Friday, December 12, 2008

War On Terror is Not What It Thinks It Is

Responding to the horrific attacks in Mumbai is not as simple as incorporating it into the general Global War on Terror. In fact, the GWOT is not really accomplishing what its proponents say - or wish - it was. Arundhati Roy's great article, "9 Is Not 11", examines the Mumbai attacks and the West's response to them,

We've forfeited the rights to our own tragedies. As the carnage in Mumbai raged on, day after horrible day, our 24-hour news channels informed us that we were watching "India's 9/11." And like actors in a Bollywood rip-off of an old Hollywood film, we're expected to play our parts and say our lines, even though we know it's all been said and done before.

As tension in the region builds, U.S. Senator John McCain has warned Pakistan that, if it didn't act fast to arrest the "bad guys," he had personal information that India would launch air strikes on "terrorist camps" in Pakistan and that Washington could do nothing because Mumbai was India's 9/11.

But November isn't September, 2008 isn't 2001, Pakistan isn't Afghanistan, and India isn't America. So perhaps we should reclaim our tragedy and pick through the debris with our own brains and our own broken hearts so that we can arrive at our own conclusions.

Her examination of the issues is heartrending and brutally, refreshingly honest.

The war on terror is not the Savior advertised in fear-mongering, simplistic propaganda. India is a showcase of how off-the-mark the GWOT is and how it merely creates more of the same - war and violence.

Almost always, when these stories unspool, they reveal a complicated global network of foot soldiers, trainers, recruiters, middlemen, and undercover intelligence and counter-intelligence operatives working not just on both sides of the India-Pakistan border, but in several countries simultaneously.

In today's world, trying to pin down the provenance of a terrorist strike and isolate it within the borders of a single nation state, is very much like trying to pin down the provenance of corporate money. It's almost impossible.

In circumstances like these, air strikes to "take out" terrorist camps may take out the camps, but certainly will not "take out" the terrorists. And neither will war.

It is not simply a "mistake" to overlook "cultural complexities" or to paint ideological fantasies over totally different realities on the ground, as Bushco has done. It is the sort of turn of events that creates unstoppable monsters.

Thanks largely to the part it was forced to play as America's ally, first in its war in support of the Afghan Islamists and then in its war against them, Pakistan, whose territory is reeling under these contradictions, is careening toward civil war.

As recruiting agents for America's jihad against the Soviet Union, it was the job of the Pakistani Army and the ISI to nurture and channel funds to Islamic fundamentalist organizations. Having wired up these Frankensteins and released them into the world, the U.S. expected it could rein them in like pet mastiffs whenever it wanted to. Certainly it did not expect them to come calling in the heart of the homeland on September 11. So once again, Afghanistan had to be violently remade.

Now the debris of a re-ravaged Afghanistan has washed up on Pakistan's borders.

Nobody, least of all the Pakistani government, denies that it is presiding over a country that is threatening to implode. The terrorist training camps, the fire-breathing mullahs, and the maniacs who believe that Islam will, or should, rule the world are mostly the detritus of two Afghan wars. Their ire rains down on the Pakistani government and Pakistani civilians as much, if not more, than it does on India.

If, at this point, India decides to go to war, perhaps the descent of the whole region into chaos will be complete. The debris of a bankrupt, destroyed Pakistan will wash up on India's shores, endangering us as never before.

And the worst way to deal with these dangers is to launch a Global War on Terror. It requires a particular mindset, one familiar to empires who have to make other people's decisions for them without knowing what the hell is going on.

It's hard to understand why those who steer India's ship are so keen to replicate Pakistan's mistakes and call damnation upon this country by inviting the United States to further meddle clumsily and dangerously in our extremely complicated affairs. A superpower never has allies. It only has agents.

Look at the history of the Indian subcontinent, when the last Superpower, Great Britain, partitioned India arbitrarily on ethnic/religious/cultural lines. Where's their democratic ideal here? Ah, the whims of the powerful, and their consequences...

The Radcliffe Line, which separated India and Pakistan and tore through states, districts, villages, fields, communities, water systems, homes, and families, was drawn virtually overnight. It was Britain's final, parting kick to us.

Partition triggered the massacre of more than a million people and the largest migration of a human population in contemporary history. Eight million people, Hindus fleeing the new Pakistan, Muslims fleeing the new kind of India, left their homes with nothing but the clothes on their backs.

Each of those people carries, and passes down, a story of unimaginable pain, hate, horror, but yearning too. That wound, those torn but still unsevered muscles, that blood and those splintered bones still lock us together in a close embrace of hatred, terrifying familiarity, but also love. It has left Kashmir trapped in a nightmare from which it can't seem to emerge, a nightmare that has claimed more than 60,000 lives.

Pakistan, the Land of the Pure, became an Islamic Republic, and then very quickly a corrupt, violent military state, openly intolerant of other faiths.

But it's not so simple. There's the same exact intolerance and militancy coming rom the Hindu side, back in "democratic, open" India.

Babu Bajrangi of Ahmedabad, India, of the Hindu fundamentalist Bharatiya Janata Party, BJP, and a perpetrator of the genocide at Gujarat, said:
"We didn't spare a single Muslim shop, we set everything on fire… we hacked, burned, set on fire… we believe in setting them on fire because these bastards don't want to be cremated, they're afraid of it… I have just one last wish… let me be sentenced to death… I don't care if I'm hanged... just give me two days before my hanging and I will go and have a field day in Juhapura where seven or eight lakhs [seven or eight hundred thousand] of these people stay... I will finish them off… let a few more of them die... at least twenty-five thousand to fifty thousand should die."

