Pakistan’s conflict in Swat
The way the United States is conducting the pursuit of its policy will only bring more war and destruction to Afghanistan and Pakistan and is also guaranteed to spread into India.
Consider the following news report:
“Islamic Law Instituted In Pakistan’s Swat Valley” screamed the headline in Washington Post on the 16 of February 2009.
Excerpts from the story read as below (bold emphases by me):
“PESHAWAR, Pakistan, Feb. 16 — The Pakistani government, desperate to restore peace to a Taliban-infested valley once known as the “Switzerland of Pakistan,” agreed Monday to enforce strict Islamic law in the surrounding district near the Afghan border, conceding to a long-standing demand by local Islamist leaders who in turn pledged to ask the fighters to lay down their arms.”
Note the language that reduces “Taliban” to an “infestation” and therefore, something to be exterminated as a good deed. Every population that has ever been targeted for genocide, knows that de-humanization along with equating the population with plague-like qualities are pre-requisites for the genocide; there are no survivors because none deserve to live and “infest” further.
“As Pakistani officials were defending their decision to negotiate with the insurgents, a U.S. missile attack by an unmanned aircraft on a suspected insurgent camp killed more than 30 people in the nearby tribal area of Kurram. The second such attack in three days, it came amid increasing protests by opposition groups that the government is sacrificing Pakistani lives and sovereignty to U.S. strategic interests.”
It follows that since we have classified “Taliban” as a virulent disease, it is okay to destroy them wherever we may suspect them to be and worry about “collateral losses” later. In the above excerpt we have an example of just one localized area where we have killed at least 30 people simply because we “suspected” them of having Taliban-associations. The example also illustrates to difficulty of identifying “Taliban” and the high likelihood of killing people just because they “look like the Taliban”…likely men with beards, wearing turbans and carrying guns, a description that would fit about 95% of the tribal Pashtuns.
The American people have become so deeply cultivated into believing we are fighting the just war “over there”, that we can barely muster a yawn as the mountains of dead bodies grow…after all, we are led to believe, they are the dirty terrorists who will kill us all if we don’t kill them first…and they are SUCH terrible people!
It is with pain, frustration and helplessness that I note my losing hopes for any peace in Pakistan or in Afghanistan…Indians need not celebrate because no peace in Pakistan or Afghanistan, means definitely no peace in India either.
To fully understand the continuous cycle of botched decisions we are making and how disastrous they are to the tri-nation region (Afghanistan, Pakistan and India), we need to start from several years ago…
Under the Bush regime after 9-11, American had defined Afghanistan as “THE enemy”, not only protecting Osama Bin Laden but perhaps, even supporting his attack on the US. Our administration felt compelled to DO something that would show the world how strong we are and how resolutely we destroy “terrorists”…those who oppose us; Afghanistan was an easy and natural lightening-rod for the American public who was thirsting for blood, lots of it and right now.
Buried deep inside the banks of philosophical clouds and official fog emanating from the highly biased and powerful conservatives in Washington DC, are the real facts that Americans, long plagued by short attention-spans regarding “foreign” politics, have forgotten and now no longer wish to remember. The most basic fact that our conservatives (who conjured up this “War!” in the first place) do not wish to acknowledge and our liberals avoid remembering is, that our reasons for both invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, were completely contrived to lead us into believing that we were fighting for survival and the “enemy” (in both cases) was irrational, super-powerful and therefore, MUST be destroyed.
The reality is that both invasions were arbitrary and in the courts of history, the millions of lives we are responsible for having taken, will be finally seen as nothing more then wanton genocide.
Let us examine some evidence:
- In 1998, Mullah Omar, (http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2001/nov/05/afghanistan.terrorism3) the Taliban leader agreed to hand over Osama bin Laden to the US, but before he had made the final decision, we decided to “encourage” him by launching Tomahawk missile attacks into Afghanistan.
