excerpted from the book
by Arundhati Roy
South End Press, 2003, paper
War is the key to distracting the world's attention from fascism
and genocide. To avoid dealing with any single issue of real governance
that urgently needs to be addressed.
Mass murderers will not be ~ brought to justice. Indeed, they
will stand for elections.
The International Coalition Against Terror makes war and preaches
Why do we tolerate them? Why do we tolerate the men who use nuclear
weapons to blackmail the entire human race?
Any government's condemnation of terrorism is only credible if
it shows itself to be responsive to persistent, reasonable, closely
argued, nonviolent dissent. And vet, what's happening is just
the opposite. The world over, nonviolent resistance movements
are being crushed and broken. If we do not respect and honor them,
by default we privilege those who turn to violent means.
In the twenty-first century the connection between religious fundamentalism,
nuclear nationalism, and the pauperization of whole populations
because of corporate globalization is becoming impossible to ignore.
It's disturbing to see how neatly nationalism dovetails into fascism.
While we must not allow the fascists to define what the nation
is, or who it belongs to ...
Each time you defend the right of an institution, any institution
(including the Supreme Court), to exercise unfettered, unaccountable
powers that must never be challenged, you move toward fascism.
Fascism will thrive for a short while and then self-annihilate
because of its inherent stupidity. (But unfortunately, like the
radioactive fallout of a nuclear strike, it has a half-life that
will cripple generations to come.
[The fascists] have mobilized human beings using the lowest common
denominator-religion. People who have lost control over their
lives, people who have been uprooted from their homes and communities,
who have lost their culture and their language, are being made
to feel proud of something. Not something they have striven for
and achieved, not something they can count as a personal accomplishment,
but something they just happen to be. Or, more accurately, something
they happen not to be.
There is no terrorism like state terrorism.
Fascism itself can only be turned away if all those who are outraged
by it show a commitment to social justice that equals the intensity
of their indignation.
In India, those of us who have expressed views on nuclear bombs,
Big Dams, corporate globalization, and the rising threat of communal
Hindu fascism-views that are at variance with the Indian government's-are
branded "anti-national." While this accusation does
not fill me with indignation, it's not an accurate description
of what I do or how I think. An anti-national is a person who
is against her own nation and, by inference, is pro some other
one. But it isn't necessary to be anti-national to be deeply suspicious
of all nationalism, to be anti-nationalism. Nationalism of one
kind or another was the cause of most of the genocide of the twentieth
century. Flags are bits of colored cloth that governments use
first to shrink-wrap people's minds and then as ceremonial shrouds
to bury the dead. When independent, thinking people and here
I do not include the corporate media, begin to rally under flags,
when writers, painters, musicians, film makers suspend their judgment
and blindly yoke their art to the service of the nation, it's
time for all of us to sit up and worry... In the U.S. we saw it
during the Gulf War and we see it now, during the War Against
Terror. That blizzard of made-in-China American flags.
Recently, those who have criticized the
actions of the U.S. government (myself included) have been called
"anti-American." Anti-Americanism is in the process
of being consecrated into an ideology.
The term "anti-American" is
usually used by the American establishment to discredit and-not
falsely, but shall we say inaccurately-define its critics. Once
someone is branded anti-American, the chances are that he or she
will be judged before they're heard and the argument will be lost
in the welter of bruised national pride.
What does the term "anti-American"
mean? Does it mean you're anti-jazz? Or that you're opposed to
free speech? That you don't delight in Toni Morrison or John Updike?
That you have a quarrel with giant sequoias? Does it mean you
don't admire the hundreds of thousands of American citizens who
marched against nuclear weapons, or the thousands of war resisters
who forced their government to withdraw from Vietnam? Does it
mean that you hate all Americans?
