Dangerous Implications of America's Unjust War

Published : Sep 29, 2001 00:00 IST

THE terrorist attacks in the heart of New York and Washington represent a great crime against humanity. They snuffed out the lives of more than 6,000 people. They inflicted monumental damage, direct and indirect, at the physical, political, economic, foreign policy, social, psychological and other levels. They produced 'incalculable' shock waves and traumatic effects. They have ushered in a crisis of international relations that is pregnant with great danger, especially to the region of which India is a critical part.

This crime against humanity was fiendishly conceived, thoroughly prepared, ingeniously networked, ruthlessly operationalised, and funded through state-of-the-art global channels. The 19 jihadists, their fellow-conspirators, accomplices and helpers succeeded - with a monstrous ease that fanatical and suicidal single-mindedness can achieve - in eluding layers of intelligence, surveillance, security checks, radar and other self-defence assets to penetrate to the heart of the state that regards itself, and is widely regarded, as the world's sole superpower. Fairly rapid progress seems to have been made by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the detection of these horrendous crimes - clearly the work of an extreme form of religious fundamentalism that takes the name of Islam, almost certainly the work of elements or "cells" in Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda network - and the conspiracy behind it. However, there are substantial gaps in what is known about the precise authorship of the conspiracy. Some claimed clues and identifications have, in fact, turned out to be embarrassingly wrong.

The just response to this monstrous crime would have been to go all out to bring its authors to stern justice - justice under the rule of law and through the law courts, by marshalling and laying out evidence to convince the world, through the collective agency of the United Nations, and through pro-active international diplomacy, including a range of collectively sanctioned pressures exerted on every country known to be involved in the fundamentalist and extremist network, starting with Afghanistan under the Taliban, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. Such a just response is ruled out by virtue of what the United States is, what it is accustomed to doing, the arrogance of being the 'sole superpower' (especially after the collapse of the Soviet Union a decade ago), and the character of its international policy.

"Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists." This is the Bush Doctrine, the newly proclaimed gospel of U.S. imperium. In a previous era, the era of the so-called "Cold War," the line used to be "Either you are with us, or you are with the communists," a reactionary and crude demand to which non-alignment was an enlightened and progressive response.

The Bush Doctrine has two interesting corollaries. The first is the fanciful assertion that the sole reason terrorists with a global reach "stand against" the United States, which is committed to democracy, freedom, pluralism and tolerance, is that "we stand in their way." The second corollary proclaims that the U.S. "war on terror," its "crusade," "the world's [and] civilisation's fight" will not end "until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped and defeated" (emphasis added). It follows that "from this day forward, any nation that continues to harbour or support terrorism will be regarded by the United States as a hostile regime." Thus, the Bush Doctrine seeks no less than to bring into existence a new international order where, on the face of it, the 'sole superpower' will make no distinction between terrorists and those who support, harbour or provide sanctuary to terrorists.

But the catch is in the phrase "every terrorist group of global reach" and in the arrogant implication that it will be for the United States (plus, at best, its North Atlantic Treaty Organisation Allies, chiefly the United Kingdom) to make the determination on who will qualify for this label. Thus, one of the world's most feared and consummate terrorist organisations, V. Prabakaran's Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), is exempted from the application of the Bush Doctrine (even though Sri Lanka's Government points out the blatant inconsistency and the double standards). Thus, the well-established jihad of "cross-border terrorism"; the infiltration of armed and fanatically indoctrinated extremists by Pakistan from across the border with India that, among other things, culminated in Kargil; the series of terrorist strikes carried out in Kashmir; and specific terrorist episodes such as the 1999 hijacking of the Indian Airlines passenger-laden plane to Kandahar, in which Pakistan, the Taliban and possibly bin Laden were all complicit - all these do not meet the Bush Doctrine's qualifying standards. Thus, the series of U.S.-led actions in Afghanistan, Palestine, Lebanon and other countries of West Asia and other regions that nurtured and fuelled religious fundamentalism, extremism and terrorism as global phenomena must never be questioned - it is after all the 'End of History'.

UNDER these circumstances, it was pathetic to see the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government in New Delhi offer abject and unconditional military cooperation to the United States in its "global war against terrorism," without so much as being asked and after confessing that it did not know what precisely the U.S.'s military plans and agenda were. Apart from being profoundly inimical to the interests of the peoples of India and the whole region, such unprincipled collaboration with America's coming war against Afghanistan and other unspecified targets in West Asia and elsewhere in the Islamic world will be highly dangerous to India's national interests.

The world's 'sole superpower' has amassed a tremendous range of weapons of destruction, including state-of-the-art wonders not tested in any theatre of war, within striking range of Afghanistan and other secondary targets. A clear tilt towards Pakistan has already become part of U.S. regional policy, post-September 11, 2001. Even though Barkis might be willing, the tilt follows from the military imperative of using Pakistan - not India - as a strategic ally and staging base in the war against Afghanistan. No one needs to shed a single tear for Osama bin Laden or his abominable state partner, the Taliban, one of the world's most reactionary and brutal socio-political movements. But the death, devastation and suffering that will be visited on the desperate people of Afghanistan, one of the world's poorest and most war-ravaged countries, will be terrible indeed. Yet, given the fuzziness of 'allied' politico-military objectives and the unjust and unsound nature of America's war in a guerilla war terrain of scattered and remote targets where foreign foes have rarely, if at all, succeeded, the outcome can only be said to be dangerously uncertain.

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