On the Subcontinent, No One’s Hands Are Clean

South Asia Awaits Another Secret War–2008

by: J. Sri Raman, t r u t h o u t | Perspective

The Kabul blast of July 7, which targeted India’s embassy and took a heavy toll of human lives, may trigger yet another secret South Asian war.

As noted in these columns (Blasts That Shake South Asia, July 12, 2008), the attack elicited a far-from-routine official Indian reaction. India’s National Security Adviser M. K. Narayanan did not stop with blaming Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) for the blast. He went on to issue an ill-veiled warning: “We should pay them back in their own coin.”

The outrageously irresponsible observation has gone almost unnoticed, but a significant indication of what it may signal has been forthcoming. The espionage agency of Pakistan has never enjoyed a saintly image. But it is not as if India’s own secret warriors haven’t used the coin of terrorism that all too often reveals two sides. And the coin may become their currency again, to go by non-official national security advisers who know the business of blasts.

Before coming to all that, a word about the ISI. It was set up in 1948, just a year after Pakistan’s birth. The ISI remained just one of the country’s many intelligence agencies until its time arrived with the US war against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. The ISI rose to the peak of its power in Pakistan during the military rule of Zia ul-Haq (1977-88), which covered the larger part of the lacerating war (1978-89) with long-term consequences for the region.

The war of the eighties witnessed a dramatic enhancement of ISI covert-action capabilities by the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Young men from the ISI went west to the US for training in covert techniques and the CIA loaned cloak-and-dagger experts for assistance to its friends in the killing fields of Pakistan’s tribal frontier. The ISI became a conduit for the CIA’s financial aid for the Pashtun warlords on the anti-Soviet side and found this a profitable position.

Initially, the ISI was given mainly internal tasks – to snoop on the small, Sindh-based Communist Party and monitor political parties, especially the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. After the war, the ISI returned to domestic politics, trying to prevent Benazir Bhutto’s re-election as prime minister.

Former BBC correspondent Owen Bennett Jones, in his book, “Pakistan: Eye of the Storm,” writes: “A former director-general of the ISI, Lt.-Gen. (Retired) Azad Durrani, has recorded in a Supreme Court affidavit that he was instructed by Zia’s successor as chief of army staff, Gen. Aslam Beg, to provide logistic support to disbursement of funds to Benazir Bhutto’s opponents…. According to Durrani, the ISI opened cover bank accounts in Karachi, Rawalpindi and Quetta and deposited money into them. The sums were not small. One account in Karachi was credited with over $2 million and smaller amounts were then transferred to other accounts … ”

Jones goes on to say that a sum of $58,000 went to a politician later associated with Pakistan’s nuclear bomb, and a fortune of $83,000 went to a fundamentalist party, and so on. We will keep that story for another day, but the point here is that the ISI was always flush with funds for its activities, even when these were extended to operations of much greater importance to the military and the militarists.

Especially important, for evident reasons, were the operations in and against India. The ISI is known to have been involved in the eighties in the separatist movement in the Indian State of Punjab (which was not without local causes and catalysts as well). In fact, in the late sixties, the agency reportedly assisted a London-based Sikh Home Rule Movement, which was to be transformed into the secessionist Khalistan campaign.

The ISI has been even more deeply involved in the insurgency in the India-administered State of Jammu and Kashmir (again with its local causes and catalysts as well). Jones recalls: “On 31 July 1988, Srinagar (capital of Jammu and Kashmir) rocked to a series of explosions. They were claimed by the JKLF (Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front) … The JKLF, it was true, had laid the bombs but the materials had been provided by the Pakistani state, more precisely the ISI.”

He adds: “In 1987, the ISI and the JKLF had, with General Zia’s approval, struck a deal. The JKLF agreed to recruit would-be militants in India-held Kashmir, bring them across the Line of Control and deliver them to ISI trainers. The ISI, in turn, agreed to provide the JKLF fighters with weapons and military instruction. The young men were then sent back across the line so that they could mount attacks.”

The ISI has been blamed for several bomb blasts in other parts of India as well, though New Delhi has not always shared evidence with the nation. The most notable instance, perhaps, was the series of 13 blasts in Mumbai (formerly Bombay) on March 12, 1993, that took a toll of over 300 lives. The other major examples include the Mumbai serial train blasts of July 11, 2006, and the Jaipur explosions of May 13, 2008.

The Indian counterpart of the ISI, the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), may figure less in the Western media, but is equally infamous in this part of the world. Unlike the Pakistani apparatus, the RAW is only an external intelligence agency, but the similarities between the two on other counts is striking.

Set up in 1968, mainly as the result of a years-long security review following India’s military fiasco of 1962 against China, the RAW had the US and the CIA presiding over its birth. Organizationally modeled on the CIA, the RAW has worked closely with the superpower’s snoopers, especially on subjects of common interest such as China and Pakistan-related nuclear issues.

Officially, the RAW functions on an annual budget of around $150 million, but all one knows really is that funds have posed it no problem. Constitutionally a “wing” of the Cabinet Secretariat, it suffers from no agency-like accountability to India’s parliament, and its activities lie outside the ambit of the country’s recently acquired Right to Information Act.

In public pronouncements, the RAW claims to be particularly proud of its role in the creation of Bangladesh after an India-Pakistan war. Its former officials and fervent admirers, however, shower more fulsome praise on its past exploits in Pakistan. Many of them believe that its return to the days of anti-Pakistan blasts, again in the eighties, as not just something to be devoutly desired. To them, it is the demand of the hour.

Narayanan, obviously, had the RAW in mind, when he talked of paying back the ISI in its own coin. What even a hawk like Narayanan could not spell out has found explicit expression subsequently.

An op-ed article in a respected national daily with a particular reputation for sobriety (Fighting Pakistan’s “informal war,” July 15, The Hindu), speaking for the RAW and “advocates of retaliation,” elaborates on Narayanan’s enigmatic statement. It says: “If a Pakistan-based terrorist group carries out strikes against civilians in Mumbai, the argument (of the Narayanans of India) goes, India must be able to assassinate its leaders and their financiers.”

The crusaders for a covert offensive or counteroffensive, quoted in the article, derive confidence from a specific past operation aimed at striking dread in the enemy camp. “In the mid-1980s,” it is recalled, “the RAW unleashed two covert groups, CIT-X and CIT-J (Covert Intelligence Teams given alphabetical identities), the first targeting Pakistan in general and the second directed at Khalistani groups. A low-grade but steady campaign of bombings in major Pakistani cities, notably Karachi and Lahore, followed.” The blast series of the eighties included the Bohri Bazaar tragedy in Karachi, still etched in the memory of a large number of survivors. Both these groups are said to have used the services of cross-border traffickers to ferry weapons and funds.

The series came in for special praise in 2002 from former RAW official B. Raman, who said: “The role of our covert action capability in putting an end to the ISI’s interference in Punjab by making such interference prohibitively costly is little known and understood.” The “advocates of retaliation” are quoting him repeatedly now.

This is not the first time the demand for revival of the days of “retaliation” through civilian-targeting detonations has been raised. Nostalgia for the RAW’s heroic age was voiced even during the period of Pervez Musharraf as a military ruler. Some blasts, it was suggested then, would give a fitting answer to his frequent charge of India’s involvement in Balochistan combined with a continuation of cross-border terrorism in Kashmir. The threat of blasts, meanwhile, sounds tame, compared to crueler punishment envisaged in the same article for Pakistan. It says: “Pakistan has long feared a nightmarish future where a hostile India dams its water resources in Jammu and Kashmir and throws its weight behind irredentist forces. Each terror bombing against Indians, paradoxically, is bringing that nightmare one step closer to realization.”

The waters can be a matter of life and death for Pakistan. Under the Indus Waters Treaty of 1960, India has rights over the waters of the Ravi, Sutlej and Beas rivers, while Pakistan has rights over the waters of the Indus, the Chenab and the Jhelum. All the rivers flow from India to Pakistan.

In May 2005, the World Bank appointed a neutral arbitrator in the dispute after Pakistan made a demand for an adjudicator. The next month, Pakistan told India to suspend work on a dam on the Chenab. On December 6, 2006, Pakistan put on record its fears that the dam could be used to choke off water supplies at times of crisis. The issue is supposed to be under discussion as part of the India-Pakistan peace process.

The “advocates of retaliation” are also arguing for efforts to set up a common front with Afghanistan’s intelligence agency, the Riyasat-e-Amniyat-Milli (RAM). The CIA, as they see it, cannot but side with such a front.

If they have their way, South Asia may soon witness a stepped-up secret war, which will spell more blasts and deaths in bazaars and metros. They should not be allowed to have their way.

The Truth is Not a Changeable Thing

In response to: Accepting new realities in the global war on terror

The Truth is Not a Changeable Thing

There is no such thing as a “new reality.”  Reality never changes. It is obfuscation to say there is a “new” reality.

“…the main facet of Western efforts in the war on terror are largely aimed at beefing up the executive and the security sector.”

You said, “result of political failure and thus requires a thinking that puts (genuine) political reform and social and economic development” with a “security strategy.” That is meeting a corrupt thought halfway and will not serve the people of the Middle East or anywhere else in this world.

