SPECIAL COVERAGE
CHANDIGARH

LUDHIANA

DELHI


THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
O P I N I O N S

Editorials | Article | Middle | Oped

EDITORIALS

Fighting Taliban
US must put pressure on Pakistan
T
he US has sought India’s cooperation in its search for a “regional solution” to the crisis caused by the Taliban in Afghanistan. US special envoy for Afghanistan-Pakistan Richard Holbrooke and America’s top military official, Gen Mike Mullen, who were in New Delhi on Wednesday after their visit to Kabul and Islamabad, however, did not make it public what kind of help the US expected from India.

LTTE threat
It would be wise not to take it lightly
T
he reported threat of an attack on top political leaders, including Congress chairperson Sonia Gandhi, by the LTTE during current electioneering cannot be taken lightly. The militant Sri Lankan outfit facing defeat is fighting a desperate battle for survival and could well unleash violence within India. One can hardly ignore the fact that it was the LTTE that had engineered the assassination of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.



EARLIER STORIES



Bunny to and fro
All to serve the people
Jasjit Singh Bunny would have learnt two valuable lessons this week. One of course is the virtue of silence; and the other the axiom that nothing is “final” in politics. But when the weather is uncertain, laughter may be the best medicine, and for that reason alone one ought to be grateful to him for providing some comic relief in the otherwise tension-filled world of Punjab politics.

ARTICLE

No post-war strategy in Lanka
Time to forge a southern consensus
by Maj-Gen Ashok Mehta (retd)
W
hat no other Sri Lankan leader has been able to do, President Mahinda Rajapakse has done: achieved a military victory against the invincible LTTE. Triumphant in their hour of glory, government ministers have noted that even the IPKF was unable to defeat the Tigers. But only when battlefield success is converted into political reconciliation, peace and stability will become complete.

MIDDLE

Coping with April
by Harish Dhillon
T
S Eliot opens his magnum opus “The Waste Land” with the words “April is the cruellest month, breeding lilacs out of dead land, mixing memory and desire.” This sentiment finds resonance across the divide of culture and language in Razi Tirmizi’s immortal words: “Phool khile shakhon pe naye, aur dard purane yaad aaye.” Now that April is here, I cannot help but feel the universal truth that these two great poets have captured.

OPED

Notes for vote
EC must check this disturbing trend
by N. Bhaskara Rao
H
as “note for vote” become a phenomena to reckon with in poll campaigns or is it only an isolated practice? In March 2009, there were over a dozen instances from around the country with TV channels showing wads of cash being transported or distributed by political leaders.

Fighting terror with words and ideas
by Reza Aslan
S
ecretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton let slip last week that the Obama administration has abandoned the phrase “war on terror.” Its absence had been noted by commentators. There was no directive, Clinton said, “it’s just not being used.”

How to be beautiful on a low budget
by Nancy Trejos
WASHINGTON:
I have developed an unhealthy obsession with Bulgari beauty products.
It started when I stayed at a Ritz Carlton with a friend. No, I didn’t pay for my stay there. The Ritz is not in my budget. But my friend could afford it. I happily discovered that the Ritz stocks its guest rooms with Bulgari shampoo. I had never smelled anything like it.


Top








 
EDITORIALS

Fighting Taliban
US must put pressure on Pakistan

The US has sought India’s cooperation in its search for a “regional solution” to the crisis caused by the Taliban in Afghanistan. US special envoy for Afghanistan-Pakistan Richard Holbrooke and America’s top military official, Gen Mike Mullen, who were in New Delhi on Wednesday after their visit to Kabul and Islamabad, however, did not make it public what kind of help the US expected from India. The contribution India has been making to the cause of reconstruction in Afghanistan is part of the continuing Indian effort to use development as a weapon to fight the Taliban, but it is not clear what the US exactly wants from New Delhi. The Obama administration has come out with the new AfPak strategy, showing a slight change in the US policy for the region. It is increasing its military presence by its decision to add 17000 troops besides 4000 additional soldiers to train the Afghan National Army. Yet the US does not seem to be sure of achieving its objective in Afghanistan.

The US must understand that the real problem in the region is Pakistan, which is fast getting Talibanised. The solution to the crisis in Afghanistan lies in forcing the Pakistan Army to take on the Taliban and Al-Qaeda and the elements associated with them in Pakistan’s areas bordering Afghanistan. As US Vice-President Joe Biden has pointed out, “In the FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Areas), the western part of Pakistan in the mountains on the Afghan border… That is where Al-Qaeda lives. That is where Bin Laden is. That’s where the most radicalised part of the Taliban is.” But Pakistan is reluctant to launch a war against these elements. It has always adopted a soft approach, unmindful of the threat to the region and Pakistan itself.

Islamabad is, in fact, trying to shift the US attention to the India-Pakistan problem. Pakistan has been misleading the US to believe that Islamabad will be able to meet the challenge posed by the extremists in its tribal areas bordering Afghanistan if India eases pressure on Pakistan’s eastern border. India is doing nothing that can prevent Pakistan from launching a military drive in its Taliban-Al-Qaeda-infested tribal areas. To succeed in Afghanistan, the US must be blunt with Pakistan and assert that it should remove all the sanctuaries of Al-Qaeda and the Taliban from its territory. An early resumption of the dialogue after what happened in Mumbai on November 26 last is not easy until Pakistan guarantees that it has stopped supporting terrorist groups.

Top

 

LTTE threat
It would be wise not to take it lightly

The reported threat of an attack on top political leaders, including Congress chairperson Sonia Gandhi, by the LTTE during current electioneering cannot be taken lightly. The militant Sri Lankan outfit facing defeat is fighting a desperate battle for survival and could well unleash violence within India. One can hardly ignore the fact that it was the LTTE that had engineered the assassination of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. While that had caused revulsion among the masses in Tamil Nadu, it would be foolhardy to under-estimate the numerically-weak but strongly-motivated pro-LTTE forces to create trouble in a bid to find a foothold in the state.

In Tamil Nadu, MDMK leader Vaiko has been making no bones of his support for the LTTE and has, in recent days, been warning the Manmohan Singh government of dire consequences if it does not push for an end to the Sri Lanka government’s anti-LTTE operations. The current dispensation, the DMK, itself had been indicted by the Jain Commission in 1997 for supporting the LTTE and that had led to a snapping of links between that party and the Congress. With pockets of support still in the DMK, the LTTE could well make an effort to penetrate the security cordon once again.

There is, therefore, cause for strict vigil especially in all the southern states. Some newspapers have cited intelligence reports that LTTE cadres could loot a bank in Kerala to bolster its finances. The recent statement by Congress leader Verappa Moily that if LTTE chief Prabhakaran is captured by the Sri Lankan army he ought to be handed over to India to be tried for the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi could be an added reason for the LTTE to strike. All in all, it’s a situation that brooks no complacency. The security apparatus must be in top gear to thwart the LTTE’s sinister designs.

Top

 

Bunny to and fro
All to serve the people

Jasjit Singh Bunny would have learnt two valuable lessons this week. One of course is the virtue of silence; and the other the axiom that nothing is “final” in politics. But when the weather is uncertain, laughter may be the best medicine, and for that reason alone one ought to be grateful to him for providing some comic relief in the otherwise tension-filled world of Punjab politics. The only son of Akali stalwart and a respected minister, the late Captain Kanwaljit Singh, he had taken the party by surprise with the announcement that his family was severing all ties with the Shiromani Akali Dal and that he would contest as an Independent for the Lok Sabha against the party’s official nominee from Patiala. But he insisted that this amounted to neither defiance nor rebellion. He certainly had a point because in less than 48 hours of hailstorms, April showers and changing weather, and overtures from the Akali Dal leaders, he was back in their fold. The weather turned, so did Bunny, open to persuasion, be the Congress or the Akalis. Unlike his father he, it seems, likes to keep his options open and exercises them after looking at the sky.

