Over two thousand years ago the Roman judge Lucius Cassius coined the phrase ‘cui bono?’, meaning loosely ‘who benefits?’, and was quoted approvingly by Cicero because the thrust of the question was intended to improve justice. As a principled man of law (then, as now, a regrettably unusual species), Lucius Cassius wished to determine who would benefit, directly or – sometimes more importantly– indirectly, from an occurrence.
Which brings us to modern-day so-called ‘statesmen’. When they make pronouncements they consider to be important – who benefits?
So far as prominent international figures are concerned, one is naturally drawn to the conclusion that the beneficiary of their declarations should be their own country. But if the speaker has lost touch with reality, then there might not be national benefit : when they make extreme statements there can be profit for others, even if only in terms of amusement. And there might be major and totally unintended gains by some very peculiar people.
Take the case of Admiral Mike Mullen, the US Chairman of the joint Chiefs of Staff, a man who now sheds his uniform with the dubious distinction that he has done more than any other person to establish the United States of America as an enemy of Pakistan.
That’s quite an achievement. It is a truly catastrophic accomplishment. But one wonders who actually benefitted from his declaration that:
“In choosing to use violent extremism as an instrument of policy the government of Pakistan, and most especially the Pakistani Army and ISI, jeopardizes not only the prospect of our strategic partnership, but Pakistan’s opportunity to be a respected nation with legitimate, regional influence.”
Mullen declared that the government of Pakistan planned and engineered attacks that killed Americans. He says he has “credible intelligence” that this is so. Now : while the exact circumstances may be unlike those involving the murder of citizens of Pakistan committed by the CIA operative Raymond Davis, who indubitably killed two people and was then allowed to leave the country because the President of the US ordered he go free (to be arrested on charges of thuggery in Nevada a few days ago, we now hear), there is a curious comparability. President Obama again interfered; this time declaring, in reference to Mullen’s affirmation about the alleged relationship between the so-called Haqqani Network and the elected government of Pakistan, that “The intelligence is not as clear as we might like in terms of what exactly that relationship is.” In other words : Mullen was talking garbage.
In spite of what has been said by Obama and his secretary of state and the usual US “intelligence sources” to try to repair the immense damage done by Mullen’s jabbering, there remains the question of : who benefits? Obviously it wasn’t America or Pakistan ; so who could it have been? Sure, India smacked its collective lips and wallowed in self-righteous indignation – which was understandable – but there was no actual advantage to India as a nation. The anti-Pakistan lobby in the US Congress enjoyed a hand-on-heart-style session of sanctimony, but didn’t gain anything tangible from the debacle.
So: cui bono?
As usual, it was the enemies of the US and Pakistan who reaped the harvest sown by off-the-wall pronouncements. The Taliban and all the other loonies were awarded a propaganda victory they couldn’t possibly have contrived themselves. It fell in their lap, courtesy of a man who has a common-sense quotient of a standard-size rabbit.
Then there is US ambassador Ryan Crocker in Kabul, who doesn’t mind his embassy being attacked by fanatical barbarians. This sounds ridiculous, but it isn’t, because Mr Crocker described the assault as being “not a very big deal,” although it was “a hard day for the embassy and my staff.” Mr Crocker considered the attack to be merely “harassment.” Did he know that eleven Afghan civilians and five Afghan policemen were killed in the attack?
Perhaps he was indeed aware that so many Afghans had been killed, and chose to regard their deaths as being “no big deal.” In fact, one is drawn to the conclusion that it wasn’t a big deal in the eyes of any foreigners in Afghanistan, because no foreigners were killed. If there had been five American soldiers killed, instead of five Afghan policemen, would Mr Crocker have considered the attack “No Big Deal”? If eleven US civilians had been killed, instead of eleven Afghans, would the attack have been “No Big Deal”?
So who could possibly have benefited from his absurd statement? Not his own country, to be sure – and certainly not Afghanistan.
And who would gain from the equally preposterous pronouncement by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that the Kabul attack was “cowardly”?
The militants’ strike on the US compound in Kabul was barbaric, lunatic and ferocious. But when six fanatics mount an attack knowing they are not going to survive it – and manage to fight off several hundred defenders and their helicopter gunships for a day and a half before being killed – they are certainly not cowards. The description may have pleased some of the US media and the dwindling number of foreign supporters of the war in Afghanistan, but there is never any gain to be made by using the word ‘coward’, because it is a basic principle of propaganda that insults never work. So who benefited?
The only beneficiaries from the “not a very big deal” by “cowardly” assailants were the insurrectionists in Afghanistan, whose savagery in that essentially savage country is considered no worse than that wreaked by foreign soldiers.
Congratulations, Mullen, Crocker and Clinton. You’ve done an immense amount to set back your country’s cause in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and the evil loony beards are laughing at you and gathering recruits like there’s no tomorrow. So before you open your mouths next time, you might want to consider asking yourselves: “cui bono?”
Brian Cloughley’s website is www.beecluff.com