Wars do indeed change the everyday meanings of words. Few years ago, before the war in Afghanistan was initiated, the term ‘drone’ always used to summon to my mind the imagery of the “drones club” in PG Wodehouse’s fantasy world of Bertie Wooster and his valet Jeeves. Some of you must have read Wodehouse; I recommend that all of you do for his brilliant, quite unmatchable prose. I think of Wodehouse and drones in conjunction for another reason, often to be a Wodehouse admirer is to find yourself in fairly atrocious company, for example with people who think he is a very good, simple writer for kids etc. The legal arguments against the use of drones are complex and not quite as certain as some people may believe, yet one can disagree with the general principle of their use as a breach of sovereignty. However, one would do it at his own peril, as again one is likely to find oneself amongst quite unflattering comrades, with fine exceptions of course.
There has been some talk of honour, integrity and sovereignty recently with regard to the deliberation about reopening of Nato supply lines; I can assure you that there is a lot more to come. The alternative proposed by this camp is not very clear, except for the simpleton zealots of the Difa-e-Pakistan Council (DPC) who want us to collectively go to war with the world and expedite the process of being in the company of the designated houris. The political opposition is far less certain and wants us to ‘stand up’ and ‘send a message to the world’ and other clichés of stale imagery, etc. The argument is not a serious one and hardly merits a serious response. Still, if one were to indulge them, we cannot and should not isolate ourselves and seek a confrontation with the US and all member states of Nato. Additionally, it won’t serve any purpose to those martyred in Salala.
The truly surprising aspect of this debate is the refusal to acknowledge the role of the military establishment for creating this rather shameful fiasco of first displaying hollow unsustainable bravado and the subsequent shamefully backtracking to do the right thing. I have said this before, in times of crisis, we learn that the foreign policy is really made by the civilian authorities and hence the blame should be shouldered by them. It takes a certain sort of shamelessness or naiveté to go on attacking parliament for matters of foreign policy. The army chief is not going to the Chicago summit because of fear of adverse public opinion. Now, what does a government servant subordinate to the defence secretary have to do with garnering public support? In any event, we are told that it was parliament and the government which messed up initially, so the gallant general has nothing to worry about. There is a pattern here; the army generously takes all credit and none of the blame. In any event, if the army is against reopening of Nato supplies, what stops them from going directly to the public like they did in the Kerry-Lugar Affair — it certainly is not any respect for parliament. Another depressing thing is how easily the media uncritically decides to become a quite willing mouthpiece of the ISPR.
Remaining on the issue of the media, not many seemed to have noticed that ‘we the people’ have recently decided to test a couple of missiles just for good measure. Given the cost that would have been incurred on these tests, one would have imagined that it would make the media give us sermons on austerity measures, make journalists livid and send investigative journalists and politicians into a frenzy to dig out the details of the expenses and make them public. However, it seems jingoist honour knows no price.
There is a more sinister and dangerous dimension to all this talk about drones and Nato supplies. One can partially agree with someone making the legal case against the drones and be willing to contribute to reaching a workable solution. However, often, that is exactly the sort of person who is going to go on and make a causal link between drones and Nato supplies with terrorists blowing themselves up. This nauseous, pseudo cause-and-effect should make everyone cringe. For the time that the Nato supplies were suspended, suicide attacks continued, even when the ostensible reason for provocation had been eliminated. Let me speak plainly — the terrorists are not there because of drone attacks but precisely the opposite is the case: drone attacks continue (legally or illegally) because of these homicidal fanatics. There is nothing that you can do to ‘not’ provoke them, they want to be provoked, and in fact they are already provoked. I wonder if these new followers of Professor Chomsky realise that by this single ridiculous argument they are absolving these barbaric nihilists of all culpability of blowing up hospitals, school buses and Sufi shrines. Absurd parallels with the IRA and Vietnam are not worth a moment of serious consideration. This is no nationalist or anti-imperialist struggle. The Taliban subscribe to an ideology which glorifies and sanctions murder, with a promise of Paradise to boot. I assume, or, perhaps more accurately, hope, that they do not link the SSP/LeJ and the Mumtaz Qadris to drone attacks and Nato supplies, but you never know. The apology and rationalisation for the murder and thuggery of the terrorists does their argument (if they have one) against imperialism no favours.
Falling back on history offers them little in the way of consolation. Whereas the complicity of US and the Pakistan state is established and undeniable in creating these indiscriminate killing machines, it also implicates the present-day DPC and JI types who cheered the forces of imperialism along with the religious fanatics to bury ‘la-deen’ USSR in Kabul, and were also paid handsomely for the cheerleading. Imperialism needs to be fought today, again, but not with the help of these primitive murderers. In any event since we have played our part in creating them, it is only decent that we set the record straight by eliminating them.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 20th, 2012.
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