Category Archives: Pakistan

India: Birds Drop Out of the Sky, People Die

In case you have lingering doubts about the reality of human-caused global warming, hop on an airplane to parts of India or Pakistan and spend a few days. And, as long as you’re there, maybe be a good citizen and pick up a few of the dehydrated birds that drop out of the sky. Then, use the syringe you brought along to feed it some water before it dies in your hands.

And, maybe do the same for some of the people sprawled out on the roadside before they die right before your eyes. After all, people are already dying from the humid heat. Maybe you could help them survive and while at it maybe bring along that friend who’s a climate denier to assist in saving some lives. It’s good for their soul to open his or her eyes to reality.

According to a recent Business Insider article: “Birds Are Falling From the Sky in India as a Record Heatwave Dries up Water Sources”, May 14th, 2022. And, it’s not just a few random instances: “Vets in an animal hospital in Ahmedabad said they had treated thousands of birds in recent weeks.”.1

According to Yale Climate Connections: “The nearly ‘unsurvivable’ heat is increasingly as the result of human-caused climate change.”

Here’s a snippet from the Yale Climate Connections article entitled “India and Pakistan’s Brutal Heat Wave Poised to Resurge: Inferno-like temperatures of up to 50 degrees Celsius (122°F)”. The heat, when combined with high levels of humidity – especially near the coast and along the Indus River Valley – will produce dangerously high levels of heat stress that will approach or exceed the limit of survivability for people outdoors for an extended period.”

According to the prestigious UK Met Office: “The blistering heat wave in northwest India and Pakistan was made over 100 times more likely because of human-caused climate change.”2

The extraordinary blistering heat has prompted Umair Haque, a British economist (former blogger for the Harvard Business Review, but he attended University of Oxford, London Business School, and McGill University) to compose a special article about the scenario entitled: “The Age of Extinction Is Here — Some of Us Just Don’t Know It Yet”, published in Eudaimonia and Co, May 2022 in which he describes a world that has “already crossed the threshold of survivability.”

Umair has friends in the Indian Subcontinent. So, he hears first hand what’s happening without the filter of a news organization. Here’s one quote: “The heatwave there is pushing the boundaries of survivability. My other sister says that in the old, beautiful city of artists and poets, eagles are falling dead from the sky. They are just dropping dead and landing on houses, monuments, and shops. They can’t fly anymore.”

Here’s some more reporting directly from the streets, as related by Umair: “The streets, she says, are lined with dead things. Dogs. Cats. Cows. Animals of all kinds are just there, dead. They’ve perished in the killing heat. They can’t survive.”

People spend all day in canals and rivers and lakes. Some people in the streets are passed out and at the edge of a life or death scenario. He suggests the death count will not be known for some time and many probably won’t be counted.

Here’s an interesting take from Umair’s perspective: “You see, my Western friends read stories like this, and then they go back to obsessing over the Kardashians or Wonder Woman or Johnny Depp or Batman. They don’t understand yet. Because this is beyond the limits of what Homo sapiens can really comprehend, the Event. That world is coming for them, too.”

He claims: “We are at the threshold of the Cataclysm. Some of us are now crossing over to the other side, of a different planet, one that’s going to become unlivable. This isn’t ‘going to happen’ or ‘might happen,’ it is actually happening now.”

Here’s one more quote: “At 50 degrees, which is where the Subcontinent is now, life dies off. The birds fall from the sky. The streets become mass graves. People flee and try to just survive. Energy grids begin to break. Economies grind to a halt.”

Umair claims civilization collapses somewhere between 50 -60 degrees Celsius. “Nothing works after that point.” Animals die and systems shut down, economics crater, inflation skyrockets, people grow poorer, fascism erupts as a consequence. People become frightened and turn to fundamentalist religion or authoritarian rule to “give them answers.” The regular ole economics and politics don’t work any longer. Sound familiar?

Death by humid heat in India equates to the tolling of bells, slowly, repeatedly, as black pennants flutter along the distant horizon. Another one has died and another, and one more, and another and another, as the monotonous tolling becomes an atrocious irritation.

Postscript: It’s in every bird falling from the sky, every animal dropping dead from the heat, every democracy being shredded by lunatics, in all the deaths we will never count. Our systems — all of them — economic, social, political — are beginning to fail. (Umair Haque)

  1. Ibid.
  2. “Climate Change Has Made India’s Heat Wave 100 Times More Likely, UK Weather Service Says”, CNBC, May 18, 2022.
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Pakistan’s Pivot to Russia and Ouster of Imran Khan

Days before Imran Khan’s ouster on April 10 as prime minister in a no-trust motion in the parliament orchestrated by foreign powers, two impersonators were arrested in Washington for posing as US federal security officials and cultivating access to the Secret Service, which protects President Joe Biden, one of whom claimed ties to Pakistani intelligence.

Justice department assistant attorney Joshua Rothstein asked a judge not to release Arian Taherzadeh and Haider Ali, the men arrested on April 6 for posing as Department of Homeland Security investigators for two years before the arrest, the Guardian reported on April 8.

The men also stand accused of providing lucrative favors to members of the Secret Service, including one agent on the security detail of the first lady, Jill Biden. Prosecutors said in court filings they seized a cache of weapons from multiple DC apartments tied to the defendants.

Federal prosecutor Rothstein alleged one of the suspects, Haider Ali, “made claims to witnesses that he had connections to the ISI, Pakistan’s military intelligence service.” The Department of Justice (DoJ) is treating the case as a criminal matter and not a national security issue. But the Secret Service suspended four agents over their involvement with the suspects.

“All personnel involved in this matter are on administrative leave and are restricted from accessing Secret Service facilities, equipment, and systems,” the Secret Service said in a statement.

Clearly, planning and preparations were underway to declare Pakistan a rogue actor sponsoring acts of subversion against the United States. Soon after the US-led “regime change” in Pakistan and the formation of government by imperialist stooges, however, the tone of the judge and prosecutors changed. The defendants were released on bail and placed in home detention, though they will not be allowed to go to airports or foreign embassies or to talk to any of the federal agents they allegedly duped.

During his hour-long ruling, Magistrate Judge Michael Harvey lambasted the Justice Department’s claims that the men were dangerous, were trying to compromise agents and were tied to a foreign government, the CNN reported on April 13.

Before his ouster as prime minister in a no-trust motion in the parliament on April 10, Imran Khan claimed that Pakistan’s Ambassador to US, Asad Majeed, was warned by Assistant Secretary of State Donald Lu that Khan’s continuation in office would have repercussions for bilateral ties between the two nations.

Shireen Mazari, a Pakistani politician who served as the Federal Minister for Human Rights under the Imran Khan government, quoted Donald Lu as saying: “If Prime Minister Imran Khan remained in office, then Pakistan will be isolated from the United States and we will take the issue head on; but if the vote of no-confidence succeeds, all will be forgiven.”

During Imran Khan’s historic two-day official visit to Moscow on the eve of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, besides signing several bilateral contracts in agricultural and energy sectors, President Putin reportedly offered Imran Khan the S-300 air defense system, Sukhoi aircraft as replacement for the Pakistan Air Force’s dependence on American F-16s and an array of advanced Russian military equipment on the condition that Pakistan abandons its traditional alliance with Washington and forge defense ties with Russia, according to two government officials who accompanied Imran Khan on the Moscow visit.

Alongside China, India and Iran, Pakistan under the leadership of Imran Khan was one of the few countries that adopted a non-aligned stance and refused to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, despite diplomatic pressure from Washington.

After the United States “nation-building project” failed in Afghanistan during its two-decade occupation of the embattled country from Oct. 2001 to August 2021, it accused regional powers of lending covert support to Afghan insurgents battling the occupation forces.

The occupation and Washington’s customary blame game accusing “malign regional forces” of insidiously destabilizing Afghanistan and undermining US-led “benevolent imperialism” instead of accepting responsibility for its botched invasion and occupation of Afghanistan brought Pakistan and Russia closer against a common adversary in their backyard, and the two countries even managed to forge defense ties, particularly during the four years of the Imran Khan government from July 2018 to April 2022.

Since the announcement of a peace deal with the Taliban by the Trump administration in Feb. 2020, regional powers, China and Russia in particular, hosted international conferences and invited the representatives of the US-backed Afghanistan government and the Taliban for peace negotiations.

