No method to the madness

Published: September 28, 2010
The writer is author of The Gathering Storm, Pakistan: Political Economy of a Security State

The writer is author of The Gathering Storm, Pakistan: Political Economy of a Security State

Dr Aafia Siddiqui may or may not have lost her sanity due to torture but is there an end to the madness of American military misadventures that have destroyed hundreds of thousands of homes of innocent civilians?

Think about this.

Over a trillion dollars and nine years after 9/11, the Taliban instead of being eliminated are set to take over Kabul again, and Pakistan which hardly had a Taliban presence in 2001 has been rocked by bomb blasts and has had its worst year of violence since 2001. And the Americans still cannot see what the problem is?

But then if their policies had a bit of wisdom, we never would have had Vietnam, Cambodia would not have been ruined, the Shah of Iran would never have been allowed to suppress dissent, Afghanistan would not have been abandoned after 1989, and a just settlement of the Palestine conflict would have been achieved. It is easy to forget lessons of history in the confusion and noise of the day-to-day reporting and in the age of 30 second sound-bites of electronic media.

America’s intelligence budget alone has gone up by more than 250 per cent since 2001 to $75 billion and its defenders in Afghanistan and Pakistan do not see the irony of a mad campaign that has not achieved anything and destroyed much, including US credibility and standing in the world.

Dr Zbigniew Brzezinski, one of the foremost foreign policy experts in the US, warned the American government about the potentially disastrous consequences of its foreign policy on February 1, 2007. “If the United States continues to be bogged down in a protracted bloody involvement in Iraq, the final destination on this downhill track is likely to be a head-on conflict with Iran and with much of the world of Islam at large.”

One consequence of the bloody military and covert operations is that the control of many aspects slips out of the hands of the politicians and away from congressional oversight. Guantanamo Bay is one such example. Dozens were kept under detention without any trial and then released without much explanation. Abdullah Mehsud was one captured in December 2001 and released in May 2004.

The latest casualty of the US military and intelligence establishment’s — to quote Dr Zbigniew Brzezinski, President Jimmy Carter’s national security adviser — “mythical narrative”, is Dr Aafia Siddiqui. She may or may not have been involved with al Qaeda. I do not know. No court ever charged her with any terrorist act. So all that noise is irrelevant in so far it relates to her sentencing by a US court for 86 years on charges of committing a crime in Afghanistan as a Pakistani citizen. If the US defence and intelligence establishment wanted to delay the case and avoid provocation, which it knew it would cause in Pakistan, it could have easily delayed the trial as it did in the case of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed for reasons that remain obscure.

I won’t speculate on the motives for carrying on this trial at this time lest some naive or biased readers accuse me of a conspiracy theory but the repercussions are obvious. It is a clear provocation even if that was not the intent. It is mystifying that while on one hand, the US gives $405 million in aid for the floods; but it increases the frequency of drone strikes which for sure are going to destroy any good will it would have hoped to generate. Are they so stupid?

I quoted Dr Brzezinski at length to make the points that some of us make but are dismissed as anti-Americanism. I worked for an American bank for 20 years. I have nothing against Americans. But their establishment’s Middle East and Central Asian policies are wrong, short-sighted, counter-productive and ultimately self-defeating. There is no method to their madness but only one way to prevent more harm than they have already caused, belated though it might be. The world would be a better place if President Obama can focus on the ailing US economy, which is not only in long term decline but is not recovering well, and put an end to all costly overt and covert misadventures overseas.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 29th, 2010.

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Reader Comments (20)

  • Sep 28, 2010 - 11:46PM

    The disconnect in US policy, between giving flood aid on the one hand and drone attacks on the other, is due to the duality of policies being implemented. While the state department manages flood aid the CIA is pursuing drone attacks. Its not a single monolith that is acting and shaping policy in one direction. Various arms of the government are approaching policy adjectives by different means. Recommend

  • Farrukh siddiqui
    Sep 29, 2010 - 12:14AM

    Mr. El-Edroos.. you are wrong, by all accounts including Bob Woodwards recently published book, it is Obama who personally authorized drone attacks.Recommend

  • someone
    Sep 29, 2010 - 1:32AM

    the americans are there to prevent an Islamic caliphate from rising, a just Islamic state. The Taliban are poised to consolidate that state, and that’s why they fight them. Free aafia by force! Locate her son Suleyman by Force!Recommend

  • faraz
    Sep 29, 2010 - 1:48AM

    Drone attacks killed more TTP men than our army’s south waziristan operation which included a massive deployment of 30,000 troops. Who provides intelligence for these attacks? Only a local can enter those areas. I think our army has no problem with drone attacks. Recommend

  • Sep 29, 2010 - 5:03AM

    If you know of a better strategy to deal with fanatics — let’s consider that. Despite propaganda from the pulpit, Afghanistan in 2001 was a failed state as well. The Taliban were fighting with the Northern alliance (ironically former mujahideen as well). Veteran mujahid leaders like Ahmed Shah Masood were bombed by suicide attackers. So please let’s not pretend that things have gotten worse in Afghanistan. Salvaging Afghanistan is a generational struggle and it will take time and persistence — and indeed human development indicators in Afghanistan have improved dramatically since then. Negotiating with people who insist that only they have monopoly over divine truth is unlikely to succeed — have we not learned from the Swat negotiations, which ultimately needed a military solution as well? I do agree with you that Iraq was a totally misguided foreign policy move on the part of the US. But Afghanistan and militancy in Pakistan are a different story. Our militancy problems go back to Zia Sahib and his use of religion as a political tool from Lashkar-e-Jhangvi to Lashkare-e-Tayyaba. Incidentally, the US had nothing to do with the establishment of these two organizations.Recommend

  • Shazia
    Sep 29, 2010 - 12:10PM

    The article says:

    “Over a trillion dollars and nine years after 9/11, the Taliban instead of being eliminated are set to take over Kabul again, and Pakistan which hardly had a Taliban presence in 2001 has been rocked by bomb blasts and has had its worst year of violence since 2001. And the Americans still cannot see what the problem is?”

