Subject: [NYTr] Tariq Ali on Pakistan: Sinking together?
To: NYTr <nytr@...
The Guardian - Aug 30, 2007
By Tariq Ali
President Musharraf is isolated and unpopular, but the notion that
Bhutto can deal with the Taliban more effectively is risible.
For a politician whose sycophantic colleagues boast that she is closer
to the pulse of the people than any of her rivals, Benazir Bhutto's
decision to do a deal with Pakistan's uniformed president indicates the
exact opposite. She is sadly out of touch. General Musharraf is now
deeply unpopular here. It is not often that one can actually observe
power draining away from a political leader. And the lifeline being
thrown to him in the shape of an over-blown Benazir might sink together
An indication that she was not completely unaware of this came a few
days ago when she declared that her decision was "approved" by the
"international community" always a code-word for Washington) and the
Pakistan army (well, yes). In short, Pakistani public opinion was
The mood among sections of the street - I am currently in Lahore - is
summed up in a cruel taunt: "People's Party de ballay, ballay / ade
kanjar, ade dallay" (Marvel at the People Party / half-whore and
half-pimp). This is slightly unfair and could apply to all the Muslim
Leagues as well. The fact is that people are disgusted with politics
and see politicians as crooks out to make money and feed the greed of
the networks they patronise and which double up as useful vote banks.
But it should be acknowledged that Benazir Bhutto's approach is not the
result of a sudden illumination. There is a twisted continuity here.
When the general seized power in 1999 and toppled the Sharif brothers
(then Benazir's detested rivals), she welcomed the coup and nurtured
hopes of a ministerial post. When no invitations were forthcoming, she
would turn up at the desk of a junior in the South Asian section of the
State Department, pleading for a job. Instead the military charged her
and her husband with graft and corruption. The evidence was
overwhelming. She decided to stay in exile.
In March this year, Musharraf's decision to sack Iftikhar Hussein
Chaudhry, the turbulent chief justice of the Supreme Court, backfired
unexpectedly and sensationally. Tens of thousands of lawyers protested
and took to the streets, demanding his immediate reinstatement.
Political and social activists of almost every political hue joined
them and a country usually depicted abroad as a den of bearded
extremists on the verge of seizing power was suddenly witnessing an
amazing constitutional struggle that had nothing to do with religion.
Even the cynics were moved to see lawyers insisting on a rigid
separation of powers.
The use of force by Musharraf's supporters in Karachi who opened fire
and killed peaceful demonstrators created a further backlash against
the regime. The Supreme Court voted unanimously to re-instate their
chief. The general was becoming increasingly isolated.
The politicians who surrounded him pleaded for a state of emergency or
even a new declaration of martial law, but according to many sources
here in Pakistan the joint chiefs said that the military was too
over-committed on the western frontier to police the rest of the
country, which was a nice way of saying "No". With this route blocked,
Washington now insisted on a deal with Ms Bhutto. The inner
preoccupation to which she was a prey (power at any cost and the
withdrawal of corruption charges) prevented her, I think, from having
complete control of herself.
The Bush administration, which has brokered this deal, is basically
ignorant of Pakistani politics. To isolate the Sharif brothers instead
of including them in the "secular package" will drive them in the other
direction. Nawaz Sharif is posing as a man of principle, forgetting how
under his watch Muslim League thugs raided the Supreme Court and
journalists were harassed and locked up. Memories are always short here
and the fact the Sharif refused to negotiate with Musharraf has made
him more popular in the country.
The notion that Bhutto can succeed in dealing with the Taliban more
effectively than the general is risible, as Kamran Nazeer has already
pointed out on Cif. Every time innocents are killed in bombing raids
in Afghanistan or Pakistan increases support for the Taliban increases.
Militants now control or dominate Tank, parts of Swat, North and South
Waziristan, Dir, and Kohat inside Pakistan. The solution is political,
not military. Killing more people will not help and there have been
cases of soldiers refusing to fire on fellow-Muslims and junior
officers taking early retirement after a tour of the duty on the
Pakistan being Pakistan, many observers are convinced that even if the
deal is consummated it will be of short duration.
Book on pro-Israel lobby set to make splash in US
By Agence France Presse (AFP)
The Daily Star. Friday, August 31, 2007
NEW YORK: An upcoming book that challenges whether diplomatic and military
support for Israel is in the United States' best interests is set to spark
fresh debate on Washington's role in the Middle East. "The Israel Lobby and
US Foreign Policy," written by two of the United States' most influential
political science professors, is set to hit the bookshelves next Tuesday and
promises to break the taboo on the subject.
Written by John Mearsheimer from the University of Chicago and Stephen Walt
from Harvard, the book follows an article they published last year that
stirred impassioned debate by setting out a similar position.
Their thesis is that US endorsement of Israel is not fully explained by
strategic or moral reasons, but by the pressure exerted by Jewish lobbyists,
Christian fundamentalists and neo-conservatives with Zionist sympathies. The
result, according to the book, is an unbalanced US foreign policy in the
Middle East, the US invasion of Iraq, the threat of war with Iran or Syria
and a fragile security situation for the entire Western world.
"Israel is not the strategic asset to the United States that many claim.
Israel may have been a strategic asset during the Cold War, but it has
become a growing liability now that the Cold War is over," the authors said.
"Unconditional support for Israel has reinforced anti-Americanism around the
world, helped fuel America's terrorism problem, and strained relations with
other key allies in Europe, the Middle East, and Asia."
According to the two writers, "backing Israel's harsh treatment of the
Palestinians has reinforced anti-Americanism around the world and almost
certainly helped terrorists recruit new followers."
Abraham Foxman, director of the pro-Zionist Anti-Defamation League,
described the forthcoming book as "an insidious, biased account of the
Arab-Israeli conflict and of the role of supporters of Israel in the US," in
an interview with AFP.
"Everything about American policy toward the conflict is presented in
exaggerated form, as if America is completely one-sided in support of Israel
and that those policies are simply the product of the Israel lobby."
Foxman is countering Mearsheimer and Walt's book with his own, "The
Deadliest Lies. The Israel Lobby and the Myth of Jewish Control," due out on
the same day.
Mearsheimer and Walt highlight the $3 billion in US economic and military
aid that Israel receives every year - far more than any other country.
They also point to Washington's diplomatic support: Between 1972 and 2006,
the United States vetoed 42 United Nations Security Council resolutions that
were critical of Israel, while watering down many others under threat of
Foxman argued that the "special relationship" works both ways and that the
United States has gained much out of its ally. Last year, Foxman protested
the release of Jimmy Carter's book, "Palestine: Peace not Apartheid" by
claiming the former president was engaging in acts of anti-Semitism.
The Chicago Council on Global Affairs canceled a scheduled public debate on
the issue planned for September and featuring Mearsheimer and Walt when they
were unable to schedule a time that Foxman could also manage.
In the conclusion of their book, Mearsheimer and Walt say that the United
States must change its policy toward Israel.
"The United States would be a better ally if its leaders could make support
for Israel more conditional and if they could give their Israeli
counterparts more candid advice without facing a backlash from the Israel
With just over a year until the 2008 US presidential election, however, they
said the issue was unlikely to even enter the debate. "Regrettably, no. The
one issue on which there will be virtually no debate is the question of
whether the United States should continue to give Israel unconditional
backing." - AFP
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