December 31, 2001
My last New Year's column contained a statement that stands out, in retrospect, as a prediction and a warning that, unfortunately, went unheeded. America, I wrote,
"Stands astride the world, a global Gulliver lording it over the Lilliputians. But at the apogee of its power, the US is subject to the irony of world hegemony increased vulnerability."
Little did I know how vulnerable. Like most Americans, I never imagined that, less than a year later, we would all be staring in disbelief at the smoking ruins of the Pentagon and a good part of downtown Manhattan. But I knew something was amiss: "In the coming year," I predicted, "the profiteers of empire will be especially busy selling the whole panoply of 'good works' the US is performing overseas," especially in "the Middle East, where we are ostensibly fighting another bogey of the modern world, 'terrorism.' Whether the American people are buying it is another question."
Well, if they weren't buying it before, now they certainly are and with a vengeance. As the US goes rampaging through Central Asia in search of Osama bin Laden and his Terrorist International, the War Party has been given a blank check and they're diddling over how much to make it out for. But you didn't have to be a certified seer, a Nostradamus or a Jean Dixon, to see what was coming over the horizon. Reiterating the Clintonian record a new military intervention every few months I wrote:
"These days, the brazen belligerence of the US goes way beyond arrogance and all the way to hubris, the old Greek conception of a pride so overweening that it literally begs to be toppled, like Icarus felled for daring to approach the sun."
Yet Icarus hasn't learned his lesson. Still reaching for that bright orb, he doesn't realize he's been blinded. Lashing out, he stumbles about in the darkness, bellowing like a wounded giant, and wreaking devastation across the globe. Already the ripple effect caused by the US military campaign has caused disruption throughout the region, with India moving quickly to destabilize Pakistan. The nutball Hindu nationalists who hold sway in New Delhi have recently acquired a cache of new weapons from Israel and don't think they won't use them.
India and Israel have a lot in common: not only a mutual hatred of Islam, but also an expressed willingness to use nuclear weapons. It was not for nothing, after all, that Israel recently admitted what it has always officially denied (even though everyone knew the story of Mordecai Vanunu): yes, they have nukes. But why admit this now, at the height of the crisis, unless it is meant as a warning that they won't hesitate to use them?
On the other side of the Middle East, New Delhi's Brahmins are wielding the nuclear stick more openly, explicitly threatening Pakistan with the unthinkable. At issue is the Vale of Kashmir, a section of Central Asia so mountainous and inaccessible that it makes the terrain of Afghanistan look like a golf course. India has always claimed it, in spite of its overwhelmingly Muslim population. If India allowed a real national referendum, Kashmir would doubtless go with Pakistan, but New Delhi's "Great Power" conceit would never permit that, and so the region has been in a constant state of war since the partition of India and Pakistan more than 50 years ago.
From this lair of Islamic "terrorism," various Islamic tribes and groups have launched attacks on India proper, and the Brahmins, asserting their regional hegemony, have decided to follow the good example of the United States in pursuing "terrorism" to its source. Since the Indians aver without offering any proof that the terrorist attacks have been organized and directed by Islamabad, and that these groups are little more than proxies for Pakistan, in effect a de facto state of war already exists between the two nuclear-armed nations. And the conflict is rapidly spreading….
The news that China has moved its troops up to the border with India should have hit the headlines like a thunderclap. The dominoes are falling fast, and even rippling outward to the edge of the world, where North Korea starving, desperate, and demented teeters on the brink. The "mystery ship" that invaded Japanese waters and was sunk by the Japanese Defense Force sent shockwaves through Japan, and globalized this perilous moment.
Are we standing on the brink of World War III? It all depends on just how crazy are the Hindu nationalists who rule an increasingly bizarre and militant India. Perhaps not all of them are particular devotees of Kali, goddess of destruction all I know is that Kali holds a central place in the Hindu pantheon, and she no doubt has lots of fans. Here, for example, is an Associated Press story detailing the mindset of the people of Jaisalmer, India, who live near the border with Pakistan, who are "aching for war":
"'Bring on another war, we are ready,' shouts Jagdish Prasad Vasa, a craggy shopkeeper who has lived through the three wars between India and Pakistan since independence from Britain in 1947. His war cries draw similar chants from the old turbaned men drinking sweet tea at the foot of the sandcastle-like fort.
