David finds Goliath’s fatal weakness: value for life
Brain that invented the human missile
Sikhs seek protection after terror backlash
Jaswant on Bush meet list
Pak talks economics

 
 
DAVID FINDS GOLIATH’S FATAL WEAKNESS: VALUE FOR LIFE 
 
 
FROM AMIT ROY
 
London, Sept. 16: 
Suicide bombers are nothing new in history nor are they confined to Islam.

How can we forget Rajiv Gandhi was blown up by a Tamil suicide bomber, a woman at that? An Indian soldier told a British journalist that “the Lebanese Hizbollah has nothing on those (Tamil) guys — just think, they all carry a suicide capsule”.

Even the concept of the hunger strike, which is a form of threatened suicide aimed at the conscience of the aggressor, was perfected by the Mahatma himself. Suicide bombers have become part of the day to day currency of clashes between Israelis and Palestinians in the West Bank. What is new is that suicide bombing has been extended with chilling effect to New York and Washington and the west in general and the US in particular just does not know how to respond.

The dilemma was summed up by Left-wing Labour MP, Jeremy Corbyn, no lover of the US, who said: “We work on the assumption that people want to preserve their lives — it’s very difficult to defend ourselves against people who don’t want to preserve their lives.”

There are thoughtful people in London and presumably among policy makers in Washington as well who understand that indiscriminate military action by the US could make the cure worse than the disease. John Nicol, a British Tornado pilot captured by the Iraqis during the Gulf War and paraded on television by his captors, said: “We are fighting an ideal. There could be terrorists here (in Britain) waiting to respond.”

The suicide bomber is clearly not a modern invention. Indian author Dilip Hiro said he had included a longish entry on “martyrdom” in his Dictionary of the Middle East published in 1996. For what it is worth, its origins lie in the Greek word, martus, meaning “witness”.

During the Iranian revolution in the late 1970s, the Shah’s troops were demoralised and ultimately overcome by youths who were willing to be killed in order to kill.

In contemporary Islam, it is not Osama bin Laden, the Saudi exile, the Americans want, but Ayatollah Khomeini who gave suicide attacks a theological validity by recalling the martyrdom of Imam Hossein. The latter remains the crucial figure in Shia Islam. When Iraq invaded a weakened Iran in 1981 for what Baghdad thought would be a quick military campaign, Iraqi tanks were stopped at high cost by Iranian youths with hand grenades strapped to their chests. The war raged for eight years.

The Americans fled Lebanon 17 years ago after a suicide bomber driving a truck packed with explosives attacked the US marine base in Beirut, blowing up 241 US servicemen.

To put it straight, it is not possible for the Americans to arrest, try and possibly execute a terrorist who has already killed himself.

Hiro, who has analysed the politics of West Asia in several books, including his just published Neighbours, Not Friends: Iraq and Iran after the Gulf Wars (Routledge), recalled a scrawled message on some wall in Gaza: “They have nuclear bombs; we have human bombs.”

In marked contrast, the Americans attach huge importance to the lives of fellow Americans. Unfortunately for President Bush, there are two American women in the group of eight westerners on trial in Kabul for propagating Christianity. “If the Americans attack Afghanistan, they are dead,” predicted Hiro.

He argued that “David” had identified a fatal weakness in an otherwise militarily superior “Goliath”. He also reckoned that people who saw bin Laden as a leader were spread across 25 countries, including, disturbingly, India. A planned attack on the US embassy in Delhi was foiled.

Bin Laden himself had sent a hand-written note to a Pakistani newspaper saying he was not responsible for the attacks in New York and Washington but he approved of them and was prepared to die for Islam. The Americans may take him up on his last offer but the fear is that he is a “hydra-head monster”. Cut one off and another will grow in its place. Nothing new there, at least for Indians familiar with the Ramayana.

It is not useful for Indians (and others) to gloat inwardly at an American tragedy, however, successive US administrations may be held to be authors of their own misfortune.

Some of the hardline Islamic groups, based in Britain and elsewhere, who consider America to be “the great Satan”, increasingly regard India to be another enemy because of Kashmir.

