Jan 7, 2010

Mr Bush all over again

Dr Muzaffar Iqbal

Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab wrought what he wrought with his explosives which would not explode. Thus, it is the moral burden of the leadership of the most powerful nation on earth to explain to the rest of the world actions of a state that has broken all laws in the book by which nations have hitherto conducted their business. From Guantanamo Bay to Abu Ghraib and from the drone attacks that regularly violate the sovereignty of Pakistan (a state whose leadership seems to have ransomed the honour of its people for a few crumbs from the king's table), the writing on the American wall of justice glows red when compared to the madness of one Abdul Mutallab who may turn out to be the greatest hoax of the new century (so far). The issue at hand is the knee-jerk reaction of President Obama and his administration, reminiscent of the bullying of his predecessor, a reaction that is utterly out of proportion and devoid of any moral justification save the myopic view of the self-assuming role of saving American lives at the expense of others.

With one failed attempt, Mr Obama has shed all his colouring and now talks exactly like Mr Bush. His words state what Bush used to: all other human beings are somehow less human than Americans. Had that not been the case, Mr Obama would have stopped the drone attacks in Pakistan in respect of the lives of innocent women and children. He would have apologised for what had been done to the prisoners of war in that outpost of humanity called Guantanamo Bay; he would have gone to Iraq and wept at the graves of Iraqis mercilessly killed by American bombers. He would have read out loud the dark record of covert CIA operations all around the world -- a record that no other nation can match.

He would have asked: "Is it not strange that when Americans kill, no one is supposed to mourn those deaths, no country is allowed to take any measures against continuous American attacks, but it is always the other way around." When seven CIA agents were killed in Afghanistan last week, the most obvious question that should have been asked was: what were they doing there? Why were they there in the first place?

But no one asked that question, at least not in America. Instead, glowing tributes were paid to them; their work was hailed. Obama said those killed were "part of a long line of patriots who have made great sacrifices for their fellow citizens, and for our way of life." "Our way of life" is exactly what Mr Bush would have said on this occasion. And when Mr Obama wrote a letter to CIA employees, saying the victims had "taken great risks to protect our country" and that their sacrifices had "sometimes been unknown to your fellow citizens, your friends, and even your families", he sounded just like George W Bush.

The CIA agents, who were working from the 'forward operating base Chapman' in Afghanistan, reportedly used for US drone attacks on Pakistan, have all become American heroes, but thousands of Afghans who have been killed by CIA operatives and American forces find no mention on the lips of the American president. In fact, the inhumane attitude of American officials can be judged from the actions of those who distributed some money in the Tagab Valley not too long ago; this story tells what they think of other lives.

Col Greg Julian, the top US spokesman in Afghanistan, led the Americans to the far-flung village of Inzeri in Tagab valley. Americans had $40,000 which they were going to distribute to relatives of 15 people who were killed in a US raid. The Americans had arrived in the village after a lot of pressure was exerted on the Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai and US Defence Secretary Robert Gates had admitted to a senate committee that "civilian casualties are doing us enormous harm in Afghanistan." The villagers were brought close to 15-newly dug graves. The village consisted of a small homes made out of stone and mud, set high in a steep, rocky valley just 30 miles north of Kabul. The villagers were asked to produce a list of the dead, but no one could as there was no on the in village who could read and write. Finally, the payments were made in local currency and the US officials said some words which no one could understand. But it is the words of the man who helped oversee the payments which tell the real attitude of Americans toward those they had killed: Lt Col Steven Weir, the military lawyer who helped oversee the payments, made a statement that "payments were not an admission by the US that innocents were killed. It's a condolence payment."

Weir added: "The villagers said none of them were in the Taliban, just peaceful individuals from the village. So by this payment they will understand it's not our goal to kill innocent people. This may help them understand we're here to build a safer and more secure Afghanistan." When asked if the US was paying money to relatives of people that it had wanted to kill or capture, Weir said: "If we did accidentally shoot someone, we want to make that right, and if we have to pay money to someone who didn't deserve it ... it's kind of like it's better to let nine guilty people go free than to jail one innocent person."

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