We were taught in the theories of international relations that democracies do not go to war. That notion however somehow seems lost in the erratic behaviour of the US administration regarding Pakistan. During the eight year long dictatorship in this country which also witnessed unprecedented assault on the American Twin Towers, the attitude of the US administration towards Musharraf and his regime was quite benign and full of trust. And now that the country finally has proven itself worthy of being called democracy that patience is nowhere to be seen. First Condi Rice made an uncalled for statement. Then Negroponte came rushing to Islamabad. And now Michael V Hayden the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has made similar rude remarks. All of them have now warned us against engaging the people of the tribal areas in peace talks.
The point is that while they have the right to choose with whom to negotiate in Iraq, Pakistan is not even allowed to talk to its own people for the peaceâ€™s sake. But before I explore the full scope of the DCIAâ€™s remarks to the NBCâ€™s Meet the Press show (which I believe may startle you) I want to raise the question why does every neo-con in Washington wants the Tribal Areas of Pakistan to be attacked relentlessly, and not only heartlessly but also mindlessly? It is common sense that even if Osama bin Laden (a man usually believed to be long dead) is hiding there, instead of turning the entire local population into his support base it would do great to dismantle his support bit by bit, pieces by pieces. Then why? Well, the answer lies in the economics.
Â It is in the interest of the neocons and their moles in the US intelligence community not to let peace prevail in the region or even to apprehend Osama. Why? Not only does his being at large provides the American troops a ready excuse to stay there while protecting the interests of the multinationals there but it offers tremendous opportunity to bank on the widespread fear among the American public. But if peace talks are allowed in the Tribal Areas of Pakistan, Kabul will be compelled to do the same in Afghanistan. It must be pointed out that while many think that the economic interests of the occupying forces are limited only to the civilized economic projects in the country, the most important factor of interest remains the poppy cultivation resulting in widespread opium trade. There of course are reasons why after the invasion the cultivation has increased many folds instead of decreasing under the watchful eyes of the US and the NATO soldiers. A relative peace would ensure increased UN activism in the country and hence decline in the poppy production. That is exactly why an infuriating use of force is so essential.
Before I move any further let me quote a few paragraphs from the UNODCâ€™s Afghanistan Opium Survey (August) 2007 to make my point. â€œIn 2007, Afghanistan cultivated 193,000 hectares of opium poppies, an increase of 17 percent over last year. The amount of Afghan land used for opium is now larger than the corresponding total for coca cultivation in Latin America (Colombia, Peru and Bolivia combined).
â€œFavorable weather conditions produced opium yields (42.5 kg per hectare) higher than last year (37.0 kg/ha). As a result, in 2007 Afghanistan produced an extraordinary 8,200 tons of opium (34 percent more than in 2006), becoming practically the exclusive supplier of the worldâ€™s deadliest drug (93 percent of the global opiates market).
â€œLeaving aside 19th century China, that had a population at that time 15 times larger than todayâ€™s Afghanistan, no other country in the world has ever produced narcotics on such a deadly scale.â€ 50 percent of the countryâ€™s crop is produced in the Helmand province which incidentally is the place with highest British troops presence. While the province with 2.5 percent population has a presence of over 5000 British soldiers, ironically the production of opium has increased three times since the occupation of the country. Unfortunately while no one among the occupation forces in Afghanistan may accept it, but if use of force was the only option, total destruction of the poppy crops was never such a difficult problem.
May I also point out here that not only is the UK, Washingtonâ€™s only ally that has always stayed the course, the rise of the people with shady background to the top of the US intelligence community during a neocon rule also explains quite a lot. John Negroponte is remembered by many as the butcher of Honduras. But when he was the Director of National Intelligence, his deputy was also somehow connected to a scandal which spreads from Honduras to the Iran Contra Scandal in 1980s. When General Hayden the former head of the NSA and Deputy Director National Intelligence was nominated for the post of the Director of the CIA a senior office bearer of the agency Kyle Dustin “Dusty” Foggo was forced to step down.
His stated reason for resigning was that a new director should be able to choose his own deputies. However Foggo was charged on February 13, 2007 with fraud and other offenses in the bribery case of convicted US congressman Randy Cunningham. This indictment was superseded and expanded with an indictment returned on May 10, 2007, charging fraud, conspiracy, and money laundering in relation to his dealings with defense contractor Brent Wilkes. Incidentally when Hayden was the director of National Security Agency he hired the services of a Lt. Gen. James C. King an employee of MZM, one of the companies at the heart of the Cunningham scandal. King worked for the then NSA director at the same floor as his and his work was widely unknown even inside the agency. He is known to have also indulged in the same bizarre bribing activities. Another key figure in the scandal is businessman Brent Wilkes who worked in Honduras during the 1980â€™s for a company accused by federal prosecutors of deep involvement in cocaine trafficking.Â That company was also deeply embroiled in the Iran Contra Scandal.
