- Feb 17, 2009
Aim of US Afghan-Pak policy is to radicalise Pakistan's Pashtuns: Chomsky
WASHINGTON (March 05 2010): In an exclusive interview to AAJ News, one of the world's most important intellectuals, Dr Noam Chomsky, has said that one of the goals of US Af-Pak policy has been to push the Afghan Taliban into the bordering regions of Pakistan and then use drone missile attacks to ensure the radicalisation of Pakistan's own Pashtun populations.
He stated that while this is not the primary motivation it is, in the minds of the "Imperial West" a necessary policy in order to ensure Pakistan's co-operation in the pursuit of US strategic interests. In his mind, the US has rather successfully bought off Pakistan's elite in order to pursue this agenda.
He specifically referenced President Musharraf, General Zia Ul-Haq and the ISI as traditional supporters of US policy in Pakistan, stating that policies pursued under the two dictators and implemented by the ISI encouraged militarisation, religious extremism and the weakening of democratic institutions.
He quoted Thomas Crauthers, a prominent Reaganite, as saying that "US policy supports democracy only when it is in their national interests" and never hesitates to undermine democratic movements that go against its own goals. Pakistan, Egypt and the Gulf states are prime examples of this policy in action.
He said that in Pakistan's case, it has importance not just because it borders the Middle East but now because it is a gateway to the energy rich Central Asian states.
Moreover, Pakistan has been a US client state since its inception, despite the fact that following the dictates of US Policy has been detrimental to its own interests. This relationship, in his mind clearly illustrates the prevailing "Imperial mentality" of the West in which little concern is shown by policy makers to the negative influence such policies have on Pakistan, as long as US interests are served.
The MIT Professor of Linguistics, who has been referred to in an op-ed New York Times piece as "arguably the most important intellectual alive", pointed out that the US has consistently supported the militarization of Pakistan and not its development in areas that affect the quality of life for Pakistani citizens. Furthermore, the choices made have resulted in the formation of weak democratic institutions, more than three decades of Military Rule and a politically, economically and socially backward country.
Pointing to the autonomy provisions of the 1973 Constitution, he said that in the absence of the fulfilment of such promises as guaranteed by it to the people of NWFP and Balochistan, Pakistan will continue to display the attributes of a "Failed State"; defined by him as a state that pursues policies that fail to protect the interests of all its citizens.
He goes on to say that the US too can be categorised in this way, as its policies ensure that its population is subjected to future acts of terrorism. In the West, however, the term Failed State is used to describe any state that "we (the US) don't like".
When asked about American envoy Richard Holbrooke's new approach to Pakistan and whether the intention to better the lot of the Pakistani people is genuine he rather cynically asked if Holbrooke had done anything but "follow US objectives of trying to maintain control over the region using Pakistan as one of their agents... that's been going on since Pakistan was created". He cited the fact that the policies being pursued are more or less the same as those of previous administrations.
He argued that under Obama's watch there has been an increase in Drone Missile Attacks. This despite the fact that all branches of US government know these are a clear violation of international law, that they encourage extremism and that over 700 civilians have been killed.
Furthermore, Pakistan's rulers tacitly endorse this grossly illegal action encouraging US continuance of these "terrorist" attacks against the people of Pakistan. He said that the concern highlighted by US policy makers is not that innocent people are being murdered "but whether or not we will alienate the local population."
That, in his mind, is the logical question if you don't value the lives of Pakistanis and demonstrates again the "Imperial mentality" prevalent in the West to which he constantly referred during this interview. He further quoted the late Afghan leader Abdul Haq's comments that the purpose of the drone missile attacks was to "show that we (America) have muscle, that we can use it and that you had better be intimidated."
When asked however, about the Kerry Lugar Bill he did express the hope that the non-military assistance sanctioned by it would be used for the Pakistani people but was not overly optimistic about the prospects. He cautioned that "the money is not aid for the damage we have done to Pakistan but money to win over the hearts and minds for what we want to do.
Not for what the people of Pakistan want to do." He also suggested that "in countries that do not conform to US interest, USAID is involved in subversive activities" and promotes opposition to government, citing Venezuela as an example. No specifics of how money is spent are provided by USAID making it difficult to ascertain exactly what they are up to "but definitely to undermine government."
