Mir Abbas Khan stares into the camera. Behind him the ruins of his home lay strewn across the dry, hard ground. Since March, when Secretary of State Colin Powell visited Pakistan and promised President General Pervez Musharraf billions of dollars in aid, the Pakistani army has been scouring the semiautonomous tribal regions of South Waziristan for Al Qaeda fighters—bombing, burning, and bulldozing the homes and belongings of those deemed collaborators, or merely uncooperative.
Over the centuries, no one has exercised much authority over South Waziristan, a stark, mountainous area of southwestern Pakistan that borders Afghanistan. But in the wake of two assassination attempts, and in pursuit of continued U.S. largesse, Musharraf seems determined to try. At the start of the campaign, he announced that a senior Al Qaeda leader was surrounded, and hinted it might be Osama bin Laden. Days later, after the army met surprisingly stiff resistance, the top Al Qaeda operative was down-graded to a Chechen commander, and then to a local criminal. Eventually, senior government officials admitted they never had proof that a key terrorist was in the area. Though it boasts of killing hundreds of militants—claims that cannot be substantiated—the government is tight-lipped about casualties among innocent villagers.
Journalists and human rights workers are effectively barred from entering the region. But in April, photographer Asim Rafiqui managed to sneak in by posing as a local businessman. With no base of support in the area, the Pakistani army (mostly ethnically distinct from the Pashtuns of Waziristan) has been attempting to enlist the support of local tribes and battling those who don’t cooperate. Tribal jirgas, or councils, that comply with the army are rewarded with development aid and spared from bombardment. Other tribal leaders see the conflict as a means to turn the wrath of the army on rival tribes. In any case, lashkars—tribal posses—have ransacked scores of villages, vowing to capture or kill those suspected of cooperating with Al Qaeda. Tradition, however, forbids a host to turn over a guest to an enemy without a fight. And Waziris are even being asked to betray blood relations, although family ties extend far deeper than national loyalty.
In pitting his army against his people, Musharraf risks losing his tenuous hold on power by energizing the very Islamic fundamentalists he seeks to crush. Muslims consider soldiers killed in combat to be martyrs. But many of the tribesmen battling the army are former mujahideen, who, in the 1980s, were actively recruited by Pakistan and the United States to resist the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan and support the Taliban. They came from all over Central Asia and settled in the tribal regions. They married, had children, and became woven into the local culture. To many Pakistanis, who don’t understand the about-face of the Musharraf government, it is not the soldiers who are martyrs, but the Waziris fighting them. “America is a wolf at our door,” said retired Lt. Gen. Hamid Gul, a fundamentalist Muslim. “Pakistan throws it crumbs so it does not attack our house. South Waziristan is a crumb. But the people know defenders of the tribal areas are defending their country. Are they terrorists, and the attackers good boys? No. The people don’t believe this.”
Pakistanis are all too cognizant that it is at America’s bidding that Musharraf, his army, and the lashkars of Waziristan carry out this campaign. Any resentment it causes will inevitably flow back up that chain. Consider again Mir Abbas Khan, in the photo on the opposite page. Look at his eyes, his ruined home, and back to his eyes—full of fear and hurt, but mostly rage.
Accuser, Judge and Jury. We now are seeing the beginnings of such scenes
And there will be more, and far worse. Our parrots in the military and the political administration are not only repeating the language and obfuscations of the Americans, but the equally stupid and ‘blow-back-ready’ tactics as well. By the way, you would never know it, that there has been a sustained military occupation/presence and war against the people of the region of FATA since 2002. Our drone attacks in 2009 alone are interesting to observe, rising to levels of indiscriminate slaughter based on the statements of ‘officials’, all of whom seem to have direct telephone lines to the international media hungry for easy quotes and thought-closing statements.
The Pakistanis look on and wonder why bombs are going off in their cities. They rarely if ever wondered why bombs were falling indiscriminately on our citizens in FATA, how many were dying, who was being killed, and why. Our silences as they screamed are now being answered by our screams. These days of dishonor, these moments of dark horror, will yield only more pain, only more confusion, and only more suffering. And if they are not convinced, maybe what Asif Ali Zardari said in an interview with The Daily Telegraph:
“My position is that I have always asked for possession of the drone; I want the Pakistani flag on it.”
How much cash was needed to agree to slaughter civilians and Pakistani citizens for that bravado? I suppose there is no point in reminding him that they are citizens with rights, and that he is the representative of his citizens. Oh well, such niceties sound so naive.
The paymaster celebrate our ‘actions‘, the military leader grins and gloats as he receives American toys for the holiday season days before this latest ‘war’, and the nation’s sovereignty is offered up for a pocket full of change most of which will of course end up in the hands of the crooks now apparently sitting as ‘democrats’.
It has been our strategy to always replace a mess with an even larger one. President Obama, choosing only the finest and most intelligent people in his administration, is proceeding to repeat the same mistake. In a wonderfully amusing, but insightful, piece called Wall Street Smarts in the New York Times the poet Calvin Trillin argued that:
“The financial system nearly collapsed,” he said, “because smart guys had started working on Wall Street.”
In Errol Morris’ fear-inducing film The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara he reminds us that the men who orchestrated, managed, administered and planned the Vietnam fiasco where the ‘smartest guys in the room’. Robert S. McNamara “… graduated in 1937 from the University of California, Berkeley, with a Bachelor of Arts in economics with minors in mathematics and philosophy. He was a member of Phi Gamma Delta fraternity, was elected to Phi Beta Kappa his sophomore year and earned a varsity letter in crew. He was also a member of the UC Berkeley Golden Bear Battalion, Army ROTC. He then earned a master’s degree from the Harvard Graduate School of Business Administration in 1939. After earning his MBA McNamara worked a year for the accounting firm Price Waterhouse in San Francisco. In August 1940 he returned to Harvard to teach in the Business School and became the highest paid and youngest Assistant Professor at that time.” (from Wikipedia)
In an earlier argument, Chris Hedges pointed out in an essay called The Best And The Brightest Led American Off The Cliff that:
The multiple failures that beset the country, from our mismanaged economy to our shredded constitutional rights to our lack of universal health care to our imperial debacles in the Middle East, can be laid at the feet of our elite universities. Harvard, Yale, Princeton and Stanford, along with most other elite schools, do a poor job educating students to think. They focus instead, through the filter of standardized tests, enrichment activities, advanced placement classes, high-priced tutors, swanky private schools and blind deference to all authority, on creating hordes of competent systems managers. The collapse of the country runs in a direct line from the manicured quadrangles and halls in places like Cambridge, Princeton and New Haven to the financial and political centers of power.
And President Obama now sits, like a god-king, asking his ‘best and the brightest’ to oversee an unfolding fiasco that is going to be Afghanistan and Pakistan. Enough with the intelligent, lets try the moronic. Could they do worse? I doubt it.