“Pretend Secrecy” Shields the White House from a Drone Missile Debate

The Huffington Post
Posted: November 5, 2009
By Sanjeev Bery

It is time to set aside the notion that U.S. drone missile attacks in Pakistan are some kind of secret. The pretense of secrecy has saved Obama Administration officials from having to publicly defend the military tactic.

But when Pakistani college students, think tank scholars, and New York Times reporters are all talking about this issue, U.S. officials should stop pretending that there is anything classified about it. Continue reading

The State Department is keeping track…

pakistan-map_0The U.S. State Department is now tracking the number of emails received opposing U.S. drone missile attacks in Pakistan.  What will the final number be?

50?  500?  5000?

After emailing the State Department to oppose drone missile attacks, I received the message below.  You may have as well.  This means that senior State Department officials will eventually get a report on the total emails received.

What will the report say?

If you haven’t already done so, please click here so that senior U.S. officials know that a significant number of people want the U.S. government to stop killing Pakistani civilians:  http://freedomforward.org
Continue reading

US AID guards its turf in Pakistan

Over at Informed Consent, Juan Cole writes:

usaid_logo_sealThe [Kerry-Lugar Pakistan] aid bill is also controversial in Washington, where a US AID official has complained about the plan to funnel it through Pakistani contractors rather than through American ones. The Agency for International Development official maintained that Pakistani organizations cannot be monitored effectively by the US, raising the possibility that the money will be embezzled…

I understand the difficulty of auditing NGOs in dangerous places like the FATA tribal areas. But it seems to me that it must be possible to audit the Pakistani pass-through organizations elsewhere regularly, and that the shell game of Congress giving foreign aid to a country in a way that actually just benefits US corporations and contractors is counter-productive.

The original complaint came in the form of a “sensitive but unclassified” internal memo from US AID Development Economist C. Stuart Callison, Ph.D., criticizing the U.S. State Department’s shifts in the routing of Pakistan aid:

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Misreading “Anti-Americanism” in Pakistan

militaryincThe latest news on US-Pakistan relations shouldn’t surprise anyone. According to the Associated Press, former Pakistani dictator Pervez Musharraf used billions of dollars in US military aid for everything but the paymasters’ intended purpose: fighting Taliban militias.

None of this news, however, is likely to generate much Pakistani sympathy for American taxpayers. What American officials refer to as “anti-American sentiment” is actually a deep resentment of U.S. government involvement in internal Pakistani politics. It is worth noting that U.S. funding for Musharraf marked the third time we have supported Pakistani dictatorship in the country’s 60 years of history.

It is precisely this past that has come to haunt both Pakistanis and Americans today. The intersection of dictatorship and dollars has resulted in a Pakistani military that does not answer to the country’s civilian leadership. Every time American taxpayers financed an alliance with a Pakistani military dictator, we also forced Pakistani reformers to take a backseat.

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Failed State Fetish

The news is certainly troubling.  Taliban fighters get a “peace” treaty from the national Pakistani government, and then expand from Swat to neighboring Buner.  A vast national military seems unable or unwilling to respond, and everyone scratches their heads wondering what is next.

But does this really mean that Pakistan is on the verge of falling to the Taliban?  If you look at the details, it is a notion deserving of skepticism.

In a column for CNN, New America Foundation fellow Peter Bergen puts the current bad news in the context of Pakistan’s historic challenges:

bergen1The present crisis with the Taliban is not nearly as severe as the genuinely existential crises that Pakistan has faced and weathered in the past. Pakistan has fought three major wars with India and has lost each encounter, including the 1971 war in which one half of the country seceded to become Bangladesh.  Pakistan’s key leaders have succumbed to the assassin’s bullet or bomb or the hangman’s noose, and the country has seen four military coups since its birth in 1947. Yet the Pakistani polity has limped on.

When looking for reasons why the Taliban don’t pose a nation-destroying threat, this history of “hard knocks” isn’t exactly what one has in mind.  But it does put the current border insurgency in its proper context.  Pakistan has experienced far greater challenges in the past, and Pakistan still exists as a nation.

Indeed, one can even look to India for additional context.  Many think of India as a simple example of democracy rising, but you could easily string together a series of anecdotes to paint a more nuanced picture:  two Indian states currently under military control (Kashmir and Manipur), two more states with ongoing Maoist insurrections (Chhattisghar and Jharkhand), past and present separatist movements elsewhere.  Continue reading

“That wasn’t a date…”

Did they shake hands?  Did they chat?  Was there a peck on the cheek?  As with all first dates, it depends on who you talk to.

The New York Times reported that a pair of top diplomats from the U.S. and Iran had a polite chat at an international conference on Afghanistan this Tuesday.  According to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton:

“It was cordial, unplanned and they agreed to stay in touch,” Mrs. Clinton said to reporters at the end of the conference. “I myself did not have any direct contact with the Iranian delegation.”

But not so fast.  As the BBC later reported, an Iranian government spokesperson denied the whole thing:

“No meeting or talk, be it formal or informal, official or unofficial between Iran and US officials took place on the sideline of this conference…We categorically deny the reports published in this regard.”

One thing is for sure.  The delicate dance has begun.

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