State of Pakistan
By Yousuf Nazar
More than one trillion dollars and nine years later the alleged and self-confessed master mind of 9/11, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed has not been convicted. Osama bin Laden, Ayman Al-Zahwari, and Mullah Omar have not been caught, dead or alive; the Talibans instead of being eliminated are set to take over Kabul again, and Pakistan which hardly had a Taliban presence on September 11, 2001 has been rocked by bomb blasts and has had its worst year of violence since 2001. And Americans still cannot see what the problem is?
But then if their policies had a bit of wisdom, we never would have had Vietnam, Cambodia would not have been ruined, Shah of Iran would never have been allowed to suppress dissent, Afghanistan would not have been abandoned after 1989, and a just settlement of the Palestine conflict would have been achieved. It is easy to forget lessons of history in the confusion and noise of day-to-day reporting and in the age of 30 second sound bites of electronic media.
And it is ok for much over-rated Newsweek and its editor to declare Pakistan as the most dangerous country and the home of Al Qaeda and confess, without much regret or shame, three years later that Al Qaeda is not really that deadly a threat.
I would like to believe this sensational bit of journalism had little to do with the fact that Newsweek magazine had been making losses for years. As of 2003, worldwide circulation was more than 4 million, including 2.7 million in the U.S; however as of 2010 it is down to 1.5 million. The financial results for 2009 as reported by the Washington Post showed that advertising revenue for Newsweek was down 37% in 2009 and the magazine division reported an operating loss for 2009 of $29.3 million compared to a loss of $16 million in 2008. During the magazine’s first quarter of 2010, it lost nearly $11 million. By May 2010, Newsweek was said to be up for sale. The magazine was sold to audio pioneer Sidney Harman for just $1 on August 2, 2010.
Fareed Zakaria, then a Newsweek columnist and editor of Newsweek International, attended a secret meeting on November 29, 2001 with a dozen policy makers, Middle East experts and members of influential policy research organizations to produce a report for President George W. Bush and his cabinet outlining a strategy for dealing with Afghanistan and the Middle East in the aftermath of September 11, 2001. The meeting was held at the request of Paul D. Wolfowitz, then the deputy secretary of defense. The unusual presence of journalists at such a strategy meeting was revealed in Bob Woodward’s 2006 book State of Denial: Bush at War, Part III.
In the May 9, 2005, issue of Newsweek, an article by reporter Michael Isikoff stated that interrogators at Guantanamo Bay “in an attempt to rattle suspects, flushed a Qur’an down a toilet. The magazine later revealed that the anonymous source behind the allegation could not confirm that the book-flushing was actually under investigation, and retracted the story under heavy criticism. But the damage had been done.
Yet, some make so much of the trash that is published in magazines like Newsweek and ignore the counsel of experienced and mature hands like Dr. Brzezinski.
The U.S. military and intelligence budgets have crossed all decent and reasonable limits. The intelligence budget alone has gone up by more than 250% since 2001 to $75 billion and the defenders of U.S. madness in Afghanistan and Pakistan do not see the irony of a mad campaign that has not achieved anything and destroyed much, including American credibility and standing in the world.
Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski, one of the foremost foreign policy experts in the U.S., who started the American involvement in Afghanistan in 1978-1979 as President Jimmy Carter’s National Security Adviser, warned the U.S. government about the potentially disastrous consequences of its foreign policy in a testimony before the U.S. senate foreign relations committee on February 1, 2007. “If the United States continues to be bogged down in a protracted bloody involvement in Iraq, the final destination on this downhill track is likely to be a head-on conflict with Iran and with much of the world of Islam at large. A plausible scenario for a military collision with Iran involves Iraqi failure to meet the benchmarks; followed by accusations of Iranian responsibility for the failure; then by some provocation in Iraq or a terrorist act in the U.S. blamed on Iran; culminating in a “defensive” U.S. military action against Iran that plunges a lonely America into a spreading and deepening quagmire eventually ranging across Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.”
He dismissed the fears about Al Qaeda saying: “A mythical historical narrative to justify the case for such a protracted and potentially expanding war is already being articulated. Initially justified by false claims about WMD’s in Iraq, the war is now being redefined as the “decisive ideological struggle” of our time.”
Dr. Brzezinski warned: ” Vague and inflammatory talk about “a new strategic context” which is based on “clarity” and which prompts “the birth pangs of a new Middle East” is breeding intensifying anti-Americanism and is increasing the danger of a long-term collision between the United States and the Islamic world.”
He added: “One should note here also that practically no country in the world shares the Manichean delusions that the Administration so passionately articulates. The result is growing political isolation of, and pervasive popular antagonism toward the U.S. global posture. “
One consequence of the bloody military and covert operations is that the control of many aspects slips out of the hands of the politicians and away from Congressional oversight. Guantanamo Bay is one such example. Dozens were kept under detention without any trial and then released without much explanation. Abdullah Mahsud was one.. captured in December 2001 and released in May 2004.
Dissent was stifled with the neo-fascist rhetoric of “either you are with us or against us”, and thus giving the press little choice but to accept the official story line without much questioning or reasoning. The psychology of fear was used to pursue a Middle East policy that had everything to do with oil and little to do with terrorism as has been acknowledged by eminent figures such as General (rtd) Wesley Clarke, former supreme commander of NATO, Bill Clinton’s economic adviser Jeff Sachs, and the former FED chairman Alan Greenspan.
The latest casualty of the U.S. military and intelligence establishment’s what Brzezinski called a “mythical narrative” is Dr. Aafia Siddiqui. She may or may not have been involved with Al Qaeda. I do not know. No court ever charged her with any terrorist act. So all that noise is irrelevant in so far it relates to her sentencing by a U.S. court for 86 years on charges of committing a crime in Afghanistan as a Pakistani citizen. If the U.S. defense and intelligence establishment wanted to delay the case and avoid provocation, which it knew it would cause in Pakistan, it could have easily delayed the trial as it did in the case of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed for reasons that remain obscure.
I won’t speculate on the motives for carrying on this trial at this time lest some naïve or biased readers accuse me of a conspiracy theory but the repercussions are obvious. It is a clear provocation even if that was not the intent. It is mystifying that while on one hand, the U.S. gives $405 million for aid for the floods; but it increases the frequency of drone strikes which for sure are going to destroy any good will it would have hoped to generate. Are they so stupid? But then even $10 billion is a small sum in the big power games when the total cost of the War on Terror is coming to over a trillion dollars according to the official figures and more than $2 trillion according to independent U.S. economists.
I quoted Dr. Brzezinski at length to make the points that some of us make but are dismissed as anti-Americanism. I worked for an American bank for 20 years. I have nothing against Americans. But their establishment’s Middle East and Central Asian policies are wrong, short-sighted, counter-productive and ultimately self-defeating. There is no method to their madness but only one way to prevent more harm than they have already caused, belated though it might be. They should get the hell out of Afghanistan and Pakistan and stop supporting or manipulating their puppets, be it in civvies or muftis. The world would be a better place if President Obama can focus on the ailing U.S. economy, which is not only in a long term decline but is not recovering well, and put an end to all costly overt and covert misadventures overseas.