By Premen Addy
April 29, 2011
As the US and it's Nato allies flounder on the rock of jihadi resistance in AfPak and the fire of radical Islamism rages across West Asia, the future looks bleak.
It is just possible that, President Barack Obama, tiring of the obstreperous cliques and claques on Capitol Hill will send his horse to the Senate as Caligula, the Roman Emperor, did two millennia ago. The equine presence might even introduce a modicum of horse sense into the proceedings of a body which today is more absurd than august.
Standard & Poor has downgraded the US economy to negative, the first time this has occurred in living memory. There is only so much the balloon of patriotism ardour can take without going bust.
Britain has the welcome distraction of a royal wedding this weekend, but come the waking hours of leaden days to come, people will once again be waiting for god to bring hope where there is none.
The American Eagle has long lost its bearings in Afghanistan, the British Lion, now turned jackdaw, pecks furiously with dissembling words: They have only their conceit and imperial fantasies as consolation. The Daily Telegraph headline reflected their quandry — “Hundreds of Taliban escape in tunnel as jail guards sleep”. This was in reference to a mass jailbreak in Kandahar, to the Afghan prison which held the most ruthless and formidable adversaries of the US-led Nato coalition. The AfPak war goes on with no end in sight this side of eternity.
The plot thickens with every passing hour, it would seem. A Taliban suicide bomber who infiltrated the Afghanistan defence headquarters in Kabul recently had made the journey from London. The bomber apparently was part of a sleeper cell in the British capital. Michael Evans, Pentagon Correspondent of The Times, writes: “Security chiefs (in the UK) in the past have warned of the growing threat of individuals plotting attacks. But the trend of sleeper cells has created a new and even more dangerous development that will require intensive scrutiny by the intelligence services” — a scrutiny they and their American peers were once reluctant to undertake since the targets of Islamist terror were usually Indian and Russian and the perpetrators had a role in the scheme of things.
The 9/11 bombings in Washington and New York was proof that Frankenstein’s monster had started stalking its principal creator. “But, 10 years after 9/11, we still pander to extremism,” commented Andrew Gilligan (who exposed Mr Tony Blair’s skulduggery on Iraq) in an extensive newspaper feature on inflammatory Al Qaeda videos and hate broadcasts to congregations of the faithful in certain London mosques.
Ponder the following The Daily Telegraph report: “More than £300,000 of British aid money was used to bankroll a suspected Al Qaeda sympathiser... Mullan Haji Rohullah... was paid taxpayers’ money to eradicate (opium) poppy crops (in Afghanistan). Instead, he allegedly supported Al Qaeda and helped terrorists escape Allied forces — while continuing to act as a major drugs trafficker.”
The stresses and strains are affecting non-combatants. The US Nobel Peace Prize nominated-author Greg Mortenson, who has been accused of making up parts of his acclaimed book about his humanitarian work in Pakistan, has undergone heart surgery, brought on possibly by allegations that much of the writing was an osmosis of truth and fiction, that his charity, the Central Asia Institute, was a personal cash machine rather than the advertised source of Pakistan school buildings. Worse, the American authorities were claiming substantial unpaid taxes on Mr Mortenson’s part. It may be the water or soil or climate change and its consequences on the human frame and psyche in these benighted parts that conflate such disorders.
Meanwhile, drones operating from CIA bases in Pakistan are taking a heavy toll of Pakistani lives in Waziristan and other border regions abutting Afghanistan. Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, and a strong advocate of close ties with Pakistan, told the country’s media that Washington had “strong reservations over the relations of elements of the ISI with members of the Haqqani network” of Afghan insurgents. Clearly the US-Pakistan relationship requires a willing suspension of disbelief. The mismatch of credulity and the incredible is a latter-day political wonder.
Elsewhere in the Islamic world the script appears to have taken a familiar turn. The ‘Arab Awakening’ resembles a beached whale in the ebbing tide. Liberal hopes are fast giving way to recidivist ideologies and attitudes. The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt is showing a darker face as it teams up with elements of Al Qaeda and kindred groups. The once emollient Egyptian military is baring its teeth with tanks and guns, with US paymasters in close attendance in the shadows. Mr Hosni Mubarak and his clan may have fallen but the system which reared him lives to fight another day.
The Saudi monarchy flexes its muscles in Bahrain, the seat of America’s Fifth Fleet, the beleaguered Syrian regime breathes even as many of its cities burn, while Yemen marches on regardless, and the Arab League bleats in the wind. The US and its Nato allies flounder in the desert expanses of Libya. Colonel Gaddafi rules in Tripoli and beyond, snarling defiance at the intruders with no endgame on the horizon. The “intensity of the Western imperial grip on the region, over the past century” continues, says the Marxist historian and polymath Perry Anderson in a luminous summing up of the current situation.
“From Morocco to Egypt, colonial control of North Africa was divided between France, Italy and Britain before the First World War, while the Gulf became a series of protectorates and Aden an outpost of British India. After the War the spoils of the Ottoman Empire fell to Britain and France, adding what became under their callipers Iraq, Syria, the Lebanon, Palestine and Transjordan, in the final great haul of European territorial booty... formal decolonisation has been accompanied by a virtually uninterrupted sequence of imperial wars and interventions in the post-colonial world.” The more things change the more they remain the same, is the Gallic saying.
Mr Vladimir Putin, as President of the Russian Federation, remarked that the dissolution of the Soviet Union was the “greatest geopolitical tragedy of our time.” The USSR in its high noon had balanced the power and authority of the US and Nato in an equilibrium that kept the peace, if nothing else. The world’s Time of Trouble has been one of unbridled Nato expansion and aggression as might prevailed over right in shameless ways.
The eminently decent Mikhail Gorbachev, to his immense credit, ended the Cold War, but decency alone is not necessarily the enduring strength of a true statesman. Mr Gorbachev lacked the intellect and will, held too many illusions about his Western interlocutors to safeguard the national interest. That he remains an admirer of Mr Tony Blair says it all. Not surprisingly, his stock in Russia remains low.