Monday, September 19, 2011

Road to 9/11: Harold Pinter's Anti-Americanism

On September 11th 2001 while America mourned several parts of the world mourned and in the same breath muttered "you had it coming". Sujatha wrote that the days USA's "gun boat diplomacy" are over and like a good father sent his son to USA to live and become, I guess, an American citizen. Aijaz Ahmed, living in USA, writing for Frontline divined that the 19 hijackers were thinking of the so many past injustices of USA.

When people complain of US foreign policy I hear the usual litany starting with Vietnam meandering through the past as far their erudition goes, perhaps the coup Teddy Roosevelt engineered to build the Panama Canal, to every present day conflict weaving an ugly tapestry of a hegemony run amuck. Yes, as in Vietnam, there are very justifiable blemishes on US foreign policy. No country in history with the economic and military size of USA could have an unsullied record. But to place America in the company of Nazi Germany or malign the US army like they were murderous blood lusty terrorists alone only betrays the pathological hatred of such opinion holders.

In spring of 2002, while the fires were barely put out and WTC was just mangled steel with 2500+ bodies still buried, Granta magazine asked eminent intellectuals across the globe to share their thoughts for an issue titled "What We Think of America". Orhan Pamuk, Ramachandra Guha, Amit Chaudhuri and many more including Harold Pinter.

Orhan Pamuk and Harold Pinter, both Nobel Laureates, perfectly bookend the range of emotions most feel about America. Pamuk, coming from Turkey, has a gentle portrait of USA told through a story of his childhood involving an American boy. Pinter's essay was an address he delivered On Sep 10th 2001, a day before 9/11. Pinter said the address is still relevant. Pinter eviscerates USA for the NATO bombing of Serbian forces of Milosevic. Pinter called the USA a 'rogue state', 'a fully fledged, award-winning gold plated knows only one language-bombs and death". Doris Lessing, another Nobel Laureate, wrote a meandering piece, "America, it seems to me,has as little resistance to an idea or a mass emption as isolated communities have to measles and whooping cough".

Harold Pinter scolded the USA for the NATO bombings in Bosnia and went on to organize funds for Slobodan Milosevic, need I add a word after that. Doris Lessing was a communist, a typical worshipper from afar who never lived under communism.

It is this 'gold plated monster' that sent thousands to the beaches of Normandy. Flagging off the D-Day landings Eisenhower said "half of them will not come back alive". America, Lessing says, allows ideas and emotions to wash over with little resistance like a populace stricken by measles. Sure, is that why America put its money and men defending Western Europe and her own beloved England. Referring to FDR's 'lend lease program' to England, Presidential historian Robert Dallek, chuckled, "what lend lease, there was no collateral to be lent against. FDR basically hoodwinked the people and supplied Churchill". Lessing jeers that Americans have short memories. She with a long memory forgot that US had to be dragged into both World Wars. It is a matter of conjecture that had US entered, what was seen as European conflict, earlier in WW-II much loss of life could have been stopped.

Torn between two wars, a terrorist attack that reshaped the psyche of a country and an economic recession, it was only USA that rushed its C-14 helicopters across the globe to save the thousands battling for life in Tsunami stricken Banda Aceh in Thailand. Note, there was no oil or any strategic advantage in Banda Aceh.

George W. Bush hiked the aid given to Africa to combat AIDS. A 2006 Washington Post article says he tripled the aid. Bill Clinton, through his 'Clinton Global Initiative', has negotiated with drug companies to supply AIDS drugs at a fraction of their prices. Why should American companies sacrifice their hard earned profits?

"Black Hawk Down" is a famous blockbuster that portrayed the infamous incident in Somalia. UN aid to famine stricken impoverished Somalis was being hijacked by war lords. US decided to take out one notorious war lord and the ensuing scuffle was absolute humiliation. The black hawk helicopter was shot down, the soldiers were killed and their bodies were dragged in the streets. This is the incident that is said to have crystallized Osama's vision that America could be hit. 1993 America was a different place. Cold War was won. NASDAQ and DOW soared, American economy was overheated. Clinton was battling for re-election. America was in no mood for war in a war ravaged Africa which had nothing to offer. Today millions of children face near certain death in Somalia due to continued famine.

When Russia imploded after the failed coup by the hardliners again it was America that rushed in to prevent USSR from self-incinerating. Yet again during a recession precious money was funneled to USSR to secure the nuclear war heads. David Hoffman, Pulitzer winner for his portrayal of Cold War arms legacy in 'Dead Hand', writes scathingly 'not one of USSR nuclear facilities met Western standards".

The Marshall Plan, Reagan's "Mr Gorbachev bring this wall down", Nunn_lugar aid for USSR, saving South Korea, rebuilding Japan, rebuilding Western Europe, saving millions in Bosnia and much more was all America.

Indira Gandhi came running to LBJ for wheat to feed India. USSR too, depended on US for food. Yes, the dictatorship of the proletariat could not feed itself. Well after the bloody collectivization drives in Ukraine and killing millions of Kulaks it was the Yankees to the rescue. By the way but for US Zhou-En-Lai would have marched to Delhi and given a Bhai-Bhai lesson to Nehru.

Ask anybody today, including most Americans, who started the Vietnam war. The answer would be America. Truth, of course is different. America was dragged into it by France and brought itself great shame by its conduct. However here too a wrinkle is often ignored. We only hear how USA napalmed villages. We never hear how American GI's were brutally tortured by Viet-Cong, torture that makes Abhu-Ghraib, however shameful, look like picnic. Google the words "Hanoi Hilton". I'll blog on this separately.

Every international institution owes its independence (however arguably) and robustness to American taxpayer money. USA pays more than 60% of UN's bills. No other country comes close. IMF and World Bank, both born out of US leadership, have saved millions across the world, unarguably unless  you are a bleeding heart liberal and a closet communist.

Hearing criticisms of inciting a coup in order to build Panama Canal Teddy Roosevelt reminded his critics that the coup he  incited were only 51st in a steady stream of coups. The canal helped world trade for 100+ years and was recently turned over to Panama. For over 200 years it was dream and TR, in what would be the 'American Century', turned it to reality. Of course one could argue over the morals of the coup. What would miss the point is that coups were par for the course and TR's coup, not entirely engineered by him but only aiding what was already underway, helped world trade and millions.

The Granta issue highlighted a critical dichotomy. Those from erstwhile communist countries were more sympathetic to USA than those from well heeled western democracies. Only a pathological hater like Pinter could call NATO bombings as evil and fund raise for Milosevic. He and others like him are beyond the pale of reason.

An American GI was distributing sweets to children in a street side in Iraq. They were ambushed in a terrorist attack. When Time magazine interviewed an insurgent and referred to the incident asking "what about the many children", the insurgent replied "Allah will understand, we had to get that one soldier". To equate both is not just fallacious reasoning but a very facetious reasoning.

So was really US foreign policy the angering element in fashioning the ghastly attacks? Osama had zero interest in anything as remote as articulating an alternate world vision or in standing up for some high liberty. He launched a religious attack, pure and simple. One can keep papering over it but thats what it is. One crude question to puncture the logic would be this:"If US foreign policy begets terrorism then how come it was not the Vietnamese or Filippino's or Grenadans or Haitians or heck even Panamanians or Cubans, why was it only the Saudis?". A peek into Osama's persona and his evolution into a jihadist is for another day.

1 comment:

VarahaMihira Gopu said...

How is any of this different from the Quit India slogans of Gandhi & the Congress, vis a vis, the gifts of modernity brought to India by the British?