The headline from McClatchy says it all: “Pakistani Army Flattening Villages as it Battles Taliban.”
This is exactly what the hot-blooded humanitarian interventionists in the Obama Administration have been demanding: that Pakistan “take the fight” to the Taliban forces that, according to such world-historical savants as Hillary Clinton and the President himself, are posing an existential threat not only to Pakistan but even to the sacred Homeland itself.
Last month, when a faction of the Pakistani Taliban (which is not be equated with the Afghan Taliban, but is anyway, repeatedly and deliberately, by the media and political classes) took temporary control of Buner, a city 60 miles from the Pakistan capital of Islamabad, the American power structure went into its customary all-out panic mode, urging the fragile Pakistani government to quit signing peace deals and ceasefires with the sectarian and tribal groups on its frontiers and instead “take action” against them pronto — before they launch cruise missiles into the Mall of America from their floating space platforms….or something.
(To digress: One likes to think that these continual hissy fits of arm-waving alarm are merely cynical ploys to help advance militarist policies and war-profiteering schemes, but who knows? Maybe our fearless leaders really are a bunch of witless, ignorant cowards. Either way, the results are the same: more war — and more war powers — more death, more suffering, and more ever-profitable destabilization.)
So now the Pakistani army — which has been trained to deal with full-scale conventional war with India — is “taking action” against the militants in and around Buner, moving in with heavy, deadly, blunderbuss force, with entirely predictable results: mass slaughter of civilians, vast ruin, thousands driven from their homes into desperate terms — and a further discrediting of the government in the eyes of the local populace, which only strengthens the hand of the sectarian militants. It is also — not at all incidentally — turning the Pakistanis’ peace deals with local Taliban into a dead letter: the very thing that the Obama Administration has been calling for. Isn’t that a remarkable coincidence!
So let’s take a look at how those Obama-Clinton wishes are coming true:
The Pakistani army’s assault against Islamic militants in Buner, in northwest Pakistan, is flattening villages, killing civilians and sending thousands of farmers and villagers fleeing from their homes, residents escaping the fighting said Monday.
“We didn’t see any Taliban; they are up in the mountains, yet the army flattens our villages,” Zaroon Mohammad, 45, told McClatchy as he walked with about a dozen scrawny cattle and the male members of his family in the relative safety of Chinglai village in southern Buner. “Our house has been badly damaged. These cows are now our total possessions.”
Mohammad’s and other residents’ accounts of the fighting contradict those from the Pakistani military and suggest that the government of President Asif Ali Zardari is rapidly losing the support of those it had set out to protect.
Now here comes the beauty part. Pakistan, having faced scathing criticism in Washington — not only from the progressive humanitarian peace-loving liberals in the Administration but even more so from the liberalistic progress-loving humanitarians in Congress — for being too scared to “take on” the militants, is now being criticized by Washington for, well, taking on the militants, as McClatchy reports:
The heavy-handed tactics are ringing alarm bells in Washington, where the Obama administration is struggling to devise a strategy to halt the militants’ advances. Officials Monday talked about the need to train the Pakistani military, which has long been fixated on fighting armored battles with India, in counterinsurgency warfare, but it may be too late for that.
Navy Adm. Michael Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters Monday that the Pakistani army in recent years has undertaken “bursts of fighting and engagement” fighting insurgents, but that its operations were “not sustained” by follow-up measures… Another U.S. official, who closely tracks Pakistan developments, said the Pakistan army is “just destroying stuff. They have zero ability to deliver (aid) services.”
“They hold villages completely accountable for the actions of a few, and that kind of operation produces a lot of (internally displaced persons) and a lot of angst,” said a senior defense official.
On this narrow point at least we must acquit our gallant leaders of the change of cynicism. The sheer, gold-plated gall and arrogance of their response can only be sincere. Pentagon officials who have been instigating, maintaining and overseeing mass murder, social breakdown, repression, regression, extremism, torture, corruption — not to mention the “displacement” of more than four million people from their homes — in nearby Iraq are shocked and appalled at the “heavy-handed” tactics of the Pakistani forces… forces which would not be undertaking tactics in Bruner on such a scale if not for the constant browbeating of Pakistan’s indispensable paymaster in Washington. The lack of self-awareness in Washington’s reproofs of Pakistan’s operation in Bruner is so jaw-dropping as to reach the level of the sublime.
As we said, the results of the brutal crackdown sought by Washington are predictable:
In Buner, the Pakistani military appears to be losing public support in a stridently anti-Taliban district whose residents had raised their own militia to defend themselves against the militants…
Mohammad, who’d walked for two days with his cattle to escape the offensive against the Taliban, and other farmers accused the military of using poorly directed artillery and air power to pound civilian areas.
