The nightmare scenario that the "War on Terror" is ostensibly meant to address -- with its massive outlay of tax dollars and death -- is now coming to pass: an Islamic nation which has extensive ties to sectarian terrorism, a nuclear arsenal and a proven record of blackmarket proliferation of WMD technology is collapsing into the status of a failed state. But of course this scenario doesn't apply to any of the three countries already shattered by Terror War "shock and awe" -- Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia -- nor to the country squarely in the crosshairs of the next wave of war crime: Iran. No, the nightmare scenario has become a reality in the country that perhaps more than any other has benefited from Washington's Terror War largess -- Pakistan.
As the world knows, Bush ally Pervez Musharraf has stripped off the "constitutional" drag that he pranced around in so awkwardly since seizing power in 1999 and has now emerged in his true guise: a military tyrant, ruling by force and repression. His seizure of emergency powers last week is a screaming confirmation of the chaos and collapse that authoritarian rule has brought to Pakistan. His alliance with Bush as a firm Terror War "partner" has done nothing to quell the spread of Islamic extremism in the region nor cut off the vast safe havens for al Qaeda and the Taliban within Pakistan itself. On the contrary, this partnership of authoritarian poltroons has seen only the spread of Islamic fundamentalism much deeper into Pakistan's society and government, while the Taliban and its allies have only grown stronger in their Pakistani redoubts. Brutal ethnic crackdowns in Baluchistan have only aggravated the separatist sentiments and violence in that key province, while Musharraf's attacks on the judiciary and cynical backroom dealing with the hugely corrupt former prime minister, Benazir Bhutto (a deal brokered in Washington), made malicious mockery of the claims of "democratic reform" long trumpeted by the dictator and his political bedfellow in the Oval Office.
Looking at all this, one might be forgiven a cynical suspicion that the Bush-Mush alliance was not really aimed at fighting terrorism or quelling extremism or establishing democracy, but had much more to do with, say, the nearly $10 billion in arms that Bush has given his friend -- a pass-through of American taxpayer money to the war industry cronies of the White House. A slice of that pork is then funneled back into the operations of the corporatist-militarist political machine (and its various bootlicking media and "think tank" subsidiaries). As we have noted here many times before, this endless loop of war profits poured into the coffers of warmongers allows the latter to continue skewing the political landscape vastly in favor of their radical elitist agenda.
No doubt there are many in the government and the military who sincerely believe they are "fighting terrorism" -- or at least trying to -- in carrying out the policies of the Bush Administration. Hence the growing frustration we hear from various retired generals, foreign service officers, intelligence agents, media mandarins etc., about the "incompetence" of Bush's policies, the complaints about how ill-informed, wrongheaded and counterproductive the Administration's approaches are. But two demonstrably false assumptions lie at the bottom of this frustration: first, that the Administration's policies are actually designed (however badly) to address the issue of violent sectarian extremism; and second, that the best way to combat terrorism is by practicing terrorism -- state terrorism -- on a monumental scale.
The "War on Terror" is the justification for the implementation of the long-held radical agenda of the corporatist-militarists to extend their armed dominion over world political and economic affairs, and to transform American society into an elitist playground of unfettered corporate rapine, where a gilded sliver lord it over a shattered, dispossessed and powerless people. This has been a long-term project, going back many decades, but has accelerated with dizzying speed since 1980, with both parties eagerly embracing and advancing the tenets of free market fundamentalism. This process has been described many times before, but Naomi Klein's new book, The Shock Doctrine, is an excellent summary, analysis and updating of this grim history. The degradation of the quality of life for ordinary Americans at the hands of this extremist doctrine is painfully evident and undeniable to most Americans over the age of, say 40 to 45, who came to adulthood before the real frenzy of this war against the American people began.
