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wtc bombings, a view from afghansitan & pakistan
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The following perspectives, one by and afghan
and another from pakistan, provides
an different view than the mainstream press
of the wtc bombings. I belive it is valuable to
for such views to be seen on this group in the
context of the earlier postings by Bhattacharya
The Belly to do what needs to be done
By Tamim Ansary
I've been hearing a lot of talk about "bombing Afghanistan back to the
Stone Age." Ronn Owens, on KGO Talk Radio today, allowed that this would
mean killing innocent people, people who had nothing to do with this
atrocity, but "we're at war, we have to accept collateral damage. What
else can we do?" Minutes later I heard some TV pundit discussing whether
we "have the belly to do what must be done."
And I thought about the issues being raised especially hard because I am
from Afghanistan, and even though I've lived here for 35 years I've
never lost track of what's going on there. So I want to tell anyone who
will listen how it all looks from where I'm standing.
I speak as one who hates the Taliban and Osama Bin Laden. There is no
doubt in my mind that these people were responsible for the atrocity in
New York. I agree that something must be done about those monsters.
But the Taliban and Ben Laden are not Afghanistan. They're not even the
government of Afghanistan. The Taliban are a cult of ignorant psychotics
who took over Afghanistan in 1997. Bin Laden is a political criminal
with a plan. When you think Taliban,think Nazis. When you think Bin
Laden, think Hitler. And when you think "the people of Afghanistan"
think "the Jews in the concentration camps." It's not only that the
Afghan people had nothing to do with this atrocity. They were the first
victims of the perpetrators. They would exult if someone would come in
there, take out the Taliban and clear out the rats nest of international
thugs holed up in their country.
Some say, why don't the Afghans rise up and overthrow the Taliban? The
answer is, they're starved, exhausted, hurt, incapacitated, suffering. A
few years ago, the United Nations estimated that there are 500,000
disabled orphans in Afghanistan--a country with no economy, no food.
There are millions of widows. And the Taliban has been burying these
widows alive in mass graves. The soil is littered with land mines, the
farms were all destroyed by the Soviets. These are a few of the reasons
why the Afghan people have not overthrown the Taliban.
We come now to the question of bombing Afghanistan back to the Stone
Age. Trouble is, that's been done. The Soviets took care of it already.
Make the Afghans suffer? They're already suffering. Level their
houses?Done. Turn their schools into piles of rubble? Done. Eradicate
their hospitals? Done. Destroy their infrastructure? Cut them off from
medicine and health care? Too late. Someone already did all that.
New bombs would only stir the rubble of earlier bombs. Would they at
least get the Taliban? Not likely. In today's Afghanistan, only the
Taliban eat, only they have the means to move around. They'd slip away
and hide. Maybe the bombs would get some of those disabled orphans, they
don't move too fast, they don't even have wheelchairs. But flying over
Kabul and dropping bombs wouldn't really be a strike against the
criminals who did this horrific thing. Actually it would only be making
common cause with the Taliban--by raping once again the people they've
been raping all this time.
So what else is there? What can be done, then? Let me now speak with
true fear and trembling. The only way to get Bin Laden is to go in there
with ground troops. When people speak of "having the belly to do what
needs to be done" they're thinking in terms of having the belly to kill
as many as needed. Having the belly to overcome any moral qualms about
killing innocent people. Let's pull our heads out of the sand. What's
actually on the table is Americans dying. And not just because some
Americans would die fighting their way through Afghanistan to Bin
Laden's hideout. It's much bigger than that folks. Because to get any
troops to Afghanistan, we'd have to go through Pakistan. Would they let
us? Not likely. The conquest of Pakistan would have to be first. Will
other Muslim nations just stand by? You see where I'm going. We're
flirting with a world war between Islam and the West.
And guess what: that's Bin Laden's program. That's exactly what he
wants. That's why he did this. Read his speeches and statements. It's
all right there. He really believes Islam would beat the west. It might
seem ridiculous, but he figures if he can polarize the world into Islam
and the West, he's got a billion soldiers. If the west wreaks a
holocaust in those lands, that's a billion people with nothing left to
lose, that's even better from Bin Laden's point of view. He's probably
wrong, in the end the west would win, whatever that would mean, but the
war would last for years and millions would die, not just theirs but
ours. Who has the belly for that? Bin Laden does. Anyone else?
