Chapter 4: An Eye for an Eye

“We’ll let our friends be the peacekeepers and the great country called America will be the pacemakers.” – George W. Bush, 2000. (1)

“An [act] of terrorism, means any activity that (A) involves a violent act or an act dangerous to human life that is a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or any State,or that would be a criminal violation if committed within the jurisdiction or of any State; and (B) appears to be intended (1) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; (ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or (iii) to affect the conduct of a government by assassination or kidnapping.” – United States Code Congressional and Administrative News. (2)

[0100 GMT on 17 March 2003, the United Nations discussions regarding Resolution 1441 collapsed as the UK-US-Spanish effort agreed that the second resolution would be of no consequence since the permanent member. France, announced that it would veto any such resolution without exception to content.  George W. Bush has given Saddam Hussein a 48-hour ultimatum in which to leave Iraq in exile, or face the directives stated in the First Resolution.  Saddam has refused Bush’s gesture.] (3)

‘Knowledge’ and ‘religion’ are tools for humanity to be utilised for the resolution of problems encountered by the individual in society, indeed, for the resolution of problems that we face in our reality(-ies).  Nietzsche argues that the actual pursuit of this knowledge is our downfall as we come to realise that our utopian world, is no more than an illusion.  The fundamentalist attitude towards Islam is currently under this state of illusion, but the realisation of the illusion has not yet been acknowledged: just as the death of God had not yet reached the listeners in Nietzsche’s “The Madman”.  The ideologies of knowledge and religion then, aspire to a utopian world where humanity is both knowledgeable and emancipated.  The obstacle that humanity struggles to cope with is that there is no singular ideology which provides human freedom.  There are many forms of ‘knowledge’ and ‘truth’ that are presented through religion, politics and economics, all of which relate themselves to being the substance of global emancipation.

For Lyotard, the notion that history is organised by grand narratives is the basis of ‘modernity’, where human emancipation relies of freedom sought on the basis of knowledge.  The point at which grand narratives are unable to present an ‘accurate’ view of the world, is where the ‘postmodern’ interrupts reality and the “grand narrative has lost its credibility” (4) and “can no longer support a sense of universality” (5).  In losing its authority and efficacy, the grand narratives can be challenged openly, and the heterogeneity of society thus emerges.  The plurality of grand narratives results in the multiplicity of ideologies present in the world today.  Therefore, the ideologies and knowledge that society(-ies) are based upon becomes problematic in the sense that we are unable to distinguish their truth values.  Thus, the rhetoric of knowledge allows for an individual or society to make truth claims about their beliefs, (6) and in so doing, attain positions of ‘power’ upon which the Western democratic societies are based:

“The most powerful nations are the ones who have the greatest knowledge resources: those with the best technology, the most advanced communications and weapons systems, the most highly developed medicines and the means to collect the most detailed information about their competitors.  The global competition is now fought out as a battle of knowledge just as it used to be for resources like coal, gas and oil…nations may literally go to war over knowledge, just as they have fought over land and raw materials such as oil in the past.” (7)

This is true of contemporary global politics where the ‘most powerful nations’ are those nations situated in the Western world.  We have access to the ‘greatest knowledge resources’ and ‘the most advanced communications’ systems: from museums that hold artefacts dating back to pre-history to the communication highway of the internet where information (‘about our competitors’) can be gained in seconds.  The Iraqi crisis facing the world, is in fact, Lyotard’s notion that nations are ‘literally [going] to war over knowledge’ in the same way that ‘land and raw materials’ have been fought over in the past.  Nations are at war with Saddam Hussein for the knowledge of the weapons stockpiles that he has collated and created since the end of the Gulf War – the knowledge of which he plainly denied.

