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  Cloud of Unknowing: Ignorance and Arrogance in the Af-Pak 'Surge'
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Cloud of Unknowing: Ignorance and Arrogance in the Af-Pak 'Surge'

US Oligarchy is immoral and illogical

by Chris Floyd
Sunday, 17 May 2009
Señor, señor, do you know where we're headin'?
Lincoln County Road or Armageddon?
Seems like I been down this way before.
Is there any truth in that, señor ?
         -- Bob Dylan "Señor (Tales of Yankee Power)"
The nightmare scenario of subcontinental nuclear war that is evoked so shamelessly by Obama and his sycophants to "justify" the "Af-Pak" escalation is in fact made much more likely by Obama's own policies.

Yesterday, we briefly took up a Daily Kos piece that declared, with quivering fervor, that America's ever-expanding and ever-more-deadly military intervention in Central Asia is actually an act of purest altruism, aimed solely -- solely, we were told -- at preventing those lesser breeds under the law on the subcontinent from blowing their silly-billy selves up in a nuclear war. We were also informed that anyone who didn't like Barack Obama's "continuity" -- and expansion -- of Bush's policies in the region was just a malevolent malcontent who didn't care about the millions of people who would surely die if America withdraw its entirely benign protection from Pakistan.

I didn't engage in a point-by-point rebuttal of the post -- even thourgh there was certainly meet food to feed upon in that regard -- because, quite frankly, I couldn't see the point in wasting time and energy on such a -- how to put it charitably? -- jejune production.

So today let us depart from the fairy tale Pakistan concocted by our ever-earnest "progressives" in their increasingly desperate, well-nigh contortionist efforts to justify the brutal, bloody, lawless policies of the latest "safe pair of hands" picked to manage the militarist empire for a season or two. Instead, let's listen to someone who might actually know what he's talking about -- always a rarity in our modern political discourse. Here's Eric Margolis on "stirring a hornet's nest in Pakistan." It's worth quoting at length:

Pakistan finally bowed to Washington's angry demands last week by unleashing its military against rebellious Pashtun tribesmen of North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) -- collectively mislabelled "Taliban" in the West. The Obama administration had threatened to stop $2 billion US annual cash payments to bankrupt Pakistan's political and military leadership and block $6.5 billion future aid, unless Islamabad sent its soldiers into Pakistan's turbulent NWFP along the Afghan frontier.

The result was a bloodbath: Some 1,000 "terrorists" killed (read: mostly civilians) and 1.2 million people -- most of Swat's population -- made refugees.

By the way, these many deaths and gargantuan discolations are what our eternally hopeful progressives call the positive results of "our policy in Pakistan." [Emphasis added.] Yes, many progressives now identify themselves personally with the same war machine -- and the same policies -- they were condemning with such vociferous heat just a few months ago. It becomes clearer all the time that for many, many "dissidents" of the past decade, it was not really the substance of the Bush Regime's high crimes and monstrous follies that bothered them; it was the fact these crimes and follies were being committed by the wrong side in the factional tussles of the imperial court. Once their guy had been draped with the purple, the Terror War and its discontents were suddenly transformed into wise, far-seeing acts of benevolence. Now back to Margolis:

Unable to pacify Afghanistan's Pashtun tribes (a.k.a. Taliban), a deeply frustrated Washington has begun tearing Pakistan apart in an effort to end Pashtun resistance in both nations. CIA drone aircraft have so far killed over 700 Pakistani Pashtun. Only 6% were militants, according to Pakistan's media, the rest civilians.

Pashtun, also improperly called Pathan, are the world's largest tribal people. Fifteen million live in Afghanistan, forming half its population. Twenty-six million live right across the border in Pakistan. Britain's imperialists divided Pashtun by an artificial border, the Durand Line (today's Afghan-Pakistan border). Pashtun reject it. Many Pashtun tribes agreed to join Pakistan in 1947, provided much of their homeland be autonomous and free of government troops. Pashtun Swat only joined Pakistan in 1969.

As Pakistan's Pashtun increasingly aided Pashtun resistance in Afghanistan, U.S. drones began attacking them. Washington forced Islamabad to violate its own constitution by sending troops into Pashtun lands. The result was the current explosion of Pashtun anger.

