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MGG: When grief dictates revenge
By M.G.G. Pillai
29/9/2001 3:10 am Sat
Saturday September 22
When grief dictates revenge
4:01pm, Sat: When Nato and the United States choreographed the setting up of an
International Criminal Court, it was so framed to deal with the likes of Osama bin
Laden. The war crimes in the former federated states of Yugoslavia was to be the test
The former Yugoslav president, Slobodan Milosevic, was quickly seized from his
hideout and brought to trial in conditions which does not bode well for peace, not in
Europe, not in the rest of the world.
The machinery is there, so Nato and the United States argues, to teach tinpot
dictators and purveyors of policies abhorrent to civilised Western norms a lesson they
would not forget. Washington and Brussels reject that this is, without stretching the
point, victor's justice.
With this body in place, why then does the United States rush to destabilise
Afghanistan even further? She causes even more dislocation by her threats than the
human damage in New York City and Washington last week.
Revenge, not justice, is written large in President Bush's mind, and he now wants to
enforce it. It is Washington, not Brussels, which orchestrates that.
When Nato rushed to Washington's aid, invoking the clause never used during the
Cold War, that an attack on one member state is an attack on all, it had no such
The hawks rule
In other words, for all the coalition of like-minded states the United States cobbles
around the world, it would end with Washington bearing the brunt of the campaign,
with Great Britain in tow, but those jumping in there for reasons that has nothing to
do with the United States' cause.
The hawks rule in the United States now, rational discussion cut off in this jingosim
that prevails, the belief that what Washington wants Washington gets, but with no
clear idea of what awaits it when the fighting starts.
Too many countries have scores, political and economic, to settle with Washington.
Nato would not allow itself to be landed in a war it knows it cannot win. Only in the
United States is this belief in ultimate victory is an article of faith - especially with a
perceived enemy operating from a country which the United States had decided as
early as 1930 as a lawless and dangerous.
But reason goes out the window when grief dictates revenge. President Bush acts to
strengthen his home base, and does not care what the cost is, so long as Americans
are not the casualties. A week after the tragedy, other countries back out of their initial
A National Security Agency official now wants these countries who rushed in with
verbal support to put it in writing, a sign that the initial hoped-for support would just
not be there.
Especially when the target is Afghanistan, not conquered between Alexander the
Great's futile try in 327 BC to Russia leaving with her tail between her legs in 1992, as
Pakistan's former Inter Service Intelligence chief, Gen Hamid Gul told CNN recently.
Numerous others tried between those two dates, taking huge casualties but little else.
The United States must expect the same. Even with her awesome arsenal of weaponry
and without ground troops she could exact terrible carnage, but all she would then
leave behind is yet another vendetta to be unleashed within her border. This cannot be
assuaged by pious homilies that Islam does not allow revenge in this terrible manner.
For that matter, neither does Christianity. How then does President Bush justify
invoking God's assistance to smash Osama bin Laden and Afghanistan into
smithereens. Would God therefore not be with Washington if it fails in its task?
So this crusade has all the hallmarks of an external adventure for internal adventure, as
the Gulf of Tonkin was in the beginning. The unanimous support at home for US
casualties to bring Osama to book will wither away once the enormity of it registers on
television screens in middle America.
The more rational and calculating Europeans saw this and did the least to humour the
United States in her anger. Nato and the United States opted for an international war
crimes court to obviate the spectable of being seen to destroy a Caucasian society.
The aftermath fear
When it is Iraq or Afghanistan, no such inhibitions exist. Even then, the reticence come
from the fear of the aftermath.
As Menachem Begin, a renowned Zionist terrorist and later Israeli prime minister, would
have argued, terrorism has its uses. Osama thinks so too.
But as the British could not root out the Zionist terrorist leader before the formation
of Israel, neither could the United States Osama. The United States behaves now as
the British in Palestine, and the result would be the same.
Whatever the United States does or does not, the die is cast. The information she has
could not stand scrutiny in a court of law, even in packed ones like the international
criminal court. But in the court of public opinion, nothing is demanded except revenge.
President Bush goes along if for no reason than that he could emerge as one other
than the bumblingman he is depicted to in the United States. More important, the
most powerful nation on earth is reduced to impotence with the attack on its financial,
political and military citadels.
What he does not resolve the larger issues behind this tragedy. It is important, in
Washington's eyes, that thousands must die for the Americans who shed blood.
For the incalculable damage to the American psyche, as I have argued earlier, is that it
forced the United States to ponder, however ineluctable, that oceans of poverty
surround islands of prosperity, and lead inescapably to what happened at the World
Trade Center and the Pentagon.