Late Wednesday night, January 23, the Associated Press released a story about Pentagon plans to use an increased number of U.S. troops to train Pakistani armed forces. Adm. William J. Fallon issued orders to officers under his command to start planning for this larger involvement, which would last until at least 2015.
AP reporter Robert Burns received this information from a Pentagon official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. The purpose of these new orders is to help Pakistan combat a “homegrown insurgency.”
Adm. Fallon is the commander of U.S. Central Command (USCENTCOM), that portion of the American military empire that reaches from Kazakhstan on the north to Kenya on the South. The Pentagon has such a command for every square inch of the globe.
Fallon traveled to Pakistan this week to discuss these matters with Pakistani military leaders. Last week, Fallon told reporters that Pakistan had concluded that it needed to put more effort into combating al-Qaida.
The AP story said, “A central assumption in the planning is that no such U.S. training contribution would be made without the Pakistani government’s prior approval.” When you have a stooge like Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf on the throne, you don’t really have to worry about getting “prior approval,” do you?
By contrast, President Saddam Hussein did not give prior approval for the United States to invade his country, drop weapons of mass destruction on his people, and hang him.
Speaking of Musharraf, Condoleezza Rice paid him a visit on Wednesday. How convenient for her. The AP said that Rice “pressed him to keep his commitment to democracy and to free and fair elections in February.”
But if he doesn’t permit free and fair elections, he’ll still be our stooge. If he does permit them and he lets someone else win, that person will become our new stooge or go away in a manner similar to that of the late Saddam Hussein. If the stooge does what the U.S. administration wants, Rice will tell that new president, as she told Musharraf on Wednesday, that the United States thanked him for being “a steadfast ally.”
Remaining a “steadfast ally” is far more important to Rice than allowing “free and fair elections.” George Bush and his team like to talk about “democracy,” whatever that means to them. But they’re far more interested in free and fair access to whatever a country has that’s worth taking home. And they want absolute certainty that you’ll get out of the way when they need access to the next errant president they decide to hang.
So what will Musharraf or the next steadfast ally do with Pakistan’s newly trained armed forces? I know what Musharraf will do. He may have his soldiers attack al-Qaida. And I’m positive he’ll have them attack his own people if necessary. Musharraf could not have stayed in power for as long as he has without having an army behind him. Now he’s taken off his uniform and put on a suit, but the tyrant in the suit is still the same.
Is that what Adm. Fallon wants for the people of Pakistan? I don’t know. But for as long as Musharraf remains in power, that’s what he, and we, will get.
PATRICK IRELAN is a retired high-school teacher. He is the author of A Firefly in the Night (Ice Cube Press) and Central Standard: A Time, a Place, a Family (University of Iowa Press). You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.