December 03, 2011

COMMENT: NATO’s ‘friendly’ blitz —Lal Khan

The Pakistani nationalist chauvinists are screaming about the breach of sovereignty, which has never been more than a facade to befool the masses. The westernised liberals are jumping on this bandwagon of jingoism to bolster their nationalist credentials

The imperialists ‘war against terror’ has terribly gone wrong. The attack by helicopter gunships on Pakistan Army posts killing 24 military personnel is yet another blow to the already rocky and febrile relations between the US and Pakistan. This comes after the Raymond Davis Affair, the killing of Osama bin Laden and the recent Memogate affair in which Husain Haqqani had to resign as Pakistan’s envoy to the US. This blatant act of imperialist aggression shows the desperate state of the NATO commanders facing defeat in Afghanistan. This is not the first attack of its kind nor would it be the last. More than 3,500 Pakistani army men have perished in this war of attrition in the last decade. But there is no count of innumerable deaths of countless oppressed Pashtun men, women and children who have been the real victims of the unrelenting drone attacks in FATA and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Over recent years money from international donors has flooded the country to extol the virtues of the western world’s so-called liberal and secular values but not a cent has gone to any ‘think tank’ or NGO to analyse the brutal massacre by imperialism that has escalated dramatically with the advent of Obama, tacitly supported by the Pakistani regime and its military. Most probably this blitz was carried out as retaliation against the attack on the NATO headquarters and the US embassy in the heart of Kabul back in September, allegedly by the ISI protégé, the Haqqani network. The US authorities had not only known all along the relationship between the ISI and the Islamic fundamentalist groupings but in reality they, along with their Saudi protégés, were the ones who had fixed this set-up and nurtured it 33 years ago. The US ambassador in Kabul, Ryan Crocker, had insisted that it was not a Tet Offensive, referring to the 1968 debacle in Vietnam that decisively turned the course of that war and accelerated the US’s defeat. One of the most significant aspects of this latest attack is that it has laid bare the deep divisions between the CIA, the White House, the Pentagon, the State Department and the commanders in the war zone.

There has been a furore over this incident in Pakistan. The army came out with blustering rhetoric but the Director General Military Operations (DGMO), when asked about Air Force retaliation against the aggressive act, cited ‘lack of clarity’ of the situation. The Pakistani authorities announced a blockade of NATO’s supplies through Pakistan, an ‘ultimatum’ to the US to vacate the Shamsi air base within 15 days, and the boycotting of the Bonn Conference on Afghanistan. So far there is no sign of Islamabad denying the crucial airspace. The supply routes will eventually be opened as soon as the issue recedes and the hysteria evaporates. It will be game on as usual. Bruce Riedel, the former top CIA strategist and fellow at the Brookings Institution, told AFP: “Shamsi is a nice thing to have, but it is not critical to drone operations. The Pakistani public has the impression of a base that operates extraterritorially but in reality it operates because the Pakistan Army helps it to operate...By permanently cutting off supplies to NATO forces, Pakistan would not just be taking on the US but NATO and the UN...The Pakistanis do not want to do that.” The Pakistanis Riedel is talking about are the country’s ruling elite’s evil nexus that is less than one percent of the population. Their plundered billions are stashed away in banks in London, Zurich, Frankfurt, New York and of course the safe offshore banking havens. He is not far off the mark. Neither do the Americans want to escalate the acrimony nor do they want to go for an invasion of Pakistan. However, with the further exacerbation of economic crisis and military failures the insanity of a devastating conflict cannot be ruled out.

The Pakistan Army has been in cahoots with the imperialists since its inception. The first two army chiefs of the Pakistan Army were British officers: General Frank Messervy followed by General Douglas Gracey. Ayub was a Sandhurst officer, Zia was trained at Fort Bragg, army chief General Kayani and the Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin E Dempsey were both course-mates at the US Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth in 1988. The other military chiefs of the past 64 years too were intimate with the US generals and military-industrial complex bosses. However, there have always been tendencies of a veneer of independence from the Americans. At a meeting in 2006 with Hugo Chavez, socialist president of Venezuela, Musharraf offered advice: “You are far too aggressive with the Americans. Do as I do. Accept what they say and then do as you want.” But hypocrisy equally applies to the imperialists. The US ambassador in Islamabad half joked in 2008, “It is always better to have two phone numbers in a capital.”

The religious parties and banned fundamentalist outfits representing black reaction covertly supported by some sections of the state are exploiting this incursion and crying blood. The Pakistani nationalist chauvinists are screaming about the breach of sovereignty, which has never been more than a facade to befool the masses. The westernised liberals are jumping on this bandwagon of jingoism to bolster their nationalist credentials and wipe their stained characters of being stooges of Uncle Sam. The venal regime and equally venal bourgeois opposition are trying to use this issue to undermine the real issues and the impending wave of class struggle. Everything reeks of hypocrisy. But the conditions of the masses in this area of conflict are excruciating. According to a report of the National Nutrition Survey-2011, “Malnourishment among women and children has increased in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa over the last decade; 62.5 percent children and 52 percent pregnant women suffered from severe anaemia.” Price hike, poverty, unemployment, disease, ignorance and bloodshed have pillaged the masses.

Imperialist aggression is not only military but there has been relentless exploitation and plunder by imperialism in connivance with the local elites. The Durand Line that acts as a porous ill-defined border between Afghanistan was imposed by the imperialists in1893 to divide the Pashtuns and perpetuate imperialist rule. The same was the intent of the Radcliffe cleavage of 1947. Today there are no separate solutions for Afghanistan and Pakistan. Only through a revolutionary insurrection can these imposed divisions be redeemed. But imperialist aggression cannot be defeated by obscurantist fundamentalism or the weak and corrupt liberal democrats; both are not only products of capitalism but are sustained by it. To break the chains of imperialist slavery, overthrowing of capitalism is a necessity.

The writer is the editor of Asian Marxist Review and International Secretary of Pakistan Trade Union Defence Campaign.

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