Roy: Afghan War based on DoubleSpeak

The Power of Nonviolence: Writings by Advocates of PeaceThe Arundhati Roy excerpt War is Peace is from her .from ‘s 2002 book Power Politics.  It form the twenty-second chapter in The Power of Nonviolence: Writings by Advocates of Peace. This essay continues the Post-Vietnam to the Present (1975-  ) section of the book.  Roy is an activist and Man Booker Prize winning author. Though, the preceding essays in this book all deal with timeless themes in supporting pacifism, this essay, which centers on the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, is the first essay in the book to feel that it is based on contemporary world politics.

Roy starts the essay with the gamification {the process of turning war into a video game] of the October 7, 2001 US-led attack on Afghanistan. The attack was done without seeking UN approval or even under color of international law.  Inverting the expected criticism against her comments, Roy makes clear that she does not take the side of any entity that chooses violence: 

Arundhati Roy
Arundhati Roy

Nothing can excuse or justify an act of terrorism, whether it is committed by religious fundamentalists, private militia, people’s resistance movements — or whether it’s dress up as a war of retribution by a recognized government. . . .  Each innocent life that is killed must be added to, not set off against, the grisly tool of civilians who died in New York and Washington.

Roy commiserates with the mutual suffering of the peoples of the United States and Afghanistan under the war between the countries.  She emphasizes that only governments benefit from war.  she takes to task Bush and Blair for using the language of peace to declare war. She fact-checks Bush’s emphasis on the AfghanWar being an aberration in US government policy:

Here is a list of countries that America has been at war with — and bombed — since WWII [until 2002]:

  • China (1945-46, 1950-53);
  • Korea (1950-53);
  • Guatemala (1954, 1967-69);
  • Indonesia (1958); Cuba (1959-60);
  • the Belgian Congo (1964);
  • Peru (1965)
  • Laos (1964-730;
  • Vietnam (1961-73);
  • Cambodia (1969-70);
  • Grenada (1986);
  • El Salvador (1980s);
  • Nicaragua (1980s);
  • Panama (1989);
  • Iraq (1991-99);
  • Bosnia (1995);
  • Sudan (1998);
  • Yugoslavia (1999).

And now Afghanistan. [bullet points added]

Since her book in 2002, the US has been at war with — or bombed — Pakistan, Yemen, Libya.  And there are other countries, such as the 2004 Haiti coup d’etat, that could be included.  A more complete listing of US military operations can be found at Wikipedia.

Roy explains that the US may be the world’s most free country within its borders, but its wars have nothing to do with expanding freedoms.  The US-led International Coalition Against Terror is a collection of the world’s richest countries which are also the world’s largest arms dealers. She finds the crimes of the Taliban pale next to the violence unleashed by the anti-terrorism nations.  Again she does not let the violence done by the Taliban — especially to their women — go unnoticed.  Roy find that Afghanistan is a country that has only known violence as a pawn of a proxy war between the US and the Soviet Union/Russia.  She finds that violence will inevitabily be internalized against their own population.

Roy dissects the false choice between to sides of a violent coin: the mis-named war of civilizations.  She, instead calls for

diversity, how to contain the impulse toward hegemony — every kind of hegemony, economic, military, linguistic, religious, and cultural. Any ecologist will tell you how dangerous and fragile a monoculture is.

Afghanistan has lost 1.5 million people over the last 20 years of war.  When the US attacked, the country had been so destroyed, the bombers had difficulty finding target. The US allies in Afghanistan, the Northern Alliance, did not have a better record than the Taliban that they opposed.  Nor did Roy have much hope for the installing a new government someone else’s country, rightly so.

President Ronald Reagan Meeting Some Mujahideen
Ronald Reagan meeting Mujahideen

Roy details how the invasion will lead to blowback.  She explains that the token US attempts at food aid will do nothing to assuage the hatred engendered by the mass killing of civilians in the invasion.  Instead, the deaths will recruit civilians to the only avenue for revenge, terrorism. And then she reminds the reader that what one government defines as a terrorist; another government calls a freedom fighter.

Roy is careful to stop and reiterate her abhorrence of all violence and the need to bring the perpetrators to justice.

The is not to suggest that the terrorists who perpetrated the outrage on September 11 should not be hunted down and brought to book. They must be.  But is war the best way to track them down?

In a very prescient passage, Roy turns to the dangers and limits of a surveillance society.  She mentions that too much information can overwhelm the ability to comprehend anything by providing the example of the US not being aware if Indian nuclear tests preparations.  She also decries the loss of liberty in monitoring everyone’s communications.

Roy next turns he magnifying glass on the corporate involvement in unnecessary warmongering.  She holds up the corporate media as the lapdog of the military, and military policy as based on the profits of weapons manufacturers and oil companies.

Roy makes clear that she see no difference between the Democrats and Republicans in theses actions.  In 1997, the Clinton administration brought “Taliban mullahs” to Houston to meet with Unocal oil company executives.  The past 6 years of the Obama administration’s widening wars have proved her point.

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