Lessons not learnt

Published : Oct 10, 2003 00:00 IST

UNITED NATIONS bashing by the United States continues unabated. Earlier in the year, the U.S. decided to bypass and ignore the U.N. to invade Iraq. The post-Saddam Hussein Iraq would, in the calculation of the neo-conservatives surrounding George W. Bush, embrace the U.S. and fall at its feet for liberating the long-suffering Iraqi people. This was confusing fact with hopes.

Every single assumption of Messrs Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz went wrong. While no tears were shed for Saddam Hussein, no flowers are being showered on the occupying forces. The enormity of American folly is now before the world. American soldiers are being killed, no weapons of mass destruction have so far surfaced. Life is not returning to normal. A functioning state has been turned into a dysfunctional one. The situation has gone so out of hands of the occupying powers that the U.S. President had to swallow his pride and turn to the U.N. Even this has been done in such a clumsy and grudging way that no country has joined to co-sponsor its latest resolution on Iraq in the Security Council. No country is willing to send troops to Iraq. The deaths of American soldiers are mounting and so is the expenditure.

The present resolution leaves the overall command with the U.S. In other words, even a U.N. peace-keeping force will be under the U.S. No self-respecting country will send its soldiers to die in order to save American lives, none will take orders from the U.S. GI's and British Tommies. U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan should now show his diplomatic backbone and give a lead so that the Americans realise their folly. Iraq has severely wounded Tony Blair, and for Bush it is the beginning of the process of a slow bleed.

Have any lessons been learnt? It seems not. The U.S. vetoed the Syrian resolution seeking to protect Palestinian President Yasser Arafat from an Israeli threat to "remove" him. The Palestinian delegate called it a "black day for the United Nations and international law". With such partiality for Israeli intransigence the U.S. road map for West Asian peace could become a casualty. How can a honest broker have such lopsided views? U.S. credibility is indeed low. The plight of America is such that its status as the head of a unipolar world has taken a beating. It cannot give democracy, peace, law and order to Iraq. How can it create a just new world order?

The Prime Minister has finally seen the light and decided not to commit Indian troops to Iraq. Christina Rocca did not achieve much during her visit to Delhi. Her visit coincided with that of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon - he came, he saw but he did not conquer. He did hear some home truths and must have realised that Arafat and the Palestinians have friends in India. His visit aroused strong protests. An unusual occurrence in hospitable India.

I WAS in Visakhapatnam on September 17, after a gap of 18 years. This seaside city has not only grown, it has prospered. It has the appearance of a city that is going places. I was told that many civil servants after retirement settle down here. The city is clean, the traffic is orderly and no fruits and vegetables are sold if not on proper hand-pushed vehicles. What brought me to this attractive place? The 60th birthday of my friend and fellow MP, T. Subbarami Reddy. Not only did he get his friends to join the event, he did something very unusual and praiseworthy. He got the leaders of four religions to pray for communal harmony and peace. The film world was represented by Sunil Dutt and the glamorous and beautiful Jayaprada. The open-air theatre was full. The mood was of piety combined with joy. Subbarami Reddy is a warm-hearted, generous and a deeply religious individual. In the Rajya Sabha he sits immediately behind me and asks the most questions. We all wished him many returns of the day.

WE are, it seems to me, suffering from "informationitis". Each morning I get eight newspapers. Each weekend come the glossy magazines. All full of information. Then we have the TV channels. Each wanting to outdo the other. In the midst of a serious programme, there is a "break" for the goods and goodies; the sponsors want to be seen and sold. Some of the advertisements display an exceptional mastery of the obscene. By the end of the day, one has had enough of useless information. Knowledge comes a poor second. Am I at the end of the day any wiser? I'm not sure.

Information and knowledge must pay homage to wisdom. They seldom do. That is why so many "pseudos" in so many walks of life make good. Frauds flourish. Dedicated frauds do even better. Inspired frauds are a class apart. We must not turn our backs to information and knowledge. We cannot do without them. But we must sift the superficial from the serious, the authentic from the spurious. In other words, we must act with wisdom. My prayer is not "give me information and knowledge" but "give me information, knowledge and wisdom".

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