Motley Moose – Archive

Since 2008 – Progress Through Politics

Obama Sympathizes with Terrorists

This is what we were told.  It is what many who voted for Sarah Palin believed.  It is what a gentleman here in Sarasota believed enough to say to me directly a few days before the election: “Obama sympathizes with terrorists.”

On Friday, the US sent two Hellfire missiles from Afghanistan-based Predator drones into Zharki Village in Pakistan’s Waziristan region, accepted as the home of the Taliban and Al-Qaeda leadership.  Eighteen people were reported killed in the two locations, locals report that the Taliban removed eight of the bodies:

Resident Allah Noor Wazir said he attended funerals for the owner of the targeted house, Din Faraz, his three sons and a guest.

“I also heard that three bodies had been taken away by Taliban. They say they belong to foreigners,” Wazir told the AP by telephone.

I feel for the innocent victims of these missile strikes (I will assume there were some family members killed who were not directly a part of the war), but from early reports it seems that the buildings they were in were valid military targets.

A senior security official in the capital, Islamabad, identified one of the slain men as a suspected al-Qaida operative called Mustafa al-Misri. He said it was unclear if the man was a significant figure.

If this is Obama “palling around with terrorists” – as the recent GOP presidential candidate from Alaska would have had us believe – then I think it’s the sort of palling that will work just fine.

Of course, there are those on the Left already commenting that it would be good to never use weapons again (it certainly would) or that Obama is just another tool of the Military Industrial Complex (he is not).  No doubt there will be some on the Right who will find a way to spin this as some sort of capitulation to bin Laden (I can’t think of how, but that shouldn’t stop anyone).  But the reality is that Waziristan is perhaps the most lawless place on earth with no form of government except for those two groups who specifically did attack the United States – Al Qaeda and the Taliban – and who continue to attack US and NATO troops today.

Waziristan as it exists today is the end result of seven years and billions of dollars of US support.  Support that went directly into the Pakistani military – much of it diverted to support the conflict with India – and virtually none of which required any sort of oversight from the US (gosh, does that sound familiar?  They deregulated military and foreign aid, for cripes’ sake…).  R. Jeffrey Smith, Candace Rondeaux and Joby Warrick of the Washington Post have more:

Linking Pakistan with neighboring Afghanistan “on the front line of our global counterterrorism efforts,” Clinton told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that “we will use all the elements of our powers — diplomacy, development and defense — to work with those . . . who want to root out al-Qaeda, the Taliban and other violent extremists.” She also said those in Pakistan who do not join the effort will pay a price, adding a distinctly new element to the long-standing U.S. effort to lure Pakistan closer to the West.

But weapons aren’t everything, and used as a sole recourse they can be less than nothing.  Obama has pledged to do more with Pakistan to help stabilize that country, ensuring that aid is more accountable than it has been under Bush and more productive.  

A study in 2007 by the Center for Strategic and International Studies reported that economic, humanitarian and development assistance under Bush amounted to no more than a quarter of all aid, less than in most countries.

   The criticism helped provoke a group of senators who now have powerful new roles — Joseph R. Biden Jr., Clinton and Obama — to co-sponsor legislation last July requiring that more aid be targeted at political pluralism, the rule of law, human and civil rights, and schools, public health and agriculture.


Some Pakistanis have been encouraged by indications that Obama intends to increase aid to the impoverished country, said Shuja Nawaz, a Pakistani who directs the South Asia Center of the Washington-based Atlantic Council of the United States. Nawaz said Pakistanis may be willing to overlook an occasional missile lobbed at foreign terrorists if Obama makes a sincere attempt to improve conditions in Pakistan.

   “He can’t just focus on military achievements; he has to win over the people,” Nawaz said. “Relying on military strikes will not do the trick.” Attaching conditions to the aid is wise, Nawaz said, because “people are more cognizant of the need for accountability — for ‘tough love.’ “

With the first use of force on his watch targeting – and by all reports hitting – Taliban leadership, it should be clear to those who saw Obama as (literally) a Traitor and a Terrorist that they were just abjectly wrong.  

Now, for the rest of us the question that comes next is whether Obama will add the Carrot that has been missing from the relationship for the past seven years.  The Stick is clearly where the mule can see it now.


