Cultural, Human Rights, International, Life as it is, Political, Religious

America’s one-dimensional policy and its consequences

The United States of America (USA – in short, America) still is world’s number one superpower, but nobody can say how long it is going to last. By all accounts, the end is not too far off. As the adage goes, what goes up must come down. Going up is tortuous, but coming down is simply sliding down or tumbling down.

America had risen to the status of super-power only after World War I, when Allied and Axial powers of Europe and Asia had embarked on annihilating each other, destroyed each other’s towns, cities, industries, infra-structure etc., whereas America escaped with little or no damage to its homeland as the country was physically isolated by two huge oceans, one on each side. Winning the war with such minimal damage and benefitting subsequently from the industrial revival was the root of America’s greatness!

Then came the World War II within a short space of time (within just twenty years). Admittedly, America did not jump onto the European war bandwagon straightaway, not because America had visceral abhorrence of war, but because America needed time to assess which party had the upper hand and in the mean time doing a roaring business trading in arms and ammunition with both the warring parties! Nearly half way down the war, America joined in. With minimal suffering and damage to man and material, she romped home to victory. To save lives of few hundred American soldiers in Japan, she dropped two atom bombs in two cities in Japan killing nearly 200,000 innocent Japanese outright and that made Japan’s surrender inevitable!

After the war, America became the undisputed leader and superpower of the world, not because of her war skills or war sacrifices, but because of her ruthless aggressive stance and no moral inhibition. War is perceived in America as a way to establishing supremacy and enhancing superiority.  

America acquired the mindset that it is the master of the whole world and its dictum must be followed. When Saddam Hussein tried to defy American hegemony, he was a target for regime change. America invaded Iraq on the concocted narrative that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Of course, America supplied chemical weapons and other items which can be called WMD previously during the Iran-Iraq war, but Saddam Hussein destroyed them. Despite his repeated denial and despite international weapon inspectors’ failure to find any evidence of WMD whatsoever, Iraq was still invaded and no WMD of any description had ever been found in that country. But that is beside the point. If America said something, that must be true!

During that invasion of Iraq, a number of Hezbollah soldiers from Lebanon were spotted in Iraq and an American General declared that no foreign soldiers would be tolerated in the country. America does not consider her troops in Iraq as foreign! Moreover, to give a religious flavour to the invasion of Iraq, George W Bush revealed that he was, in fact, asked by God to invade Iraq and he just carried out His orders!

America was not mature enough in the world stage to assume the position of a superpower; it was thrust upon her unequivocally after the WWII. Consequently, American foreign policy became lop-sided and unidirectional. Nearly 40 years ago (in 1979), when Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan to keep America off from its backyard, American’s immediate reaction was to take revenge and drive Soviet Union out. It was a blatant display of America’s superpower arrogance and desire to avenge its cold war rival, the Soviet Union. How best it could be done was not a consideration for the mighty superpower.

Force must be met with force was possibly America’s guiding principle and its unidirectional policy. She started giving large quantities arms and ammunition to the Islamic fundamentalists, called Mujahideen, disregarding the fact that these fundamentalists also vowed to take revenge against the west.  Pakistan, a fundamentalist Muslim country, was trusted with the Jihadi operation and plane load of money from America, Saudi Arabia and Qatar started pouring into that country. American arms industry was also having a bumper period selling arms to the government, who then shipped them to Pakistan for distribution to Afghan Mujahideen. Within nine years Soviet Union had been bled dry and militarily brutalised. The Soviet helicopters could simply be plucked out of the sky by the Mujahideen with American shoulder launching stringer missiles. America boasted when Soviet Union had to withdraw in disgrace saying, “The Soviet Union had been taught a very good lesson”. Pakistan also bragged, “We defeated Soviet Union and that may have caused the break-up of Soviet Union”.

The same Jihadi group (Mujahideen) with Pakistan’s tutelage became Taliban in less than five years and started attacking American and western interests worldwide. That Mujahideen could become Frankenstein and turn the guns on Americans did not come to American heads; driving Soviet Union out was the one-dimensional approach of America. A superpower with such short-sighted blinkered military strategy is unthinkable. Al-Qaeda, ISIS and other Jihadists around the world had flocked in Afghanistan under the Taliban rule. Within five years of Taliban rule in Afghanistan, twin-towers in New York had been blown-up, when the scheme was hatched by al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. Islamist terrorists must have felt grateful to America for creating a safe haven for them in Afghanistan.

