FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

General Musharraf’s IOU

by GARY LEUPP

Paul Wolfowitz, in an interview with the Far Eastern Economic Review, calls it an “IOU.” Pakistan owes the U.S. something. What’s the debt? A debt of gratitude that the U.S. isn’t making a big deal out of the Abdul Qadeer Khan affair. Khan is the father of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program, a national hero and icon, and, it was recently revealed, the biggest trafficker in nuclear secrets in history. I mean, he is so much what little Saddam was not, but his friend, Pakistan’s President Pervez Musharraf, lets him off scot-free, knowing that to punish him would be to enrage the Pakistani people who are already outraged by Musharraf’s close cooperation with the U.S.

According to Wolfowitz, “The international community” (this is a euphemism for “the United States,” comparable to the papal “we” in lieu of “I”) “is prepared to accept [Musharraf’s] pardon of A.Q. Khan for all he’s done, but it’s clearly a kind of IOU that, in return for that, there has to be a full accounting of everything that’s happened.” This suggests that Bush’s agreement not to make a big deal out of the sale of Pakistani nuclear secrets to Libya, Iran and North Korea merely requires in return detailed information about what information was shared.

But no, there’s more. Musharraf has been downplaying all along the presence of Taliban and al-Qaeda forces in Pakistan, at one point declaring confidently that Osama bin Laden was dead. The U.S. on the other hand believes that bin Laden and remaining al-Qaeda forces move back and forth across the Afghan-Pakistani border. Bush administration officials have repeatedly stated that Pakistan “could do more” to engage the enemy. This includes allowing U.S. forces into South Waziristan to direct operations. They don’t push Musharraf too hard, because they worry that if he becomes too closely associated with themselves, his people will topple him. But they welcome what Wolfowitz calls “leverage” to get Musharraf to move, and the Khan affair provides more leverage.

Musharraf’s a military dictator who seized power in a coup in 1999. It wasn’t the first military coup in Pakistan’s short history. Musharraf overthrew the democratically-elected president, Nawaz Sharif, whom he accused of trying to destabilize and politicize the army. His power-base is weak, and he must court, among others, tribesmen sympathetic to the Taliban. He hasn’t delivered on promises to end corruption and provide stability and prosperity. Bin Laden probably has more support in Pakistan than he does. The dictator’s military is riddled with pro-Taliban officers; the Taliban was, after all, largely a creation of Pakistan’s Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI), and there seem to be enduring ties between some folks in the Pakistani military and the Talibs. Musharraf under enormous U.S. pressure cut ties with the Taliban after 9-11 and allowed his country to be used as a base of operations against Afghanistan. He had no choice; he had to be either with or against the U.S. But longstanding ties between the Taliban and Pakistan’s military surely persist, along with the possibility of yet another coup—this time targeting Musharraf.

The “IOU” to which Wolfowitz alludes is Musharraf’s obligation to risk his own political career in order to enhance the prospects for the capture or killing of bin Laden—or at least to produce some major trophy—before the U.S. November elections. The problem is, of course, that while bowing to U.S. pressure he might expose his neck to some disgruntled commanders, who might just decide to hack it off to preserve the dignity of the Islamic state. It’s been reported that some officers recently plotted a coup that would have brought A. Q. Khan to the presidency. This would have met with ecstatic popular approval. Uneasily positioned between his people and general staff on the one hand, and the dictates of the Bush administration on the other, Musharraf doesn’t have the highest credit rating.

Let us say he can’t pay his IOU. Let’s say another dictator, or junta, emerges to affect regime change, and with the current U.S. favorite dead or behind bars, tells the world:

“In the Name of God, the Merciful and Compassionate.

“We continue to feel sorry for the suffering the U.S. experienced on 9-11. We understand why the U.S. found it necessary to attack our neighbor, Afghanistan, and change the regime there. But we only agreed, under enormous U.S. pressure, to cut off our ties with the Taliban, which had been friendly. We recommended that the Americans negotiate the handover of Osama bin Laden, but they insisted on invading and occupying our neighbor. They have re-established the warlord regime that ruled from 1992 to 1996, a regime so brutal that Afghans rallied to the Taliban cause.