"'The Jaisalmeris are warriors by nature, always on alert and never afraid to fight,' says Vasa, spitting out juice from his 'gutkha,' a concoction of tobacco, betel nut and spices. 'It's time to put Pakistan down, for good.'"
We've heard all this highfalutin' theorizing about how Islam, at least in its Wahabist incarnation, is the equivalent of "Islamo-fascism," but how much more explicit can you get than deifying the concept of Destruction? If I were the Pakistanis, I wouldn't rule out the distinct possibility of an Indian first strike would you?
By even raising the threat to begin with, New Delhi is announcing to the world that the proximity of US troops in the region is absolutely no deterrent. Remember that, during the Cold War, the Indians were generally pro-Russian, and their hatred of America has by no means abated. Pakistan, on the other hand, has stood by the US, with General Pervez Musharraf risking the peace and stability of his own country to root out Al Qaeda. What has India done to fight the bin Ladenites?
Nothing except take advantage of the crisis to pursue revanchist land claims and threaten our primary ally in the region with nuclear annihilation. They are about as helpful as Israel, with whom they just signed a big arms deal. The Indo-Israeli alliance doubles the chances of World War III starting in the Middle East. If Ariel Sharon doesn't succeed in provoking it on his end, then the worshippers of Shiva the Destroyer have their chance in the East. After all, Lord Shiva is often depicted wearing a necklace of human skulls around his neck. It may not be this year, but surely by the next we will see a nuclear exchange in that part of the world unless something is done to stop it.
The great danger, right now, is that Osama reported to be somewhere in the wilds of Pakistan may already be seeking refuge in Kashmir. If that is the case, then he will have deposited himself right at the epicenter of the region's geopolitical fault-line in which case anything can and will happen.
Look, I don't want to write another "I told you so" column really I don't but in researching this piece I reread all my New Year's columns, or, rather, both of them, and I have to say I was a little frightened by the one dated December 31, 1999, "Millennial Madness Around the World." I had completely forgotten about it, as I have all the others. After all, I write three times a week, usually at length, and it's a defense mechanism, really, a way to keep going by constantly clearing out the old to make way for the new. In any case, I took a look at it again, for the first time since writing it, and it was clear that I had foreseen the new spirit of the age, if not the full horror of its defining moment:
"If the millennium madness that has gripped the world in the weeks leading up to this climactic night is a portent of things to come, then the 21st century promises to be even crazier, bloodier, and more tyrannical than the last. Let's get past the official optimism and all the Panglossian hype about how the ubiquity of the Internet, free trade, and capital-D Democracy are going to usher in a global utopia: if we project the present state and mood of the world into the future, then, as Bette Davis put it in All About Eve: 'Fasten your seatbelts. It's going to be a bumpy night.'"
I even got the geographical details of my dark vision right, pointing specifically to the Middle East as one of the persistent "sore spots" of the world. If we judge how some of the more troublesome peoples of the world are planning on celebrating or not celebrating the New Year, then clearly, I wrote, the new millennium is not going to be party time. Consider Saudi Arabia, where:
"Sheik Abdullah bin Jabrain, a leading Muslim cleric, flatly declared that 'celebrating the holidays of the infidels is not allowed, even if its [sic] out of courtesy, because they are not holidays that Allah revealed.' The conceits of universalism are so easily overthrown; not even courtesy is globally recognized as a virtue, as anyone who lives in our 'multicultural' society knows all too well."
