I’m beginning to wonder if I have masochistic tendencies. Every so often I read academic and “think tank” literature on the EU’s foreign policies and have been known to enjoy the experience. The reason why I derive pleasure is probably because these papers provide an escape from the real world, much like techno music or abstract painting. It is rare that scholars and “experts” are willing to decode the Union’s doublespeak and examine how it abets the crimes of the United States.
A prime example of this duplicity was provided by Catherine Ashton’s visit to Pakistan this month. Ahead of her trip, the EU’s foreign policy chief gave an interview to the newspaper Dawn. To underscore how committed she was to Pakistan, Ashton stated that the EU had recently presented the Islamabad authorities with an action plan to “counter violent extremism”.
Surely, Ashton sent the plan to the wrong address. The real source of violent extremism affecting Pakistan and neighbouring Afghanistan is the United States of America. Barack Obama has, in some respects, been more violent and more extreme than his predecessor George W Bush. Whereas Bush authorised the rounding up of young men and their torture in Guantanamo Bay, Obama prefers to kill them with unmanned drones.
In the few days before Ashton’s arrival, America used its drones to kill around 30 people in Pakistan. Reuters, a stenography service for the powerful masquerading as a newswire, reported that at least 14 of the victims were “suspected militants”, citing unnamed US sources.
Silent on massacre
Reuters did not explain that “suspected militant” is effectively a catch-all category. A week earlier, The New York Times revealed that all men of an age range that would allow them serve in the military are considered combatants in any zone where US bombs fall. Sometimes the description is applied to younger boys. On one occasion last year, America gloated at how it had eliminated “four militants”: the truth was that it had killed 16-year-old Tariq Aziz, who had expressed an interest in human rights monitoring a few days earlier, and his 12-year-old cousin.
Was Ashton outraged by how her first official visit to Pakistan was preceded by an American-ordered bloodbath? The statement released upon her arrival voiced sympathy with Pakistan for “what has happened in this country, both in terms of terrorist activity but also the terrible floods”. Not a word was directed at the terrorism inflicted on Pakistan by the US. In the words of the investigative historian Mark Curtis, the victims of American terrorism are “unpeople”. Ashton can behave as if they do not exist or that 12-year-old boys are “suspected militants”. She can gloss over how more than 800 civilians have been killed by US drones strikes in Pakistan since 2004, some 535 on Obama’s watch. At her next appearance before the European Parliament, Ashton is scheduled to speak on a “new strategy on Afghanistan”. This is part of a follow-up exercise to a position taken by the Parliament in 2010, in which it recognised that there is no military solution to Afghanistan’s problems. (I hope MEPs are not expecting any kudos for drawing a conclusion that should have been blindingly obvious decades ago: the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan proved disastrous, why should the only remaining superpower be expected to fare better?).
Whenever Ashton refers to Afghanistan, she expresses pride in how the EU gives it €1.2 billion a year in aid (this is a combined sum for donations from the Union’s 27 governments and the European Commission). The insinuation of generosity is nauseating. Britain spent £11.1 billion pounds (€13.7 billion) on the war in Afghanistan between 2001 and 2010. Ashton was a representative of the British government during that period; she supported the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan. If she was seriously interested in justice and the rule of law, as she pretends to be, she would be demanding that Britain pays massive reparations to Afghanistan for the misery it has caused, not patting herself on the pack for the “aid” that she administers.
Over one-quarter of all foreign troops now in Afghanistan are from EU countries. Even supposedly neutral states like Ireland and Sweden have contributed to the NATO-led “stabilisation” force. WikiLeaks has exposed how young European soldiers have been sent to Helmand and Kandahar out of “deference” to the US, in the words of Herman van Rompuy, the EU’s unelected president.
The word “deference” sums it up. Regardless of whether Obama remains in the White House or whether Mitt Romney triumphs in November, Europe will remain subservient to America. Ashton will keep on shedding public tears over human rights abuses in enemy states like Iran, while ignoring the abuses of her allies.
Mid-way through writing this piece I received a new publication on Afghanistan by the “think tank” Security and Defence Agenda (SDA). “We believe it is time to focus on Afghanistan’s people,” the policy analyst Shada Islam says on its first page. SDA is partly financed by Lockheed Martin, the maker of Hellfire missiles. It was those missiles that America used when it took the lives of Tariq Aziz and his 12-year-old cousin. Lockheed claims its speciality is developing “smart” weapons.
The people of Pakistan and Afghanistan are already the focus of the West. Too many of them have been the target of drone operators sitting at computer screens. Too many of them have been murdered by remote control.
●First published by New Europe, 10-16 June 2012.