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Operation Anaconda: A Vision of the Future?

"We could hear them laughing at us," said Spc. Wayne Stanton, as his unit bunkered down and called for reinforcements during Operation Anaconda, the largest U.S.-led assault since the beginning of the war in Afghanistan. By the end of the battle, eight U.S. soldiers were dead and scores were injured. While U.S. commanders claim that around 700 enemy fighters were killed in the assault, independent estimates put the toll between one and two hundred.

It now seems clear that when Northern Alliance troops marched into Kabul and Kandahar late last year, thousands of Taliban and Al-Qaeda fighters fled into the mountains to regroup. Employing the tactic that Afghan fighters used to successfully end the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the late '80s, Taliban and Al-Qaeda fighters have begun to wage a guerrilla war in the mountains of southern Afghanistan. Despite the "success" of Operation Anaconda, the United States' troubles in Afghanistan are far from over. Tommy Franks, a U.S. general, has hinted at more military operations in Afghanistan, saying that further U.S. operations in the region "are likely to be the same size as Anaconda."

Notwithstanding the United States' creation of a new government in Kabul, led by Hamid Karzai, the country is far from secure. Karzai's government, with no army and no tax revenue, barely has control of its own capital city. Pre-Taliban warlords have taken back most of the Afghan countryside and Karzai has little leverage with which to quell tribal infighting. One could argue that U.S. efforts to "stabilize" the region through military aggression have had the opposite effect - that violence and anarchy have increased as a result of the U.S. invasion. Even if we take the official enemy death toll from Operation Anaconda seriously, one is tempted to ask how many new anti-American fighters the bombing and invasion of Afghanistan have created - particularly if we consider the number of people living in warlord-controlled areas who long for the stability of the Taliban.

The fact that state violence begets violence is becoming clear in Israel, where Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has been busy waging his own self-described "War on Terror" against the Palestinians in the territories that his army occupies. His stated goal with the current campaign is to inflict so much pain on the Palestinians that they will abandon violent efforts to end the Israeli occupation.

In the last few weeks, the Israeli army has launched its largest assault since the invasion of Lebanon in 1982, invading refugee camps and racking up a Palestinian death toll in the hundreds. Sharon's ploy has been far from successful, leading only to an escalation of violence and insecurity on both sides. Sharon's popularity as a prime minister has waned as Israeli security has declined in proportion to the brutality of their army's assaults. Even George Bush has described Israeli aggression as "unhelpful" to the pursuit of peace.

So, if Bush recognizes that Israeli aggression is "not helpful," then why can't he see that American aggression is equally futile? If the case of Israel demonstrates that an escalation of state violence tends to provoke renewed passion in those who feel targeted by the state, then why is Bush targeting nuclear weapons (the ultimate in state aggression) at a handful of countries including Russia and China? Yes, you heard me right - Bush is setting up first-strike scenarios using nuclear weapons against several countries.

In the March 10 edition of The L.A. Times, William Arkin reported on the contents of the Bush administration's Nuclear Posture Review (NPR). The NPR is a document that makes plans for first-strike capabilities against Iran, Iraq, North Korea, Libya and Syria, as well as nuclear weapons holders and "normal" trade partners Russia and China.

By devising schemes for nuclear assaults against the named countries, Bush violates the 1995 international Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, in addition to being morally abhorrent to the vast majority of the world's peoples. Bush is sending a clear message to the world that the United States is willing to consider (damn the law) the use of weapons of mass destruction against any nation that might potentially fall out of step to the march of its drum.

As we saw on September 11, the world is getting smaller. The distance between the United States and the rest of the world is coming closer to the distance between Israel and the occupied territories in which the Palestinians live. As Bush, like Sharon, escalates the levels of violence that he is willing to inflict on the rest of the world, we can be sure that the ranks of Al-Qaeda and other anti-American terrorists will swell. With Israelis and Palestinians suffering daily assaults on one another, we have a clear model of the kind of sustained state and guerrilla terror that our current path could be leading us toward.

Illustration by David Merrit

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