This sly conflation of America's culture,
music, literature, the breathtaking physical beauty of the land,
the ordinary pleasures of ordinary people with criticism of the
U.S. government's foreign policy (about which, thanks to America's
"free press," sadly, most Americans know very little)
is a deliberate and extremely effective strategy. It's like a
retreating army taking cover in a heavily populated city, hoping
that the prospect of hitting civilian targets will deter enemy
There are many Americans who would be
mortified to be associated with their government's policies. The
most scholarly, scathing, incisive, hilarious critiques of the
hypocrisy and the contradictions in U.S. government policy come
from American citizens. When the rest of the world wants to know
what the U.S. government is up to, we turn to Noam Chomsky, Edward
Said, Howard Zinn, Ed Herman, Amy Goodman, Michael Albert, Chalmers
Johnson, William Blum, and Anthony Arnove to tell us what's really
Similarly, in India, not hundreds, but
millions of us would be ashamed and offended if we were in any
way implicated with the present Indian government's fascist policies
which, apart from the perpetration of state terrorism in the valley
of Kashmir (in the name of fighting terrorism), have also turned
a blind eye to the recent state-supervised pogrom against Muslims
in Gujarat. It would be absurd to think that those who criticize
the Indian government are "anti-Indian"-although the
government itself never hesitates to take that line. It is dangerous
to cede to the Indian government or the American government or
anyone for that matter, the right to define what "India"
or "America" are, or ought to be.
To call someone anti-American, indeed,
to be anti-American, (or for that matter anti-Indian, or antiTimbuktuan)
is not just racist, it's a failure of the imagination. An inability
to see the world in terms other than those that the establishment
has set out for you: If you're not a Bushie, you're a Taliban.
If you don't love us, you hate us. If you're not Good, you're
Evil. If you're not with us, you're with the terrorists.
Last year, like many others, I too made
the mistake of scoffing at this post-September 11th rhetoric,
dismissing it as foolish and arrogant. I've realized that it's
not foolish at all. It's actually a canny recruitment drive for
a misconceived, dangerous war. Every day I'm taken aback at how
many people believe that opposing the war in Afghanistan amounts
to supporting terrorism, or voting for the Taliban. Now that the
initial aim of the war-capturing Osama bin Laden (dead or alive)-seems
to have run into bad weather, the goalposts have been moved. It's
being made out that the whole point of the war was to topple the
Taliban regime and liberate Afghan women from their burqas. We're
being asked to believe that the U.S. marines are actually on a
feminist mission. ~f so, will their next stop be America's military
ally Saudi Arabia?) Think of it this way: In India there are some
pretty reprehensible social practices, against "untouchables,"
against Christians and Muslims, against women. Pakistan and Bangladesh
have even worse ways of dealing with minority communities and
women. Should they be bombed? Should Delhi, Islamabad, and Dhaka
be destroyed? Is it possible to bomb bigotry out of India? Can
we bomb our way to a feminist paradise? Is that how women won
the vote in the United States? Or how slavery was abolished? Can
we win redress for the genocide of the millions of Native Americans
upon whose corpses the United States was founded by bombing Santa
None of us need anniversaries to remind
us of what we cannot forget. So it is no more than coincidence
that I happen to be here, on American soil, in September-this
month of dreadful anniversaries. Uppermost on everybody's mind
of course, particularly here in America, is the horror of what
has come to be known as "9/11." Three thousand civilians
lost their lives in that lethal terrorist strike. The grief is
still deep. The rage still sharp. The tears have not dried. And
a strange, deadly war is raging around the world. Yet, each person
who has lost a loved one surely knows secretly, deeply, that no
war, no act of revenge, no daisy-cutters dropped on someone else's
loved ones or someone else's children will blunt the edges of
their pain or bring their own loved ones back. War cannot avenge
those who have died. War is only a brutal desecration of their
To fuel yet another war-this time against
Iraq-by cynically manipulating people's grief, by packaging it
for TV specials sponsored by corporations selling detergent or
running shoes, is to cheapen and devalue grief, to drain it of
meaning. What we are seeing now is a vulgar display of the business
of grief, the commerce of grief, the pillaging of even the most
private human feelings for political purpose. It is a terrible,
violent thing for a state to do to its people.
It's not a clever enough subject to speak
of from a public platform, but what I would really love to talk
to you about is loss. Loss and losing. Grief, failure, brokenness,
numbness, uncertainty, fear, the death of feeling, the death of
dreaming. The absolute, relentless, endless, habitual unfairness
of the world. What does loss mean to individuals? What does it
mean to whole cultures, whole peoples who have learned to live
with it as a constant companion?
Since it is September 11th that we're
talking about, perhaps it's in the fitness of things that we remember
what that date means, not only to those who lost their loved ones
in America last year, but to those in other parts of the world
to whom that date has long held significance. This historical
dredging is not offered as an accusation or a provocation. But
just to share the grief of history. To thin the mist a little.
To say to the citizens of America, in the gentlest, most human
way: Welcome to the World.