“We Pakistanis supported the Talibs, thinking they would bring peace and stability, and allow us access to trade routes into Central Asia. They did these things. They allowed al-Qaeda to operate, using camps the Americans established in the 1980s when the U.S., the Saudis and ourselves were all working together to topple the pro-Soviet government. The Americans themselves allowed bin Laden to settle in Afghanistan after arranging his flight from Sudan in 1996. Their State Department didn’t think he would pose a threat from Afghanistan. He arrived before the Taliban took power, but he forged an alliance with them while Washington was discussing pipelines and opium eradication with them, and Zalmay Khalilzad was treating them to dinner on his Texas ranch.

“We think the Taliban made a big mistake treating al-Qaeda so cordially. But we don’t think the Talibs were all bad, especially when compared to the Northern Alliance warlords like Ismail Khan and Ahmad Rashid Dostum, the men they replaced and who are now back in power. We have no evidence that the Taliban even knew of plans for the 9-11 attacks. The Taliban is resurgent; and has regained control over some Pashtun areas. President Karzai, a U.S. puppet surrounded by American bodyguards, now even talks about including some of them in his government. So if some of them enter our territory, and receive local hospitality, we are not overly concerned.

“We will continue watching for al-Qaeda. We’ve already turned 500 captured al-Qaeda over to the U.S. But we will be less aggressive in the hunt. Our troops have killed innocent civilians in these border operations the Americans demanded we undertake. They have not been popular, and we cannot continue them indefinitely. Other matters, such as Kashmir, are more important to us.

“Mr. bin Laden could be in Pakistan, Uzbekistan, China or elsewhere. We have no information that he is in Pakistan. If we find him, we will turn him over to the U.S., even though there will be riots in our streets. He is very popular in Pakistan. We suggest the Americans ask themselves why.

“We have decided to deny foreign forces access to our Pasni and Jacobabad military bases. This is in deference to popular opinion in our country. The masses are offended that our Islamic state cooperates militarily with a nation that has bombed and occupied two Muslim countries and threatens to attack more.

“Pakistan is an independent country, with an independent foreign policy. We are a nuclear power, and demand respect. The former president humiliated the nation and offended our religion by accepting all U.S. demands. For such offenses, he has been removed.”

Now, this is all in my imagination, of course, and you might say it’s unlikely. But so far Musharraf’s compliance has been bought with carrots (the lifting of sanctions imposed when Pakistan went nuclear in 1998, generous economic and military aid, the designation “major non-NATO ally” which allows for expanded arms purchases, avoidance of criticism of the dictatorship) and sticks (the threat of being designated “against us,” the threat of greater U.S. cooperation with arch-rival India). As we speak I just bet you that there are Pakistani officers weighing the carrots and sticks and thinking:

“Aside from the F-16s, we’re not getting that much out of this. The damage to our economy of the U.S. alliance far outweighs the aid they give, and the people really want the U.S. troops out of the region. If we start saying ‘No’ to the Americans, there really isn’t that much they can do. We have other friends, like China. If the Americans attack Syria, they’ll confirm what we suspect: they want to attack all Islam. If Musharraf won’t stand up to them then, we will have to move forward and stage the coup.”

Then who will pay Musharraf’s IOU?

GARY LEUPP is Professor of History at Tufts University, and Adjunct Professor of Comparative Religion. He is the author of Servants, Shophands and Laborers in in the Cities of Tokugawa, Japan; Male Colors: The Construction of Homosexuality in Tokugawa, Japan; and Interracial Intimacy in Japan: Western Men and Japanese Women, 1543-1900.

