Empire’s Paranoia About the Pashtuns [1 of 3]


The ongoing hysteria about lightly settled, mountainous Pashtun tribal lands in Pakistan or near the ill-defined Afghan border might seem unique to our imperial moment. So imagine our surprise when Juan Cole tells us it actually has a history more than a century old.
And there’s nothing like a little history lesson, there, to put the strange hysterias of our moment into perspective? So who better to offer a little history lesson in imperial delusions of grandeur and peril?
If you feel like a more extensive lesson in what to make of the gamut of issues where the U.S. and the Muslim world meet, or rather collide, don’t miss what he says. It’s a continual eye-opener. [image: Winston Churchill in the Hussars just before he saw action in present day Pakistan].
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A CENTURY OF FRENZY OVER THE NORTH-WEST FRONTIER

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by Juan Cole

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First a Note from WoP: The Federally Administered Tribal Areas in Pakistan (FATA) have either, traditionally been autonomous or semi-autonomous region. Before the British, Pathan chieftains had their sway and prior to Mughals, the Pathan dynasty of Lodhis ruled the subcontinent. Later during the Mughal and the successive Punjab kingdom of Raja Ranjit Singh even, the Pashtun chieftains exercised their might though they either remained as satraps of the Delhi Darbar or were completely autonomous. During these epochal periods of history, they sometimes aligned themselves with the rulers in Delhi and other time with the man occupying the throne in Kabul. However, in the heydays of these empires, they retained their autonomous/quasi autonomous status in one form or another.

When the British expanded their rule, after the end of the Sikh kingdom of Lahore (which was the only region in the subcontinent which last of all, finally annexed to the Delhi Darbar), even during British rule, in spite of the best military maneuvering (a part of the great game played then between the British and the Tsarist Russia) the British could not subdue the whole of Pashtun borderlands.  Excepting the garrison towns of Peshawar, Kohat, Nowshera and Bannu, where every morning Union Jack was unfurled at all the cantonments, the areas beyond the garrisons, were completely autonomous and most of the time at war with Gora lords of the Delhi Darbar.

After various episodes of war and peace between tribes of the frontier and the central authority in Delhi, ultimately the parties agreed to maintain a status quo but now and then skirmishes always did take place.

In 1947, when British were to pack up, two independent states emerged on the landscape of Hindostan. The people of the North West frontier decided through a referendum to join the newly established state of Muslim Pakistan.

Qaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, a statesman that he was, had the vision to assure at the very outset that all tribesmen inhabiting the PAKISTANI borderlands will enjoy an autonomous status within the state of Pakistan. Central Govt. will not interfere with the local customs and they will continue to have their tribal jirgas according to Pakhtunvali, the traditional Pathan code of life, and ever since they have enjoyed this status as loyal citizens of Pakistan.

Before 2001, one never heard of a single suicide attack from any area in the tribal agencies or FATA (as they are administratively called). There was never any trace of an Islamic Zealot from the Pashtun tribal belt of Pakistan nor was there any thing called Taliban or some Mujahid /s plotting to bomb some embassy, some building, fortress or army convoys in Pakistan, India or any where else in the world.

The plane hijackings were initiated and undertaken by Palestinian guerrillas in the sixties and suicide bombings were also initiated either by LTTE insurgents in Sri Lanka or the Palestinians in the Mideast peninsula.

Such things have entered in our borderlands only after 2001, when the neoconservatives under the senior Bush and later by his son Bush junior unleashed their all out offensive against Muslims under the banner of the so called clash of civilizations.

An outfall of these activities especially in Afghanistan has been the Pakistani borderlands. Unfortunately the militancy in Afghanistan and Pakistan has taken many nuances some very ugly indeed. The ulterior motives of wars for control of energy and its transmission lines have made this area a hot bed of geopolitical endeavors, military ventures, adventures and misadventures.

It is in this context that you will find Juan Cole’s post as a highly interesting and thought provoking read. Its an eye opener for all actors on the great Asian stage, the Afghans, the Pakistanis, Indians, Chinese, Russians but above all for our American friends in the Pentagon and the State Department. [Nayyar] (more…)

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Funniest Thing Published by a News Magazine in the History of News Magazines


Holy Christ, this is a Newsweek “web exclusive” .
Gerald Herbert / AP
Swallow your milk
by Joshua Holland, AlterNet

Stand In

Why Obama should make George W. Bush his Mideast envoy.

