They're All Mad

Posted by sepoy on April 01, 2009 · 2 mins read


"The leader of the Pakistani Taliban threatened Tuesday to carry out a terrorist attack on the U.S. capital, and said his forces were behind an assault on a police academy in eastern Pakistan." Wall Street Journal, Pakistani Taliban Chief Threatens Washington Attack: Baitullah Mehsud Claims Responsibility for Fatal Rampage Near Lahore, Says Violence Avenges U.S. Missile Strikes, April 1, 2009.

"Missiles fired from a suspected American drone struck a militant training camp in northwest Pakistan on Wednesday, killing at least 10 people in an attack apparently aimed at one of the area's most important Taliban leaders, Hakimullah Mehsud, according to news reports, militants and an intelligence official. Mr. Mehsud escaped unhurt, the intelligence official said, speaking in return for anonymity." New York Times,Missile Strike Said to Kill at Least 10 in Pakistan, April 1, 2009.


The people killed illegally by the US within Pakistan could well have been evil. The world may be a better place for their being blasted to unidentifiable blood-streaked gobbets of flesh by CIA missiles. But we don't know, because no evidence is ever provided by the killers. They say they know who is guilty (in their terms); so act as judge, jury and executioner.

But that is not the whole point: the problem is that if one country, no matter how righteous (or self-righteous), is allowed by the rest of the world to act in this manner, without reference or deference to the elected government of the nation it targets, the slide to global anarchy is made easier. You can't have different laws and standards for different countries.

The UN Charter is precise. Article 2(4) states that “All Members shall refrain...from the threat or the use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.”

Brian Cloughley, "No Laws for Drones," April 1, 2009.


Conrad Barwa | April 01, 2009

III pretty much sums up what I would think on this subject.

Jonathan Dresner | April 01, 2009


omar ali | April 01, 2009

I wrote this on the manawan thread this morning and I think its relevant here: Actually, “a lot” of innocent people have not been killed in drone attacks. There was one attack in which a madressa was hit when many students were killed (not all of them “innocent”, but some must have been) but since then the accuracy and intelligence seems to have improved a lot. Compared to conventional bombing (and compared to the number of civilians killed in Pak army shelling, which tends to be much more haphazard) the drones are remarkably accurate. This is war, not law enforcement. Colonel Cloughley can go back and check how the British Army fought all its wars for reference.. These attacks are clearly a violation of Pakistani sovereignty. But look at it this way: the US wanted to destroy certain jihadi networks that the Pak army wanted to maintain. Instead of launching war on Pakistan, the US has moved more subtly. They have tried (with some slow success) to fight the pak army's proxies while pretending the army is an ally. The Pak army has done exactly the same thing in reverse. The people being killed are in some sense pawns being sacrificed by the army in the interest of long term strategy. meanwhile, the US is fully aware of this, but is hoping that by gradually getting its own proxies into the Pakistani state apparatus and by mobilizing public opinion in Pakistan against the jihadis, they will force the army to dump them altogether. This is a nasty, two-faced war on both sides and innocents are being killed by BOTH sides. Meanwhile the true believer jihadis have an agenda of their own and are willing to fight the army all out if that becomes necessary…but even they are subtle and complex in their calculations. Thus, they are killing soft targets more than army people, hoping to convince the army to cooperate less with the US, or to force public opinion to turn against the US………and so on. Questions of law are very valid and I am fully supportive of all efforts to make ALL countries/people/other social organizations live on this planet under some sort of liberal legal code...but we are not there yet (and I am not saying the US and its arrogant imperial interventions are the way to get there...just pointing out that there are many actors in the world and the US is NOT the only one fighting wars rather than enforcing liberal laws. The world will become a better place one day (as I think it is already better than what it was like in the time of Jesus Christ or Mohammed or Akbar the great, to pick three totally random names) and your liberal efforts are needed to bring that day closer, but its good to remember where we are....a world ruled by jihadis would be no nicer, nor would one ruled by the Chinese communist party for that matter.

Yes man | April 01, 2009

I agree with the 3rd point. The issue is, does the pakistani government have any rights to the NWFP? They obviously do not govern it and they do no economically support the region. Aren't we sort of talking about the region being somewhat like Kosovo now? Not that Pakistan is committing atrocities like Serbia has. But that it has for all intents and purposes left the region to its own devices. All the recent terrorist attacks that has happenend have come from that region, so has the assassination or attempted assassination of rulers. And still Pakistan has done nothing. The country still has not properly even named the region! Its called FATA, or NWFP, WHAT?? That's jargon the United states used in the 18th century to describe native american land. If Pakistan refuses to enforce the laws of the state in those areas, is there territorial integrity? Should the US respect this? Will they open the schools in Swat? Drones are a great tool for the empire. No US casualties, no outrage, hell it doesnt even make the front page anymore. A tool like this isnt going away anytime soon.

