Now a War on 'Islamic Militants'
By Dr Shireen M. Mazari

President 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 Communists.
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 News)


Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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