Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Al-Zawahiri vs. U.S. policy

CNN.com - New al-Zawahiri tape lashes U.S. policy - Feb 20,

"Guantanamo exposes the reality of the reform and the democracy that America is trying to spread in the region." Al-Zawahiri added that if people believe the "so-called elected governments will protect you, you are wrong. This new crusade will end with your defeat, the killing of your sons and the destruction of your economy."
Someone at Sony Records should seriously consider taking on the sprawling carriers of the Al-Qaeda leaders. At the rhythm they release these tapes, they would probably have gone Platinum a long while ago! In a more serious way, though, it is interesting to see the poliical discourse of Al-Qaeda morphing, and maturing, making a point to attack nominal US policies, and laying out a political strategy, that is more artiulate than "you are the Great Satan, we will tear you to ashes". One can see an effort, by Al-Qaeda, to play "with the big kids" of Politics, and engaging them - albeit in an unorthodox and murderous way - on their own turf.

Now. Terrorism, in all its forms (Al-Qaeda's, the IRA's, ETA's or that of other states who use the cover of their statehood to justify it), is not justifiable, in my opinion, because
it tends to affect and take the lives of innocent civilian people, who usually have little or no knowledge of the struggle/cause/motives/lunacy in the name of which they are dying. And that just feels plain wrong, and it is an affront to most people's internal sense of fairness. Additionally, I do believe that "the only thing to fear, is fear itself", and terrorists tend to bring forth in us - literally - our deepest feelings of terror and helplessness.

But the above notwithsatnding, I believe it is irresponsible for governments around the World, and the US government in particular, to refuse to take a look into what has become a taboo notion: the root causes of terrorism. Middle-Easterners are not Barbarians as some might want to have us believe. If a person - man, woman, teenager - gets to the point when they believe that their only option for salvation, for saving their families and their country, religion, people, etc, is to strap a bomb on, and blow themselves up in a mall, I don't care where you are from, that person must be very desperate, and must feel quite helpless... And such levels of plight do not just happen. They have causes - call them excuses if you want, and people must have the political will, and the gutts to revisit the skeletons in their closets, and address these issues.

Among governments with skeletons in their closets, the US government is perceived to be pretty high on the list: Chile, Saudi Arabia, Israel-Palestine, Congo, Mozambique, Iran, Panama, Nicaragua, Philipines, Cuba, Iraq, and possibly now Venezuela, Iran, and Syria... So many elements of US foreign policy in the past and present, that the US government seems to want people to turn the page on. The problem is, though, that pages are not turned until you finish reading them... And many of these people who are fighting in such terrorist organizations have not finished reading, and some of what they have read still angers them very much!

So, do I justify terrorists? Most definitely NOT!!!! I would be stupid and heartless. But I can understand the motives, while at the same time disagreing with the methods for addressing them (i.e: Saddam needed to be stopped, but I don't believe Pres. Bush went about it the right way, at the right time). See, in some parts of the World like the Mid-East and Africa, it is assumed that the only language the West will understand is violence. Our long history of colonialism, and imperialism, does not serve well the notion of possible dialogue. Moreover, people have seen how N. Korea, Iran, India and Pakistan, have achieved high-status by arming themselves with the Nuclear bomb.

The West has therefore a lot of work to do, to convince people of its good intentions (if indeed it has good intentions beyond securing access to our resources, which I sometimes doubt). And part of that convincing work, begins with honestly addressing the painful past of the West's relationship with these places, starting - unfortunately this is true - with the crusades, all the way to the Slave trade, Racism, "Religionism", Colonialism, White man's burden and manifest destiny, economic exploitation (which continues today ), "2 weights, 2 measures" method in the Mid-East, and Cold War dictatorships and assassinations (some of which are still there today). Then, we can truly start talking about "winning hearts and minds" to the values of democracy, freedom and social welfare that are so dear to my heart.

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