Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Violence won't end terrorism


“The thing I find most puzzling about the United States today is how little real debate there has been over the almost unanimous acceptance of the idea that the only way to defeat terrorism is through policies of war.” These words apply to US actions, either through attack or threatened attack, in a dozen or more countries in recent years—from Panama to Serbia, to Afghanistan and Iraq.
Let’s take a hard case—Western Pakistan. In referring to the clans and tribes along the Afghan border, our government leaders and pundits sometimes sound like the citizen of Gabon, who said about its 72-year-old autocrat, Omar Bongo, the longest-serving leader in the world: “God brought him to us and only God can call him away.” Western Pakistan is perceived by US leaders and mainstream media as intractably violent and orderly only by violence. Vice-President Dick Cheney on March 20 urged Pakistan to battle extremists in its border regions, and almost on the same day apparently U.S. missiles from an unmanned drone struck a “suspected militant safehouse and killed about 20 people.” In some areas a “Talibanized” takeover of mosques and suicide bombers seems to be spreading.
But such violence has not always been the case; the future of western Pakistan is not inevitably violent. Let’s remember three things about this in many ways benighted part of the world: the nonviolent movement of Ghaffar Khan during the 1930s, the yearning for schools apparently all along the northern and western frontiers, and the present rise to power of the three secular parties, including the third in size Awami National Party.
The biography of Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan by Eknath Easwaran, A Man to Match His Mountains: Badshah Khan, Nonviolent Soldier of Islam, centers on the metamorphosis Khan effected in the violence-afflicted Pathans of India's northwest frontier turning them into the peaceful nonviolent disciples of Gandhi during India's independence movement. Easwaran focuses on the spiritual change and on Ghaffar Khan's leadership and his emergence as the frontier Gandhi. The book’s great achievement is telling an American audience about an Islamic practitioner of nonviolence at a moment when few in the West understand its effectiveness and fewer still associate it with anything Islamic.
The story of Greg Mortenson’s long struggle to bring education to the Balti children of northern Pakistan, entitled Three Cups of Tea, reinforces a vision of peace parallel to that of Khan’s (who also built schools). In this area similar to the Afghan border provinces, Minnesotan Mortenson encountered bandits, precarious mountainous travel, avalanches, being kidnapped, the absence of school materials, the shortage of food, water, and medicine. But he also became the hope of the many who wanted education (including refugees from Afghanistan after 9-11 who had been bombed by U.S. planes), and not the madrassa schools being built by Saudis. His conclusion: “If we try to resolve terrorism with military might alone, then we will be no safer than we were before 9-11. If we truly want a legacy of peace for our children, we need to understand that this is a war that will ultimately be won with books, not bombs.”
Finally, in the recent elections in Pakistan the deeply conservative northwest voters threw out the Islamist parties that ruled the ethnic Pashtun North West Frontier Province for five years, and gave their support to secular parties that promised streets, jobs, and peaceful dialog (and opposed U.S. pressure to intensify attacks on suspected militants linked to al-Qaida and the Taliban). The main secular party in the northwest, the Awami National Party, has been invited to join the government being formed by Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party and Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-N (against President Mushaffraf’s Pakistan Muslim League-Q). The alliance of Awami with the two largest secular parties should not astonish, since Islamist parties in Pakistan have never won more than 11 percent of the vote.
Let us remember too UNESCO’s “Seville Declaration,” summarizing the scientific evidence against the view that we have an inherent tendency to make war, and Douglas Fry’s extraordinarily well-supported case in The Human Potential for Peace that humans possess propensities not only to behave aggressively but also to behave cooperatively with kindness for others.
Ali, Zulfiqar and Laura King. “Attack Kills at Least 20 in Pakistan.” TMN (3-17-08)(US bombing Pakistan)., Editorial Reviews.
Easwaran, Eknath. A Man to Match His Mountains: Badshah Khan, Nonviolent Soldier of Islam. Plough, 1985.
Fry, Douglas. The Human Potential for Peace: An Anthropological Challenge to Assumptions about War and Violence. Oxford UP, 2006.
Gannon, Kathy. “Voters Toss Religious Extremists: Northwest Conservatives Back Secular Parties.”
Guerrero, Patty. Rev. of Mortenson, Greg, and David Relin, Three Cups of Tea, in Worldwide WAMM (March 2008).
“Pakistan,” ADG (Feb. 21, 2008) p. 8A.
Pennington, Matthew. “Pakistan’s Key Opposition Agrees to Govern Together.” TMN (Feb. 22, 2008).
Pitman, Todd. “Bongo Now Longest-Serving Leader,” ADG (3-22-08).
Rubin, Trudy. “The General’s Dangerous Aim.” ADG (Nov. 12, 2007).
Wood, Edward, Jr. Worshipping the Myths of World War II: Reflections on America’s Dedication to War. Potomac Books, 2006.
Dick Bennett

