Originally Published 2005-06-27 10:04:23 Published on Jun 27, 2005
I am addressing this open letter not only to you, but also to other members of the US Congress, who have expressed their concern over the course of the US-led war against international terrorism in Iraq and have started suggesting, if not demanding, the withdrawal of the US troops from there.
Open Letter to Senator Edward Kennedy
Dear Senator Edward Kennedy,

I am addressing this open letter not only to you, but also to other members of the US Congress, who have expressed their concern over the course of the US-led war against international terrorism in Iraq and have started suggesting, if not demanding, the withdrawal of the US troops from there.

I watched with concern your grilling of Mr. Donald Rumsfeld, the Defence Secretary, in a Senate Committee hearing on the war in Iraq. I can't help feeling that your questioning indicated a disturbing lack of understanding of the threats faced by the democratic world from the new kind of jihadi terrorism, which is radiating across the world from its main hubs in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and now even the Muslim diaspora in West Europe.

Sorry for using strong language. Sometimes, one has to. The jihadi terrorists are like locusts. If you don't neutralise them at their spawning grounds before they take off and start flying in different directions, you will have very little defence against them once they are air-borne.

That is what the US-led coalition is trying to do in Iraq and Afghanistan. I have been one of the strongest critics of the policies of the Bush Administration in Iraq. At the same time, I have never fought shy of saying, wherever and however I could, that one should resist the urge to rejoice at the predicament of the US forces in Iraq.

It has been my consistent view that if the US fails to prevail against the jihadi terrorists in Iraq, the swarm of jihadi locusts taking off from there would start bleeding the rest of the world. It is in the interest of the entire civilised world, including the Islamic world, that these locusts are destroyed in their breeding grounds wherever they are located. Otherwise, no government and no civil society in the world will be safe. This would be true equally of the Muslim world.

One might say that I am re-cycling the old domino theory of the Vietnam War days. I am not re-cycling it because I never believed in it when the Vietnam War was on. The Vietcong were no medievals like the pro-bin Laden terrorists of today are. They had no agenda outside the Indo-China region. They posed no threats to American lives and interests outside the Indo-China region. They posed no threats to American lives in their homeland. They were not serial killers like the Al Qaeda and the pro-Al Qaeda terrorists of today. The domino theory as sought to be used against them was an unwise American psychological warfare (PSYWAR) exercise, which misfired.

But, the domino theory has some validity against the jihadi terrorists of today. Their agenda is global---not just Afghanistan or Iraq related. Their networking is global----not just restricted to Afghanistan or Iraq. Their targets are global---not just restricted to the US and Israel. Their targets are not just innocent human beings--- they are also targeting ideas which they consider detrimental to their cause such as the ideas of a liberal democracy.

One can understand the creeping exasperation in the US over the inability of the US forces to start prevailing in Iraq so far. But prevail, they should. How to help them and make them prevail? That is the question, which all right-thinking persons in the US and outside should be discussing.

Once one creates an insurgency or terroism-ridden situation due to one's wrong policies, one takes years to control or finally defeat the insurgents and terrorists. India took 19 years to prevail over the insurgency in Nagaland and Mizoram. It took 14 years to bring terrorism in Punjab under control. It has been fighting jihadi terrorism in J&K for 16 years, but the end is not yet in sight. We have been fighting Marxist/Maoist terrorism for decades.

We have taken it all in our stride. We have not allowed the terrorists to overwhelm us---either physically or morally. We have not allowed them to stop our steady movement towards taking our due place as a major power of the world.

How many thousands of innocent civilians and security forces the terrorists have killed! They did not spare even the relatives of the security forces. Remember how the so-called Khalistani terrorists blew up the only son of Govind Ram, a senior police officer of Punjab, in the late 1980s when the child was returning home from school? They then blew up the father himself, when he refused to be demoralised by the death of his child and give up his fight against terrorism. How many special police officers and their relatives they mowed down in one night in August 1992, after the police had killed Sukhdev Singh Babbar, a dreaded terrorist leader!

The Indian political leadership, parliamentarians, policy-makers and security forces took up each brutal act by the terrorists as one more challenge and re-dedicated themselves to the campaign against terrorism. They refused to be intimidated by the terrorists. They refused to let any feelings of defeatism cloud their thinking and actions. Ultimately, it is they and not the terrorists who prevailed.

I am confident the US can similarly prevail over the terrorist locusts. All it needs is an intelligent counter-terrorism policy---which makes more use of brain-power than firepower, which shows more grit than the terrorists, which has the unwavering backing of a patient and understanding American leadership and public.

The Bush Administration has committed and continues to commit many serious mistakes in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere. By all means highlight and criticise those mistakes, but do refrain from saying or doing anything which could undermine its conduct of what it sees as its war against terrorism.

By all means educate the American public on the mistakes in policy-making, but do refrain from doing or saying anything which might confuse it and sow the seeds of defeatism.

We have a saying in Sanskrit, our ancient language---vinase kale vipareet buddhi. Loss of lucidity in thinking is the beginning of defeat. The US security forces in Afghanistan and Iraq and the American public are passing through testing times. Their greatest asset in weathering the difficulties is their lucidity in thinking and determination in action. You owe it to the American people and the international community to see that this asset is not damaged.

Please do find the time to read the attached two articles on Iraq which I had written in 2003. (South Asia Analysis Group, New Delhi, Paper no. 828, March 11, 2003 and Paper no. 745, July 26, 2003).

With warm personal regards,

Yours sincerely,


The writer is Additional Secretary (Retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Distinguished Fellow and Convenor, Observer Research Foundation (ORF), Chennai Chapter. E-mail: [email protected].

Source: South Asia Analysis Group, New Delhi, Paper no. 1430, June 26, 2005.

* Views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Observer Research Foundation.
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