Dubya’s legacy: America’s nightmare

Dubya’s legacy: America’s nightmare

As the recent mid-term elections proved rather emphatically, the US electorate has a memory rather like that of a goldfish. And just as the 43rd president emerges from his undisclosed location to punt his book, Decision Points, it is increasingly important to keep reminding people all over the world of what a disastrous legacy he left behind. By J BROOKS SPECTOR.

Imagine what it would have been like if George W Bush had actually won that disputed presidential election back in 2000. We all know the US Supreme Court ultimately tossed out those flawed Florida vote counts, insisting the voters trump everything and Florida have a second election – this time with federal voting monitors (including a whole gaggle of international observers) on hand to ensure the totals were accurate and the counting carefully controlled. Of course, this meant the final vote confirmed that then-vice president Al Gore had won Florida with a 100,000-vote margin, once all those retired folks in the beach counties had their votes counted properly this time around and more than 30,000 African-Americans were put back on voters’ lists. And then as Florida went, so went the overall election and Al Gore was the winner.

But just consider for a moment, if George Bush had actually won, what would he really have done? Would he have contrived to invade Iraq without a reason that could have truthfully passed congressional muster, let alone won over world opinion? Would he have cut taxes for the rich and then gone on to inflate the national debt so dramatically with the cost of two wars and an expensive prescription drug supplement programme only an insurance company could love? And then, in the midst of all of this, would he have allowed the days that followed Hurricane Katrina’s assault on New Orleans to very nearly destroy the social fabric of that special city? And, then, finally, would he have sat by while the collapse of the housing mortgage market triggered the country’s worst economic shock since the Great Depression?

Of course, Islamic fundamentalists might very well have tried to attack an American city. They had, after all threatened that very thing, but surely that hypothetical Bush administration – so supportive of the military – would have taken heed of the warnings from his own bureaucracy about imminent terror attacks and applied new, but necessary, airport security measures in time to prevent any kind of catastrophe.

Certainly an American presidential administration like that one must be the raw material for counter-factual science fiction. That is the literary sub-genre that starts with a “what if” question: What if the Japanese fleet had totally destroyed the American one at Pearl Harbour after spotter planes found the American carriers in their sea drills; or the sudden collapse of Christian Spain when King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella were captured by the Emir of Granada’s cavalry; or the most famous, what if the American South had won at Gettysburg and the Civil War when a final charge split the Northern forces on Cemetery Ridge.

But, George W Bush really was America’s president for eight long years. And there really is a baleful legacy. But for the past two years Bush has been out of public view, a contemporary Achilles sulking in his Texas tent while working on his memoir, Decision Points, now released. From the way it has been reviewed, the judgement is that Bush wasn’t paying especially close attention in his university “Introduction to Philosophy” class when they discussed Socrates’ famous epigram, “The unexamined life is not worth living”.

Like so many political memoirs, Decision Points tries to make the best possible case for his administration’s path, from the “deer in the headlights” in the immediate wake of 9/11, to that gormless invasion and then occupation of Iraq in the spring of 2003 and its embarrassingly pre-emptive “Mission Accomplished” claim, then on once again to “deer in the headlights” looks during New Orleans and the economic collapse that followed.

Photo: “A deer in headlights” moment, first of many: U.S. President George W. Bush listens as White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card informs him of a second plane hitting the World Trade Center while Bush was conducting a reading seminar at the Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, Florida, in this September 11, 2001 file photo. REUTERS/Win McNamee

But to think of Bush’s administration is also to remember the astounding moment when Americans could no longer say that their country, their government, their military did not engage in officially justified torture – following the revelations of Abu Graib and the bland lawyerly memos that justified waterboarding. Until that moment we might have assumed waterboarding was a variant of surfing. But while some might point to things yet worse, for this writer at least, the nadir could well have been the Bush administration’s shrug of “stuff happens”, when thousands of unique artefacts celebrating the Fertile Crescent’s civilisations were looted from Iraqi museum galleries while occupation forces stood by and watched.

But, of course, before the ravages of those archaeological collections, there was the entire lead-up to the invasion of Iraq. Despite the increasingly distant possibility of finding those weapons of mass destruction, the growing difficulties in nailing down any trade in nuclear raw materials or processing technology, the Bush administration insisted on arguing a case for an invasion, almost in spite of the evidence they could muster. When Colin Powell made his UN Security Council speech in support of such action, it should have been clear the crucial evidence was just artists’ renderings. But in the aftermath of 9/11, there was a great rush to oppose fundamentalist terrorism. The Bush administration chose to use this moment to launch a second invasion of Iraq – finishing what was left undone a decade earlier under Bush Snr – even in the absence of a link between an admittedly barbaric Saddam Hussein regime and the Taliban in nearby Afghanistan.

Watch: Bush’s seven minutes of silence as the US was attacked on 9/11.

By the time the Bush administration’s time had come to an end, it was estimated more than a trillion dollars had been expended on those two wars. A wasted decade and countless lost opportunities. What could a trillion dollars have done to improve education, help the country leapfrog into the 21st century’s leading-edge technologies, support new efforts to green the economy, or underpin a transformation of health care in the biotech, information-rich era? What would a tiny chunk of this misspent legacy have meant in dealing with so many problems outside the country as well? Instead, this money has been an investment in ensuring much of the Islamic world – and well beyond – sees America as fundamentally antithetical to that part of the globe.

