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|December 14, 2001||
America's selective war
The attack on the Parliament building on December 13 was thwarted by the police due to their alertness and spirit of sacrifice. If any proof was needed that we are under attack as a nation, here it was. The reaction of the US and the rest of the world to this outrage needs to be keenly watched as that will be the acid test of whether the US and the West want to fight a war against 'Global Terrorism' or merely terrorism against America.
Careful observation of television coverage shows that the Americans seem to be going to extraordinary lengths to protect Pakistan. The Osama followers are invariably referred to as Arabs and not Pakistanis, which the bulk of them are! Even the massacre of mainly Pakistani jihadis at Mazar-e-Sharif during the prison riots was glossed over.
The arrest of top Pakistani nuclear scientists for their links to Osama bin Laden is mentioned only briefly, with no visuals. And finally, the American Taliban, John Walker!
Only in the brief first announcement was it mentioned that he had been fighting in Kashmir! All subsequent coverage sweeps that fact under the carpet.
All this is raising disturbing questions. It seems terrorism is being defined as such only when it threatens American lives! It seems killing of innocent Indians in the name of a 'freedom struggle' is acceptable to the West!
A landlocked country like Afghanistan and its guest militants of the Al Qaeda network needed access to the outside world. This was provided though Karachi and Islamabad in Pakistan. It would not be an exaggeration to say that without this access to the outside world, Osama bin Laden's network and its activity would have been confined to Afghanistan itself, Chechnya and Kashmir. The truth is that ignoring Osama's connection to Pakistan made the outrage of September 11 possible.
In any war, and this war is no exception, the first casualty is the truth. Winston Churchill, in his inimitable style, had once remarked that during war time truth is the most precious commodity and she needs to be guarded by a 'bodyguard of lies'.
Out of this pithy observation was born the overall deception plan of the Allies during the Second World War, appropriately named Operation Bodyguard.
The present war in Afghanistan seems to be no exception. During the last three months, one has been fed on the daily diet of briefings by American officials and round the clock coverage by the electronic media. The briefings have become a joke as the officials merely read out pronouncements and virtually all uncomfortable questions are stonewalled. It is pathetic to see the usually aggressive American scribes nodding with approval at every single word.
The Taliban regime was a product of a joint venture between the US and Pakistan. The US acquiesced in the takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban in order to open a route to Central Asian oil and gas resources through their territory into Pakistan and sea ports on the Arabian sea. The US wanted to ensure that this does not happen through a hostile Iran. So, for the last five years or so, it turned a blind eye to the Taliban's appalling human rights record. No American media is prepared to accept this basic truth.
But the deeper causes of the current epidemic of terror can be directly traced back to America's Cold War policies. In the aftermath of World War II, many former colonies emerged as independent countries. The leadership of, by and large, most countries was inclined towards socialism as an ideology to fight poverty in their countries.
The US equated this nationalism with communism and opposed Nasser, Ho Chi Minh and Nehru and instead backed dictators and regressive regimes.
The Cold War is over for the last decade or so, yet this suspicion and abhorance of even vaguely socialist nations remains. Thus the US and the West opposed every modernising regime, as in the post-Cold War era the commercial interests of US corporations gained ascendance. In a short-sighted view, the old policy of supporting dictators continued.
There is much talk of 'nation building' in Afghanistan. Yet, none has had the courage to accept that in the brutalised environment of Afghanistan, it was only the socialist regime that tried to give equal rights to women and also attempted to modernise Afghanistan.
A Chinese proverb says that even a thousand-mile journey must begin with one step - in that sense, the war against terrorism is barely two months old and one must be cautious before jumping to conclusions.
Yet, it is a sufficient period of time to see the direction it is moving in and also the chances of success. It is also time to introspect and apply mid-course corrections that may be necessary.
India must be on guard to see that for the sake of short term expediency, the Americans do not re-arm Pakistan and turn a blind eye to its support of terror. A test case would be to demand the extradition of renegade American John Walker to India - so that he can stand trial here for crimes he committed in Kashmir.
If the US does not see any evil in John Walker and Pakistani brigandage, we should come to our own conclusions that the US is not serious about rooting out terrorism. How on the earth is the sole superpower going to make the world safe without getting the cooperation of most of the world is a question that may haunt future American generations.
Indians on their part must be ready to follow the long, difficult and lonely road to combat terrorism in our midst.
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