“War is the terrorism of the rich. Terrorism is the war of the poor.” These words were penned in 2003 by Sir Peter Ustinov, one of Britain’s foremost playwrights. Unfortunately, such profundity is lost upon Pakistan’s “allegedly” liberal elite who, if they weren’t Pakistani, could lend credence to the fact that Edward Said’s “orientalism” is alive and well in the subcontinent. The stereotypical misconceptions presented regarding the War of Terror crystallise the view that Pakistan’s self-declared liberals are anything but — liberal that is.
While it is decidedly liberal to critically self-evaluate, it is not liberal, to alleviate the blame from others. It should behove our “alleged” liberals to consider the fact that numerous US policymakers have already acknowledged America’s role in creating the Taliban. From South Asia scholar Selig Harrison’s view that the US helped to create this “monster” to Hillary Clinton’s admission that the US is “fighting the same people it funded 20 years ago” during “Operation Cyclone”, US involvement is abundantly clear.
The song remains the same in the 21st century. That we choose to ignore it does not change the fact that the US is still one of the Taliban’s top financiers. By the Pentagon’s own admission last year, $400 million of its funds have made their way indirectly into Taliban coffers. Chickenfeed? The real amount, according to Michael Hughes of The Huffington Post, is as high as a billion dollars a year (since 2001), thanks in no small part to the questionable practices of USAID and its contractors in Kabul, who are milking this war for every penny it is worth, regardless of who else gets paid in the process. They are so blinded by war profiteering that Rear Admiral Kathleen Dussault, the Commander of Task Force 10 (set up to prevent the flow of coalition funds to insurgents), was rotated out of Kabul four months after her arrival there in 2010 just because she suggested tightening the controls on the contractors who were paying off the Taliban.
Today, almost every major study conducted on drone strikes has concluded that they create terror, cause the deaths of innocents and provide a recruitment bonanza for the Taliban. Therefore, any assertion that they do not cause huge civilian casualties can only be justified in light of the Obama Administration’s official definition of what it means to be a terrorist: all military-age males in a drone strike zone. It doesn’t take a genius to comprehend the ludicrous nature of this definition. Jeremy S Cahill, a real liberal journalist calls it like it is, “mass murder”. Over a decade has passed since this war was initiated and the extremist philosophy is more pervasive than ever. More of the same cannot be expected to achieve different results.
More than any other war in history, liberals cite the Second World War as a just war. It might actually have been, had the victors not recruited Nazis into their ranks and launched their own agenda for global hegemony, far exceeding even Hitler’s own vision for a Third Reich. From Vietnam in the East to Palestine in the Middle East to Chile in the West, the US’s corporatist owners have waged a war in perpetuity against the forces of democracy that have stood in the way of their economic interests. When such a power is running Kabul, both fighting and funding the Taliban at the same time, peace is simply not possible.
Liberalism demands that all avenues for peace be exhausted before war is considered. The agreements cited as evidence of attempts at peace failed, as much because of government incompetence as the Taliban. Pakistan never enforced its demands for disarmament or the surrendering of foreign militants and over-compensated them to the extent that future funding was secured. The cumulative effect of this ineptitude served to solidify the Taliban’s base and silence dissenting voices in their areas of operation. A liberal comprehends that in the absence of any meaningful support from Pakistan, the poor, illiterate and underserved populations of the villages in North Waziristan cannot be sentenced to death by bombardment, for providing support (at times under duress) to those who they may perceive (albeit incorrectly) are fighting their oppressors. Collateral damage in the thousands, while fine by Presidents Barack Obama and Asif Ali Zardari, is simply not liberal or civilised. If the last eight years have taught us anything it is that without an independent leadership that has the trust of the masses, any attempt to remove the Taliban’s base of support, to make peace or to conduct military operations, is doomed to failure.
It is not liberal to blame those who haven’t governed the country for Pakistan’s failure to tackle terror. It is also not liberal to exclude from the narrative, the “real puppeteers” in the US and Saudi Arabia, without whose financial support this illiterate, rag tag bunch of zealots wouldn’t have a pot to urinate in, let alone the resources required to wage a war against Nato and Pakistan for over a decade. It is certainly not liberal to blame Hafiz Saeed and Mullah Omar for the failure of successive governments to provide security, access to education, health care and livelihood opportunities to its citizens. It is definitely not liberal to support a political party that allegedly believes in the rights of minorities, yet distances itself from its own who laid down their lives for such a cause. And it is not leftist or progressive to support a political party whose monarchical leadership is vested in the perpetuation of feudalism. In the absence of any such acknowledgements, this narrative simply has no relevance to Pakistan’s masses. The war-mongering only serves to perpetuate the view that liberalism is nothing more than imperialist propaganda of the Washingtonian variety.
To quote Tolstoy, “You consider war to be inevitable? Very good. Let everyone who advocates war be enrolled in a special regiment of advance-guards, for the front of every storm, of every attack, to lead them all!”
You first, “alleged” liberals. Pakistan’s masses may yet reconsider.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 24th, 2012.