Naturally, there are many people who, as in all societies under assault, will deny the evidence of their own eyes and embrace the boot planted on their necks. But Klein's description of Chile after the "economic miracle" wrought by Pinochet's cattle prods and Milton Friedman's "shock therapy" is like a portrait of America after the relentless assaults of the Reagan-Bush, Bush, Clinton and Bush years:
...An urban bubble of frenetic speculation and dubious accounting fueling superprofits and frantic consumerism, ringed by the ghostly factories and rotting infrastructure of a development past; roughly half the population excluded from the economy altogether; out-of-control corruption and cronyism; decimation of nationally owned small and medium-sized businesses; a huge transfer of wealth from public to private hands, followed by a huge transfer of private debts into public hands.
As Klein notes -- and as we've noted endlessly here for years -- such a system can only be maintained by heavy doses of shock and fear, and by an increasingly authoritarian government that must bypass the constraints of law to impose its arbitrary will and sweep aside decades -- even centuries -- of traditional notions of justice, fairness, morality and the common good.
In the United States, the justification for this heavy hand is the need to "protect the Homeland" against a massive, relentless and inhuman threat to the very existence of the nation itself. If somehow the "War on Terror" were to end tomorrow, if the destablizing sense of fear and dire, endless emergency were to vanish or ease, then the justification would likewise disappear, and the rapacious agenda would be hobbled by the re-emergence of ordinary political interests and calm, common sense. Then no doubt we would hear again from the corporatist-militarists the yearning voiced by the Cheney-Rumsfeld group Project for a New American Century in September 2000, when they admitted that it would take "a new Pearl Harbor" to "catalyze" the American people into supporting the group's "revolutionary" program.
Having now reaped the gargantuan benefits of the "opportunity" (as Bush repeatedly called it) of that remarkably fortuitous first "new Pearl Harbor" in September 2001, why would the corporatist-militarists, the profiteers of war and fear, give up this advantage? Why, having gained the unrestricted power they craved, would they pursue policies that might ease the crisis which has benefited them so much, and which promises decades of further political and financial profit? Would they not instead choose courses that exacerbate sectarian extremism and foment more chaos, danger and "creative destruction" in volatile regions? Such as, say, invading a country in the very heartland of Islam that posed no military threat to America and had no ties to the groups that had called for attacks on Western interests.
Or pouring billons of dollars into a nuclear-armed terrorist tinderbox headed by a military tyrant with an ever-more shaky grip on the country -- a tyrant who has himself cut numerous deals with violent extremists to win their support; a tyrant who emerged from a military-security apparatus that not only has long-standing institutional and ideological ties with some of the most extremist religious groups in the world (outside of the Bush family's close friends the Saudi royals, of course) but has also actually carried out what Bush now baselessly accuses Iran of merely attempting: developing a clandestine nuclear weapons arsenal in brazen defiance of the international community -- then offering up the technology to the highest bidders on the black market.
Does that sound remotely like a plan designed to combat terrorism and quell extremism in the volatile region of Central Asia?
That's why I believe the Bush Administration is not really too concerned about the meltdown in Pakistan. It doesn't harm any of the main goals of the "War on Terror" outlined above; indeed, it only advances them. It goes without saying that the Bushists' public worries about Pakistani "democracy" are bogus, especially as a democratic majority of Pakistanis would reject the Terror War alliance with Washington. The Administration's overriding concern -- as they have admitted themselves -- is to keep Musharraf in power one way or another. As Buzzflash notes, it is certainly possible that the Bushists are assisting the crackdown in Pakistan, although no doubt there will be some cosmetic measures -- or perhaps just earnest mention of the mulling of cosmetic measures -- to express rote disapproval of the move. As the Guardian reports:
A Musharraf aide told the Guardian that the Pakistani president had "satisfied" objections raised by Mr Brown during the conversation. "There was pressure from the US and Britain in the beginning. But later on, when the government gave them the detail that elections will be held on time, and the president will take off his uniform, they did not have any objections," the official said, on condition of anonymity.
Yes, Musharraf's crackdown is a tragedy for the Pakistani people; and if the nation continues to unravel, it could prove to be a tragedy of unfathomable proportions, unfolding from India to Iran, and sending ripples of suffering and death around the world. But what of that? It will only be more meet food for the Terror Warriors to feed upon.
UPDATE: Well, that didn't take long: U.S. Is Likely to Continue Aid to Pakistan. (NYT)