Imagine a wealthy and weaponized Middle Eastern/Asian Country, call it Saudi China, which has secret operatives for a private corporation in dangerous and unruly places like the impoverished late 21st century United States. Imagine that S-C also fires off unmanned missiles here and there killing the leaders of dissident groups in Mississippi and Texas, but also guests at wedding parties in Alabama (all the celebrants including the toddlers). Imagine that it is really good at targeting: actually kills just 5 civilians for every terrorist, as the S-C War Department “experts” promise. Imagine that it is so good at what it does that Saudi-China’s commercial press, led by the Riyadh Times, reports that two leaders of a dissident movement in America – brothers – have been successively blown up in odd corners of Mississippi, though the second story is just a rumor and the first has never been verified. Still the first brother has disappeared, the second one is the new leader of the group – perhaps some prima facie evidence that the drones got the right man. Further, the second brother even appeared in a film with a suicide-bomber who then killed S-C agents along with himself. He is a special target in the interplay of S-C killing and resistance to it.
S-C has plainly committed naked or unprovoked aggression in America; we Americans would rightly be angry. We might not like the groups that the foreigners, with their unmanned missiles, shoot at. Many of us see that domestic dissident groups sometimes kill S-C mercenaries and agents, and bring down attacks on us. Nonetheless, the foreigners are ugly, remote control killers. Further, even the members of those groups and more importantly, the innocents surrounding them or mistargeted are Americans. We would be justified in fighting back against the aggressors; over time, many of us are likely to.
Imagine now that the weak American government collaborates with S-C in these missile attacks and secret BW (the initials of the Company) military operations. Would we support that government or would we become increasingly alienated from it, scornful of it, unwilling to defend it against militancy from below? Imagine further that in remote parts of the country, an international terrorist group with an Alaskan leader – Saudi-China’s main enemy whom it somehow has never been able to find despite its competence at targeting (being easily distracted to make war on Venezuela) - hides in the wilds of Wyoming. Are those in Wyoming, their friends or relatives being blown up, likely to be pacified by a distant and hostile central government, let alone Saudi-China?
Though “ever-truthful,” Fox-Saudi China and the rest of the S-C media do not mention the mercenaries, particularly BW involved in all SC wars. BW mercenaries often live in fancy areas, protected by security and guns. They drive heavily armed suburbans (no absent floor armor of the sort that exposes ordinary S-C soldiers to guerilla ieps (“improvised explosive devices”). BW comes out to strike. Americans have developed a particular dislike for these highhanded Saudi-Chinese killers and even the government in America, reliant on S-C military aid, denounces their presence.*
The Saudi-China press never mentions BW which, unbeknownst to the Saudi-Chinese public, supplies the majority of the troops for its more massive war in neighboring Canada. S-C officials now call the terror complex A-Can. The rule of law long undermined, two cliques – the ruling and the kept one, both reliant on the war complex, urge belligerence, denouncing each other as weak on national security if more missiles are not fired, more soldiers and mercenaries not sent, secret prisons closed, torture unused.
The S-C government gives massive military aid to the unstable and unpopular American government. Lately the S-C government has taken to giving some civilian aid, trying to combat extreme poverty and provide jobs, but this has yet to be distributed much and is not the face of S-C to ordinary Americans. In Saudi-China itself, no knowledge of the Corporation’s presence or killings of civilians in America penetrates to subjects. Nonetheless, S-C citizens do not like the S-C wars they know about.
In such circumstances, do you think 80% of the American population might detest and fear the aggressors of Saudi-China, and be angry at their American or Canadian collaborators? Perhaps 80% of the people in Wyoming and the South might mobilize against S-C. Some of them might form “followers of George Washington” (another terrorist so even the American President George W. Bush once implied in his Global War on Terror) to do something about Saudi-China and the Company.
The foregoing story is but an application John Rawls’ original position, which models what it is to do moral thinking, putting oneself in another’s shoes, or just turning around in one’s mind – by changing the proper names – the aggression committed in Pakistan by the Obama administration and the failure to use English words for such crimes in the American press. The war in Pakistan is fortunately not on the scale yet of Afghanistan as the New York Times’ front page story from February 3 emphasizes, but the drones and secret military/Xe corporation operations do great harm to democracy as well as the interests of the American people.