  1. dtox

    They go horribly wrong so often that they’re a great tool for those wishing to radicalise more young people.

    However, if Bad People (TM) are sheltering in villages in Waziristan, something really has to be done. It would be nicer if the Pakistan army could be coaxed into doing it, but as has often been observed, that’s easier said than done.

    I hate to say this yet again, but much of the complication arises from previous US policy. Propping up three military dictators through the 60s, 80s and then most recently most of this decade has meant that the army and the intelligence apparatus is batshit crazy. The whole Afghanistan situation in the 80s and the CIAs funnelling of billions in cash and equipment through the Pakistani intelligence agencies which weren’t designed to handle anything of that scale means they still hold a ridiculous amount of power. The radicalisation of the intelligence services and the army through a cynical framing of the fight in Afghanistan as Jihad by Zia-ul-Haq means that not everyone in these organisations is willing to enable what is official government policy. The political processes are fragile, the politicians don’t understand foreign policy, and the president is a crazy person who doesn’t have an education and hasn’t had a real job in his entire life and is riding a wave of sympathy for his dead wife. All of this makes it impossible to deal with the Pakistan government and expect that to translate into the army actually doing things. This means that the US/NATO often have to directly ‘negotiate’ with the army. This leads to the ridiculous situation where extremism is being countered by delivering more weapons to the Pakistan military, which is already eating up one of the largest proportions of GDP anywhere, which leads to further alienation and radicalisation in regions where the army needs to crack down. And it’s even worse when it’s a foreign power raining down bombs!

    Now, I wish people in Pakistan had been strong enough to resist these dictators when they were foisted upon us. There was a time in 1969 when they did take things into their own hands and got rid of the first of our military masters. Then again there are the last two years. On an optimistic note, I think this time it’s more likely to last since resistance came from a much wider cross section of society than the largely union/student led protests of ’69. Also, those were part of a wider international movement which, of course, didn’t last much past 68-69. I think that fact that the more recent movement has been more local might make it more resilient.

    Sorry, much of that was rather tangential. Coming back to the issue though, I think on balance it might be much better to strong arm the Pakistan army into deal with this. I think one of the reasons the army is dragging its feet is that it may actually suit the Pakistan army and even the political government to pin any strikes on outside forces. Terrorism has well and truly arrived to Islamabad in the last two or three years, and they might be calculating that even if it increases recruitment for radical organisations, it may be less likely to lead to them looking inwards for targets.

  2. KLRinLA

    I hope so, Greg Mortenson, Greg Mortenson (slams table repeatedly).

    Madrassas in Waristan are apparently the bad kind, like the no books, kool-aid, rpg kind.  

  3. creamer

     How do you influence local tribal leaders whose primary focus is not the welfare of their people, but the retention of power? Some of the carrots we normaly offer are in conflict with their keeping power.

     Somtimes it hard to see an affordable option for that part of the world.  

  4. …i.e. command and control is one important function. The rest – as a British officer friend of mine in Helmand tells me – is about nation building, establishing basic security (i.e. replacing corrupt police), the education, new crops instead of poppies, hydroelectricity etc.

    I’m sure these strikes are justified – and since they don’t destroy whole areas – even the locals will appreciate the accuracy. But both Afghanistan and even more so Iraq are tangible instances of how military means alone do not solve political problems.

    We had the fetishisation of technology in two Iraqi wars (look where that got us), but it’s in the hearts and minds battle where the Taliban are gaining ground, both in Afghanistan and the North West Provinces.

    Sometimes military successes can counteract the broader campaign.

    I think Obama is smart enough to know that. There is a military enemy who can be targeted – but mainly in pinpoint strikes and anti insurgency patrols – but the big things that need to be done are social and political.

  5. Michelle

    All of the mil blogs that I read are generally pleased with Obama’s stance on Afghanistan (and were during the GE), including the mil blogs that are decidely conservative.  OIF is so very different from OEF.

    Every time I read something about Afghanistan, I am reminded of this diary I wrote:

    America’s isolation from war and war-like events (car bombs, spontaneous rocket fire, etc.) leads to a sterile objectivity that fails to account for all the horrors accompanying war.  In many ways, such objectivity is necessary to ‘get the job done’, but it can also lead to unnecessary and prolonged conflict (i.e., OIF), a lack of caring for our broken and battered soldiers returning from war, and the parade of horribles, which includes high civilian casualties.

