Robert Gates, Pakistan & The Pressler Amendment
by Hugh Fitzgerald (September 2009)
The Pressler Amendment was passed in 1985. It was intended to ensure that the enormous amount of aid that was being given to Pakistan would not be used to further Pakistan’s nuclear ambitions, but would be used, as the State Department and successive administrations kept assuring Congress and the American public, in order to make Pakistan feel secure, so that it would not develop nuclear weapons.
Among those who had been most astute and most critical of the policy of continued ceaseless appeasement of Pakistan was Senator John Glenn of Ohio. It would be useful, I suspect, to remind people who have not been in government about that Pressler Amendment by quoting at length from what Senator Glenn said in Congress:
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for this opportunity to testify on U.S. responses to nuclear developments in Pakistan. I was tempted also to address my many concerns about India's large unsafeguarded nuclear program, but given time limitations and the focus of this hearing, I will address these concerns in another forum. Besides, your Committee has every reason to focus today on Pakistan. After all, American taxpayers shelled out billions of hard-earned tax dollars in aid that was explicitly justified as necessary to curb Pakistan's bomb program. This aid was provided only after repeated waivers of our nuclear nonproliferation laws. Congress has both the right and the duty to see what happened to these funds.
A review of this evidence will also encourage us to reexamine some old policy assumptions--like the faith some of our leaders have put in transfers of arms and high technology as tools of nuclear nonproliferation--and to appreciate the importance of some old fundamentals, like the duty of the Executive to `faithfully execute the laws,' the need for a working relationship between Congress and the Executive, and the public's right to know.
My testimony will address five questions: First, what were Congress and the American taxpayers told about the relationship between U.S. military aid and Pakistan's bomb? Second, how have these claims stood up over time? Third, why did Congress impose nuclear conditions on aid only to Pakistan? Fourth, did the Reagan and Bush administrations implement these conditions as Congress had intended? And finally, where do we go from here?
THE PROMISE OF THE POLICY
Between 1982 and 1990, America provided over $4 billion in assistance to Pakistan, about half of which was military. Some people think this aid was solely intended to get the Soviets out of Afghanistan, a goal we shared with Pakistan. My staff, however, has identified 20 official administration statements claiming since 1981 that military assistance would address Pakistan's security concerns and thereby keep Pakistan from acquiring the bomb. I will submit with my testimony some relevant excerpts.
Given these many claims, the answer to my first question is crystal clear: the military transfers and other assistance were explicitly justified to Congress as instruments of a nuclear nonproliferation policy. Yet since this aid was only provided following waiver upon waiver of our nuclear nonproliferation laws, the administration had a heavy burden of proof to demonstrate that the aid was producing the promised results.
Unfortunately, the much-heralded nonproliferation benefits never materialized, which simplifies the job of answering my second question about the effects of the policy. It is well known that Pakistan was acquiring a nuclear weapons capability throughout the 1980's. I will attach to my statement a table listing 50 events that show without a doubt that Pakistan was continuing and even accelerating its pursuit of the bomb despite all of our aid. [Attachment] Mr. Chairman, if you judge by the evidence and not by the promises, there was a direct--not an inverse--relationship between the level of our aid and Pakistan's progress toward the bomb.
This leads to the answer to my third question about why Congress decided to impose new conditions on aid provided only to Pakistan. In the face of sensational daily headlines from around the world attesting to the failure of the administration's arms-for-nuclear-restraint policy, Congress went to work in the mid-1980's to strengthen conditions on further aid to Pakistan. It was no more `discriminatory' for Congress to single out Pakistan for special aid conditions than it was for the Executive to issue waiver after waiver of our nonproliferation laws just on Pakistan's behalf.
ORIGINS OF THE PRESSLER AMENDMENT
On March 28, 1984, this Committee adopted an amendment offered by Sen. Cranston and myself providing that no assistance shall be furnished and `no military equipment or technology shall be sold or transferred to Pakistan' unless the President could first certify that Pakistan does not possess a nuclear explosive device, is not developing a nuclear device, and is not acquiring goods to make such a device. On April 3, 1984, the Committee narrowly voted to reconsider this amendment and adopted instead a substitute offered by Senator Pressler, Mathias and Percy, which tied the continuation of aid and military sales to two certification conditions: (1) that Pakistan not possess a nuclear explosive device; and (2) that new aid `will reduce significantly the risk' that Pakistan will possess such a device. This text, which was enacted on another bill in August 1985, has come to be called the `Pressler amendment.'