Unfortunately during those days a similar problem linked to money laundering and drug trafficking arose in Pakistan when the Bank of Credit and Commerce International was seized on the same charges. The bank was alleged to have been involved in money laundering of the narco-trade related fortunes earned by many including some Pakistani military officers during the Soviet Afghan war. Since Hayden assumed the charge of Director for Defense Policy and Arms Control, National Security Council immediately after culmination of the Contra Affair where he stayed till July 1991 and in 1992 President Bush Senior pardoned many of the central characters, he is supposed to have taken active part in the cover up of the entire sordid episode. If he is party today to any similar guns and drugs project he and Negroponte certainly do get to gain a lot from the instability in Afghanistan and Pakistan. And Musharraf has also been mentored by those involved in the Afghan Soviet war and the BCCI episode he naturally emerges as a classic ally of these folks. This is exactly why Hayden rushed to Pakistan after Benazir Bhuttoâ€™s assassination to testify that it were indeed the Taliban who had perpetrated the crime, upon flimsy proof and despite the Talibanâ€™s repeated denial. Likewise immediately after the election of Pakistanâ€™s new Prime Minister, Negroponte rushed to Pakistan for arm twisting and coercing the new leadership to adopt a conciliatory stance towards Musharraf.
Now let me come back to my main query regarding Haydenâ€™s statement. Hayden, by the way is a man who believes in total secrecy and after he became CIAâ€™s director he tried even to scramble the agencyâ€™s website claiming that it was a clandestine service and hence should reduce its exposure to the general public. Why would such a man decide to come to give a relatively lengthy interview to a private news programme? Well certainly if he thought he was carrying some very important message. And quite a troubling message it was.Â What did he say? He said that the Al-Qaeda has turned Pakistan’s remote tribal areas along the border with Afghanistan into a safe haven, and is using it to plot further attacks against the United States. “They are bringing operatives into that region for training — operatives that wouldn’t attract your attention if they were going through the customs line at Dulles (airport outside Washington) with you when you were coming back from overseas, (They) look western (and) would be able to come into this country without attracting the kinds of attention that others might.” Before I explain it further there is one anecdote I want to quote.
In February 2005 in Alexandria a 23-year-old Northern Virginia man of Saudi Arabian background named Ahmed Omar Abu Ali was charged with conspiring to assassinate President Bush. The man had escaped to Saudi Arabia where he was caught and had to spend many a months in jail before being extradited to Virginia. He was also charged for having assisted Al Qaida. This man along with many of his cult members had travelled to Pakistan from where he had gone to the Indian Kashmir with the Jihadi group Lashkar-e-Toiba to practice warfare. So this plot was most certainly connected to Pakistanâ€™s Jihadi groups. These Jihadi groups owe a lot to the intelligence agencies during Zia era hence Afghan Russia conflict. Musharraf despite his repeated claims has done nothing to roll back this group. It is clear that such a lapse can hardly happen without the knowledge or the active consent of his neocon masters and the US intelligence cohorts.
Now the DCIA tells us to expect more terrorist acts from the Pakistani Tribal Areas. Then we are told that the people being trained are quite western in appearance. And to top it all the warning that they would not be recognised at Dulles. One needs to ask why Dulles, why not JFK or any other airport? Is it a subliminal training to expect the terrorists only in Washington or has Washington been chosen as the target. The director quite effectively drops hints here and there. We all know that after 9/11 it has become almost impossible to hijack a plane. It is far easier to assassinate the US President than to hijack a plane. And since in this scenario we find the terrorists to be present at an airport they cannot come with any explosive leave alone nukes or fissile material for dirty bombs. This rules out the possibility of any mass murder or big terror attack. Needless to say this seems an assassination plot, targeted assassinating one or more central leaders.
Why else would there be so much training and emphasis on looks. Now see again. Since George W Bush has become a lame duck president he is likely to also have become a liability for the neocons. Since neocons and their cohorts in intelligence community consider their own presence in the echelons of power quite essential and they find it that none of the main contenders for the presidential are ready to align with them, less so accept a neocon veep their only excuse to stay in power can be the delay in elections caused by the assassination of the president. This can, under Bushâ€™s successor Cheney, give them excuse to consolidate the US military presence in the region by annexing Pakistan on this pretext. I can then already smell of a conspiracy in the air.
The author is a Pakistani television journalist, columnist and commentator on security, political and media affairs. He can be reached through his website www.pitafi.com