Thursday, June 07, 2012

Playing With Fire

There is much rhetoric about war with Iran, or the likelihood that we may have avoided such a war, but I am becoming more and more concerned that our next war may actually be with Pakistan. Our government is treating that nation with increasingly aggressive levels of contempt that strikes me as possibly more than a little bit dangerous.

Drone strikes in three consecutive days killed 27 people, all of whom are claimed by the US to be “militants.” The US, however, pretty much claims that a militant is anyone killed by one of our drones, so it’s unclear how many of those people were actually enemies of this country.

One of them is reported to be Al Qaida’s “number two” (again!), but for several days after the hit we were not sure we had actually killed him because we hit a house that he was believed to be in. There were quite a few people killed when the house was destroyed, but it took a few days to confirm that he was one of them. If that does not sound to you like the “highly specific and carefully targeted strikes” that Obama claims for the drone program, then you are probably a terrorist yourself or at least some sort of terrorist sympathizer.

If some other nation blew up a house in downtown Casa Grande, AZ because they believed that one of their bad guys was in it, and in the process killed a dozen of so of our citizens, I’m sure we would say that was perfectly okay with us. We might be a little queasy about it at first, but once they confirmed that one of the dead people was actually their bad guy, I’m sure we would be fine.

Pakistan is not quite so understanding, and is demanding that we quit firing Hellfire missiles at targets in their nation, claiming that it is “unlawful, against international law and a violation of Pakistan's sovereignty.”

We do not claim that it is lawful, or in compliance with international law, nor do we make any arguments about national sovereignty. Our response from Leon Panetta is simply that, “we are going to continue to defend ourselves.” International law and national sovereignty are apparently irrelevant.

He also tells Pakistan that, "terrorists who threaten the United States, threaten Pakistan as well.” Pakistan doesn’t seem to think so, but what do they know? He was in India when he said this, which adds insult upon insult, because they actually think India is their enemy just because they have fought three wars with them. Panetta tells them that India is not their enemy, and that tribesmen living within their own borders are. Aren’t we glad he cleared that up?

Now Leon Panetta is telling Pakistan that we are “at the limit of our patience” with respect to the “terrorists” who they are not killing within their own borders, which is a decidedly threatening way of putting it.

These “terrorists” are defined as such, of course, because they are attacking our armed forces in Afghanistan. In some circles our forces would be called “foreign occupiers” and the people attacking them would be called “freedom fighters” as was the case in that same territory in the 1980’s. Because the forces they are attacking are American rather than Russian, however, they are “terrorists” instead of “freedom fighters.”

The Russians had the good sense not to extend their war into the national territory of Pakistan, but we seem to have less respect for Pakistan than the Russians did. Or, perhaps, we have more assumptions about our own capability than they had about theirs. At any rate, Pakistan is more and more aggressively telling us to stop firing missiles within their borders, and we are more and more aggressively telling them to go to Hell. This is not going in a good direction.

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