After the departure of US forces from “the graveyard of the empires,” although Washington is trying to starve the hapless Afghan masses to death in retribution for inflicting a humiliating defeat on the global hegemon by imposing economic sanctions on the Taliban government and browbeating international community to desist from lending formal diplomatic recognition or having trade relations with Afghanistan, China and Russia have provided generous humanitarian and developmental assistance to Afghanistan.

Imran Khan fell from the grace of the Biden administration, whose record-breaking popularity ratings plummeted after the precipitous fall of US in Kabul last August, reminiscent of the Fall of US in Saigon in April 1975, with Chinook helicopters hovering over US embassy evacuating diplomatic staff to the airport, and Washington accused Pakistan for the debacle.

Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley squeamishly described the Kabul takeover in his historic Congressional testimony that several hundred Pashtun cowboys riding on motorbikes and brandishing Kalashnikovs overran Kabul without a shot being fired, and the world’s most lethal military force fled with tail neatly folded between legs, hastily evacuating diplomatic staff from sprawling 36-acre US embassy in Chinook helicopters to airport secured by the insurgents.

Apart from indiscriminate B-52 bombing raids mounted by Americans, Afghan security forces didn’t put up serious resistance anywhere in Afghanistan and simply surrendered territory to the Taliban. The fate of Afghanistan was sealed as soon as the US forces evacuated Bagram airbase in the dead of the night on July 1, six weeks before the inevitable fall of Kabul on August 15.

The sprawling Bagram airbase was the nerve center from where all the operations across Afghanistan were directed, specifically the vital air support to the US-backed Afghan security forces without which they were simply irregular militias waiting to be devoured by the wolves.

In southern Afghanistan, the traditional stronghold of the Pashtun ethnic group from which the Taliban draws most of its support, the Taliban military offensive was spearheaded by Mullah Yaqoob, the illustrious son of the Taliban’s late founder Mullah Omar and the newly appointed defense minister of the Taliban government, as district after district in southwest Afghanistan, including the birthplace of the Taliban movement Kandahar and Helmand, fell in quick succession.

What has stunned military strategists and longtime observers of the Afghan war, though, was the Taliban’s northern blitz, occupying almost the whole of northern Afghanistan in a matter of weeks, as northern Afghanistan was the bastion of the Northern Alliance comprising the Tajik and Uzbek ethnic groups. In recent years, however, the Taliban has made inroads into the heartland of the Northern Alliance, too.

The ignominious fall of Kabul clearly demonstrates the days of American hegemony over the world are numbered. If ragtag Taliban militants could liberate their homeland from imperialist clutches without a fight, imagine what would happen if the United States confronted equal military powers such as Russia and China. The much-touted myth of American military supremacy is clearly more psychological than real.

Imran Khan is an educated and charismatic leader. Being an Oxford graduate, he is much better informed than most Pakistani politicians. And he is a liberal at heart. Most readers might disagree with the assertion due to his fierce anti-imperialism and West-bashing demagoguery, but allow me to explain.

It’s not just Imran Khan’s celebrity lifestyle that makes him a progressive. He also derives his intellectual inspiration from the Western tradition. The ideal role model in his mind is the Scandinavian social democratic model which he has mentioned on numerous occasions, especially in his speech at Karachi before a massive rally of singing and cheering crowd in December 2012.

His relentless anti-imperialism as a political stance should be viewed in the backdrop of Western military interventions in the Islamic countries. The conflagration that neocolonial powers have caused in the Middle East evokes strong feelings of resentment among Muslims all over the world. Moreover, Imran Khan also uses anti-America rhetoric as an electoral strategy to attract conservative masses, particularly the impressionable youth.

It’s also noteworthy that Imran Khan’s political party draws most of its electoral support from women, youth voters and Pakistani expats residing in the Gulf and Western countries. All these segments of society, especially the women, are drawn more toward egalitarian liberalism than patriarchal conservatism, because liberalism promotes women’s rights and its biggest plus point is its emphasis on equality, emancipation and empowerment of women who constitute over half of population in every society.

Imran Khan’s ouster from power for daring to stand up to the United States harks back to the toppling and subsequent assassination of Pakistan’s first elected prime minister, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, in April 1979 by the martial law regime of Gen. Zia-ul-Haq.

The United States not only turned a blind eye but tacitly approved the elimination of Bhutto from Pakistan’s political scene because, being a socialist, Bhutto not only nurtured cordial ties with communist China but was also courting Washington’s arch-rival, the former Soviet Union.

The Soviet Union played the role of a mediator at the signing of the Tashkent Agreement for the cessation of hostilities following the 1965 India-Pakistan War over the disputed Kashmir region, in which Bhutto represented Pakistan as the foreign minister of the Gen. Ayub Khan-led government.

Like Imran Khan, the United States “deep state” regarded Bhutto as a political liability and an obstacle in the way of mounting the Operation Cyclone to provoke the Soviet Union into invading Afghanistan and the subsequent waging of a decade-long war of attrition, using Afghan jihadists as cannon fodder who were generously funded, trained and armed by the CIA and Pakistan’s security agencies in the Af-Pak border regions, in order to “bleed the Soviet forces” and destabilize and weaken the rival global power.

Karl Marx famously said: “History repeats itself, first as a tragedy and then as a farce.” In addition to a longstanding CIA program aimed at cultivating an anti-Russian insurgency in Ukraine by training, arming and international legitimizing neo-Nazi militias in Donbas, Canada’s Department of National Defense revealed on January 26, two days following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, that the Canadian Armed Forces had trained “nearly 33,000 Ukrainian military and security personnel in a range of tactical and advanced military skills.” While the United Kingdom, via Operation Orbital, had trained 22,000 Ukrainian fighters.

A “prophetic” RAND Corporation report titled “Overextending and Unbalancing Russia” published in 2019 declares the stated goal of American policymakers is “to undermine Russia just as the US subversively destabilized the former Soviet Union during the Cold War,” and predicts to the letter the crisis unfolding in Ukraine as a consequence of the eight-year proxy war mounted by NATO in Russian-majority Donbas region in east Ukraine on Russia’s vulnerable western flank since the 2014 Maidan coup, toppling Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and consequent annexation of the Crimean Peninsula by Russia.

Nonetheless, regarding the objectives of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in December 1979, then American envoy to Kabul, Adolph “Spike” Dubs, was assassinated on the Valentine’s Day, on 14 Feb 1979, the same day that Iranian revolutionaries stormed the American embassy in Tehran.

The former Soviet Union was wary that its forty-million Muslims were susceptible to radicalism, because Islamic radicalism was infiltrating across the border into the Central Asian States from Afghanistan. Therefore, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in December 1979 in support of the Afghan communists to forestall the likelihood of Islamist insurgencies spreading to the Central Asian States bordering Afghanistan.

According to documents declassified by the White House, CIA and State Department in January 2019, as reported by Tim Weiner for the Washington Post, the CIA was aiding Afghan jihadists before the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979. President Jimmy Carter signed the CIA directive to arm the Afghan jihadists in July 1979, whereas the former Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in December the same year.

The revelation doesn’t come as a surprise, though, because more than two decades before the declassification of the State Department documents, in the 1998 interview to CounterPunch magazine, former National Security Advisor to President Jimmy Carter, Zbigniew Brzezinski, confessed that the president signed the directive to provide secret aid to the Afghan jihadists in July 1979, whereas the Soviet Army invaded Afghanistan six months later in December 1979.

Here is a poignant excerpt from the interview. The interviewer puts the question: “And neither do you regret having supported the Islamic jihadists, having given arms and advice to future terrorists?” Brzezinski replies: “What is most important to the history of the world? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet Empire? Some stirred-up Muslims or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the Cold War?”

Despite the crass insensitivity, one must give credit to Zbigniew Brzezinski that at least he had the courage to speak the unembellished truth. It’s worth noting, however, that the aforementioned interview was recorded in 1998. After the 9/11 terror attack, no Western policymaker can now dare to be as blunt and forthright as Brzezinski.

Regardless, that the CIA was arming the Afghan jihadists six months before the Soviets invaded Afghanistan has been proven by the State Department’s declassified documents; fact of the matter, however, is that the nexus between the CIA, Pakistan’s security agencies and the Gulf states to train and arm the Afghan jihadists against the former Soviet Union was forged years before the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

Pakistan joined the American-led, anticommunist SEATO and CENTO regional alliances in the 1950s and played the role of Washington’s client state since its inception in 1947. So much so that when a United States U-2 spy plane was shot down by the Soviet Air Defense Forces while performing photographic aerial reconnaissance deep into Soviet territory, Pakistan’s then President Ayub Khan openly acknowledged the reconnaissance aircraft flew from an American airbase in Peshawar, a city in northwest Pakistan.

