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Blaming Pakistan for a Lost War

By Eric S. Margolis |  September 30, 2011

It’s awfully hard for the world’s greatest power to admit its high-tech military forces are being beaten in Afghanistan by a bunch of lightly-armed mountain tribesmen.

But that’s what’s happening. Washington is blaming everyone else for the bloody fiasco in Afghanistan, the “Graveyard of Empires.” Right now, the chief whipping boy for US fury is Pakistan, still officially called a “strategic US ally.”

Last  week, outgoing U.S. chief of staff Adm. Mike Mullen accused Pakistan’s intelligence agency, ISI, of being behind recent high-profile attacks against U.S. targets in Afghanistan staged by the Haqqani network, one of the Taliban’s coalition fighting foreign occupation. The Pentagon accused the Haqqani network of being “a virtual arm” of ISI. Pakistan strongly denied the charges.

The U.S. is reacting with blind rage rather than careful thought. The example of the Soviet defeat in Afghanistan of 1989 increasingly haunts Washington.

Ironically, as I saw myself in the 1980s, the US itself created the Haqqani network, arming and funding these “freedom fighters.”

One of the United States Senate’s dimmest members, influential Republican Lindsay Graham, threatens attacks on Pakistan “to defend U.S. troops” from “terrorism.”

That’s pretty rich. America invades a country, brands any who resist as “terrorists,” then must invade Pakistan to “protect” its invading troops. Meanwhile, the U.S. is paying bankrupt Pakistan $7.5 billion over five years to sustain the war in Afghanistan.

Ever since the days of George W. Bush, U.S. policy in the Muslim world has been driven by a combination of imperial arrogance and profound ignorance.

When the United States was preparing to invade Iraq in 2003, I had dinner with three of Bush’s most senior advisors. “Tell us about Iraq, Eric,” they asked. As I spoke of Kurds, Sunnis, assorted Shia, and Yazdis, their eyes glazed over.

“Just give us the bottom line,” snapped one Alpha Republican. “The bottom line,” I replied, “is don’t get involved in a messy country you don’t understand at all.”

Well, here we go again with Pakistan. Hardly any senior members of the Obama administration understand complex Pakistan.

But these bulls in South Asia’s china shop are ready to charge in, heedless of the facts.

Threatening war against Pakistan, a nation of 180 million with a tough military, is the height of folly. Pakistan controls most of the supply routes essential to U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan. Most Pakistanis now consider the U.S. a bigger enemy than old foe India.

Even crazier, Washington is making warlike threats against nuclear-armed Pakistan, a close ally of China, an important nuclear power. So far, Beijing has been cautious yet firm in its support of old ally, Pakistan.

But U.S. attacks on Pakistan that go beyond the current raids by CIA drones could draw China into a confrontation with the United States. China has quietly made clear it will not allow the U.S. to tear apart Pakistan in order to grab Islamabad’s Chinese-aided nuclear arsenal.

More craziness: The United States under both Bush and Barack Obama has been trying to get India militarily involved in Afghanistan. But the Indians were too clever to send combat troops into Afghanistan.

Washington then gave India a green light to pour intelligence agents and money into Afghanistan to support the anti-Taliban Tajik, Uzbek and Hazara minorities. The US has greatly aided the buildup of India’s nuclear arsenal—which has only two targets: Pakistan and China.

All this, of course, has set off alarm bells in Islamabad, which sees Afghanistan as its strategic backyard. Russia is also watching this drama with growing unease.

The strategic interests of Pakistan and the United States are different, often in conflict. Yet the U.S. “put a gun to our head,” in the words of a former ISI director (confirmed by former President Pervez Musharraf) and forced Pakistan to join the war against Taliban, a close Pakistani ally and strategic asset.

Why should Pakistan forsake its own strategic interests for those of the United States,  whose confused, erratic foreign policy is largely run by domestic special interest groups?

A blowup between Pakistan and its sometime American patron would be a calamity for all concerned. Expanding a war into the intersection of the interests of four nuclear-armed powers is the height of irresponsibility and manic behavior.

Copyright  2011 Eric S. Margolis 

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