The enduring utility of labels

The enduring utility of labels

SOURCE: Crescent Online

Zafar Bangash, Reflections

Concepts are useful tools that aid our understanding. Children learn new concepts through association with things familiar; adults learn through experiment and experience. Just as children learn not to put their hand in the fire because it burns, adults learn what is beneficial and what is detrimental to their interests. These are routine experiences of life.

Political life is more complicated. Not only are certain concepts used to advance a preset agenda, many concepts and ideas are deliberately distorted to achieve specific policy objectives that would otherwise not be possible. In the contemporary age, the war on terror has become a useful tool to justify the West’s aggression against other people. It is enough to brand an individual or group as terrorist and use that as a license for every conceivable crime against them. While there is no agreed upon definition of terrorism, its vagueness itself is useful because it lends itself to different interpretations, all facilitating the same objective. Under the label of fighting terrorism, the West led by the US has launched wars in distant lands killing hundreds of thousands of innocent people. Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and now Yemen and Iran readily come to mind as actual or potential theatres of war. Somalia, too, is on the list and if the US achieves military success in any, more countries will be targeted in the West’s inexorable drive to grab their resources.

Let us stay with terrorism a little longer. The dictionary defines terrorism as the “practice of using terror-inspiring methods of governing or securing political or other ends.” Based on this definition, the US and Zionist Israel qualify as leading practitioners of terrorism. The US uses extreme force and the threat of the use of force to secure compliance. In Afghanistan and Iraq, for instance, the US has used indiscriminate and disproportionate violence against civilians and bombed remote villages (in Afghanistan) under the label of fighting the Taliban. What is glossed over is that the Taliban are not in America; US forces occupy an Afgha-nistan that belongs to the Afghans of whom the Taliban are a part and indigenous to the land. The Taliban are resisting the foreign occupiers of their land so how can they be described as terrorists? True, their methods are primitive but that is none of America’s business. The Taliban may find — and many people in the world do — the American way of life, replete with nudity and extreme violence against women (98,000 were raped in 2008), completely unacceptable but they have not invaded America to change it. What right does the US have to invade Afghanistan thousands of miles away to impose its way of life?

Against Iran, the US is not deterred from using the same lies that were peddled to invade Iraq. Tehran is accused of being a “sponsor of terror” and of “pursuing nuclear weapons” without providing proof. None is deemed necessary. It is the label that is important. Since Zionist Israel is one of the greatest practitioners of state terrorism and its economy is underwritten by Washington, the US itself is the leading sponsor of terrorism in the world. Both the US and Israel are guilty not only of possessing nuclear weapons but also of using them. The US used nuclear weapons against Japan and depleted uranium shells in Iraq and Afghanistan. Israel possesses more than 200 nuclear weapons and has dumped nuclear waste on Palestinian lands. Israel is also guilty of war crimes during its attack on Gaza a year ago. Yet Iran is accused of sponsoring terrorism. Iran has not invaded any country in 250 years; the US has attacked other countries since 1942; Israel since 1948. So who are the terrorists?

When one considers the spate of Zionist-sponsored anti-Iran conferences in the US and Europe, it becomes clear that the Islamic Republic is being set up for an attack. Anti-Iran propaganda has been going on since the victory of the Islamic revolution; recently, it has become more strident. The label of terrorism and the allegation of acquiring nuclear weapons are useful tools in advancing this agenda. In the past, similar labels were used against the Soviets (the Red menace) and against resistance movements fighting US imperialism in Vietnam, Cuba and Nicaragua. The locales may have changed but the labels have remained and continue to endure, devoid of any link with reality.

Manipulating the public perception of reality is an integral part of the so-called war on terror.

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