These guys really know how to debate a bill!
These guys really know how to debate a bill!
Gateway to “New Silk Road”
At the Caspian resort of Avaza last week, a milestone came into view in the geopolitics of energy in the Central Asian region when the petroleum ministers from New Delhi and Islamabad and their counterpart from Ashkhabad presided over the ceremony of the signing of a landmark agreement that takes the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India gas pipeline project, commonly known as ‘TAPI’ one step – possibly, a big step – to reality.
A project that was often ridiculed as a two-decade old “pipedream” finally seems to assume habitation and a name.
However, the paradox lies in that while the TAPI signifies a rare – even unprecedented – regional initiative and it would have a calming effect on several templates of the South Asian security scenario and may even herald a turning point in the tortuous history of the India-Pakistan relationship, it may also queer the pitch of the great game rivalries over Central Asia. The overlapping shadows of regional and global politics fall on it.
The clear winner, of course, will be Afghanistan, whose prospects of stabilization would look much less dismal if only TAPI got off the drawing board. The big question, of course, is the “if”.
The Indian officials have expressed the hope during media briefings in New Delhi that the 1735-kilometre pipeline, which would carry 90 million standard cubic meters [mmscmd] – of which 14 mmscmd would be bought by Afghanistan while India and Pakistan each would get 38 mmscmd for a 30-year period – will be operational by 2016. The initial expectation was that the gas for the pipeline would be sourced from the Daulatabad gas fields in Turkmenistan, but Ashkhabad has since suggested that the sourcing would be from the massive South Yolotan fields.
The most enthusiastic proponent of the project is the Asian Development Bank, which has played a lead role in coordinating and facilitating the TAPI negotiation process over the past 10 years. The ADB funded the feasibility study for the project and is expected to finance one-third of the cost of the project at the implementation stage. Following last week’s signing ceremony in Turkmenistan, a senior ADB official sounded euphoric: “This is a truly historic moment of unparalleled regional cooperation… The pipeline represents a win-win scenario for each TAPI country… marking this not only the ‘Peace Pipeline’, but a pipeline to prosperity as well.”
Close on the heels of the ADB has been the United States, although for a variety of different reasons. Washington sees the TAPI as the perfect antidote to the Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline concept, which it has been strenuously attempting to stifle but with mixed results so far. While India buckled under the US pressure and backtracked from the IPI and remains ambivalent over its future options, Pakistan has shown the gumption to press ahead with an Iran-Pakistan segment of the IPI keeping the hope that New Delhi might have a change of heart some day and rejoin the project.
Washington has described the TAPI as a “regional strategic priority” from many angles and has extended backing to it in a demonstrative way. For one thing, as recently as in March, the senior advisor to the US’ special envoy for Eurasian energy Daniel Stein flagged openly, “We would like to see a US company involved at some point in TAPI.”
Indeed, Washington and the TAPI idea go back a long way to the early 1990s even as the Taliban was being formed as a Pakistan-Saudi-US joint venture and projected as a superior force on the Afghan political landscape to replace the chaotic Mujahideen rule. Then too, the US got involved in the “stabilization” of Afghanistan under the Taliban, which would pave the way for the TAPI.
The US oil major UNOCAL most certainly funded the Taliban at some point in the mid-1990s and the oil major hosted in Texas a high-level delegation deputed by Mullah Omar for discussions on an energy pipeline from Turkmenistan. The present Afghan President Hamid Karzai served UNOCAL as a consultant, too.
Suffice to say, the Karzai government’s reported claim today that the Taliban have agreed not to disrupt the TAPI pipeline project despite their so-called “resistance” to the occupation by the US and NATO forces, may sound unreliable against the overall backdrop of the fragile security situation, but one cannot be dismissive of it, either.
“Key example of regional integration”
Of course, the US strategy today has assumed further dimensions beyond the race for the Caspian oil. Washington has scarcely missed an opportunity in the recent period to christen the TAPI as a “New Silk Road” project, whose unspoken agenda is to roll back the Russian and Chinese influence in Central Asia and to integrate the countries of the region with the western market.
