What would be the best way to pull America — and the world — out of the dizzying spiral of the "War on Terror," which has spread death, destruction and extremism across the globe?
Why, invading Pakistan, of course! Yes, sending American tanks, troops and warplanes into the only Islamic nation with a nuclear arsenal — and a large, angry, powerful and growing fundamentalist movement to boot — would obviously be an act of wise and prudent statecraft. It is, after all, the very strategy now being advocated by such brilliant counselors as William Kristol and his doughty comrades in the ever-expanding "Long War" against evilism'.
That's why we were truly heartened to see Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama boldly step across the partisan divide and embrace the policies of the Full Spectrum Dominators in his "major foreign policy speech" on Wednesday. Obama declared that if the Pakistani government did not start a wholesale slaughter of its own people in the tribal lands on the Afghan border, where no government writ has ever run, then when he is president he will send in American troops to do the job.
Of course, the Bush Administration is already carrying out military operations in the border region, with drone attacks, air strikes, and the presence of clandestine units in the area. And, through various friendly "independent" analysts and government dogsbodies, the Bushists have recently begun dropping heavy hints about increasing its "footprint" in Pakistan. But thus far, the White House has refrained from promising a direct military intervention on the territory of its ostensible ally — and act which would almost certainly bring down the already-crumbling dictatorship of General Pervez Musharraf and plunge the nation, and its nuclear arsenal, into violent sectarian chaos.
But bold Obama is not afraid to go where Bushists fear to tread. In a speech at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars — a venue named after the patron saint of "humanitarian intervention" — the young senator struck back at critics of his foreign policy inexperience by throwing gobs of red meat to the permanent war crowd. Taking pains to "reassure Americans that his long-stated opposition to the war in Iraq would not make him hesitant to vigorously pursue extremists who threaten the United States," as the Washington Post put it, Obama said he would "end" the war in Iraq, and some thousands of U.S. troops from there to "the right battlefield in Afghanistan and Pakistan."
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Of course, Obama's bold plan to "end" the war, as outlined on his website, involves leaving a large contingent of US troops in Iraq to "engage in counter-terrorism" — which is what the entire 160,000-strong occupation force is ostensibly doing, and failing at, right now — and to "continue the training of Iraqi security forces," i.e., keep arming and paying sectarian militias to kill each other and loot the government. This is the kind of "anti-war" stance that only a militarist could love. Indeed, as we said here the other day:
Any "withdrawal" plan that includes a "residual force" in Iraq is simply a perpetuation of the current war crime by other means...and constitutes "mission accomplished" for one of Bush's primary aims in this war of aggression: a permanent military presence in Iraq. Client regime; oil law; permanent bases: these are the Holy Trinity of Bush's ungodly enterprise...and most of the Democrats in Congress share those goals, since every one of their oh-so-bold "antiwar" measures would give Bush what he ultimately wants: a client regime hustling to meet "benchmarks" set by Washington – including an oil law opening up the conquered nation's patrimony to Western interests – all safeguarded by a continuing American military presence.
Barack salted the red meat of Wednesday's speech with some pleasing noises about prohibiting torture and closing what the Washington Post is pleased to call the "military prison" at Guantanamo Bay, where hundreds of non-combatants have been held, some of them for years. That would be nice for him to do, of course, but he seems strangely content to let these abuses continue unabated until he takes office in 2009. He is a United States senator, after all; nothing prevents him from introducing measures in Congress to start rolling back the authoritarian usurpations of the Bush Regime right now. He wouldn't even sign on as co-sponsor of the now-stalled "Restoring the Constitution Act," which would repeal some of the monstrosities in last year's habeas corpus-killing "Military Commissions Act."
But the bulk of the speech was given over to establishing Obama's Terror War bona fides. Repeatedly evoking 9/11, he declared that "when I am president, we will wage a war that has to be won...The terrorists are at war with us...the threat is real." So there will be more war in an Obama administration, just in case you weren't sure about that, with Barack being so anti-war and all. But as another young politician from Illinois, Abraham Lincoln, once said (in a 1838 speech often noted by Gore Vidal):
It is to deny what the history of the world tells us is true to suppose that men of ambitions and talents will not continue to spring up amongst us. And when they do, they will as naturally seek the gratification of their ruling passions as others have done before them. The question, then, is can that gratification be found in supporting and maintaining an edifice that has been erected by others? Most certainly it cannot.
