Sunday, February 23, 2003

Nehru’s Choice

Dr. Khalid M. Batarafi
The late Indian leader Jawahar Lal Nehru said half a century ago: “Dealing with America, you have two choices: You either accept the authority of the Pentagon and lose your freedom, or the authority of Hollywood and lose your culture.”
Nehru was talking about better days: Now American hegemony, which started with the fall of the European empires after World War II, does not admit any choices.
Globalization has strengthened American dominance in trade, culture and information. It has also reinforced its position as a single world power following the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the collapse of the Eastern bloc, whose members joined NATO and the European Union.
The Sept. 11, 2001 events helped the US to take steps to deepen its hegemony and realize its plan of making the 21st century the American century.
Every action has a reaction, and it seems that the new administration which assumed power in Washington has been hasty in creating its new empire. They were rash in their push after the Sept. 11 attacks, expecting that the world would have no choice but to surrender. They forgot that the heirs of the former empires also have interests that have to be defended, and nurture experts capable of exposing the American plan.
It would be wrong to think that the position of the European governments is based on moral principles and that the people in the European streets demonstrated in support of them. Despite the anti-war marches in British, Italian, German, French and Swedish streets, their governments’ policy is dictated by self-interest.
After Washington strengthened its grip over oil sources in the Caspian Sea, Canada and Mexico (with the NAFTA accord) and in Nigeria by changing the government, and in Venezuela by supporting the revolution against the first democratically elected government there, and in Indonesia by weakening its economy, it was inevitable that it would seek control of the richest oil source in the Gulf by political, economic and military means.
Europe and Japan had the choices of Nehru’s India, but they opted for military and political alliance. They resisted successfully for some time, but failed in their cultural choice.
However, there still remains vast scope for choice and independence in the economic field, despite Washington’s dominance in international economic institutions such as World Bank, International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organization.
It seems that Europe’s patience began to wear thin after the US decided to establish a military base in Kabul, on the Caspian Sea and another in Baghdad near the Gulf, coming as it did on top of Washington’s economic dominance in North and South Americas, Central Africa, Central Asia and the Indonesian archipelago.
The American move is a threat to the new European empire project, the new Chinese awakening, Russian ambitions and Japanese moves to restore its economic power. If the American threat frightens these major powers, then what will be the situation of weaker countries?
Demonstrations in Europe, the US and other parts of the world were motivated by moral considerations and legitimate fears about the return of the rule of tanks and missiles, for which the world had paid dearly with the deaths of 100 million people. And elected leaders and politicians do respond to the demands of their people, provided the people insist on their demands and threaten their rulers’ seat in government.
But the main reason for this stand in opposition to the war is the growing fear of US expansionism. Who knows, this international awakening to America’s economic and political domination might be the beginning of a resistance movement, which, though late in the day and slow to rise, is nevertheless to be welcomed.

Tuesday, February 18, 2003

An Open Letter to Friedman

Dr. Khaled M. Batarfi, Special to Arab News

I thought you were against this right-wing administration’s wars. Were there good rea-sons why you "seem" to accept the idea of war against Iraq, even if reluctantly?
I am confused and hurt these days: I hate to divide the world into "with us and against us", "good and bad guys" as the "Pushy Doctrine" advocates, but there are moments like this when you really need to know your friends from your enemies.
Just try it, Tom! Can you define as a friend someone advocating the Holocaust? I find it equally difficult to define as friends the advocates of such criminal war against us (all of us, not just Iraq) for the benefit of Israel, oil and arms companies, what-ever geopolitical motives the Zionist "men of peace" and "women of democracy and prosperity for ME" in Washington and Tel Aviv may have.
Tom, my friend, it is at moments like this when one defines and understands oneself and human identity.
A man with your access to information and inside stories knows better than to believe such propaganda from those who led us into two world wars and many regional conflicts from Korea and Vietnam to Angola and Nicaragua.
This is the same propaganda which por-trayed Saddam one day as a "good guy" fighting for the free world against dark-age Khomeinism, and sponsored OBL and company as Mujahedeen for a similar cause against the "Evil Empire" — then, when interests changed, rediscovered and rede-fined them!! And I am not referring to some claim in an old history book, Tom.
It is in such defining moments, as today, when we make a stand and get our records straight in history. I hope you agree with me (and ironically with Bush, too!!) that there is one choice to make and clearly mark: Either we support a war that we know how to start but no idea how it could end and at what human and material cost, or we try to achieve our goals through peaceful means as we have chosen in the much more danger-ous situation in North Korea.
I very much hope and pray that you will continue to agree with me as we always did, even before we met in Jeddah last year (I had been reading you for more than six years before that), that the Clinton drive for peace and prosperity in the Middle East is the only path we can take, and that taking measures with "teeth" doesn’t necessarily mean using guns.
Peace has proven ways of achieving hard goals, too, if we give it enough time and our persistent and sincere support.
Salam and Shalom from your Arab cousin,
Dr. Khaled M. Batarfi
Arab News Opinion 18 February 2003