Satan's Many Faces
Posted on 1-July-2013
In modern political demonology Adolf Hitler is almost by universal consensus the Evil One Himself, his close associates keeping him company. They earned their position of honour by inflicting on Europe and on much of the world a war in which around thirty million people were killed. They also eliminated around six million Jews and smaller numbers of people of inferior races including gypsies for whom no one speaks, for whose dead no memorials were erected and whose acceptance in the liberal west is barely better six decades days after the end of Hitler's war than it was seventy years ago. Hitler did all this in order to ensure for the Aryan Race their rightful place as rulers of the world. Ever since the end of that war, the ever flowing stream of Second World War movies, the regular production of histories, stories and novels about the Germany of the second quarter of the twentieth century and the forced apologies from those who may breathe out so much as a whiff of understanding for the Nazis or who so much as raise an eyebrow about stories of the Holocaust have made certain that Hitler and his associates remain firmly pinned to their thrones. But the despatch of Hitler to the lowest circle of hell has not meant that other politicians elsewhere have not brought widespread death, suffering and destruction to other parts of the world in pursuit of some proclaimed noble goal.
In western demonology, Josef Stalin comes quite close to Adolf Hitler in cruelty and megalomania. He caused the death of a few million class enemies either by elimination or by collectivisation-induced famines in the Ukraine and elsewhere in the domains ruled by him. Yet the western portrayal of Stalin is contested by left wing intellectuals and politicians in and outside the former Soviet Union as well as by many ordinary people in the former Soviet Union. In 1996, in the Georgian port of Batumi--also the capital of the then autonomous Republic of Ajaria--the Director of the Port after showing us around in the port, joined us in a meeting organised by the state officials, and before saying anything further proclaimed himself as the President of the Stalin Society of Batumi. In Gori, in Georgia, in the same year, a one and a half life size statue of Stalin on a very high pedestal still dominated the main square. Around the same time, an embassy Chauffeur in Kyiv, stopping by the side of a wheat field and looking at the rather weak ears of wheat on the plants said Stalin's successors had frittered away his achievements in agriculture. It is now known that some twentythree million people died in the famines caused by the Great Leap Forward and by Let a Hundred Flowers Bloom. Measured by the number of deaths caused and by the suffering inflicted on the people of China during these two movements and during the Cultural Revolution, Mao Dze Dong's record far excels that of Stalin. Yet in the mainstream media--for which read western dominated media--Mao Dze Dong has not earned more than a fraction of the opprobrium heaped upon Stalin and in the People's Republic of China, Mao's position remains unassailable. Khruschev's Soviet Communist party did at least denounce Stalin.
In the mid-1950's, Dwight Eisenhower's and John Foster Dulles' America decided to save the people of Vietnam from Ho Chi Minh and started to send military advisers which under John Kennedy were augmented by some 35,000 fighting men to help a series of rootless regimes in Saigon, supposed bulwarks of freedom in the world. The number of American fighting men in Vietnam eventually went up to more than half a million and the Vietnam War ground on till 1975. Some 35000 Americans died and they are commemorated on a granite wall in Washington D.C. A million and more Vietnamese guerrillas and ordinary, poor peasants died--many burnt to death by Napalm bombs--and Vietnam's forests were defoliated through the use of Agent Orange. Yet no one in the mainstream media has attributed anything but noble motives to Dwight Eisenhower and John Kennedy's status as an American idol remains undiminished. As if the Americans had not brought enough destruction and suffering on the people of Vietnam, in early autumn of 1972, on the eve of the American Presidential elections, and after Henry Kissinger and Le Duc Tho had fully worked out the agreement that would ease the American exit from Vietnam, the Nixon administration ordered the resumption of the bombing of North Vietnam, bringing more death and destruction on the Vietnamese. The same agreement was signed and sealed in early 1973, after the inauguration of Nixon for his second term. It was suggested at that time by many that the bombing of North Vietnam was resumed with the sole purpose of boosting Nixon's chances in the 1972 elections. That same obsession with an impressive victory led Nixon into the mire of Watergate and his eventual comeuppance. Henry Kissinger went on to be Nixon's and then Ford's Secretary of State and on to be an adviser to many American Republican administrations. His prestige in the USA as an emeritus academic and elder statesmen is undiminished and his firm continues to advise American corporations on business abroad, particularly in China. Anyone who calls Henry Kissinger a war criminal is promptly dismissed as a loony from the far left.
