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Hubris and lies rewarded

Published Nov 05, 2004 12:00am

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THE most tempting words in the English language: I told you so. This was always an election for John Kerry to lose and, true to form and promise, he has lost it.

If this were only America’s loss it would be no great matter. But Kerry’s loss — richly merited, it might be added — means widespread depression around the globe. Four more years of Bush and the neo-con evangelists who provide the theoretical core of this most Christian of American governments — a prospect enough to defeat the stoutest heart.

And we have to thank Kerry and the Democratic Party for this. Bush played on his strengths: war president, resoluteness in the war on terror, moral values, pro-family, pro-life, etc. Themes dear to the conservatism of Middle America, America’s Bible belt, what H. L. Mencken was fond of describing as the cow-belt states, where good people went to sleep with the cows and woke up with them.

Kerry’s campaign was doomed to failure because he was playing on Bush’s ground, rather than going, hammer and tongs, for the one gaping chink in the Bush armour: Iraq. The Democrats seemed scared of the Iraq word, turning what should have been an anti-war campaign into a paler version of Bush’s war policy. If both candidates were speaking almost the same language on Iraq and the global terror threat, why should the majority of American voters go for imitation jewelry in the form of Kerry’s waffling when they had the genuine article in Bush and his black-and-white certitudes?

Howard Dean’s language on Kerry’s lips, Dean’s anti-war stance made respectable by Kerry’s senatorial gravitas — this was the Democrats’ formula for victory. But being anti-Iraq war meant, at some point, coming up against pro-Israeli sympathies. (For, remember, no country has benefited more from the destruction of Iraq than Israel.) And that is simply unthinkable in mainstream America.

Kerry himself was no mean supporter of Israel but the real hero of the pro-Israel lobby is George Bush who has given Ariel Sharon virtual carte blanche to do as he pleases with the Palestinians. A Bush victory then is a victory for Sharon, presaging the killing and destruction of the Palestinians with renewed strength and energy.

And Shaikh Rashid Ahmed, Pakistan’s information minister — or information nightmare, as some people tend to think — plunging in where prophets would fear to tread, says that in George Bush’s second term the Palestinian problem is likely to be resolved. High time we considered a law preventing ministers from shooting their mouths off on subjects best left untouched.

Democrats and other Bush dissenters, however, have four years of enforced leisure to dissect and analyse this election. Four years of Bush too and then, if I am not running too far ahead, a Hillary candidacy in 2008. You can almost see the Clintons warming their hands before the fire as they try to map out the future.

But in Iraq there can only be despair at the outcome of this election. Not that Kerry was an Iraq peacenik. But Bush being the agent of Iraq’s destruction, his defeat would have been of some consolation to the Iraqi people. But since that is not how it has turned out to be, Iraqi despair can only take on a harder edge.

Will we see more and bloodier assaults on Fallujah, Ramadi and the other centres of Iraqi resistance? Yes, but have no fear the anti-American resistance, firmly rooted and spread across the country, will also continue, which means no end in sight to the suffering of the Iraqi people.

It will be a testing time for Syria and Iran as well which will come under renewed pressure, Syria for supporting the Palestinians, Iran because of its nuclear programme. If the neo-cons in the Bush administration could have their way, they would attack both countries. But America, stuck in the Iraq quagmire, its forces overstretched, can attack Syria and Iran from the air but lacks the means to put boots on the ground.

All praise then for the Iraqi resistance. But for it there is no knowing on which fresh paths of conquest neo-conservative ambitions would have taken the United States.

Paradoxically, Saudi Arabia too should be grateful to the Iraqi resistance. Apart from wanting the Iraq war, the neo-con agenda included the ‘reform’ of Saudi Arabia and if efforts in that direction have not been made, this too is because America is stuck in Iraq.

The great age of Islamic acquiescence in the face of American hubris, when will it end? Iraq was alone in its hour of need, no country in the region daring to say a word, let alone lifting a finger, in its defence. Syria and Iran should not be left alone. If Muslim countries can’t stand up for their rights, they should at least avoid the ignominy of being seen as American stooges.

What about Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda? By supporting Sharon blindly and attacking Iraq wantonly, Bush has proved to be Al Qaeda’s best propagandist and recruiter. Global terrorism hasn’t been curtailed. The Iraq war has given the forces of terrorism a more powerful fillip than anyone could have imagined or indeed hoped for.

The Maoist slogan much shouted during the Cultural Revolution — “there is great disorder under the heavens and the situation is excellent” — could be Al Qaeda’s motto as well.

The more disorder there is the more grist to its mills. Bush has added to the Middle East’s disorder. Contrary to his boast, he is not making the region safe for democracy. He is making it ripe for more instability. The longer the mayhem in Iraq lasts, the greater the threat to the stability of this entire region.

Making everything worse is the absence of any exit strategy. Iraq is not going to be pacified any time soon. It is not easy seeing America defeated and running away. What will happen then? How much more are the Iraqi people destined to suffer?

But our military rulers should be happy, encouraged by the fact that their warm and intense relationship with the Bush White House is set to last another four years.

In a perfect world, with everything going for him and the last piece in the puzzle in the form of Bush’s re-election falling into place, Gen Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan’s version of the military strongman who wants to stay in power forever, should feel emboldened to take off his army chief’s uniform and continue as a ‘constitutional’ president. But in less than a perfect world, he is unlikely to do this, his fears rather than a constitutional sense of propriety colouring his judgment.

Which is a pity, this being a chance, one in a million really, to move the country forward to a democratic future, with Musharraf himself, rather than anyone else, presiding over this elusive but much-desired transition.

What is Musharraf afraid of? His appointees hold all key positions in the army. He is a father figure for them as indeed for the general staff as a whole, commanding the army since 1998 and leading the country now for five years.

The political system and the Constitution have been tailored to his convenience and with Bush in the White House for another term, there is nothing remotely threatening visible on the horizon.

So why doesn’t he take the plunge and do himself and the country a favour by carrying out the only revolution it will ever be his lot to carry out, in his wardrobe? But this is too close to call, even closer than the American election. There you had polls to help guide the electorate but here nothing except hunches and wild guesses to help clear the confusion.

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