In the Western world, ‘knowledge’ has become a complex dialectical system that comprises of Lyotard’s grand narratives such as politics, religion and economics.  These elements thus construct the problematic reality(-ies) that we encounter where politics is the first step towards the process by which societies are able to arrive at ‘new truths’ as our political ideologies claim to represent these truths (8) : politics is the microcosm by which society is able to derive the structure if its social entity.  The second step is that of religion and in an eclectic society allows for personal, spiritual and individual development of the self, and economics is the basis of material gain for both the individual and community.  These grand narratives provide a basis for fundamental belief system(s) that must be in place for society(-ies) to function through their referral to ‘truth’, and it is the conflict between these societies pertaining to the ‘truth’ that result in global conflict and war, and hence the situation in Iraq.  For example, versions of ‘truth’ include the ideologies of Nazism, Communism, Socialism and Capitalism and are not solely applied to the fundamentalist concept of Islam.  The ideologies of these ‘truths’ are fundamentalist in themselves as they (are) held up as being the ‘absolute truth’: “the concept of fundamentalism relies not on its internal coherence but, rather, on a ‘shared’ assumption regarding the role of politics, truth and religion”,(9) where the ‘internal coherence’ is subject to these grand narratives.  Thus ‘knowledge’ and ‘truth’ are used as commodities for the progression of wealth and status in society, in order to overcome others in the ‘global competition for power’ where ‘power’ also integrates these grand narratives.

[0143 GMT on 20 March 2003: CIA confirm Saddam Hussein has not chosen exile thus surpassing the 48-hour deadline.  President Bush’s spokesperson confirms that the two-day ‘shock and awe’ aerial bombardments of Iraq will commence ‘at a time of America’s choosing’.  Seventeen Iraqi soldiers have surrendered to Allied troops and handed over to Kuwaiti Authorities.]

Slavoj Zizek argues that on 11 September 2001, the United States had been “given the opportunity to realise what kind of world it was part of.  It might have taken this opportunity – but it did not; instead it opted to reassert its traditional ideological commitments”. (10)  The United States pre-11 September perception of their global status was that of an island immune and exempt from the conflicts and violence that enveloped the rest of the world, (11) and possessed an inability to recognise the cycle of cause and effect.  For example, the United States readily chose to fund and employ Islamic ‘radicals’ to combat communism in the early 1980s.  This, in effect, initiated present-day terrorism that we now face from these same ‘radicals’, currently termed as ‘fundamentalists’.  The development of Taliban rule in Afghanistan and Al-Qaeda were also direct products of an American-led jihad being fought in the Afghan-Russian War.  As long as these ‘radicals’ served their contemporaneous purpose in the Cold War, the United States government were willing to ignore these early signs of violent fanaticism, as Zbigniew Brzezinkski has previously disclosed (see Chapter 1). (12)

The ‘ideological commitments’ reasserted by the United States immediately post-11 September, as Zizek discusses, includes the transcending reinforcement of American patriotism with the ‘Stars and Stripes’ becoming the emblem absolut.  An excessive ‘reassertion of traditional ideological commitments’, or indeed ‘fundamentalisms’, also incorporated the exercising of the United States’ ‘imperialist power’ through the bombardment of Afghanistan.  A diplomatic route to bring the terrorists to justice could have been pursued by the United States through the International Court as did Nicaragua in the 1980s.  However, US allies and governments would responded with requests for evidence against Osama Bin Laden and the Al-Qaeda network, and “they [United States] want to do it [justice]  in a framework of of at least minimal commitment to international law”. (13)  Instead, the commencing of war in Afghanistan was an attempt to signify the apparent infallibility and imperialist power of the United States, in order to reinforce the power of American ‘resolve’ (see Appendix 3) and also to search for the still-elusive Osama bin Laden.  The war still continues across the entire region of Afghanistan, “a country  [that was] already reduced to rubble, with no infrastructure, repeatedly destroyed by war for the last two decades”. (14)  In the same way, the war in Iraq was supposedly initiated ‘at a time of America’s choosing’ in order to use ‘shock and awe’ bombing tactics, again demonstrating the highest levels of power available to the United States, and the strength of its belief in its fundamentalist values and attitudes of ‘democracy’ and ‘freedom’/