In summary, the amendment made binding what had been an official policy, namely that our aid would reduce the risk of nuclear proliferation. It also clarified--by its broad prohibition on all arms transfers under any U.S. law--that a failure to meet these standards would lead to a cutoff of not only assistance but of military sales as well.
Let me just add at this point that neither the legislative history nor the text of the amendment itself contains any written or implied exclusion of commercial arms sales from the scope of these sanctions. Indeed, it is useful to recall that in past testimony at least one State Department witness has also dismissed this peculiar argument for allowing commercial arms sales to continue in the event of a nuclear violation. At a hearing of this Committee on November 12, 1981, I asked Undersecretary of State James Buckley to describe how a nuclear detonation by Pakistan would affect our transfers of F-16 aircraft and he replied that such an event would, in his words:
* * * dramatically affect the relationship. The cash sales are part of that relationship. I cannot see drawing lines between the impact in the case of a direct cash sale versus a guaranteed or U.S.-financed sale.
Yet as the evidence kept flowing in about new Pakistan advances toward the bomb, new rationalizations kept flowing out from Foggy Bottom for continuing our transfers of arms and aid in the service of nonproliferation--which brings me to my fourth question addressing how the Pressler amendment and other relevant laws were implemented.
IMPLEMENTATION OF THE PRESSLER AMENDMENT
I have long believed that continued arms experts to Pakistan was no way to halt its bomb program. But when you consider that of the 50 nuclear weapon-related events I cited in my submission to the Committee, three-quarters of them occurred after the Pressler amendment was enacted, it becomes glaringly apparent that the Reagan and Bush administrations willfully violated not only the Pressler amendment but several other nuclear nonproliferation laws as well. I believe that the Pressler amendment was violated almost immediately after it was enacted, when U.S. assistance and arms were transferred even though our government knew Pakistan was continuing its pursuit of the bomb.
There are three specific violations I would like to discuss today. First, I believe that the President's conclusion in October 1989 that Pakistan does not possess a nuclear explosive device conflicts with widely available information indicating that Pakistan was a de facto nuclear-weapon state. Indeed, Pakistan may well have attained that capability even before 1989, when would cast doubt on the accuracy of non-possession certifications by the Reagan administration as well.
Five years ago, a London newspaper published excerpts from an interview with no greater authority than Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan, the father of Pakistan's bomb; in Dr. Khan words, `what the CIA has been saying about our possessing the bomb is correct.' Later, in February 1992, the Pakistan foreign secretary publicly conceded that his government had `inherited' a nuclear capability. He told a U.N. audience on February 7th that `there was a capability in 1989,' but he denied that the program was `moved forward' and maintained that `we froze the program.' In an interview reported in the Washington Post the same day, the foreign secretary state that Pakistan possesses `elements which, if put together, would become a device. He referred to specifically to weapons `cores.'
The foreign secretary's statements raise some thorny problems for both the administration and the Pakistani government:
1. If Pakistan possessed these `elements' back in 1989, then how could the President have certified that Pakistan did not possess a nuclear explosive device? By the State Department's own interpretation of the Pressler amendment, if Pakistan possessed the bomb in pieces, it possessed the bomb.
2. If Pakistan did not possess these 'elements' back in 1989, but acquired them after President Bush made his certification of nonpossession in October 1989, then the foreign secretary's statement that the program was `frozen' when his government came to power in November 1990 is hardly reassuring. The foreign secretary is saying that Pakistan has frozen its status as a de factor nuclear weapon state. He is also admitting that Pakistan has violated its solemn commitment to the United States in 1984 that it would not enrich uranium beyond the 5% level needed for civilian uses.
The foreign secretary's candid remarks about the existence of a nuclear capability in 1989--combined with his remarks about weapons `cores' that he claims were produced before his government came to power--raises the real possibility of a violation of the non-possession standard in that year or even earlier.
