Sunday, October 12, 2008

Neocon Hitchens For Obama's Tough Pakistan Policy


Christopher Hitchens, a neo-conservative British author and journalist, has shown strong Islamophobic bias and, more recently, he has been speaking in support of Barack Obama's tough stance on Pakistan. He claims that "Pakistan Is the Problem and Barack Obama seems to be the only candidate willing to face it".
He further adds, "American liberals can't quite face the fact that if their man does win in November, and if he has meant a single serious word he's ever said, it means more war, and more bitter and protracted war at that—not less".

Christopher Hitchens used to identify with the liberal left. More recently, however, he has embraced mainly right-wing causes espoused by the American neo-conservatives in the Bush administration, most notably the Iraq War. Formerly a Trotskyist and a fixture in the left wing publications of both the United Kingdom and United States, Hitchens departed from the grassroots of the political left in 1989 after what he called the "tepid reaction" of the European left following Ayatollah Khomeini's issue of a fatwa calling for the death of Salman Rushdie, but he has stated on the Charlie Rose show aired August 2007 that he remains a "democratic Socialist." The September 11, 2001 attacks strengthened his strong support of an interventionist foreign policy, and his loud criticism of what he calls "fascism with an Islamic face." He is known for his ardent admiration of George Orwell, Thomas Paine and Thomas Jefferson, and for his excoriating critiques of Mother Teresa, Henry Kissinger, and Bill Clinton.

Here is what Hitchens wrote recently for Slate:

An excellent article by Fraser Nelson in London's Spectator at the end of July put it as succinctly as I have seen it:

At a recent dinner party in the British embassy in Kabul, one of the guests referred to "the Afghan-Pakistan war." The rest of the table fell silent. This is the truth that dare not speak its name. Even mentioning it in private in the Afghan capital's green zone is enough to solicit murmurs of disapproval. Few want to accept that the war is widening; that it now involves Pakistan, a country with an unstable government and nuclear weapons.

"Don't mention the war," as Basil insists with mounting hysteria in Fawlty Towers. And, when discussing the deepening crisis in Afghanistan, most people seem deliberately to avoid such telling phrases as "Pakistani aggression" or—more accurate still—"Pakistani colonialism." The truth is that the Taliban, and its al-Qaida guests, were originally imposed on Afghanistan from without as a projection of Pakistani state power. (Along with Pakistan, only Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates ever recognized the Taliban as the legal government in Kabul.) Important circles in Pakistan have never given up the aspiration to run Afghanistan as a client or dependent or proxy state, and this colonial mindset is especially well-entrenched among senior army officers and in the Inter-Services Intelligence agency, or ISI.

We were all warned of this many years ago. When the Clinton administration sent cruise missiles into Afghanistan in reprisal for the attacks on our embassies in East Africa, the missiles missed Osama Bin Ladin but did, if you remember, manage to kill two officers of the ISI. It wasn't asked loudly enough: What were these men doing in an al-Qaida camp in the first place? In those years, as in earlier ones, almost no tough questions were asked of Pakistan. Successive U.S. administrations used to keep certifying to Congress that Pakistan was not exploiting U.S. aid (and U.S. indulgence over the anti-Soviet war in Afghanistan) to build itself a nuclear weapons capacity. Indeed, it wasn't until after Sept. 11, 2001, that we allowed ourselves to learn that at least two of Pakistan's top nuclear scientists—Mirza Yusuf Baig and Chaudhry Abdul Majid—had been taken in for "questioning" about their close links to the Taliban. But then, in those days, we were too incurious to take note of the fact that Pakistan's chief nuclear operative, A.Q. Khan, had opened a private-enterprise "Nukes 'R' Us" market and was selling his apocalyptic wares to regimes as disparate as Libya and North Korea, sometimes using Pakistani air force planes to make the deliveries.

