UK: Terror in the US and Middle East

Publisher Name: 
The Independent

So it has come to this. The entire modern history of the Middle
East the collapse of the Ottoman empire, the Balfour
declaration, Lawrence of Arabia's lies, the Arab revolt, the
foundation of the state of Israel, four Arab-Israeli wars and the
34 years of Israel's brutal occupation of Arab land all erased
within hours as those who claim to represent a crushed,
humiliated population struck back with the wickedness and
awesome cruelty of a doomed people. Is it fair is it moral to
write this so soon, without proof, when the last act of
barbarism, in Oklahoma, turned out to be the work of
home-grown Americans? I fear it is. America is at war and,
unless I am mistaken, many thousands more are now
scheduled to die in the Middle East, perhaps in America too.
Some of us warned of "the explosion to come''. But we never
dreamt this nightmare.

And yes, Osama bin Laden comes to mind, his money, his
theology, his frightening dedication to destroy American power.
I have sat in front of bin Laden as he described how his men
helped to destroy the Russian army in Afghanistan and thus
the Soviet Union. Their boundless confidence allowed them to
declare war on America. But this is not the war of democracy
versus terror that the world will be asked to believe in the
coming days. It is also about American missiles smashing into
Palestinian homes and US helicopters firing missiles into a
Lebanese ambulance in 1996 and American shells crashing
into a village called Qana and about a Lebanese militia paid
and uniformed by America's Israeli ally hacking and raping
and murdering their way through refugee camps.

No, there is no doubting the utter, indescribable evil of what
has happened in the United States. That Palestinians could
celebrate the massacre of 20,000, perhaps 35,000 innocent
people is not only a symbol of their despair but of their political
immaturity, of their failure to grasp what they had always been
accusing their Israeli enemies of doing: acting
disproportionately. All the years of rhetoric, all the promises to
strike at the heart of America, to cut off the head of "the
American snake'' we took for empty threats. How could a
backward, conservative, undemocratic and corrupt group of
regimes and small, violent organisations fulfil such
preposterous promises? Now we know.

And in the hours that followed yesterday's annihilation, I began
to remember those other extraordinary assaults upon the US
and its allies, miniature now by comparison with yesterday's
casualties. Did not the suicide bombers who killed 241
American servicemen and 100 French paratroops in Beirut on
23 October 1983, time their attacks with unthinkable precision?

There were just seven seconds between the Marine bombing
and the destruction of the French three miles away. Then there
were the attacks on US bases in Saudi Arabia, and last year's
attempt almost successful it now turns out to sink the USS
Cole in Aden. And then how easy was our failure to recognise
the new weapon of the Middle East which neither Americans
nor any other Westerners could equal: the despair-driven,
desperate suicide bomber.

And there will be, inevitably, and quite immorally, an attempt to
obscure the historical wrongs and the injustices that lie behind
yesterday's firestorms. We will be told about "mindless
terrorism'', the "mindless" bit being essential if we are not to
realise how hated America has become in the land of the birth
of three great religions.

Ask an Arab how he responds to 20,000 or 30,000 innocent
deaths and he or she will respond as decent people should,
that it is an unspeakable crime. But they will ask why we did
not use such words about the sanctions that have destroyed
the lives of perhaps half a million children in Iraq, why we did
not rage about the 17,500 civilians killed in Israel's 1982
invasion of Lebanon. And those basic reasons why the Middle
East caught fire last September the Israeli occupation of Arab
land, the dispossession of Palestinians, the bombardments
and state-sponsored executions ... all these must be obscured
lest they provide the smallest fractional reason for yesterday's
mass savagery.

No, Israel was not to blame though we can be sure that
Saddam Hussein and the other grotesque dictators will claim
so but the malign influence of history and our share in its
burden must surely stand in the dark with the suicide bombers.
Our broken promises, perhaps even our destruction of the
Ottoman Empire, led inevitably to this tragedy. America has
bankrolled Israel's wars for so many years that it believed this
would be cost-free. No longer so. But, of course, the US will
want to strike back against "world terror'', and last night's
bombardment of Kabul may have been the opening salvo.
Indeed, who could ever point the finger at Americans now for
using that pejorative and sometimes racist word "terrorism''?

Eight years ago, I helped to make a television series that tried
to explain why so many Muslims had come to hate the West.
Last night, I remembered some of those Muslims in that film,
their families burnt by American-made bombs and weapons.
They talked about how no one would help them but God.
Theology versus technology, the suicide bomber against the
nuclear power. Now we have learnt what this means.

AMP Section Name:Human Rights
  • 116 Human Rights