Well done the CIA! In an act of astonishing incompetence the Agency has in one fluid motion created millions more enemies for America, fostered a recruiting drive for the anti-American Taliban that will keep it in dedicated manpower for the next couple of decades, driven a friendly government to despair and shattered its attempts to counter the excesses of dangerous religious lunatics, and contributed massively to the already grave instability of a volatile region.
This bizarre shambles was caused by US aerial assaults which killed civilians in Pakistani villages in its North West Frontier Province which lies along the Afghan border. The US military, which is fighting the tribes on the Afghan side of the border, declares it knows nothing of the attacks, and the Pakistan army, which is fighting the tribes on the Pakistan side of the border at the command of Washington (although naturally Pakistan denies this is the reason), knows nothing about them, either, other than the fact they took place.
So we have a chaotic international situation in which buildings within a sovereign country have been smashed to smithereens and their inhabitants blown to pieces by persons unknown to the government of the territory where the strike was made. By any national or international criterion the destruction and killing were illegal. It all sounds a bit like 9/11, in fact – – except that many people who condemned the 9/11 slaughter in the US have supported the slaughter on January 13, 2006 in Pakistan.
There is no point in anyone trying to claim there is a moral difference: there were about 3000 killed in New York, and 18 killed in Damadola hamlet. All who died were innocent of any action against their murderers. The difference is that those who planned the atrocity in New York are regarded quite rightly as demented fanatics, and those who planned and executed the killing of villagers in Damadola are considered to be American heroes by such as Bush, Cheney and McCain and many millions of their zealous adherents.
The responsibility for both atrocities in Pakistan (there was another random bombing that killed another 8 Pakistani villagers on January 7) has been laid at the door of our favorite wham ’em, bam ’em, slam ’em amateurs, the troglodytes of the Central Intelligence Agency. Gary Trudeau’s Doonesbury characters are alive, active, and guiding missile-firing drones on yippee shoots wherever and whenever they want, and there isn’t a damn thing anyone can do about it.
Forget international law – – forget any law – – because these people are above the law and out of control and there isn’t a chance that anyone will be held accountable for the death of some raghead tribal kids and their parents. But before we continue describing the CIA’s most recent off-the-wall delinquency, let’s examine the region where it took place, because the customs and culture of the tribes are relevant to any action taken in their homeland. It is essential that US citizens gain understanding of the wider world, because America is deeply involved in every country on our planet.
Let me add something here: The English language newspapers of the Gulf, Pakistan and India are packed full of news and comment. They carry more hard international news than any US newspaper. (Forget UK papers. Apart from the Guardian and the Independent they’re a juvenile joke.) So, while traveling from Dubai to Pakistan last month (I spent much of December-January in the region), when a steward came down the cabin handing out reading material I was happy to take the Gulf News and the Khaleej Times. Behind me, a voice said in a tone of contemptuous disbelief: “You only got LOCAL papers?” I looked round to see if it was Donald Rumsfeld or Porter Goss but it was neither. It was an anonymous American who was traveling to Pakistan and didn’t want to know or learn anything about the region. Just like Rumsfeld and Goss, I suppose.
In Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas the central government in Islamabad is considered to be as foreign as was the British Raj which quit the region in 1947 after a century in which the British army failed to overcome the ferocious independence of the tribes. Its 5 million inhabitants are largely illiterate (the literacy rate for men is 18%; for women, negligible), and are as profoundly ignorant of the outside world as it is of them. (And we can certainly include the CIA in that latter category. And maybe the former, come to think of it.) They are devoutly religious, devious, brave, extremely hardy (western Special Forces don’t even begin to measure up), and most aggressive. They are also bound by a code of honor incomprehensible to most westerners and implacably opposed to developments that might alter their way of life. They are loosely contained by the Frontier Crimes Regulations (1861) which are based on collective responsibility in that the authorities, if they dare, can detain members of a law-breaking fugitive’s tribe or quarantine his village should he fail to surrender or if tribal punishment (a monetary fine for a killing, for example — we’ll come on to that later) is not administered. The place is not civilized in the western sense. I know it quite well, having traveled there a lot over the past 25 years, and although I never felt myself to be in danger from the tribes, and was always made welcome, there is no doubt it is a wild and woolly territory.
Here is a typical local press report of an incident last December: “Muhammad Naseer was on his way to [the town of] Dara Adam Khel, when he was hit by shots being fired indiscriminately by rival Haji Munaf and Haji Jamil groups near Bazid Khel in the tribal territory. Naseer died on the spot while a truck driver, Jamil, and an unknown cyclist, received injuries. Faridullah, the helper of the injured driver, told Daily Times that around 20 armed men who had positioned themselves on both sides of the highway suddenly appeared and started firing at each other.”
It’s all in a day’s feuding. Heaven knows what the original dispute between the Munafs and the Jamils was about. (It’s usually land, water or women.) But the point is that blood must have been spilled, so blood must be exacted in retribution.