The very name Pakistan inscribes the nature of the problem. It is not a real country or nation but an acronym devised in the 1930s by a Muslim propagandist for partition named Chaudhary Rahmat Ali. It stands for Punjab, Afghania, Kashmir, and Indus-Sind. The stan suffix merely means "land." In the Urdu language, the resulting acronym means "land of the pure." It can be easily seen that this very name expresses expansionist tendencies and also conceals discriminatory ones. Kashmir, for example, is part of India. The Afghans are Muslim but not part of Pakistan. Most of Punjab is also in India. Interestingly, too, there is no B in this cobbled-together name, despite the fact that the country originally included the eastern part of Bengal (now Bangladesh, after fighting a war of independence against genocidal Pakistani repression) and still includes Baluchistan, a restive and neglected province that has been fighting a low-level secessionist struggle for decades. The P comes first only because Pakistan is essentially the property of the Punjabi military caste (which hated Benazir Bhutto, for example, because she came from Sind). As I once wrote, the country's name "might as easily be rendered as 'Akpistan' or 'Kapistan,' depending on whether the battle to take over Afghanistan or Kashmir is to the fore."

I could have phrased that a bit more tightly, since the original Pakistani motive for annexing and controlling Afghanistan is precisely the acquisition of "strategic depth" for its never-ending confrontation with India over Kashmir. And that dispute became latently thermonuclear while we simply looked on. One of the most creditable (and neglected) foreign-policy shifts of the Bush administration after 9/11 was away from our dangerous regional dependence on the untrustworthy and ramshackle Pakistan and toward a much more generous rapprochement with India, the world's other great federal, democratic, and multiethnic state.

Recent accounts of murderous violence in the capital cities of two of our allies, India and Afghanistan, make it appear overwhelmingly probable that the bombs were not the work of local or homegrown "insurgents" but were orchestrated by agents of the Pakistani ISI. This is a fantastically unacceptable state of affairs, which needs to be given its right name of state-sponsored terrorism. Meanwhile, and on Pakistani soil and under the very noses of its army and the ISI, the city of Quetta and the so-called Federally Administered Tribal Areas are becoming the incubating ground of a reorganized and protected al-Qaida. Sen. Barack Obama has, if anything, been the more militant of the two presidential candidates in stressing the danger here and the need to act without too much sentiment about our so-called Islamabad ally. He began using this rhetoric when it was much simpler to counterpose the "good" war in Afghanistan with the "bad" one in Iraq. Never mind that now; he is committed in advance to a serious projection of American power into the heartland of our deadliest enemy. And that, I think, is another reason why so many people are reluctant to employ truthful descriptions for the emerging Afghan-Pakistan confrontation: American liberals can't quite face the fact that if their man does win in November, and if he has meant a single serious word he's ever said, it means more war, and more bitter and protracted war at that—not less.

Related Links:

Don't Mention Afghan-Pakistan War

Obama's Point Man on South Asia

McCain and Obama Debate Pakistan Policy

US, NATO Fighting to Stalemate

5 comments:

Riaz Haq said...

In his post on Slate today, Christopher Hitchens has appealed for people to vote for Obama. I guess Obama's war rhetoric against Pakistan is attracting the pro-war neocons such as Hitchens.
Here is the text of the article:

Vote for Obama
McCain lacks the character and temperament to be president.
And Palin is simply a disgrace.
By Christopher Hitchens
Posted Monday, Oct. 13, 2008, at 10:44 AM ET

I used to nod wisely when people said: "Let's discuss issues rather than personalities." It seemed so obvious that in politics an issue was an issue and a personality was a personality, and that the more one could separate the two, the more serious one was. After all, in a debate on serious issues, any mention of the opponent's personality would be ad hominem at best and at worst would stoop as low as ad feminam.