Then during the 1970s, Pakistan’s then Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s government began aiding the Afghan Islamists against Sardar Daud’s government, who had toppled his first cousin King Zahir Shah in a palace coup in 1973 and had proclaimed himself the president of Afghanistan.

Sardar Daud was a Pashtun nationalist and laid claim to Pakistan’s northwestern Pashtun-majority province. Pakistan’s security agencies were alarmed by his irredentist claims and used Islamists to weaken his rule in Afghanistan. He was eventually assassinated in 1978 as a consequence of the Saur Revolution led by the Afghan communists.

It’s worth pointing out, however, that although the Bhutto government did provide political and diplomatic support on a limited scale to Islamists in their struggle for power against Pashtun nationalists in Afghanistan, being a secular and progressive politician, he would never have permitted opening the floodgates for flushing the Af-Pak region with weapons, petrodollars and radical jihadist ideology as his successor, Zia-ul-Haq, an Islamist military general, did by becoming a willing tool of religious extremism and militarism in the hands of neocolonial powers.

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Aafia Siddiqui, Political Prisoner

The media coverage of the hostage-taking at a synagogue in Texas has been predictably hysterical, Islamophobic and inaccurate about Aafia Siddiqui, the apparent political cause of the hostage-taker Malik Faisad Akram.  According to his family in England he has “mental health issues.”  He was “said to have” weapons and explosives.  He was “said to have” threatened the four hostages but everyone seems to agree no one was harmed. He wanted Siddiqui free from the near-by maximum security Carswell Prison; he wanted to speak to her.   Under heavy criticism the FBI has said that his hostage-taking had nothing to do with their being Jews, “not his issue.”  But to the press, Siddiqui “has a history of anti-semitism,” hence the universal media criticism. To the police, FBI, government, killing Akram represented a successful outcome to the crisis.  Siddiqui’s lawyer and family distanced themselves from Akram’s actions, but to say they remain completely frustrated by their thwarted attempts to free a very ill, frail, and innocent Aafia Siddiqui, after repeated pleas to the US government and unfulfilled promises by the Pakistani government, would be to vastly understate the case.

Pakistani-born Boston graduate student Aafia Siddiqui’s crime was to be caught in America’s post 9/11 anti-Muslim hysteria.  She had come to America in 1990 to study, earning a biology degree and then a Ph.D in neuroscience from MIT.  Her colleagues called her quiet and religious (but not a fundamentalist).  Her marriage to Mohammed Amjad Khan ended in divorce when he proved to be violent and more fundamentalist than Siddiqui.  She was mistakenly accused of anti-American Muslim activism initially (partially because of mistaken identity), but the accusations ballooned. In the early War On Terror days, “associations” became much more significant and damning.  Siddiqui ended up on Attorney General John Ashcroft’s “Watchlist.” As the Big Lies of government grew, soon the New York Post was calling her “Lady Al Queda.”

Once the government labeled her a “terrorist,” she had no chance of escaping the Empire’s punishment. When her true story began to emerge, it was necessary to take action.  While visiting in Pakistan, helped by Pakistani American operatives, she was “disappeared.”  Her youngest child was killed when she was taken, and her other two children imprisoned separately for years. She was beaten, raped, tortured and kept in solitary in black site prisons of the American Empire, particularly in Afghanistan. Other prisoners have testified that they saw her at Bagram, a prison from which the Obama administration prevented prisoners’ court appearances because they might talk about the conditions of their imprisonment. Eventually Aafia Siddiqui would be set up for final punishment and disposal.

From my book Women Politicals in America:

At the trial—in January 2010—the soldiers said that Aafia Siddiqui, accused would-be assassin and presumed Al Qaeda terrorist, did, in fact, get hold of an unsecured M-4 automatic rifle and open fire on US soldiers and FBI agents in Ghazni, Afghanistan.  The day before, she had been picked up by local policemen as a “possible suicide bomber” because she had been “loitering” in a public square with a young boy [whose identity is not clear].  She carried instructions to create biological weapons, descriptions of US “military assets,” numerous jars containing “chemical substances,” and documents containing words like “Empire State Building” and “Brooklyn Bridge.”  The soldiers said that the day after her discovery and arrest, an American army captain, a warrant officer, two army interpreters and two FBI agents came to question Siddiqui at Ghazni police headquarters.  The soldiers said that none of those men were “aware that Siddiqui was being held, unsecured, behind [a] curtain.”  Oddly, no one looked behind it.  And also oddly, the American warrant officer placed his M-4 rifle next to the curtain.  What happened next, said the soldiers, was that Siddiqui pulled the rifle to her, unlatched the safety, pointed the gun  at the captain, and while one of the interpreters grabbed for the gun, Siddiqui fired the gun twice.  The soldiers agreed she had said, “Get the fuck out of here!”  She hit no one.

The soldiers said the interpreter knocked her to the ground and the warrant officer fired “approximately two rounds” into Siddiqui’s stomach.  She collapsed, unconscious.  FBI special Agent Eric Negron testified at her trial that he saw the rifle raised (although he could not see her face behind the curtain).  Negron said that after she was shot he helped restrain the struggling Siddiqui.  “I had to strike her several times with a closed fist across the face.”  Finally she “either fainted or faked that she had fainted” and was handcuffed.  The soldiers had successfully restrained the suspected terrorist Siddiqui.  Although her prints were not on the rifle, the holes in the police station wall put there by the rifle Siddiqui allegedly fired were proved to have been there before the July 2008 incident, and since, if she had tried to kill the soldiers, she missed and was herself grievously shot in the abdomen, her sentence seemed disproportionate.  Aafia Siddiqui was given 86 years in prison.  She had been labeled a terrorist enemy of the Empire and its soldiers, and her case was disposed of accordingly.

Siddiqui had been extradited for the offense of attempting to kill soldiers, but she was tried, completely illegally, as a notorious female terrorist. She was not allowed to speak of her torture or the killing of her baby.  The trial—then as now—of a “terrorist, as with Julian Assange, allows for only the government/prosecutorial side.  The defendant cannot win.  Siddiqui was also in very bad shape, physically and mentally during her trial, with a badly dressed stomach wound that the judge had to intervene to have treated.  She was forced to undergo strip searches every day and was forced to testify.  When she mentioned being in a secret prison, with her children tortured in front of her, the testimony was stricken from the record.  She also, and this is arguably something the hostage-taker Malik Faisad Akram was aware of, did not want “Zionists” chosen as jurors and said her guilty verdict came from Israel, not America.  Some said she was irrational which was entirely possible, but with the anti-Muslim elements of her trial, perhaps not so irrational.

She has been in prison since 2010 and has, according to her family, suffered unjust punishments within the prison, and her medical problems are not treated.  For much of the last 11 years, she has also not been able to communicate with her family.  According to the Free Aafia website, maintained by her family and friends, she was attacked last July and suffered serious injuries.  After a number of years, she and her family are still waiting for Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan to follow through on promises to help free her from the Empire’s prison.  For the press to continue to call her a hardened terrorist and to overlook the treatment, the torture she has endured at American hands, echoes the ignorant liberal sentiment that Afghanistan is so much worse off without the American government there to torture and kill.  I would like to end this with a 2012 statement from Moazzam Begg, prisoner at US Air Force Base,  Bagram, Afghanistan:

Of all the abuses [prisoner Abu Yahya al-Libi] describes in his account, the presence of a woman and her humiliation and degradation were the most inflammatory to all the prisoners [at Bagram]—they would never forget it.  He describes how she was regularly stripped naked and manhandled by guards, and how she used to scream incessantly in isolation for two years.  He said prisoners protested her treatment, going on hunger strike, feeling ashamed they could do nothing to help.  He described her in detail:  a Pakistani mother—torn away from her children—in her mid-thirties, who had begun to lose her mind.  Her number, he said, was 650.

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A Short History of the US-Pakistan Relationship

On January 10, 2022, National Security Advisor (NSA) Moeed Yusuf said, “It [Pakistan] is still not [free from US influence] and I doubt that there is any country which is free from it.” He added that the country does not have any financial independence, being dependent on loans from International Monetary Fund (IMF) and other foreign organizations. “When we cannot [fulfill] the demands, we seek foreign loans. When you procure loans, your economic sovereignty is compromised.” These comments are not entirely stunning; they encapsulate the ambivalent essence of the US-Pakistan relationship. While the Pakistani elite greatly enjoys its self-imposed subservience to the American empire, it never just sits back and rest on its laurels. It continuously tries to exploit what little room for maneuver it has within the bond of servility to further more selfish, regional interests – ones which either demand too much from the patron or don’t neatly align with the US’ hegemonic ambitions.

Anticommunism

Unlike the many postcolonial nations of the time which exuded a great degree of interest in the development of an independent project, Pakistan was totally craven; its creators displayed a surprising lack of enthusiasm in the paraphernalia of sovereignty. They were only interested in somehow securing money, regardless of the consequences which the people would have to face later. Every option was on the table. In The Duel: Pakistan on the Flight Path of American Power, Tariq Ali notes that “the new rulers of Pakistan developed an early communal awareness that to survive they had to rent their country.” Washington was approached as a possible buyer but it rejected the offer to buy Pakistan “as it was busy securing Western Europe and Japan, as well as keeping an eye on China, where the Eighth Route Army was beginning to threaten a Communist victory.” However, this did not stop Pakistan from trying to sell itself.

Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, continued to consistently market his country as an important ally against Soviet expansionism. Ali remarks that he hysterically “insisted that Soviet agents were present in Kalat and Gilgit in search of a base in Baluchistan.” These same sentiments were shared in a more sophisticated manner by then foreign minister Zafarullah Khan. “[H]e pleaded with the United States to shore up Pakistan, whose people were genetically anticommunist, since this was the best way to protect India against the Soviet Union, which would send its armies through the Khyber Pass.” Pakistan’s persistence in peddling threats about USSR paid off in May 1954 when it signed the Mutual Defense Assistance Agreement, through which the US provided resources and training to the Pakistani army, with the general aim of turning the new nation into a pliant Third World state. In September 1954, Pakistan was officially anointed as a crusader against the godless Communists, joining the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization together with Thailand and the Philippines.

Exactly one year later, in September 1955, Pakistan joined another pro-Western organization known as the Baghdad Pact, which included King Faisal’s Iraq, Iran, Turkey, and Britain. As Pakistan chummed up with its anti-Soviet friends, the inflows of money into the ruling class’ pockets increased. From 1953 to 1961, Pakistan received around $2 billion in assistance from the US. These wads of cash, however, did not signify a thoroughgoing bilateral camaraderie, one in which the imperialist benefactor would come to the help of its junior partner at all cost. Apart from acting as another chess piece in the anticommunist game, Pakistan served no other significant function for USA. Therefore, the latter felt no need for fulfilling all the demands of the former. In fact, what happened during the initial years of 1960s was the opposite. In United States and Pakistan in the 21st Century: Geostrategy and Geopolitics in South Asia, Syed Tahseen Raza writes:

The Sino-Indian Border struggle in 1962 paved the way for closer US-India ties because neutral India, desperate to have weapons in the immediate aftermath of Chinese aggression, made a frantic plea for US help. The US was pleased because this was an opportunity to wean India off the influence of the Soviet Union by offering help in a time of crisis. Meanwhile, Pakistan’s inching closer with China was not liked by the United States. When American finally decided to give arms aid to India in November 1962, Pakistan was not consulted before as was promised to them and this deeply offended the leaders of Pakistan. The [John F.] Kennedy administration, on the whole, tried to balance the American relationship with South Asia on equal footing and therefore did not view Pakistan as more important than India.

Feeling threatened by USA’s growing closeness with India, Pakistan extracted from the former, on November 5, 1962, a pledge “that it will come to Pakistan’s assistance in the event of aggression from India.” This pledge, nonetheless, did not help Pakistan during the Second Kashmir War (1965) when it undertook dangerous military adventures (Operation Gibraltar and Operation Grand Slam) against India. When the war started, the US cut aid to both Pakistan and India. A similar situation developed six years later. When New Delhi decisively intervened in East Pakistan’s civil war in late 1971, Washington was unwilling to directly support the Pakistani army’s Operation Searchlight against Bengali insurgents (though it did send part of its Seventh Fleet in the Bay of Bengal). The country’s eastern wing seceded to form the state of Bangladesh, dismembering Pakistan in a humiliating way. Spurred by this defeat, Pakistan’s governing caste realized that the continued existence of the nation was dependent on nuclear parity with India.

The development of nuclear weapons was smoothed by conjunctural reasons. In neighboring Afghanistan, the communists, who had backed the 1973 military coup by Prince Daoud after which a republic was proclaimed, withdrew their support from him. In April 1978, the Shah of Iran convinced Daoud to turn against the communist factions in his army and administration. In response to increasingly harsh state repression, left-wing officers in the military stormed the Presidential Palace in Kabul. The government was turned over to Noor Mohammed Taraki, a communist professor who became the President of the Revolutionary Council of Afghanistan. These developments – which were extensively supported by the USSR – came to be known as the Saur (April) Revolution. The US was terrified. It crafted a subversive plan that made General Zia’s dictatorship in Pakistan a principal node for sending jihadists to Afghanistan. Singularly focused on destabilizing Afghanistan’s communist regime, and, by extension, Soviet Union, USA cared less about Pakistan developing its nuclear programme in the 1980s.

War on Terror

America’s benign attitude toward Pakistan changed with the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan and the ultimate end of the Cold war. “[S]ans the American aim of defeating communism as their top priority,” comments Raza, “Pakistan was not given any extra consideration.” The “US Intelligence Report,” which had been indicting Pakistan for its nuclear quest, came to be invoked more frequently. When India conducted its Nuclear Test in March 1998, the Bill Clinton administration tried to prevent Pakistan from following suit, offering the resumption of the sale of F-16 aircraft (which had been frozen by George H.W. Bush when he did not certify Pakistan’s non-possession of nuclear devices) and economic and military aid. But Pakistan demanded more. Raza remarks: “Pakistan wanted tough punitive action against India. When the G-8 meeting on 17-18 May 1998 didn’t take very harsh measures against India in accordance with Pakistan’s expectations, bowing to public pressure, Pakistan decided to go for the Nuclear Test, which it ultimately carried out on 28 May, 1998.”

In response to Pakistan’s nuclear test, the US imposed sanctions, which included restriction of the provision of credits, military sales, economic assistance, and loans. These were, nevertheless, limited in scope and were not sustained. US-Pakistan relations exited this period of downturn in an explosive manner after 2001, thanks to the murky dynamics cultivated by imperialism in Afghanistan. After the USSR left in 1988, Pakistan maintained a strong footprint in Afghanistan to gain “strategic depth” against India, continuing to nurture the Islamist extremism that was earlier used to mobilize jihadist fighters from all over the world against USSR. These actions had severe repercussions. When hardhats of jihadism attacked New York in 2001 to express their disgruntlement with America’s bases in Saudi Arabia, the destruction of Iraq and support for Israel, Pakistan was caught in a dilemma. Networks of battle-hardened fighters that it had built along with the USA were now on the attack radar of its imperialist sponsor.

With limited options, Pakistan decided to join the US War on Terror, declaring support for the Hamid Karzai government in Kabul. “By providing the USA with help in the invasion of Afghanistan,” Justin Podur clarifies, “Pakistan was able to save its clients and its own personnel from destruction, as much of the Taliban and al-Qaeda crossed the border to Pakistan or went to ground and Afghanistan was taken over by US-friendly warlords.” This tactical move had its own disruptive consequences for Pakistan’s social osmosis. General Pervez Musharraf came to be accused of treason for supporting the USA against fellow Muslims in Pakistan and Afghanistan. This political effect complicated military operations. As the US and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) made the Pakistan army take action against insurgents operating in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, casualties increased, eroding the state’s legitimacy in the region. When Pakistan cooperated with the insurgents on the sly, it faced US threats.