“A son’s journey to find his father’s soul” is how he had described his decision to part company with the Akali Dal. Asked if he could have undertaken the journey by staying on in the Shiromani Akali Dal, he had declared his resolve to undertake the pilgrimage bare-footed and on his own. Claiming that his was a well thought-out decision, he had expressed confidence that he would be able to find “true love of the people” and that his father would be proud of his decision. His conscience and his principles, he still claims, were dear to him, and there was really no question of his having second thoughts or returning to the Akali Dal. But he seems to have chickened out, or become wiser just in 48 hours, falling back on the convenient alibi of “public pressure” to put an end to his adventure and return to the party — perhaps to serve the people, as they all say at times. The weather in the area may be turning for the better. But Bunny may be still looking at the sky, or feeling which way the wind will blow.

Top

 

Thought for the Day

They now ring the bells, but they will soon wring their hands. — Robert Walpole

Top

 

Corrections and clarifications

n In the edition of April 4, a report has appeared on the back page under the headline, “ Fresh doubts over minister’s death” while a similar report has appeared on page 5 under the headline, “Conspiracy theory in accident resurfaces”. The repetition was avoidable.

n On April 5 the front page report, “ We did it : Taliban”, is not attributed to any source. The item was based on reports from Reuters and PTI.

n On April 8, the front page infograph about the shoe flung at the Home Minister contains a pointer, “Sikh bodies shower bounties”, which mentions an award of Rs 2 lakh from SAD. But it failed to specify the name of the office-bearer announcing the award. It is Avtar Singh Hit.

n In the April 8 edition, in the Infograph on the front page a pointer mentions a Rs 2 lakh award from SAD for the journalist. It failed to specify that it was a section of SAD in Delhi which had announced the so-called award.

Despite our earnest endeavour to keep The Tribune error-free, some errors do creep in at times. We are always eager to correct them.

We request our readers to write or e-mail to us whenever they find any error. We will carry corrections and clarifications, wherever necessary, every Tuesday & Friday.

Readers in such cases can write to Mr Uttam Sengupta, Associate Editor, The Tribune, Chandigarh, with the word “Corrections” on the envelope. His e-mail ID is uttamsengupta@tribunemail.com.

H.K. Dua
Editor-in-Chief

Top

 
ARTICLE

No post-war strategy in Lanka
Time to forge a southern consensus
by Maj-Gen Ashok Mehta (retd)

What no other Sri Lankan leader has been able to do, President Mahinda Rajapakse has done: achieved a military victory against the invincible LTTE. Triumphant in their hour of glory, government ministers have noted that even the IPKF was unable to defeat the Tigers. But only when battlefield success is converted into political reconciliation, peace and stability will become complete.

Making a distinction between the Tamils and the LTTE and shifting the focus of the war from ethnicity to terrorism — a battle for the liberation of the Tamils from the clutches of the Tigers and dubbing the military offensive as a humanitarian operation — has backfired into a humanitarian tragedy which the ICRC described as a looming catastrophe and the UNHCR equated actions of belligerents with war crimes. Our own Ms J. Jayalalithaa in Tamil Nadu belatedly called it “genocide”, which the Central government watched as mute spectators. Ms Sonia Gandhi quietly slipped in a word about “ceasefire” to end the humanitarian tragedy. Colombo was quick to refute the allegations but not the enormous cost of the war.

Since Eelam War-IV began in 2006, according to one estimate, nearly a million people have been displaced from Sri Lanka’s North-East. The IDP count in the east is 200,000 of which 15,000 are still in camps. Approximately 70,000 have left the conflict zone in the North and are in “closed camps” which are compared with open prisons or internment camps. According to Sri Lankan intelligence estimates, 1500 Tigers in plain clothes could be inside such camps. Ultimately, 250,000 Tamil civilians are expected to be housed there for at least two to three years.

