The HKS Citizen (Harvard Kennedy School)
October 26, 2010
By Sanjeev Bery
Over the last two months, the US government has dramatically increased drone missile strikes in Pakistan. Unfortunately, mainstream US newspapers have not shown the inclination to ask tough questions regarding the change in policy.
In a replay of the softball coverage that preceded the second US invasion of Iraq, some of the biggest US newspapers are once again showing how easy it is to embed a pro-government bias in their reporting. The Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, and The New York Times have all covered the news by mostly quoting US officials while ignoring critics.
From Tufts Journal, September 23, 2009:
It’s a situation Andrew Wilder, F89, F96, knows all too well. A research director for the Feinstein International Center since early 2007, he managed humanitarian aid and development programs in Afghanistan and Pakistan for 10 years … Born and raised in Pakistan, Wilder came to the United States to attend college.
According to Wilder:
The more money we try to spend in this environment, which has very limited human resources and institutional capacity, inevitably money overflows into the pockets of corrupt officials. Our aid programs are actually fueling the corruption, which is de-legitimizing the government, which is fueling instability.
The latest news on US-Pakistan relations shouldn’t surprise anyone. According to the Associated Press, former Pakistani dictator Pervez Musharraf used billions of dollars in US military aid for everything but the paymasters’ intended purpose: fighting Taliban militias.
None of this news, however, is likely to generate much Pakistani sympathy for American taxpayers. What American officials refer to as “anti-American sentiment” is actually a deep resentment of U.S. government involvement in internal Pakistani politics. It is worth noting that U.S. funding for Musharraf marked the third time we have supported Pakistani dictatorship in the country’s 60 years of history.
It is precisely this past that has come to haunt both Pakistanis and Americans today. The intersection of dictatorship and dollars has resulted in a Pakistani military that does not answer to the country’s civilian leadership. Every time American taxpayers financed an alliance with a Pakistani military dictator, we also forced Pakistani reformers to take a backseat.
Below is the text of my posted comment at ForeignPolicy.com responding to Bernard I. Finel’s Ten Questions about Afghanistan.
America’s Moral Responsibility in Afghanistan
Thank you for posing some tough questions that deserve deeper discussion. To complicate matters, I would like focus a bit more on your question six — the nature of America’s “moral obligation” to protect, among others, Afghan women from Taliban oppression.
The fear of a return to Taliban misogyny should be weighed against the reality of significant misogyny in the policies being put forward by the Karzai government. After all, it was the Western-backed Afghanistan regime that recently produced legislation allowing husbands to starve sexually unwilling wives.
Over at ForeignPolicy.com, Bernard I. Finel at the American Security Project asks Ten Questions about Afghanistan that deserve discussion. Here’s one:
Many proponents of escalation in Afghanistan highlight the American moral obligation to the Afghan people, in particular to Afghan women certain to be oppressed by a Taliban resurgence and the large number of men and women who have worked with American forces who would likely be targeted for retribution. What is the nature of this moral obligation? Is it absolute? Are there steps we could take to mitigate the consequences short of providing a permanent guarantee of human rights in the country?
It isn’t a pleasant question. In asking it, we must also keep in mind that it was the Western-backed Karzai government that produced legislation allowing husbands to starve sexually unwilling wives. So in considering our moral obligation, we should also remember that U.S.-backed Afghan elites are making their own deals within the same misogynist political culture. In effect, the U.S. goal of building a stable, non-Taliban Afghan regime may itself result in a perpetuation of misogynist governance and human rights violations.
Sanjeev Bery, The Huffington Post, 05/18/09
As the Pakistani military rains fire down upon villagers and Taliban alike, Pakistanis and members of the diaspora are engaged in numerous online debates about the future of their country. In some cases, they are offering perspectives that the rest of us should listen to.
“I learnt about a family who had to leave child with polio behind and take all the other healthier children with them. Similarly, there are people who left the elderly behind as they could not endure the travel.”
The following piece landed in my inbox via the yahoo group for the Pakistani American Community of Atlanta. Reports say more than one million Pakistanis are fleeing the Pakistani military’s bombardment of Taliban-controlled areas. The piece ends with a bit of a whimper, but it does a good job of turning aggregate numbers into individual realities.
Today We are All Pashtuns
As the horrific situation with the internally displaced people in Pakistan unfolds it has hard for any one with a heart to remain focused on their work.
While we continue to see the numbers of people leaving their homes rise, these are not mere numbers. These are actually people who have had to make some very difficult choices. Choices most of us cannot even dream of making.