Instead of focusing critically on such questions, Bush now says his worst moment came when, in the wake of New Orleans and Katrina, musician Kanye West charged his administration’s inept performance left him no choice, but to believe the president was heedless of the needs of its African-American citizens.

Perhaps the biggest indictment of the Bush era, for Americans at least, even more than Iraq and Afghanistan, was his inattention to the weakening American economy in the days leading up to the 2008 crash. The sub-prime mortgage housing bubble led to an increasingly artificial inflation of housing values and a sense of wealth totally dependent on a belief that housing values would only grow.

When it happened the denouement was swift and terrible. It cut value from stock markets around the world, led to a global contraction of credit and trade, a dialling down of economic growth, the collapse of venerable investment banks and major corporations and the consequent major rise in unemployment. Even more than the two wars, the near-collapse of the American and global economy may well remain as George W Bush’s major legacy for generations to come.

In coming to terms with this question, New York Times writer Peter Baker wrote the other day: “Most Americans still do not view him favourably and a good portion still revile him for invading Iraq, waterboarding terror suspects and presiding over the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. He is still a punchline, to many a failed president, the source of today’s economic and foreign policy troubles. And yet, with Obama increasingly unpopular and “Miss Me Yet?” T-shirts for sale at Washington’s Union Station a short walk from the Capitol, some polls suggest a slight softening of views. Obama’s blame-Bush strategy did not stop voters last week from returning Republicans to power in the House and handing them more seats in the Senate.”

Watch: George Bush and the ‘walking shoe incident’.

A friend learned this writer was considering a short article on Bush, and was just as vehement about his failures as was I. But he also felt obligated to point to one major success – a project that probably gets too little attention in America. And that, of course, is Pepfar – the President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief. Dreamed up in the White House, it aimed to achieve simultaneous political tasks in reaching out to America’s Christian fundamentalist community (stalwart Republican voters, but often concerned about Africa), deal with HIV/Aids (and finding a new way for Bush to address this growing issue) and addressing Africa via a strategic approach.

The White House determined that a new global approach to deal with treatment, research and palliative care would hit all these buttons, and would bring together American idealism, research pre-eminence and a new initiative towards Africa in one crisp package. Despite suspicions that it was designed to help the big drug companies or was a plot to use Africans as test specimens or worse, in the long run, for the world, Pepfar may ultimately prove to be one of the relatively unheralded, yet best parts of Bush’s legacy.

In 1866, then former US president James Buchanan launched the presidential memoir as literature. Buchanan had been president from 1857-1861, just as Southern opposition to Abraham Lincoln becoming president turned into the Civil War that became the country’s existential crisis. Buchanan’s detractors charged he had done nothing when disunion was only a possibility, allowing much worse to happen as he left office. But Buchanan wrote his memoir as the war finally came to an end to make his case that the whole thing wasn’t his fault; that preventing national dissolution wasn’t part of his job description. No one reads Buchanan’s book anymore.

By contrast, Ulysses Grant, the Northern general who had won that war and then gone on to become president during “The Gilded Age”, amid an orgy of corruption and insider-dealing that may be easy for us to identify with these days, wrote his own memoir that remains acclaimed as one of the greatest such memoirs. Rather than special pleading or making excuses, Grant simply leads his readers through his life and explains what he did – and why. No regrets. No excuses. Grant was absolutely clear-eyed about his war: he was given a job, he used the tools he had, and he did what was needed to bring an end to the killing and preserve the country.

His publisher and editor, Mark Twain, would say later that “this is the simple soldier, who, all untaught of the silken phrase-makers, linked words together with an art surpassing the art of the schools and put into them a something which will still bring to American ears, as long as America shall last, the roll of his vanished drums and the tread of his marching hosts.” Sadly, Grant had less to say about his tenure as president and why it unravelled as it did.

By contrast, George W Bush’s personal circumstances are a glimpse at a life that has gone from one easy chance to another – born into a politically potent family, admission to two of the country’s most prestigious universities, an easy slide past the Vietnam War through a stint in the Air Force reserve, a series of no-stress political jobs and a lucky moment with a modest investment in a professional sports team (with the backing of family friends) that he parlayed into the name recognition to win election as the governor of Texas. And then on to the presidency. The only detour being a foray into alcohol abuse and a crisis of conscience because of it.

Unlike Hamlet, whom Shakespeare could have exclaim, “O God, I could be bounded in a nutshell and count myself a king of infinite space, were it not that I have bad dreams,” George W Bush has managed to pass along most of the bad dreams to the rest of us. DM

Read The New York Times, the Daily Beast, the Hauenstein Center of the Great Valley State University and Jonathan Raban in the Wall Street Journal.

Main photo: U.S. President George W. Bush reacts to a question after a man threw a shoe at him during a joint statement with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in Baghdad, Iraq December 14, 2008. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

“BuildingWhat?” If 911 Investigation Happens We Can Thank Fox News

Ask Officials to Investigate Building 7

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What is Building 7?