The US state department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said last week: “The TAPI is a perfect example of energy diversification, energy integration done right. We are very strong supporters of the TAPI pipeline… We consider it a very positive step forward and sort of a key example of what we’re seeking with out New Silk Road Initiative, which aims at regional integration to lift all boats and create prosperity across the region.”
Nuland added, “In this case, the case of the TAPI pipeline, you’ve got private sector investment, you’ve got new transit routes, you’ve got people-to-people links, you’ve got increased trade across a region that historically has not been well-linked, where there have been historic antipathies which are now being broken down by this positive investment project that’s going to give jobs, it’s going to give more energy, it’s going to give more technology to the people of all these countries.”
In essence, Nuland eloquently repeated the stated altruistic purpose of the New Silk Road project. Clearly, TAPI qualifies the description of being a “regional strategic priority” in the US’ regional policies. Turkmenistan, in particular, is emerging as a key supplier of energy for China. It began supplying gas to China through a newly built pipeline funded by Beijing, in 2009; a second route has also come online and the full capacity of the pipeline that reaches Xinjiang and connects with China’s 8000-kilomtere long East-West energy grid, is expected to touch 40 billion cubic meters by 2015. The Turkmen pipeline, which passes through Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan as well, is the most visible locomotive of Chinese expansion in Central Asia. The pipeline virtually obliges China to step forward as a provider of security for the region.
Meanwhile, even as the Russian monopoly over Turkmenistan’s energy reserves has suffered some erosion in the recent years, the US’ robust campaign to prise Turkmenistan away from the orbit of Russian influence by connecting that country with the western market directly through various trans-Caspian pipelines has come to nothing. In particular, the prospects are that the Nabucco gas pipeline project, which was a flagship of the US campaign to tap into the Turkmen gas reserves bypassing Russian territory, is becoming moribund.
Indeed, if the latest Russian plan to build a second Nord Stream pipeline via the Baltic Sea to Germany and western European countries goes ahead in 2013, Nabucco’s fate will be sealed for the foreseeable future. Besides, the US itself has appeared as a supplier of Shale Gas to the European market. Thus, the TAPI is the only show in town for the moment for the US in the theatre of Caspian energy, which makes it difficult to exaggerate the project’s significance to the overall American strategy under the rubric of the “New Silk Road.”
To be continued
[This is either state insanity of the worst kind, or proof that TAPI negotiations are a complete sham and India is a key part of that misleading process. This would require the stationing of Indian troops in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. Right.
Then again, it might be that India is able to influence the militants of the Baloch Liberation Army, as reported here, enough to convince the militants to keep their fight with Pakistan away from an India-protected pseudo-"Peace Pipeline."]
New Delhi: India will pay USD 13 for buying natural gas through the much-celebrated Tapi gas pipeline and will take indirect responsibility for safe transit of the fuel through high security risk areas in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
India on May 23 signed agreement to buy natural gas from Turkmenistan at a rate equivalent to 55% of crude oil price which, at USD 100 a barrel, translates into USD 9.17 per million British thermal unit, sources privy to the development said.
After adding transit fee and transportation charges, the gas through Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (Tapi) line would cost USD 12.99 per mmBtu at Indian border, three times the price paid to ONGC and Reliance Industries for producing natural gas from domestic fields, they said.
The rate agreed to flies in the face of oil ministry which has been stonewalling any increase in price to be paid to domestic producers arguing that a higher gas price would lead to an increase in power tariff and cost of fertiliser, thereby entailing higher government subsidy outgo, they added.
Besides the higher price, India has also in the Gas Sales and Purchase Agreement (GSPA) signed in Caspian Sea resort of Avaza, Turkmenistan agreed to take delivery of natural gas at Turkmen-Aghan border.