Those who target the US today may tomorrow focus on India. So what is the best way to destroy them?

Hiro is honest enough to admit: “I don’t have the answer.” May be the unpalatable truth is that America has been defeated.

   

 
 
BRAIN THAT INVENTED THE HUMAN MISSILE 
 
 
FROM SHRABANI BASU
 
London, Sept. 16: 
The plan to hijack aircraft loaded with hundreds of tonnes of fuel and crash into buildings was conceived by British-trained electrical engineer Ramzi Yousef, who masterminded the bombing of the World Trade Centre in 1993.

Yousef is now serving a life sentence in a top security prison in America. Six people had died on that occasion. It brings out starkly how Britain has become a haven for fundamentalist groups who coordinate their attacks from here.

Kuwait-born Yousef was trained at the West Glamorgan Institute of Higher Education and had links with Osama bin Laden. He had discussed with accomplices plans to use a light aircraft piloted by suicide bombers and loaded with explosives to attack the CIA headquarters in Virginia. He later decided a long-haul passenger aircraft would be more effective because its fuel turned the plane into a powerful flying bomb.

Britain-based outfits have been responsible for kidnappings and suicide attacks in India and a plot to attack Yemen.

A lieutenant of bin Laden sent out crucial information from London during the bombings of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. Bin Laden used an account at Barclays Bank in Notting Hill, West London, to finance his propaganda activities. Bank documents showed how tens of thousands of pounds were channelled through a Barclays account controlled by bin Laden’s chief operator in Britain, Khalid-a-Fawwaz.

Fawwaz is now in a British jail awaiting extradition orders to America, where he is wanted in connection with the blasts of the US embassies.

Fawwaz, a Saudi dissident, who lived in North London, ran an organisation ostensibly devoted to war relief work. Investigators believe that the account for the Advice and Reformation Committee was a front that allowed bin Laden to finance and publish fatwas calling for the death of American citizens “in the world they could be found”.

Fawwaz used the account to pay for hundreds of pounds of stationery bought from a Huddersfield company, apparently to print thousands of copies of one of bin Laden’s fatwas. Fawwaz is suspected of being directly linked to the bombings of the embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

Copies of his mobile telephone calls show that he was frequently in touch with Sudan, Yemen, Saudi Arabia and the UAE — all countries where bin Laden has vast networks of supporters. Calls were also made to New York and Washington.

Bin Laden used his money to set up a trail that flowed through Sudan and the UAE to London, Geneva and Chicago, to help sustain Islamic fundamentalist groups. He used the money to build up the al Qaida organisation and a network of Islamic centres and charities that operated throughout the world, including Bosnia, Albania and Kosovo.

Bin Laden said in a 1996 interview that his establishment covered 13 countries, including Albania, Malaysia, Pakistan, the Netherlands, Britain, Romania, Turkey, Russia, Iraq and some Gulf countries. In the Balkans alone, the Islamic centres were thought to be supporting between 4,000 and 6,000 fighters, mostly Arabs.

Bin Laden used much of his estimated $ 50 million income each year — which comes from his huge personal fortune inherited from his wealthy family — to buy land for training camps in Sudan and Afghanistan.

In Sudan, he set up two investment companies, Ladin International and Taba Investments, which helped to control and channel much of his fortune estimated at hundreds of millions of pounds.

A holding company, a construction firm and the Qudurat Transport Company were set up to provide income to support the increasingly sophisticated enterprise and to provide cover for the procurement of explosives, weapons and chemicals, and for the travel of the group’s operatives.

At one point, he even bought a travel agency in Peshawar, Pakistan, to organise travel arrangements for his supporters and a fleet of fishing boats to move his followers around.

   

 
 
SIKHS SEEK PROTECTION AFTER TERROR BACKLASH 
 
 
FROM GAJINDER SINGH , SUCHANDANA GUPTA
 
Chandigarh and Bhopal, Sept. 16: 
The backlash on Sikhs after Tuesday’s terrorist attacks reached a critical point with reports of a community member being shot in Arizona yesterday, prompting India to ask the US government to take steps to prevent assaults on Sikhs living there.

