The Trouble With Pakistan!

The Army of Allah!


Should America Punish Pakistan?

As the facts about Osama bin Laden’s residency in Pakistan become clearer there are increasing calls for the US to punish that nation for what is beginning to look like duplicity…or even treachery.  After all, the US has given $208 billion in Aid since 2001 – much of it military in nature – to the Pakistani government.  Yet America’s public enemy #1 has been living a life of luxury right in the shadow of a major Pakistani military complex. With military intelligence assets everywhere, one has to suspend logic and look past the obvious to conclude that nobody in the Pakistani government, military command or intelligence services knew that Osama was there!  Frankly such a conclusion is prima facie absurd!

It is especially hard for me to believe because when I was a member of the 91st Strato-bomber Wing of the US Strategic Air Command, I had a Top Secret Security clearance and served in a Unit tasked with preventing Russian Saboteurs from getting to our nuclear weapons stockpiles or the B-52 bombers that was our main nuclear weapons delivery system at the time…before intercontinental Ballistic Missiles replaced them.  However the point I wish to make here is that even in the little backwater towns of Montana or Greenland, where the bases were strategically located for a atomic attack on the Soviet Union, we were constantly told to look for possibly subversive elements in the local population.

We had such wide latitude for placing someone under suspicion no Russian Saboteur who took up residence in the area could possibly have escaped detection. And that was in 1961, when the surveillance methods were primitive compared to what is available to any Pooty-Pop intelligence agency today – and the Pakistani intelligence service the ISI is first rate.  Hence, the Pakistani government’s claim that no one in the government or military/intelligence establishment knew that Bin Laden was crashing in Pakistan – when they are in a protracted war with militant Islamic Jihadists – just doesn’t fly with me.

The crucial questions here are: What do the Pakistani government actions mean?  And what should be our response?  This is a complex question in which many factors must be considered.  However suffice it to say that any sort of military assault on Pakistan is out of the question, as is breaking diplomatic relations. And the truth be told, ending  aid to the Pakistani military would amount to cutting off our nose to spite our face!   Pakistan is an unstable state threatened by a radical Islamic insurgency and they possess a nuclear arsenal that by some estimates number 100 weapons – Great Britain is estimated to have only 66 nuclear weapons.  Furthermore the Pakistani nuclear establishment has always been infested with Muslim Fundamentalists!  Lest we forget it was called “The Islamic Bomb” by the leader of Pakistan  at its inception.

Indeed, I warned about this situation ten years ago when George Bush was on the verge of invading Iraq.  In a 3,000 word commentary titled “The Iraq Attack: Bush’s March of Folly,” I argued the following.

And so long as… Pakistan continues to produce nuclear weapons with scientists who are also Islamic fundamentalists these weapons of mass destruction will eventually find their way into the hands of the Islamic Jihadists.  Woe be unto the world when that happens.”

The mere fact that this is a possibility demands that the US government remains closely engaged with the Pakistani government.  The fact that there are dissenting elements within the Pakistani ruling elites – which could allow certain elements to give aid and comfort to anti-American forces. – is no argument for disengagement.

The Pakistani government reflects the population; which is torn between those who favor a modern secular state and those who favor an Islamic theocracy under Sharia Law.  Although those who favor a secular state have formed a solid majority since the Nation was created as a result of partitioning India’s Hindu and Muslim populations into Hindustan and Pakistan, at the end of British colonial rule in 1947, the Muslim theocrats are growing at a dramatic pace. The fact that these theocrats despise secular democratic government as heresy, and believe all who serve in such governments should be put to death – means that they care not a whit about what the majority of Pakistani’s want!

The Jihadist feel themselves totally justified in putting bombs in public places – including the Mosques of rival Islamic factions – or engaging in any other act of mass slaughter to bring down the “Jahili” i.e. “Pagan” state. They regard all secular government as an abomination and the heads of secular states in the Muslim world as “apostates.”  A sin which is punishable by death!   A bedrock belief of the radical Islamic fundamentalist movement is rooted in the theology of Syyid Guthb’s classic text “Milestones,” a canonical text among the Jihadists.  It is because of these beliefs that the secular leadership in the Muslim world has been the implacable enemy of the radical Jihadists.  And the most effective of these has been the secular military caste.  This is why until recently US policy has been designed to support the military strong man General Musharif.

However if past experience in American diplomatic relations with Pakistan tells us anything, it is that it is paradoxical in character.  As all foreign policy must, American policy toward Pakistan was crafted to serve American interests.  During the US cold war with Russia for instance, American policy promoted the growth of Islamic fundamentalism.  This too was accomplished through an alliance with a Pakistani military strong man: General Muhammad Zia Al Hauq – the sponsor of the “Islamic Bomb.”   Although American foreign policy is based on American national interests, in order to succeed it must adequately take into account the interests of other countries in order to build effective alliances.

A Madrassa Filled with Young Devotees

The Next Wave Of Jihadist!