State-run gas utility GAIL India, which signed the GSPA, will then entrust the delivery of the gas to a consortium which will operate the Tapi pipeline, they said, adding that GAIL will be a prominent member of the consortium building and operating the 1,680-km line.
Sources said GAIL will pay Turkmengaz, the national oil company of Turkmenistan, on delivery of gas at Turkmen-Afghan border. Thereafter, the consortium which will have GAIL as partner, will take responsibility for transit of the gas through Afghanistan — one of the top high security risk countries in the world, and terrorism hotbed Pakistan.
The safe transit of gas through 735-km stretch of the pipeline in Herat and Kandahar province of Afghanistan had a slim fighting chance in the past decade as Nato was still in the nation once ruled by Taliban.
The western troops pullout by 2014 from the still volatile Afghanistan has put a question mark on safe transit, the sources said.
Tapi pipeline is nearly 1,680-km long and the transit length in Afghanistan is 735 kilometres and in Pakistan is nearly 800 km or more. The 56-inch diameter pipeline is expected to cost USD 7.6 billion.
It will run from Turkmenistan’s Yoloten-Osman gas field to Herat and Kandahar province of Afghanistan, before entering Pakistan. In Pakistan, it will reach Multan via Quetta before ending at Fazilka (Punjab) in India.
Turkmenistan would export 90 million standard cubic meters per day of gas through Tapi, with Afghanistan getting 14 mmscmd and India and Pakistan 38 mmscmd each.
The gas will be sourced from the Yoloten Usman field, which ranks among the five biggest fields in the world. The field is being developed by Turkmensitan national oil firm Turkmen Gas.
Meanwhile, on pricing, Minister of State for Petroleum and Natural Gas R P N Singh had on May 22 told the Rajya Sabha that Oil and Natural Gas Corp (ONGC) has stated that its Krishna Godavari basin deepsea gas find is not viable at a rate less than USD 5.2 per mmBtu.
ONGC’s UD-1 find in block KG-DWN-98/2 sits next to Reliance Industries’ KG-DWN-98/3 or KG-D6 block for which the government has fixed USD 4.205 per mmBtu as gas price.
Sources said if domestic producers are paid a higher price, the government gains most by way of higher royalty and taxes and profit petroleum it would earn.
An image grab taken from a video uploaded on YouTube on May 25, 2012, allegedly shows the bodies of Syrian children who were killed in a deadly shelling by regime forces in Houla in the central province of Homs (AFP Photo / YouTube)
The Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) has said that ‘armed terrorist groups’ were responsible for the violence in Houla which reportedly killed 92 people.
Over the last few months many armed criminals have been arrested in Syria. Among these criminals there were 26 foreign Terrorists (many of the Al-Qaida members).
Reportedly, the terrorists are:
5. Walid Daffar – Nationality: Tunisian – Date arrested: 29 March 2012 – Charge: membership of Al-Qaida
6. Sami Kamal – Nationality: Tunisian – Date arrested: 28 March 2012 – Charge: membership of Al-Qaida
7. Bilal al-Iyari – Nationality: Tunisian – Date arrested: 05 April 2012 – Charge: membership of Al-Qaida
8. Fahad Salih – Nationality: Libyan – Date arrested: 11 April 2012 – Charge: membership of Al-Qaida
9. Fadi Musa – Nationality: Lebanese – Date arrested: 12 December 2011 – arms, ammunition and narcotic pills into the country from Lebanon on behalf of armed terrorist groups in Syria.
10. Rida Bay – Nationality: Tunisian – Date arrested: 29 March 2012 – Charge: membership of Al-Qaida
11. Muhammad Dayfallah – Nationality: Tunisian – Date arrested: 14 March 2012 – Charge: membership of Al-Qaida
12. Abu Bakr Bubtan – Nationality: Tunisian – Date arrested: 8 March 2012 – Charge: membership of Al-Qaida
13. Wisam Halimah – Nationality: Tunisian – Date arrested: 7 March 2012 – Charge: membership of Al-Qaida
14. Ramadan Sultani – Nationality: Tunisian – Date arrested: 7 March 2012 – Charge: membership of Al-Qaida
15. Muhammad May – Nationality: Tunisian – Date arrested: 7 March 2012 – Charge: membership of Al-Qaida
16. Abdulrahim Shibli – Nationality: Egyptian – Date arrested: 3 January 2012 – Armed terrorist who acted in concert with an armed terrorist group to attack army and security forces.