Approximately 200,000 of the displaced are to be housed in welfare villages run by the military which humanitarian organisations describe as internment camps. The evacuation of civilians held hostage by the Tigers was considered separately by the Americans and Indians in conjunction with the ICRC. The plan envisages a military operation to subdue the Tigers before extracting the release of civilians. Attached to the US humanitarian concerns are strategic imperatives of securing a beachhead in the North-East which must find favour with both Sri Lanka and India. As the risks of forcible evacuation are very high and unacceptable to the ICRC, the evacuation mission is on hold.

A UN report confirmed by humanitarian organisations has cited 2800 persons killed and 7000 wounded between January 20 and March 5. The HRW figure from January 20 to February 1 is 1123 killed and 4207 wounded.

The North-East and the war theatre are off-limits to the media, and the ICRC is the only non-government organisation which has access to the conflict zone though restricted entry under military supervision are available to the UNHCR and the MSF. The condition of civilians is known to be insecure and precarious and subject to dual attrition. A critique of the government or the military is equated with anti-national activity. The government’s record on human rights and Press freedom has been savaged by the international media and humanitarian organisations. Seventeen Sri Lankan journalists have been killed in the last three years and 40 have fled the country, 27 assaulted and five kidnapped but no one brought to trial.

One of the key architects of the military victory is Defence Secretary Gothabaya Rajapakse, the President’s brother, a former Army Colonel and a US citizen. He equates transparency with being unpatriotic: either you’re with us or against us. More gory Gotha-isms abound in Sri Lanka. According to the HRW, a decline in human rights started with the government’s formal abrogation of the ceasefire in 2008 and the policy of denial. Even the international Eminent Persons Group led by Justice PN Bhagwati abandoned its task of investigating the killings as it was obstructed in its mission. In the 1990s Mr Mahinda Rajapakse was a trade union leader and Labour Minister and, ironically, an ardent champion of human rights. The story doing the rounds in Colombo is that with a 105-minister jumbo Cabinet, he has broken anyone obstructing his goal of a military victory — the JVP, the UNP, the media, the NGOs and even diplomats.

The inclusive economic cost of the war since 1991 was estimated around 1 per cent of the GDP by Sri Lankan economists, who presented their report at an international conference on terrorism in Colombo in October, 2007. The cost has been put as $ 200 billion by one expert in 2009 — the worst period for the economy was the negative growth registered in 1999 onwards and it was not until the Norway-brokered ceasefire in 2002 that the economy picked up and is currently growing at a surprising 5 per cent rate despite the global recession. From a $ 32 billion economy, war spending in 2009 is $ 1.6 billion, a 40 per cent increase over the previous year and accounting for 35 per cent of the budget. China has supported the war with $ 1 billion military aid package and Pakistan with $ 100 billion. For once in Sri Lanka’s military history, the sky has been the limit for war readiness and arms purchases.

The human cost of the war is the staggering 70,000. In the last three years of fighting, though no figures are available, a minimum of 20,000 lives have been lost and twice that number wounded. In January 2009, Army Commander, Lt-Gen Sarath Fonseka claimed that 15,000 LTTE had been killed in the last two and a half years while Rambukawella around the same time said 3000 LTTE fighters were killed in the last three months. Security forces casualties, never accurately declared, were banned in December last year. Defence experts estimate that government losses are approximately 7 to 9000 while a more realistic attrition of the LTTE would be 10,000. At the very least, 2500 to 4000 civilians have been killed in this period.

The conventional war has ended with the LTTE dispossessed of territory and parallel state structures though residual guerrilla warfare and terrorist activity capability remains. The LTTE is not bottled up in Mullaithivu and at least 500 Tigers have relocated with some heavy weapons elsewhere in the North and the East. Prabhakaran, who is most probably outside the war zone, will never order surrender of arms though his son Charles Antony is known to have been wounded.

Mr Rajapakse has strongly resisted international calls for a humanitarian ceasefire. The more the blood, the more difficult will be peace and reconciliation, concurrent with a new round of guerrilla warfare. Huge billboards depict Sinhalese soldiers vanquishing the Tigers — an allusion to the conquest of the Tamils. When the East was liberated in 2007, Muslim Tamil leader Rauff Hakeem cautioned that military victory should not aim to humiliate the Tamils.

