It has been ten years since 9/11. They now call it the 9/11 decade.
I was visiting home that September lounging in the pre-autumn sun, drinking noon-chai with a Bakarkhani. The first plane struck the North Tower. I rushed inside to switch the TV on but continued to dunk my phyllo bread. Soon the second plane cut into the South Tower. I called up my friend who works in lower Manhattan. He was on his way to work, he said, and was standing at the City Hall, just north of the Financial Districts, looking at the burning citadels of America’s capitalistic pride – the two iconic towers. "I saw the second plane crashing," he said in a very ruffled tone. This is major. Major. My Bakarkhani went cold in my cup, I still remember.
The moment was critical – for Kashmir too, much as it was transformative for the whole wide world. Something extraordinarily dramatic had happened. Suddenly rebellion/freedom/resistance struggles became swear words. Everything was lumped together. Everything became terrorism. Raising fists too. So Armitage, quite hulk like, said something about bombing Pakistan back to the Stone Age and the military-wallas ruling the country, got the message. Overnight the moral, political, diplomatic support to ‘Tehreek-e-Kashmir’ became muddy. Taps were shut. Ofcourse there never were any training camps in Pakistan. Kashmiris went to Hogwarts to fetch their wands.
Mighty America was dandered up. You see the problem is that you cannot afford to antagonize the US. There are a few sacred lines you cannot breach. Ofcourse you are allowed to show the chip on your shoulder and complain. You can even cry injustice to a mic near you. Bleeding heart liberals may even hear you out. Amy Goodman could well speak with you for her show -- on phone -- if your English is okay but there is a clear line. A few things are non-negotiable in this world, like death and taxes. The red-line is America. There can be no non-sense happening on their own portico.
Soon war helmets were out. War grammar was read out in the woods and cities. On the world stage a huge churn was taking place. Nothing appeared the same. Kashmiris forgot about the ‘beautiful Kalashnikovs, as one columnist described the guns’ and an earnest re-think started. One can’t say for sure if 9/11 speeded up the transition from an armed to a peaceful struggle but events on that day, ten years ago, sure acted as fillip.
The US went about invading one district after another from Kabul to Karbala -- to ‘cough’ the bad boys out, in cowboy-speak. Nearer home multiple peace orgy’s took place. Vajpayee, Musharraf et al became stars but soon dimmed out on the firmament. Meantime the Americans continued to thrash anyone who came in their way. Poor Saddam was falsely accused of having sheesha with OBL in a Baghdad café and quickly hanged. Pakistan became a frontline state again. Seen hobnobbing with the Americans, the beards in their infinite wisdom thought it wise to finish Benazir off. Everyone everywhere was dabbed in colors of chaos.
One hundred and twenty months later, with over half a million people dead, mostly innocent, nothing much has changed. Cosmetically there are adjustments though. America has a professorial president now who does not sound dumb. There are no box-cutters on planes. Zawahiri doubles up as the CEO of Al-Qaida and their chief surgeon. Karzai rules Kabul, not Afghanistan. Europe is more far-right than ever before. Zardari sleeps in the Aiwan-e-Sadar nowadays. Omar Abdullah watches only NDTV at Gupkar.
Has anything really changed? Is the world a safer place? Presidents Obama and Bush had to be kept behind bullet proof glass at the 9/11 memorial , the other day.
Are the Taliban defeated or exhausted in Afghanistan? Is Pakistan better off or worse than before? What after the last Americans exit Iraq? Is democracy like pizza, home-delivered in 30-minutes, piping hot? Is it okay to fist the air now?
Sometimes questions can be booby traps.