Building 7 was a 47-story skyscraper that was part of the World Trade Center complex. It would have been the tallest high-rise in 33 states. It collapsed at 5:20 pm on September 11, 2001. It was not hit by an airplane and suffered minimal damage compared to other buildings much closer to the Twin Towers.

Video compilation of Building 7‘s destruction (no sound):

Building 7 in relation to the rest of the World Trade Center complex:

Building 7

To learn more about Building 7, visit “7 Facts about Building 7”, which includes photos of Building 7 before, during and after its destruction.

The Origin of  “BuildingWhat?”

More than eight years after the tragedy of September 11, 2001, New York Supreme Court Justice Edward H. Lehner was hearing arguments in a courtroom less than a mile from Ground Zero about a ballot initiative to launch a new investigation of the 9/11 attacks. When the lawyer for the plaintiffs sponsoring the initiative explained that the 9/11 Commission report left many unanswered questions, including “Why did Building 7 come down,” the Judge replied quizzically, “Building what?”

Like Judge Lehner, millions of people do not know or remember only vaguely that a third tower called World Trade Center Building 7 also collapsed on September 11, 2001. In any other situation, the complete, free fall collapse of a 47-story skyscraper would be played over and over on the news. It would be discussed for years to come and building design codes would be completely rewritten. So, why does no one know about Building 7? And why did Building 7 come down?

The answers to these questions have far-reaching implications for our society. The goal of the “BuildingWhat?” campaign is to raise awareness of Building 7 so that together we can begin to address these questions.