In fact, Mujahideen, Taliban, al-Qaeda, ISIS, FSA (Free Syrian Army) and many more Jihadi groups owe their existence to American patronage. Money and material were supplied by America through various sources to these groups to fight Russia and other countries who are not in America’s good book. That America was creating Jihadi monsters that may one day devour the creator did not come to its consciousness.

Following the attack on twin-towers in New York by al-Qaeda operatives on the 11th of September, 2001, America embarked on a revenge attack on Afghanistan. America issued a demand to Taliban government within a few weeks of 9/11 attack that Osama bin Laden be handed over to America henceforth. Taliban asked for evidence of Osama bin Laden’s involvement in twin tower attack before he could be extradited. America, with her arrogance and rage, would not provide any evidence and issued an ultimatum. When Taliban rejected the ultimatum, America with Britain and other western democracies invaded Afghanistan in December 2001 and systematically started destroying Afghan government infrastructure and Taliban offices. Within few weeks Taliban had been dislodged from power and America took over the country. But there was no trace of Osama bin Laden, as if he had just vanished into thin air!

A decade later, America’s foremost terrorist, Osama bin Laden had been found, not in Afghanistan but in Abbottabad, Pakistan. Pakistan, who was America’s close ally and confidante and who benefitted from shedload of money from America all these years, had a duplicitous role. Osama bin Laden was killed and dumped at sea, but Pakistan’s role in giving sanctuary to him and then denying his presence in the country remains an enigma. 

For 20 years, America and its allies had been fighting a losing battle against the Taliban. The Taliban with a large number of war veterans from Mujahideen during the Soviet era had been lodging a war of attrition against the west. America, in those 20 years, had been pouring in arms, ammunition, tanks, planes etc as well as training Afghans to fight a modern warfare. But the newly trained Afghan soldiers could not or would not fight against the Taliban and just melted away when faced with Taliban. Now Taliban are in control of Afghanistan with all military arsenal that America had amassed and with all freshly trained soldiers. It may also be pointed out that corruption in the Afghan government as well as among American contractors and arms suppliers was simply unprecedented.     

Now over 32 years after the Soviet Union’s withdrawal, it is American turn to withdraw. During the past 20 years, America gave the most up-to-date arms and ammunition to Afghan forces, which have now become Taliban’s property. If al-Qaeda, ISIS or any other terrorist group does coagulate in Afghanistan, America would have no guts to go back. Taliban have now become too strong to kowtow after owning all the advanced weapons, tanks, planes of various types etc that America left behind. On top of that, America will have difficulty forming a coalition of partners after the present debacle of unilateral decision to pull out, whereas a collective decision was taken to form a coalition in 2001. America may well also remember the great adage ‘Once beaten, twice shy’. Russia may even have the last laugh and say, “American has learnt a very bitter lesson.”

America can now look forward to its time of ‘progressive nationalism’, as Joe Biden professes and huddle back home as Taliban have completely clipped off its wings and even chopped off its fuselage. Within two years of Soviet Union’s withdrawal, that country disintegrated losing a large number of constituent republics. What fate awaits America’s withdrawal is only future to tell. But undoubtedly reputational damage to America due to its financial weakness, reliability and trustworthiness is simply beyond reckoning. It would be a miracle if America can recover from this debacle with its reputation intact. After all, one must remember that when something starts to slide down, it slides down and down, it never slides up.

Dr A Rahman is an author and a columnist

Cultural, International, Political, Religious, Uncategorized

Three concerns about Taliban 2.0

Taliban fighters at the Afghan Presidential Palace

The Taliban have returned to power in Afghanistan. The spectacular fall of the US-backed government has caught everyone by surprise, although for years it was implicitly assumed that the war was lost in Afghanistan. Yet, the US continued its presence and pursued a failed policy of engagement. However, within the past weeks, city after city fell like dominoes to the advancing Taliban forces as the Afghan Army either surrendered or abandoned their posts. This led to the fall of the capital without any resistance. The hasty and unplanned evacuation of the US embassy in Kabul was reminiscent of another ignominious defeat of the United States—Saigon in 1975. Often referred to as the “Saigon Moment”, this came to life one more time, bringing an end to the US military operation launched 20 years ago after the terrorist attacks in the US by Al Qaeda, which was hosted by the then ruling Taliban. The Taliban was dislodged from power in a few weeks and two decades of US presence began.

