DECCAN HERALD, September 14, 2002
REFLECTIONS ON THE ANNIVERSARY OF SEPTEMBER 11
Ends and means
By A P VENKATESWARAN
Mahatma Gandhi was never tired of telling his followers that good ends can be achieved only through good means. That if the means were tainted, the end results would be tainted, and one cannot escape in turn from becoming tainted as well. Nothing illustrates the truth of this observation than human conflicts which tend to become intense and at some point the adversaries throw all decencies overboard for the sake of an empty victory, which then turns to ashes in their mouths. The ongoing hunt for Osama bin Laden who is charged with master-minding the destruction of the twin towers of the World Trade Center a year ago, is a case in point.
The statement by the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA) on the anniversary of 9/11 deserves to be in the forefront of the world's media, and it is not, but is well worth noting. It starts by highlighting that fundamentalism, of any kind, is the enemy of all civilised humanity and joins the rest of the world in remembering the innocent lives lost on September 11, 2001, as well as those of others “lost to terrorism and oppression throughout the world.”
The statement goes on to say: “Immediately after the September 11 tragedy, American military might moved into action to punish its erstwhile hirelings. A captive, bleeding, devastated, hungry, pauperised, drought-stricken and ill-starred Afghanistan was bombed into oblivion by the most advanced and sophisticated weaponry ever created in human history. Innocent lives, many more than those who lost their lives in the September 11 atrocity, were taken. Even joyous wedding gatherings were not spared. The Taliban regime and its al-Qaeda support were toppled without any significant dent in their human combat resources. What was not done away with was the sinister shadow of terrorist threat over the whole world and its alter ego, fundamental terrorism.”
Blind by choice
“Neither opium cultivation nor war-lordism have been eradicated in Afghanistan. There is neither peace nor stability in this tormented country, nor has there been any relief from the scourges of extreme pauperisation, prostitution and wanton plunder. Women feel much more insecure than in the past. The bitter fact that even the personal security of the President of the country cannot be maintained without recourse to foreign bodyguards and the recent terrorist attacks in our country speak eloquent volumes about the chaotic and terror-ridden situation of the country. Why is it so?”
The statement argues that for the people of Afghanistan it is “out of the frying pan into the fire. Instead of the Taliban terrorists, Jihadi terrorists of the Northern Alliance have been installed in power... for the past twenty years, Osama bin Laden has had Afghan fundamentalists in his payroll... and that the Taliban and the al-Qaeda phenomenon cannot be purged solely with the physical elimination of the likes of Osama and Mullah Omar.” The statement concludes: “The Northern Alliance can never sincerely want the total elimination of the Taliban and the al-Qaeda, as such elimination would mean the end of the raison d'etre of the backing and support extended to them by foreign forces presently dominant in the country.”
When one reflects on the obstinate blind eye turned by the United States to the continued flirtation and devious asylum given by Pakistan to the al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden, who is by all accounts hiding in the Northern Territories of Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir (POK), then one realises the truth of the Biblical saying that “None are so blind as those who will not see?”
No amount of evidence or cogent argumentation presented by the Indian delegation led by Prime Minister Vajpayee, now in that country, will succeed in convincing the US administration headed by President George Bush to alter its besotted infatuation with Pakistan. That is why India should develop her own independent policies to safeguard the vital interests of the country, instead of adopting a shamelessly supine approach, mindlessly heeding the dictates of outside powers that do not have our interests in mind.
Nothing demonstrates the irrational behaviour of the US Administration more starkly than the latest move to attack Iraq on the specious ground that the regime of Saddam Hussein is a threat to its neighbours and to world peace, since it is bent on manufacturing nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction.
Notwithstanding the search by UN inspectors who had been in Iraq for a number of years after the Gulf War, no evidence has been unearthed to substantiate this charge. But President George Bush Jr and his predictably loyal ally Prime Minister Tony Blair of the UK appear determined to carry out an attack, which will arguably alienate all Islamic countries, besides many others who have even a shred of fairness left in them. One can predict that in that event it is bound to lead to a situation where, despite all its power and wealth, no US citizen can feel safe anywhere in the world.
The double standards followed by the US administration stand out much more vividly when one contrasts the ceremonial function in New York on the anniversary of the tragedy on 9/11 with that country's attitude towards its own use of two nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, within the space of a few days of each other, in August 1945, resulting in the death of hundreds of thousands of Japanese civilians. When there was a move on the 50th anniversary of the bombings, to get the US to express its regret at the scale of the killings, the US administration was adamant that it would not do so on any count!
Debating the situation as it prevails, after one year of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center and the so-called War Against Terror unleashed by the US it is possible to summarise the situation by noting that there has been no success achieved in apprehending Osama bin Laden nor a definitive conclusion as to whether he is dead or alive.
As a well-known think tank in Europe has observed: “The US war aim is simple — don't get bombed again. Another attack at any time would be a failure for Washington. But it is impossible to achieve this goal with a strictly defensive strategy, so Washington has been forced to charge, half-blind, into a battlefield spinning the globe, with the clock ticking. Al-Qaeda’s war aim is far more complex — re-establish an Islamic empire stretching from Morocco to Mindano. This goal is no less difficult to achieve than that of the United States in the long run. But the key freedom of time and multiple avenues gives al-Qaeda much more flexibility in crafting its strategy.”
(The writer is a former foreign secreatry of India)