Thus, the postmodern condition allows for the breakdown of Lyotard’s grand narratives, and we mistakenly substitute ‘knowledge’ or ‘truth’ for ‘fundamentalism’ in order to impose Western politics upon the non-conformist non-Western countries.  In its most basic terms, the Western political agenda involves the replacing on one fundamentalist ideology (religion and repression) with another fundamentalist ideology (democracy and freedom): “the global capitalist liberalism which opposes Muslim fundamentalism is itself a mode of fundamentalism, so that, in the current ‘war on terrorism’, we are in effect dealing with a clash of fundamentalism”. (15)  Zizek suggests that Western society portrays itself as a symbol of liberty and freedom working against the repressive attitudes of Islam, when in reality, the ideological freedom of the West itself, is restrictive.  Baudrillard asserts the same argument:

“Freedom…is already fading from minds and mores, and liberal globalisation is coming about in precisely the opposite form – a police-state globalisation, a total control, a terror based on ‘law-and-order’ measures.  Deregulation ends up in a maximum of constraints and restrictions, akin to those of a fundamentalist society.” (16)

This is re-iterated in the debate regarding whether or not the war in Iraq was preserving Western democracy, when ‘Joe Public’ was unable to prevent these wars from occurring after the continuing surge of public concern supporting anti-war demonstrations that took place throughout the world.  Zizek writes that “we can clearly experience yet again the limitations of our democracy: decisions are being made which will affect the fate of all of is, and all of us just wait, aware that we are utterly powerless”. (17)  Thus, the ‘real’ democracy is also unavailable just as the ‘real’ Islam transcends to height beyond our reach.

Zizek illustrates the similarities between the Eastern and Western ideologies, and presents them as dogmatic systems where members of each system insist that their ‘truth’ or ‘reality’ is the only correct version: the re-imposition of American imperialist politics and warfare is therefore similar to the re-imposition of strict ideology of the Shar’ia by Khomeini after Mohammed Reza Shah’s assassination in Iran.

The United States rhetoric consists of ultimatums that leave no ‘choice’ or ‘freedom’ to make an informed decision: “either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists”. (18)  This statement is ironically loaded when considering the terrorist attacks that the United States have previously and continue to commit, Nicaragua being one of many examples.

Before the breakdown of the diplomatic discussions regarding the United Nations (UN) weapons inspections in Iraq, President Bush asked “Are Security Council resolutions to be honoured and enforced, or cast aside without consequence?  Will the United Nations serve the purpose of its founding, or will it be irrelevant?” (19)  The ultimatum described here paves the way for the United States to act upon its own protocol and initiative to invade Iraq whether or not it has the full support of UN member states.  Ultimately, the United States took the decision to wage war upon Saddam Hussein regardless of the UN ‘democratic’ system of diplomacy, in the same way Nicaragua’s court order for reparations and compensation was rejected in 1985. (20)  A similar situation arose post-11 September, where “a virtual declaration of war against all who do not join Washington in its resort to violence…[would] face the certain prospect of death and destruction”. (21)  Similarly, organisations such as Al-Qaeda want to generate support for themselves amongst the Muslim community and again, they ultimately take a cause of action (for example, terrorism) regardless of whether or not they have support from their Islamic counterparts.  These violent strategies indicate similarities between the seemingly separate fundamentalist ideologies of East and West, where goals are attained through political warfare or terrorism by both parties.