Since the fall of Kabul on Sunday, the events leading to the moment have been analysed in extensive detail all around the world, and there have been emotionally charged discussions in the Bangladeshi media as well. Many have expressed their delight at the defeat of the US; some praised the Taliban for their success. Since the Taliban blitz began a few weeks ago after US President Joe Biden declared the timeline of the US withdrawal, and it became evident that the Taliban’s victory is all but certain, security experts and analysts of Afghan politics expressed an array of concerns.

These fears have been rejected by those who are optimistic of a new beginning in Afghanistan and want to give the Taliban the benefit of the doubt. They are suggesting that this is Taliban 2.0. Implied in the statement is that the Taliban has transformed. They argue that these concerns are only a part of the anti-Taliban campaign on behalf of the West. These explanations and concerns warrant our attention, particularly now that Taliban rule has become the reality.

A common explanation of the Taliban’s victory is that the people of Afghanistan have rejected the foreign power, as they did the British and the former Soviet Union before. Instead, they have chosen their political representatives. This characterisation of the Taliban as a nationalist force has some merit to it. To some extent, the support for the Taliban among Afghan people can be traced back to their nationalist ethos, but it is not clear whether this brand of nationalism has transcended the deep-seated ethnic divide in Afghan society.

However, nationalist ethos alone does not explain the entire phenomenon; the failure of the US-backed government in Kabul bears some responsibility. The parochial nature of the Afghan elite, the lack of inclusive governance, the incessant factional wrangling among them, the rampant corruption and utter disregard for the larger segments of society—all of this together contributed to the emergence of the Taliban as the alternative. While trillions of dollars of US taxpayers’ money were poured in, there was a disconnect between reality and perception.

The nationalist explanation is also fraught with the problem that the Taliban alone does not represent Afghanistan—those who oppose the Taliban ideology are also part of the national fabric. Afghanistan cannot be imagined without Taliban followers, neither should it be imagined excluding those who do not subscribe to the Taliban ideology. But the most serious inadequacy of the interpretation is that it ignores the political disposition of the Taliban and its record of five years in power between 1996 and 2001.

Explanations of the Taliban’s victory without considering its history and ideological position only offer a partial account, laced with emotion and devoid of the implications. There are those who are elated from ideological considerations, describing the Taliban’s victory as a victory of Islam. Whether Taliban rule is consistent with Islamic precepts is an open question at best. The Ulama have long rejected this claim.

The concerns about the future of Taliban-ruled Afghanistan can be broadly divided into three strands. First, the nature of governance to be introduced within the country. Second, whether Afghanistan will become a safe haven for international terrorist groups. Third, whether Afghanistan will emerge as a threat to regional peace and stability.

Taliban rule during 1996-2001 was marked by the absence of inclusivity in politics and governance. The notion of citizenship was absent, let alone their consent in governance. The basic human rights of citizens were absent. The so-called code of conduct was imposed by force, women’s fundamental rights were taken away, cultural activities were banned, the education system was restricted, and only religious education was given the status of education, and independent intellectual exercise was admonished. These were justified on the pretext of being distinct characteristics of Islam and Afghan society.

A particular interpretation of Islam was imposed as the only authentic and acceptable version. The Taliban did not acknowledge the presence of diversity, multidimensionality, or plurality of Islamic thought. Thus far, the Taliban have not given any indication that they would abandon those practices. This is not only a concern of Western nations, but is widespread among Afghans too. The possibility of such austere measures has already frightened people within the country. Even if the Taliban leadership makes promises, is there a guarantee that their followers will not continue the old practices in different parts of the country?