On the subject of how long the Muslim World is going to have to bear the brunt of the US War on Terror he stated that it seemed likely to continue for the foreseeable future. In his opinion, the fact that mega embassies are being constructed in Baghdad, Islamabad and Kabul with billions of dollars of budget allocations is testament to the fact that the US is in these countries to stay.
He stated that contrary to popular opinion the War on Terror was "re-declared" by President Bush, continuing the job that President Reagan had started in the 1980s.
He suggested that the "original war on terror" in Central America quickly became a US backed "terrorist war" in which hundreds of thousands of people lost their lives. He said that US actions were condemned by the UN Security Council and the World Court as its direct involvement in terrorist attacks in Nicaragua, El Salvador and other neighbouring countries became apparent. Thus, America's "ideological system" erased this War from history.
Not missing a beat, Dr Chomsky suggested that the US has little interest in reducing terror. In fact, he believed that US actions post 9-11 encouraged the re-unification of the Jihadist movement, which was sharply split in the wake of the September 11th acts.
According to him Al-Azhar University and many other Jihadist organisations issued fatwas against Osama Bin Laden for the attacks. Thus, if "winning" this war was of any concern the US would have taken advantage of the fissures. Instead, they decided to organise the Jihadist movement by invading Iraq and Afghanistan. In his words, "Bush and Rumsfeld acted in a way that put together a radical Islamist terrorist movement".
On Afghanistan he said that the US's stated goal was to capture Osama Bin Laden. Moreover, when the US demanded that the Taliban hand him over they wavered and asked for evidence. The US refused to honour this request, which is a standard one when another country requests the US to extradite any individual.
He also said that many of the Afghan leaders pleaded with the US not to bomb the cities in Afghanistan and that they could overthrow the Taliban without inflicting such high civilian casualties. Therefore in Dr Chomsky's opinion, it is logical to assume the stated goals are rhetorical at best and that a different agenda is being pursued.
Switching back to Pakistan he recalled a comment that an unnamed Pakistani Ambassador had made to him that if ever a link were to develop between the Jihadis and Pashtun nationalists Pakistan would be in big trouble. Moreover, the above-mentioned policy of radicalizing the Pashtuns is only helping to establish a link between the two movements.
He stated plainly that the nationalists among Pashtuns were opposed to being a part of Pakistan before partition and had wanted a country of their own, which the British quickly vetoed and instead ran a referendum. Moreover, he argued that the current Pakistani military offensive in NWFP initiated by President Musharraf and now being carried out by the PPP government under US dictate can only serve to further justify the cause of Pashtun nationalists and the religious fundamentalists (who manipulate the legitimate grievances of the masses to further their own extremist agendas).
In conclusion we asked Dr Chomsky why he was so pessimistic about the chances for a departure from previous US policy under an Obama Administration that promised "hope" and "change we can believe in".
According to him, President Obama's decision to address the Muslim World on democratic values in Cairo, the capital of a Muslim dictatorship with a brutal human rights record, spoke volumes about how much he truly cared for spreading democratic values in the Muslim World. Dr Chomsky informed us that when asked about why he (President Obama) chose to make this speech in Cairo he suggested that Egypt is "playing a constructive role".
Dr Chomsky advised that Senator McCain also embraced the mantra of "change" but neither he nor Obama presented a clear vision of what change they were going to bring. He suggested it was simply "good marketing" highlighted by the fact that the Advertising industry gave the Obama Campaign the award for the best marketing campaign of 2008.
In America, Presidential campaigning is "like selling toothpaste" and "elections are setup so that issues are marginalised"... so that there is a focus on style rhetoric, gossip etc and not issues of importance to the welfare of its citizens and/or the people of the world.
He argued that all Presidents in recent history act in the interest of elite sectors within the US at the expense of the welfare of the citizenry at large and are willing to increase the chances of political instability all over the world in order to further their own political and economic clout.
In the US's defence however, he did say that of all countries on earth, there is more freedom of speech there than in any other country of the world, including those of Europe.
He admitted that at the height of the Vietnam War his institution MIT was funded primarily by the Defence Department and that regardless of this fact, free speech against the War was not curbed. His interview to the Washington Report can be viewed on AAJ News this Saturday at 10pm and repeated on Sunday at 6pm.