Thursday, September 20, 2001, Chandigarh, India


O P E N   F O R U M 

Americans don’t have Third World stomach to see blood

We are flooded with letters from our readers here and abroad on the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington. Keeping in view the global importance of the subject, we shall carry on this page viewpoints of our readers in the next few days.

— Editor

EVEN as the dust has not quite settled in the streets of Manhattan, New York, Mr George Bush has expressed America’s “quiet unyielding anger” at the horrific attacks of Tragic Tuesday. The Americans are probably the most organised to cope with the crisis of this proportion. The remarkable efficiency of their system was on full display as images of horrendous destruction filled television screens all over the world.

But in another sense the Americans are rather poorly equipped to deal with this new reality. The Americans have never believed that tragedies of this scale or even the thousand cuts of terrorism could ever reach their courtyards. The Americans are a sensitive lot when it affects human lives within their boundaries and the trauma of what happened in New York, Washington and Pittsburg, will be even more indelible in their psyches than Pearl Harbor was a few decades ago.

The assault will evoke an unmistakable sense of vulnerability for another reason — it affected the heart of their commerce. As substance and symbolism go, no target could have served its demonic calculations better than the reduction of the twin towers of the World Trade Center into worthless rubble. The fact that the hub of American defence was also breached pales into relative insignificance.

The question uppermost on everyone’s mind is: how will America respond? It would be stating the obvious that the character of the American leadership and, indeed, its citizenry is under the most stringent test ever. The American response will affect its position in the comity of nations more than the impressive laundry list of all its wealth and military assets could do. Several options exist. The most obvious of these is a strong and destructive retaliation against those who have masterminded and funded the attacks. This, of course, assumes that the US intelligence apparatus will pick itself up from the ignominious hole it has fallen into and solve this complex jig saw.

But while this might whet the section of opinion that is now baying for revenge, it would certainly harden the stand of others who are already blaming America’s ‘flawed’ policy of supporting Israel for earning this malevolent attention of Islamic fundamentalists. In fact, the terrorists would have achieved their objective if a sizeable slice of domestic opinion now begins a vocal campaign for a re-orientation of American foreign policy vis-a-vis Muslim nations.

There is also the factor of the hardening anti-US feeling in the Islamic world. The images of common Palestinians rejoicing in the streets leads to only one deduction — a retaliation would cement the hatred among a vast majority of the adherents of Islam living in Middle-East and elsewhere.

This could well begin a spiral of violence that would inevitably hurt an evolved democracy like the US more than any other nation. The rationale of this theory would be enough to dissuade many Americans from supporting a strong action.

America could well take a compromise course and indulge in the sort of tokenism it did when the then World Trade Center was first bombed in 1993. A few ICBMs directed at largely empty spaces in Afghanistan — 80 of those multi-million dollar missiles killed 20 people — or the bombing of a harmless pharmaceutical factory in Sudan, might have made ‘macho’ images on the screen, but achieved little on ground.

A largely empty gesture would hardly win Mr Bush any supporters on either side of the divide. In any case, if Mr Bush’s past record is any indication, a strong — even reckless — response is more likely.

It is unlikely that American policy towards Afghanistan or the Middle-East would undergo some sudden cataclysmic change as a result of this trauma. But the possibility of a gradual cave-in is not entirely in the realm of the surreal. The Americans do not have the Third World stomach to see blood and casualties in their homes. This is not a callous statement, but a known fact. The prospect of an escalating matrix of violence might well un-nerve vast public opinion and cast a fresh shadow on deeply entrenched tenets of American foreign policy.

Whatever happens, we in India need not draw I-told-you-so satisfaction from the spread of terrorism to within the shores of America. We could expect the American policy makers to lean towards us more and put Pakistan under a hostile microscope — but in the end there is only one lesson to be learnt. There is no place to run or hide from terrorism — and we must get our own multi-faceted act together to combat it. The alternative is mayhem.

H D Bali, Panchkula

Islamic warlords

Without detracting from the grim tragedy and without a trace of sadism or any kind of perverse pleasure, it is indeed extremely sad to see that the world’s sole super power had to be shaken from its pontifical attitude towards terrorism, as experienced by other nations, by its own singing. It is equally sad that they had to pay such a terrible price to learn that all the wealth and military might cannot guarantee security to any part of humanity anywhere in the world against fanatical fundamentalism — breeding power drunkenness in maniacal individuals and small groups. For a moment, translate the whole scenario in terms terrorists using low-yield nuclear devices, carried in hand bags. It is a future the world faces today.

For many in the world, the USA itself stands indicted for the present state. The USA has always enjoyed and ensured the privilege of isolated existence. Fighting its wars away from its shores, experimenting its military hardware and destructive technological advancements and atomic devices on humanity in far-off continents, it adopted a less than honest and hypocritical stance on affliction of terrorism on other states. While the USA may not have directly nurtured terrorism, it definitely stood by with an averted face to its nurturing and festering in countries aligned to the USA’s imagined and perceived interests. Pakistan’s perpetration of terrorism in J&K and other parts of the country is a classic example. Gen Pervez Musharraf’s likening terrorism to jehad and “people’s struggle for freedom” is a sample of how sick and perverse the mind can become in the pursuit of vengeance and subjugation of non-violent and peace-loving people.

