By Saeed Naqvi
30th Sep 2012
It is a paradox, of course, that rampaging anti Americanism in the Muslim world can eventually be controlled only by the very target of Muslim rage — the United States. In other words, calm will not descend unless the Washington establishment gets into a scrum, once it is free of such distractions as the US Presidential elections.
And distractions are legion. To begin with, the US has to once again lead its trans-Atlantic friends to face the looming reality of Western decline. There are the reckless in its ranks who would point to Western revival after the two great wars. Remember, the US economy crested at 50% of the world's GDP in 1945, after the second war, they will say. This extreme school, nursing visions of Armageddon, is fortunately circumscribed by pragmatists.
Many in the West regret the manner in which a great opportunity was lost after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Instead of working towards a prosperous, humane order, the West allowed itself to be fitted into a straitjacket of triumphalism by oil companies and giant Corporates, and marched into Operation Desert Storm, Iraq, bugles et al.
Bugles, it turns out, were the global channels, led by CNN, followed by BBC World Service, TV exactly two months later.
The problematic Muslim world was being brought into focus as early as the 70s and 80s after the 1973 quadrupling of Arab oil prices, TWA hijack, etc. But technology for live telecast of wars had not been perfected. This happened with Operation Desert Storm in January 1991.
Amplification of Western triumph as the theme acquired a life of its own on the newly born global TV. Understandably, that which came across as triumph for non Muslim audiences, registered as Arab humiliation in the Muslim world. The divide became sharper with the two Intefadas, brutalisation of Bosnian Muslims for four years without a break, the post 9/11 occupation of Afghanistan, occupation of Iraq, destruction of Libya (Syria is in the works), sanctions on Iran, an unbroken list of double standards, if you consider Bahrain or Saudi Arabia itself, the mindless collateral damage caused by drone attacks — an image in the Muslim mind of America gone berserk, and in exercise of brute power. Blind too.
After the fall of the Berlin Wall, American op-ed pages were cluttered with attitudes, columnists acting as cheerleaders for Baghdad’s Green Zone or Kabul’s Bagram.
For years it was clear to everyone but Americans: devoutly religious Afghans, seething with rage at countless acts like the burning of the Quran in Bagram, marines urinating on dead Afghans, night raids to humiliate a people who value their pride above all else, and worse, that in this atmosphere, American officers would train 350,000 Afghan troops and that these "trained" Afghans would not turn their muskets on their trainers? I am surprised that "Green-upon-Blue" did not take place earlier.
And now, just imagine the situation: US officers train Afghan soldiers wearing full armour, visor et al! If only it were not so horrendously tragic, the scene has all the accoutrements of a comic anti-war film.
Of course, Muslims, smarting under an unbroken litany of defeats and humiliation at least since 1492 when the last Muslim ruler departed from Andalusia, are in no state of mind to balance their response to any provocation — deliberate or accidental. The instrument for these provocations is the global media and its internet variant. These instruments have been callous, even malicious in their focus on Muslims.
Gradually, the West will realise what a priceless asset it has compromised in this process. What with the lies told by the Western media during operations in Libya, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan. Never in history has the so called global liberal media been so bereft of credibility. James Reston, Anthony Lewis and William Safire in their era were respected because they based their columns on information that no one else had.
After the fall of the Berlin Wall, American op-ed pages were cluttered with attitudes, columnists acting as cheerleaders for Baghdad's Green Zone or Kabul's Bagram. Nothing, of course, could match Fox News' Geraldo Rivera, aiming a revolver at the camera, demonstrating how exactly he would shoot Osama bin Laden! (It must be added, in parenthesis, that British media has been vastly more professional.)
As I said, the Muslim world will be calmed by a less hyper US. To begin with, its media will have to recover its élan, which it has surrendered in motivated journalism. To calm nerves an independent, bipartisan media is required.