On August 22 a drone
strike against the house of “suspected militants” in North Waziristan killed 20
people. It also
destroyed a neighboring house full of women and children.
So what! Collateral damage. And, as our dear Mr. Rumsfeld once said
- ‘Shit happens. Get over it.’
On July 28, the dams burst
in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa area of north-western Pakistan after unprecedented
monsoon rains. In the next few days the news was slowly trickling out to the
world of the imminent disaster from the worst floods in Pakistan’s history.
The North-West Frontier
Province, however, had already been hit by disaster long before the monsoon
rains started flooding the countryside, uprooting hundreds of thousands of
people. The region had already been ravaged by the terrible fighting between
Islamic militants and the Pakistani Armed Forces. Millions of people had
already fled from their homes and their livelihoods.
Yet, Western reaction to these
events, or even knowledge thereof, was practically nil.
History of Swat Valley – a
tourist haven ...
|Swat Valley before the bombing and flooding|
Swat Valley has a long and
varied history. Before the U.S. Empire’s wars in Central Asia this wonderful
valley and mountainous area used to be a center for
tourists from all over the world. It is situated along the Swat River in the
foothills of the Hindu Kush mountain range. With
its high mountains, green valleys, cascading rivers and clear lakes it was a
region of breathtaking beauty and hospitable people. It has often been called
the Switzerland of Pakistan.
It was a
tourist haven that turned into a Taliban stronghold when they were chased away
from Afghanistan across the porous mountainous border into Pakistan after the
U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, in response to the 9/11 attack on the
World Trade Center.
|A Swat valley winter resort before the catastrophe|
Swat Valley was captured by the Taliban
insurgency and a whole new era began.
Tourism became a thing of the past. In February 2009 the Pakistan government
signed a peace deal with the Taliban which upset Washington a great deal.
Creation of a ‘Taliban Safe Haven With Islamic Law’ (Fox News) was not exactly
what the U.S government looked kindly on.
a war scene
Swat Valley and other areas in
the North-West Frontier Province had already been devastated by these
continuous wars between the Pakistani Armed Forces and Islamic militants, the
regional Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan and other ‘Holy
Warriors’. The warring began in 2004 with the Pakistani Army's search for al-Qaeda
members in Pakistan's mountainous Waziristan area. It very soon turned into a
war of armed resistance against the Pakistan armed
forces with suicide bombings and roadside bombings being the daily horror
events that made children and innocent civilians the victims of this
People have fled from their
war-torn villages, abandoning their homes and their livelihoods in the hundreds
of thousands – leaving behind their fields, their livestock, their possessions
– their whole lives being uprooted. It is estimated that the total number of
war-displaced people in the North West Frontier Province in May 2009 amounted
to more than 2 million.
The destruction of Swat Valley
has also been going on, beginning 2004, from the largely hushed-up unmanned
drone attacks begun under President Bush and continuing under President Obama,
these unmanned drones monitored from the Ground Control Stations in Nevada,
Arizona or North Dakota – thus ‘merely’ risking the lives of Pakistani
militants and civilians, women and children, but not the lives of U.S pilots.
These drones or ‘Unmanned Aerial Vehicles’ play a major role in the ongoing
so-called ‘War on Terror’.
What the men who press the
button at one of the control stations in the U.S.
feel when they get back home and watch the dead bodies from the house full of
children or the wedding party that they have just bombed – as they sip their
beers in front of the television that same evening – that is another story.
The Pakistani government were at
first ambivalent about fighting the militants in their own country but, under
pressure from their ‘ally’, the U.S.A., they ordered their armed forces to wage
outright war on the Taliban and the Mujahideen ("holy warriors" or
The almost decade-long attempt to rout the militants from the Taliban
strongholds in Pakistan was seen by most of the regional people as fighting
"America's war". This ‘America’s war’ had actually begun already in
2001, very soon after the events of September 11, even though it was never
mentioned in the mass media, or barely anywhere at all.
Planned destruction before the
flooding – by the U.S. military
It is a much-ignored fact that a
large region of Pakistan had its infrastructure already badly damaged by this
internal war and also by the huge number of drone attacks in the Afghanistan
border areas. Bridges and dams were bombed, roads were destroyed and electric
power stations were not functioning. This has indeed been a manmade disaster
from the very beginning, from general neglect and deliberate destruction – a
calamity waiting to strike.
