Friday, November 28, 2008

Mumbai part I

A few days ago I had a long conversation with an old friend. She is someone I respect and care deeply about. Yet, in our conversation she told me that she was concerned about the growing Muslim influence in this country, and that she was sure Obama was Muslim - that he had stated so in an interview with Bill Riley.

I asked her what was wrong with the U.S. having more Muslims. She said the U.S. is a Christian country and that it needs to keep mosques out so it can stay Christian.

Now with the attacks in Mumbai, there will be more hatred unleashed against Muslims. A note of warning for media outlets...not all Muslims are terrorists.

---and not all violence is about religion or about South Asia. The attack on the most affluent center of Mumbai, that is mostly frequented by Westerners is a telling reminder that the attack is also on the West... as stated in one newspaper article, the gunmen were looking for American and U.K. passports... The timing is also interesting, being between the U.S. election and inauguration of our new President. Didn't someone say that it was a vulnerable time for the U.S.? on Mumbai November 28, 2008 ...[A] heinous though typical pro-coup, government-mimicking NYT Editorial was written in April, 2002 -- just months after the 9/11 attacks, when the extremism and mindless submission to Government authority that would grip this country for the next several years was still rumbling towards it peak. The terrorist attacks in India this week serve as a critical reminder of how easily those forces are unleashed. Any decent, civilized person watching scenes in Mumbai of extremists shooting indiscriminate machine gun fire and launching grenades into civilians crowds -- deliberately slaughtering innocent people by the dozens -- is going to feel disgust, fury, and a desire for vengeance against the perpetrators, regardless of what precipitated it. The temptation is great even among the most rational to empower authority to do anything and everything -- without limits -- to punish those responsible and prevent repeat occurrences. That's a natural, even understandable, response. And it's the response that the attackers hope to provoke. It's that temptation to which most Americans -- and our leading media institutions -- succumbed in the wake of 9/11, and it's exactly the reaction that's most self-destructive. As documented by this superb Washington Post Op-Ed today from Dileep Padgaonkar, former editor of the Times of India, the Indian Government -- in response to prior terrorist attacks -- has been employing tactics all-too-familiar to Americans: "terrorism suspects have been picked up at random and denied legal rights"; "allegations of torture by police are routine"; "suspects have been held for years as their court cases have dragged on. Convictions have been few and far between"; Muslims and Hindus are subjected to vastly disparate treatment; and much of the most consequential actions take place in secrecy, shielded from public view, debate or accountability. As Padgaonkar details, many of these measures, particularly in the wake of new terrorist attacks, are emotionally satisfying, yet they do little other than exacerbate the problem, spawn further extremism and resentment, and massively increase the likelihood of further and more reckless attacks -- thereby fueling this cycle endlessly -- all while degrading the very institutions and values that are ostensibly being defended. The greater one's physical or emotional proximity to the attacks, the greater is the danger that one will seek excessively to empower and submit to government authority and cheer for destructive counter-measures which allow few, if any, limits. What happened in the U.S. over the last eight years is about much, much more than what "the Bush administration" did. It begins there, but responsibility in the post 9/11-era is much more diffuse and collective than that. Shoveling it all off on the administration that is leaving, while exonerating our culpable media and political institutions that remain, isn't merely historically inaccurate and unfair, though it is that. Allowing that revisionism also ensures that the critical lessons that ought to be learned will instead be easily and quickly forgotten when similar episodes occur here in the future. -- Glenn Greenwald

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