There’s something about the Osama bin Laden saga that makes me immensely sad. I will come to that presently. But first, are people really so dumb as to believe that the Pakistani leaders did not know precisely where OBL was? They must be. Why? Because some people are earnestly writing in widely read journals that the Pakistanis must have known. Such articles indicate that there are people who are clueless enough to believe that the Pakistanis did not know and the US trusted the Pakistani claim that they did not know. Take Salman “Satanic Verses” Rushdie’s column “Time to Declare Pakistan a Terrorist State“.
The summary says, “Are we really supposed to believe that Pakistan didn’t know Osama bin Laden was living there for five years? Salman Rushdie on why it’s time to declare the country a terrorist state.”
To answer Rushdie’s question (rhetorical though it is): Depends on what you mean by “we” — if it means the average guy on the streets who votes for war-mongering presidents, then yes. They are the same ones who believed that “weapons of mass destruction” story, and the story that the invasion of Iraq had nothing to do with oil and it was only to bring “democracy” to Iraq and liberate the Iraqis.
Yes, “we” are supposed to believe that, and “we” do indeed obligingly believe because “we” are the idiots that the powers that be find very useful.The question for the rest of us, though, is why do they want the “we” to believe the unbelievable. My answer follows.
The Pakistani claim that they did not know is an useful one — and not just to the Pakis. That claim is also useful for the leaders of the US. The US and Pakistan are in this together. The US needs Pakistan as much as Pakistan needs the US. I have argued why previously on this blog and therefore I will not repeat myself.
Here’s the short version of the story. Osama bin Laden had been living in Pakistan for the last five or six years. The Pakistanis (by that I mean the ISI and other leaders) had to know where OBL was because how else would they protect him from some who would want him dead. Lots of people sincerely wanted him dead and a lots more people claimed that they wanted him dead. The latter knew that he was more useful alive than dead, and that when they really wanted him dead, they would know where to find him and finish him off.
The Pakistanis kept OBL safe and loudly proclaimed for all to hear that they had no idea where OBL was. That’s for the public — the “we” — to hear and swallow. The US (by that I mean the leaders of the American military-industrial complex) knew that the Pakis knew but were willing to go along with the publicly claimed ignorance of the Pakis because it helped the US. Not just in this matter of OBL, in other matters as well, it helps the US to pretend to believe the Pakis. Let’s stick to the OBL story for now.
Pretending to believe the Pakistanis was the only way for the US to not be forced to demand that the Pakistanis hand over OBL. Why would the US not want to grab OBL as soon as possible? Haven’t they been trying to do that for years? What about the billions — actually trillions — of dollars that the US has spent on fighting the war on terror?
Yes, indeed, the US is spending trillions on waging the war on terror. And the wages of that war is counted in trillions. Ask yourself who gets those wages, and you will have your answer to why that war has to be continued and cannot be terminated too soon.
If the US had not pretended to believe the Pakistanis, as I was saying, it would have had to force the Pakis to hand over OBL. That would have meant that the US would have to declare Pakistan a terrorist state, instead of an “ally” in the “war against terror.” That would have meant that the US could not continue to pour billions of dollars in “aid” to Pakistan. The words within quotation marks do double duty — they are not what they appear to be.
As a Russian proverb puts it, not all who snore are sleeping. The snoring was deafening but that does not mean that the Pakis and the US were asleep. Both were wide awake.
The Pakis lied that they didn’t know. The US knew that the Pakis knew but pretended to believe in the Pakistani lies. The Pakis knew that the US knew that the Pakis knew. The US knew that the Pakis knew that the US knew that the Pakis knew . . . ad infinitum. It was common knowledge to them. After all, it’s the business of the ISI to know what is going on in Pakistan. And it is the business of the CIA to know what the ISI knows.
Only the “we” don’t know that the ISI knows everything that is going on in Pakistan. Not only does the ISI know but it’s the one giving orders for what is to go on in Pakistan — and in some cases, as in the 26/11 terrorist attack on India, outside Pakistan. Only the “we” don’t know that the CIA can kill anyone anywhere any old time they want. Micheal Corleone’s realization, “If anything in this life is certain, if history has taught us anything, it is that you can kill anyone,” applies to the CIA (and by extension to the US) more than any other organization in the world, even more than to Al Quaida. (Remember the Al Q would certainly do the POTUS in if they could but they can’t.)
