For those of you haven’t read the international press today, Pakistani government officials have ordered the US military to withdraw forces from the Shamsi airbase in the southwestern province of Baluchistan. This decision came down after years of state-terror organized by the CIA in the form of drone strikes against unarmed civilian populations. Strangely, the Pakistani people do not enjoy being blown to smithereens by the world’s, as Harvard Law scholars Anu Bradford and Eric Poser put it, “global human rights leader”. Naturally, the US rejected this order but the decision of the Pakistani government to make this demand is a real tribute to the tenacity of Pakistan’s civil society in pushing back against the injustice of US hegemony.
But aside from these events, Pakistan plays a much more pivotal role in defining the US presence in the region. In particular, a widespread revolt in Pakistan may be our last hope for a withdrawal from Afghanistan. How? Since the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, all thinking people have understood that the stated war aims to de-Talibanize Afghanistan and build a democratic order was nothing more than a poorly contrived work of State propaganda. While many on the “left” say the Afghan war is merely a “war of revenge”, the facts on the ground point to more strategic, economically driven objectives. Just in case anyone thought a Navy Seal blasting Osama Bin Laden in the forehead with an assault rifle would signal the end of this so-called war on terror, take a look at the June 30th issue of the Wall Street Journal which features an article titled Al-Qaeda Remains Top Threat to US. In this article the Obama administration states that Al-Qaeda and “radicalized” Americans still constitute a “preeminent security threat to the United States.” So at this point it’s unavoidably clear that Al-Qaeda and “terrorism” are nothing more than pretexts to carry out our “democratic” imperatives of murder, theft, and plunder.
The actual war aims of the Afghan adventure can be boiled down to four letters T-A-P-I, each letter representing a country essential to complete the construction of what’s being called the trans-Afghan pipeline. This pipeline, which starts off in Turkmenistan, cuts through Afghanistan and Pakistan to end in India, has served as the impetus behind the US occupation since the first American troops set foot in the Pashtun nation. The energy statistics of Afghanistan bear out this objective in more transparent terms. Latest figures show that Afghanistan is currently housing 36 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in addition to a wealth of mineral deposits.
Nonetheless, this enormous wealth of natural gas can only benefit US investors if it is extracted in a country that has made itself ripe for the neoliberal economic ambitions of Washington. Washington needs a nation that is willing to privatize crucial sectors of the economy, one that can brutalize indigenous communities, dispossess farmers and, most importantly, one that can twist these crimes to take on the appearance “development” and “modernization”. What better candidate for this responsibility than India, where President Obama has hailed the regular assault on human rights as a “model to the world”. Foreign Direct Investment figures published by the UN Conference on Trade and Development shows that India is the United States’ second best destination for foreign investment with an approvability of 37%, a percentage higher than Russia, Brazil, and the UK. Many of these model-worthy crimes of the Indian state are articulated in great detail by Indian civil society and activists like Arundhati Roy and Vandana Shiva.
The democratic ferment in Pakistan along with its geographic location, makes it vital for the Pakistani people to protest the laying of a pipeline that will ultimately siphon off energy resources that should be used primarily for the social and economic uplift of the Afghan people (not to mention that they can also block the delivery of all NATO weapons which have to pass through Pakistan before reaching Afghanistan). If there ever were a moment for the Pakistani people to relentlessly push for a break with the global hegemon that moment is now. After the Raymond Davis murders, the drone strikes, the mafia style killing of Bin Laden, and the violation of state sovereignty, it’s imperative that Americans of conscience throw their support behind the people of this region. Like Imran Khan, Malalai Joya and the millions of other courageous people who have had to bear witness to the brutality of our foreign policy, we have to raise our voices, stop the flow of weapons, dispense with the myths of statecraft, and speak out against injustice wherever it may reside.
If we can take a moment to learn from the courage which regularly manifests itself in ordinary people around the world, there’s no reason to believe that we are unable to engineer a troop withdrawal that far outperforms the deceptive “draw downs” that the Obama administration regularly speaks about but never implements. It is the task of civil society to create the cultural climate that exposes the double standards of the “educated” classes when their newspapers publish photographs of the weeping children of American soldiers (ignoring the millions of orphaned children of the countries we destroy) while deeming embittered Afghan security officers as a “systemic threat” to the war effort. As citizens of a quasi-democratic state, we have to show our government and their corporate clients that we, in solidarity with the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan, are the real “systemic threat” to the US “war effort”. Only after this has been done can we all gather, not beneath a flag but beneath demilitarized skies, and say “the pipe stops here!”