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Open season of hostility against the World of Islam
By Karamatullah K. Ghori

Toronto: The collapse of the archaic Taliban forces against the mightiest military war machine in the world was inevitable and foretold. However, it is the alacrity of the collapse which has not only unleashed euphoria in the hearts of the new ‘ crusaders ‘ from the west, but also whetted their appetite for more of the same elsewhere in the so-called ‘ rogue states’, all of whom happen to be in the Islamic world.

The war drums which have never fell silent in Washington since September 11 are beating ever more loudly, now that there is a whiff of electrifying victory in the air by the superior American armed forces against a rag tag army of religious zealots. The war lobby, spearheaded by Vice President Dick Cheney and Defence Secretary Donal Rumsfeld, is egging Bush to move on to another turf. 

Not that Bush needs any prompting to flex his own muscles. Largely on his own steam, he has been pursuing his own ‘ crusade’ with a missionary zeal . Lightning success against the Taliban has made his body language and speech more and more hectoring. With increasing frequency and pugnacity , he has been thumping every platform to repeat his pet phraseology of " smoking out " the enemy, " taking the war to them ", dismantling them "piece by piece ", and taking them " dead or alive." This is the language of a warlord, not a statesman he is supposed to be. Bush has injected a new vocabulary in the lexicon of American presidents none of whom had ever used the kind of jargon which has quickly become his hallmark.

The warmongers in the Bush administration are churlishly keen, nearly desperate, that now that the ‘ war’ against the hated Taliban is almost over, the overcharged military juggernaut must not stop there but move on to ignite Phase Two. For this much-touted and avidly talked- about Phase Two, the list of ‘ enemies’ is topped by Iraq, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, to be precise. Messers Cheney-Rumsfeld and company, robustly assisted by the national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, are beseeching Bush that he owes it to history to fulfill the incomplete legacy of his father and finish off Saddam . It is now or never, according to their argument. Any dithering or dilly-dallying, they contend, would allow Saddam to acquire nuclear power as well, in addition to—they are convinced—his arsenal of chemical and biological weapons.

The ever- vigilant and hyper-active Jewish lobby is also throwing its own considerable weight in the balance to tip the scales in favour of unleashing another blitz against Iraq. Their argument runs something like this. There is an alibi against Saddam’s complicity in the September 11 crime of terrorism. America doesn’t have to produce evidence before the world that Saddam was involved (it never did against the Taliban). If Condoleezza Rice says that one of the suspected hijackers of September 11 had met an Iraqi agent in Prague, according to a wishy-washy Czech intelligence report, that is ‘credible’ evidence enough to condemn Saddam and Iraq. Her word is law as much as her master’s.

They argue that removing the ‘ cancer ’of Saddam now would have a salutary effect on the whole political ambience in the region. Saddam gone, there would be no more a need to keep the large U.S. military contingent on the soil of Saudi Arabia—one grudge that Osama bin Laden magnified to whip up hatred against the Americans. Also, Saddam’s demise would appease the war pundits in Israel, and there may be a better climate to accommodate the Palestinian demands. In other words, all would be hunky-dory in the Middle East if only Saddam were removed from power. Neat, very neat. They have pinpointed the hub of the problem in Middle East, and are leaving it to Bush to follow suit on their ‘logical’ advice.

Not that Bush is not being influenced by their perverted logic. He is definitely being swayed by this constant counsel of war, if his recent pronouncements and utterances were taken into account. He has called upon Saddam to let the UN arms inspectors back into Iraq—so they may resume their spying activities with a new vigour—or else be ready to "face the consequences." He did not specify these ‘ consequences ’. But when pressed to be more specific on his follow-up if Saddam, as expected, would turn down his demand, Bush added, menacingly : " he’ll find out." There couldn’t be a more threatening posture by him in favour of war against Iraq. No further elaboration about his ultimate intent on Iraq is needed given the war hysteria that has Washington in its thrall.

There are, however, certain glitches and palpable flaws in the rosy scenario,of an easy victory over Saddam, as painted by the legions of his American detractors in the special - interest lobbies, news media, the world of academia and those fabled ‘ think tanks’. Some of the obstacles may be daunting.

