A Precursor to More War Crimes?

In the pre-dawn hours of Wednesday, September 3, three U..S. helicopters
carrying U.S. Special Operations Forces swooped down onto the Pakistani
village of Musa Nika, in South Waziristan, killing fifteen to twenty people
according to early reports. The U.S. press noted that this is the first
known ground assault of U.S. troops in Pakistan. The provincial governor
said twenty civilians including women and children were killed.. The Foreign
Minister denounced the attack, declaring that “no important terrorist or
high-value target” was hit. The chief spokesman for the Pakistani Army
registered its “strong objection.” Gen. Athar Abbas declared that the attack
could provoke a general rebellion of local tribes against his government,
and threaten NATO supply lines from Karachi into Afghanistan. The Foreign
Minister angrily declared that “no important terrorist or high-value target”
was hit. The U.S. ambassador was summoned to receive Islamabad’s official

This is heavy stuff. But this news got sidelined by the star coverage
conferred by the mainstream media on Sarah Palin, whose ringing oration,
dripping with ignorance and contempt for the world, brought down the house
Wednesday night in that celebration of stupidity in St.Paul. That speech,
authored by George W. Bush speechwriter Matthew Scully for whatever vice
presidential candidate McCain selected, asserted among other things that
Bush’s “surge” had prevented al-Qaeda from taking over Iraq. The message is
clear: all U.S. military action is designed to protect the U.S. from
al-Qaeda terror.

Why would the mainstream media, pronouncing “a star is born,” want to
highlight the little news story about remote Waziristan? Palin was splashed
all over the front page of the* Boston Globe* on Thursday; the Pakistan
story was on page A-3. On Friday a follow-up AP story made page A-26. It
emphasized how the raid had “complicated life for presidential front-runner
Asif Ali Zardari.”

But this largely ignored event holds potentially horrifying significance.
“Top American officials” have told the* New York Times*that this raid “could
be the opening salvo in a much broader campaign by Special Operations forces
against the Taliban and Al Qaeda inside Pakistan, a secret plan that Defense
Secretary Robert M. Gates has been advocating for months within President
Bush’s war council.” The plan of course enjoys the support of John McCain,
who never met a warlike action he didn’t like, as well as his opponent in
the presidential race. Barack Obama has been saying for over a year that if
the U.S.has “actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets” in
Pakistan and the chance to hit them, it should do so. The hell with
Pakistani sovereignty! Why should such a detail matter after “we were

Why should the outraged opposition of the Pakistani government constitute a
major news story? Pakistan’s only a nuclear-armed Muslim country of 165
million people, which has at great cost to itself agreed — under duress,
indeed the threat of being “bombed back into the Stone Age” — to abet U.S.
objectives in neighboring Afghanistan. It’s just a country that having
helped create and nurture the Taliban in order to stabilize Afghanistan,
broke with that organization at the demand of the U.S. in 2001 and then
found its frontier provinces flooded with Islamist militants fleeing across
the border.
According to a White House “fact sheet” issued in August 2007:

– Pakistan has worked closely with the United States to secure the arrest
of terrorists like Khalid Shaykh Mohammad, Abu Zubaydah,
and Ramzi bin al
Shibh. Pakistan has killed or captured hundreds of
suspected and known
terrorists, including Mullah Obaidullah, who ranked second
in theTaliban
hierarchy at the time of his capture.
– About100,000 Pakistani troops are deployed in the region near
the Afghan border, and hundreds of Pakistani security
forces have given
their lives in the battle to combat terrorism post-9/11.
– Pakistan provides vital logistical support to coalition forces
in Afghanistan.

– President Musharraf has a comprehensive strategy that combines
three critical components — strengthened governance,
increased economic

and improved security — aimed at eradicating
extremism in the
Federally Administered Tribal Areas.

No government has provided more assistance to Washington as it pursues its
goals in Southwest Asia. No country has been more dramatically destabilized
as the price of its cooperation. But not only does the U.S. political class
take this disasterous compliance for granted, it wants to further emphasize
Islamabad’s irrelevance by attacking the border area at will. It insults the
sensibilities of a population that holds bin Laden in far greater esteem
than the U.S. president. It provokes the powerful Inter-Service Intelligence
(ISI), originally the creation of the CIA, once a close partner with the
U.S. in the project of destroying the secular pro-Soviet state that existed
in Afghanistan from 1978 to 1993. (The ISI, a power unto itself, is already
annoyed that Afghanistan, where anti-Indian Kashmiri jihadis used to hone
their skills in training camps, has been cozying up to India.) Its embrace
undermines any leader who seeks nationalist and religious credentials in the
Islamic Republic of Pakistan.