“We are in touch with US authorities. We are concerned about these attacks. The federal and local authorities in the US have assured us full cooperation,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Nirupama Rao said in New Delhi today. “Such attacks should be condemned and prevented,” she added.

A report from Mesa in Arizona said a Sikh immigrant, Balbir Singh Sodhi, was killed by a gunman at a gas station yesterday. The killing comes after sporadic attacks on Sikhs, who wear turbans and have beards, after apparently being mistaken for Afghans and possible supporters of Osama bin Laden, the main suspect of the terror assault.

The continued suffering of Sikhs in a case of mistaken identity has sent emotions soaring in Punjab and the rest of India. Chief minister Parkash Singh Badal has voiced his concern and asked Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee to take up the matter with the Bush administration.

Union fertilisers minister and general secretary of the Akali Dal (Badal) Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa and vice-chairman of the National Commission for Minorities Tirlochan Singh will meet US ambassador Robert Blackwill here to express their concern.

Yesterday, the five Sikh high priests of the Akal Takht had appealed to the UN to protect Sikhs and other minority communities in Afghanistan in case of a US attack. One of them, Manjit Singh, today said Sikhs living in the US and UK needed protection. He advised that Sikhs should make themselves more visible in New York trying to help people who have suffered in the terrorist attacks.

Sikh Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee president Jagdev Singh Talwandi has written to President George W. Bush, asking that “the lives and properties of the Sikhs be protected”.

At a rally this this afternoon, Sikhs in Bhopal appealed to Americans not to confuse them with Islamic fundamentalists just because they wear turbans. “We understand that Americans are undergoing tremendous trauma and anxiety. But at the same time, we are concerned about violence inflicted on members of our community. Sikhs in America are feeling insecure,” said Sukhwinder Singh, convener of the All India Sikh Youth Organisation in Bhopal. He and other Sikhs in the city have been receiving frantic calls from relatives and friends in the US.

Mandip Singh, a businessman, received a call from his brother-in-law on Thursday. He was told that Sikhs are being attacked because “they wear turbans like Osama bin Laden does”.

“We know the US government has a lot to handle at the moment. But the government or at least the media should educate its people about the difference between Sikhs and Islamic fundamentalists,” he added.

Punjab officials fear if such attacks are not stopped, they could lead to an exodus, not only of the community but even Asians. “We are witnessing the panic that has engulfed the Sikh community in the state. People are frantically calling up their loved ones to inquire about their well being,” a senior official said.

Sikhs in the US appealed to their American fellow-citizens not to mistake them for being Arabs or Muslims. “We are really worried. We have nothing to do with bin Laden or his suicide squads. Our fellow citizens must act with restraint,” said Baby, who owns a departmental store in New York.

   

 
 
JASWANT ON BUSH MEET LIST 
 
 
FROM PRANAY SHARMA
 
New Delhi, Sept. 16: 
Foreign and defence minister Jaswant Singh will leave for Washington in the next few days for consultations with the Bush administration on the course of action “the concert of democracies” should take to deal with international terrorism.

The US President is consulting several world leaders and has invited them to the US capital for talks following Tuesday’s terror strikes on the country. Singh is one of them.

Though South Block feels “it is India’s war in which America is joining in,” it is pleading caution. India is of the view that hasty military action against the terrorist camps and the Taliban may prove counter-productive.

India has stressed on building the widest possible consensus among nations to join in the fight against international terrorism.

Singh, who spoke to his Russian counterpart Igor Ivanov during the day, shared the Indian views and was happy that there was a commonality in Moscow and Delhi’s stands. Ivanov, French President Jacques Chirac and British Prime Minister Tony Blair are among the leaders who will be in Washington in a few days.

Asked whether India will offer its bases to US troops if a military action was launched, Singh said: “The US has not defined so far what action it is contemplating and, therefore, it is not relevant. But it will be a grave error if the US hits out at the Taliban in haste. The need of the hour is for Washington to engage with different countries at a much larger context.”

