By M.V. Kamath
Good Muslim, Bad Muslim: Islam, the USA and the Global War against Terror by Mahmood Mamdani, Permanent Black, Delhi, 304 pp, Rs 295.00
In recent months a number of books have appeared exposing American criminality in international relations. Some of them were written by Muslim intellectuals. Some by American liberals sick of what the CIA, under orders from the US government, has been doing all over the world. And they all ring true. In any civilised world, a country indulging in all sorts of crimes would have been hauled up and its leaders tried in an international court. It is not that member nations of the United Nations, some 190 of them, are uncivilised. What is true is that they are individually and collectively weak to take on the only super power on earth, the United States. And there’s the rub.
The United States is not only militarily powerful, it also has full control over the media. Understandably it has been using the media to condemn those it considers its enemies. Hence, the division of Muslims into good Muslims and bad Muslims. Good Muslims are those who take their orders from Washington. Bad Muslims are those who oppose America’s evil machinations. How this has come about is the central thesis of this remarkable book, written by Mahmood Mamdani, a distinguished political scientist and anthropologist.
What hurt American pride was to lose the Vietnam war which, in a sense, was a proxy war fought by the Soviet Union. Washington wanted to take its revenge. When Moscow sought to help its allies in Afghanistan, the US decided that the communist influence in Kabul must be fought, not at the cost of American lives but by setting up Muslims against Muslims. The best way to do so was to encourage Muslim fundamentalists to fight Muslim liberals. A similar situation prevailed in the Congo where Patrice Lumumba was seeking the Soviet support against Western efforts to encourage the Katanga secession. In Congo, it was not a Muslim against Muslim. It was so in Afghanistan. It was so in two other Muslim countries, Iran and Iraq.
In order to fight liberal Muslims in Afghanistan (‘bad Muslims’) the US extensively hired ‘good Muslims’ to do the dirty job. Osama bin Laden was hired by the United States. The US also sought the support of Pakistan’s President, Zia-ul-Haq as it later did seek the support of Pervez Musharraf.
In order to fight liberal Muslims in Afghanistan (‘bad Muslims’) the US extensively hired ‘good Muslims’ to do the dirty job. Osama bin Laden was hired by the United States. The US also sought the support of Pakistan’s President, Zia-ul-Haq as it later did seek the support of Pervez Musharraf. The Afghanistan war cost money. The US pressurised Saudi Arabia to foot the bill as much as possible. It even encouraged Afghanistan to indulge in the drug trade even if, in the end, the drugs arrived in the US itself to destroy American youth. Thus, between 1982 and 1985, the number of cocaine users in the United States rose by 38 per cent to 5.8 million, more than ten times the number of heroin addicts. During the Afghan Jehad, as Afghanistan became the world’s ‘top heroin producer’, it supplied 60 per cent of US demand. But American policy-makers were willing to see American youth become addicts so long as the Russians were thrown out from Afghanistan. But the Jehadists supported by the US, Saudi Arabia and drug producers had a bigger aim: they not only wanted to get rid of communists from Afghanistan, they also wanted to make the country al Qaeda (meaning, ‘the base’) for the founding of a new Ottoman empire and realised that in doing so, they had to fight the US. So, overnight Osama bin Laden, who had been treated as a ‘good Muslim’, turned out to be a ‘bad Muslim’.
In the case of Iran, the former Shah of Iran was considered a ‘good Muslim’ because he was willing to toe the US line. But when he was overthrown by Khomeini, who took control of American oil interests in Iran, the latter became a ‘bad Muslim’. He had to be overthrown. So the US decided to support Iraq in its fight against Iran.
Iraq was led by a cruel monster of a dictator, Saddam Hussain. That did not deter the US as long as he could be used against Khomeini. So Hussain was given all kinds of weaponry, including weapons of mass destruction. Between 1978 and 1988, for ten long years, the US cheerfully supplied Saddam Hussain with the deadly anthrax as well as other offensive and defensive chemical, biological and radiological weaponry. He was also told that the US would not mind if he attacked Kuwait and took it over. Overnight, Saddam Hussain became a ‘good Muslim’.
Iraqi military officials were trained in the US on how to use deadly weaponry of mass destruction. The US looked the other way while Iraq used poison gas against Iranian troops. The Iraq-Iran war lasted for a decade during which thousands of both Iraqi and Iranian men were killed. Washington looked on happily as it saw one Muslim kill another Muslim. That was the whole purpose. Having paid a heavy price for fighting Iran, Saddam Hussain thought that the US will let him take over Kuwait as had been broadly hinted. But the US was lying through its teeth. It had fooled Iraq. And Iraq had fallen for it. Now Saddam Hussain, who till he attacked Kuwait, was a ‘good Muslim’ was now treated as a ‘bad Muslim’ and Washington decided that both he and his country must be severely punished. This was done by the US and its running dog, Britain. The two nations between them flew more than 650 air strikes and fired 325 cruise missiles at Iraqi targets; most of them, it turned out, were civilians. In all of history there never has been greater blood thirstiness.
Now, to go back for a moment to the foreign Jehadists who went to fight Soviet forces in Afghanistan. When the Taliban was finally defeated, the US had no further use for the Jehadists and they were left to fend for themselves. Till then they had been ‘good Muslims’ but once the purpose for which they had been hired was over and the US had no more use for them, they became ‘bad Muslims’. These miserable characters hired from 43 Muslim countries were unwanted in their own homeland. They feared to return. They are the ones that have turned against the US, but considering that they lived in Pakistan, they have turned to terrorism in Jammu & Kashmir. Now they serve Musharraf’s purpose. If the Jehadists had become ‘bad Muslims’ for the US, for Pakistan and the ISI they are ‘good Muslims’. This is the tragedy of it all.
Mahmood Mamdani has ruthlessly exposed American designs and, in the process, has also revealed Pakistan’s behaviour. For Pakistan to survive, it has to remain a Muslim State. Mamdani quotes what Zia-ul-Haq once said that Pakistan is like Israel, a religion-based State and just as Israel will collapse if Judaism is taken away from it, so will Pakistan collapse if Islam is taken out of it. The US has ruthlessly used Islamic fundamentalism to suit its nefarious purposes. But that is now exposed. In a way, the clash of civilisations has begun. And the line between ‘good Muslim’ and ‘bad Muslim’ is increasingly getting blurred. And the world will have to pay for America’s folly.