The second violation also occurred in 1989--actually it was just a repeat of 4 prior violations by President Reagan--when President Bush certified that the provision of new assistance would `reduce significantly' the risk that Pakistan would possess a nuclear explosive device. In contrast to voluminous evidence indicating that Pakistan's program to develop nuclear weapons was advancing throughout the late 1980's, there were just no credible grounds for concluding that the provision of new foreign aid was reducing the risk of Pakistan possessing the bomb.
In fact, I believe there is considerable evidence that America's aid and high technology undoubtedly contributed to Pakistan's nuclear and missile capabilities. The F-16 aircraft we provided along with the dual-use goods we transferred to nuclear and missile facilities in Pakistan provide sufficient grounds for this conclusion.
The third violation--and I do indeed call this a violation--occurred in 1992, when it was officially confirmed that the United States government was continuing to license arms sales to Pakistan despite the clear requirement of the Pressler amendment that `no military equipment or technology shall be sold or transferred to Pakistan' if it has not received the required Presidential certifications.
The rationale that our government is somehow justified in licensing sales of munitions to maintain current military capabilities (which the Pakistani foreign secretary now tells us includes nuclear weapons) flies in the face of the black-and-white words of the Pressler amendment.
Commercial arms sales do indeed contravene both the spirit and the letter of the Pressler amendment. All the more so, given that the equipment we are evidently continuing to supply includes spare parts for F-16 aircraft, a known delivery vehicle for nuclear weapons. Mr. Chairman, I would like to submit a list of official statements from the Reagan and Bush administrations taking mutually contradictory positions on the issue of whether the F-16 can be used by Pakistan to deliver nuclear weapons. Clearly somebody--and not just in Pakistan--has not been telling the truth to the people, which raises the possibility of yet another violation of the law.
In summary, the administration's position on commercial arms sales not only lacks a solid foundation in law, it seems almost contrived to subvert and frustrate the very purposes of sanctions, which are to impose a cost for noncompliance with legitimate nonproliferation standards, to offer an incentive to correct the policies to noncompliance, and to signal the priority of nuclear nonproliferation on America's foreign policy agenda.
If you are under forty, you might not remember the brouhaha over the behavior of Pakistan that led to the Pressler Amendment, and then led to the expression of great Congressional unhappiness with the way the Executive Branch chose to “interpret” the Pressler Amendment. But Secretary of Defense Robert Gates is not under forty. He’s close to seventy. He has spent most of his life in the government, intimately connected to matters of high policy. But he apparently has a great deal of trouble remembering exactly how the government of the United States was betrayed, and betrayed again, by Pakistan, led by the nose, and led by the nose before, and then after, the Pressler Amendment was passed. His statement of August 13th about Pakistan having good reasons to “mistrust” the United States because America “walked away from them twice” -- the sheer utter idiocy of it all, the rewriting not of ancient history but of recent history -- simply amazes. The Pressler Amendment was passed because members of Congress were fed up with the behavior of Pakistan. The long discussion by Senator Glenn that took place at hearings held by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 1992, some seven years after the Pressler Amendment were passed, were prompted by a realization, and disgust, that the American government had not been diligent in enforcing the letter, or being vigilant about the spirit, of the Pressler Amendment.
We did not “walk away” from Pakistan. The government, that is, the military who essentially have always held power in Pakistan, took and took whatever aid they could cajole out of the Americans, and then always came back for more. They took whatever economic aid they could as well, and that economic aid allowed the “failed state” -- always on the brink of bankruptcy -- of Pakistan to nonetheless not only quietly arrange for stealing nuclear secrets from the West, but pay the enormous costs of the nuclear weapons program that led to the building not of one but of dozens of “Islamic bombs,” as they were proudly called, and not only in Pakistan.
The United States did not “walk away” from Pakistan once the Soviet army had left Afghanistan. The country of Afghanistan was taken over by the Taliban, who were formed by, trained by, supported by, the government of Pakistan. Pakistan also helped the Taliban get back to Afghanistan and seize power once the Soviets had left, and to make that country a hell for its citizens, or for all but those who were the most fanatical Muslims, and to make it a haven for “the Arabs” who arrived, and set up their Al Qaeda camps, and treated the local Afghanis with such contumely. There was no reason at all for the Americans not to “walk away” from Pakistan, for Pakistan completely betrayed the Americans and its own solemn undertakings to them in this case, and then in the case of the long-term betrayal of promise after promise made to the Americans.
