can’t see the forest

UK and Pakistan Forge Terror Pact

That is this morning’s headline on BBC News Online, and the headline itself delights me for a couple of reasons.

First, because the verb forge makes it sound as if Blair and Musharraf are dwarf-kings hammering away on golden tablets in a great regal smithery Under the Mountain.

Second, because I don’t like to e-open up an e-journal to find in large bold print the words ‘terror pact.’ Maybe it’s just me.

The UK and Pakistan have agreed to strengthen their ties to fight terrorism following talks between the countries’ two leaders in Lahore.

Prime Minister Tony Blair and President Pervez Musharraf agreed that restoring order to Afghanistan was crucial.

Mr Blair said defeating terrorism would take a long time but praised Pakistan’s co-operation. The president said his country was doing all it could to help.

Both leaders said that they found consensus on all major issues.

‘Highest point’

At a news conference Mr Blair also announced the UK would double its aid to Pakistan to pay for the reform of the Islamic schools – accused by some of encouraging extremism.

Describing the weekend’s talks as “immensely constructive”, Mr Blair said: “I would like to pay tribute to his courage and his leadership in taking Pakistan on this journey of change and modernisation, but also in so doing, symbolising I think the future for Muslim countries the world over.”

Well, first things first, let’s discuss the idea of Islamic school reform. Reform, when it is used by strong Western governments, is usually a bit of a euphemism. It means, roughly, we’re going to change things from the way they are to the way we’d like them to be. It doesn’t just mean we’re going to make things better, not least because: how subjective can you get? Reform is, as it has always been, one of most semantically shady words in common use.

If Pakistani schoolbooks need help in becoming less conducive to extremism, we’d better first scour them for poetry like this little jewel of an acrostic, found in a classroom text (and, thankfully, reformed away) in 2005:GEORGEWBUSH - Pakistani classroom text

I wish that were a joke. Of course, it is sort of a joke, since this little masterpiece (with several grammatical errors contained therein) is an example of exactly the kind of unabashedly demented pro-Western reform the US and now the UK are seeking in Pakistani education. It is an example of a philosophy called “enlightened moderation,” which the United States government paid to have disseminated in Pakistani schools. This example was removed not because the US or the National Book Foundation of Pakistan found it inappropriate, but because it was so brazenly, comically absurd as to embarrass the Musharraf regime, already under fire from many of its own people for residing in the pockets of Capitol Hill, Washington, District of Columbia.

That pretty much sums up educational reform—it doesn’t mean increasing opportunities for Pakistan’s schoolchildren to form their own objective opinions about the world around them, whatever else it might entail. It means brainwashing.

Now we can turn to this idea of mutual cooperation in flushing the terrorists out of Afghanistan. The brightest little jewel in the article above reads like this: The president [of Pakistan] said his country was doing all it could to help.

Riiiiiiight. Bin Laden has the run of at least a portion of the Pakistani border with Afghanistan, thanks in no small part to the ISI, Pakistan’s ‘intelligence agency.’ You don’t have to look very far to find quite interesting information on the ISI. For one, it is now common knowledge (particularly outside the US) that the ISI was used by the Carter and Reagan administrations to funnel aid and personnel to al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, you know, back when they were still being good boys and carrying out guerrilla warfare against the Soviets instead of crashing aircraft into US skyscrapers. For another, it has been widely (but not deeply) reported that the Bush administration has been, at various points, made fully aware of continued ISI ties to al-Qaeda.

So Musharraf’s government is doing all it can, then. What could be more clear? Dwarf kings: hammer away!

The burning question, then, seems to be this: why does the White House and its second lapdog at Downing Street (Barney being the First, of course) lavish no-strings gifts of plenty upon the Musharraf regime; why do these leaders continually praise Pakistani leadership as sycophants allies in the ‘War on Terror’ when Musharraf is clearly part of the problem rather than of the solution?

Because stamping out sectarian violence is really of quite low priority to the big dogs in D.C. and London. Because Pakistan is a country in which there is a great deal of civil unrest. And because Pakistan has It. The Bomb. The right people must be kept in power, you see, or else there is a not-insignificant threat of

KPOWWWWW! over India, or Arabia, or, God forbid, Israel.

This is just another long-running, glaring example of the overt hypocrisy and lack of discretion exercised in US/UK foreign policy throughout the Middle East. We can’t respectably knock on the doors of Tehran because they just don’t understand things like human rights. Yet we can forge terror pacts with Islamabad, seat of a government which only recently (and to its credit, to be sure) reformed the hudood ordinance so that rape cases can now be tried in civil courts instead of under sharia law, in which event the rape victim was far more likely to end up in prison than the rapist.

We can continue to blast the Supreme Leader of Iran and his underlings for running an often mercilessly regressive ship in terms of justice and civil liberties—and they need blasting—but we condemn Iran even as we support the House of Sa’ud in presiding over what is surely one of the most oppressive plutocracies in the modern world, a dictatorship in which the idea of thoughtcrime is alive and well. Why? Because the Saudis are contributing nicely to our own GNPs. Justice and equality mean nothing to Wall Street as long as the profits are rolling in. Of course, they have neo-liberal jargon aplenty for that—for a good, hearty laugh, you really should try reading a college text on global economics if you’ve not already indulged. You can pick any of them—they all come from the same processing plant. The most humorously hypocritical anecdotes are often to be found in the prologues and epilogues. So much for economic education. It’s already been amply reformed, in the US and elsewhere. Let me give you a small sample, from The World Economy, Second Edition, by Professors deSouza and Stutz, Macmillan 1994.

So far, our discussion of world development problems has considered the concepts of scarcity and inequality separately; but, in fact, these two concepts are intimately related. Economic growth, which proceeds faster in some places than in others, creates the structure of the world economy with its pattern of inequalities.

Under the market mechanism people must be prepared to trade off growth and equality; that is, to accept inequality as a mechanism for stimulating growth. In developed countries, during the long postwar boom, most people were satisfied with this arrangement. As a result, there were few complaints about disparities . . .

The text then proceeds, over the course of the next several hundred pages, to completely ignore this issue. Welcome to the world of the late, great Milton Friedman. The question of just why it is that economic growth proceeds faster in some places than others, which the discerning history student can grimly answer for himself, is never explored.

The underlying principle is painfully simple: the Western powers give the wafer-thin appearance of supporting democracy and social justice where it suits their interests (Iraq), and they don’t give even the slightest shit where it isn’t likely to lead to profits (Palestine). Furthermore, they condemn totalitarianism and injustice where it suits their interests (Iran) but support it wholesale where there is money to be made (Saudi Arabia) or where other, less scrutable interests are in play (Pakistan). The wealthy classes in the West and in the Middle East reap the benefits; the poor and oppressed pay the price. Over, and over, and over again.

Saddest of all, Pakistani schoolchildren seem more able to penetrate the charade than American graduate students. Perhaps that’s why reform is so urgently needed in that terribly unenlightened country.


3 Responses

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  1. opinionated indian said, on 11/19/06 at 10:14 pm

    A bloody shame as you’d call it right? I agree…!!!

  2. Stacy Jackson said, on 1/18/07 at 1:45 am

    Google is the best search engine

  3. Jeffrey Underwood said, on 1/18/07 at 1:46 am

    Google is the best search engine

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