Dr. Umar Khan
Dr. Khan heads a Lahore based Think Tank.
Another “Own War” for Pakistan
"We will know that we have succeeded when everything the public believes is false." William Casey. Director of CIA, 81-87
Walking on the lush green lawns during his first visit to the US our newly elected PM Yousaf Raza Gillani said more than once “It is our own war”. He was having difficulty articulating it probably due to inadequate command of the language despite practicing but apparently he showed his intent and compliance, a bit like homework of a schoolboy. The occasion and the timing of this pledge clearly indicated that it was meant for the American audience and probably was a prerequisite for the office he had recently assumed.
Forcing other nations into unnecessary wars is neither new nor reserved for underdeveloped and weak countries; interestingly US has been a victim of this intrigue repeatedly despite its apparent strength.
Woodrow Wilson won his reelection on the popular slogan “He kept us out of World War 1”. Within 45 days of assuming office he declared war on Germany giving a cocktail of strange reasons like drowning of a British ship Lusitania a few years back and some obscure telegram called Zimmerman’s which was reported by the British but never authenticated. It took Wilson another 10 months to formally state his reasons for jumping in the conflict he prided in avoiding with his famous 14 points making “world safe for democracy”. Propaganda cell called Committee for Public Information was created under George Creed and all those opposing the war were harassed mercilessly. In the process he got 120 thousand Americans killed and a quarter million wounded. It ended in the strange and unfair Treaty of Versailles clearing way for ultranationalists like Nazis in Germany.
Average American was manipulated into fighting a European war but never believed the stated reasons and when Europe started getting belligerent in the thirties took precautions against coercion. Nye commission was formed to look for reasons US fought the first world war and Neutrality Acts enacted in 1934, 35 and 36 to keep US out of the imminent European war. From 1934 to 1936, Senator Gerald Nye of North Dakota held a series of Senate investigations into the munitions industry and how they may have used their political influence to encourage the US to enter World War I so that they could reap profits by selling war material to the US government. Nye called these industries, "merchants of death." He was especially critical of Du Pont Corporation, and other large chemical and munitions dealers, claiming they were willing to see American soldiers sacrificed in war in order to make larger profits from sales.
The American public was fully aware that despite of the fact that Roosevelt won the 1940 election of the slogan of keeping US out of war, he will ultimately heed to the demands of the hidden hand and jump into it. According to the Gallop survey held in April 41, 83% voted against US involvement and national heroes like Lindbergh fighting hard, the US had actually entered the war with passing the Lend Lease Act in April 1941 financing and supporting the British and their Allies. Fully involved in the war unofficially, now Roosevelt was just looking for an excuse to declare war making provocations of all kind against Germany and Japan including naval blockades. Nicholson Baker elaborates how Churchill coerced Roosevelt in his book “The Human Smoke”. Unable to cite any believable reason to jump in the war impression was created that the sleeping giant was forced into it, a reason no student of history even takes seriously. Later the Axis were effectively demonized, with great help from the fascists to the extent that questioning America’s involvement in the European conflict became a taboo. Another 300 thousand Americans died in this war.
Manufacturing consent has become an advanced science with the help of development of behavioral sciences and the media. It has become an effective tool in the hands of the powerful interested in manipulating people using it on us ruthlessly.
Pakistan gained independence on 14th August 1947 and immediately started fighting hot and cold wars. We started war against communism and in 1947 imprisoned and harassed many local communists and socialists. Great names like Sahir Ludhianvi and Zaheer Kashmiri fled in different ways secretly as we were fighting against the communists labeled as antistate. Then the cold war started and we became stalwarts for the democratic world while living under martial law. We joined treaties, gave bases and helped any other way we could.
Then came the First Afghan War and Gen Zia very effectively sold it to the nation as “Our own war” suppressing voices of dissent ruthlessly. Fighting the Soviets was effectively made a duty of every Muslim and still we find important people arguing that Zia used US for our war. Interestingly in this war USSR lost but we didn’t win, as the winner was the US which became the lone unchallenged superpower. We on the other hand were left to pay the debts incurred during that war along with a host of problems it created.
