Monday, Oct. 6, 2008
Counterproductive antiterrorism

Buried deep in the U.S. Pentagon somewhere is an official in charge of the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. As he goes about his daily chores — organizing the floor shackles, bully guards, illegal confinements, arbitrary trials and occasional torture sessions — he no doubt thinks he is doing his bit in the "war on terror."

In fact, al-Qaida and other Islamic militant groups owe him a medal for helping their recruitment efforts. His activities have encouraged even more Middle Eastern and other Islamists to want to take even more violent action against the United States and its allies.

The British are said to puzzle over why middle-class, educated Muslims in their midst end up bombing subways, buses and airports. Someone should point out that they do this precisely because they are middle class and educated. These are the people most likely to feel keenly the wrongs and injustices in Guantanamo, Iraq and elsewhere. They see so-called terror as the only answer.

Australia is upset over its tourists being bombed in Bali (2002) by Islamic extremists. But is seeking revenge in Afghanistan, yet another link in the counterproductive Western "war on terror," the best answer?

Originally the Taliban in Afghanistan had only marginal involvement with al-Qaida, and what they had could easily have been abandoned. But, as with Iraq in 2003, the U.S. desire for 9/11 revenge plus the never-ending military hankering to test new weapons, expand budgets and try troops in action against live targets guaranteed intervention. And like most U.S. military interventions it was handled clumsily and cruelly. Now we see the unintended results — powerful Islamic forces determined to drive the foreigners out of Afghanistan, as they did the Soviets just two decades earlier.

Iraq is supposed to be an example of impending Western victory over Islamic extremists. But all that has happened is that the U.S. and its friends are finally beginning to stop making mistakes. Before the U.S. military arrived, there was no al-Qaida in Iraq. They needlessly created a Sunni resistance. They have helped to wreck a society that once had one of the highest levels of education, literacy and female emancipation in the Middle East. And they call that victory?

The West needs to understand that Islam is attractive both as a religion and as a coherent way of life. That is why as a religion it is gaining ground in so many societies — Indonesia, Malaysia, Turkey to name just a few. That is why its activists have such political appeal when no other coherent and uncorrupt form of government seems possible, as in Gaza, Algeria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and much of central Africa.

Somalia is a good example. Racked into chaos and destitution by U.S.-supported warlords, eventually a strict Islamist movement promising court justice, social order and discipline emerged two years ago and began to take over from an impotent, Western-backed government. Finally the long-suffering people could have some hope for the future.

But for the U.S., Islamist spells al-Qaida. A notoriously gun-happy Ethiopian army was invited in to support the impotent government. Tens of thousands have been killed, with U.S. submarines off the Somali coast lobbing their Tomahawk missiles into crowded urban areas. Somalia has reverted to chaos and destitution, and neighboring countries are flooded with refugees. Is that really the answer to Islamist appeal?

In Lebanon and Palestine we have seen similar distortions. What no one seems to want to admit is that, rightly or wrongly, the strict Islamists — Hezbollah and Hamas — have genuine popular support. They have been able to bring some kind of order, social welfare and discipline to large areas of these societies. For their pains they are branded as 'terrorist' organizations, mainly because their discipline and support allows them to organize effective resistance to Israeli and other incursions.

The recent Israeli move to trash well-organized schools and welfare groups in the West Bank simply because they are popular and run by Hamas is barely noticed by Western media, which can think only in "terrorist" cliches. But is this, too, the answer to Islamic activist appeal?

In most Middle East conflicts the Western media seem unable even to realize that another side exists and that it has genuine ideals. But it not only exists; it can see the true picture from its own media — the wrecked houses, broken bodies, weeping widows.

What are these people supposed to do? Go home and forget about it all? Bombing Arab-language news network Al Jazeera's Qatar headquarters was one of the more ingenious suggestions from U.S. President George W. Bush.

Nor is it just in the Middle East. In Colombia it is fashionable to denounce the FARC — the antigovernment guerrillas — as terrorists. And, as in the Middle East, the U.S. is busily using its enormous resources and advanced technologies, satellite and communications intercept technologies especially, to win various one-sided victories.

