Short term poli­cies cause long term suf­fer­ing

And at­ti­tudes fil­ter down from the top

Pakistan Today (Karachi) - - COMMENT - RABIA AHMED Rabia Ahmed is a free­lance colum­nist. Read more by her at

BARACK Obama is a lucky man, a highly ed­u­cated, in­tel­li­gent, dig­ni­fied and elo­quent man, with an equally in­tel­li­gent and el­e­gant wife. He had sev­eral achieve­ments as Pres­i­dent, and health care re­form was one of them. An­other was that he put an end to cer­tain in­ter­ro­ga­tion tech­niques that had been ini­ti­ated by the pre­vi­ous gov­ern­ment. There were oth­ers.

What makes Obama luck­ier is that he has been suc­ceeded by a per­son who makes him look even bet­ter.

Trump loses out big time by com­par­i­son. Had he not been so ham-handed there would be more ques­tions about the Obama gov­ern­ment’s role in Syria and the con­cur­rent tragedy in Aleppo. As it is, all that might be ex­am­ined later. For now the fo­cus is on rad­i­cal­ism and ter­ror­ism, which Trumps poli­cies are very likely to ex­ac­er­bate.

In his in­au­gu­ral ad­dress, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump vowed to fight rad­i­cal Is­lamic ter­ror­ism and “erad­i­cate it from the face of the earth,” promis­ing that “We will re­in­force old al­liances and form new ones and unite the civilised world against rad­i­cal Is­lamic ter­ror­ism.”

You wish he’d share his plans for do­ing that, since most of the world would love to erad­i­cate ter­ror­ism, Is­lamic or oth­er­wise. We in Pakistan suf­fer from it as much as any other coun­try. Just re­cently there was a blast in a bazaar in Parachi­nar which was said to be caused by an IED, for which the Lashkar-eJhangvi and the Tehreek-e-Tal­iban Pakistan are said to be re­spon­si­ble.

Of course ter­ror­ism stems from no sin­gle quar­ter, and the def­i­ni­tion can be broad­ened to in­clude any sit­u­a­tion that cre­ates ter­ror and de­struc­tion. The Amer­i­can at­tack on Iraq fol­low­ing 9/11 can be called ter­ror­ism. So can the war in Afghanistan, and way back be­fore ei­ther of th­ese - the nu­clear bombs in Na­gasaki and Hiroshima when mil­lions died. Most civil­i­sa­tions have com­mit­ted ter­ror­ism at some stage or an­other. The in­ten­tion is not to jus­tify the act, but to iden­tify a fact. Ja­pan’s Min­istry of For­eign Af­fairs ac­knowl­edged the role of Ja­panese sol­diers in dam­age and suf­fer­ing in World War II, and ear­lier un­der Em­peror Hiro­hito when mil­lions of peo­ple were mas­sa­cred and ex­per­i­mented upon.

There were Ger­man war crimes, they were also ter­ror­ism. When the Wehrma­cht had con­trol of Poland, hun­dreds of towns and vil­lages were burned and the Wehrma­cht car­ried out more than seven hun­dred mass ex­e­cu­tions. Al­to­gether, it is es­ti­mated that more than six­teen thou­sand Poles fell vic­tim to th­ese atroc­i­ties.

Dur­ing the Sec­ond Boer War, the Bri­tish rounded up around a sixth of the Boer pop­u­la­tion - mainly women and chil­dren - and de­tained them in over­crowded camps. Of the more than hun­dred thou­sand peo­ple in­terned in the camps, more than twenty thou­sand Bo­ers died, along with an un­known num­ber of black Africans.

When peace­ful pro­test­ers de­fied a gov­ern­ment or­der and demon­strated against Bri­tish colo­nial rule in Am­rit­sar, In­dia, on 13 April 1919, they were trapped in­side the walled Jal­lian­wala Gar­dens and fired upon by sol­diers. The sol­diers, un­der the or­ders of Bri­gadier Regi­nald Dyer, fired un­til they ran out of am­mu­ni­tion, killing hun­dreds of pro­test­ers and in­jur­ing more than a thou­sand within 10 min­utes. Bri­gadier Dyer was later held up as a hero by the Bri­tish pub­lic, which raised thou­sands of pounds as re­ward for him.

Pakistan is no land of the pure. Its war crimes in Ben­gal come un­der the ti­tle ‘geno­cide,’ when in 1971 the Pakistan army and its sup­port­ing rad­i­cal mili­tia killed and raped be­tween 300,000–500,000 Ben­gali men, women and chil­dren. Some sources say this fig­ure is too low.

What else were all th­ese acts, but ter­ror­ism?

So, yes, the world does face a prob­lem with ter­ror­ism. And yes it cur­rently also faces the prob­lem of so called ‘Is­lamic’ rad­i­cal ter­ror­ism in a big way. But will a Trump style wall and ex­clu­sion­ist poli­cies achieve any im­prove­ment?

At­ti­tudes tend to fil­ter down from the top. Acts that peo­ple are afraid or ashamed of, be­come kosher when they are sup­ported or in­dulged in by the pow­ers that be them­selves. Which makes it rather a du­bi­ous start to a ji­had against ter­ror­ism to have Don­ald Trump as Pres­i­dent, a man whose sor­did lan­guage and at­ti­tude to­wards women is not un­like that of the Tal­iban as evinced in Afghanistan. You can strip them, or whip them, where’s the dif­fer­ence?

Ever since Don­ald Trump won the elec­tion, racism and misog­yny have been on the rise on Amer­i­can streets and cam­puses.

Rad­i­cal­ism and ter­ror­ism are fos­tered by re­sent­ment, al­though those are not the only causes. Don­ald Trump has promised to over­turn Obama Care. In one of his first steps as pres­i­dent, Mr Trump has signed an ex­ec­u­tive or­der tar­get­ing the health care re­forms of his pre­de­ces­sor. If that does not cre­ate re­sent­ment, it would be very sur­pris­ing, just as the ‘in­ter­ro­ga­tion tech­niques’ Obama put an end to must have con­trib­uted to re­sent­ment.

It re­ally is time that the Amer­i­can Gov­ern­ment ceased in­dulging in short term poli­cies, just like gov­ern­ments in Pakistan. It was Amer­i­can short term poli­cies in Afghanistan that helped cre­ate the Tal­iban, Al-Qaeda and the ISIS, a cre­ation Pakistan had an equal hand in. Gov­ern­ments, if they re­ally wish to erad­i­cate ter­ror­ism, should stop con­tribut­ing to­wards it.

It is time the mil­i­tary and arms houses took the back seat and acted upon saner ad­vice. Per­haps from think tanks. But all this will be dif­fi­cult while the present gov­ern­ment is in the White House.

Amer­ica is truly a great coun­try, and one wishes it well. But this time you won­der what they have brought upon them­selves, and upon the rest of the world.

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