Hillary and Pakistan 32

I will go back out to Pakistan again later this year. In the meantime I have been talking to Pakistani friends and to journalists and others based in Pakistan, before trying to give a few considered thoughts on Hillary Clinton’s extraordinary and calculated remarks on Wednesday about the “mortal threat” to the USA posed by Pakistan.

The first and most obvious point is that, since Obama and Hillary have been in office, the United States has killed over 200 Pakistani civilians in Pakistan. Pakistanis have killed no United States civilians in the United States. For Hillary to call Pakistan a mortal threat is therefore somewhat rich.

The evidence is incontrovertible that missile strikes from aerial drones are a particularly indiscriminate way of killing. Very often the justification of the attacks is a desire to assassinate a particular indivdual; but the average number killed in each strike in Pakistan is 19. The majority of those killed have been women and children.

It should be self-evident that these brutal attacks will stoke resentment of the US in Pakistan. They are helping to create the fundamentalism which Hillary claims horrifies her. Which leads me to wonder, as I have wondered so often in the “War on Terror”, whether apparently brutish action by the United States is in fact intended to provoke a reaction.

The attacks not only stoke outrage, but are a blow to the self-esteeem of the average Pakistani and fuel contempt for the Pakistani government which permits the United States to attack its territory and kill its women and children. The truth is that the spread of the Pakistani “Taliban”, which Clinton so deplores, is not achieved through military strength but through popular sympathy.

One of the most potent things the Pakistani government could do to prevent the leeching of support towards Islamic extremists, would be to forbid the United States absolutely to carry out any more bombing operations in Pakistan, with the threat of physical resistance. That would damage the cause of the Islamic fundamentalists in Pakistan much more effectively than bombing ever will.

I share the Clinton viewpoint that theocratic government is, in itself, a bad thing. But it is also important to consider the motivation behind the increasing support for Islamism – manifested in the issue of sharia law – among ordinary Pakistanis. We very seldom hear their voices. The very pleasant and highly educated Pakistani commentators from all sides we hear on the mainstream media, are a tiny fraction of the population.

I strongly supported the reinstatement of the judges sacked by General Musharraff, but these middle class concerns mean nothing to the 90% of the Pakistani population who live on under $350 a year. They have no access to justice at all and are subject to oppression by an arbitrary and extremely corrupt police, backed by corrupt courts. The appeal of sharia law is that the westernised system has corrupted and failed the poor. Add to that an economy going backwards while neighbouring India has surged forward. It is impossible to tackle corruption under the President who is its walking embodiment, but without radical reform the theocratic movement is going to continue to make ground – literally. Clinton’s harsh words and bombs will do the opposite of help.

On 12 April the US signed a new military agreement with Islam Karimov, the Butcher of Tashkent, for supply of US forces in Afghanistan through Uzbekistan – thus conclusively killing any hope that the Obama/Clinton administration would prioritise human rights in foreign policy. The increase of US forces in Afghanistan is in progress. The ultimate goal remains the revival of the Unocal plan for a pipeline over Afghanistan and through Pakistan to bring out Central Asia’s massive hydrocarbon resources to the sea. But the actual result of US action throughout Central Asia and of their support of deeply corrupt regimes in Uzbekistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan, continues to be the growth of fundamentalist Islam. A radical change of US policy is needed. Instead, like a desperate gambler, Hillary is upping the ante.

Either the United States is preparing the ground for ultimate invasion of Pakistan, or it is behaving very stupidly indeed.

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32 thoughts on “Hillary and Pakistan

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  • Jason

    Thanks, Craig, for looking at this.

    I am out in Taiwan and my only TV news is CNN International. About 6 weeks ago, they had a massive change of focus, and Pakistan was literally the source of pretty much all stories through news cycle after news cycle. Whereas before, it would be on the ticker “Bomb in Karachi”, whatever, now it was Breaking News with full coverage of the sort usually reserved for Palstinian rocket attacks on Israel (where CNN set a world record for using the phrase ‘celebratory gunfire in the Occupied Territories’ – employing it about 12000 times in a 24 hour news cycle)

    Anyway, I took this as a sign of foreign policy priorities / start of an operation by the White House, and since then, it’s been non-stop, with the bringing together of Afghanistan and Pakistan into one theater for military action, and now this latest and clearly calculated comment.

    If there is no invasion planned, it’s hard to see exactly what the logic is here. In the past, there was talk about pressuring Pakistan to be a good friend of the West, but now with this rhetoric and the nose-thumbing at Pakistan over the Manchester ‘terrorists’, it’s hard to see what is going on. You’d think that Washington is deliberately undermining the Pakistani government…

  • yellowbelly

    Craig, there is no “War on Terror” anymore, it is over!

