While publicly proclaiming its support of the U.S. anti-terror efforts against the Taliban regime, Moscow is describing American efforts as “cynically” directed against the people of Afghanistan.
In a scathing attack upon its supposed ally, Moscow characterized U.S. food aid as “cynically reassuring the Afghans they won’t let them starve to death,” while dropping “hundreds of cluster bombs, killing the very same Afghans the Americans pretend to care so much about. …” according to official Russian sources.
Moscow cited new, high-tech weaponry developed by the United States, including stealth helicopters and microwave beams, and described Afghanistan as a “testing ground” for the U.S. At the same time, Moscow strongly implied intentional U.S. carelessness – and ineffectiveness – in the use of its weapons
“Where does the new weaponry come in?” Moscow rhetorically asked, referring to the search for arch-terrorist Osama bin Laden. “In truth, you can’t capture the man with all these silent helicopters, ray guns and cluster bombs, but you can very effectively use them against peaceful Afghans,” Moscow declared.
The statements were carried on the Voice of Russia World Service, the official broadcasting service of the Russian government.
The Voice of Russia reflects the position of the Russian government and transmits across the globe in several dozen languages, reaching millions around the world with its views on world events. It was known as Radio Moscow during the Cold War.
In the broadcast, Russia condemned the U.S. for its use of cluster bombs, which have a capability to explode months, even years, after they have been dropped.
Implying willful U.S. negligence, Moscow linked the use of the controversial bombs to damage done by an admittedly “stray cruise missile” and cited the possible employment of “ray guns,” which Moscow declared, “can be used with equally devastating effect against innocent civilians.”
As a result “… civilian casualties grow each day,” Moscow stated.
The question of civilian casualties in Afghanistan is one of the most vulnerable aspects of the U.S. attack upon the network of Osama bin Laden and his Taliban defenders, following the attacks of Sept. 11.
U.S. efforts to both attack the terrorist network while seeking to aid the Afghan people received an additional embarrassment when food parcels intended to aid the war-ravaged population were found to be packaged in a somewhat similar manner as cluster bombs.
Although both were yellow in color, the food packages are rectangular and larger than the cylindrically shaped cluster bombs. Some cluster bombs are defective and do not explode on impact.
According to the British Broadcasting Corporation, the U.S. has initiated radio broadcasts into Afghanistan warning of the similarities between the food packages and unexploded bombs.
“U.S. psychological operations” assured the Afghan people that the danger of confusing food packages with cluster bombs is “minimal,” and that the bombs and food “were not being dropped in the same areas,” according to the BBC report.
Throughout the attack on Afghan territory, U.S. officials have consistently expressed the position that the people of Afghanistan are not the targets of military operations.
In an Oct. 18 briefing, State Department Deputy Spokesman Philip Reeker stated that “… we’re not bombing the Afghan people. … We are conducting a campaign against terrorism focused on the al-Qaida network, which has been given safe haven … in Afghanistan by the Taliban regime. …”
The U.S. freely admits its use of cluster bombs, but claims their use has been infrequent and specifically targeted.
In a Department of Defense briefing on Oct. 25, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Richard Meyers stated that the military takes “great pains” in targeting cluster bombs to a “particular target,” and that “there have not been a great number of them (cluster bombs) used. …”
Moscow’s criticism of U.S. actions in Afghanistan comes amid continuing condemnation of its own military actions in the war-torn Russian republic of Chechnya.
Although recent Russian commitments to the anti-terrorist coalition have muted criticism of Moscow’s tactics in Chechnya, the U.N. Commission on Human Rights condemned Russia in April 2001 for “disproportionate and indiscriminate force … including attacks against civilians.”
Moscow found the U.N.’s resolution “unacceptable.”
The condemnation was the second in as many years.