Why we will say `no'
THIS week, George Bush has re-established a law that prevailed in the cave ages: might is truly right. What the mighty declare to be good, is good; what they proclaim is bad, must necessarily be horrid. So Bush and Blair are on the side of the angels and Saddam is the devil incarnate. And even if you don't buy this vision of the world, you just have to lump it and swallow it. As an American solider, stationed on the border of Kuwait and Iraq, said on television recently, "We are ready to rock and roll." Indeed, the Americans are ready with their dance of death and the rest of us must watch and applaud.
The reality, which Bush and his accolades fail to recognise, or rather refuse to see, is that the rest of the world does not accept this reassertion of an old, out-dated approach to world affairs. Even in the United Kingdom, from where this column is being written, only 34 per cent support the British Government's involvement in Bush's war. Those people you see on your television screens registering their opposition to the war are the public face of many more ordinary people who can make no sense of what is happening. They do not love Saddam Hussein, but they do not care for the Bush illogic either. And they fear the consequences of war in one region of the world, on the rest of the world.
At a meeting in a university in New York, a young woman, who clearly does not support this war, asked whether it was better to allow Saddam to rule and terrorise his own people than wage a United States-led war against Iraq? The question, though naïve, was genuine. It indicated a worry that many ordinary people have. But it also illustrates the confusion that Bush and company have successfully injected in the minds of many well-intentioned, peace-loving people in the West. By constantly harping on Saddam's evil actions without placing them in the context of what happens in many nations, the Bush regime has tried to sell war as the kinder, and only, option. As a result, people ask why one should oppose a plan to remove a tyrant and dictator and "free" the Iraqi people.
The Bush propaganda machine has also sold the lie that Saddam was connected to the September 11 attacks.
There is absolutely no proof of any link between Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein. Yet, by repeating a lie the Bush government has almost succeeded in making many Americans believe that Saddam is the source of all evil and directly responsible for the attacks on their country.
This is not very different from what has happened in our own country with the government at the Centre and Gujarat constantly repeating that not enough Muslims condemned the attack on the Sabarmati Express in Godhra last year. Despite evidence to the contrary, many people have swallowed this lie. Furthermore, Narendra Modi is relentlessly pushing the line that it is the English-language "pseudo-secular" media that has exaggerated what happened in Gujarat last year post-Godhra. As a result, when you visit Gujarat, you find ordinary people, non-Muslims, telling you that everything is fine and that what happened last year was blown out of proportion by the media. Such is the power of auto-suggestion by our leaders.
But to come back to the events of this week, it might be too late to state the arguments that oppose a war on Iraq because the Americans have decided that they will wage war. But they must be stated regardless of the devastation that is being wreaked on Iraq. As Rosalind Petchesky, that impressive academic from Hunter College in New York, said at the same meeting, "We are witnessing two superpowers colliding the U.S. and the rest of the world." She pointed out that even in the U.S., although polls might suggest that opposition to the war comes from only half the population, in fact it is much more widespread. Over 150 city councils, including the New York city council, have passed resolutions opposing the war. The majority of religious leaders, barring the extreme organisations, have spoken out against the war. "When Bush proclaims that God is on his side, we know that people are not on his side," she said.
What worries many of us, apart from the horror of endorsing war and violence as the only way to resolve intractable situations, is the precedent the Bush formula is setting for many national governments. What is there now to stop our own government from declaring that this or that organisation is a threat to the nation and either ban it, or arrest all its leaders, or even justify their elimination? Just as the fraudulent link between September 11 and Iraq has been sold by the American Government, our Government can cook up connections between local events and Pakistan, as it has already done without adequate evidence. And then a war will be the next step. Neither India nor Pakistan will survive the playing out of this kind of scenario.
Bush's actions have injected a huge dose of instability in the whole world. While arguing that he is doing what he is to make the world more peaceful and stable, in fact he has pushed the world closer to greater conflict and war. The only reason national governments will not risk opposing the U.S. is because they cannot match its fire power. But that is precisely why America will now invite guerrilla attacks on its own people. Surely ordinary Americans do not deserve to be the targets of the world's anger at the actions of their government. But it is precisely these ordinary people who will pay the price, just as they did in the September 11 attacks. Just as ordinary Iraqi men, women and children are paying the price with their lives for the war designs of the world's only superpower.
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