Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Blowback in Karachi

Today's Asia Times Online reports that Pakistan's al-Qaeda affiliate is stepping up attacks against the regime of U.S.-allied dictator/president Pervez Musharraf. AToL's Pakistan Bureau Chief, Syed Saleem Shahzad writes:

Tuesday afternoon's fierce gun battle in this port city [Karachi] is stark evidence that al-Qaeda-linked sleeper cells have been activated against the Pakistani state.

At least three members of Jundullah (Army of God) were killed in the clash with police and paramilitary forces. Two policemen also died. One of the dead militants was the suspected leader of the cell, Qasim Toori, who was wanted in connection with previous deadly attacks in Pakistan.

Attentive readers will recall that Jundullah, led by Baitullah Mehsud and Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan chief, Tahir Yuldashev, have conveniently been accused of orchestrating Benazir Bhutto's assassination last year, on December 27. Both groups are affiliated with bin Laden and Zawahiri's Afghan-Arab database, al-Qaeda.

While the authorship of the assassination remains unclear, left-wing Pakistani sources believe Bhutto's murder was ghostwritten by far-right Islamist elements within Pakistani state security, notably the infamous Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and the shadowy Intelligence Bureau (IB).

According to Shahzad,

In recent weeks, Jundullah has become estranged from the main Taliban movement led by Mullah Omar, who insists that militant activities should be confined to Afghanistan, and not directed against Pakistan.

This might be plausible given that Pakistan's quest for "strategic depth" against its regional adversaries, notably India, Russia and Iran, banks on a long-range project to install a pliant regime in Kabul. The Afghan Taliban is loath to bite the hand that feeds it, and Omar, the semi-illiterate one-eyed jihadi commander has demanded that his "brothers" attack only U.S.-led NATO forces and refrain waging war on the Pakistani state itself.

In an interview with a Taliban spokesperson, AToL's Bureau Chief informs us,

Afghan Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said that when the Pakistani Taliban began fighting against the United States and other allied forces who had occupied Afghanistan, they were united. But subsequently, he said, Baitullah and other Pakistani militants had started fighting the Pakistani military and "we have cut all ties with them and openly disown them".

The Pakistani Taliban in North Waziristan have already agreed on a ceasefire with Pakistan, and are expected to make an announcement to this effect within a few days.

By stoking ethnic and regional tensions, Pakistan hopes to bend the Afghan jihadis in their direction thus undercutting al-Qaeda. This is hardly a new policy, and like earlier schemes cooked-up by Islamabad is likely to fail. According to author Michael Griffin's incisive study, Reaping the Whirlwind: Afghanistan, Al Qa'ida and the Holy War [London: Pluto Press, 2003]:

The hands of Pakistan and, to a lesser extent, the US and Saudi Arabia in the formation of the first post-Soviet government was, in effect, to guarantee that it would fold. ... But despite a decade of Pakistan and US planning, there was no government-in-waiting to fill the vacuum left by the PDPA [People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan]. It had to be created from scratch, supervised by the ISI, the CIA and Saudi intelligence service from political elements initially selected for funding and fighting on the basis that they served the best interests of Pakistan, not Afghanistan. [p. 21.]

Since the U.S./Pakistan/Saudi orchestrated intervention against the leftist PDPA Afghan government thirty years ago, Islamabad has gambled it can control the far-right ├╝ber Islamist forces they have set in motion. Clearly, they have badly miscalculated. With the United States demanding military access to the semi-autonomous federal tribal regions, the prospect of permitting U.S. Special Forces and CIA paramilitary operatives leeway to launch attacks independent of Pakistani government control has boxed-in the Musharraf regime between the devil and the deep, blue sea.

Now, it appears, al-Qaeda aligned militants are stepping-up their campaign for a regressive "caliphate" inside the Pakistani heartland itself. Shahzad writes,

The police were tipped off about the presence of a group in the eastern part of the city called Landhi which had been involved in a large bank robbery. The police launched a raid against what they thought was a bunch of criminals, and to their horror were fired on by light machine guns.

Clearly, these were no ordinary robbers, as their weapons and fighting skills quickly demonstrated. After three hours, the paramilitary Rangers were called in, but by then two policemen had been killed.

Though only a small skirmish in a wider war, Tuesday's gun battle with police is an ominous sign of things to come. Whether or not al-Qaeda will tip the balance against the Pakistani state remains to be seen. Much of the Pakistani population despise bin Laden's medieval hordes and have demonstrated time and again they have little patience for an autocratic, priest-ridden regime, especially one backed up by Washington and the armed-fist of the capitalist state.

In the short term, however, Pakistan's disastrous alliance with the U.S. and Saudi Arabia against its own people has already led to an effective split within the ranks of the Army and its various intelligence arms, with an unknown proportion of officers and security operatives dead set against rolling-up the criminal and terrorist networks they had launched.

