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November 21, 2007

No Parking

Tribal-Allies

(click for full size)

So, America’s almost sole recourse for contending with al-Qaeda has come down to … bribery.

With real diplomacy, legitimate foreign aid and honest cultural exchange judged as too slow, too weak, too passive, too expensive or too codependent by Washington, what is left is the “Anbar model.”  Effectively giving up on Pakistan and its military to carry the fight to al-Qaeda and the Taliban, the U.S. is now attempting to breech the gap through mercenary tribal fighters to supposedly pursue our interest — for awhile.

As part of the package, you get awkward portraits like this, of the bad guys recruited to fight the bad guys.  They mostly don’t look you in the eye, but if they do, it’s simply to humor the photographer of the devil they’ve made the deal with.

As an amusing attribute, the “No Parking” sign (especially the way it spherically echoes the crossed-gun insignia on the fighter’s sleeve) seems to crudely reference our failure to land any benefit, by way of our supposedly good Pakistani friends over these past six years, in what was the “original 9/11 war.”

Instead, we resort to frittering away capital on stateless figures — one day in white hats, the next day in black — while being played for fools in the proxy bazaar.



(Ali Imam/Reuters.  2007.  via nytimes.com)

  • tina

    It’s not really “bad guys being bought off”. Historically, Pashtun fighters have always been for sale to the highest bidder, since, oh, about the time of Alexander the Great’s invasion (they joined him, as long as he could pay).
    The mountain environment is unfriendly. You plunder caravans or protect them if the price is right, and you help the invader or repel him if the price is right. That’s how you make your living in a place where farming is a marginal activity.
    Those who are aligned with the Taliban are getting paid by the Wahabi Arabs, a very few of whom will be found among their number.
    If this works, it has a time honored precedent and I am not going to whine about it. To call this “hiring the bad guys to fight other bad guys” smacks of the tiresome but usual American insistence on ideological purity.
    If we pay them, they will be less tempted by Saudi/Bin Laden money–it’s really that simple and probably less costly for us in the end.

  • tina

    I would also point that what you call “bribery” is another cultural norm in Pakistan with no negative moral associations–how else does that country win the Most Corrupt in the World title every single year? It’s just called doing business there.

  • http://www.woodka.com donna

    Um, I think we do the honors in the Most Corrupt contest these days. I don’t see Pakistan running around invading other countries for oil profits, anyway. Although they would if they could, I suppose.
    After centuries of dealing with the warring armies passing through, the Pakistani tribes deal with the world in the only way they can. They know the invaders will be moving on, again.

  • tina

    Donna, grow up. Invading other countries for profit is reprehensible, but it isn’t “corrupt” exactly. Corrupt is taking kickbacks for everything and middlemen skimming an additional 10% off…that sort of thing. I see common sense taking another big hit in the name of blind America-hating.
    Whatever you think of the current U.S. govt., and I agree its bad, please don’t start into this ridiculous trope that “U.S. is badder and worser than everybody else, no matter what bad word in the dictionary we are the worstest in it I’m sure”! It’s stupid. It’s infantile. And it’s also not true.
    We are still a lot better than Pakistan, and the U.S. is less corrupt. This is a simple quantifiable fact that even a huge majority of Pakstanis agree with. Let’s bring something of substance to the discussion instead of the usual self-flagellation, please?

  • jtfromBC

    Yes, ‘My enemies enemy is my friend’ is the universal empire song
    “The briefing said United States forces would not be involved in any conventional combat in Pakistan. But several senior military and Pentagon officials said elements of the Joint Special Operations Command, an elite counterterrorism unit, might be involved in strikes against senior militant leaders under specific conditions.”
    Its one thing to enlist a few tribes in an occupied country for temporary and dubious gains. Consider the US Cambodia Caper as in Vietnam and Cambodia, now project it to Afghanistan and Pakistan. Of course there will be variations. It makes students of history fearful and my blood runs cold recalling the initial insertion of secret elite forces into Cambodia before its virtual destruction, first covertly by us than completed by Pol Pot.
    “The Times, along with everybody else in the mainstream media, also fails to mention that before Pol Pot came to power in 1975, the United States had devastated Cambodia for the first half of what a Finnish government’s study referred to as a “decade” of genocide (not just the four years of Pol Pot’s rule, 1975-78). The “secret bombing” of Cambodia by the Nixon-Kissinger gang may have killed as many Cambodians as were executed by the Khmer Rouge and surely contributed to the ferocity of Khmer Rouge behavior toward the urban elite and citizenry whose leaders had allied themselves with the foreign terrorists http://www.zmag.org/zmag/articles/hermansept97.htm

