Call for Sanity to Replace Mad Belligerency

Apparently, ever since the horrific terrorist strikes of September 11, the U.S. policymakers have lost their bearings by expanding the scope of "war on terrorism" to attack anyone that they wish to subjugate. It is guided by hawks, such as Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz, the Secretary of State and his deputy and others like them in the U.S. administration, and supported by their cohorts in the Congress who are out to get, under the rubric of antiterrorism, whoever does not support the U.S. foreign policy. The media have joined in to promote the frenzy. It is based solely on the unchallenged superiority of American military muscle, that possesses no heart and are deaf to any sense of reasoning. Thus the tragedy of September 11, and the groundswell of empathy ensuing from it, which could have been utilized to build greater human understanding- instead, is being exploited to further U.S. hegemony, without any respect for law, through the agency of fear and intimidation.

As a result, the U.S. President George W. Bush in his state of the union address fanaticized about the "axis of evil" that his administration will go after in the near future. Thus Bush was declaring his right to bomb and obliterate any country that lagged in the fight against terrorism, as he perceived it, or is deemed uncooperative in the U.S. geopolitical designs. In order to gain widespread support for these policies, the American citizenry is duped by eliciting blind patriotism through what Noam Chomsky calls "manufactured consent." Even the elected leaders cannot open their mouths to criticize: when Senate Majority Leader Tom Dashle recently ventured to say that this war's "mission is not clear", his talk was immediately dubbed as "unpatriotic." Now, a newly created Pentagon's Office of Strategic Influence, is teaming up with the State Department and CIA to plant disinformation in Muslim countries, to prepare the ground for intended plans.

This Bush doctrine of world domination through sheer force is in stark contrast to that of the Founding Fathers. They envisioned a U.S. that does not interfere in other countries' affairs, but stands as a model for the causes of democracy, free speech, justice and the rule of law. Even its traditional European allies are perplexed as to where the U.S. is heading. They feel as if they are hooked to a superpower locomotive that is gone out of control, with its engineer not caring to heed their call. Remarked the former Swedish Prime Minister Carl Bilt that the Europeans "don't have a clue to where" the U.S. is going. Even among the British, who are normally supportive of the U.S., there is anxiety. Wrote Richard Norton-Taylor, security editor of the Guardian newspaper, "In the aftermath of September 11, there was a hope that America would engage the rest of the world." Instead, Bush tailors his policies for "American consumption ... and ignores the opinions of Europe and the Middle East." French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine was forthright in publicly chiding the Secretary of State, Colin Powell. "If you are talking about a coalition for a stable world, it is not enough just to fight terrorism."

Bush even sidelined NATO, the military treaty that spans the Atlantic. Asked Bilt, "Will Americans fight a war through NATO ever again?" "It is doubtful." Referring to the anti-terrorism coalition, the U.S. forged with its European partners, he bitterly complained about its working. "The U.S. reserves the right to itself to wage war, and dumps on others the messy, expensive business of nation-building and peacekeeping." This is apparent in its primarily targeted casualty of Afghanistan. The U.S. has devastated this poorest war-torn country faced with large-scale starvation and famine. The U.S. created a plethora of problems by imposing the war on it, with ruthless bombings (that still continue) and by a minimum loss to its personnel but at the untold expense of numerous Afghan lives and by exploiting their internecine conflicts.

At the outset, it was also envisaged that after the war a Marshall plan would become operational for rebuilding Afghanistan. But, according to several reports, even before the war ended, there were musings that it will be a colossal waste of money spent on these warring tribes, and many within the administration urged to quickly and quietly wash its hands off it. It was generally estimated that Afghanistan required $15 billion to build its infrastructure. The end result was a meeting at Tokyo wherein the European Union, Japan and Saudi Arabia along with the U.S. pledged about $1 billion for a year in donations. The project that the American administration is interested to finance, is training their armed forces- which indoctrinated with secular values, would be subservient to the U.S. geopolitical designs. Such are the defense plans for the neighboring Pakistan army also.

Pakistan has the bitter experience of involvement with the U.S. in a number of treaties in the cold war era, without much advantage for its own defense. Yet, with an ultimatum to join in or be declared a terrorist state and turned into rubble, it had to be involved. As if that was not enough, now America demands use of its bases for its strategic interests in the Central Asia, while at the same time entering into defensive alliances with India, who forcefully occupies the disputed territories of predominantly Muslim Kashmir. Thus with an un-elected dictator at its helm, who was compelled to do their bidding, Pakistan's sovereignty and independence have been seriously undermined.

Yet another sore case for Muslims, is the targeting of Iraq, once again. This, while its people are suffering for the last decade because of the U.S. imposed sanctions, taking its toll upon the innocent civilians and children, in particular. According to the U.N., more than 1.3 million Iraqis have died of the malnutrition as a direct result of these sanctions, which the U.S. is not letting go despite the entreaties of many in the U.S. and elsewhere.

The U.S. is anxious that other countries must not develop weapons of mass destruction, but it continues to stockpile in massive quantities. Not only that, it turns a blind eye when it comes to Israel, which is let loose to develop, whatever weapons of mass destruction it may desire. With such a hypocrisy and duplicity, it is targeting Iraq, Iran and North Korea as the "axis of evil". It is doubtful if Iraq has any weapons of mass destruction left, since the U.N. inspectors went though it for several years, but is now asked to let them in again, without any end in sight. Reports indicate that the U.S. may attack Iraq any day. Iran despite its pledge of abiding by the U.N. non-acquisition policy now stands accused, based on mere suspicion that it may develop nuclear capability sometime in the future. North Korea has also given its pledges, but these are not acceptable.

