Fisk: War disturbs the most dangerous political tectonic plate in the world
Robert Fisk: War disturbs the most dangerous political tectonic plate in the
08 October 2001
The most powerful military force on earth has now begun its bombardment of
the world's poorest, most ravaged Muslim nation. And no matter how many
loaves of bread are dropped with our bombs, will there be a Muslim who will
Is it possible, is it conceivable - even with our most sophisticated
missiles - that we are not killing the innocent as well as the guilty in
Afghanistan? We may say we are punishing Osama bin Laden. We may believe it.
But will the Muslim world believe it?
There has been much talk of a coalition these past four weeks but it's not a
coalition that includes any Muslim nation, albeit that Pakistan and Saudi
Arabia and the little dictatorship up in Uzbekistan are being dragged along
There are no Saudi Arabian or Kuwaiti pilots in the night skies over
Afghanistan. This is not a Western-Muslim coalition. This is the West on its
own, bombing a Muslim country that has a standard of living close to the
The bombing, I suppose, came in time for prime-time television. But do we
seriously think that Mr bin Laden and his cronies are going to be caught out
President George Bush talks about "sustained, comprehensive and relentless"
operations. But where does it go from here?
Those of us who remember the start of the Kosovo war - or, indeed, the
beginning of the air bombardment of Iraq - remember how we were assured that
our opponents would sue for peace in a few days. But that did not happen and
the Taliban, a monster created by our two "Alliance" friends Pakistan and
Saudi Arabia, are unlikely to throw down their arms.
Of course, we will be firing missiles and dropping bombs on at least 12 of
Mr bin Laden's training camps. That won't be difficult. After all we - or
rather the CIA - built them for Mr bin Laden and his comrades just under 20
With more time and more work, perhaps we could have cobbled together a
bigger alliance but what we are doing now is plunging into the very centre
The issue is not how many bombs we dropped last night or dropped today but
where the cracks begin to appear in the next 24 hours. Because Saudi Arabia,
Pakistan and Afghanistan lay on the most dangerous political tectonic plate
in the world.
On Wednesday, if not before, we may find out the answer when the Islamic
conference opens in Qatar. It will be intriguing - perhaps even
frightening - to listen to what Muslim leaders say when they meet.
True, Mr Bush has done his best to find a sop, pushing humanitarian aid into
the package of bombs and manhunts.
As usual, we've been told that the Afghans are not our enemies. That's what
we said before we bombed Iraq in 1991. And it's what we said before we
bombed Libya in 1985. And it's what the Americans said before they shelled
Lebanon in 1982. And, as a matter of fact, it's what we told the Egyptians
before we bombed them on the Suez canal in 1956. But will the Muslim world
And just as a footnote to this bleak moment of 21st-century history, are we
setting up any judicial process, any courts, any legislation to ensure that
bad men are punished with the law? That is one answer we are unlikely to get
from our leaders in the next few days.
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