The “security strategy” IS the political, social, and economic reform. At least that was what was said, in so many words, during the US Presidential campaign. The reason that 56% of Americans voted for Barack Obama is because he said that, while John McCain added the concept of “security strategy.” This tells us that most of the American People know we do not need to be in the Middle East militarily.

There is a story in the Independent News about the “war on drugs.” It states that torture taxis are being used to ship tons of cocaine to the US. That is what our CIA has been reduced to. Now the lawmakers are phasing out the “war on drugs” and replacing it with the “war on terror.” The fact that the same operatives are involved and their job descriptions have been changing in advance of the phase out of the “war on drugs,” replacing drugs with people, simply means that the same, corporate-minded entities are still telling our government what to do, our government is still doing their bidding, and the product has changed from drugs to humans.

The fact that the US President is having the soldiers guard the poppies instead of burn the poppies is right under our noses, photographs all over the web showing the intent. So now their dastardly plan is to ship the drugs into the United States, turning as many valuable intellects as possible to mush, and then ship the new, mushy, unthinking resource out to the Middle East and Africa as cannon fodder. That is a far cry from “the key to security is political, social, and economic reform.” In fact, it is opposite of what was promised.

Barack Obama said it was time to replace old thinking with new. But then he turned around and replaced the new thinking he exhibited during the campaign with the same, old, tired, corporate strategy. He railed against the horrors of war, and then he promptly went to work facilitating the very corporate interests who use war to make money.

In Haiti, for example, the reason that so many are dead is because there was no infrastructure. The reason there was no infrastructure is because of the corruption between the US government, the NGOs, the banks, and the UN. The NGOs made money this way: They paid 1 penny for the shirt and charged Americans $8.00 for the shirt. This is how they simultaneously robbed Haiti of infrastructure and made money off of US citizens at the same time. Now nature has shown why robbing Haiti of infrastructure was a stupid (corporate) thing to do, as now Haiti lies in rubble, possibly hundreds of thousands of people dead, people who, by the way are leaderless, because they voted for a President who was consequently kidnapped by the US government and taken away from Haiti at the behest of the NGOs and the bank, all because he raised the minimum wage from 38 cents per day to 1 (one) measly dollar a day. The corporations did not like that, nor did the bank like it that Haiti could pay from its own coffers interest on a loan it never received from the bank, and still build more schools and hospitals for its people. Haiti proved it could be independent by working together as a people bent toward dignity despite poverty. That did not suit the NGOs and banks, so the CIA gave 200 convicted criminals guns and facilitated the coup by kidnapping the President.

Haiti has been robbed of her political (public) servants, so has the US.  Haiti has a “consolation prize” for a leader because of US military intervention; and the US has the “same, old same-ole” because its political structure needs remaking as it allows for misleading candidates who say, “The price of security is political, economic, and social reform,” and then acts out these words: “The price of security is drugs, military might, and bank bailouts.”

So I ask you, in the case of Haiti, and the US, and the Middle East, who benefits? Corporations which focus on guns, oil, money, (and now drugs), that’s who.

That leaves one other question, posed in the form of more than one question, for those who can think ahead and still keep the Unchangeable Truth in their hearts and minds: How will we choose to change this social, political, and economic system, since our President lied to us and has now made us even more insecure than we already were? How will we ensure that the next President does not lie to us? What has to be removed from the equation in order to make that happen? As our fiat continues to lose value and opium becomes the escape du jour, how will we, in Barack’s own word, “combat” this treachery, and create for ourselves, as the Founders intended?

General Gambit

General Gambit

By:  Peter Chamberlin

The war for the future of the human race is more about truth –vs- lies, than it is about a physical contest between hostile adversaries.  The strangest part of it all is that no one is seeking absolute vindication in this war of perceptions as either a liar or a “truth” teller.  No one wants to pin down the other side for telling obvious lies.  Why is that?  Everybody has something to hide in the war on terror.

Dig too deeply, or expose the most dangerous lies strung together to tie-up the world in a state of permanent limited war, and the flimsy alliances and “coalitions of the willing” begin to fall apart.  The utter hypocrisy of the entire “war on terror” brings to the front all the worst traits of mankind, in an endeavor that is the most stupendous fraud ever perpetuated upon the human race.

The weavers of the lies at the root of the war have created a paradoxical production that is manifested in our mission, fighting terror while simultaneously creating terrorists.  We wage war on an open-ended battlefield, where the “enemy” is always allowed an escape route, pursuing an ultra-violent strategy that is guaranteed to convert the survivor relatives of murdered militants into terrorists themselves.  The world is being engulfed with a wave of not-undeserved anti-Americanism and America has no plans to change the behavior of our leaders who have created the situation in the first place.

