Dispatch from Pakistan:
Will the White House Please Slow Down and Listen to Reason about Iraq before It's Too Late?
There is an old fable about a wolf and a baby sheep which I want to start with. The fable goes: Once a lamb was taking water from a small stream. A wolf came to same point for the same purpose. While quenching his thirst an idea came to the wolf's mind: Why not have a lamb for lunch as a bonus to the sweet stream water? He started thinking it over, trying to create some good reason to kill her and eat her.
"Oh stupid sheep," he said, "don't you see I am taking water from the stream? So why are you making it dirty with your grubby mouth?"
The lamb naively replied, "My lord, you are upstream and water is flowing from your side to me. How then can I pollute it?"
Frustrated, the wolf-as he was adamant to get some good excuse-replied, "Maybe not you, but I can guess that it would be your forefathers who would have polluted the water, so, you cannot escape from the responsibility."
Then the wolf jumped on the lamb, and in no time she was inside his belly.
Now look at present-day international politics. People say that human society has evolved to the point that now no one nation commits injustice against any other nation as brazenly as might have happened in olden times. International bodies are there to resolve the vexing issues through diplomacy; that dialogue over the table has become the preferred way to determine a way out of trouble.
To me, hoever, this is only partly true. Of course human society has evolved to the point that today no despot can declare a war on a weak neighbor and go unnoticed, as was routine in medieval times, and no nation today can dare to occupy another country in order to trade slaves. Still, in spite of all this, in essence human nature has not changed. Nor has the philosophy of power, which asserts itself as the sole determinant of morality in and of itself.
If we look again at the contemporary world, we will find many wolves and sheep. Man's "progress" appears to be that now a nation's leader borrows or invents some good reason before doing what instinct of naked aggression compels him to do: hunt down weak. "Only the fittest are to survive," reads the unwritten law. Unfortunately, the media and forums like the UN help such powerful leaders to accomplish this end.
Iraq is going to be a case in point. It is no secret that Saddam is ruling Iraq without a mandate from the Iraqi people. Saddam fought a senseless war with neighboring Iran for no less than one decade, and brutally suppressed Kurds, Shia and other groups who were opposed to his regime. But let us not forget that when Saddam was committing all these sins against his neighbors and his own people, he was getting an unhindered supply of US weapons and advice.
But if killing Kurds or opposition groups are now a primary criterion for deposing Saddam, then what about Turkey and other neighboring countries that have been equally harsh to Kurds and other minority groups? Saddam is not an isolated case of despotisms in the Middle East. Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Yemen, Bahrain-all these M.E. countries have authoritarian rulers whose human rights record is no better than Saddam's.
On the contrary if we look at the way the majority of these rulers act, we would find that Saddam is miles ahead from them when it comes to the matter of women's rights, religious freedom, and secular values. A few months back, a score of students burned to death in a fire in a Saudi Arabian girls' school. The guards outside the school did not permit the girls to run out of the school premises to save their lives from the torment of the flames, as the guards' religious duty did not permit them to allow a woman or girl to go into an open area where male members of society could see their faces-a great sin in their eyes. Code of ethics indeed! Likewise, the fire brigade service was not allowed to enter the school area to extinguish the fire and to rescue the girls, as, according their code, it was strictly prohibited to enter a girls' school.
So, really: Why does Bush want Saddam to go? Because he is a tyrant? Then what about other tyrants in the region who are the blue eyed boys of Washington-notwithstanding the fact that their religious beliefs are no better than those of the Taliban?
You ask any street boy in Pakistan why Bush wants to attack Iraq and he would reply that America wants oil so it is coming for Saddam's head. Despite all the efforts the White house spin doctors are making to mask their ultimate goal, their real objective behind a war against Iraq has become so naked that the only ignorant people are the Americans themselves. Outside of America and possibly the United Kingdom, everyone knows that the issue of Saddam's tyranny is no more than a ruse, because they know the US itself is the patron of tyrants around the world, and even helps breed them when it's economically or politically convenient.
What difference, if any, is there between our own president Musharraf and Saddams? Both are liberal and secular, both are dictators. The only difference is that one is favored by the US right now, and the other was so favored in times past.
So what would be consequences of the US occupation or Iraq-or, as the Bush administration calls it, "regime change"?
The United States' aim of carrying out "regime change" will not stop in Baghdad, Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazi said the other day, accusing Washington of seeking to assure Israel's regional dominance. (My guess is that Israel is not the beneficiary, however, asthe occupation of Iraq would erode Israel's position of being the US's sole trustworthy ally in the region. Further, US forces would be physically looking after their own interests ahead of those of Israel.)
Other countries in the region are also apprehensive of the US's ultimate blueprint. Who is next in line? The question is being asked by everyone, but there is no answer, because no one has access to Bush's mind. Even Pakistan-which until recently was being praised as a frontline state in the war against terrorism-is being put in this list. (Recently Pakistan's role in helping North Korea, Iran and Iraq in their nuclear quest came into the international media spotlight. The dominant view in Pakistan's press is that one day the US will also be pressing Pakistan to open its nuclear installations for outside monitoring.)
I can only imagine the chaos that the creation of fault lines (between the West and majority-Muslim countries) would generate an upsurge of Muslim rage directed against the US and its allies, ultimately strengthening lunatic fringe of that cartel of terror, the Al-Qaeda. Such fault lines would also help trigger-happy Bush and his allies to dominate the globe on the pretext that the security situation is fragile. Together, they are brazen enough to keep masking their ultimate evil design of controlling global resources to benefit a few multinationals or so.
I am finding it difficult to maintain my optimism when I imagine the future course of events: The Muslim world (roughly 1.2 billion people on the face of earth today belong to this faith), believing the rhetoric of fanatics like Osama that the west is the enemy of Islam, erupt in anger against the US and its allies. And of course the Muslim world would be the loser in this mindless war that would leading the people nowhere.
I think onus lies on each US citizen. Conscious American people can prevent this doomsday scenario only through pressing the war-mongers in the White House to give a chance to dialogue about peace and mutual coexistence, before it is too late indeed!
One British journalist recently commented that, thanks to America's "free press," sadly most Americans know very little about their government's foreign policy.
"The greatest crime since World War II has been U.S. foreign policy," Ramsey Clark, former U.S. Attorney General under President Lyndon Johnson, once cried.
There is a poem by the great Bengali poet and Nobel laureate Rabindinath Tagore that the SUN, while dipping into the evening sky, looked over the world that was rapidly turning grey and moaned: "Who would now be illuminating this beautiful earth?" and then a CANDLE in a worn-out hut murmured: "I would try."
While the major media like CNN and Fox News keep helping those in the White House to keep their people ignorant of what their government actually is up to on the foreign front, the efforts of CANDLES like the Baltimore Chronicle are a reassurance of that spirit that wants to illuminate and keep people in the light to its fullest capacity. Let us hope that these candles all together will turn one day into the SUN.
Dr. Rind, a physician, writes on geopolitics for the daily press in Pakistan. He has been a regular contributor to the Chronicle since October 2001.
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This story was published on January 8, 2003.