Obama, like almost all the other candidates, wants to continue the Terror War — and the vast global military empire that it feeds. But he wants his own Terror War , not Bush's. Iraq is Bush's thing; the fact that it has been a disaster makes it easier to put it on the back burner, but even if it had been a "success," a new president would still seek new fields of glory for reaping. Pakistan is apparently Obama's choice (although he is clearly not averse to an attack on Iran, either). In fact, Obama said in his speech that the greatest threat to America's security today lies "in the tribal regions of northwest Pakistan." The greatest threat, in this war that must be waged and must be won, is in Pakistan. The very lives of the American people depend on subjugating these "recalcitrant tribes," as Winston Churchill once called the Muslims he advocated bombing and gassing.
So it looks as though the parents, children and spouses of American soldiers will have to start learning yet another set of strange foreign names — cities, towns, hamlets, mountains, rivers, wastelands — where their loved ones will be dying, and killing, for the gratification of the ruling passions of our ambitious leaders.
UPDATE: The Guardian's Declan Walsh has more on the meltdown in Pakistan in this report from Islmabad: Disaster looms in land built for peace and harmony. It's worth reading for the full background, but below are some excerpts directly touching on the themes of this post:
Gen Musharraf is also under fierce pressure from the White House, where some officials seem to think they invaded the wrong country after 9/11. The US has given Gen Musharraf's government $10bn (£4.9bn) in aid. But now, frustrated with Pakistan's slippery approach, policymakers feel they have been short-changed. Last week the US Congress passed a law aggressively linking aid to progress in the "war on terror".
Hawkish officials suggested that unilateral strikes on al-Qaida bases in Waziristan might be the only way to prevent a fresh attack on the US. "We must be clear with Gen Musharraf that if Pakistan won't take out al-Qaida, the United States will," Lee Hamilton, a member of President George Bush's homeland security advisory council, wrote on Monday.
Ah yes, good old Lee Hamilton. From Iran-Contra to the 9/11 Commission to the Iraq Study Group, when whitewash is needed to cover government butts or "bipartisan resolve" is required to bolster some new imperial outrage, this "moderate Democrat" is always there, a safe pair of hands for toting Establishment water. Back to the Guardian:
The Pakistani government is angered and alarmed [by the American moves]. "Irresponsible ... counterproductive," thundered the foreign minister, Khurshid Kasuri, last week. "This may be election season in the United States but it should not be at our expense," he said.
Analysts say strikes are unlikely in the short term. But what is certain is that anti-American hostility is becoming deeper and more bitter. "Red Mosque, Waziristan - this is all being manipulated by America," said accountancy student Mazhar Qayyum in Islamabad. "They've just been playing us since 9/11 - paying dollars and turning the Pakistani army into killers of Muslims."
Yes, that's just what we want to do: radicalize secular students in the secular capital. The growing bipartisan consensus for an attack on Pakistan — led by the "anti-war liberal" Obama and the "moderate centrist" Hamilton — is just one more example of the Terror War's extremely curious propensity for making the Islamic extremists' dreams come true. At every stage of the Terror War, Bush and his willing executioners in the Democratic Party have confirmed the most provocative and radical charges of extremist leaders like bin Laden. They have waged war — directly and by proxy — on a succession of Islamic nations, and wrought a vast hell of ruin and death in the Muslim heartland of Iraq. Bush and his Democrats have elevated a gaggle of criminal extremists, Muslim apostates and third-rate birdbrains into perceived standard-bearers for resistance to a war on Islam, and given them the global stature — and worldwide war — they have long craved but never could have achieved on their own. Bush and his Democrats have instigated and countenanced horrible atrocities which have destroyed the credibility of "Western civilization," and tainted anyone who seeks to make the best of a bad job by working with the Western attackers in hopes of building a better future when (and if) they leave. Bush and his Democrats have ensured that we will have at least a generation — and probably more — of sectarian-based war and chaos, and the highly profitable "counterterrorism" and "counter-insurgency" efforts that go with it.
Why, you'd almost think they are trying to foment endless war and fear and carnage. Or else that they're too stupid to pull their own heads out of a beehive. (Or both; for obviously you'd have to be the latter to push a strategy like the former.)
At any rate, here we are again: a bipartisan coalescence behind a bellicose policy guaranteed to exacerbate the very problem it purports to address. We've said it before and we'll keep on saying it: in addition to all the greed, vanity, ambition and bloodlust animating the Terror War, there is genuine madness at work here. And it keeps on getting worse, with no cure in sight.
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