( September 20, 2001)
Terrorism took away thousands of innocent lives in the fateful morning of September 11. And even before the world could start recovering from the shock and sorrow, it is being enveloped in terror thanks to a new war (which the Bush administration itself called a 'dirty' war).
The US announced that it was going to strike back at not only terrorist groups led by Bin Laden but also any country that protects terrorists. The US also predicted that the war would be a long drawn-out affair where ground forces and even nuclear arms could be considered.
America's aggressive foreign policy has reaped considerable results so far, with even traditionally anti-
American Islamic states tensely watching its moves at the risk of earning the disgust of their people. War is definitely imminent.
But there are those who point out that accusing Bin Laden of masterminding the terrorist attacks without any evidence is a 'witch hunt' and that 'a war of retribution is just another form of terrorism.' In particular, European countries express fear that a declaration of war may spark off the clash of civilizations, leading to World War III.
And even within the US, as the nation emerges from nationwide mental depression, more and more Americans are saying that "the terrorist attacks were a result of US hard-line policies" and calling for "a time of soul-searching." The anti-war campaign seems to be gaining ground.
In particular, the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA), which has been working to advance Afghanistan women's human rights, together with American feminist organization Feminist Majority Foundation (FMF), are protesting vigorously against the American strike-back, saying that "the major victims of war are women and children." They are demanding that "the issue of Afghan women and children not be treated as a secondary issue in the crisis."
Meanwhile in Korea, 13 women's organizations joined in the global alliance against war, gathering in front of the Myongdong Cathedral on September 20 to hold a silent protest in supplication for peace. Young women, mainly from college or Internet groups, are also doing their share in gathering "the voices of women against war."
"US Lack of Introspection will Lead to Greater Bloodshed"
As of September 19, the US government seems unshakable in its intent to wage a war of retribution. In his speech on September 14 to the American citizens, President George W. Bush said that "it is the historical duty of Americans to punish terrorism and eradicate the world of evil" and described the strike-back as a 'crusade.'
On September 16, US Secretary of State Colin Powell said that anyone who does not cooperate with the US would be regarded as the 'enemy.' The US has indeed launched an all-out campaign to garner international support. Already NATO and most of the countries of the world have announced their support for the US, and even Islamic countries are showing a friendly attitude.
There are also voices expressing concern and criticism of the American war of retribution. Their first reason is "lack of indisputable evidence to justify a war." In a survey conducted jointly by NBC and Wall Street Journal, 81% of the Americans were of the opinion that "they should wait until it is clear who the terrorists are."
Critics also point out that 'another war causing more bloodshed is no different from terrorism.' Even American press such as New York Times and The Washington Post has pointed out that "war cannot solve the problem of terrorism." And BBC commented on September 15 that "offering aid to the war-torn and impoverished Afghanistan would be a much more fundamental solution than striking the country."
What is more, many countries including those in Europe fear that a war may spark off a clash of civilizations that may escalate into an uncontrollable crisis. French Prime Minister emphasized that they were "not waging a war against the Islamic or Arabic states."
More and more conscientious intellectuals in the US are calling on the nation to do some soul-searching. They point out that the terrorist attacks were an example of the country 'reaping what it has sown.' The US has refused to sign the international convention to ban mines, denounced its commitment to the Kyoto Protocol aimed at stemming global warming, and even violated the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, which the US had initiated in the first place. And at the World Conference against racism, it expressed its support for Israel and withdrew from the conference.
MIT professor and linguist Noam Chomsky recalled through an article in ZNet "the time when President Clinton mistook a pharmaceutical factory in Yugoslavia for a factory making biochemical weapons, murdering countless people without sufficient evidence." Chomsky went on to warn that "if the Americans refuse to put themselves in the other nation's shoes, an even worse situation will await them."
Immediately following the terrorist attacks on the US, the Korean government ordered the military to be on special guard, and decided to hang out the mourning flag on September 14. The Committee on Peace and Reunification of the Christian Citizens' Society issued a statement on September 12 to comment on the strangeness of the government's move, pointing out that "no other country in the world has taken any military measures in response to the incident."
Before the US made any request, President Kim Dae Jung sent out a message "expressing total support for any counteractions taken by the US and promising all necessary cooperation and support." The Korean president's response to the incident is a complete contrast to that of fellow Nobel Peace Prize laureate Nelson Mandela, who clearly stated his opposition to war by saying, "The US must avoid any course of action which will be as unpopular as that of the terrorists."
The emergency press conference scheduled for September 17 near Seoul City Hall by 23 NGOs was cancelled due to armed suppression by the police. All the representatives of the participating organizations were arrested, leaving priest Mun Jeong Hyun surrounded by policemen to conduct a lonely one-person protest holding white chrysanthemums and a placard saying 'America should not go to war.'
Meanwhile, Korean citizens had their fill of CNN broadcasts whenever they switched on their television sets all week. Moebius, a media critique group, sarcastically remarked, "It was impossible to know what was happening in Korea." Through its commentary, Moebius pointed out that "the Korean media has blindly dichotomized the issue, painting the US as the absolute good and Islamic states as the absolute evil." The critique called on the Korean media to "stop acting as mercenaries for the US."
