An article that I wrote long time back for Bihar Times
appears to be as relevant today
I am posting it on my blog in the memory
of those killed in the Paris terror.
The German poet Schiler's remark "The man who fears nothing is no less powerful than he who is feared by everyone" could very well serve as epitaph to the thousands of Americans who died in that insane, random suicidal attack on the World Trade Centre New York on Tuesday morning. The live coverage of the horrendous events made the phenomenon of terrorism it a universal threat to contend with. The blurring of the distinction between science fiction scenarios and reality bytes narrow down the awareness that vulnerability is a condition of our existence to day. In 1993 it was the serial blasts in Bombay, which caused untold destruction, and death in hundreds and a trail of bloody communal clashes throughout the country. To day it is Manhattan, which has been struck by a calamity of much greater magnitude. Which city is ripe for picking tomorrow?
India has been only too familiar with this sense of hurt and outrage for years now. Terrorists strike downtowns, trains, cars, buses and aircrafts. Even school children are not spared, nor are the aged, infirm or women. But then our pain is of the less dramatic variety. It is dealt out in small installments. It is like an open sore; a continuous hemorrhage. But here the similarities end. When the serial Bombay Blasts took place all we got from the international community was some polite queries and a lot of skepticism about the evidence furnished by India about the source of terror. The perpetrators are free and enjoy the patronage of a sovereign state.
But America the sole superpower has the resource the wherewithal and the determination to wreak vengeance. It has domestic consensus and the unlimited and unqualified support of the international community at its beck and call.
Several truths are told as to the terrorist attacks on World Trade Centre, Pentagon and other symbols of American power. One that terrorism is a crime proper to the 21st Century and that centralised technological societies and powerful military states are as vulnerable as the lesser states. A lone malcontent exploiting the vulnerabilities of a society so organized can wage a war, almost on an equal footing. That the concept of security is illusory and the developing asymmetries are mind-boggling.
Consider the absurdity of the situation. America is hit right in its soft underbelly-its financial district lay in ruins, casualty in thousand and untold misery and destruction is wreaked in peacetime. It is already being described as the second Pearl Harbour. But the blame for Pearl Harbour could be laid on the door of the Japanese; there was a visible identifiable focus of rage, revenge and reparation. But here two days after the tragedy struck and benumbed not only the United States of the America but the entire world, the American President was reduced to take recourse to vague hints, or at best tentative conclusions about the source of mischief. They didn't know for sure who to hit. And it adds to the frustration, misery and the immense self-defeating rage.
Consider the asymmetry. The U.S.A. has mightiest military machine in the world; they have formidable offensive capabilities. Their capability to project their power anywhere in the world was show cased in Operation Desert Storm. And here it is lying devastated by its own civilian flights commandeered by a group of terrorists who cannot be more than a handful. NORAD or NO NORAD. And all its Minutemen and Midget men, Perishings and Cruise, the AWACS and Stealth Bombers proved to be so many duds on the shelf. What can the strategies of pre-emptive strike or launch-on-warning achieve or how does NMD eliminate this threat? That is the special appeal of terrorism. Dramatic success with minimum costs. A cat may like at a King. A David may take on a Goliath.
And where do you go looking for the enemy. It is dispersed within the body politic. To eliminate the possible risk of a terrorist attack you have to invade the privacy of a hundred thousand people on a hundred counts. To make a society free of terrorist threats who have to take away a very large measure of the freedom of your own people. And even then you cannot be sure. Because to know the terrorists mind is like knowing the devil's mind. It is inscrutable; the possible scenarios of deviltry limitless.
To the Americans resolve that "we will make no distinction between those who indulge in terrorist acts and those who harbour them" we can only say that let this be consecrated into a general principle. Because terror is terror and like love "no season knows". American society can never be safe even if it eliminates the potential source of threat to itself because like cancer any hidden focus anywhere in this global society is a threat to the entire international order. Terrorism is not a local enterprise. It is incorporated in the planet earth itself and it must be rooted out as such.