But does anyone stop to think why these people have fought so well and bravely under almost impossible jungle conditions for so long? These are mainly people who have fled the massacres of hundreds of thousands of progressives, human rights advocates, farmers and trade union leaders going back to the 1960s. In many cases they are better people than their oppressors. What were they supposed to do — wait around till it was their turn to be tortured and killed?

Similarly in a host of other conflicts, both past and present — pre-1949 China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Chechnya, Kashmir and so on. People fleeing torture, death squads, arbitrary disappearance and execution, harsh discrimination and other forms of state brutality usually have no choice but to fight back.

In the same way, if some Islamists oppose foreign interventions, should they automatically be labeled terrorists to be wiped out? Surely the West with its centuries of advanced civilization can do better than that. Or maybe it was not civilization after all.

Discuss this Article

 アメリカのペンタゴンのどこか奥深く埋没して、キューバのグァンタナモ湾基地の拘留施設を取り仕切る役人がいる。その役人はルーチンの雑用 床に固定した足枷はめ、しごき看守、不法投獄、恣意的裁判、また時々の拷問実施、等々 をこなす中で、自分はテロとの戦いの一翼を担っていると信じているに違いない。
 イラクはイスラム過激派に対する西側の勝利が目前に迫っていることの例証になる、といわれている。だがそこで起こったことはすべて、単にアメリカとその仲間は過ちを犯すのを結局止めることになった、ということ。米軍がやってくる前は、イラクにはアルカイダはなかった。 彼らは不必要にスンニ派の抵抗を招いた。彼らは、かつては中東で最高レベルの教育、識字率、女性解放を獲得していた社会のひとつを破壊する助けをした。そして、彼らはこれを勝利と呼ぶのか。
 西側は、イスラムは宗教としても、一貫性ある生活様式としても、魅力を持っていることを理解する必要がある。だからこそ、宗教としてそれほどまでに多くの社会 インドネシア、マレーシア、トルコなどほんの一例 に根を下ろしている。だからこそ、ほかに一貫性のある腐敗のない政治形態が不可能なときに ガザ、アルジェリア、エジプト、サウジアラビア、アフガニスタン、中部アフリカの多くの国 にイスラム活動家がそんなに強い政治的引力を持つ。
 レバノンやパレスチナでも、同じような歪曲があった。誰ひとり認めたくないようだが、良くも悪くも、厳格なイスラム主義者 ヒズボラやハマス は、純粋に庶民の支持を得ている。彼らは、大部分のイスラム圏社会において、何らかの秩序、社会福祉、治安をもたらすことに成功していた。そうした彼等の労苦に対して、主として彼等の秩序と支援の力でイスラエルその他からの襲撃へ有効なレジスタンスが組織できたという理由から、テロリスト集団というレッテルを貼られている。
 大半の中東紛争において西側メディアは、相手側が存在すること、そして彼らが純粋な理想を持っていることに、少しでも思いめぐらすことができないらしい。だが、相手は存在するだけではない。彼らは自分たちのメディアで、真の状況を見ることができる 破壊された家屋、切れ切れの遺体、泣き叫ぶ妻たち、、、。
 こういう人々は次にどうするか。家に戻ってみな忘れてしまうだろうか。アラブ語ニュース・メディアのアルジャジーラのカタール本部の爆撃はジョージ W. ブッシュからの奇妙な名案のひとつだった。
 しかもこれは中東に限らない。コロンビアでは、FARC 反政府ゲリラ をテロリストとして糾弾するのが流行だ。そして中東と同じで、アメリカは膨大な資産、先端技術、とくに衛星・通信妨害テクニックを動員して、各分野で一方的勝利を得ようと躍起になっている。
過去・現在の他の一連の紛争 1949以前の中国、ベトナム、フィリピン、ネパール、スリランカ、チェチェン、カシミール他の も同じだ。拷問、殺人軍団、恣意的行方不明や処刑、過酷な差別など、さまざまな国家権力による暴虐から逃れようとする人々にとって、反撃する以外に何も選択肢がないのが常識だ。