Opinion is radicalized: "We are all becoming Al Qaeda now"Both the school bombing, and the subsequent suicide bombing, have strengthened passions in the area:
"This was a crime against humanity. Everyone hates America now, and they hate Musharraf for giving in to American pressure," said Bashir Ahmed, 25, a produce trader in a Peshawar market. "America is the enemy of all Muslims, but they will never defeat us, because we are all becoming Al Qaeda now, even me."
As of this writing, several years since have passed since Bashir Ahmed made his dramatic claim. Afghanistan has a new president, Asif Ali Zardani, and the United States is about to have a new president as well. But Bashir's claim remains a relevant lesson about how militancy is born.
In the face of the new president's weak hold over the Pakistani populace, it is unlikely that American pressure on Pakistan, coupled with its own military moves, may backfire as dramatically, if not more, than the bombing in 2006.
There are few innocent players on the landscape, whether American, Pakistani, or the region's militants. Instead, there are power politics, complex alliances, and limited choices played out in a war zone. The only hope of beginning to untangle these is to drop any simple talk of good guys, bad guys or global jihad. Bashir Ahmed's anti-Americanism came out of specific, local circumstances, of which the United States is now a part.