Tariq A. Al-Maeena
Columnist from Saudi Arabia
Back in 1991 when George Bush drew his infamous line on the sand with his “you’re either with us or against us”, I chose not to cross over to his side. And now, seven years on, with hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians killed as a result of his infamous decree in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere, I am painfully gratified that I was justified in my reasoning. Pakistan has not been so fortunate though, as they decided to cross over. Perhaps it was the claim by Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf that after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on America, he was told by Richard Armitage, then the US deputy secretary of state, to support Washington or his country would be “bombed back to the Stone Age” that prompted his sleeping with the devil.
Musharraf, then the army chief and president, states in his book: “I felt very frustrated by Armitage’s remarks. It goes against the grain of a soldier not to be able to tell anyone giving him an ultimatum to go forth and multiply, or words to that effect.” The statement highlights the underlying resentment with which many Pakistanis view the US-Pakistan relationship: That their country is a reluctant, bullied US ally dependent on American charity. Seven years on and it hasn’t got any better. Today, distrust between the two allies is deepening.
The American air and artillery strikes that killed 11 Pakistani paramilitary soldiers on the Afghan border last week have raised concerns about the deteriorating American relationship with Pakistan. The dead on the Pakistani side included a major and were all from a paramilitary detachment of the Frontier Corps, the force deployed in Pakistan’s tribal areas bordering Afghanistan. The Pakistani military was quick to release a statement calling the air strikes “unprovoked and cowardly.” It launched a strong protest and reserved “the right to protect our citizens and soldiers against aggression.“The incident had hit at the very basis of cooperation and sacrifice with which Pakistani soldiers are supporting the coalition in the war against terror,” said a military spokesman.
This is just a repetition of such brazen acts of infringing on the sovereignty of Pakistan. There have been several American strikes recently inside Pakistani territory. In March of this year, three bombs, indiscriminately dropped by an American aircraft, killed nine people and wounded nine others in the tribal area of South Waziristan. Among them were women and children, innocent pawns in the game of crossing lines.
Although the US State Department expressed regret for the deaths of the Pakistani troops, it would be of little comfort to the families of the dead. A statement released by the US Embassy in Islamabad conveying condolences to the families of the dead said, “The United States regrets that actions … on the night of June 10 resulted in the reported casualties among Pakistani forces who are our partners in the fight against terrorism.”
And while Pakistan’s newly appointed ambassador to the United States, Husain Haqqani stated that his government would not regard the military strike as an act of intentional hostility, feelings to the contrary were on the rise in a nation fed up being treated like Mr. Bush’s war game.
How many such statements of condolences and regrets the Pakistanis, the Afghanis and the Iraqis have had to put up with these past seven years. Such brazen acts have been consistently justified by Bush’s administration as “unfortunate”, or “victims of friendly fire” or “collateral damage”, with very little concern to human life. Expressing condolences after the fact will not bring the dead back, Mr. Bush.
Pakistanis and others today are unforgiving of the tenure of Bush, one marked with enough atrocities to inspire a tribunal to pass judgment against all those associated with such policies for war crimes against the innocent. It was under Bush’s watch that infamies in the form of Guantanamo, the Abu Ghraib prison tortures, the bombing of Iraqi and Afghani schools and hospitals, and scores of other transgressions took place. All have been recorded and documented.
All have resulted in the wanton destruction of innocent human lives. Those who chose to disagree with him were quickly branded as “insurgents” or “militants”, or else forced to be eliminated or shut up. And while Bush will soon leave office, his crimes would not be easily washed away, especially among the millions of relatives of the innocent. All of these events in the past seven years marred by death and mayhem under the command of President George Bush lead me to wonder: How many more victims of airstrikes or “collateral damage” there will be before this man leaves office?