Those broken promises led to the Pressler Amendment, and then to renewed outrage from Congress once it was clear that Pakistan was being allowed, with the State Department’s connivance, to keep fooling the Americans -- that is, the American people, though not the group of apologists for Pakistan who continued to reign, as apologists for other Muslim states still reign and call far too many of the shots in the State Department and elsewhere in our government.
And while the Bush Administration wasted so many men, so much money, so much matériel, in Iraq, Robert Gates was for much of that time the Secretary of Defense. And now that the Obama Administration has come in, with Obama in Cairo not only seeing but raising Bush’s poker-faced nonsense about Islam as a “religion of peace,” but at least abandoning the messianic sentimentalism of Bush when it came to thinking that the Americans could bring “freedom” to “ordinary moms and dads in the Middle East,” Robert Gates is still there, and he still has not thought it necessary, apparently, to rethink the whole business. He has not started to think about Islam in Western Europe, for example, and not merely to take the same idiotic strategy -- winning hearts, winning minds, extending “prosperity” (which means tens of billions of American dollars), and keeping polities “unified” (which means the Americans have to somehow get the various ethnic and sectarian factions to lie down, like so many lions with so many lambs). He is simply moving the whole business from Iraq to Afghanistan, and with help -- help! -- expected from the meretricious government of Pakistan.
Pakistan has always been the spoiled child of American foreign policy. It began way back, with the Dulles brothers, when among the group of fierce but essentially stupid anti-Communists there was a belief that Islam should be regarded only as a "bulwark against Communism." That meant that the Al-Saud were much better than Nasser, because the former were completely Muslim, while Nasser had secular tendencies.
In the subcontinent, Pakistan had a series of fly-whisking terry-thomas moustachioed generals who were past masters at winning the trust of American counterparts in the Pentagon. Those ramrod-straight (Sandhurst posture always being a sure sign of inward rectitude) generals invited comparison with those dangerous, bandung-conferencing, Fabian Society Indian leaders -- haughty untouchable Brahmin Nehru (who had also dared to have a liaison with the wife of Lord Mountbatten) and his fellow member of the Victor Gollancz's New Left Book Club, the even more dangerous, because more marxisant (so it was felt in official Washington) Krishna Menon.
And thus it was that Pakistan -- meretricious Muslim Pakistan (meretricious, in this case, precisely because it was Muslim) was made a member of that ill-fated because ill-conceived military pact known as CENTO, in which the United States and Great Britain were to supply all the money and all the arms and all the training, while the Muslim members -- Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan -- were to be the beneficiaries of the money, the arms, the training, but were to supply the men. The whole farcical thing fell apart in 1958 with the coup by A. Q. Qassem, in which the "pro-Western" Nuri al-Said, always described as the "strongman" of Iraq, was seized and murdered, his mutilated body dragged through the streets of Baghdad.
But while CENTO collapsed, the Pakistani generals' love affair with the Pentagon continued. The Americans continued to supply those generals with all kinds of things, and that did not stop when the out-and-out fanatical Muslim Zia ul-Haq came to power. Anglophone Pakistanis of the upper classes like to claim, in talking to Westerners, that there was nothing wrong with Pakistan until Zia ul-Haq with his "extremism" came along. This is nonsense. Pakistan's "extremism" was always there among its primitive masses -- the masses who, unlike Benazir Bhutto, do not have millions of dollars, are not the children of zamindars, and cannot attend Harvard and Oxford and become, superficially westernized and hence offer the outward veneer of something that seemed familiar and trustworthy.
Far from being ill-treated by the United States, Pakistan continued to receive all kinds of money and all kinds of weapons. It was even promised F-16s. And that American money later came in handy when A. Q. Khan, a metallurgist skilled at thievery, managed while working in Western laboratories in the Netherlands and Germany to win sufficient trust to be given access to certain nuclear secrets. He stole those secrets and brought them back to Pakistan where the I.S.I., still living largely on the financial aid that the Americans supplied, used that aid to help finance Pakistan's nuclear project.
