January 4, 2002
It's amazing, really, when you think about it: no sooner had the Pakistan-India conflict reared up as a consequence of America's "new war," then Israel's amen corner in the US had already taken up the cudgels on New Delhi's behalf. Gee, these guys are fast. That always-reliable barometer of elite opinion, Andrew Sullivan, succinctly summarized the party line in a weblog item entitled "Israel and India":
"After September 11 and the president's speech to Congress in which he laid out a clear doctrine of zero tolerance for terrorism, it seems to me our foreign policy is clear. Both Israel and India at either ends of the Islamic Middle East must be unequivocally supported in their struggles against Islamo-fascism. Both are democracies; both allow freedom of religion; both have enemies who are friendly with the perpetrators of the WTC massacre."
Whoa! Hold it, dude freedom of religion? Sullivan, the big Catholic, surely must know about the widespread persecution of Christians, particularly Catholics, since the Hindu nationalists came to power in 1996. That year, the United Christian Forum for Human Rights documented over 120 attacks on Christians by Hindu-fascists.
The wave of murders, church-burnings, and other outrages has increased exponentially ever since Interior Minister L. K. Advani, a Hindu hardliner, took his "chariot journey" from a Hindu temple in Gujarat province to Ayodhya, alleged to be the birthplace of the Hindu deity Rama. Like Mussolini's march on Rome, Advani's journey was the signal for the beginning of a new era in the politics of the subcontinent, marking the rise of militant Hindu-fascism as the dominant political force. The Hindu fundamentalist Bharatiya Janatha Party (BJP) quickly grew from a fringe group, with 2 seats in Parliament, to the biggest party on the Indian scene. Advani's march on Ayodhya culminated in the demolition of a mosque there, and coincided with the launching of a program dedicated to "saffronizing" Indian society.
You might think that the term "Hindu-fascism" is as much an overstatement as its antipode, "Islamo-fascism," which we have heard so much about lately from Sullivan, Christopher Hitchens, and the pro-war crowd. Yet what else are we to make of the BJP's official slogan, "One Nation, One People, One Culture" eerily similar to that of the German Nazis? In this context, should we be surprised by the news that a Hindu priest recently sacrificed an 8-year-old boy to the god Shiva, known as "the Destroyer," by chopping off his head?
The US State Department's 1999 human rights report slammed New Delhi for encouraging "increasing societal violence against Christians.'' The report also singled out the BJP and allied Hindu-fascist groups for instigating mob attacks on priests, missionaries, and Christian pilgrims. And things aren't getting any better: the recent declaration by Bajrang Dal, a Hindu group associated with the BJP, announced that "Christians [are] now bigger enemies than Muslims." Dharmendra Sharma, the Bajrang Dal's fuehrer, "declared that his organization was ready to fight wherever church institutions were active," according to the Times of India. "We are prepared to use violence," said Mr. Sharma. "There is no limit."
The Indian government itself acknowledges the problem, although not it's severity indeed, the BJP and its allies in the governing coalition downplay the increasingly numerous attacks, although that is getting harder to do. According to Vijayesha Lal, who monitors human rights abuses against Christians in India:
"In some areas, it's out in the open sometimes it's very subtle. Persecution in India is at different levels. Sometimes, it's direct persecution, mob violence, breaking of churches, burning of Bibles, physical violence, even murders. On the other hand there is persecution by the official machinery. Using laws, regulations that are against Christians."
Violence and rhetorical hate directed at Christians, and against Catholics in particular, is on the upswing in India: oddly, this doesn't seem to bother Sullivan, who only needs to know that India, like Israel, "must be unequivocally supported." If this was a wave of gay-bashing, the openly gay Sullivan who manages to find a gay rights angle in practically everything, even the present war might find it harder to overlook. The Indians are doing everything but nailing priests to crosses, and yet the supposedly Catholic Sullivan has the gall to praise them for "allowing" religious freedom. Not since the days of Walter Duranty, the infamous pro-Communist New York Times journalist who reported that Stalin's gulag was a workers' paradise, has such intellectual dishonesty flaunted itself so boldly.
But the real question is: why the blatant hypocrisy? The answer is contained in the rest of Sullivan's screed:
"To play footsie with either country now, to do anything but provide extremely clear public support, would deeply undermine the integrity of our own struggle against this destabilizing evil. I see no evidence that the administration has done anything but back both countries but for a while there, I had real worries that the same kind of moral equivalence that we falsely ascribe to Israel and the PLOHamasHizbollah was one we were beginning to apply to India and Pakistani-sponsored terrorist groups. I'm with India on this one, and am glad they pushed this principle to the brink of warfare to get their message across."
Liars and frauds are always betrayed by their style, which invariably gives them away, and Sullivan demonstrates that principle here in spades. "PLOHamasHizbollah" that he runs all these separate words together should give the perceptive reader a clue that important lines are being deliberately blurred. Particularly invidious is Sullivan's equation of Pakistan's General Pervez Musharraf with the PLO and Palestinian groups like Hamas and Hizbollah.
