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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

MGG Pillai

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 case.

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 intention.

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 euphoric anger.

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.

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