Thus, our crisis: if the United States continue to manifest their imperial ideological warfare tactics, how will the Israelis and Palestinians reach a ceasefire?  How can India and Pakistan become allies?  What will bring the Serbians and Russians to a peace agreement?  Why should North and South Korea attempt reconciliation?  If the United States eventually gain position as world leaders through violence, other nations and organisations will surely attempt to follow suit: the cycle of cause and effect must not again be ignored.  The political atrocities in the Eastern world have had the Western world sign their death warrants: the United States supported, armed and funded the Islamic radicals during the Cold War; the United Kingdom demonstrated full support for Mugabe when he was introducing land-owner occupancy for ‘white’ farmers whilst simultaneously wiping out thousands of his own people; financial aid was being given to Saddam Hussein in order to encourage war with Iran; unconditional support was also shown for Suharto in Indonesia who led the massacres of “hundreds of thousands of people, mostly landless peasants, with assistance from the United States an with an outburst of euphoria from the West that is so embarrassing in retrospect that it has been effectively wiped out of memory”.(22)  The list disappears into history: the Developing World at least want and required (and deserve) hope for survival, while the First World (as did the Romans) destroy and conquer.  In effect, the West has at one time or another, sponsored and advocated the deteriorating political space of the East.

[Day 1 at 0245 GMT on 20 March 2003: President Bush ordered the launching of thirty-six Tomahawk cruise missiles, and more than 2000 ‘bunker-busting’ bombs from F-117 nighthawks on selected targets in Baghdad in order to assassinate Saddam Hussein.  The CIA received intelligence on Saddam Hussein’s whereabouts at 2100 GMT.  The assassination attempt failed.  The first civilian casualty died.  Iraq has launched five SCUD missiles into Northern Kuwait in retaliation, two of which were intercepted by US missiles.  1522 GMT: Iraq forces set fire to oil fields in South and West Basra in an attempt to destroy the visibility range of coalition aircraft.]

The similarities of these fundamentalist attitudes of democracy and Islam are further identifiable in the rhetoric used by (pro-Western) capitalist and (pro-Eastern) Islamic clerics.  For example, President Bush speaks of the United States as being targeted by terrorists because “[United States is] the brightest beacon for freedom and opportunity in the world…and no one will keep that light from shining” (see Appendix 3).  In the same way, Shayk Abdalqadir, founder of the Murabitun movement in Scotland, writes:

“The knowledge of Islam…is a light that has illuminated the world for 1400 years.  The light of Islam is the light of the Qur’an – the light of Qur’an is the light of Muhammad.  The people who follow Muhammad, are a people who are illuminated by the wisdom and the beauty that comes from the teachings of…the Noble Qur’an.” (23)

The analogy of ‘light’ traces through to the imagery of divine god and angels (who are thought to be made from pure light), and thus the gaining of knowledge for both fundamentalisms, is presented as a process of divine enlightenment.  The Islamic version of knowledge attempts to establish iqama as-salat, or the worship of Allah, and to eradicate the decadence of Western society.  ‘Deen al-haqq‘ translated as “the life-transaction of the Real”, (24) pertains to the ‘real’ as being beyond the concept of time, that life after death should be the ‘real’ life to which we aspire.  The capitalist version of knowledge pertains to “the progress away from poverty through technical and industrial innovation and the free circulation of wealth to those who work”, (25) thus combined with iqama as-salat,  returns to the battle between materialist and spiritualist conceptions of the ‘real’.

[Day 8 at 0125 on 28 March 2003: Tony Blair and President Bush emerged from their talks at Camp David and admitted that the war in Iraq could now last for months.  The US Defence Secretary is under scrutiny as manpower, financial costs and Iraqi guerilla strategy were underestimated and unaccounted for in US military plans.  President Bush has asked Congress for a further $75 billion while Gordon Brown has allocated a further £1.25 billion to cover the increasing costs of the Iraqi war – the running British total stands at £3 billion.  Humanitarian aid has received an injection of £120 million while the Iraqi ‘Oil-for-Cash’ policy has been altered (to benefit the people of Iraq as opposed to lining the pockets of Saddam Hussein) and can be enforced in as little as twenty-four hours after a new government that represents all the Iraqi people has been established.  Three hundred civilians are now claimed dead, and a series of ‘friendly fires’ between allies leaves British and US soldiers dead, if not ‘missing in action’.  Anti-war demonstrations continue to be held in public areas of major international cities.  The uncertainty continues.]

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