    Well put… lot of our rulers also don’t see that!Recommend

  • parvez
    Sep 29, 2010 - 1:04PM

    Realy interesting article. But I disagree that there is no method to their madness.
    To us it is madness to them it’s a well thought out global policy. The money spent even in billions per year is small compared with their 13.4 trillion econony.
    I like the innuendo when you mention the delay of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s trial for “reasons that remain obscure” .Recommend

  • Kamal Ahmer
    Sep 29, 2010 - 1:41PM

    Obama himself has admitted in his latest state of the union speech that the use of force is not the best strategy. Increasingly it is dawning on the US and UK leaders that supporting corrupt leaders in Pakistan or Afghanistan is hardly the way to puruse their objectives. The war was never about extremism… otherwise why would the US continue to support Pak Army which has supported the jihadis (even till now) all along.. that is why they should leave Pakistan alone because their military aid and weapons only serve to make Pak Army stronger, making the whole US strategy counter-productive..I guess being an ex-Citibanker, Mr. Nazar understands Americans pretty well.Recommend

  • Manit Parmar
    Sep 29, 2010 - 4:16PM

    Jale par namak chhidakna nahin chahta but where is the so called self respect of Pakistani government and its Army now that awakens with every statement coming from India? How come no one is threatning of Nuclear attack and wiping out the entire country (America)? Where are those religious leaders who do not leave any opportunity to blame India for every single problem that Pakistan is facing.Kahan gaye sab log? Recommend

  • Tanya Bromley
    Sep 29, 2010 - 4:26PM

    Excellent and balanced article and focused on substantive and major issues. The writer brings up a very valid point… how come the master mind of 9/11 Khalid Sheikh has not been properly tried and convicted so far after more than 7 years or so. After reading this article, I searched for Dr. Brezezinki’s statement… this is a must read

    as it comes from some one who is considered among the most knowledgeable American Secretaries of StateRecommend

  • Muhammad Sadaf Ur Rehman
    Sep 29, 2010 - 6:54PM

    It is fact in case of American foreign policy after 9/11 incidents that in most of cases the decisions are not according to the congress policies and policies were not supported by American public at large. The point which significant in this case is that the America itself who is the preacher of democratic values and peoples sovereignty is also under different lobbiesRecommend

  • Singh
    Sep 29, 2010 - 7:30PM

    It is very strange that author work for American Bank & by that reason he know all about America. To know America need to be American first. He is making every body fool by saying, Taliban are ready to take Kabul. I think before he make this statement he should consider latest hot persuit & drone attack in Pakistan. On one hand Pakistan is begging for help everyday & on other hand they lecture US how to conduct foregin policy. Intelligence of US policymaker has no match. And keep in mind begger can not be chooser. Before advising other nation, advise your own policymaker on education system.
    Same your piece of advise think 1971 before mandling in Afganistan or India’ adventure.Recommend

  • Freedom
    Sep 29, 2010 - 7:34PM

    If we despise the US so much and do not like what they are doing, then why do we accept their aid? You can’t bite the hand that feeds you and in my opinion, the US military is doing everything and anything to hunt down these terrorists.

    What good does it do if the Taliban can attack and then run away to Pakistan without meeting resistance?

    You can’t blame America for what went wrong, blame the President. Just like you can blame the floods in Pakistan on Pakistani’s, you blame the Prime Minister/Pre3sident for failing to enact proper measures.Recommend

  • Farrukh siddiqui
    Sep 29, 2010 - 8:12PM

    Mr. Singh… I am sorry but you can’t even write proper English and the author has criticised both American and Pakistani governments. You write you have to be American to know America? In this day and age when people study, travel, and work internationally, this is kind of a non-statement. Plus, Georg Bush was American? What did he know about anything?Recommend

  • Faizal Mohammed
    Sep 29, 2010 - 10:25PM

    This mess that the Americans brought is solely the result of their own follies. They first creat a demon to meet their selfish ends and once it is over, goes against it. Everyone knows who created Osama. Now, see the giant let out by the Americans hunting them back!Recommend

  • Sep 29, 2010 - 10:39PM

    US is there to rule the world and manipulating most of the Muslim countries. It is a fact, accept it.Recommend

  • K A Sultan
    Sep 30, 2010 - 12:53AM

    Americans treat the Muslims just as we treat our minorities.Recommend

  • Farah
    Sep 30, 2010 - 6:00AM

    it is surprising that the Americans have not learned from history… most of their military adventures overseas have failed for a long timeRecommend

  • basharat
    Oct 1, 2010 - 4:13AM

    @ Mr K A Sultan! your contention , I am sorry is not correct. In America minorities enjoy much more freedom than that the minorities in Pakistan. There non muslims are free to convert to Islam or any other religion of their choice , there is no hue and cry for such conversions . Have any body observed any religious place of worship have been demolished, damaged or desecrated in the US. As far their foreign policies are concerned, we have right to differ with it , as they formulate their policies which suit to their interests . It is duty of our rulers to watch interests of our country. Recommend

  • Ishaq Narejo
    Oct 25, 2010 - 2:52PM

    dont be afraid of other’s, for if you want to put some theory, put it forward, only time will verify it. theory or fact.Recommend

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