Unlike Arafat, Musharraf is a head of state, one who has cooperated fully with Washington in the hope that this would be, in his phrase, a war that is "short and sweet." This was done, and is still being done, at considerable risk of destabilizing Musharraf's own precarious position. Furthermore, Musharraf came to power with covert US support, in order to prevent Pakistan from sliding into chaos and creating the conditions for the triumph of a Taliban-like regime. So Sullivan is not merely lying, here, but standing the truth on its head.
Aside from the rhetorical sleight-of-hand Sullivan tries to pull off here, what's interesting is that his pairing of India with Israel is no mere rhetorical flourish. Jane's Defense Weekly has reported some details of the Indo-Israeli axis, including cooperation on a wide range of projects: the erection of electronic fencing around the disputed Kashmir region, the provision of nuclear-armed submarines with advanced Barak missiles. Israel's recent sale of an Israeli Phalcon airborne warning and control system (AWACS) to India is an important addition to the arsenal of Hindu-fascism, and not only militarily.
The AWACS deal formalizes an increasingly intimate Indo-Israeli military and economic alliance, one that has lately grown to include Taiwan. As I pointed out in my New Year's column, India and Israel have a lot in common: not only a mutual hatred of Islam, but also an expressed willingness to use nuclear weapons.
The stilted tone of Sullivan's pro-India pronouncement, which bears all the earmarks of the worst sort of political writing, is so much unlike his other writing that it stands out as oddly inexplicable. Sullivan, a big fan of George Orwell, is surely aware of Orwell's classic essay on "Politics and the English Language," in which the author of 1984 describes the degeneration of political writing in his day:
"In our time it is broadly true that political writing is bad writing. Where it is not true, it will generally be found that the writer is some kind of rebel, expressing his private opinions and not a 'party line.'
"Orthodoxy, of whatever color, seems to demand a lifeless, imitative style. The political dialects … are all alike in that one almost never finds in them a fresh, vivid, homemade turn of speech. When one watches some tired hack on the platform mechanically repeating the familiar phrases bestial atrocities, iron heel, bloodstained tyranny, free peoples of the world, stand shoulder to shoulder one often has a curious feeling that one is not watching a live human being but some kind of dummy."
So the imposition of a "party line" destroys what makes a writer convincing: it puts blinders on someone whose job it is to see and describe what he is seeing. But what "party" are we talking about here? Surely not the Democrats or Republicans, nor any third party with a place on the ballot, but one, rather, that wields a powerful and often decisive influence in both major parties: the Israel lobby, or, as Pat Buchanan unforgettably dubbed it, Israel's "amen corner" in the US. Sullivan makes sure he always shouts "Amen!" the loudest. In his view, Israel can do no wrong.
Indeed, along with the Christian fundamentalists whom he despises, that nation's government has no more loyal advocate than Sullivan: he even beats out Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell in his willingness to suspend all critical thinking when it comes to Israel. That is why his writings on the subject are so dully unconvincing, and so unlike his usually thoughtful style. It's also why he is perfectly willing to overlook the ongoing persecution of his Catholic and Christian brothers at India's hands and even to praise them for their alleged religious tolerance!
The example of Andrew Sullivan will, I hope, shut up the crazed anti-Semites who continually send emails berating me for not specifically denouncing a "Jewish conspiracy." According to their perfervid epiphanies typed, it seems, in nearly all CAPITAL LETTERS and cluttered! with! exclamation! points! Jews control the media, and indeed are the media. As a British gay Catholic with an upper-crusty accent, Sullivan is about as far from being an Elder of Zion as you can get, and yet his is an influential voice which, added to the others, amounts to a sort of chorus. When Israel's government announces a new policy initiative, they all shout "Amen, brother!" without a thought as to what effect it will have on their own country.
As to precisely which country the cosmopolitan Sullivan owes his real loyalties he's an expatriate Brit who's now taken up residence in America I wouldn't venture a guess. But from his comments not only in this instance but consistently down through the years, I would say that the first letter quite possibly begins with an 'I' and I don't mean India.
It's nice, of course, when one's extraterritorial loyalties coincide, and so no one is exactly surprised that one Tunku Varadarajan, of the Wall Street Journal, should aver that, while Pakistan's alliance with the US is "mercurial," India, on the other hand, is a "truer kind of ally, one whose support for any war on Islamic terror is not opportunistic, but instinctive and philosophical." This, of course, is the same "philosophy" that drives howling mobs of Hindus to wreck Christian churches, burn mosques, and purge the land of anyone or anything that has not been sufficiently "saffronized." As India's rulers hold a nuclear sword of Damocles over Pakistan, their missiles within range of where thousands of US troops are stationed, fellow travelers of Hindu-fascism are to be found in the highest circles of elite opinion an Amen Corner whose motives and methods are dishonest, and downright sinister.
The irony is that the activities of this Indo-Israeli alliance and their US fifth column conflict with announced US war aims, forcing Pakistan to withdraw troops from the Afghan border in order to meet the threat from India's massive troop mobilization. It's funny, but these same people Sullivan and Varadarajan are always so quick to point out how critics of US policy are "undermining the war effort," yet in this case they are the ones subverting a decisive American victory. But, then again, if Osama slips through the US-Pakistani net the war will not only continue indefinitely but will immediately escalate which is just what the Amen Corner wants. For that would pit the US and Israel, allied with India, in a war against the entire Middle East, a conflagration in which we can only lose and only our ostensible "allies" have anything to gain.
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