Iraqi National Museum destroyed in war.
The tragic moments in history have their own ineluctable fate, for in the creation of those moments there are years of self-satisfied attitudes that smothers a people’s ability to perceive threats. In the backdrop are also parochial concerns that eventually condition their psyche, causing disrespect for the overarching principle that holds the social components together in an activating equation of consolidation and spread.
In the year 1258, the moment of reckoning for the Muslims arrived when the Mongols pointed their archery at Baghdad. They accused the caliph al-Mu‘tasim of giving refuge to “rebels” and not honouring his pledge to assist against the Assassins (Hashishayn).
As penalty, Helagu Khan demanded caliph’s surrender to the Mongols and the complete demilitarization of Baghdad. The rest perhaps is known: Helagu was not stopped by the high-scale civilization that Baghdad had lived and symbolized for centuries. And the Muslims great economic and social indicators, undoubtedly the best in the world, did not discourage the Mongols to tear them apart from limb to limb. 800,000 people paid the price for their neglect to the principles of growth and decay or the phenomenon of rise and fall, forgetting that what propels a people to rise, if not respected and nourished, can sling them towards the downfall as well.
History is brutal in its description of what happened to China at the hands of the imperial powers. In early 19th century, Britain along with France and the United States wanted to make money by seducing the Chinese people to buy opium, which the Chinese rightfully resisted for it had begun taking a heavy toll of their health and economy. But showing the same imperial strain of hard-headed rapacity and unprincipled urge to dominate and humiliate others, Western syndicate pushed for dumping opium upon the Chinese.
To exhaust diplomatic channels, Commissioner Lin wrote a letter to Queen Victoria in 1839 pleading for a stop to the devastating opium trade. Lin’s letter, among others, identified the illegalities committed by Her Majesty government “who by means of introducing opium by stealth have seduced our Chinese people, and caused every province of the land to overflow with that poison.” Pointing towards the West lust for money by any means, the letter accused them of not caring about “injuring others.”
Injuring others for profit, said Commissioner Lin, is hated by Providence as well as humankind. But the West turned down the rational discourse, norms of international law and morality. They pushed on China, punishing it for its resolve to assert its sovereignty, destroyed its trade, and as booty sundered Hong Kong from it.
Today in the 21st century the West is making similar demands on the Muslim world. The opium trade of the early 19th century has been replaced by the drug-induced culture of the West that it insists on grafting on the Muslim people. Tony Blair had even the guts to say that for the West the battleground is not security but values. Thus for the Muslims, the U.S., despite its humanistic and civilization overtones, has assumed the role of modern-day Mongols. Afghanistan was asked to hand over the U.S. “rebels” like Osama bin Laden and others or get ready for radioactive shells and daisy cutters that blew up humans and mountains besides the incalculable emotional impact of a 2,000 lb cluster bomb on the living within a square mile.
In Iraq the body count suggest a harrowing tale of humans’ brutality to humans. From March 2003 to June 2006 about 654, 965 Iraqis, according to a MIT-based study, have been killed, which is said to be 2.5 % of the Iraqi population as compared to World War 11 figures of the United Kingdom 0.94 % and the United States 0.32 %. Recent figures go as high as 1,339,771. This is certainly high in terms of causalities and human suffering. More than 1 million children’s lives are reported to be “damaged” emotionally and psychologically. Almost 127,000 infants are being whisked away by death every year. Recent estimates are talking about 500,000 infant deaths so far.
One may question the size of these figures as “preposterously high” or not credible as the Bush administration would like to see them. But much to the war-mongers’ chagrin, MIT Centre for International Studies described the study methodology and its results as the “only scientific account of the fatalities in the Iraq war.” What boosted the study in its ranking was, however, the Iraqi government hasty move to block the avenues of data information that could help obtain an accurate body count.
Iraq’s proud past, preserved in its well-maintained museums, has lost its fascinating looks and is no more vocal in telling the wonderful story of its civilization to visitors around the world. The U.S. invasion of Iraq has opened up the land and its resources to loot and plunder: its oil wealth is being stolen under the supposedly sharp eyes of the U.S. naval troops making it all the more plausible that the beneficiary of the crime is none but the U.S. An estimate speaks of about 200,000 to 500,000 barrels a day being stolen, which at the current price of $60 a barrel comes to about 120 million to $300 million a day, a huge amount by any measure.
Like the Mongols who called for demilitarizing Baghdad, the U.S. is continually intimidating Iran to give up its hard-won nuclear technology and Pakistan is being gradually pushed into the eye of the storm with unending allegations of harbouring and supporting the Taliban. Dr. A.Q. Khan’s case is ceaselessly being stirred and none seems to be willing to recap it despite Pakistan’s genuine effort to make a thorough probe of his alleged proliferation of nuclear knowledge.
In the heat of its pursuit for its global agenda, the U.S. perhaps forgets that times have changed. Gone are the days when the superpowers kept war away from their seashores and inflicted harm on the poor and oppressed of the world through their aircraft carriers. Undoubtedly the invention of aircraft carriers was ingenious: it extended the landmass of the invading country far away from its seashores, constantly floating and threateningly poised to strike terror against the enemy while keeping the mainland safe.
It does not add to our civilizational comfort that September 11 has exposed the vulnerability of the nation state no matter how far from the harm way and strong it may be. In the same vein, it can be said that in the coming days the smaller nations will not be easily run over or bowed down by the bigger powers. Technology has no more the enviable status of an esoteric knowledge. Nor is it possible to freeze human mind to think and plan for defence and survival in the jungle named civilization.
It will serve peace well if Western nations set aside their imperial hubris and instead of fighting and taming others allow them space to live in the light of their genius. For as Peter Singer has rightly said: “The 9-11 war will not be won through any territorial conquest or individual’s captive. It will only end in the realm of perceptions.”
Tarik Jan is a Research Scholar who has extensive study on International Relations and Islamic polity. He is Member Board of Advisors, Opinion Maker.