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Taking Uncle Sam for a Ride

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Posted on Apr 18, 2012
AP/K.M.Chaudary

Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, leader of the banned Islamic group Jamaat-ud-Dawa.

By Dilip Hiro, TomDispatch

(Page 3)

In the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, the PCNS finally published a list of preconditions that the U.S. must meet for the reopening of supply lines. These included an unqualified apology for the air strikes last November, an end to drone attacks, no more “hot pursuit” by U.S. or NATO troops inside Pakistan, and the taxing of supplies shipped through Pakistan. Much to the discomfiture of the Obama administration, a joint session of the National Assembly and the Senate called to debate the PCNS report took more than two weeks to reach a conclusion.

On April 12th, the Parliament finally unanimously approved the demands and added that no foreign arms and ammunition should be transported through Pakistan. The Obama administration is spinning this development not as an ultimatum but as a document for launching talks between the two governments.

Even so, it has strengthened Prime Minister Gilani’s hand as never before. Furthermore, he has to take into account the popular support the Saeed-led Difa-e Pakistan Council is building for keeping the Pakistani border crossings permanently closed to NATO traffic. Thus, Saeed, a jihadist with a U.S. bounty on his head, has emerged as an important factor in the complex Islamabad-Washington relationship.

Squeezing Washington: The Patter

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There is, in fact, nothing new in the way Islamabad has been squeezing Washington lately. It has a long record of getting the better of U.S. officials by identifying areas of American weakness and exploiting them successfully to further its agenda.

When the Soviet bloc posed a serious challenge to the U.S., the Pakistanis obtained what they wanted from Washington by being even more anti-Soviet than America. Afghanistan in the 1980s is the classic example. Following the Soviet military intervention there in December 1979, the Pakistani dictator General Muhammad Zia ul-Haq volunteered to join Washington’s Cold War against the Kremlin—but strictly on his terms. He wanted sole control over the billions of dollars in cash and arms to be supplied by the U.S. and its ally Saudi Arabia to the Afghan Mujahedin (holy warriors) to expel the Soviets from Afghanistan. He got it.

That enabled his commanders to channel a third of the new weapons to their own arsenals for future battle against their archenemy, India.  Another third were sold to private arms dealers on profitable terms. When pilfered U.S. weapons began appearing in arms bazaars of the Afghan-Pakistan border towns (as has happened again in recent years), the Pentagon decided to dispatch an audit team to Pakistan. On the eve of its arrival in April 1988, the Ojhiri arms depot complex, containing 10,000 tons of munitions, mysteriously went up in flames, with rockets, missiles, and artillery shells raining down on Islamabad, killing more than 100 people.

By playing on Ronald Reagan’s view of the Soviet Union as “the Evil Empire,” Zia ul-Haq also ensured that the American president would turn a blind eye on Pakistan’s frantic, clandestine efforts to build an atom bomb. Even when the CIA, the National Security Agency, and the State Department determined that a nuclear weapon assembled by Pakistan had been tested at Lop Nor in China in early 1984, Reagan continued to certify to Congress that Islamabad was not pursuing a nuclear weapons program in order to abide by a law which prohibited U.S. aid to a country doing so.

Today, there are an estimated 120 nuclear bombs in the arsenal of a nation that has more Islamist jihadists per million people than any other country in the world. From October 2007 to October 2009, there were at least four attacks by extremists on Pakistani army bases known to be storing nuclear weapons.

In the post-9/11 years, Pakistan’s ruler General Pervez Musharraf managed to repeat the process in the context of a new Afghan war.  He promptly joined President George W. Bush in his Global War on Terror, and then went on to distinguish between “bad terrorists” with a global agenda (al-Qaeda), and “good terrorists” with a pro-Pakistani agenda (the Afghan Taliban). Musharraf’s ISI then proceeded to protect and foster the Afghan Taliban, while periodically handing over al-Qaeda militants to Washington. In this way, Musharraf played on Bush’s soft spot—his intense loathing of al-Qaeda—and exploited it to further Pakistan’s regional agenda.


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M Henri Day's avatar

By M Henri Day, April 19, 2012 at 7:30 am Link to this comment

«Now, the widely expected release of the latest round of funds from the Pentagon’s CSF will raise total U.S. military aid to Islamabad since 9/11 to $14.2 billion, two-and-a-half times the Pakistani military’s annual budget.» Considering, Dilip, that this figure represents approximately a thousandth part of the amount of money that the United States government has spent on its military and security related budgets during this same period, those who reap immense profits from this type of spending must regard such «aid» to Pakistan (for which the inhabitants of that country are no doubt deeply grateful) as a bargain. Which, of course, is why it - and the military spending of which it constitutes a minor part - continues, year after year, decade after decade. It will cease only when people in the US, in whose name this spending is done and from whom the largest portion of the resources to support it are extracted, decide to put an end to it, or when the Chinese people, who pay for much of the rest, do the same. In that event, look for still more of what I believe frequent Truthdig columnist William Pfaff would refer to as «turbulence»....

Henri

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DonSchneider's avatar

By DonSchneider, April 19, 2012 at 5:37 am Link to this comment

When you have been party to digging the deepest useless hole that you know you
will soon have to abandon, at what point do you decide to lay down the shovels ? 
What purpose does it serve to abandon an even deeper hole ?  Who is it that will
be so enamored with our digging prowess that we cannot afford to stop less they
be disappointed ?

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By gerard, April 18, 2012 at 10:42 pm Link to this comment

Possibly the most important sentence (near the end):
“As your planet-wide activities become ever more diverse, frenzied, and even contradictory, you expose yourself to exploitation by lesser powers otherwise seemingly tied to your apron strings.”

More proof that we’re in over our heads.It is hard to
believe that surveillance,droning, Koran-burning and dismemberment of corpses are viable substitutes for reassessment, restraint, and systematic moves toward immediate and progressive disengagement.

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By heterochromatic, April 18, 2012 at 1:43 pm Link to this comment

and gee, the US gives more aid money to Pakistan than to Israel….....


pointing out that Pakistan is a totally corrupt, bankrupt, unjust state that has
nurtured terrorists on its territory does little to guide how we should deal with the
beast, but does point to disengagement from them as possibly unwise.

we’re stuck with them and it’s going to be slow going and is possibly the primary
reason why we’re not getting out of Afghanistan real soon.

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