The austerity of the Muslim mindset was matched by the Israelis, who invoked a similarly stern religious edict against millennial joy. "The party is no merrier in Israel," I wrote,
"That beloved theocracy, where an official council of rabbis has made it all but impossible for even foreigners to enjoy a New Year's party. Hotel owners have been told that they may not hold New Year's celebrations. While not forbidden to rent facilities to non-Jews, hotels must somehow make sure that no Jews would be admitted. Music, at any rate, is strictly forbidden at these gatherings no, not even a single verse of 'Auld Lange Syne'!"
Remember all those New Year's 2000 events that were canceled because everybody was "cocooning"? What has really changed? Indeed, things have gotten much worse. We're all still cowering in terror, only this time with good reason, and the anti-joy, anti-pleasure ideology of the ayatollahs and their Israeli equivalents has infected even American society. "Don't you know there's a war on?" the prudish warmongers ceaselessly remind us how can you engage in such frivolous activities as partying and cutting taxes at a time like this? Caught in the crossfire between warring theocrats, we've all been drawn ineluctably into this ancient blood feud. It's gotten so bad that we're as obsessive and involved as these two battling desert tribes who are so much alike in their dried-up asceticism.
Okay, now we get to the scary part. I had completely forgotten my reference to the Weekly World News, that ludicrously lurid tabloid no one will admit to reading on the supermarket check-out line, and its oddly prescient story: "Face of Satan Photographed Over US Capitol!" There was even a picture that oozed sheer malevolence: a thin, mocking face that peered out of a black swirling cloud, manic eyes ablaze and the mouth twisted into a satanic sneer. This, it seemed to me, more than any other news story about the terrorist threat or the prospect of war in the Middle East, described the spirit of the coming age.
Of course, compared to its sister publication, the good old National Enquirer, which is almost respectable now, the Weekly World News is not too reliable. But this account of how "intelligence agents" using "handheld" cameras "that are generally found on spy satellites photographed the hideously evil Face of Satan hovering over our nation's Capitol on November 17" seems to have presaged the gibbering evil that hangs over us all today. The Weekly quotes "one unidentified veteran CIA operative" as saying:
"The image is a portrait of terror unlike anything we've ever seen in this country. Is it something supernatural? Is it some kind of life form? Is it and hell yes, I'll ask the question is it Satan himself?"
That awful apparition, the Weekly continued, was "sitting up there over our nation's Capitol like a crow on a clothesline, taunting our every move. Is it somehow a sign of events either bad or good to come?"
Well, uh, definitely bad, I would say. But you didn't need a special camera to capture the spirit of the nation and the world as it stood on the brink of the new millennium. This Weekly World News story, I averred, "perfectly expresses the Zeitgeist of the new age: a dark, ominous sense of foreboding." A crow sitting on a clothesline, taunting our every move with maniacal cawing sounds like Osama to me.
As the world races to the edge of the abyss, with the US racing the fastest, this sense of foreboding has been more than confirmed. We have unleashed through our arrogance, our carelessness, and our shortsightedness forces that we can neither understand nor control. Having planted the seeds of the war that is now only just beginning, this year, which the President of the United States has promised will be a "war year," we are bound to reap the whirlwind.
I take no satisfaction in having predicted all too accurately the course history has taken since 1999. It sickens me, really, to know that one can rail against the darkness, even as it descends, and all to no effect. It seems, at times, that we are helpless to defy the march to war, powerless to fight an invincible evil that hovers, like that image of Satan above the US Capitol, over the days of our lives. War abroad, and the specter of repression at home: this is what we have to look forward to, and it isn't pretty. Looking into the future, on this first day of 2002, what is visible with striking clarity is the clearly discernible Face of Satan.
But all is not lost. There is still time time to wake up the American people, who may yet perceive that their interests do not lie in perpetual war. Time to revive the spirit of the Constitution and the memory of our Old Republic, in spite of the deformations of Empire. We must fight for all that America once was, and can be again with all our might, and using every weapon at our disposal. This is the final battle, and we must either win it, or die in the attempt. Antiwar.com will be there, to inform you, uplift you, and keep you company. And that's the only comfort I have to offer: the knowledge that you are not alone.
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