Jewish World Review
May 5, 2011
/ 1 Iyar, 5771
Is it time to de-friend Pakistan?
Vacation Property 4 Sale. Six-year-old estate in popular summer resort area just outside Islamabad. Surrounded by green hills, this luxury three-story retreat is nestled in a safe and affluent neighborhood. Slightly air-conditioned, fancy awnings, high fence, extremely discreet neighbors. Couple of stains and a few bullet holes, a definite fixer-upper. Features two security gates, restricted access and optional helicopter landing area. $1 million or best offer.
Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari is rather upset these days.
He's insisting that neither he nor his government had any idea that a compound in a suburb of Islamabad was the crib of wanted terrorist Osama bin Laden.
Zardari says he was shocked it turned out to be bin Laden's home. He didn't know a thing. His advisers didn't know. His intelligence services didn't know. And the military officers who lived in bin Laden's quiet neighborhood didn't know.
"Some in the U.S. press have suggested that Pakistan lacked vitality in its pursuit of terrorism, or worse yet, that we were disingenuous and actually protected the terrorist we claimed to be pursuing," Zardari wrote in an opinion piece in The Washington Post.
"Such baseless speculation may make exciting cable news, but it doesn't reflect fact," Zardari continued.
It doesn't reflect fact? Well, hush my mouth, Mr. President, sir.
A home with a high wall that looks like a fortress, and no adults seem to care? Adults in the business of security and war, and they're not interested in a fortress with no Internet service? And nobody seems to care that it's off the grid?
President Zardari had no clue.
Anywhere else, a nosy neighbor would have walked over to borrow a cup of sugar, or asked to see a monkey wrench, or needed some honey and walnuts for a quick snack.
That way, the friendly neighbor could sniff around.
But not in Pakistan.
And now Pakistan is in the midst of a public relations war, with the Obama White House taking a few PR potshots and various members of Congress throwing a few rhetorical punches at Pakistan.
The current theme is that if Pakistan couldn't spot bin Laden's fortress, perhaps we shouldn't be sending the nation billions in foreign aid. Pakistan's old nemesis, India, was sticking it to Zardari, saying the U.S. should get tough on the country that couldn't spot bin Laden hiding in plain sight.
Where do we go from here?
We might seek to immediately "de-friend" Pakistan, but then, playing foreign relations and counterterrorism isn't Facebook. Yet.
American politicians are complaining that friends don't keep secrets. But if you want a friend, get a dog. Nations do not have friends. Nations always work to advance their own interests.
So CIA Director Leon Panetta promoted U.S. interests by leveraging Pakistan a bit. He told Time magazine the U.S. did not talk about the planned raid with Pakistani leaders because the White House feared Pakistan would warn bin Laden.
"It was decided that any effort to work with the Pakistanis could jeopardize the mission: They might alert the targets," Panetta said.
Also, White House counterterrorism chief John Brennan said it was vital to determine whether the Pakistani government had helped the al-Qaida chieftain.
"Well, it's our information at this point that he had been there at least five years or so," Brennan told NPR. "And it is one of the most vexing questions that we are facing right now, how was he able to stay in a house 35 miles outside of Islamabad for so long and be undetected."
"But we need to dig deeper into this. And I know the Pakistani officials themselves are looking closer into this," Brennan continued. "Was there somebody within the Pakistani establishment that knew about bin Laden's presence at the compound and provided support and helped maintain the secret?"
Hmmm, let's see. In Chicago, we've had our chief of detectives working closely with the Outfit. In Washington, we've had a senior Soviet analyst on the Russian payroll. So is it possible that someone with Pakistani intelligence was protecting bin Laden? Of course it is.
If I were running counterintelligence, I'd round up the kids in bin Laden's old neighborhood.
Kids see everything, and they look at things from different, lower angles. They're closer to the ground. They know the shortcuts through the back yards.
And, according to The Australian, a newspaper from, well, Australia, they knew something was amiss on that block outside Islamabad.
"If a ball went into bin Laden's compound, the children would not be allowed to get it," local ice cream vendor Tanvir Ahmed told The Australian. "They were given money instead, 100-150 rupees ($2 to $3) per ball."
We've all known such neighbors, the kind who refuse to give the ball back to kids. For the most part, such adults are the meanest people in the neighborhood, perhaps the planet, grouchy trolls who hoard dozens and dozens of balls, keeping them there on their lawns, untouchable, the sight of the unattainable balls a constant source of torture to those kids.
Osama bin Laden, ball thief?
Add that to the terrorism, and you've got a real jerk on your hands.
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John Kass is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune. Comments by clicking here.
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