-- By K.G. Kannabiran
The news of the daily bombardment of Afghan tows and the pounding of the
important cities into rubble reducing vast stretches of territory into
unlivable waste for a long time to come is disturbing. This is not the
first time though. Such events foreclose thoughts about future. A retrospective
search for sense and sanity reminded me of Shelly's commemoration of the
despair of Ozymandias of Egypt, king of kings, at his own works and the
devastation and the colossal waste, which crowned his greatness. Afghanistan,
within a span of fifty years was laid to waste by one super power after
Speaking about the Soviet occupation, Doris Lessing in her excellent account
of the Afghan war with the Soviets writes, "Beautiful parts of Afghanistan
have been reduced to desert; ancient towns, full of art treasures bombed
flat, one out of three Afghans is now dead or in exile or living in a
refugee camp. And the world remains largely indifferent.
As one Muhjahid Commander, the famous Abdul Haq Afghani, said: 'The only
really hard thing is this: in the beginning we felt the whole world was
with us, now we know we are alone.' She goes on to point out the most
modem tanks were confronted by ragged men women and children armed with
home made grenades, catapults, stones, ancient rifles and the Afghans
have won again and again'. They tied hand grenades to kites and flew them!
In 1979 the Russians with a view to subjugate Afghanistan and rule through
their puppet regime entered Afghanistan with a hundred thousand troops,
along with the sophisticated weapons, tanks, and MIG Jets which she had.
The cynicism of social imperialism can match the cynicism of arrogant
capitalism of America. Their anti personnel bombs in the form of toys
pens and fruits attracted the young and disabled thousands of children.
Their butter fly land mines are still a life hazard apart from disabling
quite few thousand innocents. They waged a continuous war against Russians
for almost a decade. They were fighting Communists so the US supported
fundamentalist forces against the Soviets and encouraged Pakistan to send
in trained guerillas to fight the Soviets. US distributed hand held anti
aircraft missile known as "Stingers" and launchers, wholesale
to the anti communist guerillas.
Their courage, ruggedness
were praised. Then the Afghans were not faulted for their spirit of jihad
or their fundamentalist faith. Speaking of the American role in this conflict
on 30th. Jan 1980, Mrs. Gandhi sharply reacted to the events in Afghanistan
saying, "We could not but feel apprehension because of the reaction
on the part of some powers to the events in Afghanistan. Pakistan asked
for military aid worth thousands of million dollars. The US has already
promised it such aid amounting to hundreds of million dollars and is trying
to persuade other countries to contribute to turning Pakistan into a military
arsenal." Indian foreign policy hanging on to the coat tails of US
now did not make any difference. We are told rather bluntly that the focus
is on world terrorism and not on our local cross border terrorism.
The present war by US is against Afghans and not just Talibans and Osama-
bin-Laden and his terrorist outfit. In the process of smoking out Osama,
who is not an Afghan, and his followers, the decimation of Afghans is
inevitable. High altitude bombing despite claims to precision targeting
will lead to collateral deaths of civilians and damage to their properties.
The dropping of food and jam with spoons, forks, and knives in plastic
will be perceived as an effort at conversion to the American way of life.
It is a strange war. It is punitive in character. It is an undefended
and to use the lawyer's expression it is uniquely an "exparte"
war. The repeated aerial bombardment and the unleashing of Tomo Hawk missiles
and other laser devices are intended to secure the presence of Osama and
his unidentifiable comrades dead or alive. Better dead than alive, as
the culture of gun slinging west will tell us. The present war is unsurpassed
in history and no other country ever undertook such large-scale destruction
of empty territory at such great cost and never at any time with such
orchestrated approval of all governments, Islamic and non-Islamic, for
this death dance. The Second World War, it was said then, was for preserving
This war is for freedom
and the American way of life. This is a war against terrorism, which still
remains undefined. The debate on the definition is still inconclusive,
but governments have an ad hoc understanding of terrorist activities.
And these have always been of their political adversaries. The definition
and the decision has been unilateral and the declaration that either you
are with us or with them left little choice to the governments of the
world. The consequence is that a Country whose people cannot all be terrorists
is reduced to rubble and the noise and heat that is generated by this
continuous bombing is likely to create an unforgettable trauma for several
generations to come. The environmental devastation may make living impossible
for some years to come. Freedom and the American way of life do not make
sense in the context of this bombardment.
While the attack on the World Trade Centre was undoubtedly an act of maniacs
the response, which unfortunately is drawing support and applause, need
not be megalomaniac. The screaming banner headline this news is drawing,
I believe, is not a sign of healthy journalism. It tends to stoke war
hysteria and the consequent responses may not be rational.
Children and Trauma
Satvik is about three and a half years old. His speech is still not clear.
His parents subscribe to the OUTLOOK, a weekly news magazine. Satvik saw
the photograph of a child injured in the bombing of Kabul, published on
the cover page of the November 12 issue of the magazine. The photograph
hurt his sensibility greatly and he questioned his parents about the cause
of the injuries received by Jawad whose face was published on the cover
of the magazine. On the next visit of his parents to their doctor, a homoeopath,
he insisted on accompanying them and took the issue of OUTLOOK along. He
showed it to the doctor and insisted that he should send medicine, somehow,
for Jawad who was lying injured.
We need not point out that the trauma caused to Satvik by the photograph
is nothing as compared to the trauma that must have been inflicted on countless
children of Kabul because of a war imposed on them.
Every war, the world over has always traumatized children and they grow
into traumatized adults. Such children and adults need special care and
medical rehabilitation. Bushs and Ladens will never understand the havoc
they are playing on humanity. -- Chief Editor