By Gregory Levey

On Sunday, George Mitchell, President Obama’s Middle East envoy, arrived in Israel to confer with its leaders. Also visiting this week are Defense Secretary Robert Gates, national-security adviser James Jones, and Gulf States envoy Dennis Ross. It’s a full-court press on the Israelis, and the American wish list is long. They want Israel to stop expanding settlements; to stop building Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem; and for hawks in the government to chill out while the U.S. is negotiating with Iran. And yet, odds are, they’ll come back to Washington empty-handed, for reasons having to do as much with atmospherics as policy: Team Obama just doesn’t have Israel’s full trust.

But there is someone who does—someone who could use a job, someone who argued straightforwardly for a Palestinian state, and yet someone who has the implicit admiration and regard of Israel. President Obama needs a new envoy to the region who can get results—and George W. Bush is his man.

Words fail me.

I do have this, however, which sums up my thoughts on the matter pretty well …

The Writer Joshua Holland is an editor and senior writer at AlterNet.
Source: Posted  July 30, 2009
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Are We at (Robot) War in Pakistan?


It’s almost Shakespearean. But since we’re in the 21st century instead of the 16th, we seal our pact with the king by sending machines, not human assassins.

    by Noah Shachtman


Washington and Islamabad are drawing up a fresh list of terrorist targets for Predator drone strikes in Pakistan, according to the Wall Street Journal. Militants crossing the border into Afghanistan would still be in the drones’ bullseyes, just like before. But Pakistani officials are also “seeking to broaden the scope of the program to target extremists who have carried out attacks against Pakistanis.”
If that’s the case, isn’t America, for all intents and purposes, at war in Pakistan? Only in this war, it’s our flying robots doing most of the fighting?
Crossing a border to chase militants is one thing — an organic expansion of a pre-existing conflict. This feels like a different matter: a commitment to the Pakistanis to put down their internal rebellion. It’s certainly linked to the first conflict (the Pakistani Taliban and the Afghan Taliban have officially teamed up). But it’s not the same as the original fight — the one that started in Afghanistan.
Note: I’m not suggesting that we are at war with Pakistan, its people, or its government. But it seems pretty clear that the U.S. is almost (if not already) at war in Pakistan, against a whole series of militant networks.
UPDATE: It’s important to note that all of these militant groups share training, money, gear, and goons. So it’s natural to hop from one to the other — to keep on moving an inch further down this insurgent playing field. But travel one inch after another, and, eventually, you’re a mile down the road. Or, as Spencer Ackerman puts it: Here’s where you feel like the frog who went for a leisurely dip in the warm stockpot bath and suddenly finds himself boiling,” he writes. “The American people are being asked to recommit in a major way to the Afghanistan war. It’s untenable to commit to a Pakistan war without their consent.”
The American military has to be really, really careful about mission creep,” Jim Arkedis warns. “The military, as the Pentagon thinks it believes, can’t kill its way out of this problem, but this expanded target list only perpetuates the mindset that we can.”
I’d be curious to hear what you guys think. Drop me a line, or sound off, in the comments.

The latest drone strike went down yesterday — an attack on the network of Pakistani militant leader Baitullah Mehsud that killed at least eight. Continue readig…
OB-DJ296_dronea_G_20090325222127Of the 60 cross-border predator strikes carried out by the Afghanistan-based American drones in Pakistan between January 14, 2006 and April 8, 2009, only 10 were able to hit their actual targets, killing 14 wanted al-Qaeda leaders, besides perishing 687 innocent Pakistani civilians.

Mehsud is the main suspect behind the 2007 assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. Her widower, Asif Ali Zadari, is now president of Pakistan — and, according to the Journal, a prime supporter of the unmanned strikes.
Which leads Slate’s William Saletan to wonder:Are we buying his support by sending our drones to avenge his wife’s death?”
It’s almost Shakespearean. But since we’re in the 21st century instead of the 16th, we seal our pact with the king by sending machines, not human assassins, to bring heaven’s wrath on the warlord who slew his beloved. And this time, the wrath really does come from heaven. Put yourself in Zardari’s shoes. You’re being offered the chance to destroy your enemy with a power unknown to history’s greatest kings and generals: a bloodless, all-seeing airborne hunting party.
Would you refuse?