It is needless to say that Afghanistan was once an al-Qaeda base and training centre. Osama bin Laden went to Afghanistan from Sudan around 1996 and under his leadership, al-Qaeda engineered and implemented attacks on US interests, in the United States and elsewhere. Although the Taliban have assured the United States, China and Russia that they will not allow Afghan soil to be used by terrorist groups in the future, experts on Afghanistan believe that it will continue to maintain contacts with al-Qaeda, and the link is “unbreakable”. Dr Asim Yousafzai, a Professor of International Relations at the University of Maryland and an expert on Afghan politics and security, told the BBC that “no matter how much Taliban promise, their relations with al-Qaeda are still intact and al-Qaeda is fighting alongside the Taliban in battles against Afghan forces”.

Besides, such organisations can emerge without state support. There is no guarantee that the Islamic State or al-Qaeda will not build their bases, taking advantage of a chaotic situation and finding ungoverned spaces. This had happened in Sahel and Western Africa. Whether the Taliban will have the capacity to launch operations against such organisations is quite a valid question, as is the question of whether they will cooperate with any international initiative against such organisations. Will those within the Taliban with more extremist proclivity refrain from patronising the regional or transnational terrorist groups? These are the second strand of the concerns.

The third concern is how much will be the ideological impact of the ruling Taliban in Afghanistan on countries in South Asia and Central Asia. Harkatul Mujahideen (Huji), a Pakistan-based violent extremist organisation, came into being in support of the Mujahideen. Although the organisation was named Huji in 1988, it was already in existence for quite some time. By 1992, it had expanded into a regional terrorist organisation. Its official journey to Bangladesh began on April 30, 1992—after the fall of Kabul. The Taliban’s victory will energise the followers of its ideology throughout the region. In the past 20 years, the Taliban have been able to recruit members without being in power; now, their success is likely to attract more. Pakistan’s Taliban, which have helped the Taliban in Afghanistan so far, will gain further strength, and may seek return of their favour.

It is imperative to highlight and be vigilant about the use of the manufactured threat of terrorism by states in South and Central Asia to justify the persecution of opponents and silencing of contrarian voices. Authoritarian rulers of the region have been using the presence of violent extremist organisations as an excuse to consolidate their power and legitimise the use of various tools of intimidation. Two decades ago, authoritarian rulers around the world joined the bandwagon of the so-called War on Terror as it provided a carte blanche to engage in unlawful acts. It is necessary for the members of civil society and international community to remain vigilant and resist any kind of attempt to take advantage of the situation.

The ball is in the court of the Taliban. It is incumbent on them to behave as a responsible political actor and ensure that Afghanistan is not going back to 1996. It is also imperative to watch what the followers of their ideology are doing. And it is necessary to watch what other governments are doing under the pretext of the Taliban victory.

Ali Riaz is the Professor of Political Science at the Illinois State University.

Cultural, Disasters - natural and man-made, Human Rights, International, Life as it is, Political, Religious, Technical

Taliban – Pakistan’s weapon of mass destruction

Protection against terrorism

The world is horrified at the speed and extent of Taliban’s victory in Afghanistan and the consequent collapse of Afghan military force. Afghan military has shown that it is as strong and stable as the house of cards; when just nudged by Taliban, it starts to collapse and has the domino effect under its own momentum. At this point in time, the 15th of August 2021, Taliban is poised to take over Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, and thereby bringing an end to the American invasion of Afghanistan about twenty years ago and completing the utter humiliation of mighty America.

But Taliban is not the rag-tag of rebel soldiers or tribal gangsters with slings and arrows. Taliban had been put together by Pakistan, made into a fighting force and, above all, the strategy of ensuing battle in Afghanistan had been master minded by Pakistan. Pakistan may be a rogue and failed state, but its military machine is very much functional and ready to meddle in other state’s internal affairs. As Shashi Tharoor, an Indian politician, said some years ago, “The state of India has an Army, the Army of Pakistan has a state.”  

In particular, one would say, Pakistan always had the inclination to fish in the muddy waters of other countries, particularly Afghanistan. Following the coup d’état in April 1978 (Saur Revolution) by the People’s Democratic Party in Afghanistan against its President Daoud Khan, a chain of events was set in motion. America wanted to sabotage the coup to undermine its cold war rival, the Soviet Union; and the Soviet Union in response sent in troops in December 1979 to prop up the collapsing government of the coup leaders.  