- In February 2001, the Taliban sent word (http://news.indiamart.com/news-analysis/afghanistan-taliban–6303.html) that they would hand over OBL if he were to be tried in a Muslims country and under Muslims laws but we rejected the opportunity.
- When our invasion of Afghanistan began, the Taliban repeated their offer (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/bush-rejects-taliban-offer-to-surrender-bin-laden-631436.html) to hand over OBL if we would provide evidence linking him to a crime, but King George the Worst rejected the offer, “When I said no negotiations I meant no negotiations,” Mr Bush said. “We know he’s guilty. Turn him over. There’s no need to discuss innocence or guilt.” Obviously, killing several hundred-thousand more Afghans had no meaning for him.
Into Afghanistan we charged with our “Bunker Buster(5 tons DU), Daisy Cutter and Big Blu (10 tons DU)” bombs, the names sanitized to obscure the fact that these are massive bombs made of Depleted Uranium plus small amounts of Plutonium, which will contaminate the soil in Afghanistan bringing misery and nuclear-related diseases to the people, for millions of years (Half-life of Depleted Uranium is 4.5 billion years…the estimated life of our planet to date) after they have tossed the rubble of the benighted nation, around for the thousandth time.
Between the Soviets and the Americans, millions of unexploded shells and bombs (conventional and DU) have been scattered all over Afghanistan, awaiting the casual passer-by or the animal to kill or maim…and more are being spread every day. Not counted in this inventory, are the thousands of DU rounds used in daily fire by the NATO forces in Afghanistan.
In spite of the fact that the Pentagon denies that DU has any unusual after-effects, the exponential rise in radiation-related diseases including birth defects in Iraq and Afghanistan are widely documented by international agencies. The Pentagon itself takes extraordinary precautions when DU is accidentally used around US forces. In one case in Kuwait, of explosion of an ammunition stockpile that contained DU, the US removed massive amounts of sand from there and deposited it in hazardous materials storage in North-Western United States.
The legacy of DU usage in Iraq and Afghanistan will be kept fresh generations after the last US soldier has left the countries.
It is hard to believe American foreign policy has ever been as short-sighted and self-destructive as the policy we have suffered under for the past eight years and that promises to continue for at least a few more years. With our policy of if-we-cannot-win-them-over-we-will-kill-them, we created as many enemies in just these past eight years, as we have created in the entire history of this nation…with more being created as if emerging out of a high-speed production line.
Few will disagree with the proposition that the Taliban regime has been one of the more brutal and intolerant regimes in the world; they have been responsible for the slaughter of tens of thousands of Afghans in the North and the mainly Shia communities in the West. The US did not like the Taliban, but had no problems dealing with them because the US hoped the Taliban would give Unocal the contract for laying an oil pipeline (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/west_asia/37021.stm) across from Turkmenistan, through Afghanistan and Pakistan and into the Arabian Sea. Inexplicably, Unocal lost the contract to its Argentinean competitor Bridas, just before the US decided that the Taliban regime must be removed using as violent means as can be mustered.
The US invaded Afghanistan, destroyed everything in their path and placed the Northern Alliance (Taliban’s adversaries) in control of the country. Ironically, the Northern Alliance had a history that was even bloodier than the Taliban’s, but the US was not looking for democracy, it was looking for compliant leadership and it got it.
In its history, Afghanistan was never a truly united nation and never had a totally controlling leadership; the leaders who ruled Afghanistan did so by allowing local leaders complete autonomy over their territories while maintaining control over a few large cities. The Northern Alliance held control, purely by the power of the gun and even that was not possible in the South where the Pashtuns hold sway. The US sees the Pashtun resistance as Taliban control and is doing everything it can, to destroy all semblances of resistance. Unfortunately, in doing so, the US appears to have decided that anyone who “looks like the Taliban”, must be one and the hunt was on. Unable to distinguish between the few foreign extremist fighters who may be in the Pak-Afghan border areas and the indigenous people, the US has deployed its Predator drones and aircraft to bomb anything that looks like “the enemy”. Including flying across the Pak-Afghan border to attack villages with “Taliban suspects”…which results in the killing of hundreds of innocent Pashtuns in Afghanistan as well as in Pakistan.
