[This was previously carried by Lakbima News on the week of September 11th, 2011]
After the devastation of two historically rich civilization, the tearing down of its pace of life – and a third such destruction being assisted through proxy – we culminate the first decade of 9/11’s aftermath. 9/11 – One does not even bother to use the inverted commas anymore; for, this day of September, condemned for the alleged Al Qaeda attack on the US Pentagon and the Twin Towers has been canonized as a phenomenon, than being yet another isolated incident of strategic violence. This attack, again, is considered to be the nearest precursor for a more concentrated onslaught on “global terrorism” in which the Euro-American superpowers have been engaged since 2001.
Here we do not question the definition of “terror” or the legitimacy of a nation state or an organization consistent of such states to use military measures – at the level matters have been carried in Afghanistan, Iraq etc – to crush such “terrorist networks”. While such questions are far more theoretic to raise and would not be in the interest of Democracy, the democratic question to ask would be something more illusive – who, exactly, is the enemy of “Global Democracy”? It should be added here that a hollow concept such as “democracy” and a universal “global democratic ethic”, too, are illusive and are hallucinations of the mind. So, in that context, who threatens to cripple these saintly precincts?
Let us begin with the basic components – “power” and the will to “govern”. The “nation state”, at some point of history, has cemented itself as the ultimate “power stone” of the people. Through “democratic” and “constitutionally transparent” means (though not always) we – the “people” – have submitted to the will of the “state”…. Or, have we? We are told that we have. From the cradle to the grave – throughout infancy and by means of numerous socialization processes – the “state” prepares its citizen subject to be governed. This preparation is to make it feasible to maneuver the social mass with regard to the “authority” of the state.
Thinkers such as Michel Foucault have illustrated how “power” operates as a dialogic in all social practices. “Authority” in itself is illusive that though it appears to be in the “hands of” the (person/party that appears to be) the governor, it is always and already a continuous negotiation. Power is not about “ruling”. Their needs to be a submission to such a rule on the part of the citizenry as well. What a state cultivates in us through forces such as education is this “will to be ruled” (Those who are not in the mood to read Foucault, can check out on youtube Foucault’s famous debate with Noam Chomsky on “Power” and “Justice” for an illustrated idea of his take on “state authority”).
For example, consider the Sri Lankan cabinet as a model for the “state” (some pessimists argue that it, indeed, is). Within this structure, “power” and “authority” is nominally wrested on the unlimited executive mandate of the President. Yet, the President’s scope / space within which he can exercise his will – as to what he can / should / must do or do not – is largely determined by a host of other factors. Does the President have sufficient support from within his cabinet? Is the cabinet maintaining good links with each other and the people? Even within the cabinet there might be concerns of those who strive to be “too close” to power; and of hushed voices of dissent that may harm the integrity of the organization. This is a truth President Premadasa learnt to his dismay, when the No Confidence Motion was brought against him – a motion that was ultimately defeated.
The “state” therefore is consistently in threat from contending stakeholders to power and other anti-establishmentarian factors. Anti-establishmentarianism has its own logic – and this is a logic we would not know, since it does not get taught in government syllabuses, alongside its Aristotelian counterpart. An Al Qaeda bomber becomes a “terrorist” and is gunned down; whereas a “state militant carder”, when killed, receives “state honours”. The state instills in us that we, too, must follow suit.
All this is knowledge that shapes the “nature of things”. But, trekking back to my departure point – the 9/11 attack and the question as to “whom” we are fearing ten years later – there is a need to assess the (in)significance of the Al Qaeda, as a “global terror-monger” in the European context. To say the least, Al Qaeda has been there before September 2001. In fact, Political analysts point out how this organization and other similar arms have always been nourished and facilitated by influential governments of leading champions of “democracy” itself. In an expanding network / business, the attack on the Pentagon and the Twin Towers would prove to be Al Qaeda’s worst over-estimation and its fatal mistake.
The ten year lapse since this attack has had no repetitions of such mass destructions caused by Al Qaeda’s political arm. Of course, there have been attacks and ambushes, but none of them come even remotely close to 9/11. The 9/11 attack itself – to the skeptic – is dubious and remain an allegation aimed at a cat paw of a former (?) US proxy. Left Wing critics of sorts have often pointed out how the Al Qaeda and the “war on terror” have been shallow pretexts by the Euro-American players to subvert the Middle Eastern oil deposit and the controls to it. The flag of “democracy” is the proper banner to wave – for, in its vague accommodative ethic – it is a timeless cause that can be imported across all continents.
Not that “democratic spaces” have become shapelier over the past decade or so. In fact, more and more surveillance and checks have come upon people as a result of “security measures” and “defense necessities”. More journalists have been attacked or maimed and alternative voices – as in all time – have been suppressed with gusto. In the perpetuation of authority, we often create an “enemy” – feeding it with qualities that often legitimize and justify our cause. With the fall of the Soviet, the block of Western Capitalism re-invents an “enemy” – the “terrorist groups” of Semitic origin. Through this manifestation and the pretext of “fighting the fear” a justification is sought that will legitimize its own imperial agenda.
In Robert De Niro’s “The Good Shepherd” (2006) – a film on the origins of the CIA – a supposed “Russian spy” is seen to confess under the influence of a kind of truth serum. Here, the “spy” confesses that the USSR is an exaggerated creation of the US – a “fear factor” that has been conjured in order to extend the US imperial agenda in post-Second World War traffic. As debatable this point may be – specially, when it appears in a film / fiction – the idea is undeniably thought-provoking; specially, since Bin Laden and the Al Qaeda are not figments of one’s imagination.