“They shouldn’t use the army in this (indiscriminate) way. They should be targeted at the Taliban,” said Saed Afsar Khan, who was leaving Buner with 18 members of his family and two cows. He estimated that the army had destroyed 80 of the 400 houses in his village of Kawga, near the key battlefield of Ambela. “I don’t think they’ve killed even one Taliban,” he said. “Only ordinary people.”
“I don’t think they’ve killed even one Taliban Only ordinary people.”
Of course, we have heard these exact words over and over and over and over again from Afghan survivors of attacks by America’s highly sophisticated, ultramodern “counterinsurgency” operations, so unlike the primitive spear-jabbings of those barbarian darkies in Pakistan. Indeed, we’ve even heard them from Pakistani survivors as well, digging out after yet another bold attack from a drone missile fired by a courageous warrior sitting in a padded chair at a computer console in Tucson, Arizona. Last month, the Pakistani government released the first accounting of the effectiveness of these high-tech counterinsurgency tactics. As we noted here last month:
…Every week brings new reports of deadly attacks in Pakistan’s frontier regions, almost all of them involving the deaths of civilians. Americans generally hear little or nothing about these attacks beyond official snippets about “successful” attacks against the apparently endless, ever-replenishing supply of “top Al Qaeda and Taliban leaders.” [Or to put it in reality’s terms, the United States government and its progressive, humanitarian leaders regularly order, admit and applaud the “extrajudicial killing” — i.e., murder — of uncharged, untried individuals living within the borders of an allied country. As it saith in the Scriptures: These be your gods, O progressives!] But while Americans turn a deaf ear, in Pakistan the blood cries out, and is measured, as far as possible, by a government that is further shaken by each American attack and the violent extremism it engenders.
This week, Pakistani officials released stunning figures of the civilian death count in the American drone war: almost 700 innocent men, women and children killed so far — as opposed to 14 actual, wanted extremist leaders. As the Pakistani paper The News reports:
Of the 60 cross-border predator strikes carried out by the Afghanistan-based American drones in Pakistan between January 14, 2006 and April 8, 2009, only 10 were able to hit their actual targets, killing 14 wanted al-Qaeda leaders, besides perishing 687 innocent Pakistani civilians. The success percentage of the US predator strikes thus comes to not more than six per cent….
According to the figures compiled by the Pakistani authorities, a total of 537 people have been killed in 50 incidents of cross-border US predator strikes since January 1, 2008 to April 8, 2009…
There’s your bipartisan continuity in action!
Oddly enough, the flood of “internally displaced persons” decried by the deeply concerned and conveniently anonymous “senior defense officials” is not, as it turns out, some new phenomenon related to the current operations in Buner. As we noted here in yet another story on the Progressive War in Pakistan, more than one million people have already fled their homes, driven out by the terror weapon of predator drones — and by earlier attacks from the Pakistani military at Washington’s behest:
So the effects of Obama’s drone war are not limited to the few houses destroyed here and there. The attacks have spawned, or greatly added to, a humanitarian catastrophe that remains largely hidden from the world — and certainly from the well-wadded Western “liberals” who cheer Obama’s savvy toughness in the “good war” on the Af-Pak front. As The Times reports, almost a million people have been driven from their homes in Pakistan’s Tribal Areas to escape the American drones, and the bombs of Washington’s Pakistani proxies:
American drone attacks on the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan are causing a massive humanitarian emergency, Pakistani officials claimed after a new attack yesterday killed 13 people.
The dead and injured included foreign militants, but women and children were also killed when two missiles hit a house in the village of Data Khel, near the Afghan border, according to local officials.
As many as 1m people have fled their homes in the Tribal Areas to escape attacks by the unmanned spy planes as well as bombings by the Pakistani army….
So far 546,000 have registered as internally displaced people (IDPs) according to figures provided by Rabia Ali, spokesman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and Maqbool Shah Roghani, administrator for IDPs at the Commission for Afghan Refugees. The commissioner’s office says there are thousands more unregistered people who have taken refuge with relatives and friends or who are in rented accommodation.
Jamil Amjad, the commissioner in charge of the refugees, says the government is running short of resources to feed and shelter such large numbers. A fortnight ago two refugees were killed and six injured in clashes with police during protests over shortages of water, food and tents.
As we noted then:
In the political schizophrenia induced in a state forced to serve a foreign master’s interests as well as its own, the Pakistani government has alternated between savage attacks in Washington’s service and sudden truces and peace deals with militant groups. But even when the local bombs stop falling, the American drones keep sailing across the border in ever-increasing numbers, keeping the people of the region locked in fear and on the run.
Well, at least the dream team of Obama-Clinton has put the kibosh on the “peace deal” angle of this deadly dynamic for the time being. For now, it’s going to be all war, all the time in Buner.
