Nepali Times Asian Paints
State Of The State
The eagle is wounded


Emotions are older than the invention of language. A child starts to have feelings much before she learns to speak. Words capture our responses to outer stimuli-anger, hate, hope and happiness. But when it comes to inner human feelings, words almost always fail.

To express love and loss, we have no recourse but to fumble with poetry, or lapse into the comforting embrace of silence. The horrendous tragedy of Black Tuesday in New York and Washington sent thinking people everywhere into that state of speechlessness where tears dry before completing their journey from the heart to the eyes. All over the world, more people grieved at the loss of thousands of innocent lives. Had the spin-doctors of President George W Bush understood the enormity of shock and horror among people not just in America, but woldwide, they wouldn't have poisoned the universal anguish with their rants of war.

Pearl Harbour, to which parallels are being drawn, was indeed an act of war. The Japanese flew with their flags, and Americans knew who their enemies were. But the planes that crashed into the twin towers of World Trade Centre in New York and the Pentagon in Washington, were civilian airliners with innocent passengers on board. To call these attacks an act of war was tantamount to declaring their unfortunate victims "collateral damage"-an antiseptic euphemism of pure callousness coined by Americans themselves during the Gulf War and the name of a movie starring Austrian bodybuilder Arnold Schwarzenegger which postponed its premier this week because of the crisis.

Even the worst wars have terms of engagement. They have a purpose-howsoever abhorrent-for which victory is sought. But the only purpose of Black Tuesday appears to have been destruction for its own sake, driven by a blinding rage. No victors emerged out of these fires of fury. It consumed both the victims, and the guilty.

More bellicose is the tendency among the likes of Henry Kissinger to fall for Samuel Huntington's racist and self-prophetic theory of "Clash of Civilisations". Americans don't seem to realise that for nearly four-fifths of humanity, they stand for all that is evil in this world-racism, hypocrisy, inequality, wasteful consumerism, immorality, war, destruction, decadence and death. United States of America, along with its satellites like Britain and Israel, are considered universal perpetrators of injustice. The countries they have declared rogue states reciprocate by calling them pariahs.

The carnage of September 11 is not even an act of terror in the usual sense of the term. As terrorism, it was an utter failure because it created revulsion, not fear, in the minds of people worldwide. But warmongers in Washington, London and Jerusalem are trivialising the impact of this human catastrophe by reducing their responses to the level of self-righteous anger. They don't seem to realise that jihadis sacrifice themselves on the promise of a heaven that can come only after apocalypse. Annihilation of an unjust world order-no less-is the purpose of those who opt for self-extinction. The jihadis behind the Black Tuesday were like kamikaze ("divine wind" in Japanese) warriors in Bushido tradition, an ancient philosophy and warrior ethic based on non-attachment principles of Zen Buddhism.

A Bushido warrior is said to have achieved his spiritual peak when he is emotionally detached, free and fluid, adaptable and relaxed, totally focused, ready to die, and a master of his craft. Physically, "he empties himself and becomes a weapon" for the cause of his "loyalty, self sacrifice, justice, a sense of shame, refined manners, purity, modesty, frugality, martial spirit, honour and affection". It is impossible to take a moral high ground against those who willingly eliminate themselves for their faith.

Faith is an abstraction, and waging war on an unidentifiable enemy is as doomed to failure. That is why George W's declaration "We are at war" resounds with false bravado. The boast that "we will smoke them out of their holes, we will get them running, and we will bring them to justice" is what Americans want to hear.

Let's face it, it is not the time to call for a war. It is time for introspection, an occasion to engage with the world. By its withdrawal from the Kyoto protocol, by its unwillingness to enter into missile control regime, by its refusal to ban land mines-in short, by the sheer arrogance of its power in the name of unilateralism, Americans have alienated a significant section of the world population. The United States has a big hammer, but it cannot make Islam a nail. Waging war is not the solution of an issue as complex as orthodoxy and revolution. Call for vengeance may sound cathartic, but the strong end up adding the fuel of revenge into the fire of rage that burns inside the weak.

Engagement is not appeasement. On the contrary, by the knee-jerk threats against Osama bin Laden and Taliban in starvation-hit Afghanistan, the United States will confer a measure of respectability on them that they do not deserve. We don't need another war at the beginning of a new century. After all, we are supposed to be getting civilised by economic liberalisation and globalisation.

The myth of American invincibility lies shattered in the rubble of once-mighty buildings. America has lost the innocence of its isolation. Reality is even more painful than sadness, and redemption lies in forbearance, not vengeance.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)