Saturday, January 24, 2009

Obama to Pakistan: "Meet The New Boss"

In the first days of Obama's presidency he has done some laudable things - his movement towards closing Guantanamo, his restoration of family planning funding to international aid groups that provide abortions, abortion referrals and abortion counseling. These are strong signals that this administration will break from the hard social conservatism of the Bush years.
But it is a very worrying sign that the other signal that has been sent out arrived on the tips of five hellfire missiles in the Pakistan Frontier Provinces. The result was more than 20 people dead, including numerous civilians. There is even dispute that the tribal leader targeted by the US - and probably killed along with several family members - was even connected with the Pakistan-based Taliban. Likely, the US attack will further destabilize the Pakistani government, certainly undermining it in the tribal areas near the Afghan border. The Pakistani parliament passed a resolution that such attacks were assaults on the sovereignty of the country.
What's especially worrying about this is that Obama stated on more than one occasion during the election campaign and the primaries that he supports unilateral action by the US military in Pakistan. Besides being illegal, it threatens the whole region, including the continued existence of Pakistan, a nuclear-armed power, as a coherent country. Of course what is really needed is for the US, Canada and NATO to get out of the region entirely. The money presently being spent to keep tens of thousands of troops in Afghanistan, to bomb Afghan and Pakistani villages, and to prop up the corrupt Karzai regime and his coterie of drug pushing warlords and human rights abusers should instead be spent on real, locally controlled development aid. That would be the way to "win hearts and minds". It would open the space for greater democracy and send a message to the world that the US and its allies are really about justice and democracy - rather than imperialism, gas pipelines and bombing weddings.
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