Shortly before his brutal torture and execution by the Taliban, former PDPA leader Najibullah told an American reporter,

We have a common task -- Afghanistan, the USA and the civilised world -- to launch a joint struggle against fundamentalism. If fundamentalism comes to Afghanistan, war will continue for many years. Afghanistan will turn into a centre of world smuggling for narcotic drugs. Afghanistan will be turned into a centre for terrorism. [Griffin, p. 4.]

The proverbial chickens, with careful guidance from Washington, have now come home to roost not only, however, in Afghanistan...

Monday, January 28, 2008

"Enigmatic and Magical:" The Butcher Suharto

The death of Indonesian dictator Suharto on January 27, wholly a creature of Washington's Cold War jihad against "international Communism," will be mourned by pathological killers, multinational corporations and their sycophants everywhere.

Between 1965-66, Suharto's "New Order" embarked on a killing spree that led to the slaughter of some 500,000-1,000,000 Indonesians. The massacres commenced again a decade later, when, with the blessing of President Gerald Ford and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, the Indonesian army invaded and occupied East Timor and slaughtered some 200,000 Timorese. In the process, Suharto's uniformed thugs "opened up" the seabed off the coast of the beleaguered island for "development" by Western oil and gas companies.

The destruction of the Maoist-aligned Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) was so atrocious and diabolical that the normally staid New York Times called the purge "one of the most savage mass slaughters of modern political history." [New York Times, March 12, 1966.] The ensuing violence reached such malevolent proportions that Life magazine declared it "tinged not only with fanaticism but with blood-lust and something like witchcraft." [Life, July 11, 1966.] (cited in Blum, below)

William Blum, in his excellent study, Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II, wrote:

Twenty-five years later, American diplomats disclosed that they had systematically compiled comprehensive lists of "Communist" operatives, from top echelons down to village cadres, and turned over more than 5,000 names to the Indonesian army, which hunted those persons down and killed them. The Americans would then check off the names of those who had been killed or captured. Robert Martens, a former member of the US Embassy's political section in Jakarta, stated in 1990: "It was really a big help to the army. They probably killed a lot of people, and I probably have a lot of blood on my hands, but that's not all bad. There's a time when you have to strike hard at a decisive moment." ... "No one cared, as long as they were Communists, that they were being butchered, said Howard Federspiel, who in 1965 was the Indonesian expert at the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research. "No one was getting very worked up about it."

Business as usual, move along...

Since after all, the "business of government is business", John Pilger writing in Monday's Guardian, lets the cat out of the proverbial (body) bag:

The deal was that Indonesia under Suharto would offer up what Richard Nixon had called "the richest hoard of natural resources, the greatest prize in south-east Asia". In November 1967 the greatest prize was handed out at a remarkable three-day conference sponsored by the Time-Life Corporation in Geneva. Led by David Rockefeller, all the corporate giants were represented: the major oil companies and banks, General Motors, Imperial Chemical Industries, British American Tobacco, Siemens, US Steel and many others. Across the table sat Suharto's US-trained economists who agreed to the corporate takeover of their country, sector by sector. The Freeport company got a mountain of copper in West Papua. A US/European consortium got the nickel. The giant Alcoa company got the biggest slice of Indonesia's bauxite. America, Japanese and French companies got the tropical forests of Sumatra. When the plunder was complete, President Lyndon Johnson sent his congratulations on "a magnificent story of opportunity seen and promise awakened". Thirty years later, with the genocide in East Timor also complete, the World Bank described the Suharto dictatorship as a "model pupil".

Merely the journalistic conceit of wishy-washy leftists and other malcontents, you ask? Here's what the CIA's own 1968 National Intelligence Estimate had to say:

An essential part of the Suharto government's economic program, therefore, has been to welcome foreign capital back to Indonesia. Already about 25 American and European firms have recovered control of mines, estates, and other enterprises nationalized under Sukarno. In addition, liberal legislation has been enacted to attract new private foreign investment. Tax incentives are offered and the rights of managerial control, repatriation of profits, and compensation in the event of expropriation are, in large measure, guaranteed. The prospects for private foreign investment in extractive industries are fairly good, but it will take several years before survey and exploratory work can pay off in large scale production, export earnings, and tax revenues. Some of Indonesia's traditional export industries such as rubber, tin, and copra are on the decline because of inadequate maintenance over the years and falling prices on the world market. Nevertheless, there is substantial foreign interest in new investment in relatively untapped resources of nickel, copper, bauxite, and timber. The most promising industry, from the standpoints of both foreign capital and Indonesian economic growth, is oil. Crude production, chiefly from the fields of Caltex/5/ in Central Sumatra, now averages 600,000 barrels per day, and daily output will probably exceed one million barrels within the next three years. On balance, however, Indonesia's export earnings (and, therefore, much needed foreign exchange) will probably grow slowly, not increasing substantially before the mid-1970's. [emphasis added]

Would that be one barrel for every dead "communist"? A bargain by any reckoning and consistent with the grim "metrics" of U.S. economic shock jocks.

