9 is not 11 [3 of 5]

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RELEASING FRANKENSTEINS

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by Arundhati Roy

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TERRORISM HAS GLOBAL DIMENSIONS, ITS AS MUCH IN PAKISTAN AS ITS ELSEWHERE

Almost always, when these stories unspool, they reveal a complicated global network of foot-soldiers, trainers, recruiters, middlemen and undercover intelligence and counter-intelligence operatives, working not just on both sides of the India-Pakistan border, but in several countries simultaneously. In today’s world, trying to pin down the provenance of a terrorist strike and isolate it within the borders of a single nation-state is very much like trying to pin down the provenance of corporate money. It’s almost impossible.

WORLD’S MOST DEADLY TERRORIST GROUP LTTE WAS TRAINED BY INDIA

In circumstances like these, air strikes to ‘take out’ terrorist camps may take out the camps, but certainly will not ‘take out’ the terrorists. And neither will war. (Also, in our bid for the moral high ground, let’s try not to forget that the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, the LTTE of neighbouring Sri Lanka, one of the world’s most deadly terrorist groups, were trained by the Indian army.)

Thanks largely to the part it was forced to play as America’s ally, first in its war in support of the Afghan Islamists and then in its war against them, Pakistan, whose territory is reeling under these contradictions, is careening towards civil war. As recruiting agents for America’s jehad against the Soviet Union, it was the job of the Pakistan army and the ISI to nurture and channel funds to Islamic fundamentalist organisations. Having wired up these Frankenstein’s monsters and released them into the world, the US expected it could rein them in like pet mastiffs whenever it wanted to.Certainly it did not expect them to come calling in the heart of the Homeland on September 11. So once again, Afghanistan had to be violently re-made.

A SUPER POWER NEVER HAS ALLIES, IT ONLY HAS AGENTS

Now the debris of a re-ravaged Afghanistan has washed up on Pakistan’s borders. Nobody, least of all the Pakistan government, denies that it is presiding over a country that is threatening to implode. The terrorist training camps, the fire-breathing mullahs and the maniacs who believe that Islam will, or should, rule the world is mostly the detritus of two Afghan wars. Their ire rains down on the Pakistan government and Pakistani civilians as much, if not more, than it does on India. If at this point India decides to go to war, perhaps the descent of the whole region into chaos will be complete. The debris of a bankrupt, destroyed Pakistan will wash up on India’s shores, endangering us as never before. If Pakistan collapses, we can look forward to having millions of ‘non-state actors’ with an arsenal of nuclear weapons at their disposal as neighbours. It’s hard to understand why those who steer India’s ship are so keen to replicate Pakistan’s mistakes and call damnation upon this country by inviting the United States to further meddle clumsily and dangerously in our extremely complicated affairs. A superpower never has allies. It only has agents.

On the plus side, the advantage of going to war is that it’s the best way for India to avoid facing up to the serious trouble building on our home front.

The Mumbai attacks were broadcast live (and exclusive!) on all or most of our 67 24-hour news channels and god knows how many international ones. TV anchors in their studios and journalists at ‘ground zero’ kept up an endless stream of excited commentary. Over three days and three nights, we watched in disbelief as a small group of very young men armed with guns and gadgets exposed the powerlessness of the police, the elite National Security Guard and the marine commandos of this supposedly mighty, nuclear-powered nation. While they did this, they indiscriminately massacred unarmed people, in railway stations, hospitals and luxury hotels, unmindful of their class, caste, religion or nationality.

Thanks largely to the part it was forced to play as America’s ally, first in its war in support of the Afghan Islamists and then in its war against them, Pakistan, whose territory is reeling under these contradictions, is careening toward civil war.

As recruiting agents for America’s jihad against the Soviet Union, it was the job of the Pakistani Army and the ISI to nurture and channel funds to Islamic fundamentalist organizations. Having wired up these Frankensteins and released them into the world, the U.S. expected it could rein them in like pet mastiffs whenever it wanted to. Certainly it did not expect them to come calling in the heart of the homeland on September 11. So once again, Afghanistan had to be violently remade.

Now the debris of a re-ravaged Afghanistan has washed up on Pakistan’s borders.

Nobody, least of all the Pakistani government, denies that it is presiding over a country that is threatening to implode. The terrorist training camps, the fire-breathing mullahs, and the maniacs who believe that Islam will, or should, rule the world are mostly the detritus of two Afghan wars. Their ire rains down on the Pakistani government and Pakistani civilians as much, if not more, than it does on India.

If, at this point, India decides to go to war, perhaps the descent of the whole region into chaos will be complete. The debris of a bankrupt, destroyed Pakistan will wash up on India’s shores, endangering us as never before.

If Pakistan collapses, we can look forward to having millions of “non-state actors” with an arsenal of nuclear weapons at their disposal as neighbors.

It’s hard to understand why those who steer India’s ship are so keen to replicate Pakistan’s mistakes and call damnation upon this country by inviting the United States to further meddle clumsily and dangerously in our extremely complicated affairs. A superpower never has allies. It only has agents.

