September 28, 2012

A most dysfunctional alliance

Michael Weiss, September 26, 2012  

Five thousand protestors besieged the US Embassy in Islamabad last week in reaction to an amateur YouTube video. (AFP photo)

Of all the nations that have enjoyed a spam of orchestrated "outrage" over a soft-core pornographer's unwitting experiment with Orientalist minstrelsy, Pakistan is the least deserving of Washington's patience or indulgence. Five thousand protestors besieged or stormed the US Embassy in Islamabad on Friday, and at least 19 died in armed rampages in Karachi, Lahore and Peshawar, while cinemas, fast-food joints and a church were firebombed. This was the foreseeable consequence of the government's consecration of a national holiday, "Day of Love for the Prophet," to counteract Innocence of Muslims, an amateur film produced by an ex-convict Egyptian Copt in California. Pakistan may have publicly called for "peaceful" protests, but given its not-so-secretive collusion with reactionary Salafists and Jihadists, any fool can see that it furnished a state license for murder and mayhem.

A country that closes its banks and schools in reaction to a YouTube video is one that begs to remain in the Third World. 

And just look at how Pakistan's political class has defended its backfired holiday. UN Ambassador Abdullah Hussain Haroon told CBS News that if the United States wanted to prevent attacks on its embassies, "Just lay off our Prophet, just lay off our Prophet. Is that too much to ask?" (Here one detects a subtle admission that Haroon knew Friday's activities would amount to something worse than a feast of reason and flow of the soul from Pakistan's faithful.) Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf extended his jurisdiction by demanding that blasphemy laws be implemented worldwide: "[A]n attack on the holy prophet is an attack on the core belief of 1.5 billion Muslims," he said, failing to provide a full accounting for how the vast majority of these Muslims have evidently managed to sublimate this "attack" without resorting to violence or terrorism against American missions. Outdoing both Haroon and Ashraf for sheer insanity is the Federal Railway Minister, Ghulam Ahmed Bilour, who deserves (and expects) to be locked up for offering a $100,000 bounty on the head of the Innocence filmmaker: "I request all the rich people to bring out all their money so that the killer can be loaded with dollars and gold."

The US State Department has just spent $70,000 to air a "public service announcement" on Pakistani television featuring Barack Obama restating America's foundational religious tolerance and Hillary Clinton reassuring Pakistanis that the US government had "absolutely nothing to do" with Innocence of Muslims, whose "content and message" the government "absolutely reject[s]."
Having thus failed to deliver walkie-talkies to the people of Syria, Foggy Bottom now proceeds to try its hand at film criticism and remedial civics. Given the historical state of US-Pakistan relations, this 70 grand has more or less been pissed into a course of marriage counseling between a dowry-obsessed wife-beater and his masochistic bride.

Pakistan has never produced a public service announcement explaining how it came to host both Osama bin Laden and Khaled Sheikh Muhammed in two major garrison cities, why its intelligence service maintains cozy relationships with al Qaeda, the Haqqani network, Lashkar-e-Taiba and the Taliban, or why a national personality cult has been manufactured around the tenebrous figure of A.Q. Khan, the exporter of nuclear know-how to Libya, North Korea, Syria and Iran. This seems a long list of betrayals and indignities to have to suffer in exchange for the $3 billion the United States dispenses in subsidies to Pakistan each year.

If anything, this ungrateful client state has actually grown more hostile to American interests since the Bin Laden killing in Abbottabad last May, an event that led Pakistan to decry the violation of its "sovereignty" as members of its military establishment openly regretted not shooting down the Navy Seals' Black Hawk helicopters. Jeffrey Goldberg and Marc Ambinder noted in The Atlantic last December that Islamabad has now decided to play fast and loose with its own weapons of mass destruction: Its Strategic Plans Division, which controls the nuclear arsenal, now transports tactical nuclear weapons in civilian vehicles in everyday traffic, thus exposing these materials to easy jihadist interception. Why? Because it resents US and Indian surveillance efforts to figure out where all the bombs are at any given time and it worries that such knowledge might one day deprive it of the only modern innovation that keeps Pakistan from becoming a subcontinental "Nigeria without oil," in the words of the Brookings Institution's Stephen P. Cohen.

If America were to try and "de-nuke" Pakistan (don't worry, we're not that smart or ambitious), it might eliminate the possibility that its own tax dollars are quietly subventing the very "dirty bomb" scenario the Pentagon claims to fear most. So for the time being, Washington looks the other way on the paranoia, servility and treachery that characterize this dysfunctional "alliance," then feels obliged to defend itself over offenses it hasn't committed.

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