    The ‘War on Terror’ is not going to won by blowing each other up.  Neither will it be won by sending in battalions to fight a shadow army.  Our military is so much smarter and better than what we are doing now.  And we don’t need waterboarding to ‘get the job done’ either.

  6. Jjc2008

    that taking a stand on these “military” decisions/issues have always been the hardest for me.   ALWAYS.  Even way back when I was a child.

    For many, it is easy in the idealism of being far away and unaffected to choose a stance, to become an absolutist on one side or the other.  The pacifist gang with all war is wrong; the militant side of never saw a war I did not like, always stun me.

    Back in the 80s, I was probably one of the few people who felt strongly that we, the USA, OWED the Afghanistan an invasion of some sort to stop the then just growing Taliban.  I remember reading about how Afghan women were being killed, beaten, little girls beaten and killed for daring to try to go to school.  This is not new. It started when the Reagan administration left all kinds of weapons in the hands of the growing Al Quaida, a sort of “thank you” for helping us humiliate the Russians.  

    Also back in the 80s I was stunned at the silence of the left in the USA’s support of torture in Chile and Guatemala (still to this day some of the left is comfortable calling Reagan “heroic or populist”).  I suppose that is why I have become quite cynical toward the so called left pundits (bloggers as well) these days….suddenly what is happening to women and children matters? Suddenly torture is wrong?

    I don’t claim to know how to solve these problems. I hope President Obama and his advisors can figure it out.  But there are despots/theocrats who do evil… we just keep saying “it’s not our business.”  Do we just try to talk them out of throwing acid in the faces of little girls?  Is that enough? Watching GPS this morning there was quite a bit of talk about how we deal with these areas and the different groups.  No one seemed to really know.

    I know this diary is about Pakistan but I believe that Pakistan, Afghanistan and India are intertwined when it comes to political issues.


    • Hollede

      between India and Pakistan to be one of the worlds more serious problems. Any good map tells us why.

      Adding Afghanistan and Iraq (with that chewy Iranian center) into the mix has been one of more monumental fuck ups in US history.

      With thick layers of conflict and hard lines drawn all around the outside (from Israel and the Arab region in the west, Russia to the north and China to the east) of these countries makes me wonder not if, but where and when the fuse will be lit.

      I hope my pleasure in President Obama’s envoy choices is correct.

  7. HappyinVT

    however, Obama said during the campaign he’d do it.  So, anyone surprised either wasn’t paying attention or thought Obama lied.

    I, however, am heartened by the appointment of the special envoy and, although I don’t know much about Richard Holbrook, such a high-profile name indicates that Obama means business.  I was also glad to see Holbrook reiterate at least twice during the presser that he understood that Afghanistan and Pakistan are two distinct countries and must be treated differently.  It will be interesting to see who Holbrook meets with and whether he ventures, either rhetorically or phyiscally, into the Afghanistan/Pakistan border area.

    It’s also heartening to see Obama move quickly in this area, as well as in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.  He said he would and, again, he kept that promise.  It doesn’t mean he’ll get the results he wants, but you gotta admit he seems to ge giving it all he’s got.

    • psychodrew

      When I was history teacher, I told my students time and again that the most frightening conflict on the planet was not in Israel, the Taiwan Straights, or the Korean peninsula, but in Kashmir.  This conflict has all of the worse elements involved, religion, territory, nuclear weapons, political instability, and people willing to die for their cause.  It’s about time we have a president who will take this region seriously.

  8. anna shane

    of whether he’ll fight the real bad guys when he kept those drones searching and at times firing.  I’m a peace-nik, but I think this is a smart use of our power.   This will probably be the Afganistan plan too, to use limited strikes using our own intelligence, and in those areas where the Taliban hides.

    I don’t know the carrot, but I don’t think they’ll arrest bin laden for us even if we do offer a date with Tom Cruise and a big catered party at Disneyworld.  Of course that would be a significant carrot.

    I’m for getting every child a game-boy, and a computer that translates literature into their language with stored books, and a local tv station with local programming.  They fear our toys.  

Comments are closed.