Children of a lesser God!


Friendly Fire
Khalid Saleem
SPECULATION is rife about how the Trump Administration intends to go about fleshing out its threats-filled new Afghanistan doctrine. Needless to add, it is giving the more nervous ones a fit of jitters. A look over the shoulder may not be out of place. At the time when hordes of the trigger-happy soldiers of the ‘free-world’ were marauding in neighboring Afghanistan, most readers had got used to seeing news items in the morning paper to the effect that a certain number of “suspected Taliban” had been killed in a ruthless action by the coalition forces. It is a matter of shame that we got so inured to this formulation as not to give it a second thought. The qualifying adjective “suspected” says it all. It would appear that the so-called coalition forces had to produce a certain number of “kills” to report and it mattered little who the victims were so long as they happened to be children of a lesser god.
Village after village of men women and children were obliterated through smart bombs and daisy cutters just because they had been adjudged to be “suspected” Taliban. By whom, one may ask? Who acted as the prosecutor, judge and jury all rolled into one? Some one, some day will have to answer to a higher authority for these wanton killings. We, who opted to be silent spectators of this gory drama, cannot escape a share of the blame. We cannot absolve ourselves of complicity just because we did not actively participate in the bloodbath. What do our liberals – worthy interpreters of the new philosophy of enlightened moderation – have to say about this? Are we enjoined to look the other way while the armed might of the powers that be decides to run riot?
Having said this, one would wish to draw the reader’s attention to another allied aspect of human misery. One wonders if the reader has any recollection of the following poignant words spoken by a poor Afghan peasant, Akhtar Mohammad, several years ago: “I miss my sons, but there was nothing to eat”. Driven by hunger, this peasant had been obliged to trade two of his children for a few bags of wheat a month. Mr. Barry Bearak narrated the poignant story of this hapless father in an article published in the New York Times and International Herald Tribune in March 2002. In the article, the author laid bare the tragic fate of this once proud people caught in the web of international intrigue.
What is one to make of this appalling state of human misery? It is always the poor multitude that becomes the victim in the aftermath of what is, after all, a game of very high stakes being played by the rich and powerful of this world. The poor individual has little to gain and everything to lose on the chessboard of world politics. What one would like to know is: what, if anything, was done by the powers that be to ameliorate the lot of the Akhtar Mohammads of this region? The Rome-based United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) put out several years ago the appalling statistics that some 800 million people around the world were going hungry. This says a lot about the sense of priorities of the powers that be.
It may be time to pause and ponder why such a large chunk of humanity should go hungry. Certainly not because of shortage of food! Nor, indeed, because of what it has become fashionable to refer to as ‘over-population’. There exists no such thing in nature’s scheme of things. Nature’s bounty provides enough to nourish the world’s population and over. The production of foodstuffs has not only kept up with the growth in population but it has, in effect, kept a few steps ahead of it. And yet hundreds of millions go hungry. The fault lies not in the stars but rather in the jumbled up priorities in a world that appears to have lost its bearings.
Years ago, a United Nations Special Summit had pledged to “wipe out” poverty from the face of the earth. It was a noble aim. One only wishes that it had not gone the way of all multilateral ‘paper solutions’ to world’s problems. The fact is that multilateral economic negotiations invariably end up with such pious platitudes, only to be sacrificed in due course at the altar of international political expediency. When one looks at it dispassionately, the problem of hunger should not be all that difficult to resolve. In fact, given good intentions, it need be no problem at all.
All that is needed is for a truly “World Body”, with sufficient capital, to buy up the world’s surplus food grains every year and then to apportion it out at the appropriate time to those pockets of the world’s population that traditionally go hungry. The only obstacle in the path of such an arrangement could be the paucity of funds. Where would its ‘seed money’ come from? One can only throw up an idea. How about asking each member state of the UN to contribute, say 0.1 percent of the money that it spends each year on the purchase of lethal weapons, ostensibly for national defence? Once the menace of hunger is abolished, the “peoples of the United Nations” could perhaps then sit down to tackle the more complicated issues on the world’s agenda, like extremism or terrorism. The world may even find to its surprise that these issues have sorted themselves out as a corollary!
— The writer is a former ambassador and former assistant secretary general of OIC.