On the plus side, the advantage of going to war is that it’s the best way for India to avoid facing up to the serious trouble building on our home front.

The Mumbai attacks were broadcast live (and exclusive!) on all or most of our 67 24-hour news channels and god knows how many international ones. TV anchors in their studios and journalists at “ground zero” kept up an endless stream of excited commentary.

Over three days and three nights we watched in disbelief as a small group of very young men, armed with guns and gadgets, exposed the powerlessness of the police, the elite National Security Guard, and the marine commandos of this supposedly mighty, nuclear-powered nation.

While they did this, they indiscriminately massacred unarmed people, in railway stations, hospitals, and luxury hotels, unmindful of their class, caste, religion, or nationality.

(Part of the helplessness of the security forces had to do with having to worry about hostages. In other situations, in Kashmir for example, their tactics are not so sensitive. Whole buildings are blown up. Human shields are used. The U.S. and Israeli armies don’t hesitate to send cruise missiles into buildings and drop daisy cutters on wedding parties in Palestine, Iraq, and Afghanistan.)

But this was different. And it was on TV.

The boy-terrorists’ nonchalant willingness to kill – and be killed – mesmerized their international audience. They delivered something different from the usual diet of suicide bombings and missile attacks that people have grown inured to on the news.

Here was something new. Die Hard 25. The gruesome performance went on and on. TV ratings soared. Ask any television magnate or corporate advertiser who measures broadcast time in seconds, not minutes, what that’s worth.

Eventually the killers died and died hard, all but one. (Perhaps, in the chaos, some escaped. We may never know.)Throughout the standoff the terrorists made no demands and expressed no desire to negotiate. Their purpose was to kill people, and inflict as much damage as they could, before they were killed themselves. They left us completely bewildered.

COLLATERAL DAMAGE

When we say, “Nothing can justify terrorism,” what most of us mean is that nothing can justify the taking of human life. We say this because we respect life, because we think it’s precious.

So what are we to make of those who care nothing for life, not even their own? The truth is that we have no idea what to make of them, because we can sense that even before they’ve died, they’ve journeyed to another world where we cannot reach them.

One TV channel (India TV) broadcast a phone conversation with one of the attackers, who called himself “Imran Babar.” I cannot vouch for the veracity of the conversation, but the things he talked about were the things contained in the “terror emails” that were sent out before several other bomb attacks in India. Things we don’t want to talk about any more: the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992, the genocidal slaughter of Muslims in Gujarat in 2002, the brutal repression in Kashmir.

“You’re surrounded,” the anchor told him. “You are definitely going to die. Why don’t you surrender?

“We die every day,” he replied in a strange, mechanical way. “It’s better to live one day as a lion and then die this way.” He didn’t seem to want to change the world. He just seemed to want to take it down with him.

If the men were indeed members of the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba, why didn’t it matter to them that a large number of their victims were Muslim, or that their action was likely to result in a severe backlash against the Muslim community in India whose rights they claim to be fighting for?

Terrorism is a heartless ideology, and like most ideologies that have their eye on the Big Picture, individuals don’t figure in their calculations except as collateral damage.

It has always been a part of, and often even the aim of, terrorist strategy to exacerbate a bad situation in order to expose hidden fault lines. The blood of “martyrs” irrigates terrorism. Hindu terrorists need dead Hindus, Communist terrorists need dead proletarians, Islamist terrorists need dead Muslims. The dead become the demonstration, the proof of victimhood, which is central to the project.

A single act of terrorism is not in itself meant to achieve military victory; at best it is meant to be a catalyst that triggers something else, something much larger than itself, a tectonic shift, a realignment. The act itself is theater, spectacle, and symbolism, and today the stage on which it pirouettes and performs its acts of bestiality is Live TV. Even as TV anchors were being condemned by other TV anchors, the effectiveness of the terror strikes was being magnified a thousand-fold by the TV broadcasts.

[Abovet] Former PM V.P. Singh: His death passed without a mention

Through the endless hours of analysis and the endless op-ed essays, in India at least, there has been very little mention of the elephants in the room: Kashmir, Gujarat, and the demolition of the Babri Masjid.

Instead, we had retired diplomats and strategic experts debate the pros and cons of a war against Pakistan. We had the rich threatening not to pay their taxes unless their security was guaranteed. (Is it alright for the poor to remain unprotected?) We had people suggest that the government step down and each state in India be handed over to a separate corporation.

We had the death of former Prime Minster V. P. Singh, the hero of Dalits and lower castes, and the villain of upper caste Hindus pass without a mention.

We had Suketu Mehta, author of Maximum City and co-writer of the Bollywood film Mission Kashmir give us his version of George Bush’s famous “Why They Hate Us” speech. His analysis of why religious bigots, both Hindu and Muslim, hate Mumbai: “Perhaps because Mumbai stands for lucre, profane dreams and an indiscriminate openness.

His prescription: “The best answer to the terrorists is to dream bigger, make even more money, and visit Mumbai more than ever.”

Didn’t George Bush ask Americans to go out and shop after 9/11? Ah yes. 9/11, the day we can’t seem to get away from.

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