Thursday, January 12, 2006
Of wordsmiths and other animals
Journalists who sing paeans to the American administration's misadventures in democracy must think of the perils it entails, if more nations follow Uncle Sam's prescription to settle scores. Dancewithshadows.com takes a closer look.
Right to expression is a fundamental one. Some wield this right more than others – hogging prime-time TV and dominating acres of newsprint. Think of Arundhati Roy: Words are her weapons. Hire her if you want to pen emotionally-laden PR handouts. The clients are bound to feel extremely guilty!
Behind their activism hides their agenda. This is besides the suspected exhibitionism accompanying the causes they espouse. Many among us first heard of PETA (People for Ethical Treatment for Animals) when Pamela Andersen turned the spotlight on herself. So, she and her fellow ‘Baywatch’ co-star Gina Nolin posed in provocative ad campaigns with just striped body paint for clothes. In a Pamela Andersen’s case that was a lot!
When social causes come with assorted messiahs to spread the word, can politics be far behind? In the shocked aftermath of 9/11, the world’s sympathy lay with the Americans. They had been hurt in a way they never knew of, something every other country on the planet has suffered. Violence had come home. Their President did all the hand-holding and reassuring that is expected of him and then decided to get even. American troops did their best in mountainous Afghanistan, hunting for a terrorist or a clique to carry home as spoils of war.
In the early part of the century, Afghanistan was a pawn in the British ‘great game’. The USSR followed, who fought a long-drawn battle with the Americans in this theatre of Cold War. Try explaining Afghanistan’s history to a child – “You know Russia and America were enemies for a long time and they carried their fight to a third world country (Afghanistan) and destroyed the other country. Russia eventually broke up in the 1990s.” If that kid is smart, she/he might remark that the US should just have exported McDonald's and Hollywood to Russia and that country would have wanted to become more American and would have worked towards that goal!
As if the assaults were not enough, a bizarre thing is happening now. Washington is yet again exporting a commodity – democracy to the Middle East. On their way out are some desperado dictators like Saddam Hussein & Co. Originally, the GI Joes wandered into Iraq from the desert to ferret out weapons of mass destruction, which they were convinced were there. And when there was none to be found, the neocons’ (new conservatives) strategies flip-flopped all over the place.
This brings the above-mentioned wordsmiths into the picture. Look to the pro-US journalists to find the same rabidity of Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney.
There is Mark Steyn – a particular favourite of mine who writes for The Spectator. Mark usually says it like it is. He penned this hilarious article titled ‘The Snakes of Araby’, which had some hard-hitting truths about every American administration having been in bed with the Saudi royal family because an indecent amount of oil was involved. So, when such a gifted journalist sides with George W Bush's Middle East policies (and you see every weekly issue of this magazine carrying Mark’s articles praising Bush Jr) one starts wondering if the man’s judgment is still alright.
After months of reading Mark’s outpourings, I was tempted to write to the editor of the magazine and tick Mark off - which I did. This is what I told him: Being Indian, I was not able to explore the whole of the state of Kashmir, which belongs to my country, where a proxy war with Pakistan is on. People are killed there as a matter of routine. If America sets the standard, then we had every right to look at all our options to see if pushing Pakistan completely out of Kashmir is an alternative. But neocon sermons tell us how not “to engage” Pakistan in anything but talks. So, why didn’t talking work for America? Georgie and his father had enough of ticking off Saddam Hussein for 13 years. Till then, Saddam had his killing spree in Iran for 9 years. I guess the Americans only woke up when those hostages were held at their embassy in Teheran.
So when Indians die, we are to persevere and bear it. When 3,000 odd Americans died when the two towers collapsed, naturally everyone across the world felt for their families. A year later, the wives of the men who died, who were pregnant then, had posed with their newborn babies. There was a feeling of renewal and moving on. But the American President is hell bent on milking it for all its worth.
The American administration has one set of rules for themselves and another for the rest of the world. They don’t subscribe to what they preach to others, and what is taken for granted from others.
The world had and continues to have sympathy for the bereaved people, lost in senseless acts of violence. The same goes for those who died in the WTC attack. It’s a shame that President George W Bush is tarnishing their memory by visiting vengeance on people who had no connections whatsoever with Osama bin Laden or the al Qaeda. Innocent blood has been shed in Iraq, just because of one act of terrorism on US soil. The previous one had led the US straight into the Second World War.
Like everyone else, I did mourn the tragedy of Sept 11, only because lives were lost for no sensible reason. Otherwise why would I give a damn about Manhattan’s skyline? This gung-ho ‘war’ is being fought for all the wrong reasons:
1. American prestige.
2. America’s ode to capitalism – the World Trade Center towers were felled. So prime real estate damaged.
3. Special forces are still wondering whether Osama bin Laden and gang are dead. So Iraq diverts attention.
4. Oil and the rebuilding contracts.
5. George W Bush needed something to do in his tenure at the Oval office and Sept 11 gave him an opportunity.
WMDs never really figured in the neocon scheme of things. So there, Mark.
Written for www.dancewithshadows.com