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The Limits of Patience

With respect to the Sudeten German problem my patience is now exhausted! I have made Mr Benes an offer, which contains nothing but the realization of what he himself assured us would be done. The decision is in his hands! Peace or war!

Adolf Hitler, Berlin, September 26, 1938

We are reaching the limits of our patience here, and for that reason it is extremely important that Pakistan take action to prevent this kind of safe haven from taking place [sic] and allowing terrorists to use their country as a safety net in order to conduct their attacks on our forces.

Leon Panetta, Kabul, June 7, 2012

So what is Leon Panetta going to do if militant attacks on US forces in Afghanistan continue?  Of course it’s easy to blame Pakistan for the outcome of the war begun by America in Afghanistan. After all, somebody has to take the blame for the shambles, and it can’t possibly be Washington.  But Mr Panetta and the rest of the blame-shifters had better take care, because if they try to do to Pakistan what Hitler did to Czechoslovakia in 1939 they will find rather stiffer opposition than that offered by the poor bullied Czechs.

Mr Panetta’s complaint is that militants based in Pakistan (mainly tribal Afghans, Arabs of various weird persuasions, and gangs of thugs from the Central Asian Republics) cross into Afghanistan and join their comrades there to conduct attacks on foreign and Afghan forces. But before the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001-2002 there were no Afghan Taliban or other foreign extremists in Pakistan. There were no militant bases in Pakistan’s tribal areas. The region was hardly tranquil, simply because the tribes continued to be as hot-blooded as they have been for centuries, but there was nothing approaching the insurgency that now exists — that was caused entirely by the US invasion of Afghanistan.

Before the US invasion of Afghanistan there had been one single suicide bombing in Pakistan (in 1995, and that was by an Egyptian loony). Last year there were over forty.  And since the US invasion of Afghanistan the entire border region has been destabilized and Pakistan’s internal security situation has become dire.  In the years after the US invasion of Afghanistan drove Taliban and other militants out of the country the Pakistan army and the para-military Frontier Corps have lost 3,019 soldiers killed in operations against them along the Afghan border.  9,681 have been wounded.  (US deaths in Afghanistan: 2,002.)

There are over two million Afghan refugees being looked after in Pakistan which is host to the greatest number of refugees living in any country in the world. They are an enormous burden, culturally and economically, but they can’t go home because the US war has made it impossible for them to be assimilated in their own country. And Pakistan patiently accepts their presence and hopes for stability in Afghanistan so that they can go home.

Yet the limits of Mr Panetta’s patience are being reached. Does this fool not realize how much resentment and contempt is created by fatuous comments such as those he keeps making?  Mr Panetta goes on threatening Pakistan with military action, and, to make things even worse he made such a threat during a speech to India’s Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses in New Delhi (before going on to Kabul and deliberately avoiding a visit to Pakistan).  His choice of venue to deliver an anti-Pakistan diatribe could not have been more deliberately insulting and downright stupid.  India and Pakistan are not friends, and for a prominent foreigner to make critical remarks in public about one country while enjoying the hospitality of the other is majestically moronic.

There are encouraging moves towards rapprochement between India and Pakistan, and relations have been improving of late, but the enmity between the countries is long-standing and deep-seated. So pronouncements like Panetta’s are fuel for extremists on both sides who seek to stoke tension and destroy progress towards mutual trust. The Indians, understandably, are laughing themselves sick about Panetta’s clumsy insult, and the Pakistanis are furious.  But this doesn’t worry Panetta, he of the open mouth and closed brain cells. After an attack on Kabul by militants last September he blamed Pakistan for allowing it to happen and announced that  “I’m not going to talk about how we’re going to respond. I’ll just let you know that we’re not going to allow these kinds of attacks to go on.”  But of course they have gone on, and all that Adolf Panetta seems to be able to do is to repeat in Kabul that  “as I said, we are reaching the limits of our patience.”

Last November five hours of US airstrikes killed 24 Pakistan army soldiers and wounded 13 others, the entire contingents of two posts well inside Pakistan. The slaughter caused enormous resentment throughout the country, as well it might, but there has been no apology from the drone-meister-in-chief, the Obama Hosanna, who we are told takes such a deep and personal interest in killing people. The attacks were a patent violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty, as are all the drone strikes on Pakistan and elsewhere in the world that are so cheerily conducted by USAF and CIA video-game players in their air-conditioned, finger-tapping amusement arcades, happy in the knowledge that their blitzes are enthusiastically approved by Hosanna himself.

So the hi-tech dweebs kill a few kids with the tap of a key?  No problem — it’s all official.  In January Obama Hosanna said that in Pakistan “drones have not caused a huge number of civilian casualties.”  Sure, there wasn’t a huge number.  Only sixty kids have been killed.  That’s real patience, Hosanna.

Pakistan protested on June 5 that drone strikes in its territory are “unlawful, against international law and a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty”, but Washington ignores such trivial complaints .  And why not? —   It is a given that Obama Hosanna is above the law.  What’s a few dead Pakistani kids, after all?

For the moment, Pakistan can do nothing about US drone strikes in its territory because if it shot one down — which it could do in a New York heartbeat — the US would cease to supply support and spares for all US equipment in the Pakistan defence forces. The effects of that denial would be serious for national defence. (Which should be a warning to any country considering military cooperation with the US.)

But there are limits to bearing arrogant insults.  And after the US massacre of his soldiers last November Pakistan’s army chief, the redoubtable General Kayani, made it clear that  “any act of aggression” against his country “will be responded to with full force, regardless of the cost and consequences.”

So, Adolf Panetta, you loud-mouthed bullyboy with eroding  patience :  Just what are you going to do?  Take on the Pakistan army?  If you do, you had better expect  “full force” against you. I’ve known the Pakistan army for over thirty years and I tell you that every single member of it will fight to the death against any forays you order when you “reach the limits of your patience.”

It’s a pity that you and Obama Hosanna have not the slightest understanding of the front line of combat, with real soldiers. You might alter your views about patience if you had experienced actual fear. But you are both just bullies.

Brian Cloughley’s website is www.beecluff.com

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Brian Cloughley writes about foreign policy and military affairs. He lives in Voutenay sur Cure, France.

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