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Mumbai's 9/11 Meme > Letters

Web Letter

Ms. Chaudhry is spot on regarding the grieving process. The Mumbai massacre obviously has multidimensional aspects. Traditional "divide and rule" followers exist among the public as well as political parties. Religion is often employed as a divisor, as an emotional weapon. To say that "terrorists have no religion" is an obvious lie.

Over the years Afghanistan and Pakistan have been "homes" to most terrorists and both have got billions of dollars in US aid to fight terrorism. What a naïve concept--especially in countries where corruption is the way of life. It is simply dishing out money to the terrorists. Unlike in the US, where a governor is arrested for selling Senator Obama's seat, votes are purchased by the politicians and their parties in these countries. Even during the rescue operations at the Taj Hotel a TV showed a rescuer pulling out jewelry from a woman who had faked death by a terrorist's bullet! Grief is only for the family and friends--what a reality the terrorists have exposed!

Beyond grief and loss of life, the Mumbai massacre has finally awakened the Indian electorate to question the politicians and tagged them as "employees of the people" and not as "almighty" as they have behaved over the last sixty years. Family clans have monopolized both federal and state politics in a country divided on a linguistic basis for political purposes since the late fifties. Democracy in India has survived all this so far, but Obama-style "change" has never been sought. The terrorist bullets have finally penetrated the hearts of the Indian people. It is not religion that is dividing the people, it's the greed of the politicians. People want change from old to young leaders.

What I have written so far is a preamble to highlight the source of the evil. In the following I propose a potential solution to strengthen democracy in India.

The goal is to empower the Election Commission to screen individual candidates for their background, vision, leadership and communication skills. The commission could have an impartial selection committee of three supreme court judges. If democracy is to survive, the candidates must meet the minimum standards of a representative parliamentarian. The dignity of the "vote" must not be compromised. Also the candidate must declare own and their families' assets and vested interests. Likewise, government transparency must be made mandatory and subjedted to frequent auditing.

Terrorists are like mafia--they know which palm is to be greased and when. The Mumbai attack is a somber reminder of who we have been (unconcerned) and challenges us to become what we should be (ready and willing to express).

Ideally, one would want to see India as a united nation reconfigured as East, West, North, South India as it was in the Raj days. This will wipe out the absurdity of using the word "minority" to refer to people with different faiths, languages etc. in a secular state.

Bhupat Rawal

Mumbai, Maharashatra, India

Dec 10 2008 - 8:06pm

Web Letter

The fundamental problem with the "9/11 meme" is that it implies, to the uncritical mind, a necessarily link between a true description and a false prescription. The true description is that of organized murder on an appalling and devastating scale. The false prescription is pre-emptive war, also known as the Bush Doctrine.

Lakshmi Chaudhry is right to be exasperated with journalists who, rather than attack this barbaric ethical prescription, take the cowardly, roundabout path of watering down the description. The effect of this is not only to leave unchallenged the faulty assumption that victimization always must lead to vengeance. Worse, it is to trivialize the pain and the grief of the victims of the traumatic attacks in Mumbai.

Rather than trivialize this grief, we need to embrace it and to validate it. The ethic of bomb-dropping retribution would not seem so unassailable if it didn't have a powerful emotion behind it: the thirst for vengeance, which the self-deluded cult of masculinity misrepresents as virtue.

But there are equally strong, or perhaps even stronger emotions that are nobler and far more needful in the wake of this and other traumas. I believe one of these is grief. Grief is not for sissies. Its onset feels like helplessness, not like the delusion of power that vengefulness bestows. The experience of grief is pure pain, like the application of a red-hot iron to cauterize an open wound. But grief leads to healing, whereas the end effect of anger, rashly acted upon, is to spread its infection to new victims.

Grief can also be like a cloudburst, particularly if we are willing to share it openly with others. It waters the soul and purges it of bile. It washes away the distinctions between us and lets us see, through the magnifying lenses of tears, the common humanity of others.

I believe a new president could send a new message by grieving with the citizens of Mumbai. I believe he could present us all with a nobler image of masculinity by validating the grief of traumatized men and women everywhere. Maybe if we more often had the courage to share our grief, we would more often avoid the divisive and perhaps catastrophic effects of unrestrained rage.

Eric Paul Jacobsen

West Saint Paul, MN

Dec 5 2008 - 9:40am

Web Letter

This is a thoughtful article! However, I think we have to realize that the Western and Indian media are prisoners of their own histories. The West looks for Al Qaeda in every terrorist attack, and India looks for Pakistani influence in every terrorists attack. If the citizens of any country are involved in a terrorist attack in another country, the media from that foreign country will focus on their own citizens. But I have not seen any reports from Mumbai, that didn't appreciate the plight of the Indian people or their courage in the facing this attack.

It might be helpful to look at similar attacks in the past for clues on how to react to such attacks. As I am a prisoner of my own history, the American experience will be my guide. The next Sunday is the anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor by Japan.This attack was carried out by carrier planes of the Japanese navy. The Japanese government was clearly responsible, and a declaration of war followed the event. Nine-eleven produced similar casualties, but no national government was involved in the attack. All the attackers were Saudis, but Saudi Arabia is our oldest ally in the Middle East and we did not jump to the conclusion that the attack was government-inspired. Because Saudi Arabia is our oldest ally, the attackers had easier access to this country for the attack. Also the use of Saudi citizens may have been intended to drive a wedge between our two governments. I think the Mumbai attack was an attempt by non-state actors to start a war between India and Pakistan. A war between two nuclear nations could destroy both countries, and it would be better for India to cooperate with Pakistan in defeating the regional threat of terrorism. Pakistan is being attacked too!

Pervis James Casey

Riverside, CA

Dec 4 2008 - 3:47pm

Web Letter

I respectfully disagree with your conclusion about the attacks on Mumbai and your selective arguments on which you base this conclusion. Subcontinent grievances between Muslims and Hindus may provide some partial explanation of the attacks, but the targeting choices indicated a more internationalist intention on the attackers' part. This was patently an attack on Indians, Westerners and Jews with even some Muslim victims tossed into the mix.

The fact that you have totally overlooked in your article the attack on the Mumbai Chabad Center and its specific targeting and murder of Jewish victims belies your argument. This was illustrative of the hatred of Israel and Jews central to Islamism. Moreover, the fact that the attackers sailed from Pakistan to attack the city with the probable support of Pakistan's ISI rejects your notion that this was some sort of homegrown plot. The sources you cite are largely speculative about the attack's meaning, and inaccurate.

As I see it (and my speculations are as valid as your sources'), the attack on Mumbai was an attack on a society that displays cosmopolitanism, tolerance and industriousness, qualities that the city's residents share with other great metropolises of the world. It was born of a religious, specifically Islamist, intolerance and nihilism with increasing and alarming ambition and reach. This does make it similar to 9/11. To deny this is to fall victim to wishful thinking that Western civilization (and I include modern India in this category) is not currently under attack by a violent, backward, Dark Ages theology.

Tim W. Brown

Dobbs Ferry, NY

Dec 4 2008 - 12:48pm