March 1, 2004
Beginning in 1996, I have written over 120 commentaries for Swans. They
range from pastoral to quixotic. Perhaps, in the view of those who have usurped
power in this country, to seditious. I wonder if I can use the word "seditious"
Sedition applies to the advocacy of regime change by overthrow or revolution. In November 2000, in a coup d'etat, usurpers took power over America. Fait accompli. Definitions are a function of power. The seditious now define sedition.
As an admiring and frequent re-reader of Orwell's Animal Farm, (1) I understand that revolution or radical regime change only brings out the next power-lusting cadre. My views are thereby irrelevant as I have no power beyond these keystrokes. Far from seditious, I am hoping to see electoral processes and governance restored in which there can be reasonable confidence of openness, balance and accuracy.
Recently, I have tried to establish perspective, to anchor current events in a wider context. (2) Yet, context is threatening to overwhelm events; may already have. In times such as these, keep Leopold Kohr on tap. (3)
For many years, I have been drawn to The Great Swath across Asia from Bering to Adriatic Seas. Long before 20th, now 21st century confrontations, this swath has been host to nearly endless versions of The Great Game, aka Realpolitik, mostly unknown to Americans.
The constant to the north has been and still is Russia. From Tsars through Soviets and now Commonwealth, in past guises and present transformations, Russia has inevitably pushed west, east, and south to buttress and to extend its reach. Some call this pattern paranoid, some pragmatic and others imperial. The pattern when confronted is to fall back to regroup when necessary and then to push out again and again. As Putin consolidates authority within Russia, outreach moves from possibility to probability.
Chechnya may be Putin's Watergate, Vietnam or Afghanistan. Time may tell. We may note that Richard Nixon went down in 1972 yet similar methods, objectives and goals are resurrected in present events.
Depending on time, geography and political configurations, Russia's countervailing forces have involved Han and other Chinese, China's neighbors, Ottoman and Turk, France, Great Britain, Germany and now, overwhelmingly, USA.
However described by interpreters and analysts, of which there are many, the overriding actualities of the swath remain tribal. Seen from outside, the overlays of tribal perspectives are commonly named as religious. To do so without many and major caveats is a classic and very fundamental error. There are more versions of Islam than sects of Christianity or Judaism, not to mention Buddhists, Hindus, animists, et al.
Attempting to apply American, European, Western or other Asian concepts of "religious" utterly fails to reflect prevailing actualities dominant now and mostly throughout history within The Great Swath. Pause a moment to take that sentence into awareness.
Concepts like nation and state are without context where family, in its broadest and most complex senses, prevails. Trust, loyalty, dependability, confidence are confined to family. Nepotism and corruption are alien words totally out of context. Tribal memories endure and endure and endure. A review of recent Balkan events, Northern Ireland or Rwanda, Zaire, Zimbabwe, Sudan, et al., makes the point.
Throughout history as known, invaders in successive waves have carved up losers' territories to their own writ. Tribals were callously shoved into outrages. These outrages have been given names such as Yugoslavia, Iraq and Pakistan. From Balkans to Pamirs, over and back of the Himalayas, steppes to the left, mountains to the right, from Sea to Sea, outsiders cobbled together geographic entities with little or no concern for whomever happened to live there at the time. Pisses the locals off.
The four. . .stans, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan are creations of Stalin, i.e., dating only from the 1930s. Their borders were drawn to principles of "divide and conquer" which a true imperialist must applaud. The problems created by Stalin are coming to roost today. Tensions are high across Central Asia. "Temporary" American bases established to pursue "War on Terror" look more permanent every day. Harsh post-Soviet regimes now look to the Americans as guarantors of power.
Putin nods, smiles and rebuilds. Russia's oil production is soon to exceed that of Saudi Arabia. Pipelines, watch the pipelines. Notice where they are built and building. Link pipelines with politics. See pipelines as The Great Game of 21st century Swath.
From Georgia through Caucasus and within the lands of the four . . . stans of today, tribes were shackled and shattered. Genghis Khan, Tamerlane . . . Stalin butchered and transported millions. Under the Soviets, ethnic Russians and even Volga Germans were ripped from homelands and imposed over tribals. Yet, in the villages, tribal memories hold and endure and survive. Scions and sons join Jihad.
There is some emergent awareness, perhaps not yet appreciation, of Afghan tribal responses to 19th century British incursions, 20th century Soviet incursion and, today, 21st century American incursion. The Brits and Soviets went home severely punished for their audacities.
Outsiders could be imposed or impose themselves but not conquer. Over centuries, successions of invaders came as conquerors only to go as shadows flitting off uneasily and ground down on the endurance of ancient and still tribal peoples.
Today, again, we witness conflagrations tribal in root which engulf the Balkans, rage through Caucasus, the . . .stans and along fragile borders nominally separating Russia from China, buttressed by even more fragile states interposed between and played with by principals.
Of recent, Afghanistan and Iraq have grabbed media attention. Little is reckoned as rooted in the enduring and ancient phases of The Great Game still in play.
