The Interminable War

Ten years and thousands of human lives later, we now live in a transformed world; a world filled with terror, suicide bombers, and unpredictable calamities. Those responsible for starting this seemingly interminable war have mostly left the stage, but the new leadership seems incapable of stopping the process which has unleashed a reign of destruction and terror across the world. What are they looking for now? The self-proclaimed holy warriors and the marines, themselves an unforgettable symbol of terror, unnamed young men from Texas recruited in the name of national security and allured by the promise of grand and quick bucks are not going home, even though one cannot fathom their unfinished agenda anymore.

The game has never been so complicated and complex. We now know that the British intelligence and Scotland Yard were actively involved in an international operation to protect Saif al-Islam, the son of Muammar Qaddafi, who had feared that an “Islamist plot to assassinate him on British soil” was in place. The most brazen thing about this so-called Islamic plot is that the secret files published recently by the British press links it to Qatar, now the foremost Arab ally of the western powers in their Libyan venture. Both MI6 and the Special Air Service (SAS) were then pressed into service to protect him. Both are now hunting Saif!

Saif al-Islam, literally the sword of Islam, in reality anything but that, has been condemned by Prime Minister David Cameron, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, and the US State Department; he is considered one of the prime suspects facing war-crime charges. But the same Saif al-Islam was their prime hope just four years ago and Qatar’s interior minister was the main accused in the assassination plot. Let us recall that Sheikh Abdullah bin Khalid al-Thani, the Qatari interior minister, was also accused of sheltering “terrorists” at his farm by none other Richard Clarke, the former White House counterterrorism director, who considered his ministerial post a “direct and serious threat to US forces present in Qatar”. Of course, no one asked: why are US forces present in Qatar in the first place? No one asks such questions anymore; indeed, we live in a transformed world.

The papers found in the international relations department of the Libyan government further reveal that Libya had officially sought help from the UK in saving the life of the dictator’s son through a letter written to a senior MI6 official. According to these papers, Saif al-Islam had then disclosed secrets of Libya’s nuclear programme. His efforts were considered “highly constructive and welcome”. When Saif filed a successful libel action against The Sunday Telegraph in 2002, which had accused him of being part of a money-laundering scam, this was viewed by a senior UK security official as an “unfortunate” matter which had, thankfully, been concluded. The amazing footnote to this episode is that many insiders claim that the money laundering stories in The Sunday Telegraph were, in fact, part of the MI6 misinformation-campaign when Libya was deemed to be a “terrorist state”!

Saif was placed on the “at-risk register” of the London Metropolitan Police Special Branch; police visited him to discuss the threat with him and took special measures to protect him. Saif, big hope of the British government, a key figure in securing more contracts in Libya, is now on the run. But then, he was speaking their language. He had allegedly disclosed certain activities of Dr A Q Khan, who was then accused of selling nuclear know-how to rogue states and striving to create an “Islamic bomb”.

Saif used to present himself as the champion of western agenda for Libya. In an interview with a British newspaper, he boasted that he had convinced his father to give up attempts to build nuclear weapons and to cooperate with the US and UK. He disclosed that Libya had spent $450m to build a nuclear bomb. “I was able to take messages to my father and explain to him. By the end, we had a good relationship with the CIA, MI6 and all the Americans and British,” he had said proudly.

This is merely one concrete example of the western duplicity; there are numerous others. But that is no more a “story” in this interminable war of terror. There is no real story left. All that we now have are unfathomable numbers: a conservative estimate three years ago by Joseph E Stiglitz, professor at Columbia University and a Nobel laureate in economics, had put the cost of this war between $3-5trillion. Since then, a number of new factors have added to that cost. The US troops returning from Iraq have required disability payments; as many as 600,000 have been treated at veterans’ medical facilities, future disability payments and health-care costs are estimated around $600-900bn. Then there are social costs, arising from veteran suicides, broken families, and lost children. And no one is counting the number of dead and displaced Afghans and Iraqis.

An interminable war, by definition, has no end. Thus, second-rate propellers will keep pushing it. An example of such a poor propeller is Stephen Harper, the Canadian prime minister, who recently said in an interview with Peter Mansbridge of the CBC that Islamicism is the biggest security threat facing Canada. One mentions him, although he is not worth mentioning, because there is something perversely hilarious in the idea of radical Islamicist cells gathering to plot attacks against Canada, because Harper does not seem to know that the term Islamists is the older term for the subcategory of orientalists studying Islam!

Be that as it is, the great post-9/11 hype created by mass media is over and the average citizen in the United States is now more concerned about his or her monthly bills and daily bread than national security, but there is no end in sight of the war itself. The only possible solution seems to be an economic meltdown which the United States has barely managed to avoid recently.

By: Dr Muzaffar Iqbal


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