At my old English boarding school, we had a sporting saying that one should "tackle the ball and not the man." I carried on echoing this sort of unexamined nonsense for quite some time—in fact, until the New Hampshire primary of 1992, when it hit me very forcibly that the "personality" of one of the candidates was itself an "issue." In later years, I had little cause to revise my view that Bill Clinton's abysmal character was such as to be a "game changer" in itself, at least as important as his claim to be a "new Democrat." To summarize what little I learned from all this: A candidate may well change his or her position on, say, universal health care or Bosnia. But he or she cannot change the fact—if it happens to be a fact—that he or she is a pathological liar, or a dimwit, or a proud ignoramus. And even in the short run, this must and will tell.

On "the issues" in these closing weeks, there really isn't a very sharp or highly noticeable distinction to be made between the two nominees, and their "debates" have been cramped and boring affairs as a result. But the difference in character and temperament has become plainer by the day, and there is no decent way of avoiding the fact. Last week's so-called town-hall event showed Sen. John McCain to be someone suffering from an increasingly obvious and embarrassing deficit, both cognitive and physical. And the only public events that have so far featured his absurd choice of running mate have shown her to be a deceiving and unscrupulous woman utterly unversed in any of the needful political discourses but easily trained to utter preposterous lies and to appeal to the basest element of her audience. McCain occasionally remembers to stress matters like honor and to disown innuendoes and slanders, but this only makes him look both more senile and more cynical, since it cannot (can it?) be other than his wish and design that he has engaged a deputy who does the innuendoes and slanders for him.

I suppose it could be said, as Michael Gerson has alleged, that the Obama campaign's choice of the word erratic to describe McCain is also an insinuation. But really, it's only a euphemism. Anyone with eyes to see and ears to hear had to feel sorry for the old lion on his last outing and wish that he could be taken somewhere soothing and restful before the night was out. The train-wreck sentences, the whistlings in the pipes, the alarming and bewildered handhold phrases—"My friends"—to get him through the next 10 seconds. I haven't felt such pity for anyone since the late Adm. James Stockdale humiliated himself as Ross Perot's running mate. And I am sorry to have to say it, but Stockdale had also distinguished himself in America's most disastrous and shameful war, and it didn't qualify him then and it doesn't qualify McCain now.

The most insulting thing that a politician can do is to compel you to ask yourself: "What does he take me for?" Precisely this question is provoked by the selection of Gov. Sarah Palin. I wrote not long ago that it was not right to condescend to her just because of her provincial roots or her piety, let alone her slight flirtatiousness, but really her conduct since then has been a national disgrace. It turns out that none of her early claims to political courage was founded in fact, and it further turns out that some of the untested rumors about her—her vindictiveness in local quarrels, her bizarre religious and political affiliations—were very well-founded, indeed. Moreover, given the nasty and lowly task of stirring up the whack-job fringe of the party's right wing and of recycling patent falsehoods about Obama's position on Afghanistan, she has drawn upon the only talent that she apparently possesses.

It therefore seems to me that the Republican Party has invited not just defeat but discredit this year, and that both its nominees for the highest offices in the land should be decisively repudiated, along with any senators, congressmen, and governors who endorse them.

I used to call myself a single-issue voter on the essential question of defending civilization against its terrorist enemies and their totalitarian protectors, and on that "issue" I hope I can continue to expose and oppose any ambiguity. Obama is greatly overrated in my opinion, but the Obama-Biden ticket is not a capitulationist one, even if it does accept the support of the surrender faction, and it does show some signs of being able and willing to profit from experience. With McCain, the "experience" is subject to sharply diminishing returns, as is the rest of him, and with Palin the very word itself is a sick joke. One only wishes that the election could be over now and a proper and dignified verdict rendered, so as to spare democracy and civility the degradation to which they look like being subjected in the remaining days of a low, dishonest campaign.

Nayyar Hashmey said...

