WMD hysteria redux in Pakistan?This essay is part of an occasional feature on this blog that presents compelling stories from elsewhere in the world, particularly Africa, that are little reported in the American media. It's part of my campaign to get people to realize there is a lot going on in the world outside the US, IsraelStine and the Trumped Up Enemy of the Month. A list of all pieces in this series can be found found here..
As is now clear, the news media played a role in uncritically megaphoning the Bush administration's false claims about Saddam Hussein's arsenal of weapons of mass destructions and the non-existent threat they posed. This was indispensible in allowing the Bush administration to whip up public fervor for an unnecessary and disastrous war of aggression against a country that was never any threat to the United States.
The PBS program Bill Moyers Journal has an interview with two South Asia experts* who claim that the media may unwittingly be playing a similar role regarding the Obama administration's claims about Pakistan.
The Obama administration has made a big deal about the alleged danger to the rest of Pakistan posed by Talibanesque-elements in the country's tribal areas, which border Afghanistan. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton even went so far as to call these elements 'an existential threat' to the Pakistani state.
Prof. Juan Cole and journalist Shahan Mufti admit that the Pakistani Taliban is certainly a problem for the central government but emphatically reject claims that they represent anything close to 'an existential threat' to the nuclear-armed state. They point out that the Taliban is pretty unpopular in most of Pakistan. To them, the idea that a small group of militia men armed only with Kalashnikovs can defeat one of the largest, most well-equipped and most powerful armies in Asia strain credulity... especially considering their lack of broad public support. The idea that they would know where nuclear installations are located, let alone be able to seize them, is even more dubious.
The Americans' real concern, they say, is to eliminate Pakistani tribal areas as a safe haven for the Taliban to launch attacks into NATO-occupied Afghanistan. The hysteria whipped up by the Obama administration's disingenuous claims of an 'existential threat' is simply designed to give the Pakistani army political cover to do the Americans' bidding... and most likely to give the Washington an ex post facto excuse for ratcheting up the war in Afghanistan and the controversial deadly drone attacks in Pakistan.
*-Warning: the two commentators, both of whom have actually lived in Pakistan, are both somewhat optimistic about the country's future