am become Death, the shatterer of worlds."
the wake of 9/11, much has been written of the link between religion specifically,
Islam and the rise of the terrorist threat: the religion of Mohammed, we are
told, represents a dire threat to the West, comparable, in scope and potential
lethality, to that of the old Soviet Union perhaps greater. In recent days,
we have been subjected to warnings that this threat will "inevitably"
take the form of a nuclear device, detonated, perhaps, in an American city. Be
that as it may, the nuclear incarnation of the Muslim Threat is depicted as a
deadly potential. In spite of a veritable flood of scare stories, to the
effect that Al Qaeda-like terrorists are about to get their hands on a nuclear
device, or have been trying to acquire one, no one argues that Osama bin Laden
or his allies have a nuclear device. But there is another brand of religious
fanaticism that actually does have The Bomb, whose adherents are not only willing,
but also, one could argue, even eager to use it.
am become death, the shatterer of worlds" these were the
first words out of J.
Robert Oppenheimer's mouth as he saw his handiwork blossom over the New Mexico
desert, in 1945, at the dawn of the nuclear age. He was quoting the Bhagavad-Gita,
the holy book of the Hindus, and, as Robert Marquand
of the Christian Science Monitor reported in 1998:
India, Dr. Oppenheimer's words are increasingly quoted by a new type of Hindu
activist. For them, his use of their sacred text shows how Hindu ideas of deity
are connected to modern times. Fire and fire rituals are a major element of Hinduism.
The visage of creator-god Vishnu is like the brilliance of a nuclear flash, they
points out that India's nuclear arms program is suffused with Hindu imagery: the
Agni rocket stands for the Hindu fire god; the Trishul missile is named for the
trident of righteousness held by Vishnu. Defending the Indian government's decision
to go nuclear, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee declared that nukes are
necessary component of overall national strength....The greatest meaning of the
tests is that they have given India shakti."
Hindu concept of shakti refers not just to power, but divine power,
i.e. the military prowess of the Hindu pantheon. In Hindu mythology, Shakti is
the consort of Shiva ("the Destroyer"), and this was also the code name
for India's nuclear program during its developmental stage. In hailing his nation's
swollen sense of shakti, after the 1998 nuclear testing that inducted India
into the nuclear club, Vajpayee expressed a key precept of the Hindutva
movement that now threatens South Asia with nuclear destruction.
rise of Hindu fundamentalism as a political force in India catapulted the Bharatiya
Janata Party to power and sought to expunge the Gandhian pacifism of the old
militantly secular Congress Party tradition, replacing it with a new martial spirit.
The idea of Hindutva, which energizes the Hindu activists, sees India not
only as a Hindu state, but as a militantly revanchist force in the region, a nation
determined to recapture its old empire. As I explained in a previous column devoted
to this fascinating subject, the Hindutva movement has created a whole
mythology based on the idea of ethnic Indians as the
first and only pure Aryans: the swastika is an ancient Hindu symbol, and has
been revived by what I call the Hindu-fascist forces in India. The Rashtriya
Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the ideological center of Hindutva, has a
provision in its constitution that its leader must be a blue-eyed
hesitate to use the term "neo-Nazi" to describe a contemporary political
movement, as it has become almost a ritualistic term of abuse. However, in this
case, the label fits precisely: to begin with, the Hindutva theory of "Aryan"
racial superiority is nearly identical to that of the German Nazis. Hitlers followers
borrowed not only the swastika but also adopted
other mythic aspects of Hindu mysticism, such as the alleged Arctic origins of the
"Aryan" race propagated by B. G. Tilak and others.
cites Francine Frankel, director of the Center for the Advanced
Study of India, as saying that India's ruling party "has reinterpreted Hinduism
to include a manly assertiveness." This is confirmed by the exclamation of
one Hindu leader who, averring his support for India's nuclear program, declared
"We are no longer eunuchs!"
psycho-religious symbolism of India's nuclear exhibitionism may have eluded our
political leaders, but it wasn't lost on the scholarly community. Marquand cites
Sanskrit scholar Surendra Gamphir, who says militarism is so "deeply embedded
[a] concept in Hindu culture that you hold scripture in one hand and a weapon
in the other."
short, what we are dealing with, in India, is a bunch of neo-Nazi nutballs with
a giant nuclear chip on their shoulders and suffering under a terrible feeling
of inadequacy, or impotency. Calling a group or party "nutballs" is
a bit harsh: but, again, there is no other way to describe the Indian leaders'
professed indifference to the consequences of a nuclear exchange. Surely a stoic
calm in the face of such a horror has deep and dark psychological roots.
Such a volatile mixture of psychological and ideological maladies ought to have
set off alarm bells, back in 1998, when they became a nuclear power, but nobody
seemed to "connect the dots," as they say. As Marquand pointed out at
after last month's test, experts in New Delhi and Washington are not speaking
of a 'Hindu bomb' - [even] as they speak of an 'Islamic bomb.'"
made its position clear last year, when George
Fernandes, India's defense minister, declared:
could take a strike, survive and then hit back. Pakistan would be finished."
Western diplomat worried aloud that "these people have never heard of Hiroshima
and Nagasaki," but, then again, perhaps Westerners have trouble understanding
the concept of reincarnation,
which figures prominently in the religions of Asia, and especially in the Hindu
tradition. You may be incinerated by a nuclear bomb in this life, but don't
worry you'll come back. Perhaps as a citizen of a more civilized country, where
the idea of mass death is unthinkable. It's the next best thing to a green card.
Pakistanis, for their part, are playing a strictly defensive role in this nuclear
drama. Outnumbered by India's massive army, which is poised on the border, its
only advantages are a more modern air force, its special relationship with the
US and the willingness to press the nuclear trigger. The determinedly pro-American
General Pervez Musharraf, who single-handedly stopped Pakistan's slide into Afghan-style
fundamentalism, has had to fight a war on two fronts: against Al Qaeda and
the Indian ultra-nationalists, both of whom are pushing determinedly into the
disputed Kashmir region and share a common goal: the dissolution of the Pakistani
professors John T. Rourke and Mark A. Boyer, both of the University of Connecticut
- Storrs, point out, the ideologists of Hindutva hold up the
idea of a Greater India as a key foreign policy objective:
BJP's platform advocates not only the return of India to its traditional Hindu
culture, but also the resurrection the India that was once a great power. Many
Hindu nationalists have maps depicting the ideal of Akhund Bharat, 'Old India,'
with territory encompassing Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan."
by a sense of religious messianism, and dedicated to the restoration of a lost
empire, the Hindu-fascists of the BJP have a
lot in common with their Israeli allies most importantly, they have a common
enemy in Islam. Embarked on an extensive program of military
cooperation, the two countries have affected a similar stance in the post-9/11
era: that of being more royalist than the king (i.e. the US) when it comes to
the issue of terrorism. The Israelis have argued that, like the Americans in Afghanistan,
their incursions into Palestinian territory are justified in the name of the "war
on terrorism." Likewise, New Delhi, in justifying its ongoing subjugation
of Kashmir and incursions into Pakistan, cites the pursuit of "terrorists"
as justification and darkly hints that Pakistani intelligence masterminded the
recent attack on India's parliament.
the core of the conflict is the issue of Kashmir, which India has invaded, and
holds against the will of the largely Muslim population. While formally agreeing
to hold free elections, India has managed to delay the process since 1948,
India and Pakistan voted for the Indian resolutions which called for a UN-supervised
plebiscite. India's Occupied Territories, like Palestine's, are held under
martial law, and that is not the only parallel: here, too, religious ideology
provides a ready justification for a foreign policy of militant expansionism,
the unanswerable justification for daily atrocities visited on an occupied people.
BLAIR, ARMS SALESMAN
key ally of India is Britain. Foreign secretary Jack Straw made a special
trip to Islamabad the other day to accuse Musharraf, on his home turf, of
"aiding 'terrorists' in Kashmir" and demanded that he curb "extremists,"
i.e., anyone fighting against the Indian occupation. As John Pilger points
out, Britain's New Labor has acted as a kind of brokerage firm for the British
arms industry, and Tony Blair has been a most effective salesman when it comes
to peddling his wares in New Delhi:
January, as the two countries prepared for war, Tony Blair arrived in the subcontinent
on what was called a "peace mission." In fact, as the Indian press revealed,
he discussed the opposite of peace a £1billion deal to sell India 60 Hawk fighter-bombers
made by British Aerospace. 'The issue of India acquiring the Hawks," reported
the periodical Outlook India, 'was raised by Prime Minister Blair with
Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee, defense minister George Fernandes said today.' Three
weeks later, the British High Commission in New Delhi threw a party for a group
of British arms salesmen in town for a major weapons fair called Defexpo, whose
organizers made no secret of their aim to exploit the 'recent developments taking
place in the south-east Asia region' in other words, the conflicts in Kashmir
Britain, Israel, and India arrayed against him, General Musharraf who has loyally
cooperated with the US in the fight against Al Qaeda at great risk to his office
and his life is in a very tenuous position, and whether he holds out is crucial.
For if he falls, then the fate of all pro-American regimes in that part
of the world is prefigured: Musharraf and his Arab brethren will share the fate
of the Vietnamese Montagnards, and those
Cubans who foolishly but heroically went down to defeat at the Bay
of Pigs. Everyone in the region will get the message, fast, and America's
allies in the war on terrorism will be reduced to Israel, Britain, India, and
STAKES FOR AMERICA
is why George W. Bush's position is nearly as tenuous as Musharraf's. He must
balance the demands of our rabid "allies," pushing for an open alliance
with India, against the national interests of the US, which militate in favor
of Musharraf. Again, the parallels with the Palestinian conundrum are striking:
Bush has been veering back and forth, first praising Musharraf for his steadfast
support to the US military effort, and then scolding him publicly for supposedly
not doing enough to rein in Kashmir militants and for stubbornly (and correctly)
insisting the goal of independence for Kashmir is "a just struggle."
