Now a War on
By Dr Shireen M. Mazari
Bush is finally coming out clearly, at the declaratory
level, with his idea of the war on terror: first
he declared that the war was against "Islamic
fascism" but more recently he has discarded
the "fascism" framework and speaks only
of a war against "Islamic militants" and
Islamic fundamentalism. In a series of recent speeches
dealing with Iraq and terrorism, he compared the
struggle against Islamic fundamentalism and "Islamic
militants" to fighting against the Nazis and
Of course, never one to be well versed in the history
of the world, Bush could not have been aware of
the fact that but for the sacrifices of Communist
Russia, Nazism may well have succeeded in its designs.
It was not US entry into the Second World War that
alone saved the world from fascism -- Hitler's Russia
debacle was a major military factor. Moreover, if
Bush had read his own country's history he would
know that the Capitalists did not fight the Communists
militarily -- given the Nuclear Balance of Terror
and so they used other means which then became part
of the notion of the Cold War. So to compare the
present war against Islamic fundamentalism and "Islamic
militants", which has a distinct military character,
to the east-west struggle is factually incorrect.
But that is not what really should concern Muslims.
It is the clear message of fighting Islamic "militants"
and Islamic fundamentalism, as opposed to terrorism
per se that should concern us. After all, fundamentalism
exists in all religions and has nothing to do with
violence and extremism -- that is the arena of obscurantists
and extremists and we need to make this distinction
clear in our minds at least. Or else we must then
decry all fundamentalists -- including of the Bush
variety which is the born-again Christians and the
evangelicals, many of whom have a presence in Pakistan
also. But "fundamentalism" effectively
means going back to the fundamentals and that in
itself is hardly in league with terrorism.
As for "Islamic militants", this term
has also been used to describe Muslims fighting
for self-determination against occupation and therefore
can include Kashmiri freedom fighters, Hizbollah
and the Palestinians to cite a few relevant examples.
So is that the level to which the US has now reduced
the war against terror?
Now there should be no doubt at all as to the targets
of the present US administration's military endeavors:
It is clearly Islam and therefore Muslims. That
is why Bush finds the Zionist agenda of ridding
the region of the Palestinians and Arabs where possible
so in tune with his own US agenda. And this is not
simply an emotive reaction to Bush hurling abuses
against Islam and the Muslims. This is an assertion
made after examining the statements of Israeli leaders
since the creation of their state.
In a biography of Ben Gurion, Israel's first Prime
Minister, Michael Ben-Zohar, quotes him as stating:
"We must use terror, assassination, intimidation,
land confiscation, and the cutting of all social
services to rid the Galilee of its Arab population."
Yitzhak Rabin's recollections were cited by The
New York Times in October 1979 where he remembered
the following: "We walked outside, Ben Gurion
accompanying us. Allon repeated his question, 'What
is to be done with the Palestinian population?'
Ben Gurion waved his hand in a gesture which said,
'Drive them out!'"
Other Israeli leaders have echoed the same belief.
Professor Ben-Zion Dinur, Israel's education minister
in 1954, declared: "In our country there is
room only for the Jews. We shall say to the Arabs:
Get out! If they don't agree, if they resist, we
shall drive them out by force."
And if one wants to understand why the Israelis
were eager to use military force against Lebanon
at the behest of the Bush Administration, recall
Ben Gurion's words: "We should prepare to go
to the offensive. Our aim is to smash Lebanon, Trans-Jordan,
and Syria. The weak point is Lebanon, for the Moslem
regime is artificial and easy for us to undermine.
We shall establish a Christian state there, and
then we will smash the Arab Legion, eliminate Trans-Jordan;
Syria will fall to us. We then bomb and move on
and take Port Said, Alexandria and Sinai."
Of course, Ben Gurion would not have encountered
Hezbollah. But the Israeli attitude towards the
Arabs, especially the Palestinians, is best summed
up by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's declaration,
earlier this year, that "Israeli lives are
worth more than Palestinian ones".
So there we have it. The Israeli-US agenda for the
Muslim world of the Greater Middle East, which includes
Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan, is to cut down the
power of the Muslim states and riddle them with
internal chaos and internecine quarrels. And unfortunately,
the Muslims have fallen into this trap. The Arab
world now has the largest collection of US troops
on its territories outside of the US -- at present
it may even be including those in the US given the
US deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan! Whoever
still believes that these forces are a source of
protection for these states, rather than for pressure
and control -- including control of the energy resources
-- is living in fantasyland.
Clearly the war on terror has now degenerated into
a war against "Islamic militants" and
Islamic fundamentalism as far as the Bush Administration
is concerned. So how will Muslim states reconcile
this new Bush agenda with their own support for
what was supposed to be a war against terror, which
knows no religion or ethnicity? Some delinkage with
the newly defined US war may become necessary even
as Muslim states deal with the issue of obscurantism
and extremism within their own states and societies.
For us in Pakistan, there is a war that needs to
be fought against terrorism but that focus has to
be the terrorist threat within our own polity. This
requires a multi-pronged strategy, which also deals
with the issue of root causes.
As for the Bush agenda, with the war on terror becoming
a war against "Islamic fascism and then "Islamic
militants" -- defining it in a religious context
will create ever more space for the terrorists.
Moreover, one should not be surprised to find Iraq
descending into total anarchy resulting in the splitting
up of the country. If that happens, there may be
other "territorial adjustments" attempted
also by the US and its Coalition of the Willing.
In this context, the standoff on the Iranian nuclear
issue poses a serious risk of unwarranted military
action by an increasingly more bellicose US and
Israel. If that were to happen, then it really would
become an issue of either being "with us or
against us". But this time, the choice will
not be simply the US versus terrorists, but the
US versus the Muslim ummah. In any event, at the
rate Bush is proceeding down the slippery definitional
slope, he may soon resolve our dilemma for us by
defining America's war against terror as simply
a war against Islam. He is already getting close
and there seems no force strong enough in the US,
and amongst his allies, to stop this madness. Or
perhaps they do not want to?
(The writer is director general of the Institute
of Strategic Studies in Islamabad. Courtesy The