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Peace by precision
Meanwhile, human narratives that might provoke an intense emotional response are also lacking. There are no mobile phone transcripts of Afghan civilians bidding farewell to their loved ones as the cluster bombs rain down around them, no immediate images of the impact of the wayward missiles on unlucky suburbs. Unlike those who perished in the World Trade Centre, the dead in Afghanistan do not have names, only numbers. And, given the limited access to the area, even those are questionable. Like the continuous bombing of Iraq this assault is becoming just "something we do" - the constant infliction of misery on people in poor, distant lands. And while it is a living nightmare for those on the ground, for a complacent west, which can turn the page or change channel, it can soon be demoted to a running sore.
A nation expects
“In the name of Allah, the merciful and the beneficent, will all FOI members please step out,” barks a megaphone. Around 20 men, all members of the Fruit Of Islam, emerge from a long queue and stand a few strides apart from the crowd. It is a military step - exact, abrupt and self-conscious. These are the foot soldiers of Minister Louis Farrakhan’s Nation Of Islam - self-declared warriors in a century-long battle for black nationalism. Their hues range from latte to espresso, but their uniforms are identical - bow ties, short hair, crisp suits and the French foreign legion-style hat bearing a crescent, stars and the initials FOI.
We are all victims now
Even by its own standards, Operation Enduring Freedom is proving a disaster. Taking western leaders at their word, its stated aim is to defeat terrorism. A reasonable test of their war aims, therefore, would be to ask whether their actions have made a terrorist attack more or less likely. More plainly speaking: do you feel more secure today than you did last Saturday? Americans don't seem to. Police forces and armies are on the highest state of alert possible. In London on Saturday night, hundreds of people were evacuated from restaurants and pubs after a chemical scare and Canterbury Cathedral was cleared of worshippers yesterday after a man dropped some white powder.
Two sides to the coin
When Tony Blair evoked Colin Powell's rise from poverty to secretary of state and questioned whether it could happen here, he highlighted one of America's great racial successes and exposed one of Britain's most gaping flaws. He also opened the Pandora's box of race, class and ethnicity on both sides of the Atlantic.
War against the weak
Not because he has discovered a sudden urge to do the decent thing. But because he is a wealthy man who can afford a good lawyer, a satellite dish, and a long-wave radio. And after a few weeks watching CNN and listening to the World Service, he believes he stands a better chance in court than he does against a cruise missile or the SAS.
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Stranger in a Strange Land – Encounters in the Disunited States
book review
'It often takes an outsider to look inside. This is especially true of the United States.'
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