Naked City

War and peace

Holding candles or roses, about 100 Austinites participated in a one-hour vigil in front of the Capitol building last week to advocate peace in the Middle East. Organized by the Austin chapter of Women in Black -- an international peace network that holds silent vigils to protest war, rape as a tool of war, ethnic cleansing, and human rights abuses -- the Austin vigil was one of 113 held in 15 countries worldwide.

According to organizer Sylvia Shihadeh, the Austin chapter sprung up shortly after the Bush administration kicked off its war on terrorism. "Violence is not the answer," she said. "We need to try a new way. You wouldn't encourage your kids to hit each other, but to negotiate." Shihadeh believes Americans are not receiving enough information from the "other side" -- the thousands of innocent Afghan civilians who oppose the violence of Osama bin Laden and the Taliban, but nonetheless pay for their sins due to the indiscriminate bombing campaigns of the U.S. military. Pointing to George W. Bush's black-and-white, simplified argument that if you don't support the war, you're on the terrorists' side, Shihadeh said, "when you take the administration as satire, it makes sense. What about if I'm not in support of the violence, nor with the terrorists who hit the twin towers? Where does that leave me?"

Meanwhile, a recently released report by Professor Marc Harold of the University of New Hampshire's Departments of Economics and Women's Studies shows that as of early December 2001, the U.S. military had already killed 3,767 innocent Afghans -- more than the number of Americans who died on Sept. 11. To arrive at that figure, Harold tallied up body counts reported by American corporate media outlets, including the Washington Post and The Los Angeles Times, and many foreign news agencies. "What causes the documented high level of civilian casualties?" Harold asks rhetorically. "The explanation is the apparent willingness of U.S. military strategists to fire missiles into and drop bombs upon heavily populated areas of Afghanistan," as well as buses, hospitals, ambulances, and farming villages. Harold's report, titled "A Dossier on Civilian Victims of United States' Aerial Bombing of Afghanistan: A Comprehensive Accounting," is available at Afghanistan.doc.

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