Conflicts

The convoluted workings of the War on Terror have had a destructive impact on Pakistan’s economy. It has lost $150 billion – 41% or two-fifths of the country’s total economy size, more than the $13 billion that it received from the US between 1999 and 2013. Since the US invasion of Afghanistan, more than 80,000 Pakistani civilians, security forces personnel and women and children have been killed in gun, bomb and suicide attacks. On average, every year Pakistan suffered losses of $7.7 billion – more than the country’s total expenditures on education, health and other social safety schemes. With the growing advance of the Taliban in Afghanistan, current Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post in September 2021, saying: “Since 2001, I have repeatedly warned that the Afghan war was unwinnable. Given their history, Afghans would never accept a protracted foreign military presence, and no outsider, including Pakistan, could change this reality. Unfortunately, successive Pakistani governments after 9/11 sought to please the United States instead of pointing out the error of a military-dominated approach.”

Scarred by the War on Terror, Pakistan has been frustrated to see USA establish an alliance with India as part of an anti-China containment strategy. The US and Indian elites have found a common interest in countering China; India is embroiled in disputes on its land borders with China and the US and its allies are contesting China’s claim to maritime territories across shipping routes in the Indo-Pacific region. It is against this background that Pakistan has returned to China’s “all-weather friendship,” initiated in the 1960s by General Ayub Khan who felt betrayed by Washington’s overtures to India in the aftermath of the Sino-Indian border conflict. China has become Pakistan’s closest strategic ally, supplying it with modern defense equipment. Pakistan supports China’s stance on Xinjiang, Tibet and Taiwan, and China backs Pakistan on its Kashmir issue with India. Over the past five years, this cooperation has been further cemented by China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and its local cognate China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), entailing over $60 billion worth of Chinese investments in infrastructure consisting mostly of loans.

Despite the economic heft of China, Pakistan still needs Washington’s support, both to get disbursements of its $6 billion bailout package from the IMF and to be removed from the terror-financing and money-laundering watchdog Financial Action Task Force’s “grey list,” a designation that encumbers Islamabad’s global financial operations. War on Terror cooperation had converted Pakistan into a major non-NATO ally of the US in 2004, granting it various military and financial privileges. The designation had also eased Pakistan’s access to IMF facilities. With the deterioration of Pakistan’s relationship with USA, accessing funds has become difficult. In October-November 2021, IMF withheld the release of a $1 billion tranche under an Extended Fund Facility (EFF) to Pakistan until the government agreed to close commercial bank accounts held by the armed forces and other state entities and remitted $17 billion worth of public funds into a single treasury account. It is believed that USA, the single largest financial contributor to the IMF, had a hand in the reform demands.

In a June 2021 interview on HBO’s documentary news series Axios, Khan had said, “Pakistan will “absolutely not” allow the CIA to use bases on its soil for cross-border counterterrorism missions after American forces withdraw from Afghanistan.” To change this policy decision, USA started using IMF monetary policy as a bargaining chip to force cash-strapped Islamabad to agree to Joe Biden administration’s counterterrorism operations in Afghanistan. These events highlight the conflictual nature of the contemporary US-Pakistan relationship. And it seems that both the parties have failed to arrive at a proper resolution till now. Yusuf’s criticism is significant in this regard as he was the one chosen for mending ties with the US. He has spent a decade or more in the think tank and security policy circle in the US capital as associate vice president for Asia at the Institute of Peace, a US government-backed institution. The Pakistani government had recently elevated him from the position of Special Assistant to the Prime Minister to NSA to signal seriousness in creating a new rapport with the US. It seems that Pakistan will have to wait longer for such a reset in relationships.

The post A Short History of the US-Pakistan Relationship first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Our Mutual Fight: The Case against Pakistani Normalization with Israel   

The Pakistani government should never, under any circumstances and no matter the pressure, normalize with Israel. Doing so is not only dangerous – as it will embolden an already vile, racist, violent apartheid Israel – but it would also be considered a betrayal of a historic legacy of mutual solidarity, collective affinity and brotherhood that have bonded Palestinians and Pakistanis for many generations.

The bond between Palestine and Pakistan is not one that is based on rhetoric. Rather, it is cemented through blood and sacrifice, as Pakistani fighters have taken part in the desperate Palestinian-Arab attempt at pushing back Zionist colonization of the Palestinian homeland in 1948. Whenever Palestinians think back of those who stood by their side during their times of hardship and collective pain, Pakistan always features prominently on the list.

But it is not just this. The Pakistani Air Force also took part in the war of 1967 when Israel occupied the rest of historic Palestine and, more importantly, in the pivotal war of 1973, when Arabs and Muslims fought back. It was no surprise to learn that the Pakistani government recognized the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) as the ‘sole and legitimate representative of the Palestinian people before the Arab League had done so at the Rabat Conference in Morocco in 1974.

It is terribly sad to see that Morocco, despite the collective love shared between the Moroccan and the Palestinian people, has succumbed to Jared Kushner’s political designs to normalize with Israel. Trump’s son-in-law had launched a decided campaign to normalize Israel in the eyes of Arabs and Muslims, without forcing Tel Aviv to make a single political concession to the occupied and oppressed Palestinians. Countries like Morocco, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Sudan sold Palestine so cheaply, in exchange for limited, selfish and, worse, unguaranteed gains.

Pakistan cannot join this misled club. A country of Pakistan’s size, of its large and vibrant population and of the kind of moral authority it possesses is not meant to be an American lackey, dancing to the drumbeats of the US administration, of Kushner-like politicians, who are unable to decipher the long-term consequences of their actions.

If Pakistan normalizes with Israel through any kind of diplomatic, cultural or trade exchanges, it will send an unprecedented message to the rest of the Muslim Umma; in fact, to the whole world that Muslims are now willing to coexist in a reality in which injustice, in all of its manifestations is, simply, normal and acceptable.

What kind of moral authority would that make Pakistan, especially as it is leading the fight against the occupation of Kashmir and the perpetual injustices and violence that is experienced daily by millions of Kashmiris?

From a very young age, all Palestinians are reminded that the struggle for Palestine is part and parcel of the larger struggle against the evils of military occupation anywhere in the world, starting with Kashmir. Every Palestinian mosque often ends its Friday sermons with a heartfelt prayer to Allah, to bring to an end the woes of mankind, from Palestine to Kashmir, to Afghanistan, to Iraq, to Syria and so on. At times, this camaraderie is all that Palestinians are left with, as the so-called international community has long-turned its back on the Palestinian people and their seemingly endless tragedy.

But what would Pakistan gain from normalization with Israel, anyway, aside from lofty promises that are likely to be forgotten as soon as the Joe Biden Administration takes over the White House? What did Egypt and Jordan gain from their normalization and diplomatic ties with Israel, over the course of 40 and 26 years, respectively? They are certainly not better off in any way. Since then, the Egyptian pound has been devalued numerous times against the US dollar; it is almost worthless. Jordan, on the other hand, has been reeling under a prolonged economic crisis, one that seems to worsen with time.

Additionally, the geopolitics of the Middle East is in an unprecedented state of flux. Since the seismic American decision to ‘pivot to Asia’ in 2012, its ‘leadership from behind’ in the NATO-led war in Libya and every other major regional event since, it is crystal clear that the US is no longer the dominant party in the greater Middle East region. With its Asian domain evidently shrinking due to China’s growing economic and political might and outreach and its ‘scramble for Africa’ facing numerous obstacles, the US is no longer in a position to dictate, neither to Pakistan nor any other country, on how to conduct its foreign policy. The upcoming US administration is likely to be busy for years in a desperate attempt to stave off some of the damage inflicted by the Donald Trump Administration, starting with amending some of its ties with its European and NATO allies.

This is not the time to join yet more American political gambles, lining up Arabs and Muslims on the side of Israel to fight some imagined Iranian threat. On the contrary, this is the time for influential and well-regarded countries like Pakistan to champion their own initiatives, with the help of other peace and justice loving countries, to force Israel to respect international law, to end its military occupation of Palestine and to dismantle its system of racist apartheid. This will certainly garner Pakistan the respect and leadership it deserves as a global Asian and Muslim power.

The Palestinian and Pakistani peoples need each other as vanguards against racism, military occupation and injustice. They must remain united at the forefront of this defining fight, no matter the sacrifices and the pressures. If Pakistan abandons this noble fight, the pain of this loss will be felt most deeply in the heart of every Palestinian, for generations to come.

Pakistan, please do not validate apartheid; do not make military occupation normal.

The post Our Mutual Fight: The Case against Pakistani Normalization with Israel    first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Building a Nuclear Weapon-Free World

On January 22, 2021, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) became international law for the 122 states who signed the agreement in July 2017. Article 1a of TPNW states: “Each State Party undertakes never under any circumstances to… Develop, test, produce, manufacture, otherwise acquire, possess or stockpile nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.”