Damage caused by internal
corruption and by nature
|Homeless people desperate to hold on to an evacuation vehicle|
Added to that, after the
torrential rains started, much effort was given to make the flood waters spare
the properties of the affluent, the towns and the cities, so that instead the
fields in the villages, essential to the feeding of the country, were inundated
and the crops ruined.
In Punjab and Sindh provinces,
the breadbasket of Pakistan, in the deadliest floods in the history of Pakistan,
more than a million acres of sugar cane, cotton and rice fields were damaged
and a farmer’s group reported losses of over 250 billion rupees or $2.9
“Floodwaters ravaged 700,000 acres of planted cotton, and
200,000 acres each of rice and cane, Mohammed Ibrahim Moghul, chairman of Agri
Forum Pakistan, said by phone. Rains also destroyed 500,000 metrics tons of
wheat, 300,000 acres of animal fodder and 100,000 head of livestock, he said.
“Punjab, which was among the provinces hit by flooding in
Pakistan, accounted for nearly 60 percent of the nation’s rice harvest, and
Sindh 30 percent, Mohanty [an economist from the International Rice Research
Institute] said. (Khurrum Anis and
Madelene Pearson from Bloomberg Businessweek)
Nature completed the destruction of Pakistan
What the inept and corrupt
governments of Pakistan, aided by the reckless bombing by U.S. drones had not
managed to do to ravage this beautiful and civilized country, nature completed
by coming to the assistance of Corporate warriors and inept politicians and in
just over a month a luckless nation has been almost completely devastated.
|Inundation after the unprecedented Pakistani floods in August|
On August 9, my Pakistani
woman journalist friend, Husna Ali, Islamabad, wrote to me:
Siv, it’s going to hit my
province (Sindh) by the 12th - as the weather forecast goes - and it is
supposed to be really really bad... The already fragile infrastructure of this
country has been completely broken - and now it is feared that the hub of gas
supply will soon crash due to heavy pressures of water - and if that happens
then we will be without gas supply. Already there is a food, medicine and power
crisis. With the gas supply down I don’t know how people will survive. Of
course, the poor will be the first victims, but it will affect life in urban
sectors as well. Everyday is like hell for us. And all this is due to the war
on terror... all the money going to carry out military operations and feeding
the corrupt military agencies and civilian puppet leaders, and no money is used
for providing relief to people, improve infrastructure, provide health care or
any other relief… and this has been going on for the past few decades. And this
chaos - war, insurgency and now the natural disaster - is serving as a breeding
ground for militancy. More and more people are joining the insurgents in a hope
for a better life because, believe it or not, people have started to believe
that the Taliban provide more security, employment, relief and even law (no
matter how inhuman we might think it is), and you cannot convince them
otherwise. On one hand there is the monstrous empire which kills and destructs
with impunity and on the other hand there are the beastly religious
fundamentalists who may take away a few liberties but protect your life better
and provide employment and food.... it’s like choosing between life and
liberty. And everyone wants to live, Siv. Capitalism is nothing but death.
Though capitalism and fundamentalism are two faces of the same coin, they both
nurture each other, but you cant convince this to people who have lost
everything to war and corporate interests – the victims in a poor country which
has been dragged into someone else's war...
Pakistan was drawn into
yet another Central Asian war by the United States for nothing but predatory
reasons, and this latest utterly callous link by Washington in the ‘war on
terror’ can never be labeled with a straight face as an act with any moral
|Refugees with the little of their belongings they have managed to rescue|
But then when did
Washington need anything but to dress itself in a threadbare moral cloak, turn on
the propaganda, and shoot?
