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Ramadan bombings a prelude to further tragedy

The New Straits Times, November 11, 2001

By Professor Dzulkifli Abdul Razak

Two months after the Sept 11 tragedy, the world is watching a similar tragedy. Instead of America, this time it is Afghanistan.

The target now includes the Red Crescent food depots, among other civilian structures. 

Instead of commercial airplanes, dozens state-of-the-art military planes are involved.

In the first instance, we told it was "terrorism".

The second, a war to eliminate it. But the impact remains the same. Both are equally barbaric and uncivilised.

Innocent citizens are terrorised, if not killed.

Maybe it is worse for the Afghans who are driven out of their homes.

If they are not killed by the carpet bombings, the freezing winter will surely do them in.

All this stems from a desire to catch Osama bin Ladin, dead or alive.

Osama is now a near legendary figure, perhaps the Che Guevara of the new millennium.

Overnight, he has become a hero of the oppressed and dispossessed.

More ironic still is the approach taken to nab this one man.

The approach resembles an attempt to kill a flea with a sledgehammer.

More damage is done to the surroundings than the intended target.

Now there is a sheepish admission that Osama may not be found at all.

Clearly, the target has shifted towards Afghanistan.

Instead of targeting the so-called "world's (read: US) most wanted terrorist" the victims seem to be innocent civilians.

The war on terrorism is fasting losing its credibility.

Compounding this ludicrous war is the insistence by the Americans to continue bombing in the month of Ramadan.

This is despite many leaders' advice to the contrary.

So much for an international coalition.

The US is adopting an arrogant unilateral stance.

Recall the "unilateralist message" the Bush team sent out from its first day in office, reminded the International Herald Tribune (Oct 27-28).

For example, "get rid of the Kyoto climate treaty, forget the biological treaty, forget arms control, and if the world doesn't like it, that's tough," writes T.L. Friedman in the IHT.

The latest move is the fight against anthrax.

The US intends to obtain cheaper supplies of Cipro (see Poison Control, Nov 3) by, among others, suspending its patent.

This has led the Europeans to complain that the US is ignoring the gospel of free market that it preaches (IHT, Oct 26).

So it is only fair to define what "terrorism" is, as Asean leaders have done.

The question that must be asked is: why has the US so doggedly set out to equate  Afghanistan with "terrrorism"?

Why the obsession with Osama, who until now, is no more than a "suspect"?

The world is still waiting for the hard evidence to merit Osama's claim to be the world's most wanted person.

Or is it the al-Qaeda network that reportedly spans the globe?

Then, why drop bombs only on Afghanistan? Is it the Taliban and their idiosyncratic ways?

But they were the trusted allies of the US when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan not so long ago.

(Indeed, many of them were trained and supported by the US.)

Or it is because the US needs a base in resource rich Central Asia?

One suggestion is that the US actually wants a stronghold in the region so that it can command and control the countries surrounding Afghanistan.

Whatever the situation or reason, continuing with the flea-and-sledgehammer strategy will hardly bring about a peaceful solution.

In fact, the Pentagon admitted recently that the Taliban forces are not buckling under the weight of American bombardment. Bombarding beyond Ramadan would only worsen the situation.

Already The Asian Wall Street Journal (Oct 25) has reported that the German anti-terrorism unit had discovered a Christmas bomb attack plot in central Starbourg that had been planned last year.

Such a plot may be rekindled by the Ramadan bombings.

In other words, as we mourn the tragedy of the WTC attacks in the second month today, the sense of tragedy has multiplied given the increasing death toll on the part of the Afghans.

The war against terrorism has itself turned into the very sort of terrorism that it seeks to eliminate in the first place.

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