Pakistan not only diverted American aid to build what was called "the Islamic bomb," but A. Q. Khan was permitted by I.S.I., the Pakistan army's intelligence service, to offer to share nuclear secrets with other countries, and apparently he did so in the cases of both Iraq and North Korea.
The government of Pakistan continues, of course, to prevent the Americans even from interviewing A. Q. Khan to try to find out exactly what he gave to whom. That is not exactly the behavior of an ally, or a friend. It is the behavior, more accurately, of an enemy, one willing to take whatever aid, financial and military, it can wheedle out of the Americans, but not willing -- or able-- ever to be a real ally or friend.
During the Musharraf years, with the billions from America now pouring in, the government and military in Pakistan continued to string the Americans along. There were occasional half-hearted largely feigning attacks, by the Pakistan military, on Al Qaeda or the Taliban, but mainly the Pakistan government and press did everything it could to deny that Al Qaeda was either in Pakistan or being aided by a great many Pakistanis.
It was only when the American military was becoming absolutely fed up, and when, too, the local Taliban leaders decided a bit too prematurely to take on the rich zamindars in the parts of Pakistan -- e.g. the Swat Valley -- that they conquered, that the ruling class in both the Pakistani government and military realized that the Taliban were a threat to them. They then turned on the Taliban, not as a favor to the Americans, but in order to preserve the position of themselves and of those like them. That did not make them the friends of the Americans, or of the Indians, or of any other Infidel group. They remain Muslims, in a country almost entirely Muslim, where non-Muslims can be harassed, persecuted, even murdered at will. It was more than twenty years ago that Bishop John Joseph immolated himself in order to bring attention to the murderous persecution of Christians in Pakistan -- that persecution did not start yesterday, and it hardly was the result only of what the Taliban prompted. The persecution of Christians and Hindus is carried out by many and supported by even more. It is, in fact, not at all deplored in Pakistan, save by a handful of the morally most advanced.
Gates -- according to the news report about his August 13th performance -- “described as disturbing, but not surprising, the results of a survey that only 9 percent of Pakistanis saw the United States as a partner while 64 percent looked at it as an enemy.”
So Gates thinks this widespread hostility -- expressed in the survey that found that “64 percent” of Pakistanis see the U.S. as an enemy -- is “disturbing, but not surprising.” He is right: it isn’t “surprising.” But what is “surprising” -- or perhaps, alas, not “surprising” -- is that Robert Gates, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, seems to think it is not “surprising” not because of what Muslims are taught in the Qur’an, in the Hadith, and through the example of Muhammad -- uswa hasana, al-insan al-kamil -- in the Sira. In those sources Muslims are taught to be mistrustful of Infidels (to be especially wary when they seem, those Infidels, to be nice, to be generous, for they are of course in league with Shaytan, trying to woo Muslims from the Path of Allah, fi sabil Allah). Muslims are taught that between them and non-Muslims, that is between Believers and Infidels, a state of permanent hostility or war (though not necessarily open warfare) must exist, and that they have a duty to make sure that Infidels do not continue to cling to their own ways, to continue to throw up obstacles (Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Conscience are such obstacles) to the spread and then the certain, the right, the just dominance of Islam, all over the world. Apparently Robert Gates hasn’t even begun to figure out what effect Islam has on the minds of its adherents. He hasn’t begun to grasp how very different Islam is -- as a Total Belief-System that offers a Complete Regulation of Life and a Complete Explanation of the Universe -- from other faiths, because Islam contains a clear politics and geopolitics which he has a duty to learn about, and did have such a duty the minute he assumed the post of Secretary of Defense. Like many others in official Washington, it is a duty he apparently thinks he has no obligation to fulfill. He’s quite wrong.
