"Let us go forth a while, and get better air in our lungs. Let us leave our closed rooms...
The game of ball is glorious."

--Walt Whitman

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

That's It, We're Moving To Canada

An excerpt from To Pakistan, With Thanks By Joshua Kucera:

The United States imposed weapons sanctions in the 1990s after it found out about Pakistan's secret nuclear bomb program. But then came Sept. 11 and the war in Afghanistan. Pakistan became our new best friend, and the sanctions were lifted. And although Pakistan's military is still overwhelmingly oriented toward India--hardly a major front in the 'war on terror'--Washington has opened up its pocketbooks again. Over the next five years, Pakistan will get at least $1.5 billion in defense aid from the United States.

An announcement made at IDEAS 2004 suggests where some of that money is going to be spent: Pakistani officials revealed that the United States is ready to reverse its longtime opposition to selling new F-16 fighter jets to Islamabad. The chief of the Pakistan Air Force told me Washington wants to provide the F-16s, in part, to help Pakistan fight Islamist extremists in the tribal areas in the northwestern part of the country.

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has deftly played the United States since Sept. 11, and Washington has let him get away with it. Shortly before IDEAS 2004 opened, he announced that he will not step down as chief of the army, as he had promised. The United States barely let out a peep. The operations against the insurgents in the northwest are centered in Waziristan, not around Quetta or Peshawar, where intelligence officials and analysts believe most Taliban and al-Qaida operatives are based. One analyst told me the Pakistanis are attacking Waziristan because it's an easy target, and because tribal forces humiliated Pakistani army troops there earlier this year, and now the military establishment wants revenge. Yet U.S. officials praise the operations as an important battle in the "war on terror."

Even if Pakistan were serious about fighting the Taliban, it could certainly find a better way to spend the hundreds of millions of dollars the F-16s will cost. But the Pakistanis gave a clue as to what they really want with the planes: They are requesting that the F-16s be armed with top-of-the-line air-to-air missiles that would be of little use against targets like the Islamists it's fighting on the ground. Other equipment Pakistan is getting from the United States—navy surveillance planes, for example—is similarly useless against a guerrilla insurgency. They would, of course, be useful in a war against India.

Where to begin?

First of all, how is it that I heard of this only because a passing reference on Air America Radio (bless them) aroused my husband's curiosity, which he passed on to me, and I promptly Googled? This should be headline news. It should at least be news! But no, all I see on TV news and read in the paper is something on the order of "Terry Schaivo, school shooting, Terry Schaivo, Michael Jackson, school shooting, Robert Blake, and did we mention Terry Schaivo?".

Second of all, what the hell were they thinking? No, wait, scratch that, it's been over four years and I'm still waiting for the first lucid brainwave out of this administration. Is it too much to hope for, though, that mounting deficits, runaway war expenses, a sinking economy, record unemployment, a burgeoning fuel-cost crisis, and the need to spend our defense resources on actual threats might at least give these folks pause before throwing a $1.5 billion match onto the India/Pakistan fuse?

I love my country, but I fear my government. And frankly, the love's wearing a little thin these days.

2 rejoinders:

frightwig sounded off...

When I heard about that on the radio, my first thought was, "Well, I guess we'll be going to war with Pakistan in 20 years." Our government will never learn....

In related news, here's another goodie from the Bush administration, reported by the Washington Post. See if you can spot the familiar M.O.:

"U.S. Misled Allies About Nuclear Export
North Korea Sent Material To Pakistan, Not to Libya

By Dafna Linzer
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, March 20, 2005; Page A01

In an effort to increase pressure on North Korea, the Bush administration told its Asian allies in briefings earlier this year that Pyongyang had exported nuclear material to Libya. That was a significant new charge, the first allegation that North Korea was helping to create a new nuclear weapons state.

But that is not what U.S. intelligence reported, according to two officials with detailed knowledge of the transaction. North Korea, according to the intelligence, had supplied uranium hexafluoride -- which can be enriched to weapons-grade uranium -- to Pakistan. It was Pakistan, a key U.S. ally with its own nuclear arsenal, that sold the material to Libya. The U.S. government had no evidence, the officials said, that North Korea knew of the second transaction.

Pakistan's role as both the buyer and the seller was concealed to cover up the part played by Washington's partner in the hunt for al Qaeda leaders, according to the officials, who discussed the issue on the condition of anonymity. In addition, a North Korea-Pakistan transfer would not have been news to the U.S. allies, which have known of such transfers for years and viewed them as a business matter between sovereign states.

The Bush administration's approach, intended to isolate North Korea, instead left allies increasingly doubtful as they began to learn that the briefings omitted essential details about the transaction, U.S. officials and foreign diplomats said in interviews. North Korea responded to public reports last month about the briefings by withdrawing from talks with its neighbors and the United States.

In an effort to repair the damage, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is traveling through East Asia this weekend trying to get the six-nation talks back on track. The impasse was expected to dominate talks today in Seoul and then Beijing, which wields the greatest influence with North Korea."

Full story: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A50241-2005Mar19.html

Third Base Line sounded off...

*TBL repeatedly bangs her head against the nearest wall, much to the consternation of her coworkers*