Saturday, December 03, 2011

The failure to investigate 9/11 has bankrupted America financially and morally.....

The failure to investigate 9/11 has bankrupted America financially and morally.....

Preface: This post does not discuss whether or not 9/11 was a “false flag” operation or an “inside job”. Anything other than a discussion of the negligence of the Bush administration is unnecessary for the purposes of this essay, and is thus beyond the scope of this post.

In case you didn’t get the memo, we are currently in a depression.

And given that American citizens can be indefinitely detained or assassinated at the whim of the president, it is pretty clear that we now live in a police state.

This post will demonstrate – without getting into discussions of an “inside job” one way or the other – that the failure to hold a real 9/11 investigation is a core cause of our loss of our prosperity and freedom.

The Failure to Investigate 9/11 Has Bankrupted America

Top economists say that endless war bankrupts a nation.

For example, Nobel prize winning economist Joe Stiglitz says that the $3-5 trillion spent on the Iraq war alone has been very bad for the American economy. See this, this and this.

The endless wars have also been a main component of America’s soaring debt:

TAX CUTS DEBT The Failure to Investigate 9/11 Has Bankrupted America

And huge debts exert a very real drag on the economy.

As shown below, we wouldn’t have launched the war against Iraq – or the endless panoply of wars throughout the Middle East and North America – if 9/11 had actually been in investigated.

(Even the 9/11 Commission itself admits that there was criminal obstruction of justice and a whitewash of the investigation. As such, there has never been a real investigation.)

The Police State Was Caused by the Failure to Investigate 9/11

The police state started in 2001.

Specifically, on 9/11, Vice President Dick Cheney initiated Continuity of Government Plans that ended America’s constitutional form of government (at least for some undetermined period of time.)

On that same day, a national state of emergency was declared … and that state of emergency has continuously been in effect up to today.

It is beyond dispute that 9/11 was entirely foreseeable, but – due to the extreme negligence and incompetence or lack of caring of the Bush administration (remember, I’m not getting into any other theories in this post) it wasn’t stopped. Even the chair of the 9/11 Commission said that the attack was preventable.

If there had been a real 9/11 investigation, the Bush administration’s extreme negligence would have come to light. And Americans would have learned that terrorism can largely be prevented if the military and intelligence officers are simply allowed to do their job.

As just one example, Dick Cheney was in charge of all counter-terrorism exercises, activities and responses on 9/11. See this Department of State announcement; this CNN article; and this essay.

The genius Mr. Cheney apparently scheduled 5 war games for the morning of 9/11. Specifically, on the very morning of September 11th, five war games and terror drills were being conducted by several U.S. defense agencies, purportedly including one “live fly” exercise using real planes. Then-Acting Head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Air Force General Richard B. Myers, admitted to 4 of the war games in congressional testimony — see transcript here or video here (6 minutes and 12 seconds into the video.

False radar blips to be inserted onto air traffic controllers’ screens as part of the war game exercises, which may have confused the heck out of them (see this December 9, 2001 Toronto Star article; pay-per-view; reprinted here). Way to let that one slip through, Mr. in-charge-of-all-war-games.

The military – under the Vice President’s command that day – didn’t scramble enough fighter jets, and then scrambled jets far over the Atlantic Ocean, in what Senator Mark Dayton called:

The most gross incompetence and dereliction of responsibility and negligence that I’ve ever, under those extreme circumstances, witnessed in the public sector.

And the knucklehead personally watched flight 77 for many miles, but – according to Secretary of Transportation Norm Minetta – stopped it from being shot down before it hit the Pentagon (and see this).

Americans would have learned through any real 9/11 investigation that Cheney’s negligence and mucking around in what should have been the generals’ jobs was partly responsible for allowing 9/11 to happen.

In other words, a real 9/11 investigation would have shown Americans that 9/11 should of, could of, and would have been stopped – and that America can protect itself against future terrorist attacks – simply by playing goalie well in our country.

And Americans – instead of being scared into immobility – would have been mad at our government for dropping the ball. And we would have demanded accountability and effective service from our elected officials. (Indeed, experts have repeatedly demonstrated that fear of terror makes people stupid … and makes them willing to accept a loss of liberty and other abuses they would never otherwise accept.)

The Road Not Taken

Instead, of course, Americans were led to believe that Al Qaeda was going to get us unless we took the fight to the Middle East and North Africa. The administration pretended that Saddam Hussein had a hand in 9/11 – one of the main justifications for that war.

Had a real 9/11 investigation been conducted before we launched the Iraq war, it would have taken away one of the two main rationales for that war. (The FBI was also instructed to blame the anthrax attacks on Al Qaeda, and high-level government officials pointed towards Iraq as the source of the anthrax, even though there was absolutely no basis for those claims. But that’s another story.)

Dan Rather was right when he wrote last week:

We have been so afraid; so hell bent on destroying enemies … both foreign and domestic … we have hurt ourselves and our democracy.

