Jemima Khan: I am angry and ashamed to be British
As a dual national of Pakistan and Britain, it is the
loss of British credibility I find hardest to stomach
02 April 2003
Even the moderates here in Pakistan are outraged.
Across the board, young and old, poor and rich,
fundamentalist and secularist are united in their
hatred of the US and their contempt for Britain. Such
unprecedented unanimity in a country renowned for its
ethnic and sectarian divides is a huge achievement.
Qazi Hussein Ahmed, the leader of the combined
religious party Majlis Muttahida Amal (MMA), announced
triumphantly: "The pro-West liberals have lost
conviction. Islamic movements have come alive."
This new-found unity, which includes for the first
time the pro-West élites, the liberal middle classes
and the mullahs, has been boosted by a fear that
Pakistan may be on the US target list. We may not be
seeing burning effigies of Bush and Blair daily
(although there has been some of that), but many of
those with Western connections are considering
severing those links. Angry and fearful, expatriate
Pakistanis are returning home, and property prices are
soaring despite recession. The boycott against British
and US goods is growing.
The same is happening throughout the Muslim world. A
previously fractured ummah is finally uniting against
a perceived common foe, leaving the fundamentalists
jubilant and their pro-West leaders, despite their
dependence on the US, with no choice but to join the
Bush and Blair have already shown that they care
little about world opinion, but what about when those
feelings of resentment towards the US and Britain in
Muslim countries translate into votes for virulently
anti-Western fundamentalist parties? Despite their
disingenuous talk of freedom and democracy, Bush and
Blair must know that bringing true democracies to the
Middle East, and the Muslim world in general, will
have the opposite effect to the one they hope for and
will go against their own interests. It is unlikely
that any democratic Muslim country today will ever
elect a pro-Western government.
Pakistan is a good example. Popular anger at the
government's co-operation with America's bombing of
Afghanistan (its provision of bases and intelligence)
led to an unprecedented victory of the religious
parties in the October 2002 election. Having never won
more than 10 seats in the past 30 years, the alliance
of Islamic parties is now the second biggest party in
Parliament with 70 seats, and forms two out of the
four provincial governments. And with each bomb
dropped on Baghdad, they are growing in popularity and
America can continue to count on support from the
unelected puppet governments of oil-rich countries,
such as the Middle Eastern monarchies. The darlings of
Western oil companies, they depend on the US to stay
in power. Such is the popular outrage, however, that
those leaders are looking increasingly vulnerable.
As a dual national of Pakistan and Britain, it is the
loss of British credibility in the eyes of the world
that I find hardest to stomach. Why has Blair chosen
to overlook, and in some cases propagate, the lies,
misinformation and discredited evidence used by the US
to justify this indefensible war? Why does Blair
perpetuate Bush's mendacious claim that Iraq "has
aided, trained and harboured terrorists, including
operatives of al-Qai'da", when no evidence has ever
surfaced of a link, nor has any Iraqi been implicated
in terrorist acts against the US?
Why the pretence of "making the world a safer place"
when we all know an unjust war will incite such hatred
that new recruits will be queuing up to join
al-Qa'ida? Why the persistence in the lie that Saddam
represents a military threat? Why no contrition over
the exposure of flawed or faked evidence? Why the
lectures on Saddam's violation of 17 UN resolutions,
when Bush gives military and economic aid to Israel,
which has regularly flouted at least 64 of them?
Why the sudden concern for the Iraqi people, when
there have been years of protest against sanctions
responsible for hundreds of thousands of innocent
Iraqi deaths? Why the lack of concern for Iraqi
children dying of hitherto-unseen cancers linked to
the use of uranium-tipped shells by the British and
Americans? Why the convenient amnesia over the fact
that the weapons of mass destruction Iraq does possess
were supplied by the US and Britain, along with
France, in the first place?
Is the condemnation for dictatorships with human
rights records every bit as bad as Iraq's and no
democracies to speak of, restricted to those that are
not West- friendly or controllable?
In short, why the double standards, moral hypocrisy
and political expediency? Do they think it goes
unnoticed, or do they just not care?
It is little wonder that Muslims around the world,
pondering these questions while watching images of
maimed Iraqi women and children as lucrative
reconstruction contracts are doled out to US
companies, are reacting with increasing incredulity,
anger and trepidation.
The only thing that tempers my own rage and shame is
the knowledge that there are millions like me who
oppose war in Iraq not because they are Muslims or
pacifists or appeasers or anti-West or anti-American
or left wing, but simply because they remain utterly
unconvinced by the arguments put forward for war.
With British and US credibility in tatters, no one in
the Muslim world now believes that this is really all
about "making the world a safer place", about
al-Qa'ida and the War on Terror, about Saddam and his
weapons of mass destruction, about the imminent threat
to the "civilised world", or the violation of UN
resolutions; far less about the emancipation of the
Iraqi people. Instead, many are asking the question:
Which country is really in need of regime change and,
in the words of the great statesman Nelson Mandela, is
"the greatest threat to world peace"?
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