I have been to war with the Pashtun and have seen their legendary courage, strong sense of honour and determination. They are also hugely quarrelsome, feuding and prickly....

 Now, Washington's ham-handed policies and last week's Swat atrocity threaten to ignite Pakistan's second worst nightmare after invasion by India: That its 26 million Pashtun will secede and join Afghanistan's Pashtun to form an independent Pashtun state, Pashtunistan.

This would rend Pakistan asunder, probably provoke its restive Baluchi tribes to secede and tempt mighty India to intervene militarily, risking nuclear war with beleaguered Pakistan.

That's right: the nightmare scenario of subcontinental nuclear war that is evoked so shamelessly by Obama and his sycophants to "justify" the "Af-Pak" escalation is in fact made much more likely by Obama's own policies. Indeed, it would probably not be too much to say that at this juncture in history, it is only such American policies that could tip the region over into nuclear war. For as Margolis makes clear, the jejeunistas' fearmongering fantasies of a "nuclear Taliban" are baseless. The real dangers lie elsewhere:

The Pashtun of NWFP have no intention or capability of moving into Pakistan's other provinces, Punjab, Sindh and Baluchistan. They just want to be left alone. Alarms of a "Taliban takeover of Pakistan" are pure propaganda. Lowland Pakistanis repeatedly have rejected militant Islamic parties. Many have little love for Pashtun, whom they regard as mountain wild men best avoided. Nor are Pakistan's well-guarded nukes a danger -- at least not yet. Alarms about Pakistan's nukes come from the same fabricators with hidden agendas who brought us Saddam Hussein's bogus weapons.

The real danger is in the U.S. acting like an enraged mastodon, trampling Pakistan under foot, and forcing Islamabad's military to make war on its own people. Pakistan could end up like U.S.-occupied Iraq, split into three parts and helpless...  

As in Iraq, profound ignorance and gung ho military arrogance drive U.S. Afghan policy. Obama's people have no understanding what they are getting into in "AfPak." I can tell them: An unholy mess we will long regret.


This genuine nightmare scenario -- Pakistan's proxy-warring against the Pashtuns on behalf of America's energy-driven dominationist policies -- is growing apace. Pakistani military forces are preparing to follow the American leader in an upcoming attack on the largest town in the Swat Valley, ready to turn Mingora into another Fallujah. As AP reports:

The Pakistan army readied a major assault to rid the main town in the Swat Valley of entrenched Taliban militants...The dusty streets of Mingora were mostly empty on Friday — one resident said some unidentified bodies lay unburied there. The government relaxed a curfew to allow thousands of refugees to leave with whatever possessions they could carry ahead of what is expected to be bloody fighting.

McClatchy has more:

So far, the nine-day-old army offensive in Swat — which is 100 miles from Islamabad, Pakistan's capital — hasn't moved into the valley's towns. Those who managed to escape Mingora, where five headless bodies were found this week, warned that the army would face tough resistance from deeply entrenched Taliban in the city.

Shaukat Saleem, a Mingora resident who escaped from Swat on Friday, said the Taliban had blocked roads in the city with trees and boulders. They've mined the streets, dug trenches, made bunkers and occupied many civilian homes, he said. He said that he saw "lots" of Taliban as he was leaving the city, who stopped him for questioning at 10 to 12 of their checkpoints....

The army estimated earlier this week that as many as 200,000 civilians were still in Mingora, and it was unknown how many remained there after Friday's exodus. The army said that it had cleared the area that leads to Mingora from the south as far as Udigram, a village on the outskirts of the city.

In Fallujah, American forces ringed the city for months -- after one failed attempt to take the town -- and allowed thousands of citizens to flee into destitute exile, while thousands more remained behind, with nowhere to go. Shortly after Bush's re-election in 2004, Fallujah was systematically destroyed -- Gronzy-style, Guernica-style -- in an operation that openly targeted medical centers (to prevent bad press about civilian casualties) and mowed down many civilians in its relentless churning.