  • gasho

    tina – you may be cool with a slice of your W-2 going to these dudes, but I’m not.
    Forking over 11 Billion (that’s eleven-hundred-million ten times over) to Pakistan just to find out that they’ve spent it on conventional arms to fight India, then on top of that failed strategy, we are forking over more untraceable cash to better arm the likes of this fellow – all in the name of WHAT, exactly? Peace? Security? Stability?
    Here’s a clue: Anything that sounds dangerous, like “stockpiling weapons”, “millitary build up”, “nuclear arsenal”, or “arming mercinary armies” IS dangerous.
    Giving arms, money and training to Bin Laden in Afghanistan, so that he could fight the Soviets sure did provide for quite a return on our investment, didn’t it?

  • tina

    Gasho–oh, I’m not cool with it. At all. I’m just saying that calling the guy in the picture a “bad guy” that we’re “bribing” to chase his fellow “bad guys” is a little uninformed, and oversimplified. That’s all.
    Musharraf should not be getting a dollar of U.S. money for any purpose. That’s what I think.
    But having no control over it, this isn’t better or worse than any of the other sh** we are doing. It’s also quite futile, as history teaches us.

  • The BAG

    I agree with Tina insofar as “bribery,” as it relates to playing the proxy game, is an incorrect conceit. That said, I think Gasho puts a finger on my overall sentiment, which is that the gang we did pay off, the Pakistani military, took our money but never delivered the goods.

  • jtfromBC

    Well the gang we paid off are holding more trump cards and in their own way are raising the stakes. Its hard to threaten a country that has nukes and one we rely on to access Afghanistan by land.

  • gasho

    If congress controls the purse strings, I wonder which row in the General Ledger this dude is being paid from.
    And Tina, If this “sh**” stinks, then say it stinks. That’s what I think. Saying it’s “no better or worse” is kind of letting this policy off the hook. It re-defines the center of the Overton Window on these issues. Why would you want to do that?
    I say – No Way. More money for more guns isn’t going to lead to anything positive.
    And anyone who says that pointing out this crap is somehow bashing America or redefining America as the ‘worst’ has it exaclty backwards. I stand for an America that is based on principles of justice and law and when I see our leaders promoting secrecy, torture, empire and hegemony I HAVE to protest. That’s what it means to me to BE American.

  • Cactus

    The Bag: “…which is that the gang we did pay off, the Pakistani military, took our money but never delivered the goods.” Tina, doesn’t that sound a lot like Blackwater? My point being that just because the corruption in our country is more sophisticated and government controlled, using our tax money instead of payments directly to a tribe, doesn’t mean it’s not corruption. What else would you call the diversion of all of the wealth of a country’s populace to less than one percent of the population? What else would you call the diversion of government watch-dog agencies to the private sectors that they are supposed to watch, to the point that the citizens are left unprotected from the corporations at every step in their lives? Just because the head of the FDA doesn’t walk into the offices of Searle or Bayer and hand them briefcases full of cash, doesn’t mean it’s not corruption.

  • Mad_nVT

    How come the “No Parking” sign is in the Roman alphabet instead of Urdu?
    Looks like it includes an advertisement for cooking oil.
    If somebody paid the Black Hat enough money, do you think that he’d let them park there? How much money, and will he honor the “contract”?
    What will it take to for the US to learn how to “Win friends and influence people?” More money? Better planning? Better principles?

  • jtfromBC

    Juan Cole’s review of the Pakistan media offers these insights :
    During the visit, the US deputy secretary held two meetings with Vice Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Kiyani. It is a fact that he SPENT MORE TIME with Gen Kiyani than with Gen Musharraf. The US diplomat says that this should NOT be made a BASIS for any SPECULATION.
    Secretary of State John Negroponte also said, ‘the people of Pakistan have seen unprecedented Economic growth during the past few years.’ If the opposition parties create an unfavorable law and order situation in the country by boycotting the elections and resorting to agitation, the economic growth will no more be unprecedented.”
    http://www.juancole.com/
    Good old John as ambassador he supported the armies brutal suppression of the people in Honduras and from that country was the central figure coordinating the mass indiscriminate terrorism by the Contras who overthrew the democratically elected government of Nicaragua.
    Negroponte has an excellent record dealing with military dictatorships.

  • tina

    Gasho, I said only it’s not better or worse than our other activities in the region.
    Which was meant to suggest that all of our current activities are pretty darn bad.
    We should be doing something else, yes? But what?
    If I knew, I’d be Jesus Christ, and I’m not. I’m sure there are wiser and cooler heads who have good ideas on what policy to pursue; unfortunately none of them are anywhere near the White House.

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