Clearly, there is no after-war strategy — a healing touch and winning hearts and minds. The North and the East are several decades behind the South in wealth and development. Reconstruction, rehabilitation and reintegration have to be done on a war-footing. Former President Chandrika Kumaratunga, who waged her own war for peace, was in Delhi last month and said that the war got prolonged as the 13th Amendment-enabled devolution was never implemented by the government. And, as an afterthought, added: “there was no consensus among political parties.”

Can Mr Rajapakse, seen as a modern-day Duttugemunu who defeated Tamil King Elara in 4th century BC, forge a southern consensus to win the political war also and end the human tragedy? The odds are against such an outcome.

Top

 
MIDDLE

Coping with April
by Harish Dhillon

TS Eliot opens his magnum opus “The Waste Land” with the words “April is the cruellest month, breeding lilacs out of dead land, mixing memory and desire.” This sentiment finds resonance across the divide of culture and language in Razi Tirmizi’s immortal words: “Phool khile shakhon pe naye, aur dard purane yaad aaye.” Now that April is here, I cannot help but feel the universal truth that these two great poets have captured.

For me the bitter-sweet mixture of memory and desire is felt most keenly in April. It begins with the stirring up of myriad sensuous memories. The jacaranda tree outside the Kindergarten block of my current school bursts into sudden flame and brings back the haunting memory of the flowering of another jacaranda tree that stood outside the chapel of another school that I had been in. It would burst into sudden spectacular bloom in April and then, just as suddenly, all the flowers would have fallen at the base of the tree, for all the world like purple snow.

From the visual, memory moves easily to the all-pervading perfume of the wisteria and the dozens of different flowers that bloomed all over the hillside. Finally the mind moves to the audial memories of the murmur of the bees as they went about their busy honey-gathering and, most magical of all, the call of the cuckoo echoing through the campus. A hundred times a day the questions arise — has the wisteria bloomed against the Birdwood wall? Has the cuckoo returned? And my heart aches with longing for the wonderland that was my home for 30 years.

The longing for the sensuous moves on to embrace things less tangible. There is the longing for the companionship of long, daily walks and the stopping to admire the awesome majesty of a 180-degree panoramic view of snow-covered Himalayan peaks. There is the ache for the intense, passionatefriendships that are the hallmark of our younger days — an ache for the warm relationship that was forged with my children as their Housemaster, specially during camp in April, and for the intoxicating mix of affection, loyalty and respect that I received from them and which has never come my way again.

April is cruel because it negates the acknowledgement that I make during the rest of the year — the acknowledgement that the loss of all the people, places and things of my memory is irretrievable. April raises hope and for some time I feel like the protagonist of Hardy’s poem:

“But Time, to make me, grieve,

Part steals, lets part abide

And shakes this fragile frame at eve

With throbbings of noontide.”

Fortunately, April does eventually pass, the trigger to all the memories, takes on a nondescript green and loses its potency to bring back longing and hope and pain. I come to terms with my wasted skin and my shrinking heart, the throbbing is stilled and with this comes a calm acceptance of all that I have lost.

Top

 
OPED

Notes for vote
EC must check this disturbing trend
by N. Bhaskara Rao

Has “note for vote” become a phenomena to reckon with in poll campaigns or is it only an isolated practice? In March 2009, there were over a dozen instances from around the country with TV channels showing wads of cash being transported or distributed by political leaders.

The incidents of cash distribution involved Mulayam Singh Yadav in Uttar Pradesh, Congress MP Govinda in Mumbai and BJP leader Jaswant Singh in Rajasthan. There are also similar reports from Khammam, Karnool, Warangal, Karimnagar, Visakhapatnam, Adilabad, West Godavari, Srikakulam and Cuddapa districts in Andhra Pradesh. In each case, note bundles, the name of the party or the politician accused was mentioned. Except seizing the money, caught and arrest of a driver, or a security of a Minister involved, there were no follow up reports.