    We now have an “Overseas Contingency Operation”, much more benign!

  • Edo

    Why is nobody talking about the significance of linking Afghanistan and Pakistan? Why would the West be interested? Gas from the Caspian maybe?

    Unocal Pipeline….

  • David McKelvie

    Three thoughts come to mind:

    1. The age-old (well, since the Malayan Emergency at any rate) adage that if you don’t allow the moderates to take something home with them today, you’ll be dealing with extremists tomorrow;

    2. These attacks by the USA constitute aggression under the UN Charter and an Act of War: therefore the USA is de facto at war with Pakistan;

    3. It has been recognised, since before Independence in 1947, that Pakistan’s large Pushtun population makes Afghanistan effectively the Strategic Depth for Pakistan that it lacks in its stand-off with India, and without outside interference the two countries would probably make an effective bilateral coalition defence agreement.

  • David McKelvie

    Three thoughts come to mind:

    1. The age-old (well, since the Malayan Emergency at any rate) adage that if you don’t allow the moderates to take something home with them today, you’ll be dealing with extremists tomorrow;

    2. These attacks by the USA constitute aggression under the UN Charter and an Act of War: therefore the USA is de facto at war with Pakistan;

    3. It has been recognised, since before Independence in 1947, that Pakistan’s large Pushtun population makes Afghanistan effectively the Strategic Depth for Pakistan that it lacks in its stand-off with India, and without outside interference the two countries would probably make an effective bilateral coalition defence agreement.

  • MJ

    “Which leads me to wonder, as I have wondered so often in the “War on Terror”, whether apparently brutish action by the United States is in fact intended to provoke a reaction”.

    What, in order to create a superficial veneer of credibility for what is otherwise a rather transparent attempt to control the natural resources of the Eurasian landmass and subjugate the population of the planet?

    Surely not.

  • Abuslshawareb

    I don’t agree that Islamic law is a bad thing for Pakistan, Muslims have the right to live in accordance with their religion without being abused and rubbished by others.

    Since president Zia Alhaq was assisinated by Indian/Israeli agents (and there is evidence on their involvement), Pakistan never had a strong and independent leadership. and look at the last two leaders they had, Musharraf killed hundreds of his people in the Red Mosque siege!!! and was an accoplice on capturing his own people and handing them over to be sent to Guantanamo!!

    60 drone hits killed 14 Alqaida and 687 civilians in Pakistan.


    Pakistani president Zardari suggested:

    Give us drones and we will take out militants ourselves!!


  • Tom

    It sounds like Washington is hedging its bets on the continued Karimov support if the invasion of Pakistan is the ultimate goal to secure the Unocal pipeline. Also why do they need to deal with Karimov at all if they consider Islamabad an ally is it already offers excellent access to supply stations in Afghanistan:


  • Dr Paul

    Pakistan is in a bind: if the extreme Islamicists are appeased, they merely go for more; if they are attacked, they merely get more popular support. Such is the corruption and general unpleasantness of the country’s ruling civil and military elites that the ascetic Islamicists appear as a positive alternative for many people.

    Hope can only come through a genuinely modernising, secular and clean (uncorrupt) movement that can fight for the economic and social interests of the mass of the population, and posit a real alternative to the religious parties.

    However, Pakistan is an immanent basket case, a slither off the side of India, the existence of which is justified purely upon religious grounds, which means that its whole political set-up is focussed through religion. Under such conditions, and considering the corrupt nature of the elites, one cannot be surprised that the frummers are winning out.

    That’s why a truly modernising, secular movement must eventually aim for an eventual democratic reunion with India. There is no other way out.

  • punkscience

    I think Hanlon’s Razor needs to be applied to your analysis, Craig. I don’t think Hillary has any broad “plan” or any strategy for dealing with extremism there. I think she’s just exploiting an opportunity to appear strong on “terror” for political gain back home. Most Americans couldn’t find Pakistan with a map. All they see are “our boys” killing brown people.

  • technicolour

    Dr Paul, agree with last statement – it would make life for the broadly peaceloving Pakistanis a lot easier (though India has its own corrupt elites and extremists).

    I may have got the wrong end of the stick, but by “ascetic Islamists”, don’t you mean “insane warlords happy to torture and murder their own people, crush the rights and liberty of women, indoctrinate children and cut deals with ISI and anyone else who’ll supply them, in the name of a doctrine and for the sake of their own power”? There are many decent, humane, ascetic mullahs, of course, but they weren’t running the show when I was out there.

