For the last 50 years, for most Pakistanis’ America has been the land of opportunity where dreams can come true. “Thousands of Pakistani’s”:http://www.asian-nation.org/demographics.shtml have made their way, many illegally, to the US in search of the American dream. While only a few hundred thousand succeeded, 10’s of millions aspire to do, and with a population of 145 million, that’s probably more than half the country!
A large number who make it to America end up being taxi drivers, burger flippers, newspaper delivery boys and working the night shift at 7-11’s. Still, a sizeable percentage makes it to the good life, and even those working at the bottom have a chance to work their way up the ladder.
All over the web, this seems to be what many think of Pakistan:
_Pakistan was known for being a helping-hand if you were a third-world would be proliferator, or a terrorist that needed a madrassa…_
The US heavily supported Pakistan and Afghanistan during the Soviet/Afghan war, and dumped both countries like hot cakes afterwards. That support directly led to the rise of fundamentalism in Pakistan as the CIA/US set up thousands of madrasas all over the country to train ‘freedom fighters’ for the war. Before the CIA jumped in, Pakistan was a fairly liberal country, and a very pro-western one to boot. The thousands of madrassahs are still there churning out tens of thousands every year. This is what directly led to the rise of fundamentalism here, and the vast spread of drug use in Pakistan.
bq. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, the cold war came to an end. Leaving behind orphan-states on every continent. The effect in Pakistan was catastrophic. The fundamentalist groups had served their purpose and, unsurprisingly, the US no longer felt the need to supply them with funds and weaponry. Overnight, the latter became violently anti-American and began to dream of revenge. Pakistan’s political and military leaders, who had served the US loyally and continuously from 1951 onwards, felt humiliated by Washington’s indifference.
>> “Tariq Ali”:http://www.zmag.org/bios/homepage.cfm?authorID=116, “Dawn”:http://www.dawn.com/weekly/cowas/20000220.htm
Where the “new jihad, riding with Uncle Sam”:http://www.dawn.com/weekly/ayaz/20030718.htm will lead us, remains to be seen. Pakistani politicians all seem to have a well stroked egos, and often try to be “too clever by half”:http://www.dawn.com/weekly/ayaz/ayaz.htm.
What really bugs me is that all most people in the US are concerned about is that some madman is going to come blow up a building or two over there. Well, there are whole countries gone to waste because of past US policy, and none of that seems to matter/exist.
The vast majority of American’s are individually very fine people, and don’t have the hang-ups which many Europeans suffer from. On the other hand, they seem to have a slightly (see “Fox News”:http://www.foxnews.com) disjointed view of the world. On top off all this, “Bush seems to be leading a medieval presidency”:http://ko.offroadpakistan.com/world/2003_10/bush_leads_a_medieval_presidency.html which not only “flat out lies”:http://www.bushwatch.com/bushlies.htm but carries out policies based on them.
Even the Liberals seem to feel that if a Democrat (read anyone other than Bush) is elected and he makes all the right noises, things will turn out ok. Conservatives seem to think that free trade and globalization will fix everything. (Along with a bombing campaign or three). The country on the whole seems to think that yes, it’s sad three billion people live below the poverty line and millions are starving, but hey, it’s not our fault, we help these guys out so much but still? “Savages, I can hear some muttering”:http://www.littlegreenfootballs.com/weblog/, nothing can be done about them.
It is not just the bombing and occupation of “Afghanistan”:http://www.guardian.co.uk/waronterror/0,1361,554660,00.html and “Iraq”:http://www.alternet.org/waroniraq/ which scares me. Sure that is contrary to the “UN charter”:http://www.un.org/aboutun/charter/, the same UN charter which America largely wrote all those years ago and is still a signatory to. Even the ‘founding fathers’ of America envisioned America as a place where they could be free of the ravages of war, for Europe’s main occupation in those days (and earlier) was war and colonialism. As a former colony, America one of the founding ideals was that no land or people should be ruled against their will, not matter how advanced/civilized might the rulers be.
The American dream is based on the possibility that any person who has the capability can and will make it. This shapes, or shaped US perception of the whole world also. Many unconsciously have the attitude that, yeah, they’re dieing in Africa, what can we do, they’re savages, second class citizens, sure we pay some a dollar a day to make hundred dollar shoes for our children, but hey, it’s a very good job. For them. There’s always this latent hypocrisy, this US and them.
While the US has very high standards for America, everything goes out of the window when dealing with the third world.
“So much has been written”:http://www.zmag.org/weluser.htm about US dealings with the third world by far better (and actual writers) that the only thing of note is the fact that I can not thing of a single instance where the US actually did something which helped a country in the third world. Kuwait does not count. Their “recent entry in Liberia”:http://ko.offroadpakistan.com/world/2003_08/us_sending_six_to_10_troops_to_liberia.html was a complete publicity stunt so Bush could score some points, and when the world stopped looking the US pulled out the marines. “All six of them”:http://ko.offroadpakistan.com/world/2003_08/us_sending_six_to_10_troops_to_liberia.html.
The American dream is dead, for the American way of life is becoming “increasingly unsustainable”:http://www.dailykos.net/archives/004530.html. The “disparity in consumption”:http://www.unfpa.org/6billion/ccmc/consumptionandresources.html is staggering. The US consumes 25% of the world’s resources with 4% of the population. If China approaches even half the level of consumption of the US, it will have become a barren wasteland, the air not fit to breathe and the water undrinkable. Where is the planet Earth in the neocon fantasies and the so called conservative American? I doubt a single person in the Pakistan/Indian govt. can even understand the word environment, but they are busy trying to follow in America’s footsteps, and contribute hardly anything to world pollution compared to the G-7. China is in a category all on its own, and it’s already decided to industrialize; the environment be damned.
bq.. Today a globalized corporate empire is menacing the future of the entire biosphere. We all know that empires are castles made of sand that always crumble and fade away, but by the time this empire strikes out, the biological game could be all but over. Corporate globalization is killing off its host ? and ours ? mother Earth.
Gary Larsen once did a great cartoon that sums up the empire express. A ship is sinking, and a pack of dogs crowded into a lifeboat are watching it go down. The lead dog says to the others, “OK ? all those in favor of eating all the food all at once, raise your paws.” That’s economic globalization in a nutshell.
The real-world situation that’s spontaneously combusting today is a perfect storm of extreme environmental degradation and rolling infrastructure collapse. It’s by no means the first time this has happened. Previous civilizations bought the farm because of self-induced environmental catastrophe, but in the past the damage was localized.
>> “The Empire Strikes Out By Kenny Ausubel, AlterNet”:http://www.alternet.org/story.html?StoryID=16967
p. The US govt. has done so much harm (so have European ones for that matter) where it has/had the power to do so much good that it’s hard to believe there’s no right wing conspiracy at work. Where do the US people fit into this? They’ve been so complacent over the years, working, and living, in a world as far and unreachable from places like Africa as the next galaxy. It’d be so easy to apportion them some blame, to rant and rave, and many do so over here, but once you actually start communicating it get a whole lot harder. The Western world has created most of the world’s wealth in the past two centuries. While economics is not a zero-sum game, the current world system has over the last two centuries provided the western world huge advantages over the rest. As these advantages (education, skilled labor force, control over the rest of the world, etc.) erode, their growth rate is going to be slower as compared to the developing world. “Global realities”:http://ko.offroadpakistan.com/world/2003_10/offshore_outsourcing_and_global_living_standards.html seem to be catching up with the world.
And finally, an email from lewy14, who I’d emailed a draft of my post earlier. It’s below in its entirety.
bq.. KO, thanks for allowing me the opportunity to comment on your post.
It is fun and rewarding to speak out forcefully against those who you believe have caused you harm. But I will tell you it is even more fun to be heard by them, a desired outcome which sometimes tempers the forcefulness with which one speaks out. I mean, I could tell you “how I really feel”… but that would be worse than useless, because I’ll be the first to admit that all my feelings are far from reasonable. Reasonableness is a discipline which makes Kung Fu seem lax.
I admire your writing for it’s clarity and restraint but I must tell you that accusing the American public of being complicit in a crime is no way to win their attention, an attention you might otherwise enjoy. I am an American and I vote and I know the litany against my own country, probably better than you in places, and although I count myself as a patriot, the pride I have in my country is in each moment weighed against its many failures. I do not distance myself from my country by one inch, and in my capacity of as “Joe average” middle class white American male Republican (yes, KO, you hooked a live one) I declare I am innocent of your charges of criminal culpability.
But since you saw fit to press charges the least you can do is allow me the opportunity of defense, by way of which I will attempt to acquit myself and my
First permit me a short anecdote. Yes, anecdotes are not representative, but it will serve to give you some insight into my perspective. My mother was labeled as an enemy alien (German), as was my wife’s family (Japanese). My uncle is an old Yankee who served in the Pacific in WWII, and at my wedding reception, hosted by my wife’s family, joined in a toast to the emperor. He probably never thought he would be shouting “Banzai” with over a hundred Japanese from the generation who revered Hirohito as a living god. But there he was, and he enjoyed himself and wished us all well. Now, if you consider for a moment the truly awful wartime propaganda my uncle was surely subjected to for the duration of the war, this is a pretty remarkable thing. My wife lost family in Hiroshima, and my mother in Hamburg and Dresden. So I know a little something about laying waste to countries, if only through the oral traditions of my own family. And mine is not an xceptional American story, for given the number of Irish and Italian and Black and Hispanic people in this country, it is pretty typical. There is no one who doesn’t have a beef with the Yankees. (And of course my fathers family is old Yankee, so I see both sides here). But contrary to much anti-American propaganda, patriotism thrives in all these groups.
The transcendence of racism is a struggle, but it is a human struggle. And people here transcend racism not in spite of America, but supported by American traditions and institutions. The failure to attain perfection in this regard is not an indictment, and to point this out is not empty apologia.
It is commonly stated that “America rebuilt Japan and Europe” after WWII. Let me tell you, these countries rebuilt themselves. They were choices they made, and they could have chosen differently. Yes, America provided aid and direction, and a good long occupation. But the societies within these countries made a choice to discard hostility and embrace modernity in a way which did not destroy their culture. I was in Asia for a time on business in ’92 (South Korea, Taiwan, Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore) and while those societies are quite modern, and prosperous, they are anything but western – we cannot be said to have “remade them in our image”. Now how can it be said that the US (and the UN) did not do South Korea a favor? Yes, there was self interest involved, as there is with most things – but not all actions taken by the US uniformly disadvantage the
developing world. How is it that Thailand and Mayalasia enjoy relative prosperity? Is the presence of the US military in Japan and Korea helpful or harmful here? Would a rapid devolution of power in the entire far east to Russia and China in the ’60s have been beneficial to those countries, which were then quite definitely in the ‘third world’? Vietnam was a misadventure, the acceptance of murderous, unwinnable stalemate as a political status quo. But for every accusation against the US in this regard, there must be an equal and opposite accusation against the Soviet Union. To lay it all at the feet of the US is to be blind to half of history.
There is the small matter of the Suez crisis, where the US stood up to its erstwhile allies, including Israel, and went against expectations by supporting the nationalization of a foreign capital project. My understanding is that this did in fact create some good will for the US in the middle east.
South Africa represents an interesting study. A long history of supporting the apartheid regime ended when US popular opinion demanded a divestment from South Africa. I’m not inclined to street protest but this issue brought me out (and almost got me arrested) in college. I’ve ruined exactly one of my parents dinner parties over politics, and it was over the issue of Nelson Mandela. I don’t regret this, even though South Africa seems to be slipping into chaos. I really do believe that Mandela owes his imprisonment to a racist Africaaner political class, and his freedom, at least in part, to the US delegitimization of that class, however belated. That this delegitimization was driven from the bottom up in American society is not an indictment of the US, but a credit to it.
What of Indonesia? Yes, the US supported a corrupt dictator in Suharto, and now Indonesian democracy teeters on the precipice. There is a fine line here – should the US involve itself with the Indonesian military and aim to reform it, risking association with a brutal and oppressive institution? Or should it stand aside, and risk accusations of abandoning a fledgling democracy to fundamentalism? What about Cuba? Lift the embargo and entrench a dictator? Invade, and risk charges of imperialism? Embargo, and be accused of impoverishing the people? Europe’s craven attitude of support for Castro, ripe with cheap anti-Americanism, was recently the target of an open letter by Vaclav Havel and Lech Wawensa.
What about Somalia in ’93? Why were those brutal American rangers unilaterally forcing their imperialism on a country… oh wait, we were there to help, and part of a UN sanctioned team, which wanted us to root out Aideed who had been killing… Pakistani blue helmets, as I recall. You see, we have an expression, sometimes you can’t win for losing. Yes, I know you didn’t bring this up, but I want to point out that when the US gets accused of working against the developing world in all cases, sometimes it becomes exasperating. When professors in our own country look at Somalia as an imperial exercise and wish for ‘a thousand Mogadishus?, the ear becomes a bit jaded. Did we help? Probably not, but not because of any right wing conspiracy to keep Africa down. Too much force, not enough force, wrong kind, wrong time, wrong agents, embargo, engagement, investment, assasination, prayer, voodoo… what to do? So many choices, so many ways to screw up.
I claim that there is no merit to this assertion: that to pay a man the market rate in his own country is condescension and racism. In the information technology industry, in which we both (apparently) work, companies who chose to create overseas operations have the potential to displease many: their existing employees, who feel their jobs are being exported, and social critics who contend that foreign companies exploit the workers. But the payment of developed world wages in the developing world is an unattainable altruism, a standard which no society would meet anywhere, at any time (and besides, stuff is cheap in China, I read Hillary’s new book is going for $3.50 in Beijing). Ask the people who are empoyed by Nike (or by PC makers in Taiwan, or by Microsoft in Beijing) if they are happy with the bargain. The US had ample opportinuty to keep the far east poor, if that had been our goal.
I read with some amusement your account of middle class whites clinging to their IT jobs. Um, sorry, I’ve been in the computer field for 17 years or so, and I don’t see it at all. In my group right now there is a large African American dude with dreadlocks down to his butt, an Iranian guy, a Brit, and a Chinese woman, and, yeah, me and four other pasty whitebread types, two of which are women. I was involved in a microprocessor design twelve years ago, and as you know microprocessors are organized into pipelines. It is common to spend most of your time working with the designer immediately upstream as well as downstream, in addition to your boss. For two and a half years, the three engineers I spent the most time were women – yeah, two of them were white. The other one? Iraqi. One of my best friends from college just quit a large telecom firm to open a restaurant with her husband. She’s Haitian. She’d worked in computers, medical equipment, telecom; at the time she quit she had a couple hundred people working for her. Is there racism in corporate America? Yes, and she’ll be happy to tell you all about it – but the fact is, she thrived and kicked many a white guy’s butt in business – and she’s much happier telling you all about that.
The seeds of prosperity are scattered pretty widely. It depends on culture and attitude. My father’s family has been here for many generations – but they were poor in the Great Depression, and my father worked in the fields as a teenager. Why? They didn’t believe in going to college: they thought it was a waste of time, thought it gave people ‘attitude’. My grandfather refused to support my father in college, he worked his way through. When it was my time, my father was generous with me and I appreciated it. He is not a violent man but he would have been tempted to beat me I’m sure if I flunked out of school; I was told as early as I was able to speak that I would go to college and get a good job. Am I employed because I’m white? I’d be lying if I said I thought it had nothing to do with it. But judging from all the black and brown faces around me at work, and judging from the hick white relatives I still have back east who have done squat with their lives (sh… don’t tell them please), I’d say my parents and my own ambition had more to do with it, and I’ll say for absolute certain being white is neither a necessary nor sufficient condition for success in America. And finally, as I’ve been involved in hiring quite a few people over the years, I can state with a clear conscience that I’ve never discriminated against anyone.
Yes, America has the potential to do vast good, a potential that is sadly under utilized. But along with that vast potential to do good is a vaster potential to screw up, which we seem to do with depressing regularity. But please don’t be quick to assume sinister motives where simple incompetence would apply. And do not underestimate the difficulty in doing good where any action will ultimately feed the grist mill of one anti-American constituency or another. I would assert that in situations like Cuba, all good options have the potential to look bad.
Which brings us to Pakistan. If there is a conspiracy afoot to make Pakistan an Islamist, nuclear armed failed state, I’ll tell you, they didn’t frickin’ invite me to the meeting. The blowback story here is well known. In 1979, when the Soviets invaded, the United States was weak militarily, weak economically, and completely unsure of itself in matters of intelligence and foreign influence. We had been humiliated in Viet Nam, nobody trusted the government, the economy was in tatters (high inflation and high unemployment), and the decade long effort of arms control, peace negotiations and detente with the Soviet Union had been repaid with perfidious aggression in Afghanistan. And the Afghans were suffering, horribly. The Soviets targeted civilians on a routine basis, they laid waste to Kandahar. (I take Robert Kaplan’s book ‘Soldiers of God’ as my (first hand) source). The CIA involvement seemed a noble enough enterprise – what were we to do? Ignore the issue and reward aggression by the Soviets like the Euros? Launch WW3? Bring the muj to Langley and teach them the Bill of Rights? The US channeled the money through Zia, and he gave it to the madrassas. We picked a proxy with Zia, and boy did we pick wrong. But please don’t forget that Zia was a Pakistani, not an American, and that the failure of Pakistan to develop strong institutions of democracy cannot be laid exclusively at our feet of the US. There are too many other countries that succeed at this to blame the US.
And so back to my original question of a few weeks ago – how to encourage the development of democratic institutions in Pakistan. I think that in the near term the best thing we can do is a trade deal. I am shocked and horrified that Bush has not done this, and I’m not the only one. Much of the ‘fiscal conservative’ wing of the Republican party is aghast at the protectionism of the Bush administration. Steel tariffs, farms subsidies, these have to go. Don’t forget Europe spends more per day on each of it’s cows than two or three billion people on this planet get to spend on themselves. There is an argument that says we should use our own tariffs as a bargaining chip to lower European farm subsidies – but I’m increasingly of the opinion that the EU will simply never eliminate their farms subsidies, ever. Perhaps the US should bite the bullet and do the right thing and eliminate the subsidies. I say this as a free trader and a capitalist and a believer in prosperity. What about the longer term – what should we do? Prop up Musharraf, and possibly subsidize the protection of Al Qaida? Regime change and nation building (one suspects this might not be the help you seek)? A shrill demand for elections Right Now: one man, one vote, possibly for the last time if the Islamists are voted it? I’m not smirking here, I’m serious, these are questions with no obvious answers. As a Pakistani with some insight and command of history and reason I hope you can provide some input here.
What about the environment – if China and Pakistan seek prosperity, how is that America’s fault? Should we destroy prosperity to save the environment? Would that even work, or would 6 billion poor people destroy the earth like locusts? Is it possible that countries like China will be able to afford to take better care of the environment once they become more prosperous? I think it is. One last anecdote: when I was a child, and my mother and I drove into Boston, you could smell the city, and see the pollution in the air – you don’t forget these things. Since roughly the ’80s the air has been clear, and this with more cars, more people, more prosperity. I don’t accept the Malthusian green scenario of planetary destruction. Technology will provide, I really believe this. If we drown, it will not be in the melted polar caps. It will be in blood. This is the real nightmare to be feared. I would maintain that poverty in and of itself is not a cause of terrorism – a noxious political culture of resentment and hatred is required to create terrorists. That the US, through a profound lack of foresight, helped to create this political condition in Pakistan I will not deny – but sole responsibility I will not accept. Prosperity is the only real hope for delegitmizing that kind of political poison in the long run.
Feel free to post any and all of this, as long as it is a fair excerpt, and you afford me the opportunity to reply.
p. Me again:
regards Gen. Zia, the CIA/US supported him from day one to the very end. 1989 is not very long ago. Our politicians have been mostly failures, but I find that in the west people don’t seem to realize the extent to which US policies have shaped countries, and especially Pakistan. The CIA initiated the madrassa program. It wasn’t Zia just taking the money and setting up madrassahs. The cold war forced many unpleasant things. Bhutto was getting on good terms with the soviets so the CIA supported Zia to the hilt. Without cia/us support it is highly unlikely Zia would have lasted. Regardless of the facts, it is general Pakistani perception that the us did wrong by them, and the main reason why in so many polls around the country refelct this anti-us bias. And while the Cia had to do something about Afghanistan, this whole country and Afghanistan would be so much better of if they hadn’t done it on the cheap by funding mujahideen. It gave the ISI billions directly, and turned a blind eye to ISI drug dealings. anyways, there is a long list of greviances people here hold, and it’s useless repeating them. I probably will just skip that part of my post. Irrational, illogical as many of these greviances are, I feel it is important for people (especially the west) to understand them.
Another important point: After the us were done in Afghanistan, by that time the isi had become so powerful with CIA money and drug money that the elected govts were completely powerless against the ISI. That is another reason why in the 90’s we didn’t have decent govt’s as the ISI was pulling all the strings.
And finally, another email from lewy14. It too deserves a reply, and I’m posting it here so that I can refer back to my later on. [My email system eats my stored email every now and then].
bq.. I agree that Americans don’t understand enough about our countries involvement with Pakistan – heck there are a great many things we don’t know enough about. I’ve read the Robert Kaplan book I mentioned; there is the Taliban book by Ahmad Rashid that you posted earlier, and I’ve started a book called ‘Charlie Wilson’s War’, about the US Congressman largely responsible for the funding of the CIA involvement in Pakistan and Afghanistan. (I’ve not got far in it as Charlie Wilson himself is such an unattractive character, but it is next on my list to finish).
I’m really curious about the CIA directly initiating the madrassa program. The general outline of the ‘blowback’ story from the mujahadin is fairly widely known in the US, but I haven’t heard about the direct CIA involvement with setting up the madrassas. This is something we should know more about – where can I find out more?
I wouldn’t necessarily hold back on the grievances – the point of my reply was not to suggest the reasons for a Pakistani to be angry with America were irrational or illogical, or that they should not be heard. My point was that in looking back at what happened, the American political context has to be examined. I think there is a case to be made that much of what went wrong with American involvement in Pakistan, especially early on, had less to do with American strength and arrogance than American weakness and ignorance.
A word about anti-Americanism, and our reaction to it. Anti-American sentiment is widespread, and Americans are in danger of simply tuning it out. In the aftermath of 9/11, many people didn’t want to hear about all the horrible things we’d done to deserve what happened, we rejected that whole formula. Some of the criticism was especially mean spirited and clueless, especially from Europe. As you might have read in some of the posts on the Command Post, including some of mine, I don’t believe there was much widespread sympathy for America after 9/11, there was a large sense that the US got what was coming to us. Much of this shadenfreud was generated from the so called ‘progressive’ elites in countries like France, Ireland and Germany. Americans have little patience with statements that begin ‘you have to understand the root cause of terrorism’. Such people criticize a worldview where terrorism is evil, they like to claim that a worldview which contains concepts like good and evil is naive and hyper religious. But really these critics do believe in good and evil, because so many people who say ‘the US had it coming’ want to make the case that America is uniquely evil. These people grew up in rich, pampered societies, listening to Leftist professors and commentators, and have little or no direct experience with the ‘evils’ they castigate us for. I’ve swatted my share of such ‘trolls’, and I’ll admit they make me angry.
Yet, if we don’t listen to anyone, we risk shutting out voices that have genuine cause to be angry, and that want to tell us things that we need to understand in order to help ourselves as well as help the countries we’ve had a negative impact on in the past. It bears repeating that the only world that’s safe for the both of us to live in is a world where Pakistan is a stable and prosperous nation, and Americans need to understand what went wrong in the relationship and what we need to do about it. Anyway, I do find the things you are saying about the US and Pakistan interesting and relevant, and if I can help you tune the message without watering it down, I’m happy to help. I look forward to hearing more from you.