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Jewish World Review Nov. 29, 2001 / 14 Kislev, 5762

Michael Kelly

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Despite the naysayers -- A MONTH ago, the anti-war and the anti-American elements of the left in the United States and in Europe were howling that war in Afghanistan was unjust because: The attacks of Sept. 11 were mere criminal acts, to be properly dealt with by the police and the courts; war would likely cause the deaths of millions of innocent Afghans through bombing and through a bombing-induced famine; war was unlikely to succeed against the never-say-die Taliban; and war would not buy America peace but only more war.

What have we learned since? We have learned that it would have been impossible to extract Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda from Afghanistan without war. Some had presumed that the Taliban could hand over bin Laden and his lieutenants for extradition and trial. But al Qaeda was symbiotically integrated with the Taliban, with al Qaeda the militarily and financially superior force. The Taliban could no more turn over al Qaeda than they could turn over themselves.

We have learned conclusively that the Taliban were not the government of the Afghan people. They were a foreign tyranny imposed on the Afghan people. The power that came from the barrel of a gun in Afghanistan came ultimately from guns held not by Afghans but by tens of thousands of foreign mercenaries imported by the Taliban and al Qaeda. Destroying Afghanistan's occupiers did not mean killing innocent Afghans but freeing them from fascist oppression.

We have learned that bombing did not result in the death of millions, but in the rescue of millions. Thanks to liberation, food is pouring into Afghanistan now, and the millions of refugees who fled the Taliban are beginning to return home.

We have learned that the Taliban would rather switch than die. We have learned that al Qaeda had constructed in Afghanistan a system for training, dispersing and financing thousands of anti-American terrorists now at large in the world.

In light of the refutation of almost every major criticism and alarm from the left, what have we heard from the peacemongers? Well, mostly, a determined silence. And where the silence is broken, it is to obfuscate.

James Carroll, a writer with a long pedigree as an anti-warrior, argued in the Boston Globe yesterday that it remains the case that, as the headline put it, "This War Is Not Just." He makes three main points.

The first point is that we (although not Carroll) are too "ignorant" to pronounce on this war: "The United States government has revealed very little of what has happened in the war zone. Journalists impeded by restricted access and blind patriotism have uncovered even less." But a glance at the Globe's news section on any given day proves this false. Afghanistan is swarming with reporters who are working independently and free of any U.S. restraints. These journalists have been, and are, reporting daily from every liberated area of Afghanistan and frequently from areas where fighting continues. Six, so far, have been killed on the job.

The "massive bombardment" of Afghanistan, writes Carroll, has been "to what effect?" We just don't know, he suggests. Yes, we do. Again, reporters have filed stories on the bombing effects from all over Afghanistan, including almost every bombed city. Leaving aside the gross libel in the suggestion that American reporters' "blind patriotism" has kept them from fully revealing the truth, what about the many foreign reporters covering the conflict? Has their blind love for America also led them to hide awful realities?

The second point is that "the celebrated results" of the war -- "collapse of the Taliban, liberation of women -- are welcome," but "are relatively peripheral outcomes, unrelated to the stated American war aim of defeating terrorism." But this is also manifestly not true. The collapse of the Taliban is not a "peripheral outcome." It is in fact one of the two "stated American war aims" of the war in Afghanistan (the other is the collapse of the Taliban's partner, al Qaeda, which is being effectively pursued). And, it would seem evident, the collapse of the government that provides state-sanctioned support for the world's largest and most dangerous terror network is indeed integral to "the stated American war aim of defeating terrorism."

The third point is the Old Original Canard that this all should have been handled by "police action, not war. The criminals, not an impoverished nation, should be on the receiving end of the punishment." But the criminals -- the murderous fascists of al Qaeda and the Taliban -- are the ones being punished. "The impoverished nation" is composed of the Afghan people, who have been for weeks thanking us for rescuing them from the tyranny of the criminals.

Carroll bemoans the criticism his camp has come in for. "Next, we will be called 'kooks,' " he writes. No, no, not at all.

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© 2001, Washington Post Co.