Jimmy Carter’s National Security Adviser also told the Senate in 2007 that the war on terror is so overblown that it is “a mythical historical narrative”.

And as in 2008:

Former deputy national intelligence officer for transnational threats, a 23-year senior CIA analyst, who “drafted or was involved in many of the government’s most senior assessments of the threats facing our country [and who] devoted years to understanding and combating the jihadist threat”, writes today in the Washington Post that the neocons have whipped us into an irrational fear of the terrorism. In reality, “Osama bin Laden and his disciples are small men and secondary threats whose shadows are made large by our fears” and our leaders.

This is no surprise to anyone who has been paying attention. The BBC produced a documentary called The Power of Nightmares in 2005 that showed that politicians were greatly exaggerating the terrorist threat for political ends.

And unfortunately, many in government have intentionally whipped up fear in the American public for their own political purposes. For example, FBI agents and CIA intelligence officials, constitutional law expert professor Jonathan Turley, Time Magazine, Keith Olbermann and the Washington Post have all said that U.S. government officials “were trying to create an atmosphere of fear in which the American people would give them more power”.

And former Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge admits that he was pressured to raise terror alerts to help Bush win reelection. Fear sells.

And because 9/11 was never really investigated, the government – instead of doing the things which could actually make us safer – are doing things which increase the risk of terrorism.

As such, the threats from terrorism form even more of a “justification” for a suspension of our Constitutional rights.

The failure to investigate 9/11 has bankrupted America financially and morally, and has allowed us to stand idly by while our liberty has been destroyed....

Thursday, December 01, 2011

The shadow war in Syria....

The shadow war in Syria....
By Pepe Escobar

Target Syria - the strategic prize that outstrips Libya. The stage is set. The stakes couldn't be higher. Libya 2.0 equals Syria? It's more like Libya 2.0 remix. With the same R2P (''responsibility to protect'') rationale - starring civilians bombed into ''democracy''. But with no UN Security Council resolution (Russia and China will veto it). Instead, Turkey shines, fanning the flames of civil war.

US Secretary of State Hillary ''we came, we saw, he died'' Clinton set the scene on Indonesian TV a few weeks ago, when she prophesied there would be ''a civil war'' in Syria, with a well financed and ''well-armed opposition'' crammed with army deserters.

Now it's up to NATOGCC to make it happen. NATOGCC is of course the now fully accomplished symbiosis between selected North Atlantic Treaty Organization members such as Britain and France and selected petro-monarchies of the Gulf Cooperation Council, aka the Gulf Counter-revolution Club, such as Qatar and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

So feel free to bask in the glow of yet another mercenary paradise.

The Libyans formerly known as rebels, with explicit consent from Transitional National Council (TNC) chairman Mustafa Abdul NATO, aka Jalil, have already shipped to Syria - via Turkey - 600 highly motivated troops fresh from toppling the Gaddafi regime, to fight alongside the Free Syria Army (FSA). This followed a secret meeting in Istanbul between the TNC and the Syrian ''rebels'', rebranded as Syrian National Council.

The trigger-happy Libyans have access to a wealth of weapons plundered from the Gaddafi's regimes military depots or gently ''donated'' by NATO and Qatar. A delicious parallel may already be traced with the House of Saud in the 1980s - which gave the green light for hardcore Islamists to go fight in Afghanistan, instead of raising hell at home.

For the TNC, better keep those testosterone-heavy, unemployed warriors away in the Middle East rather than raising hell in Northern Africa. And for NATO member Turkey, in the absence of war (blame those pesky Russians and Chinese), the next best option is to rely on mercenaries to do the job.

The pressure is relentless. Diplomats in Brussels confirmed to Asia Times Online that NATOGCC operatives have set up a command center in Iskenderun, in Hatay province in Turkey. Crucial Aleppo, in northwest Syria, is very close to the Turkish-Syrian border. The cover story for this command center is to engineer ''humanitarian corridors'' to Syria.

Although these ''humanitarians'' come from NATO members US, Canada and France, and GCC members Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the UAE, their cover is that they're only innocent ''monitors'', and not part of NATO. Needless to say these humanitarians consist of ground, naval, air force and engineering specialists. Their mission: infiltrate northern Syria, especially Idlib, Rastan, Homs but most of all the big prize, Aleppo, the largest city in Syria, with at least 2.5 million people, the majority of which are Sunni and Kurdish.

Even before this news from Brussels, the French satirical weekly Le Canard Enchaine - as well as the Turkish daily Milliyet - had already revealed that commandos from French intelligence and the British MI6 are training the FSA in urban guerrilla techniques, in Hatay in southern Turkey and in Tripoli, in northern Lebanon. Weapons - from shotguns to Israeli machine guns and RPGs - have been smuggled en masse.

It's no secret in Syria that armed gangs - from Salafis to petty criminals - have been attacking regular soldiers, the police and even civilians since the early stages of the protest movement. Of roughly 3,500 people killed during the past seven months, a large number of civilians and more than 1,100 soldiers were killed by these gangs.

