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MGG: Reality strikes Washington
By M.G.G. Pillai

13/10/2001 11:02 am Sat

[AS mahu negara Islam yang kuat menjadi tidak stabil. Tetapi apa yang berlaku AS sendiri yang semakin tidak stabil sekarang ini. Pengeboman yang begitu dahsyat di Afghanistan, khususnya di Kabul menunjukkan AS mahu peperangan ini tamat SECEPAT mungkin. Sebab itulah ia mengugut ingin menggunakan 'segala senjata' di sana - termasuk nukliar. Jika Taliban berjaya melengahkan penaklukan AS, Bush akan semakin pening kepala. Sejak dia berkuasa banyak perkara di luar dugaan telah mengaibkannya seperti isu pesawat pengintipnya di China. Amerika sudah semakin hilang kawan kerana hanya kerana semakin intim dengan kawan manjanya (Israel). - Editor]

Sunday October 7

Reality strikes Washington

MGG Pillai

7:44pm, Sun: The United States forged, or forced, more than 100 countries to back its crusade against terror, to her side after hijackers crashed two planes into the World Trade Center and another into the Pentagon on Sept 11. All but a few promised no more than metaphorical support and the use of their bases.

Washington promised, at first, a bloodletting, as the first crusade in Jerusalem in 1099, but unlike that papal crusade, its allies blanched at it.

Washington's strongest supporters are those whose arms it can twist, and the scores of countries who stand to benefit from their support. It goes to war alone, even if half the United Nations members 'support' it.

The European Union and Nato give lip service, but do not want to be in a war in which its role is minimal of the goals diffuse.

The Arab countries in the Middle East support Washington's aims but forbid the use of bases there to attack Afghanistan and Osama bin Laden, the focus of this promised bloodletting.

The horror of what would be, which those with the historical perspective Washington does not have understand, makes it even more doubtful if President George W Bush could even bomb Afghanistan except fitfully to make a dubious point.

President Bush's dilemma in shoring up his internal prestige with an external adventure is partly caused by the US' makebelief foreign policy, fashioned in secret and with no understanding of the world outside her borders, in which her unquestioned role is assumed. Not long ago, Washington's stated desire was to retire the evil butchers of Beijing; then a plane crash-landed in Hainan Island, and reality struck.

It promised similar 'jihads' after American embassies and warships and soldiers were killed - in Kenya, in Uganda, in Somalia, in Yemen - but it did nothing to give comfort to those who back it now that it means business.

In his first six months in office, President Bush annoyed a host of countries with his unilateral decisions towards them; now that he needs the support of those countries, he understands Russia's actions in Chechnya, forgives Pakistan for her nuclear weapons, and believes Iran can be a force for good. But his warmongers want more than the Taliban and Osama bin Laden; they want to destroy all Middle East leaders they decide are supporters of terror.

Strongest supporters

This is not surprising, as the fallout from the Sept 11 attacks reveal. The Washington moves seem to protect its two strongest supporters in the Middle East: Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

Destroying Osama bin Laden and Afghanistan would not ensure that. The likes of Saddam Hussein and other regimes opposed to them must also be destabilised, and the leaders preferably killed.

But this is flawed so long as Washington is unprepared to unhinge itself from its support for Israel. What happened on Sept 11 had as much to do with this than any other. Osama bin Laden's strong support in the Middle East is an extension of this communal hurt and anger. This is ignored in Washington.

What is also ignored is the damage it caused. President Bush's only cause was to promise a massacre for what happened. For what happened after Sept 11 is a total destabilisation of the US' political, economic, military sinews. It is impossible to say how much, but it runs into hundreds of billions of US dollars. And with it the diminution of rights in this manic reaction to counter it; what it does is to bolt the barn door after the horses have bolted.

Hidden damage

Little of this has come out in the incessant round-the-clock television coverage; what has is this need to wreak vengeance on those did the dastardly deed. It is a more pleasant alternative than telling the American people and the world the damage the "terrorists" inflicted upon it. But whatever the fate of Osama, he would be remembered, if nowhere else than the Middle East, for that - and re-energise the violence that has plagued the area for nine decades.

Washington instead wants to remove the Taliban from Afghanistan. That could, in the end, be easier than it dares hope. The Northern Alliance, the only consistent opponent of the Taliban, one which Washington refused to back, is the ally. But if the Taliban is removed and the Northern Alliance comes in, Afghanistan is headed for yet more uncertainty.

In a society where the Uzbeks, Tajiks, Kazakhs (who dominate the Northern Alliance) are way down in the Pathan (or Pushtun) scheme of things in Afghanistan, the Pathans, not necessarily from the Taliban, would rise in revolt yet again. Bringing the exiled octogenarian King Zahir Shah back into Afghanistan, as Washington desires, is not on.

Saladin's solution

The Taliban was superimposed on to the Pathan and Afghan landscape when Pakistan and Saudi Arabia supported it against the Mujahideen after the Russians were forced out in 1993. Its strict Wahabbi-like strain of Islam practised is counter to the more liberal Sufi-like Hannafi school prevalent amongst the Pathan and most of Afghanistan. It is not spoken of, but the Taliban imposes its will on fear, and the absence of a Pathan force opposed to it.

A diplomat in Kuala Lumpur who had liaised with the Northern Alliance after the Taliban took over says that there are amongst the Taliban leaders those who do not agree to the Wahabbi strictures that dominate the movement. He believes they would desert if fighting begins. For all their tribal harshness, the Afghan society is imbued with the Islam outside the Wahabbi of Saudi Arabia.

(The difficulty with Islam in a multi-religious society as Malaysia is this reliance for the Wahabbi strictures where the Shafi school of thought prevails. This is accepted by both Umno and PAS, and gives rise to the real fears of non-Muslims.)

So, it is possible the US might lay Afghanistan to waste or Osama is caught and handed over. Would this resolve Washington's dilemma? Hardly. Afghanistan continues to be the battlefield of powers beyond its borders. All it would strengthen is Muslim anger of the United States, fundamentalist pressure on Islam and renewed fighting in Kashmir.

A British columnist this week called for President Bush to eschew the bloodletting of the Crusades in the sack of Jerusalem to Saladin's magnanimity when he seized it back in 1187. A Christian soldier wrote of knee-deep bodies massacred by the Crusades when it captured the town. When Saladin recaptured it, he did not kill anybody; instead he allowed the city to go about its life as usual, insisting that the Christians and Jews pray at their churches and mosques.

It is well for Bush to remember Sir Steven Runciman's comment in his triology of the Crusades: "It was this bloodthirsty proof of Christian fanaticism that recreated the fanaticism of Islam."