Twenty-nine years ago, in Chile, on the
11th of September 1973, General Pinochet overthrew the democratically
elected government of Salvador Allende in a CIA-backed coup. "I
don't see why we need to stand by and watch a country go Communist
due to the irresponsibility of its own people," said Henry
Kissinger, Nobel Peace Laureate, then President Nixon's National
After the coup President Allende was found
dead inside the presidential palace. Whether he was killed or
whether he killed himself, we'll never know. In the regime of
terror that ensued, thousands of people were killed. Many more
simply "disappeared." Firing squads conducted public
executions. Concentration camps and torture chambers were opened
across the country. The dead were buried in mine shafts and unmarked
graves. For more than sixteen years the people of Chile lived
in dread of the midnight knock, of routine disappearances, of
sudden arrest and torture.
In 2000, following the 1998 arrest of
General Pinochet in Britain, thousands of secret documents were
declassified by the U.S. government. They contain unequivocal
evidence of the CIA's involvement in the coup as well as the fact
that the U.S. government had detailed information about the situation
in Chile during General Pinochet's reign. Yet Kissinger assured
the general of his support: "In the United States, as you
know, we are sympathetic with what you are trying to do,"
he said, "We ? wish your government well."
Those of us who have only ever known life
in a democracy, however flawed, would find it hard to imagine
what living in a dictatorship and enduring the absolute loss of
freedom really means. It isn't just those who Pinochet murdered,
but the lives he stole from the living that must be accounted
Sadly, Chile was not the only country
in South America to be singled out for the U.S. government's attentions.
Guatemala, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Brazil, Peru, the Dominican Republic,
Bolivia, Nicaragua, Honduras, Panama, El Salvador, Peru, Mexico,
and Colombia-they've all been the playground for covert-and overt-operations
by the CIA. Hundreds of thousands of Latin Americans have been
killed, tortured, or have simply disappeared under the despotic
regimes and tin-pot dictators, drug runners, and arms dealers
that were propped up in their countries. (Many of them learned
their craft in the infamous U.S. government-funded School of Americas
in Fort Benning, Georgia, which has produced sixty thousand graduates.)
If this were not humiliation enough, the people of South America
have had to bear the cross of being branded as a people who are
incapable of democracy-as if coups and massacres are somehow encrypted
in their genes.
This list does not of course include countries
in Africa or Asia that suffered U.S. military interventions- Somalia,
Vietnam, Korea, Indonesia, Laos, and Cambodia. For how many Septembers
for decades together have millions of Asian people been bombed,
burned, and slaughtered? How many Septembers have gone by since
August 1945, when hundreds of thousands of ordinary Japanese people
were obliterated by the nuclear strikes in Hiroshima and Nagasaki?
For how many Septembers have the thousands who had the misfortune
of surviving those strikes endured the living hell that was visited
on them, their unborn children, their children's children, on
the earth, the sky, the wind, the water, and all the creatures
that swim and walk and crawl and fly? Not far from here, in Albuquerque,
is the National Atomic Museum, where Fat Man and Little Boy (the
affectionate nicknames for the bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima
and Nagasaki) were available as souvenir earrings. Funky young
people wore them. A massacre dangling in each ear...
In 1937 Winston Churchill said of the Palestinians:
I do not agree that the dog in a manger
has the final right to the manger, even though he may have lain
there for a very long time. I do not admit that right. I do not
admit, for instance, that a great wrong has been done to the Red
Indians of America, or the black people of Australia. I do not
admit that a wrong has been done to these people by the fact that
a stronger race, a higher grade race, a more worldly-wise race,
to put it that way, has come in and taken their place.
That set the trend for the Israeli state's
attitude toward Palestinians. In 1969, Israeli Prime Minister
Golda Meir said, "Palestinians do not exist." Her successor,
Prime Minister Levi Eshkol said, 'Where are Palestinians? When
I came here [to Palestine] there were 250,000 non-Jews, mainly
Arabs and Bedouins. It was desert, more than underdeveloped. Nothing."
Prime Minister Menachem Begin called Palestinians "two-legged
beasts." Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir called them "'grasshoppers'
who could be crushed." This is the language of heads of state,
not the words of ordinary people.
Young Palestinians who cannot contain their anger turn themselves
into human bombs and haunt Israel's streets and public places,
blowing themselves up, killing ordinary people, injecting terror
into daily life, and eventually hardening both societies' suspicion
and mutual hatred of each other. Each bombing invites merciless
reprisals and even more hardship on Palestinian people.