And then there are the deserters. So when the Assad regime insists the current Syrian tragedy is to a great extent incited by well-paid and well-armed elements - not to mention mercenaries - at the service of foreign powers, it is essentially correct.

In Homs, a local source tells Asia Times online that as far as the FSA is concerned, ''it's clear that they are just a nice media cover for criminals. They had a video of themselves in Baba Amr in which they appeared like complete idiots (
here it is, with captions conveniently!). But whoever these kids or guys are, they have lots of support amongst the Sunni population. Also, they are connected within the community, whether rich or poor. A Christian woman who teaches at a private school just outside Homs which has largely Sunni students had her car stopped and stolen by some gang. When she came to Homs she made some phone calls and her car was returned. So whoever stole her car outside city limits had connections to middle to high class people in the city and they were able to return the car. This tells me of the infiltration of the dogma of the revolution in Homs. The 'concept' of FSA is probably supported enough, and just the people of poor areas like Baba Amr, Bayada and Khalidiyya can self-sustain the FSA.''

Round up the usual votes
Just as in Libya, the Arab League also duly fulfilled its doormat function for NATOGCC, voting for harsh sanctions that include a freeze of Syrian government assets, no more trade deals with the central bank and no more Arab investment. In short: economic war. The Lebanese paper L'Orient Le Jour politely called it ''a political euphemism''. Of the 22 League members, 19 voted - Syria was already suspended. Iraq - where the government is majority Shi'ite - and Lebanon - where Hezbollah is part of the government - were the only ones that ''dissociated'' themselves from the vote.

Meanwhile, the nasty opportunist game of musical chairs - the Syrian version - is also in effect. The Syrian National Council and its Islamist cohorts totally rejected any dialogue with the Bashar Assad criminal assassin regime....linked in the past to the infamous White House Murder INC,.... The secretary-general of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood, Riad Chakfi, pulled a ''Libyan rebel'' and implored the Turkish army to invade northern Syria and establish a buffer zone. Dodgy exiles such as former vice-president Abdelhalim Khaddam - exiled in Paris - and another vice-president, Rifaat al-Assad - exiled in Spain - are under the illusion that the Muslim Brotherhood (which will be the top power in a ''new'' Syria) would allow them to sit on the throne.

This is downright silly - because the name of the game in a ''new'' Syria will be the House of Saud. The House of Saud is the crucial link between the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt (which is getting closer and closer to taking power); the AKP party in Turkey (which is essentially a Muslim Brotherhood lite); and the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria. The Saudis are crucial investors in Turkey. They are positioning themselves as major investors in Egypt. And they're dying to become a major investor in ''new'' Syria.

Then there's the key question of Turkey's game. In the Syrian dossier, Turkey is not a mediator anymore; it has become a brash advocate of regime change. Forget about the Tehran-Damascus-Ankara entente, which was a reality not along ago, in 2010. Forget about soft power and the much-advertised foreign policy of ''zero problems with our neighbors'', coined by Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.

Davutoglu himself announced Turkey's own sanctions on Syria - a replay of the Arab League's, with freezing of the government's financial assets and no transactions with the central bank. Davutoglu insists a military buffer zone inside Syria, along the border with Turkey, is ''not on the agenda'' - but that's exactly what those shady NATOGCC ''humanitarian monitors'' are up to. Since mid-November Turkish media has been ablaze detailing plans for a no-fly zone in northern Syria and the aforementioned buffer zone stretching as far as Aleppo.

The motive? Ask ''prophet'' Hillary Clinton - to foment civil war.

Showdown, Club Med style
In its mad rush to sell the Turkish political model to the majority-Sunni parts of the Arab world (yet the GCC is not buying), Turkey may be severely miscalculating its crucial relations with both Russia and Iran. Around 70% of Turkey's energy is imported from Russia and Iran. Not to mention that both Russia and Iran are fuming with Turkey bowing to NATO pressure to host a radar station as part of missile defense.

Russia has very clear ideas about the Syrian scenario. The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been more than explicit for weeks now; ''We absolutely do not accept a scenario of military intervention in Syria.''

Last week's meeting of the deputy foreign ministers of the emergent BRICS group (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), in Moscow, was unmistakable.

The BRICS essentially drew the red lines. No excuse whatsoever for a foreign intervention in Syria, as in ''any external interference in Syria's affairs, not in accordance with the UN Charter, should be excluded.'' No ''bomb bomb Iran''; instead, dialogue and negotiations. And no additional sanctions, deemed ''counterproductive''. The BRICS clearly see how the Libya scenario is slowly morphing into the modified NATOGCC war.

To add extra sauce, the aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov - equipped with nuclear missiles - has already left Murmansk towards the Eastern Mediterranean, alongside the destroyer Admiral Chabanenko and the frigate Ladny. They will arrive at the Tartus naval base, in Syria, in mid-January, and will be met by other ships from the Russian fleet in the Black Sea.

Tartus, hosting around 600 military and technicians from the Russian Defense Ministry, is a center of maintenance and refueling for the Russian Black Sea fleet. It will be a thrill to watch whether the Russians will invite members of the George H W Bush Carrier Strike Group - now also in the Eastern Mediterranean - for a volleyball match.

It's fair to argue that masses of Syrians want something other than the Assad regime - but certainly not some variant of humanitarian bombing, not to mention civil war. They saw NATO's legacy in Libya - virtually the whole infrastructure of the country destroyed, cities bombed to dust, tens of thousands of dead and wounded, al-CIAda-linked fanatics wielding power in Tripoli, widespread ethnic hatred. They don't want a brand new massacre. But NATOGCC does.

Rwanda demands end to tied practice of linking aid to purchases from companies in donor countries.....

Rwanda of all places...., demands end to tied practice of linking aid to purchases from companies in donor countries.....

Negotiations are dragging out on a final document at a major conference on aid effectiveness as African countries, led by Rwanda, are pushing for a firm deadline on ending tied aid.

Sherpas (negotiating officials) had hoped to have a draft outcome document all wrapped up before their bosses – about 100 ministers, including Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, and Andrew Mitchell, the UK international development secretary, arrive from Tuesday.

Rwanda has emerged as a strong advocate for rich countries to end by 2013 all tied aid – the practice of linking aid to purchases from companies in donor countries. Civil society organisations firmly back the demand.

Sherpas are now working on the sixth draft of the outcome document.

Researchers estimate that $69bn – more than half of the total official development assistance – is spent each year buying goods and services for development projects. But much of this money is "boomerang aid" – funds that flow to developing countries only on the books and may never leave the donor countries.

Ten years ago, aid donors pledged to end tied aid. The UK formally untied all development assistance in 2001, with the justification that "tied aid reduces value for money" and tends to lead to inappropriate and expensive projects that do little to tackle the needs of the poorest.

But in September a report from the European Network on Debt and Development, a network of 54 NGOs from 19 European countries, said many countries have reneged on their promises and at least 20% of all bilateral aid remains formally tied. It is estimated that tied aid reduces the purchasing power of aid by an estimated 15% to 40%.

The footdraggers on untying aid include the EU, France and Japan. In the last round of pre-conference, Japan argued that ending tied aid would sap support for its aid programme, an assertion that led to much derision among aid campaigners.

Other areas of disagreement in the final document include demands from NGOs for specific commitments on freedoms of association and speech as governments, such as Cambodia and Ethiopia, have introduced legislation making it harder for civil society groups to operate. The Busan conference marks the first time civil society is at the negotiating table, working alongside government officials on the draft outcome document. In past high-level fora on aid effectiveness in Paris and Accra, civil society organisations were observers, not direct participants in negotiations.

"What is happening since Paris is that governments are shrinking space for civil society organisations in which to operate effectively," said Carolyn Long, director at InterAction, an alliance of US-based NGOs.

It is not just NGOs who have low expectations of the Busan conference. Stephen Groff, vice-president of the Asian Development Bank, thinks that the need to satisfy such diverse actors as OECD countries and new players such as China and Brazil will lead to low common denominator.

"The risk is that because we are trying to find common ground we will not end up with a stronger basis for a global partnership," said Groff. "Maybe there isn't that common ground."

More than 2,000 delegates are due in Busan for the three-day conference that seeks to establish common principles for aid effectiveness taking into account the emergence of new players such as China and large private foundations such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Some NGOs have accused the OECD countries of using China as a pretext to backtrack on what was agreed in Paris and Accra on the need for aid recipients to have "ownership" of aid programmes, and greater transparency and accountability....

, in Busan

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Well armed Swiss is an insurance policy against Chaos in Eurozone collapse....

Well armed Swiss is an insurance policy against Chaos in Eurozone collapse....

About a year ago, I spoke at a conference in Europe that attracted a lot of very rich people from all over the continent, as well as a lot of people who manage money for high-net-worth individuals.

What made this conference remarkable was not the presentations, though they were generally quite interesting. The stunning part of the conference was learning – as part of casual conversation during breaks, meals, and other socializing time – how many rich people are planning for the eventual collapse of European society.

Not stagnation. Not gradual decline. Collapse.

As in riots, social disarray, plundering, and chaos. A non-trivial number of these people think the rioting in places such as Greece and England is just the tip of the iceberg, and they have plans – if bad things begin to happen – to escape to jurisdictions ranging from Australia to Costa Rica (several of them remarked that they no longer see the U.S. as a good long-run refuge).

This was rather sobering. I’ve never been an optimist about Europe’s future, as I explain here and here, but is the situation really this bad?

Well, the U.K. government seems to think things will get worse. Here are some excerpts from the Telegraph.

