We asked for signs,
And signs were sent.-- Leonard Cohen, "Anthem"
We are now in the midst of a full-blown campaign to "roll out the product" for a new war: this time, in Pakistan. Anyone who lived through the run-up to the invasion of Iraq should be able to read the signs -- anyone, that is, who is not blinded by partisan labels, or by the laid-back cool of a media-savvy leader far more presentable than his predecessor.
We noted some of these signs in a long post yesterday and won't belabor them here. But today brings yet another bumper crop of panic buttons and alarm bells from the powers-that-be, with ever-increasing emphasis on the "Taliban kooks with Muslim nukes" theme: one more variation on the old "mushroom clouds rising in American cities" ploy that has worked like a charm for our militarists lo these 60 years or more.
Some of the war-pushing powers-that-be are public figures in the Obama Administration (including Obama himself, who has dutifully taken on the Bushian mantle of Fearmonger-in-Chief), and some of them are shadowy, unnamed eminences in the military-security apparat, clearly aiming to act for Obama as those daggers of the mind did for Macbeth: "Thou marshall'st me the way that I was going."
The first story to greet America's political class as they sat down to their prunes and Post Toasties this morning was a big New York Times spread with one loud, clanging message: You cannot defeat the Taliban in Afghanistan without going deep into Pakistan.
It seems the Times has discovered an unusually loquacious "Pakistani logistics tactician" who for some reason has spent the last six months spilling the beans on the Taliban's strategy to the leading newspaper of the American establishment. The anonymous 28-year-old guy from somewhere in Pakistan's tribal lands told a harrowing tale of the "workings and ambitions of the Taliban" as they prepare to defeat Obama's Afghan surge from their safe havens in Pakistan, then seize Islamabad's nuclear arsenal.
What's more, the "logistics tactician" has provided his American enemies with a ready-made, pre-positioned "justification" for the mass civilian slaughter that will inevitably accompany Obama's surge:
He acknowledged that the Americans would have far superior forces and power this year, but was confident that the Taliban could turn this advantage on its head. “The Americans cannot take control of the villages,” he said. “In order to expel us they will have to resort to aerial bombing, and then they will have more civilian casualties.”
This is of course the precise "reason" trotted out every time American-led occupation forces kill a group of civilians in Afghanistan: the Taliban made us do it. This happened just yesterday, in the village of Gerani, where village leaders tried to shield children, women and elderly men in housing compounds far away from fighting between Taliban forces and Afghan troops with American "advisors." But the advisors called in an airstrike that destroyed the civilians' safe haven, killing between 70 and 100 innocent people, as two of the New York Times' non-stovepipe reporters, Taimoor Shah and Carlotta Gall, report.
Mohammad Nieem Qadderdan, the former top official in the district of Bala Baluk, said he had seen dozens of bodies when he visited the village of Gerani. "These houses that were full of children and women and elders were bombed by planes. It is very difficult to say how many were killed because nobody can count the number, it is too early,” Mr. Qadderdan, who no longer holds a government position, told The A.P. by telephone. “People are digging through rubble with shovels and hands.”
The outraged and grieving villagers gathered up at least 30 of the slain and took them to officials in the provincial capital as proof of the massacre: a grisly, desperate measure forced on them by the American's constant denials and denigrations of reports of civilian casualties, as we saw last year, when an American air assault killed up to 90 civilians in Azizabad.
But now the great and good can turn from this disturbing story to the convenient divulgings of the unnamed 28-year-old guy from an unnamed place in Pakistan, and see that such slaughters are all just part of the Taliban's fiendish plan. In fact, he provides grist for the PR mill of the great imperial blood libel of them all: There no "civilians."
The tactician says he embeds his men in what he described as friendly Afghan villages, where they will spend the next four to six months with the residents, who provide the weapons and succor for the missions against American and NATO soldiers.
There, you see? Every villager is a two-faced sneak, working to kill Americans. If they die -- then they deserve it. Boy, that makes the prunes and Post Toasties a little easier to digest, doesn't it!
But Anonymous Guy is not done toting water for the militarists yet. Not only does provide cover for collateral damage, and red-flag the hot-button issues of the new roll-out -- Pakistan as the true epicenter of the Good War in Afghanistan, and kooks with nukes -- he also praises the effectiveness of their most beloved new toy: the robot drones that rain remote-control death on Pakistani villages:
The one thing that impressed him were the missile strikes by drones — virtually the only American military presence felt inside Pakistan. “The drones are very effective,” he said, acknowledging that they had thinned the top leadership of Al Qaeda and the Taliban in the area. He said 29 of his friends had been killed in the strikes.
Of course, they have also killed almost 700 Pakistani civilians (as of last month), according to the Pakistani government. But what of that, when the remarkably top-heavy leadership of Al Qaeda and the Taliban has been pruned a bit -- at least, according to some anonymous guy from somewhere in Pakistan. (Surely no organizations in history have ever had so many "top leaders" as America's Terror War enemies, who, according to Washington, have been felled in their hundreds over the years in Iraq, Afghanistan and now Pakistan.)
In any case, the anonymous guy from somewhere or other could hardly have put the militarists' case for war in Pakistan any better even if they had, you know, paid him to do it or something.
But the New York Times is only one front in the new campaign. On the same day as Anonymous Guy was working his militarist mojo, McClatchy Newspapers fired off a resounding fusillade of largely unnamed "experts" from the military-security apparat, all of them, remarkably enough, with the same message: Pakistan is falling to the Muslim kooks who want them nukes.
