There has been continuous warfare in different parts of the world ever since the fall of the Berlin Wall, British Pakistani writer Tariq Ali said on Saturday.
He was delivering the Dr Abdus Salam Memorial Lecture titled: War and Peace in the 21st Century at the second day of the International Faiz Festival.
Painter Salima Hashmi had opened the session by inviting Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) secretary general IA Rehman to introduce Ali. “Tariq Ali is one of our finest exports to Europe,” Rehman said.
“A war has been imposed on the people of Afghanistan since 2001. There have been severe consequences for both Pakistan and Afghanistan,” Ali said. He said that a retired lieutenant general of the United States Army, Daniel P Bolger, had written in his book about why the war was lost. “He used to work at the Pentagon when the Iraq invasion was launched. When he opposed the idea, he was informed that Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Afghanistan were also on the list. There is a good thing about America. Truth does come out sooner or later. This encourages debate and discussion,” he said.
He said there was a misconception that the war was for oil only. “Another insider has revealed that former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice had said that they were going to use the 9/11 attacks to wage war against Iraq,” he said.
“What they [allies] did to Iraq, they did not do in Italy, Germany and Japan in WWII. Here they destroyed the very social infrastructure of the state.
Their social infrastructure was very strong. For example, in the mid 1960s, there were more women at top positions in Baghdad University than there are in Princeton and Harvard today. Now people are saying that if there were no war on Iraq then there would have been no ISIS. After the bombardment of Baghdad was completed, the armies were told to march towards Damascus and Tehran. They could not do this in Tehran, but they did it to Syria instead,” he said.
Ali said Libya was destroyed in the most cynical way. “There was constant bombardment for six months by the NATO to destroy Libya,” he said.
“Around 1.2 million Iraqis were killed in the war, three million were wounded. Five million children were orphaned. This is one side of the war,” he said.
“The West operates on double standards. Half a million people protested against the Iraq War in the USA. Now they ask why the Syrians are leaving their country? They are leaving because you are bombing them. So they are coming to you,” he said.
Ali said that the wave of globalisation had created a huge vacuum for rightwing politics and Islamophobia. “The state of discrimination and double-standards of the Western world today is much worse than what it was during the World War II,” he said.
“When Jeremy Corbyn, the labour leader said he would shut down the Defence Department and invest all the money in education and health of the people he was opposed by the military. In a breakfast show, he was warned by a general that the military will revolt if he becomes the British prime minister,” Ali said.
At the end of the lecture, Ali read the poem: Counter-song to ‘The Friendliness of the World’ by German poet Bertolt Brecht.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 22nd, 2015.