But it’s been all war, all the time in Pakistan for years, as the military, sometimes on their own bent but often at America’s insistence, has been carrying out attacks on militants (and the surrounding villages) since 2002 in a number of regions in the frontier provinces. And here we must say, unequivocally, that America’s leaders are acting with very deliberate, calculated cynicism. For the current hissy fit over Buner has been predicated on the knowing lie from both Obama and Clinton that Pakistan has been dodging a fight with sectarian militants. As Brian Cloughey writes:
There has of late been much international criticism of the [Pakistani] army for allegedly failing to take action against militants, and according to London’s Financial Times on April 26, Hillary Clinton “expressed bewilderment that one of the world’s largest armies appeared unable to confront dozens of militants.”
First of all there are not “dozens” of militants : there are many thousands, most if not all encouraged into insurrection as a result of the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001-2002. Senior officers in Pakistan are extremely angry concerning the accusation that the army is “not doing enough” and it is a fact that since 2002 the army and the para-military Frontier Corps have suffered over 1800 killed and three times that number wounded in battles with insurgents, which is hardly an indication that there has not been action against them.
There is an understandable lack of sympathy for the US throughout Pakistan, stemming in part from the belief that the US does not care about Pakistan army or civilian casualties….
Clinton told the US Congress on April 23 that “I think the Pakistani government is basically abdicating to the Taliban and the extremists,” which is the sort of pronouncement to which the world became accustomed during the horrible Bush years – the arrogant insistence that everything bad that happened was the fault of everyone but Washington’s finest. The resentment caused in Pakistan has been immense….
But Clinton and Obama are not worried about the effect their words will have in Pakistan. As under the Bush Administration, all this fervid fear-mongering is being produced for domestic consumption. The point is to drive home, constantly, how unstable and dangerous and incapable Pakistan is, and how our very national existence — and the very lives of our loved ones — are in imminent, deadly peril from the frontier tribesmen grouped under the undifferentiated rubric of “Taliban” (with its by-now automatic equation with “al Qaeda” in the public mind). And thus the “justification” for the slow, creeping spread of the Terror War into Pakistan is continually reinforced, goosed along by periodic panic attacks such as the one over Buner, and by the never-ending denigration, mockery and condescension pouring forth from the imperial court toward its troublesome client states.
And it’s working well. A new poll shows that “the Obama administration’s hyperbole about the Pakistani security situation has caused a 15 percent increase in the percentage of Americans who are “very concerned” about Pakistan’s nukes,” as Juan Cole puts it. The Rasmussen poll shows that 87 percent of Americans are now concerned about “the security of nuclear weapons in Pakistan,” and that Pakistan has now moved up to third place on the list of most threatening nations to the Homeland, behind Iran and North Korea. Think of that: a democratic country allied to the United States is now regarded as one of the “biggest threats to U.S. national security” in the world. That is some sure-enough good fearmongering at work there.
What’s more, a third of American voters already think that the United States should send troops into Pakistan — i.e., launch a war of aggression against an allied nation. Another third are “undecided” on that point — but a few more hissy fits about Taliban-Qaeda devils in charge of Pakistani nukes will surely bring most of them around, as well as a good chunk of the 33 percent currently opposed to invading Pakistan.
For a myriad of reasons — some of them born from ignorant, arrogant, ill-informed blundering, and a fatal lack of vision and imagination, others springing from base and bestial impulses, an evil urge toward domination for its own sake, at whatever cost to others — the bipartisan political establishment in Washington seems determined to expand their “Overseas Contingency Operations” more and more directly into Pakistan.
Every step they take — or urge on others — gives clear evidence of this intent. The Americans oppose — and openly undermine — all moves by the Pakistani government to come to some accord, even temporarily, with the militants, to bring at least a moment of respite and peace to the multitudes ruined and displaced by this civil war. The Americans continue to escalate their drone attacks on Pakistani villages, despite the astronomically disproportionate number of civilian deaths they cause. And as we noted here last week, Obama has already made a major tactical shift that will pour thousands of new troops into some of the most volatile and contested areas on the Pakistan border, virtually guaranteeing ground action across the frontier, along with the already existing air assaults. The inevitable, inescapable, atrocious consequences of these policies are as sure and predictable as the bollixed results of the current action in Buner.
Yet still we march on, toward yet another pit of blood and filth, with scarcely a ripple of opposition to this lunatic course. Perhaps we have seen so much monstrous folly and murderous intent on display from our leaders in recent years that we have grown inured to it. Or it might be more accurate to say that we have been steeped in it from the moment we were born, imbibed it with our mothers’ milk, accepted it, without question or awareness, as the natural, universal order: war, violence, destruction and slaughter, inflicted on grubby half-human creatures in distant lands, in our names, for our (purported) benefit, to keep us in our rightful, God-ordained position of all-devouring superiority.