February 7, 2010

Could Pakistan 2010 Go the Way of Cambodia 1969?

by Pratap Chatterjee

Could the same thing happen in Pakistan today? A new American president was ordering escalating drone attacks, in a country where no war has been declared, at the moment when I flew from Cambodia across South Asia to Afghanistan, so this question loomed large in my mind. Both there and just across the border, Operation Breakfast seems to be repeating itself.

In the Afghan capital, Kabul, I met earnest aid workers who drank late into the night in places like L'Atmosphere, a foreigner-only bar that could easily have doubled as a movie set for Saigon in the 1960s. Like modern-day equivalents of Graham Greene's "quiet American," these "consultants" describe a Third Way that is neither Western nor fundamentalist Islam.

At the very same time, CIA analysts in distant Virginia are using pilot-less drones and satellite technology to order strikes against supposed terrorist headquarters across the border in Pakistan. They are not so unlike the military men who watched radar screens in South Vietnam in the 1960s as the Cambodian air raids went on.

In 2009, on the orders of President Obama, the U.S. unloaded more missiles and bombs on Pakistan than President Bush did in the years of his secret drone war, and the strikes have been accelerating in number and intensity. By this January, there was a drone attack almost every other day. Even if, this time around, no one is using the code phrase, "the ball game is over," Washington continually hails success after success, terrorist leader after terrorist leader killed, implying that something approaching victory could be somewhere just over the horizon.

As in the 1960s in Cambodia, these strikes are, in actuality, having a devastating, destabilizing effect in Pakistan, not just on the targeted communities, but on public consciousness throughout the region. An article in the January 23rd New York Times indicated that the fury over these attacks has even spread into Pakistan's military establishment which, in a manner similar to Sihanouk in the 1960s, knows its limits in its tribal borderlands and is publicly uneasy about U.S. air strikes which undermine the country's sovereignty. . . .


[The question is when and where Islam provided for division of territories to settle populations on the basis of belief and unbelief. Does this find any sanction in the Quran or the traditions of the Holy Prophet? Who among the scholars of Islam has divided the dominion of God on this basis? If we accept this division in principle, how shall we reconcile it with Islam as a universal system?--Translation by Arif Mohammed Khan, "Maulana Abul Kalam Azad: The Man Who Knew the Future," Matbooat Chattan (Lahore), April 1946 Interview]

Syed Saleem Shahzad, "A New Battle Begins in Pakistan," Asia Times, October 20, 2009

[US airstrikes in Pakistan, launched from unmanned drones, are now averaging three a week, triple the number last year.--Christina Lamb, "School bombing exposes Obama's secret war inside Pakistan," Sunday Times, February 7, 2010]

"Talk to Al Jazeera: Hamid Gul," Al Jazeera, February 18, 2010

[Before the 1863 Lieber Code condemned civilian participation in combat, it was contrary to customary law. Today, civilian participation in combat is still prohibited by two 1977 protocols to the 1949 Geneva Conventions. Although the United States has not ratified the protocols, we consider the prohibition to be customary law, binding on all nations. . . .

Moreover, CIA civilian personnel who repeatedly and directly participate in hostilities may have what recent guidance from the International Committee of the Red Cross terms "a continuous combat function." That status, the ICRC guidance says, makes them legitimate targets whenever and wherever they may be found, including Langley.--Gary Solis, "CIA drone attacks produce America's own unlawful combatants," Washington Post, March 12, 2010]

Nathan Hodge, "Drone Attacks Are Legit Self-Defense, Says State Dept. Lawyer,", March 26, 2010

VIDEO: "UN Special Rapporteur Philip Alston Responds to US Defense of Drone Attacks' Legality,", April 1, 2010

Robert Fisk, "Pakistan Is In Pieces," Belfast Telegraph, April 6, 2010

[In Swat, the military has surged ahead of an excruciatingly slow civilian bureaucracy. Soldiers are reconstructing roads, bridges, health centers, water systems and libraries across the valley. The Army has recruited and trained thousands of police officers, and rebuilt 217 of the 400 or so schools destroyed by the Taliban. It is also footing the bill, thanks to a nationwide voluntary contribution of two days' pay by the troops themselves, a move that raised more than 100 million rupees (almost $1.2 million). The military is also much more efficient. Lt. Col. Abbas points to the restoration of a historic hostel in Swat as an example: Civil contractors estimate it would cost 80 million rupees for the reconstruction. The army did it for 20 million rupees, of its own money.--Rania Abuzeid, "Pakistan's Military Holds Back in North Waziristan,", April 17, 2010]

"EXCLUSIVE: Secret Recording of Erik Prince Reveals Previously Undisclosed Blackwater Ops,", May 4, 2010

David S. Cloud, "CIA drones have broader list of targets: The agency since 2008 has been secretly allowed to kill unnamed suspects in Pakistan," Los Angeles Times, May 5, 2010

[Some 1,000 Pakistanis have been killed by US drone attacks on Pakistani soil since 2004.--Joanne Mariner, "More Questions About Drones,", May 17, 2010]

[. . . a U.S. reprisal would be contemplated only under extreme circumstances, such as a catastrophic attack that leaves President Obama convinced that the ongoing campaign of CIA drone strikes is insufficient.--Greg Miller, "Options studied for a possible Pakistan strike," Washington Post, May 29, 2010]

[The move to accompany Pakistani forces in the field is even more significant, and repeats a pattern seen in the Philippines during the Bush administration, when Army Green Berets took a gradually more expansive role in Manila's fight against the terrorist group Abu Sayyaf in the southern islands of Mindanao.--Julian E. Barnes, "U.S. Forces Step Up Pakistan Presence,", July 20, 2010]

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