Ignoring Pakistan’s assertion that it will be part of a US-led coalition only if India and Israel were not in it, Indian officials made it clear that geographically Islamabad may be a frontline state but conceptually it is not in the fight against international terrorism.

According to the Indian assessment, Musharraf has a tough task in hand and despite his promise to extend full support to the US, he may not be able to fulfil his commitment. “If it is to launch a serious fight against terrorism, then Pakistan as a state will alter,” a senior official said.

The enormity of the tragic terrorist strikes notwithstanding, Bush has indicated that he is interested in addressing “the system and not only symptom” that gives rise to terrorism.

Indian policy makers are of the view that though Bush will be under tremendous domestic pressure to show quick results against the terrorists, he will be able to show his statesmanship by rising above them and embarking on a well-thought plan in which most democracies will participate.

India feels “military action against the Taliban should be the last resort and not the first option”. It has argued for extensive preparations before a strike, including consultations between the democracies and strengthening the international legal framework.

This, in effect, means India is stressing on action against the Taliban by an alliance not only led by the US but sanctioned by the United Nations and with the participation of all major world players, including long-time friend Russia, those from the Arab world and other Islamic nations.

India has argued that the UN Security Council has already passed a resolution calling for sanctions and an arms embargo against the Taliban. Following Tuesday’s attacks, Pakistan has been forced to close its border with Afghanistan and has pledged not to allow any convoy carrying supplies, including fuel, to enter the neighbouring country.

Iran and the central Asian republics have also done the same.

“The first option to deal with the situation is to squeeze Taliban. Though this will lead to untold sufferings for the Afghan people, this is an essential first step to exert pressure on the regime in Kabul,” a senior Indian official in South Block said.

   

 
 
PAK TALKS ECONOMICS 
 
 
FROM IDREES BAKHTIAR
 
Islamabad, Sept. 16: 
As pro-Taliban demonstrators hit the streets burning American flags, President Pervez Musharraf deployed his aides to hardsell the fruits Pakistan stands to gain if it cooperates with the US.

Pakistan is expected to provide the US all help, short of the use of its armed forces. Finance minister Shoukat Aziz said his government’s backing for a campaign “would have economic benefits”.

“Clearly as the relationship (with the US) grows, I am sure the economic ties will grow which could mean better market access, better treatment on debt rescheduling and more money, both directly and through multilateral institutions,” Aziz said during an interview with a foreign news agency.

Aziz said Pakistan’s relationship with the US, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank was already improving. “On our own also, we were moving in that direction but this will give it an extra boost. No question,” he added.

Pakistan is due to begin talks later this month with the IMF on a three-year programme needed for the country to emerge from under foreign debts totalling $40 billion.

As other lenders take their lead from the Washington-based IMF, economists have been quick to warn that Pakistan’s foreign-aid lifeline would be at risk if Musharraf alienates the US.

Pakistan is also hoping for a deal on sanctions that followed the nuclear tests. Foreign minister Abdul Sattar has made it clear that Islamabad will expect the sanctions to be relaxed or lifted in return for its cooperation in combating terrorism.

Musharraf has also taken care to address the concern of religious opinion-makers. After meeting religious scholars today, he said whenever the ulemas were consulted in the past, they were forthcoming in providing their “valuable views and wise discourse”.

Musharraf referred to the consultations he had held with the religious scholars before proceeding to India for the Agra summit.

America is also sympathetic to Musharraf’s domestic compulsions. Praising Pakistan for backing Washington, secretary of state Colin Powell said the US would bear in mind the internal problems this could cause Islamabad.

“In our conversations with the Pakistani government in the days and weeks ahead, we will be mindful that they have internal problems that they are dealing with,” Powell said.

“They came to the judgement that even with the difficulty it might cause internally, this was such a problem, such a crisis ... that they were willing to take risks. And I compliment them for that,” he added.

The flurry of activities coincided with a warning from pro-Taliban groups in Pakistan that they would fight on the side of the Islamic militia.

   
 

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