But the suicide bombing is an act of individual
despair, not a revolutionary tactic. Although Palestinian attacks
strike terror into Israeli civilians, they provide the perfect
cover for the Israeli government's daily incursions into Palestinian
territory, the perfect excuse for old-fashioned, nineteenth-century
colonialism, dressed up as a newfashioned, twenty-first century
Israel's staunchest political and military
ally is and always has been the U.S. government. The U.S. government
has blocked, along with Israel, almost every UN resolution that
sought a peaceful, equitable solution to the conflict. It has
supported almost every war that Israel has fought. When Israel
attacks Palestine, it is American missiles that smash through
Palestinian homes. And every year Israel receives several billion
dollars from the United States.
What lessons should we draw from this
tragic conflict? Is it really impossible for Jewish people who
suffered so cruelly themselves-more cruelly perhaps than any other
people in history-to understand the vulnerability and the yearning
of those whom they have displaced? Does extreme suffering always
kindle cruelty? What hope does this leave the human race with?
The U.S. government says that Saddam Hussein is a war criminal,
a cruel military despot who has committed genocide against his
own people. That's a fairly accurate description of the man. In
1988 he razed hundreds of villages in northern Iraq and used chemical
weapons and machine-guns to kill thousands of Kurdish people.
Today we know that that same year the U.S. government provided
him with five hundred million dollars in subsidies to buy American
agricultural products. The next year, after he had successfully
completed his genocidal campaign, the U.S. government doubled
its subsidy to one billion dollars. It also provided him with
high quality germ seed for anthrax, as well as helicopters and
dual-use material that could be used to manufacture chemical and
So it turns out that while Saddam Hussein
was carrying out his worst atrocities, the U.S. and the U.K. governments
were his close allies. Even today, the government of Turkey, which
has one of the most appalling human rights records in the world,
is one of the U.S. government's closest allies. The fact that
the Turkish government has oppressed and murdered Kurdish people
for years has not prevented the U.S. government from plying Turkey
with weapons and development aid. Clearly it was not concern for
the Kurdish people that provoked President Bush's speech to Congress.
What changed? In August 1990, Saddam Hussein
invaded Kuwait. His sin was not so much that he had committed
an act of war, but that he acted independently, without orders
from his masters. This display of independence was enough to upset
the power equation in the Gulf. So it was decided that Saddam
Hussein be exterminated, like a pet that has outlived its owner's
The first Allied attack on Iraq took place
in January 1991. The world watched the prime-time war as it was
played out on TV. (In India those days, you had to go to a five-star
hotel lobby to watch CNN.) Tens of thousands of people were killed
in a month of devastating bombing. What many do not know is that
the war did not end then. The initial fury simmered down into
the longest sustained air attack on a country since the Vietnam
War. Over the last decade, American and British forces have fired
thousands of missiles and bombs on Iraq. Iraq's fields and farmlands
have been shelled with three hundred tons of depleted uranium.
In their bombing sorties, the Allies targeted and destroyed water
treatment plants, aware of the fact that they could not be repaired
without foreign assistance. In southern Iraq, there has been a
fourfold increase in cancer among children. In the decade of economic
sanctions that followed the war, Iraqi civilians have been denied
food, medicine, hospital equipment, ambulances, clean water-the
About half a million Iraqi children have
died as a result of the sanctions. Of them, Madeleine Albright,
then U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, famously said, "I
think this is a very hard choice, but the price-we think the price
is worth it." "Moral equivalence" was the term
that was used to denounce those who criticized the war on Afghanistan.
Madeleine Albright cannot be accused of moral equivalence. What
she said was just straightforward algebra.
Wars are never fought for altruistic reasons. They're usually
fought for hegemony, for business. And then of course, there's
the business of war. Protecting its control of the world's oil
is fundamental to U.S. foreign policy. The U.S. government's recent
military interventions in the Balkans and Central Asia have to
do with oil. Hamid Karzai, the puppet president of Afghanistan
installed by the United States, is said to be a former employee
of Unocal, the American-based oil company. The U.S. government's
paranoid patrolling of the Middle East is because it has two-thirds
of the world's oil reserves. Oil keeps America's engines purring
sweetly. Oil keeps the free market rolling. Whoever controls the
world's oil controls the world's markets.