My friend and doctoral student Syed Rifaat Hussain, a professor of international relations at Islamabad University, suggests aptly in the story: “The attack seems a payback for the mounting frequency of the drone attacks.” Like the English colonizer before, the United States is a foreign power taking military actions unprovoked by and unwelcome in Pakistan (see Article 2, section 4 of the United Nations charter, fought for by Robert L. Jackson, later Supreme Court Justice, representing the United States of America after World War II, and the highest law in America, according to Article 6 section 2 of the Constitution). Firing off drones and launching Blackwater/Xe operations in Pakistan have nothing to do with what Obama rightly spoke of in his campaign as upholding American values – opposing aggression, protecting the lives of innocents, sustaining the Bill of Rights – and everything to do with making Pakistani democracy, civilians in Pakistan, and ordinary Americans unsafe.
Now perhaps Xe could help secure Pakistan’s nuclear weapons. That might be a worthwhile purpose, along with American aid to help the poor (if any of it reaches the poor), although once Xe's presence became known by Pakistanis (see the Guardian article below), there was a huge popular campaign against this abridgment of Pakistan’s sovereignty. Was this the only way to proceed? Why is the Obama administration using, so to speak, Blackwater, Blackwater and nothing but Blackwater in Afghanistan (the ratio of Cadillac mercenaries to soldiers is 7 to 3 – see here), Iraq (Xe even “protects” Maliki, marshalling a private corporate "American" Secret Service to constrain puppet rulers), and the like.
The Times front page right hand column story (the lead story in the paper) insists that Afghanistan and Iraq are allies of the United States who “allow American troops to operate there.” Pakistan, because of the hostility of Pakistanis, does not. The reporter forgets but one significant fact. American invasions, plainly aggression in Iraq and pretty obviously aggression in Afghanistan, installed client governments, completely dependent on the U.S. military and Blackwater. After the fact, at gun-point and existing only because of American guns, these governments “invited” the U.S.
“Even though the United States calls Pakistan an ally, the country, unlike Afghanistan and Iraq, has not allowed American combat forces to operate here, a point that is stressed by the Pentagon and the Pakistani Army, the most powerful institution in Pakistan.”
Nowhere do nonwhite people fail to protest American military occupations/bases: consider, for example, the late 1990s uprisings against rapes and/or murders of children by American soldiers and the American prevention of any local judicial process in Okinawa and South Korea – each concentrating some 50,000 U.S. troops - recounted in Chalmers Johnson’s Blowback. The aggressions and occupations in Afghanistan and Iraq are a central cause of the hostility of ordinary Pakistanis to U.S. military operations in which 12 American soldiers have now been killed. Our government has yet to invade and overthrow the government of Pakistan, a precondition for the kind of unhappy American presence the Pentagon foolishly dreams of. The Pentagon could hopelessly be draining soldiers and wealth there, too. This is the overweening American dream since World War II, criticized by Andrew Bacevich in The Limits of Power: With its great military force, our government (even Obama who knows better) dreams of reshaping the “blank slate” of others to our will. But Pakistanis, particularly the urban poor and those in "tribal areas," have their own views and interests. Vietnam and Iraq are living proofs of the murderous and self-defeating foolishness of American hubris.
Since the first American-sponsored polls were taken of Iraqi public opinion in 2003, the Sunnis have been 93% in favor of immediate US withdrawal, the Shia 77% (the latter are the supposed political beneficiaries of the invasion). In terms of the purported “benefits” of “the benevolent hegemon’s” aggression in the banal mantra of William Kristol and other American propagandists, ordinary people in these countries see none.
Today’s Times ran a front page story on the shocking abuse and very likely murder of Shazia Masih, a 12 year old maid, by a wealthy Lahore lawyer. If the story makes even the Times, the chances of this being a surpassing issue in Pakistan are pretty high. The Dickensian poverty (that may be too mild a term) creates fertile conditions for revolt from below. The Pakistani Taliban would not, as a matter of instinct, seek this out, but class war can be turned in surprising directions. With the outburst of publicity and outrage, the President himself has sent money to Shazia’s mother, sister and brother. Perhaps something short of such atrocities might awaken the conscience of Pakistan’s tiny somewhat parliamentary elite (the military and the ISI – intelligence services – are still the primary institutions) and its American backers to aid poor people more generally. After all, as the story also indicates, the well-to-do can see clearly and push around tiny 6 year olds to get their shoes...
Obama has launched a policy of aid to the poor over 5 years, a welcome, though late and inadequate (got to provide more massive military “aid” and sell those American weapons!) effort. But elite wealth and corruption, American drone murders, swaggering Blackwater "Christian" thugs and extremes of poverty create incendiary conditions. Current trends may not extend very long into the future without explosive results (tensions and war with India over Kashmir, as I have emphasized, is one, ever-present, potential diversion – see here and my Must Global Politics Constrain Democracy?, ch.1, on the anti-democratic feedback of war).
