So, let us pull out of the war on terror. What is the alternative?

Digesting the Marriott blast

Some facts about the Marriott Hotel blast are coming out gradually as the scene of destruction is carefully examined and videos from the security cameras are scrutinised. More and more people are put off by the concept of suicide-bombing and are criticising it. The fifty-odd clerics who had issued the fatwa against it in 2005 — but were made to cower later by more aggressive clerics — are making their voice heard again. The Tehreek-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) of Baitullah Mehsud in South Waziristan is reluctant to own it because of this change in public opinion.

But there is a difference of media opinion, mostly mutually intolerant, over the direction of the war to which the blast points. Unfortunately, the side that refuses to face reality is the one which says “it is not our war”, and relies on the now quite old and unacceptable pan-Islamist position that whatever Muslim extremists do is not “action” but “reaction” to some perceived injustice. What these people want everyone to believe is that the real unjust “action” is undertaken by someone else. This approach is supposed to decide the moral question of what is or isn’t “wrong doing”. Their argument is: what Muslims undertake is “reaction” and therefore doesn’t come in the category of “doing” something wrong, therefore there can be no moral judgement made on it. In this line of thinking, under all moral and criminal codes there is either absolution or mitigation for “reaction”. The question of looking for “causes” comes next. Since the Muslims have not “acted”, the argument goes, they have not caused anything to happen, hence the West and the United States have to sit down and admit to the criminality of their actions, and once they have done so, and properly compensated the Muslims for their past actions, the problem of violence and terrorism will go away automatically. Thus all moral obligations on the part of Muslims are dispensed with nicely.

But the blast at the Marriott has jolted this catechism and caused a rift. This rift undermines the unity among those who say “it is not our war”. The message behind this slogan is not a simple one. It has many ramifications and each has to be studied separately. On the face of it, the slogan gained strength after the “land invasion” of the CIA in South Waziristan earlier this month which caused the Pakistan Army and the PPP government to react in severe protest. The first message is that innocent Pakistanis die because the government is involved in the wrong war. The message has been repeated so much that most Pakistanis now believe that if Pakistan were to pull out of the “American war on terror”, innocent Muslims will no longer be killed.

But let us ask what will happen if Pakistan pulls out of the “war on terror”. The presumption, which is not spelled out, is that once this happens there will be no contradiction between Al Qaeda and its foot soldiers in FATA on the one hand and the state of Pakistan on the other. But what about the well established fact that Al Qaeda has a programme of “Islamic reform” that is global and which will start by converting Pakistan into a state based on Al Qaeda’s radical caliphate which will be the base area of its declared war on the US and the West? If we accept the assumption that our military capacity is not equal to engaging Al Qaeda in a civil war-like conflict, the unspoken assumption is that the Muslims of Pakistan will and should accept the Al Qaeda philosophy as “true faith” and allow the transformation of the state to Al Qaeda’s liking and standards. Of course, the “liberals” will be eliminated in the new order and this “wish” is apparent from the term “liberal fascists” that is being used these days in some reactionary Urdu columns.

This “it-is-not-our-war” group is clueless about what the Americans and their European allies — and others stretching as far eastward as Japan — can and may do after they no longer have to regard us as an ally but face as an ally of their enemies. Why doesn’t this group make any reference to the alternative strategy — “eat grass honourably?” — in the presumed post-pullout phase? Who will face up to the trespasses made by the NATO-ISAF forces into Pakistan? How will trespasses by Al Qaeda and the Afghan Taliban in safe havens in FATA violate our sovereignty any less? Are we ready to trust the security of the state to Al Qaeda who will, if all goes according to its plan, of course be in charge of the armed forces and will control our nuclear capability? In fact it is this thought about nuclear weapons that inclines the “it-is-not-our-war” club to pre-emptively allege that the Americans are in Afghanistan to “grab our nuclear weapons”. But surely the global consensus on taking out the nuclear weapons acquired by Al Qaeda will develop much more dangerously than it is developing now.

Abandoning the war against terrorism is no solution to the problem of Al Qaeda and its radical global agenda. Those who propose it are now faced with the growing objection to the killing of innocent citizens. And they cannot convincingly argue that, after we have pulled out, either the Americans will stop attacking Al Qaeda or Al Qaeda will stop attacking us if the state of Pakistan does not capitulate to it. (Daily Times)