That is when Pakistan found enough ammunition to trump up the situation. How could an atheist communist state be allowed to take over a Muslim state, they thundered? Pakistan drummed up support from Western capitalist states as well as Muslim states to avenge the situation. Mujahedeen, a conglomeration of rebel soldiers with Islamist zeal along with some pro-Chinese elements, were formed by Pakistan with the direct help and administrative support of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) of Pakistan back in the early days following the invasion of Soviet Union. Pakistan took the central role in procuring funds from America and other Western states as well as unlimited funds from the oil-rich Arab states. On top of that, the 34-nation Organisation of Islamic States (OIC) gave Pakistan full political and financial backing. In return, Pakistan was entrusted with military training, logistic and intelligence support as well as arms and ammunition to the Mujahedeen.

It was a perfect win-win situation for Pakistan. Almost the whole of Pakistan’s military machine was bank-rolled on Mujahedeen’s expenses financed by Arab states and America. At the same time, Pakistan formed a gangster fraternity with the CIA and American military machine. Mujahedeen had been made into a fighting force much better than that of many third world country. The Soviet Union, on the other hand, was bleeding profusely under the twin attack of the capitalist world and the Muslim world. By 1985, Soviet Union expressed willingness to negotiate its troops withdrawal from Afghanistan, but neither Afghanistan nor America was willing to negotiate. However, in 1988, Soviet Union decided to withdraw from Afghanistan and leave the country to fend for itself. Within a year, the Soviet Union itself was in turmoil and started to break up.

Pakistan was basking in the glory of defeating the mighty Soviet Union. It is said that Afghan war might have contributed, at least partially, to the collapse of the Soviet Union. The ISI’s chief, Gen Hamid Gul, twirling his moustache bragged to the world that his men had brought down the mighty Soviet Union. However, radical Islam and political Islam got a new lease of life and a safe sanctuary in Pakistan. But that was a small price to pay for Pakistan for the wider geo-political victory and the concocted world status. America also in its turn declared that Soviet Union had been ‘taught a very good lesson’ and the ‘job was well done’. But hardly did the so-called victors realise that they had created a monster, a monster of Frankenstein’s proportion, which one day might devour the masters!

After the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan and subsequent collapse of the Soviet Union, America considered the job well done and lost any interest in the back waters of geo-political schism. Mujahedeen had been left in the lurch, with thousands of heavily armed soldiers roaming around aimlessly in the streets of Afghanistan and Pakistan. Pakistan’s ISI which had initiated and guided the Mujahedeen right from 1979 took advantage of this vacuum. In doing so, Pakistan received financial help and military assistance from Western countries to manage the situation. But that was not enough to Pakistan’s liking and Pakistan started to play a duplicitous role. On the one hand they continued to get American and Western help to disassemble Mujahedeen and on the other hand they surreptitiously helped to re-organise the terrorist groups into al-Qaeda and others groups including Taliban.

The word Taliban is a Pashtu word – the plural of ‘talib (student)’. The Taliban were students who were trained in the strict Islamic fundamentalism, the Deobandi ideology and vowed to follow the strict interpretation of Sharia or Islamic Law. These hardcore Islamists were put together in 1994 along with the remnants of Mujahedeen as Taliban under the tutelage of Pakistan’s ISI.

The stray Mujahedeen fighters started dispersing to various Islamist organisations including al-Qaeda, ISIS (Daesh), other fringe terrorist groups. American exploitation of Saudi oil, the invasion of Iraq, its blatant opposition of Iranian theocracy etc were all the powder keg of anti-Americanism. America’s desertion from the region without any reconstruction was very much resented in the region. America thus became the culprit, the root cause of the suffering of the people of the country and Pakistan fanned the flame of this narrative. 

When Taliban took control of Afghanistan in 1996, America realised that they had created a monster and that monster had been let loose. The erstwhile ally and reliable foot soldiers in the shape of Mujahedeen had become America’s blood enemies. Afghanistan became the centre of world terrorism and al-Qaeda was the main operative. After the 9/11 attack in 2001 on America by al-Qaeda and when Osama bin Laden was tracked to be hiding in Afghanistan, America demanded his immediate extradition. Taliban being the ideological bedfellow of al-Qaeda refused to do so. America along with other Western countries invaded Afghanistan in December 2001 and dislodged Taliban within a year or so. Although most of the Taliban leadership had been killed and its offices had been massacred, but the brain behind Taliban ideology was safely tucked away across the borders in Pakistan.

