Conversations (read bottom-up)

(4) Me:

Never made it to MIT or Harvard ( 😉 ), but here’s my two cents:

I am complicit in the “war on terror” inasmuch as I didn’t work hard enough to start a genuine anti-war movement, neither in 2001 nor in 2003. I believed in 2001 that the “sab say pehlay Pakistan” slogan was sheer bollocks, but I didn’t have the balls to act according to my beliefs.

I have never paid any taxes to the US, but I suppose every time a US-based multinational whose products I buy repatriates its profits, I end up contributing to the US economy and hence to the US-led wars. This realisation – which hit me soon after Fallujah – was one of the strongest reasons that I tried to pull out of the whole capitalist system in 2004-5, but alas, again, I was not strong enough, not ready both materially and spiritually.

But even so, I would never in a million years fight anyone else’s war – and by anyone else, I mean pretty much anyone outside my family or very close circle of friends. Even there, I’d much rather be a paramedic or in civil defence. This is mainly because of my pacifist beliefs, but in the case of the war on terror, it comes from a clear conviction that these wars are as immoral as they come, the result of the worst kind of bullying and greed, a blatant grab for the world’s resources – both mineral and human.

This paragraph, though, was quite the little nugget:

I also took offense to Rakshi’s statement that people only join the Army for socio-economic reasons – ABSURD!!! For many, joining or serving the armed forces is a matter of pride and honor, and for some a call of duty. In case you were unaware, for many generations the people who joined the military in Pakistan and India were from the landed gentry and deemed a noble and honorable career (you had to have a certain socio-economic status to qualify for the military). Being an officer or soldier in the armed forces is something to be proud of, and even though one may have ideological differences with those who serve in the US Armed forces, be they of American or Pakistani-American heritage, one cannot and should not rejoice or belittle their service to their country and nation. They served their nation and people proudly and should be honored and remembered for that.

It may be a matter of pride and honour for Ashfaq Kiyani or Tauqir Zia or Talat Masood – or Aziz Bhatti even – to have served in the Army. Good for them. I don’t see why I should be asked to respect that when my belief system tends towards demanding an end to a world system predicated on/resulting in permanent standing armies. As for the landed gentry… I mean, really… am I now also supposed to respect someone just because he was born into a “noble” household? I do not deny the tremendous bravery required to fly a long-range bombing mission, or in being an infantry scout, or simply in being a regular soldier in a war zone. What I cannot deny, also, however, is that ever since the time of the French Revolution, war has become increasingly totalitarian, a total effort involving the civilian and military population that has led to civilians being considered fair game under the doctrine of “total warfare” – never mind all the Geneva Conventions out there. And with increased mechanisation – and computerisation of the weapons of war – we’re in the process of witnessing the field-testing and perfection of the first robot warriors: the UAV’s so familiar to our Pashtoon and Afghan neighbours. So now, war escapes the basic, the fundamental limit against which it used to run up in the 19th and 20th centuries: the limit to which the tolerance and gullibility of the civilian population (those contributing the foot soldiers to the war machine) could be stretched by intense state-sponsored propaganda. Now, NATO is increasingly liberated from worrying about body bags. And some research into recruitment trends since the mid-90’s will easily show which social strata the US Army and Marine Corps go to for their cannon fodder: Hispanics (notably Puerto Ricans), Blacks & so-called “white trash”. While you’re at it, you might want to check out DARPA’s huge, incredibly ambitious project to develop robotic foot soldiers, a programme which has been an area of intense research and development at the USC’s (Southern Calif.) computer science (mainly AI and real-time systems) faculty.

I am deeply ashamed to belong to as jingoistic, as martial a nation as Pakistan, just as I am deeply ashamed of the terrorism carried out by both the government and the LTTE in my father’s country. I am deeply ashamed of what the “Pak” Army did in East Pakistan in 1968-71 and what a detachment of the same mercenary military machine (led by the future dictator Zia-ul-Haq) did to the Palestinians in Jordan in September 1970 (the massacres they still remember as Black September). I would like dearly to send your friend a copy of the relevant chapters where Peter Ward Fay discusses of the truly mercenary nature of the armies that India and Pakistan inherited from imperial Britain. Maybe you can pass on the Google Books link:

And then there’s The Garrison State. Do try to get a copy. Your library probably has it.

Of course, if one has been around military men just a little bit and has grown out of one’s adolescent fetish for weapons and other manifestations of naked power, one doesn’t really need books to draw the same inferences.

Nevertheless, I’m honoured that you chose to share this thread with me – and I apologise if I flew off the handle a little bit.


(3) Out of sheer courtesy, Samad forwarded me some responses he got from various friends discussing the matter. While my view was already represented among his friends, one of them went ahead and said something so outrageous, I felt I needed to respond. [scroll up]

(2) Me:

I feel sorry for his family. I feel sad that another human being has died.

But it does not go much deeper than that when I see that he consciously enrolled to serve in an imperialist army. The sadness I feel for a soldier is usually tempered by the thought that those who choose to live by the sword consciously accept that one day they may die by it – in fact, they are often rather proud of the distinction that they think their supposed bravery confers upon them.

Maybe he only enrolled so that he could get a college education – it’s often the case with poor Americans. Who knows. It just goes to show that the masters of war have tagged us, that they know how best to use us. And our complicity cannot be ignored nor forgiven.

(1) Fwd from Samad and Abeer:


Second Lt. Mohsin Naqvi

The Pakistani American community all across the United States joins their fellow Americans to mourn the death in Afghanistan of a Pakistani American Muslim US soldier, Second Lt. Mohsin Naqvi.

Lt. Naqvi, was 26 year old and was in a group of five soldiers killed while on patrol Wednesday the 17th in Afghanistan. He had just been married about 4 months ago. Lt. Naqvi enrolled in the Army Reserve a few days after the 9/11 attacks and later served in Iraq. When he returned from Iraq in 2003, he re-enlisted for active duty after earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees.

Lt Naqvi while he lived in Newburgh, NY, would be frequent visitor to the neighboring Connecticut. He had worked in CT in the past as well. The Pakistani American Public Affairs Committee (PAKPAC) joins with the larger community to show their respect to him and prays that the family can sustain this huge loss. Burial is being planned at the Albany Cemetery in New York.

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