Unlike the New York Times or the Washington Post, the Guardian (first story below) does serious journalism on American wars and how they are now fought. As with French writers like Denis Warner and Bernard Fall during Vietnam, the reporters in the former colonizer of Pakistan get it right against the LBJ-Nixon-Bush-Obamas who moment by moment, more and more deeply, get it wrong…
Published on Wednesday, February 3, 2010 by The Guardian/UK
Obama's Silent War Shocks Pakistan
The latest Taliban bombing has uncovered America's low-profile funding of the Pakistan military
by Delcan Walsh
To many Pakistanis the most shocking aspect of the latest Taliban bombing was not the death toll, or the injuries inflicted on survivors, but the question that it raised: what was a team of American soldiers doing in a tense corner of North West Frontier province?
A map of Pakistan locating Lower Dir. A bomb blast in Pakistan claimed by the Taliban killed eight people Wednesday, including three US soldiers and children. (AFP/Graphic)
In a way, the attack tugged the veil from a multi-faceted military assistance program that, while not secret, is rarely publicized – by either side.
President Obama's public aid to Pakistan is transparent: $1.5bn a year for the next five years, mainly to boost the civilian government. But behind the scenes the US is engaged in other ways. Over the past decade it has given over $12bn in cash directly to the military to subsidize the costs of fighting the Taliban and al-Qaida. The program to train the Frontier Corps, which the killed soldiers were involved with, is estimated to be worth $400m more over several years.
Generously provisioned counter-narcotics programs operate along the Afghan border, funding everything from wells to schools. In Islamabad military contractors – usually retired army personnel – are paid to advise the army, discreetly working out of suburban houses. All this is hugely sensitive. Public opinion in Pakistan is overwhelmingly hostile to American "interference".
Last year a media furor erupted over the role of the contractor Blackwater, which vocal right-wing commentators believed was part of a covert plot to steal the country's nuclear weapons.
The Taliban played on that fear yesterday with a spokesman describing the bomb as "revenge for the blasts carried out by Blackwater in Pakistan".
The critics are backed by public opinion. A survey last October found that 80% of Pakistanis rejected American assistance in fighting the Taliban.
© 2010 Guardian News and Media Limited
New York Times, February 3, 2010
Soldier Deaths Draw Focus to U.S. in Pakistan
Security officials walked past the crater of a bombing in front of a destroyed school in Timergara, the main town in the Lower Dir district in Pakistan’s restive North West Frontier Province, on Wednesday.
By JANE PERLEZ
Published: February 3, 2010
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — The deaths of three American soldiers in a Taliban suicide attack on Wednesday lifted the veil on United States military assistance to Pakistan that the authorities here would like to keep quiet and the Americans, as the donors, chafe at not receiving credit for.
A suicide attack in Lower Dir killed three Americans.
The soldiers were among at least 60 to 100 members of a Special Operations team that trains Pakistan’s paramilitary Frontier Corps in counterinsurgency techniques, including intelligence gathering and development assistance. The American service members are from the Special Operations Command of Adm. Eric T. Olson.
At least 12 other American service members have been killed in Pakistan since Sept. 11, 2001, in hotel bombings and a plane crash, according to the United States Central Command, but these were the first killed as part of the Special Operations training, which has been under way for 18 months.
That training has been acknowledged only gingerly by both the Americans and the Pakistanis, but has deliberately been kept low-key so as not to trespass onto Pakistani sensitivities about sovereignty, and not to further inflame high anti-American sentiment.
Even though the United States calls Pakistan an ally, the country, unlike Afghanistan and Iraq, has not allowed American combat forces to operate here, a point that is stressed by the Pentagon and the Pakistani Army, the most powerful institution in Pakistan.
Instead, the Central Intelligence Agency operates what has become the main American weapon in Pakistan, the drones armed with missiles that have struck with increasing intensity against militants with the Taliban and Al Qaeda in the lawless tribal areas.
The American soldiers were probably made targets as a result of the drone strikes, said Syed Rifaat Hussain, professor of international relations at Islamabad University. “The attack seems a payback for the mounting frequency of the drone attacks,” Professor Hussain said.
If the American soldiers were the targets, the attack raised the question of whether the Taliban had received intelligence or cooperation from within the Frontier Corps.
The three soldiers were killed, and two other service members wounded, in the region of Lower Dir, which is close to the tribal areas. According to police officials in the region, the armored vehicle in which they were traveling was hit by a suicide bomber driving a car. Earlier reports from Pakistani security officials said the soldiers had been killed by a roadside explosive device.
To disguise themselves in a way that is common for Western men in Pakistan, the American soldiers were dressed in traditional Pakistani garb of baggy trousers and long tunic, known as shalwar kameez, according to a Frontier Corps officer. They also wore local caps that helped cover their hair, he said.
Their armored vehicle was equipped with electronic jammers sufficient to block remotely controlled devices and mines, the officer said. Vehicles driven by the Frontier Corps were placed in front and behind the Americans as protection, he said.
Still, the Taliban bomber was able to penetrate their cordon. In all 131 people were wounded, most of them girls who were students at a high school adjacent to the site of the suicide attack, the Lower Dir police said.
The soldiers were en route to the opening of a girls school that had been rebuilt with American money, the United States Embassy said in a statement. The school was destroyed by the Taliban last year as they swept through Lower Dir and the nearby Swat Valley, where a battle raged for months between the Pakistani Army and the Taliban.
A spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban called reporters hours after the attack against the Americans and claimed that his group was responsible.
The Pakistani Army currently occupies Swat, and in an effort to strengthen the civilian institutions there and in Dir, some of the American service members on the Special Operations team have been quietly working on development projects, an American official said.
The presence of the American military members in an area known to be threaded with Taliban militants would also raise questions, said Khalid Aziz, a former chief secretary of the North-West Frontier Province, which includes Swat and Dir.
Mr. Aziz said it was odd that American soldiers would go to such a volatile area where Taliban militants were known to be prevalent even though the Pakistani security forces insisted that they had been flushed out.
The usual practice for development work in Dir and Swat called for Pakistani aid workers or paramilitary soldiers to visit the sites, he said.
The Americans’ involvement in training Frontier Corps recruits in development assistance was little known until Wednesday’s attack.
“People are going to be very suspicious,” said Mr. Aziz, who is now involved in American assistance projects elsewhere. “There is going to be big blowback in the media.”
An American development official said that encouraging the Frontier Corps to become expert in humanitarian aid was an important part of the trainers’ counterinsurgency curriculum.
Last summer, for example, the American military trainers helped distribute food and water in camps for the more than one million people displaced from the Swat Valley by the fighting, the official said. But that American assistance, too, was kept quiet.
The 500,000-strong Pakistani Army led by Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, the standard-bearer of Pakistan’s strong sense of nationalism, is resistant to the appearance of overt military assistance, least of all from the unpopular Americans, that would make the army look less than self-reliant on the battlefield.
Over the last several years, as the Qaeda-backed insurgents increased their hold on Pakistan’s tribal areas and used their base to attack American and NATO forces in Afghanistan, the United States military asked for permission for combat soldiers to operate in the tribal zone, according to American officials. Pakistan rebuffed the requests, they said.
Whether American soldiers are based in Pakistan is often raised by Pakistani politicians, students and average Pakistanis, many of them suspicious of American motives.
The question of the presence of American soldiers in Pakistan is also prompted by the fact that the American military provides important equipment to the Pakistani Army, including F-16 fighter jets, Cobra attack helicopters and howitzers.
Capt. Jack Hanzlik, a spokesman for the United States Central Command in Tampa, Fla., said 12 other service members had been killed in Pakistan since Sept. 11, 2001. The three soldiers who died Wednesday had been assigned to a Special Operations command in Pakistan. But he said they were not commandos from the elite Delta Force or Special Forces, also known as the Green Berets. The United States has about 200 military service members in Pakistan, Captain Hanzlik said.
The three names of the soldiers killed were not released Wednesday because United States military officials were still notifying the next of kin.
Reporting was contributed by Ismail Khan from Peshawar, Pakistan; Pir Zubair Shah from Islamabad; and Elisabeth Bumiller and Eric Schmitt from Washington.
Bruised Maid Dies at 12, and Pakistan Seethes
Published: February 5, 2010
LAHORE, Pakistan — The death already seemed like a bitter injustice. A maid died after unexplained injuries she got in the house of her rich employer. But one detail in particular has outraged Pakistanis: she was 12.
Photographs above and below right by Jason Tanner for The New York Times
Family members of Shazia Masih, including, from left, her sister; her mother, Nasreen Bibi; and her aunt and brother. The girl died while working as a maid.
Jason Tanner for The New York Times
A younger Shazia, third from left in the front row.
Her employer — a lawyer and a former head of the Lahore Bar Association — says she fell down stairs, and died Jan. 22 of complications from a skin disease. Her family claims she was tortured. The employer remains in police custody while they investigate the family’s charges.
Whatever the case, the death of Shazia Masih, a wisp of a girl from a bone-poor family, has served as a vivid reminder of the powerlessness of the poor in Pakistan.
