The New York Times, relying on the usual anonymous sources who leak and brief its reporters selectively on official policies, reported in June that Pakistan’s army chief, General Kayani, was “fighting to save his position in the face of seething anger from top generals and junior officers since the American raid that killed Osama bin Laden.”
It was an intriguing concept. How could the NYT team imagine that Pakistan’s army chief had any reason to “fight to save” himself from “top generals and junior officers”? Who were these energetic conspirators, one wonders? The notion that “top generals” were somehow influencing majors and captains to encourage them to revolt against their commander is fascinating. Or maybe it was the young officers who were pressuring the generals? Taking advice from Elvis and Michael Jackson, perhaps. Anything is possible in the fevered imagination of tastily-briefed reporters. How could they imagine that these supposed plotters would overthrow General Kayani? (Which of course they haven’t and won’t.)
Now this doesn’t mean to say that officers and all members of the Pakistan army are not mightily annoyed at the way their Service is being treated by the United States of America. It appears that some people in Washington are intent on humiliating the army and the entire Pakistan nation, and it would be natural reaction for those most affected to feel aggrieved about this. There is indeed evidence of what the New York Times lip-smackingly describes as “seething anger.” But this doesn’t mean to say that the fury is focused on Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff or even on the government.
Some reporters have tidy, instantly accessible and delectably spicy government sources, never-to-be-named, who feed them with tidbits of disinformation which are based, cleverly and plausibly, on spicy stinky dribbles from Washington’s washing machines.
These frisky tipsters are empowered by their superiors to talk to reporters off the record. If there were no permission given to do so, there would indeed be a drought of tittle-tattle. We should bear in mind that leaks to the media are greeted with energetic condemnation and savage reprisals by the White House, the Pentagon, the State Department and the CIA – when the leaks aren’t authorized as a matter of their own policy. Given official reaction to those who have had the courage to provide uncomfortable facts publicly, as distinct from passing on officially embroidered fantasies, it would be a very brave American official who dared reveal truth to the media off the record.
So the nameless leakers plant meaty disinformation. They are purveyors of the sort of stuff we like to believe. (Come on : let’s be honest with ourselves – most of us love scandalous chitter-chatter.) And the genius of such operations is that some of it – just a fraction – a grain, a scrap on occasions – is attractively, compellingly true. The main targets of these agencies’ propaganda are their own citizens. So the point-people are U.S. reporters.
Here’s one of them, saying that “The military has to be understood to be a world unto itself in Pakistan. If you walk onto a military base, if you see how people are housed, if you see the quality of living, the quality of just basic food supplies amongst the military families, you understand that there is a real Catch 22 situation.”
I very much doubt that this man – described as “Sebastian Gorka, a military affairs analyst at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracy in Washington who advises the United States and its North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) allies, as well as the British military and the United States Special Operations Command” – has set foot inside a battalion barracks or visited a soldier’s living quarters in Pakistan. (The head of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracy, incidentally, is Mr Clifford May, formerly of the New York Times, the Republican National Committee, and the Republican Jewish Coalition.) The quality of life in Pakistan army bases and domestic areas is fairly reasonable, although the condition of some buildings would excite the admiration of a native-born Spartan.
But Mr Gorka is believed by the people who want to believe him. Just like those who trust the New York Times reporters who pronounced that General Kayani is “fighting to save his position in the face of seething anger from top generals and junior officers since the American raid that killed Osama bin Laden.” What rubbish.
In spite of the generosity of the U.S. after the catastrophic earthquake and floods in Pakistan, the average Pakistani citizen is deeply distrustful of America. Following the Abbottabad raid the Pew Research Center conducted a poll which found that 73 percent of Pakistanis had an unfavorable opinion of the United States : “Favorable opinion of the United States is near its lowest point in almost a decade . . . Currently, 12% express a favorable opinion of the U.S, down five percentage points from 2010.”
So you might think that American diplomatic efforts would be geared to spreading the word that the U.S. is genuinely supportive of Pakistan, which is suffering more terrorist violence than almost any other country. This effort might be centered round understanding of national culture and religion and attempts to spread the word that Washington is on Pakistan’s side.
Not a hope.
I don’t know what you think about homosexuality. And I don’t care. Nor should anyone get wound up about personal preferences. In the words of the author Evelyn Waugh, “To know and love another human being is the root of all wisdom” – so why should same-gender relations be disapproved or criminalized? But in Pakistan there is strong revulsion against gay liberty and although many would consider that to be intolerant, it is nevertheless deeply offensive to the credo of the entire country. There is a Pashto doggerel that in English goes something like
There’s a boy across the river
With a bottom like a peach,
But alas I cannot swim . . .
and there is no doubt that homosexuality exists – but such relations are regarded as having neither acceptability nor legitimacy. It could not be more clear that major insult to the country as a whole would be caused by open foreign endorsement of gay rights in Pakistan.
So on 26 June the American Embassy in Pakistan arranged a “gay, lesbians and transgender pride celebration ceremony,” with the acting ambassador announcing that “I want to be clear that the U.S. Embassy is here to support you [Pakistani gays, lesbians and transgenders] and stand by your side every step of the way” – against all cultural and religious tenets of the nation as a whole.
If Washington had wanted to convey contempt of Pakistan and deeply insult the majority of its citizens, this was one of the most effective ways of doing it. But why do it? And who benefited from this get-together? Not Pakistani gays and lesbians and transgenders, that is certain, because they are now even more in the spotlight of intolerance, and actually in fear of their lives. Pakistani transgenders, known as hijras, are generally accepted (and are fascinating people, usually with a wicked sense of humor), but recent attention to them, focused by the American Embassy, has not made their lives any easier.
The main outcome of the charade was increased national loathing of America.
Then there was the announcement by the outgoing (in every way) U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Admiral Mullen, that the torture and murder of a Pakistani journalist in May was “sanctioned by the government [of Pakistan].” As the Globe and Mail newspaper commented, “there can be no doubt Admiral Mullen knew exactly the sort of diplomatic damage his bombshell would cause. The admiral didn’t stop there. He suggested the killing was part of a pattern and added that Pakistan was continuing ‘to, quite frankly, spiral in the wrong direction’.” Such a proclamation by America’s senior military officer is astonishing. It is not only a major nation-to-nation statement of dramatic magnitude, it is an international declaration that the government of Pakistan was complicit in a criminal act and actually planned and carried out a vicious murder. His declaration has not been contradicted by the State Department, which, in addition to having its embassies holding culturally offensive jamborees, appears powerless when American military representatives issue pronouncements that have profoundly adverse effects on bilateral relations.
In Washington there is a campaign being mounted against the Pakistan government and army, and it is proving to be most effective in stirring up hostility against these institutions both internationally and domestically.
Who are the directors of the Crusade? Who is stage-managing all this? And why?
Brian Cloughley’s website is www.beecluff.com