And Robert Gates has been the man in charge of vast expenditures (by the United States, what have turned out to be squanderings of men, money, matériel, and military morale, all in the misguided attempt to keep Iraq together, to keep Iraq “nonviolent,” to make Iraq “prosperous” -- all in the hope that Iraq would become what it will never become. This hope was never quite spelled out, never quite explained to us who are the citizens watching helplessly at the folly of this policy, first in Iraq and now, with apparently no lessons learned, in Afghanistan and Pakistan. A coherent and cunning and even ruthless policy should long ago have been crafted, one devoid of sentimentalism, one recognizing that the most important theatre of war was not in Iraq, nor in Afghanistan, nor in Pakistan but, rather, right now, in the imperiled states of Western Europe, where the growth of Muslim populations threatens to change the tenor of life, the quality of life, and the orientation toward the United States, of those countries that constitute the historic heart of the West, and that without Europe the United States would lose its civilizational ancestry. It would see its legacy taken over, and destroyed, as were, everywhere that Muslims conquered, over the past 1350 years, the artifacts of whatever pre-Islamic civilization had once existed. The conquered non-Muslims were made to turn away from, to forget, even to despise, their culture, wherever Islamization, and then arabization, fully triumphed. It did not, in Iran, for complicated reasons, and the fact that Iranians still have the consciousness of their pre-Islamic identity may turn out to be important in helping Iranians today move away from the Islamic Republic, to constrain Islam, or even to jettison Islam altogether (perhaps by rediscovering an alternative identity – say, Zoroastrianism), in numbers significant enough to transform state and society in Iran.
In order to formulate policies that make sense -- and the war in Iraq, and the wars as currently conducted in Afghanistan and Pakistan are hideously draining on our military, and as policy are senseless -- one has to first recognize, despite all the official blather, that the United States has a stake in preventing the dangerous encroachments of Islam in Western Europe. Islam is not mainly or merely a “religion.” It is a Politics. It is a Geopolitics. It is important for Robert Gates, and all those who presume to protect us, to find out about Islam -- really find out, and not rely on the army of apologists for Islam, both Muslim and non-Muslim, who have so methodically hired and promoted one another in our colleges and universities, and who have been hired by the naïve and the simpletons to “advise” us. They have been hired even within our military academies, even within our security services. Gates needs to learn the truth about Islam itself, and about those hundreds of millions of Muslims who actively support the goals of Jihad, even if many prefer other instruments of Jihad to terrorism and combat (qitaal), for reasons not of morality but of expediency. Those other instruments include deployment of the Money Weapon, campaigns of Da’wa, and demographic conquest.
Intelligent Americans and Europeans realize that there is something uniquely disturbing about Islam. They are perfectly aware that many immigrant groups have come to North America and Europe -- Hindus, Chinese, Buddhists from Vietnam, Andean Indians, sub-Saharan and Caribbean blacks -- and many of these groups have language problems, or come bearing an alien creed. But only Muslim immigrants come bearing an alien and a hostile creed, one that makes claims on every aspect of life. It would be idiotic to ignore the fact that no other immigrant group, in France or Great Britain or in Spain or in Germany or even in those two tiny countries that have made a virtual state religion out of Tolerance And Diversity, Denmark and the Netherlands, has given the kind of trouble, has been impossible to integrate, and that makes endless demands. Those demands keep coming and do not stop. Muslims want changes in their host countries, in the laws, and the customs, and the understandings, above all in the freedoms, that have been the slow-won achievement, and some would describe as the glory and justification, of the Western world. These freedoms help to explain the West’s political, economic, social, intellectual, and moral advances, even as Islam explains the political, economic, social, intellectual, and moral failures of Muslim peoples and polities. The cause of those failures, the very failures of the societies and states they wish to escape by coming to Europe and to North America, instead follows them, is brought by them, is contained in the mental baggage that they bring, undeclared, and then unpack, to the great harm of the Infidels among whom they have come to live, and whose societies those Muslim immigrants -- to the precise extent that they take Islam to heart -- intend to change, slowly, steadily, inexorably.
They must not be allowed to do so, and the threat they represent has to be recognized by those who are in charge, as it is, more and more, by those people who have been sickened by the nonsense and lies, not only of those in charge of immigration policy, but by all those, among our political and media elites, who know far less about Islam, who still know almost nothing about Islam, eight years after the fatidic date which marks, or should have marked, an end to ignorance about Islam. Many people have -- almost unwillingly, hoping not to discover what they have discovered, hoping it can’t really be true -- engaged in intensive self-study of Islam. And in studying Islam, its texts, its tenets, its attitudes, its atmospherics, in reading the works of the great Western scholars of Islam, those who lived in the century, roughly, from 1860 to 1960, and in reading, as well, the works of those who, having been born and raised within Islam, and then having moved to the West and enjoyed its mental freedom and freedom from physical fear (a fear that keeps questioning people in Muslim lands permanently quiet about whatever doubts they may have about Islam), have testified so eloquently. See Wafa Sultan, Ibn Warraq, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Ali Sina, and many thousands of others whose names are as yet unknown, sometimes by design, to the Great World.
