The US War on Terror – Just A Racket

“War is just a racket, something that is not what it seems to the majority of people. Only a small inside group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few at the expense of the masses. During those years, I had, as the boys in the back room would say, a swell racket. Looking back on it, I feel that I could have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts, I operated on three continents. War is a racket. It always has been.”

These are neither the words of a Mafioso nor those of Pablo Escobar, the Columbian drug lord. It is an excerpt from a speech and book, “War is a racket” by Maj-Gen Smedley Butler who, till his death, was the most decorated marine in US history. Ironically, these words were said after he had operated these global rackets. One can only wonder if years down the line we hear words to the same effect from General Petraeus and Leon Panetta who terms drone attacks on Fata as “the only game in town”. Hindsight, crystalline as it, could change the world for the better, if only it could transform into foresight.

In the post World War II era much of the western world was looking to bring Nazi war criminals to justice. The only blatant exception was the United States as it Americanised some of the worst Nazi war criminals because of their “skill set”. Initially termed “high level ardent Nazis”, more than 1600 Nazis and their dependants were granted American citizenship. This adoption of war criminals was coined as “Operation Paperclip”. Thus, wanted Nazis became American assets.

The most notorious amongst those naturalised were, Reinhard Gehlen, Hitler’s spymaster who had built an intelligence network in the Soviet Union. Creating the “Gehlen Organisation,” a band of Nazi spies, Gehlen reactivated networks in Russia and supplied the US with its only intelligence on the Soviet Union for a decade. It also served as a bridge between the abolishment of the OSS and the subsequent creation of the CIA. Gehlen Organisation included Nazi SS intelligence officers Alfred Six and Emil Augsburg, who had massacred Jews; Klaus Barbie, the “Butcher of Lyon”; Otto von Bolschwing, the Holocaust mastermind who worked with Eichmann and SS Colonel Otto Skorzeny, Hitler’s personal friend.

The list also included Wernher von Braun, the technical director of the Peenemunde rocket research center that developed the V-2 rocket which devastated England; Kurt Blome, a high-ranking Nazi scientist who was tried at Nuremberg on charges of exterminating sick prisoners by conducting experiments on them and German rocket scientist Wernher von Braun who operated the Mittelwerk factory at the Dora-Nordhausen concentration camps. Here 20,000 workers died from beatings, hangings, and starvation. He became a US citizen and later designed the Saturn 5 rocket used in the Apollo moon landings.

This is a brief glimpse into a history of preserving American self-interests. This dichotomous self-righteousness has been the hallmark of US foreign policy. “Their way of life”, as American presidents love to say, has resulted globally in the death of more than 140 million people. In Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq alone 125,000 innocent civilians have perished. In Afghanistan, the latest United Nations figures put life expectancy at just 44.6 years, the lowest in the world. More than 60 percent of the 28 million Afghans are suffering from stress disorders or related mental problems. The same holds true for the traumatised people of Pakistan. However, the undaunted Joseph Brodsky challenge by the Afghans is, “Sir, you are tough and I am tough, but who will write whose epitaph?” American benevolence has also endowed us with our own Operation Paperclip, the despised NRO. Shady mechanisations have helped bring into and perpetuate power of individuals who were facing serious charges of crime and corruption.

Truth is the first casualty in wars. This racket, labeled the “war on terror”, has been based on lies and deceit from day one. Cover-ups, self-glorification and passing the buck in wars are as old as history itself. Only the most ignorant or those immersed in self-deception should be surprised or feel betrayed by the perpetual American salvos. The most recent buzzword, the “Haqqani network” is not the stumbling block for peace, it is the pax American mindset that stokes the fire. It is absolutely useless to remind Washington that during the Afghan-Soviet war, the US gave Jalaluddin Haqqani millions of dollars, Stinger missiles and tanks. He was also a venerable guest at the Reagan White House. The Washington elite were so enamored with the mujahid that Texan Congressman Charlie Wilson called him “goodness personified.”

Ezra Pound, an iconoclastic, flamboyant poet, was branded a traitor and incarcerated for 13 long years in a Washington DC mental asylum because he dared criticise the American government for their participation in World War II. His poetry focused on the insanity and senseless violence of wars theorising that they were destructive for nation states with a clique benefiting from the same. He said: “Sometimes the Anglo-Saxon may awaken to the fact that nations are shoved into wars in order to destroy them, to break up their structure, to destroy their social order, to destroy their populations”. In a poem titled “1915: February” he says: “We are outlaws, this war is not our war, neither side is on our side”. These are not words of a raving lunatic. They are so crystalline in clarity that a multitude today, suffering at the hands of the United States war machine, would term them prophetic.

