Pakistan National Assembly debates US alliance

It is easy to forget now, that in the wake of 9/11, there was some question as to whether Pakistan would support the United States in Bush’s “war on terror.” Despite considerable domestic support for the Taliban and al Qaeda, President General Musharraf ultimately agreed to the alliance, a major coup supporting Bush’s false dichotomy that “you are with us, or you are against us.” Ties are deteriorating.

President Gen Pervez Musharraf on Tuesday expressed disappointment at the recently adopted US legislation making aid to Pakistan conditional, and told the visiting American Senator Richard J. Durbin that it constituted an irritant in the bilateral relations just as the statements from Washington advocating unilateral strike in the country’s tribal region were.

Recent reports circulated within Pakistan explained that government leaders agreed to the alliance for fear that the U.S. would do to Pakistan what it contemplated doing in Afghanistan. There have also been reports that then-British Prime Minister Tony Blair agreed to cooperate with the U.S. for fear that the U.S. would otherwise attack Afghanistan with nuclear weapons.

The war in Afghanistan has not gone well, and there are numerous reports that the Taliban use a broad region including the Northwest Frontier Province (NWFP) and Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan as a refuge. It is also claimed that Osama bin Laden is in hiding in that region. So the U.S. is now threatening to attack Taliban targets within Pakistan, bringing on the very specter that Pakistan’s government sought to avoid in agreeing to the alliance with the U.S. in the first place. Warming U.S. ties with nuclear rival India exacerbate this situation

So it should be little surprise that “several government and opposition members severely criticised the US policy in the National Assembly on Tuesday and called for a complete review and overhaul of Pakistan’s foreign policy, with the parliamentary secretary for defence going one step further, stressing the need for announcing ‘jihad’ against India and the US.”

In their imperial hubris, the Bush administration and some presidential candidates now jeopardize an alliance they desperately need in their war in Afghanistan. Far from Bush’s false dichotomy, Pakistan has numerous options, beginning with a weakening of support for the U.S. that does not require a formal break in the alliance. To successfully prosecute this war, the Bush administration could be compelled to broaden their military effort to include securing the broad NWFP and FATA, further stretching military resources, and thus allowing Pakistan’s leadership an easy way out of the alliance. This move would also bring U.S. forces very near Chinese territory. At this point, Pakistan might find a use for all these jihadis in training at radical madrassahs. The war would then become, as if it weren’t already, unmanageable through conventional means.

This has become a very dangerous situation. With a crescent of countries (not all presently allied) stretching from Syria (allied with Iran) through Iraq (with Shi’ite factions in alliance with Iran) to Iran (not yet allied against the U.S. but certainly the object of U.S. saber-rattling) to Pakistan and Afghanistan now at war with the empire, the U.S. will likely either need to climb down or launch a massive nuclear attack.

Let me give you a clue. Going nuclear will not make the world a safer place. The present strategy, largely relying on a militant refusal to address grievances against the U.S. and Israel, has already made it more dangerous. And a conventional war cannot succeed.

I don’t know if Bush will still be in power as all this comes to pass. But the force with which he addresses this situation will correspond to the humiliation of his defeat and the magnitude of the crimes against humanity for which he and the entire political leadership of the United States must be brought to justice.

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