17. Ahmad Munaba’ah – Nationality: Jordanian – Date arrested: 3 August 2011 – Armed terrorist who acted in concert with an armed group to attack army and security forces.
18. Mas’ud Ghumah – Nationality: Tunisian – Date arrested: 8 March 2012 – Charge: membership of Al-Qaida
19. Wahid Fadil – Nationality: Tunisian – Date arrested: 8 March 2012 – Charge: membership of Al-Qaida
20. Bilal al-Marzuqi – Nationality: Tunisian – Date arrested: 28 March 2012 – Charge: membership of Al-Qaida
21. Haykal Tuwayti – Nationality: Tunisian – Date arrested: 10 March 2012 – Charge: membership of Al-Qaida
22. Uqbah al-Nasiri – Nationality: Tunisian – Date arrested: 02 April 2012 – Charge: membership of Al-Qaida
23. Amin Nasibi – Nationality: Tunisian – Date arrested: 01 April 2012 – Charge: membership of Al-Qaida
24. Muhammad Amir – Nationality: Lebanese – Date arrested: 19 October 2011 – Member of an armed group that attacked Syrian military and security personnel.
25. Ayman Maghribi – Nationality: Palestinian-Lebanese – Date arrested: 27 October 2011 – Armed terrorist who intentionally committed acts of destruction and murder in concert with armed groups; took up arms and attacked army and security personnel.
26. Ghazi Najm – Nationality: Lebanese – Date arrested: 22 December 2011 – Smuggling arms, ammunition and armed terrorist groups into Syria from Lebanon; participated in attacks against army and security services checkpoints.
An Al Qaeda in Syria video has come to light.
It shows al Qaeda in Syria holding up the al-Qaeda flag.
Some of them wave the green-white-and-black flag of the CIA-run Syrian rebellion.
Al Qaeda flags in Syria.
The UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon’s has stated that al-Qaeda was responsible for the blast outside one of Syria’s top intelligence services on 10 May, which reportedly killed 55 people and wounded 372.
“A few days ago there was a huge, serious, massive terrorist attack. I believe that there must be al-Qaida behind it,” Ban said at the UN headquarters in New York. “This has created again very serious problems.”
[This is the death toll from a single US/NATO airstrike from a single helicopter. How many Afghan children total have we killed? Please allow me to answer my own question--As of the end of 2011, the Pentagon accepts responsibility for at least 3,120 civilian deaths in Afghanistan since the beginning of the terror war. Kind of puts that Syrian civilian casualty report into perspective, doesn't it? How could a helicopter makes such a mistake, when they can hover over a target long enough to learn whether they are destroying the right house, or not?]
by Daud Tapan
GARDEZ (PAN): Eight members of a family, including children and women, were killed in an airstrike in the southeastern province of Pakita, an official said on Sunday.
The incident took place on Saturday evening when the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) helicopter bombed a house in the mountainous area of the Garda Serai district, the governor’s spokesman said.
Rohullah Samoon told Pajhwok Afghan News that the children and women were among the eight innocent people killed in the airstrike.
Three women, four children and a man were killed in the airstrike that hit a house in the Pakhri village, a tribal elder of the district, said on condition of anonymity.
A Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, said that civilians were killed in the air attack.
In a statement, ISAF said they were pursuing a group of insurgents in the area when the incident happened and they have launched a probe to check whether civilians were killed.
