23 07 2007


The Bush Administration may be preparing to lash out at old ally Pakistan, which Washington now blames for its humiliating failures to crush al-Qaida, capture its elusive leaders, or defeat Taliban resistance forces in Afghanistan.

One is immediately reminded of the Vietnam War when the Pentagon, unable to defeat North Vietnamese Army and Viet Cong forces, urged invasion of Cambodia.

Sources in Washington say the Pentagon is drawing up plans to attack Pakistan’s `autonomous’ tribal region bordering Afghanistan. Limited `hot pursuit’ ground incursions by US forces based in Afghanistan, intensive air attacks, and special forces raids into Pakistan’s autonomous tribal region are being evaluated.

This weekend, the US national intelligence chief and other intelligence spokesmen confirmed that strikes against `terrorist targets’ in Pakistan’s tribal belt are increasingly possible. These warnings were designed to both further pressure Pakistan’s beleaguered strongman, President Pervez Musharraf into sending more troops to the tribal areas to fight his own people, and to prepare US public opinion for a possible widening of the Afghanistan war into Pakistan.

Pakistan’s 27,200 sq km tribal belt, officially known as the Federal Autonomous Tribal Area, or FATA, is home to 3.3 million Pashtun tribesmen. It has become a safe haven for al-Qaida, Taliban, other Afghan resistance groups, and a hotbed of anti-American activity, thanks mostly to the US-led occupation of Afghanistan which drove many militants across the border into Pakistan. Osama bin Laden is very likely sheltered in this region, as US intelligence claims.

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

These tribal belts are always referred to as`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, if they fell wounded, `save your last bullet for yourself.’

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, which went on to become, like so many other British colonial boundaries, today’s Afghanistan-Pakistan border. When Pakistan was created in 1947, the Pashtun were split between that new nation and Afghanistan.

Pakistan’s Pashtun number 28-30 million, plus an additional 2.5 million refugees from Afghanistan. Pashtuns, one of the British Indian Army’s famed `martial races,’ occupy many senior positions in Pakistan’s military, intelligence service and bureaucracy, and naturally have much sympathy for their embattled tribal cousins in Afghanistan. The 15 million Pashtun of Afghanistan form that nation’s largest ethnic group and just under half the population.

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

But under intense US 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, as the bloody siege of Islamabad’s Red Mosque and a current wave of bombings across the nation show.

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, and likely shelters there.

The US just increased its reward for bin Laden to $50 million and plans to shower $750 million on the tribal region in an effort to buy loyalty. 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. That is likely why bin Laden has not yet been betrayed.

Any US attack on Pakistan would be a catastrophic mistake. First, air and ground assaults will succeed only in widening the anti-US war and merging it with Afghanistan’s resistance to western occupation. US forces are already too over-stretched to get involved in yet another little war.

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

Third, a US attack on the tribal areas could re-ignite the old irredentist movement to reunite Pashtun parts of Pakistan and Afghanistan into independent state, `Pashtunistan.’ That could begin unravelling fragile Pakistan, leaving its nuclear arsenal up for grabs, and India tempted to intervene.

The US military has grown used to attacking small, weak nations like Grenada, Panama, 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 officials who foolishly advocate attacking Pakistan are playing with fire.

Finally, what was a phantom to make the child sleep in the night, arrives at the borders. The very phantom, now seems nervous, disparate, but nonetheless prepared to go for the final frontier.

Let it be known to the invading Armies, this is not United India, where Hindus and Muslims fought side by side. This time, its the same cavalry and infantry, which garbed in civil dress and a turban, donning a beard, put the Russian bear to the ground.

The same army is not to renounce its Head, but instead that very head now prepares a strategy, a deck of cards which would see the lost side remains no more. America is coming to a frontier which knows the tact of victory and sustenance. Now its not a competition, but what remains to be seen is who stays longer. The one who stays longer, would go ahead to disintegrate his opponents.

This time the war is not going to be easy. Civilians and Army of Pakistan, would join hands. Bitter differences would be put aside for the peaceful times. This time its the share of the fire they would jump in, the fire that has been put up not by their own in their ranks but the invading guests, who would be guests till the end.

