dream too much to ask?
by Graeme Davidson, September 2001
of the destruction in New York and Washington look like
trailers advertising a computer-generated and over-dramatised
Hollywood melodrama. What is missing are the super-hero
actors Arnold Schwarzenegger Sylvester Stallone or
Bruce Willis who, against the odds, will save Americans
by 'wasting' the bad guys.
no actors or superhero solutions in this real-life drama.
The victims are real people who have done nothing more undeserving
than go about their mundane business. Even the 'evil villains'
are motivated by self-sacrificing religious zeal. It's a
real tragedy of gigantic proportions.
from many hotspots
Groups from different sides in hotspots around the globe
have been quick to identify with the US victims Israelis,
Palestinians, Iraqis, Iranians, Irish, Bosnians, Serbs,
Albanians, Macedonians, Sudanese, Nigerians, Indonesians,
Libyans, Egyptians, Lebanese, Colombians, Sri Lankans, Russians,
Chechens, Indians and Afghanis. The list is a long one.
They too have lost loved ones and experienced the trauma
of violence a pointed reminder that there is a long
way to go before the Old Testament Prophet Micah's dream
of nation not taking up sword against nation or training
for war anymore is realised.
of the aims of the attack was to strike a blow against key
US symbols as the World's leading financial, political and
military power. In this the terrorists succeeded. The US
has been wounded. Insurance and travel industries and the
stock market have been sent into a nose dive. Anti-terrorism
has been put to the top of the political and military agenda.
this reason a few biblical fundamentalists have seen the
tragedy as the work of the forces of Satan or yet another
sign of the coming Armageddon which is ironic as
Muslim fundamentalists describe the US and Western values
as 'the Satan'. Tele-evangelist Pat Robertson blamed pornography,
secularism, the occult, abortion, the absence of prayer
in schools and insults to God and stated that God had lifted
his protection from the US a view militant Muslims
would agree with.
Christian and other religious leaders in both the East and
the West have prayed for victims and perpetrators and urged
restraint in the pursuit of justice. One bishop who had
lost a brother in the attack told CNN that he was praying
for those who killed his brother, as they too were loved
children of God. His sentiments have not been echoed by
some that has meant venting their anger on scapegoats. Middle
Eastern people and Mosques in the West have become targets
of abuse despite the innocent American Muslim victims
of the attack. Even in Australia and New Zealand some have
spoken out against taking Afghan boat people escaping the
terrible ravages of the four-year Afghan drought and the
repressive Taliban regime. In the UK, France and Germany,
there is a fear that this could spark another round of ethnic
President Bush is using war rhetoric. With only one dissension,
Congress gave Bush the power and the money he sought after
only an hour's debate. He has mobilised military reservists,
sought the involvement of NATO and other major powers and
calls it 'the first war of the Century'. He has moved massive
military hardware and personal close to Afghanistan and
made it clear that those who provide shelter for the terrorists
are also guilty by association. Covert operations and support
to those inside Afghanistan who oppose the Taliban have
already began. So also, have unsubstantiated press stories
of other terrorist targets and plots foiled, which raises
the question as to whether they are true or whether public
opinion is being manipulated to support the US cause.
The sabre-rattling echoes what many in the West are feeling.
It is also inflammatory and has lead to enormous popular
pressure on President Bush and his allies to mount a swift
Hollywood style 'Rambo' military solution. It's the kind
of solution that would go some way to satisfying the general
demand for punishment from a population that has little
understanding of international affairs and nonwestern culture.
It would also help achieve another of the terrorist's goals
the uniting of extremist Muslims throughout the world
against the Western powers.
use of the military evokes memories of the action the US
took when it invaded Panama in 1989, after the killing of
a Marine officer and the harassment of American personnel
by the forces of dictator Manuel Noreiga or the Gulf War
to liberate Kuwait from the Iraqi invaders during 1990-1991.
Or the cruise missile attacks against Osama bin Laden funded
training camps in the Sudan and Afghanistan after his group
Al Qaeda (the base) were implicated in the bombings of US
embassies in Nigeria and Tanzania in 1998.
is also a reminder that the US is not always the good guy.