  • Craig

    I agree with Dr Paul’s desire for a secular and democratic state. But I also believe that the outcome has to be what the people of Pakistan desire. And the one thing which I can’t see Pakistani opinion ever desiring is reunion with India.

  • Dr Paul

    Re Technicolour: I was being a little sarcastic in my use of the term ‘ascetic’; I was referring to vicious thugs who promote their ‘asceticism’ via attacks upon practically everything that any civilised person would support: women’s rights, democratic rights, secularism, freedom of thought and expression, etc.

    What concerns with Pakistan is that the country has staggered for all its existence from corrupt and vicious civilian governments to corrupt and vicious military ones and back again, and now we have extreme Islamicists making good ground, not least thanks to US policies, which seem sure to make things worse.

    I think that left-wing and liberal political forces in Pakistan are facing a very difficult future. Indeed, I don’t think that they have any real chance of a worthwhile future short of a reunification with India.

  • Punterhunt

    I think Paul is right, there must be a reunification with India. The left should think of it as a one state solution to the India Pakistan conflict.

  • anticant

    Pakistan is not the only source of religious bigotry. There is plenty of the Hindu variety in India as well. Muslims and Hindus loathe one another and are always spoiling for a scrap, as they have been doing ever since the horrendous massacres which accompanied partition. Both countries have nuclear weapons. A world war could easily be sparked off in the region, and I doubt whether the US can exercise a moderating influence after its crass behaviour and impending defeat in Afghanistan.

  • Carlyle Moulton

    The minds of the US war planners have been captured by the delusion of the effectiveness of air power.

    They ignore the rage provoked in the minds of relatives and friends of every innocent piece of collateral damage. On average each predator strike kills 19 non-combatants for each legitimate target. One wonders on average how many enraged relatives each collateral kill has? The Afghans have big families and strong tribal loyalties so I would guess that each unnecessary death may enrage hundreds who personally know the victim, but once sensitized by death of someone known to them these people will be further enraged by each death report even when the victim is not known.

    Hitler thought that the bombing of London would weaken British morale and hence the will to resist but it had the opposite effect and so does air power wherever it is used, in Vietnam, in Gaza, in Afghanistan or in Pakistan. If you want to lose hearts and minds, then indescriminate terror from the air is the ideal way to do it. Perhaps the people making the choice don’t actually want to win, maybe for Pentagon bigwigs who will retire to cushy armaments industry jobs, permanent war is a guarantee of a profitable future.

    If I were a fundamentalist Muslim or a member of the Taliban, I would cheer wildly at every non-target killed by a US drone.

  • Jaded

    The drone attacks will no doubt continue. I’m sure we’ll find some kiddie with no legs or arms to bring back and fix up in one of our dirty hospitals though. It’s usually obligatory for BBC news. Hillary Clinton is one of the last people on the planet I would trust. That permanent teethy ‘smile’ she pulls reminds me of that Stanford bloke.

  • technicolour

    Anticant: “Muslims and Hindus loathe one another”. I think this voice, from Yale Global Forums, maybe deserves to be heard:

    “I write as a son of the Great Subcontinent, born in 1949 of Indian parents, yet raised as a patriot of pre-partitioned India. I write as a simple civilian.

    I write to express a deep and painful YEARNING. I yearn for re-unification.

    I scream out against a cruel apartheid imposed upon me by British Imperialism, and currently perpetuated by our Khaki-Sahibs, the people who now govern our severed sub-continent, and keep us apart with constant poisoning propaganda.

    Islam means peace, the brotherhood of humanity. Sanatana Dharma, commonly referred to as Hinduism, professes peace, the brotherhood of humanity.

    Partition is essentially apartheid based, in our case upon religion, sanctioned by national boundaries, exploited by Imperialism with the sale of arms to each of us to kill the other, while the Imperialist gloats all the way to the bank!

    Our wars are sins of fratricide; every drop of blood spilled in our “wars” has been the blood of brothers, MY BROTHERS. Hai Bhagvan! Hai Allah!

    Ironically, the British who dominated us, who sucked the blood of our fore-fathers dry, did so by constantly dividing us, by pitting us against each other; Hindu vs. Muslim. Jinnahji wanted us to live in mutual brotherly harmony; Ghandiji wanted us to live united. The British took our Satyagraha and turned it against us, severing us right through our heart, tearing apart both the Punjab and the Bengal, the strongest parts of the Motherland. Mountbatten presided over the genocide of partition, smirking in sadistic delight at the horrors of displaced millions who were racked by a complete FEAR of the unknown, as they turned against each other, because the Angrezi Sahib was nowhere to be seen. This fear and the memory of those horrors hold our frail boundaries aloft. Scratch lightly under the surface, and you hear gushing emotion, painfully sad memories about how we lived inter-dependently together as brothers with very similar humanitarian faiths.”

  • CheebaCow

    My time in India definately leads me to conclude that Hindus and Muslims do not hate each other, in fact I was greatly impressed by the general tolerance of all faiths in India.

    However the repeated calls in the comments of this blog for reunification strike me as paternalistic and so unlikely as to be pointless. I am no expert in Indian history, however I did study it a little while at university. My understanding is that the largest Muslim political forces were pushing for partition and that Gandhi was unable to convince them otherwise. There is no doubt that British colonialism really hurt India, but I think it is too convenient for Indians/Pakistanis to place all the blame on the British.

  • technicolour

    I’m sure not all Muslims and Indians place all the blame on the British: I posted the Yale Global forum message to show that not all Indians and Muslims loathe each other, either. Why (after talking and listening to people) is thinking that reunification might be a nice idea ‘paternalistic’?

  • CheebaCow

    technicolour: I wasn’t aiming the paternalistic comment at you specifically. I have never spoken to an Indian or Pakistani who have suggested re-unification. Added to this is the fact that I strongly doubt that both countries would choose to do this in a democratic vote. So it just seems a little like ‘we know best’ (or the white mans burden) to push for re-unification. Just to be clear, thinking reunification might be nice is not paternalistic in my eyes. How you approach making such a policy would determine whether it is paternalistic or not.

    Of course not all Indians/Pakistanis blame the British for the partition. However I believe it does undermine the YGF posters arguement for reunification when it appears he/she is greatly distorting the history of partition.

  • wendy mann

    it would appear that nothing has changed since our most honest liar in chief talks about the crucible of terrorism – northern ireland you might think , 300 years and still ongoing – but no – “There is a chain of terrorism that goes from here (afghanistan) round to the streets of Britain.”

    with falsely accused students who pre announced his visit to pakistan .. to the claim of 2000 dead civilians – all the fault of the taliban .. not american drones .. to the ridiculous assertion that 70% of all terrorist activity is directed/linked to pakistan (does the penny drop and the political reason for those 12 students being targeted?) .

    of course the 70% claim might be true , a subjective truth of course, if all of the other terrorist activity is discounted – since MI5/MI6 state that 60% of their resources are used in fighting against dissident ira threat – oh and of course not forgetting that almost 50% to 60% of uk muslims are from that part of the world .. so maybe not such a disproportionate claim as the government would like us to believe. but what else would anyone expect from one of the authors of deceitful wars and mass killings.

    the greater problem is not that politicians lie, its that the media is happy to propagate the lie on behalf of government , in fact as it does today allowing browns assertions in afghanistan to pass without investigation or comment with respect to its integrity.

    the fact is the intent is an invasion all the rhetoric and military build up is in that direction and has been long signalled over the last 3 years by hawkish neo cons.

    the uk media, the bbc , sky went ott soon after obamas not so new bush doctrine in the region however the bbc has been running a campaign across its media for the last 6 months.

    anyway today it appears the afghan surge into pakistan has just been formally announced by brown..and this is the man who talks about afghanistans ‘democracy’ whilst under usa-uk-nato occupation and whilst the usa-uk are determining the outcome of next presidential elections.

  • wendymann

    “Up to 60% of all the security services’ electronic intercepts – phonetaps and other covert technical operations – have come from dissidents, despite the threat posed by hundreds of suspected Islamist extremists on the mainland.”

    “80 hardcore dissidents may be plotting terrorist attacks.”


    from 7/7 until may 2007, there have been around 25 statements on uk threat levels from MI5, ‘whitehall sources’ the police and politicians to the national and foreign press.

    al-qaeda ‘supporters’ ranged in number from 200 to 120,000 based on unscientific polling;

    al-qaeda ‘terrorists’ from 200 to 4000;

    and numbers of plots, networks and those who trained in camps were variable.

    in may 2007 lord stevens gave two contradictory figures of 2000 and 4000 uk terrorists.

    two interpol reports assessing the terrorist threat across europe makes for sobering reading in this regard.

    in 2006, one out of 498 terrorist attacks were ‘islamisti;

    in 2007, four out of 583:

    thats rather less than one per cent of the total. by contrast, nationalist separatism is statistically a much more pressing terrorist problem in Europe.

    browns / clintons/obama -media rhetoric doesnt quite add up does it?

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