Objectives of the U.S. War against Terror (Part 10 of 10) [Archives:2002/08/Law & Diplomacy]

February 18 2002

Ahmad M. Abdulghani
Chairman of the al-Jazeera & al-Khaleej Center for Studies
The influence the United States of America currently has across the globe is the greatest in human history. History pages will show Americans accomplishments. Indeed, the US is a melting pot for all races and cultures, and this is a large part of its unrivaled progress. Cultural and ethnic diversity in the US has been an empowering factor, coupled with liberty, democracy and the observance of human rights.
The US achievements in all aspects of life have made even its opponents respect and appreciate its progress. Respect and tolerance for religions and beliefs are amongst the most distinguished characteristics of the American society.
Although American relations with the Arab world have developed mainly within the last century, US positions towards Islam have never crossed what can be called the “red lines” of this religion. On the contrary the US has helped Muslim interests in many international conflicts, for example with the USSR war in Afghanistan and Chechnya and the war in the Balkans.
What raises concern now, however, is that the US anti-terror war in Afghanistan has produced a new situation with different facets and new US foreign polices. Let us look at these changes.
(1) The US has refused calls for holding an international conference on terrorism in which “terrorism” will be clearly defined, and the mechanisms for eradicating it outlined. While at times President George W. Bush has said publicly the war is not against Muslims, some still feel that the US has ascribed terrorism to Islam and its culture. This would be a historical mistake, for many reasons, including the following:
Islam as a religion and civilization has given a good example of coexistence with Christianity and Judaism. In modern times, Muslims have peacefully coexisted with Christians and Jews in all the Arab countries. They have rather orchestrated a human symphony.
Islam is the second largest religion after Christianity in the United States and Europe. Muslims there have set a unique example of coexistence and tolerance. They have proved to be law-abiding and respectful to the beliefs of their host nations.
Many terrorist organizations were established, within the last century, in Europe, the United States, Japan and South America, which were more dangerous than the Arabic or Islamic ones. Some of these organizations still exist, such as the separatist Pasc organization (ETA) in Spain and the Mafia operating across South America. The US doesnt seem to consider these organizations in its anti-terror campaign.
The majority of the elements of these organizations are Christian, at least in name, but we still refuse to brand Christianity with terrorism. So the US needs to be careful in how it defines terrorism.
(2) Historically, the United States has made efforts to settle the Palestinian issue, for example during the term of office of president Carter in 1976. It continued to be the sponsor of the peace process in the Middle East at its different stages since the first Camp David treaty in 1977, until the second Camp David treaty in 2000.
Arabs are now hopeful, however, that the present US administration would play more unbiased role in the Middle East. At the beginning of 2001 there had been some promising moves that it is resolved to restart its efforts in the region and broker a satisfactory peaceful compromise. Unfortunately the anti-terrorism campaign has been subservient to Israeli plans, which doesnt consider its occupation of Palestine as a form of terrorism.
The outrageous American stance towards Israel is much clearer when the latter perpetrated the most heinous crimes against the defenseless Palestinian people in their homeland. Using the US-made F-16 fighters and all sorts of weapons against the civilian population of Palestine, with the consent of the US administration, is just one example how it holds a negative attitude towards this issue. What is more dangerous is that the US and Israeli words are the same in many occasions.
A German newspaper recently criticized the US position, giving up its neutrality as sponsor of the peace process in the region. The US has turned to be the spokesman on behalf of Israel and the Zionist lobby, the paper said.
As the US is always favorable to Israel and turns a blind eye to the atrocities committed against the Palestinians, it seems to be a sponsor of terrorism itself. And as Steven Heinz, a writer for the US-based Weekly Standard magazine, said, in a interview with the radio of Voice of America, Washington should understand that occupation is the essence of the problem and that terrorism is the outcome of occupation.
It seems that the US policy-makers are convinced with the Israeli point of view, or they do not like to face Sharon with the issue of terror. Although the Israeli lobby is much concerned with rooting out terrorism, it never speaks about occupation as the main reason of terrorism.
(3) The US has shown ingratitude towards two of its closest Islamic allies Saudi Arabia and Pakistan during its anti-terror campaign. These two nations have favorably offered considerable military and political facilities for the US during the cold war era. Indeed, Saudi Arabia played a key role in supporting the American economy.
The United States has not only opposes anyone who criticize its policies, but it seems it also requests other governments to reshape their thoughts and beliefs according to the US-based trends in a very provocative manner.
Many Arab and Islamic countries feel, for example, that have been ordered to change their religious education curricula to enforce a “US-customized Islam,” as the Egyptian intellectual, Fahmi Huaidi, called it. This was expressed by the US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, in an address at Louisville University, Kentucky, in November, 2001. He pointed out to the necessity to formulate a US vision towards the Islamic community, which should be based on certain beliefs that touch the cultural, political and religious fabric of that community. Within the same context, the same view was voiced by British Prime Minister Tony Blair, in December 2001, when he called leaders of Islamic countries to enable mainstream Islam to dominate in their societies.
(4) The September 11 attacks on New York and Washington were undoubtedly terrorist acts in the full sense of the word. However, nobody has been able prove who was responsible for that attacks. Besides, no court ruling has been issued against any side. However, the maltreatment received by the Arab-Afghan both in Afghanistan and at Guantanamo base in Cuba is pathetic and disgusting. It seems American s objective was to inform American voters that their government had brought double retaliation against, the supposed masterminds of the September 11 attacks. The United States might be excused for taking precautionary measures to protect itself from any other terrorist attacks, however, this never gives it the right to violate human rights which it has itself been historically advocating as the most precious achievement of the American civilization.
It seems the US government started violating human rights by issuing a set of exceptional laws, which were described by Arini Zubaida, Secretary-General of Amnesty International, as “security madness of panic-stricken governments”. These laws have undermined the freedoms of civil societies and opened the door for attacking political opponents. It is a step back to the age of racial discrimination.
The US violation of human rights appeared even worse with regard to the treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo base. Its been reported that prisoners of the defeated Taliban government and al-Qaeda were chained and anesthetized before transferring them to Guantanamo. This is a violation of human rights and Americas own values.
The US has made another mistake when it refused to consider the al-Qaeda fighters as prisoners of war, and did not apply the Geneva Human Rights Convention to them. This decision has been even opposed by the US closest allies. Representative of the European Union (EU), Jafeir Solana, said that Geneva Convention should be applied to all prisoners in such conditions, adding that maintaining human rights principles is the key for rooting out fanaticism and terrorism.
The questions that raise itself now is: won’t these decisions by the US administration be opposed by some wise Americans? And wont America see the negative consequences of these policies, that they will backfire on American society itself. Some people who perceive these views of America as accurate, now wonder if there is a difference between the current US policies and the policies adopted by Adolph Hitler of the Nazi Germany or the leaders of the Communist world. These issues and conclusions are, of course, debatable. Theyre not gospel. However, I’d like to point out that the reason for some of my critical writings against American policies is that Ive always had personal admiration and respect for the Americas achievements. Now I am afraid that these achievements may ultimately collapse along with America, as has been the case of many previous civilizations and empires.