America saved the world from Communist expansionism, has fought for many vital causes
Stabroek News
November 2, 2001

Dear Editor,

An acquaintance who believes that the September 11 attacks were America's just dessert, emailed me a copy of the heavily circulated Ms. Arundhati Roy's article "The algebra of infinite justice" [ please note: link provided by LOSP web site ] (initially published in the London Guardian). While I have always admired Ms. Roy's limpid prose, I was disappointed by the non-nuanced moral selectivity and virulent anti-Americanism of her piece.

According to Ms. Roy, America's marshalling of its forces to battle the Taliban is just an example of the "world's most powerful country reaching reflexively, angrily, for an old instinct to fight". Conferring a moral equivalence to America's foreign policy and the September 11 premeditated

and cold blooded murder of 5000 innocent men, women, and children, she declared that, "the stygian anger that led to the attacks has its the US government's record of commitment and support to...military and economic terrorism, insurgency, military dictatorship, religious bigotry and unimaginable genocide (outside America)". Whew! Ms. Roy forgot to include those pesky sunspots, which have been wreaking havoc with our global weather. Surely America must have a hand in that.

The fact is, however, that Ms. Roy is terribly naive and reductionist in her arguments and conclusions as to the consequences of America's foreign policy. Was America expected to turn the other cheek? Wouldn't this have encouraged and emboldened the terrorists? Haven't the Taliban leaders asserted that the US doesn't have the will to fight it? She reminds me of those liberals who wailed that the US, after WWII, was overreacting to the USSR. Drawing on the unprecedented volume of materials being declassified and released from communist archives, as well as increasingly candid interviews with policymakers of the former Soviet Union and the People's Republic of China, it is now accepted that America's early assessment about the dangers of the USSR's expansionist ideology was on the mark. In its defense of western civilization, the Americans embarked on a policy of containment at the inception of the cold war. Containment, which included such measures as the Truman Doctrine, the Marshall Plan, NATO, and the reaction to military aggression in Korea, was the dynamic and catalytic force used to frustrate the Soviet designs. The peoples of the former USSR are now the most aggressive in their acceptance of the values America fought to defend. Does Ms. Roy want to present a counterfactual argument as to what our lives might be like if the Soviets had won out?

Ms. Roy represents that widely dispersed coterie of writers, intellectuals and politicians in the third world (but who all make a living from the West) who VS Naipaul rightly castigates as "mimic men". They engage in rhetorical exercises utilizing analytic tools bequeathed them by the West in contexts which are

totally irrelevant. To paraphrase the old observation of Winston Churchill on democracy, if we accept that America and the West are the very worst political and social system, what alternative does Ms. Roy propose? From the real world please! "What goes around eventually comes around," she lectured, not seeing the irony of herself as a Marxist utilizing that Karmic formulation. Hasn't the whole world come around to the gains made by the West? Even if we have problems with certain aspects of the US way of life, why the reflexive bashing?

But if America is instinctively on the side of the bad guys, then why did it go after the dictators like Hitler, Saddam, Slobodan Milosevic, Manuel Noriega, Daniel Ortega, etc.? (Unless she thinks that these are the good guys!). The problem with modern day Utopists like Ms. Roy is that they tend to view the world as an uncomplicated and neatly packaged entity, and the past as a mythical golden era. For them, the world would have been a much better place if it weren't for America's foreign policy.

One has to look at the evidence of history to determine the motivating factors as to why nations act in certain ways and then judge these acts within the context of the circumstances. Like individuals, self-preservation is the most decisive factor that prompts nations to act.

Was America unnecessarily cruel and inhumane in its foreign policy forays?

