November issue 2004

By | Editorial | Opinion | Published 20 years ago

Strange are the ways of electoral politics. A man who overruled the writ of the UN, ignored the advice of the European Union and the Muslim world, and decided to invade a sovereign state on charges that subsequently proved unfounded, has made it to the White House second time round. And with the highest number of popular votes in American history.

Does this mean that the ordinary American has endorsed Mr George Bush’s unilateralism, militarism and terrorism? What can the world look forward to from the world’s only superpower in the days ahead? More daisy-cutters and cluster bombs being rained on the beleaguered masses of Iraq and Afghanistan and beyond?

Even as the Republicans were engaged in victory celebrations, TV networks were announcing that American forces were preparing for a major assault on Fallujah.

Understandably, the world views Mr Bush’s second term in office with reservations — and trepidation. There exists a very potent danger that Mr Bush may use his huge mandate as a signal to extend his military adventurism to Iran, Syria and North Korea.

While almost half of the US and the world mourns the return to Capitol Hill, of the gun-slinging cowboy — courtesy God, gays and guns — there is rejoicing in the cool environs of Islamabad. The obvious assumption is that a four-year term for President Bush means a four-year term for President Musharraf. Bush and Mush, as we all know by now, have a very cordial relationship that dates back to September 11. Never mind the fact that the General had to earn that ‘friendship’ by supporting the Pentagon every inch of the way in its war against terror. Or that Pakistan had to pay a heavy price — “collateral damage” as our American friends are wont to call it — for its U-turn in foreign policy.

Pakistan’s information minister is ecstatic over Bush’s re-election, and he said so at an iftar dinner. He thinks it would give the Kashmir peace talks a boost. An official admission of the extent of US involvement in the composite dialogue between India and Pakistan? Interesting and ironic that a US President, who is given to wielding the bomb at the slightest pretext, should stress that India and Pakistan settle the Kashmir dispute on the negotiating table instead of the battlefield. However, if only for the sake of the battered Kashmiris, who are crying for peace to return to the Valley, one hopes that the US will stay the course — and insist that the two countries take the aspirations of the Kashmiris into account while thrashing out a solution. Or is that a tall order?

One has been a witness to the drama that has been enacted in Palestine. The Palestinians were pummelled and pulverised by Israel’s security forces — with the blessings of the US. The US’s custom-brokered roadmap was redrawn to accomodate Israel’s interests and later consigned to the backburner. Yasser Arafat, the symbol of the Palestinian freedom struggle, was confined to the battered PLO headquarters in the West Bank for the past three years and the US looked the other way. It was only when he lay dying that Mr Bush prevailed upon Mr Sharon to let him fly out to Paris for treatment.

Now that Mr Arafat is critically ill, will the US resurrect the roadmap, or whatever is left of it, or will the Palestinian dream of a homeland die with the man who gave his life and soul for it?

Rehana Hakim is one of the core team of journalists that helped start Newsline. She has been the editor-in-chief since 1996.