Monday, November 5, 2012

Why I Am Ashamed of America: Pakistan

     Pakistan is an example of America's hypocrisy, short-sighted self-interest, and general idiocy.  
     Americans have shown the world through our foreign policy over the years--and especially through our support of military dictatorships--that we do not care about the spread of democracy, but about our immediate financial and strategic interests.  These matter more to us than human life, world peace, or even our own long-term gain.  Our greed for oil matters more than other people's absolute need for clean water.
     Pakistan is one example.  There are many more.  
     Pakistan offered a tremendous opportunity for us to establish peace in the Middle East and develop a relationship with an Islamic country--not to mention the chance for us to guide an impoverished people out of a feudal system and toward equality for women, education for the masses, and freedom from preventable diseases.
     Pakistan is a fairly new country.  It came into being in 1947 when the British were forced out of India and the land was divided along lines separating the Hindus--who got India, from the Muslims-- who were given Pakistan.  
     In 1971, Zufikar Ali Bhutto became the first non-military president of Pakistan,  elected by popular vote.  Having been educated in the United States and at Oxford, he was a strong advocate of democracy, and used his considerable charm to bring Pakistan into world affairs.  His hope was to usher Pakistan out of the feudal system in which his family had been raised, and into the twentieth century.  He sought help from the United Nations, and from the United States.  
     India and Pakistan were at war almost constantly.  In 1971, one outcome of the constant strife was the division of East and West Pakistan to form a new country, Bangladesh.   President Bhutto went to the United Nations for assistance in negotiating an end to war with India, and for the return of East Pakistan--Bangladesh--to Pakistan.  But the U.N. was new, and would not defend Pakistan.  Nevertheless, Bhutto formed the People's Party and was able, with Ghandi, to make peace with India at the Simba Accords.
     Bhutto asked the United States for help when India detonated its first nuclear bomb.  He wanted Pakistan to have nuclear weapons as well, since it was one-eighth the size of India and could not otherwise defend itself against an invasion.   The United States refused, and when Bhutto said he'd get nuclear weapons on his own, Kissinger vowed that the United States would destroy Bhutto.  
     This is exactly what happened.  We ruined Bhutto by supporting his opponents, who were military brutes.  Bhutto was thrown in jail, tortured, and hanged.  Martial law was established in Pakistan.
     Then Russian invaded Afghanistan.  
     Suddenly, Americans were worried about their oil supplies.  If Russia took over Afghanistan, it would have a strategic position in the Middle East, threatening American imports of oil.  Now, where were our concerns about the proliferation of nuclear weapons?  We sent billions of dollars in aid and arms, including the recipe for nuclear weapons, to Pakistan's ruthless military leader, Zia-ul-Haq, so that Pakistan could beef up its army and help Afghanistan fight back the Russians. 
     When the Russians were defeated, the United States made a quick exit and forgot about Pakistan.  We deserted a country that had a 50% illiteracy rate, a military dictator, and billions of dollars of weapons.  Rival factions formed, including the militant Muslim group, Al Quaeda, founded by Osama bin Laden--whom we financed and trained.  
     We abandoned Pakistan in its hour of need, after thousands had lost their lives fighting a war against the Russians with our weapons.  Four million refugees poured into Pakistan, and we didn't help.  They coalesced into subgroups that were bonded through military training and radical religious education. Is it any wonder that Pakistan--the part ruled by jihadist factions--declared the United States its worst enemy?
     By the time Benazir Bhutto--daughter Zufikar, the people's choice, and herself a strong advocate for democracy-- was elected, the situation in Pakistan was dangerous.  Extremist religious-military groups had control of the country.  Still, Benazir appealed to George W. Bush for support, and was rebuffed.  Bush backed the military thugs.
     Benazir established 48,000 schools, eradicated polio, and brought clean water and electricity to much of the country.  But Islamist extremists opposed her, removed her government in 1990, had her deposed for "corruption"--despite her popularity, put her in solitary confinement, and finally assassinated her when she returned to Pakistan to serve a third term after eight years of forced political asylum in Dubai.
     Benazir Bhutto thought she had an ally in the United States, which pretends to advocate for democracy abroad.  In fact, the Bush administration was of no assistance, supporting instead the militant Musharraf regime which may have been responsible for Bhutto's assassination.
     It is essential that the United States stop playing power games with dangerous military governments whose leaders have no interest in democracy or the well-being of their people.
     Here was a country that begged us for help nurturing its young democracy, and, instead, we sent billions to support radical military coalitions that would make democracy impossible.  Gerald Ford (R) refused to help Zufikar Bhutto defend his country against India, and his administration made an enemy of Pakistan by vowing to "make a terrible example of him"(Kissinger's words).
    Reagan's (R) administration provided unconditional support and huge military funds to jihadist forces, called "freedom fighters," who became Al Quaeda.  Osama bin Laden was trained by the CIA, which recruited 45,000 Muslim boys from many countries to fight "for freedom."  George W. Bush (R) not only ignored Benazir Bhutto when she told him he was "creating a Frankenstein" by continuing to support the militant regime in Pakistan, but may have played a role in her assassination.  These Republican presidents and their aides were responsible for the mutiny of the Bhuttos in Pakistan, for the ruination of a burgeoning democracy, and for the terrorism that has become business as usual in this part of the Middle East.   
     I hope that by voting against Republicans on Tuesday I may be exercising a small part in reversing our country's horrible record of international relations.  Obama's election four years ago signaled to the world that we want to do better, and that we know we have been monsters who are responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths in the Middle East.
     It was not an accident or a mistake that Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize shortly after his first win.  It was a big thank-you from the international community.  Let's not disappoint them this go-round.