In one of her most evocative passage, Roy used a statement by the then American Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright (which had been regurgitated ad nauseam by the anti sanction for Iraq crowd over the past decade) to highlight America's alleged evil callousness. When Ms. Albright was asked on national TV what she felt about the fact that 500,000 Iraqi children had died as a result of US economic sanctions, she replied that it was "a very hard choice", but that, all things considered, "we think the price is worth it". It was indeed a terrible thing to say and I am surprised that that top diplomat fell for that baiting. It was like asking General McArthur at the end of WW2 if the deaths of all those millions of kids in Germany that resulted from the effort to rout Hitler were worth it. Firstly, Ms. Roy should have known that it was not the US but the United Nations who had imposed the economic sanctions and that the UN had branded Iraq as a rogue nation. This incredibly talented writer never considered 1) that if Saddam had complied with the UN mandated inspections, these children would have been spared and 2) why Saddam was not lavishing any portion of the enormous resources he had accumulated over the years, not on the hapless Iraqis but on his inner circle and on nuclear, biological and chemical weapons of mass destruction.

Did Ms. Roy look hard at why Saddam was being kept in his 'box' with the sanctions? The Americans knew what he was capable of. He had already gassed 5,000 Kurds, used chemical weapons against Iran and launched missiles into Tehran, Riyadh and Tel Aviv with the explicit aim of murdering as many people as possible, many times the number of those Iraqi kids that died directly as a result of Saddam's reactance.

Roy claims that America made bin Laden. "Bin Laden has the distinction of being created by the CIA and wanted by the FBI" that is patently reductionist. Is Ms. Roy saying that the theology of Islam has no role in the making of bin Laden when he chose to confront the perceived US excesses? Did the CIA create all those volunteers from as far away as Indonesia? Let's be fair to Islam. While it may be true that the US looks a bit more favorably to Israel with which it shares a common Judeo Christian and democratic heritage, are not all Muslim countries (and individuals) exhorted to put the other Muslims (the Umma) before anyone else? Let's be even-handed with standards in the real world, Ms. Roy.

It is not true that America is necessarily anti-Palestinian. How can we forget President Carter's valiant attempt to turn Sadat's trip to Israel into a historic Arab-Israeli settlement at Camp vid, where Egypt began to receive US $2 billion/year aid for this attempted peace? And when President Reagan bitterly opposed Israel's Prime Minister Menachem Begin's invasion of Lebanon in 1982 and sent American marines to help evacuate the besieged PLO

from Beirut? This cost America dearly with the loss of dozens of marines during that attempt at help. And in the last decade, America made the most frenetic attempts to create peace within the camps, particularly with Bill Clinton's supreme effort at international diplomacy. He made history by bringing Arafat and Rabin together at the White House, and with his visit to the Gaza strip in 1998. Last year, Clinton almost pulled off the impossible peace between these two at last!- but for the intransigence of Arafat. Clinton had proposed, with the consent of the Israel Prime Minister Ehud Barak, the creation of a Palestinian state which would encompass Gaza and 95% of the West Bank, and even including a piece of present day Israel to compensate for some Israeli settlement. The new state would have its capital in East Jerusalem, and divided sovereignty of the Temple Mount. Palestinian refugees would be resettled either in the Palestinian state or in other countries, with many thousands returned to their old homeland in Israel (there are about a million Palestinian citizens in Israel but no Jewish citizens in Arab lands). And this was put on the table for Arafat last year. He refused.

Is America religiously bigoted as Roy's claiming? Lets look at America's actions over the past decade. America conducted three wars in the 1990s. The Gulf War saved the Kuwaiti people from Saddam. American intervention in the Balkans saved the Moslems in Bosnia. And then it saved Kosovo from Serbia. Let's not forget that America funneled millions to the Mujhadeen to help them oust the invading Soviets in Afghanistan. And then there was Somalia, a military operation of unadulterated altruism. Its sole purpose was to save the starving people of Somalia. What do these three military campaigns have in common? In every one America saved a Muslim people.

There may be a lot to criticize about this great nation, but it must be remembered that because of the ideals of liberty, equality and the pursuit of happiness on which that country was formed we can force the leaders to debate the issues of the day which are encouraged and publicly aired. This has a normative effect on that nation and enforces laudable imperative for self-reflection and self-correction. How many countries can boast of this flexibility?

Yours faithfully,

Dev Prakash