Their playbook is taken from Mussolini, their racism and hatred open and violent. Yet, unlike the Muslim terrorists, these are re-elected to public office, condoned, and encouraged as "partners" in the War on Terror.

The GWOT has taken the stance that all real terrorism is either local, or Islamic. Once terrorism is labeled "Islamic", it immediately becomes "global", drawn into the GWOT, where there is a no-holds-barred scorched-earth policy of bringing in every force available against the "Universal Foe". This creates reactions, complications, and worse, feeds into the very thing it supposedly is trying to fight.

The War on Terror has become a global industry. It has its own product - war - and the attendant arms industry that feeds off the mass distribution of that product. It has its own advertising sector - the largest ad firm being, of course, the U.S. government. But other governments, such as that of, say, Britain, are working hard there, too. It has millions of employees, from the US Department of Defense and all that entails - and it entails a hell of a lot - to Blackwater and all those mercenaries, to all those who want to cash in on this lucrative business in nations around the world. It has, of course, a megaladon of a distribution network, of which the intelligence industry in Western nations is often a part. And it has, like the Mafia, enforcers. The enforcers are those who serve the vast prison industry in the U.S., from Gitmo to the lesser-known terror prisons, to those country who do the GWOT's dirty work through "extraordinary rendition".

With this industry dominating the world economy, it has left many people without a sense of the value of their own lives, let alone the lives of others. They or their relatives were treated or perceived themselves as being treated, as pawns, as "collateral damage". In a sense, it's a huge ego-blowout. It's not about the reality of their stated goals at all. It's not about Islam, or Hinduism, or, in the case of Israel, the Jews. It's about pride. It's about saying to the world - a world which one day destroyed their very pride and sense of value as human beings - or rather, declaring loudly to the world, "We ARE HERE! You can't get rid of us! We have value! We are something which you have to deal with!"

And the only voice they seem to find satisfying to get that message across is violence, oppression, destruction of things "the world" finds valuable - especially human life. They choose a specific target, an enemy, and seek to humiliate it.

For example, with the Mumbai attacks,

If the men were indeed members of the Lashkar-e-Taiba, why didn't it matter to them that a large number of their victims were Muslim, or that their action was likely to result in a severe backlash against the Muslim community in India whose rights they claim to be fighting for?

Same question is asked of Osama bin Laden. What the hell was he thinking? His own son popped that question. We still await the answer.

Terrorism is a heartless ideology, and like most ideologies that have their eye on the Big Picture, individuals don't figure in their calculations except as collateral damage.

But the War on Terror itself does the same thing. The "Big Picture" is an exceptionally vague idea of "democracy" and "freedom" which, translated by war, meanings the diametrical opposite. It means, in application by war, the destruction of freedom, of peace, of any hope of individual participation or voice. War loves dictators, not representative government.

It has always been a part of, and often even the aim of, terrorist strategy to exacerbate a bad situation in order to expose hidden fault lines. The blood of "martyrs" irrigates terrorism. Hindu terrorists need dead Hindus, Communist terrorists need dead proletarians, Islamist terrorists need dead Muslims. The dead become the demonstration, the proof of victimhood, which is central to the project.

And then there's the backlash, like GW Bush's Republican backlash:

Though one chapter of horror in Mumbai has ended, another might have just begun. Day after day, a powerful, vociferous section of the Indian elite, goaded by marauding TV anchors who make Fox News look almost radical and left-wing, have taken to mindlessly attacking politicians, all politicians, glorifying the police and the army, and virtually asking for a police state.

It isn't surprising that those who have grown plump on the pickings of democracy (such as it is) should now be calling for a police state. The era of "pickings" is long gone. We're now in the era of Grabbing by Force, and democracy has a terrible habit of getting in the way.

And this is the worst of all possible attitudes. India needs to get a grip. We all need to get a grip.

There are those who point out that U.S. strategy has been successful inasmuch as the United States has not suffered a major attack on its home ground since 9/11. However, some would say that what America is suffering now is far worse.

If the idea behind the 9/11 terror attacks was to goad America into showing its true colors, what greater success could the terrorists have asked for? The U.S. military is bogged down in two unwinnable wars, which have made the United States the most hated country in the world. Those wars have contributed greatly to the unraveling of the American economy and who knows, perhaps eventually the American empire.

(Could it be that battered, bombed Afghanistan, the graveyard of the Soviet Union, will be the undoing of this one too?)

The answer to this question is more powerful than we like to think. It's time for a decision, no doubt. Will Obama or the US Congress be up to it?

Terrorists like those who attacked Mumbai are hardly likely to be deterred by the prospect of being refused bail or being sentenced to death. It's what they want.

What we're experiencing now is blowback, the cumulative result of decades of quick fixes and dirty deeds. The carpet's squelching under our feet.

The only way to contain -- it would be naïve to say end -- terrorism is to look at the monster in the mirror. We're standing at a fork in the road. One sign says "Justice," the other "Civil War." There's no third sign and there's no going back. Choose.

This is a message to India. But also to a greater extent, to the United States. Only the "civil war" is fought on a larger turf. where will that turf be? The world economy? Get out of the GWOT business. Before it's too late.

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