In the days before the Empire, generals – particularly Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs – kept their mouths shut. The Founders’ justified fears of military intrusion into the political realm were still present in the American consciousness, and the idea that an American general might try to influence policy directly, by making public statements on controversial political topics, was considered outside the norm. Today, however, no one is shocked by Admiral Mullen’s testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee that we are, for all intents and purposes, already at war with Pakistan:
“Extremist organizations serving as proxies of the government of Pakistan are attacking Afghan troops and civilians as well as U.S. soldiers. For example, we believe the Haqqani Network – which has long enjoyed the support and protection of the Pakistani government and is, in many ways, a strategic arm of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Agency – is responsible for the September 13th attacks against the U.S. Embassy in Kabul.
“There is ample evidence confirming that the Haqqanis were behind the June 28th attack against the Inter-Continental Hotel in Kabul and the September 10th truck bomb attack that killed five Afghans and injured another 96 individuals, 77 of whom were U.S. soldiers. History teaches us that it is difficult to defeat an insurgency when fighters enjoy a sanctuary outside national boundaries, and we are seeing this again today. The Quetta Shura and the Haqqani Network are hampering efforts to improve security in Afghanistan, spoiling possibilities for broader reconciliation, and frustrating U.S.-Pakistan relations. The actions by the Pakistani government to support them – actively and passively – represent a growing problem that is undermining U.S. interests and may violate international norms, potentially warranting sanction. In supporting these groups, the government of Pakistan, particularly the Pakistani Army, continues to jeopardize Pakistan’s opportunity to be a respected and prosperous nation with genuine regional and international influence.”
If the evidence is so “ample,” why didn’t Mullen reveal any of it during the course of his testimony? It’s “classified,” which means we ordinary mortals aren’t entitled to see it: we just have to take their word for it. In this context, however, their word isn’t worth a hill of beans.
The earlier part of Mullen’s testimony was a paean to the “success” of US/NATO efforts in Afghanistan: except for a few minor glitches, he strongly implied, everything’s coming up roses. How, then, to explain the brazen attacks on the Inter-Continental Hotel in Kabul, and the Taliban strike at the US embassy, which penetrated to the very core of the American presence in the country – the Afghan equivalent of Iraq’s “Green Zone”? It must be the ISI, Pakistan’s intelligence agency – yeah, that’s the ticket!
Facing questions about his competence, and that of his generals, Mullen struck back with a conspiracy theory that explains away – or, at least, explains – the severity of these attacks, which fatally undermine his Pollyanna-ish narrative. The Obama administration has been laying the groundwork for this particular conspiracy theory for quite some time, peppering the Pakistanis with accusations of complicity in Taliban attacks on US forces – albeit without producing any public evidence. You’ll recall that the President himself, during the 2008 campaign, explicitly threatened to strike at Pakistan – and even John McCain was horrified.
The Justice Department is playing a key role in the anti-Pakistan offensive, utilizing the infamous David Headley – a DEA snitch and “former” terrorist operative – to fill in the details of Pakistan’s alleged perfidy. Headley claims he was trained by the ISI at one of several terrorist training camps run by a Kashmiri separatist group, the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), and that Pakistan was the real source of the terror in Mumbai. Go here for the suspiciously murky details of his convoluted story, but suffice to say that I’d sooner trust the word of a used car dealer who’s down to his last dime. While in the pay of the DEA, Headley traveled around the world committing and planning terrorist acts – but you’re a “conspiracy theorist” if you think this throws a shadow of suspicion on his character, his motives, or his “testimony.”
With military ties tightening between the US and India – Pakistan’s ancient enemy – one thing is clear: Washington is tilting toward New Delhi. This shift began in 2006, when India and the US agreed to cooperate on the development of “civil” nuclear power. However, as the Council on Foreign Relations reports, under the terms of the agreement “India would be eligible to buy U.S. dual-use nuclear technology, including materials and equipment that could be used to enrich uranium or reprocess plutonium, potentially creating the material for nuclear bombs.”
Pakistan and India have come close to a nuclear exchange on several occasions over the years. With the Hindu ultra-nationalists who wield increasing political clout frothing at the mouth for war, the introduction of such technology poses a deadly danger to the entire region. A nuclear sword of Damocles, forged by the US government, is hanging over the heads of Pakistanis – and we wonder why they hate us.
The Americans are playing a very dangerous game with Pakistan, doing everything in their power to undermine the elected government, while at the same time decrying the threat of “extremism” in that nation. But they can’t have it both ways: if they fear destabilization, then why are they doing their utmost to provoke it? You’d almost have to be a “conspiracy theorist” to make sense out of it.
We are fighting an unwinnable war in the region, one that doesn’t serve our interests, either geopolitical or economic, and we’ve tasked our military with solving an insoluble problem: how to win over a people whose land we’ve occupied. Our military leaders, in response, are forced to invent plausible reasons explaining why they’ve been unable to accomplish the impossible. The blame Pakistan narrative serves that purpose admirably.
The ass-covering isn’t limited to the Afghan war, however, as Mullen’s remarks made all too clear. In warning against letting the alleged problem with Pakistan fester, unacknowledged, Mullen told the Senators:
“History teaches us that it is difficult to defeat an insurgency when fighters enjoy a sanctuary outside national boundaries, and we are seeing this again today.”
A revealing comment if ever there was one: the US military is still burning with resentment over their defeat in the Vietnam war, and they blame the politicians for not letting them “win” by bombing the entire region into submission. Mullen is signaling to Congress and the civilian leadership that the military isn’t going to stand by, this time, and let itself be railroaded into taking the blame for another humiliating defeat. Mullen’s message to Congress, and the White House, is clear: let us go after the Pakistanis – or else….
The Obama administration, already intimidated by all things military, is going along with the program. What the anti-Pakistan campaign we’ve been subjected to in recent months amounts to is that the Obama administration is angling for the equivalent of Richard Nixon’s invasion of Cambodia – an act that ended in disaster for all concerned, including the US.
It’s just what the politicians need – a fresh overseas war to take our minds off the economic and social crisis here at home. Think of it as another “stimulus package” – war being the only stimulant both parties can agree on.