The Fallujah operation was of course only one small part of a vast, sprawling, still-ongoing war crime that has killed more than one million innocent human beings -- an "extraordinary achievement" indeed, in President Obama's laudatory words. But even in the midst of this burning lake of corpses, the murderous beserkers in the Beltway and the Pentagon have the gold-plated gall to criticize the Pakistanis for their "heavy-handedness" in an operation urged on them by -- the Americans! McClatchy:

The U.S. military has encouraged its Pakistani allies to embrace counterinsurgency tactics, which call for winning civilian support, not just killing the enemy and seizing ground. Some U.S. officials, however, worry that the Pakistani army isn't willing or able to move away from traditional war-fighting tactics.

"If you talk to the (Pakistani) military leadership, they say they get it, but do they understand it the way we understand it?" a senior U.S. military official told McClatchy, speaking on the condition of anonymity in order to be more candid. "Often their definition of counterinsurgency is warning a village before an attack. That's it."

Really, this sort of thing is almost beyond comment. "Do they understand it the way we understand it?" says the spokesman of a military that launched a Hitlerian war of aggression on knowingly false pretenses, and has just had one of its main practitioners of murderous "dirty war" put in charge of its entire "Af-Pak" operations -- at the order of the "progressive" president. To find apt comparisons to such horrific irony, you'd have to reach back to the Eastern Front in World War II: "Reichsfuhrer Himmler, I regret to inform you that some of our Lithuanian auxilliaries have been entirely too primitive in their counterinsurgency tactics against the Jews. Our proxies are too openly brutal -- sometimes clubbing old men and children to death right in the center of town, causing unnecessary distress among the locals. They are sorely lacking in the efficiency and professionalism of our SS cadres, who escort their charges calmly and humanely to carefully pre-prepared pits far beyond the outskirts. It is more regrettable."

Washington is also upset because Pakistan refuses to put its military entirely at the disposal of the imperial agenda:

To the frustration of Washington and other Western allies, Pakistan continues to deploy most of its army on its eastern border to safeguard against its traditional enemy, India, which it fears might attack while it's fighting the Taliban on its western border.

Just think of that: a sovereign nation having the nerve to decide its own strategic priorities, and actually commiting the bulk of its forces to defend against a much larger, nuclear-armed nation with which it has fought several major wars over the decades across a still highly volatile, hotly disputed border! What effrontery to the Great Sahib!

Meanwhile, even as Pakistan's American-fueled "surge" in Swat was driving more than a million people from their homes, Washington was throwing more gasoline on the flames of extremism with more drone strikes, killing at least 40 people, as Pakistan's The News reports:

Forty people, most of them militants, were killed and several others critically injured in two successive attacks by US spy planes at Khaisur village of Mirali subdivision of North Waziristan Agency on Saturday morning.... It is astonishing that despite a full-scale military operation launched by Pakistan against the Taliban in the Malakand region, the US forces are yet to stop targeting the tribal areas while the drone strikes have been fuelling anger among the people against the Pakistan government and the armed forces.

Yes, there does seem to a bit of miscommunication between the imperial center and its servants in the hinterlands. But not to worry: soon they'll all be singing from the same hymn sheet, as AP reports:

U.S. forces are already training a Pakistani paramilitary force in the frontier region, considered the likely hiding place of al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden.

I think they mean "resting place," but never mind.

A senior U.S. defense official said the Pentagon was considering plans to accelerate and expand that training.

U.S. and Pakistani officials are discussing a program that would increase the number of U.S. special operations trainers in the country and expand the schooling to the regular army, said the senior official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the discussions are preliminary and no decisions have been made.

Obviously, the War Machine is floating a trial balloon to habituate the hoi polloi -- and the dimbulbs of the political and media elite -- to the idea of a direct, on-the-ground American military presence in Pakistan. Hey, it's only "advisers"! It's only a bit of training, a bit of "schooling" -- you know, like those nice old lady teachers in your grammar school. How dangerous could it be? I mean, come on -- when in American history has the presence of a few American military "advisers" in country roiled by civil conflict ever led to any kind of bad result?

Chris Floyd at his deskChris Floyd has been a writer and editor for more than 25 years, working in the United States, Great Britain and Russia for various newspapers, magazines, the U.S. government and Oxford University. Floyd co-founded the blog Empire Burlesque, and is also chief editor of Atlantic Free Press. He can be reached at

This column is republished here with the permission of the author.

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This story was published on May 19, 2009.


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