A look back in anguish!

36

Friendly Fire

Khalid Saleem

THE so-called ‘strategic relationship’ between the United States and this country appears to be in a state of flux, more so since the advent of the Trump Administration. Most people are at a loss to discern whether this ‘partnership’ is coming or going! The mixed signals emanating from Washington and the unhelpful hints dropped by responsible local persons who ought to know better, give all concerned 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 enjoyed the ‘right connections’ to be posted to such coveted stations as Washington, New York and London, used to hope and pray that this country got a column or two of mention in the lordly press of the area. Not any more. Now, with all the negative 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.
A peep over the shoulder may be in order! When former President Obama got re-elected, there was a general feeling of 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. Mere change of leadership at the top hardly ever signals a change in priorities, especially so in the murky field of foreign affairs. Let us face it, people in this country are not asking for the moon. The question that comes to their simplistic mind is: why can’t they leave our country alone? On a broader canvas, the Muslim world as we know it continues 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 conflicts; and that thenceforth at least a virtual peace would prevail. But no such luck! The sole superpower that emerged out of the ashes – phoenix-like – took it upon itself to devise brand new conflicts. A badly 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 lit all around thanks to the New World Order ordained by the neo-cons left an already shaken world staggering. For one thing, people were unable to appreciate the manner in which the Western visual media choreographed 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 ‘our way of life’. The aforesaid notwithstanding, it would be wrong to put the entire blame on the networks, though. The media can hardly be totally objective so long as they are assigned an agenda to push. The Western news media had made little secret of their glee when the post 9/11 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’.
One outstanding casualty of what may be termed as America’s ‘friendly fire’ was the internationally accepted concept of ‘human rights’. When it suited the interests of the ‘liberators’, they conveniently rejected the Geneva Conventions as ‘irrelevant’ or even outdated. But when they happened to be at the receiving end, the least innocuous breach caused 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) was all too evident.
The wars thereby let loose have brought in their wake a humanitarian tragedy of immense proportions. Now that the deed is done (?) and the perpetrators 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 a world gone haywire.
As to war-torn Afghanistan, all right-thinking people hope and pray that the long-suffering people of this unfortunate land will some day be enabled to enjoy an independent existence with full control over their own resources. Talking of resources brings to mind what Mr. Alan Greenspan had reportedly come up with years ago in his memoires. 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 the recent past, it would appear, are no different from the wars of yore waged by those that covet what is not theirs by right. Meanwhile, other powers that consider the area as being part of their ‘sphere of influence’ continue to take full advantage of the state of mayhem engineered by the wars let loose in these unfortunate lands. One lives and learns!
— The writer is a former ambassador and former assistant secretary general of OIC.