[Washington embraced Wahabbism long ago, as a primary instrument of US foreign policy. American gullibility allows faux-journalism to continue pretending that this connection between American foreign policy and the spread of the "global jihad" doesn't exist, or that US presidents have broken their connection with "jihadi" ideology after the end of the anti-Soviet crusade in Afghanistan. The "global jihad" is the brainchild of the CIA--always has been, always will be. As long as their are "Islamist militants" overthrowing governments that solid connection will remain intact.
You have been swallowing the lies and following the liars for far too long. Every president since Reagan has used Islamist jihadis as the principle tool in the American toolbox, only we have always allowed them to pretend that this military process of sowing jihad was actually something called "limited warfare," or "conflict management." Until We the People open our eyes to these obvious facts we will continue to fight unwinnable conflicts--BECAUSE THAT IS THE WAY THAT THE PENTAGON WANTS IT. What else explains the fact that the greatest military that money can buy, for the world's only "Superpower," has not won a single war since WWII?
I can't say it any plainer than this--
The CIA continually creates the wars that American soldiers die in, while the President of the United States keeps giving the murderous spy agency the "green light" to start new wars for the express purpose of causing the bloody dismemberment of American troops and all of their innocent victims. Every battle of the so-called "terror war" has been fought against CIA mercenary armies. The real Army wages war against the CIA's "Blackwater" armies. Why else do so many of us call them "Al-CIA-da"?
All that the treasonous American and British media can see, are the child victims of our terrorist aggression against Syria, only they report it as "Syrian aggression." Go figure....
Why are they so blind to the piles of child victims that American and allied forces have piled high?]
WASHINGTON — The so-called Arab Spring just passed the 15-month mark and continues to leave chaos in its wake. Dictators are falling and radical Islamists are filling the gap across the Middle East and North Africa.
Now Islamists have their sights on a bigger prize, and it could send shock waves through the United States.
Saudis in Brotherhood’s Crosshairs?
The power gained by the Muslim Brotherhood and its allies throughout the Muslim world during the past year has also led to a growth in confidence.
They call 2011 the year the dictators fell, in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, and Yemen. In 2012, the Brotherhood is targeting the monarchies.
Jordan and Saudi Arabia sit on top of the list, and the Saudi royal family has wasted no time getting ahead of the game.
When anti-government protests broke out in neighboring Bahrain last year, Saudi tanks rolled in to keep unrest from spilling over the border.
Then, after governments fell in Tunisia and Egypt, the Saudi royals moved to appease their own restless subjects with billions of dollars in new welfare and housing programs.
“It is absolutely bribery. That’s what it is. When this uprising started, they started getting nervous,” said Dr. Ali Alyami, of the Washington-based Center for Democracy and Human Rights in Saudi Arabia.
Alyami believes the Royal Family’s days are numbered.
“The Saudi people suffer from corruption, lack of political freedom, lack of religious freedom, lack of press freedom, injustice, no accountability, no transparency,” he told CBN News.
“So the same problems that led all of these Arabs to take to the streets are in Saudi Arabia,” Alyami said. “So regardless of all the bribes — they know it, actually — they are not going to be spared the wrath of the people.”
Cost of Oil Dependence
So what would that mean for the United States? For decades, the U.S. and Saudi Arabia have maintained an uneasy alliance based on oil.
On February 14, 1945, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt met with the Saudi King Abdulaziz on the U.S.S. Quincy and struck a deal.
“We Americans had fallen in love with our automobiles, and they were impoverished and needed a source of revenue, and they had oil under their earth,” explained Sarah Stern, author of Saudi Arabia and theGlobal Islamic Terrorist Network.
Since then, America’s reliance on Middle East oil has only grown. And from hand-holding to bows, successive administrations have shown deference to the Saudi monarchs. Stern said that deference has come with a high price.
In her book, she argues that from spawning 15 of the 19 Sept. 11 hijackers, to spending billions to build radical mosques and Islamic schools worldwide, the Saudis have been willing accomplices to the global jihad.
“Any time anybody wants to open a mosque all they have to do is call Mecca or Medina and the Saudis will send an imam or they certainly send all their material,” Stern told CBN News.
