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Published in the 16-30 Apr 2005 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

Pakistan: an American Trojan-Horse?

Karamatullah K. Ghori

The Milli Gazette Online 

The recent American decision to allow the sale of F-16 fighter aircraft to Pakistan is being hailed as 'a reward' for its steadfast support in the 'war on terrorism.' The Pakistani establishment news media is touting George W. Bush's largesse as 'recognition' of his loyal ally, General Parvaiz Musharraf's 'front-line' role in his mentor's open-ended global war against terrorism and extremism.

Musharraf and his cronies in Pakistan's ruling hierarchy may have a good reason to jubilate over this windfall from Washington. Every government in Pakistan-civilian or military-had its heart set on getting these coveted hi-tech military tools from Washington since the late 80s; it was then that Bush Sr. had put a freeze on all military and economic assistance to Pakistan because of its nuclear programme. So sweeping and comprehensive was American ban on the sale of military hardware to Pakistan that it also included spares for the F-16s sold to Pakistan earlier, in 1983, as 'reward' for its contribution in the Afghan jihad against the Soviet Union.

So the question that readily arises on this latest Bush manoeuvre is, why now? Why has the international crusader against 'evil' suddenly awakened to Pakistan's needs for updating its fleet of mostly outdated and aging military aircraft?

The theory of 'rewarding' General Musharraf for his unstinted, stellar, role in Bush's war on terrorism may have certain validity but it still doesn't answer the question why now? Musharraf has been sold on Bush's war from day one; it took just one phone call from Colin Powell to get Musharraf-lock, stock and barrel-into the American camp. If the Pakistani Bonaparte was to be rewarded solely for his star performance as a frontline soldier in Bush's global war then he should have been awarded quickly on the heel of his induction. Had that been the case, many a Musharraf critic would have been silenced, especially those blaming him for selling Pakistan cheaply for the sake of consolidating his chokehold on political power.

In fact the 'lollipop' to Musharraf may end up making his mouth sour instead of sweetening the pot for him.

The reward hasn't come packaged as a gift only for Musharraf. Bush has been careful to balance his feet between the two South Asian rivals, India and Pakistan, while ostensibly rewarding his Pakistani satrap. The announcement of the sale of F-16s to Pakistan has been coupled with a major package of incentives and inducements for India.

The offer to India is not only for the sale, and subsequently production in India itself, of a more versatile aircraft-F-18-it also promises to bind India and U.S. in a more broad-based 'strategic partnership', including sharing of nuclear technology. In short, what is on offer to India is much more comprehensive and long-lasting than the mere sale of a yet-unspecified number of F-16s to Pakistan. A spokesman for the Pentagon was quick to explain that the number of aircraft sold to Pakistan will not be very much-at most two squadrons. With India already enjoying 3 to 1 numerical advantage over Pakistan in the number of aircraft in its Air Force, the induction of a limited number of modern fighter planes in the Pakistan Air Force is unlikely to make any dent in India's overwhelming superiority over Pakistan in almost every branch of military strength.

Therefore, the theory of reward to Pakistan makes no sense at all, vis--vis the unveiling of a long-term plan to enlist India into America's global strategy as a major Asian power-an obvious counter-weight to the emerging military power of China. The neo cons ruling the roost in the Bush administration have long been working on the basis of China unleashing a military challenge to the current monopoly of global super power status of U.S. This would be anathema to their dream of Pax Americana and they would want to erect barricades around China, now, to thwart that challenge in the future. India comes naturally on top of their list for such a sentinel duty.

Condoleezza Rice, in her recent swing across India and Pakistan, made it pointedly explicit that U.S. intended to make India a major global player. In comparison to these strategic plans for India, Pakistan's importance pales down to a bit player whose only utility is tactical. As such, the acquisition of modern, hi-tech, F-16s by Pakistan is unlikely to fascinate its hawks because the only 'enemy' (India) against whom they could've dreamed to deploying these state-of-the-art tools is going to acquire far more sophisticated goodies. Moreover, India's intended emergence as a global player should further cut the ambitions of the Pakistani militarists to size.

Rewarding Pakistan, and especially General Musharraf, for his loyalty to the Bush agenda of global domination may well be the primary motive behind the decision to arm the Pakistan Air Force with modern fighter aircraft. However, what the Pakistani Bonaparte and his cronies in uniform have to clearly and unambiguously understand is that they are being fitted out to perform guard duties on the American watch in an area that now sits at the epicenter of U.S. expansionism.

Pakistan's geography and geo-strategic location is what has always been prized in Washington's military strategy. 

The gods of war in Washington had one look at Pakistan placed next to China and within hailing distance of the then Soviet Union, and decided it was invaluable in the strategy to contain the spread of Communism. To the likes of John Foster Dulles, Eisenhower's Secretary of State, Pakistan had all the qualifications to become a linchpin in the Cold War.

Pakistan rebound in American priorities when the Soviets invaded and occupied Afghanistan in 1979. The American-inspired Afghan Jihad couldn't be conceived, let alone waged, without Pakistan at the center of it. So Pakistan became the vortex, the funnel, through which U.S. pumped in billions in military assistance and hardware to drive the Russians out of their latest possession and win the cold war.