For more information about Benazir Bhutto and the events leading to her assassination, see:
http://www.wsws.org/articles/2007/dec2007/bhut-d28.shtml Prime Minister. 

  

7 comments:

  1. Approximately a dozen major factual errors.

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  2. Anonymous: If you can't provide evidence for your remark, there probably isn't any. However, I am ready to hear what you have to say about the history of Pakistan.

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  3. I think your simplistic view of Bhutto as the champion of Pakistani democracy and Haq as the cruel military dictator invites criticism, but I'll start with your silly claim that our relationship with Pakistan is motivated by oil.

    Historically, our support of Pakistan had little to do with oil. It was consistent with our Cold War doctrine of Soviet containment. That doctrine is deserving of criticism, but that wasn't your claim.

    1) Pakistan has very little oil. Afghanistan has very little oil.

    2) Pakistan never posed a threat to an oil producing nation or threaten to interrupt commerce in the Arabian Sea.

    3) Pakistan was a natural Cold War ally, they were anti-communist and India appeared to be on a socialist or communist trajectory receiving extensive Soviet military assistance.

    4) Renewed support of Pakistan following the invasion of Afghanistan had nothing to do with oil and everything to do with Soviet expansionism and the potential that Pakistan could fall under the Soviet sphere of influence. In the absence of Soviet control of Pakistan, disruption of oil supply wasn’t a considerable factor.

    I am a critic of U.S. foreign policy, as well. However, I'm curious where your knowledge of Pakistani history or politics comes from.

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  4. "Pakistan offered a tremendous opportunity for us to establish peace in the Middle East."

    What do you mean by this? If you are talking about Afghanistan, I probably agree. Carter cut off relations with Pakistan and the Soviets marched into Afghanistan eight months later. One of many Carter administration blunders that continued to haunt us for decades. Once the Soviets were expelled, we failed to offer much support to a destroyed country.

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  5. The United States' support of Pakistan had everything to do with our material self-interest in the Middle East, whether you call it access to oil reserves or strategic positioning, or the chance for America to stimulate its economy and impress the world through the beast of war. If there were philosophical concerns about the advance of communism in the free world and our need to push back on the Russians, these were simply the grounds for rhetoric necessary to convince Americans that the war was just, and that sending billions of our tax dollars to Pakistan to train and arm uneducated hill country kids to fight the Russians and save Afghanistan actually made sense. Republicans say they're preserving democracy when it means they get to mobilize the military and make a pile of money for their military empire cronies, or when other interested parties, like Halliburton, can post gigantic profits by cleaning up the mess of war, And too often this means supporting military dictatorships. Want to talk about Nicaragua?

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