“So here we have within the United States, the same kind of extraordinary anti-Semitic, anti-Christian, anti-Israeli, anti-America, and certainly anti-humane materials that are being studied judiciously and religiously by young American Muslims,” she said.
That includes the Islamic Saudi Academy outside Washington, D.C. Controlled by the Saudi Ministry of Education, the K-12 school has been investigated for using textbooks that teach students to hate non-Muslims.
“They’re saying that Christians and Jews are the enemy, that Christians and Jews are infidel – that the struggle with Christians and Jews will continue and that Jihad can be used to spread the faith of Islam,” Nina Shea, of Freedom House, told CBN News.
Although the Saudis build mosques and schools throughout the West, churches, synagogues, Bibles, and Torahs are all banned in Saudi Arabia: the birthplace of Islam.
The most recent example of Christians’ suppression occurred in December, when 35 Ethiopian guest workers were arrested after Saudi authorities raided their house church.
Saudis Meet Their Match
In the Muslim Brotherhood, however, the Saudis may have met their match.
Brotherhood leaders received a warm welcome when they fled to Saudi Arabia after facing persecution in Egypt in the 1960s.
As the Brotherhood’s influence spread, however, it threatened the House of Saud.
“What they did was the opposite of what the Saudis wanted them to do or expected them to do,” Alyami explained. “They’ve started some organizations for themselves in Saudi Arabia and the rest of the Gulf.”
Al Qaeda and other jihadist groups have also had a strong presence in Saudi Arabia.
Yet the most immediate threat is Iran and the fear the Islamic Republic could instigate rebellion in eastern Saudi Arabia, where most of the country’s oil is located.
“The vast majority of the population in the oil region of Saudi Arabia are Shiites, and they could be directed by the Iranians,” former Israeli Ambassador Yoram Ettinger told CBN News.
Leaked diplomatic cables show the Saudis want the West to take out Iran’s nuclear program by any means necessary.
But Alyami said they face an even greater fear than a nuclear Iran.
“Their biggest fear is to see the United States energy-independent – or the West,” Alyami said.
For now, a mixture of bribes, internal repression, and the West’s oil needs has enabled the House of Saud to hold on to power. But as dominoes continue to fall across the Middle East, the question could be, for how long?
American rage at Pakistan over the punishment of a CIA-cooperating Pakistani doctor is quite revealing
Americans of all types — Democrats and Republicans, even some Good Progressives — are just livid that a Pakistani tribal court (reportedly in consultation with Pakistani officials) has imposed a 33-year prison sentence on Shakil Afridi, the Pakistani physician who secretly worked with the CIA to find Osama bin Laden on Pakistani soil. Their fury tracks the standard American media narrative: by punishing Dr. Afridi for the “crime” of helping the U.S. find bin Laden, Pakistan has revealed that it sympathizes with Al Qaeda and is hostile to the U.S. (NPR headline: “33 Years In Prison For Pakistani Doctor Who Aided Hunt For Bin Laden”; NYT headline: “Prison Term for Helping C.I.A. Find Bin Laden”). Except that’s a woefully incomplete narrative: incomplete to the point of being quite misleading.
What Dr. Afridi actually did was concoct a pretextual vaccination program, whereby Pakistani children would be injected with a single Hepatitis B vaccine, with the hope of gaining access to the Abbottabad house where the CIA believed bin Laden was located. The plan was that, under the ruse of vaccinating the children in that province, he would obtain DNA samples that could confirm the presence in the suspected house of the bin Laden family. But the vaccine program he was administering was fake: as Wired‘s public health reporter Maryn McKenna detailed, “since only one of three doses was delivered, the vaccination was effectively useless.” An on-the-ground Guardian investigation documented that ”while the vaccine doses themselves were genuine, the medical professionals involved were not following procedures. In an area called Nawa Sher, they did not return a month after the first dose to provide the required second batch. Instead, according to local officials and residents, the team moved on.”
That means that numerous Pakistani children who thought they were being vaccinated against Hepatitis B were in fact left exposed to the virus. Worse, international health workers have long faced serious problems in many parts of the world — including remote Muslim areas — in convincing people that the vaccines they want to give to their children are genuine rather than Western plots to harm them. These suspicions have prevented the eradication of polio and the containment of other preventable diseases in many areas, including in parts of Pakistan. This faux CIA vaccination program will, for obvious and entirely foreseeable reasons, significantly exacerbate that problem.
As McKenna wrote this week, this fake CIA vaccination program was “a cynical attempt to hijack the credibility that public health workers have built up over decades with local populations” and thus “endangered the status of the fraught polio-eradication campaign, which over the past decade has been challenged in majority-Muslim areas in Africa and South Asia over beliefs that polio vaccination is actually a covert campaign to harm Muslim children.” She further notes that while this suspicion “seems fantastic” to oh-so-sophisticated Western ears — what kind of primitive people would harbor suspicions about Western vaccine programs? – there are actually “perfectly good reasons to distrust vaccination campaigns” from the West (in 1996, for instance, 11 children died in Nigeria when Pfizer, ostensibly to combat a meningitis outbreak, conducted drug trials — experiments — on Nigerian children that did not comport with binding safety standards in the U.S.).
When this fake CIA vaccination program was revealed last year, Doctors Without Borders harshly denounced the CIA and Dr. Afridi for their “grave manipulation of the medical act” that will cause “vulnerable communities – anywhere – needing access to essential health services [to] understandably question the true motivation of medical workers and humanitarian aid.” The group’s President pointed out the obvious: “The potential consequence is that even basic healthcare, including vaccination, does not reach those who need it most.” That is now clearly happening, as the CIA program “is casting its shadow over campaigns to vaccinate Pakistanis against polio.” Gulrez Khan, a Peshawar-based anti-polio worker, recently said that tribesman in the area now consider public health workers to be CIA agents and are more reluctant than ever to accept vaccines and other treatments for their children.
For the moment, leave to the side the question of whether knowingly administering ineffective vaccines to Pakistani children is a justified ruse to find bin Laden (just by the way, it didn’t work, as none of the health workers actually were able to access the bin Laden house, though CIA officials claim the program did help obtain other useful information). In light of all the righteous American outrage over this prison sentence, let’s consider what the U.S. Government would do if the situation were reversed: namely, if an American citizen secretly cooperated with a foreign intelligence service to conduct clandestine operations on U.S. soil, all without the knowledge or consent of the U.S. Government, and let’s further consider what would happen if the American citizen’s role in those operations involved administering a fake vaccine program to unwitting American children. Might any serious punishment ensue? Does anyone view that as anything more than an obvious rhetorical question?
There are numerous examples that make the point. As’ad AbuKhalilposes this one: “Imagine if China were to hire an American physician who would innocently inject unsuspecting Americans with a chemical to obtain information for China. I am sure that his prison term would be even longer.” Or what if an American doctor of Iranian descent had done this on behalf of the Quds Force, in order to find a member of the designated Iranian Terror group MeK who was living in the United States (one who, say, has been working with Israel to help assassinate Iranian nuclear scientists and wound their wives, or one who was trained by the U.S.), after which Iranian agents invaded his American home, pumped bullets in his skull and shot a few others (his wife and a child) and then dumped his corpse into the Atlantic Ocean? Or take the case of Orlando Bosch, the CIA-backed anti-Cuban Terrorist long harbored by the U.S.; suppose a Cuban-American doctor sympathetic to Castro had injected American children as part of a fake vaccination program in order to help Cuba find and kill Bosch on U.S. soil; he’d be lucky to get 33 years in prison.