British ministers privately warned that the break-up of the euro, once almost unthinkable, is now increasingly plausible. Diplomats are preparing to help Britons abroad through a banking collapse and even riots arising from the debt crisis. The Treasury confirmed earlier this month that contingency planning for a collapse is now under way. …Recent Foreign and Commonwealth Office instructions to embassies and consulates request contingency planning for extreme scenarios including rioting and social unrest. …Diplomats have also been told to prepare to help tens of thousands of British citizens in eurozone countries with the consequences of a financial collapse that would leave them unable to access bank accounts or even withdraw cash. …Analysts at UBS, an investment bank earlier this year warned that the most extreme consequences of a break-up include risks to basic property rights and the threat of civil disorder. “When the unemployment consequences are factored in, it is virtually impossible to consider a break-up scenario without some serious social consequences,” UBS said.

Let’s think about what this means, and we’ll start with an assumption that European politicians won’t follow my sage advice and that they’ll instead continue to kick the can down the road – thus making the debt bubble even bigger and creating the conditions for a nasty collapse.

I’ve learned over the years that things are usually never as bad as they seem (or as good as they seem), so I don’t expect that a nightmare situation will materialize, but I certainly can understand why wealthy people have contingency plans to escape.

But what about the rest of us?

We don’t have property overseas and we don’t have private jets, so what’s our insurance policy?

Part of the answer is to have the ability to protect ourselves and our families. As explained here, firearms are the ultimate guarantor of civilization.

In my discussions and debates about this issue, I’ve traditionally relied on these four arguments:

1. Respect for the Constitution. The Founding Fathers were wise to include “the right of the people to keep and bear arms” in the Bill of Rights. The Second Amendment recognizes the value of a well-armed citizenry, and today’s politicians (or courts) shouldn’t be allowed to weaken that fundamental freedom.

2. The presumption of liberty. It’s sometimes said that everything that isn’t expressly forbidden is allowed in the United States, whereas in Europe it’s the other way around, with everything forbidden unless explicitly permitted. This certainly seems to be the case for guns, with most European governments prohibiting firearms ownership for the vast majority of people.

3. Personal protection against crime. As the first image in this post powerfully illustrates, it doesn’t really matter if cops are only a few minutes away when a person only has a few seconds to protect against danger. And since the evidence is overwhelming that gun ownership reduces crime, this is a powerful argument for the Second Amendment.

4. Ability to resist government oppression. Totalitarian governments invariably seek to disarm people, as this poster indicates. And with the majority of the world still living in nations that are not free, private gun ownership is at least a potential limit on thuggish governments.

But perhaps we now need to add a fifth reason:

5. Personal protection against social breakdown. If politicians destroy the economic system with too much debt and too much dependency, firearms will be the first and last line of defense against those who would plunder and pillage.

Here’s a thought experiment to drive the point home. If Europe does collapse, which people do you think will be in better shape to preserve civilization, the well-armed Swiss or the disarmed Brits?

I hope we never have to find out, but I know which society has a better chance of surviving....

Monday, November 28, 2011

US and Pakistan enter the danger zone, Blazing Saddles in Af-Pak on 26-11....

US and Pakistan enter the danger zone, Blazing Saddles in Af-Pak on 26-11....LOL

By M K Bhadrakumar

The air strike by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) at the Pakistani military post at Salala in the Mohmand Agency on the Afghan-Pakistan border Friday night is destined to become a milestone in the chronicle of the Afghan war.

Within hours of the incident, Pakistan's relations with the US began nose-diving and it continues to plunge. NATO breached the ''red line''.

What is absolutely stunning about the statement issued by Pakistan's Defence Committee of the Cabinet (DDC), which met Saturday at Islamabad under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Yousuf Gilani is that it did not bother to call for an inquiry by the US or NATO into the air strike that resulted in the death of 28 Pakistani soldiers.

Exactly what happened in the fateful night of Friday - whether the NATO blundered into a mindless retaliatory (or pre-emptive) act or ventured into a calculated act of high provocation - will remain a mystery. Maybe it is no more important to know, since blood has been drawn and innocence lost, which now becomes the central point.

At any rate, the DDC simply proceeded on the basis that this was a calculated air strike - and by no means an accidental occurrence. Again, the DDC statement implies that in the Pakistan military's estimation, the NATO attack emanated from a US decision. Pakistan lodged a strong protest at the NATO Headquarters in Brussels but that was more for purpose of 'record', while the "operative" part is directed at Washington.

The GHQ in Rawalpindi would have made the assessment within hours of the Salala incident that the US is directly culpable. The GHQ obviously advised the DDC accordingly and recommended the range of measures Pakistan should take by way of what Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kiani publicly called an "effective response."

The DDC took the following decisions: a) to close NATO's transit routes through Pakistani territory with immediate effect; b) to ask the US to vacate Shamsi airbase within 15 days; c) to "revisit and undertake a complete review" of all "programs, activities and cooperative arrangements" with US, NATO and the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), including in "diplomatic, political and intelligence" areas; d) to announce shortly a whole range of further measures apropos Pakistan's future cooperation with US, NATO and ISAF.