In 2008, there were similar reports in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Chhattisgarh. In Karnataka, ambulances were caught with crores of cash meant for distribution to voters. Even helicopter was used for ferrying currency. Note for vote is no longer a hush-hush affair.

Voters distributing money on the eve of polling is well known. But there is no empirical study, national or state wise. The Centre for Media Studies, New Delhi, had undertaken a study at three points in the last couple of years. In 2007, as part of its study on corruption involving BPL families, we enquired about the percent of voters who had ever received cash for vote. This study covered 23,000 BPL households across 29 states. In 2008, we did another enquiry among 18,000 voters from 19 states.

Third, we did an exploratory study in December 2008 in eight intensely fought by-elections to Karnataka Assembly. Put together, these surveys brought out mind-boggling phenomena of a high percent of voters being paid cash to lure their votes. While in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, the muscle power is more at work, in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, money power is unleashed more during elections.

The CMS study brought out that note for vote phenomena has spread across all sections of voters irrespective of the age group, income and educational levels, urban and rural. The only variable which has telling influence is the dominance of cadre-based parties and the party in power.

The CMS is now planning to study the influence and effect of the note for vote phenomena. Both are different. Influence is how voters are influenced as to their voting. Preliminary enquiry indicates three types of influence. First, voters vote to the candidate on behalf of whom they were given money. Second, though received money, voted as per their own plan otherwise irrespective of whether they received from only one candidate or from more. And third, abstain from voting because money was given to restrain some otherwise loyal voters of a particular party/candidate. Though there was evidence for all three types of influence, which the CMS is yet to quantify. This is because note for vote works differently from constituency to constituency and one election to another.

This writer sees note for vote as “mother of all corruptions” because it is here during elections that the vicious cycle starts. The voter is not realising that for every 10 rupees that a citizen gets from a candidate as a lure for vote once in five years, he or she end up paying five to ten times more annually as bribe to avail basic services that a citizen is entitled from one or other government service.

Thus, this note for vote has a direct effect on the kind of governance that we end up having. In the process, neither the winner nor the defeated candidate, who have lured voters with money, can be expected to take the kind of interest of a responsible peoples’ representative.

Interestingly, there is no evidence of note for vote on voter turnout as one could expect. Perhaps because cash is distributed not on demand from voters but by candidates due to local competition of contests. Also, because more and more candidates are new or strangers or far away from the constituency, or from those who made riches rather fast, or those who had opportunity of having unaccounted money.

No other factor explains this phenomena of “competitive politics”. The effect of cash for vote includes depriving truly peoples’ representatives of any chance of getting elected or level-playing opportunity.

This enquiry together with reports of news channels indicates that the election favour has inflated poll expenditure in the country by five times or more since 2004. In other words, what was Rs 10 note earlier has now become Rs 100 and so on, in 2009 Lok Sabha elections.

There is an imperative need for a three-pronged effort to curb the increasing menace. Being concerned about the note for vote phenomena, the Election Commission has taken some initiative recently. It has been appointing “expenditure observers” to track and validate expenditure on various kind of campaign activities.

Second, the commission has made it obligatory for candidates to file expenditure statements a couple of times during the campaign period. The provision that candidates must file their expenditure statement within specified weeks after the election has been there for long. But there is no evidence that has made any difference.

The Election Commission for the first time in 2009 has disqualified a number of candidates from filing nomination of those who had not filed their expenditure statement after the earlier election. It has confiscated more than Rs 40 crore in cash while being transported for distribution at the height of Karnataka Assembly elections in 2008. Beyond that what they did was not known as a deterrent except roping in the Income-Tax Department to keep track of expenditure by candidates. Even police has been alert now.

However, more than these initiatives by the Election Commission, it is the news media’s vigilance that has been exposing the practice of note for vote. But then, communication experts could say that the more such news reports on TV channels depicting bundles of cash being distributed, the more is the spread of phenomena, inflating the amount involved and increasing the voters’ expectations.

