by Zubeida Jaffer
Nelson Mandela needs to explain his recent statements at the White House. For those of us who respect his moral stature, his comments are inexplicable. How can the man who has led us towards finding peaceful solutions to our problems support the indiscriminate bombing of Afghanistan?
A war which has started as an effort to find one man has now become the battle against an oppressive regime which harbours him. What if Osama Bin Laden moves to Pakistan or to the United Arab Emirates? Will the bombs follow him there? Or is the real intention to bring about political change in Afghanistan?
If Bin Laden takes refuge with extremist groups in Cape Town, will we too become targets?
The saddest part of all of this is the present course of action probably does little to avenge the deaths of those killed on September 11. Surely their memory is best served if we try and create a world where this sort of act is not possible? President Bush and his allies are doing the predictable. The chain of events they are unleashing must be playing right into the hands of those who committed the September 11 atrocity. Instead of doing the unexpected which could have unnerved the perpetrators, they are repeatedly doing what they have done around the world for many many decades confirming the prejudice that Americans are a war-mongering people. And it is precisely those indiscriminate war actions over the years which breed the kind of hatred which prompts extreme action.
Parliament’s Chairperson of Foreign Affairs, Ebrahim Ebrahim said at the commencement of this war that the Bush administration’s approach is likely to result in the emergence of an entire generation of extremists ready to do harm against Western interests.
His sentiments are echoed by US conflict resolution professor, John Paul Lederach when he says: “Military action to destroy terror is like hitting a mature dandelion head with a golf club. The seeds are scattered far and wide, ensuring another generation of recruits.”
Shortly after September 11, Professor Lederach made a call on his government to pursue the unexpected. “The key does not lie in finding and destroying territories, camps and certainly not the civilian populations,” he said. “The key is to think about how a small virus in a system affects the whole, and how to improve the immunity of the system.”
“The perpetrators have not faced the enemy with a bigger stick,” he said. “They did the more powerful thing, they changed the game.”
I would have expected Nelson Mandela to change the game again. To give birth to the unexpected as Lederach argues. But instead he has failed to rise above the limited approach that threatens to destroy all of us.
As a contribution to changing the game, Lederach makes three suggestions:
* Energetically pursue a sustainable peace process to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict now.
* Invest financially in development, education and a broad social agenda in countries surrounding Afghanistan.
* Quiet but dynamic support of the Arab League seeking to explore together the cause of discontent in numerous regions. At the same time, an energetic engagement in interfaith dialogue to create a web of ethics for the new millennium, that builds from the heart and soul of all faiths, and creates the capacity for each to engage the roots of violence in our own traditions.
Are there no leaders in the world today who can make a contribution to developing a broad political approach to stopping extreme actions on all sides?
What is desperately needed is an approach which impacts on the roots of violence which will safeguard our children and our grandchildren.
The bombs incinerate the Taliban fighters now it is their children who will come back to haunt us.
Last week, the infamous BLU-82 (15 000 pound) bombs were dropped on the Taliban frontlines. “Daisy cutters” as they are called, spray small chunks of hot metal which obliterates everything within a radius of hundreds of metres. These bombs were used by the US military during the Vietnam war to create landing zones for helicopters and in the Gulf War to experiment with their effectiveness in clearing minefields. They are classified as weapons of mass destruction that cannot be considered acceptable for use against humans in the pursuit of war. According to the United Nations, already 5 million Afghans are in need of immediate humanitarian assistance as a result of the bombing campaign.
Osama Bin Laden must be sitting somewhere in his comfortable cave having a good laugh at the mighty and powerful who through their weak actions confer on him a power which he could only have dreamed of.
Our Foreign Minister, Nkozana Zuma has been resolute in her opposition to the bombing campaign. President Mbeki and his cabinet have ruled that warships will not be allowed to dock in our harbours. We can only applaud the call of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan for the bombings to stop and the initiative of the French president Jacques Chirac to hold an urgent UN conference on aid to Afghanistan. The UN is also circulating a petition calling for an end to the military actions.
It is sad to say but Nelson Mandela is clearly out of touch with the sentiments in his own party and the broad interfaith movement against the war which is gaining momentum across the world.
VOLUME 27 * NO 10