Taliban had suffered temporary set-back but not destroyed. They were dispersed to outlying areas in the countryside in Afghanistan and regrouped in Pakistan. America thought that with their fire power and sophisticated military machine, they would annihilate Taliban in a short period of time and leave the country with ‘job well done’ after 2001 invasion! But after 20 years (from 2001 to 2021) of blood, sweat and tears, with over 1.3 trillion dollars cost and more than 2,300 American soldiers’ fatality (along with more than a thousand British, Canadian, Australian and other soldiers’ fatality), America lost any appetite to fight with the Taliban and decided to withdraw on the anniversary of al-Qaeda (supported by Taliban) attack on America!   

America announced its intention more than a month ago, which means more than two months before the intended withdrawal date, and since then America had been haemorrhaging in military capability and political credibility. At that time, the expert opinion was that within two months of America’s withdrawal, Taliban may take over the control of the country. Since that time, the time scale of collapse of Afghan government had been progressively reduced and now, one month prior to American withdrawal, the collapse is imminent. American soldiers, about few thousands remaining, haven’t got enough time to evacuate and any soldiers sent to rescue them will themselves be hostage! The collapse of Kabul is worse than Saigon. In Saigon, American soldiers at least had time to evacuate, now in Kabul they have no time to evacuate and they are likely to be prisoners in the invaded land. The superpower is a badly defeated party and Russia is having the last laugh. Russia now even can throw back ‘America had been taught a very good lesson’.

What made Taliban carryout such successful ‘blitzkrieg’ attack, albeit without air power, on Afghan soldiers? There must be unseen long hand of ISI directing and giving tactical advice to invade town after town and then closing in on the capital itself. Even America with its sophisticated satellite navigation, aerial survey and intelligence services on the ground caught completely unaware and now probably hoping to have divine help to rescue the American soldiers.

Pakistan with its duplicity has got the upper hand for the time being. They had been squeezing America over the years with the threat of Taliban to pump money into the country. Taliban has become Pakistan’s weapon of mass destruction. But there is always a time when the blackmail victim would say, “enough is enough, we must confront the menace”. That time has probably come. America and the rest of the world must stand up and put an end to the blatant Pakistani blackmail using Islamic fundamentalism and ensuing terrorism. 

Dr A Rahman MSRP CRadP FNucI

Economic, Environmental, International, Life as it is, Political, Technical

Donald Trump’s Vicious Blame Game

In an effort to counter allegations of incompetence in handling COVID-19 pandemic, Donald Trump has again resorted to lies, deception and misinformation. This is typical of this administration’s response to any issue of significance.

In early January 2020, when COVID-19 (a strain of coronavirus) was wreaking havoc in Wuhan, China and despite country’s best efforts in locking down the city, the virus did spread to other parts of China as well as to South Korea, Donald Trump blamed China for not tackling the problem efficiently and was bragging in mid-Feb that America was well prepared to face this virus and there was nothing to worry about. He even dismissed coronavirus as nothing more than a common flu infection at the end of February and asked people to have common flu precaution.

Then COVID-19 pandemic attacked New York city from early March with all its viciousness. Thousands of New Yorkers started showing symptoms from early March and the death rate started to climb from early March. Donald Trump blamed the Mayor of New York for not taking adequate precautions in time to tackle the problem! Under relentless pressure from various states, he imposed lockdown from 23 March. But that was probably too late.

Now to deflect the public opinion from his disastrous handling of the pandemic issue, he started blaming China for this virus. He said a few weeks ago that he has evidence that the virus could have originated in a Chinese laboratory, but he declined to give any further evidence. Then Mike Pompeo, the Secretary of State (and sycophant-in-chief), took up the issue and said on Sunday, 3 May 2020 that there was “a significant amount of evidence” that the coronavirus had emerged from a Chinese laboratory. But US intelligence agencies concluded that it was not a man-made virus. A German spy agency (BND) casts doubt on the American accusation that the virus, COVID-19, originated in a Chinese laboratory. In fact, the German intelligence report prepared for the German Defence Minister, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, concluded that the U.S. accusations were a deliberate attempt to divert public attention away from President Donald Trump’s “own failures”. The five nations’ joint spy agency representing US, Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand would not support Pompeo’s claim. Pompeo’s response was typical of a sycophant’s mantra that “whatever the master says, the sycophant says it exaggerated hundred times!”