The best bet to discourage the note for vote phenomena is voters themselves, by refusing to accept the lure. For this, they need to understand the linkage between note for vote and bribe that citizen ends up paying to get what he or she is entitled otherwise from one or other government department and responsiveness of the elected representatives.

Second, civil society groups should mount their efforts against various lures of voters locally. And finally, the Election Commission should come up with more serious deterrent measures. Only then, the electoral process can be truly free and fair.

Top

 

Fighting terror with words and ideas
by Reza Aslan

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton let slip last week that the Obama administration has abandoned the phrase “war on terror.” Its absence had been noted by commentators. There was no directive, Clinton said, “it’s just not being used.”

It might seem a trivial thing, but the change in rhetoric marks a significant turning point in the ideological contest with radical Islam. That is because the war on terror always has been a conflict more rhetorical than real. There is, of course, a very real, very bloody military component in the struggle against extremist forces in the Muslim world, although one can argue whether the US and allied engagements in Iraq, Afghanistan and beyond are an integral part of that struggle, a distraction from it or, worse, evidence of its subversion and failure.

But to the extent that the war on terror has been posited, from the start, as a war of ideology — a clash of civilisations — it is a rhetorical war, one fought more constructively with words and ideas than with guns and bombs.

The truth is that the phrase “war on terror” always has been problematic, not just because “terror,” “terrorism” and “terrorist” are wastebasket terms that often convey as much about the person using them as they do about the events or people being described, but because this was never meant to be a war against terrorism per se.

If it were, it would have involved the Basque separatists in Spain, the Hindu/Marxist Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka, the Maoist rebels in eastern India, Israeli ultranationalists, the Kurdish PKK, remnants of the Irish Republican Army and the Sikh separatist movements, and so on.

Rather, the war on terror, as conceived of by the Bush administration, was targeted at a particular brand of terrorism — that employed exclusively by Islamic entities. Which is why the enemy in this ideological conflict was gradually and systematically expanded to include not just the people who attacked the U.S. on September 11, 2001, and the organisations that supported them, but an ever-widening conspiracy of disparate groups, such as Hamas in Palestine, Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, the clerical regime in Iran, the Sunni insurgency in Iraq, the Kashmiri militants, the Taliban and any other organisation that declared itself Muslim and employed terrorism as a tactic.

According to the master narrative of the war on terror, these were a monolithic enemy with a common agenda and a shared ideology. Never mind that many of these groups consider one another to be a graver threat than they consider America, that they have vastly different and sometimes irreconcilable political yearnings and religious beliefs, and that, until the war on terror, many had never thought of the United States as an enemy. Give this imaginary monolith a made-up name — say, “Islamofascism” — and an easily recognisable enemy is created, one that exists not so much as a force to be defeated but as an idea to be opposed, one whose chief attribute appears to be that “they” are not “us.”

By lumping together the disparate forces, movements, armies, ideas and grievances of the greater Muslim world, from Morocco to Malaysia; by placing them in a single category (“enemy”), assigning them a single identity (“terrorist”); and by countering them with a single strategy (war), the Bush administration seemed to be making a blatant statement that the war on terror was, in fact, “a war against Islam.”

That is certainly how the conflict has been viewed by a majority in four major Muslim countries — Egypt, Morocco, Pakistan and Indonesia — in a world public opinion. org poll in 2007. Nearly two-thirds of respondents said they believe that the purpose of the war on terror is to “spread Christianity in the region” of the Middle East.

Indeed, if the war on terror was meant to be an ideological battle against groups such as al-Qaida for the hearts and minds of Muslims, the consensus around the globe seems to be that the battle has been lost.

A September 2008 BBC World Service survey of 23 countries, including Russia, Australia, Pakistan, Turkey, France, Germany, Britain, the US, China and Mexico, found that almost 60 per cent of all respondents said the war on terror either has had no effect or that it has made al-Qaida stronger. Forty-seven per cent said they think that neither side was winning; 56 per cent of Americans have that view.

