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4 Jan, 2009

“War on Terror” is a War Without End

Originally Published: 4 Jan 2009

The perfunctory seasonal greeting “Happy New Year” is becoming less and less happy with each passing year.

This year has been particularly symptomatic, what with the impact of the global financial crisis, the Israeli massacres in Gaza and the ongoing political confrontation in Thailand itself.

It was not supposed to be this way.

Exactly 20 years ago this year, the fall of the Berlin wall triggered the first round of euphoria about better times ahead. The end of the Cold War and the fall of communist dictatorships in Europe was the happy culmination of a chain of events that began with the Solidarity trade union protests in the Polish shipbuilding town of Gdansk and ended with the disintegration of the former Soviet Union.

Coming in the aftermath of Watergate and Vietnam War, it held out the promise of freedom and global democracy. Buzzwords like glasnost and perestroika dominated the political field as did transparency and accountability in the economic field. Globalisation, free trade and open markets were touted as a panacea for all economic problems.

America became the undisputed world leader, with unmatched multinational companies, free and open political institutions and a commitment to democracy, media freedom, liberalised trade, etc. etc.

When the new millennium dawned in 2000, the world’s leaders gathered at the UN for the Millennium Summit and loftily set the elimination of global poverty by 2015 as the over-arching goal of the 21st century.

Then came George W. Bush……

In this penultimate year of the first decade of the 21st century, a state of the union analysis may yield some anti-climactic conclusions about whether the post-Cold War euphoria has faded and whether existing policies are sustainable.

Three recent deaths have offered reminders of the good ol’ days, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Mark Felt and Harold Pinter.

Solzhenitsyn was one of numerous well-known Soviet “dissidents” in the days when standing up to dictatorships was considered noble. Mark “Deep Throat” Felt helped bring down the devious Nixon administration in the days when disclosing government lies was equally noble. And UK dramatist Harold Pinter made clear that being a Jew did not necessarily mean being a blind supporter of the Bush administration’s Middle East policies.

The dreams and ideals of these illustrious figures seem to have died with them — for the time being, anyway — in this first decade of the 21st century.

By failing and reversing its own principles, the United States has squandered its global leadership in a mere 10 years.

The Soviet “evil empire” defined by Ronald Reagan has been replaced by the “axis of evil” of George W Bush. The war on Islam (aka “the war on terror”) has become America’s new Vietnam – a “with us or against us” crusade that has pitted “good” (meaning, largely, the West) against “evil” (whatever that means, but presumably anyone who opposes US/Western policies and domination).

Indeed, this “war on terror” is a war without end. Ones man’s terrorist will always be another man’s freedom fighter. The Indian media only this week referred to the perpetrators of a bomb-blast in Assam as “insurgents”, not the usual “terrorists”.

While western governments may arrogantly assume that their definition of terror should be the definite one, there will always, repeat always, be those who disagree, and resort to violence as a final-option means of fixing unaddressed grievances.

The atrocities in Gaza epitomise this dichotomy.

The Palestinians, an occupied people, have every right to independence and freedom from Israeli occupation, just as East Timor did from Indonesian occupation. Palestinian violence is a reaction to that occupation and its sustenance by the double-standard policies of the West.

Yet, it is always Palestinian violence that is considered “terrorism” and Israeli violence as being a “reaction” to that “terrorism.” Talk of getting things mixed up…..

Fortunately, Jews themselves are beginning to see the irrational stupidity of that line.

A pleasant surprise turned up last week on CNN with two Jews debating each other — one bearded Israeli Jew who could easily have been mistaken for a fanatic Muslim in a crossfire with a clean-shaven, articulate American Jew who was genuinely ashamed of the grotesque massacres being perpetuated by the descendants of the Holocaust.

In the absence of a truly principled, justice-based policy in the Middle East, the US will remain caught between a rock and a hard place. Its power will continue to ebb as it evades accountability for its actions in an era when global tolerance for not practising what you preach is running low.

Trying to fool all the people all the time is a really foolish policy. Sooner or later, the people wake up. And unjust rulers always fall. Always.

For the rich and powerful, crafting an exit strategy is an exceedingly gut-wrenching process; they don’t know what it means to swallow their pride, show a little humility, admit mistakes and exit gracefully.

Remember that “humility” is what George W. Bush promised in his presidency before taking office? He proved to be anything but humble and instead fell victim to a cabal of vested-interest advisors who capitalised on his naiveté in world affairs to manipulate him to their advantage.

President-elect Barack Obama may be less naïve but his priority allegiance is to those who helped him win, including the large corps of hard-core Jewish-American financiers, advisers and strategists. His no-comment on the Gaza carnage proves unequivocally that his “change-you-can-believe-in” electoral promise will not apply to America’s blind support for Israel.

So the “war on terror” will continue, boosting only the casualty count and the profits of the “merchants of death”. As long as moral poverty exists, material poverty will never be alleviated by 2015, that’s for sure.

The Lord Buddha’s central philosophy was that impermanence is the only permanence. No one is immune from that. If the Soviet empire was not too big to collapse, nor any other empire in history, the events of the first decade of the 21st century have ensured that another empire will follow suit.