American appetite for Pax Americana in the 21st century is now the central theme for the Bush neo cons determined to achieve as much of their agenda of aggrandizement and expansion during the remaining years of the Bush second term as possible. Time is of the essence to them. They are going about the implementation of their agenda with ruthless single-mindedness.

A kingpin in this global agenda of expansionism is to create American satraps, vassals and proxies, because even the might of the world's only super power is inadequate to do the job entirely on its own steam.

Israel is the principal American tribune in and around the Middle East. The neutralization of the Arab states, such as Egypt, had long ago taken the major sting out of any meaningful Arab challenge to Israeli over-lordship of the region. The Palestinians and their usurped rights have never bothered the neo cons whose ranks are burgeoning with Zionists and other Israeli votaries. The sudden death of Yasser Arafat, and the rise of an American-friendly Mehmood Abbas as his successor, now ensures that the Palestinian rights and dreams would be trampled under the feet of the Israeli imperialists without much resistance from the disenfranchised Palestinians.

The vanquishing and enslavement of Iraq has bulldozed the last remaining hurdle to Israel's pre-eminence in the most sensitive geographical region of the world. The Arab world, humiliated, demoralized and virtually rudderless, now lies like a cowering slaughter sheep at the feet of Israel and its mighty mentors in Washington.

Whatever little resistance there was from Syria has also been largely taken care of in the latest American and Israeli shenanigans in Lebanon. Using the charismatic Rafiq hariri's mysterious murder as its opening gambit, Washington has forced Syria's Bashar Al Assad on the defensive, and taken this kink out of any reckoning. There are indications that to achieve their last goal of disbanding, and later annihilating, the Lebanese Hizbollah-for long a thorn in the American -Israeli side-Bush and Sharon may not feel shy of Israel once again invading Lebanon. Insiders believe the topic would be on top of the agenda when Sharon visits Bush later in April.

That the Middle East, in general, and the Gulf, in particular, is primordial to the U.S. global hegemony has long been beyond any disputation for a long time, but more so since neo-imperialism became the main locomotive of its policies under Bush.

There is, however, still one chink in the Israeli-American armor in the Middle East, and that is the resistance from Iran to the neo con dream of making the Gulf their own, secured, lake, so that there's never a shortage of much-valued oil to American consumers and gas- guzzlers.

It is in the Iranian context that General Musharraf of Pakistan is seen as invaluable in Washington. 

Musharraf has already been doing all the right things-for Washington-in Afghanistan. He has kept the Northwestern region of Pakistan, juxtaposed with Afghanistan, in a state of ferment in order to tighten the noose on the Taliban and the remnants of Al Qaeda believed still ensconced there. Together with Hamid Karzai, the puppet Afghan President whose writ doesn't run much beyond Kabul, Musharraf is, in the prevailing context, worth his weight in gold to keep the entire arch of states bordering on the western fringe of China firmly in tow behind the Bush crusade of expansionism.

Musharraf has done a great service to Washington, already, by stating in so many words that Pakistan would remain neutral if U.S. decided to unleash aggression against Iran, just the way it did against Iraq two years ago. Musharraf wasn't prompted to make that categorical statement but he did, nevertheless. Which might provide a clue not only to his mindset but also to the planning in Washington, said to be fairly advanced already, to make Tehran another recipient of its gratuitous imperialist dose.

Scott Ritter, an erstwhile UN arms inspector in Iraq, who has lately been a fierce critic of the Bush neo-imperialist agenda, has spoken out publicly of a June invasion of Iran, using its controversial Uranium enrichment as the pretext. Ritter knows better than most others how good the Bush neo cons are in inventing excuses for the promotion of their imperialist lust; they had invented the chimera of Saddam's weapons of doom to invade Iraq.

Iran's western frontiers are under the American heel already. And with Sharon being as eager and warmongering as Bush there is little concern that anyone to the north and west of Iran would even think of queering the pitch for the agenda of adventurism in Iran.

But a question mark hangs over the reaction of states to the east of Iran, especially Pakistan, sharing a long border with Iran and, in fact, much more than just the border. Iran and Pakistan share a common legacy of culture, traditions and history going back centuries. 

Pakistan's co-operation, if not active then passive, would be most helpful to the agenda to wage a war against Iran, come June this year or any time later.

However, Musharraf is such an eager-beaver faithful ally that one shouldn't put it past him that he would be prepared to do more than just staying neutral and passive on the sidelines of an American blitz against Iran. Seymour Hersh, famous for his investigative reporting, has said in a recent report in the New Yorker magazine that Pakistani intelligence agents have been assisting the American sleuths in Iran in pinpointing potential nuclear targets. Not surprisingly, Hersh's claim was denied by an official spokesman in Islamabad.
Even if Musharraf is doing nothing actively to lend a fillip to Bush's war ambition against Iran, and may stay that passive course in the event of a shooting war, his neutrality and ability to keep Pakistani hardliners-in the Mullah-Military entente-in check would still be a big boost to Bush. Seen in this context, it makes sense that before pouring his wrath on Iran Bush should have thought of pleasing the Pakistani Bonaparte and his military and civil cronies with a gift of F-16s. To be honest, it isn't going to be much of a gift, as Pakistan would be expected to foot the bill for this injection of modern tools in its arsenal.

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