By Saeed Naqvi
The famous newspaper tycoon, builder of San Simeon castle in California, William Randolph Hearst, knew the nexus between war and journalism. “You furnish the pictures and I’ll furnish the war”, he told American artist, illustrator, Frederic Remington.
The brazenness with which the media has been used by the Americans and their cohorts in Libya and now in Syria has its origins in American history.
The general attitude of racial superiority over those currently in the line of fire also has its abiding historical precedents.
When questions were asked about American excesses during the conquest of the Philippines, Senator Albert Beveridge, like so many others in Congress, said: “It has been charged that our conduct of the war has been cruel. Senators must remember that we are not dealing with Americans or Europeans. We are dealing with Orientals.”
It is an undeniable reality that racialism were rampant in the United States in late 19th early 20th centuries when at least “two negroes were lynched by the mobs every week”. After all, Martin Luther King’s Civil Rights movement was climaxing just the other day when King had to pay with his own life. Also, we tend to forget that Mrs. Margaret Thatcher flatly refused to withdraw support to the apartheid system in South Africa when Rajiv Gandhi along with frontline African statesmen engaged her in London in 1986.
Indeed, it was only in February 1990 that Nelson Mandela’s 27 year long incarceration was brought to an end signaling an end to apartheid.
Despite the debris of war which surround it and over which it towers, there is the human side to the American which gets no play in the media. These are the conscientious objectors, who, atleast since the Iraq occupation are giving up their establishment jobs.
Some months ago, when the Syrian situation was under control, I found myself in the company of Edward Lionel Peck, an ex US ambassador to several Arab countries, driving in a bus from Damascus to Homs and Hama. That very day, the US ambassador Robert Ford with his French counterpart was driving from Deraa to Hama, Homs and sundry trouble spots, exhorting the people to rise. Obviously there were CIA trained Syrian cells which clustered around the ambassador. That afternoon I visited the palace to meet President Assad’s adviser, Buthaina Shabaan, one of the most elegant women in public life. She was as dazed as I was at the US ambassador combining in his persona both, diplomacy as well as 007 style espionage. As his boss in Baghdad’s Green zone, John Negroponte had praised him for his audacious outdoors diplomacy plus direct action.
A professional diplomat, Ed Peck, was disgusted with what he saw. He wrote to a friend of his also in that bus in Syria: “I have been dismayed by the accolades and support given to Ambassador Ford, our man in – and now out of Syria, for stepping well out of the traditional and appropriate role of a diplomat and actively encouraging the revolt/insurrection/sectarian strife/outside meddling, call it what you will, that is still going on. It is easy to imagine the US reaction if an ambassador from anywhere were to engage in even distantly related activities here. I fear my country remains somewhat more than merely insensitive, and is sliding into just plain rampant and offensive arrogance.”
When two planes flew into the twin towers, the US launched an endless (still continuing) war on terror. But when terrorists bomb and kill the Syrian Defence Minister and two other members of Assad’s cabinet, an overjoyed Economist says the attack “is greatly to be welcomed”!
When Al Qaeda and Taleban destroyed the Bamiyan Buddhas, in March 2001, the world, Washington included, went into convulsion. And now, when Al Qaeda type movements, created by Western intervention in Libya, are destroying heritage sites in Timbaktu, there is barely a whisper.
What is going on? A war against Al Qaeda in Af-Pak and a deliberate manufacture of just those elements in Syria? Has New Delhi forgotten its breast beating against cross-border terrorism in Kashmir atleast since 1989? How will it ever raise that issue again having voted along with the west which stands for cross border terrorism by US, France, UK, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey against Syria?
(The writer is a Distinguished Fellow at Observer Research Foundation)