In an article  (the “International Herald Tribune” of June 16) on Pakistan’s proxy invasion of Indian territory in the Kargil sector of Jammu & Kashmir, Mr.Selig Harrison, the well-known American analyst, says:” Recent information makes clear that the newly-installed Army Chief of Staff (COAS), Gen. Pervez Musharraf, has long-standing links with several Islamic fundamentalist groups.”
Gen. Musharraf’s past background has not received, from Indian and Western analysts, the attention it deserves, if one has to have a clearer understanding of his role in the proxy invasion.
Gen. Musharraf, a Mohajir of Azamgarh/Karachi origin, had subsequently settled down in Gujranwala in Punjab and prefers to project himself more as a Punjabi than as a Mohajir. He was commissioned in the Pakistan Army Artillery in 1964.
He had an undistinguished career till the 1980s, when he caught the eye of Gen.Zia-ul-Haq and Gen. Mirza Aslam Beg, another Mohajir COAS.
Gen. Zia, who preferred devoutly Muslim officers in important positions, chose Gen. Musharraf for advancement as he was, like Gen. Zia himself, a devout Deobandi and was strongly recommended by  the Jamaat-e-Islami.
The first assignment given by Zia to him was in the training of the mercenaries recruited by various Islamic extremist groups for fighting against the Soviet troops in Afghanistan. It was during those days that Gen. Musharaff came into contact with Osama bin Laden, then a reputed civil engineer of Saudi Arabia, who had been recruited by the USA’s Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and brought to Pakistan for constructing bunkers for the Afghan Mujahideen in difficult terrain.
bin Laden initially made his reputation in Afghanistan not as a mujahideen or terrorist, but as a civil engineer who could construct bunkers in any terrain. He also developed the technique of constructing long tunnels to isolated Soviet and Afghan military posts. The Mujahideen used to suddenly emerge from these tunnels and surprise the Soviet and Afghan troops. The links, which Gen. Musharraf developed with bin Laden in those days, have subsequently remained strong.
It was alleged that Gen. Musharraf also developed a nexus with the narcotics smugglers of the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP). Even though the CIA valued his services in Afghanistan, the Narcotics Control officials of the US had reservations about him because of suspicions of his contacts with the narcotics smugglers.
That is one of the reasons why of all the senior Pakistani Army officers of today, Gen. Musharraf has had the least interactions with the US military establishment– in the form of nomination for higher training in the US, participation in seminars and exercises and visits to US military establishments. His bio-data issued by the Pakistan Army HQ. in October last at the time of his appointment as the COAS show that he has done two training courses in the UK. There was no mention of any course in the US.
Gen. Zia chose Gen. Musharraf (then a Brigadier) in 1987 to command a newly-raised Special Services Group (SSG) base at Khapalu in the Siachen area. To please Gen. Zia, Gen. Musharraf with his SSG commandos launched an attack on an Indian post at Bilfond La in September, 1987,and was beaten back. Despite this, he continued to enjoy the confidence of Zia.
Gen. Musharraf has since then spent seven years in two tenures with the SSG and prides himself on being an SSG commando and projects himself as the greatest expert of the Pakistan Army in mountain warfare. When he recently received Gen. Anthony Zinni, the Commanding Officer of the US Central Command, he was dressed as an SSG Commando.
In May,1988, the Shias, who are in a majority in Gilgit, rose in revolt against the Sunni-dominated administration. Zia put an SSG group commanded by Gen. Musharraf in charge of suppressing the revolt. Gen. Musharraf transported a large number of Wahabi Pakhtoon tribesmen from the NWFP and Afghanistan, commanded by bin Laden, to Gilgit to teach the Shias a lesson. These tribesmen under bin Laden massacred hundreds of Shias.
In its issue of May,1990, “Herald”, the monthly journal of the “Dawn” group of publications of Karachi, wrote as follows: ” In May,1988, low-intensity political rivalry and sectarian tension ignited into full-scale carnage as thousands of armed tribesmen from outside Gilgit district invaded Gilgit along the Karakoram Highway. Nobody stopped them. They destroyed crops and houses, lynched and burnt people to death in the villages around Gilgit town. The number of dead and injured was put in the hundreds. But numbers alone tell nothing of the savagery of the invading hordes and the chilling impact it has left on these peaceful valleys.”
Gen. Musharraf started a policy of bringing in Punjabis and Pakhtoons from outside and settling them down in Gilgit and Baltistan in order to reduce the Kashmiri Shias to a minority in their traditional land and this is continuing till today. The “Friday Times” of October 15-21, 1992, quoted Mr. Muhammad Yahya Shah, a local Shia leader, as saying: ” We were ruled by the Whites during the British days. We are now being ruled by the Browns from the plains. The rapid settling-in of Punjabis and Pakhtoons from outside, particularly the trading classes, has created a sense of acute insecurity among the local Shias.”
Zia became the first victim of the carnage unleashed by Gen. Musharraf on the Shias of Gilgit. Though the Pakistani authorities have not released the report of the committee, which enquired into the crash of Zia’s plane in August,1988, it is widely believed in Pakistan that a Shia airman from Gilgit, wanting to take revenge for the May,1988, carnage, was responsible for the crash.
During his days with the SSG in the Siachen area and in the Northern Areas (Gilgit and Baltistan), Gen. Musharraf developed a close personal friendship with Lt.Gen. (now retd) Javed Nasir, Director-General of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), during Mr.Nawaz Sharif’s first tenure as the Prime Minister and now his Adviser on intelligence matters, Maj.Gen. Zaheer-ul-Islam Abbasi, then a Brigadier,  Lt.Gen. Mohd.Aziz, former No. 2 in the ISI till February this year and now the Chief of the General Staff (CGS), and Mr.Mohd Rafique Tarar, then a Judge and now the President of Pakistan.
All the four of them were devout Deobandis with strong links with Islamic fundamentalist parties and particularly with the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HUM, also known for some years as the Harkat-ul-Ansar ), which was declared by the US as an international terrorist organisation in 1997. Along with the Lashkar-e-Toiba,the HUM is a member of bin Laden’s International Islamic Front for Jihad against the US and Israel.
Lt.Gen. Nasir was also an office-bearer of the Tablighi Jamaat, even while in service.
In the late 1980s, Brig. Abbasi was posted as the Military Attache in the Pakistani High Commission in New Delhi. He was expelled by the Government of India in 1989 after he was caught by the New Delhi police while receiving classified papers from a Government employee.
On his return to Pakistan, Brig. Abbasi was posted to the Siachen. Like Gen. Musharraf, he had a reputation of taking rash and irresponsible actions without the clearance of his superiors. He launched an attack on an Indian army post, which was repulsed with heavy Pakistani casualties.
The late Gen.Asif Nawaz Janjua, the then COAS, recalled him to Rawalpindi and wanted to dismiss him for launching the attack without his orders, but Lt.Gen. Nasir saved him from any punishment.
On September 8,1995, the Pakistani Customs stopped a car carrying heavy arms and ammunition near Kohat in the NWFP and arrested its driver and Saifullah Akhtar, the then patron of the HUM. On interrogation, they reportedly told the Customs authorities that the weapons had been procured by Brig. Mustansar Billa of the Pakistan Army at Darra Adamkhel for supply to the Kashmiri extremist groups.
The Pakistani army then took over the investigation and arrested a group of 40 army officers and 10 civilians headed by Maj.Gen.Abbasi. Mrs. Benazir Bhutto, then Prime Minister, alleged that this group had conspired to kill her and senior military officers, stage a coup and proclaim an Islamic state. They were secretly tried by a military court and sentenced to various terms of imprisonment.
Sections of the Pakistani press had alleged that the plotters had wanted to instal Gen. Musharraf as the head of the Islamic State, and that Gen. Aziz was also involved in the plot, but no action was taken against them for want of adequate evidence
Mr.M.H.Askari, a well-known columnist, wrote in the “Dawn” (October 18,1995) as follows: “It is said that the plotters had close links with the Hizbul Mujahideen and the Harkat-ul-Ansar, which are known for their involvement in international terrorism. It is also said that the arrested officers wanted Pakistan to become militarily involved in the Kashmir freedom struggle.”
“The Nation” (October 20,1995) reported that Maj.Gen.Abbasi had close contacts with the Harkat-ul-Ansar. The “Khabrain” alleged that two of the arrested officers belonged to the ISI and that one of them had worked as the staff officer to Lt.Gen. Nasir, when he was DG, ISI.
“The Nation” of November 15,1995, reported: “Almost all the arrested officers are followers of the Tablighi Jamaat based in Raiwind.”  Raiwind, which is in the Punjab, is the hometown of the Prime Minister, Mr.Nawaz Sharif. It is also the headquarters of the HUM.
Pakistani analysts were surprised when  Mr.Sharif appointed Gen.Musharraf as the COAS on October 8,1998, superseding Lt.Gen. Ali Kuli Khan, a Pakhtoon, who was the CGS, and Lt. Gen. Khalid Nawaz, a Punjabi, who was the Quarter-Master General. Mr.Sharif’s choice of Gen. Musharraf was attributed to the following:
—- He was strongly recommended by President Tarar and Lt.Gen. Nasir.
—- He had ingratiated himself with Mr.Sharif by keeping the latter informed of the criticism of the Government’s functioning by Lt.Gen.Ali Kuli Khan and Khalid Nawaz at theCorps Commanders’ conferences when Gen.Jehangir Karamat was the COAS.
—-  Though a Mohajir, Gen. Musharraf disliked Mr. Altaf Hussain and his Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM). Mr. Sharif, therefore, wanted to use him to crush the MQM in Karachi.
Mr.Sharif and Gen. Musharraf got along very well till March. As desired by Mr.Sharif, the new COAS set up special military courts in Karachi to try the MQM cadres on charges of terrorism. Several of them were sentenced to death and two executed before the Pakistan Supreme Court, acting on a petition, declared these courts unconstitutional. It was alleged that Mr.Sharif was also planning to have Mr.Asif Zirdari, the husband of Mrs. Bhutto, tried as a terrorist by the military courts and sentenced to death for allegedly killing Murtaza Bhutto, her brother, in September, 1996.
Mr. Sharif also made the Army in charge of the Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA) to put an end to corruption and labour trouble and to improve efficiency.
After the visit of Mr.Strobe Talbott, US Deputy Secretary of State, to Pakistan in the first week of February, Mr.Sharif also approved a plan submitted by Gen. Musharraf for shifting bin Laden’s terrorist brigade from the Jalalabad area of Afghanistan to the Kargil area of India by taking advantage of the absence of the Indian army from this area during winter. It is reported that while Lt.Gen. Nasir strongly backed the plan, Lt.Gen, Ziauddin, the Director-General of the ISI, expressed strong reservations over it and pointed out that it could create problems for Pakistan with the US.
Gen. Musharraf transferred Lt.Gen. Aziz from the ISI to the Army HQ. as his CGS and made him responsible for its implementation through the Directorate of Military Intelligence. Lt.Gen. Nasir was kept in the picture about the implementation, but not Lt.Gen.Ziauddin.
While outwardly supporting the Lahore Declaration, Gen. Musharraf, with the backing of Lt.Gen. Nasir, went ahead implementing the plan. Bin Laden’s terrorist brigade was transported to Skardu in the Northern Areas and from there infiltrated into the Kargil area along with a large number of Pakistani army regulars. Mr.Sharif was allegedly not kept in the picture about sending the army regulars into Indian territory along with the terrorist brigade.
In the February-March,1999, issue of the Pakistan “Defence Journal”, Lt.Gen Nasir had written an article titled “Calling the Indian Army Chief’s Bluff”. While ostensibly supporting the Lahore initiative, Lt.Gen. Nasir wrote in the most contemptuous manner of the capabilities of the Indian army and said: “The Indian army is incapable of undertaking any conventional operations at present, what to talk of enlarging conventional conflict.”
A perusal of the writings in the Pakistani media and professional journals since January,1999, shows that these irrational religious elements in the Pakistan army headed by Gen. Musharraf and senior retired officers who have been supporting Gen. Musharraf have embarked on this adventure in the Kargil area on the basis of the following assumptions:
—-The morale in the Indian armed forces is low due to the “bad leadership” of Mr.George Fernandes, our Defence Minister. Lt.Gen.Assad Durrani, former DG of the ISI, has sarcastically referred to Mr.Fernandes as the “best Indian Defence Minister that Pakistan can hope to have.”
—- The BJP is a party of paper tigers, known more for their “verbosity” than for their actions.
—- Pakistan’s nuclear and missile capability has ensured that India would not retaliate against Pakistan for occupying the ridges in the Kargil area.
—-The fear of the possible use of nuclear weapons would bring in Western  intervention, thereby internationalising the Kashmir issue.
—-Pakistan should agree to a ceasefire only if it was allowed to remain in occupation of the Indian territory. There should be no question of the restoration of the status quo ante.
The interviews and speeches of Gen. Musharraf since October, 1998, show his thinking to be as follows:
—-The acquisition of Kashmir by Pakistan can wait. What is more important is to keep the Indian army bleeding in Kashmir just as the Afghan Mujahideen kept the Soviet troops bleeding in Afghanistan.
— Even if the Kashmir issue is resolved, there cannot be normal relations between India and Pakistan because Pakistan, by frustrating India’s ambition of emerging as a major Asian power on par with China and Japan, would continue to be a thorn on India’s flesh. And, so long as it does so, Pakistan would continue to enjoy the backing of China and Japan.
From March, Gen. Musharraf, to the discomfiture of Mr.Sharif, started coming out in his true colours. He issued an order that the army, as the supervisory authority, would conduct all future negotiations with the independent power producers, thereby denying any role in the matter to the politicians and civilian bureaucrats. When Mr.Sharif objected to this order, he declined to cancel it.
The COAS made out a list of all payment defaulters of the WAPDA and leaked to the press that Mrs.Abida Hussain, a Shia Minister of Mr.Sharif’s Cabinet, was one of the major defaulters, thereby forcing her to resign. He has also been hinting to the press that the business enterprises of Mr.Sharif’s family top the list of defaulters.
He then insisted that he should be given concurrent charge of the post of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, even though it was the turn of Admiral Fasih Bokhari, the Chief of the Naval staff, to hold this charge. His argument was that since the army was the most important component of the armed forces, the Chairman should always be from the army. While not accepting this argument, Mr.Sharif gave him concurrent charge for one year only, as against the normal three years. He also got himself nominated as the Strategic Commander of Pakistan’s nuclear force.
By May, Gen. Musharraf found to his surprise that the BJP-led Government was reacting vigorously to the invasion and had ordered the Indian Air Force to go into action against the invaders. It was only then that he reportedly told a shocked Mr.Sharif that he had sent in a large number of Pakistan army regulars with bin Laden’s terrorist brigade and that the regulars were likely to incur heavy casualties.
The demand of the US and other Western powers for the withdrawal of the invaders and for the restoration of the status quo ante came as another surprise to him.
Despite this, he seems to be insisting that Pakistan should not agree to any unconditional withdrawal.


(The writer is Additional Secretary (Retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, and presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-Mail address: corde@vsnl.com)

Averting a doomsday scenario

Averting a doomsday scenario

Taliban led by Mullah Toofan are allegedly planning coordinated attacks on the Shia community in Kurram. PHOTO: AFP

ISLAMABAD: All key players in Pakistan’s tribal regions are maneuvering to avert what can be the bloodiest-ever sectarian conflict between the Taliban-supported Sunnis and the ‘besieged’ Shia community in Kurram Agency, officials and locals said.

The North Waziristan-based Haqqani network, top military officials and religious leaders from across Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa are trying hard to convince Taliban commanders from neighbouring Orakzai Agency to reconcile with the Shias in Parachinar, the main town in Kurram Agency.

Thousands of Orakzai-based Taliban, led by Maulana Noor Jamal, or Mullah Toofan, are allegedly planning coordinated attacks on the Shia community in Kurram to avenge the eviction of over 1,000 Sunni families by them two years ago.

Kurram is the only Shia-dominated tribal area where the Taliban are now holding sway. It is a strategically important region because it borders Afghanistan and some important tribal regions.

Residents from Parachinar told The Express Tribune that the Shia community has requested Maulana Sirajuddin Haqqani, who supervises the Haqqani network operations in North Waziristan, to mediate between them and Mullah Toofan’s commanders.

Toofan is a nominee of Hakimullah Mehsud, the outlawed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) commander, for Orakzai and is notorious for his brutalities against those who oppose his rule in northern parts of the agency.

The Pakistan military has time and again claimed to have cleared the agency of militants but local residents contradict this claim. The entire Upper Orakzai is controlled by Mullah Toofan and Commander Tariq Afridi, a militant leader who once controlled the semi-tribal Dara Adamkhel area before his men were chased out by the military.

The pair have their base-camp in a seminary in the Arghanja area of Dabori sub-district. “It is a facility similar to the one Maulana Fazlullah (Mullah Radio) had in Swat. It is their nerve centre,” a local source told The Express Tribune.

“It is from the Taliban network in Orakzai that the most serious threat to the Shias in Kurram emanates from,” said a Peshawar-based official.

This was the reason the Shias from Kurram sought mediation from the Haqqanis, added a former parliamentarian from Kohat who has good terms with the Taliban. “They went there and asked Haqqani to get involved,” the former lawmaker explained, contradicting earlier media reports.

Last week, some leading newspapers reported that the Haqqani network wanted to seize control of the region to mount operations inside Afghanistan’s eastern provinces.

But the lawmaker denied these reports. He was part of a delegation the Pakistani military sent last week to convince the Shias to let the ousted Sunnis families return home in Parachinar.

“The Shia community approached Haqqani with Rs200 million cash and 2,000 sheep,” the former lawmaker revealed, referring to a Pakhtun tradition of offering sheep to seek reconciliation, known as ‘nanavatey’.

Another Peshawar-based official also confirmed that Shia community leaders from Kurram went to North Waziristan to seek support from the Haqqanis but it was to protect them against cross-border attacks from international forces based in Afghanistan.

Last month five people, among them three paramilitary troops, were killed in attacks by Nato helicopter gunships in Kurram.

The official said that before meeting Haqqani, a Shia delegation also visited Afghanistan to meet Nato officials but could not get an assurance that their region would not be attacked again.

“That’s why they sought the Haqqanis’ help…they want the Taliban to stand by them in case of intrusions into their area by Nato troops,” he explained.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 28th, 2010.