Doesn’t Pompeo’s present accusation of “a significant amount of evidence” bear a striking resemblance to Colin Powell’s, the then Secretary of State under George W Bush, accusation in March 2003 that “Iraq’s behaviour shows that Saddam Hussein and his regime are concealing their efforts to produce more weapons of mass destruction?” Colin Powell started his address at the UN Security Council in Feb 2003 with solemn assertion, “My colleagues, every statement I make today is backed up by sources, solid sources. These are not assertions. What we’re giving you are facts and conclusions based on solid intelligence”. What a monumental lie and deception! No weapons of mass destruction, no chemical weapon of any description, no links of Saddam Hussein’s government with al-Qaeda etc had ever been found. George W Bush, Colin Powell and their cabal orchestrated lies and deceits to carry out their heinous crime of removing Saddam Hussein and put their hands-on Iraqi oil wealth.

The extreme right-wing administration of Donald Trump is mindful of America’s gradual economic decline and China’s rapid rise to the top position in the world economy. There is a conspiracy theory that is going around now that America considers the only way this trend can be reversed is by decimating China’s economy. How best can it be done other than implanting a vial of coronavirus in the economic powerhouse of China – Wuhan city? This virus would then spread to other towns and cities in China and Chinese economy would be devastated and America would achieve its objectives.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is world-political-map.jpg

But what Trump’s blockheaded strategists failed to appreciate was that the virus could not be confined to China alone; it would savage China as well as other parts of the world. As it happens, within a couple of months, the virus came back to attack America itself and killed already over 80,000 people and rising. This death toll is nearly 16 times higher than China’s, although Chinese population is more than 3.5 times of that of America. So, pro rata America’s fatality is more than 50 times higher than that of China!     

Donald Trump is desperate to start American economy after the lockdown, as election is coming within the next six months. Due to lockdown, more than 25million Americans (over 15% of the workforce) have already become unemployed and many of them may become permanently unemployed. American GDP is likely to shrink by around 15%, which is simply staggering. The death toll from COVID-19 is nearly 2,000 per day and so within another 10 to 12 days, the tally would exceed the 100,000 mark! With such a dire situation, Donald Trump is desperate to shift the blame to China.

If America can make the Chinese crime of making this virus stick, it stands to achieve a number of well-prized objectives all in one go. Firstly, Donald Trump’s awful incompetence and chaotic response to this pandemic will be forgotten by the people due to pent-up anger and the demand for reparation from China. Secondly, the reparation from China can easily be extracted as China has more than trillion-dollar investment in America’s treasury bonds. American government can easily freeze that asset under the excuse of extracting reparation and nothing the Chinese government can do to avert it. Thirdly, Trump election victory would be well assured as he can dish out tens of billions of dollars, snatched from China, to the affected and/or unemployed people. Fourthly, America can flash around the whole world that China is the culprit for this virus, which caused so much pain and suffering to almost every nation of the world. This will irreparably damage China’s standing in the world and economic relations with other nations and thereby secure America’s future prospect as the economic superpower.

All of these favourable outcomes depend on one key issue that China got to be shown that it was the originator of this virus. So, it is highly probable that America will go all-out for it. After all, America is renowned for all sorts lies, deception, vicious propaganda, military adventure and invasion, regime changes, pre-emptive strikes and so forth, all for their selfish interests.

But bitten by the Iraqi debacle and blatant falsehood, American spy agency wanted to clean-up its act and gave an honest verdict that the virus was not man-made. After all, whether the virus containing the embedded gene is naturally evolved or man-made can be found out from the genome sequence data of SARS-CoV-2. Already Gene Laboratories found that SARS-COV-2 (COVID-19) and related viruses were not made in a laboratory or engineered.