It is a mirror of US relations with Arafat.
collusion with a newly-aggressive and expansionist India has helped bring us to
this point standing at the edge of a nuclear catastrophe in South Asia. "Weapons
of mass destruction" the mantra we hear so often when it comes to Iraq
hardly seemed to matter where India was concerned, at least until very recently.
Oh, there was near-universal hand-wringing when India tested nukes, but no imposition
of any but the mildest of sanctions and even the beginning of a US-Indian rapprochement.
9/11, we had already greatly increased
our previously low-level military cooperation with India, and, last
I heard, joint US-India war
games were scheduled to occur even as US officials were saying the Indo-Pakistani
war could go nuclear in three weeks.
American interest in the India-Pakistan dispute is twofold:
from the moral value of circumventing mass death, we have an interest in preventing
a nuclear war that could have unpredictable and invariably dire health consequences
well beyond the immediate vicinity of the catastrophe.
is a key battlefield in the entirely legitimate effort to eliminate Al Qaeda as
a military force. Without General Musharraf, and his largely US-trained-and-equipped
military, a massive US operation in Pakistan an invasion is inevitable. Which
is precisely what the War Party wants
American interests, and justice, dictate a policy of unequivocal support
for General Musharraf. For he is our Pinochet
in the war on terrorism, and, like his namesake, he deserves better than to be
thrown to the dogs. All this guff
about how "democracies"
never start wars is surely proven wrong by the example of India, which started
the regional nuclear arms race by being the first to conduct tests, and is now
openly threatening its neighbor with nuclear annihilation.
must be prepared for mutual
destruction on both sides," says Indian defense secretary Yogendra Narain.
This seeming indifference to the prospect of 12 million
people incinerated in the first stages of a nuclear conflict is echoed by Hindu-fascist military
strategists, such as Lieutenant General Satish Nambiar, affiliated with a
military think-tank based in New Delhi.
don't think the Americans want a full-scale war on their hands in this region.
I think there would be some pressure on Pakistan so that the situation does not
escalate into a war situation. In the worst-case scenario, if Pakistan escalates
and there is a war, then we will deal with it. We must be prepared. We have been
fighting a war with one hand tied for the last 15 years."
cultural blinders we wear in the West prevent us from seeing the full horror of
the monstrous Shiva rising in the East. Many were struck by the weird admixture
of medieval notions and modern methods that animated the cadres of Al Qaeda. But
then what are we to make of this
scientists are turning to an ancient Hindu text in their search for the secrets
of effective stealth warfare. They believe the book, the Arthashastra, written
more than 2,300 years ago, will give Indian troops the edge on their enemies.
India's Defense Minister George Fernandes has approved funding for the project,
and told parliament recently that experiments had begun."
single meal that will energize a soldier sufficiently to fight for a month; footwear
that enables the wearer to walk for hundreds of miles without tiring thanks
to the application of a serum made from the flesh of owls and vultures; a magic
fairy-dust made of fireflies and the eyes of wild boar that bestows the ability
to see in the dark: these projects, as well as numerous recipes for chemical warfare,
are being decoded from the ancient Hindu texts by Indian scientists. Given
the growing US-Indian military relationship, one can legitimately wonder if
perhaps US tax dollars are being used to investigate the military uses of sacred
bat guano mixed with eye of newt.
THE GODS WOULD DESTROY, THEY FIRST MAKE MAD'
aside, this is serious, folks. The Indians have indicated they are planning to
invade parts of Pakistan, and run the risk of all-out retaliation leaving it
to the Americans to restrain Musharraf. But what if he won't be restrained and
why shouldn't the Indians restrain themselves?
course, they won't: madmen never do. That's why we consider them mad to begin
with. We know we are dealing with madmen when we listen to Professor SV Bhavasar,
whom the BBC describes as a "space scientist," defend the effort to
give the sacred Hindu texts a military application:
of us are excited about the possibilities and do not for a moment think that the
idea is crazy."
don't know what they're smoking over there, but it seems like some pretty powerful
stuff. A space scientist? That appears to be a typo I think what the BBC meant
was spaced scientist, as in so spaced-out that he doesn't know fantasy
scary is that we are not talking about ignorant peasants, here, but of scientists
and the people in charge! Of course Professor Bhavasar doesn't think the
idea is crazy because Indian society has gone completely bonkers, and is now
capable of anything yes, even a genocide of Hitlerian proportions.
will stop them? Will the President of the United States overcome the active collaboration
of our "allies" with crazed Hindu-fascists and demand that New Delhi
stand down? This, more even than 9/11, may prove to be the real test of his presidency.
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