Pak Army Sleight of Hand In Plain Sight In Kurram

Pak Army Sleight of Hand In Plain Sight In Kurram

[After amplifying distrust with the primary Taliban leadership (by grabbing-up most of the senior leadership), Gen. Kayani may be figuring-out that Sirajuddin Haqqani is the last ace up his sleeve.  If the generals cannot hide their primary militant assets in Kurram, then there will be no offensive in N. Waziristan.

The closing of the border access points is a dark omen of things to come.  Failure to force the Shia of Parachinar using fear alone, into accepting Taliban dominance will likely signal their imminent decimation by overwhelming military force.  The only thing really restraining the generals from choosing the ultra-violent solution is the possibility that the free press (blogger community) will not let them get away with it.  In order to pretend that Pakistan is a democracy and to deny that it is still a military dictatorship, the Army must continue to hide its protection of the Haqqani network and the Taliban itself.  If the people of the world were to see that the Army rules by using its secret militant assets to terrorize its own people, then there would be a cut-off of the international funds that keeps the country afloat.  Pakistan walks a tightrope in order to maintain the illusion of “democracy.”

It is impossible to write about the Pakistani Army without arousing the passions of the Pakistani people.  The fact that Pakistani democracy is really only two years old, counting from the end of Musharraf, means that it really is a work in the making.

When speaking to the people of another country, especially one which is torn by American actions, it is necessary at first, to tailor your words to fit the prevailing opinions in that country.  In the two years in which I have been actively trying to really communicate with the Pakistani people, I have found support at various times from both ends of the Pakistani political spectrum, those who support the Army and those who believe that the Army is the problem.  Long-time readers may have noticed my writing reflected an apparent pro-Army position in the beginning and an anti-Army opinion these days.  In the beginning, before I really understood the Pakistani problem, I supported the Army’s actions, believing them to be a defense against the “bomb you back to the Stone Age” mentality of Bush and Cheney.  Now that I know, I cannot contemplate supporting Army actions.

The hypocrisy of the Pak Army is unbelievable, nearly as great as that of their American mentors.  The truth of the terror war can easily be seen in Pakistan.  The whole thing is bullshit masquerading as “patriotism.”  Pretending that they are defending us (US and Pakistan), patriotic young men in both armies have laid their bodies in the line of fire.  They were enlisted not to defend, but to create an artificial means of indirect control over us, the civilians.  The concept of “limited war” is a mechanism of indirect popular control, devised to enable the government to wage wars of aggression, without breaching the public’s limits of acceptable morality.   Pakistan’s Army, just like America’s, wages war upon its enemies as a way to wage indirectly war upon its own people.  The war justifies the elimination of political rights.  This is the real mission of the war, not the manufactured war against synthetic enemies.

The war in Pakistan has come in waves.  Perhaps the final wave for Pakistan will be the one waiting to wash over Kurram, then Peshawar, then Islamabad.  By creating the synthetic (manufactured) war in S. Waziristan, Musharraf has managed to convince the Pakistani people to embrace waging total war upon the militants. In contrast to past government failure to force the war in FATA upon the people, guerrillas wearing black hoods have easily swayed public opinion in favor of the war, simply by bombing a few mosques and funeral processions.  In the past, the people have risen-up against America’s war, now the militants cause the people to rise-up against them, just what the armies of Pakistan and America want.  How convenient.

The war against the synthetic opponents in Pakistan’s tribal regions is a war that Musharraf inherited from Zia.  Since the beginning, the Army’s militants have always been Deobandi or Wahabbi Sunni radicals, who murdered mostly Shiites all over the country.  The Sunni militant war against the Shia has always focused on Kurram and the “Parrot’s beak” staging area, where America’s militants were gathered together before moving into Afghanistan.  The “mujahedeen” army organized for America around Peshawar, under the direction of Osama bin Laden, waged a bloody action against Parachinar’s Shia defenders that cost hundreds of lives.  This was to send a warning signal to revolutionary Iran, who was providing support to Parachinar’s Shia as well as to the Hazara Shia on the Afghan side of the border.  This geostrategic war, fought on a very personal local level, has been the very real daily life of thousands of people, simply because it happened out of our eyesight, beyond the great mountains of the Hindu Kush.

The Internet has changed all that.  The dreaded war called “globalism” has stretched all the way into the formerly inaccessible places like Parachinar.  The military takeover of Parachinar must be “televised,” so to speak.  We cannot let the Army and the militants seal this zone off and carry-out a Pakistani version of Israel’s “Cast Iron” there (SEE: Parachinar–Pakistan’s Gaza Strip ).

There are many articles on the past siege of Parachinar on this website.  As this latest planned action unfolds, it is certain that there will be many more, such as the one below, Kurram: the forsaken FATA.]

Kurram: the forsaken FATA

—Dr Mohammad Taqi

The flat out refusal of the Kurramis, who have lost over 1,200 souls since April 2007, to cede their territory and pride to the jihadists and their masters has thrown a wrench in the latter’s immediate plans. Having failed to dupe the citizenry, the establishment has elected to bring them to their knees by force

General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani visited a tribal agency last week but he did not tender an apology to some local families, whose dear ones — including children — were killed by the Pakistan Army gunship helicopters this past September. Not that one was holding one’s breath for the general’s regrets but it would have presented some semblance of fairness given the Pakistan Army’s demands for apology and furore over the NATO choppers killing its troops in the same region during the same month. Well, life is not fair as it is, especially for the people of Kurram — the third largest Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA).