It is time not just to abandon the phrase “war on terror” but to admit that the ideological struggle against radical Islam could never be won militarily. The battle for the hearts and minds of Muslims will take place not in the streets of Baghdad or in the mountains of Afghanistan but in the suburbs of Paris, the slums of East London and the cosmopolitan cities of Berlin and New York.

In the end, the most effective weapon in countering the appeal of groups such as al-Qaida may be the words we use.

— By arrangement with LA Times-Washington Post

Top

 

How to be beautiful on a low budget
by Nancy Trejos

WASHINGTON: I have developed an unhealthy obsession with Bulgari beauty products.

It started when I stayed at a Ritz Carlton with a friend. No, I didn’t pay for my stay there. The Ritz is not in my budget. But my friend could afford it. I happily discovered that the Ritz stocks its guest rooms with Bulgari shampoo. I had never smelled anything like it.

Unfortunately, Bulgari shampoo is not cheap, as I learned later when the sample bottle I had taken home with me was empty and I went to Bloomingdale’s to buy some of my own. A 6.7-oz bottle cost nearly $50 with tax. This was before the recession was declared, and I bought it. Now that I’ve become more frugal, I wonder: Is it wise to spend so much on beauty products?

The cosmetics industry has fed off — and fed — shoppers’ obsession with beauty. More than 11 billion personal care products are sold each year, according to the Personal Care Products Council, which represents the cosmetics, toiletries and fragrance industry. We live in a society where La Mer can charge $2,100 for 1.5 ounces of skin cream.

It turns out that often when we buy those expensive creams, lotions and toners, we are paying for packaging, marketing and celebrity endorsements. Cosmetics companies have also gotten more creative with their concoctions, using ingredients such as sea kelp, fish roe extracts and gold particles. They say they have special patent formulas and tout their own research. But there’s no scientific evidence that high-end beauty products work better than what you get at your local drugstore for much less.

“You can get the smelly good stuff. You can go out and get all the fancy Cliniques and the lip balm and lip enhancers, but there’s no study showing they are better,” said Dr. Craig Vander Kolk, professor of plastic surgery at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and associate director of the Plastic Surgery Medical Centre.

I thought back to my beloved Bulgari shampoo. It certainly makes my hair smell good. But has it done anything to the quality of my hair that Herbal Essence has not? I can’t say it has. So I asked a few beauty experts for tips on looking good on a budget:

l Do your research. Learn about ingredients. It could keep you from buying products with ingredients that won’t do you any good.

l Find dual uses for items. Take cleanser. You can find some that also serve as make-up removers and toners. Neutrogena One Step Cleanser, for instance, will run you only $6.20 for a 5.2-ounce bottle.

l Don’t be afraid to ask for freebies. Go to any makeup counter and ask for samples. Risi-Leanne Baranja, editor-in-chief of Palacinka Beauty Blog, also points out that Web sites such as Sephora.com and Beauty.com offer samples with purchases. Call the consumer hotlines of a number of larger cosmetic companies and request any samples they have available.

l Try baby skin care lines. They are usually cheaper and just as good as the adult lines. Check out Johnson and Johnson, Mustella and Aveeno products.

l Shop online. Sometimes you can find unopened high-end cosmetics on eBay or Amazon.

l Scale back. Take manicures and pedicures. Pedicures last a long time so there’s no need for one every week. Instead of a full-on manicure each week, opt for a cheaper polish change.

lBefriend the people behind the counter. If you have a favorite makeup store, keep going back to the same salesperson. She might be willing to do a free makeover.

— By arrangement with LA Times-Washington Post

Top

 





HOME PAGE | Punjab | Haryana | Jammu & Kashmir | Himachal Pradesh | Regional Briefs | Nation | Opinions |
| Business | Sports | World | Letters | Chandigarh | Ludhiana | Delhi |
| Calendar | Weather | Archive | Subscribe | Suggestion | E-mail |