Children die as U.S. war widens

According to the U.S. State Department's fact sheet, the war being waged in Afghanistan is not a war against the Afghan people, it is a war against terrorists. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has said the U.S. attacks are 'focused totally on military targets.'

Yet Afghan neighborhoods, Red Cross warehouses, mosques and hospitals have been destroyed by the U.S. government's 'war on terrorism.'

On Oct. 28, bombs hit a neighborhood in Kabul. The result was 13 civilian deaths, including four children. U.S. jets struck Oct. 31 near the southern city of Kandahar and badly damaged a Red Crescent hospital - the Islamic equivalent of the Red Cross - along with ambulances and pick-up trucks. A doctor reported that 15 people were killed and 25 others severely injured.

Although there are large discrepancies in the civilian casualty total - with Afghanistan's Taliban reporting hundreds of dead and the U.S. Defense Department downplaying numbers - there are many confirmed reports that civilians, mainly children, have been killed during U.S. bombing raids.

At least 23 civilians, the majority of them young children, were killed the night of Oct. 21 when U.S. bombs hit the remote Afghan village of Thori, located near a Taliban military base, according to the group Human Rights Watch.

One resident reported that he had witnessed the attacks, first on the Taliban military base and then on the nearby village. When he rushed to the village the next day, he found the family compound of his relatives in ruins and villagers digging through the rubble.

Twelve bodies were recovered from the debris of the family compound, including the two sons and two daughters of his 25-year-old sister Rhidi Gul: Aminullah, 8, Raminullah, 3, Noorjan, 5, and Gulpia, 4.

Rhidi Gul was recovering at a hospital in Quetta, Pakistan, as was her 1-year-old son Hamidullah, also seriously wounded in the attack. Khamno, a 10-year-old sister-in-law of Rhidi Gul, also survived the attack and was recovering from serious shrapnel wounds to the face in the Quetta hospital.

The New York Times reported that on the first night of bombing, Haziza, a 12-year-old girl, found the bodies of her mother and baby brother in their collapsed home in Kabul. The Jordan Times reported that eight members of one family - a father, mother and their three sons and three daughters - were among the dead in the Oct. 28 bombing.

Ahib Dad, a 45-year-old father of four, held his dead baby son in his arms and wept uncontrollably at the scene of one attack. 'I heard the sound of the plane and I came out to see which way it was going. Suddenly it bombed our home. I lost two of my children.'

'They want to eliminate Muslims and Islam,' said a grieving elderly man. 'There was nothing to be bombed in this house.'

This view - that the attacks are against the Islamic faith - is so prevalent among Muslim nations that both Pakistan and the Northern Alliance, currently a U.S. ally, have called for an end to bombing during the holiest of Islam's holidays, the month of Ramadan, which begins on Nov. 17.

Rumsfeld had bluntly rejected such an option, saying, 'The Taliban and al-Qaida are unlikely to take a holiday.' However, the fragility of the alliance supporting the war has somewhat tempered the Bush administration's and British officials' response to the Ramadan cease-fire.

'We clearly are interested in the views and opinions and sensitivities,' Rumsfeld later said, 'and that each country has their own circumstance and their own neighborhood they live in.'

James Zogby of the Arab-American Institute said Muslims fighting each other during Ramadan is one thing, but Muslim nations such as Pakistan and Saudi Arabia appearing to take orders from the United States during the holy month is quite another. That could fuel Muslim perceptions of an arrogant United States dictating its terms.

Leading into Ramadan, though, comes the admission of the presence of U.S. ground troops in Afghanistan. In language reminiscent of the early Vietnam War days, Rumsfeld finally admitted that the U.S. does 'have a modest number of troops in the country.'

Pentagon officials said setting up a U.S. base at an Afghan airfield was one of several possibilities the Defense Department was considering.

According to a recent New York Times/CBS poll, a high number still approve of the U.S. military acts, though many feel that doubts will continue to grow as more people learn of the civilian and humanitarian toll that war has on the people of Afghanistan.

The civilian wounded and casualties, along with the tens of thousands of refugees fleeing to escape the bombing, show that the military action is not accomplishing its stated goal and is instead causing nothing but human misery, Communist Party USA National Chairman Sam Webb told a recent meeting of its national committee. This war policy has not brought even one terrorist to justice, he said.

The CPUSA along with other organizations worldwide are urging international solutions to terrorism through the United Nations and other bodies. Many see the U.S. war on terrorism as predominantly a unilateral action, Webb said.

'As the war continues, a new poll shows that U.S. public opinion has shifted. There is less confidence that the United States will capture Osama bin Laden or maintain the alliance of countries supporting U.S. military efforts,' he said. 'The support for the war is soft and it could easily swing the other way. The American people can be a real peace majority.'