BLACK TUESDAY: THE VIEW FROM ISLAMABAD
by Pervez Hoodbhoy
Samuel Huntington's evil desire for a clash between civilizations may
well come true after Tuesday's terror attacks. The crack that divided
Muslims everywhere from the rest of the world is no longer a crack. It
is a gulf, that if not bridged, will surely destroy both.
For much of the world, it was the indescribable savagery of seeing
jet-loads of innocent human beings piloted into buildings filled with
other innocent human beings. It was the sheer horror of watching people
jump from the 80th floor of the collapsing World Trade Centre rather
than be consumed by the inferno inside. Yes, it is true that many
Muslims also saw it exactly this way, and felt the searing agony no less
sharply. The heads of states of Muslim countries, Saddam Hussein
excepted, condemned the attacks. Leaders of Muslim communities in the
US, Canada, Britain, Europe, and Australia have made impassioned
denunciations and pleaded for the need to distinguish between ordinary
Muslims and extremists.
But the pretence that reality goes no further must be abandoned because
this merely obfuscates facts and slows down the search for solutions.
One would like to dismiss televised images showing Palestinian
expressions of joy as unrepresentative, reflective only of the crass
political immaturity of a handful. But this may be wishful thinking.
Similarly, Pakistan Television, operating under strict control of the
government, is attempting to portray a nation united in condemnation of
the attack. Here too, the truth lies elsewhere, as I learn from students
at my university here in Islamabad, from conversations with people in
the streets, and from the Urdu press. A friend tells me that crowds
gathered around public TV sets at Islamabad airport had cheered as the
WTC came crashing down. It makes one feel sick from inside.
A bizarre new world awaits us, where old rules of social and political
behavior have broken down and new ones are yet to defined. Catapulted
into a situation of darkness and horror by the extraordinary force of
events, as rational human beings we must urgently formulate a response
that is moral, and not based upon considerations of power and
practicality. This requires beginning with a clearly defined moral
supposition - the fundamental equality of all human beings. It also
requires that we must proceed according to a definite sequence of steps,
the order of which is not interchangeable.
Before all else, Black Tuesday's mass murder must be condemned in the
harshest possible terms without qualification or condition, without
seeking causes or reasons that may even remotely be used to justify it,
and without regard for the national identity of the victims or the
perpetrators. The demented, suicidical, fury of the attackers led to
heinous acts of indiscriminate and wholesale murder that have changed
the world for the worse. A moral position must begin with unequivocal
condemnation, the absence of which could eliminate even the language by
which people can communicate.
Analysis comes second, but it is just as essential. No "terrorist" gene
is known to exist or is likely to be found. Therefore, surely the
attackers, and their supporters, who were all presumably born normal,
were afflicted by something that caused their metamorphosis from normal
human beings capable of gentleness and affection into desperate,
maddened, fiends with nothing but murder in their hearts and minds.
What was that?
Tragically, CNN and the US media have so far made little attempt to
understand this affliction. The cost for this omission, if it is to stay
this way, cannot be anything but terrible. What we have seen is probably
the first of similar tragedies that may come to define the 21st century
as the century of terror. There is much claptrap about "fighting
terrorism" and billions are likely to be poured into surveillance,
fortifications, and emergency plans, not to mention the ridiculous idea
of missile defence systems. But, as a handful of suicide bombers armed
with no more than knives and box-cutters have shown with such
devastating effectiveness, all this means precisely nothing. Modern
nations are far too vulnerable to be protected - a suitcase nuclear
device could flatten not just a building or two, but all of Manhattan.
Therefore, the simple logic of survival says that the chances of
survival are best if one goes to the roots of terror.
