Saturday, 14 May 2011

Global War: Local Cause?

More than 100 dead; many more injured. 

There is a terrible inevitability about the twin bombings in Charsadda, yesterday morning. Little about it is different from previous bombings. There is the same vicious tactic of two devices - one designed to kill helpers moments after the first blast. There is the familiar target: recruits to the underpaid, under-equipped paramilitary frontier corps. There is a familiar culprit: the Pakistani Taliban, who claimed the attack.

The difference is that this strike comes after the death of Osama bin Laden. It is an attack, claimed in the name of al-Qaida, by Pakistanis on Pakistanis. I'm not the sympathiser, the analyst, nor the strategist here, but I do have a question.


Why is it that we live in a world where the region to which I owe my personal history continues to be caught up in a war without end? Why is it that Pakistan and the US continue with a delusional marriage that aggravates the suffering? Why is it that Pashtoons appear to be caught up in someone else's war? Why is it that Islam ("peace") has increasingly little to do with this? Why?

The story goes that Osama bin Laden is dead, killed in a secret raid that may/may not have had Pakistani involvement and one that continues to raise questions on the legitimacy - should the US have entered sovereign territory; should bin Laden have been captured and tried; what was the exact narrative of events? Many questions unanswered and perhaps for another time.

But for now I wish to understand the whys I raised earlier. Jason Burke, writes in The Guardian that Osama's "strategy, happily, was not always a successful one ... [many groups across the Middle East] ... rejected Bin Laden's advances, as did others throughout the Far East, the Balkans, the Caucasus and Central Asia."

Global War: Local Cause?
But of those that did sign up, there is a decidedly local dimension which appears first. The global brand of terrorism, such as the Tehrik-e-Taliban-Pakistan, who were responsible for an attempted bombing in New York last year have hitched their local cause to the broader one – against the "Crusader Zionist alliance" or their local hypocrite, infidel, apostate stooges (in this case the Pakistani government and military and all who work for them).

In his article, Burke makes the key point about the appeal for radical groups not being universal across the Muslim world, but points out that "the global language usually disguises local weakness. That of the Pakistani Taliban is that they are not a conservative traditional group battling to preserve age-old customs but a bunch of marginalised men from smaller tribes, without education, without positions in the social hierarchy and who would be nothing without the power of the gun."

... Above all, what the invocation of a dead Saudi-born terrorist's name is aimed at disguising is the truth about the various conflicts that have been conflated into the narrative, in Washington as much as in compounds in Abbottabad, of one single civilisational clash.

In fact, there is no single conflict, simply a nasty mesh of individual wars, most of which pitch countryman against countryman, in Iraq, in Afghanistan and in Pakistan."

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