Topic(s): Pakistan | Comments Off on Rene — Tariq Ali — CASUALTIES OF ANOTHER WAR

by Tariq Ali
The Guardian
September 23, 2008 UK
The Marriott bombing is terrible revenge for the Afghan campaign that
has gone so badly wrong
The deadly blast in Islamabad was a revenge attack for what has been
going on over the past few weeks in the badlands of the North-West
Frontier. It highlighted the crisis confronting the new government
in the wake of intensified US strikes in the tribal areas on the
Afghan border.
Hellfire missiles, drones, special operation raids inside Pakistan and
the resulting deaths of innocents have fuelled Pashtun nationalism. It
is this spillage from the war in Afghanistan that is now destabilising
The de facto prime minister of the country, an unelected crony
of President Zardari and now his chief adviser, Rehman Malik,
said, “our enemies don’t want to see democracy flourishing in the
country”. This was rich coming from him, but in reality it has little
to do with all that. It is the consequence of a supposedly “good
war” in Afghanistan that has now gone badly wrong. The director of
US National Intelligence, Michael McConnell, admits as much, saying
the Afghan leadership must deal with the “endemic corruption and
pervasive poppy cultivation and drug trafficking” that is to blame
for the rise of the neo-Taliban.
The majority of Pakistanis are opposed to the US presence in the
region, viewing it as the most serious threat to peace. Why, then,
has the US decided to destabilise a crucial ally? Within Pakistan,
some analysts argue this is a carefully coordinated move to weaken
the Pakistani state by creating a crisis that extends way beyond the
frontier with Afghanistan. Its ultimate aim, they claim, would be the
extraction of the Pakistani military’s nuclear fangs. If this were the
case, it would imply Washington was determined to break up Pakistan,
since the country would not survive a disaster on that scale.
In my view, however, the expansion of the war relates far more to
the Bush administration’s disastrous occupation in Afghanistan. It
is hardly a secret that President Karzai’s regime is becoming more
isolated each passing day, as Taliban guerrillas move ever closer
to Kabul.
When in doubt, escalate the war, is an old imperial motto. The
strikes against Pakistan represent – like the decisions of President
Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger, to bomb and then invade Cambodia
– a desperate bid to salvage a war that was never good, but has now
gone badly wrong.
It is true that those resisting the Nato occupation cross the
Pakistan-Afghan border with ease. However, the US has often engaged
in quiet negotiations with them. Several feelers have been put out
to the Taliban in Pakistan, while US intelligence experts regularly
check into the Serena hotel in Swat to meet Maulana Fazlullah,
a local pro-Taliban leader.
Pashtuns in Peshawar, hitherto regarded as secular liberals, told
the BBC only last week that they had lost all faith in the west. The
decision to violate the country’s sovereignty at will had sent them
in the direction of the insurgents.
While there is much grieving for the Marriott hotel casualties,
some ask why the lives of those killed by Predator drones or missile
attacks are considered to be of less value. In recent weeks almost
100 innocent people have died in this fashion. No outrage and global
media coverage for them.
Why was the Marriot targeted? Two explanations have surfaced in
the media. The first is that there was a planned dinner for the
president and his cabinet there that night, which was cancelled at
the last moment.
The second, reported in the respected Pakistani English-language
newspaper, Dawn, is that “a top secret operation of the US Marines
[was] going on inside the Marriott when it was attacked”. According
to the paper: “Well-equipped security officers from the US embassy
were seen on the spot soon after the explosions. However, they left
the scene shortly afterwards.”
The country’s largest newspaper, the News, also reported on Sunday
that witnesses had seen US embassy steel boxes being carried into
the Marriott at night on September 17. According to the paper, the
steel boxes were permitted to circumvent security scanners stationed
at the hotel entrance.
Mumtaz Alam, a member of parliament, witnessed this. He wanted to leave
the hotel but, owing to the heavy security, he was not permitted to
leave at the time and is threatening to raise the issue in parliament.
These may be the motivations for this particular attack, but behind
it all is the shadow of an expanding war.