The attacks against the centres of power in the USA were tragic.
The deliberate killing of so many innocent American civilians in the
cause of some vague and larger agenda against the United States was
simply barbaric. While we mourn the tragic deaths of so many innocent
lives, it is also important to ask what motivates such men to take
such extreme actions while sacrificing their own lives. Unflinching
and dedicated young men willing to be part of suicide teams is not
cowardice, but suffering from a burning sense of injustice to the
Muslim world. These men resort to extreme measures that are out of
proportion to the injustice they see themselves. The answers, though
not the justification, for the assault on America may be found in the
arrogance of US foreign and military policy since it became the sole
and unrivalled super power at the end of the Cold War.
The first thing to note is that the targets were the three symbols
of America's power. The World Trade Center represents US economic
power, the Pentagon its military power, and the White House (which was
probably targeted by the plane that crashed in Pennsylvania), its
political power. This kind of systematic and calculated targeting
suggests a masterplan and a mastermind behind it. It is difficult to
believe that Osama Bin Laden has the resources and logistics to carry
out such an intricate and well-coordinated attack on such key US
centres of power. There may be a larger network of willing and
unsolicited radical Muslim volunteers who carry a sense of outrage
against US policies in the Muslim world.
The two main sources of anger may be found in the routine and
continuous bombing and sanctioning of Iraq, and perceptions of US
support for Israel, or lack of support for Palestinians, on the Jewish
settlements in the occupied territories and the status of East
Jerusalem. In the case of Iraq, sanctions have killed more than 1.5
million innocent Iraqis, mostly children, because of lack of
immunization facilities, hospital care, clean drinking water, and
general shortages of essential foods and other goods. This tragedy is
blamed by the US on Saddam Hussein, a claim that is not accepted or
believed by not only the Muslim world but also countries such as
Russia, China, France and India. Directly or indirectly, American
sponsored sanctions are the cause of it. Meanwhile, the US military
routinely bombs Iraqi targets causing collateral civilian casualties.
This too is shrugged off as Saddam Hussein's fault.
The second source of anger revolves around the close ties between
the United States and Israel. Israeli policies are blamed on perceived
US endorsement. There are extreme critics who believe that US foreign
policy is made in Tel Aviv and not in Washington, and it is US support
that produces Israeli intransigence. Beyond this, many Muslims believe
that Washington supports corrupt Muslim monarchies, especially in
Saudi Arabia. Osama Bin Laden's followers are particularly outraged
that US forces are stationed on Saudi soil, a case of non-believers
occupying holy Islamic land.
Before the United States retaliates in anger by bombing something
for the sake of bombing something, it should consider the fact that
the success of such acts of terrorism does not depend on the actions
themselves, but on how the state responds to them. US retaliation that
may cause more innocent lives to be lost in the Muslim world, will not
only increase the anger of these radical Muslim groups, but will also
attract more followers to the cause of Osama Bin Laden and other
like-minded Muslim leaders. The US needs the support of the Muslim
world before it chooses the time and target of its military response,
which has to measured and selective. Bombing Afghanistan will be
pointless. The suffering and misery of the people of Afghanistan
cannot get any lower while only increasing the resentment and anger
against the United States.
So much for National Missile Defense. It only took an airline
schedule, some passenger tickets, and smuggling on board of some small
knives with plastic handles to carry out the attack. The problem with
dealing with such terrorism is that the enemy is unknown and in our
midst, and the means of attack and the targets of attack are of their
choosing. The next time it could be the poisoning of city water
supplies, or an anthrax biological weapon or sarin chemical weapon
attack in a crowded mall or closed dome. India may be worried that
there may be copycat attempts to do the same by Kashmiri terrorists
who are also sponsored by the Bin Laden group.
The long-term repercussions of this massive assault into the heart
of the United States are likely to be economic. America was already on
the brink of a mini recession. This will aggravate it. The airline
industry will go into a downward spin causing severe negative
multiplier effects on all other US industries and services that touch
it. The US economy is dependent on communications of which business
travel by air is one of the most important. Consumer confidence may go
down which may mean that there may be no buying spree with further
negative multiplier effects on all parts of the economy.
A downturn in the US economy will affect the rest of the world. The
major Western economies are closely linked to the US economy and the
repercussions here may be equally devastating. India's huge software
export market in the US could be severely affected. Even more so,
China's export market is mainly the United States with severe
repercussions for this Asian giant as well. Indeed, much of the rest
of world revolves around the success or failure of the US economy.
Steadying and stabilizing the US economy will have to be the main
priority of the Bush Administration. Otherwise all the military
retaliation against Osama Bin Laden and his followers will be
pointless. Terrorism will have won.
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