It’s all a big “let’s pretend” game. The Pakis pretend to be innocent; the US pretends to believe the Pakis. It’s like in a bad marriage where the woman pretends to be chaste while sleeping around and the cuckolded husband pretends to others that she is faithful. You have to wonder what is in it for the husband because it is certainly not just for the neighbors that this game of pretend is played.
For answers, follow the money. Trillions spent on the “war against terror.” One person’s spending is another person’s earnings, remember? Those predator drones don’t come for a song. Neither do the bombers and the fighters. Those million-dollar cruise missiles don’t grow on trees. The billions that the US gives to the Pakistanis for “fighting terrorism” does not go to Pakistan — they go to American arms manufacturers. The arms manufacturers buy the senators (the best money can buy) and the payback comes in the form of “aid to front line non-NATO allies” such as Pakistan.
The major portion of the trillions spent on the war in Afghanistan and Iraq ends up in the pockets of American arms manufacturers. The war on terror (let’s do away with the scare quotes) has to go on because otherwise it would hurt the American economy. That’s why the US finds it convenient to believe the lying Pakistanis, and the Pakistanis have to keep lying because if the war on terror were to stop, the Pakistani nation — the economy has died a long time ago — would collapse.
The US cannot afford to declare Pakistan a terrorist state. Salman Rushdie, you may come to the belated realization that it is high time it was declared such but it will be a cold day in hell before the US does that. Remember that even India — which is victim numero uno of Pakistani terrorism — does not declare Pakistan a terrorist state because it is useful to the movers and shakers in India. Pakistan is far too useful to the US for the continued war on terror. The most terrifying things for the US would be if the war on terror were to end.
Which makes me immensely sad. I love the US. More accurately, I love the ideals that the US once stood for, the ideals enshrined in its constitution. I love the land and the people who call it home. So it is sad for me to see what it has been reduced to by the narrow-minded greed and myopic self-interest of a powerful few. Where once it fought and won the last world war for free people all over the world, now it is pretending to fight a battle that belittles it.
Seeing all the triumphant chest thumping over the killing of Osama bin Laden brought to mind Rainer Maria Rilke’s words —
What we choose to fight is so tiny!
What fights us is so great!
If only we would let ourselves be dominated
as things do by some immense storm,
we would become strong too, and not need names.
When we win it’s with small things,
and the triumph itself makes us small.
Killing OBL is at best a small triumph over a very small man, and that too with the “help” of people who are even tinier. What saddens me is how the US has diminished itself by pitting itself against an almost inconsequential enemy while the greater enemies are roaming unheeded. The US has lost moral might and instead prides itself for having the world’s greatest military force. It is like the schoolyard bully who has failing grades and knows it, and to prop up its self-image goes around beating up weaklings during recess.
What the world needs is enlightened leaders. The fact is that the US is the most powerful nation on earth — scientifically, technologically, economically, and militarily (all of which are necessarily related.) The US needs to take moral leadership because no other country has the capacity to do so. Only it can do what no other nation can do — bring about peace and prosperity on earth. But the sad thing is that it does not even name the enemy, and merely pretends to be asleep. It is time for the US to stop pretending.
1. Common knowledge. This is distinct from “general knowledge.” I have explored the term in two previous posts that I consider worth re-reading.
It beggars belief that the government of the US does not know that the money they ship to Pakistan is being used by Pakistan to kill American soldiers. It is absurd to imagine that the US government does not have access to its own secret war logs. The US administration is pretending that it did not know, and only after the leaks it knows that Pakistan is a double-crossing nuclear-armed scum of a nation, and it is pretending to talk tough. Hillary Clinton, the US Sec of State, said the other day that someone in the Pakistani government must know where Osama bin Laden is.
Shocking!! I am shocked. I say I am shocked. Not.
I am not shocked because I think what Hillary Clinton said is common knowledge.
Slight digression on “common knowledge.” I may know something and you may also know the same something. But when I know that you too know, and you know that I too know, and moreover, if I know that you know that I know, and you know that I know that you know, and moreover, I know that you know that I know that you know . . . ad infinitum, then it becomes common knowledge.
Hillary Clinton knows that the Pakis know where OBL is; the Pakis know where OBL is; Clinton knows that Pakis know that Clinton knows that Pakis know; the Pakis know that Clinton knows that the Pakis know that Clinton knows . . . you get the picture.