Congress did not give President Bush carte blanche to wage war against anyone
Stabroek News
February 28, 2002

Dear Editor,

Born a Guyanese, now a naturalized American and a registered Democrat, Nat Griffith writes from the United States to teach us, and me in particular, how it feels to be American at this time (Chronicle Friday 22nd).

I understand his point of view and like any good student I have a few clarifications and comments. But before I get into these, I must express my horror at the senseless killing of journalist Daniel Pearl by alleged terrorists. I hope the perpetrators of this heinous crime are swiftly brought to justice, but hopefully the investigation and apprehension of these barbarians do not require the carpet bombing of entire Pakistani villages.

Mr. Griffith's letter was captioned "65 percent approval rating" obviously referring to President George Bush's popularity among the American people. This figure is insignificant when one considers that "Papa" Bush's rating after the Gulf War was higher than this, yet in a matter of months the very people who had put George Bush (senior) on a pedestal voted him out of the Oval Office. In a democracy, people very often change their minds.

America understandably felt great pain and grief on September 11th. Most of the world did because it was clear that though the horrible acts were committed on US soil, the target was Western civilization. Almost all nations, quite rightly, rallied behind the US in its efforts to eradicate the Taliban and al


But what can we really do to assuage America's pain and its hurt pride? So far, reports say over 3,800 Afghani men, women and children have died from the aerial bombing raids of the war against terror. This figure represents several hundred more people being killed in Afghanistan than the number killed in the US on September 11th.

The Project of Defense Alternatives ( has an assessment of the "finely tuned" Operation Enduring Freedom. Project co director Carl Conetta writes, "the campaign failed to set a new standard for precision in one important respect: the rate of civilians killed per bomb dropped. In fact, this rate was far higher in the Afghanistan conflict perhaps four times higher than the 1999 Balkans war."

Conetta looked at the period from Oct. 7 to Dec. 10. By that date, according to the Department of Defense, approximately 12,000 weapons (bombs and missiles) had been used in Afghanistan, and at least 1,000 civilians had been killed. In the Kosovo war, 23,000 weapons were used but no more than 528 civilians were killed (according to a study by Human Rights Watch). This represents a ratio of 1 death for every 43 bombs/missiles. In Afghanistan the ratio was stunningly different; it was 1 death for every 12 bombs/missiles. Is this the honest face of retribution? I doubt it.

Despite the onslaught, the people fingered by the Bush Administration as the masterminds of September 11th, Osama bin Laden and other leaders of al Qaeda and the Taliban are still to be caught. Remind me again, what was the purpose of Operation Enduring Freedom?

The carnage is unimaginable, almost 8000 men, women and sweet innocent children lives violently snuffed out all within the time frame of just four months (in both the US and Afghanistan) in a conflict that has not been effectively resolved. And if we are to believe Mr. Bush, the terrorists are lying in wait to continue their attack. And "make no mistake about it," America will retaliate. The slaughter is set to continue.

Now Mr. Bush turns his attention to Iraq's Saddam Hussein, much to my regret, because I am still wondering who is responsible for the Anthrax attack. The American press seem to have suddenly abandoned this story, but the British magazine, New Scientist this week reported, "Investigators are virtually certain of one thing, though: it was an inside job.

The anthrax attacker is an American scientist and worse, one from within the US's own biodefense establishment... If he wished to scale up US military action against Iraq, he almost succeeded many in Washington tried hard to see Saddam Hussein's hand in the attacks. If he wished merely to make the US pour billions into biodefense, he did succeed."

For the next fiscal year, the Bush administration proposes to spend nearly $400 billion on defense. This figure represents a 30 percent increase over last year; a level 15 percent more averaged annually than what the Cold War required! And the biggest budget jump since Vietnam. If approved, America's military spending will exceed the total defense outlays of any 15 countries in the world combined. This year's increase of $48 billion alone is more than the total military budgets of every nation in the world!

With this kind of money, I have no doubt we'll catch bin Laden and company, right?

Mr. Griffith, the naturalized American, went on to tell us that any time his nation is at war important people cross the house to support the president a noble gesture of patriotism, no doubt, but the war in Afghanistan is over, isn't it?

Here's what Matthew Rothschild, a born American, wrote in The Progressive: "Bush views himself as unfettered by Congress and the Constitution to wage his worldwide campaign . . . In the first sentence of his address, he declared, 'Our nation is at war,' but he never asked for or received a formal declaration of war from Congress.

"And when Congress gave him authorization to use force in September, it said that such use of force had to be limited to individuals, groups, or nations connected to the attacks of September 11. Congress did not give him carte blanche to wage war against any and all . . . everywhere."

Some Americans are now asking themselves this moral question: When we could have used our unprecedented power to lead the world away from war, what will it reveal about our national character that we did the opposite?

"Terrorism," Nat Griffith continued his lecture, " has to be fought aggressively wherever it exists and no stone must be left unturned in so doing." Good for you, Mr. Griffith, well said!

Some of us believe that terrorism is a horrendous disease. And a skilled doctor fights such a disease first by seeking its cause, then he treats its effect, and finally he ensures that the basic cause of the disease is eradicated so that there is no reoccurrence.

Let's be clear about one thing. The world is not simply black and white. People do not need to be for or against.There are honorable pacifists, critics of any military action. This does not mean that the pacifist is siding with "evil."

Then there are others who say that Islamic militancy comes out of poverty and American supported misgovernment in the Islamic world.

So finally, before it starts raining bombs again, how about if we turn the stone proffered by Secretary of State Colin Powell? He said that we cannot eliminate terrorism around thearth unless we deal with "areas of poverty, despair and hopelessness." Now how about that, hmm, Mr. Griffith? Shall we try taking that approach in the war against terrorism?

Yours faithfully,

Justin DeFreitas