Tuesday, August 17

On the matter of indicting Oxfam and International Red Cross for war crimes, and a grim warning for U.S. military

Monies diverted from aid and development projects are going in part to help fund the activities of Pakistani Taliban groups attacking not only Afghans but also NATO troops in Afghanistan. This has led to donor governments and aid organizations in NATO countries in effect helping to finance the murder and maiming of their own troops. The situation is an atrocity; it should be classified as a crime against humanity and those directly involved should be indicted as war criminals.

I am sure that aid organizations such as Oxfam and the International Red Cross would be outraged at being labeled war criminals, as would governments donating to Pakistan's flood victims. But they are indeed war criminals if they don't insure that the relief money they provide is not being diverted to Pakistan's military. That's because the military has a history of diverting financial assistance to warfare against India, nuclear weapons, and terrorism.

The aid organizations and governments providing aid to Pakistan's regime invoke a fallacy to defend their criminally irresponsible behavior. Boiled down, the fallacy is that human aggression can be wiped out by developing a country's economy. Until the fallacy is dismantled, humanitarian organizations and democratic governments will be soaked in the blood of innocents.

The same observations apply to commanders in the United States military and other militaries serving in Afghanistan and the defense officials overseeing the militaries, only with an added warning:

I think only a small number of soldiers serving in Afghanistan have read the WikiLeaks documents that discuss the involvement of Pakistan's military and intelligence branch (ISI) in the deaths and injuries of ISAF troops. The same observation probably applies to Matt Waldman's recent paper for the London School of Economics, which detailed the same situation, and to similar revelations.

Various officials connected with the U.S. Department of Defense, notably Secretary of Defense Bob Gates and Admiral Mike Mullen, have publicly downplayed the revelations. However, it is only a matter of time before large numbers of returning soldiers become aware of the extensively documented instances of the Pakistani military's close involvement with Taliban fighting ISAF troops, and become fully apprised of the extent to which the U.S. government is continuing to support the Pakistani military.

I really do not want to contemplate how these discoveries might play out.

One thing seems clear at this point: the U.S. civilian government is currently held in such contempt by the majority of Americans that a full accounting of its support for Pakistan's military wouldn't come as a great shock to the general public. This would not be the case for the U.S. military, which spent decades rebuilding its image after the Vietnam War. The military is now probably the most respected institution in the United States, so it would have a very long way to fall, if it fell from grace. And in the manner of Humpty Dumpty, if it fell, it might prove impossible to restore its image.

While the military is under civilian command, it has many options for pressing the Obama administration and Congress to clean up their act with Pakistan. The military needs to start deploying the options.

As to the argument that the ISAF governments have no other choice but to continue to throw money and technical assistance at Pakistan's military because their cooperation is required in the Afghan War, that's a canard. The NATO governments are holding all the high cards in their dealings with Pakistan. That they haven't played the cards has to do with outdated geostrategic designs, not with fighting a war in Afghanistan.

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