The slow media response to the disaster
News about the torrential
monsoon rains, beginning with the Swat Valley in the North-West Frontier
Province began trickling down in the carefully censored Corporate media, the
BBC and the PBS being among the first sources to uncover the ongoing
|Map showing areas of worst flooding - the North-West Frontier Province, including Swat Valley, being the worst hit at the beginning - Sindh Province in the south was hit the last|
On August 2, PBS News
“JUDY WOODRUFF: The
devastating flood in Pakistan, some in areas where the military has been
fighting insurgents. More than 1,000 people have died, up to two million
“JONATHAN MILLER: Villages
and villagers reportedly washed away by walls of water, entire districts
submerged, cropland inundated, drinking water contaminated, communications
down, bridges destroyed, roads gone, schools gone, homes gone, thousands of
On August 9,
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon made a lame appeal to
the world, mentioning hundreds of people dead when already the number of deaths
were in the thousands. He did, however, talk about “the catastrophic floods
that have killed hundreds of people in Pakistan and urged donors to contribute
generously to the humanitarian response”.
|Houses half-way drowned in the floods|
The Secretary-General upped the ante on August 21, after having visited the
devastated country. He gave a fairly stirring account of the disaster that had so far left the world
unmoved. He emphasized the sheer scale of the disaster, almost defying
comprehension, and stated that, around the country, an estimated 15 to 20 million people had been affected. He said that we
could not stand by and let this natural disaster turn into a manmade
already was a partly manmade disaster, so his words rang a bit empty.
MOSHARRAF ZAIDI in his article ‘Why Doesn't the World Care About
Pakistanis?’ in Foreign Policy gives us the scope of this natural plus
His answer to
the question is: “Because they live in Pakistan.”
“The United Nations has characterized
the destruction caused by the floods in Pakistan as greater than the damage
from the 2004 Asian tsunami, the 2005 Pakistan earthquake, and the 2010 Haiti
earthquake combined. Yet nearly three weeks since the floods began, aid is
trickling in slowly and reluctantly to the United Nations, NGOs, and the
Three weeks after the beginning of the flooding, one fifth
of the country was under water, a surface the size of Italy or England. Money
for the rescue started coming in at a somewhat faster rate than the first
couple of weeks, when the world was blind to the catastrophe. But it does not
nearly equal the amount of aid that was rushed to the disaster areas after the
three preceding monumental disasters.
Juan Cole in CommonDreams on September
9 sums up the indifference of the world:
“The Media as a Security Threat to America - The Great
Pakistani Deluge Never Happened; Don’t Tune In, It’s Not Important” …
The Great Deluge in Pakistan passed almost
unnoticed in the United States despite President Obama’s repeated assertions
that the country is central to American security. Now, with new
evacuations and flooding afflicting Sindh Province and the long-term crisis
only beginning in Pakistan, it has washed almost completely off American
television and out of popular consciousness.
“News junkies who watch a lot of television
broadcasts could not help but notice with puzzlement that as the cosmic
catastrophe unfolded in Pakistan, it was nearly invisible on American networks.
What rescue efforts are made? By whom?
The latest figures for
victims of this catastrophic disaster amount to 20 million people who have lost
their homes (nearly 12 percent of Pakistan’s population of 180 million) and
1600 people killed by the floods. Almost 10 million people are suffering from hunger
and disease and millions are without a roof over their heads.
MOSHARRAF ZAIDI in ‘Why Doesn't the World Care About
Pakistanis?’ Foreign Policy, continues on August 19:
“Yet nearly three weeks since the
floods began, aid is trickling in slowly and reluctantly to the United Nations,
NGOs, and the Pakistani government.”
“Why has the most devastating
natural disaster in recent memory generated such a tepid response from the
international community? Something of a cottage industry is emerging to try to
answer this latest and most sober of international mysteries.
“There is no shortage of
theories. It's donor fatigue. It's Pakistan fatigue. It's because the Pakistani
government is corrupt and can't be trusted. It's because the victims are
Politicians and numerous
opportunist leaders of Islamist religious groups
are trying to outdo each other in their eagerness to seem like the
best-organized rescue group. They are shuffling and posturing in the corridors
of power, ready to declare that time is up for the current Prime Minister Asif
Ali Zardari and they are more than ready to step in – quite possibly more eager
to take over his privileges than his responsibilities. Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, one of Pakistan’s richest men, is eagerly expecting
this crisis to be the end of Zardari, in order to come back to
power for the third time, after having been ousted twice in 1993.
