<b>MOYERS: The crisis in Iraq, with the surge in casualties, killings and kidnappings; a new tape that seems to be from Osama Bin Laden, the President's press conference on Tuesday; more missed opportunities before the 9-11 Commission, the big stories keep rolling over us this week. So, we turn for analysis to a scholar teacher and writer. Born in East Africa of Indian origin, Mahmood Mamdani has made the world his home.
He was twice exiled from his native Uganda, earned his doctorate from Harvard and now teaches government at Columbia University here in New York where he also directs the Institute of African Studies. He's the author of CITIZEN AND SUBJECT about colonialism in Africa and this one on the genocide in Rwanda, WHEN VICTIMS BECOME KILLERS. Now, he's publishing GOOD MUSLIM, BAD MUSLIM: AMERICA, THE COLD WAR AND THE ROOTS OF TERROR. Welcome to NOW.
MAMDANI: Thank you.
MOYERS: Earlier in this broadcast, we showed American troops, Marines, young men, some women in Iraq, in Fallujah. And you can tell from what they're saying and what they're seeing that they're having trouble making distinction between, you know, what, in the vulgar sense, we call the good Muslim and the bad Muslim. They're just so confused about who that enemy is out there. So what's the most important thing for those Marines to know about what they're doing there and how to do it?
MAMDANI: Well, the most important thing for Marines to know is that they have to make a distinction between the person who wants the occupation to end and the person who wants to strike at America. These are two different kinds of people.
MOYERS: Last year when the Americans got there, the neo-conservatives who were the architects of the war said the troops would be greeted as liberators. Now they're seen as occupiers. What happened? What went wrong?
MAMDANI: Well, what went wrong is that the occupation has had to deal with day-to-day realities. It has had to deal with the fact that if you want to introduce democracy in a place, democratic processes don't have guaranteed outcomes.
The Iraqis may make decisions in a democratic system which the Bush administration may not like. The Bush administration is so preoccupied with guaranteeing outcomes of decisions in Iraq that it is unwilling to tolerate democracy in Iraq.
One of the most interesting facts about the situation is that when the Bush administration entered Iraq, it found a religious map in which the preponderant voice was a secular religious voice. The voice of Sistani. Because...
MOYERS: The grand ayatollah Sistani?
MAMDANI: The grand ayatollah Sistani. Because Sistani believes that the ayatollahs, the clerics should not participate in the process, in the formal process of government. That is very different from the...
MOYERS: He really believes in secular politics, in a secular democracy?
MAMDANI: He believes in... he has a notion of religious scholars staying away from power, away from formal involvement in government. He sees them as a conscience of society. As an ideological force but not as an institutional power.
MOYERS: And you're saying the United States ignored him, or didn't try to...
MAMDANI: The U.S... There is no place for him in the map of the Bush administration. The place is Sadr... who...
MAMDANI: Whose notion is of a theocracy, is closer to that of a theocracy. That's the bad Muslim for which the Bush administration is ready. But for...
MOYERS: You mean because they can fight him? They can depose him militarily?
MAMDANI: Yes, exactly. Because he fits the bill. He fits the...
MOYERS: He's the evil guy?
MAMDANI: ...bill. Correct. He's the evil guy. He's, of course, not an evil guy. He is a millenarian. Is...
MOYERS: A millenarian?
MAMDANI: Right. This is a tendency which believes that the world is about to come to an end. The world is about to change. It will be rescued by a messiah, and the poor shall triumph. And that is part of the explanation of his support amongst the very poor. This is something that a Christian millenarian tendency would easily recognize.
MOYERS: An apocalyptic Christian?
MAMDANI: Yes, yes.
MOYERS: An Armageddon Christian who's waiting for the last great battle between good and evil. And this is Al-Sadr, the insurgent cleric?
MAMDANI: That's right. That's right. That's him.
MOYERS: But did you notice that he's moved his headquarters to Najaf, the holy city, 300 yards from Sistani, the Grand Ayatollah. So that if the Americans, the coalition go after him, they've got to have collateral damage possibly to Sistani. That... he's very clever.
MAMDANI: Yes. Well, look, Najaf, Karbala, these are cities which are holy cities. They are sanctuaries. They are sanctuaries which everybody will respect. And if the American army doesn't respect it, it puts them beyond the pale.
MOYERS: When you look at Fallujah, do you think of the future? Is that the future?
MAMDANI: We hope that's not the future. If Fallujah becomes the story of Iraq, it will resemble, more what's going on in the West Bank, what's going on in Gaza. It will...
MOYERS: How so?
MAMDANI: Well, it seems to me that the Bush administration is taking its lead from the Sharon administration...from the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. Because in Sharon's eyes, there is no legitimate resistance. All resistance is terror. And there is no political solution. The only solution is military. You must smash terror.