War is what makes this nation tick and swing. It would be hight time, people have been waiting for this defining moment for quite some time.

This is the time, which would change the very course of the nation. As for India, it would wait. And wait it should, as the bomb is still there. In wartime, somebody trespassing the borders cannot be tried, but rather are showered with accolades. India shouldn’t forget the Pakistani victory of 1965; and the score of 1971 still remains. India should be weary enough, of Pakistanis firstly then, the bomb. India, would be given the civilians to tackle. And tackle would they adeptly.

Every Pakistani, now invites America from the doors of NWFP. It shall see the hospitality, in the final frontier.




2 responses

23 07 2007

I am an american, and i dont think my country should come into your country. you are a brave group of people. i admire the personal honor you spoke of. as an american, i only ask that you please remember some americans are against america’s imperial actions. i called my representative in the government asking, pleading for the sake of the future of the world to impeach bush and cheney. with the executive order bush passed on the 17th, i could be jailed for “aiding the enemy” and “hampering the war effort” God bless you.

25 04 2008

There’s clearly an array of powers at work creating the case right now for a war on the Pashtun tribal regions. These things don’t just happen in a vacuum. Wars seem to start with the careful choreography of the news media. The war masters, the maestros, start feeding their lap dogs, the press. The music is then played by the press for the rest of us to hear.

Notice how all the papers are beginning to play the same thing about the Afghan and Pakistan border? The theme of “lawless frontier” is being played every week. The sound drowns out the reality of a noble 5000 year old culture of some 42-million people.

We hear instead about the vilified denizens of a “lawless tribal frontier.”

What you missed it? Well, it’s only been playing for about two weeks. You need to tune in to the inside pages. The maestros have been composing for a while longer…. Their creative juices kicked in about the time Sen. Obama, answering one of those deadly sucker-punch sound bite questions showed us his war face telling us he would take action on “high-value terrorist targets” in Pakistan if President Pervez Musharraf “won’t act.

That’s the sunshine it took to start the war-sap flowing. War-sap is sticky stuff, its residue has been known to encapsulate the creatures that get too near and preserve them there for posterity.

There is a legal system in place of course, in this lawless frontier. It’s been there for 5000 years. The Pashtun call the system the jirga. But its not part of the sharia law, it’s unique to the Pashtun and precedes Islam by thousands of years. But we don’t sing about that just now.

Please, I definitely don’t want the Pashtun to start signing their homeland song either. I don’t want to learn that an 1893 border line drawn with the blessing of Queen Victoria divided a group of mountain dwellers along the Afghan and Pakistan boarder in two.

I thought mountain ridges where proper borders. Everybody uses them. I just can’t handle the sound of another this-a-stan or that-a-stan popping up. So please, I don’t want to know about a Pashtunistan. And I definitely have no interest in anything 5000 years old, if it means Obama can catch Osama on good intelligence, bring it on! That should be Commander Obama’s war face call: “Bring it on!” Hmmmm, that sounds familiar.

What is this Pashtuni-whatever, Pashtunwalli, anyway?

It’s a code of conduct. The Pashtun openly express somewhat defiantly, total cultural independence and have seen conquering armies and powers come and go through the millennia. Probably because of their original geographic high mountain foothold they could stand off vast armies with terrain advantage. Well it’s about time maybe for all that to stop.

If the Pashtun just hang in there with there non-violent thesis a few more generations, they’ll be the dominant culture of the entire region with the new awakening of intellectual prowess and coming Islamic Reformation which is beginning right now. Their hopes of control over their resources, a name for themselves, and an end to fundamentalist radical Islamic persecution will fade away and they will be the dominant culture. They would be wise to muster whatever assets are needed, magically go find Osama bin Laden and turn him over to the world court thus avoiding a coming war in the tribal area.

And, how come they sound more like American cowboys than foreigners? Darn it, if we are going to start another little war, can’t we start it with some body that doesn’t live like my great, grandfather? The old Pashtun nationalist non-violent Kahn Abdul Gaffari Kahn 1930’s photo, even looks like grandpa!

Setting aside the Pashtun mostly pray to the same God I do, grandpa did, and great grandpa too, how on earth did they adopt the same code as the old cowboy code of the west?

