Blowback from the “war on terror”

May 11, 2010

I AM going to say something that politicians and political insiders have told me for years: Be realistic.

While the "realists" were busy in the Beltway, shilling for tepid Democratic legislative proposals and making rhetorical stands in front of the camera, our military, under orders from the commander-in-chief, Barack Obama, was quickly expanding a war into Pakistan. Now everyone is in a frenzy, talking "home-grown terrorism" with incredulity that boggles the mind.

Realistically, did we really think that crossing into Pakistan to bomb villages with Predator drones and blow up villages with helicopter-fired missiles wouldn't provoke any response?

During the Cold War, the U.S. gave over $5 billion in open and clandestine aid to Pakistan to undermine the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. The calculus of the "war on terror" proved to be just as cold.

After supporting the immensely unpopular dictator Gen. Pervez Musharraf and the Pakistani Secret Service (ISI), the U.S. now openly aids and trains the Pakistani Army to "root out al-Qaeda" in the border regions.

According to the latest reports, Pakistan is now the number two recipient of U.S. aid, just behind the "peace-loving" Israel, receiving over $15 billion in aid since 9/11. If you think this was just a Bush thing, think again. President Obama just approved $7.5 billion more in aid in October of last year with a five-year guarantee of more.

In one of the poorest and most devastated parts of the world, Pakistan's wealth is extremely polarized with an obscenely rich elite (which dates back to the British colonial domination of the area) ruling over a mass of working and poor who see little in terms of government programs or state aid. Did we really think this would not have consequences?

Even the private contractors are in on the game. As Jeremy Scahill reported in The Nation magazine:

Blackwater are at the center of a secret program in which they plan targeted assassinations of suspected Taliban and al-Qaeda operatives, "snatch and grabs" of high-value targets and other sensitive action inside and outside Pakistan, an investigation by The Nation has found. The Blackwater operatives also assist in gathering intelligence and help direct a secret U.S. military drone bombing campaign that runs parallel to the well-documented CIA predator strikes, according to a well-placed source within the US military intelligence apparatus.

THE LATEST reports say the suspect arrested in connection with the Times Square car bomb has roots in Pakistan (although an American citizen) and has confessed to attending military-style training and bomb making in Pakistan.

Let's set aside the laughable or tragic (depending on your point of view) record of the U.S. Department of Justice of finding "home-grown terrorists" that turn out to be unemployed students. Let's assume that this man did make the bomb and intended to blow it up in Times Square.

How different would 50 civilians in Times Square be from the 13 civilians killed by U.S. drone attacks on June 22 in South Waziristan, or the 80 civilians killed by drones at the funeral for those 13 people held the next day? In fact, over 700 civilians have been killed by U.S. drone attacks since the war in Afghanistan spread to Pakistan sometime in 2005.

With a domestic antiwar movement that seems to be hiding in the shadows, it's hard to imagine that Pakistanis or Pakistani-Americans who have family under fire have much hope for ending these wars. Before this incident, polls showed, the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and the attacks on Pakistan were opposed by a majority of Americans. This gap is one leftists ought to take seriously.

Amazingly, the U.S. media make it seem like Pakistani terrorists are on the offensive. This isn't terrorism, this is war. It's a war the U.S. military brought to Pakistan, not the other way around.

With no end in sight for the people of Pakistan and Afghanistan, and no mass movement in the U.S. demanding an end to these wars, you can bet there will be a response from those living beneath the drones. Attacks like the attempted Times Square bombing are terrifying and counter-productive, but, unfortunately, entirely predictable.
Brian Lenzo, Rochester, N.Y.

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