Many wealthy Pakistanis employ children as servants, often to help with their own youngsters, a relatively common practice that Pakistani law does not prohibit. Slight and shadowy figures at the edges of birthday parties and nights out in fancy restaurants, these young servants, who rarely earn more than $50 a month, form a growing portion of Pakistan’s domestic labor force.
The root of the problem is poverty, Pakistanis say, and a law would do little to stem the tide of desperate young people from the countryside looking for work.
“You can’t imagine the poverty,” said Muhamed Sharif, an employment agent who supplies maids, gardeners and security guards to wealthy residents of Lahore. “Sometimes they come in hungry. They will do anything for work.”
It was raw need that brought Shazia into the house of Chaudhry Naeem, a prominent lawyer who lives in a wealthy neighborhood in this leafy city in eastern Pakistan.
She received $8 a month to wash his floors, his cars and his toilets, her mother said, money that went toward paying off a family debt.
Her parents, a house cleaner and a trash collector, earn $62 a month, too little to afford meat or fruit.
The system seemed to conspire against Shazia. The middleman who got her the job was pocketing a chunk of the little that Mr. Naeem paid her.
Because Shazia was a minor, she was not issued a badge by the neighborhood security agency, making her invisible.
If Mr. Naeem’s lawyer is to be believed, Shazia was even rejected by her mother, Nasreen Bibi, who promised repeatedly to take her back but never showed up because she could not afford to keep her. Ms. Bibi denies the charge.
The circumstances of Shazia’s death are in dispute.
A lawyer for Mr. Naeem said that Shazia was suffering from a skin disorder, probably scabies, and that Mr. Naeem had brought her to the hospital. She died while getting treatment, the lawyer said. Her death certificate says she died of blood poisoning.
Ms. Bibi says her daughter had been abused, an account that the medical examiner’s preliminary report seems to support.
It lists 17 injuries, including bruised swellings on her forehead, cheek and scalp, “caused by blunt means.” A more thorough medical report is due out in the coming weeks.
Mr. Sharif, whose agency is one of 10 serving Mr. Naeem’s area, said that outright abuse was not common, but while the work was more comfortable than labor on farms, the maids were rarely treated well.
They lived a lonely life apart, using separate utensils, eating leftover food, and working more than 12 hours a day.
Children’s heads are often shaved against lice.
Few, if any, go to school.
An employee of the security agency for the neighborhood said that he had returned five children to their parents since 2008, after they had run away from masters who they said were abusive.
The youngest, Allah Wasaya, a boy of 6, said his employer had hit his feet with a golf club when he did not fetch the man’s shoes fast enough.
The employee, who asked that his name not be used because he was not permitted to speak to journalists, disapproved of such behavior, but said there was little he could do besides send the children home to conditions that might be even worse.
“We are not in a position to report them,” he said of the wealthy residents.
As the poor get poorer in Pakistan, a job as a maid is a valuable commodity, even for a child. An estimated 40 percent of the population now live beneath the poverty line, far higher than 30 percent in the 1990s.
Inflation, now around 40 percent, according to the Social Policy and Development Center, an economic policy organization in Karachi, has caused prices for electricity, gas and food to spike, pushing millions more into poverty, economists say.
A British Council report last fall estimated that Pakistan’s economy would have to grow by 6 percent a year to keep up with the expanding population, which over the past 20 years has been growing at twice the world average. The economy grew by 2 percent in 2008, the last year for which the government has statistics.
That potentially disastrous imbalance seems to go unnoticed by Pakistan’s political elite, whose power struggles in Islamabad are as distant — and irrelevant — to the poor as the workings of the United States Congress.
The lack of a safety net has pushed people like Roxana, a 14-year-old with a bright face who was waiting for work in Mr. Sharif’s office, out of school and into work to help her father, a plate seller, support 10 children.
Some relief has come in the form of the newly free media, which made Shazia’s case a national issue, prompting visits to her family from top officials and even a fat check from Pakistan’s president.
Mr. Naeem’s beleaguered lawyer, G. A. Khan Tariq, bemoaned the coverage, which he said had blown an ordinary illness into a torture case.
“The media tried this case and issued its own verdict,” he said.
The real test, however, will come in Pakistan’s criminal justice system, a notoriously weak institution that is easily influenced by men in power.
“Our justice system operates against the underprivileged,” said I. A. Rehman, a prominent human rights activist. “Will there be justice? I have my doubts.”
Waqar Gillani contributed reporting.
*In a nonviolence seminar yesterday, my student Aaron, who served as a marine all over Iraq in 2003, now focusing on security at my school, described the real Blackwater in this way.