Lost in the discussion seems to be the fact that Afghan Pashtuns are related by blood and tribal affiliations, to the Pukhtuns just across the border in Pakistan, and therefore, it is but natural for some tribal members to take their entire families to the villages in Pakistan where they may have some hope of getting away from the violence. When the US bombs such a village or sends its military to kill “suspects” in the Pakistan villages, it only enrages the tribes across both borders and the list of enemies against America grows.
Another facet of the tribal culture is smuggling. With the tribal blood relationships that span the borders drugs, foreign goods; anything that can be smuggled across the border for profit is easy and fair game. One main reason for this activity is the fact that the Tribal areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan have no peaceful industry or product that they can trade. Tribal areas also have a thriving cottage industry of weapons of all types, growing of opium and Marijuana and then refine them into Heroin and Hashish, to sell into the world drug channels.
One drawback of choking of the borders by the US and Pakistan militaries is the simultaneous choking of income for the border tribes (Pashtuns and Pukhtuns). Combined with what is seen as indiscriminate bombing by the US, the tribes are forced into a situation where they must fight THEIR enemy with all means available to them including joining the fighters who are intent on fighting the Americans…or lose their honor and starve.
Pakistan made the decision long ago, to do America’s bidding in their “War!” against “terrorism” in exchange for money and weapons. Pakistan is also aware that not actively supporting the US could mean that the US would then abandon Pakistan and support India in the rivalry over Kashmir, making the balance impossibly heavy against Pakistan. In helping the US, Pakistan has stood by as the US bombs Pakistani tribes and sends in its military to kill “suspects”, killing many innocents in the process. In order to appear as if it is earning the American money and support, Pakistan has also utilized its own military against its own people along the Pak-Afghan border, killing many tribal people as well as suffering more military losses than the entire NATO alliance in Afghanistan.
Such active assistance to the US carries a lethal cost with it. Pakistanis are openly against killing their own people at America’s bidding, in some cases, Pakistanis have taken up arms against the government while in others, Pakistanis from the provinces have joined forces with Pakistani tribal people, with Al-Qaeda or Taliban groups in order to force the US away and to overthrow what they term as “US puppet regimes” and replace them with religiously extreme leaderships; a growing phenomenon all over Pakistan.
In an effort to stave off criticisms that the Pakistan is killing its own people at Americas’ bidding, the governments of Pakistan have, from time to time, tried to make peace with the tribal and fanatical religious leaderships. Each time this has been tried, it was first obstructed and criticized by the US and eventually failed on its own due to poor management of agreements by both sides.
The latest attempt is the peace agreement between the leaders in Swat valley and the Pakistan government which the US sees, as it has seen similar attempts in the past, as appeasement of the “Taliban”. US State Department has openly advocated a policy of destroying all signs of “Taliban” or anything even remotely related with them. Pakistan on the other hand, sees it as a choice between promoting a spreading civil war within Pakistan or, heading it off by accepting even extremist religious regime in an area to contain it and try opposing it in a peaceful way over time. Complicating the mix is the United States which has the power to foil such attempts by launching its own war machine against these extremists and making a simmering situation boil over.
If the United States does not learn the fact that its interference is inserting a multiplier into the equation of violence in the entire tri-national region, the fires that start in Pakistan will definitely spread into Afghanistan and into India and will become unstoppable. If Pakistan is not allowed the respite to gather its resources and bring its people together peaceably, then the violence will factionalize and shatter into many smaller, more deadly and entirely uncontrollable segments that will fight amongst themselves and spread into neighboring countries at will.
Those of us who know these realities cannot believe the thoughtlessness that seems to be the hallmark of US foreign policy; we can only pray that the US figures this out and helps Pakistan find the peaceful way even if it takes longer than the expected time.
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