A Postmortem of Post US Election Debate
A lot has been said and debated in this and other forums on the cause and the significance of the results of recent US elections. Now that the post election debate on the results of election have subsided, it may be an opportune time for a postmortem of the post election debate, i.e a postmortem of the postmortem of the election. I wish to take a critical look at many of the views expressed by various schools of thoughts and affiliations among both the secular liberals and pro-religious conservatives. I may not be able to cite exact quotes, as I haven't compiled all those views, but hopefully I will paraphrase their views fairly accurately.
One secular liberal school is hailing the result as a major victory in the struggle against religious extremism. They equate Bush's invasion of Iraq = A fight to destroy Islamic terrorism. Seems like they have joined the with majority of US public in believing or buying into claim that Saddam = AL Quaida/9-11. The fact is that: (A) There was no such connection. And this fact is not just the opinion of the so called liberals. We can take the opinion of Craig Winn whom people know by now as a staunch critic of Islam, no less vocal or meticulous than Ali Sina, if not more, whose book "Prophet of Doom" has been demanded to be banned by Islamic groups and his life threatened. Craig Winn in his open letter to Bush wrote :
"We now know that Saddam's regime wasn't involved in 9/11 and that it wasn't a clear and present danger to America. So your reasons for invading must have been personal and political, not defensive" (Link: http://www.prophetofdoom.net/openletter.html )
(B) Sadam's regime, albeit a cruel dictatorship (Which US never had any problem with) was secular, totally opposed to religious extremism (That's why Bin Laden hated him so much, calling him infidel and in his latest TV appearance just before US election said that US had replaced one lackey, i.e. Saddam to install another, i.e Alawi),
(C) Saddam never showed a direct hostile attitude towards US. Whatever anger he showed after getting severe lashing by US for 13 years was amazingly subdued compared to the ferocity of US hostility toward Iraq (Sanctions, bombing etc) and
(D) It was the family of Saud who had been funding and aiding the Islamic extremists, but Bush administration instead of taking on the Saudis (In contradiction with the stated stand that anyone aiding or abetting the terrorists are also terrorists) had been very accommodating to the Saudis. The same can be said to Pakistan,
(E) If destroying AL-Quaida and capturing Bin Laden was the top priority, then US could have done it at a fraction of the cost (in terms of money and lives lost) when US surrounded Bin Laden and his followers in the caves of Tora Bora. If 100s of thousands of Iraqi civilians is worthy of killing to ensure that the insurgents hiding among them are guaranteed to be killed, then there should have been much less ethical or strategic problem in carpet bombing the Tora Bora cave (Where mostly Bin Laden and his followers were hiding) to get rid of Bin Laden and his followers in matters of hours if not minutes. But US simply decided not to pursue seriously the world leader of Islamic extremists who committed the 9/11 11 acts (by his own admission in the tape), but instead diverted all the energy and resources toward a ruthless secular dictator who headed a country with great strategic interest for US and finally
(F) The invasion of Iraq has rather provided an ideological boost for the Islamic extremists to rally against US in Iraq, where there was no Islamic terrorist activity.
There is no objective reason to assign lesser score to Kerry than Bush in the war against terrorism. One does not have to be partisan to see this, although one can be partisan despite seeing this (Hope reader can get this subtle difference). Kerry and Clinton are not very different in their stand against terrorism. Clinton is given credit to have prevented the millennium plan (Bojinka project) for terrorism in 2000. The fact that acts like 9/11 could happen after nine months of Bush in power (Nine months is a long time to prepare against terrorism if it was taken seriously as a real possibility, which should have been the case, given the lessons from Bojinka plan). Since Kerry and Clinton are not too different in their worldview there is no reason to believe US under Kerry would be much different from US under Clinton as far as war on terrorism.
Given all the above facts, it is a bit of a stretch to label Bush's victory as a step forward in fight against terrorism. True, US has been successful in destroying Saddam and Iraqi infrastructure by invading Iraq, but not in targeting the real perpetrators and the abettors of 9/11 and not in fighting the Wahabbi influence (The ideological root of religious terrorism) in the world including in US. Kerry may have been ambivalent and contradictory on his Iraq stand (Although hair splitting argument can provide wiggle room to counter such characterization in 90% cases), but certainly he has not been any weaker or indecisive on his stand against the real root of terrorism.
We can indulge in a thought experiment. We can imagine that Kerry was the president during the 9/11 incident. There is no reason to believe that there would not have been any action by US in Afghanistan against Al-Quaida, whether or not Kerry would have successful in rooting out terrorism, this school of secular liberals would have equated Kerry = USA and would have labeled any criticism of Kerry as weak on terrorism. There is nothing absolute or objective about the views of this school of secular liberals supporting Bush vis a vis war on terrorism. Incumbency does add a significant factor in shaping perception. Add to that a strong (yet misdirected) action against Iraq which created a illusion of war against terrorism.