And how do you control the oil? Nobody
puts it more elegantly than the New York Times' columnist Thomas
Friedman. In an article called "Craziness Pays," he
says "the U.S. has to make clear to Iraq and U.S. allies
that. . .America will use force, without negotiation, hesitation,
or UN approval." His advice was well taken. In J the wars
against Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as in the almost daily humiliation
the U.S. government heaps on the UN. In his book on globalization,
The Lexis and the Olive Tree, Friedman says, "The hidden
hand of the market will never work without a hidden fist. McDonald's
cannot flourish without McDonnell Douglas.... And the hidden fist
that keeps the world safe for Silicon Valley's technologies to
flourish is called the U.S. Army, Air Force, Navy, and Marine
Perhaps this was written in a moment of
vulnerability, but it's certainly the most succinct, accurate
description of the project of corporate globalization that I have
In the last ten years of unbridled corporate globalization, the
world's total income has increased by an average of 2.5 percent
a year. And yet the numbers of the poor in the world has increased
by one hundred million. Of the top hundred biggest economies,
fifty-one are corporations, not countries. The top one percent
of the world has the same combined income as the bottom fifty-seven
percent and the disparity is growing. Now, under the spreading
canopy of the War Against Terror, this process is being hustled
along. The men in suits are in an unseemly hurry. While bombs
rain down on us, and cruise missiles skid across the skies, while
nuclear weapons are stockpiled to make the world a safer place,
contracts are being signed, patents are being registered, oil
pipelines are being laid, natural resources are being plundered,
water is being privatized, and democracies are being undermined.
In a country like India, the "structural
adjustment" end of the corporate globalization project is
ripping through people's lives. "Development" projects,
massive privatization, and labor "reforms" are pushing
people off their lands and out of their jobs, resulting in a kind
of barbaric dispossession that has few parallels in history. Across
the world as the free market brazenly protects Western markets
and forces developing countries to lift their trade barriers,
the poor are getting poorer and the rich richer. Civil unrest
has begun to erupt in the global village. In countries like Argentina,
Brazil, Mexico, Bolivia, and India, the resistance movements against
corporate globalization are growing. To contain them, governments
are tightening their control. Protesters are being labeled "terrorists"
and then being dealt with as such. But civil unrest does not only
mean marches and demonstrations and protests against globalization.
Unfortunately, it also means a desperate downward spiral into
crime and chaos and all kinds of despair and disillusionment which,
as we know from history (and from what we see unspooling before
our eyes), gradually becomes a fertile breeding ground for terrible
things-cultural nationalism, religious bigotry, fascism, and of
All these march arm in arm with corporate
Multinational corporations on the prowl for sweetheart I deals
that yield enormous profits cannot push through those deals and
administer those projects in developing countries without the
active connivance of state machinery-the police, the courts, sometimes
even the army. Today corporate globalization needs an international
confederation of loyal, corrupt, authoritarian governments in
poorer countries to push through unpopular reforms and quell the
mutinies. It needs a press that pretends to be free. It needs
courts that pretend to dispense justice. It needs nuclear bombs,
standing armies, sterner immigration laws, and watchful coastal
patrols to make sure that it's only money, goods, patents, and
services that are globalized- not the free movement of people,
not a respect for human rights, not international treaties on
racial discrimination, or chemical and nuclear weapons, or greenhouse
gas emissions, climate change, or, god forbid, justice. It's as
though even a gesture toward international accountability would
wreck the whole enterprise.
Donald Rumsfeld said that his mission in the War ~j Against Terror
was to persuade the world that Americans must be allowed to continue
their way of life.
The American Way of Life is simply not sustainable. Because it
doesn't acknowledge that there is a world beyond America.
For all the endless empty chatter about democracy, today the world
is run by three of the most secretive institutions in the world:
the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and the World
Trade Organization, all three of which, in turn, are dominated
by the United States. Their decisions are made in secret. The
people who head them are appointed behind closed doors. Nobody
really knows anything about them, their politics, their beliefs,
their intentions. Nobody elected them. Nobody said they could
make decisions on our behalf. A world run by a handful of greedy
bankers and CEOs who nobody elected can't possibly last.
Soviet-style communism failed, not because it was intrinsically
evil, but because it was flawed. It allowed too few people to
usurp too much power. Twenty-first century market capitalism,
American-style, will fail for the same reasons. Both are edifices
constructed by human intelligence, undone by human nature.
President George Bush Sr.
"I will never apologize for the United States of America-I
don't care what the facts are."