentagon has
blocked proposals by France and Britain to send thousands of troops to
secure Kabul, the northern half of the country, and aid routes. On
December 4, the Pentagon said it would "not object to peacekeepers
confined to Kabul and its immediate vicinity" -- a concession that is
mostly symbolic (only 200 peacekeepers will be admitted) and is
nonetheless entirely irrelevant to ensuring open channels for aid (NYT

Third, the U.S. should reconsider food airdrops. Dropping "Humanitarian
Daily Rations" -- bright yellow packages, decorated with the American
flag and containing 2200 calories worth of peanut butter, shortbread,
and fruit pastries -- is counterproductive. Airdrops undermine the work
of neutral aid organizations by turning humanitarian assistance into an
attempt to win "hearts and minds." They ignore the special needs of
malnourished children who require a specific diet. "If you would give
peanut butter to a severely malnourished child, you are likely to do
more harm than good," says Lucas Van den Broeck of Action Against Hunger
(Boston Globe 10/25/01). And the airdrops bypass crucial distribution
methods, which ensure food gets to all who need it, not just to those
nimble enough to gather the yellow packets as they drop from the skies,
assuming, that is, that they land where people can reach them and not
among land mines (10 million of which litter the Afghan landscape).
According to at least one UN report (Boston Globe, 11/30/01), two
children have already been killed "when they stepped on mines running
across a field trying to pick up food packets."

We won't see pictures of their exploded bodies in the morning newspaper
because those images are a theat to the Pentagon's ongoing prosecution
of the "war on terrorism." Those images must stay safely shrouded from
public view. While the media showcase the newly revealed faces of Afghan
women, the innocent victims of the U.S. war are still thickly veiled.

This is a veil that U.S. citizens have the power to lift, and the
consequences of doing so are immense. We should expose and demand an end
to a war that has turned Afghanistan into a world stage for the
theatrical display of U.S. might and banal disregard for human life.

Cynthia Peters is a political activist, writer and editor. She can be
contacted at [EMAIL PROTECTED]

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