Now a second aspect of the post election debate. Some secular liberals have opined that the Iraq policy of Bush is one inspired by and Bush's victory is mainly due the influence of Christian fundamentalism. That is a conclusion with very little logical basis. The main architects of Iraq invasion known as the neocons, were planning this long before Bush came to power. They just convinced Bush enough (Just as they convinced Clinton to launch a Tomohawk missile on Iraq in 1998 and impose a permanent & ruthless sanction against Iraq). The neocons are not really Christian fundamentalists. Many of them have quite liberal background and Harvard educated. They just have a very pro-active strategic agenda for global US influence (specially in the oil rich Middle East arena). Many traditional republican conservatives like Pat Buchanan, Geroge McGovern etc had opposed both Iraq invasion (I & II) and are not sympathetic towards the neocon world agenda. In fact Pat Buchanan even thinks that the Neocons would even prefer Kerry over old conservatives like himself, because to them even Kerry is more Hawkish (thus closer to their agenda) than the traditional conservative republicans. (See : http://www.theamericancause.org/patgoingback.htm ) Many church organizations have also expressed concern about the Iraq policy of Bush administration and have expressed fear about a civilizational clash. Even Pat Robertson has expressed reservation about Iraq attack. Contrast that with the Hawkish attitude of much less conservative (in the traditional sense) people like Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle et alia. So Iraq policy can not be sweepingly categorized as a conservative or Christian fundamentalist inspired agenda. Bush may have become personally more religious, but the US policy is guided by practical factors, not by any ideological hatred for any religion. Of course we can all agree that a powerful segment of Christian fundamentalists have endorsed Bush because they see that Bush would be more accommodating to their social view on abortion, gays, creationism etc, and Bush welcomed their endorsement (And why not, it doesn't hurt to get some extra votes to come to power). Had the Christian fundamentalists endorsed Kerry (hypothetically say, reflecting the pacifist stand of many Christian church), Kerry would also have welcomed them. In politics support from anyone, irrespective of ideology or principle is welcome if it helps to come to power. A good analogy is right in our own backyard, where BNP and AL both had curried favor with Jamat to gain power, although AL tried it first, BNP tried it with a vengeance and did a much better job.
As regards the role of Christian fundamentalism in Bush's victory, that also has been amplified. Many traditional conservatives and church goers have voted against Bush. There had been groups like Relatives of Bush against Bush before the election. After the election the main factor was identified as voters placing moral values on top. It would be a mistake to equate many people's view against abortion and gay marriage as Christian fundamentalist. A good number of public who hold a moral stand against abortion rights or gay marriage are not necessarily church goers or fundamentalist Christian. Majority of churches in USA did not go on the field exhorting rural folks to vote for Bush to preserve moral values. Rather it was the Republican strategists, people like Karl Rove who did the psychological maneuvering to influence public's perception and exploiting their concern about their traditional moral values being threatened under Kerry. Again an analogy from Bangladesh would be if some shrewd BNP strategist (Not a Mullah) can convince the public that voting for AL means voting for vice, immorality, against religion, then ordinary mass who are not Islamic fundamentalist would vote against AL, similar to many ordinary Americans far from urban area voting against Kerry. But now that Bush has won, the Christian fundamentalists will be certainly have more influence on republican party just as Jamat has exerted there influence of BNP after BNP victory. One ominous side effect of that Christian fundamentalist influence is already visible in the case of a school curriculum placing a sticker of "Just another theory, not a fact" sticker on evolution in text books.
Some secular liberals have expressed the view in chorus with the pro-Islamic camp that Bush's policy is against Muslims or Islam. A recent post in Mukto-Mona forum reflected that view. That view is also erroneous in my opinion. In fact many other secular liberals have accused US (i.e Bush) him of being too soft to the Wahbbist lobby in US and worldwide. Even Craig Winn accused Bush of not taking Islamic threat seriously, (Read the link cited earlier). Some have accused US of being too kind to Jamatis in Bangladesh. Saudi Arabia,Pakistan have been in the favoured list of Bush, despite they both being the stronghold of Islamic ideology and Islamic extremists. If Bush's focus was against Islam and Muslim, then hundreds of billions of dollars would not have been spent on secular Iraq, who kept the Islamic fundamentalists at bay. Rather Bush would have targeted KSA, Pakistan, Sudan and Iran, ruled by Islamic clergies and who unlike Iraq, have track record of harboring Islamic terrorists. By the way if Bush was primarily guided by anti-Islamic/anti-Muslim view, the Sudan would have been the first target, Sudanes theocrats have been very cruel towards Christians, aided Jihadists, but US had no problem with Sudan's rulers, and has condoned all their acts.
Even in Iraq, US had welcomed the rise of the religious groups banned under Saddam. I can't find any logic for getting rid of a secular dictator and welcoming/tolerating orthodox Islamic groups if they were intrinsically anti-Islamic or anti-Muslim. If you are anti-someone you destroy them just as Stalin, Mao or Hitler did, they tried to annihilate those they were anti. I may have simplified and glossed over many issues, but my aim was to present some general counterpoints in the critique of some simplistic views on the issue.
Nov 15, 2004
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