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Published in the 16-31 Jan 2005 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

Vested Interests, their goals and expressions

Language and Intent

By Ram Puniyani

Last few years have seen the intensification of the global phenomenon, which is trying to demonize Islam and in turn Muslims all over. US administration is subtly propagating that it is the backward Islamic civilization which is the threat to advanced Western civilization. George Bush went to the extent of stating that 'they' (Muslims ) are against our freedom and development. Also he declared Crusade in the wake of World Trade Center attack and then went on to launch an aggression on Afghanistan. Apart from the aggression it was projected that US wants to bring in democracy in Afghanistan.

The attack on Iraq was preceded by the search for Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)and finally it boiled down to protecting the Iraqis from the tyranny of Saddam Husain. The current slogan is to deal with the threat from Islam. One recalls that after the collapse of Soviet states began, in the aftermath of Ayatollah's Islamic revolution, Islam came to be presented as the new threat to the World, following the threat from Communism, which was supposed to have been finally decimated with the withering away of ‘socialist' systems in USSR and other such states.

Just preceding this in the cold war era, most of the aggressions were launched by US on the grounds of defense of freedom and democracy and USSR not to be left behind in its 'export of socialism' and National liberation struggles did militarily occupy few of the countries in the World.

One is confronted with the dichotomy of the real intentions of the Imperial powers, their material and political ambitions and the language employed by them in the process. A large section of society does buy this propaganda, silently approves the policies of these states and thanks the Lord for the mercies being offered by the Imperial powers.

To begin with, one can see the trajectory beginning with the eras of Kings, who launched Crusades, Jihads or Dharmyudhas. The name of religion was used to arouse the people to participate in the wars, the expansion of empires being the major aim but that being presented as a religious matter. Most of the wars violate the basic dictum of love and amity, an integral part of many a religious teachings. Still the legitimacy of the wars was derived from religious identity of the kings, the warring one's. Religion or religious sects were blatantly used to gain power or throne. Many a times the princes were done away by rivals on the grounds of being a heretic or belonging to 'other' sect of religion. One has to question whether these were wars between the people of two religions or were they wars between two different kings for the sake of expanding their power. This uncritical acceptance that Christians fought for their holy place or the like does not have much substance. Religious values were not the driving force of these wars and the army was also exhorted by creating hatred against other religions or against the religion of other rulers. But this did act as a powerful appeal for many to participate and lay down their lives, acting as cannon fodders for their kings, their rulers.

Closer in time, colonialism was a major phenomenon which occupied the major part of the World. Many a European nations who set out for trade did realize that their advanced technolgy is an advantage and they can occupy the countries as a whole and plunder levels can be taken to the sky. This occupation of other countries for trade, and plunder of raw materials came to be called as 'White Man's Burden', the burden of European nations to civilize the 'barbarians'. White man's burden gave legitimacy to the worst type of cruelties and exploitation by some European Nations. The colonies were sucked dry of their resources and the colonial powers also laid down the foundation of divide and rule policies, the ills of which many of the post colonial states are suffering even to this day.

When the National liberation movements picked up, the colonial powers had to pack up and leave the physical possession of colonies. This was not an easy thing for them. To leave the fertile fields, offering free resources must have been a setback of sorts. They did resist it and prolonged it as far as possible. Many a National liberation struggles put on the red flag, the flag of communist ideology, the flag of socialist system, the flag of state controlled economy to be able to stand in the market dominated by capitalist, 'free world'. Example of Vietnam, Iran and Chile are chilling enough reminders of the language used by the emerging imperialist power, the US. In Iran when the oil wells were nationalized to get rid of the control of the US and British oil companies, it was labeled as the end of freedom, and so Mosadeq's Govt was overthrown by the CIA coup and a descendent of Pehlavi's dynasty was imposed as the chief of Iran. Let's note the language and the intent at each such step. Vietnam's struggle for Independence was opposed as the Vietcong were red. End of freedom again, so US steps in to save freedom, strafes the civilians of Vietnam, thousands perish. In this case Vietnamese gurillas left body bags, American soldiers in the coffins, whose lives were more precious for the US administration and this was one case where imperialism did not 'succeeded' in defending the 'freedom'. Chile's Salvador Allende, a Marxist got elected through democratic means, nationalized the copper mines. End of 'freedom' again. US brings in the most tyrannical military dictator Pinochet who does a 'good job' of preserving US economic and political interests and in the process 'freedom' is saved yet again. These dime a dozen examples time and over again point to the US agenda in the world and its total violation of norms of civic society and democracy.

