Rebuilding Afghanistan: Promises, Promises, Promises

  • From: "Muslim-News" <editor_@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <submit@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Fri, 21 Jun 2002 10:06:35 +0100

OVER THE past two decades, as their wild and once-beautiful country has
been wrecked by a revolving cast of super-powers, religious fanatics and
thugs, the people of Afghanistan have been promised much. Almost nothing
has been delivered, a reality that hovered like the proverbial dark
cloud over the lofty speeches and ambitious plans of the recent loya

This time, thanks to eight months of hunting Osama bin Laden with jets
and bombs, the promise-makers are we. But, as Abdul Azimi, a law
professor, told the Los Angeles Times last week: "A lot of Afghan people
are still not sure if the United States is sincere this time or will
disappear after a year or two when the first part of its goals are

A lot of Afghan people are smart to be unsure. The United States has a
bad habit of disappearing from messes we've helped make after our
initial goals have been achieved. We also have a bad habit of then
popping up elsewhere to help make a new mess. 

Millions of Afghans may be illiterate, but they can read the political
handwriting on the wall. What's writ these days by the White House, be
it peanuts for aid or George W. Bush's announced contract on Saddam
Hussein, does not engender optimism. 

All the while talking about its commitment to rebuild a democratic
Afghanistan, the Bush administration puts most of its money into U.S.
military operations. Never mind schools or water systems, even something
as fundamental to a country's stability as effective, nationwide
security has been treated as a luxury item. 

Every aid and human rights organization in Afghanistan has complained
that security outside of Kabul is either nonexistent or entrusted to war
lords whose methods are merely a variation on the Taliban's cruel theme.
Our answer to the dangerous vacuum? We're teaching Afghan men the art of
soldiering and leaving Germany to try to find and train a police force. 

How about something as politically sensible (and moral) as compensating
Afghan victims of U.S. bombs? It isn't on Bush's list of must-do's. Just
ask the members of a U.S. group called Peaceful Tomorrows. 

Formed by families of people who were killed in the attacks on the World
Trade Center and Pentagon, Peaceful Tomorrows is pressing Congress and
the White House to make financial amends to Afghans who lost relatives,
homes and businesses to U.S. bombing. In the Bay Area, such
representatives as Anna Eshoo, Barbara Lee and Lynn Woolsey have joined
the effort. 

After several members traveled to Afghanistan in January and saw the
devastation for themselves, the group wrote Bush and requested a

"We waited for a couple of months and finally got an answer from his
scheduling office. They turned us down, saying that he's tremendously
busy and has had many similar requests," said Kelly Campbell, a Bay Area
member of Peaceful Tomorrows. "We kind of doubt that: Many requests?
From families of Sept. 11 victims who want compensation for the families
of our sister victims?" 

Despite being blown off by the White House, Peaceful Tomorrows has been
encouraged by the results of a new Zogby International poll.
Commissioned by the human rights group, Global Exchange, the survey
found that 69 percent of Americans think the United States government,
"as a goodwill gesture, should provide humanitarian assistance" to
Afghan civilians who've been injured by our war on terrorism in their

"In the grand scheme of what we spend money on, it would not take a lot
to help these people," said Campbell. "And it's not just the
compassionate thing to do, it's in our strategic world interest. It
would show people that Americans are human beings, too, that our
commitment to rebuilding Afghanistan is not just a facade; it's really

Source:  San Francisco Chronicle

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