Initiated by a cross-regional group comprising Austria, Brazil, Ireland, Mexico, Nigeria and South Africa, the TPNW was approved by the United Nations General Assembly by a vote of 122-1. The treaty required that 50 signatory nations officially ratify it before it could become international law. That happened on October 24, 2020, when Honduras became the fiftieth country to do so. And then 90 days had to pass, which occurred on January 22.

Disregard for World Peace

The nuclear nine – the United States, Russia, China, the UK, France, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea – boycotted the vote. In October 2020, the US government circulated a letter asking those governments who signed the treaty to withdraw from it. The US ambassador to the United Nations in 2017 – Nikki Haley – said that the TPNW threatens the security of USA. She asked those governments who had joined TPNW: “do they really understand the threats that we have?”

The nuclear powers are in violation of the 50-year-old Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which requires them to negotiate to reduce and eventually eliminate all nuclear weapons. Instead, the nuclear powers are developing new nuclear weapons. The US is spending $494 billion over the next ten years, and more than $1.7 billion in the next 30 years to “upgrade” its arsenal of nuclear weapons. Powerful corporations will be making billions of dollars from the nuclear programs over the next decade.

The US has withdrawn from one nuclear weapons treaty after another. Whether it is the Iran nuclear deal, Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty or the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty – USA has tried its hardest to undermine the idea of a world free from nuclear weapons. The last bilateral nuclear weapons treaty between the US and Russia, the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) concerning strategic nuclear forces, expires February 5, 2021.

As a US Senate condition for ratifying New START in 2010, the US administration carelessly initiated a multi-trillion-dollar nuclear weapons modernization program. Russia and China have responded with their own nuclear modernization programs. The new strategic arms are hypersonic – six times faster. Modernization also deploys more tactical nukes in conventional forces with the dangerous military doctrine of “escalate to de-escalate.”

The allies of nuclear-armed nations, including all NATO members, have also opposed TPNW.  These powers lack nuclear weapons but are relieved that their guardians do. The notion of an “umbrella of extended nuclear deterrence”  provides them comfort. For that reason Japan, despite advocating for the non-use and eventual elimination of nuclear weapons, has refused to endorse the weapons ban.

Nuclear Annihilation

In January 2020, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists set the Doomsday Clock to 100 seconds to midnight – the closest it has ever been. The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, founded by Albert Einstein and students from the University of Chicago in 1945, created the “Doomsday Clock” as a symbol to represent how close the world is to a possible apocalypse.

It is set annually by a panel of scientists, including 13 Nobel laureates, based on the threats that the world faced in that year. When it was first created in 1947, the hands of the clock were placed based on the threat posed by nuclear weapons. Over the years, they have included other threats, such as climate change and technologies like artificial intelligence.

As is evident from the Doomsday Clock, human civilization is moving closer toward possible destruction. One of things which can be done to avert such a scenario is for nuclear-armed nations to completely abolish nuclear weapons. The US and Russia have more than 90% of all the 13,410 warheads. Four countries – the US, Russia, the UK and France – have at least 1,800 warheads on high alert, which means that they can be fired at very short notice. A situation like this carries the threat of nuclear annihilation. Major nuclear powers should comply with TPNW to prevent such an occurrence.

The post Building a Nuclear Weapon-Free World first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Operation Endless War: The Fog of Afghanistan

A funny thing happened on the way to remote Central Asia following the events of 9/11.  The militarists who spawned this modern “crusade,” the invasion of Afghanistan, decided to call it “Operation Infinite Justice.”  Unfortunately for the philosophers at the Pentagon and their neo-con-liberal friends, this initial title was a resounding failure; further, it was also a telling mis-step foreshadowing the unspectacular disaster that this conflict would soon become and, to this very day, remains, as the third Afghan War administration now considers the Taliban to be legitimate international negotiating partners, just like in the pre-9/11 Clinton era.

The operational phrase itself, “Infinite Justice,” only lasted for the remarkably brief span of 2 weeks before the W. Bush administration stepped down from God’s throne to re-label their exercise in post-9/11 revenge “Operation Enduring Freedom.”  So, what was wrong with a little “Infinite Justice”?  Just about everything.  On the optics side, it was completely offensive to the greater Islamic community, not least because of its crusaderly air of infinite presumption:  “Bad optics, meet even worse manners!”  What were the “War on Terror” architects thinking?  Not very clearly, apparently.  In retrospect, the “Infinite Justice” hiccup was the first sign that the Afghan War project would not end well — if, indeed, it would ever end at all…

However, this operational name fiasco links to something more than mere foggy-headed thinking by Pentagonal metaphysicians; it underscores the deep interconnectedness of the W. Bush and Clinton administrations in the so-called “War on Terror.”

On August 20, 1998, in the midst of the Monica Lewinsky crisis, President Clinton authorized simultaneous cruise missile strikes against “non-state actors” in both Sudan and Afghanistan.  These attacks were code-named “Operation Infinite Reach.”  From a functionally nominal point of view, “Infinite Reach” was the etymological precursor to the ill-fated and bunglingly thought-out “Infinite Justice.”  On a policy level, “Infinite Reach,” despite its oxymoronically limited objectives, set up several key precedents for not only the following Bush administration, but the Obama and Trump administrations as well.

The cruise missile strikes hit an al-Qaeda training facility in Khost, Afghanistan, and the El-Shifa pharmaceutical factory in Khartoum, which was reported to be manufacturing precursor chemicals for chemical weapons use.  Interestingly enough, “Infinite Reach” was explicitly framed as a “pre-emptive” attack; pre-emption, of course, would move on to become the doctrinal signature of Iraq-Attack-Two, with “curve-balled” intelligence about alleged Iraqi WMD playing the role of Exhibit A.  In another foreshadowing, the intelligence on the Sudanese pharmaceutical plant has proven to be just another curve-ball.  The twin attacks were also justified with reference to an “imminent threat” from al-Qaeda, the same language used most recently by Trump officials to frame the drone strike against Iran’s General Qassem Soleimani at the Baghdad airport.

At the time, “Infinite Reach” was judged a “success” by a suddenly fawning Press that otherwise had fangs dripping with blood over the Lewinsky scandal.  Despite the rather obvious “Wag the Dog” optics of the operation, a Newsweek article at the time (August 30, 1998) went so far as to say that Clinton “looked presidential again,” just as the mainstream press has praised Trump on each occasion that he’s authorized cruise missile strikes against Syrian “targets” over dubious claims of chemweaps use by the al-Assad government.  The Newsweek article goes on to quote then-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright: “we are involved in a long-term struggle,” another familiarism from the “War on Terror” — or “terra,” as Bush Junior always, and un-ironically, pronounced it.  Clinton himself is quoted as saying “our target was terror,” while the Newsweek staff writers specifically place their piece in the context of “the war on terrorism.” The entire scaffolding for the soon-to-be “War on Terror,” then, was already in place during Clinton’s second term.  Clinton even set up phase two of the coming conflict, the invasion of Iraq, by signing into law “regime change” as official United States policy towards Iraq on Halloween, 1998.  Spookily enough, the Regime Changelings have been with us ever since, haunting…

It is worth noting, in this connection, that the Clinton administration initially welcomed the Taliban with open arms (so to speak) when they rose to still-contested power in that geopolitical expression of a country known as Afghanistan.  There once was a pipeline deal with a fossil fuel company called Unocal that the Clintonites were presumably quite eager to cash in on by dealing with the upsurgent Taliban, back in 1996.  As unlucky fate would have it, the deal fell through when the Taliban rejected the Unocal bid in favor of an offer for the same by an Argentinian outfit called Bridas, apparently on the advice of — who would have guessed? — Osama bin Laden, the ex-pat Saudi son-of-a-billionaire, himself.  Of course, this story may be the Thousand and First Arabian Night’s Tale, or even the Arab-Afghan Night’s nine-eleventh one…

The Clinton administration, by the way, never officially recognized the Taliban as the government of Afghanistan; in fact, only 3 countries did:  Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and, of course, Pakistan, where the Taliban was born and raised.  However, much like the Trump administration today, the Clinton regime then recognized the Taliban as the “non-state actors” in charge of the country, loosely defined.  The recent Trump deal with the Taliban is entirely Clintonesque, and is as fuzzy as it is lukewarm.

