You have to stand guard over the development and maintenance of democracy, social justice and the equality of mankind in your own native soil. [Mohammed Ali Jinnah]

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Learning from US follies

THERE has been an interesting and heartening development in Somalia. Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed has been elected the new president of the country by their parliament and earned UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon’s congratulations (Feb 2).

Here, it is important to recall a few facts. In 2006, Sheikh Ahmed, who is considered by all sides to be a moderate leader, had been at the helm of the Islamist group called Islamic Courts Union (ICU), which was fighting to oust the ineffective transitional government created by the US-led international community.

By December 2006 the ICU had taken control of much of southern Somalia and restored peace to the territory, bringing to an end the warlords’ thuggery and lawlessness of the previous 16 years. However, this had alarmed Washington which, as usual, saw an Al Qaeda connection, despite ICU’s denials, and so it pushed Ethiopia into invading its neighbour to kick out the Islamists. The Americans themselves launched air and sea-based attacks on some hardliners.

In this period, the militant wing of the ICU, named Al Shabaab, allegedly aligned itself with Al Qaeda and was, by last December, controlling 90 per cent of southern Somalia. The tragedy is, if the US had not intervened two years earlier to rout the ICU-led by Sheikh Ahmed, radicalism wouldn’t have gone through the roof, taking thousands of civilian lives.

Ironically, the US representative has now welcomed the election of the same Sheikh as the president of the Horn of Africa nation! This illustrates the senselessness of American policies. As in case of the Iraqi invasion, apart from the Muslims, many Europeans (think tanks and analysts) had been stressing the need to include the Somali Islamists in the power sharing, but Washington’s extreme paranoia about Al Qaeda et al makes it act irrationally in all such situations.

Consider Pakistan. For the past several years, the US has constantly sabotaged all attempts by Islamabad to sign peace agreements with the Taliban and other militants. On several occasions it even resorted to air strikes a day or so before the treaty was due to be inked, in order to provoke the volatile tribesmen and scuttle the event.

The result is a manifold increase in radicalism and the situation now is of intense mistrust and hostility between the Taliban and the establishment, which is unlikely to end for years, if ever.Another significant fact is that according to reports in a section of the electronic media of Feb 1 (partly reported in Dawn, Feb 2), Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup, chief of the British defence staff, has made several observations that are in line with what other British commanders and diplomats have been saying.

He said Taliban can only be defeated politically rather than militarily; that the American drone attacks on Pakistan are counterproductive and that the Karzai government’s weakness is causing difficulties for the British troops in Afghanistan, which implies problems for others as well, including Pakistan.

In view of these ground realities, it is extremely important for Islamabad to review its strategy for a war, which the Musharraf regime converted into its own, and the present government has been following suit. Premier Gilani felt constrained to observe in Davos and foreign Minister Qureshi, in different words in Multan, the other day that the American strategy has failed in Afghanistan. Apparently, in their hearts our leaders know the US game plan is bound to fail in the entire region, but are unable to oppose Washington’s dictates.

The front-page picture in Dawn (Feb 2) from the troubled valley of Swat showed a man carrying his elderly mother on his back to escape from the fighting in the area, which brought tears into my eyes. But, those who matter seem unmoved. Sitting at a distance in their fortified residences, they just can’t feel the pulse of these devastated souls.

Wherever the Americans have intervened directly or indirectly, thousands of Muslims’ lives have been lost at the very least, be it Algeria, Somalia, Afghanistan or Pakistan, while in Iraq nearly a million got killed. Why should the Muslims have to be guinea pigs for Washington’s psychological hang-ups and stumbling experimentation?

DAWN - Letters; February 10, 2009
Blogged with the Flock Browser

No comments: