The real story in the president's speech, on Wednesday, to the group Veterans of Foreign Wars isn't that he compared Iraq to Vietnam, but the fact that he didn't mention Pakistan when talking about his homegrown hallucinogen, otherwise known as the war on terror. Mr. Bush spoke of Afghanistan, Iraq, Vietnam, Japan, but never once acknowledged General Perez Musharraf, president of Pakistan, who came to power as a result of a military coup, and whose dual role as president and army chief shows that he has as much respect for his country's constitution as this president has for ours.
Pakistan was conspicuous in its absence especially in light of the release, last week, of a declassified report, by the National Security Archives, which chronicles its role in funding, and arming, the Taliban in the seven years leading up to 9/11. The report shows not merely who's packing, but who's supplying them with the weapons. Documents recently obtained by the National Security Archive not only demonstrate what we already know, that Pakistan has provided safe haven for Osama bin Laden for years, but also that Islamabad has supported the Taliban not merely in the years prior to the World Trade Center bombing, but in subsequent years, as well. President Musharraf now says "There is no doubt that Afghan militants are supported from Pakistani soil." (NSA) Documents released a week ago indicate, too, that "the Taliban was directly funded, armed and advised by Islamabad itself."
Think about this: while American servicemen and women were in neighboring Afghanistan hunting down the Taliban, Uncle Sam was in bed with General Musharraf and a regime that we now know was working toward a Taliban victory in that country. Moreover, just a day after release of these previously classified reports, the White House opted to "blacklist" Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps. as a "terrorist" organization.
One wonders how the White House determines who is, and who is not, a terrorist group. Iran's Revolutionary Guard qualifies, yet Pakistan, where the mastermind of 9/11 has safely hid for more than half a decade, where journalist Daniel Pearl was savagely slain, where a Kashmiri group which is financed directly by the Pakistani government is allowed to grow and develop training camps together with Osama bin Laden, doesn't even receive honorable mention as a "terrorist organization." What's more, according to newly released documents, that country's own intelligence service has been "funneling supplies into Afghanistan and to the Taliban forces."
More than a decade ago, and five years before 9/11, the report discloses that Pakistani intelligence allocated approximately $45,000 a month to Harakat ul-Ansar (HUA), the Kashmiri militants who also sought out more funding from other terrorist groups, like Al Qaeda, and Osama bin Laden. It was noted, at that time, too, that Al Qaeda and Pakistani-funded HUA were collaborating in "terrorist training camps" inside Afghanistan. A leader in HUA also signed off on bin Laden's fatwah against the U.S.. And, exactly one year before 9/11, as noted in the 9/11 Commission's Report, Pakistani aid to the Taliban reached "unprecedented" levels.
If the U.S. knew, back in 1996, that Islamabad has been funding, and harboring not only the Taliban, bin Laden, but HUA,a splinter group with more egregious outreach to international terror groups, then why were U.S. troops sent to Afghanistan, and not Pakistan?
Further, when President, and General Musharraf readily acknowledges that country's ongoing support of Afghan militants, how can the Bush administration justify strongarming Tehran, and try to transform Ahmadinejad into the much-despised dictator that Saddam Hussein was, just before we executed him. After all, doesn't growing the Taliban, as well as a group which has a long, and well-documented history of working with Al Qaeda, and bin Laden, in Pakistan, qualify as grounds to cut off a designated state from Uncle Sam's purse, good graces, and diplomatic immunity?
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While the rumblings of skepticism about Musharraf's Pakistan are said to be felt in Washington, D.C., there are no war drums beating for a military strike against Islamabad, but Tehran, and when Barack Obama says that he would put pressure on General Musharraf to cooperate in the fight against the robust Taliban, and the ever elusive bin Laden, he gets called over the coals for it.
Consider the irony that the U.S. is said to have "lost patience" with Iran for allegedly selling arms to the Taliban in Afghanistan (AP) in light of our infinite patience with Pakistan, a country that has not only armed, and funded the Taliban for more than a decade, but has done so on their own soil. Further, when Musharaff openly admits his country's ongoing support of Afghan militants, how can the Bush administration justify strongarming Tehran, and Ahmadinejad, while allowing the Pakistani president to thrive with impunity.
While Musharraf has the distinction of being dubbed a dictator from members of the left and right, in Pakistan, one must ask are all dictators created equally, or are some created more equally than others? Does bin Laden's taking refuge in Pakistan, and the fact that money is being funneled into the Taliban constitute grounds for a being dubbed a "terrorist state," as well as the need for a closer look at that country.
Next month, Pakistan will have an election. That country's parliament has just allowed the return, from exile, of Nawaz Sharif, the former prime minister and leader who was ousted by General Musharraf's military coup in 1999. Notably, Sharif was at the helm, back in 1996, when more than $30,000 a month was given to the Kashmiri militant group HUA, which in turn made its way into the hands of bin Laden and Al Qaeda. Not surprisingly, after his ouster, in 1999, Sharif took refuge in Saudi Arabia where he has lived comfortably in exile, and is only now making noises about coming home. Oh, and quel coincidence, Saudi Arabia also happens to be Osama bin Laden's birthplace.
Our government is backing a country that has been home to bin Laden, and overtly finances the Taliban now, and has done so before the years leading up to the invasion of Afghanistan. If nothing else, we have come to see that America's relationship with so-called "terrorist groups," including the Freedom Fighters, is, in a word, incestuous.
It will be intriguing to watch, in the coming months, to see whether the Pakistani election will be allowed to proceed without interference from the General, and whether he will be sent packing. The election, in that country, will also reveal much about the Bush administration's "war on terror" if this White House endorses either a General who took power as part of a military coup, and in defiance of his country's constitution, or a returning exile from Saudi Arabia who lined the pockets of Kashmiri militants. Either way, any attempt by the Bush administration, or Fox News, to give legitimacy to an attack against Tehran, and/or the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, while allowing Pakistan to operate with impunity will be exposed for what it is — hypocrisy, plain and simple.
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