Gunboats and gurkhas in the American Imperium

My new piece on the complicity of the Pakistani elite in the US drone war is up on Al Jazeera‘s website.

Pakistanis are enraged by ongoing US drone strikes in their country

Meet Resham Khan. The 52-year-old shepherd was brought on a stretcher to a psychiatric hospital in Islamabad in January, traumatized and unable to speak. The father of six witnessed 15 members of his extended family perish last June when a US drone attacked a funeral procession in his native North Waziristan. The atrocity has left him mute and emotionally paralyzed, his vacant eyes staring into the distance. He gave up on food and drink in the months following the attack; shortly afterward, the pious Muslim gave up on prayer too. His condition also prevented him from looking after his ailing mother who died soon thereafter. And his surviving children have suffered. When the Reuters journalist finally got him to talk, one of the few things he said was ‘Stop the drone attacks.’

Kareem Khan, too, has suffered. On December 31, 2009, his son Zaenullah Khan and his brother Asif Iqbal were among the three people killed in a US drone attack which destroyed their home in Mir Ali, North Waziristan. Kareem’s absence spared him the sight of his mutilated family; and unlike the helpless shepherd, he had the wherewithal to demand justice. In November 2010, his lawyer, Barrister Shahzad Akbar served legal notices to the CIA station chief Jonathan Banks, former Defence Secretary Robert Gates, and former Director of Central Intelligence Leon Panetta for $500 million in damages.  Banks, who was in Pakistan on a business visa, took fright and soon fled the scene, and the US government was so terrified of the legal challenge that last month it denied a visa to Barrister Akbar to travel to the US. More survivors have since come forward demanding justice.

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Conversations with History: Anatol Lieven on Pakistan

Anatol Lieven is the author of the excellent America Right or Wrong. In the following interview he discusses his new book Paksitan: A Hard Country, which I shall review here shortly.

Conversations host Harry Kreisler welcomes Anatol Lieven for a discussion of his new book Pakistan: A Hard Country. Lieven emphasizes the important role of kinship in understanding society and the state in Pakistan. Discussing the military’s unique position as the preeminent national institution, he explains the sources of its power and prestige. Focusing on Pakistani national security thinking, he traces the perceived strategic threat posed by India, the role of Afghanistan in Pakistani strategy, the distinction between the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban, and the importance of Kashmir. He then proceeds to an analysis of the complex relationship between the United States and Pakistan. Lieven concludes with a discussion of the threat posed by Pakistan’s geographical location in the Indus valley and the long term implications of climate change for its future.

Is Pakistan’s ‘Monkey Show’ Coming Apart?

M. Shahid Alam

For too long now, the government of Pakistan – at its highest levels – has looked like a monkey show staged by the United States of America.

The USA picks the mercenaries from Pakistan’s wealthy and corrupt elites who are eager to play the part of the monkey. Once in office, they act upon cues that are called by the US plenipotentiary in Islamabad or elsewhere. The monkey master says, Give us transit rights; the monkey obliges. He says, Join our war against Afghanistan; the monkey obliges again. He says, We will bomb your people, you take the blame; the monkey obliges again. The monkey never disappoints.

All that the monkey master has to do to keep this monkey show going is to toss a few peanuts to the monkeys in the show for every act well-performed.

Of course, in order to try to fool the Pakistanis, the monkey master complains periodically that the monkey is not “doing enough.” The monkey replies that the master is not “giving enough” – peanuts, that is.

How long is this monkey show going to go on?

How long will Pakistanis stand for this humiliation?

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Reese Erlich: “Stop using the word ‘terrorist'”

Defining what a terrorist is and isn’t is a major dilemma. What one may consider terrorism, another may consider resistance. So where does one draw the line? Reese Erlich tackles that topic in his latest book “Conversations with Terrorists: Middle East Leaders on Politics, Violence, and Empire.” Erlich is a veteran journalist who has covered U.S. foreign policy for decades. He has freelanced for National Public Radio, Radio Deutsche Welle, the Australian Broadcasting Corp. Radio, the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. Radio, and writes for The San Francisco Chronicle and The Dallas Morning News.

Drawing on firsthand interviews and original research, Erlich argues that yesterday’s terrorist is often today’s national leader and that today’s freedom fighter may become tomorrow’s terrorist. By branding all of American’s opponents as “terrorists,” it makes it more difficult to look beyond the individual or the political group and understand what they are really all about. I caught up with Erlich recently and here’s what he had to say.

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Drones and Democracy

by Kathy Kelly and Josh Brollier

Islamabad: On May 12th, the day after a U.S. drone strike killed 24 people in Pakistan’s North Waziristan, two men from the area agreed to tell us their perspective as eyewitnesses of previous drone strikes.

One is a journalist, Safdar Dawar, General Secretary of the Tribal Union of Journalists. Journalists are operating under very difficult circumstances in the area, pressured by both militant groups and the Pakistani government.  Six of his colleagues have been killed while reporting in North and South Waziristan. The other man, who asked us not to disclose his name, is from Miranshah city, the epicenter of North Waziristan.  He works with the locally based Waziristan Relief Agency, a group of people committed to helping the victims of drone attacks and military actions.  “If people need blood or medicine or have to go to Peshawar or some other hospital,” said the social worker, “I’m known for helping them. I also try to arrange funds and contributions.”

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