It is an astounding performance. The story, by Jonathan Landy, marshall'st a multitude of nightmare scenarios now coming true before our very eyes. But this is not to say the story is unbalanced in any way: there are two short passages, buried in the middle and at the end of the story, that take a different view. Such as this one:
Many Pakistanis, however, dismiss such warnings as inflated. They think that the militants are open to dialogue and political accommodation to end the unrest, which many trace to the former military regime's cooperation with the U.S. after 9/11.
But this nugget of genuine insight gleaned from, you know, the actual people who live in the actual country in question, is swamped by waves of heavy-duty doomsaying from anonymous Washington savants. Such as:
A growing number of U.S. intelligence, defense and diplomatic officials have concluded that there's little hope of preventing nuclear-armed Pakistan from disintegrating into fiefdoms controlled by Islamist warlords and terrorists, posing a greater threat to the U.S. than Afghanistan's terrorist haven did before 9/11.
"It's a disaster in the making on the scale of the Iranian revolution," said a U.S. intelligence official with long experience in Pakistan who requested anonymity because he wasn't authorized to speak publicly...
"Pakistan has 173 million people and 100 nuclear weapons, an army which is bigger than the American army, and the headquarters of al Qaida sitting in two-thirds of the country which the government does not control," said David Kilcullen, a retired Australian army officer, a former State Department adviser and a counterinsurgency consultant to the Obama administration.
Significantly, one of the few people named in the article is directly connected to the White House, giving an official seal of approval to the other, anonymous alarmists.
The experts McClatchy interviewed said their views aren't a worst case scenario but a realistic expectation based on the militants' gains and the failure of Pakistan's civilian and military leadership to respond.
"The place is beyond redemption," said a Pentagon adviser who asked not to be further identified so he could speak freely. "I don't see any plausible scenario under which the present government or its most likely successor will mobilize the economic, political and security resources to push back this rising tide of violence.
"I think Pakistan is moving toward a situation where the extremists control virtually all of the countryside and the government controls only the urban centers," he continued. "If you look out 10 years, I think the government will be overrun by Islamic militants."
Are you scared to death yet? Or even better: are you scared enough to give your approval to "whatever it takes" to save us? After all, the president himself says that the situation in Pakistan is a "mortal threat" to the sacred Homeland; a view reiterated by his special "Af-Pak" envoy, Richard Holbrooke, who told Congress yesterday (on yet another front in the roll-out campaign) that "our most vital national security interests are at stake," in Pakistan. A mortal threat to our most vital interests -- can there be a greater, more urgent, more noble casus belli?
Again, Pakistanis have a different view of their own country, which is large, diverse, cosmopolitan, and made up overwhelmingly of adherents of Sufi Islam, as well as non-violent, non-militant Sunnis and Shiites. These ordinary human beings enjoy the arts, popular entertainment, sports, technology eating out, running businesses, pursuing scientific research and intellectual studies, raising their families. As Ahsan Iqbal, a top aide to opposition leader and former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, told McClatchy:
While militants will overrun small pockets, most Pakistanis embrace democracy and will resist living under the Taliban's harsh interpretation of Islam, he said.
"The psychology, the temperament, the mood of the Pakistani nation does not subscribe to these extremist views," Iqbal said.
But of course, the anonymous unipolar dominationists of the American power structure know better:
The U.S. intelligence official, however, said that Pakistan's elite, dominated since the country's independence in 1947 by politicians, bureaucrats and military officers from Punjab, have failed to recognize the seriousness of the situation.
"The Punjabi elite has already lost control of Pakistan, but neither they nor the Obama administration realize that," the official said. "Pakistan will be an Islamist state — or maybe a collection of four Islamic states, probably within a few years. There's no civilian leadership in Islamabad that can stop this, and so far, there hasn't been any that's been willing to try."
We noted yesterday that Islamabad has been carrying out military operations against insurgents for many years, losing hundreds of soldiers in the campaigns. But this history is being erased and rewritten to accommodate the new narrative: The United States will be forced to intervene directly in Pakistan because the Pakistanis are too stupid to realize the danger posed by the militants, and too weak and cowardly to even try to stop them. The whole damned place was "beyond redemption," so we have to step in.
We have been here before, and not so long ago either. The signs are there -- for anyone who wants to see them.
UPDATE: The Red Cross confirms the civilian deaths in the airstrike on Gerani, the NY Times reports:
Dozens of civilians, including women and children, have been killed during bombing raids by United States forces in western Afghanistan as Afghan troops battled Taliban fighters in heavy fighting, the Red Cross said Wednesday, confirming earlier accounts by Afghan officials....
Jessica Barry, a spokeswoman for the Geneva-based International Committee of the Red Cross, said the organization had sent a team to scene of the bombing on Tuesday. The team members saw houses destroyed and dozens of dead bodies. Some had died while trying to shelter in a house.
“What our team saw was dozens of bodies, graves and people preparing burials,” she said in a telephone interview. The dead included women and children. “It’s not the first time,” Ms. Barry said, but “really this is one of the very serious and biggest incidents for a very long time.”
In a statement on its Web site, the International Committee blamed the deaths squarely on the airstrikes.
“We know that those killed included an Afghan Red Crescent volunteer and 13 members of his family who had been sheltering from fighting in a house that was bombed in an air strike,” the statement said, quoting Reto Stocker, the head of the Red Cross delegation in Kabul.
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This story was published on May 6, 2009.