Despite its lack of scruples US has been honest about its foreign policy openly declaring that it is based on self interests. If we have been harboring some strange romantic friendship ideas more befitting movies then it is our own fault. I remember during the mid nineties when everyone in Pakistan was sore for being abandoned a lady member of some think tank visited Pakistan and met the media in the American centre. After she was barraged by complains of abandonment by the Lahori journalists she replied curtly, “So what? You got the price you asked for, for your service”.
Coming to the current “Our War”, we didn’t have much of terror or suicide bombings until 2003 when we started this war against terrorism. After years of fighting we managed to finally bring it to our main cities again making it a taboo to question its wisdom. Still I dare.
Thousands of our soldiers have died along with many more civilians. Our sovereignty is ridiculed everyday with foreign forces on a rampage with deadly drones. We are killing our own people every day from land and air. Terrorism has increased since we started fighting it oblivious to the fact that the actual motives of the west might not be what they declare. We started military operations in Swat and now we might do it in Waziristan again, again on American prompting. After that there are indications that we might bring these military operations to Southern Punjab also. What after South Punjab, maybe Lahore and the other parts of Punjab, well I see no end in sight.
Due to our military operations in Swat and tribal areas there were millions of refugees and displaced persons and if we comply with the demands of further increasing the operation we might have tens of millions more. It can cause a total havoc to the country. In our earlier “Our War” imposed by the imperialists, we worked hard to manufacture jehadis and are now reaping its deadly yield. We must focus on the possible results and reactions of aerial and artillery bombings on our own people with strong traditions of revenge. Bombs are brutal, killing everyone indiscriminately whoever happens to be nearby and even the occupying Indians do not use them in Kashmir, whom we never miss to criticize.
This war on terror although gifted to us by the foreign powers may have become an absolute necessity for us. In our last “Own War” we did make many Frankenstein Monsters without giving a second thought to how to handle them. This time we must fight to the minimum if at all necessary but with our objectives stated without outside interference. We must remain fully aware of the fact that they might like to entangle us with violence trying to make their occupation of Afghanistan easier. We must remain fully cognizant of the fact that occupying powers can get a thousand Pakistanis killed to save a few of their own. We have to start taking our own decisions, especially about war.
A bit of research about the techniques used by foreign powers making us fight should also be beneficial. They have absolute control over the media which they use ruthlessly. They influence the local influential groups including the media, mullah and military. Benefitting a few top people personally in different ways the consent to fight and kill is finally manufactured.
Cognizant of the risk of being labeled as conspiracy theorist, I would like to quote Charles Colton who warned that often in courts and in cabinets, there are two things going on together,--a main plot and an under-plot; and he that understands only one of them will, in all probability, be the dupe of both. A mistress may rule a monarch, but some obscure favorite may rule the mistress. We might be well advised to form a commission to investigate how we got ourselves into perpetual foreign wars and how much price we paid. At the same time figuring out individuals and institutions benefitting from these conflicts. We should also guard our interests against the media of foreign powers which they wrongly label as independent. How can any sane person trust the media which argues that by dropping nuclear bomb Japanese lives were saved. An absolute insult to intelligence.
Wars are the messiest, expensive and destructive indulgence a nation can get into and we have had more than our share. We have followed the dictates of US like speechless lackeys for too long. Naturally we got all the inevitable rewards they bring including anarchy, de stability and poverty along with others. Although we were pushed in most of these wars still we do not have any right to complain as eventually we complied. Once we understand the mechanics used to put us through all this we shall be better placed to guard against. Let us sign a no war pact not with any other nation but with ourselves committing that we will not fight anyone else’s war again. Still if someone is psychologically addicted to wars he can be given the task to wage war against poverty, war against illiteracy, war against disease, war against ignorance; the list goes on and on