Modern day terrorism is a consequence of Islamic fundamentalism, fuelled by arms producers of the world and narcotics money. Islamic fundamentalism has been used as an instrument by Islamic warlords to perpetuate their own ends and hold over the Muslims of the world. Religion has been used as a coalescent for binding Muslims, literate and illiterate alike, into blind beliefs and course of action. Their so-called jehads are an antithesis of the whole concept of, as given in the Holy Book. Today, it is being misused as a coercive, unnatural and even a humiliating process but the Muslims dare not go against it. After all, that is what fundamentalism is all about or at least in the larger part; in fact, fundamentalism and terrorism have become synonymous.

In the given grim scenario it is amusing to see, having set the tiger’s tail alight, all those countries who have been responsible for breeding, nurturing and exporting terrorism are now seen running helter-skelter for cover, vehemently denying their involvement and swearing ‘unstinted’ support in fighting terrorism! In any event, an angry response on the part of the USA, just to get even, can only be seen as misuse of ‘super powerism’. The solution lies in creating a new world order to fight terrorism in all its forms. As the world’s sole super power, the USA should take the lead in the matter.

As a first step, the concept of ‘jehad’ needs to be clearly defined by the world’s learned Muslims. Because religious fundamentalism of any variety and ‘jehad’ cannot be seen to lead to terrorism of any kind, by anyone, anywhere. As a corollary it is equally important to define whether jehad or religious wars can be used as instruments to settle territorial disputes and ideologies. This is crucial for setting into motion a world movement and action by all nations of the globe, if it has to survive the 21st century.

Simultaneously, in all countries recognised for training, churning out terrorists and launching terrorist related operations, their facilities for the purpose be destroyed. Such countries should be subjected to policing and surveillance by a world body.

Closer home, the Indian leadership needs to discard its politically starched cotton ‘dhoti’ for a steel loin cloth and join the battle with terrorism, without looking towards the West for endorsement and indulging in fruitless semantics with the fork-tongued Commando from across the border. A state of Emergency needs to be declared in J&K till such time as the last terrorist is driven out of that state

Maj Gen K Khorana, (retd), Panchkula

Purpose of life

Today with modern technology the world is so close and compact that we could share the best with our neighbours and make life worth living every moment. Let all dutiful, honest people come forward and spread the message of love and enlighten others about the real purpose of life i.e. love, not hate.

“Of all the species on earth, it is the human beings who do not know the real purpose of life,” writes Herbert Butler

Lt Col Surindar M Malhan (retd), New Jersey

Root out terrorism

We all Indian/Americans are fine and thank you for your sympathies. What really is needed at this juncture is the Indian Government’s solidarity and full support to the US Government. It would be in the interests of all Indians to root out terrorism from this planet for good.

All Indians — Hindus, Sikhs, Christians and Muslims — must rise to quell the evil.

DD Sharma, Weston FL, USA.

In religion’s name

The most painful and astonishing realization that grips one’s heart and mind is that even in this age of enlightenment we continue to fight in the name of religion and perpetuate unthinkable miseries on the whole of mankind prompted by personal greed, political power or such other selfish interests.

True religion, far from being a cause for discord and disagreement, is the greatest instrument for the order of the world and the tranquility of all existent beings.

The religion of God is for the promotion of amity love and fellowship; and it is meant to give life to the body politic. Surely then, if it is made to be the source of enmity and bloodshed and death to humanity, its absence would be preferable to its existence; for then it becomes satanic, detrimental and an obstacle to the human world.

Anil Sarwal, Chandigarh


I along with my family want to express my sympathy to all victims, their families and friends. I was in Vancouver airport waiting for two of my family members from India. After five hours wait, we could meet them to say welcome to Canada. I do not know how many people will be able to say so to their near and dear ones the same words.

Kuldip Singh, Canada

Impact on India

No doubt, there will be greater convergence between India and the USA on security issues. The impact on India will perhaps be more on the economic level, particularly in the stock markets where the rupee has moved further down. The rise in the oil prices will have a greater impact.

The aftermath of this attack is that the security doctrine will change and it will take into account the issue of terrorism. The USA will now have more in common with countries like India and Israel, which have been victims of terrorism. India’s concerns over cross- border terrorism are likely to be treated with greater sensitivity by the international community in general and America in particular.

Zarine Domeli, Jalandhar

Poetic justice

Is it not ironic that when other countries reel under terrorism, the USA advocates that they need to exercise restraint. Not very long ago was it not the same sanctimonious USA which refused to see the Pakistan-sponsored terrorist attacks against India in the same light? I do not intend deriving any perverse pleasure from the shocking happening but, I cannot help seeing a sense of black poetic justice in this sordid happening.

Vivek Khanna, Panchkula

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