Threatened To Bomb Pakistan
Back To “The Stone Age”
By Kranti Kumara
& Keith Jones
28 September 2006
President Pervez Musharraf’s revelation that a top US official
said Pakistan would be bombed “back to the stone age” if
Islamabad didn’t break its ties with the Taliban and provide logistical
support to the US conquest of Afghanistan is yet another example of
the mobster methods that have come to characterize US diplomacy, especially
under the Bush administration.
Coming five years after the
event and under conditions where Musharraf is under heavy pressure from
Washington to do still more to assist the US in south, central and west
Asia, the revelation also points to the increasingly desperate position
of Pakistan’s military strongman.
In a pre-taped interview
broadcast on CBS’s “Sixty Minutes” last Sunday, Musharraf
said that in the days immediately following the September 11, 2001 terrorist
attacks Pakistan’s intelligence director was told by the then
US Deputy Secretary of State, Richard Armitage, that Pakistan could
either totally acquiesce to the Bush administration’s demands
for “cooperation” in the “war on terror” or
“Be prepared to be bombed. Be prepared to go back to the Stone
Musharraf, in his autobiography,
In the Line of Fire—which was published this Monday, by CBS subsidiary
Simon & Schuster—further claims that he “war-gamed the
US as an adversary,” but concluded that in any such clash Pakistan
would have been crushed, especially since Pakistan’s arch-rival
India would have sought to exploit the situation.
of the US war threat, which was first reported by CBS on Thursday, September
21, led to a bizarre scene the next day when George W. Bush and the
Pakistani president concluded a bi-lateral meeting at the White House
with a joint press conference.
When asked about the threat
made against Pakistan, Bush claimed that the first time he had ever
heard of it was when he had read a report of Musharraf’s remarks
in that day’s newspaper. “I guess I was taken aback by the
harshness of the words,” said Bush. “All I can tell you
is that shortly after 9/11, Secretary [of State] Colin Powell came in
and said, President Musharraf understands the stakes and he wants to
join and help root out an enemy that has come and killed 3,000 of our
citizens. .. I don’t know of any conversation that was reported
in the newspaper like that. I just don’t know about it.”
Responding to the same question,
Musharraf claimed that he could not elaborate further on the fact that
the US had threatened to all but annihilate his country, which with
150 million people is the sixth largest in the world, because he was
honor-bound by the contract he had with Simon and Shuster not to comment
until the official launch of his autobiography.
Trying to make light of the
matter, Bush then broke in, “In other words, ‘Buy the book,’
is what he is saying.”
Throughout the press conference,
Bush heaped praise on Musharraf, calling the dictator “a strong
defender of freedom” and “a strong, forceful leader.”
and armed services chief, meanwhile, was at pains to prostrate himself
before the US president. “I trust President Bush,” he declared,
“and I have total confidence in him that he desires well for Pakistan
and for our region. And I trust him also that he’s trying to do
his best for bringing peace to the world.”
Armitage has denied that
he ever threatened Pakistan with military action, let alone to bomb
it back to the Stone Age. Indeed the former number two man at the state
department would have us believe he has never threatened anyone in his
entire life. According to Armitage, he had a “strong and factual”
exchange with the head of Pakistani intelligence post 9/11 in which
he told him “Pakistan would need to be with us or against us.
For Americans, this was seen as black or white.”
The denials of Armitage and
Bush are, to say the least, preposterous.
As any politically literate
person knows, for decades the US has bullied and threatened governments
all over the world and pressed for the ouster of regimes deemed insufficiently
amenable to US economic and geo-political interests.
But whereas in the past this
was generally done surreptitiously, through covert destabilization campaigns
and coups, and whereas in the past the US made a pretense of upholding
law in international relations, under the Bush administration, Washington
has waged and asserted the right to wage further pre-emptive wars—i.e.,
illegal wars of aggression—while routinely issuing publicly threats
of violence against countries like Syria and Iran.
In threatening Pakistan with
war, Armitage made explicit the choice Bush had said that every state
had to make in the wake of his proclaiming an open-ended, worldwide
“war on terrorism”—“you are either with us or
revelation has proved embarrassing for the Bush administration.
In announcing to the Pakistani
people in September 2001 that his government was distancing itself from
Afghanistan’s Taliban regime, Musharraf said that failure to do
so would imperil the country’s national interests. But he had
never said, till last week, that the US had threatened Pakistan with
war. Such a war, it need be added, would not only have meant death and
horror for countless Pakistanis. It could potentially have had horrendous
consequences for all of South Asia and the world, since Pakistan is
a nuclear-weapons state and the first priority of any US attack would
undoubtedly have been to try to destroy Pakistan’s nuclear capacity.
So why did Musharraf choose
to reveal this threat now, five years after the fact?
Clearly he is intent on promoting
his autobiography, which he hopes will boost his image as a “progressive”
leader at home and internationally.
But the real reason is to
be found in the multiple crises swirling around Musharraf, crises which
threaten his life as well as his regime.
As CBS noted in an on-line
report on the “60 Minutes” interview and the Musharraf autobiography,
“Most heads of state wait until they are comfortable in retirement
before sitting down to write their memoirs, but in the case of Pakistan’s
President Pervez Musharraf there are no guarantees that he will live
long enough to have one.”
There is widespread and deep-rooted
popular anger at Musharraf’s support for US imperialism’s
attempt to secure a stranglehold over the oil resources of the Middle
East and Central Asia through military conquest. Musharraf’s neo-liberal
economic policies have caused economic insecurity and social inequality
to grow, adversely effecting Pakistan’s toiling masses. But the
government’s use of its privatization program to reward supportive
companies has also alienated substantial sections of the elite.