No more doublespeak
The response stops short of declaring the termination of Pakistan's participation in the US-led war in Afghanistan (which, incidentally, is the demand by Pakistani politician Imran Khan who is considered to be close to the Pakistani military circles). In essence, however, Pakistan is within inches of doing that.

The closure of the US-NATO transit routes through Pakistan territory may not immediately affect the coalition forces in Afghanistan, as it has built up reserve stocks that could last several weeks. But the depletion of the reserves would cause anxiety if the Pakistani embargo is prolonged, which cannot be ruled out.

Therefore, the Pakistani move is going to affect the NATO operations in Afghanistan, since around half the supplies for US-NATO troops still go via Pakistan. An alternative for the US and NATO will be to rely more on the transit routes of the Northern Distribution Network [NDN]. But the US and NATO's dependence on the NDN always carried a political price tag - Russia's cooperation.

Moscow is agitated about the US regional policies. The NATO intervention in Libya caused friction, which deepened the Russian angst over the US's perceived lack of seriousness to regard it as equal partner and its cherry-picking or "selective partnership".

Then, there are other specific issues that agitate Moscow: US's push for "regime change" in Syria, the US and NATO appearance in the Black Sea region, continued deployment of US missile defense system, and the push for US military bases in Afghanistan. In addition, Moscow has already begun circling wagons over the US "New Silk Road" initiative and its thrust into Central Asia.

The future of the US-Russia reset remains uncertain. Washington barely disguises its visceral dislike of the prospect of Vladimir Putin's return to the Kremlin following the presidential election in March next year. Short of bravado, the US and NATO should not brag that they have the NDN option up their sleeve in lieu of the Pakistani transit routes. The Pakistani military knows this, too.

Equally, the closure of the Shamsi airbase can hurt the US drone operations. Pakistan has so far turned a blind eye to the drone attacks, even conniving with them. Shamsi, despite the US's insistence that drone operations were conducted from bases in Afghanistan, surely had a significant role in terms of intelligence back-up and logistical support.

By demanding that the US vacate Shamsi, Pakistan is possibly shifting its stance on the drone attacks; its doublespeak may be ending. Pakistan is ''strengthening'' its air defense on the Afghan-Pakistan border. Future US drone operations may have to be conducted factoring in the possibility that Pakistan might regard them as violations of its air space. The US is on slippery ground under international law and the United Nations Charter.

A Persian response
The big issue is how Pakistan proposes to continue with its cooperation with the US-NATO operations. Public opinion is leaning heavily toward dissociating with the US-led war. The government's announcement on the course of relations with the US/NATO/ISAF can be expected as early as next week. The future of the war hangs by a thread.

Unlike during previous phases of US-Pakistan tensions Washington lacks a "Pakistan hand" to constructively engage Islamabad. The late Richard Holbrooke, former special AfPak envoy, has become distant memory and special representative Marc Grossman has not been able to step into his shoes.

Admiral Mike Mullen has retired as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and is now a 'burnt-out case' embroiled in controversies with the Pakistani military. Central Intelligence Agency director David Petraeus isn't terribly popular in Islamabad after his stint leading the US Central Command, while his predecessor as spy chief and now Defense Secretary Leon Panetta always remained a distant figure.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is a charming politician, but certainly not cut out for the role of networking with the Pakistani generals at the operational level. She could perhaps offer a healing touch once the bleeding wound is cleansed of dirt, stitched up and bandaged. And US President Barack Obama, of course, never cared to establish personal chemistry with a Pakistani leader, as he would with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Now, who could do that in Washington? The horrible truth is - no one. It is a shocking state of affairs for a superpower with over 100,000 troops deployed out there in the tangled mountains in Pakistan's vicinity. There has been a colossal breakdown of diplomacy at the political, military and intelligence level.

Washington trusted former Pakistani ambassador Hussein Haqqani almost as its own special envoy to Islamabad, but he has been summarily replaced under strange circumstances - probably, for the very same reason. At the end of the day, an intriguing question keeps popping up: Can it be that Pakistan is simply not interested anymore in dialoguing with the Obama administration?

The heart of the matter is that the Pakistani citadel has pulled back the bridges leading to it from across the surrounding crocodile-infested moat. This hunkering down is going to be Obama's key problem. Pakistan is boycotting the Bonn Conference II on December 2. This hunkering down should worry the US more than any Pakistani military response to the NATO strike.

The US would know from the Iranian experience that it has no answer for the sort of strategic defiance that an unfriendly nation resolute in its will to resist can put up against an 'enemy' it genuinely considers 'satanic'.

The Pakistani military leadership is traditionally cautious and it is not going to give a military response to the US's provocation. (Indeed, the Taliban are always there to keep bleeding the US and NATO troops.)

