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Song sung blue

January 02, 2003

I have received a bunch of emails over the past week or two wishing me Happy New Year.


In return I now have to send them all the same message back, wishing them a Happy New Year -- the same impersonal, robotic message for a bunch of friends and acquaintances, despite the fact that I know the specific issues many of them want to deal with this year.


Frankly, I am quite tired of that phrase, we need something new. I mean we've been parroting those three words for so long, it makes me tired.


I'm also tired for other reasons.


The famed War on Terror that was led by the elite Special Forces of the US Army has pretty much failed in its mission to find or eliminate Mr Osama bin Laden, despite it being more than a year since the campaign in Afghanistan began. Instead, the US got a handful of ragtag Taliban and Al Qaeda who are now being held in Guantanamo Bay.


Mr Laden is either free as a bird or hiding like a rat. In either case, he eludes capture and continues to take credit for various acts of terror across the globe. Intelligence reports indicate that Al Qaeda terror cells may be regrouping. Should we expect more attacks next year?


Happy New Year.


Meanwhile, the White House has almost magically transformed the debate on terror to one on regime change. It even came within a whisker of invading a non-aggressive nation unilaterally. That has passed, but new signals point to a likely war in 2003, one that could be messy -- for the Iraqi people -- and potentially explosive for the situation in the Middle East.


Happy New Year.


2002 also saw a cynical end run by some of the top names in American business, both executives and corporates, who fudged and cheated almost as a matter of policy.


With an economy already in a slide, the scandals slammed the financial markets to the floor, setting off ripple effects in other bourses and wiping out the hard-earned and carefully invested wealth of millions of people, both rich and not-so-rich. And as states across the US scramble to balance budgets, cost-cutting is taking its inevitable toll on services and jobs. As the year came to a close, almost 800,000 Americans officially went off any benefit because Congress bickered for too long on an extension for those people.


Combined with fears of a double dip and a global economy that is still limping, any more scandals in 2003 can only mean further financial misery. It also means the poorest of the poor nations will find it tough to provide even basic food security or healthcare facilties to people.


Happy New Year.


Across the world -- in Kashmir, in Bali, in Yemen, in a Moscow theatre, in Israel/Palestine, in Kenya -- hate-filled violence took the lives of scores of people in ways that were horrific, to say the least. In my own country, India, one act of violence -- some would call it terror -- led to a bout of religious violence that took hundreds of lives and stood out for its sheer brutality. Next year, one of the groups that participated and supported the killings hopes to repeat those tactics in the rest of the country.


Happy New Year.


Increasingly, democracy is being challenged even as there is growing call for more democracy. Pakistan's President Musharraf rewrote the country's consitution to give himself more powers.


In India, the government has been using the new mantra of anti-terrorism to take away people's civil rights. In a recent incident in the capital, three suspects were reportedly shot dead in cold blood by the police, which tried to pass it off as a shootout. When an eyewitness challenged that theory, he had to be provided security. By the police, from the police.


In the US, secret detentions have been so secret, even families of detainees are clueless. Detainees have often been denied access to attorneys and are held in testing conditions. Two weeks ago, authorities arrested hundreds of Muslim men who were out of status or were getting their papers processed for interrogation. They were later released after it raised an almighty stink.


In Venezuela, even as I write, the government is in a stand-off with oil workers and the opposition, who want the president to go. The White House has called for an electoral solution -- forgetting that it supported a failed coup in April against leftist President Hugo Chavez, who came to power last year with one of the biggest majorities in a democratic election. The country has practically shut down its oil exports, one of its major sources of revenue, while people fight on the streets.


Happy New Year.


Meanwhile, that small little virus, thousands of which can sit upon one needle head, and which is so coldly named Human Immunodeficiency Virus, wreaks its wrath upon the world, mutating itself at a rate that the best scientists in the world are hard put to catch up. Sub-Saharan Africa has already been devastated. China and India, say experts, are sitting on a ticking bomb and if nothing is done right now, it will explode and devastate both.


Happy New Year.


Nonetheless, I think I will go ahead and send out that email to all my friends and wish them a Happy New Year. Why? Because despite all of the above, I still see a small ray of hope somewhere. But more about that later.


And oh, Happy New Year to you too.


When Tanmaya Kumar Nanda is not parroting cliched lines, he reports for and India Abroad. Happy New Year to you, Tanmaya.

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