State of Denial

I don’t see how investing energy in vilifying the Bush administration or any future US administration –Republican or Democrat -for the war in Iraq/or Islamic terrorism is going to help us build a strong America, within or without. The recent spate of shootings in the US schools, causes concern for the next generation of young Americans who are going to lead this nation to peace or to war. Our children are dying in one battlefield or another. Just as it was when the buildings came down on 9/11, nationality, race and religion ceases to matter, if we are one of those trapped in the burning building. Partisan politics renders us ineffective in a way that plays into the hands of the enemy – that enemy can take the form of a lone gunman, or a violent ideology.

I still feel that the war in Iraq was justified, that Saddam Hussein needed to be removed. No one foresaw the sectarian violence, not even the Muslims. I can neither condone the state of denial that has overcome Islamic governments nor be a silent spectator to the scapegoats made out of the western nations who have the military and financial capacity to act defensively and if necessary offensively. Watching the war and the violence that it has unmasked, and listening carefully to the troubles of governments, abroad and here, with Islamic terrorism, I believe that we, the people, can make some small but significant changes in the way we perceive and present the news and build communities, across America and internationally.

I agree with US Secretary of State, Condoleeza Rice when she says in a recent television interview with Katie Couric that the argument of some Americans that Iraq is not ready for democracy reminds her of when people described African Americans as immature or child-like. The sustained argument of the former Malaysian Prime Minister for 22 years was precisely that Malaysians were not ready for ‘western’ democracy. He was not speaking for non-Muslims and Muslims like Malik Imtiaz Sarwar. (Malik Imtiaz Sarwar is not to be mistaken for a Muslim reformer. He is an Oxford educated Muslim individual with western libetarian views)

The violence in Iraq is not the struggle to merely oust Americans and end American ‘occupation’. If it were the efforts would be concentrated in Iraq alone. We would not have bombings in Bali, Madrid, London and other places. I am worried that it is more the struggle for domination and supremacy than a wish to coexist peacefully. What the Iraq war has accomplished was best described by the Iraqi poet Abd al-Wahhab Al-Bayyati’s (1926-1999), poem “The Dragon” originally published in 1996 before the politics of the Iraq war became an issue .

Americans with 230 years of a unique experiment with freedom cannot fully understand or appreciate the sophistry of modern, tyrannical dictatorships. As an American educated (like Abd al-Wahhab Al-Bayyati) Malaysian-Tamil poet in voluntary exile from Islamist Malaysia, I have to smile at the irony of the Iraqi poet’s last stanza, “When will you do it, St.George?”
The Dragon
A dictator, hiding behind a nihilist’s mask,
has killed and killed and killed,
pillaged and wasted,
but is afraid, he claims,
to kill a sparrow.
His smiling picture is everywhere:
in the coffeehouse, in the brothel,
in the nightclub, and the marketplace.
Satan used to be an original,
now he is just the dictator’s shadow.
The dictator has banned the solar calendar,
abolished Neruda, Marquez, and Amado,
abolished the Constitution;
he’s given his name to all the squares, the open spaces,
the rivers,
and all the jails in his blighted homeland.
He’s burned the last soothsayer
who failed to kneel before the idol.
He’s doled out death as a gift or a pledge.
His watchdogs have corrupted the land,
stolen the people’s food,
raped the Muses,
raped the widows of the men who died under torture,
raped the daughters and widows of his soldiers
who lost the war,
from which, like rabbits in clover fields,
they had run away,
leaving behind corpses of workers and peasants,
writers and artists,
twenty-year-old children,
carpenters and ironsmiths,
hungry and burned under the autumn sky,
all forcibly led to slaughter,
killed by invaders, alien and homegrown.
The dictator hides his disgraced face in the mud.
Now he is having a taste of his own medicine,
and the pillars of deception have collapsed,
his picture is now underfoot,
trampled by history’s worn shoes.
The deposed dictator is executed in exile,
another monster is crowned in the hapless homeland.
The hourglass restarts,
counting the breaths of the new dictator,
lurking everywhere,
in the coffeehouse, the brothel,
in the nightclub, and the marketplace.
2
From the Caribbean to China’s Great Wall,
the dictator-dragon is being cloned.
When will you do it, St George?

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