“There’s potential to see more [attacks on Pakistan],” an unnamed U.S.
official told the* New York Times*. Who do these people think they’re
dealing with? It is one thing to ignore the government of Iraq, placed in
power by the U.S. invasion, when it says no to a permanent U.S. military
presence, U.S. forces’ immunity from Iraqi law, or the privatization of
Iraq’s petroleum resources. It’s one thing to laugh at al-Maliki & Co. and
say, “Well, they don’t mean that,” confident that they’ll eventually knuckle
under. It’s another thing to suppose that the Pakistanis, when they say
“No,” mean anything other than “No” and will simply burn with quiet
resentment indefinitely as U.S. forces violate their sovereignty..But that
sort of insane arrogance stems naturally from the post 9-11 “us vs. them”
mentality of U.S. leaders. Not just the neocons, mind you, but the entire
political mainstream.

Pakistan, these leaders will note, is not doing enough to prevent militants
from crossing over the border to attack U.S. and NATO forces in
Afghanistan.One should respond to this assertion with the following points:

– The U.S. is conflating Taliban and al-Qaeda forces. But these are not
the same thing. (This is perhaps the most obvious but obviously
point of fact in the post 9-11 era.) The Taliban is an indigenous
movement and — however unsavory — unquestionably enjoys a social
Al-Qaeda is a mostly Arab force rooted in the U.S.-sponsored
Mujahadeen of the 1980s.
– Nobody in Afghanistan asked the U.S. to invade, bomb, or continue
bombing Afghanistan for seven years. Nor did the Pakistanis.
– The invasion and occupation of Afghanistan, against the advice and
will of Pakistan, and the failure of that invasion to crush
al-Qaeda, pushed
al-Qaeda and Taliban forces into Pakistan. It’s likely the latter far
outnumber the former.
– Pakistan’s government had never firmly controlled the frontier
provinces or deployed large-scale military forces there in
deference to the
sensibilities of local tribes. Washington, oblivious to Pakistan’s
realities,* demanded* that Islamabad suppress the al-Qaeda and Taliban
forces that fled into the region. In effect, it demanded that
Pakistan clean
up a mess that the U.S. invasion had created.
– Pakistan’sefforts to obey Washington have taken a terrible toll on
the Pakistani Army, solidified local resistance to the central
and in fact produced a* Pakistani* Taliban rooted in the local
Pashtuns who identify with the Afghan Pashtuns and have no use for the
border between Afghanistan and Pakistan drawn by colonialists who never
consulted with them in drawing the map.
– Faced with the prospect of a general tribal-based rebellion,
Islamabad has cut deals with local Taliban-linked groups. Washington
expressed its disapproval, claiming such deals continue to allow
to cross back and forth across the border attacking its forces and
allies in Afghanistan. Washington is, in effect, asking Pakistan’s
government to risk civil war and its own collapse to prevent Afghans
attacking its forces in Afghanistan whose deployment Pakistan
opposed in the
first place.
– Washington is saying to this nuclear power, Pakistan: “You must
obey!” And some in Pakistan are saying: “You do not know this
region. You’ve
responded to 9-11 by lashing out in all directions, creating enemies
never had before.* You* created this problem, our headache, in
Waziristan and adjoining regions. And you make it worse by
saying that since
we’re not handling it to your satisfaction, you’re going to start
your troops in our villages, shooting on our civilians. And
you’re expecting
us to say, ‘Ok, no problem, boss?’ You’re crazy.”

It* is* crazy,even for a cocky hyper-imperialist power, to manifest such
arrogance and contempt. Such attacks on Pakistan say to the Muslims of the
world: “You are the problem and we reserve the right to slaughter you,
because back home, we have powerful politicians who respond to a mass base
that thinks fighting you all is, as Sarah Palin put it, ‘a task from
God.’* (USA!
USA! USA! USA!)* If you don’t agree with our program to restructure your
region, supporting* our* misogynistic fanatical Islamists in the Northern
Alliance as opposed to the Taliban misogynistic fanatical Islamists you used
to sponsor, we’ll invade you and take care of the problem ourselves.* (USA!
USA! USA! USA!)* Get used to it. It’s not just the Bush crowd. We’ve got
Obama on board now too. We will strike Pakistani targets as we see fit.
Screw international law, which we invoke when it serves our needs and ignore
when it might restrain us. Nobody is allowed to cross any border to attack
our brave Americans, no matter where we invade, or why. Just accept that,
world, and avoid our wrath. (*USA! USA! USA!*)”

That’s indeed the message to Pakistan. If there were a free press in this
country, honest education and genuine discussion, the people would recoil in
horror from the crimes committed in their name and the premises — largely
lies — behind those crimes. But we have none of that, just some posts on
the internet. The outlook is grim.