Disgust in India at the War
than a week after President George W. Bush launched his "shock
and awe" campaign against Iraq in flagrant violation of international
law and the will of the world community, there is growing popular
revulsion, disgust and anger in India at the gory campaign of death
and destruction unleashed by the Anglo-American coalition. There
is also mounting disappointment at and opposition to the Indian
government's ambivalent stand on the war.
protests are growing. Although severely under-reported, there have
been strong demonstrations in more than 100 cities. The main Opposition
parties, barring the Congress, have now formed a joint front which
will launch a series of protest actions all over the country, beginning
among the anti-war campaign issues is the boycott of US and UK companies,
from oil giants to consumer products conglomerates, and more than
30 brands in garments, colas and tobacco. Protestors are expected
to make a bonfire of these an action reminiscent of the public
burning of British-made cloth during India's struggle against colonialism
led by Mahatma Gandhi.
than 85 percent of Indians polled oppose the war on Iraq. The vast
majority of them believe that the world will be a much worse, more
dangerous, place at the end of the war, which will aggravate the
threat of sub-state terrorism. They particularly oppose the indiscriminate
use of force against Iraqi civilians. Buttressing this view is the
surge of sympathy in India for the Iraqi people. Most Indians identify
with the Iraqis as Third World people culturally akin to themselves,
who have suffered under colonial rule and discrimination, and who
have, like them, fought against imperialism.
Indians strongly opposed the 1991 Gulf War. So did their government
initially, but it later caved in. In the late 1990s, Indian civil
society organisations campaigned for the lifting of sanctions against
Iraq and collected voluntary donations of food and medicine.
as in the 1990s, the Indian opposition to the war on Iraq cuts across
religious, ethnic, linguistic, and geographic lines. Only a small
minority of people support the war: ultra-Right politicians in Hindu-extremist
groups, confused neo-liberals, and strategic hawks, for whom a "strategic
partnership" with the US is more important than the Indian
elements are driven by a visceral hatred of Pakistan, against whom
they hope to recruit the US as an ally. Some are embarrassed that
India ever followed a non-aligned policy and was a founder-leader
of the Non-Aligned Movement. The anti-Pakistan posture derives largely
from the temptation to blame India's neighbour for all domestic
and regional ills and to evade responsibility for the Indian leadership's
abject failure to solve the country's myriad problems.
Indians oppose the war on Iraq for a number of reasons:
believe it is fundamentally unjust, unwarranted and against all
canons of justice of war and justice in war. It lacks provocation.
Iraq poses no credible threat to the US or the UK, nor has posed
one to its own neighbours since 1991.
There is no link, as the US and the UK sought to make out on
the basis of doctored or forged documents between Baghdad and
"international terrorism" of the jehadi or Al-Qaeda
variety. This is important because Indians are particularly sensitive
to "terrorism", which is a reality in the country, especially
in Kashmir, although the danger can be exaggerated by India's
Anglo-American war coalition, which is what the supposedly global
"Coalition of the Willing" has been reduced to, took
the Iraq issue to the UN Security Council to obtain its authorisation
for the use of force. But as soon as it discovered that it would
lose a vote on its own "second resolution" (because
it couldn't swing even one of the highly vulnerable and weak "Middle
Six" Third World states on the council to its side), it cynically
withdrew it to launch aggression. This shows the US's utter
contempt for the UN, indeed for all global and multilateral institutions,
which it seeks to undermine.
Iraq war is only the beginning of the process of building an American
global Empire by re-drawing the borders of the Middle East, setting
up a series of puppet regimes, and then rewriting the rules of
international relations, indeed by shifting the global goalposts
through military hegemony.
sums up this grand venture better than the Washington-based think
tank, Project for the New American Century. PNAC, whose members
include powerful people like Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Richard
Perle, Paul Wolfowitz, Jeb Bush and Elliot Abrams, explicitly wants
a world order in which the US alone has veto power and calls
all the shots. Such "full-spectrum" dominance precludes
even "advanced industrial nations from challenging our leadership
even aspiring to a larger regional or global role".
documents have been published in the mainstream Indian media, evoking
shock and disbelief. The post-war agenda of some of its leaders
was brazenly outlined in reports of the March 21 briefing of the
influential American Enterprise Institute, at which Perle was present.