The most formidable disincentive is that the ‘ alliance’ against terrorism that Bush has cobbled together may instantly fizzle out in case war was taken to Iraq. Not to mention the Islamic component of this marriage-of-convenience crumbling, even a robust ally like Britain may find it hard to come up with enough legitimacy to stay on in the ‘crusade’. There are already considerable differences on policy in regard to Afghanistan , where Tony Blair seeks a more reconstruction-oriented stance while Bush wants to pilot a single item agenda only, i.e., the capture or murder of bin Laden. France and Germany, two major pillars of the European alliance have categorically debunked any idea of extending the ongoing war to Iraq.

Some sobering military strategists also fear that the tough and disciplined Iraqi army may prove to be a far more resilient adversary than the Taliban were. Iraq will not be a push-over , no matter how massively the Americans may bomb it to their heart’s content.

Many a pundit are also ruing the absence of a Trojan horse-Northern Alliance in Iraq which could pave the way for American interests the way it has done in Afghanistan. The Iraqi National Congress ( ANC ), a disparate group of inconsequential people that CIA has long been pampering in the hope of transforming it into a real opposition to Saddam is just meaningless. Many of its stalwarts have criminal records not just in Iraq but in many neighbouring countries,too. Worse for the American designs, these people have zero following inside Iraq. These thugs, rogues and poltroons couldn’t be conceived by even the worst enemies of Saddam in Iraq as an alternative to him.

Then there is this morbid fear haunting the doves in Washington that given the possibility of Saddam being toppled from power , Iraq may not remain intact as a nation. They fear at least a three-way breakup of Iraq if anarchy is triggered by a vengeful U.S. That may tempt some neighbours to grab territory from Iraq, for reasons of ethnicity or pure economic gains.

The worst-case scenario that the Washington moderates can foresee is the loss of the moral high ground that America has up to this point in the war against terrorism. That bubble will burst the moment Iraq is targeted on flimsy or no evidence of alleged complicity in September 11. The Islamic world will then have incontrovertible evidence of this war being what Bush described it in the heat of the moment—a crusade against the world of Islam. The moderates in the Muslim world, who have been trying to contain the sense of outrage common in the ummah will lose all moral legitimacy; the militants, straining on the leash, will then have a field day. Bin Laden will have been proved right by sheer default.

The Bush moderates are rightly conscious of all these nuances , subtleties and fragilities. They take fright at the appalling likely consequences of opening a Pandora’s box in Iraq. However, the hawks, desperate to settle scores with Saddam, do not wish to let any such constraints stand in their way. They see Saddam in a corner where they always wanted him to be; they think he should now be dealt the coup de grace and get done with. They also think they have the Islamic world on the defensive under the barrage of incessant propaganda about the collective ‘ guilt’ of the Muslims, wherever they may be, for the horror of September 11. For them, it is open season to take the war , one by one, to all the ‘ rogues’ in the Islamic world and teach them all a lesson they will not forget.

For the moment, Bush, to use a fashionable Washington phrase, is, ‘ruling nothing in, and nothing out.’ He is keeping his options open. But he is not given to playing his cards close to his chest. In his exuberance to play to the gallery—currently packed with ‘ hawks’ edgy and eager to strike terror in the heart of Islam—he has been dropping hints aplenty as to which side his scales would tilt. Much as he himself, or his loyal tribunes, may go on protesting that it is not a war on Islam, or against the Muslims, their actions, body language, and deliberate gaffes suggest otherwise.

Tail piece : 34 years old Jehad Al Iwewi is a Canadian of Arab Muslim descent. He is an enterprising young man and is Executive Director of the Canadian Arab Federation. In 1994 he was issued an exclusive ‘vanity’ license plate for his car inscribed with his name, JEHAD. He was recently asked to surrender his license plate because, in the words of the Deputy Registrar of the Ontario Ministry of Transportation, the inscription on it ‘may be considered offensive to the general public.’ Tomorrow they may ask him to change his name because that too may raise some hackles. And yet political leaders all over the western world vehemently deny that it is a war against Islam or Muslims.

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