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

There’s clearly an array of powers at work creating the case right now for a war on the Pashtun tribal regions. These things don’t just happen in a vacuum. Wars seem to start with the careful choreography of the news media. The war masters, the maestros, start feeding their lap dogs, the press. The music is then played by the press for the rest of us to hear.

Notice how all the papers are beginning to play the same thing about the Afghan and Pakistan border? The theme of “lawless frontier” is being played every week. The sound drowns out the reality of a noble 5000 year old culture of some 42-million people.

We hear instead about the vilified denizens of a “lawless tribal frontier.”

What you missed it? Well, it’s only been playing for about two weeks. You need to tune in to the inside pages. The maestros have been composing for a while longer…. Their creative juices kicked in about the time Sen. Obama, answering one of those deadly sucker-punch sound bite questions showed us his war face telling us he would take action on “high-value terrorist targets" in Pakistan if President Pervez Musharraf "won't act.

That’s the sunshine it took to start the war-sap flowing. War-sap is sticky stuff, its residue has been known to encapsulate the creatures that get too near and preserve them there for posterity.

There is a legal system in place of course, in this lawless frontier. It’s been there for 5000 years. The Pashtun call the system the jirga. But its not part of the sharia law, it’s unique to the Pashtun and precedes Islam by thousands of years. But we don’t sing about that just now.

Please, I definitely don’t want the Pashtun to start signing their homeland song either. I don’t want to learn that an 1893 border line drawn with the blessing of Queen Victoria divided a group of mountain dwellers along the Afghan and Pakistan boarder in two.

I thought mountain ridges where proper borders. Everybody uses them. I just can’t handle the sound of another this-a-stan or that-a-stan popping up. So please, I don’t want to know about a Pashtunistan. And I definitely have no interest in anything 5000 years old, if it means Obama can catch Osama on good intelligence, bring it on! That should be Commander Obama’s war face call: “Bring it on!” Hmmmm, that sounds familiar.

What is this Pashtuni-whatever, Pashtunwali, anyway?

It’s a code of conduct. The Pashtun openly express somewhat defiantly, total cultural independence and have seen conquering armies and powers come and go through the millennia. Probably because of their original geographic high mountain foothold they could stand off vast armies with terrain advantage. Well it’s about time maybe for all that to stop.

If the Pashtun just hang in there with there non-violent thesis a few more generations, they'll be the dominant culture of the entire region with the new awakening of intellectual prowess and coming Islamic Reformation which is beginning right now. Their hopes of control over their resources, a name for themselves, and an end to fundamentalist radical Islamic persecution will fade away and they will be the dominant culture. They would be wise to muster whatever assets are needed, magically go find Osama bin Laden and turn him over to the world court thus avoiding a coming war in the tribal area.

And, how come they sound more like American cowboys than foreigners? Darn it, if we are going to start another little war, can’t we start it with some body that doesn’t live like my great, grandfather? The old Pashtun nationalist non-violent Kahn Abdul Gaffari Kahn 1930's photo, even looks like grandpa!

Setting aside the Pashtun mostly pray to the same God I do, grandpa did, and great grandpa too, how on earth did they adopt the same code as the old cowboy code of the west?

According to “lawless frontier” musical score, the first impressions I hear is Pashtun love rifles, chewing green tobacco, and appreciate a good sense of humor. So what's not to like? I can’t go to war on that.

If I fell out of the sky and landed in a group of people like that, I'd get along just fine, especially if I were being chased by the law. What they call Nanawateh we call asylum. Nanawateh is extended even to an enemy, just like the Cowboy Code of the Old West. Except if you are granted asylum (called Lokhay Warkawal) by the Pashtun elders as a group you're in like Flynn! They protect you even if it means forfeiting their own lives. Man that is lawless. Imagine a code of living where a principal was so honored, that it exceeded my duty to the state. Hmmm. Now that is lawless. Isn’t it?