In his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech President Obama said: “Meeting future challenges would require new ways to think about the notions of just war and the imperatives of a just peace”. Today, come election year, fueling unjust wars and shunning peace, he is as much a hostage to political expediency as he is to a militarised White House, Pentagon and the CIA. His epitaph to a lost war is maligning and threatening Pakistan; our Operation Paperclip brigand with billions stashed abroad, eggs him on with reasoned antipathy.

In his book “In Retrospect” Robert S. McNamara, an architect of the Vietnam War, wrote: “We were wrong, terribly wrong.” To American retrospective hindsight one can only quote French poet Paul Valery who said: “Your ideas are terrifying and your hearts are faint. Your acts of pity and cruelty are absurd, committed with no calm, as if they were irresistible. Finally, you fear blood, more and more; blood and time.”

By: Mir Adnan Aziz

Whose Terrorists if Not of US?

Pakistan has been served notice to choose between the Haqqani network and the United States. No ambiguity here that depending upon our ‘real future actions against the Haqqani network’, the US would accordingly shape its own future response. They are bad people killing good Americans and if you are a sincere friend and a loyal ally then you better not have anything going on with them, we (Pakistan) have been warned.

Think American and this demand makes sense, but think rationally and one cannot ignore the mockery of such an indignant American huff. I have no sympathy for the Haqqanis and if the Haqqani network is indeed nothing but a criminal terrorist outfit murdering innocent Americans as being claimed by Washington, then why in heavens’ name has US still not formally and legally declared the Haqqani network a terrorist outfit?

To date, only a handful of Haqqani network leaders have been declared terrorists but that too purely in their individual capacity. There is no such entity as a Haqqani Network on the state department’s list of terrorist outfits. Could there be a more interesting discrimination causing placement of some ‘terrorists’ on the terrorist list while their network itself is spared the honour?

By avoiding designating the network a terrorist outfit, the United States has endorsed Pakistan’s stance of Haqqanis being the most relevant party to any viable future power settlement in Afghanistan and one that cannot be wished away. By refusing demands of its own senators to place the network on the terrorist list, the US government has tacitly acknowledged Pakistan’s inevitable compulsion to remain engaged with the most important piece in the Afghan jigsaw puzzle. Contrary to what they say publicly, the US policy makers privately concede that while the US remains a transitory part of the Afghan equation, the Haqqanis have been around almost forever and will still be here long after the last American C-130 takes off with its final troops and cargo.

It is now evident that while Pakistan is being threatened with military action, the US itself desperately wants to be in Pakistan’s shoes and be able to engage and involve the Haqqani network in the coming months, if not weeks, and hence the latest pressure on Pakistan to force it into ‘sharing’ its influence with the Haqqanis. If the US is genuinely angry at Pakistan for not going after the Haqqani network then it must prove the genuineness of its claim of Pakistan’s betrayal by first legally declaring the Haqqani network as a terrorist outfit. But that won’t happen.

The US duplicitous approach stands further exposed in a recent report in the Washington Post. It states: “American military officers, who have spent years urging Washington to take action against the Haqqanis, express anger that the Obama administration has still not put the group on the State Department’s list of terrorist organisations out of concern that such a move would scuttle any chances that the group might make peace with Afghanistan’s government.”

Whoever is in power in Kabul will have to make a deal with the Haqqanis,” said Marc Sageman, a former CIA officer who served in Pakistan during the Soviet-Afghan war. “It won’t be us. We’re going to leave, and those guys know it.”

The report further states: “The new urgency for a political settlement in Afghanistan has further limited Washington’s options for fighting the Haqqani network. During high-level discussions last year, Obama administration’s officials debated listing the group as a “Foreign Terrorist Organisation,” which allows for some assets to be frozen and could dissuade donors from supporting the group. While some military commanders pushed for the designation, the administration ultimately decided that such a move might alienate the Haqqanis and drive them away from future negotiations. Officials chose to take the more incremental step of naming individual Haqqani leaders as terrorists, including Badruddin and Sirajuddin Haqqani. Senior American officials said there was once again a fierce debate inside the Obama administration about whether to put the entire group on the terrorist list. But as Washington struggles to broker an endgame for the Afghan war, there is widespread doubt about whether the Haqqanis will negotiate, and whether their patrons in Islamabad will even let them. After a decade of war, there is a growing sense among America’s diplomats, soldiers and spies that the United States is getting out of Afghanistan without ever figuring out how a maddeningly complex game is played.

