Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Aid groups as targets

rubble
picture by Daniel Stolle


FIVE years ago, at roughly 4:30 p.m. on Aug. 19, 2003, in Baghdad, a suicide bomber in a flatbed truck pulled up outside the lightly fortified office of the United Nations’s leading diplomat, Sergio Vieira de Mello, and detonated a cone-shaped bomb the size of a large man. The bomb was laced with hand grenades and mortars, and it carried more than a thousand pounds of explosives. Its force was so fierce that it shook the American-controlled Green Zone, three miles away.

While many United Nations officials were killed instantly, Mr. Vieira de Mello was not. For more than three hours, he lay trapped beneath the collapsed roof and floors of the three-story building, as he asked about the fates of his colleagues and complained about the pain in his legs. Although the Bush administration had not equipped American forces to respond to large-scale terrorist attacks on civilian targets, several soldiers heroically risked their lives to save him, submerging themselves in the sweltering, crumbling wreckage.

While many United Nations officials were killed instantly, Mr. Vieira de Mello was not. For more than three hours, he lay trapped beneath the collapsed roof and floors of the three-story building, as he asked about the fates of his colleagues and complained about the pain in his legs. Although the Bush administration had not equipped American forces to respond to large-scale terrorist attacks on civilian targets, several soldiers heroically risked their lives to save him, submerging themselves in the sweltering, crumbling wreckage.

In November 2001, Osama bin Laden declared, “Under no circumstances should any Muslim or sane person resort to the United Nations. The United Nations is nothing but a tool of crime.” Last year, Al Qaeda specifically denounced the humanitarian agencies of the United Nations as “direct enemies aiming to change the fabric of Muslim society.”

Mr. Vieira de Mello’s political team had come to Iraq in 2003 in order to hasten the end of the American occupation, but this proved to matter little to a man known as Abu Omar al-Kurdi, who helped Al Qaeda plan the attack. “A lot of Islamic countries have been through injustices and various occupations and foreign troops using the U.N. resolutions,” he said afterward, referring to the resolutions of the United Nations Security Council.

By this logic the 140,000 unarmed, civilian personnel who do political, humanitarian, development and human rights work for the United Nations would be blamed for the Security Council’s actions and inactions (over which these civil servants have little say).

New York Times

PS. Today in 1919 Afghanistan gained independence from the British.

No comments: