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MGG: Islam And The Christian Imperative
By M.G.G. Pillai

12/10/2001 9:32 am Fri

When Christian nations -- I take it as read that the United States and Great Britain are that -- bomb an already war-ravaged nation into more untold misery, and assuage their conscience by mixing the bombs with food parcels, it is acceptable, so long as the victims are Muslim. That when President Bush and Mr Blair sent in the armada of weapons for testing it on live targets in Afghanistan, they fulfil a Christian duty they would not allow their Muslim targets theirs? Because all I have read and seen in how clean the bombing raids were, that they were to punish a man who destroyed the United States' equanimity by bringing a war in which they have been at the receiving end for decades into the perpatrator's frontyard, that they were done clinically and surgically, that the pilots find it all gungho and very arcade-game like, and the surgical precision with which the strikes take place. We are also told to accept at face value Washington's and London's war aims as told through a propaganda prism.

So, those of you who watch CNN would be convinced the Muslims in Afghanistan deserve what they get, and the Christians in the United States are perfectly justified in creating a few hundred thousand refugees and until "collateral damage". Those who perished at the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon died with Christian honour; those in the wasteland of Afghanistan were irrelevant collateral damage. What frightens me in this mad rush to insist she is right, the United States does not allow another view to pervade.

A friend of decades, now at the National Security Council in Washington, was so upset with what I wrote that he thought I had gone bonkers. The deaths were real, he told me in an emotional email, and several he knew died in the carnage, that I was wrong to talk of the terrorists' 'brilliant planning', and why they ought to be punished. This exchange of views still go on, but as the bombing of Afghanistan increases in intensity, he is getting nervous about the impact. I have told him he should be.

For after the hype and propaganda comes reality, and this reality, like the Gulf War a decade earlier, does not achieve the desired goal of containing terror. Since this campaign is planned and executed with a cynicism of power but without the real politik confidence, Afghanistan would be left to rot, the Muslim anger doubles in intensity, the Middle East becomes as confused and dangerous, and more bombs would drop on the Afghanistan countryside to join what the Soviet Union had dropped to kill and maim men, women and children decades into the future. Is this the Christian charity that President Bush and Mr Blair wants the world to know it for?

It was necessary for the United States and Great Britain to execute their war plans in secret, without questioning, and so the news coverage now is based on a carefully planned propaganda. During the Gulf War, the presence of my old friend from Vietnam, Peter Arnett (then of the AP), in Baghdad challenged the carefully crafted lies of the US establishment. This time around, an Emirates-government owned television station, with a correspondent in Kabul, challenges every assertion Washington makes over its successes in the aerial bombardment. So well in fact that the United States want it ordered not to broadcast the view of those hammered in the bombardment.

But the well-crafted statements and plans in English, delivered to reporters and correspondents happy to fall in line in Washington, touch no chord anywhere else except those with a visceral hatred of Islam, or cannot understand why the Palestinian issue is such a point of principle for the dispossessed Palestinians and why every Middle Eastern regime backing it has a credibility far higher than those that back Washington.

So, when Mr Osama bin Laden delivered the tape to the Al Jazeera television correspondent in Kabul, the element of surprise Washington had thought it had disappeared. And when he had his uninterrupted view in the Middle East of what he thought of all this Christian madness, the battle was lost. Now, no matter what is achieved in this precision bombing -- official post-Gulf War investigations by the Pentagon showed that 70 per cent of the super-secret, super-accurate Patriot missiles could not stop the Scud missiles that Iraq lobbed at Israel; we must assume that the weapons used now would be as claimed and with the same effectiveness -- the battle for the hearts and minds of the Middle East is lost. The bombardment of Afghanistan, with the additional misery and wretchedness this brought about, would be another bone of contention in this millennial Crusade.

We are told Islam is a peaceful religion, that what Mr Osama and his band of Islamic warriors do is against the tenets of Islam; that suicide is forbidden in Islam, ignoring that so far as the Islamic warriors, or terrorists, are concerned, there is no death more noble than to die for Islam. Who says so and who defines what Islam is, in this debate? The Christian powers, of course. I am not surprised they did not ask the Muslim scholars and clerics in the Middle East, in Saudi Arabia, Egypt and elsewhere, to explain what Washington and London had to instill in non-Muslim minds to begin the bombardment: they would not have got an explanation that could be explained in a few sentences as the propagandists of the war could misrepresent.

As it is, if Islam was not the target when the crisis began, it now is. A country not part of the Middle East imbroglio is bombed out of existence for no reason than that the man the Anglo-Saxons want is in its territory, and who she is asked to hand over without any proof that it is Mr Osama indeed is who planned it all. If those who came on television to tell the world of how convinced they are of Mr Osama's guilt after reading the 70 point indictment, they would have faced multiple charges of perjury if they were in a court of law. At the end of it all, we are told that the Afghan tragedy is acceptable because that is to avenge the death of 6,000 in September that shook the Christian foundations of the United States to its metaphorical roots.

If you recall, the Crusades began in 1089 to ensure that Jerusalem remains forewer Judae-Christian; a thousand years later, that is still the objective, and the longer it takes, the more the hatred for not succeeding. And so we have the current battleground of the principled victims who defend how they can against the onslaught of a well-armed, well-connected but without principle, both brimming with hatred, expanding the war beyond the territory in dispute. Saladan did not buckle before the might of the Crusada's armada; Mr Osama is not about to before its successor, the Anglo-Saxon Christian powers of the United States and Britain. Nothing indeed has changed in a thousand years.

M.G.G. Pillai