Anger at America within the Pakistani military is the direct cause of the war on terror.  Military defectors and veterans form the hardcore center in all of the outfits involved in starting the war.  This is because American leaders have chosen the Pakistani people to be their primary source of cannon fodder in America’s many aggressions, over the past thirty years, and payback time has arrived for some of them.

The wave of hatred came at us on September 11, 2001 because of past criminal American interactions with the Islamic world.  We built an international army of mercenaries in secret, to fight both friend and foe in illegal, undeclared, wars of aggression, without civilian control or oversight.  We used and abused the Muslim Umma in this manner for our own purposes up until the turning point came, since then, everything has been payback.  The war to defeat the radical extremists that we have created has been a series of attempts to preempt further reactions to our abuse of Muslim men as our militant foot soldiers, as well as their families, who have suffered in our retribution.

Obama has accepted responsibility for carrying on this war, which has been completely blamed on Bush.  The liberal press refuses to lay the blame for this war squarely at the feet of the Democratic Party for starting this with their interventionist policies throughout the world.  This war belongs to them as much as it does to Reagan and both Bushes.  (SEE:  BILL CLINTON: FIRST NEOCON PRESIDENT)  It was Jimmie Carter who armed the first Muslim mujahedeen in the mountains of eastern Afghanistan.  It was Bill Clinton who hired mostly Pakistani, but also Iranian veterans of Carter and Reagan’s Afghan “holy war,” to send them off to fight the Serbians in Yugoslavia.

The future of the human race will be determined by the decisions that this Democratic administration will make.  Will Obama listen to the millions of voices of reason and end this God-forsaken war, or will he continue the modern-day Crusades, intended to remake the Middle East into a safe place for radical Zionists, by eliminating several million angry Muslims?  If Obama chooses to secretly send a new wave of Muslim mercenaries into the Middle East and Central Asia, then he will be choosing the losing side in this struggle for the soul of humankind.  More than anything else, the war on terror is a gigantic flashing sign, telling us that we have to change our ways.

Pakistan is in flames today because everyone refuses to sort-out the truth from the lies in the contest taking place there, even the Pakistanis themselves.   In order for the world to keep on spinning, without upsetting all the “apple carts” in every corner of every kingdom, world opinion must accept the lie—that Pakistan has created the Frankenstein monster of international terrorism on its own, and American forces are only there to clean it all up.  The world accepts the next lie—that the American hand in creating the Afghan mujahedeen (who are at the center of every “Islamist” outfit) was a benevolent one, intended only to “rid the world of the menace of Communism,” and that support for Muslim extremists is a thing of the past.  We must accept—that menace that later grew out of this effort was not America’s, or the CIA’s fault, even if the agency has once again been given the benefit of the doubt in its endless string of “mistakes.”

The Pakistani situation will be the death of the United States, if we do not face-up to the truth of what we have done there and the forces that have arisen as a result.  The forced conversion of Muslim holy warriors into “Islamist” mercenaries to fight for Clinton and the Democrat-led interventionists has not been without repercussions.  The merger of fanatic Shiite and Sunni Islamists into a mercenary army fighting for the “great Satan” in Yugoslavia produced simmering resentments, especially amongst the Sunnis, who had mostly been drawn from Pakistan’s sectarian Sunni outfits.

The movement of Sunni veterans of the Bosnian and Croatian wars into the struggle in Kashmir, where the United States was blamed for Pakistan’s defeat at Kargil, moved some of the extremists who fought and lost there to plot their revenge against us for this latest slap in the face, following our long history of abuse.  September 11 was their payback for that abuse, but mostly for dishonoring Islam and “betrayal” at Kargil.

It is here where the whole narrative gets sticky, because Kargil was Gen. Musharraf’s gambit, and according to the official version of events, it was lost because most of the Pakistani Air Force was grounded due to American anti-nuclear sanctions, which denied them vital spare parts for their F-16s.

The 911 attacks were the work of a bunch of pissed-off Afghan veterans, though American leaders like to call them “al Qaida.”  The most important players were ex-military men, primarily Pakistani Air Force veterans.  Amjad Farooqi and Ramzi bin al-Shibh were allegedly both Pakistani Air Force personnel, both had fought in Bosnia, both had manned the hilltop outposts in Kargil in 1999, both were acquaintances of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, both belonged to the anti-Indian Harkat-ul-Mujahideen, and both trained at the Khawar Zilli camps in Afghanistan’s Khost, which was also one of the targets of Clinton’s cruise missile strikes.   Bin Laden’s boys were also at Kargil, though, at that time, they called themselves the Al-Badar Brigade and Tehrik-i-Jihad, under the banner of the International Islamic Front.  Bin Laden allegedly dug the hilltop fortifications used by the paramilitary infiltrators at Kargil.  The Stinger missiles that they used to defend these positions from the Indian Air Force came from Afghanistan, courtesy of the USA (the ISI refused to return the leftover missiles, as agreed on).

After Clinton’s cruise missile strikes, group leader, Fazlur Rehman Khalil subsequently said that HUM would take revenge on the United States.

“The USA has struck us with Tomahawk cruise missiles at only two places, but we will hit back at them everywhere in the world, wherever we find them. We have started a holy war against the US and they will hardly find a tree to take shelter beneath it.”

At that time, the militants were all united under the Taliban, which has always been under the Pak. Army’s thumb, via the ISI and CIA network.  The militants of HUM could not act without ISI permission.  No matter how much Musharraf and the other generals wanted their own retribution for imaginary American crimes at Kargil that would have seemed too much like cutting their own throats.  But there were other ramifications that arose from the defeat at Kargil which had entered the equation and had to be considered.

The failure of the generals’ gambit forced a severe rethink of the military’s situation. Even though Pakistan had established its own nuclear deterrent to Indian aggression, the attack at Kargil was going to force some kind of Indian retaliation.  Pakistan could not afford to resort to nuclear war to defend against an overwhelming Indian attack, given their F-16 problems and now that India had acquired laser-guided munitions.  Gen. Musharraf knew that Pakistan needed American help, to avert the coming Indian attack.  On October 11, 1999, Gen. Musharraf and his co-conspirators overthrew the democratic government of Pakistan.

This newfound sense of total power, and with that total responsibility for Pakistan’s fate, may have moved him to make a fatal decision to lend covert support to the plot to draw America into Afghanistan.  Since the Army commander of the Kargil operation was Lt. Gen. Mehmud Ahmad, and it has been reported since then that telephone intercepts pegged Gen. Ahmad as the man who had Omar Sheikh wire $100,000 to Mohammed Atta, who was also the roommate of Ramzi bin al-Shibh in Hamburg, Germany, then it does seem quite plausible.

But surely, all of this has been apparent to American military and intelligence bureaus for a long time, after all, all of the key militants in the plots are nearly all either dead now or rotting in some hell-hole, while the generals who secretly supported the militants became America’s top allies in the fight to erase our past mistakes.  They were our partners in the militants’ creation, rightly, they should be part of the militants’ end.

But nothing ended, except for the lives of a lot of militants and regular Pakistani civilians.  The plan was successful, in that it bogged American forces down in a state of endless war in the center of the world’s energy basket, but that was exactly what our leaders have wanted, all along.  Which leads us to the next assumption, that Pakistan’s generals were only doing what American generals wanted them to do, just as they had done for the past thirty years or more.

Even though nuclear war between the two eternal antagonists was impossible, conventional war was ruled-out because of America’s presence in the region, which successfully restrained India’s forces.  With Israel’s help, a covert war within Pakistan was then begun, following the pattern set by Pakistani “ultras,” otherwise known as paramilitaries, militants, or simply terrorists.

The ball of retribution was set in motion, opening the door for other Pakistani militant groups, organized by other military veterans of Kargil; this time from the Pak. Army.  The Lashkar e-Taiba (LET) outfit was headed by Special Forces commando Ilyas Kashmiri. Possibly with the aid of Dawood Ibrahim’s criminal underworld, LET attacked the Indian Parliament on Dec. 13, 2001.

The same combination of Lashkar and underworld forces was later repeated in the 2008 Mumbai attack, if reports based on forced confessions from lone terrorist Ajmal Kasab can be believed.  The question being pondered today is—Was that operation was actually carried-out by Pakistan, or whether it was a duplication of the earlier attack in a “false flag” operation meant to advance the agenda of the American/Indian partnership?  The ongoing controversy over American/Lashkar e-Taiba spy David Headley may give the answer.  Since the US has partnered with both sides in this conflict and is obviously pitting one side against the other, this question will probably go unanswered until the violent resolution that one side (probably the big dog’s side) has planned plays-out.

The victor in all of this drama will determine the fate of the human race, whether that is to be a martial reshaping of the planet, or the struggling of the survivors is anyone’s guess at this point.  All that I really know is, that all of these lies must come to an end and let the chips fall where they may.  All we can do is to keep investigating and exposing whatever we find, no matter what we find.

The truth must prevail.

peter.chamberlin@hotmail.com