Another September: More Fodder for the ‘War on Terror'

Three years have passed since the 9/11 assault on the Twin Towers of New York . Three years since the ‘Global War on Terror' declared by Bush and his ‘willing' allies, which promised to rid the world of various evils – Islamic fanaticism, terrorism, WMDs, dictatorships, to name a few. 9/11 told the people ruled by Bush and his ilk that the ‘End of the World' scenarios dished up to them by Hollywood were true, and could be averted only by a ruthless preemptive wipeout of all potential enemies.

Three years after 9/11, on 9/3, the TV screens were once again full of the horror and pity of bloodied children, anguished parents, terrorised innocents. This time, the scene was Beslan in North Ossetian, Russia . The shock, disbelief, fear were all real enough. To suggest that those heart-wrenching images are used as propaganda for war and occupation masquerading as ‘War on Terror' is to risk accusations of being a cynical Leftist conspiracy theorist. But what if one were actually to hear people express relief at such acts of terrorism – almost like expressions of thanks at some much needed gift? What if such satisfaction at the ‘uses' of terror were not figments of a fertile imagination, but came straight from the horse's mouth?

Take the candid statement of the Director of the Institute of Strategic Assessment , Moscow – “ There is no more powerful glue for a society than an external enemy. Now, like the Americans, we have one – terrorism. ” We can all but hear the hurrah in his tone.

Terror is the internationally favoured antidote for dissent and discontent.

It's worked before for Putin. Russians who were wont to blame Putin for his costly renewal of conflict in Chechnya, were successfully manipulated by hysteria against Chechen ‘terrorism' into voting Putin to power in 2000. The Russian State had whipped up racist fear and hatred against the very Chechens whom they had invaded, occupied and subjected to a ‘scorched earth' policy of continuous bombardment. Chechens are routinely stereotyped as ‘dirty Muslims', ‘subhuman gangsters' and ‘Chechen bandits'. Now, rewarded by his own brand new September tragedy, Putin is eager to join the Bush Band of Brothers, and also to get sanction from the occupiers of Iraq for his own occupation of Chechnya . So he has shouted out from day one that the Beslan hostage takers were the original article – Arabs from al-Qaeda! In the same breath, the Kremlin has made the wild claim that not only Osama Bin Laden, but also Chechen rebel leaders have masterminded the Beslan seige.

From the outset, Putin's Government had lied about the crisis. First, it played down the number of hostages. Secondly, it lied that the hostage takers had refused negotiations and had made no demands. In reality, it was the Russian Government which had refused to negotiate, and had ignored the demand that Russian troops commit to withdrawing from Chechenya. Thirdly, it tried to hide the fact that the casualties occurred when the Russian special troops stormed the school. Instead, it claimed that the decision to storm was a last-minute one, forced by the unprovoked firing on behalf of the hostage takers.

No doubt, the seige of a school, and the terrorists' act of taking children hostage was a heinous one; but facts go to show that Putin, by his handling of the situation, also has the blood of the children of Beslan on his hands.


Children: Visible and Invisible

Threats and massacre of children in cold blood no doubt epitomises terrorism. Terrorism targets innocents, soft targets, who ‘represent' the enemy – and children are, after all, the most innocent. But are all the kids who are wantonly massacred for no fault of theirs, always only the victims of bloodthirsty ‘Islamic' terrorists? Why do our TV screens never reflect the equally horrific acts by State-sponsored terror that wears the mask of civilization, decency and justice?

Take Chechenya; where Russian troops in 2000 used ‘vacuum bombs' which release petrol vapour and suck people's lungs out. Russian hostilities in Chechnya reportedly killed 42,000 small children. Russian troops routinely use the ‘tactic' of taking the relatives of rebel figures hostage, and often dump their tortured bodies after ‘interrogation'.

Or take Afghanistan – where the US claims to have flushed out the Taliban and ushered in democracy and feminism. Here, kidnapping for ransom is rife, and American contractors broker the sale of children in the sex trade, and kill young people for their organs. The trade in sex, opium and human organs booms.