Washington may have seriously erred if the intention Friday night was to draw out the Pakistani military into a retaliatory mode and then to hit it with a sledgehammer and make it crawl on its knees pleading mercy. Things aren't going to work that way. Pakistan is going to give a "Persian" response.

The regional situation works in Pakistan's favor. The recent Istanbul conference (November 2) showed up Russia, China, Pakistan and Iran sharing a platform of opposition to the US bases in Afghanistan in the post-2014 period.

The Obama administration's grandiose scheme to transform the 89-year period ahead as 'America's Pacific Century' makes Pakistan a hugely important partner for China. At the very minimum, Russia has stakes in encouraging Pakistan's strategic autonomy. So does Iran.

None of these major regional powers wants the deployment of the US missile defense system in the Hindu Kush and Pakistan is bent on exorcising the region of the military presence of the US and its allies. That is also the real meaning of Pakistan's induction as a full member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which is on the cards....

Blazing Saddles in Pakistan
By Spengler

In Mel Brooks' 1974 comedy Blazing Saddles, a welcoming committee for a new sheriff turns into a lynch mob when it discovers the man is black. He points his gun at his own temple and says, ''One step closer and the [N-word] gets it!'' The townspeople back off, rather like the American government every time it catches Pakistan supporting the Taliban or other enemies of the United States. Pakistan menaces the United States with the prospect of its own failure.

Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum summed up the Washington consensus at last week's national security debate, ''Pakistan must be our friend'' because it has nuclear weapons. America can't do without Pakistan, that is, because if Pakistan breaks up, nuclear weapons might reach the hands of terrorists. The flaw in this argument is that Pakistan itself is governed by terrorists. That is why it has been so successful. It scares its neighbors. American policy, instead, should force the burden of uncertainty onto Pakistan.

Last week's North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) air strike on Pakistani frontier outposts prompted Islamabad to stop resupply of NATO forces in Afghanistan, leaving Washington to apologize for the ''unintended tragic'' deaths of 24 Pakistani soldiers. Rather than calling Pakistan to account for the attack on the American embassy in Kabul by the al-Haqqani network, which outgoing Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Admiral Michael Mullen September 22 called ''a veritable arm'' of Pakistan's ISI, America finds itself on the defensive. If the Pakistanis fired on NATO forces before the latter called in an air strike, as the Afghan government claims, we should infer that Pakistan provoked the incident in order to wrong-foot the United States.

Considering that the United States wants Pakistan to pursue military operations against a largely Pashtun insurgency in Afghanistan, while Pashtuns comprise a fifth of the Pakistan's people, friendship seems an odd choice of words. American policy threatens to tear Pakistan apart, and Islamabad's double-dealing is understandable under the circumstances. The only way to make Pakistan behave is to convince Islamabad that it will be torn apart if it does not accommodate American demands. Absent the threat of encirclement and dismemberment, Pakistan will do everything to avoid exacerbating what already amounts to a low-level civil war. America's strategic objective in the region - eradicating Islamist terrorists - poses an existential threat to the Pakistani state. The only way to force Pakistan to accommodate itself to American objectives is to pose an even worse existential threat.

Pakistan's pursuit of ''strategic depth'' - projecting its influence through support for Islamist groups in Afghanistan, and Kashmir, as well as terror attacks inside India - stems from weakness. As Aymenn Jawad al-Tamimi writes in the Winter 2012 issue of Middle East Quarterly, ''Pakistan itself is an artificial state composed of diverse ethnic groups that are united solely by religious affiliation. Hence, fear of Pashtun and Baloch (Pakistan's largest provinces geographically) desires for autonomy or independence, together with concern about India's influence, also provides a basis for pursuing Pakistani strategic depth. For example, to suppress Baloch nationalism, the Pakistani military and intelligence have engaged in human rights abuses including the arrest and disappearance of some 8,000 Baloch activists in secret prisons.''

After three years of American strategic disengagement under the Obama administration, that has become a difficult proposition. Involving the Indian military in Afghanistan with a limited by open-ended mandate would have served notice to Islamabad that America was serious. Two years ago, Pakistani websites fluttered with rumors that India would deploy 120,000 soldiers in Afghanistan, staking a claim as America's strategic partner. It is doubtful that any such offer was on the table, but India at the time was prepared for a smaller deployment. Under present circumstances, New Delhi wants no part of an adventure that the Americans are preparing to abandon.

India simply does not trust the Obama administration to stand up for American interests in the region. China has moved into the vacuum left by American policy in Pakistan, deploying 11,000 soldiers in the Gilgat-Baltistan region of southern Kashmir. Ostensibly the Chinese are there to secure high-speed road rail links between the Chinese-built ports on Pakistan's coast and Western China, but their presence also reinforces Pakistan's control over a rebellious region. The small Chinese force, moreover, raises the stakes in any potential confrontation over Kashmir between India and Pakistan; if Chinese troops were to get in the middle of a fight, China might be drawn in on Pakistan's side. Pakistan now has two air force squadrons flying China's JF-17 ''Thunder'' jet and shortly will add a third.

