Monday, January 23, 2017


And attitudes filter down from the top
Barack Obama is a lucky man, a highly educated, intelligent, dignified and eloquent man, with an equally intelligent and elegant wife. He had several achievements as President, and health care reform was one of them. Another was that he put an end to certain interrogation techniques that had been initiated by the previous government. There were others.
What makes Obama luckier is that he has been succeeded by a person who makes him look even better.
Trump loses out big time by comparison. Had he not been so ham-handed there would be more questions about the Obama government’s role in Syria and the concurrent tragedy in Aleppo. As it is, all that might be examined later. For now the focus is on radicalism and terrorism, which Trumps policies are very likely to exacerbate.
In his inaugural address, President Donald Trump vowed to fight radical Islamic terrorism and “eradicate it from the face of the earth,” promising that “We will reinforce old alliances and form new ones and unite the civilised world against radical Islamic terrorism.”
You wish he’d share his plans for doing that, since most of the world would love to eradicate terrorism, Islamic or otherwise. We in Pakistan suffer from it as much as any other country. Just recently there was a blast in a bazaar in Parachinar which was said to be caused by an IED, for which the Lashkar e Jhangvi and the Tehreek e Taliban Pakistan are said to be responsible.
Of course terrorism stems from no single quarter, and the definition can be broadened to include any situation that creates terror and destruction. The American attack on Iraq following 9/11 can be called terrorism. So can the war in Afghanistan, and way back before either of these – the nuclear bombs in Nagasaki and Hiroshima when millions died.  Most civilisations have committed terrorism at some stage or another. The intention is not to justify the act, but to identify a fact. Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs acknowledged the role of Japanese soldiers in damage and suffering in World War II, and earlier under Emperor Hirohito when millions of people were massacred and experimented upon.
There were German war crimes, they were also terrorism. When the Wehrmacht had control of Poland, hundreds of towns and villages were burned and the Wehrmacht carried out more than seven hundred mass executions. Altogether, it is estimated that more than sixteen thousand Poles fell victim to these atrocities.
During the Second Boer War, the British rounded up around a sixth of the Boer population – mainly women and children – and detained them in overcrowded camps. Of the more than hundred thousand people interned in the camps, more than twenty thousand Boers died, along with an unknown number of black Africans.
When peaceful protesters defied a government order and demonstrated against British colonial rule in Amritsar, India, on 13 April 1919, they were trapped inside the walled Jallianwala Gardens and fired upon by soldiers. The soldiers, under the orders of Brigadier Reginald Dyer, fired until they ran out of ammunition, killing hundreds of protesters and injuring more than a thousand within 10 minutes. Brigadier Dyer was later held up as a hero by the British public, which raised thousands of pounds as reward for him.
Pakistan is no land of the pure. Its war crimes in Bengal come under the title ‘genocide,’ when in 1971 the Pakistan army and its supporting radical militia killed and raped between 300,000–500,000 Bengali men, women and children. Some sources say this figure is too low.
What else were all these acts, but terrorism?
So, yes, the world does face a problem with terrorism. And yes it currently also faces the problem of so called ‘Islamic’ radical terrorism in a big way. But will a Trump style wall and exclusionist policies achieve any improvement?
Attitudes tend to filter down from the top. Acts that people are afraid or ashamed of, become kosher when they are supported or indulged in by the powers that be themselves. Which makes it rather a dubious start to a jihad against terrorism to have Donald Trump as President, a man whose sordid language and attitude towards women is not unlike that of the Taliban as evinced in Afghanistan. You can strip them, or whip them, where’s the difference?
Ever since Donald Trump won the election, racism and misogyny have been on the rise on American streets and campuses.
Radicalism and terrorism are fostered by resentment, although those are not the only causes. Donald Trump has promised to overturn Obama Care. In one of his first steps as president, Mr. Trump has signed an executive order targeting the health care reforms of his predecessor. If that does not create resentment, it would be very surprising, just as the ‘interrogation techniques’ Obama put an end to must have contributed to resentment.
It really is time that the American Government ceased indulging in short term policies, just like governments in Pakistan. It was American short term policies in Afghanistan that helped create the Taliban, Al-Qaeda and the ISIS, a creation Pakistan had an equal hand in. Governments, if they really wish to eradicate terrorism, should stop contributing towards it.
It is time the military and arms houses took the back seat and acted upon saner advice. Perhaps from think tanks. But all this will be difficult while the present government is in the White House.
America is truly a great country, and one wishes it well. But this time you wonder what they have brought upon themselves, and upon the rest of the world.

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