March 23, 2003
By Raffique Shah
SOMETIME way back in history, a fool-of-a-politician, upon embarking on war, justified his decision by declaring it as "the war to end all wars". Of course the fool will not have lived to see the results of his folly. Nor will he have cared about the tens of thousands of mainly young men he and his protagonists sent to an early grave, or the many more innocent non-combatants-especially children and older people-who will have perished in the noble cause of "ending all wars".
Today, as we watch his 21st Century clone, George Bush, engage in one of the most unjust wars in history, and give reasons similar to those advanced way back when, we really need to stand in our shoes and wonder. According to Bush, Saddam Hussein, besides being the personification of evil, poses such a grave threat to the precious people of the United States of America, he must be "taken out", matters not the cost in money or in lives. Indeed, Bush swears that America and Americans will be safer with Saddam dead, since he is a "threat to the security of the US".
As I write (Friday), a battered Baghdad is about to be overrun by the superior forces and armaments that Bush and his partner-in-crime, Britain’s Tony Blair, have unleashed without restraint. So Americans can now afford to exhale for the first time since "9/11", breathe sighs of relief, and be ever-grateful to the president who will have eliminated the threat of extinction. In Bush’s empty head, he obviously believes that in defying the United Nations and much if not most of world opinion, he is waging "the war to end all threats of terrorism".
Reality, though, is far removed from Bush’s inane rhetoric. If anything, he has unwittingly sounded the sirens to launch a war without end by this single act of presidential folly. Some analysts believe it signals the start of World War III. I don’t quite agree with that, especially if their concept of such war is the conventional idea of mass armies facing each other, or a world divided in a war conducted along lines of previous world wars.
What Bush has done, though, is to now expose every American (and Briton) to unimaginable dangers, to unthinkable acts of terrorism. And because most "terrorists" are no different to Bush in their thinking, their pursuit of vengeance, the entire world has become fair game for them.
Which is what, as we sit in the comfort of our homes and watch on television what is left of Iraq being reduced to rubble, we ought to cast our minds on. Last week, an Arab gunman shot to death an American and a Canadian, both employed by an oil company in Yemen. The killer then turned the gun on himself. For all we know, the two victims could have been opponents to Bush’s war. But that cut no ice-or desert sand-with the assassin. Such incidents have been par for the sole-superpower-course for some time now, with Americans in particular being the victims.
Of course the co-ordinated attacks on the FBI headquarters and the World Trade Center in September 2001 were the most deadly of such assaults on Americans. Before that, there was the demolition of the Marines’ barracks in Lebanon with massive loss of lives, and later the attack on the US embassy in Kenya. Elsewhere, many innocent Americans have been murdered because of their government’s bullying attitude, arrogating unto itself the right to attack with full force any group or country that, in its opinion, appears to threaten its self-interest.
Now, as it pummels Iraq and seeks to remove Saddam-who was once America’s point-man in the region following the fall of the Shah of Iran-the US government has opened up a Pandora’s Box akin to the crusades of the Middle Ages. Although many Muslims do not regard Saddam as a "true believer", his people are "brothers in Islam". And Muslims around the world are rallying against the war not because they like Saddam, but because they see Bush’s war as another attack against Islam, much the way America has supported the atrocities committed by Israel against the Palestinians.
This time around, though, Bush and Blair have gone one step too far. In the Gulf War of 1991, America had the backing of a massive coalition of forces comprising the other world military powers and many Islamic states. After all, Saddam had committed the sin of invading a brother-Muslim country, Kuwait. This war is not about containing Saddam. It’s not even solely about oil, although that’s partly the reason for its attack. The aim is simply to remove one thug from power and replace him with another who would do America’s bidding.
In other circumstances, that might have worked. But in a period when Islamic fundamentalism has taken strong roots across the world (I am told Islam is the fastest growing religion), Bush is lighting fire, not dousing it, as we Trinis would say. He is making the world an unsafe place not just for Americans, but for every human being. All American airline companies will be seen by fundamentalists as fair game: bear in mind it’s not only Americans who travel on these. Every American business stands in danger. Everyone who works with such companies is a potential target, matters not what his or her nationality is, or what his feelings about the war may be.
Bush fails to understand that although he has the most powerful war machine at his disposal, there is no superpower, no arsenal of weapons of mass destruction that could protect every American or American interest across the world. And therein lie the seeds of a war-without-end. To defeat and replace Saddam, his forces have to look in one direction- Baghdad. To tackle the backlash, America will need to have strong military presence almost everywhere in the world. That is not possible, not even with the most sophisticated intelligence-gathering equipment, not with a military 100 times bigger than what it has today.
So pounding Saddam into submission is the easy part of this war. Dealing with the forces it will unleash, the many Islamic Davids who are willing to give their lives to strike Goliath, be it on his toe, in one eye, or directly on his big, bullying frame, is quite another. America’s real war will start when this attack on Iraq ends. And all of us, whether we are Trinis who oppose or support the war, or Eskimos who huddle under igloos, are potential targets-thanks to Bully Bush.