And if you do that, then of course you create a situation which increasingly begins to resemble Vietnam. The lesson of Vietnam was that we have to make a distinction between nationalism and communism, between nationalism and terrorism.
MOYERS: Between the desire of the Vietnamese to govern their own culture and their own society...
MAMDANI: And an international agenda of...
MOYERS: The Kremlin.
MAMDANI: ...of the Kremlin. And making the distinction is hugely important because you cannot destroy nationalism by military force unless you eliminate the entire population.
MOYERS: But, in Iraq the Bush administration does have a political plan. It's got the governing council and it wants to turn sovereignty over to that council or its successor in a few months.
MAMDANI: It has a blueprint. It has a blueprint, it has a set of outcomes which were decided upon before it even landed in Iraq. And a set of outcomes that proceed the democratic process in Iraq.
Now this is its problem. That if it is going to open up a democratic process, the outcome may not resemble the blueprint with which the Bush administration went in. It has to throw anyway the blueprint if it wants democracy in Iraq.
MOYERS: Which means you have to do what? Throw away the blueprint, what do you do?
MAMDANI: Well, throw away the blueprint and take into account the different groups in Iraq. Their different visions, their different agendas, demands, and negotiate in good faith to arrive at a consensus. Make sure that the groups that you favor do not have a veto over the final outcome. So in the name of guaranteeing minority rights, you don't disenfranchise a majority. Which is part of the problem in Iraq today.
MOYERS: One of the things that Paul Bremer, the American administrator in Iraq and Baghdad was most proud of recently, as he went on television to say, was that this proposed interim constitution has a bill of rights.
MAMDANI: Sure. It has a bill of rights. It's very strong on individual rights, it's very strong on women's rights. But its Achilles' heel is who is sovereign. It gives sovereignty effectively to a minority group. The...
MOYERS: The group being?
MAMDANI: The Kurds in the north have a veto. A tiny minority of less than 20 percent will decide what shape that constitution takes and does not take. So you can't disenfranchise a majority. You can't have a democracy where the majority is not the deciding factor, in the name of protecting minority rights. And even if you have the best rights for individuals, this is not going to offset.
MOYERS: So, what do you think the United States should do right now? If the President called you up and said, "You know, I need some help," what would you tell him in very straightforward language?
MAMDANI: I would say to him, first recognize that there is no other alternative to withdrawal. And then get together a coalition of all those who accept this strategy objective...
MOYERS: But if you withdraw, how do you avoid the recriminations? How do you avoid the chaos that in which of an Al-Sadr rises?
MAMDANI: All those questions can be confronted once you have decided that withdrawal is what has to be done. Then the question of how to withdraw, under what set of circumstances, with what kinds of precautions. But once you make it clear and once your actions convince those on the ground that it is indeed withdrawal that's going to happen and indeed they will have the right to particular and fashion their own future, it will separate the wheat from the chaff. It will separate the terrorists from the nationalists. Because the nationalist then has not reason to confront the U.S. militarily. The terrorist does.
MOYERS: See, it seems to me that that's what the President said he wants to do in Iraq. He wants to give people of Iraq freedom. And then they will decide, choose, opt for what they can agree upon together. Isn't that what he's saying?
MAMDANI: Well, if freedom comes through bombs and gunships if freedom means getting everybody to agree to what he says, that's a strange notion of freedom. If freedom means recognizing the right of everybody to speak in their own voice, that's a radically different notion of freedom.
MOYERS: You say in your writing that the spread of terror as a tactic is largely an outgrowth of American Cold War foreign policy. During the last years of the Cold War, America created, financed and nurtured the terrorists who later began to plague us. Are you saying that we are ultimately responsible for the rise, the creation of a Frankenstein named Osama bin Laden?
MAMDANI: Sure. I'm saying a little more than that. I'm saying that the Cold War was not fought in Europe, it was not fought in America. The Cold War was fought in Asia, it was fought in Africa, it was fought in Latin America. The wreckage of that war lies in these places.
MOYERS: Fought by proxies?
MAMDANI: And by proxy...
MOYERS: Of the Soviet Union and the United States?
MAMDANI: Really by proxies for the United States. After Vietnam. And there's an American responsibility.
MOYERS: Renamo in Mozambique...
MAMDANI: Renamo in Mozambique. Contras in Nicaragua. Mujahedeen in Afghanistan. These are the most prominent examples. But you can go to Ethiopia, you can go to Congo, you can go to Angola. And you will find other examples.