The crime of these civilians, killed by their own army, was that they had been resisting the influx of foreign terrorists into their territory. Despite the claims put forth by the military about the NATO incursion, it is clear now that the latter had attacked the members of the Haqqani terrorist network who were using the village of Mata Sangar in Kurram to attack the ISAF posts in neighbouring Khost, Afghanistan. Reportedly, the de facto leader of the Haqqani network, Sirajuddin Haqqani, was in the region at the time of the NATO attack.

What has also become increasingly clear is that the Pakistani establishment is trying its level best to relocate its Haqqani network assets to the Kurram Agency in anticipation of an operation that it would have to start — under pressure from the US — in the North Waziristan Agency (NWA) sooner rather than later. This is precisely what the establishment had intended to do when it said that the NWA operation would be conducted in its own timeframe. The Taliban onslaught on the Shalozan area of Kurram, northeast of Mata Sangar, in September 2010 was part of this tactical rearrangement. When the local population reversed the Taliban gains in the battle for the village Khaiwas, the army’s gunships swooped down on them to protect its jihadist partners.

This is not the first time that the security establishment has attempted to use the Kurram Agency to provide transit or sanctuary to its Afghan Taliban allies. It did so during the so-called jihad of the 1980s and 1990s when the geo-strategic tip of the region called the Parrot’s Beak served as a bridgehead for operations against the neighbouring Afghan garrisons, especially Khost. In the fall of 2001, the Pakistan Army moved into Kurram and the Tirah Valley straddling the Khyber and Kurram agencies, ostensibly to block al Qaeda’s escape from the Tora Bora region. The Tirah deployment actually served as a diversion, as al Qaeda and key Afghan Taliban were moved through Kurram and in some instances helped to settle there.

The use of diversions and decoys has also become a de facto state policy when it comes to Kurram. The crisis in the region has been described as a sectarian issue since April 2007. However, the fact of the matter is that the Wahabi extremists, sponsored by the state’s intelligence apparatus, were used to prepare the ground for a larger Taliban-al Qaeda presence in the area. A local mosque in Parachinar served then as the staging ground for rolling out the Taliban rule in the Kurram Agency like similar operations in other tribal agencies. At the time, the Nasrullah Mansur network — an affiliate of the Afghan Taliban — along with the Pakistani Taliban was part of the alliance that had taken over the mosque. The resistance by the Kurram people was extraordinary and the jihadists were dislodged, albeit at great cost to the life, property and peace of the region. A son of Nasrullah Mansur, Saif-ur-Rahman was reportedly killed in a later round of fighting in December 2007.

From that point on, the Kurram tribesmen have come under increasing pressure from the establishment and its Taliban assets to allow the use of their territory for waging war against Afghanistan. The Parachinar-Thall road was effectively closed to the people from upper Kurram through jihadist attacks right under the establishment’s nose. The blockade became so intense that the people had to either use an unreliable and highly expensive small aircraft service operated by the Peshawar Flying Club to reach Peshawar or look for alternative routes.

A land route to Kabul was later opened through the efforts of some Peshawar based tribal and political elders. For about two years, this 230 mile-long arduous journey has literally been upper Kurram’s lifeline and its only land route to reach the rest of Pakistan via Peshawar. Given the fact that the Kurram Agency, with its over half a million population and a 3,380 square kilometre area, is the third largest tribal agency, this route has helped avert a massive humanitarian disaster by allowing food, medicine and supplies to reach the locals. The state did not stand just idle; it actively assisted in the blockade of its own citizens.

The establishment’s strategy over the last month has been to impose the Haqqani network as the ‘mediators’ over the Kurram Agency to help resolve the ‘sectarian’ conflict there. They had coerced and co-opted three leaders from Kurram, Aun Ali, Zamin Hussain and the MNA Sajid Turi, to meet Ibrahim and Khalil Haqqani, sons of the network’s ailing chief Jalaluddin. The three Pakistani men, however, did not have the waak — a customary power of attorney or designation — to conduct a jirga or negotiation or seek nanawatai (sanctuary) on behalf of the Kurram people and therefore were not able to guarantee that Kurram would not resist the new Taliban-Haqqani network incursion there.

The flat out refusal of the Kurramis, who have lost over 1,200 souls since April 2007, to cede their territory and pride to the jihadists and their masters has thrown a wrench in the latter’s immediate plans. Having failed to dupe the citizenry, the establishment has elected to bring them to their knees by force. It announced last week that it is closing down the Parachinar-Gardez-Kabul route, trapping the people of Kurram in a pincer of twin blockades. Announcing the embargo, Colonel Tausif Akhtar of the Pakistani security forces claimed that they are closing down five border entry points to clamp down on sectarian violence. The people of Kurram, however, see this as the state opening the floodgates of oppression on them. But as long as the rest of Pakistan and the world at large do not take notice of the establishment’s tactics in Kurram, this forgotten part of FATA will be completely forsaken.

The writer can be reached at mazdaki@me.com