It just so happened that the interests of General Zia, the first Muslim fundamentalist to ever become head of the Pakistani State, coincided with the American decision to promote Islamic Fundamentalism.  The eleven years of Zia’s iron rule coincided with the anti-soviet protracted war waged by the Afghan Mujahedeen, a formation the American government recognized as “Freedom Fighters.”  The US government also encouraged the idea of labeling the Afghan resistance a “Jihad against Godless Atheist” when they were fighting the Russians.

The US calculated that this would attract Muslim militants from all over the Islamic world…and they were right.  One of those recruits to the Afghan Jihad was a devoutly religious and fabulously wealthy Saudi construction engineer Osama bin Laden.  These Pan-Islamic Jihadists were trained and armed by the United States; a CIA directed action conducted on the ground by the Pakistani Intelligence Service. Hence top tier Pakistani intelligence professionals have long standing warm relations with leaders of the Jihadists.

And to insure a steady supply of Muslim militants from Pakistan the US government financed many of the Madrasas – religious schools – opened by General Muhammad Zia.  In this way the US government actively supported the growth of Islamic fundamentalism in Pakistan. But that was back in the day, the 1980’s, when the “Global Communist conspiracy” was the enemy.  By the turn of the twenty first century the major threat to “American National security” had become “The Global Muslim Jihad.” Now American policy is designed to promote a liberal secular democracy in Pakistan. The problem is that the secular leaders who have been most successful at suppressing the militant Muslim theocrats have been the secular military caste headed by a strongman.  In Pakistan’s case that was General Perval Musharif.  And I have no doubt that if the General was still in charge the rest of Al Qaeda’s forces in Pakistan would be an endangered species.

As things stand, with a shaky civilian government whose members stand in constant danger of assassination, the US government should do everything within its power to strengthen and preserve the secular forces in Pakistan.  Notwithstanding protest the Pakistani government is presently making, which are rather tepid to say the least, they are happy as bums in the Waldrof that the US took Osama out. Although they dare not admit it!!  And they dare not admit that they had any hand in it because that would only serve the interests of the Jihadists, who already paint them as partners with “The Great Satan” in their modern crusade against Al Islam.

Although it may seem like a crazy way to run a country to us, it is the political reality in Pakistan.  This conflict is about whether Pakistan will be a modern secular society with a legal separation between church and state, or a theocracy ruled by Sharia Law.  This conflict has been the major theme in the political culture of the modern Islamic world.  It was my understanding of this history that led me to dismiss out of hand the Bush Administration’s claim that Sadam Hussein was going to give “weapons of mass destruction” to Osama bin Laden.   After listening to their bogus argument I wrote the following analysis in The Iraq Attack on March 15th 2003.

“Since the emergence of modern Arab Islamic states in the mid-twentieth century there has been a struggle between fundamentalists who wanted to establish an Islamic theocracy and secularists who are committed to a separation of church and state similar to the governments in the west.  The most persistent opponent of the fundamentalist theocrats – from whom the Islamic Jihadists terrorists are recruited – is the professional military caste in the Arab world.  These modern secular strong men, Saddam Hussein among them, have consistently opposed attempts at takeovers by the Islamic Jihadists.

This conflict became evident in the mid-1950s when Abdel Gamal Nasser, leader of the independence movement and first President of modern Egypt, was forced to crush the Muslim Brotherhood after they blew up a movie theater and murdered innocent people because they were opposed to western movies. The political history of Egypt since Nasser is one of perpetual conflict between fundamentalist theocrats and the secular military caste.  Anwar Sadat was assassinated by Islamic fundamentalists, and Honsi Mubarak, Egypt’s present leader, has ruthlessly suppressed them. In fact, some of those who were associated with perpetrating terrorist actions in the US are followers of the militant “blind Sheik,” who was driven out of Egypt by Mubarak and is now imprisoned in the US for promoting terrorists activities.

This pattern of military men suppressing militant Islamicists holds true throughout the Muslim world and it does not matter if the military leader is right or left leaning in their political ideology.  For instance, the Shah of Iran was a right-wing creation of the American Central Intelligence Agency, but his opposition to the Islamic fundamentalists was just as vehement as the left-wing FLN of Algeria, who overthrew the results of a national election that was clearly won by the Islamic party.  Hence whether we are talking about General Musharif in Pakistan, or Colonel Mummar Quadafi of Libya, these secular men of arms feverently oppose the takeover of government by Islamic fundamentalists.  And so does Saddam Hussein!

A solid member of the Arab professional military caste, Saddam is committed to the secular state which Bin Laden, a militant theocrat, despises.  So the claim that Saddam is arming Al Queda with weapons of mass destruction lacks credibility unless he is suicidal, and there is abundant evidence that Sadam is first and foremost a survivor”

It remains to be seen if the civilian governments that will arise out of the present turmoil in the Muslim world can handle the Muslim fanatics as well as the military men have done. It may just be that liberal democratic governments can’t long prevail against the forces of a militant, populist Muslim movement.  In which case prudence dictates that we support secular military strong men; but this would be a clear violation of our most cherished ideals.  That’s the trouble with Pakistan!


Playthell G. Benjamin

Harlem, New York

May, 3 2011

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