Rand X: Experts Mark Target for Terror War Expansion


And now, from the people who brought you the Vietnam War, a brand-new, slam-bang extravaganza is on its way: “Good Morning, Pakistan!”

Yes, those old show-biz troupers at the RAND Corporation are it again, laying the groundwork for yet another intractable, interminable slaughterfest in Asia. This week, RAND (the original “think tank,” conceived in the very bowels of the military-industrial complex) announced that the “good war” in Afghanistan will surely be lost…unless Pakistan is scoured clean of its terrorist sanctuaries – and of its terrorist sympathizers in high places.

In a study funded by the institution that has always been the oh-so-independent research group’s most munificent patron – the Pentagon – RAND says that Pakistan officials are helping Taliban fighters kill Americans in Afghanistan: the same casus belli that the Bush Administration is now brandishing against Iran for its alleged support of Iraqi insurgents. As AP reports:

Pakistani intelligence agents and paramilitary forces have helped train Taliban insurgents and have given them information about American troop movements in Afghanistan, said a report published Monday by a U.S. think tank. The study by the RAND Corp. also warned that the U.S. will face "crippling, long-term consequences" in Afghanistan if Taliban sanctuaries in Pakistan are not eliminated.

It echoes recent statements by American generals, who have increased their warnings that militant safe havens in Pakistan are threatening efforts in Afghanistan. The study was funded by the U.S. Defense Department.

"Every successful insurgency in Afghanistan since 1979 enjoyed safe haven in neighboring countries, and the current insurgency is no different," said the report's author, Seth Jones. "Right now, the Taliban and other groups are getting help from individuals within Pakistan's government, and until that ends, the region's long-term security is in jeopardy."

The irony – intended or unintended – of the AP report is exquisite: The RAND report funded by the U.S. military “echoes recent statements” of…the U.S. military. My, isn’t that surprising? One of RAND’s primary roles has always been to provide “expert analysis” justifying whatever measures our masters of war decide is necessary to keep them and their war-profiteering pals in clover.

Pakistan is clearly being put in the frame, especially now that America’s most faithful servant there – the military dictator Pervez Musharraf – has had his ears clipped. And it just so happens that the man who will probably be America’s next president has long singled out Pakistan as the place where he would like to make his Oval Office bones. (You’re not a real president unless you spill fresh blood somewhere in the world, a nice little slaughter of your own. Nixon and Cambodia, Reagan and Grenada, Bush I and Panama, Clinton and Serbia – even hapless old Jerry Ford had a go, launching a fierce attack on Cambodia to rescue an American ship that had already been freed.)

This is not to say that Pakistani officials aren’t helping the Taliban. After all, the Taliban are largely the creation of Pakistan’s intelligence service, the ISI (which means they are partly a creation of the ISI’s mentor and senior partner, the CIA). Pakistan helped Taliban and al Qaeda fighters escape from Afghanistan in the first days of the American invasion. Powerful factions in Pakistan’s military and security services have always retained strong ties with the Taliban. All of this has long been known. And yes, there is no doubt that there are Taliban fighters – both Afghan and Pakistani – based in the unconquerable mountain wilds along the porous border between the two countries, along with members of that other old ISI-CIA ally, al Qaeda.  This too is well-known. But it hasn’t stopped Washington from supplying the Pakistani regime with billions and billions of dollars, almost all of it going to those same military and security apparatchiks.

But this too is very much in the RANDian strain, as Chalmers Johnson reminds us:

For example, RAND's research conclusions on the Third World, limited war, and counterinsurgency during the Vietnam War were notably wrong-headed. It argued that the United States should support "military modernization" in underdeveloped countries, that military takeovers and military rule were good things, that we could work with military officers in other countries, where democracy was best honored in the breach. The result was that virtually every government in East Asia during the 1960s and 1970s was a U.S.-backed military dictatorship, including South Vietnam, South Korea, Thailand, the Philippines, Indonesia, and Taiwan.

Perhaps Pakistan's faltering steps toward democracy is one reason why RAND and the Pentagon are suddenly finding those long-existent Taliban ties and "terrorist sanctuaries" so intolerable now?

There is also a touch of Nixon’s Cambodia strategy afoot here: if you’re bogged down in a war – expand it! Hit another country, kill some new people, get a little of that “creative destruction” going, and who knows, maybe something will turn up. And if it doesn’t, so what? The blood money keeps rolling in either way.

(Speaking of blood, who can forget the statesmanlike admonitions of Nixon and Kissinger when encouraging their underlings to escalate the bombing of Cambodia: "Anything that flies on anything that moves." As I noted in a piece in the Moscow Times:

It's 1970. Nixon is angry: The Air Force is not killing enough people in Cambodia, the country he has just illegally invaded without the slightest pretence of Congressional approval. The flyboys are doing "milk runs," their intelligence-gathering is too by-the-book: There are "other methods" of getting intelligence, he tells Kissinger. "You understand what I mean?" "Yes, I do," pipes the loyal retainer.

Nixon then orders Kissinger to send every available plane into Cambodia -- bombers, fighters, helicopters, prop planes -- to "crack the hell out of them," smother the entire country with deadly fire: "I want them to hit everything." Kissinger tells his own top aide, General Alexander Haig, to try to implement the plan: "He wants a massive bombing campaign in Cambodia," Kissinger says. "It's an order, it's to be done. Anything that flies on anything that moves."

That's how the system works, beneath the mask. A blustering fool issues an order, and thousands upon thousands of innocent people die. An entire country is ripped to shreds, and into the smoking ruins steps a fanatical band of crazed extremists -- the Khmer Rouge -- who murder two million more.

Yes, but the money keeps rolling in!)

There is an even more telling legacy of Vietnam in RAND's "get Pakistan" report. Those Taliban and al Qaeda sanctuaries that threaten American forces would not exist if Afghanistan was not a massively failed state, ravaged to pieces by 30 years of sectarian war. And that sectarian war would not have raged so long and so virulently if the American government (and its allies in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia) had not decided to arm, train, fund and organize the world's most violent, retrograde religious extremists into a worldwide movement. And why did Washington do such a "notably wrong-headed" thing? Because the American elite -- stung and emasculated by their defeat in Indochina -- wanted to "give the Soviets their own Vietnam," in the words of Zbigniew Brzezinski. And so Jimmy Carter -- yes, mild-mannered ole Jimmuh -- greenlighted the covert op to build up a jihad army that would destabilize the secular government of Afghanistan and provoke the Soviets to intervene to save their clients there.

The fact that America's support of violent religious extremists in Afghanistan pre-dated the Soviet invasion there -- and was actually a cause of the invasion -- is of course virtually unknown in the land of the free (free of any useful information about what their overlords are getting up to, that is). At almost every turn, American policies have created more violence and more extremism in the region, either by design, or through neglect, or as the inevitable result of heavy-handed, blood-sodden massive military intervention.

Expanding the war to Pakistan, as RAND, the Pentagon and Probably President Obama seem keen to do, would certainly be in keeping with the long, bipartisan tradition of American policy there. And it would undoubtedly produce the same bitter fruit: more decades of hatred, extremism, poverty, ruin and suffering. But hey, so what? That blood money will keep rolling in, right?

Postscript: But will Afghanistan have to play second fiddle to Iraq again? When it comes to the "Cambodia gambit" -- expanding a difficult war in one country by attacking another -- it seems increasingly clear that Iran will be the first target, as Arthur Silber, Chris Hedges and Jim Lobe report. But that's OK; the "good war" will keep grinding on for years. There will always be time to hit Pakistan whenever the war machine needs a good greasing of loot and blood -- with RAND right there, providing the paperwork.