Of failed states and dehumanising metaphors in the “war on terror”

Empowering Weak & Oppressed

Iqbal Jassat

Dhu al-Qa'dah 02, 1429 2008-11-01


by Iqbal Jassat (Features, Crescent International Vol. 37, No. 9, Dhu al-Qa'dah, 1429)

In light of the fresh debate centered on Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, particularly within the US whose armed forces are deeply involved in the military conquest of the region under the guise of the “war on terror”, many fraudulent theories are advanced to justify aggression against largely unarmed and defenseless populations. The same can be said about the Horn of Africa and the US-sponsored war of aggression against Somalia.

One of the concepts used to justify military force is that of “failed states”. The argument advanced is that the all-knowing West has to “remake” the world in order to pave the way for democracy to flourish. Democracy itself has become the be-all and end-all of all that is supposed to be good in the world.

Millions of people have been displaced as a consequence of these military adventures while US presidential candidates bicker over their potential moves in this game of chess. This is what the terrible results of the Bush administration's war games have seemingly reduced these tragedies to.

The cesspool of greed by the captains of multinational corporations alongside the insatiable hunger of the West’s military industrial complex is ignored or at best glossed over by their media institutions. This explains the phenomenon of “embedded journalists” increasingly contributing to securing public approval for the illegitimate conduct of America and its allies.

Metaphorically speaking then, “failed states” invite invasions and occupations. And those resisting such aggression in defense of their precious lives and properties can be eliminated through bombing campaigns—after all, the prevalent wisdom propagated by their spin doctors that have sprung up all over the world as “terror experts”, is that resistance is terrorism. The war of metaphors has become an indispensable tool in the armory of perpetrators, for it allows perverted language to obliterate the humanity of their victims.

Only the equally repugnant process of curtailing civil liberties matches the process of dehumanisation. Hand-in-hand, these methodical operations have resulted in a breed of lexicons that are used to hide gross human rights violations:

· Extraordinary Renditions;
· Guantanamo Bay;
· Secret evidence;
· Targeted killings;
· Collateral damage;
· Precision bombings;
· Remaking the world.

As George Bush’s term as president nears its end, it remains clear that the “war on terror”—though discredited and acknowledged as illegitimate—will be pursued by whosoever is elected to the White House on November 4: Barack Obama or John McCain. Neither of them has given any hint that they recognize the horrors of Bush’s legacy from which people everywhere are struggling to break loose.

Indeed the latest account of the devastation caused in Somalia by Ethiopian forces with active US help and under its orders reveals the extent of mindless destruction characterizing the dehumanization of the so-called “war on terror”. A report by Human Rights Watch records the terrible ordeal suffered by the Somalis as a direct result of misguided policies emanating from the Pentagon.

No matter how the architects of this ill-conceived war package their propaganda, it is clear that in the court of public opinion their efforts to strip it of the human dimension will not succeed.

(Iqbal Jassat is Chairman of the Media Review Network, Pretoria, South Africa)

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