It all seems to be taking place below the radar of Our Great And Powerful Men in Washington, who construct policies that make no sense, and spend trillions of what is our money, and expend the lives of those who are our relatives or our friends or our fellow citizens, and who use up vast amounts of war matériel. And incidentally, that matériel is used up not only in combat, or blown up by the enemy, but is also being transferred to Muslim soldiers, to the armies we have idiotically built up in Iraq and Afghanistan -- and with still more tens of billions being transferred to Pakistan. How many thousands of very expensive vehicles, capable of withstanding I.E.D. attacks, will be left with the Iraqi army and police? With the Afghanis? Possibly given to Pakistan? How much other expensive equipment is being crazily lavished on Muslims? How much training is being given, which our military appears to believe will be used only against other Muslims, that is, against the so-called “extremists” who are supposed to be so very different from the other Muslims, the “good” Muslims, whom we are so eagerly training and outfitting?
Between the army and the police, in Iraq the Americans have trained, outfitted, supplied with advanced weaponry of every kind, more than half-a-million Iraqis. Our friends and allies, forever? Do you think so? On what basis do you think so? And there are another several hundred thousand men under arms -- army and police -- in Afghanistan, Muslims all of course, who have been trained, outfitted, given all kinds of equipment. Is this an achievement? Eight years after the 9/11/2001 attack, the leading Infidel military power can claim as its greatest achievement that it has built up two very large armies of Muslims. In doing so, it has also spent nearly three trillion dollars, money spent or committed (including life-time care for tens of thousands of severely wounded American soldiers and Marines) in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan.
No, none of this is the kind of thing of which Robert Gates shows any awareness. His speech last Thursday was an amazing performance, one that should give pause to all those who think that those who run the Pentagon have a grasp of history and of the ideology of Islam. He, Gates, has no idea of Pakistan’s consistent record of grasping, calculated meretriciousness over the past fifty years. And he appears to have forgotten -- if he ever knew -- how constantly, and characteristically, generous, as well as far too trusting, the American government has been with Pakistan, endlessly treacherous Pakistan.
Perhaps there are others in the corridors of power who can enlighten Gates, or work around him, or somehow get policies accepted that are based on something very like reality. It’s not much to ask.
If, during the Cold War, the Americans had thought for a bit, and read, for example, the Manual on Jihad written by a Pakistani general (Malik), and if they had been more willing to come to grips with Islam, they might have decided that the ruthlessness of the Soviet forces in suppressing Islam in Central Asia, in the “stans” of the Soviet Union, was not a thing to be deplored but to be welcomed, and that government by those who, in the Afghani context, called themselves “Communists” (a word which sometimes merely signaled “secularist”) would not be enough of a victory to give the dying Soviet Union a reprieve from its fate, but at least would not help, and might hinder, the renewal of Muslim power in parts of Central Asia. Sometimes an enemy’s behavior should be recognized as, objectively, furthering one’s own goals. But the Americans in dealing with Afghanistan thought only about defeating the Soviets, and not about what that defeat, and the victory of the muhajideen, might mean.
This inability to think ahead has always been a problem. Had the American government in 1945, just as the war was ending, immediately stopped thinking about the Soviet Union as a necessary “ally” (as it was during World War II), and instantly recognized the malevolent designs on Eastern and Central Europe by Joseph Stalin, and had the Americans moved troops in or at a time of the American nuclear monopoly made other threats, a great deal of anguish, lasting nearly a half-century, might have been spared all the Central and Eastern European countries that came under Soviet domination after World War II. It is just possible that the Soviet Union itself might have collapsed earlier than it did.
It is the same with Islam. The mind-set of American policy-makers has been that of the Cold War, and in the Cold War various Muslim countries, and Islam itself, were seen, not quite accurately in the former case and completely misleadingly in the latter case, as enemies of totalitarianism, Communist division.
