History is a moral necessity for a nation which is the world’s dominant power. It is the best antidote to delusions of ominipotence and omniscience.
The longer you look back, the further you can look forward.
Recently, Sam Janus has been calling India. But this time around only one of its two faces has been anthropomorphic; the other massively metallic.
You would have understood my drift here: I allude to the converging visits of Condoleeza Rice and USS Nimitz, the former dripping with the sort of jaunty self-assurance that demarcates the swaggeringly ill-educated, the latter a blunt hunk of brute brinkmanship—a kind of hi-tech King Kong minus the living primates feel for beauty. Put in quotidian idiom, one a smiling bowl of cream cheese laced with arsenic, the other the stubb end of a raised baseball bat.
Which invites the reflection: when was the last time that American diplomacy (unavoidable oxymoron) had to it any depth of perception or the least touch of grace? I can only recall the years when John Kenneth Galbraith was ambassador here. For a second instance one might have to time-travel as far back as the American war of Independence when Benjamin Franklin was deputed to France to draw French support. How he loved France, and how the thoughtful French took him to heart!
Cutting to the point: Dr.Rice (and I am guessing the doctorate would have had to be in the canny areas of Law or Management; I would cut my oriental throat if it had anything to do with any of the Humanities) invoking the “values of common humanity” (read the interests of the US establishment and those willing to be client appendages), pronounced in one non-chalant breath the utter irrelevance of the principle of non-alignment in International relations. It then seemed self-evident to the good doctor that all those nations who seek “opportunity and prosperity and justice and dignity and health and education and freedom and democracy” (the articulation brooked no commas), now have only one rational option—that of aligning with Sam Dubya inorder to realize that wish-list. As the ever-sentient Indian daily, The Hindu, pointed out editorially, the doctor somehow forgot to add to that list “motherhood and apple pie.”
Predictably enough, some well-recognized senior scribes who habitually speak on behalf of comprador corporates, who in turn routinely speak on behalf of Sam Dubya soon let loose their no-nonsense contempt for decrepit socialist ideals, analyzing with devotion the great benefits to be garnered from an unashamed “strategic alliance” with the only superpower—a myth that is sought to be kept alive despite the ever-widening tatters.
The recalcitrant ones, few and far between, but still nagging like the toothache, however, have continued to bore in with disconcerting history lessons, taking none of Dr. Rice’s wish-list on face value.
Thus, for “opportunity and prosperity” they read “exploiters of the world unite, you have nothing to lose but your profits”;
for “justice” they read Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, extraordinary renditions, assassination plots, subversion and sabotage, and, for eloquent finale, Scooter Libby. Not to mention small things like spying on the critical and hounding the innocent at home.
For “health” they read the 49 million Americans, including some 9 million children, still without health insurance and no “universal health care” in sight; they also read the five hundred thousand children in Iraq consigned to horrible malnutrition-driven and medicine-less deaths through the regime of “sanctions.”
For “freedom” they read the unending line of client tyrants and dictators—”our sons of bitches” in Roosevelt’s forthright formulation—past and present: in the Philippines, in Indonesia, in Vietnam, in Pakistan, in Saudi Arabia, in Iran, Egypt, Mexico, Panama, Nicaragua, Ecaudor, Gautemala, Chile, Brazil, Columbia, Cuba (Batista, Batista), Haiti, Grenada, and on and on and on.
And, for “democracy” they yawn and think the matter unworthy of mention. They recall how the seventh fleet was deputed to the Bay of Bengal to dissuade Indira Gandhi from aiding the freedom fighters in the then East Pakistan where the infamous butcher, General Yahyah Khan was busy hacking thousands in the streets of Dacca. They recall that all that was in the teeth of the stunning electoral victory obtained by the Awami League under Mujib-u-Rehman whose democratic right to rule Pakistan was liquefied in streams of blood. And they point to the fate that the electorally triumphant Hamas has had to suffer for not aligning with Dubya; and they point to Venezuela where, despite repeated, and repeatedly massive verdicts in favour of Hugo Chavez, Dr.Rice and her master are unable to see “democracy” legitimately at work. And they point to the shameless media campaigns routinely conducted by Fox News and other obliging outlets against a plethora of other electorally victorious Latin American governments for keeping their own counsel on what policies to pursue. They remember with a pang the CIA-executed murder of Allende in Chile and the subsequent sufferings of Chilean patriots at the hands of Dubya’s beloved Pinochet; and the equally beloved and brutish army generals in Argentina and elsewhere.
And they point Dubya to upright and conscientious American agencies that have shown how both his electoral victories were in fact stolen ones!
So, they say, thank you very much Dr. Rice; go catch up on some history. Or, if indeed, you are no innocent babe, desist from propagating the delusion that America has been or is a force for “democracy” in the world—a self-inflicted pretence that now wears thin as tull all across the globe. Imagine that your own good citizens at home believe none of your disingenuous homilies any more.
Far more honourable for you to put your cards on the table and say what imperialist interests you have in mind—”military interoperability”, “structures of co-operative vigilance”, drawing India into an anti-China, anti-Russia, anti-Iran, anti-Venezuela, anti-Cuba gang-up alongside the likes of Japan, Australia, Korea and suchlike. Then looting Asia as long as that lasts? Exactly as the honest Australian minister of defence has the other day admitted that his men are in Iraq on account of the oil! One truthful Christian there.
Indeed, as the erstwhile Indian diplomat, M.K.Rasgotra has recently put it, ensuring that the twenty first century becomes “an American century in Asia” rather than an Asian century as some aspiring Asian ruling interests think it is destined to be. Oh woe the gluttony of the incautious!
It is indeed true and heartening that official response from India (some consolation that Pranab Mukerjee is still Foreign minister rather than candidate for India’s Presidency) has been a no-nonsense one. It says that India as a founder member of NAM remains committed to its ideals, and it says that NAM now has a great role to play in deepening South-South co-operation.
One ofcourse wishes that the Indian response had included two questions as well: if indeed the cold-war era is dead and gone, rendering NAM infructuous, would Dr.Rice kindly enlighten us why she thinks NATO still remains relevant? Or why America has been embroiled in battles dime a dozen since (complete with dirty uranium and phosphorus bombs, cluster killers and so forth)?
Something that raises the suspicion that there may be a Janus lurking somewhere within the Indian establishment as well, making the politically correct statements in public but smoothing the grounds for American corporates and embracing the USS Nimitz in private (with all the crimes the Nimitz emblematises). Ergo, NAM for a figleaf of legitimacy, but SAM for the real thing!
Charitably, the jury may be yet out on those posers. Clearly, how the Indian establishment modulates its equations with Iran, China, and Russia in the days to come, and how it eventually deals with the Hyde stipulations on the nuke-deal with Sam will yield some reliable answers to those anxieties. India’s parliament had better be on its toes, and the mass of Indians ready and willing to take to the streets, just in case.
One thing is for sure: you cannot wrap the anaconda around your waistline and still hope to exit. Indians yearning for super-powerdom need thus to heed Schlesinger’s admonitions and Churchill’s cryptic as much as Dr.Rice needs to revisit the histories of predecessor American regimes. Self-inflicted hypnotism on either side will do the world no good.