Dr Zakir Husain
The British prime minister, David Cameron, on his maiden visit to India, warned that Pakistan shall not be allowed to ‘export terror’ to the West in general and to neighbour India in particular. He chose to be rather ‘un-diplomatic’ and harsh; he issued what seemed little short of an outright indictment. But nothing to be surprised. The brave new post-9/11 world has been familiar and largely desensitised to the many accusations without evidence by frontline warriors of America’s so-called ‘war on terror’. So why would David Cameron feel the need to offer much hard evidence?
His predecessor Tony Blair exceeded him by far; was an incorrigible yet shameless liar. British lion, toothless though it might be, can still roar at the doings of its former colonies. That said Pakistan cannot ignore such warnings thanks because the rulers—military or civil—have succumbed to pressure or bribed to fight a war not its own and antagonise its own citizens.
Former American president George W Bush famously launched the so-called ‘war on terror’. In his own words, his was a ‘crusade’ against the axis of evil, which by extension covered the entire Islamic world. Ten years and after horrible crimes were committed in Iraq and Afghanistan in the name of freedom and democracy, ‘war on terror’ is no longer the preferred official terminology. It has lost the ominous halo, outlived its validity which it never had; its utility too is waning. The cost has been staggering. But that slogan has grossly violated international law and established conventions. It is time to propose an alternative narrative to the unilateral and manifestly biased propaganda around ‘terror’ and its practitioners.
The world population of ordinary citizens has been lectured ad nauseam on ‘terror and terrorists’. As if they were aliens from another planet causing sleepless nights to the civilised citizens of the civilised world. But terrorism was not invented by the few extremists who staged the spectacular twin tower attack on September 11, 2001. Throughout the past several centuries, imperial colonial regimes thrived upon committing brutal terror on their subject populations in Asia, Africa and Latin America. The British, the Dutch, the Spaniards had their far-flung colonies of subject peoples conquered and kept under subjugation and utter terror. The United States of America is founded upon the massacre amounting to genocide of Native American population. Colonisation of the New World was not a benign event; it was riddled with terrible crimes and annihilation and not a ‘civilising mission’ as most narratives of history would have you believe. They had been exterminated and those spared were pushed into ‘reservations’. Terror unimaginably crude and callous had been ‘exported’ to the New World and to the placid islands of the Pacific and the captured slaves of West Africa.
Post World War II world saw massive, sometimes despicable, terror inflicted upon the civilian populations by the protectors and promoters of the ‘free world’. They felt free to unleash terror upon people thousands of miles away; they were supposedly defending the free world against Communist takeover. The Vietnam War comes readily to mind. Entire villages were burned down; fleeing women and children were killed en masse. Chemical agents were sprayed indiscriminately (well before Saddam Hussein was accused of using chemical weapons and well ahead of even speculating al Qaeda’s use of such weapons). Vietnam’s forests were defoliated and its living environment destroyed. Was the US waging ‘chemical warfare’ against Vietnam? Ask the official chroniclers of war history.
David Cameron’s predecessor Tony Blair went to war upon Iraq to defend Britain. He frightened the parliament and people of Britain by telling lies and accused Saddam Hussein of violating UN resolutions. But he had no qualms about invading a country not at war and killing hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians. Such is his audacity and arrogance he even today does not regret his obscene duplicity. And the civilised world of Blair and Bush talk of civilised conventions and international law.
Communists did come to Afghanistan and did a regime change but they were expelled by Afghan Mujahideen supported then by the US. To the Soviet army Afghan guerrillas were terrorists. To their successors today the then freedom fighters have become Taliban terrorists.
Like in Vietnam, the predator army recruited allies into a coalition of the willing and the able. They became freedom fighters defending freedom of not their own people but that of their paymasters thousands of miles away in America and Europe. Such obscenity or perversity if you like goes by the name of securing freedom and democracy. In alternative narrative this is a lie and monumental hypocrisy.
