by Zafar Bangash (Reflections, Crescent International Vol. 33, No. 4, Rabi' al-Thani, 1425)
America has undoubtedly suffered a humiliating defeat in Iraq, even if no US soldier has yet actually left the country. It is enough that America has become the most hated country in the world today. The final nail in its coffin was driven by revelations of torture and rape of prisoners at Abu Ghuraib and other prisons in Iraq last month. The victims are not even combatants: they are civilians dragged from their homes or picked up from the street in the Americans' drive to terrorize the population into submission; even US military officers have admitted that up to 90 percent of prisoners at Abu Ghraib may have been arrested "by mistake". The ostensible object of this barbarous policy was to "soften them up" so that they would be willing to reveal information about the resistance; in reality, such attitudes and behaviour of American soldiers and their hired mercenaries are the result of a mindset that regards others (especially non-whites) as subhuman. Stripping men, women and children and raping them was intended to break them down. Aware that Muslims care deeply about their honour and dignity, the Americans have deliberately subjected them to the most degrading treatment. The Americans obtained little useful information because most of their victims are ordinary civilians, who have little knowledge of resistance activities.
This is only one aspect of the US's war on Islam and Muslims, president George W. Bush's ludicrous claim that the US is bringing freedom and democracy to the Iraqis notwithstanding. A more important aspect is the total defeat of the US policy of militarism. The neo-conservatives who crafted the policy of perpetual war have been chastened by their experiences in Iraq, which has turned into a quagmire for them; even General Richard Myers, chairman of US joint chiefs of staff, has been forced to concede that the US is now checkmated in Iraq, and that the UN will have to be brought in. Bush, too, has been forced to eat humble pie; he had proclaimed in October 2002 that the UN would become "irrelevant" if it did not do his bidding on Iraq. Now he wants a UN figleaf behind which to withdraw from Iraq.
This has important implications. First, the US has been so utterly defeated on all fronts - military, political and diplomatic - that it is unlikely to try another military adventure in another country (especially another Muslim country) in a hurry. Second, once mobilized, the Muslims are capable of defeating any military power. The Afghans proved this against the Russians and Hizbullah against the zionist invaders of Lebanon. While we cannot be sure that the Americans will not repeat such blunders elsewhere, it is safe to say that they will be more circumspect in the future. This does not preclude the possibility that the US will use its massive airpower to bomb another country, such as Iran, in a childish tantrum, but physical occupation of any territory is now beyond its capabilities.
How should Muslims respond to these developments? The first point to bear in mind is that the Islamic movement could not have exposed the US's true nature as completely as it has exposed itself by its own behaviour in Iraq; the whole world now knows what the US really is and stands for. Second,
the international order set up by the victorious powers after the second world war has been destroyed, not by Muslims or other peoples of the "third world" but by the self-proclaimed "sole superpower." The old order, including the UN, IMF and World Bank, was created to benefit only the victors. Muslims now have an opportunity to create a new international order based on justice and equity.
We will find that the oppressed masses in other parts of the world are willing to join us in this task. Like the Muslims, they too are victims of the West's policies of exploitation and oppression. Islam can offer moral leadership to a world ravaged by two centuries of rapacious greed and militarism. In the last century, when the world has been dominated by the West, some 100 million people were slaughtered worldwide, the largest number ever butchered in history. Although this attrition is still going on, important changes have come about. The limitations of technological superiority have been exposed, and likewise the cowardice of American soldiers and officials. Muslims can take advantage of this window of opportunity to get rid of oppressive regimes and usher in genuine independence and autonomy in their societies, based upon the universal principles of Islam. This opportunity must not be squandered.