And what about the kids of Palestine – the ones we see flinging rocks bravely and futilely at the bodies of tanks? In the same month of September that the children of Beslan died, a 9 year-old girl, Raghda Alassar, was shot dead by an Israeli bullet as she sat in class writing her English test. A year back, another girl in the same school was blinded by a bullet. A couple of weeks before that, a 15 year-old boy was riddled with 18 bullets as he tried to lead his siblings away from their own home. And a 10 year-old boy was shot dead by an Israeli sniper in a busy marketplace in a refugee camp in broad daylight.

The Israeli army deliberately targets kids, killing and maiming hundreds. The Americans in Afghanistan sell the bodies of kidnapped children. Russia has rained bombs and flattened entire villages full of civilians. Yet, Sharon, Bush and Putin pose as the ‘victims' of terror.


Who Sows The Seeds of Terror?

Following the Beslan siege, Arab clerics and intelligentsia outrightly condemned the sickening act of taking children hostage. Some even went to the extent of joining the chorus of voices equating Muslim society with terrorism. A prominent Arab journalist wrote a piece entitled, “The Painful Truth: All the World's Terrorists Are Muslims”, which was flashed all over the world as a daring admission of the ‘truth' which Muslims like to deny. This article ‘admitted', “our terrorist sons are the end-product of our corrupted culture”. This statement sounds like an echo of the Huntingdon- Bush Clash of Civilizations thesis, or Vajpayee's Goa statement that ‘wherever in the world there are Muslims, they cannot live in peace'. Are terrorists really a product of ‘corrupt Muslim society' – is violence and barbarism a civilizational flaw endemic to Islamic culture?

The reality is that state terror and asymmetric warfare inflicted by mammoth military machines on weak nations, breed terrorism. David and Goliath sounds fine in myth, but in real life, David finds it makes more sense to take Goliath's cooks and truck drivers hostage and cut off his supply line of food, transport etc..., rather than indulge in the futile gesture of taking on tanks and sophisticated weaponry with a sling. When Israeli youngsters feel they are bound to die a martyr's death anyway, is it so unnatural for them for them to choose to become suicide bombers?

Targeting innocents in ‘revenge' for the acts of their leaders is a terrible crime that defeats and weakens the struggle against imperialism. But the crime of ‘revenge killing' is not the monopoly of ‘Muslim fundamentalists'. In Fallujah in Iraq , the US-UK forces killed 600 civilians – admittedly in revenge for the killing of three US mercenaries!


Who is Responsible for Indians Being Taken Hostage in Iraq ?

The image of hapless Indians being held hostage in Iraq , or the horrific slaughter of Nepali hostages, sickened anyone who saw them. The saffron brigade, quick to exploit the situation, pointed out that ‘evil Muslims' were senselessly killing Hindus. External Affairs Minister Natwar Singh added fuel to the fire and endangered the hostages, by breezily announcing that the hostage-takers were only interested in money.

The hostage-takers' demand was clear – that the Kuwaiti company which supplies labour to the American occupation forces stop operations in Iraq. The plight of the Indians and Nepalis in Iraq is truly pathetic. Their Governments may have ‘banned' nationals from travel to Iraq . But the same Governments implement US-imposed economic policies, which cause rampant unemployment and desperation, which force thousands of people to seek jobs abroad. Rapacious Kuwaiti and Indian ‘agents' recruit them with promises of lucrative and safe jobs in Jordan , and then smuggle them into Iraq . One of them who escaped to return home said starkly, “We were slaves in the American kitchens”. These hapless slaves become soft targets for those who wish to derail the US military engine by choking off its supplies and attacking its most vulnerable points – its menial labour.

The Indian and Nepali Governments do not help matters by showing their fawning servility to Bush and Blair. The Indian people's protest may have succeeded in foiling their rulers' heartfelt wish to send troops to Iraq , so that Indians do the dying and pay the human costs of occupation, as in the good old days of colonial wars. But despite this democratic constraint, the Indian Government, even the new UPA Govt., is willing to offer moral and material, if not strictly military support to the occupiers of Iraq .

India has recently held joint military exercises with the US Air Force as well as the Israeli Army.

Shaking hands which are covered in blood are bound to leave bloody traces on our own. And can our poor migrant labour hope to escape the consequences of the blood on our rulers' hands?

-- KK