Much later, George W. Bush and Richard Cheney, cheerfully supported by the socialist Anthony Blair sent troops into Iraq. Saddam Hussein was a reckless despot, whose security services dealt with critics and political opponents in the manner in which ruthless dictators everywhere do. In the aftermath of the American invasion of Iraq in 1991 Saddam Hussein had used Chemical weapons against Shi'a and Kurdish populations of his country, killing thousands. Painting him as a murderous dictator was easy. In 2003, Bush and Blair, with their democratic consciences deeply troubled by the atrocities committed by this murderous man, claiming that this man possessing a sizable arsenal of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons posed an imminent threat to world peace, sent in their troops without any pretence of legality. When their lies about weapons of mass destruction were exposed they pretended their mission was to democratise the Middle East. In eight years of Anglo-American involvement in Iraq, more lives were lost, more destruction was caused, more people were made homeless and more suffering was caused than in all the twentythree years of Saddam Hussein's rule. Yet this war was called just. Looking back at the rule of Bush and the inequities committed by his men, it sometimes seems that in another age and in another place many of Bush's men could have easily been Hitler's men. Not deterred by the destruction caused in Iraq, the Americans and the British, now joined by France continue with their destructive activities in the Middle East. Syria's Bashar El Assad is not a paragon of democratacic virtues--he has has not even pretended ever that he is one. Yet his country, leaving aside one instance of a notoriously ruthless suppression of a revolt by his father, had been at peace, its population of many different religious confessions going about their lives, its merchants plying their trades, until in February 2011, some neighbouring countries, notably such havens of democratic freedoms as Qatar and Saudi Arabia started stirring trouble there, supposedly in defence of the Syrian people's freedom. In this the Saudis and the Qataris received open encouragement from the USA--within weeks of the trouble in Syria starting, the Nobel Peace prize winning Barack Obama said that Basshar El Assad must go, thus triggering the present two and a quarter year long civil war in Syria, in which about 95000 people have been killed--Obama, Cameron and Hollande have been trying through their destructive policies to promote freedoms to which the Syrian people they say are entitled--which Syrian people? no one seems to pause and ask.
Nearer home in India, on 31st October 1984, after Indira Gandhi's assassination, her son and successor used the word revenge, which many members of his political party took to be a cue to go on a murderous spree against the Sikh population of Delhi and within two or three days between three and four thousand Sikh residents of Delhi had been killed. Indira Gandhi's son and successor Rajiv Gandhi almost justified the killings by saying that when a big tree falls the earth around it shakes. Since then people of Delhi, especially the Sikhs, have had a shrewd idea about which of the important leaders of Rajiv Gandhi's party had directly instigated the killings. Yet no one of any note has been punished, 29 years after the killings. The instigators of the 1984 killings have had protection from India's political establishment. In 2002, during rioting in Gujarat about three thousand Muslim citizens were killed, again in an act of revenge against the burning of Hindu pilgrims in a railway coach at the railway station of Godhra, allegedly--not quite provenly so--at the hands of some Muslims. The state administration led by Narendra Modi at least stood by while the killings went on, if some people in the administration did not also encourage the killings. This did not damage Narendra Modi's reputation who has since then won three elections in the state and continues to head its administration. He is also muscling his way towards becoming his party's nominee for the job of India's prime minister in the elections to be held in 2014. In his march towards his goal of becoming India's prime minister he is being cheered by vocal sections of the urban middle class, the intelligentsia, sections of the media and the business community. In the process the egregious failure of his government over the killings of 2002--deliberate or otherwise-might well be on its way to being forgotten about.
A few days ago, on an idle whim I picked up Bertrand Russell's short story Satan in the Suburbs for re-reading. Situated in a middle class suburb, it is a story about an ordinary looking psychologist tempting the common, decent, residents of the locality engaged in the humdrum of their daily lives, into breaking their routine into doing unusual things and in the process causing grave harm to others or to themselves. The psychologist ends up instigating the narrator, another normal resident of the suburb, a scientific researcher, into killing him and ending in a mental hospital. The moral of the story--if a moral there can be in a modern short story written by someone who was not a professional story writer--is that the Satan is not some black creature with inverted hooves and misshapen limbs but he can reside in ordinary people or he can possess them to commit acts of evil. This is true as much in ordinary lives as in the realm of politics and public affairs. Adolf Hitler was not the only Devil of modern politics. Other, seemingly normal, well-meaning, liberal and decent men in politics have shown themselves capable of evil acts. For good life, it is important to recognise the Devil in whichever body it resides permanently or for the time being--Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Mao Dze Dong, John Kennedy, Robert McNamara, Richard Nixon, Henry Kissinger, George W.Bush, Richard Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Anthony Blair, Saddam Hussein, Mobutu Sese Seko, Osama bin Laden, Rajiv Gandhi or Narendra Modi--and fight him. To pass him in silence is to encourage him. To find justifications for his actions is an offence against all that is human.