After the September 13 attack on the American embassy in Kabul, the United States made belated and tentative gestures to India, including the first formal offer to sell India the new F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. As M K Bhadrakumar argued in this space (see
Hindu art of double hedging against China, Asia Times Online, November 10), New Delhi must weigh the advantages of its strategic alignment with the United States against the fact of American strategic disengagement under the Obama administration. Whether India takes up the American offer for the F-35's depends on a number of factors, including the disappointing pace of progress in its joint development of a Fifth Generation fighter in cooperation with Russia. The F-35's though, will not change the perception that Washington is guarding its rear as it withdraws from the region.

The Obama administration has painted itself in to a corner. It cannot cajole or threaten Pakistan. On the contrary, Pakistan is threatening Washington. China's growing presence in Pakistan reduces America's capacity to punish Pakistan, for example, by withdrawing support for American-built fighter aircraft. India remains understandably cautious. And the Afghan war, as Mr. Al-Tamimi wrote in the Middle East quarterly, ''will prove at best a massive drain on US resources and lives, possibly reaching a cost of up to $100 billion a year, all for killing a few dozen al-Qaeda militants in a country whose annual gross domestic product is a mere $13 billion.''

To persuade India to align itself decisively with American interests, and China to lower its profile, the United States would have to execute a 180-degree turn. It would have to repudiate Obama's disengagement and declare its intent to remain the world's unchallenged superpower, and make this credible by investing in strategic superiority. That would require major investments in aircraft carriers, fighter aircraft, drone technology, and theater missile defense.

That is expensive, but there are other ways to economize. At the same time, America should renounce nation-building in Afghanistan and settle instead for a prolonged, if not perpetual, war of attrition against its enemies. By historical analogy, Washington should handle Afghanistan the way that Cardinal Richelieu dealt with the German Empire during the Thirty Years' War. Rather than fund a corrupt and ineffective Afghan army dominated by Tajiks, the United States should acquire Pashtun capabilities of its own; perhaps it should quietly support Pashtun and Balochi separatists operating inside Pakistan. Among other things, this is cheaper than maintaining an army of occupation. Cutting off aid to the corrupt Karzai government, moreover, will drastically reduce the cost of hiring local armies.

America's misguided attempt to stabilize Afghanistan allows Islamabad to blackmail the United States by threatening to promote instability. If the United States accepts Afghan instability as a permanent condition and uses its in-country capability to wear down its enemies in a standing civil war, it can turn the tables by threatening to export the instability to Pakistan. Pakistan has been truncated before, when it lost Bangladesh. It could happen again. The object is not to dismember Pakistan, but rather to persuade Islamabad to behave. If this seems harsh, it is worth recalling that Washington has done this sort of thing before. The Reagan administration did its best to prolong the Iran-Iraq war.

China has a general interest in limiting American power, but it also has a specific interest in forcing Pakistan to crack down on Islamist terrorism. The 100 million Muslim Uyghurs in Xinjiang constitute the greatest threat of a breakaway province within China's borders, and Beijing has complained that Pakistan's intelligence services are training Uyghur terrorists for infiltration into China. Islamabad, once again, is not in control over radical Islamists in its own military.

If America puts a figurative gun to the head of the Pakistani government and orders it to extirpate the radical Islamists in the military, two outcomes are possible. One is that Islamabad will succeed. The second is that it will fail, and the country will degenerate into chaos. That is the scenario the American policy is supposed to avoid at all costs, but it is hard to see why America would be worse off. If the elements of Pakistani intelligence that foster terrorism cannot be suppressed, it is clear that they are using resources of the central government to support terrorism. In the worst case, they will continue to foster terrorism, but without the resources of the central government. From America's vantage point, a disorderly collapse of Pakistan into a failed state is a better outcome than a strong central government that sponsors terrorism. At worst, a prolonged civil conflict between American-backed elements of the Pakistani military and Islamist radicals would leave the radicals weaker than they are now.

The simplest solution to the problem of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal is to frighten the Pakistani army into eliminating the prospective terrorists who might use them. The second-best solution is to send the American army into Pakistan and take the nuclear weapons away. I believe Jeffrey Goldberg's and Marc Ambinder's report in The Atlantic Monthly that if the United States were to deploy troops in Pakistan to secure the country's nuclear weapons, China would raise no objections. If Islamist terrorists were to get hold of Pakistan's nuclear weapons, China would be at the top of their list of prospective targets.

Much as China might enjoy America's discomfiture in the region, American and Chinese interests converge around terrorism (and especially nuclear terrorism). Given America's present weakness, it may take some effort to iterate towards convergence with China. Threats to China's territorial integrity, though, have Beijing's undivided attention, and if America makes clear that draining the Pakistani swamp reflects support for China's efforts to preserve territorial integrity, rational self-interest will assert itself....