From Tue Oct 23 04:52:25 2001
Date: Fri, 19 Oct 2001 12:26:32 -0500 (CDT)
Subject: US War on Afghanistan a Hornets' Nest (The Hindu)
Article: 128764
To: undisclosed-recipients:;

US War on Afghanistan a Hornets' Nest

By Rajeev Dhavan, The Hindu, 19 October 2001

America may have targeted Afghanistan, but it has also targeted itself. Americans will not be able to sleep easily for many years to come. They will never be able to reassure themselves that they will not be targets or victims wherever they go—in or out of America.

AMERICA'S WAR is a threat to world peace—no less to America itself.

Between the bomb blasts of September 11 and the merciless bombing of Afghanistan from October 7, the U.S. evolved many strategies. The initial response was simply outrage and preparedness to fight. But sensing the danger of taking on the Muslim world en bloc, a dual diplomatic strategy was evolved to gather together the NATO and other allies and split the unity of the Muslim countries. The OPEC Muslim countries needed the U.S. to protect their oil trade. Egypt, Syria and Jordan depended on the U.S. to resolve the Palestine peace process. Division among the Muslim nations produced an uneasy status quo. Pakistan's policy of supporting the U.S. without breaching faith with the Taliban is dangerously uncertain. What made the diplomatic initiative viable was that before October 7 America had toned down its strategy to a manhunt of Osama bin Laden rather than bombing Afghanistan. From October 7 there was a distinct switch of strategy which will have uneasy consequences for many years.

America's Afghan War is not a just war. The concept of a `just war’ is writ large over the Mahabharata, but traceable in modern times to Grotius' celebrated De Jure belli ac Pacis (1625). But words are words; and practice gobbles up the meaning of words. Imperial practice has always twisted the meaning of a just war to suit its convenience. So far, the U.S. has not declared `war’. So, on paper there is no war going on. The U.S. and Europe have always had their own view of a legitimate reprisal. A legitimate reprisal is what any powerful nation wants it to be. In 1827, Britain, France and the U.S.

blockaded Turkey. In 1850, Britain threatened Greece in the Don Pacifico incident because an English Jewish citizen's house was burnt. Greece was subjected to superpower blockades in 1886 and 1897 to establish the `peace of the region’. America's celebrated Monroe Doctrine arrogated to itself the privilege of interfering in defence of both North and South America.

In 1856, the Latin jurist Calvo protested that the Monroe Doctrine was neither good policy nor law. But, these protests made little difference. In 1854, the U.S. bombarded Greytown in Nicaragua because the American President felt it was a `practical resort of outlaws'.

This is precisely what is being argued now against the Taliban in Afghanistan. In 1858, the U.S. fleet entered the River Plate in Paraguay as part of gun-boat diplomacy. In 1895, the British occupied the port areas of Nicaragua as part of a diplomatic terrorism.

In a striking parallel to our present situation, in 1914 a part of Mexico was occupied because of threats to U.S. officers and seamen.

The U.S. Congress Resolution of April 22, 1914, resembles the 2001 declarations on Afghanistan. Pronouncing that the U.S. had no hostility to the Mexican people, the U.S. President was authorised to “enforce his demand for unequivocal amends for certain affronts and indignities committed against the United States”.

In 1923, Italy occupied Corfu, Greece in a celebrated incident over the murder of some Italian officers. In 1931, Japan invaded Manchuria; and China in 1937, without declaring war. In 1941, the U.S. suffered an attack on Pearl Harbour. From 1954, one of the ghastliest wars began in Vietnam because it was seen as a `communist’ threat to the free world. The U.S. has never hesitated to organise army insurrections in various parts of the world. The International Court of Justice rightly condemned the U.S. armed support against the Sandinista regime in Nicaragua in 1986.

In 1992, Iraq was bombed to protect Kuwait. From 1998, Yugoslavia was bombarded. Aerial bombing is a renewed strategy of the U.S. - having its origins in Hiroshima and Vietnam. It is difficult to accept that all these were just wars; or that the scale and form of intervention were justified. The refusal of America's request for Osama bin Laden without adequate proof or extradition procedure cannot occasion a large scale attack on the Afghan nation. No doubt, American law permits bringing in criminals by fair means or foul - as self-evident from the judgment in the Alvarez Machin case of 1992. But, this crosses all legal limits.

America's Afghan War is directed towards terrorism. But, is it the U.S. place to launch such an attack on a faraway region that must face the inevitable consequences rather than the U.S. There are too many unforgivable ironies in this. America creates refugees by bombing; and, then, sends food and supplies to the refugees it has created. Tough about immigration and with a harsh refugee policy, America would not have tolerated such an influx on its shores. Mixed into the rhetoric against Afghanistan are the alleged horrors of the Taliban as non-freedom loving Muslim fundamentalists. This has its own anti-Islamic cutting edge. Thus, despite its more sober protests and diplomacy to rally round some of the countries of the Muslim world, Anglo-American propaganda in its own subtle and unsubtle ways is itself fundamentalist.

This war will leave behind distinct religious undertones. It is impossible to argue that this war will not precipitate religious ill feeling on an unparalleled scale which portends ill for the future.

America's jehad against terrorism has identified its real enemies.

Provoked they will fight back. This is not to give support to Samuel Huntington's thesis of “the clash between (religious) civilisations”.

This powerful thesis identifies religious fault lines which will erupt into religious wars between nations. Such fundamentalist wars are neither inherent nor inevitable. But, they can be drummed up.

Indeed, one analysis of fundamentalism (be it Hindu, Christian or Muslim) is that it is politically contrived by ambitious people who will pawn away their lives to achieve power and notoriety. If fundamentalism can be manipulatively contrived in towns, cities and countries, it can also be exacerbated internationally.

America has started a war that it cannot control. Afghanistan itself will be torn apart. Already divided, the divisions will deepen into instability for many years to come. If America feels it can create a captive puppet Afghan regime, it is mistaken. Nor can it be vouchsafed that Pakistan and the surrounding nations will escape the aftermath.

But, the street sense that this is a world war is misleading. A world war occurs when the nations fighting each other are evenly matched and willing to fight till victory. This was so with the World Wars of the Twentieth Century—as also Vietnam where North Vietnam was supported by powerful communist superpowers. The Afghan War has no such dimensions—with or without the reluctant oil-rich Arab nations. But, even though not a world war, America's Afghan War will have world wide dimensions.

Terrorism will not stop, but increase in size and varieties. It is not just that air travel will not be the same or that civic centres will be bombed by terrorist groups. We have already seen a new round of `terrorism’ in the spread of the anthrax disease through the mail box. Where will all this end? America may have targeted Afghanistan, but it has also targeted itself. Americans will not be able to sleep easily for many years to come. They will never be able to reassure themselves that they will not be targets or victims wherever they go—in or out of America.

America's Afghan War is not to counter terrorism, but an act of unjust reprisal against the Afghan people. Afghanistan will be devastated, but it is the American people who will find themselves vulnerable in ways that defy protection. America's war is a threat to world peace and its own people. Effective peaceful methods to fight terrorism need to devised. To adapt Brecht's phrase: “we who fight for kindness, must ourselves be both wise and kind”.