EDITORIAL. J.Sri Raman. IX. XI.X
Nightmares After 9/11
by J. Sri Raman
Nine years after 9/11, it was left to Pastor Terry Jones of Florida to make the point that escaped even some bitter critics of the US course under former President George W. Bush. They have talked of what the Washington-Pentagon warmongers have done to parts of the world, in alleged response to the Twin Towers tragedy and the threat of "global terror". The man who raised the torch menacingly over the Quran showed what they had done to America and a minority of Americans.
The rise of the Far Right, or the Crazy Right as some commentators call it more aptly, at home was bound to follow the wars of alleged pre-emption and pursuit abroad. It did. The phenomenon has acquired bigger and uglier proportions after Barack Hussein Obama was voted to the White House. Racism and religious bigotry have combined with the machinations of the military-industrial complex to work against the voters' verdict and to reverse a change, over which many of us rejoiced too soon. A larger political role seems reserved for the yesteryear's lunatic fringe.
Away from American shores, nearly a decade of military misadventures has done a manufactured cause of "anti-terrorism" damage beyond easy repair or redemption. As Obama announced the end of US combat operations in Iraq on August 31, he could make no convincing claim about the gains of a war launched on March 20, 2003. The doctrine of ":regime change" and the devastation of a country under the pretext of unearthing non-existent weapons of mass destruction have served the ends of neither "democracy" nor "freedom": The unrelenting offensive has left nearly a hundred thousand Iraqi civilians dead, 46 per cent of them women and 39 per cent children.
The war unleashed on Afghanistan on October 7, 2001, soon after 9/11, has been even more wounding. It has left close to a million Afghans dead, without promising any liberation of the long-suffering people from the Taliban. The country groans under the notoriously corrupt government of President Hamid Karzai, the warlords continue to wield power in provinces and the narcotics trade thrives, while Nato troops play secret games of sadistic killings of civilians. The military "surge", promised by the Obama Administration, sounds like a mockery of the grave situation on ground.
Washington and the Pentagon vow unremitting pursuit of al Qaeda leaders, while no one can vouch for the whereabouts or even the existence of Osama bin Laden. The theory, equating the capture and death of this individual with the end of terrorism, meanwhile, only provokes mirth outside the Oval Office and the rest of the presidential precincts.
For South Asia, 9/11 has had strange consequences. Both India and Pakistan were extraordinarily quick to join the "alliance against global terror", but have managed to remain adversaries, especially on the issue of terrorism. Each has been keen to try and turn the alliance against the other. New Delhi under then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee extended support to the idea of a pre-emptive war in the hope, and nearly on the condition, of India being allowed the same privilege in the officially unnamed Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. Islamabad, under then President General Pervez Musharraf, insisted that its support for the US served its "core interests", including the one involved in Kashmir.
Little wonder that the "anti-terror alliance" led to aggravated tensions in the subcontinent, especially after the attack of December 13, 2001, on India's Parliament. The summer of 2002 saw a dangerous military standoff between the nuclear-armed neighbours in Kashmir. South Asia might have been pulled back from the brink of a nuclear war, but "anti-terrorism" of the post-9/11 kind had proved a tenuous basis indeed for India-Pakistan peace.
In dealing with Pastor Jones, Obama faced a very different America from the one that voted him to power. And the US President will not encounter the same South Asia that Bush visited in March 2006. It is time for the world to learn its post-9/11 lessons and move on to more meaningful anti-terror cooperation.