In this war on terrorism, other Muslim countries in addition to Iraq and Iran are also suspect. The U.S. Secretary of State and others have been saying that wherever the Al-Qaeda members are, they will go after them. Thus Somalia, Yemen and Sudan are openly talked about; Saudi Arabia and Syria are also mentioned; Pakistan may not be far in line: although most of these were counted among the U.S. coalition partners. In this craze, when anything could be presented as an anti-terrorism measure, it is conveniently ignored that punishing a country for the crime of some of its individuals, even if it is proved, is a violation of the established norms of justice and international law. Already, two countries that have exploited this prevalent law of the jungle are Israel and India: Palestinians and Kashmiris are under occupation and fighting for their internationally recognized right of self-determination.

Thus through arrogance and self-righteousness, the U.S. has misappropriated the outcome of tragic events ,in its war on terrorism and placed itself at crossroads with the rest of the world. This is clearly evident in the Israeli versus Palestinian conflict. According to the Oslo agreement, Palestinians agreed to give up 78% of their land, retaining only 22% of it in exchange for peaceful coexistence with Israel on their piece of land. But, with the backing of U.S. administrations, Israel has reneged on its own agreements and has been systematically occupying Palestinian areas through settlements and connecting them by roads, on the pretext of security considerations. As a result over the past year, Arabs and Muslims have been watching countless pictures of Israeli atrocities: soldiers shooting at rock-throwing Palestinian children; U.S.- supplied tanks, Apache gunship and F-16s being used to target Palestinian population and destroying their homes and orchards; and planned political assassinations of Palestinian leaders and activists. This has been happening while the U.S. has been openly siding with Israel, supplying more and more weapons, and using its vetoes at the U.N. of any resolutions against Israel.

The Europeans have also been observing all this and are now convinced of Washington's close alignment with Israel's hard-line Prime Minister Ariel Sharon (who currently is also under investigation at the world court in Belgium for the Palestinian massacre at Sabra and Shatilla camps in Lebanon). As a result, they have broken ranks with the U.S. and the European Union recently announced that they were endorsing a French blueprint for bringing peace to the Middle East. Their plan calls for the creation of a Palestinian State to be immediately recognized by Israel and admitted to the U.N.

Obviously, the U.S. has a choice either to lead the world towards global peace rooted in equitable law that is fairly administered to all, or follow its current course - of engaging in empire building, and carry out its plans of dominating the world. The latter course appears momentarily attractive but is conflict-ridden. It not only comes into clash with the strengthening European Union, but also with other emerging powers, most notably China. Thus the U.S. would have to make exceptions, despite its avowal that it would not let any other power develop the ability to challenge its superiority. It is also bound for conflicts in other developing countries, because it requires creating subservient governments there. This is clearly the policy currently being pursued, because the successive U.S. governments have stood behind the propped-up rulers in Muslim countries, and provided them with financial and military support as well as security and political guidance. But these rulers are not only corrupt and repressive, but also have miserably failed their people. It is precisely this policy that is now the root cause of problems for the U.S. with the Muslim world. This neo-colonialist role of the U.S. administration counters the very values Americans espouse at home, and therefore this duplicity would not last long because it is unjust and unnatural. It is also untenable in this day and age when strong currents of self-realization are sweeping the world at large, especially in the Muslim world.

Thus the current situation, if continued, only means further escalation of conflicts with the consequent loss of stability and peace in the world at large. It also means, skyrocketing expenditures on building of more and more sophisticated war machinery, to the benefit of its military-industrial complex and associated corporations, and proportionately less and less for the needs of its people and for the related developments at home. It is indeed a pity that a very affluent country like the U.S. has problems such as hunger, malnutrition, homelessness and lack of health insurance, among a substantial segment of its population in addition to a variety of moral issues that are rare elsewhere. It is apparent that these problems would multiply ,and ultimately, the American public will have to step in to decide which way they want their government and their politicians to lead them.

The American public also need to realize that it is not just the rights of others that are being trampled upon, but theirs too stand in great danger of violation in the current atmosphere. This is obvious from the euphemistically-sounding patriot bill, that was hastily enacted into law, which violates constitutionally guaranteed human rights and allows the use of a variety of means to invade the privacy of any individual, be it a foreigner or an American. That dragnet is now cast and is bound to grow wider in its swoop to inflict irreparable damage to the common liberties of American citizens that they now take fore-granted.

Therefore, a much saner, wiser and fruitful course is for America to stand on the side of humanity with justice and fairness. Terrorism cannot be fought by military might alone, however superb it may be, but by bringing justice to those deprived, and thus eliminating the roots of desperation. It is the feelings of desperation coming out of injustices committed that cause terrorism. This is the lesson that history, both old and new, provides. It is replete with examples of great powers that wasted their resources and energies in improving their war machinery and ignored the needs of justice that led to their downfall. At this juncture, it is the duty and responsibility of American leaders, singly and together to speak up, as their conscience dictate, against injustice and stand for justice and equity for all people. It is the balance and justice that ultimately prevails in the God's universal order as well as in the conduct of human affairs. Thus the scholars and intellectuals may not leave this crucial work only to some fringe groups of their society, but to come to the fore and bring it to the mainstream by expounding on adopting this proper and sensible course. While others, especially leaders of faith should mobilize the people for promoting global justice and peace. They must speak out loud and clear, and oppose aggression in any form; stand up for the peace-loving unarmed civilians, wherever they may be; and ensure that intimidation and fear may not be used as tools in suppressing any people the world over.

The author is a freelance writer on Muslim affairs and a former professor of University of Arizona.

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