Defining terrorism is not just difficult – it’s pointless, because it is hard to agree on one definition. But Al-Sharpton makes a deeper point: “Who defines terrorists? Today’s terrorist is tomorrow’s friend.” Ram Puniyani’s latest book deals with many intricacies from that ambiguous realm of “terrorism.” A social and human rights activist, Puniyani examines this intensifying phenomenon from a broader perspective in Terrorism: Facts versus Myths. He tries to get into the mind of the so-called ‘terrorist,’ examining his sufferings, his miseries, his hopelessness and his vulnerability.
Puniyani argues that the terrorism that Uncle Sam and other sycophants are so vociferously trying to subdue is a repercussion of their own ill deeds, imperialist ambitions, and lust for power and oil: “The attacks on Afghanistan and later on Iraq were followed by acts of terror in Madrid and in London.” When dissatisfaction with policies goes beyond endurance, some people will resort to violence. Those responsible are not only the individuals who have been driven to such ends but also these “progressive” states which busily engage in sowing the seeds of hate and then sound amazed at the consequences.
Puniyani highlights America’s vicious quests, right from the naked terrorism and barbarism that powered the elimination of innocent citizens of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, to the carpet bombing of Vietnam with Napalm which was even more deadly (equivalent to 700 atomic bombs), and now the mania to conquer Iraq and Afghanistan, where millions have died, and millions more are dying. Not withstanding the colossal loss of infrastructure, it is even more outrageously ironic that American companies will soon take over building contracts and build these ravaged lands anew. What a mockery to first destroy, then rebuild and do it at a profit!
Substantiating with a world map, Puniyani concludes there is no nation on earth that remains untouched by the haunting face of American imperialism and the horrors it brings in its wake.
The retired professor takes pains to explain how all this impressive talk of liberty, equality, fraternity and democracy that the US keeps trumpeting is nothing but a farce. Puniyani is not taking a shot in the dark when he harshly accuses America and its partners for their undemocratic campaigns. He discusses forthrightly how America uses ‘democracy’ as a dummy tool to achieve its own sinister ambitions of dominating the globe.
Vindicating his argument, he cites examples like Chile where the toppling of elected Salvador Allende to give way to Pinochet was masterminded by Uncle Sam. The creation of Israel and America’s support right from its very illegitimate birth, installing Raza Shah Pehlavi instead of Mossadegh are also no less criminal acts. Similarly, assisting Kuwait’s feudal rule and hostility towards the democratically elected governments of Algeria and Palestine are enough to expose the truth behind America’s sham slogans of democracy and secularism.
Puniyani also sharply underlines that al Qaeda itself was created, maintained and nurtured by America. Now it is being utilised as a culpable scapegoat for dual purposes: to terrorise the world and provide also justifications for otherwise unjustifiable invasions on other countries. In Puniyani’s words “For America al-Qaeda is al-Fayda.”
The renowned author does not neglect the big factor – oil – and its role as a deciding factor, at least when US foreign policies are concerned. Which is why America assists all such regimes in Middle East who allow American companies to annex, control and extend oil flow to the US and its allies. To quote the author: “War on terror is a euphemism for imperialist aims to take political and military control of strategic areas of the world, either for acquisition of oil wealth or for military goals.”
The author perceives a more ravaging kind of terrorism when the prefix “State” accompanies it, becoming a license to openly kill innocent non-combatants. The book presents rich statistics; to quote one: more than 150,000 Iraqi civilians have sacrificed their lives leading to this anarchy, which in American parlance is repeatedly and shamelessly called “freedom.”
Puniyani laments the fact that despite such clear loopholes in the concept of the “war on terror” people are not only refusing to open their eyes to logical truth, when missiles hit homes, refugee camps, schools or hospitals in Iraq and Afghanistan, some applaud the ‘beauty’ and precision with which the missiles do their job; others rejoice that they (Muslims) deserve this lesson.
To counter this apathetic thinking of the world Puniyani takes various myths about terrorism and dissects each one. His cogent presentation of facts declares his slim book a masterstroke in this domain.
The book contains various appendices about communal organizations like RSS and its hate politics, about staged terror incidents in India, about absence of Osama’s name in the list of 9/11 accused even though US attacked Afghanistan in pursuit of Osama as the mastermind, as well as the flimsy reasoning behind ransacking Afghanistan. Besides such useful appendices, collections of some poems and articles from over the world, photographs and cartoons tacitly announcing the atrocities of war crimes, make reading this book not just a scholarly but an emotional affair as well. Puniyani has buried himself deep into the subject and flayed valiantly every myth about terrorism. For instance, rejecting Islam’s connection with terrorism outright, he declares Islam a religion of peace. He reasons how, when Naxal, Khalistani and IRA terrorism is not regarded as Hindu, Sikh and Christian terrorism, it is grave injustice to condemn Islam just on the basis of some video tapes whose credibility is more suspect than the alleged criminals. The notion of Jihad though, discussed in the light of the Qur’an and Shari’ah, could have been more unambiguous. There is scope for developing this debate in future editions.
In conclusion, the writer stresses that terrorism can never be resolved or contained by attacking countries or increasing resentment through discriminative policies, greedy ambitions, subjugation and indiscriminate bloodshed. Ram Puniyani has made a bold and novel attempt to present a subject so worn out and often talked about and this book will surely generate waves across every section of avid readers and intellectuals.