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the ‘Wonders of Pakistan’. The contents of this article too are the sole responsibility of the author(s). WoP will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article.
[Photo: USAF]

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Source: Danger Room, Posted July 26, 2009

From Iraq to Afghanistan, US Wars Not Going According to Plan


6th_iraq_war_anniversary_protest_us (1)Protesters brandished a plethora of handcrafted signs and banners reading: “Obama it’s your war now,” “America is losing its soul in Gaza,” “U.S. out of Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan NOW,” “College not combat,” “Hey Obama take a stand, U.S. out of Afghanistan” and “OK Democrats, now stop the war.” Bill Hackwel

by William Pfaff

Iraq’s prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, was in Washington this week to consult with Barack Obama and American military and political officials, three weeks after the Status of Forces Agreement concerning U.S. forces in Iraq came into effect.
On the same day, in Iraq, tension was reported to be increasing between the Americans, whose combat forces were supposed to evacuate Baghdad and other cities at the end of June, and the Iraqi military and security forces, who were supposed to take over the Americans’ responsibilities.

cartoon_IraqWar

American commanders complain that the Iraq authorities have greatly reduced the number of joint patrols, supposed to continue, and in other ways “clearly are signaling that we are no longer wanted” — according to an American officer quoted in The Wall Street Journal. Iraqi commanders have told the Americans no longer to run patrols, and not to conduct raids on suspect locations, without coordinating them with the Iraqis.
A foreign diplomat in Baghdad has said that the Iraqis are determined to show that they are now in charge, in the run-up to national elections next year. Robert Gates, the U.S. Defense secretary, says that the situation is not bad. However, attacks have sharply increased in recent days, and some observers insist that the Shiite- and Kurdish-dominated government must do more to reconcile the former ruling Sunni minority if sectarian conflict is not to break out again.

Maliki

The Iraqi prime minister is playing the nationalist card, a dangerous one to play when the Sunnis also have sectarian revindications, and a lot of grievances. Washington itself has a hand to play in this game, with 130,000 troops (and at least as many contract forces) still in the country, whom Barack Obama has promised to withdraw, and the American public wants withdrawn — and a demagogic American right, for whom national failure means treason.
This is not the way this war was supposed to end. For younger readers: Six years ago the American intervention was supposed to end in a multi-party democratic government, an ally of Israel against the supposed menace of Iran, the strategic base and headquarters for the U.S. as dominant actor in a “New Middle East,” and a permanent and secure source of oil for the United States. None of this has happened. Iran is the principal beneficiary.
Move to another front: Pakistan-Afghanistan. Here there was also supposed to be a straightforward job to do: drive the Taliban out of Afghanistan, into their refuges in the semi-inaccessible Tribal Areas of the Pakistan border. There, the Pakistan army, with American urging and help, would defeat and disarm them, asserting Pakistani national control over the region, as well as U.S.-NATO success in Afghanistan.
What actually is happening is unsurprising. Pakistan continues to look after its own national interests, as it has always defined them. This means that the separate radical religious and tribal movements that make up the Taliban continue to be considered an asset to Pakistan in its long-term struggle with India, in defense of its own security, and in order to recover Muslim-populated Kashmir, which India controls.
kashmi-under-indian-occupationThe “K”  word (the vale of Kashmir) in the Himalayan region continues to mar relations between two nuclear neighbours in South Asia.
The Taliban have also been for Pakistan an important instrument (originally supplied and financed by the United States — but there’s no time to go into that now, although the fact should be kept in mind), in keeping Afghanistan out of hostile hands in Pakistan’s equally long-term effort to control that country as providing Pakistan strategic depth and an additional Muslim bulwark against the threat of India.
Pakistan has made it clear now to Washington — to those who can read between the lines — that it wants no American troops inside Pakistan and no more collateral-damage bombing, and considers the American war in Afghanistan a futile and destructive effort, against whose consequences Pakistan must protect itself.
The growing opinion in Europe is that Afghanistan is the United States’ “new Vietnam.” The truth is that it is worse than Vietnam.
In Vietnam, the United States had a clearly identified enemy, supported by a responsible Communist state in North Vietnam with its government in Hanoi. The U.S. had a theory about what it was doing: suppressing the insurrection in the South, and bombing North Vietnam until the government stopped the war. All of this was, in principle, possible.
However the U.S. acted on a nonsensical theory about the world “going Communist” if the U.S. didn’t win, just as today the U.S. has an even more nonsensical theory about radical Islam conquering Muslim Asia and all of Europe, and then attacking the U.S., if Washington fails.
Unlike the Viet Cong, the Taliban are not a disciplined force acting under some government’s orders, and have neither the intention nor means to attack anybody outside Central Asia. They are motivated by nationalism, today focused against the United States, and by a desire to propagate their form of Islam.
In that respect it’s a war of ideas, which the United States has no theory about how to “win.” There is no way to make the Taliban surrender. At most they will temporarily fade away when U.S. and NATO forces begin to fade away, and fight again another day. There is no Taliban government to bomb. And there is no way to “make” Afghanistan a democratic ally of the United States. The “no’s” have it.
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Source: Mathaba / (c) 2009 Tribune Media Services, Inc. #
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Wall Street Journal Cheers on Obama’s Drone War on Pakistan: “Unmanned Bombs Away”