The US has been unable to fully comprehend the Afghan conundrum and blaming its failures on Pakistan may make good news copy, but not a fact. Pakistan has been accused at times by US of hunting with the hounds and running with the hare and it may rightfully appear so on some occasions, but having said that, Pakistan’s flirting with the goons (from US perspective at least) on the block is not altogether without plausible reasons. Surely Pakistan may have been less than forthcoming on some counts but what has the US done to mitigate Pakistan’s legitimate concerns siring such arguably ‘questionable’ behaviour?

Much to Pakistan’s consternation, the US carved an unjustifiably large role for India in the Afghanistan theatre. A fact bemoaned by none other than its own former military commander, Gen Mac Crystal. The US did nothing to lessen Pakistan’s genuine security concerns vis-à-vis its eastern borders. The US was furnished with detailed reports, with evidence, about Indian involvement in stoking the Baluchistan strife, but it did not even ask its newfound friend to back off even if slightly. It also played dirty by turning the screws through IMF, WB etc, not to talk of trying to scuttle the Pak-Iran gas pipeline deal. It’s a long and ugly list but griping about such actions, or non-actions, doesn’t help anyone. We need to develop a workable relationship based on pragmatic deliverables.

Neither side has to like everything the other does, or the friends either may keep as long as both understand each other’s compulsions and imperatives and are willing to make affordable compromises. Pakistan must not be expected to abandon its safeguards against legitimate concerns unless the elimination, or lessening, of such threats. Sorry to disappoint Bruce Riedel and others of his ilk, but US cannot bomb Pakistan into oblivion so let’s cut the chase and get down to serious readjustment of relationship parameters and firming up of realistic expectations on both sides.

Nothing would be more disastrous than for the Obama administration to engage – in a desperate bid to shore up its dismal 38 percent approval rating – in some ill-advised high profile foreign ‘patriotic endeavour’. Widening the strike area of drones or any surgical strike following a lame nuclear sting operation or any such stupid military foray may yield a fleeting short term rating boost but in the long term, the consequences would be horrendous and not-so fleeting, to say the least.

For their part, Islamabad and Rawalpindi need to abandon their false bravado (they are fooling nobody except their own people) and redefine their priorities and retool the definition of the country’s national strategic interests. They must stop lying and tell the US plainly what can be done and what cannot, and who we need to have a working relationship with and why. As long it’s in our legitimate national interest we don’t have to care whether the Americans like it or not. But whatever little I know of the Americans, it’s far easier for them to adjust to a blunt truth than a crafty evasive response. At the end of the day, if the US makes a big mistake, at worst it loses a big war in a distant land. If we make a big mistake however, we jeopardise our very homeland. The Yanks may afford an error of judgement, we cannot.

By: Muhammad Malick

How Haqqani’s Network Helped Pakistan

“Don’t tell us how to deal with the terrorist threat. We know the ground realities. You should be asking us how to deal with it.” Those were the words, in September 2006, with which Pervez Musharraf, the then president, responded to Western criticism of the Waziristan peace accords, signed earlier that month. With them, the president, as he undeniably was at the time, acknowledged that negotiations involving the Haqqani Network were an inherent part of the national counter-terrorism strategy.

As a member of the media entourage that spent two weeks in the US, I watched Musharraf convincingly argue the strategy to a favourably disposed American audience, which adored him as “our guy”. He diverted the debate by pouring scorn on the personal and political credentials of Hamid Karzai, who had just sent an extradition request for members of the so-called Quetta Shura allegedly resident here.

Musharraf was, because of his personal popularity in the West, able to cloud the fact that the government had struck a deal with a foreign militant faction that stank of expediency if not complicity.

Undeniably, the Haqqani Network played a central role in ending the conflict between the security forces—deployed in Fata for the first time since independence—and militants in the Waziristans. But those militants were member of the Network who had seized control of sovereign territory and fought, kidnapped and killed members of the security forces sent to expel them. They did so, fighting shoulder-to-shoulder with a distasteful array of foreign terrorists, who were either members of al-Qaeda, or of groups sharing its anarchist philosophy.

All the accords really did was to turn the Network’s commanders against some of their former allies. Also undeniably, the relationship facilitated the breaking of the territorial grip of Baitullah Mehsud’s Tehrik-i-Taliban in South Waziristan in 2009. However, the neutrality of the Haqqani Network’s regional commander, Maulvi Nazir, was largely a consequence of the historical rivalry between the Wazir tribe, of which he is a member, and the Mehsud tribe.

The other major factor was the sentiments of the local Wazir tribes-people. Unlike Hafiz Gul Bahadur, the Network’s main man in North Waziristan, Nazir is not a local, but a migrant from Kandahar, with hereditary roots in Wana that have accorded him dual nationality (a consequence of the Durand Line dispute). As such, he must play to the gallery, or see popular sentiment swing towards local rival commanders. Entrapped by the cat-and-mouse politics of insurgency and counter-insurgency, the tribes-people of South Waziristan lost everything.

