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Anthrax of the masses
Blame religion

October 26, 2001
The Iranian

I do not know about you but I have had it up to here with all this talk of war and terrorism and politics. Now everyone has become an armchair pundit. Endless debates with friends and total strangers have made this month seem like the longest of them all. From the Pakistani-Bush-supporter-taxi driver to the American-plumber-fan of Rush Limbaugh to the Lebanese (also cab driver) supporter of bin Laden asking where is the evidence? -- every one seems to have an urge to share their politics with me. All these people from the four corners of the world spilling their opinions all over the place gives new meaning to the word diversity.

This is rather a diversity of chauvinism, a rainbow coalition of bigotry, a monstrous myriad of opinions formed by a people, instantly turned expert, watching too much TV. It does not matter where they come from or what their religion is, they are all the same in their opinionated ignorance and their wholehearted belief in one thing or another. They are all the same in their certainty. Is real diversity possible where there is no doubt? Or have we just dressed up old traditional values and prejudices in so many tribal dresses? So much for diversity.

What amazes me is all this God talk. There is God on the right and God (or "Spirituality") on the left. There is God in every language and dialect but still God nonetheless. Even perfectly educated friends talk in millenarian and eschatological terms. I mean has not this tragedy made any one stop and think that the problem is God. That the problem is religion. That no atheist can drive a plane into a building? Or at least no atheist worth his label. I don't hear anyone advocating a general move away from religion: that opium turned anthrax of the masses.

They go on and on about Islam being a religion of peace. Well, more blood has been shed in the name of religion, be it Islam or Christianity, than anything else. For these fundamentalists, religion is not a pretext, it is the reason. These people are not non-Muslim, they are Muslim militants. And no, that is absolutely not a contradiction in terms. Now go on and on quoting me one nice verse after another admonishing believers to be peaceful, but I tell you that religion is a bloody f---- business. More harm than good. Period. Bunch of superstitious nonsense.

Now in this sticky muddle of diversity which is really nothing but pseudo-diversity, in this land of anything goes as long as it is kosher, the main question bothering the commentators is whether it is okay to bomb Muslims in Ramadan. Do we really have a "good time" to bomb and a "bad time" to bomb? Iran and Iraq never seemed bothered by it. Heck, Saddam even used chemical weapons on his own Muslim Kurds. So what's the big deal? I mean we haven't had an honorable or just way to fight since the invention of gunpowder, not to mention Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Well, at least all this gives a chance for more "experts'' on Islam to engage in some CNN pontificating. None of them say a thing about how Ramadan did not really matter to Muslims fighting Muslims. You cannot blame the TV people either. How do you fill the long twenty-four hours of news without being accused of causing panic. Let's panic about the effect of bombs dropped during Ramadan. After all it is safer than panicking about why no one seems to know what to do with the anthrax "outbreak".

Now, I must admit, I am all for military intervention. I have read my Machiavelli and my political theory. I know that in some instances war is the only way to stop more violence. This was the case in World War II. I also believe that killing a few thousand civilians in one strike does institute a declaration of war. The U.S. cannot be accused of war mongering, -- this time around it is self-defense.

But we have fighting and we have fighting. Sitting in some aircraft carrier or high flying jet, and pressing buttons to launch bombs on an army which has no air defense is cowardly by any book. Whatever happened to facing the enemy and yelling "Charge!"? It seems that that kind of warfare is the stuff of the adversary in this case. The less technology you have available to you the braver you seem.

If there is a propaganda problem here it is that no matter how many sacks of vegetarian food (Who is running this show Hollywood for heaven's sake? Vegetarian food give me a break!) you drop, if you do not face your enemy you are perceived as cowardly. I mean one night of bombing or a few, maybe, but weeks?

If U.S. foreign policy makers want to spare their image in the Muslim world they better send more ground troops in fast. You have already lost face if you do not show your face. Nothing is worse for your image as a superpower than endless bombing of an inferior army. Machiavelli would have told them that. In this way the American army is neither feared or loved.

I mean how can you liberate a people by remote control and how can you scare them when they believe that they will go to heaven if they are lucky enough to die at your invisible hands? So this remote control bombing is, as it is perceived to be: cowardly. You do not need to conduct polls and studies to see this. Just check my mother's reaction to the news on TV. If she, so secular and moderate, thinks it is unfair, you can be sure that the rest of the Muslim world think so too. The longer this remote control stage of the war lasts, the worse it is. Ramadan or not.

Talk about failing the propaganda war. When Rudolph Guiliani turned down the Arab Prince's ten million it was clear that he was thinking in terms of running for some sort of office again. That act, more than anything, alienated the moderate Arabs. I mean who, who is slightly not brainwashed by the media, would disagree that the gesture from Guiliani was for the Jewish vote and absolutely nothing else. Shame on the lot of them, these politicians, who for a few votes, will sell the pure soul of this nation at a time when no postman or woman is safe.

The ordinary people like the postmen and women, the real foot soldiers of this war, who continue showing up for work and who have sacrificed more than the army so far, are braver than our generals and politicians. No matter how ignorant of the world and geopolitics they may be, the American people have an instinctive notion of what is fair. That American notion of fairness is dead and buried, it seems, in politics and war making these days.

Americans were the heroes of World War II because they acted valiantly when they landed on those Normandy beaches. No landing no glory. Either don't care what the world thinks of you or play fair. It is better to be feared than loved if you can't be both told us the old Florentine with a bad reputation.

My next comment is about Israel. In "We are the victims" I described women as the new Jews. I said that as a woman I would rather live in Sharon's Israel than Hamas' Palestine. I said it to make a point that secular governments were usually better for women. But let me tell you how I hate Sharon -- even if I rather live in his Israel than Taliban Afghanistan or a Hamas Palestine.

As a young woman I remember crying when I saw scenes of the Sabra and Shattila massacres on a younger CNN. I wore the Palestinian chapeh yalghar through most of my freshman year in college. My Jewish friends can vouch for the endless evenings I spent debating the justified methods of the good old PLO.

So, I know the full weight of what I said, and I stand by it. Israeli women are, as we speak, better treated than our sisters in Iran or Afghanistan. But the fact that I used that comment to give my argument rhetorical weight does not have to stop me from expressing how I feel about Sharon and his lot.

That Ariel Madarghahbeh Sharon has taken this little nifty opportunity to kill as many Palestinians as he can get away with. It seems that the Right in Israel does not feel like they need to listen to the U.S. any more. Who can blame them? Take a look at the way our legislators are handling the Anthrax scare on Capitol Hill.

When all is said and done, for all this blood shed in Palestine and bombing in Afghanistan and Anthrax up the noses of mailmen, we have Muslim fundamentalism and bin Laden to blame. For all this unbearable mess we have their notion of Islam to blame. We have their religion to blame. We have religion itself to blame.

Let us learn from the postal people whose only scripture, whose only fatwa, is the prompt delivery of mail. Let us think of their bravery in these times of hiding warriors. Tonight let us salute the brave men and women of the United States Postal Service. Let us hope that our military leaders will learn from them and show us their valor.

Comment for The Iranian letters section
Comment for the writer Setareh Sabety

By Setareh Sabety

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