Can “War on Terror” bring peace?
Yes, it can. But not in the way intended by those who wage it.
When Hitler started the Second World War, he wanted to conquer most of the world and to establish the Third Reich — a great German empire. He also wanted to exterminate the Jews.
Such were his intentions. But what were the results?
The establishment of the United Nations and of the European Union, and of the State of Israel.
When President Bush announced his “War on Terror” doctrine, most of the governments of the world gave him their unconditional backing. Some out of politeness — to say anything that would displease the Americans in the wake of September the 11th was like “laughing at a funeral”. Others out of a desire to spare the people of their countries the fate of Afghanistan — the President said, “who is not with me is against me”, and the cluster bombs in Afghanistan left no doubt that he meant what he said. Still others saw in the “War on Terror” a “great opportunity”.
Tony Blair saw a great opportunity to go down in history as a “great world leader”, who made Britain “great again”, by returning it to its “past imperial glory”.
Ariel Sharon saw a great opportunity to consolidate the conquests of 1967 and to extend Israel to its “natural frontier” — the Jordan River.
And George Bush, himself, had a vision of the American “special forces” scouring the world, killing terrorists, exterminating “evil” governments, and replacing them with governments of his choice.
Even the wannabe world leaders' wives saw a “great opportunity” to make their mark on the world history, they were to set out on a world‐wide mission to “liberate” Muslim women from their hijab.
But as in the Second World War, and so many times in human history, dreams and subsequent reality are not the same.
On the face of it, the Afghan operation looks like success: The Taliban are no longer the government, there is a degree of peace in Kabul (within the area of the operation of the peace keeping forces), and even the Shah is back.
This is on the face of it. But what is behind the facade?
Outside of Kabul looting and raping is as it was in the pre‐Taliban days. And the Taliban did not just run away. They left the cities, because they could not resist high altitude bombings, to start what they have always been good at — a “partisan war”. And partisan wars are not won or lost in a battle, like regular wars between governments. They continue for years, and usually finish only when the occupying forces withdraw.
But what about the Shah? Will he not unify the country? He might. But, if he will be a shah, whose ways are foreign to the life and culture of the people he intends to govern and who will be seen in his country as representing foreign interests, then his end will be like that of another shah, Shah Muhammad Reza Pahlavi.
Shah Muhammad Reza Pahlavi of Iran was greatly loved in Europe and America, he was very “progressive” and sought to “modernize” his people by introducing alcohol and “liberating” women from that “symbol of oppression”, the veil. He had a modern army trained and equipped by the Americans, and an effective secret police to fight “terrorism”.
Shah Muhammad Reza Pahlavi ruled Iran for 38 years, until the “ungrateful” people of Iran replaced him with Imam Khomeini, and the Shah had to seek refuge in the United States.
Unlike Shah Reza Pahlavi, Imam Khomeini was not popular with the American and European governments. They just could not understand why the people of Iran preferred a “medieval cleric” to a “progressive” and “liberal” Shah.
Could not the same happen in Afghanistan?
But this is looking in the future. Back to the present.
Encouraged by what he saw as success in Afghanistan, President Bush decided to extend his “War on Terror” to eradicating evil from countries, which belong to what he called “the Axis of Evil” (Iraq, Iran and North Korea). The first to be attacked was Iraq.
The Iraqi government was not very popular in the world. It had wars with Iran and Kuwait. It was also known for human rights violations. And President Bush hoped that this unpopularity will assure him support from the whole world and specifically from the Arab countries.
While President Bush saw “terrorism”, and especially “suicide‐terrorism” as evil, which can be cured by killing terrorists everywhere in the world, Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia understood that terrorism is the result of people, who see themselves as victims of injustice, and, are unable to find justice by any other means, taking law in their own hands and seeking to redress the injustice by whatever means available to them.
Prince Abdullah understood that the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians is a major source of world instability and sought to find a way to resolve that conflict.
The Israelis occupied the West Bank and Gaza in 1967 saying that they need a buffer zone to protect themselves from hostile Arab states. So Prince Abdullah offered them recognition of all the Arab states in exchange for withdrawal from the territories occupied by the Israelis in 1967 — if the State of Israel is recognized by all the Arab states, there is no reason for Israel to maintain a buffer zone.
Prince Abdullah also understood, that expulsion by the Israelis of Palestinians in 1948 was injustice, and that this injustice was the primary cause of the conflict, which withdrawal by Israel to the borders of 1967 would not resolve. So he added to his plan a condition that a fair solution to the problem of Palestinian refugees be agreed upon in accordance with U.N. Resolution 194.
