We were all shocked, rightly, by the Islamist attacks in Mumbai. But how many or us were equally shocked by earlier reports about the discovery of unmarked graves in Kashmir?
According to one account (World Socialist Web Site): “The Indian government is refusing to investigate credible reports that up to a thousand unmarked graves have been found in the north Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir.
“Kashmiris and Indian and international human rights organizations have long maintained that India’s security forces have systematically ‘disappeared’ thousands of persons accused of supporting the anti-Indian insurgency in Kashmir, India’s only majority Muslim state.
“The grisly discovery of 940 unmarked graves was made public in a report published in late March by the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons. It has campaigned against the Indian government’s callous refusal to investigate the thousands of disappearances that have occurred over the past two decades at the hands of Indian security forces.”
These and other abuses against Kashmiri Muslims have been known for decades. Occasionally voices of conscience call on the Indian government to rein in its army and security forces there. But the disappearances and killings continue. New Delhi continues to ignore the U.N. 1948 resolution calling for a plebiscite in Kashmir so that the predominantly Muslim population there can decide whether it wants to join Pakistan or create its own independent unit. Should we be surprised if young Islamists want to retaliate, by any means possible?
Commentators horrified by the Mumbai attack warn about an escalating global terrorist threat. They demand that Pakistan take severest measures against its Islamic militants. But how many realize they may be creating more Mumbai tragedies in the process? Presumably the Indian Army and security forces in Kashmir will be given even freer rein to hunt down alleged Islamic extremists. Pakistan will be pushed into even greater turmoil and repression. More militants seeking even greater revenge are bound to emerge. In this case who has created the “terrorist” threat?
Mumbai is not the only example of this senseless cycle of violence and counter-violence in action. Whether in Colombia or the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Iraq and a host of other conflicts we see only too clearly how the uncontrolled brutality of armies and security forces sets in train escalating cycles of hatred and revenge just as ugly as what we have seen in Kashmir and now in Mumbai.
Take Colombia for example. It, too, has its sorry record of disappearances and killings of dissidents, but in the tens of thousands. We now discover that the military there has even resorted to killing innocent farmers and pretending they were guerrillas, simply so that it can boost its claims to be killing the guerrillas forced to flee to the jungle to escape the previous disappearances and killings. If the survivors of the present round of killings join the guerrillas would they really qualify as the “terrorists” that the United States and others say should be exterminated?
The violence/retaliation cycle that leads to tragedies such as 9/11, Colombia or Mumbai can only be stopped by setting the original injustices right. Unfortunately there are too many people in the world’s militaries and security forces with a vested interest in not doing just that.
And there are too many opinion and policymakers either too biased, bought or ignorant to do just that. Take the situation that has developed in Somalia for example, and compare it with the Sudan. We are outraged, rightly, by the human suffering in Sudan’s Darfur region. We are told the Sudanese government and its Islamist supporters should be held responsible, even though it is clear that a complex civil war is under way there in which all sides share blame. The International War Crimes Tribunal has been called in to prosecute Sudan’s leaders.
Now turn to Somalia. There the suffering is almost as great as in Darfur. But the horror there today has no civil war rationale. It is the direct result of the U.S. refusal to accept the popularly supported Islamist regime that emerged from the previous civil war. As a result thousands have died and millions have become refugees. A gun-happy Ethiopian Army was called in to wreak even greater havoc. But the international opinion so stirred up over Darfur shows little interest. There is no talk of the U.S. being dragged before an International Criminal Court. If Islamists angered by the injustice of it all launch another Mumbai-style attack in some part of the world who is really responsible?
By all means be angered over Mumbai. By all means be upset over Darfur or the hostages held by guerrillas in Colombia. But realize that these are not the only atrocities around us. And realize also that they have their causes, and that a major cause is the inability of our societies to do anything about the brutal militaries that we spawn in the name of crushing the “terrorism” that they, the militaries, help create.
Gregory Clark is a former Australian diplomat. He resigned to protest the Vietnam War and has been based in Japan ever since. He is currently vice president of Akita International University. A Japanese translation of this article will appear of www.gregoryclark.net