Page 2 of 2 REBRANDING THE LONG WAR, Part
1 Obama does his Bush impression
By Pepe Escobar
So what happened in Swat is that it moved beyond a - corrupt - state, and
neo-colonial control. Washington's enemy suddenly swelled to part of the 1.3
million people in the area whose only means of protection are armed militias -
what the West bundles up as "Taliban".
It's always crucial to remember that the "Taliban" have all sorts of agendas,
from armed resistance to US occupation in Afghanistan to armed resistance to
Pakistani army incursions. What they all want is basically the end of
Washington's drone war, the end of Pakistan's support for the "war on terror"
in AfPak, or at least for
the inept, corrupt Pakistani state to leave them alone.
It's true that over the past few weeks Pakistani public opinion as a whole shot
up to around 95% against the Taliban because Sufi Muhammad said democracy is an
infidel thing; and because videos of Taliban floggings for the fist time were
all over Pakistani media.
But the solution is obviously not a war in Swat. It would be, for instance, a
concerted, long-term government policy to defuse the network of at least 45,000 madrassas
(seminaries) with nearly 2 million students all over the country. And to defuse
anti-democratic, sectarian outfits like Lashkar-e Toiba and Sipah-e Sahaba.
It won't happen. And Washington does not care. What matters for the Pentagon is
that the minute any sectarian outfit or bandit gang decides to collude with the
Pentagon, it's not "Taliban" anymore; it magically morphs into a "Concerned
Local Citizens" outfit. By the same token any form of resistance to foreign
interference or Predator hell from above bombing is inevitably branded
Left to its own devices, the Pentagon solution for Swat would probably be some
form of ethnic cleansing. Predictably, what Obama and the Pentagon are in fact
doing - part of their cozying up with the Pakistani army - is to side with the
feudal landlords and force a return to the classic Pakistani status quo of
immense social inequality. Thus virtually every local who has not become a
refugee (as many as 5000,000 already did, leading to a huge humanitarian
crisis) has been duly branded a "terrorist". Locals are caught between a rock
(the Taliban) and a hard place (the US-supported Pakistani military).
The Pentagon does not do "collateral damage". The only consideration is the US
Army becoming partially exposed in neighboring Afghanistan. After all, the key
AfPak equation for the Pentagon is how to re-supply US troops involved in OCO
("overseas contingency operations").
The Swat tragedy is bound to get bloodier. As Steve Clemons from The Washington
Note blog has learned in a conference in Doha, Obama and Petraeus are forcing
the Pakistani army to crush Swat. Once again the imperial "fire on your own
people" logic. Predictably, Zardari and the Pakistani army are still against
it. But if they accept - that would be a tangible result from the Washington
photo-op on Wednesday - the prize will be a lot of money and loads of precious
helicopter gun ships.
Madmen on the loose
The Obama administration not only has rebranded the Bush "global war on terror"
(GWOT) as the subtly Orwellian "overseas contingency operations" (OCO). The key
component of OCO - the AfPak front - is now being actively rebranded, and sold,
not as an American war but a Pakistani war.
Zardari plays his pitiful bit part; alongside Obama, the Pentagon and the State
Department, he has been convincing Pakistani public opinion to fight
Washington's OCO, defending the Predator bombing of Pashtun civilians in
Pakistani land. It ain't easy: at least 20% of Pakistani army soldiers are
Pashtun - now forced to fight their own Pashtun cousins.
As for the "Af" element of AfPak, the war against occupation in Afghanistan has
"disappeared" from the narrative to the benefit of this Pakistani "holy war"
against Talibanization. What has not disappeared, of course, is US bombing of
Afghan peasants (with attached Hillary "regrets") plus the Predator war in
The question is: How far will the Obama, the Pentagon and Zardari collusion go
in terms of wiping out any form of resistance to the US occupation of
Afghanistan and the drone war against Pashtun peasants in FATA?
The relentless warnings on the collapse of Pakistan may become a
self-fulfilling prophecy. Were it to happen, the balkanization of Pakistan
would do wonders for the Pentagon's long-term strategy in the "arc of
From a Pentagon dream scenario point of view, the balkanization of Pakistan
would mean dismantling a "Terrorist Central" capable of contaminating other
parts of the Muslim world, from Indian Kashmir to the Central Asian "stans". It
would "free" India from its enemy Pakistan so India can work very closely with
Washington as an effective counter power to the relentless rise of China.
And most of all, this still has to do with the greatest prize - Balochistan, as
we'll see in part 2 of this report on Friday. Desert Balochistan, in southwest
Pakistan, is where Washington and Islamabad clash head on. From a Washington
perspective, Balochistan has to be thrown into chaos. That's about the only way
to stop the construction of the Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) gas pipeline, also
known as the "peace pipeline", which would traverses Balochistan.
In a dream Washington scenario of balkanization of Pakistan, the US could
swiftly take over Balochistan's immense natural wealth, and promote the
strategic port of Gwadar in Balochistan not to the benefit of the IPI pipeline,
but the perennially troubled Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI)
pipeline - Caspian gas wealth flowing under US, and not Russian or Iranian,
As for the Taliban, whether in FATA or Swat or anywhere else, they are no
threat to the US. Usman Khalid, secretary general of the Rifah party in
Pakistan, has nailed it, "The population dread the Taliban-style rule but they
dread being split into four countries and to go under Indian suzerainty even
more. The Taliban appear to be the lesser evil just as they were in
History once again does repeat itself as farce: in fact the only sticking point
between the Taliban and Washington is still the same as in August 2001 -
pipeline transit fees. Washington wouldn't give a damn about sharia law as long
as the US could control pipelines crossing Afghanistan and Balochistan.
Yes, Pipelineistan rules. What's a few ragged Pashtun or Balochis in
Washington's way when the New Great Game in Eurasia can offer so many