New Poll Shows That 69% of Americans Agree US Should Provide Humanitarian Assistance to Afghan Civilians

A strong majority of Americans agree that the United States should provide
humanitarian assistance to the Afghan civilians mistakenly hurt during the US-led
military campaign, according to a new public opinion poll. The survey, which was
conducted by the polling firm Zogby International, shows that 69 percent of
Americans think the US should, as a gesture of goodwill, offer humanitarian
assistance to Afghan war victims. The polling results will give new momentum to
calls for creating a US government fund to help the civilian casualties of the war in
Afghanistan.

“This survey confirms what we have been hearing for months as we talk to
communities around the country about this issue,” says Medea Benjamin, founding
director of Global Exchange, the international human rights organization that
commissioned the poll. “When we tell people about Afghans who were left
homeless, without medical care, and widowed or orphaned as a result of errant US
bombs, they are moved to tears and feel the US government should do something
to help. Americans understand that assisting Afghan civilians hurt during the US
bombing is the morally right thing to do.”

Calls for creating a US government fund to assist civilian victims of the military
campaign are gaining momentum on Capitol Hill, among some Sept. 11 victims’
families, and with political leaders in Afghanistan.

In May, 38 members of Congress signed a letter sponsored by Representatives
Jim Leach (R-Iowa) and Earl Blumenauer (D-Oregon) asking Congressional
leaders to set aside $20 million in the upcoming budget for an Afghan Victims
Fund.

“The results of this poll, together with the call that I and others in Congress have
made to fund humanitarian assistance for the civilian victims in Afghanistan, sends
an extraordinarily powerful signal to the Afghan people and the world,” says
Representative Blumenauer. “It demonstrates that the American people are
well-intentioned and committed to helping build a new society in Afghanistan.”

Peaceful Tomorrows, a group of Sept. 11 families dedicated to breaking the “cycle
of violence and retaliation engendered by war,” is actively campaigning to create an
Afghan victims fund. And Hamid Karzai, the interim leader of Afghanistan, also
supports the plan. Karzai told a March Global Exchange delegation to Kabul:
“People have suffered, let us help them out of compassion.”

But President Bush, who could immediately create a victims fund, has refused to
address the issue or even to meet with Sept. 11 victims’ families who are
advocating for humanitarian assistance. "I hope this poll will convince the president
that this is the right thing to do,” says New York resident Colleen Kelly, whose
brother died in the World Trade Center. “The American people have heard his call
for a multi-faceted approach to terrorism, and the creation of an Afghan Victim's
Fund would go a long way in that fight."

The results of the Zogby survey will boost the drive to establish an Afghan Victims
Fund.

The poll, which questioned 1,012 registered and likely voters between June 7 and
June 9, asked:

Hundreds, if not thousands, of civilians have been wounded or killed, and their
property destroyed by the US-led military mission in Afghanistan.

Do you strongly agree, somewhat agree, somewhat disagree or strongly disagree
that the US government, as a goodwill gesture, should provide humanitarian
assistance to the innocent Afghan civilians mistakenly hurt during the war?

Thirty percent of respondents strongly agreed; 39 percent somewhat agreed; 11
percent somewhat disagreed; and 13 percent strongly disagreed. Seven percent of
respondents were not sure. Overall, 69 percent of people agreed while 24 percent
did not—practically a three-to-one margin.

The response was even along party lines. Two-thirds (67 percent) of both
Democrats and Republican strongly and somewhat agree; 74 percent of
Independents agreed. The survey has a margin of sampling error of +/- 3.2 percent.

“As a majority of Americans realize, the foundations of a safer world will be built
through compassion,” says Benjamin. “We have a responsibility to help those
people who played no role in the Sept. 11 attacks but who are now in pain because
of our actions. This is a case where a small amount of money can go a long way
toward helping thousands of needy people and enhancing our own security.
Hopefully President Bush will join with the American people and take immediate
steps to help the Afghan victims.”

For more information on the Zogby poll results, or for other details about the
campaign to establish a US government Afghan victims fund, contact Jason Mark at
415-558-9490 or jason@globalexchange.org.

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