Wednesday, July 11, 2007

War on Terrorism 02-09-29

War on terrorism will be won or lost depending on how we frame the issue.

Mirza A. Beg
Written on August 19, 2002
Birmingham News Sunday, Sept 29, 2002

About a year ago the nation was jolted into the realization that we are not immune to the acts of wanton terror. This was the heaviest price in human life we have ever paid in one brazen attack. Mr. Bush with the whole nation behind him declared war on terrorism. The cold anger we felt was palpable and deep. It was no time to think about the nuances of past short-sighted policies or the innocent civilian dead in other countries because of our indirect and sometime direct involvement.

The time called for unity. These were our people on whom death rained from the sky to etch 9/11 in our collective memories, because some zealots gave went to their grudge against us, feeling safe in a far off land. Unable to take us on militarily, they thought they would damage our psyche and succeed in their purpose. They have their answer. They did kill our people but failed miserably in their aims.

A year has given us time for introspection, to define the parameters of the war on terrorism and to fine-tune our aims.

If this war is against those who attack the United States for whatever reason, then we have substantially won and are in a slow long-term mopping-up operation. There will be minor ups and downs but the trajectory is set.

The terrorists of Al Qaida faced a united and determined people. A people who would not only defend the home land but also punish the culprits and bring them to justice. Al Qaida network is decimated. The masterminds, Mr. Bin Laden, his cohorts and their protectors, the Taliban regime of Mullah Omar are history. The culprits are dead, in hiding or incarcerated. Granted we do not know for sure the exact fate of the two top people. We can hunt them as a low-key but determined international operation and do the more difficult job of beefing up internal security in a thoughtful manner consistent with our constitution. That is why I call it a mop up operation.

Our decisive, overwhelming and swift response not only defeated the immediate enemy but also gave a very stern deterrent warning to the future attackers. Perfect safety can not be guaranteed, but this will go a long way to provide substantial safety.

If the war has a fuzzy definition to get rid of all the terrorism in the world, and the definition of terrorism is equally fuzzy; we are courting “mission creep”. The President or the Congress has not yet defined terrorism. Apparently any violent uprising by a group against an entrenched power can be and is being defined as terrorism. Uprising against an oppressive state--- an occupying power ---or even against a dictatorship is defined by them and some times by us as terrorism. This has all the makings of a quagmire. By this definition either we will loose the war or at best may fool ourselves that we are winning, the way we have been winning the war on drugs for that last 35 years.

We had a year to think and fine tune our mission. It is evident that we have not done it. We empathized and supported the Chechens in their struggle against an oppressive Russian State, but since 9/11, Russia has successfully attached it self to our war on terrorism. Similarly Chinese State against Uigurs and Tibetans, Turkish State against Kurds, Indian State against Kashmiris, there are many more examples. Our human rights stand in all these cases has been softened or jettisoned.

In the second category, whatever the spin doctors in this country may say about rights or wrongs of the Hamas attacks on Israelis and Israeli attacks on Palestinians, the fact remains that Israel is occupying internationally (including the U.S.) recognized Palestinian territory and has refused to part with it. The rest is a daily blow by blow argument for 37years to tactically blur the root of the problem. We say that we are honest brokers and in the next breath say that we completely support Israel. It is clear to all except us that we are neither honest nor good brokers in that dispute.

Mr. Bush has put a precondition for Palestinians to have a perfectly transparent democratic government under the exceedingly harsh Israeli occupation. The last Palestinian elections were freer and fairer (as certified by the international observers and our State Department) than any in Egypt, Algeria or Russia, our allies (as certified by the international observers and our State Department).

In the third category are the dictators such as in Uzbekistan, Algeria, Ukraine, Georgia etc., often with a fig leaf of elections. Rebellion against them, ranging from democratic groups to religious extremist is suppressed and we help them suppress it because they all have jumped on our bandwagon.

People fighting for democratic values, by its very nature are not zealously organized and are more easily suppressed; this leaves the field clear for the extremists. We end up helping suppress the forces of democracy and strengthening the forces of extremism. Extremism begets terrorism; this helps create a cycle of perpetual war on terrorism.

The simplistic notion that “if you are not with us you are against us”, is great for bumper stickers. Taking this logic seriously has bizarre consequences. If we allow oppressive regimes to piggyback on our war on terrorism, the likes of Saddam Husssain, if we let them, will love to join us to help suppress their own people. While the Europeans who grieved with us on 9/11, and see the fallacy of our simplistic notion will be deemed to be against us.

Mirza A. Beg can be contacted at

1 comment:

urdudaaN said...

Respected Mr. Mirza,

This article was an interesting read into the near past. However, the last paragraph has turned out to be the other way round.