On a visit to a Muslim country in 1990, a young journalist called me in my hotel room. Excited about the end of the Cold War and the peace dividend that was about to break out, he wanted my opinion on the subject.
He had read about it in the Western media and swallowed the line completely. Despite telling him that there was little prospect of peace because of America’s addiction to war, the young journalist was undeterred. He persisted: Soviet forces had withdrawn from Afghanistan, the Berlin Wall had collapsed and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev was promoting glasnost and perestroika. Surely all these were signs of peace. Our two-hour discussion made little headway. He did not understand how someone living in Canada could be so sceptical about the outbreak of peace. Naturally, not a word of our conversation appeared in his paper the next day. I did not expect he would reproduce anything I had said. It would have ruined his “celebration” of peace that he thought was now certain. I had merely tried to rain on his party.
Within a year of that encounter, the US and its allies had invaded Iraq setting the country on a downward spiral, not only destroying its infrastructure but also killing more than 567,000 children by 1996 (UNICEF figures) as a result of US-Western imposed sanctions. In early 1992, Serbia attacked defenceless Bosnia slaughtering some 200,000 people in three years leaving Bosnia physically fractured and at the non-existent mercy of the West. The ongoing Indian brutalities against the people of Kashmir, which had risen in December 1989, were also in full swing. More than 100,000 Kashmiris have been killed since “peace broke out” at the end of the Cold War.
In December 1993, the Russians launched their genocidal war on Chechnya — not the first in history — that gave us such horrors as the total destruction of Grozny, the Chechen capital. The war would have continued unabated had a daring operation in August 1996 by 800 Chechen fighters not surrounded 12,000 Russian troops in Grozny. They were freed after Moscow promised to end the war and grant Chechnya independence only to renege a few years later. The year 1996 also witnessed Israel’s massacre in Qana, where 102 Lebanese civilians, sheltering in a UN compound, were slaughtered.
The peace dividend, as our young Muslim journalist had so eagerly anticipated, never materialized. Instead the world witnessed the US invasion and destruction of Afghanistan in October 2001 that is still continuing, and the invasion and destruction of Iraq in March 2003 that ostensibly ended last year, despite the remaining presence of US bases there as well as the largest embassy industrial complex in the world. What should have been the triumph of peace over war, ushered in the most destructive period in contemporary human history.
The end of the Cold War exposed America’s true face and gave us such demonic notions as “endless war” and “full spectrum dominance.” No rival would be permitted to emerge to challenge US hegemony. To maintain such dominance, the US defence budget skyrocketed. It has consistently remained above the $700 billion mark, officially; however, a large part of US “defence” spending is embedded in the appropriations for other departments (ministries). Money spent on other programs such as the war in Afghanistan or acquisition of new weapons is additional. The merchants of death — weapons manufacturers and their puppets in the White House and Congress — would not survive or thrive without wars.