We still have the Great American Dream: two kids, two cars and a mortgage (in reverse order). And, of course, the Green Card and the Blue Passport to get there.
9/11 changed the world, but not the Muslim world, and certainly not Bangladesh . Whatever change has occurred has come from without, not from within. In a local newspaper for the very affluent, a lady writer describes a humiliating episode at JFK when she had to stand bare-foot and with the top button of her jeans unbuttoned for a security check while white passengers laughed at her and strode on. In another incident she recounts, a Bangladeshi lady tries to remonstrate with the immigration officer saying that she had a Green Card; the colour of her card failed to protect her from two hours of intensive grilling. The writer apportions blame between George and Co. and -- mostly - "those genius (sic) fifteen suicide hijackers who changed the world in a day, and made life even more difficult for their fellow Muslim brothers and sisters".
9/11 should have served as a signal to Muslim brothers and sisters of the terrible fate of Muslim brothers and sisters. Instead, it has merely produced annoyance and anger. Here's a brief news item: "A Palestinian woman who killed herself and an Israeli with explosives in Jerusalem on January 27th was identified as Wafa Idris, a 28-year old paramedic. Her mother proudly called her a martyr." Palestinian men, women and children have been living in subhuman conditions since they were pushed out of their own homeland to make room for European Jews. "It is wrong and inhuman to impose the Jews on the Arabs," wrote Mahatma Gandhi in 1938. "What is going on in Palestine today cannot be justified by any moral code of conduct. The mandate has no sanction but that of the last war."
Why should a 28-year old paramedic blow herself up? One can imagine the sheer hopelessness of her situation, the years of humiliation and degradation that compelled her to be a martyr. The writer who was humiliated at JFK has received, in comparison, royal treatment. Did she ever stop to think of her Palestinian sisters? The mother of Wafa Idris could not even bury her daughter, itself unnatural. In war, mothers do sometimes get to bury their sons. In this war, they don't even bury their daughters.
What did Palestinians do to deserve this fate? Were they among those who spat at Alfred Dreyfus in Paris while Theodor Herzl looked on and shook his head, determined to create an Israeli state? Israel is a massive testimony to the failure of democracy in the West, even before the rise of Nazism (Herzl's The Jewish State appeared in 1896). There was no room for an Israeli State in Europe, never mind for the Jews.
Why is it that, in a city where there are so many seminars, discussions and papers presented, why is it that there has hardly been a whisper from our intellectuals regarding the Palestinians during the second intifada -- and a thunderous silence since 9/11? Why didn't we observe, instead, a moment's silence for Wafa Idris? Why the silence? Because it would have hurt our interests to do so. Because we want our kids to study and live in the United States. Because we want the dosh to continue flowing from the west. Because we don't want our careers interrupted. So we let Wafa Idris die without a tear.
We cannot bring ourselves to say that a democracy -- the world's greatest and most powerful -- can be evil. Both America and Israel are democracies. A bluestocking I know was absolutely confident that America would not go to war against Iraq; I knew for a certainty that it would because that is how democracies behave. They are nasty and brutal. Marxist intellectuals like Arundhati Roy and Noam Chomsky set off a red herring for us to pursue --and we do. They claim that the problem lies with capitalism -- thus quietly defending democracy. In the above-mentioned newspaper, there was a risible analysis of the motive for America's conduct since 9/11 by Michael Meacher (the article was from The Guardian, and written by an environment minister in the British government who resigned over the war). 9/11 was connived at by the US government so it could go to war, first against Afghanistan, then against Iraq. Why? For oil, of course.
The Taliban were installed in Afghanistan to protect a pipeline through that country from the Caucasus. We all knew that. Then, it seems, the Taliban got out of hand, and they were warned to accept "a carpet of gold' or a "carpet of bombs'. After the latter, the US planned for the pipeline to go through Afghanistan and Pakistan and to stop at the Indian border to benefit the Enron plant (into which Enron had invested $3 billion) on the west coast. And then what does the canny superpower do -- it neglects Afghanistan altogether. The place is in chaos today. Iraq is in the same state. The US government was so pusillanimous that it sent only 147,000 soldiers to get at the precious oil, when its own experts repeatedly said that several times that many soldiers would be necessary. It had no plans on what to do after the conquest. If this is capitalism at work, then capitalism is a highly inefficient form of plunder.
"I couldn't...I will not get to Allah," lamented the dying Chechen woman after detonating the bomb on her body. She feared she would not die, but soon she did. Chechen women have transformed themselves into human bombs in Russia because they have neither home nor hearth. Their husbands, brothers and fathers have been kidnapped, tortured and murdered. "There are 30,000 families that could produce shahids," observes a Chechen leader.
The similarity of the response to 9/11 with the war in Chechnya cannot be overemphasized. When several bombs went off in Moscow , the Chechens were suspected. The subsequent bombing of Chechnya was a classic democratic response, and proved so popular with the electorate that Vladimir Putin won the presidential election on the strength of his belligerence (in imitation of Boris Yeltsin, who shored up his flagging elector support by initiating the first Chechen war). He has continued the policy ever since.
In Gujarat , 2000 Muslims were burned to death so that politicians could win votes -- and they did. Ariel Sharon had won votes by indulging settlers and shooting at Palestinians. How is capitalism at work here?
When intellectuals were quietly maintaining that Iraq would not be attacked, I recalled the attack on Melos unleashed by the democracy of Athens 2,500 years ago. Thucydides wrote the History of the Peloponnesian War to demonstrate how essentially leaderless, clueless, vindictive and ruthless a democracy -- which he regarded as a congeries of mobs -- must be. When the Athenians pretended, like the Americans did with Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, to give Melos a chance to explain, the Melian leader replied: "...Your military preparations are too far advanced to agree with what you say, as we see you are come to be judges in your own cause, and that all we can reasonably expect from this negotiation is war, if we prove to have right on our side and refuse to submit, and in the contrary case, slavery."
The Iraqis could not have put it better.