Better to just seek hospitality, then they’ll treat you like a king, which makes me want to open a 5-Star hotel somewhere in the snowy peaks along the boarder if I can find a few acres for a ski-lift not planted in opium poppies, viewed on Google Earth satellite, not that anyone is actually checking the carefully cultivated fields above 6,000 feet along the borders. I would feel right at home there, not unlike parts of Tennessee or California.

Look at the forces arrayed here. My little fantasy war is going to happen.

The Democrats need to show they can be trusted with national defense again, be it Hillary or Obama. And McCain says fight to win.

The second verse of the song is still being written: Floating the contingency balloon. Up, up, and awa-a-a-ay, in my beautiful ball-o-o-o-on….

Obama or Hillary, or McCain get sworn in January 20, 2009. By mid June, whoever is President is going to make a push into the boarder regions the so-called "lawless frontier tribal zones” and “on good intelligence,” unless of course my leader does it first before June 20th. The operation will be Pakistan’s (well okay we’ll give them a few billion). It will be a fast coordinated air-ground attack with airborne US intelligence and lots of surrounding US air cover as a safety check to insure the operation stays within operational parameters. Pakistani’s will not go into Afghanistan and vice a versa. Meantime the Pakistan Navy will be backed up (some would say surrounded and outgunned) by the US Navy to keep a lid on the operation seeing to it they don’t launch an attack on India by Pakistan Islamic fundamentalist-leaning ground forces. We’ll hold India’s hand throughout the entire episode and offer security where needed.

Up, up and awa-a-a-ay in my beautiful …. This thing’s going to happen regardless of who wins.

You can’t deny the poetic justice in someone with a Muslim name (Obama) catching a renegade terrorist (Osama). Can you imagine the songs that we could write about that? To the tune of “Froggy went a courting.”

Obama went a hunting and he did hunt, uh-huh
Obama went a hunting and he did hunt, uh-huh
Obama went a hunting and he did hunt, he hunt Osama on the Mount
Obama went a hunting and he did hunt, un-huh. …..

The best time to wage this little war would be during the Chinese Olympics. China would likely remain quiet with their hands temporarily full with the Olympics.

So my fantasy, glorious, contingency war needs to be brief, violent, and force the Pashtun jirga to rethink their long term cultural interests. It needs to end with Osama in a holding tank, brought up on charges in the world court.

If it fails? Well what do you expect from the lawless tribal frontier area in Pakistan with questionable army allegiance? Corruption is everywhere.

I’d still like to open a 5-star hotel with some good ski-runs. You don’t suppose the opium production their so good at, has anything to do with the foolishness of some of our drug laws? Nah.

Victor Davis Hanson says you have to look at war with a long term perspective in order to understand its meaning. Long term is real long term. It may well turn out that while many say Bush's legacy must be a failure, history may have a completely different take on things, long after both you and I and our great grand children have come and gone. It may turn out, that doomed legacy of a Bush Presidency we hear so often this campaign-cycle ends up being written 1000 years from now as the President who started Islamic Reformation (* See Footnote) and brought freedoms that enabled thinking people to ask questions about religious practices that eventually changed the world and started the east and the west talking again.

The Ritz, I like that franchise, a 5-star Ritz, 18-hole world class golf course, mini-conference center with A Pashtun bag-piper paying my old favorite, “The Ass in the Graveyard” with double malt scotch, in the bracing night air.


Footnote: Reformation: "Christianity has the advantage of having been able to interpret its religious texts in their historical context, thus arriving at the distinction between what belongs to the bedrock of faith and what is related to culture: a distinction that Muslims have difficulty making." ... This was a topic of discussion in Muslim and Christian dialogue in Brussels, April 17, 2008. And from Pope Benedict XVI during his visit to the US in April 15-21, while visiting a synagogue in New York, with about 200 representatives of other religions, including Islam, to the Muslims the Pope said that interreligious dialogue "aims at something more than a consensus for advancing peace." The greater objective of dialogue is "to discover the truth" and keep the deepest and most essential questions awake in the hearts of all men. "Confronted with these deeper questions concerning the origin and destiny of mankind, Christianity proposes Jesus of Nazareth. He, we believe, is the eternal Logos who became flesh in order to reconcile man to God and reveal the underlying reason of all things. It is he whom we bring to the forum of interreligious dialogue. The ardent desire to follow in his footsteps spurs Christians to open their minds and hearts in dialogue.... Dear friends, in our attempt to discover points of commonality, perhaps we have shied away from the responsibility to discuss our differences with calmness and clarity..... The higher goal of interreligious dialogue requires a clear exposition of our respective religious tenants."