Recently the Pakistani government
was forced to sign a humiliating “peace treaty” with tribal
leaders in the Waziristan region after waging a two-year war, at the
behest of the US, in pursuit of Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters who have
taken refuge there.
Oblivious to Pakistan’s
tribal and ethnic complexities, the US pressed Pakistan to send troops
into the tribal border regions for the first time since 1947 and to
wage a brutal counter-insurgency campaign that caused large numbers
of civilian casualties and included collective punishments of entire
villages and tribal groups.
The conflict is said to have
resulted in 4,000 deaths, including at least 900 Pakistani troops.
Under the treaty signed with
the “tribal elders” the Pakistan military is obliged to
withdraw its forces from this area, to return all arms confiscated by
the military and to pay reparations to the tribal leaders for the damage
done by the Pakistani military to life and property.
The Musharraf regime also
faces a serious crisis in the south-west province of Baluchistan, a
crisis that the bourgeois opposition to Musharraf and much of the press
warns could, if not defused, lead to an implosion akin to that of 1971
when East Pakistan broke away to form Bangladesh.
For two years resource-rich
Baluchistan has been wracked by a tribal insurgency, fed by complaints
that the Pakistani elite is siphoning off the province’s wealth.
But the insurgency escalated to a national crisis, when the Pakistani
military killed the long-time Baluchi tribal leader Nawab Akbar Khan
Bugti in late August 2006 in what appears to have been a deliberate
assassination aimed at thwarting any attempt to reach a negotiated settlement.
By revealing the US threat
to attack Pakistan, Musharraf is trying to persuade his bourgeois critics
that there is no viable alternative to his policy of doing Washington’s
bidding and that in September 2001 he moved adroitly to secure the interests
of the Pakistani elite under conditions of grave danger.
He also is likely trying
to send Washington a message that there are limits to how far he can
go in accommodating its demands.
The think-tank Stratfor in
a September 22 report points out that Musharraf’s comments were
publicized just a day after Bush remarked that US forces would enter
Pakistan—with or without Pakistani permission—to capture
or kill Al Qaeda leaders if the US obtained “actionable”
According to Stratfor, which
has links with US intelligence and other government agencies, both Musharraf
and Bush are publicly positioning themselves for more intensive operations
by the US military inside Pakistan itself. Mired in crisis, the Bush
administration is desperately looking for a foreign policy “success”
such as the capture or killing of a top Al Qaeda leader ahead of the
upcoming November congressional elections
The US elite, Pakistan, and Islamic fundamentalism
While Musharraf now boasts
that he “war-gamed” the US in September 2001 before deciding
that he best bow to Washington’s demands, the Pakistani elite
never anticipated, let alone wanted, its geo-political maneuvers in
Afghanistan to place it on a collision course with Washington. This
is especially true of the Pakistani military, which has a decades-long
close partnership with the Pentagon.
It was the US after all,
under the Democrat Jimmy Carter and subsequent Republican administrations,
which pressed Pakistan to play a pivotal role in transforming Afghanistan
into a Cold War battlefield.
At the US’s behest,
Pakistan took a leading role in organizing the Afghan Mujahidin and
served for a decade as the conduit for sending US and Saudi Arabian
money and arms and foreign Islamicist fighters to Afghanistan, thereby
planting the seeds from which Al Qaeda and the Taliban sprung in the
After Soviet troops were
withdrawn from Afghanistan, the US effectively washed its hands of Afghanistan.
This left the Pakistani elite free to try to realize its own ambitions
of using Afghanistan to give it “strategic depth” in its
confrontation with India and to serve as a gateway to the oil-rich post-Soviet
Central Asian republics. But the Clinton administration did support
the coming to power of the Pakistani-backed Taliban. Just as it cynically
allied with Islamic fundamentalists elements and various other communalist
forces, while singling out Serb chauvinist atrocities for denunciation,
in the dismembering of Yugoslavia.
One further point should
The US establishment maintains
that it was the January 1980 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan that drove
it to forge a strategic alliance with Pakistan’s then military
dictator Zia-ul Haq.
The truth is the US was more
than happy to see Zia depose Ali Bhutto, Pakistan’s populist,
democratically-elected prime minister, in 1977. And, Washington’s
plan, of which Zbigniew Brzezinski’s now boasts, to goad the Soviet
Union into invading Afghanistan by stoking an Islamic opposition to
the secular, pro-Soviet government, was always predicated on the fact
that the US would be able to arm the Afghan Islamicist opposition through
If relations between the
Carter administration and Zia soured for a time in 1979 it was principally
because the Pakistani government was pursuing nuclear weapons in defiance
of the US.
No sooner had the Soviets
invaded Afghanistan, than the Carter administration came running to
Zia with an offer of economic aid. On assuming office the Reagan administration
embraced Brzezinski’s strategy and soon made Zia’s regime
the third largest recipient of foreign aid.
The US-backed Zia regime
presided over the “Islamicization” of Pakistan. It provided
state patronage to right-wing religious parties, encouraged religious
organizations to assume social and educational functions the state was
no longer prepared to finance, introduced laws discriminating against
women and minorities, and helped generate sectarian religious divisions
that continue to plague Pakistan. As for Pakistan’s involvement
in the Afghan civil war, not only did it give a major boost to the growth
of fundamentalist religious-political organizations and provide a new
source of power and influence to the military and its intelligence agencies,
it also contributed to the development of a host of social problems
in Pakistan, from drugs to a Kalashnikov-culture.
The Bush administration’s
threat to wage war on Pakistan in 2001 and subsequent fulsome embrace
of the dictator Musharraf as a major US ally in the “war on terror”
is only the latest in a long series of events in which the US elite,
in pursuit of its own predatory geo-political objectives, has shown
itself to be utterly indifferent, in fact hostile, to the Pakistani
people and their most elementary democratic rights.
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