According to “lawless frontier” musical score, the first impressions I hear is Pashtun love rifles, chewing green tobacco, and appreciate a good sense of humor. So what’s not to like? I can’t go to war on that.

If I fell out of the sky and landed in a group of people like that, I’d get along just fine, especially if I were being chased by the law. What they call Nanawateh we call asylum. Nanawateh is extended even to an enemy, just like the Cowboy Code of the Old West. Except if you are granted asylum (called Lokhay Warkawal) by the Pashtun elders as a group you’re in like Flynn! They protect you even if it means forfeiting their own lives. Man that is lawless. Imagine a code of living where a principal was so honored, that it exceeded my duty to the state. Hmmm. Now that is lawless. Isn’t it?

Better to just seek hospitality, then they’ll treat you like a king, which makes me want to open a 5-Star hotel somewhere in the snowy peaks along the boarder if I can find a few acres for a ski-lift not planted in opium poppies, viewed on Google Earth satellite, not that anyone is actually checking the carefully cultivated fields above 6,000 feet along the borders. I would feel right at home there, not unlike parts of Tennessee or California.

Look at the forces arrayed here. My little fantasy war is going to happen.

The Democrats need to show they can be trusted with national defense again, be it Hillary or Obama. And McCain says fight to win.

The second verse of the song is still being written: Floating the contingency balloon. Up, up, and awa-a-a-ay, in my beautiful ball-o-o-o-on….

Obama or Hillary, or McCain get sworn in January 20, 2009. By mid June, whoever is President is going to make a push into the boarder regions the so-called “lawless frontier tribal zones” and “on good intelligence,” unless of course my leader does it first before June 20th. The operation will be Pakistan’s (well okay we’ll give them a few billion). It will be a fast coordinated air-ground attack with airborne US intelligence and lots of surrounding US air cover as a safety check to insure the operation stays within operational parameters. Pakistani’s will not go into Afghanistan and vice a versa. Meantime the Pakistan Navy will be backed up (some would say surrounded and outgunned) by the US Navy to keep a lid on the operation seeing to it they don’t launch an attack on India by Pakistan Islamic fundamentalist-leaning ground forces. We’ll hold India’s hand throughout the entire episode and offer security where needed.

Up, up and awa-a-a-ay in my beautiful …. This thing’s going to happen regardless of who wins.

You can’t deny the poetic justice in someone with a Muslim name (Obama) catching a renegade terrorist (Osama). Can you imagine the songs that we could write about that? To the tune of “Froggy went a courting.”

Obama went a hunting and he did hunt, uh-huh
Obama went a hunting and he did hunt, uh-huh
Obama went a hunting and he did hunt, he hunt Osama on the Mount
Obama went a hunting and he did hunt, un-huh. …..

The best time to wage this little war would be during the Chinese Olympics. China would likely remain quiet with their hands temporarily full with the Olympics.

So my fantasy, glorious, contingency war needs to be brief, violent, and force the Pashtun jirga to rethink their long term cultural interests. It needs to end with Osama in a holding tank, brought up on charges in the world court.

If it fails? Well what do you expect from the lawless tribal frontier area in Pakistan with questionable army allegiance? Corruption is everywhere.

I’d still like to open a 5-star hotel with some good ski-runs. You don’t suppose the opium production their so good at, has anything to do with the foolishness of some of our drug laws? Nah.

Victor Davis Hanson says you have to look at war with a long term perspective in order to understand its meaning. Long term is real long term. It may well turn out that while many say Bush’s legacy must be a failure, history may have a completely different take on things, long after both you and I and our great grand children have come and gone. It may turn out, that doomed legacy of a Bush Presidency we hear so often this campaign-cycle ends up being written 1000 years from now as the President who started Islamic Reformation and brought freedoms that enabled thinking people to ask questions about religious practices that eventually changed the world and started the east and the west talking again.

The Ritz, I like that franchise, a 5-star Ritz, 18-hole world class golf course, mini-conference center with A Pashtun bag-piper paying my old favorite, “The Ass in the Graveyard” with double malt scotch, in the bracing night air.


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