The drums of war that rumbles in the United States of America resound clamorously in Afghanistan. The brazen and reprehensible attack on the American economic and military heart, the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon, has sent shockwaves throughout the world. The Muslim world, in particular, now awaits with trepidation the reaction of the wounded beast.
Just like a re-run of the Oklahoma bombing the Western world and its media were quick to point fingers at Muslims without any shred of supporting evidence. Once again the term “terrorism” is being made synonymous with Islam and Muslims, notwithstanding perfunctory disclaimers. Rhetorical statements by President George Bush fits the image of the Wild West, or rather the Deep South, a mentality of a lynch mob out to get the first Darkie after a local rape and string him by the nearest sturdy oak tree. Dead or alive, guilty or not, hang Osama bin Laden.
Organising a posse or an international coalition to hunt down “terrorists” and to destroy their sanctuaries is not a solution. For the “terrorist” bases and their networks will re-emerge as long as the root causes of the phenomenon have not been addressed. Besides, employing one’s military prowess to annihilate terrorism will only goad the terrorists to retaliate.
The media has labelled the September 11th bombing as the worst act of terrorism in history, yet this is not true. No one has paused to consider that the United States itself has carried out and supported some of the worst acts of terrorism. Ever since the US army massacred 300 Lakotas (a Red Indian tribe) in 1890, American forces have intervened frequently elsewhere around the globe.
Indeed the US has sent troops abroad or militarily struck other countries’ territory 216 times since independence from Britain. Since 1945 the United States has intervened in more than 20 countries throughout the world. Since World War 2 the US actually dropped bombs on 23 countries. Post World War 2, the US has also assisted in over 20 different coups throughout the world, and the CIA was responsible for half-a-dozen assassinations of political heads of states.
The policies of the US government in the Middle East in the last 50 odd years, and especially in the last decade, have created so much frustration and desperation among the Arab masses that it has set the stage for “terrorism”. Palestine more than any other conflict epitomise this sense of hopelessness and helplessness. Because of the United States’ intimate relationship with Israel, Palestinians and Arabs are convinced they cannot expect even a modicum of justice. The brutal suppression of the second intifada in the last few months which witnessed Apartheid Israel unleash the full fury of state terror upon a humiliated and subjugated people was perhaps ‘the last straw that broke the camels back’.
In the eyes of the victims of Israeli aggression and occupation, their oppressor could not have embarked upon such merciless suppression without the support and solidarity of the US.
Add to this, the unending suffering of the Iraqi people because of the cruel sanctions imposed by the United Nations at the behest of the US and Britain. One-and-a-half million innocent people have been killed in the last 10 years and scores continue to die every day because of an acute shortage of essential medicines and a disintegrating healthcare system. This has created a huge reservoir of resentment, of bitterness, of hatred towards the US in the Middle East.
At a time when the citizens of the US are so deeply concerned about the sanctity of human life, it may be illuminating to recollect that US hegemony began on 6 August 1945 with the bombing of Hiroshima that obliterated thousands of innocent people from the face of the earth. It is estimated that 3 million people died in Vietnam and Indochina so that the US could maintain its hegemonic power.
And in Panama, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Chile, indeed the whole of Latin America, from the fifties to the early eighties, tens of thousands of innocent men, women and children had perished as a result of a superpower’s desire to perpetuate its control and dominance through covert operations, espionage activities, assassination squads, economic strangulation and organised political subversion.
In Apartheid South Africa too, lest we forget, the US and British governments and their business and military elite, covertly and overtly supported the white racist regime. Without their help, this inhuman social system that denied, dehumanised and denigrated blacks would not have been sustained for decades.
Whilst there have been expressions of sympathy for the bereaving people of America, there is also a great deal of antipathy towards the arrogant superpower. The Christian scripture tells us “What you sow, you shall reap.” In Islam, Hinduism and Judaism there is acknowledgement of the law of requital. In the context of the terrible tragedy that has befallen the US, nothing is perhaps more apt than that wise Confucian saying, “Do not do to others what you do not want others to do to you.”
The crying need of the hour is not cobbling together an international alliance to pulverise an impoverished nation harbouring an alleged “terrorist”, but a time to think and reflect. The world needs a New World Order in which no single country dominates and dictates to others, where countries are guided by the principles of justice, rather than the imperative of power.
(Mr. Firoz Osman is Secretary of the Media Review Network, which is an advocacy group based in Pretoria, South Africa.)