This agenda is: radical reform of the UN, "regime change"
in Iran and Syria, and "containment" of France and Germany!
for many Indians, what Washington's topmost policy-shapers advocate
is a Western (or rather American) version of the Brezhnev Doctrine
they are only too familiar with namely, "limited sovereignty"
for the states of the Eastern bloc. The US wants poodles, not
people here see the Indian government slipping precisely into that
first status, after first opposing a war on Iraq (between September
and January), and then (especially in the past six weeks) wriggling
between saying no war without Security Council authorisation, and
(timidly) opposing "regime change". Occasionally, Vajpayee,
with characteristic lack of focus, piously says there should be
no war "anywhere". The real reason for India's pusillanimity
is its courtship of America, and the US offer of contracts in post-war
the Indian government has repeatedly refused a proper Parliament
debate on Iraq, followed by a vote (which would be overwhelming
against war). This has been a strong and unanimous Opposition demand.
Indians are appalled at the government's statements on the Iraq
issue, which place the blame for war not on the US, but on the Security
Council, for not "harmonising" its positions on Iraq!
actual conduct of the war, in which 300 Iraqi civilians have perished,
has further inflamed public opinion in this country. No one here
believes that Iraq's Shias despite their antipathy towards the
Saddam Hussein regime could willingly support the invading Anglo-American
troops as Iraq's "liberators".
"liberation" rhetoric is not unfamiliar here. In 1917,
Lt General Stanley Maude, then leading the Anglo-Indian Army of
the Tigres, used that very term after invading and occupying Iraq.
He declared: "Our armies do not come into your cities and lands
as conquerors or enemies
but as liberators". A terrible spell
of colonial tyranny followed. The Iraqis learned never to
trust imperial powers.
15,000 troops of the British Indian Army (half of them combatants)
participated in this brutal operation. One of the greatest beneficiaries
of the invasion of Iraq, referred to us "the Mosul, Basra and
Baghdad Wilayats" in colonial documents, was Charles Greenway,
later Lord Greenway, chairman of the Anglo-Persian Oil Company.
The parallels with today's Halliburton and Bechtel are unmistakable!
Bush, Blair, Tommy Franks all fall in the same category as Maude,
a good chunk of the Western media's contemporary coverage celebrating
"the Allies'" triumph, based on "embedded" correspondents,
falls in the category of crude war propaganda. A number of stories
filed by CNN and the BBC, the main Western channels beaming to South
Asia, have proved false or downright concocted.
include the March 20 report of Saddam Hussein's presence in a government
building bombarded with a "decapitating" strike; doubts,
unsupported by facts, about his (or his "double's") pre-recorded
television addresses (suggesting obsessive reluctance to accept
he survived "decapitation"); and the Basra "uprising"
staged by the southern Shias.
there aren't too many Indian channels which use Al-Jazeera or Abu
Dhabi TV as feed. However, the state-owned Doordarshan channel,
with the widest coverage of all, has been carrying brief bulletins
by an Indian programming company, Third Eye TV. This provides independent
and far more critical spot coverage of the events in Iraq.
is already apparent to most Indians that the promised, extremely
brief, near-bloodless, war, which was to trigger either the Iraqi
army's instant disintegration or a coup against Saddam Hussein,
may turn out to be a prolonged nightmare. Not only has the Anglo-American
coalition suffered a series of setbacks with 49 officially admitted
deaths of soldiers, at least seven prisoners of war (PoWs) taken,
a fratricidal attack by an American soldier, and repeated recrudescence
of fighting in cities and facilities declared "captured".
But stiff resistance from Iraqi militias and regular forces means
that the US and British forces could get sucked into close-quarter
combat and guerrilla warfare in which they enjoy little advantage
over the Iraqis, unlike their enormous superiority in "fourth-generation"
the unsuccessful assault on the Medina division of Saddam's Republican
Guard shows, even fierce attacks haven't "softened" Baghdad
to a point where it cannot be defended against ground attack. If
this situation persists, the US will have two broad options: get
into close-combat i.e. urban warfare , or apply more force,
less discriminately, by bombing military facilities located right
next door to civilian inhabitations, or even target civilians. That
is the true logic of war, after all.
March 26 missile attack in a busy market in Baghdad, which killed
at least 17 people, may be a sign of what's to come. Slowly, but
surely, Indians are becoming aware of the reality of this war and
its horrendous human costs: children wounded and maimed, people's
homes devastated, and the young and old blown to bits the very
people in whose name this war is being waged.
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