If after the second World War the U.S. could recognize that there was a responsibility, simply because second World War was fought in the European theater and in the Asian theater, there had to be a Marshall plan following it. Well, no similar thinking has taken place after the Cold War.
MOYERS: So this is where Osama bin Laden came from? From the mujahedeen, the freedom fighters in Afghanistan?
MAMDANI: Yes, Osama bin Laden came from a tradition whereby civilians were unimportant. Civilians were collateral. Anything was permissible so long as you could win. Even if you had to grow opium and sell opium to get money to win, well it was okay to sell opium.
Osama bin Laden, I know nobody who follows Osama bin Laden as a theologian. Those who follow Osama bin Laden follow him as a politician. And that's the first thing to keep in mind.
MOYERS: So, does that mean that 9-11 was a political act not a religious act?
MAMDANI: Without a doubt it was a political act. Without a doubt it was a strike meant to trigger a thousand rebellions all over the globe. It resembled much more the kind of focal theory that in the 1960s, Reggie Dubray, an associate of Che Guevera was a preponder of which was all you needed to do was to light one fire. And then others will just come up spontaneously.
MOYERS: So Osama Bin Laden's really out of touch. Because that's not what happened and is not likely to happen, I mean, right?
MAMDANI: Well, he's not entirely out of touch. Because the thing is he seems to have gotten the Bush Administration to believe him. And the two are mimicking one another. The war on terror is mimicking terror by simply considering the rest of the world as just play things...
MOYERS: Collateral damage?
MAMDANI: Collateral damage.
MOYERS: Collateral damage.
MAMDANI: It was collateral damage. So, that's the tragedy. If Osama Bin Laden had not been able to convince the American administration that it in fact was a global threat, that it had to be confronted militarily and only militarily and without regard to populations on the ground...
MOYERS: But you say that what is, at heart, a defensive war the Homeland Security, the war against terrorism has become an imperialistic crusade?
MAMDANI: Sure, what President Bush said in his speech, "This is the time to change the world." That's an admission that the objective of this war has changed. It's not a war to defend America. It's a war to change the world. Now...
MOYERS: But he means by that, doesn't he, that instead of waiting until the next Osama Bin Laden hits us, we go out and find him. Isn't that what that comes down to?
MAMDANI: But Osama Bin Ladens don't exist of as finished products from childhood... from conception to resurrection, you know, from birth to death. Osama Bin Ladens come into being as a results of context and policies. So if the objective was to insure that the world is not receptive to the birth of Osama Bin Ladens, then you have to change the world by changing the conditions in which people in the world live by addressing issues that are the core of grievances of populations around the world. That would call for an entirely different strategy.
MOYERS: But Bin Laden's a wealthy man, a Saudi from a prominent Saudi family. It wasn't poverty that drove him to desperate acts of terrorism.
MAMDANI: Of course not, of course not. And it's not entirely poverty that drives other people to desperate acts of action. It's more than poverty. It's dignity. Dignity is probably a more compelling motivation than poverty.
MOYERS: And dignity being...
MAMDANI: Dignity simply being self-regard, simply being the right to shape the circumstances under which you live. If you lived in occupied territories, you can't possibly live a life of dignity under occupation.
MOYERS: You yourself have lived through so much, have seen so much. I mean, you were exiled twice from your native Uganda during the Idi Amin regime, the bloody, awful horror of that regime. You've written about the Rwanda genocide. You're not unfamiliar with the grim realities out there. What gives you any affirmation about the human experience these days?
MAMDANI: Look, I went through the Asian expulsion during Idi Amin. I had just come back from Harvard, writing my Ph.D. thesis. I'd come back as a strong African nationalist and I was thrown out as an Indian foreigner in the space of three months.
And I was preoccupied with understanding the kind of history that brought about this kind of conclusion. And I understood that a demagogue could ride legitimate real grievances. It's that understanding which illuminates, for me, the world today in many ways.
Because the demagogue, the terrorist, if isolated from legitimate grievances, is not hard to handle. So, for me, even the war against terror is not primarily a military war. It is a political war. It is a war which must identify real grievances so as to isolate the demagogue from the people on the ground.
MOYERS: And those real grievances never in your mind, justify what happened on 9-11?
MAMDANI: Of course not.
MOYERS: That's demagoguery of a...
MAMDANI: Of course not, of course... but that's what demagoguery is about. It is about turning the population into bystanders as if they're watching a baseball game, as to which side is going to win with no thought that they will ever participate in the game. The whole point is to open up the game and bring them on.
MOYERS: The book is GOOD MUSLIM, BAD MUSLIM: AMERICA, THE COLD WAR AND THE ROOTS OF TERROR. The author is Mahmood Mamdani. Thank you very much for joining us on NOW.
MAMDANI: Thank you very much.