Thus, if this plan were implemented, it would have resolved the Middle East conflict. The Israelis would have had a Jewish state within the 1967 borders recognised by all the Arab States, and justice would have been achieved for the Palestinians, thus removing the motivation for terrorism.
But, Ariel Sharon had his plans. The “War on Terror” doctrine of George Bush offered him opportunities he could not afford to miss. It allowed him to crush the Palestinian resistance and the Palestinian Authority of Yasser Arafat and consolidate the conquests of 1967.
So, on the next day the Abdullah Peace Plan was approved by all the Arab states in Beirut, the Israeli army began a massive incursion into the West Bank justifying it by a “need to destroy the terrorist infrastructure”. Until the Palestinians achieve justice, or at least see a practical way of achieving it by any other means than armed resistance, and their capacity for armed resistance is limited to home‐made explosives and “suicide‐bombings”, every Palestinian over 10 years old is a potential “suicide‐bomber”. In this context, “destroying the terrorist infrastructure” means nothing else than killing all the Palestinians over 10 years old. And since children between 5 and 10 can understand and remember, and once grow up will want to avenge the deaths of their parents, brothers and sisters, to be on the safe side, one would have to destroy them all. Such is the logic of the Bush Doctrine as applied to the specific case of Palestine.
They have not killed all of them. But, they killed many … men, women, children. How many? The count is still going on, and so are the killings.
The killings in the refugee camp of Jenin were especially picturesque. An area was literally flattened, with people buried under the rubble.
When the Israeli incursion began, President Bush was called upon to stop it. At first he made a weak request, then a little stronger. But, he did not really mean it. There was no “not with me against me” resolve. After all, the Israelis were doing what the Americans were doing in Afghanistan — killing terrorists, terrorist sympathizers, and people who look like terrorist sympathizers. President Bush could not disapprove such actions. According to him the culprit was not Sharon, but Yasser Arafat (who, throughout all that time, was practically under Israeli arrest). So President Bush's attempts to resolve the conflict, and the mission of his emissary, Collin Powell, did nothing but to encourage Israelis to carry on with their plans.
So have Bush, Blair, and Sharon achieved their dreams?
The Jenin massacre (some prefer to call it by other names, but here this word is used in the sense of a mass indiscriminate killing, which is what it was) has provoked a wave of outrage in the Muslim world with the subsequent result that the popularity of the United States in the Arab World fell far below to that of Iraq. In fact Iraq came to be seen just like another Arab country about to be attacked by an aggressive super‐power, and whatever bad feelings against Iraq might have existed in the past lost their relevance.
The Jenin massacre also provoked strong reactions in Europe and even in America and Israel. Even in the non‐Muslim world people started asking questions about the wisdom of the Bush Doctrine.
In the Muslim world there also was some soul searching and thinking. No, not condemnation of “suicide‐bombings”, which Bush is calling for. “Suicide bombings” are seen as heroic fight for justice, and this view was greatly strengthened by the Israeli incursion and its de facto condonement and support by the United States. But what is questioned is whether “suicide‐bombings” are effective enough. Having seen the inability of the United Nations to be an effective instrument of prevention of wars and achievement of justice between nations, and unwillingness of the wannabe world leaders (Bush and Blair) to provide honest and effective world leadership, the people in the Muslim world are turning to their own national leaders, asking, “Why do we have to depend on favours of the self‐seeking super‐powers to protect our people?”, “Is it not the time for all the Muslim states to pool their resources and start building their economic and military strength, so they can stand up to the super‐powers, and become an effective voice for peace and justice? — Peace from position of strength is peace, peace from position of weakness is surrender, or annihilation.”
So will President Bush's “War on Terror” lead the emergence of a “Union of Islamic States”, in the same way as the Second World War lead to the emergence of the European Union? Or will it lead to the United Nations becoming a truly effective means of maintaining peace and justice among nations? Will the UN super‐power veto system, which makes the UN practically an instrument of super‐power politics, be abandoned? Will all national armies be disbanded and replaced with a single international police force under the United Nations control?
Future will tell, but one thing is certain, politicians have their dreams and ambitions, but they have no control over the results of their actions.
People want peace and security. Politicians use these human desires to place themselves into positions of power. Politics is getting advantage for oneself at the expense of others, of imposing one's will on others by force, or by fraud. But use of force and fraud is injustice and leads to conflicts. Politics and justice are incompatible. But there can be no peace and security without justice. So, if people want peace and security, they will have to learn to live without politics.
No matter what games politicians play, they cannot win. In the end politics will be abandoned and justice will prevail. And justice will bring total and permanent peace.