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Algebra of Infinite Justice

  • Date Submitted: 08/08/2011 01:38 AM
  • Flesch-Kincaid Score: 54.5 
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The algebra of infinite justice
As the US prepares to wage a new kind of war,
Arundhati Roy challenges the instinct for vengeance
Arundhati Roy
Saturday September 29, 2001
The Guardian
In   the   aftermath   of   the   unconscionable   September   11   suicide   attacks   on   the   Pentagon   and   the   World
Trade Centre, an American newscaster said: "Good and evil rarely manifest themselves as clearly as they
did   last   Tuesday.   People   who   we   don’t   know   massacred   people   who   we   do.   And   they   did   so   with
contemptuous glee." Then he broke down and wept.
Here’s the   rub:   America is   at   war against   people it   doesn’t know, because they don’t appear much on
TV.   Before   it   has   properly   identified   or   even   begun   to   comprehend   the   nature   of   its   enemy,   the   US
government   has,   in   a   rush   of   publicity   and   embarrassing   rhetoric,   cobbled   together   an   "international
coalition against terror", mobilised its army, its air force, its navy and its media, and committed them to
battle.
The trouble is that once America goes off to war, it can’t very well return without having fought one. I
f
it doesn’t find its enemy, for the sake of   the enraged folks back home, it will have to manufacture one.
Once war begins, it will develop a momentum, a logic and a justification of its own, and we’ll lose sight
of why it’s being fought in the first place.
What we’re witnessing here is the spectacle of   the world’s most powerful country reaching reflexively,
angrily,   for   an   old   instinct   to   fight   a   new   kind   of   war.   Suddenly,   when   it   comes   to   defending   itself,
America’s streamlined warships, cruise missiles and F-16 jets look like obsolete, lumbering things. As
deterrence, its arsenal of   nuclear bombs is no longer worth its weight in scrap. Box-cutters, penknives,
and cold anger are the weapons with which the wars of the new century will be waged. Anger is the lock
pick. It slips through customs unnoticed. Doesn’t show...

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