Qalandar | April 01, 2009

In general I would agree with III, but the matter is complicated here by the Pakistan government's inability to address the growing presence of various groups in those regions, AND the fact that the Pakistani state has long perpetuated the colonial terminology and mode of rule in these "agencies", maintaining the dichotomy between "settled" and "tribal" areas. This is not a problem that is unique to Pakistan (for instance, India has various such colonial legacy legal oddities), but surely a contrast with that other agency, the one-time North-East Frontier Agency ("NEFA") is instructive. NEFA -- which China does not recognize as part of India -- was made a full-fledged state within the Indian Union (Arunachal Pradesh) a couple of decades ago. The symbolism won't get anyone all the way to where one needs to go, but it does matter (stated differently, if eliminating the category of "tribal" versus "settled" is seen as too radical for the establishment, at a minimum some steps could be taken to confer "settled" status on those previously excluded). Certainly, the problem is complicated by the fact that in some cases, post-1947 governments have maintained the "un-settled" distinction because many "tribal" communities have seen the continuation of the Raj-era schema a bulwark against cultural assimilation, and as enabling a certain degree of autonomy (this of course in turn raises the question of who speaks for "the community", the often troubling gender implications of this sort of thing, etc., but that's a discussion for another day) -- but my sense is that with FATA and NEFA, the agency-status had more to do with the concern of the central government (whether that of the Raj or its successor-states) with respect to "sensitive" border areas/security (I guess the idea is that "settled" status limits Central government power to a greater degree). [I throw the above out there, but recognize the analogy isn't a perfect one with the erstwhile NEFA; because that logic would seem to argue for greater Central government control in FATA, whereas it seems to me that historically the Pakistani central government has had LESSER control (more accurately, it has preserved the system of "indirect rule" favored by the Raj, although it obviously eliminated other forms of indirect rule, such as the princely states etc.). It's a difficult and troubling question, at the intersection of the most "local" of paradigms -- the ethos of the people of the area -- and the most "global" of paradigms -- not only the U.S.' intervention but also the "worldwide" jihad ideology that the Al-Qaeda/foreign fighter-types (but probably not the Taliban) who have fled here, subscribe to...]

Conrad Barwa | April 01, 2009

That is a good comparison Q, one of my friends pointed out the limited ability of the colonial successor states in fully controlling their territory as modern nation-states; because the British didn't bother to do so in many of the outlying areas but merely accepted a form of suzerainty with the local tribes whether in the NorthEast or the NWFP. The reality for much of the North East, though, in aplces like Nagaland; is that the Indian state hasn't really been able to assert its control successfully and at least one officer who served in the region described the modus vivendi with the local separatits groups as one of "shared Sovereignty" (talking about Nagaland) though development work and state pay is disbursed by the central government, local civil servants, businesses etc. pay taxes to the underground nationalists. There is a strong and ubiquitous shadow state that operates, collecting taxes, dispensing its own form of justice and sabtogaging central govt projects/forces where necessary. This has been the case for the last few decades and if anything is getting worse imo.

Qalandar | April 01, 2009

One novel that I quite recommend to everyone, in terms of imparting (what I imagine is) a great "feel" for the North-eastern situation(s), is Siddhartha Deb's "The Point of Return" (I far prefer the title under which it was published in the UK and in India: "An Outline of the Republic")...

tsk | April 01, 2009

regarding III: that assumes that the sovereign government didn't give approval (tacit or otherwise) for another state to enter its territory to do some deeds, right?

Nostalgic | April 01, 2009

I agree with Omar on how the drones don't really kill innocents... this is a fact admitted by Shaukat Qadir in his Daily Times article a few months ago... he is your standard issue, dyed in the wool, uptight retired Brigadier with a disdain for all things Bloody Civilian, but he does have good knowledge of the inner machinations of the security apparatus... He was of the view that the intelligence behind the drones has really improved now, so the loss of life is now almost strictly limited to the ones who are targeted... and the ones targeted are always AQ and Taliban types... those harboring them in their houses or madrassas hardly qualify as innocents... the argument that these attacks breed terrorists therefore holds little weight, if any... those killed are not innocents whose bereaved rush to the ranks of the terrorists to avenge the deaths... even if the odd civilian death occurs, grief for it must be tempered with the realization that a lot more hardened criminals have been taken out, who would have wrecked who knows how much carnage in our cities... The violation of territory hurts, of course, but those at the forefront of decrying such violations often forget that those killed by the drones have been violating our territory for years now... In an ideal world, neither type of violation should be tolerable, but we don't live in such a world... given the choice, I would take the drones over the presence of terrorists on our soil... Besides, the drones fly out of Pakistan with permission from our government... whether the government really had a choice, and why the permission granted wasn't shared with the public, doesn't change the fact that permission was given... Its not perfect, but then in this conflict, what is?

omar ali | April 01, 2009

My main point is that it is important to realize that the Pakistani state (in the form of the Pak army) was and remains an adversary that the US wants to forcefully push towards a policy they do not like (giving up their jihadi surrogates). One way of doing that (the "conventional way") would be to attack pakistan, or impose sanctions. But the US has opted for a more subtle approach and BOTH sides understand this perfectly (although public perceptions may lag). Certainly, we can take the position that the US has no business in the region, but what is frequently missing from liberal hand wringing is the recognition that smaller powers are also operating with their own imperial agendas and in the absence of US intervention we would still see India and maybe Iran using whatever means they have to battle the imperial ambitions of the pak army (and to further their OWN imperial ambitions)