But to return to the foggy “Infinite,” as the mathematicians say:  the Barack Obushma administration managed to extend the poor promise of “Infinite Reach” to Libya and Syria, with predictably disastrous results.  Not only do these wars not end well:  they seemingly never end at all.  With all due respect to the Neo-fascist flu now known as the “novel Coronavirus,” the United States has been suffering from an absurdly serious case of Roman Legionnaires disease for decades, with no cure in sight.  Coughing, sneezing, wheezing; wizening yet not wisening, epidemiologists everywhere should take precautionary note:  War is not just a symptom of the disorder, but most likely the cause…

The Western Alliance is Falling Apart

Ever since Imran Khan became the 22nd Prime Minister of Pakistan in August 2018, the winds have changed. While his predecessors, though generally leaning eastwards, have often wavered between the US and the China orbit, Khan is in the process of clearly defining his alliances with the east, in particular China. This is for the good of his country, for the good of the Middle East, and eventually for the good of the world.

A few days ago, RT reported that China, in addition to the expansion of the new port in Gwadar, Balochistan, has entered into agreements with Pakistan to build a military/air base in Pakistan, a new Chinese city for some half a million people, as well as several road and railway improvement projects, including a highway connecting the cities of Karachi and Lahore, reconstruction of the Karakoram Highway, linking Hasan Abdal to the Chinese border, as well as upgrading the Karachi-Peshwar main railway to be completed by the end of 2019, for trains to travel up to 160km/hour.

This rehabilitation of dilapidated Pakistani transportation infrastructure is not only expected to contribute between 2% and 3% of Pakistan’s future GDP, but it offers also another outlet for Iranian gas/hydrocarbons, other than through the Strait of Hurmuz, for example, by rail to the new port of Gwadar which, by the way, is also a new Chinese naval base. From Gwadar Iranian hydrocarbon cargos can be shipped everywhere, including to China, Africa and India. With the new China-built transportation infrastructure Iranian gas can also be shipped overland to China.

In fact, these infrastructure developments, plus several electric power production projects, still mostly fed by fossil fuel, to resolve Pakistani’s chronic energy shortage, are part of the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), also called the New Silk Road. They are a central part of the new so-called China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) which was first designed in 2015 during a visit by China’s President Xi Jinping, when some 51 Memorandums of Understanding (MoU) worth then some US$ 46 billion were signed. Pakistan is definitely out of the US orbit.

Today, in the CPEC implementation phase, the projects planned or under construction are estimated at over US$ 60 billion. An estimated 80% are direct investments with considerable Pakistani participation and 20% Chinese concessionary debt. Clearly, Pakistan has become a staunch ally of China and this to the detriment of the US role in the Middle East.

Washington’s wannabe hegemony over the Middle East is fading rapidly. See also Michel Chossudovsky’s detailed analysis “US Foreign Policy in Shambles: NATO and the Middle East. How Do You Wage War Without Allies?

A few days ago, Germany refused Washington’s request to take part in a US-led maritime mission in the Strait of Hormuz, under the pretext to secure hydrocarbon shipments through this Iran-controlled narrow water way. In reality it is more like a new weaponizing of waterways, by controlling what ships do what to whom and applying “sanctions” by blocking or outright pirating of tankers destined for western ‘enemy’ territories.

Foreign Minister Heiko Maas announced last Wednesday in Warsaw, Poland, that there “cannot be a military solution” to the current crisis in the Persian Gulf and that Berlin will turn down Washington’s request to join the US, British and French operation “aimed at protecting sea traffic in the Strait of Hormuz, and combating so-called “Iranian aggression.”

This idea of the Washington war hawks was conceived after Iran’s totally legal seizure of the British-flagged Stena Impero oil tanker, after it rammed an Iranian fishing boat a couple of weeks ago. However, nothing is said about the totally illegal and US-ordered British piracy of the Iranian super tanker Grace I off the coast of Gibraltar in Spanish waters (another infraction of international law), weeks earlier. While Grace I’s crew in the meantime has been released, the tanker is still under British capture, but western media remain silent about it, but lambast Iran for seizing a British tanker in the Strait of Hormuz.

Germany remains committed to the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, JCPOA (the Iran nuclear deal), from which the United States unilaterally withdrew a year ago, and Germany will therefore not intervene on behalf of the US.

Add to this Turkey – a key NATO member both for her strategic location and NATO’s actual military might established in Turkey – moving ever closer to the east, and becoming a solid ally of Russia, after having ignored Washington’s warnings against Turkey’s purchasing of Russian S-400 cutting-edge air defense systems. For “sleeping with the enemy”; i.e., moving ever closer to Russia, the US has already punished Turkey’s economy by manipulating her currency to fall by about 40% since the beginning of 2018. Turkey is also a candidate to become a member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), and so is Iran.

Turkey has become a de facto lame duck as a NATO member and may soon officially exit NATO which would be a tremendous blow to the North Atlantic Alliance and may tempt other European NATO nations to do likewise. Probably not overnight, but the idea of an ever more defunct NATO is planted.

All indications are that the future, economically and security wise – is in the East.  Even Europe may eventually ‘dare’ making the jump towards better relations with primarily Russia and Central Asia and eventually with China.

And that especially if and when Brexit happens, which is by no means a sure thing.  However, just in case, the UK has already prepared bilateral trade relations with China, ready to be signed, if and when, the UK exits the EU.

Will the UK, another staunch US ally, jump ship?  Unlikely. But dancing on two weddings simultaneously is a customary Anglo-Saxon game plan. The Brits must have learned it from their masters in Washington, who in turn took the lessons from the Brits as colonial power for centuries, across the Atlantic.

Western, US-led war on Iran is therefore unlikely. There is too much at stake, and especially, there are no longer any reliable allies in the region. Remember, allies — shall we call them puppets or peons — are normally doing the dirty work for Washington.

So, threatening, warning and annoying provocations by the US with some of its lasting western allies may continue for a while. It makes for good propaganda. After all, packing up and going home is not exactly Uncle Sam’s forte. The western alliance is no longer what it used to be. In fact, it is in shambles. And Iran knows it.

Finding Reason Beyond the Rage in Kashmir

Kashmir is glorified the world over as paradise on the earth for its scenic beauty, serene valleys, calm and fresh waters, and colourful flora and fauna. But, beyond the gaze of this matrix lies a narrative of pains, sufferings, and broken promises. Caught in the whirlpool of hypersensitive political environs, the Kashmir imbroglio refuses to abate and has assumed multiple forms of uncertainty and chaos with the passage of time.

Many theories have been put forth by the political pundits within and outside the valley, but those theories go astray and turn rudimentary within the framework of time. Like elsewhere, writings on the Kashmir imbroglio were minuscule until the narrative of Basharat Peer’s Curfewed Night caught the attention of the readers worldwide regarding the Kashmir problem and gave impetus to further narratives and perspectives on Kashmir which subsequently assumed some weight and authors began to write and rewrite stories on Kashmir.

Kashmir: Rage and Reason by Gowhar Geelani is a fresh narrative on Kashmir which was recently released after publication by Rupa Publications, New Delhi. The book offers fresh insights about a number of themes about Kashmiri nationalism; resistance of the new age and rebellion after the demise of militant commander Burhan Muzaffar Wani in July, 2016. The book is divided into ten chapters, each dealing with a different theme lucidly.

Chapter 1 of the book describes the killing of rebel commander Burhan Wani on 8 July 2016. Burhan Wani became a phenomenon during the years of his militant affiliation. Notably, among the tools used by Wani was social media to further his cause. After Wani’s death militancy was revived.

Chapter 2, “Why Tral Bleeds Green,” the author narrates a series of events that venerate militants.

Chapter 3 examines the struggle in Kashmir, whether vying for homeland or caliphate. The author argues that the struggle of Kashmiris is for political and economic rights, justice, and dignity that predate the birth of India and Pakistan. According to Geelani, it is important to contextualise and historicize the struggle of Kashmiris for independence which can be traced to the 16th century when it was taken over by the Mughals. The author writes that Kashmiri pandits were driven out of the valley by governor Jagmohan. Nonetheless, those who remained back in Kashmir continued to live as brothers and sisters.

In chapter 4, “A nationalism of multiple identities,” the author argues that multiple identities have played a role in rallying public opinion in J&K.The first mobilisation of masses was against Dogra rule in 1931. The 1987 elections are claimed to have been rigged to thwart the rise of the MUF (Muslim United Front), which caused an eruption of militancy in Kashmir.

