Sunday, June 5, 2016

Roy - "War Is Peace"

In “War and Peace” (2001) Arundhati Roy argues against the war with the Taliban. Roy pleads, “Please, stop the war now. Enough people have died.” Roy makes her case by making several distinctions. She provides a broader definition of terrorism, the causes of terrorism, and the moneyed interests surrounding a conflict with the Taliban.
            Roy argues that terrorism can be conducted by “religious fundamentalists, private militia, people’s resistance movements” despite whether or not “it’s dressed up as a war of retribution by a recognized government.” Instead of a clash of civilizations between good and evil, the Taliban and the US represent “two fundamentalist ideological poles.” Groups characterized as freedom fighters to some are thought to be and described as terrorists to another. Instead of the war being characterized as revenge or retaliation, Roy argues that more and more people die, and that “each innocent person that is killed must be added to, not set off against, the grisly toll of civilians who died in New York and Washington.” Roy lists the seventeen countries that the US has been at war with “- and bombed” since WWII, contrasting with, and making incoherent, the statement by George W. Bush, “We’re a peaceful nation.” This move relates to the title of the piece, the logically inconsistent statement, "War is peace" and other statements like "love is hate" and "north is south." Roy also argues that securing “Infinite Justice” and “Enduring Freedom” for some means “Infinite Injustice” and “Enduring Subjugation” for others. “Freedom” and “peace” are rhetorically deployed and do not describe the US in reality, especially in its dealings with world citizens outside of its borders.
  Roy explicates the cause of terrorism as being a type of rage that is ignited by material conditions, which powerful governments like the US and Britain have a role in producing. There is a vacuum of power created by the putting in, restoring, and taking out governments that causes a competition for power among disparate groups “divided along ethnic lines, some of whom have tasted power in Afghanistan in the past.” Roy relates that “Years of war strip them of gentleness, inured them to kindness and human compassion. They dance to the percussive rhythms of bombs raining down around them. Now they’ve turned their monstrosity on their own people.” Instead of terrorism being an inherent quality of uncivilized peoples, terrorism is created by the conditions of living that Afghan people endure. Hunger, poverty, voids of political power, and other conditions create terrorists; terrorists are constructed and contingent effects of causes. In response to the acts of terrorism on New York City, more acts of terrorism ought not be committed on Afghanistan. Evocatively, Roy posits the metaphorical question: “will burning the haystack find you the needle?”
            Roy also contrasts the apparent motives of the US and other Western conflagrations of power, such as the UN, with their moneyed interests in a conflict with the Taliban. The US cites human rights violations and instances of providing food packets to starving people. Roy explains that the provision of food packets was experienced as more of a photo-op than a concern for and grappling with “what months of relentless hunger and grinding poverty really mean.” Roy provides the example of Afghan people dropping food supplies in New York City between the breaks in bombing. This shift in perspective, Roy argues, reveals how the “humanitarian effort” is experienced as insult or condescension. “Boosting its self-image” is what Roy argues the US in concerned with, not with the poor, war ravished people they repeatedly bomb. Similarly, Roy explains, “At that time the Taliban’s taste for public executions and its treatment of Afghan women were not made out to be the crimes against that they are now.”  Couched in these seemingly benevolent motives are oil interests and weapons interests.

The Carlyle Group, “invests in the defense sector and makes its money from military conflicts and weapons spending,” so the statement by George W. Bush saying that he will take decisive, economically strategic action that will not waste is incoherent. “The Coalition’s weapons manufacturers makes its money from military conflicts and weapons spending.” The media produced explanation of the benevolent motives will not be portrayed in their entirety because: “In America, the arms industry, the oil industry, the major media networks, and US foreign policy, are all controlled by same business combines. Therefore, it would be foolish to expect this talk of guns and oil and defense deals to get any real play in the media.” In light of these arguments and with this vacuum of perspective in the media, Roy argues, the American people need to stand up and say enough is enough with the war with the Taliban.

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