The Lawyers for a Democratic Society issued a statement on September 18 saying that "the unilateral declaration of war against the independent state of Afghanistan without damning evidence is a wrongful military threat according to international laws." The lawyers' statement also stressed that "international laws and global cooperation should be the tools in hunting down the terrorists."
The Citizens' Network for Peace on the Korean Peninsula, together with Internet users, is sending continuous letters to President Kim asking him "not to support the war of retaliation in any way." The Society of Women for Peace has joined hands with an on-line press named Ohmynews in conducting an 'emergency peace message relay by Korean women.'
[Relevant articles] The Suffering of Afghanistan Women
- The US Responsible for the Taliban's Growth ... US Obliged to Help Us
"When I watched news of the Gulf War on TV, it was like watching a simulation game. I remember writing in my diary, 'America the Great! They never showed us scenes of innocent citizens silently dying." (Lee, 26)
The American media heaped praises on America's state-of-the-art weapons during the Gulf War of 1991, calling the war a 'war without victims.' But in reality, hundreds of thousands (Hussein claimed that casualties numbered millions) of Iraq citizens were victimized.
Through a statement issued on September 19, American feminist organization Feminist Majority Foundation (FMF) claimed that "the primary victims of the Taliban are women, whose lives are even more wretched now that international aid has been cut off due to the US's preparations for war." FMF also emphasized that "the issue of Afghanistan women and children must not be marginalized." FMF is a group that has been working in the US to advocate the human rights of Afghan women.
Right after the terrorist attacks, the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA) commented that "attacking Afghanistan and killing the mostly poor people would not be the way to alleviate the sorrow of the Americans." RAWA called on the American government to come to its senses and reconsider its plans for a retribution war.
RAWA reports of the Taliban's oppression of Afghanistan women are known worldwide. Women are not entitled to an education, and are turned away at hospitals. They have to keep themselves completely covered, and can only step out of their homes in the company of male relatives. Afghanistan has the highest infant and female mortality rate in the world.
RAWA and FMF both point out that "it was none other than the US government that helped the Taliban gain power." During the Soviet occupation in the 1980s, the US sponsored the militia called Mujahedin, whose factional disputes after the Soviet army's withdrawal in 1989 led to civil war, which in turn resulted in the Taliban's assumption of power in 1994. FMF called global attention to the issue of Afghanistan women's human rights, stressing that "it is the humanitarian duty of the US to liberate the Afghanistan women from the oppression of the Taliban's military government."
Women in Korea are also sending out dire warnings against the disastrous effects of war. 13 women's organizations, including the Korean Council for Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan, the Women's House of Peace, Womenlink Korea and the Korean Association of Women Theologians gathered to issue a statement on September 18. These organizations pointed out that "US's war of retribution will lead to a global arms race and the expansion of militarism," and said that as women who have been through war, they are "convinced that violence cannot guarantee peace."
Young women are joining in the discussion through college student groups and the Internet, considering ways to form an alliance for peace. Professor Soon-Kyoung Cho(Women's Studies, Ehwa Women's University) commented that "following the terrorist attacks, women have been talking about fury, sorrow, lethargy and anxiety." She suggested that people should "think about America's retribution war and its impact on American and Afghanistan women, and search for things that Korean women can do."
[Relevant articles] Words from In Sook Kwan, Korean Feminist in New York
- "US Preparations for War will Lead to Global Militarism"
"The past week was a simply a time of madness. Americans are slowly beginning to recover their powers of reasoning."
That is how Professor In Sook Kwan, teaching 'Militarism and Women' at Columbia University in New York, sums up the mood in the US as of September 19.
According to Kwon, "racial discrimination in American society has become an even greater problem than the war itself." Says Kwon, "Racial minorities like us sense an uneasiness across the country." The Arabs living in the States are facing serious threats and violence.
She also says, "It was hard for people to take issue with Bush's instigation to war in the past week, and that is why Representative Barbara Lee's vote against the president's resolution on the use of arms was a shining example of courage."
Kwon goes on to tell of "the slowly increasing number of forums and demonstrations among feminists and universities calling out against racism and war and calling for the restoration of civil rights."
American women's organization NOW (National Organization for Women) and WAND (Women's Action for New Directions) have taken a clear stand against racism and advocacy of war, saying that "a war of retribution cannot prevent terrorism."
As of September 19, students and professors from more than a hundred universities have come together to form an alliance christened 'Peaceful Justice.' This new organization designated September 20 the 'Day of Action,' with a variety of demonstrations, discussions and petitions lined up to launch a full-scale anti-war campaign across American society.
Kwon points out that "the Taliban's women policies and American society's relapse into conservatism following the terrorist attacks have a lot in common." Predicts Kwon, "US's preparations for war will drive not only the US, Afghanistan and the Middle East but the entire world into militarism."