And the CIA has ensured that no American will ever be safe in the tribal areas. Because the US has spilled innocent blood, and the tribes – – all the tribes in Pakistan and along the border within Afghanistan (for they are blood-kin) – – will hate them until the end of time. Most Pakistanis in other provinces have little time for the tribes, whom they regard with as little sympathy as they do the religious loonies who try to ban mixed-sex marathons (the most recent irrationality) and want to impose hand-chopping and other quasi-religious savagery ; but the CIA’s barbarity has, as usual, drawn disparate groups together. The idiot US blitz in the tribal areas has ensured that America is even more despised, distrusted and hated than it was before the attacks. Great work, fellas!
The murder of Pakistani civilians by the Bush Administration took place in a tribal Agency (there are seven of them) called Bajaur. As Reuters reported, “The incident came just days after Pakistan lodged a strong protest with US-led forces in Afghanistan, saying cross-border firing in the nearby Waziristan area last weekend killed eight people.”
Pakistan’s military spokesman, Major General Shaukat Sultan, whom I know well, said he did not know the cause of the blasts, but that “People heard explosions and as a result, there were a number of casualties. My information is that 11 to 14 people have been killed”.” It definitely wasn’t the Pakistan military who killed the kids.
Let’s turn to the US military’s spokespersons, who have all the credibility of Mafia chieftains stating soulfully that they love feeding fishes. Here are some news agency reports on their pathetic responses:
· “A U.S. military spokesman in Afghanistan, Lieutenant-Colonel Jerry O’Hara, said there were no reports of US forces operating in that area.”
· “Asked if a pilotless Predator Drone was operating in the area, Major Todd Vicion, a public affairs officer at the Pentagon, said he did not know. “Those are operational details that we don’t track,” he said.”
· “Pentagon, State Department, National Security Council and intelligence officials all said they had no information on the reports . . . A US military spokesman in Afghanistan, Lt. Mike Cody, referred questions on the matter to the Pentagon.”
It is absurd to imagine that the United States Army, with 20,000 troops who have been searching for three years for Osama bin Laden (remember him? The 9/11 fellow?) and his supposed second-in-command, Ayman al-Zawahiri, does not know prescisely what is happening in its own area of operations. Are we expected to believe that a United States-operated missile-armed drone can carry out a strike inside a military AO without the US Army being notified?
It is ludicrous to claim that the Pentagon “does not track” whether missile-armed Predators are operating in a region in which 20,000 US troops are pursuing the Bush Administration’s most wanted men. Are we expected to believe that there is no passage of information to the Pentagon concerning the attacks of a missile-firing drone within the region’s most important area of US army operations?
It is ridiculous that the US Army in Afghanistan has to refer questions on local operational matters back to Washington. And it is bizarre that the Pentagon and the State Department deny knowledge of what is taking place in Afghanistan and the immediate region. Are we expected to believe that the two major US Departments are kept in complete ignorance of what a US agency is doing in one of the most sensitive areas of the world?
Of even more importance, are we to believe that aerial destruction of houses and people within the territory of a friendly (or any other) country is official policy of the US administration?
The answer to all questions, as any intelligent person would know, is YES.
Yes: it is a fact that US military operations and diplomatic engagements can be totally wrecked by a bunch of freaks who don’t need to tell anyone anything about what they do, because “considerations of national security” prevent their being accountable to anyone or to any law, be that made by God or man. And YES: it is the official policy of the United States of America to murder children if its representatives think it necessary to do so.
Who would have thought that a US senator could possibly endorse the killing of children? Yet here is McCain, sonorous, ponderous, pompous, presidential-ambitious, totally amoral, and evil:
“. . . this war on terror has no boundaries . . . We have to go where these people are, and we have to take them out . . . The United States’ priorities are to get rid of al-Qaeda, and this attack on was an effort to do so . . . I can’t tell you that we wouldn’t do the same thing again.”
Yeah: All these al Qaeda kids have gotta go! McCain, the supporter of kid-killing, would be happy if the CIA did the same thing again. He would encourage the CIA to kill kids on the off-chance there might be a bad guy next door.
The murder of villagers, as in the tiny hamlet of Damadola, will be repeated again and again and again elsewhere whenever some techno-dweeb intelligence operative imagines there is an enemy to be killed. And he or she and the drone operators who blasted the kids to smithereens will forever be supported by politically-motivated moral chameleons like McCain.
The CIA, acting on orders (or approval) from the White House, has destroyed the credibility of the United States in the tribal areas and far, far beyond them. But the most fatuous aspect of the atrocities is the non-apology factor. The idiot Rice, for example, refused to even consider saying she is sorry that the Bush administration murdered these children and their parents.
As anyone with the most basic knowledge of the region could tell them, the tribes accept blood-money for such barbarity. Once it is paid, along with a proper apology, in person by a dignitary, the matter is closed. It is their custom, and has been for centuries. This sort of attitude, this alien culture, is not understood by the savage buffoons of the Bush administration. They want to go in and kill people. If they kill the wrong people – – kids and their parents, for example – – then they say the Hell with it because it’s all for America, so by definition it can’t be bad and we certainly ain’t going to say Sorry to any damn ragheads.
They are ignorant, arrogant and very stupid. And I’m still not convinced that the American fellow behind me on the plane to Pakistan who refused to read local newspapers wasn’t in fact Porter Goss.
BRIAN CLOUGHLEY writes on military and political affairs. He can be reached through his website www.briancloughley.com