He can be reached at: gleupp@granite.tufts.edu

 

Gary Leupp is Professor of History at Tufts University, and holds a secondary appointment in the Department of Religion. He is the author of Servants, Shophands and Laborers in in the Cities of Tokugawa JapanMale Colors: The Construction of Homosexuality in Tokugawa Japan; and Interracial Intimacy in Japan: Western Men and Japanese Women, 1543-1900. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, (AK Press). He can be reached at: gleupp@tufts.edu

More articles by:
June 30, 2016
Richard Moser
Clinton and Trump, Fear and Fascism
Pepe Escobar
The Three Harpies are Back!
Ramzy Baroud
Searching for a ‘Responsible Adult’: ‘Is Brexit Good for Israel?’
Dave Lindorff
What is Bernie Up To?
Thomas Barker
Saving Labour From Blairism: the Dangers of Confining the Debate to Existing Members
Jan Oberg
Why is NATO So Irrational Today?
John Stauber
The Debate We Need: Gary Johnson vs Jill Stein
Steve Horn
Obama Administration Approved Over 1,500 Offshore Fracking Permits
Rob Hager
Supreme Court Legalizes Influence Peddling: McDonnell v. United States
Norman Pollack
Economic Nationalism vs. Globalization: Janus-Faced Monopoly Capital
Binoy Kampmark
Railroaded by the Supreme Court: the US Problem with Immigration
Howard Lisnoff
Of Kiddie Crusades and Disregarding the First Amendment in a Public Space
Vijay Prashad
Economic Liberalization Ignores India’s Rural Misery
Caroline Hurley
We Are All Syrians
June 29, 2016
Diana Johnstone
European Unification Divides Europeans: How Forcing People Together Tears Them Apart
Andrew Smolski
To My Less-Evilism Haters: A Rejoinder to Halle and Chomsky
Jeffrey St. Clair
Noam Chomsky, John Halle and a Confederacy of Lampreys: a Note on Lesser Evil Voting
David Rosen
Birth-Control Wars: Two Centuries of Struggle
Sheldon Richman
Brexit: What Kind of Dependence Now?
Yves Engler
“Canadian” Corporate Capitalism
Lawrence Davidson
Return to the Gilded Age: Paul Ryan’s Deregulated Dystopia
Priti Gulati Cox
All That Glitters is Feardom: Whatever Happens, Don’t Blame Jill Stein
Franklin Lamb
About the Accusation that Syrian and Russian Troops are Looting Palmyra
Binoy Kampmark
Texas, Abortion and the US Supreme Court
Anhvinh Doanvo
Justice Thomas’s Abortion Dissent Tolerates Discrimination
Victor Grossman
Brexit Pro and Con: the View From Germany
Manuel E. Yepe
Brazil: the Southern Giant Will Have to Fight
Rivera Sun
The Nonviolent History of American Independence
Adjoa Agyeiwaa
Is Western Aid Destroying Nigeria’s Future?
Jesse Jackson
What Clinton Should Learn From Brexit
Mel Gurtov
Is Brexit the End of the World?
June 28, 2016
Jonathan Cook
The Neoliberal Prison: Brexit Hysteria and the Liberal Mind
Paul Street
Bernie, Bakken, and Electoral Delusion: Letting Rich Guys Ruin Iowa and the World
Anthony DiMaggio
Fatally Flawed: the Bi-Partisan Travesty of American Health Care Reform
Mike King
The “Free State of Jones” in Trump’s America: Freedom Beyond White Imagination
Antonis Vradis
Stop Shedding Tears for the EU Monster: Brexit, the View From the Peloponnese
Omar Kassem
The End of the Atlantic Project: Slamming the Brakes on the Neoliberal Order
Binoy Kampmark
Brexit and the Neoliberal Revolt Against Jeremy Corbyn
Doug Johnson Hatlem
Alabama Democratic Primary Proves New York Times’ Nate Cohn Wrong about Exit Polling
Ruth Hopkins
Save Bear Butte: Mecca of the Lakota
Celestino Gusmao
Time to End Impunity for Suharto’’s Crimes in Indonesia and Timor-Leste
Thomas Knapp
SCOTUS: Amply Serving Law Enforcement’s Interests versus Society’s
Manuel E. Yepe
Capitalism is the Opposite of Democracy
Winslow Myers
Up Against the Wall
Chris Ernesto
Bernie’s “Political Revolution” = Vote for Clinton and the Neocons
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail