An Empire at war with itself

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One year ago an event of apocalyptical proportions shook the world. Catastrophe had struck the most powerful nation on earth, unleashing in its confusing, sultry and horrific wake bands of skewed visions of xenophobia and a concocted clash between civilizations. A wounded America set out to avenge itself against an ethereal enemy with a million faces.

The “America strikes back” indefinite campaign to get even, symbolized the new challenges that cripple our troubled world. A budding 21st century was suddenly hijacked by a global crisis that has taken the aura of a Shakespearean tragedy: of evil personified, of demagogue leaders and fanatic figures in medieval drab, of honor and dishonor, of offensive jingoism, of rebels fighting to their doom in remote mountain lairs, of warlords marching into crumbling towns atop rusty Soviet tanks and of thousands of peasants butchered in their sleep by laser-guided missiles made in North Carolina!

Is there a just war? Was there ever one? A year after the 11 September attacks on Washington and New York we are still living in the day after. What a long day it has been. We are still dazed by the initial shock of the strikes, but not only because of what we saw on that fateful day, but because of what we are yet to see. After the twin towers collapsed the United States struck back without hesitation. It conquered Afghanistan-one of the most backward countries on this planet-to flush out rebels and religious fanatics hiding in caves and mud houses. The toll seemed inconsequential, for the empire had struck back in this war of the galaxies. Our senses have become numbed by an overdose of media discharge so much so that the killing of Afghanis appeared almost unreal like the destruction of clones in a George Lucas movie.

Like so many riddles engulfing the 9/11 attacks, there are many questions about the war in Afghanistan that need answers. Who did what and why? What now and is it over yet? The mass graves of Kandahar and Tora Bora are yet to disclose the truth about what really happened.

A wounded lion may never rest easy. America is engaged in a perpetual war because it sees its enemy as a phoenix that rises from the ashes to haunt it again and again. Caught between the molars of this mammoth war machine are millions of people who are unable, or unwilling, to choose sides. As America prepares for another battle, we brace ourselves because like dispensable foot soldiers we find ourselves thrust into the eerie front lines of battle inches away from the gaping gates of perdition.^

But in spite of the enigmatic nature of war, the innate fear and the brewing hatred, in essence nothing has really changed. The world today is as it has always been: governed by might and greed and the illusions of right vs. wrong. Every war is a prelude to another with the abstract casualty being the set of human values inscribed in holy books, constitutions, charters and accords. 9/11 marked the collapse of the universal twin tenets that all men yearn for: justice and liberty.

If we should have learned anything from the past year it is that evil is not a country or a people or a religion. It is a state of dementia that strikes the best of us, abroad and here at home. It is a condition of mass insanity that takes over producing hysteria and obsession. We are all guilty of practicing bigotry and embracing the illusions of right and wrong.

The trickle effect of the 11/9 syndrome-the confiscation of public liberties, the suppression of justice and the stigmatization of others-has spared no one. If governments are supposed to set an example to all of us, then think of the notoriety of such a role model. Our governments have succumbed willingly, almost eagerly, to unilateralism, eschewing consultation with citizenry, overseeing the manufacturing of waves of propaganda and disinformation and seizing every opportunity to encroach on public freedoms in the name of emergency in extraordinary times and national crisis.

9/11 should be a day for reflection, sympathy and solidarity with the victims. It is also a perfect time to ask the proverbial question: Why did this have to happen? But it is ironic that US leaders are eagerly talking of waging another war leading to more deaths and destruction. The empire’s quest for revenge has become its true nature, its only nature.

Mr. Osama El-Sherif is the Editor-in-Chief of arabia.com.

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