But just for laughs, here is how The New York Times' Helen Berger describes the Dear Leader. Under the heading "Enigmatic and Magical" she writes,

Mr. Suharto was an unlikely character to play such a major role in his country's destiny. He was a private person, and although he wielded complete power, he spoke in gentle tones, smiled sweetly to friend and foe and presented himself as a man of humble origins, shy, retiring and enigmatic. Short and thick set, he almost invariably dressed in a Western business suit or a safari jacket once he gave up his military uniform, and a black songkok, the flat traditional Indonesian cap.

But as readers know only too well, fascists and other "friends of Washington" don't always shave their heads...

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Antifascist Calling...

To the extent that necessity is socially dreamed, the dream becomes necessary. The spectacle is the nightmare of imprisoned modern society which ultimately expresses nothing more than its desire to sleep. The spectacle is the guardian of sleep. -- Guy Debord, Society of the Spectacle.

We live in strange, dangerous times.

Wherever we turn, war and rumors of war saturate the headlines. Blast walls, border fences, SWAT teams, green zones, dispatches from the abyss...

A cacophony of competing images assail us: terror, "disappearances," torture taxis, trips to the "dark side," ecological collapse. What do they mean, these hallucinatory apparitions cast by the corporate media's ubiquitous lens? A million dead Iraqis and the latest buzz on Brittany: what "metrics" do we use to measure this?

How explain the gross indifference, the criminal disregard, the pampered extravagances of a political culture steeped in theft on the grandest scale, the bastard child of Alien and the Real Housewives of Orange County? The racist opprobrium heaped on immigrants, the poor, the dispossessed, the victims of Hurricane Katrina, beaten down, despised, forgotten, as society morphs into the wrecking ball of Hurricane America: universal shipwreck as social policy?

More pertinently, how do we clear away the fog that blind us to realities lurking just below the surface, if not in plain sight, the thousand and one acts of willful blindness described by Israeli journalist Amira Hass as the gesture of "looking from the side," averting our glance from the horror show running without interruption that is "actually existing capitalism"?

There will be no easy answers here: no "unified field theories" purporting to "analyze" the crimes of our twenty-first century masters of the deep state. No fruitless exploration of the alleged "mysteries" of Tower 7's collapse. No idle speculation on whether or not 9/11 was "allowed to happen" or "made to happen." It happened. 3,000 human beings murdered, their lives snuffed out in the blink of an eye, faster than you can change the channel or navigate to the nearest hyperlink.

Yet what are we to make of this passage from Daniel Hopsicker:

On June 28 at Boston's Logan Airport, Mohamed Atta boarded a United Airlines flight and flew first class nonstop to San Francisco. He bypassed the bohemian North Beach district, and didn’t take the cruise to Alcatraz... Atta headed for Vegas.

Atta: a lap-dancing jihadi? A coke-fueled commando tossing dice at the Bellagio? A kitten-killer in the front ranks of Osama's "Martyrdom Battalion"?

What "happened in Vegas," didn't stay there, of that much we're certain.

Here, as elsewhere, ours is a system of malfeasance, complicity and corruption -- the ultimate "inside job." Capitalists gone wild.

Yet conspiracies do exist, they form a hermetic architecture of fear lacerating our corporatized landscape. A vista opening onto an endless succession of car parks, shopping malls, apartment blocks, gated communities, prisons: a controlled environment out of control.

Who are the well-coiffed grifters, the military-industrial-media securocrats who rig the game, designers of a multitude of "crusades" and "jihads" who have transformed our planet into a deranged novella cribbed from J.G. Ballard or Philip K. Dick, one you can't put down, one you're compelled to "read" straight through to the end? The "little Eichmanns" who always make the trains go off the tracks. You'll meet them here, shocking in their utter banality.

And the degradation of words, of life itself, where meaning is emptied until all that's left is a simulacrum, a brand: "Operation Gladio," "Operation CHAOS," "Operation Iraqi Freedom": the inevitable accoutrements of "Team" Disney and WalMart. Are they too, not signposts of a system infinitely corrupt and corruptible? How else explain the repetition of certain motifs, tried-and-true methods to throw us off guard, disorient us in the face of an unlivable reality we're forced to live, to navigate like so many bats whose radars have been switched off?

If, as Peter Dale Scott would have it, parapolitics "describes at best only an intervening layer of the irrationality under our political culture's rational surface," then what I propose to do here, with modest means, is take a plunge into the dark political recesses of the deep state.

Is it fascism yet, you ask... When hasn't it been?

Time to wake up...