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‘Un-Americans’ may have different views

The New Straits Times, September 23, 2001

By Professor Dzulkifli Abdul Razak

AS the dust now slowly settles around what used to be the World Trade Center in New York, the tragedy must be condemned in no uncertain terms. But many find it hard to believe that "US under attack" (USA Today, Sept 12) — or while reading similar headlines on the front pages of other newspapers.

For the American people, there seems to be a compelling similarity between the attack on WTC and the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor (http://pearlharborattacked.com). Hence, some call for the same kind of response, ultimately epitomised by the nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945.

But citizens of other countries may have altogether different reference points. For the Japanese people, the twin annihilations of the North and South Towers may resemble more than the twin holocaust of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The number of Japanese civilians killed was at least 30 times the number so far announced for the WTC bombings. In addition, the two cities were laid waste entirely.

But of course this perspective is "un-American", and the comparison is not even highlighted.

Similarly in the case of the Vietnamese people. The WTC attack must have rekindled what they as a nation suffered during the long and cruel Vietnam War.

Take for instance, My Lai in 1968 (http://www.time.com/time/magazine/1998/int/980316/vietnam.html). The village was torched and its population massacred.

It resembles the WTC attack where properties and innocent lives were senselessly destroyed with the clear intent to intimidate and terrorise. But such instances do not matter much because they are "un-American".

The Iraqi people also have a different perspective. Their country too was attacked by US-led Allied Forces in a surprise dawn air raid in 1991, not much different to the surprise early morning attack on the WTC. Hundreds of innocents were killed in the not-so-precise multiple bombings.

Even after the war, innocents continue to suffer horrendously in Iraq through US-led sanctions in place for over a decade now. The lives lost and the sufferings go unnoticed and unpublicised. Still, this is okay because the episodes are "un-American".

What about the Chinese? Their perspective too must have been different as some of them were reportedly "rejoicing" over what happened to the Twin Towers. They could easily relate the WTC incident to the US bombing of their embassy in Belgrade in May 1999.

Then again, the Chinese are not the only ones rejoicing. The Palestinians who have been at the receiving end, for generations, of weapons supplied by the US may have more reasons to do so.

In a nutshell, these "un-American" situations, feelings and expressions are real, no matter how many times America chooses to ignore them.

All these smack of double standards, a dichotomy between American and the "un-American" standards! The latter is of no consequence, as long as American interests reign supreme.

Over the years, the US reaction has become increasingly isolationist and arrogant. The knee-jerk response is to retaliate and threaten with little regard for the global implications.

Now, ironically, the US is reaching for help from the international community it so often snubs.

It has unanimously declared a "war", couched in "dead-or-alive" cowboy jargon, an ill-defined "war" with an "invisible" enemy.

By unreservingly supporting the US hype, the world is now raising the spectre of an even grimmer attack. In the words of  Noam Chomsky of MIT, one of the intellectual giants of our times, any massive military response could provoke more and possibly worse terror attacks, in what he termed "a new type of war".

Instead of hastily declaring a war, more heed should have been paid to the advice of two prominent US evangelists who were quoted as saying, God gave "what we deserve" (IHT, Sept 15-16).

Admittedly, this will allow one to re-examine past mistakes and take corrective policy action.

Unfortunately, a White House official ruled this out promptly, saying "The President does not share those views". Perhaps such views too are "un-American", an affront to US jingoism.

So we are now locked into a state of war. One that potentially opens the way to a chemical, biological or nuclear attack by a terrorist, which according to the head of the US House Government Reform sub-committee on National Security, is a very real possibility. If these are the next threats, a war on terrorism seems a short-sighted strategy.

We do not need any more violence, under whatever pretext. We need more equitable international practices and peace for all, including for the "un-Americans".

* Support A Global Appeal for 'No more violence!' at http://www.flora.org-/coat/appeal/ 


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