Lord Bingham, until recently Britain’s senior law lord, has recently said UAV strikes may be “beyond the pale” and potentially on a par with cluster bombs and landmines. Australian counterinsurgency expert David Kilcullen says “the Predator [drone] strikes have an entirely negative effect on Pakistani stability.” He adds, “We should be cutting strikes back pretty substantially.”But Bingham and Kilcullen are naive fools, according to the WSJ editors.
Moreover, they are fools who have been suckered by evil un-embedded reporters. “If you glean your information from wire reports — which depend on stringers who are rarely eyewitnesses,” the editors quip, “the argument [against drone attacks] seems almost plausible.” Right, these “stringers” who often risk their lives to reveal the human toll of U.S. bombings are far less credible than the fat cat editors of the WSJ (some of whom are probably in the Hamptons having servants clip their toe nails or mix their Martinis as I write this).
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WSJ EDITORS ATTACK JOURNALISTS WHO REPORT ON CIVILIAN DEATHS. INSTEAD, THEY SAY, WE SHOULD ALL JUST SHUT UP AND LISTEN TO U.S. INTELLIGENCE AGENCIES.

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by Jeremy Scahill

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The Wall Street Journal is officially in love with President Obama’s undeclared air war inside of Pakistan’s borders. In an unsigned editorial, the paper enthusiastically endorses Obama’s use of predator drones to bomb areas throughout Pakistan. The WSJ editors praises the administration, saying “to its credit, [the White House] has stepped up the use of Predators.” The editors declare: “When Pakistan’s government can exercise sovereignty over all its territory, there will be no need for Predator strikes. In the meantime, unmanned bombs away.”

The paper accurately notes some of the reasons for opposing drone strikes: “the belief that the attacks cause wide-scale casualties among noncombatants, thereby embittering local populations and losing hearts and minds.” The WSJ also accurately reports:

Lord Bingham, until recently Britain’s senior law lord, has recently said UAV strikes may be “beyond the pale” and potentially on a par with cluster bombs and landmines. Australian counterinsurgency expert David Kilcullen says “the Predator [drone] strikes have an entirely negative effect on Pakistani stability.” He adds, “We should be cutting strikes back pretty substantially.”But Bingham and Kilcullen are naive fools, according to the WSJ editors. Moreover, they are fools who have been suckered by evil un-embedded reporters. “If you glean your information from wire reports — which depend on stringers who are rarely eyewitnesses,” the editors quip, “the argument [against drone attacks] seems almost plausible.” Right, these “stringers” who often risk their lives to reveal the human toll of U.S. bombings are far less credible than the fat cat editors of the WSJ (some of whom are probably in the Hamptons having servants clip their toe nails or mix their Martinis as I write this).

The WSJ editors descend from their thrones to mingle among the mortals and teach us the error of our ways:

growing-consensus-against-us-drone-attacks1
Supporters of a religious party Tanzim-e-Islami rallying against U. S. drone strikes in Pakistan’s tribal areas. The banners in Urdu demand on Zardari regime to either leave the government or get Drone attacks stopped.

Yet anyone familiar with Predator technology knows how misleading those reports can be. Unlike fighter jets or cruise missiles, Predators can loiter over their targets for more than 20 hours, take photos in which men, women and children can be clearly distinguished (burqas can be visible from 20,000 feet) and deliver laser-guided munitions with low explosive yields. This minimizes the risks of the “collateral damage” that often comes from 500-pound bombs. Far from being “beyond the pale,” drones have made war-fighting more humane.

Ah, yes, that famous humane war we have all been waiting for. Finally!

The WSJ editors then reveal the highly independent, impeccable source for their information: “A U.S. intelligence summary we’ve seen corrects the record of various media reports claiming high casualties from the Predator strikes.” Wow. Remember when the Bush administration was correcting all those errors about Saddam’s WMDs? Not surprisingly, the WSJ states that “In each of the strikes in 2009 that are described by the intelligence summary, the report says no women or children were killed. Moreover, we know of planned drone attacks that were aborted when Predator cameras spied their presence.”

The WSJ wants this U.S. “intelligence” shared with the American public and the world, arguing, “We understand there will always be issues concerning sources and methods. But critics of the drone attacks, especially Pakistani critics, have become increasingly vocal in their opposition. They deserve to know about the terrorist calamities they’ve been spared thanks to these unmanned flights over their territory.”

Jeremy Scahill is the author of Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army.
Source   Title image
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the ‘Wonders of Pakistan’. The contents of this article too are the sole responsibility of the author(s). WoP will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article.

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