An American, Timothy McVeigh, was so moved by the nonmilitary
Iraqi casualties in the Gulf war that it contributed to
his desire to bomb the Oklahoma Federal Building.
Afghanistan back to the Stone Age
Some radio chat show callers want to bomb Afghanistan
back to the Stone Age like those who wanted to bomb
Iran into a parking lot during the siege of the US Embassy
in Tehran in 1979. Yet those of us who have been in Afghanistan
will know that its people are already not far off the Stone
Age. Well before the Taliban took over after the former
USSR withdraw from the harsh domain a decade ago, it was
a very devout Muslim country, rejecting western values.
It is war ravaged and very poor. The treat of US retaliation
has sent hundreds of thousands of frightened Afghanis into
exile, exacerbating the human tragedy They too are innocent
would American's feel if an American was accused by the
Afghanis of a terrorist act in Afghanistan and the Afghanis
were to issue an ultimatum demanding the US hand the suspect
over to them or else face an attack against the US administration?
The US would demand substantial evidence that pointed to
the suspect's guilt. And even if the evidence is overwhelming,
the US wouldn't trust the Afghanis to give the American
a fair trial. The Americans would regard the ultimatum as
a war threat and would retaliate in kind. So why does the
Bush administration expect the ruling Taliban to act any
differently? The Taliban have asked for evidence and proofs.
This is a reasonable request. Answering with an ultimatum
and a show of force may produce results, but these bullying
tactics will also generate more enemies who will remember
for years to come.
Afghans are fiercely independent and have already suffered
enough violence and hardship. Lashing out indiscriminately
at the Taliban as the protectors of 'alleged suspects' (and
implicitly for not co-operating with the US, being intolerant
of Christianity and having an iconoclastic approach to Buddhist
images) could create a Goliath vs David sympathetic backlash
from many Islamic and some non-Islamic people around the
a Jihad flame
The individual perpetrators are difficult to pin down
and Bush is now telling Americans that it may take time.
The US is pointing an accusing finger at Osama bin Laden
and the Al Qaeda group. The cause of the tragedy is personified
as the result of one evil mastermind. There is little acknowledgment
of the deep-seated causes of antagonism towards the US and
the issues facing Islam. Bush's comments that it's an attack
on US freedoms and democratic way of life is a very American
and politically convenient interpretation, which misses
Qaeda's aim is to establish a pan-Islamic movement and to
keep the purity of the faith by purging it of Western and
other non-Islamic values. It can probably draw on a pool
of thousands of recruits from many Islamic countries, including
Afghan's ruling Taliban, Pakistani extremists and from many
the military and 'sympathetic' Islamic leaders in a US led
anti-terrorist revenge could help achieve the Al Qaeda's
goals by igniting a popular Islamic
Jihad flame of resistance that produces dozens of hotspots
that flare up as soon as one is dampened. It could spark
a major conflagration. Many are now urging the Bush administration
aim of the terrorists is for the West to rethink its policies
towards the Middle East, especially Palestine. There is
a perception that Bush's administration has openly backed
Israel to the detriment of the Palestinians during the current
Interfada and that the US has been unduly harsh to Arab
countries that have dared to oppose the US.
lack of any major response from the West to Israel unprovoked
movement of tanks and soldiers into Jericho and the West
Bank of the Jordan and the efforts to create a security
'buffer' zone, will not have gone unnoticed by those who
support the Palestinians, including the Al-Qaeda group leaders.
to the East
From the time of the crusades a millennium ago the West
has demonstrated insensitivity to the East. The US tragedy
is a good opportunity to learn about Middle Eastern culture,
to re-evaluate Middle Eastern policies that lead to friction
and misunderstanding and to discard those Hollywood style
clichés that depict Islam fundamentalism alongside drug
dealers as the new enemy to replace the communist threat.
would be good if Bush could resist a knee-jerk military
response. But under the present Texas Ranger hot-pursuit
mindset Micah's dream of nation not taking up sword against
nation or training for war anymore would be asking too much
from a politician who has just lost over 6000 people in
an act of terrorism.