So, the opportunity for lying and deceiving on this virus is almost non-existent. But the Trump administration, with very limited technical knowledge and the medical knowledge extending to prescribing people to ingest or inhale disinfectants to cure COVID-19 infection, is completely unaware of genetic advances and thought that by doubling up their lies and publicity, they can change day into night!

In the most unlikely event if the virus was man-made, then who is to say that it was not made by America herself and transported to Wuhan? Finding the man-made virus in China does not necessarily mean that it was made in China. Implanting a small amount of infectious virus in a place like Wuhan is a child’s play for American spies. All major powers have chemical, biological and radiological weapons and laboratories to make weapons to attack enemies. Russia killed Sergei Skripal and poisoned his daughter with a Novichok nerve agent in England in 2018 by importing the nerve agent from Moscow. So, it is not beyond the realm of possibility that America would have implanted the virus in China to ensure Donald Trump’s election victory, make ‘America great again’ and destroy China (like Iraq) all in one go! But he should know that China is no Iraq!   

  

  • Dr A Rahman is an author and a columnist.
Cultural, Environmental, Life as it is, Travel

Autumnal Colours in America

In America’s Northeast covering New York, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and so forth the dramatic explosion of colour during autumn season starts typically in late September. It peaks in mid-October when leaves on the trees are emblazoned in gorgeous shades of red, orange, yellow and gold. After that, a gradual decline would ensue as the locust and maple leaves fall to the ground first, followed by the golden brown oak hanging on until late November, while the beech trees might let their leaves go sometimes in the middle of winter.

This year, all the precursor conditions—chilly nights and sunny, warm days—were in place for a fabulous fall foliage season. The display of bold colours confirmed that fall has finally taken over from the dog days of summer. But the days are also growing shorter which means the frosty days and nights of winter are around the corner. So, at this time every year, we throw the thought of winter out of our mind and venture into the wilderness to look at the transformation of the leaves. It gives us the feeling of “walking into fire without the heat.”

Some of the best places to see fall foliage are right in our backyard—the Catskills, Adirondacks and Bear Mountain, all within a short driving distance from our home in the lower Hudson Valley.  In the Northeast, New England reigns supreme for fall foliage viewing. Though the entire region is renowned for its vivid display of eye-catching colours, there is perhaps no other place more picturesque than the White Mountains in New Hampshire. Hence, it is one of our favourite places to gawk at the many trees—maple, beech, birch, elm and hemlock—burst into brilliant colours.

The nearest place where we can watch the fall fiesta is the Catskill Mountains in upstate New York. One of the greatest attractions in the Catskill is the Hunter Mountain, where leaves change into a multicolour canopy in mid-October. For a glimpse of the delicate brushstrokes of Mother Nature on a larger landscape below and around us, we took the scenic skyride to the 3,200-feet summit of the mountain. The colours on the nearby Kaaterskill Mountain, as seen from the Hunter Mountain, were simply awesome. The mountain also offered incredible 360-degree views that reach out to and beyond the Catskill Mountains.

Few places in New York rival the Adirondacks for viewing fall foliage. The Adirondacks offer a different sort of autumnal splendour—lakes, mountains and forests combine to create a canvas upon which nature paints her annual pièce de résistance.  During our visit to Lake Placid, Adirondack was an unbelievable kaleidoscope of colours. The roads through the mountains of Adirondacks also afforded us one of the finest views of fall season’s palette—a photomontage of colors one finds in rainbows. The banks of the Ausable River were decked out in shades of crimson, orange and yellow.

While driving along the 35-mile stretch of the scenic Kancamagus Highway that cuts through the White Mountains of New Hampshire, we were treated to sceneries of majestic alpine mountains, quaint covered bridges, crashing waterfalls and colourful foliage. The splendid transition of colours throughout the mountains created a wonderful morphing beauty that accentuated our experience of viewing fall foliage.

As they say, “Fall is our jam here in the Northeast—when the colours switch from green to vibrant oranges, reds, yellows and gold.” For us, it is the time of the year to relax and enjoy the ravishing display of nature’s seasonal gift—the gallery of flaming colours, the “year’s last, loveliest smile” before the trees retire for the long winter slumber.

Quamrul Haider is a Professor of Physics at Fordham University, New York.