Hard-line religious groups
are organizing aid to the millions of displaced persons. Even the Taliban have
now called a truce on violence and are organizing aid operations. The military
are transporting stranded and homeless people to safe ground. Is this a sign of
an upcoming military putsch? Who knows. What we do know is that the Pakistani
people, above all, don’t want another military dictatorship, on the models of
former prime ministers, General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq and Pervez
Musharraf who was the Chief
of Army Staff of the Pakistan Army.
And then, at the height of
the flooding, to our horror, comes the news about the Pakistan Air Force Base
“Airbase near Jacobabad under
US control, Senate panel told
Health relief operations in Jacobabad are not possible because the airbase in
the area is controlled by the US.
stunning statement was made by Health Secretary Khushnood Lashari during an
appearance at the Senate Standing Committee on Health on Wednesday.”
What we can wonder about
is why the U.S. military, instead of continuing their drone attacks among all
this suffering, well aware of the refugees being in the most urgent need of
help, why the U.S. is not using its military bases to help the stranded and
famished victims of the flooding. They would be in an excellent position to
help with evacuation and supply shelter, food and clean water to the homeless.
On August 20, my friend
Husna Ali wrote:
international community must pressure the US government to allow the air base
in Jacobabad to be used for rescue and relief... Thousands of people are still
waiting there - without food and water for days - to be rescued... Why can't
the fucking drones be used for relief... They have killed scores of innocents,
cant they be used to save a few lives?
Zardari has spectacularly
mismanaged the rescue work in this disaster, in the first place leaving the
country for pre-arranged visits to Britain and France when his people were in
great distress and shock and in need of a leader who could organize the rescue
work – and, secondly, not having any relief plans ready to put into immediate
action. There are also strong suspicions that politicians and influential
people have done their utmost to lead the torrents of water away from their own
precious properties and thus purposely allowing poor farmers’ lands to be
devastated. Corruption is second nature to human beings and we can clearly see
the effects of it here.
There was nobody at the
helm those first couple of weeks after the flooding began in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa
(Swat Valley) and spread to Balochistan, Punjab and finally to the southern
province of Sindh.
What went wrong?
In the words of the World Socialist
disaster in Pakistan is the product of years of neglect. Monsoons are an annual
event and floods occur regularly, yet successive governments have failed to
develop proper flood warning systems and flood control measures. Infrastructure
has not been planned to deal with natural disasters, whether the current
flooding or the devastating 2005 earthquake in Kashmir.”
The 'world' –
private people and governments – probably believe that money they give to
relieve the sufferings of millions might be used to finance the Taliban. The
emergency right now is helping the millions of people who are displaced or diseased.
The Taliban, which the U.S. helped create a couple of decades ago, (when
Washington was intent on defeating the Soviet military in Afghanistan) is a
totally different issue and they should not stand in our way of helping the
victims in the world's greatest natural disaster ever. The confused situation
in Central Asia is of U.S. making and the world should come to the rescue in a
disaster situation that has, as the assault of nature is concerned, very little
to do with politics.
destruction wrought by U.S. drone attacks began in 2004 and has been escalated
dramatically since President Obama took office, as a part of the U.S. so-called
‘war on terrorism’ (a U.S.-made concept that was supposed to justify any and
every act of war – this time in Central Asia, the region that is now designated
as the ‘AfPak area’ and the ‘AfPak war’). The escalation by President Obama on
January 23, 2009 obviously made the country far more vulnerable to nature’s
succeeding onslaught. Especially so since one area that was a prime victim of
the drone attacks was the Swat Valley where the flooding also began at the end
|A U.S. drone seen against the beautiful Pakistan mountains|
Most of the strikes by drones
were concentrated on the mountainous region on the Afghan border and aimed at
terrorists operating, among other places, out of North and South Waziristan in
the Federally Administered Tribal Areas.
“The U.S. military had long remained silent about
remote-controlled C.I.A. missile strikes [i.e. drones]. But a delegation of
U.S. senators visiting Islamabad last week expressed their support of the “drone
war,” which was started by the Bush administration in 2004 and has escalated
dramatically since President Obama took office.” (WORLDFOCUS – January 12, 2010)
Add to that
the responsibility of the Pakistani governments themselves in their general
neglect of dams, roads, and bridges, the entire infrastructure, and the country
would not have been so ill prepared for these killer floods.
and partly manmade disaster was also rendered even more devastating for people
in the villages since the politicians did everything in their power to lead the
water away from the towns and from what was in their own personal interest to
protect. And so farmlands were inundated to a far greater degree than would
normally have happened without the interference of corrupt politicians.