Whatever state social services had been available were lost. Farms and irrigation systems had to be abandoned, depriving them of food security and income. And if they bowed to the whims of one side, one of the others would kill them. It was little wonder that they had no appetite for further depravation and human loss. That sentiment and plenty of “compensation” was the reason Nazir so willing provided security to the Nespak engineers who, earlier this year, completed the construction of the Dargai Dam in South Waziristan.

The other undeniable positive aspect of the relationship with the Haqqani Network was its role, albeit unsuccessful, in facilitating talks last year to end the TTP’s sectarian siege of Parachinar. Again, there is good reason to weigh the pros and cons of their involvement. In return for guaranteeing safety of passage for Shia residents of Kurram, it wanted free access to the Bodki-Kharlachi border area, from where it would easily be able to strike at Kabul.

The Parachinaris had every reason not to invite an “enemy” into their midst, and refused to surrender. That necessitated the recent counter-terrorist operation that, sadly, has still failed to facilitate the movement of those Pakistani citizens to and from the rest of the country.

The tribes-people of North Waziristan are in an even worse plight. With bitter humour, they have taken to describing their plight as being caught between the drones circling overhead and “Taliban” blades on the ground. Like their counterparts in South Waziristan and Kurram, North Waziristanis have become cannon fodder in an environment dominated mostly by foreign combatants. The sense of betrayal felt by the tribes-people of Fata frequently voice is the other undeniable achievement of the relationship with the Haqqani Network.

Again and again, they have told me they are happy to pay this extortionate price for the sake of Pakistan. What they can’t swallow is the dual roles of culprit and victim they have been assigned as a consequence of the relationship with foreign militants, whose occupation and abuse of sovereign territory threatens an escalation of violence and suffering in their backyard.

Courtesy: The News International

Obama’s General Not Speaking the Truth

On September 12, the United States Embassy in Kabul and the Nato headquarters were attacked by a dozen heavily armed Taliban, wearing suicide jackets. The attackers targeted two of America’s most prominent symbols of power and kept Nato engaged for 20 hours.

On June 28, heavily armed gunmen managed to enter the Hotel Inter-Continental, Kabul’s famed landmark. On May 18, a Nato military convoy came under attack while traveling on Kabul’s Darul Aman Road in close proximity to the National Assembly of Afghanistan.

On December 30, 2009, Forward Operating Base Chapman, occupied by the CIA, was attacked killing seven CIA officers (the most damaging attack on the CIA in 25 years). In 2008, the Indian Embassy in Kabul was bombed, there was an assassination attempt on President Karzai, and the Serena Hotel in Kabul was attacked.

Obama’s generals have blamed the Haqqani Network for all of the above attacks. Obama’s generals further claim that the Haqqani Network is headquartered in Miranshah, North Waziristan.

To begin with, Miranshah is 190 kilometres from Kabul and between those two cities lie three Afghan provinces of Khost, Paktia and Logar. Khost has been under American forces control since 2001. Khost has an airfield used by the US military and almost all of its districts have Force Protection Facilities. Khost is home to the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division. Camp Clark and Forward Operating Base Salerno, both operate out of Khost.

Paktia is home to 1-279 Infantry, Forward Operating Base Lightning and 1-10 Attack Aviation, FOB Salerno. Logar is home to the 54th Engineer Battalion, FOB Shank, the 4th Mountain Division and TF Nashmi/TF22 operates out of Logar. Combat Team, 10 If the Haqqanis are really based in Miranshah and are still managing to bypass an extended web of America’s military installations through Khost, Paktia, Logar and into Kabul then the American military-intelligence complex has really failed and should be heading home.

According to the Combating Terrorism Centre of the United States Military Academy (USMA) the Haqqani Network’s strength stands at roughly 10,000 to 15,000. If over the past decade the lone superpower has failed to tame 10,000 to 15,000 tribesmen then the American military-intelligence complex has really failed-and should be heading home.

The truth is that Obama needs to win the next election-and that too based on medals rising out of Afghanistan. The truth is that American generals in Afghanistan have been failing to provide Obama with what Obama needs. And thus, the scapegoating-projecting hostility and frustration towards the Haqqanis. Yes, the Haqqanis are out to get the occupying forces, but the amount of hostility and the stock of frustration being directed towards them are unwarranted. Even if the Haqqanis were marginalized American generals will fail to deliver Afghanistan.

By: Dr Farrukh Saleem