[Reader-list] fighting america's enemies...r. fisk article

zehra rizvi fatimazehrarizvi at hotmail.com
Tue Sep 25 22:17:55 IST 2001


Robert Fisk: This is not a war on terror. It's a fight
against America's enemies

25 September 2001

'We are being asked to support a war whose aims appear to
be as misleading as they are secretive'

While covering the Russian occupation of Afghanistan, I
would, from time to time, drive down through Jalalabad and
cross the Pakistan border to Peshawar to rest. In the
cavernous, stained interior of the old Intercontinental Hotel, I
would punch out my stories on a groaning telex machine
beside an office bearing the legend "Chief Accountant" on the
door. On the wall next to that office – I don't know if it was the
Chief Accountant who put it there – was a framed piece of
paper bearing four lines of Kipling that I still remember:

A scrimmage at a border station

A canter down a dark defile

Five thousand pounds of education

Felled by a five-rupee jezail

Or, I suppose today, a Kalashnikov AK-47, home-produced in
Quetta, or one of those slick little Blowpipe missiles that we
handed over to the mujahedin with such abandon in the early
Eighties so that they could kill their – and our – Russian

But I've been thinking more about the defiles, the gorges and
overhanging mountains, the sheer rock walls 4,000 feet in
height, the caves and the massive tunnels which Osama bin
Laden cut through the mountains. Here, presumably, are the
"holes" from which the Wes is going to "smoke out" Mr bin
Laden, always supposing that he's been obliging enough to
run away and hide in them. For there is already a growing
belief – founded on our own rhetoric – that Mr bin Laden and
his men are on the run, seeking their hiding places.

I'm not so certain. I'm very doubtful about what Mr bin Laden is
doing right now. In fact, I'm not at all sure what we – the West
– are doing. True, our destroyers and aircraft carriers and
fighter aircraft and heavy bombers and troops are massing in
the general region of the Gulf. Our SAS boys – so they say in
the Middle East – are already climbing around northern
Afghanistan, in the region still controlled by the late Shah
Masoud's forces. But what exactly are we planning to do?
Kidnap Mr bin Laden? Storm his camps and kill the lot of
them, Mr bin Laden and all his Algerian, Egyptian, Jordanian,
Syrian and Gulf Arabs?

Or is Mr bin Laden merely chapter one of our new Middle
Eastern adventure, to be broadened later to include Iraq, the
overthrow of Saddam Hussein, the destruction of the
Lebanese Hezbollah, the humbling of Syria, the humiliation of
Iran, the reimposition of yet another fraudulent "peace
process" between Israel and the Palestinians?

If this seems fanciful, you should listen to what's coming out
of Washington and Tel Aviv. While The New York Times
Pentagon sources are suggesting that Saddam may be
chapter two, the Israelis are trying to set up Lebanon – the
"centre of international terror" according to Israeli prime
minister Ariel Sharon – for a bombing run or two, along with
Yasser Arafat's little garbage tip down in Gaza where the
Israelis have discovered, mirabile dictu, a "bin Laden cell".

The Arabs, of course, would also like an end to world terror.
But they would like to include a few other names on the list.
Palestinians would like to see Mr Sharon picked up for the
Sabra and Chatila massacre, a terrorist slaughter carried out
by Israel's Lebanese allies – who were trained by the Israeli
army – in 1982. At 1,800 dead, that's only a quarter of the
number killed on 11 September. Syrians in Hama would like
to put Rifaat Al-Assad, the brother of the late president, on
their list of terrorists for the mass killings perpetrated by his
Defence Brigades in the city of Hama in the same year. At
20,000, that's more than double the 11 September death toll.

The Lebanese would like trials for the Israeli officers who
planned the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982, which killed
17,500 people, most of them civilians – again, well over twice
the 11 September statistic. Christian Sudanese would like
President Omar al-Bashir arraigned for mass murder.

But, as the Americans have made clear, it's their own terrorist
enemies they are after, not their terrorist friends or those
terrorists who have been slaughtering populations outside
American "spheres of interest". Even those terrorists who live
comfortably in the US but have not harmed America are safe:
take, for example, the pro-Israeli militiaman who murdered two
Irish UN soldiers in southern Lebanon in 1980 and who now
live in Detroit after flying safely out of Tel Aviv. The Irish have
the name and address, if the FBI are interested – but of
course they're not.

So we are not really being asked to fight "world terror". We
are being asked to fight America's enemies. If that means
bagging the murderers behind the atrocities in New York and
Washington, few would object. But it does raise the question
of why those thousands of innocents are more important –
more worthy of our effort and perhaps blood – than all the
other thousands of innocents. And it also raises a much more
disturbing question: whether or not the crime against
humanity committed in the US on 11 September is to be met
with justice – or a brutal military assault intended to extend
American political power in the Middle East.

Either way, we are being asked to support a war whose aims
appear to be as misleading as they are secretive. We are told
by the Americans that this war will be different to all others.
But one of the differences appears to be that we don't know
who we are going to fight and how long we are going to fight
for. Certainly, no new political initiative, no real political
engagement in the Middle East, no neutral justice is likely to
attend this open-ended conflict. The despair and humiliation
and suffering of the Middle East peoples do not figure in our
war aims – only American and European despair and
humiliation and suffering.

As for Mr bin Laden, no one believes the Taliban are genuinely
ignorant of his whereabouts. He is in Afghanistan. But has he
really gone to ground? During the Russian war, he would
emerge, again and again, to fight Afghanistan's Russian
occupiers, to attack the world's second superpower. Wounded
six times, he was a master of the tactical ambush, as the
Russians found out to their cost. Evil and wicked do not come
close to describing the mass slaughter in the US. But – if it
was Mr bin Laden's work – that does not mean he would not
fight again. And he would be fighting on home ground. There
are plenty of dark defiles into which we may advance. And
plenty of cheap rifles to shoot at us. And that wouldn't be a
"new kind of war" at all.

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