Three horses draw George W. Bush’s furiously racing chariot of war. Their names are Vengeance, Greed, and Fear. Vengeance is a young steed born on 11 September 2001, and gallops well. Greed is old but sturdy, can smell oases of oil from afar, and understands his master’s corporate compulsions. The third horse, Fear, is weak and anaemic. Despite lashes from the Texan’s whip, he is a drag on the team. Nevertheless he is indispensable for convincing the American public that a puny Saddam Hussein, castrated of weapons of mass destruction, remains a mortal threat to a superpower many oceans away. So far the finest spin doctors in Washington have failed to make Fear strong, and Hans Blix has not been totally helpful. Fortunately, Vengeance and Greed have made up admirably well.
The fanatical hordes spilling out of Pakistan’s madrasas see not the horses, nor care about them. But they do imagine seeing Richard the Lion Hearted bearing down upon them. It is, for them, a war between Islam and kufr (unbelief). Sword in hand, they pray to Allah to grant war. Belief in final victory is, of course, never doubted by the faithful. They seek the modern Saladin, one who can miraculously dodge cruise missiles and turn them back to hit their launchers. Who will he be? How many decades, or centuries, shall the modern Crusades last? Surely, a lot longer than you and I will be around for.
Originally published as part of a debate on 12 January 2003 Writers, artists and civic leaders on the War: Pt. 1.