Spot The Difference

What time are we really in? Which war is being waged? Sometimes, everything is so mixed up, that it’ s hard to answer these questions.

Some months ago, drunk with his ‘victory’ in Afghanistan, Bush pushed for a new target to bully; it was all too easy to guess who é Iraq. There were fiery speeches and emotional slogans. The reason to go to war é to liberate the Iraqi people. From who é Saddam’s tyrannical regime. Why é Iraq is a threat to the American people because of who runs it. How é a swift campaign, which will result in triumph for the ‘coalition’. What about the civilians é simply collateral damage, who will later be happy that we freed them. Substitute Iraq with Afghanistan, Iraqis with Afghans, and Saddam with Taliban and there you go, back to 2001 all over again. Too similar, too painful and too terrorizing.

Then, there was the same scenario that is most often not mentioned. Just like the Taliban were promised ‘a carpet of gold or a carpet of bombs’ long before 9/11, which was not perpetrated by even one Afghan, Iraq was ordered by Rumsfeld to be tied to those same events hours after their occurrence, in order to justify a war to be later waged. Where is the legitimacy? Where is the valid pretext? Indeed, where is justice?

Then, with arrogance and no compassion, fireballs started dropping from high above é welcome to the premiere of the 3rd Gulf War. Since that day, a stunning amount of missiles and bombs have been continuously fired, to fulfill the ‘shock and awe’ promised. There have been air raids and sirens; dismaying scenes of hazardous fires and awful roars of explosions caused by the American and British planes seem to be nonstop. The night sky lights up with the enormous blazes and the trails of the B-52 bombers spoil the beautiful skies over the country. Suddenly, you think it’s Afghanistan and the war there still continuing to date. They’re the same fighter jets.. the same cruise missiles.. the same helicopters.. the same ‘daisy cutters’.. the same weapons of mass destruction.

Turn to those silently dying.. entire families being wiped out.. people whom history will not record their existence; look at the victims of the cowardly attacks by US and UK forces. There are children starving, women bleeding, men dying and the elderly disabled; there are pictures of heads blown to bits.. of newlyweds torn apart by death.. of families whose members are no longer with them.. of people fleeing their homes in an effort to find refuge. Grown-up men and fathers are crying, for their homes and cars are no more. The medical staffs in hospitals are exhausted, as the wounded and dead are overwhelming them, their clinics, their medicine supplies and their mortuaries. Tears are shed, blood is ruthlessly spilt and lives are ruined in a split second. It’s not Afghanistan, but Iraq this time that is going through the same misery and torture by the same invading armies.

On the streets of the cities all over the country, there is an eerie atmosphere that you can almost feel through the television screens. Buildings are on the verge of collapse, the streets are deserted in a way and residential, as well as commercial, areas are aimed at. Aid warehouses have been looted and bombed by the American and British forces, who claim to bring humanitarian assistance; they may not have been those of the ICRC like in Afghanistan, but relief it is, nonetheless, provided by the government of the country. There is horror on the streets, in hospitals and inside once serene homes, which bombs have sliced through. Houses that took years and money to build in the country devastated by sanctions by the US and UK, under the umbrella of the UN, have been razed.. leveled to the ground é no apologies, no compensations. These troops have not changed since 2001; their attitude is not different, whether the conflict concerns Afghanistan or Iraq.

All this that they inflict is then again blamed on the regime of the country they attack. Through their daily briefings, whether from Arab or American or British land, they issue statements akin to what they articulated during Operation ‘Enduring Freedom’. There are reports of civilian casualties because of the US and UK bombing; response: it is imperative to treat these accounts with caution, because the regime’s propaganda is immense. How can the deaths of tens and hundreds of civilians due to your air campaign be justified? Answer: The Iraqi regime places military targets inside urban areas; oh yes, collateral damage is regrettable, but it’s all the administration’s fault, in any case. They continue to reply with such impunity that it is so disgusting and pathetic.

And there are the lies and the hypocritical behavior, coming from a superpower willing to strike at any country it deems a threat. There are the claims of respecting sacred sites and then the bombing of mosques, such as in Afghanistan and Northern Iraq. There are declarations of the need of complying with international law and then, the desire to dislodge the regime of any given country and the use of illegal depleted uranium weapons. There are the assertions of honoring international conventions and then, the harsh treatment of prisoners of war, captured on tape. There are proclamations to spread democracy, yet, at home, there are citizens in jail for having different beliefs, and no talk of such a project to include worldwide authoritarian regimes, who do not possess oil. So reminiscent of post-9/11.. so much like the same terror.

Then, there is the bombing of another of Al-Jazeera’s bureaus; it seems like destroying the Kabul office was not enough. A coincidence? Or a deliberate move to hinder the truth of the anguish caused by US and UK forces to the civilian population, from being exposed to the world?

What about the exploitation of another Muslim people to fight against another Muslim nation? It was the Northern Alliance, once.. now, it’s the Kurdish Peshmarga.

Also, there are the soccer matches in which US and UK forces play against the locals; how imprudent to bomb these same people, occupy their land and then show the world how ‘friendly’ you are. And, how can the scenes of alleged celebration at the coming of foreign troops not be mentioned here? There has been dancing, cheering and clapping é the streets of Baghdad and Kabul are supposedly no different, in reception of the ‘coalition’.

How about the main reason behind this war? No, it’s not fighting terror.. what terror can a country without even an air defense system, with sanctions imposed on it and suffering from years of war (this defines both Iraq and Afghanistan), inflict on a country thousands and thousands of miles away? Neither is it removing weapons of mass destruction; the inspectors did not find any and the government of Iraq and even defectors have always been adamant that they have all been destroyed. It is and was all about global domination.. all about oil.

Yet, today, it’s not 2001, but 2003. It’s a whole new year, bringing with it more of the same kind of torment and humiliation for the Muslim Ummah, that we insist on letting ourselves endure. It’s the same situation we keep ourselves in, but in a different time. We did not do anything to stop this madness just like we stood idly by when jets flew to bombard Afghanistan. If anything, this should teach us a bitter lesson é that it is more important than ever to wake up now, not tomorrow when more civilians would have been tortured to death by US and UK.

We are trapped in the same manner, everytime; but who is there to take heed? Now, who amongst us is there to listen to the cries of the mothers, fathers and children of Iraq? Who will spend some time with the people of Afghanistan? Who will donate some money to our brothers and sisters in Chechnya? Who will sacrifice their lives and wealth for the struggle in Palestine? Who will feed the hungry and thirsty in Africa? Who will provide for the widows and orphans in Kashmir? Who will be there in defense for the thousands of those of our religion suffering across the globe? If it is not us, who will it be? If we do not do so now, then when will we? If we do not take a lesson from these countries, who amongst us will be next?

The similarity of this war with earlier conflict(s) is so striking, at times.. and so appalling, to boot. Like they say, those who do not learn from history are doomed to relive it; but, the choice is up to us. What will we opt for? And when?

Ms. S. A. A. is a 16 year old Muslim, who has graduated from senior high school.

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