Living in the make believe!


Friendly Fire

Khalid Saleem

THE so-called strategic relationship between the United States and this country has more often than not appeared to be in a state of flux. With the advent of the Trump administration, lately we have been having difficulty in putting our finger on whether our ‘partnership’ is coming or going. The mixed signals emanating from Washington and the hints dropped by responsible local persons who ought to know better, give one the queasy feeling that things are not proceeding the way they ought to.
There was the time when the diplomats of the Land of the Pure, who had the right connections to be posted to such coveted stations as Washington, New York and London, used to pray that the country got a column or two of mention in the lordly press of the area. Not any more. Now, with all the headlines we are cadging day after day, they must be praying for the day when the mention of the country would disappear from the front pages. Full marks to some for trying to give a positive twist, though! It was a bit tacky to see the pro forma presentation of credentials by our new Ambassador being fobbed off in the local media as a ‘meeting between the Ambassador and President Trump’.
Looking over the shoulder, when former president Obama got re- elected, there was a general feeling of elation in this country. It was felt that the president was a good and honorable man and like all good men he could be counted upon to right all the wrongs that had been done to this country and this region. The feeling was strengthened by the expectation (?) that he might try in his second term to justify the award of the Nobel Peace Prize at the start of his first. As it turned out, this was a simplistic view which did not stand the test of time. Policy making in the sole superpower is a complicated and convoluted business and mere change of leadership at the top does not necessitate a change in priorities, especially in the murky field of foreign affairs.
Let us face it, people in this country were not asking for the moon. The one question that came to their simplistic mind was: why can’t they leave our country alone? We have more than enough troubles as it is. The man in the street does not know whether he is coming or going. The Muslim world as we know it is in a state of utter chaos. When the Cold War ended, there were fond hopes that this would mark the beginning of the end of the madness inherent in armed conflict; and that thenceforth at least a virtual peace would reign. But no such luck. The sole superpower that emerged out of the ashes – phoenix-like – took it upon itself to devise a brand new conflict. The shaken world was not allowed even the proverbial respite that comes to all those that have gone through the virtual hell that is the war of this era.
Looking back a bit further, the peoples of the world had set great store by the dawn of the new millennium but regrettably that too turned out to be a damp squib. The conflagration that was lit all around thanks to the New World Order ordained by the neo-cons left an already shaken world staggering. For one thing, one is at a loss to describe the manner in which the Western visual media had been choreographing the carnage in the War on Terror. What the world was shown were no more than repetitious images of the mighty and murderous war machines out to ‘liberate’ this land from the clutches of the ‘bad guys’, and/or preserving ‘the American way of life’.
Now that one is well into the blame game, it would be wrong to put the entire blame on the networks, either. They can hardly be totally objective so long as they have an agenda to push. The Western news media had made little secret of their glee when the post nine/eleven wars were let loose. The good guys had at long last been given the green light and all that remained was their reception – complete with trumpets and bouquets – by the people they were sent out to ‘liberate’.
The one outstanding casualty of what may be termed as America’s ‘friendly fire’ has been the generally accepted concept of ‘human rights’. The Geneva Conventions emerged out of the war on terror conflicts in a tattered state. Let us look at the facts. When it suits the interests of the ‘liberators’, they conveniently reject the Geneva Conventions as ‘irrelevant’. But when they are at the receiving end, the least innocuous breach causes them such anguish as to justify several prime time hours on television. The valiant efforts of the American television networks to justify the unjustifiable notwithstanding, the horrible cruelty of the bombing campaigns in Afghanistan (and Iraq) became all too evident. The tragedy of the co-lateral killings by the drones is another story. The wars aforementioned brought in their wake a humanitarian tragedy of immense proportions. Now that the deed is done and the invaders have ridden roughshod over all that is good and fair, there is little fun in whining about the Geneva Conventions and the responsibilities of occupying armies written therein vis-à-vis pillage and hazards to civilians, their property and institutions. These are matters that are now of little or no import.
In war-torn Afghanistan, right-thinking people all hope and pray that the long-suffering people of this unfortunate land will some day be enabled to enjoy an independent existence with total control over their own resources. Talking of resources brings to mind what Mr. Alan Greenspan had reportedly come up with years ago in his memoirs. It is no secret that the Bush administration was outraged by Mr. Greenspan’s allegation that “the Iraq war is largely about oil”. Therein lay the rub. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, it would appear, are no different from the wars in the past waged by those who covet what is not theirs by right. Meanwhile, other states on the periphery as well as those who consider them as being within their ‘sphere of influence’ continue to take full advantage of the state of mayhem engineered in these unfortunate lands.
— The writer is a former ambassador and former assistant secretary general of OIC.
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