Only a fool can believe that the services of a suicidical terrorist can
be purchased, or that they can be bred at will anywhere. Instead, their
breeding grounds are in refugee camps and in other rubbish dumps of
humanity, abandoned by civilization and left to rot. A global
superpower, indifferent to their plight, and manifestly on the side of
their tormentors, has bred boundless hatred for its policies. In supreme
arrogance, indifferent to world opinion, the US openly sanctions daily
dispossession and torture of the Palestinians by Israeli occupation
forces. The deafening silence over the massacres in Qana, Sabra, and
Shatila refugee camps, and the video-gamed slaughter by the Pentagon of
70,000 people in Iraq, has brought out the worst that humans are capable
of. In the words of Robert Fisk, "those who claim to represent a
crushed, humiliated population struck back with the wickedness and
awesome cruelty of a doomed people".
It is stupid and cruel to derive satisfaction from such revenge, or from
the indisputable fact that Osama and his kind are the blowback of the
CIAs misadventures in Afghanistan. Instead, the real question is: where
do we, the inhabitants of this planet, go from here? What is the lesson
to be learnt from the still smouldering ruins of the World Trade Centre?
If the lesson is that America needs to assert its military might, then
the future will be as grim as can be. Indeed, Secretary Colin Powell,
has promised "more than a single reprisal raid". But against whom? And
to what end? No one doubts that it is ridiculously easy for the US to
unleash carnage. But the bodies of a few thousand dead Afghans will not
bring peace, or reduce by one bit the chances of a still worse terrorist
This not an argument for inaction: Osama and his gang, as well as other
such gangs, if they can be found, must be brought to justice. But
indiscriminate slaughter can do nothing except add fuel to existing
hatreds. Today, the US is the victim but the carpet-bombing of
Afghanistan will cause it to squander the huge swell of sympathy in its
favour the world over. Instead, it will create nothing but revulsion and
promote never-ending tit-for-tat killings.
Ultimately, the security of the United States lies in its re-engaging
with the people of the world, especially with those that it has
grieviously harmed. As a great country, possessing an admirable
constitution that protects the life and liberty of its citizens, it must
extend its definition of humanity to cover all peoples of the world. It
must respect international treaties such as those on greenhouse gases
and biological weapons, stop trying to force a new Cold War by pushing
through NMD, pay its UN dues, and cease the aggrandizement of wealth in
the name of globalization.
But it is not only the US that needs to learn new modes of behaviour.
There are important lessons for Muslims too, particularly those living
in the US, Canada, and Europe. Last year I heard the arch-conservative
head of Pakistan's Jamat-i-Islami, Qazi Husain Ahmad, begin his lecture
before an American audience in Washington with high praise for a
"pluralist society where I can wear the clothes I like, pray at a
mosque, and preach my religion". Certainly, such freedoms do not exist
for religious minorities in Pakistan, or in most Muslim countries. One
hopes that the misplaced anger against innocent Muslims dissipates soon
and such freedoms are not curtailed significantly. Nevertheless, there
is a serious question as to whether this pluralism can persist forever,
and if it does not, whose responsibility it will be.
The problem is that immigrant Muslim communities have, by and large,
chosen isolation over integration. In the long run this is a
fundamentally unhealthy situation because it creates suspicion and
friction, and makes living together ever so much harder. It also raises
serious ethical questions about drawing upon the resources of what is
perceived to be another society, for which one has hostile feelings.
This is not an argument for doing away with one's Muslim identity. But,
without closer interaction with the mainstream, pluralism will be
threatened. Above all, survival of the community depends upon strongly
emphasizing the difference between extremists and ordinary Muslims, and
on purging from within jihadist elements committed to violence. Any
member of the Muslim community who thinks that ordinary people in the US
are fair game because of bad US government policies has no business
To echo George W. Bush, "let there be no mistake". But here the mistake
will be to let the heart rule the head in the aftermath of utter horror,
to bomb a helpless Afghan people into an even earlier period of the
Stone Age, or to take similar actions that originate from the spine.
Instead, in deference to a billion years of patient evolution, we need
to hand over charge to the cerebellum. Else, survival of this particular
species is far from guaranteed.
The author is professor of physics at Quaid-e-Azam University,
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