In chapter 5, “Violence to Non-Violence: A lost opportunity?,” Geelani argues that violence that ravages the state emanates from New Delhi, to which the current generation bears witness. The majority of people in Kashmir are involved in a battle for their unique identity and existence. Preaching peace to Kashmiris in the current atmosphere is considered invective.

In chapter 6 under the theme “A New Language of Resistance,” the author writes about the development of intellectual and narrative resistance in Kashmir, whose outcome is resilience through creative forms of defiance. Words are weapons, so is memory.

Chapter 7, “Hell in Paradise,” narrates the author’s observation of crackdowns, civilian killings, torture, and the exodus of Kashmiri Hindu pandits. Geelani explores the recreation of a communal bond among Kashmiri Muslims and Pandits.

In chapter 8, the author says that truth in Kashmir is overlaid with competing narratives and hermeneutics. Working as journalist is a tough job. Indian journalists, barring a few, have lost their credibility in Kashmir. Indian media provides one-sided coverage and the masses of mainland India have been misguided about the whole situation.

In Chapter 9, the author notes that the world has yet to take cognizance of the Kashmir conflict. Religion, nationalism, cultural and other identities are key to understand the Kashmir imbroglio. For the peace and prosperity of the region, peaceful negotiation is the sine-qua-non condition for its resolution.

The last chapter of the book titled “A Leadership Crisis” tells that pro-Delhi politics indulges in doublespeak in Kashmir. Pro-India politics has severely eroded its credibility in Kashmir. The author ascribes this to the lack of political will and statesmanship in New Delhi, Islamabad, and Srinagar to the current problem. Statesmanship is necessary according to the author for a crisis resolution in Kashmir.

The book has focussed on few major topics; however, other topics regarding political uncertainty also deserve equal attention. Geelani’s Kashmir is articulate and passionate, helping the reader to understand Kashmir in the current global geopolitical context. The book is a must read for those seeking an insight into Kashmir.

Charting a Jagged Course through the Apocalypse

If something cannot go on forever, it will stop

— Economist Herbert Stein

Those who live in the reaches of the Arctic Circle tend to convey the same humbling lesson: Mother Nature calls the shots and survival depends upon preparing for her mood swings. It’s an adage that will take on increasing relevance as history unfolds because disaster has been baked into our future. Decades ago a whole series of events was set into motion and it may be too late to break their momentum. Civilization will be tested as large swathes of the globe become uninhabitable. While it might be tempting to seek refuge in the form of denial or nihilism, doing so won’t prevent what’s coming down the pike.

It’s Much Worse than You Think   

The indicators are hard to miss. Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has reached levels not seen for nearly a million years. Roughly half of India’s population (which tips the scales at over a billion) currently faces extreme water scarcity and within two decades India’s demand for water will likely rise to twice the available supply. Moreover, by the end of the century scientists assess that population centers across the Middle East will confront “temperature levels that are intolerable to humans.” Which is a polite way of describing a death trap. One that will probably snap shut even if emissions are somehow kept within internationally agreed upon levels.

At some point our system’s requirement for infinite economic growth will hit the limits of a finite planet. As the ensuing collision transpires there will be widespread famine, mass migration, and disease. Thus setting the stage for military conflict on a global scale. People rarely go gently into the night when their backs are thrust against a wall. For instance, it wouldn’t necessarily be surprising if Pakistan and India end up in a nuclear war over water rights to the Indus river system.

This kind of regional clash can spread like a contagion, dragging larger actors into the fray. Daniel Ellsberg, who briefed the Kennedy administration on President Eisenhower’s nuclear war plans, believes that it’s a miracle there hasn’t already been a nuclear war. Given the veritable litany of close calls, he asks “Could we survive another 70 or 100 years without nuclear winter?” To which Ellsberg responds “It’s unlikely.” Other high-ranking Pentagon insiders share Ellsberg’s assessment. Former Defense Secretary William Perry claims that “The likelihood today of a nuclear catastrophe is greater than during the Cold War.”

According to one official who studied the topic at length, economically crippling the United States would only take something in the ballpark of a half dozen sub-megaton nuclear devices detonated in strategically vital cities. The core subset of such targets includes financial hubs (e.g. New York, Chicago, and San Francisco), ports (e.g. Los Angeles, Savannah) and cities with internal waterway access (e.g. Toronto). A strike of this nature is well within the reach of current nuclear powers.

Hope as a Form of Procrastination

Most Americans shrug and quietly hope that experts like Ellsberg and Perry are wrong. But hope can sometimes make things worse. By postponing a much needed reality check. What if it’s too late? What if, as Ellsberg warns, we’ve dramatically underestimated the likelihood of nuclear war? What if civilization is about to perform an epic face-plant, leaving only feudal vestiges of the economy and infrastructure?

Enter John Mosby, the nom de plume of a Special Forces alumnus who has cultivated a keen interest in the decline of empires. Mosby’s insights about survival are drawn from a combination of academic research, piles of military documents, and his own first-hand participation in what he mordantly labels as “nation-building” operations. Mosby is an army veteran who has seen with his own eyes what happens in a country when the state ceases to function.

We’re All Rick Grimes Now 

The future that Mosby envisions isn’t for the faint of heart. In the aftermath of a collapse he expects that the United States would give way to “historically typical failed-state neo-tribalism.” Afghanistan is a textbook example. A destination that the Department of Justice refers to as “largely lawless, weak, and dysfunctional.” In other words, hungry country where groups of farmers struggle to eke out a living amidst mafia-style networks and despotic warlords.

In a setting like this it’s only natural that communities would band together for their common defense. Evolution has programmed us to do so. This, according to Mosby, will be vital for survival. As a lone individual you’ll succumb to the environment. Presumably starve to death or perhaps get run over by a pack of marauders. Only as a member of a larger community do you stand a chance. When the going gets tough, the tough posse up.

This emphasis on social collaboration is noteworthy because it contrasts sharply against the stereotype of the lone survivalist. Crouched down in a basement with their freeze-dried food and ammunition. In fact, Mosby predicts that the billionaire crowd is unlikely to survive over the long run despite their high-end designer bunkers. Mosby concedes that “to some degree, the patrician classes CAN buy their way out of some trouble.” However, once society has been steamrolled by calamity, Mosby asserts that “the masses of people will start looking for leadership, towards people who can offer them security in the form of food and protection.”

The oligarchs, with their self-justifying philosophy of radical individualism, are unlikely to acquire this degree of trust. Because it’s not something you can buy. Mosby says that “It is about being the person who puts the tribe before himself.” He concludes “the super-rich probably don’t have that ability.” The financial strip mining of the middle class that followed the events of 2008 stands in testimony.

The bad news is that tribalism is hardly a utopia. Mosby observes that it will be characterized by “continuous endemic violence” and that — given the state of modern armaments — it will result in “catastrophic losses to all parties involved.” Again, Afghanistan comes to mind. Where the typical life expectancy is approximately 50 years. A place so hazardous that it has garnered a reputation as the graveyard of empires.

Or consider Great Britain after the Romans finally lost their grip in 410 A.D. With the Romans gone the island quickly passed into a dark age where it was relentlessly invaded by northern tribes. Wave after wave of conquering Angles, Saxons, and Vikings. Life was uncertain. Death was everywhere. Something as basic as red meat was a luxury that few could afford. The aftermath of a nuclear exchange will almost certainly result in comparable instability and deprivation. Suffice it to say, in the wake of such a catastrophe there will be a sizable contingent of survivors who’ll wish that they’d simply perished at ground zero.

Out of the Ashes

In spite of the gloomy desolation of the post-apocalypse, there’s still a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. History will not end. Yes, it’s true, civilizations fall. But after a rocky transition period new ones emerge from their remains. And as centuries pass fiefdoms unite and fledgling nations are born. While the Romans left England to fend for itself, the turmoil of Britain’s lost years gradually gave way to the Renaissance and the Age of Enlightenment. The rule of monarchs, which persisted for millennia, was supplanted by rule of law.

In due time established ideologies like socialism and capitalism will be abandoned for doctrines that produce better results. Technology will continue to progress and yield ever more fearsome weapons. Confronted with near term extinction the human species will be obliged to learn from its mistakes and evolve beyond destructive tendencies. Otherwise Mother Nature will relegate the human race to Darwin’s wastebasket and dutifully move on with new experiments.