Robert Gates is a child of that Cold War. And so are many others in the Administration who did not, in the eight years that have followed 9/11/2009, taken even a month, even a week off, to try to learn about Islam. Washington is full of people who remain confused about the subject, and determined to rely on Muslim advisers, or on the repetition of soothing phrases such as “we must win the confidence of Muslims” or “we must win Muslim minds and hearts.” They do not find out whether or not such goals are either possible or worthwhile, given the kinds of violence we might have to do to our own ideals, and to our alliances, and to our own understanding of what the Western world is, and to the rights of other, but less powerful, Infidel lands. Those less powerful Infidel lands are often deemed expendable by some of the false “realists” who want us to win those unwinnable hearts and minds, or to curry favor with Muslims by paying them in the coin of the security of other Infidels (in Western Europe, or Israel, or India, or Thailand, or elsewhere).
For our own leaders, civilian and military, are willfully ignorant and unable, or incapable, of learning enough about Islam to cease to be taken in by the what should be seen as the most transparent kind of Muslim blague, designed to separate us from ever more of our money and war matériel, and to keep getting American and European concessions, in all kinds of ways, in order that the will-o’-the-wisp of Muslim cooperation and “appreciation” can be (impossibly) obtained.
And watch out for “Charm” as a weapon of Jihad. Most people, alas, often make judgments about large matters on the basis of the most trivial anecdotal evidence, or personal experience that, if analyzed correctly, would be seen in the nature of things to be deceptive. I am thinking in particular of the Pakistani ambassador in Washington, Husain Haqqani, and his helpmeet, in every sense, one of the very attractive Ispahani girls (the Ispahani family being one of the richest in Pakistan), all of whom have gone to excellent American schools. So use your imagination, with these smooth Anglophones, well-versed in the conversational arts of Georgetown and McLean, with the wife being so able to fit into her jeans (which allows us all to forget about the hundreds of millions of women forced to wear burqas or chadors or even the niqab), and who can allude to a picnic at Lake Waban (Wellesley!). All this can make conversationalists forget all about Muslim strictures on the education of women (enforced violently in Afghanistan), and of a host of legal and social disabilities that Muslimahs must endure, not because of “cultural practices” but because of Islam itself, which clearly assigns an inferior place to women, and spells out the reasons in Qur’an and Hadith, with details from the Sira, the Life of Muhammad, offering illustrative, and illuminating, examples.
Georgetown must get beyond mere “charm.” Then Husain Haqqani et ux. can be enjoyed the way Trollope might have enjoyed them, by engaging with them in outwardly affable social intercourse but at the same time casting a cold unswerving novelist’s eye on how they operate, and what they are attempting to achieve. And that is not money, or social status, as with Trollopean protagonists. Rather, they are attempting to win billions more in aid and military equipment, and above all continued political indulgence, for Pakistan.
I can imagine the two of them at Georgetown parties, seated next to, say, Teresa Heinz Kerry and her morganatic-marriage-in-reverse husband, artfully displaying their Western-educated ways, and in that very display, helping their dinner partners, Americans and other non-Muslims, to forget or not to inquire too deeply into the nature of Islam, and even to forego, later on, trying to find out more about Islam. For Husain Haqqani and his charming wife are there to ‘splain it all, night after night after night.
Robert Gates, and Richard Holbrooke, and Hillary Clinton, and Barack Obama, and a few hundred others in Official Washington, must start hitting the books instead of relying on the likes of those ambassadors who truly do put into practice what the old definition of a diplomat describes: “someone who is sent abroad to lie for his country.” The formula would be more accurate if instead of “country” the word were “his faith.” Because what Ambassador Haqqani does is only what all the Muslim ambassadors do, though since Prince Bandar ruled the diplomatic roost (even showing up at the Pentagon for top-secret gatherings, apparently), it has not been quite the same.
It is difficult to believe that Robert Gates is as ignorant of American-Pakistani relations over the past half-century, and of the nature of Islam, as he appears from this speech, and many others, to be. Let us cling to the hope that this is all an act, that in the privacy of the inner sanctums of power he reveals that he understands things quite differently, much more accurately, and speaks more truthfully.
Let that hope not turn out to be a forlorn hope.
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