I am not the only one. I received this via email from an incisive friend who’s agreed to let me put it up. Hopefully, s/he will be writing more often. As the ‘experts’ sound the drum to expand the global war into North Waziristan, those who question the war and the shoddy un-knowledge on which it turns are being shut down and pushed out of public discourse. The papers would have you believe otherwise, but there are those who reject this war, and we are not the only ones. So, without further ado, here are some sharp observations about the war narrative building up around Pakistan from the Underground Man:
To say that the pro-war narrative in Pakistan is exasperating is to put it mildly. Some days the op-eds in the English dailies are worse than the others, but it increasingly seems that we have collectively shut down all avenues for a discourse against the war. I’m going to point out just three examples of the kind of dialogue we are consuming on a daily basis that subtly informs our opinions and in the end perpetuates the myth of an honourable, necessary war.
- Firstly, the short comments on Foreign Policy by Af-Pak (why can’t we retire that term already?) Channel’s experts on Faisal Shahzad, (the person alleged to have been behind NYC Times Square failed bombing plot) have been irritatingly ignorant, to say the least. For example, this comment written by Saba Imtiaz notes that:
Pakistan is lucky that the United States after 9/11 and India after Mumbai did not bomb the country into oblivion.
O RLY! How awfully lucky is Pakistan to have thus far avoided a full-scale war, shielded itself from US’ imperialist designs and nearly escaped an escalation in bombs and drone attacks from within…. oh wait. All of that did happen. So given this logic, a singular terrorist attack warrants bombing the country of the bomber’s origin into oblivion. Any other response is a tad generous on the victim country’s part.
But at some point, some country that is the target of an attack by a terrorist group that was trained in or received support from Pakistan will react.
I can’t imagine what that would look like, but Af-Pak Channel experts would surmise that it would be wholly justifiable given the case of Faisal Shahzad. Moving on:
Jumping into another immediate military offensive might not be the best idea [...] but Pakistan needs to move toward serious military action.
Bomb North Waziristan NOW! I don’t know what gives this writer the audacity to call the operations in Swat and South Waziristan not serious. Let’s think more about why it has not been such a grand idea so far. Internally displaced people? Civilian casualties from the offensive? Complicity of the army and the intelligence agencies with certain militant groups?
The contradiction in that quote, by the way, is part of a single sentence.
Why is Foreign Policy recruiting inexperienced people to write for them and then calling them ‘experts’? If the comment has to be brief and lacking nuance, I’d rather it came from someone with at least marginal experience in military strategy, war reporting, imperialism 101… heck, actual knowledge of even one of those subjects would produce something infinitely more intelligent.
2. Let us peruse the opinions suggesting the war expand to North Waziristan a bit more. Here’s what the Daily Times editorial titled “North Waziristan: The New Terrorist Epicentre” had to say:
This is not only necessary for the success of the military’s efforts elsewhere in FATA and Swat, it is now critical generally to ensure the militants are unable to regroup and cause headaches to Pakistan and the world through attacks such as the New York one. Failing to take action against the terrorists holed up in North Waziristan will doubtless bring renewed pressure from the US, and if cooperation is not forthcoming, the millions of dollars of US military and civilian aid may be threatened.
Express Tribune quotes the New York Times which quotes unnamed Pakistani officials who said:
There is a growing consensus that North Waziristan is now the source of the problem, there is a continuing debate in the military over when and how to tackle it. The evolving nature of the militants has made them more dangerous-and made the necessity of going after them in North Waziristan increasingly unavoidable.
Notice how none of these voices give any details besides assuring us that there is a general consensus that North Waziristan is the most ‘dangerous’ place harbouring an undisclosed number of militants and that attacking it now is more ‘critical’ than ever. This is easy to grasp and easier to swallow language found in all of the mainstream media. I’ll have more of that pro-war attitude please.
Alright then, how about some real experts? Ahmed Rashid is as good as any when it comes to a good dose of support for military action. Here’s what he had had to say post-Faisal Shahzad –failed-plot-situation:
North Waziristan is the hub of so many terrorist groups and so much terrorist plotting and planning that neither the CIA nor the ISI seems to have much clue about what is going on there.
And hence, we should, to quote Af-Pak experts, bomb the place into oblivion because one man has allegedly received some training there that, mind you, did not succeed. A place about which the CIA, the ISI and probably the army have no bloody clue about. It is certain though, that it is definitely dangerous and bursting at the seams.
3. Lastly, a brief glance at the popular language being employed much closer to home. Here are just three headlines from DAWN’s Sunday paper that say volumes about how the discourse has shaped up among expert columnists:
- Paths of terrorism lead but to Pakistan – Ardeshir Cowasjee
- Pakistan – A nursery of modern jihad?
- Civilian Casualties in Drone Strikes – Cyril Almeida notes that “paradoxically, however, near the locus of the attacks, the Waziristan agencies, where 95 per cent of the strikes have occurred, there has been little sign of protest, and anecdotal evidence suggests locals may actually be in favour of the strikes.”
But then he adds that “the problem is that no one — not the news wires, not the foreign media, not even Pakistani papers or news channels — has direct access to the site of a strike.”
Is the argument about there being no protests against drone attacks in the tribal areas valid if there has not been direct access to the site and we are relying on official quotes and on-ground reporters who also only report official quotes since they aren’t exactly allowed to be …on ground?
Can we back up a minute here and seriously rethink about the kind of war narrative we are perpetuating and at who’s whose expense? Where are the dissenting voices? Why have we collectively given up on responsible, accurate, locally produced journalism? Whither saner voices?
-The Underground Man