During next decade the language takes turn, there is no threat from the Communism, and the major theater of exploitation lies in the oil zone, which is inhabited by Muslims. Language is transformed. It becomes 'saving the world from the threat of Islamic terrorism'. No doubt currently the extent of terrorism is maximum in the middle east which is the big repository of oil. In this case the US, devil's workshop first invented Jihad to attack communism, the USSR occupation of Afghanistan. Since it had burnt its fingers while 'protecting freedom' in Vietnam, the new strategy, which was thought of was to train the young frustrated Muslim youth into Jehadis, indoctrinating them that communists do not believe in Allah, they are occupying Afghanistan, go and attack them. For implementing the strategy Al Qaeda is brought up, Osama being one of the precious trainees of the CIA. With occupation of Afghanistan vacated, the Al Qaeda probably sees the game of US and turns its guns against US. One is not very sure about the basic cause of this turn. Attack on World Trade Center follows, 3000 dead. This gives the ideal pretext to the US administration to launch a crusade by attacking hapless Afghanistan. sixty thousand lay dead, but one major station is established to control the oil of Caspian sea. Here there is one insoluble puzzle, the one of the relationship between the US hawk Bush and the terrorist Osama bin Laden. Osama gives Bush the pretext to attack Afghanistan on the platter. He is not caught despite Afghanistan being totally ravaged. He is living his own life or death to resurface just few days prior to US elections where Bush gains several notches up through the threatening video released by Osama. The timing is perfect! Bush comes back to power and might have sent a thank you card to Osama.

To back all this up Samuel Huntington and others present the theories of Clash of Civilization and Good Muslim Bad Muslim (Title of Mahmood Mamdani's brilliant book on the subject).The theories are sold to the average people and these become part of manufacturing consent for US media and administration. Further than this, it also helps to polarize the liberal and conservative Americans as never before. Do civilizations clash? K. R. Narayanan, one of India's most humane Presidents, went on to remark that civilizations don't clash, it is barbarisms which clash. Edward Said stated brilliantly that clashes are not between civilizations, they are intra civilizational. People are good and bad not because of religion but because of multiple social, economic and political factors. But how do all these simple and basic understandings matter, when what is at stake is the plunder of wealth and raw materials. What is at stake is the appropriation of power by the vested interests?

World today is passing through one of the most severe negative polarizations in the history. The progressive trends which emerged during the decades from 1950s to 1970s are being mauled and progressive value systems are being pushed in the reverse gear. The projection of politics in the name of religion was never so bad, the abuse of religion for political agenda never so frightening. The results of this can be totally divisive for communities living together. Terrorism, Islamic terrorism is becoming a part of social common sense. One third of World population of Muslims will be suspect in this scheme of things. What better ground can be there for breeding of terrorism. Terrorism is the horrendous phenomenon stalking the world. But it is not a disease, it is the symptom of the deeper disease called Imperialism. Where should we focus our energies to eradicate this criminal phenomenon, on the basic disease of imperialism or on its outcome the terrorism. The languages of vested interests are deceptive and cleverly chosen to get the sanction for their deeper political and economic agenda. We can see Crusade-Jehad-Drarmayudh, Whte man's burden, defense of freedom and threat of Islamic terrorism as the different languages adopted by the vested interests, for power and pelf.

Lets try to go deep and strive for a world of transparency, put moral values in their place, derived from religions or from the concept of Human rights. But this does require global movements related not to this or that religion, related not to this or that Nation but to the Humanity as a whole.
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