Will Bush Invade Pakistan?

Congress is finally going to defund a repressive and increasingly unpopular U.S.-backed government that is currently engaged in a losing conflict with Islamic radicals and is endangered by rising anti-Americanism in the country. The current regime is not among the most liberal in the world and is weak, at best, enjoying more support in Washington than anywhere else. In spite of billions in American aid, the country appears to be on the verge of breaking up, with independent tribal chieftains and various clans, not the "central government" run by Washington’s sock-puppets, holding the real power.

No, this isn’t about Iraq – it’s about Pakistan, where al-Qaeda has carved out an enclave, reportedly in the wilds of Waziristan, and where the "experts" are saying Osama bin Laden has probably fled. The Bush administration – or, at least, the State Department – wants to fund something called the Frontier Corps to recruit Pashtun tribesmen to patrol and seal the porous Pakistani-Afghan border. The unusual scrutiny of a routine sort of foreign aid request is due to Pakistan’s growing unpopularity in Washington, where there is talk of launching military strikes against alleged al-Qaeda targets. This is part of the new mood in Washington, where both parties are now turning on their clients and allies, such as Gen. Pervez Musharraf, the pro-American strongman who is not looking all that strong anymore. Musharraf faces a rising tide of popular discontent and has responded with administrative measures – such as throwing out the judges of his own hand-picked Supreme Court, closing down opposition media, and engaging in armed conflict with radical Islamists in the streets of Islamabad.

The new mood in Congress extends to our Iraqi clients, who are being blamed by American politicians in both parties for a war that should never have been fought. After all, those ungrateful Iraqis didn’t shower us with rose petals when we "liberated" them by killing hundreds of thousands of their countrymen. We did them the great favor of occupying their country and letting our soldiers run rampant, murdering, raping, and abusing the populace without having to answer to any native authority – and how did they respond? With bullets instead of hosannas.

Recent Republican defectors to the "antiwar" camp focus on the alleged failure of our Iraqi puppets, who are slow to obey orders. Take Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), who complained to Condi Rice:

"I told her that it was very disturbing, the lack of progress on the part of the Iraqi government to achieve its political agenda, the increasing violence, the question of the true intentions of Prime Minister [Nouri al-] Maliki as to whether or not he’s attempting to consolidate his own Shia majority and consolidate power rather than fulfilling an agenda for uniting Iraq."

Imagine – a politician trying to consolidate his own power! Sen. Snowe certainly wouldn’t know anything about that.

The Levin-Reed amendment to the defense authorization bill, which Snowe wound up voting for, is filled with this same foot-stamping impatience with Iraqi puppets who are blamed and lectured ceaselessly for their inability or unwillingness to "disarm the sectarian militias" and develop a police force capable of keeping order.

The militias, one hastens to point out, are police forces, the only effective ones in the whole country. They would normally be integrated into the postwar security apparatus – especially after the electoral victory of the Shi’ite parties, which constitute the present government of Iraq. This process was begun early on and was perhaps unstoppable in any event, but the sectarian killings made the government look bad, especially in Western eyes. However, that wasn’t the decisive factor that made the Americans reverse course: it was what Seymour Hersh called "The Redirection" – the administration’s new strategic imperative that calls for allying with the Sunnis against the rising Shi’ite power.

The Levin-Reed amendment lectured the Iraqis about the need for a "fair" division of the spoils – the oil spoils – and commanded them to amend their duly-adopted constitution, pronto, in order to ensure "fairness," American-style. To top it off, Levin-Reed left plenty of loopholes for a semi-permanent U.S. military presence – if it had passed, and Congress had the gumption to override the president’s veto, plans to build an American embassy the size of the Vatican and just as ornate would have gone ahead without a hitch.

It looks like the Americans are dumping Maliki – after that comment about how U.S. troops are welcome to go, I’d be surprised if he lasts out the summer – and Musharraf may be the next man overboard. The White House response to recent Democratic accusations that we aren’t paying enough attention to al-Qaeda’s growing presence in Pakistan has been to threaten Pakistan with military action – and not for the first time.

The Pakistanis seem honestly shocked that their imperial overlords in Washington are ready to turn on them so quickly. As Pakistan’s foreign minister put it to CNN’s Wolf Blitzer: "People in Pakistan get very upset when, despite all the sacrifices that Pakistan has been making, you know, you have the sort of questions that are sometimes asked by the American media.” The question being asked is: what side are the Pakistanis on?

Here is a government that has captured more al-Qaeda leaders than all the Western intelligence agencies combined, a government that has stood by the U.S. since Day One of the post-9/11 era, a government that is now being swamped by growing anti-American sentiment and religious fervor. After all that, how can the Americans possibly doubt Musharraf’s loyalty?

It’s easier than doubting their own policies, that’s why. The invasion and occupation of Iraq has undermined – perhaps fatally – every pro-American regime in the Middle East. Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Lebanon – even Egypt and Turkey are shaken by the rising tide of resentment and radicalism rippling outward from the epicenter in Iraq.

In the case of Iraq, it’s much more convenient for Congress and, eventually, the administration to pin the blame on the Iraqi government than on the cabal that lied us into war – and the lawmakers, the "experts," and the media who went along for the ride. It wasn’t us. We Americans aren’t responsible for the tragic loss of life, the horrific expense, the incalculable damage to our standing in the world – it was those foreigners who failed us. They‘re responsible!

We’ll blame anyone but ourselves, but we bear the responsibility, and I don’t mean that in any collective-guilt sense. I mean the American government and our ruling elites, especially the American media, which acted as a transmission belt for this administration’s lies and continues to be the primary means by which support for our failed foreign policy is maintained. Anyone who advocates a fundamental change in our foreign policy is labeled an "isolationist," a "marginal" character, and probably an "extremist." The Democrats’ phony opposition to the war is highlighted as authentic, in spite of the reality – which is that they want to continue the occupation into the indefinite future, while somehow ending the war.

Now they are saying that the administration is ignoring the "real threat" – which is in Pakistan. The Democratic response to the administration’s threat to send troops into Pakistan was to support Bush wholeheartedly, albeit not without the usual told-you-sos. Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) opined:

"I don’t think we should take anything off the table. The invasion of Iraq, the worst foreign policy blunder in the history of the country, has created an area for al-Qaeda that didn’t exist before the invasion, but we should go after them wherever they are."

That an American invasion would create unintended consequences and shake up the entire region – dooming Musharraf’s government and creating a massive insurgency that would spill over into Iran, Afghanistan, and Central Asia – is surely foreseeable. If they elect to invade anyway, or even launch "limited" strikes, one can’t say they didn’t realize it. Have we learned nothing from the Iraq disaster?

Sadly, the answer to that last question is undoubtedly a negative.

Author: Justin Raimondo

Justin Raimondo passed away on June 27, 2019. He was the co-founder and editorial director of Antiwar.com, and was a senior fellow at the Randolph Bourne Institute. He was a contributing editor at The American Conservative, and wrote a monthly column for Chronicles. He was the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement [Center for Libertarian Studies, 1993; Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2000], and An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard [Prometheus Books, 2000].