Both Iraq and Pakistan are states cobbled together from tribals with very long histories replete with hostilities and memories to match. Drag out an Old Testament and check out a few examples of God's wrath raging across the region.
Iraq's post-WWI and 1920s creation, primarily by Great Britain, is taken from slices of defeated Ottoman Empire in Mesopotamia, the ancient lands through which flow Tigris and Euphrates rivers. The early 1920s in Iraq were a time of revolt against British occupation. They were crushed. A very uneasy and rickety imposed monarchy evolved into a ruthless one-party dictatorship recently deposed. Iraq now awaits the next stage of political devolution.
Pakistan's borders come into being by an even stranger process. In 1947, a British official with no area experience, Sir Cyril Radcliffe, is called in from London, given some old maps, older census guesstimates and instructed to draw borders for new Pakistan and old India without consultation with affected peoples. He was given 36 days. He completed his work two days before Partition. On orders of the final Viceroy, Lord Mountbattan, borders were redrawn to new Pakistan's disadvantage.
Check out the very bald post-partition history of Kashmir, Ledakh and Jammu Kashmir. Today, roughly half the Indian Army or 500,000 men plus paramilitaries plus police you never want to meet and hit teams rove the area taking down more people each day. Pakistan keeps about 180,000 men on the Line of Control while regularly infiltrating teams or turning aside as post-Afghan Jihadi infiltrate across the Line.
The sole hypothetical glue of state for Pakistan was to be a loose construct called Islam, a potpourri religion. Wry Pakistanis like to point out that only two modern states were created on religious lines exclusively: Israel and Pakistan. Irony abounds. Little heed was paid or is paid to the vast schisms within Islam which prevail among Pakistan's uncomfortable tribals. Pakistan's internal history is one of revolts and rebellions.
Since partition of the Raj by the Raj in 1947, Pakistan's rulers have come exclusively from landed elite and/or military. Presently, Pakistan is again a military dictatorship.
There are those who assert that mixes of peoples such as those of Iraq or Pakistan can only be ruled with strong authority.
As with Iraq, when it suits the interests of America's rulers, Pakistan is either buddy or pariah. Internal practices of governance, absence of rule of law, human rights abuses and so on and so forth are overlooked as long as compliance with American interests is maintained.
Presently, there is high hullabaloo over Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD), i.e., nuclear, biological and chemical weapons however deliverable which are held by others than those making the hullabaloo. Few note the ironies involved.
Iraq is accused and invaded over issues related to WMD, which either did, didn't or don't exist. In any case, the question is now moot. Iraq, under Saddam Hussein was one of three states named by George W. Bush as "Axis of Evil." The other two are North Korea and Iran. One down, two to go?
Iraq, when buddy, was supplied with WMD ingredients and components. Sources represent an international panoply, overt and covert, of governments and companies including, but not limited to, USA, France, Germany, Great Britain, Russia, South Africa, some of whom were transhippers for Israeli sources. Very ecumenical.
Pakistan is presently a buddy state, a staunch ally in Bush's specious "War on Terror." While there may be intensive speculations about Iraq and WMD, there is absolutely no doubt that Pakistan, like Israel, has a WMD arsenal. Nuclear devices have been tested. Missile delivery systems have been tested. And, yes, poison gasses have been used in remote frontier provinces and over the border in Afghanistan.
Nasty little open secret is that Pakistan is home to virulent forces intensely open in their consummate Anti-Americanism. Its military dictators such as Zia ul-Haq, General Beg, et al., have been less than circumspect in their biases as is the present dictator, General Pervez Musharraf. Domestic political actualities dictate these attitudes. Consummate Anti-Americanism is prevalent within the Pakistani secret services.
Knowledgeable observers whose works I have checked, double-checked and cross-checked agree that a constant of Pakistan's successions of rulers is a vast and pervasive set of secret services aka Inter-Services Intelligence, ISI or "The Services." They are as pervasive as Saddam's in Iraq or the deposed Shah-in-Shah's in Iran or Israel's Mossad and its linked internal agencies.
It is a hollow mockery to describe Pakistan as a democracy. Nominal rulers come and go, but ISI endures. Pakistan's key Islamic sects are related to Saudi Wahabi and Indian Deobandi, the most fundamentalist and vitriolic Anti-American. Key proponents are deeply embedded within ISI. Dictators, prime ministers and presidents come and go; ISI persists and perseveres.
Pakistan fits every definition of a "Rogue State" and is very close to a failed state. The economy is a tattered patchwork of declining statistics held together tenuously by American grants and IMF/World Bank stitches. It is a harsh military dictatorship with a known arsenal of WMD. Its secret services lurk pervasively in every corner of society. Its government is doing, in fact, everything of which Saddam Hussein was accused. Difference, for now, is that Iraq went from buddy to pariah and Pakistan is presently a buddy. For how long?
