Shrapnel flies everywhere
The war in Iraq, now nearing its inevitable end, represents a multi-dimensional tragedy. First, of course, it?s a human tragedy of immense proportions.
The war in Iraq, now nearing its inevitable end, represents a multi-dimensional tragedy. First, of course, it’s a human tragedy of immense proportions.
Thousands of Iraqi men, women and children have been killed in the relentless one-sided bombing and invasion of a population that is totally bereft of any air cover. This ‘collateral damage’ to an already weakened and traumatised Iraqi population represents one of the major human disasters in recent times.
When the death of one child can bring untold misery to a family, one shudders to think of the emotional pain being caused to the Iraqi people. Its ruthless ruler and his regime are not to the liking of many. But surely the children of Iraq are as much part of the global community as children anywhere else. The defence put up by the Iraqis facing fearful odds showed that Iraqi nationalism was gravely underestimated by the coalition, a major political miscalculation for which a high price will have to be paid in human suffering, including coalition casualties.
The second area of tragedy is the immense environmental destruction being caused by the unprecedented bombing and subsequent fires throughout Iraq. The equivalent of millions of tonnes of TNT that have been dropped on the Iraqi population represents a destruction of the environment that is irreversible, and will surely have a malign impact on the entire region and ultimately around the globe. As it is, global warming, and the US reneging from the Kyoto Convention, constitute a major threat to the biosphere of our planet.
A third element is the massive economic cost of the war, already running into hundreds of billions of dollars, to which will be added the cost of reconstructing a devastated Iraq after its ‘liberation’. That such massive resources are being expanded on a war that a majority of the people of the world consider avoidable represents yet another blow to the economic welfare of the planet. If even a fraction of these amounts were spent on removing poverty in the developing world, it would have yielded rich dividends. Ammunition manufacturers and oil giants — mostly American — may make huge profits from this conflict, but the cumulative impact on the world economy will surely be lethal.
A fourth aspect, of course, is the blow that this war has struck to the international community, specially the United Nations Security Council which was supposed to ensure the world against the scourge of war. The inevitable weakening of the entire UN system, the deep cleavages that have emerged within the European Union and the North Atlantic Alliance, the massive alienation of large sections of people around the world as symbolised by massive protests, are all negative fall-outs from the present war.
The spurt in international terrorism, dramatically symbolised by the horrific 9/11 attack on the US, and the war in Iraq show clearly that hopes for a movement towards a sane and harmonious global society are rapidly fading. Indeed, the world now looks a much more dangerous place than before, and negative scenarios are likely to develop as the longer term implications of the war begin to unfold.
Finally, this is a civilisational tragedy. Although they represent only a small section of the entire Islamic world, the Arabs have historically spearheaded the Islamic civilisation from its origins. The whole West Asian region is now in turmoil, and the churning is likely to produce an enhanced dimension of terrorism and move humanity closer towards an apocalyptic clash of civilisations. And this in a global society that desperately needs not clash but a confluence of civilisations, not religious fanaticism but interfaith harmony, not earthshaking bombardment but earth-greening cooperation, not unabashed unilateralism but symbiotic multilateralism.
In some ways this war is equally a tragedy for America. This great and beautiful country stretching from sea to shining sea represents some of the great contemporary achievements of humankind. Its commitment to liberty and the rule of law, its astounding breakthroughs in the field of science and technology, its immense creativity in almost every field of human endeavour make it the cynosure of all eyes. My generation grew up inspired by the speeches of Abraham Lincoln and admiring F.D. Roosevelt for his spirited defence against fascism and his support for India’s freedom. The Kennedy brothers and Martin Luther King became shining symbols of the battle against lingering remnants of slavery in the US. Over a million Indians have made their home in this great country, and have flourished in its open and highly competitive society.
The vertical ecstasy of New York and the classical gravitas of Washington DC; the glory of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco and the indescribable beauty of Alaska’s lakes and mountains — what a fabulous country this is, endowed with all the riches that nature could possibly bestow. There is so much to admire in America that it is a tragedy to see it undertaking a brutal and avoidable war.
Senator Robert Byrd said in his speech in the US Senate that he weeps for his country. The Iraqis of course are weeping in agony. As for the rest of the world, we weep both for Iraq and for the US.
(The writer is a Rajya Sabha member)