In fact, the U.S. Government tries to impose the harshest possible sentences on Americans who do far less than Dr. Afridi did in Pakistan. The Obama administration charged former NSA official Thomas Drake with espionage and tried to imprison him fordecades merely because he exposed serious waste, corruption and illegality in surveillance programs — without the slightest indication of any harm to national security. Right now, they’re charging Bradley Manning with “aiding the enemy” — Al Qaeda — and attempting to impose life imprisonment on the 23-year-old Army Private, merely because he leaked information to the world showing serious war crimes and other government deceit (something The New York Times does frequently) which nobody suggests was done in collaboration with or even with any intent to help Al Qaeda or any other foreign entity. Given all that, just imagine how harshly they’d try to punish an American who secretly collaborated with a foreign intelligence service — who created a fake vaccine program for American kids — to enable secret military action on U.S. soil without their knowledge.
But of course none of these comparisons is equivalent. It’s all different when it’s done to America rather than by America. That’s the great prize for being the world’s imperial power: the rules you impose on others don’t bind you at all. I’m quite certain that none of the people voicing such intense rage over Pakistan’s punishment of Dr. Afridi would voice anything similar if the situation were reversed in any of the ways I’ve just outlined. Can you even imagine any of them saying something like: yes, this American doctor injected American kids with ruse vaccines in order to help the intelligence service of Iran/Pakistan/China/Cuba conduct clandestine operations on U.S. soil without the knowledge of the U.S. Government, but I think that’s justified and he shouldn’t be punished.
If you read or watch any accounts of life in the Roman empire, what you will frequently witness is someone being severely punished for an act against a Roman citizen. That was the most severe crime and the one most harshly punished: one could do any manner of bad things to non-citizens, but not so much as raise a hand to a Roman citizen.
Watch how often that formulation is used in our political discourse: he tried to kill Americans, people will emphasize when justifying all sorts of U.S. government actions. In other words, there are ordinary, pedestrian crimes (like this one, from today: “An American drone fired two missiles at a bakery in northwest Pakistan Saturday and killed four suspected militants, officials said, as the U.S. pushed on with its drone campaign despite Pakistani demands to stop. This was the third such strike in the country in less than a week”). But then there is the supreme crime: he tried to kill Americans! It’d be one thing if this outrage were honestly expressed as self-interest (we give massive aid to Pakistan so they should do our bidding), but instead, it is, as usual, couched in moral terms.
That is the imperial mind at work. Its premises are often embraced implicitly rather than knowingly: American lives are inherently more valuable; foreign lives are expendable in pursuit of American interests; the U.S. has the inalienable right to take action in other countries that nobody is allowed to take in the U.S. (just imagine: “An Iranian drone fired two missiles at a bakery in the northwest U.S. Saturday and killed four suspected militants, Iranian officials said, as Iran pushed on with its drone campaign despite American demands to stop. This was the third such strike in the country in less than a week” or “Thirty five women and children were killed by a Yemeni cruise missile armed with cluster bombs which struck an alleged Marine training camp in Texas”).
These self-venerating imperial prerogatives are the premises driving the vast bulk of American foreign policy and military discourse. It is certainly what’s driving the spectacle of so many people pretending that the punishment of Dr. Afridi is some sort of aberrational act which the U.S. and other Decent, Civilized Countries would never do.
* * * * *
Two related points:
(1) NPR emphasizes what appear to be the genuine due process deficiencies in the punishment imposed on Dr. Afridi, though he certainly is receiving more due process than those informally and secretly accused of Treason by the U.S. Government and given the Anwar Awlaki treatment, or accused of Terrorism and targeted with a U.S. drone or locked for a decade or so in a cage without charges of any kind.
(2) Zaid Jilani, formerly of Think Progress, asks a really good question about the Hollywood Election Year film depicting the bin Laden raid being produced by Sony Pictures with the help of the Obama administration: “Will the movie feature Pakistani kids tricked into getting fake vaccines? Probably not.” If the film does mention this, I’d bet it will be to marvel at and celebrate the James-Bond-like ingenuity of the CIA.
This is a cross post from salon.com