December 16, 2009

Black Out

The Western media is spinning Pakistan’s Supreme Court ruling against the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) as a further blow to President Zardari’s relationship with Washington. The opposite is true.

One can’t assume this developing legal battle, up to 8,000 graft and other cases in total, will have no effect on Pakistan’s ability wage war against the TTP. War waged as a national enterprise is waged more effectively in unison, and divided leadership can lead to a divided battlefield. But this concern should be minimal in Pakistan.

The army is already in charge. Whatever becomes of Zardari should have little impact on war in the FATA. The military will keep engaging the targets and invading the territories that it sees fit regardless of what occurs in court. Now, Zardari’s resignation or impeachment is another subject that will be addressed later on.

The immediate point is that Zardari’s high disapproval connects to US policy, extreme pressure to expand Pakistan and US military operations in the FATA. Zardari could ultimately sink President Obama's strategy for Afghanistan, but for now Obama is sinking him.

Pakistan’s Supreme Court was a match in a warehouse of methane, the “primary” of a nuclear warhead. Energy was already built up waiting to be unleashed. Zardari clearly has a laundry list of problems, not all of them America’s fault. But consider what news broke in the same 24 hours.

President Obama’s day started with a three-page letter from Zardari, who “resisted a direct appeal from President Obama for a rapid expansion of Pakistani military operations in tribal areas.” Only yesterday Vice President Joe Biden called for Pakistan to "move on our mutual interests, which includes the Haqqani network and includes the Taliban in Pakistan.”

Zardari said America shouldn’t expect an operation into North Waziristan any time soon. The Post quotes one anonymous Pakistani officials as saying, “We're committed to this war, but we'll fight it on our terms... We will prioritize targets based on our interests. We don't want them to be dictated to us.”

Said another official
, “Unfortunately, the Americans are arrogant. They think of themselves as omnipotent. That’s how they come across.”

While Zardari made no mention of Quetta, Prime Minister Gilani did his best to thanks, but no thanks to drones in Balochistan. Zardari once against advised Obama on a regional approach with Pakistan's neighbors. Sound advice for sure, but Zardari is starting to play the India card directly on Obama. He’s under pressure from the military to speak out on America’s silence on India in Balochistan and especially Kashmir.

But the biggest news is “American diplomat harassment,” if that’s what Blackwater is called these days.

Again the disinformation comes furiously. A US diplomat ran out in front of the story, telling Geo TV, “It seems as if all this is happening to calm down people’s anti-US sentiments in Pakistan. These might be temporary actions from Pakistan government.”

Temporary actions these may be, but all of this isn’t happening all of a sudden and it won't calm people down. Pakistani oppose US military expansion into their country. Checkpoints have been stopping almost every Pakistani in the major cities for months searching for weapons, explosives, and drugs. And at least a few of the smugglers are suspected of being Indian in origin, possibly CIA, maybe Blackwater.

Mix reports of "US diplomats” ignoring checkpoints, which the US embassy denies, and you create monstrous rumors. The Pakistani media has reasoned that these checkpoints are as much for the Taliban as America, as much for friends as enemies.

Biden is the second US official, the first being Secretary Gates, to insinuate that Pakistan might "do more" to fight the Afghan Taliban if the country faces more attacks.

"Are they doing enough?" he asked aloud in a MSNBC interview. "No. But it's amazing, how reality has a way of intruding on people's plans. And when they (Taliban) went and took the Swat Valley, all of a sudden the Pakistanis went, whoa! They're 60 clicks from Islamabad."

Pakistan’s reactions today have one thing in common - Blackwater. Operations in North Waziristan supported by Blackwater, Quetta drones loaded by Blackwater, US diplomats hiding Blackwater personal or even acting as decoys for other arms runners. Is this how Obama plans to win Pakistani “hearts and minds?”

Piling on their state's destabilization?

Pakistan's reaction is met by another commonality in the American media. While the Pakistani media puts India and Blackwater at the top, the NYT, WSJ, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, NPR and the like put a few paragraphs at the bottom, if any. "Burying the story" frees space to examine in detail how Zardari will affect the war in Afghanistan.

It's a blackout on Blackwater.

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