What is the situation now? And
what is the future?
heart-rending effect of all this destruction, the situation the farmers now
must face is the loss of this year’s harvests, the seed for next year and all
of their income. They are now destitute, even those who were once relatively
well off. They have lost their homes, their livestock, often their families.
Their lands are ruined and they have no idea when they can get back to their
villages to even begin the repair work from all this abysmal damage.
On August 24,
my friend Husna Ali wrote – after mentioning the wonderful medical help Cuba
extended in previous crises, such as in 2005, after the earth quake in
Pakistani controlled Kashmir and NWFP (North-West Frontier Province) areas:
If any state, or individual has a will, they can
help out whether there is recession or any other reason that stops them from
sending cash. Europe and America have the larger means to show that they care,
especially when it’s their industrialization and over-consumption that has
caused such environmental degradation, and their policies, sanctions and now
war on terror that have placed the country (Pakistan) in its present pathetic
I am emphasizing on grants from Europe and America only because they are in a
much better financial position [than Cuba], also otherwise Pakistan will accept
loans from the World Bank (900 million has been approved now) and we will go to
IMF with a begging bowl and that will screw us more... It’s no secret that IMF
funded projects, like creation of dams etc, have caused more havoc here -
especially for the farmers who are deprived of their water resources - than
they have helped Pakistan in the long run...
is, in the eyes of the world, part of the enemy tangle ‘over there in the
MOSHARRAF ZAIDI in Foreign Policy continues –
in ‘Why Doesn't the World Care About Pakistanis?’
“But the main reason that Pakistan
isn't receiving attention or aid proportionate to the devastation caused by
these floods is because, well, it's Pakistan. Given a catastrophe of such epic
proportions in any normal country, the world would look first through a
humanitarian lens. But Pakistan, of course, is not a normal country. When the
victims are Haitian or Sri Lankan -- hardly citizens of stable, well-government
countries, themselves -- Americans and Europeans are quick to open their hearts
and wallets. But in this case, the humanity of Pakistan's victims takes a
backseat to the preconceived image that Westerners have of Pakistan as a
The number of
victims today is bound to grow as after-flood diseases are spreading. What has
to be feared is that there might be an outbreak of cholera, diphtheria, typhus and other water-borne
diseases. Food shortages and malnutrition are going to make further ravages.
Flood waters are receding but the disaster is not nearly over. The southern
part of the country is still under deep water.
Daily Times – A new voice for a new Pakistan – writes on
September 01, 2010 in ‘Floodwaters finally heading to Arabian Sea’
“Southern Sindh is the worst-affected
province, with 19 of its 23 districts ravaged as floodwaters have swollen the
raging Indus River to 40 times its usual volume. One million people have been
displaced over the past few days alone.”
Is there a future for Pakistan
as a peaceful nation?
What intelligent Pakistanis do
not want is another military regime or a religious republic, like Iran.
It is clear to everyone
who is paying any attention at all that Zardari (the husband of the former
prime minister Benazir Bhutto, assassinated in December 2007) is a deeply
corrupt man. However, whoever a potential successor might be, there is a great
chance that a military dictator or a fundamentalist religious leader might take
up the leadership of this unstable and ethnically divided nation. Either
possibility – religious or military leadership – would be far worse for the
Pakistani people and probably also for the rest of the world than the kind of
corruption that is now almost taken for granted in numerous countries.
Even in Iran, a large
percent of the population is extremely unfavorable to the religious rule of the
ayatollahs. And military rule is of course the very opposite of democracy,
which is something Pakistani leaders and judges have made several attempts at
establishing since the probable assassination of General Zia in 1988. It seems
obvious to all thinking people that, in order to keep opportunist religious or
military groups from acceding to power, the West has to do its very utmost to
help save the secular government of Pakistan.