Now that Barack H. Obama is going to take over the presidency of the United States of America, it is imminent to read the mind of this man, his policy, which he is going to adopt for a country like Pakistan. From what we learn about his career as a human being, he seems to be a person who has been reared under varying religious environment. This probably played a big role in forming his chemistry as a human being. But his persona as a politician and would be President of the US, is perhaps totally a different story. When he says he will invade Pakistan to flush out terrorists in our northern areas, then we see a big question mark on his future thinking, specially when neocons like Christopher Hitchens and the ilk seem to have joined the Democrats bandwagon before and after his victory and as my friend Eric S. Margolis asserts in his latest essay (The World applauds Obama's Victory on http://wondersofpakistan.blogspot.com) says "Equally important, Republicans must delouse the party of its neocon infestation and bring in foreign policy experts who put America’s interests above those of foreign nations. The Democrats also need be wary: the necons, smelling impending disaster, began jumping the Republican ship well before elections and are now burrowing into the Democratic Party."

Now these are the guys who almost dictated the policies of George W Bush which brought the whole world into a panic and bloodshed, if they too sitting alongside the democratic desks would inspire, motivate or navigate the foreign policy of the democrats, I think the world will be doomed. Let's hope this does n't happen and am quite confident this will not. The only thing is that the would be President of the US need to come to Pakistan and have a look over the on ground situation himself, am sure he will not need much effort to convince himself that all Pakistanis are not al-Qaeda guys and to flush out terrorists out of our north should be left to Pakistan's political forces, its people and the army.

We are being made to believe that this war on terror is our war. However, like me most of Pakistanis don't believe its our war until and unless US seems to share with its knowledge, resources and its policies on people to people basis and not between secret agents of the CIA, Mosad, RAW or even the ISI and corrupt military generals or over- corrupted civilian politicians in power or likely to come in to power.

Riaz Haq said...

As Obama ponders US policy and more US troops in Afghanistan, there are echoes of Soviet defeat, according to BBC:

By the late 1980s, Moscow's exit strategy was basically the same as Nato's today - to build up an allied government in Kabul with sufficient trained army and police forces to defend itself, thereby allowing foreign troops to leave.

But even with the backing of a 100,000-strong Soviet army and billions of rubles in aid, the Afghan government struggled to establish its legitimacy and authority much beyond the capital - much like President Hamid Karzai's Western-backed administration today.

This bleak assessment of the situation in late 1986 by the Soviet armed forces commander, Marshal Sergei Akhromeev, sounds eerily familiar.

"Military actions in Afghanistan will soon be seven years old," Mr Akhromeev told Mr Gorbachev at a November 1986 Politburo session.

"There is no single piece of land in this country which has not been occupied by a Soviet soldier. Nonetheless, the majority of the territory remains in the hands of rebels.

"The whole problem is that military results are not followed up by political actions. At the centre there is authority; in the provinces there is not.

"We control Kabul and the provincial centers, but on occupied territory we cannot establish authority. We have lost the battle for the Afghan people".

By that point, Soviet trainers had created an Afghan army 160,000-strong - double the size of the force Nato has trained so far - together with thousands of much-feared secret policemen.

Yet once Soviet forces had left, they could do little more than defend Kabul and a few other cities.

Only massive military aid, coupled with incompetence and in-fighting among the US-backed mujahideen opposition, allowed the Afghan government Moscow left behind to cling on in Kabul for a few more years before finally collapsing.

There were familiar problems too with the financial assistance Moscow gave.

It hoped the funds would bolster the capacity of the Afghan government and pay for projects that would benefit people, winning hearts and minds.

However corruption rendered much of its useless.

As the Politburo discussed a new aid request from Kabul in January 1987, Marshal Sergei Sokolov said: "In 1981, we gave them 100m roubles of free assistance. And all of that went to the elite. And there was nothing in the hamlets - no kerosene, no matches."

Riaz Haq said...

Here is a BBC report about Taliban's brazen Kabul attacks and how the Afghan Taliban deliberately avoided civilian casualties, unlike the Pakistani Taliban:

The Taliban, we learned later, having failed to storm the government buildings they had at first targeted, sought shelter elsewhere.