Resurrection of Taliban within Afghanistan along with perpetuation of feudal, tribal-based enclaves are actively sponsored by ISI and supplied with American and Saudi-financed armaments. American and aligned troops barely control Kabul and its immediate environs. As with the Soviets before them, present occupiers hole up in fortified camps, rush out to kill and call on massive airpower to destroy.
Biggest difference between Iraq and Pakistan, other than geography, may be oil. Iraq has lots. Pakistan not much. Balochistan, the large western province within Pakistan, has very large gas reserves not as yet exploited. Balochistan borders on Iran to the west, Afghanistan to the north and the sea to the south. Caspian pipelines passing through Turkmenistan and Afghanistan are projected to reach the sea through Balochistan.
From American perspectives, with Iraq and Afghanistan in "friendly" hands, Shi'a Iran is outflanked. With enduring troubles in Kashmir, on the east of Pakistan, the Indian side, Pakistan has a high investment in determining Afghanistan's direction. Afghanistan instability must not threaten Pakistan. Analysts generally concede that Taliban emergence and present resurgence within Afghanistan has ISI blessing and backing.
America's rapprochement with India worries Pakistan greatly. To keep its western borders calm, Afghanistan, given the ISI, Islamic state Taliban model, is considered a more viable neighbor, more amenable to Pakistani interests.
What is an unknown to most Fox and CNN addicts is the intimate intertwining of Taliban and ISI, ISI and Al-Qaeda. Osama bin Laden's relative degree of calmness when the full might of America is theoretically searching him out, may rest on the Islamic Bomb. There are those observers who firmly believe that Pakistan has also shared nuclear secrets with bin Laden's people.
It is now revealed openly what has been known for more than twenty years: Pakistan has used, exchanged, stimulated and supplied nuclear weapons programs with Libya, Iran, North Korea and others presently unnamed. For clues, check the U.S.'s enemies lists of the moment.
Abdul Qadeer Khan, near legendary father of Pakistan's Islamic Bomb, (4) confesses to trafficking in nuclear secrets and materials. As more stories emerge in Western press, it is clear that there has been and still is a very large, global and dynamic nuclear underground and black market. Money appears to be no object.
Companies, governments and other parties involved in the nuclear black market span the world, Financiers from Saudi Arabia head the long list of known money people. Let's not forget the Peoples' Republic of China, either. North Korean, Iranian and Pakistani missiles share technology with Chinese and Soviet, now Commonwealth, designs. "The enemy of my enemy is my friend."
The Pakistan cabinet has recommended clemency for Abdul Qadeer Khan. He has been pardoned and left in possession of his wealth and perks although no longer titular head of Pakistan's nuclear program since 1998. Throughout Pakistan, there are statues, memorials, museums, shrines to Abdul Qadeer Khan.
Throw all this on top of the very complex relationships characterizing the American involvements and meddling in Afghanistan and in the . . . stans, the supply and succor given and aid being given to the still tribal components of hot and cooler wars going on within and near to Great Swath and bingo! Things definitely are not what they may seem or what we are supposed to believe.
Remember, if you will, that lies are the grease of politics and enemies are the aphrodisiacs of politicians. (5)
· · · · · ·
Notes and Resources
1. "All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal." (back)
2. See, for example, "Iraq: A Gnat on the Elephant of History," Swans, Special Edition on Iraq, February 2, 2004. (back)
3. Leopold Kohr, mentor of Fritz Schumacher, Ivan Illich and Kirkpatrick Sale, et al., who postulated that everything has its right and proper size. When that size is exceeded, implosion results.
See, The Breakdown of Nations, Leopold Kohr, Green Books, London UK, 2002, ISBN 1-870098-8-6. Kohr's classic is now reprinted.
See also, A Pair of Cranks, Essays by Leopold Kohr and Fritz Schumacher, edited by John Papworth, New European Publications, UK, 2002. (back)
4. Note carefully that people in Pakistan consider their nuclear weapons to be "The Islamic Bombs." ISI, The Services, aids and abets this terminology. Abdul Qadeer Khan, Pakistan's lead nuclear physicist, is a national folk hero. With passions running very high not only against the "traditional" enemy, India, but increasingly anti-American for myriad reasons, baiting Islam, as is present American policy, is not without palpable risks.
The histories of Iraq, Pakistan and the . . .stans are redolent with unintended consequences of unexamined assumptions. There are many, many efforts made by very knowledgeable people over many years both to examine such assumptions and to make them available. This body of knowledge seems to be immaterial to present authorities in America and other aligned nations. In short, Bush and Blair are both ignorant by choice and unwitting about this literature. It was noted that early in the Bush II years great care was exercised to keep such people out of government and out of influence. (back)
5. Going back and re-reading books on the history of Vietnam's 30-50 year wars to be freed of colonial and puppet rulers is instructive in the present context. Many of the same fallacies are evident and will likely take their tolls. History may not repeat itself but leadership's attitudes and actions do.
A recent and excellent example is Patriots, The Vietnam War Remembered from All Sides, by Christian G. Appy, Viking, N.Y., 2003, ISBN 0-670-03214-X. (back)
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