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Eric Margolis: "America's Next Big Blunder" (Pakistan)

TO: Distinguished Recipients
FM: John Whitbeck

The article transmitted below is an important one. As best I can tell,
the problem it addresses is barely on the radar screen of Americans, who
are being brainwashed day in and day out about the terrifying "Iranian
threat".

If the question "Which Muslim country is likely to be the first to
possess simultaneously both a government hostile toward the United
States and nuclear weapons?" were put to knowledgeable people in this
region, I believe that they would respond overwhelmingly: "Pakistan".

America's faithful servant Pervez Musharraf is clinging to power by his
fingernails. His collaboration in America's "war on Islam" (as it is
widely perceived in this region) has not made him a popular military
dictator in a country which, like Iran, includes "Islamic Republic" in
its legal name. An American military intervention to kill "bad guys" in
Pakistan's tribal region would be virtually guaranteed to cause him to
lose his grip and drop into the abyss.

Yet such an attack seems to be seriously (or should I say "casually"?)
contemplated by the Bush regime -- perhaps in the very near future.

Why has this article been published in Canada rather than the United
States? Is no one in the mainstream American press concerned to save the
United States from its "Next Big Blunder"?



*America's Next Big Blunder *

by Eric Margolis

The Toronto Sun, July 22, 2007



http://www.commondreams.org/archive/2007/07/22/2688/
<http://www.commondreams.org/archive/2007/07/22/2688/>



Fears are growing the U.S. may be planning to attack Pakistan's
"autonomous" tribal region bordering Afghanistan.



The Bush administration is ready to lash out at old ally Pakistan, which
Washington now blames for its humiliating failures to crush al-Qaida or
defeat Taliban resistance forces in Afghanistan. Limited "hot pursuit"
ground incursions, intensive air attacks, and special forces raids by
U.S. forces into Pakistan's tribal are being studied.



The U.S. claims the 27,200- sq.-km region, home to 3.3 million Pashtun
tribesmen, is a safe haven for al-Qaida and Taliban, and a hotbed of
anti-American activity. Indeed it is, thanks mostly to the U.S.-led
occupation of Afghanistan.



I spent a remarkable time in this wild medieval region during the 1980s
and '90s, traveling alone where even Pakistani government officials
dared not go, visiting the tribes of Waziristan, Orakzai, Khyber,
Chitral, and Kurram, and their chiefs, called "maliks."



These tribal belts are always called "lawless." Pashtun tribesmen could
shoot you if they didn't like your looks. Rudyard Kipling warned British
Imperial soldiers over a century ago, when fighting cruel, ferocious
Pashtun warriors of the Afridi clan, "save your last bullet for yourself."



*Law and honor*



But there is law: The traditional Pashtun tribal code, Pashtunwali, that
strictly governs behavior and personal honor. Protecting guests was
sacred. I was captivated by this majestic mountain region and wrote of
it extensively in my book, War at the Top of the World.



The 40 million Pashtun - called "Pathan' by the British - are the
world's largest tribal group. Imperial Britain divided them by an
artificial border, the Durand Line, now the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.
Pakistan's Pashtun number 28 million, plus an additional 2.5 million
refugees from Afghanistan. The 15 million Pashtun of Afghanistan form
that nation's largest ethnic group.



The tribal agency's Pashtun reluctantly joined Pakistan in 1947 under
express constitutional guarantee of total autonomy and a ban on
Pakistani troops entering there.



But under intense U.S. pressure, President Pervez Musharraf violated
Pakistan's constitution by sending 80,000 federal troops to fight the
region's tribes, killing 3,000 of them.



In best British imperial tradition, Washington pays Musharraf $100
million monthly to rent his sepoys (native soldiers) to fight Pashtun
tribesmen.



As a result, Pakistan is fast edging towards civil war.



The anti-communist Taliban movement is part of the Pashtun people.
Taliban fighters move across the artificial Pakistan-Afghanistan border,
to borrow a Maoism, like fish through the sea. Osama bin Laden is a hero
in the region.



The U.S. just increased its reward for bin Laden to $50 million and
plans to shower $750 million on the tribal region to try to buy loyalty.



*Can't be bought*



Bush/Cheney & Co. do not understand that while they can rent President
Musharraf's government in Islamabad, many Pashtun value personal honor
far more than money, and cannot be bought.



Any U.S. attack on Pakistan would be a catastrophic mistake.



First, air and ground assaults will succeed only in widening the
anti-U.S. war and merging it with Afghanistan's resistance to western
occupation.



Second, Pakistan's army officers who refuse to be bought may resist a
U.S. attack on their homeland, and overthrow the man who allowed it,
Gen. Musharraf. A U.S. attack would sharply raise the threat of
anti-U.S. extremists seizing control of strategic Pakistan and
marginalize those seeking return to democratic government.



Third, a U.S. attack on the tribal areas could re-ignite the old
movement to reunite Pashtun parts of Pakistan and Afghanistan into
independent "Pashtunistan." That could begin unraveling fragile
Pakistan, leaving its nuclear arsenal up for grabs.



The U.S. military has grown used to attacking small, weak nations like
Grenada and Iraq. Pakistan, with 163 million people, and a poorly
equipped, but very tough 550,000-man army, will offer no easy victories.



Those Bush administration and Harper government officials who foolishly
advocate attacking Pakistan are playing with fire.
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