At least four went into a crowded shopping centre.

If their intention had been to kill as many people as possible, it would have been achievable there.

But they didn't. They ordered everyone - shoppers and shopkeepers alike - out. Soon the building was on fire.

The Taliban fighters died amid the flames, most of them in a volley of gunfire, while the last man alive blew himself up.

The number of civilians who died was - given the scale of what was happening - surprisingly low.

From Pakistan, we learned, a Taliban spokesman had called a news agency, while the attack was still under way, to announce that 20 of its militants were involved.

The public relations management was as vital to the perpetrators as the co-ordination of the attack itself.

This care, this determination to avoid civilian deaths is now part of the conflict in Afghanistan.

It is something the Taliban shares with its Nato enemies.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's Paul Krugman's Op Ed in NY Times on 10th anniversary of Iraq war:

So did our political elite and our news media learn from this experience? It sure doesn’t look like it.

The really striking thing, during the run-up to the war, was the illusion of consensus. To this day, pundits who got it wrong excuse themselves on the grounds that “everyone” thought that there was a solid case for war. Of course, they acknowledge, there were war opponents — but they were out of the mainstream.

The trouble with this argument is that it was and is circular: support for the war became part of the definition of what it meant to hold a mainstream opinion. Anyone who dissented, no matter how qualified, was ipso facto labeled as unworthy of consideration. This was true in political circles; it was equally true of much of the press, which effectively took sides and joined the war party.

CNN’s Howard Kurtz, who was at The Washington Post at the time, recently wrote about how this process worked, how skeptical reporting, no matter how solid, was discouraged and rejected. “Pieces questioning the evidence or rationale for war,” he wrote, “were frequently buried, minimized or spiked.”

Closely associated with this taking of sides was an exaggerated and inappropriate reverence for authority. Only people in positions of power were considered worthy of respect. Mr. Kurtz tells us, for example, that The Post killed a piece on war doubts by its own senior defense reporter on the grounds that it relied on retired military officials and outside experts — “in other words, those with sufficient independence to question the rationale for war.”

All in all, it was an object lesson in the dangers of groupthink, a demonstration of how important it is to listen to skeptical voices and separate reporting from advocacy. But as I said, it’s a lesson that doesn’t seem to have been learned. Consider, as evidence, the deficit obsession that has dominated our political scene for the past three years.

Now, I don’t want to push the analogy too far. Bad economic policy isn’t the moral equivalent of a war fought on false pretenses, and while the predictions of deficit scolds have been wrong time and again, there hasn’t been any development either as decisive or as shocking as the complete failure to find weapons of mass destruction. Best of all, these days dissenters don’t operate in the atmosphere of menace, the sense that raising doubts could have devastating personal and career consequences, that was so pervasive in 2002 and 2003. (Remember the hate campaign against the Dixie Chicks?)

But now as then we have the illusion of consensus, an illusion based on a process in which anyone questioning the preferred narrative is immediately marginalized, no matter how strong his or her credentials. And now as then the press often seems to have taken sides. It has been especially striking how often questionable assertions are reported as fact. How many times, for example, have you seen news articles simply asserting that the United States has a “debt crisis,” even though many economists would argue that it faces no such thing?

In fact, in some ways the line between news and opinion has been even more blurred on fiscal issues than it was in the march to war. As The Post’s Ezra Klein noted last month, it seems that “the rules of reportorial neutrality don’t apply when it comes to the deficit.”

What we should have learned from the Iraq debacle was that you should always be skeptical and that you should never rely on supposed authority. If you hear that “everyone” supports a policy, whether it’s a war of choice or fiscal austerity, you should ask whether “everyone” has been defined to exclude anyone expressing a different opinion. ...


http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/18/opinion/krugman-marches-of-folly.html?_r=0