Transparency in U.S. Foreign Policy

On Tuesday, U.S. President Bill Clinton announced sanctions against Afghanistan's ruling Taliban militia. Under the aegis of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act and the National Emergencies Act, Clinton put restrictions on trade with the Taliban and activity in Taliban controlled assets both in the United States and abroad. The sanctions came as a result of the Taliban's continued refusal to hand over suspected terrorist Osama Bin Laden to the United States or a third party nation to face allegations that he masterminded the 1998 attacks on U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

The Taliban's response to Clinton's action was quite clear: evidence must be provided that Bin Laden is indeed the terrorist the United States claims.

That is a somewhat bold and demanding response on the part of the Taliban. But that type of response comes as a result of the existence of a disturbing issue in international affairs: lack of transparency.

As was evidenced by the 1998 U.S. bombings of Sudan and Afghanistan, it has become increasingly acceptable for military intervention to take place in the absence of clear justification for such action. For the United States in particular, it has become sufficient to simply cite "intelligence sources" before locking and loading and readying for battle.

While such "intelligence sources" might be accurate in their assessments of situations that pose credible threats to American lives, an atmosphere of distrust is created when allegations are made and actions are taken while the public remains in an information vacuum. And when the sentiments of the world community of Muslims are taken into consideration, it becomes imperative that U.S. policy towards Muslim individuals, organizations and countries be given a level of transparency that eschews any suspicions that Muslims are being singled out with reference to these incidents.

In the case of Osama Bin Laden, it would go a long way to bolster U.S. credibility if some sort of clear evidence were presented against him. Bin Laden could actually be the world's most dangerous terrorist and he could very well be orchestrating a global campaign of violence against the United States and its citizens. But in the absence of more concrete evidence, the only image the United States bolsters for itself is that of self-serving, overbearing, unilaterally acting superpower.

For Muslims, especially in the United States, these sorts of situations take on the characteristics of repeated cases of Islamophobia in which religion is carelessly married, by the media and politicians, to the actions or words of one particular individual or one particular group.

And if the United States and other western powers are truly interested in ushering in a new era of globalization and making Muslims part of that globalization, it would behoove them address the transparency issue. Because only with transparency in foreign policy will a fully functional, just world community come about.

Just as a side note, for what it's worth, the Taliban has worked hard over the past year to improve the lives of its citizens. Sure, questions still remain concerning the Taliban's origins, its continued support and its pace of social progress. But as Abdurrahman Ahmad Hotek, editor of the Taliban's official newspaper, Shariat, said in a February 1999 interview with the San Francisco Chronicle, progress is made as resources become available. So tightening the Taliban's financial situation only prohibits it from building schools and hospitals and restoring its war-ravaged infrastructure.

Ali Asadullah is the Editor of

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