On August 22, my friend
Husna Ali wrote:
Siv, this confusion that you and so many others feel is
because the political parties are using this crisis to exploit support.. all
kinds of conspiracy theories are floating... just ignore them... The propaganda
against Zardari has been going around for some
time. I don’t like the man myself, but I also can not support the liberals of
this country who are hell-bent on getting rid of a democratic leader (crook as
he may be) and invite another dictator in this country...
The mishandling of this latest
human disaster is just another step on the Corporate Empire’s path to effect
the ruin of Central Asia so as to be able to step into the shoes of the former
governments and get a firm stand in the geopolitical contest, mainly against
Russia and China, for domination over the fossil resources in that region. The
Corporate Empire is fanatically involved in insuring its military presence in
the AfPak region so as to keep Russia in the first place from gaining a
foothold in these countries. Actually, they already seem to be behind in this
strategic game since Russia has for some time now been discretely supplying
Afghanistan with aid of a peaceful nature, help building schools and hospitals,
among other things. Where the U.S military bombs and kills, Russia is extending
a helping hand. The future
will tell which big power is going to win in this lethal see-saw game for
domination of the region.
The hidden purpose of the
destruction of Pakistan
This time freakish nature, very
likely tied to global warming, got its hand into the game and finished off the
destruction begun by the Pakistan government in collusion with Washington, with
the alleged purpose of getting rid of the Taliban and other Mujahideen.
The Corporate Empire then
successfully, through the bombing of the border areas between Pakistan and
Afghanistan and the senseless killing of militants and civilians alike,
continued putting the pieces of the puzzle in the right places for the New
World Order, so as to hasten the destruction of what is, by one sweeping term,
called the Third World. Putting Pakistan next to Rwanda or Mozambique doesn’t
seem to surprise anyone. Just forget about the wonderful civilization of
Pakistan. The world didn’t know about Pakistan anyway. The fact that it had
been lured, by corrupt governments, into becoming the ally of the U.S. Empire
was largely ignored. To Americans, Pakistan is not known as the ally, but as
the Muslim country that we didn’t know anything about until the floods began.
And Muslim equals enemy in the war on terror. Actually, for most people it did
not get above their radar even then.
for donations to the victims of the floods in Pakistan:
Strike Destroys House Full of Children in Pakistan’ – AntiWar.com
The Sunday Times, U.K., presents a chilling article on the Haditha
massacre - Iraq May 2006. Donald
Rumsfeld: “Shit happens. Get over it. ” – We Ourselves
Valley, a Pakistani administrative district referred to as Asia’s Switzerland,
has been home to a decades long struggle between the Pakistani government and
militant groups agitating to impose Islamic law. Since its integration into the
state of Pakistan in 1969, uprisings in the Swat Valley have consistently
challenged the authority of the Pakistani government. – Suite 101.com
United States government, led by the Central Intelligence Agency's Special
Activities Division, has made a series of attacks on targets in Pakistan since
2004 using drones (unmanned aerial vehicles). Under the George W. Bush
administration, these controversial attacks were called a part of the US'
"War on Terrorism" and sought to defeat the Taliban and Al-Qaeda militants
who were thought to have found a safe haven in Pakistan. Most of these attacks
are on targets in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas in Northwest
Pakistan.” - Wikipedia
Aerial Vehicles (UAV) – Predator and Reaper – monitored at the Ground Control
Stations (GCS) at the Creech Air Force Base in Nevada, Sierra Vista, Arizona
and Grand Forks, North Dakota
“Bigger, deadlier Reaper drone
deployed in Iraq – With a wingspan of 66 feet, the
Reaper is larger than the MQ-1 Predator, and can carry a much larger weapons
payload.” (Washington Times) The manufacturer is General Atomics Inc.
These drones have been used in U.S. aerial warfare ever since the 1991 Gulf
War, including of course the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Their ‘great
precision’ is lauded and when they hit a wedding party or a house full of
children – as has often happened – it is just hushed up in the corporate media.
near Jacobabad under US control, Senate panel told - DAWNCOM
See also: “SCO summit to focus on Afghanistan,
More info on
Pakista at pakobserver
Siv O'Neall is an Axis of Logic columnist, based in
France. Her insightful essays are republished and read worldwide. She can be
reached at email@example.com.