This may turn out to be a pyrrhic victory
By Kaizer Nyatsumba, The Independent, 14 November 2001
So, victory at last to the US and Britain in their putative "war on terrorism". The Taliban have been well and truly routed, with areas formerly under their corrupt control now having fallen to the West's friends, the equally corrupt Northern Alliance.

With victory now in the bag, omnipotent America can finally look forward to a return to life as normal after successfully dispensing its brand of instant justice. The ugly enemy of terrorism has been vanquished and a giant blow has been struck for international freedom. All that now remains is for that terrorism mastermind, Osama bin Laden and the Taliban leadership to be captured "dead or alive" and put on display, first in Kabul and then in Washington DC.

Well, before self-praise and gloating get completely out of hand, it is necessary to inject a bit of reality into the debate. I would hate to be a killjoy, but even with bin Laden and Mullah Omar captured/assassinated, the West's victory might still prove to be pyrrhic.

From the very beginning of "Operation Enduring Freedom" it was always a cinch that an Allied victory was assured. After all, the Taliban's aged military equipment with the scarce resources of one of the world's poorest countries was never going to be a match for the fearsome might of the world's only remaining superpower and its wealthy allies, with their sophisticated cluster bombs. So one-sided was this war that it was very much like an elephant stamping on an ant.

Far from ending terrorism, "Operation Enduring Freedom" might well spawn more terrorism against the US. By launching a military campaign against Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, instead of taking the judicial route, the US and Britain may well have created more dangerous enemies. The campaign of the past few weeks, which saw hi-tech American bombs falling on people's homes, schools, hospitals and even a Red Cross facility, have gone a long way to further hardening attitudes to the US.

Of course, the terrorist acts of 11 September in New York and Washington were unspeakably barbaric and shamed us all because they showed the depths to which human beings are capable of sinking. They are still so hauntingly vivid in our minds that we did not need to be reminded of them by Tony Blair in his efforts to justify the West's own terrorism.

However, truly civilised people do not respond to barbarity with barbarity of their own. Instead, they reveal, by their choice of action, that they are better human beings and that they will not allow their enemies to push them to stoop to such depraved levels.

Those responsible for the cowardly 11 September attacks should have been systematically tracked down and prosecuted, preferably in a neutral country, however long that would have taken. If the US and Britain had conclusive evidence of bin Laden's guilt or culpability, they should have made that evidence available to the Taliban and the United Nations, and insisted on his extradition. That way punitive action would have been very clearly targeted, instead of the generalised, instant punishment meted out in Afghanistan.

Instead of acting like cowboys, the US and its allies would have shown themselves to be believers in true justice, and therefore better than the terrorists who attacked the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon.

Now America will never again know the kind of safety to which it was accustomed. Through its actions in the past five weeks it has created even more Muslim enemies for itself, some of whom might feel strongly enough to want to try something foolish. The situation is not helped by the continuing US partisanship in the Middle East conflict, with President George Bush's refusal to meet Yasser Arafat in New York at the weekend again indicating his failure to fully appreciate the cause of some of the hatred felt for America.

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