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MGG: American view of terrorism as criminal act wrong [WTC]
By M.G.G. Pillai
17/9/2001 6:27 pm Mon
2:26pm, Fri: The focus shifts in the United States from the carnage and
horror of the terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington DC to
what should now be done. It is more of less accepted as an article of faith
that it was Osama bin Laden who perpetrated this horror, the US
Congress and Senate now look to see how he could be snared without
loss of American life.
The Taliban is targeted for allowing him protection. Pakistan, one of the
few countries to recognise the Taliban, is under pressure to cooperate
with the United States and provide what it knows about Osama bin
Laden and his shadowy organisation.
One thing is forgotten: all these options are discussed in the public eye,
on chat shows and the 24 hour coverage CNN, CNBC and others
provide. It reflects not confidence but embarrassment that can only be
resolved by attacking the enemy, whoever he is, at his lair. Long after the
hurt disappears, the horror that the United States government, the most
powerful on earth, could be thrown into irrational turbulence would
remain, as Pearl Harbour in the American psyche.
The United States would probably bomb a few places in retaliation,
indiscriminately if she has to. A few years ago she bombed a vaccine
producing factory in Khartoum in retaliation, so we were told, for Sudan
harbouring Osama bin Laden. It turned out to be a wrong target.
Like often during the Vietnam War, when ?solacium? payments were made
to people and targets wrongly bombed, the United States paid the
factory owner for his loss with money and an apology. Nothing was said
of the innocents who were killed, nor that it destroyed inadvertently the
only vaccine producing factory in central Africa.
I have received much hate mail for what I wrote, but terror breeds terror,
and what happened in New York and Washington was one the United
States should have expected for all the mayhem her official policy spreads
around the world, particularly in the Middle East. When death is close to
home, emotion takes over. Much of the hate mail, from Americans, comes
from that helplessness at what happened.
It is not the first time I have seen that helplessness. I saw it aplenty
during the Vietnam War in the 1960s as a Reuters reporter when visiting
sites bombed by America outside its technologically-defined coordinates.
Then it was justified for harbouring the mysterious and faceless Vietcong.
Today, Afghanistan is targeted for harbouring the mysterious Osama bin
We see that now in the aftermath of this carnage and destruction. But
would it resolve the matter? It would not. For America's enemies are no
longer states and ideologies but those who are marginalised by its policies
around the world. Washington went into the Middle East like a bull in a
china shop, its neutrality heavily leaning towards Israel.
The Palestinian cause, for the all the hurt it spewed, still remains at the
heart of the latest carnage. Resolve that, and the United States could well
have a freer ride. Though it may not, with its insistence on technological
and electronic supremacy not backed by solid ground information.
When the United States drops bombs in contentious areas, the
frustrations of the governments of those areas is as President George
Bush displayed after the carnage: impotence. The chat shows show that
with stark reality. There is an attempt to rouse up the American people to
back the government, and contrary but sane opinions are cut short.
It is not without reason that the most sane reports of this sordid episode
come from European newspapers and television channels. What the
United States opinion does not accept is a view contrary to its own. That
is at the heart of the present official and private hysteria.
This is not to undermine the extent of the tragedy. But that tragedy must
be put in perspective. It is tragic only in the sense that it hit the United
States. It is seen differently elsewhere in the world. Especially in the
The official United States policy is to root out terrorism as a criminal act.
This is wrong. It should instead look upon it as another face of war, and
root it out as the Allied Forces did Germany during the Second World
War. Otherwise, she could be felled as she was in Vietnam.
The measures announced so far puts friendly governments in fright and
fear. Pakistan could not but recognise the Pathan Taliban; the rulers in
Kabul come from the same Pathan stock that inhabit its Northwest
Frontier province. Every Pakistani spokesman I heard or saw on
television, with a knowledge of the Taliban, were Pathans.
So, if Pakistani President Pervez Musharaff decides to hand over all his
country's information on Osama bin Laden to the United States, as is
reported, he invites internal convulsions he could not get out of. As a
frontline state, Pakistan is more vulnerable to such pressures than the
United States - 15,000 kilometres away. Unless the United States can
build up a force of Pathans that can topple the Taliban, this is bound to
end in failure.
Would it resolve the matter? Even assuming Osama bin Laden is caught or
killed. No. It would create another area of uncertainty in an otherwise
uncertain area, putting more pressure on the United States' allies in the
region, including India and the Soviet Union. Would it then root out
terrorism in the area? No. The United States can only expect a temporary
The terrorism would not stop because one ringleader is killed. There are
too many groups using terrorism and terror as an policy to confront the
United States over the Palestinian issue alone. Besides, as Robert Fisk
mentioned in The Independent in London, Osama bin Laden told him in
several interviews that his twin aim is to destroy the United States and its
satrap nations in the region.
One question is unresolved: how could such a brilliantly coordinated plan
be put into operation with the resources the Osama bin Laden or anyone
else? Latest reports suggest that the hijackers knew enough of top secret
information to raise questions if someone in the highest reaches of the
US government provided the information. Whether he or she is a mole is
beside the point, which is the sophistication with which the preparations
This suggests two possibilities: one Muslim group suggests it could be a
deliberate Israeli plot to blame the Muslims for the carnage and
destruction; two, rogue intelligence specialists, not necessarily from the
KGB but from Western agencies as well, could have planned this for a fee.
I doubt if any Arab organisation could have pulled off singlehandedly what
happened. Whoever did it had specialist help beyond their capabilities.
Francis Fukuyama's theory of the end of the history in the unipolar world
we now live in reflected the complacency monopolists have. It ignored the
power of the dispossessed.
What happened in the United States this week is similar in scope and scale
to the increasingly virulent computer viruses that down computer
systems, even the rise of Aids, in this era of complacency and a belief that
terror and mishaps only strike the other fellow. Samuel P Huntington's
thesis in the Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order
presumes civilisational clashes, in which the world would be divided into
I have an unconventional view of the incident: What happened is the
continuing disturbances thrown up by the breakup of the Ottoman
Empire. The rise of the central European power of Germany in the 1870s
accelerated the decline of the Ottoman Empire, which began in 1348 and
finally ended in 1922.
But the uncertainties this left led to the German Empire, the first World War, the Treaty of Versailles which humiliated Germany, the postwar rise of lebensraum in the German mind, with the consequent rise of Hitler, the Cold War and the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1989. It takes a century and more for the dust to settle when empires collapse. We see the tail end of that now. The dominoes of that break up are about to fall.