There is more. During the Gulf war the reigning leader of the then ‘coalition’ to liberate Kuwait had used the forbidden depleted uranium coated ammunitions and contaminated vast swathes of Iraqi territory. As a consequence there was and still is high incidence of radiation-induced birth defects. But who cares? There has been no systematic survey by the UN or any independent world body. Why? Because Iraq body count does not count, never mind Iraqis of Nassiriya were not terrorists who do not count.
As a physician I had seen many deformed children born to mothers in Basra. Also I had seen children who had been traumatised by the sound of cruise missiles; many suffered terrifying nightmares. I had seen hundreds of schoolchildren deformed by serious malnutrition brought about by chronic lack of adequate food. That was when trade sanctions enforced by the coalition of allies against Iraq insisted upon one of the harshest embargo regimes ever imposed in the name of the UN. Was that ‘public health terrorism’? Indeed! But that would not be politically correct to say.
Export of terror has its own exemptions. Selectively, if you are rich and powerful, if you are a bully to be feared. The litany of terror inflicted and exported is long — too long and gruesome. The British colonial empire did it in India; so did the Dutch and Americans (Indonesia and the Philippines). Export of terror to the colonies had been dominated by a narrative of ‘civilising’ enterprise to ‘liberate’ the savage natives.
Centuries later these narratives are used by today’s empire and its lackeys. Former American president George W Bush launched his ‘shock and awe’ on tens of thousands of sleeping citizens of Baghdad. That was March 2003. And his successor Obama triumphantly declared he kept his election campaign promise; he has acquitted himself honourably. But has he? Does he not owe something to the Iraqi people for having their land ruined, their society broken, their once enviable living standards and security reduced? Obama might win the coming midterm elections but there is more than elections strategy at stake here. Does he deny that? He and America have nothing to be proud of; little as yet to redeem whatever prestige America and ‘poodle’ or ‘sidekick’ Britain once had.
No regret, no remorse ever came from the perpetrators; not even an iota of contrition for this barbaric wanton massacre of innocent Iraqi civilians. Even the then (2003) British prime minister, Tony Blair, refuses to accept responsibility for the slaughter of a million Iraqi civilians. As if adding insult to injury this fugitive from justice trots around as the peace envoy to the Middle East. A very appropriate choice for the circus of peace process in the holy land! Now he is promoting his biography, ‘A Journey’. But he ought to be put on trial by the International Criminal Court. Shoes and rotten eggs thrown at Tony Blair are well deserved but not enough. And Blair is the (un)worthy predecessor of David Cameron. Perhaps it is time to export contempt and disdain by the third world to where these belong.
Come to the unremitting jargon on terror. Who could say terror and terrorism is the monopoly of those ‘savage and cowardly insurgents’ in Iraq, Afghanistan or Yemen or even Pakistan. Who said democracies do not wage war? Tony Blair did. George W Bush practised it. Should terrorist crimes be condoned just because sovereign states did so? Is state terrorism immune or sacrosanct? Present Western narrative imposes partial and biased account and major media remains complicit. But it does not make alternative narrative redundant.
Perversity has no limit these days. Why else has the current US president Barack Obama been awarded the Nobel Peace prize? For escalating the nine-year long war on Afghanistan? For pledging to end combat mission in Iraq or for offering an olive branch to Iran but under dire threat of invasion?
There is huge terror in Kashmir. Terror unleashed by the state is equally, if not more, reprehensible because it hides behind a mask of legitimacy. Israel’s terror upon the besieged people of Gaza is no less reprehensible. But that remains officially above reproach and beyond criminal justice.
That is the alternative narrative I refer to above. That narrative doesn’t condone terror of resistance by insurgents and mindless violence by anarchists. But an alternative narrative is highly legitimate. The litany of crimes by special operations raids, detentions without trial and beastly torture under detention, and many other crimes against humanity and war crimes known or yet hidden need to be part of narrative of terror.