With international opinion turning against the U.S. policy of sustained air strikes, the prospect of hundreds of thousands of people starving will be the nail in the Bush administration's coffin. Already Britain, France, and Germany face growing demonstrations. Starvation, not military goals, will be the factor that sends thousands of American ground troops into the country. Even should the Northern Alliance pull itself together and march into Kabul, no one in his right mind will ever trust them to run the place, let alone hand out food rather than steal it. It's all but inevitable that American troops, tidied up under some UN banner, will run Kabul and other cities and towns for many months if not years to come.

As for food shortages being a temporary problem to be solved in the coming spring, forget it. During the war against the Soviet Union, much of Afghanistan's agricultural infrastructure, including irrigation systems, was destroyed. Peasants traditionally have made money by growing poppies for opium. But our own State Department confirms the Taliban stamped out much of that farming, driving the business into the lands held by the Northern Alliance and into Tajikistan, where Russian soldiers guarding the border make their money trading in contraband. With no substitute crop, small farmers in Afghanistan are desperate.

The best an Afghan peasant can now hope for is to find a trucker willing to smuggle his family into one of the Afghan communities in Iran. The fee is so enormous a farmer can never pay it, so he pawns a daughter against the price of the ride. In theory, once he pays off the loan he can reclaim his daughter. But that's an unlikely prospect, and the daughter more often becomes a permanently indentured servant, otherwise known as a slave.

What's to prevent a bomb in Penn Station? Nothing.
photo: Sylvia Plachy
What's to prevent a bomb in Penn Station? Nothing.

Reverend Jerry Can't Leave Gays Alone
Osama bin Falwell

Christer nuts on the right wing of the Republican Party still can't believe the World Trade Center attack wasn't the work of liberals and pervs. In the days immediately following September 11, the Reverend Jerry Falwell said he was sorry for having blamed the attacks on pro-choice activists, the ACLU, People for the American Way, feminists of all sorts, and gay people. But the fundraising potential of such a remark just can't be let go. Now the Falwell ministries are accusing "liberals, and especially gay activists," of engaging in "a vicious smear campaign to discredit" the preacher, according to a press release from the group Americans for Separation of Church and State.

"Liberals of all stripes, especially in the media, have seized on this opportunity to trash Dad's deeply held Christian beliefs and to literally attack him day and night," said Jonathan Falwell.

The willingness of charities to even consider extending aid to those who lost same-sex partners puts the religious hard-liners over the top. "[Relief] organizations should be first giving priority to those widows who were at home with their babies, and those widowers who lost their wives," said the Reverend Lou Sheldon of the Traditional Values Coalition. "It should be given on the basis and priority of one man and one woman in a marital relationship."

Wendy Wright of the conservative Concerned Women of America told the Voice, "There's no reason to change the definition of family unless you have an agenda. There's no question that homosexual groups are behind this agenda that harms families."

Additional reporting: Sarah Park, Camelia Fard, and Meritxell Mir

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