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The autumn of the fig leaf

Sure, if there ever is a US attack on India, there will suddenly be strange bedfellows all round, similar to what I suspect is now happening in Iraq.

india Updated: Apr 08, 2003 12:51 IST
Ruchir Joshi
Ruchir Joshi

Imagine this: ‘Day 8 of the war: Coalition Forces are making steady progress towards the city of Jaipur, 250 km from New Delhi. The column, now stretching over a hundred miles, is led by tanks from the crack 15th Cavalry of the US army, one of the most technologically advanced fighting units in the world. Meantime, commandos from the Forza Graziani, Italy’s elite Desert Special Forces, have managed to secure the oil fields in the desert region of Kutch.

Moving east, reports suggest that China has landed 3,000 paratroops around the city of Patna. Chinese troops have faced fierce fire-fights from local, irregular, Yadav militias dressed in civilian clothes. Despite the resistance, Patna airport is now said to be under Chinese control. Fighters flying from the USS Nixon, leading the 7th Fleet in the Bay of Bengal, are working in close cooperation with the Chinese ground forces.

Speaking at a briefing earlier today at CentCom in Muscat, Oman, Lt. Gen. Roy Rogers of the USAF firmly denied that a Tomahawk Cruise missile had hit the shopping area of Khan Market in south Delhi. “Our reports indicate the damage was caused by an out of control ground-to-air missile from a battery placed by the enemy to defend their intelligence headquarters, not far from that market,” he told reporters.

Despite indications that mounting civilian fatalities might be tilting world opinion against The Coalition’s war against India, the noose is tightening around the regime in New Delhi. Stay with us for round-the-clock coverage of Operation Indian Liberation.

Laughable and ridiculous? Not really. Not after March 20, 2003. There would be differences, of course. For instance, I’ve left the British out of the picture because I cannot imagine them overtly joining in a military operation against India — not unless the British government wanted a civil war at home. And my apologies to the Italians, if not the Berlusconians. But, save these exceptions, there is nothing fantastical about the scenario. Not any more.

The offensive in Iraq has driven home the fact that the United States will now launch wars as and when they want. And they will not need any of the following alibis: an evil dictatorship with a history of torturing and butchering their own people (the oiligarchy in Saudi Arabia); a murderous megalomaniac, lethally aggressive towards his neighbouring countries (Ariel Sharon in Israel); an unelected and unstable government controlling a stock of deadly weapons ( Pakistan, and now, indeed, the US itself); they will not require the target country to be Islamic, undemocratic, fundamentalist, racist, environmentally destructive, anti-women, anti-children, anti-animals, though any trace of these will obviously help them in the propaganda when they choose to go to war.

From now on we will see a diplo-military version of the ‘racial profiling’ currently going on in America. Henceforth, American administrations will codify countries by certain characteristics that are deemed threatening to the US, and the attempt will be to corral these countries into political corners, ‘imprison’ them, and then ‘execute’ them. Leaving Russia, China and western Europe out of this calculation (all too big), the trigger-matrix for the target country will be: a) A substantial bite-size, both area-wise and army-wise, because the US can’t too often be seen stomping on someone too tiny, b) A getting too-big-for-their-regional/global-boots, and c) A wealth of resources, natural and/or intellectual, the indirect control of which would help the US better lord it over Europe, China and Japan. Yes, North Korea, Iran, Libya, Nigeria, Turkey, all fit this bill in some way. But if you happen to be Indian — no matter what your political, pseudo-secular or pseudo-religious affiliations may be, no matter how many motels your extended family may own in Arizona or New Jersey — be afraid, be very, very, afraid.

From now on, it will not matter whether the US administration is Republican or Democrat. It will also be of limited importance who the US lassoes into future Coalitions Of the Willing (acronym: COW). Equally, it’s not necessary that the US-led wars will always be military though, every now and then, there will be the compulsion to test-drive new military hardware. The future offensives could as easily be economic, electronic, environmental or media-driven, as they’ve been in the past, but the template Operation ‘Iraqi Freedom’ sets for all future US ‘campaigns’ is they will now be naked in their all out, self-serving, assaults — somewhat reminiscent of Nazi Germany 65 years ago.

It is revealing that in the ongoing diplomatic world war, the major attacks from the American establishment have been levelled at France rather than at Germany. The problem comes partly from the fact that during World War II, America actually understood the war that Germany fought much better than it understood the war the French had to fight. The grandchild of that US understanding now stalks the planet. Therefore, currently, the Cheese-Eating Surrender-Monkeys catch a lot more flak than do the Beer-Swilling, Pacifist, Circus Bears.

The difference comes out in two statements, one unattributed: “If it wasn’t for us Americans those French would be speaking German now.” And one, recently, coming from Donald Rumsfeld spitting out his opinion of Iraqi soldiers who have gone into civilian clothes to fight the US-UK forces: “They’re nothing but terrorists!”

It is, I suppose, an indelicate moment to remind Rumsfeld that, when faced with ‘overwhelming firepower’, when confronted with ‘shock and awe’, that is exactly what thousands of French ‘surrender-monkey’ soldiers did in World War II — switch into civvies, mingle with the locals, hide pistols and grenades under their jackets, and let the occupying enemy have it, however and whenever possible. And Hitler and his Nazis had exactly the same reaction to these fighters now remembered as the heroic Maquis: “Irregulars! Running away from their uniforms! Won’t fight like men! Ambushing our soldiers while they sit drinking coffee in cafes! Hiding in bushes! Terrorists!” And it is these underground cheese-eaters who laid the ground for the allied forces to land on D-Day, who actually helped make sure that not just London, but New York too, didn’t run the risk of becoming a regional outpost of Imperial Berlin.

All this is not to say that the Saddam Fidayeen are to be equated with the French Resistance, but to point out that if Washington, London and Tel Aviv can take shamelessly from the Nazi Blitzkrieg, there is no reason why the odd Iraqi cannot borrow from the French countering of it.

Of course, the violence will not work for the Iraqis and, should our time come, it won’t work for us either. Sure, if there ever is a US attack on India, there will suddenly be strange bedfellows all round, similar to what I suspect is now happening in Iraq — the Bajrang Dal fighting shoulder to shoulder with Naxalites, Jai Hindwallas passing ammunition to anti-Statists, and even, I dare say, kattar Hindutva types fighting right alongside kattar jehadi types. Whether this happens or not, the Tomcat flying in from the USS Nixon won’t differentiate
between us — the Delhi Gymkhana and the new slums in Narela will both be potential targets.

The US establishment has taken bloodshed to its illogical extreme. They have used money and technology to drag violence to a point where it can only serve them, and them alone. Just as the fig leaf of the US establishment’s respect for the sovereignty of other nations has finally fallen off, our own fig leaf, of being an ‘independent’ State backed by one of the world’s largest armies, is also fast yellowing and crumbling. Therefore, it might not only be principled but also pragmatic to get out of the violence game altogether. To achieve this, we first have to stop the complex violences within our own society. Simultaneously, we have to shift the old goalposts in dealing with our neighbours. Then and only then will we be able to come together and fight the war being waged against us. It’s a tough challenge, but if we don’t face up to it now we are as doomed to be surrender-bandars as any Iraqi despot.

(The writer is a novelist and filmmaker)

First Published: Apr 07, 2003 00:01 IST