By Hina Khan
Too often the cause of freedom seems synonymous with the declaration of war. This particularly concerns me as war becomes a part of the context of everyday life such as the ‘War on Terror. I don’t support atrocities against innocent victims being committed to express any cause, yet whilst this may be accepted with regards to terrorism it seems counter-terrorism measures are not exposed to the same scrutiny.
While I am sure many were pleased that the tyranny of Saddam Hussein was eventually ended, what about the substantial number of civilians killed and injured or the over a million being displaced? Given the shaky grounds on which the war was begun in the first place, can the ends justify the means?
With the killing of the dictator Gaddafi, surely the reported killing of some of his grandchildren under the age of 12 cannot be swept under the rug. Further, when unintended killings of individuals as “collateral damage” or “friendly fire” become so widespread as to these terms become a part of our language, this alone is reason for concern.
In Pakistan, tens of thousands have been killed since the ‘War on Terror’ began. Many have lost their businesses, now have a disability or are experiencing psychological trauma from constant military attacks. Child labour has risen as family breadwinners have been killed and families are forced to cling to any means to survive.
As particular countries and ethnic groups are exposed as “threats” to others, it is relevant to consider how the “good” and “bad” side of a battle are differentiated. After all, they say one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter, that history is written by the winners, that war does not determine who is right – only who is left.
It’s illogical to suggest that any one group can rightfully have access to nuclear weapons over another – how can a weapon be used for “good” purposes? But if one group has access to such weapons, it may seem necessary for others to have access in order to protect themselves.
Surely, true freedom must first begin with better combatting instances such as poverty that restrict individual capacities to live as dignified human beings. Further, instead of restricting choices such as wearing the burqa , these choices should be treated with respect as per any other choice that does not infringe on the freedom of others.
Instead of merely reminiscing about an old world where everyone could trust each other, surely it is worth the thought about shifting back to such a possibility, rather than reluctantly maintain a world where everyone is both at risk and a threat. You may call me an eternal optimist, naïve or both, but if there is any possibility that circumstances can change for the better of all I think it is important we recognise that possibility.
I do not purport to have all the answers and you may disagree with my views, But perhaps that’s the point. Every argument should be treated with equally considered reasoning and criticism, and no single perspective is likely to cover all the particularities of any situation.
When we take a moment to have both considered thoughts and actions, we can take one step closer to a world where human dignity, respect and freedom are a universally entrenched reality, rather than selectively experienced opportunities.