Friday, October 30, 2009

Clinton tries to explain our motivations to angry Pakistanis

So I came on an interesting news story today. Hillary Clinton has been in Pakistan trying to boost our rather mangled relationship with Pakistan. And of course the news says that a bomb blast in Karachi was timed for her arrival - whatever, we're so arrogant! There have been suicide bombings almost every day for two weeks because of the Pakistani military's push into Taliban-held territories. It's not about us.

U.S. Secretary of State's Visit to Shrine of Sufi Saint Bari Imam

Anyways... I was interested by a line in the report about Clinton's visit that mentioned that she visited a local college in Karachi and spoke to an auditorium of 400 college students, as well as having several other direct sessions with people from the Taliban-controlled area. She opened the floor and took questions, which resulted in many angry appeals from the people. I thought that was REALLY interesting and good, and I wanted to know what was said.

FW: Secretary of State in Islamabad, Pakistan -- Photo # 4

This is from an AP article about the talks.

During an interview broadcast live in Pakistan with several prominent female TV anchors, before a predominantly female audience of several hundred, one member of the audience said the Predator attacks amount to "executions without trial" for those killed.
Another asked Clinton how she would define terrorism.
Earlier, in a give-and-take with about a dozen residents of the tribal region, one man alluded obliquely to the drone attacks, saying he had heard that in the United States, aircraft are not allowed to take off after 11 p.m., to avoid irritating the population.
"That is the sort of peace we want for our people," he said through an interpreter.
The same man told Clinton that the Obama administration should rely more on wisdom and less on firepower to achieve its aims in Pakistan.
"Your presence in the region is not good for peace," he said, referring to the U.S. military, "because it gives rise to frustration and irritation among the people of this region." At another point he told Clinton, "Please forgive me, but I would like to say we've been fighting your war."
A similar point was made by Sana Bucha of Geo TV during the live broadcast interview.
"It is not our war," she told Clinton. "It is your war." She drew a burst of applause when she added, "You had one 9/11. We are having daily 9/11s in Pakistan."
Capturing a feeling that Clinton heard expressed numerous times during her visit, one woman in the audience said, "The whole world thinks we are terrorists." The woman said she was from the South Waziristan area where the Pakistani army is engaged in pitched battles with Taliban and affiliated extremist elements -- and where U.S. drones have struck with deadly effect many times.

I thought this was interesting - Clinton distinctly telling students that her approach through President Obama was different than what they had experienced for 8 years through Bush, and the students actually applauded. This is one of the things I am so relieved about with having Obama in the White House - Pakistan and places like it may not welcome him unreservedly, but they are willing to hear him out in a way that they no longer would with Bush.

As a way of repudiating past U.S. policies toward Pakistan, Clinton told the students “there is a huge difference” between the Obama administration’s approach and that of former President George W. Bush. “I spent my entire eight years in the Senate opposing him,” she said to a burst of applause from the audience of several hundred students. “So, to me, it’s like daylight and dark.”
Clinton likened Pakistan’s situation — with Taliban forces taking over substantial swaths of land in the Swat valley and in areas along the Afghan border — to a theoretical advance of terrorists into the United States from across the Canadian border. It would be unthinkable, she said, for the U.S. government to decide, “Let them have Washington (state)” first, then Montana, then the sparsely populated Dakotas, because those states are far from the major centers of population and power on the East Coast.
Clinton was responding to a student who suggested that Washington was forcing Pakistan to use military force on its own territory. It was one of several questions from the students that raised doubts about the relationship between the United States and Pakistan.

Here's another quote:

"What guarantee can the Americans give Pakistanis that we can now trust you?" one student asked, "and that you guys are not going to be betraying us like you did in the past?"
The reference was to the belief among many Pakistanis that the U.S. favors traditional rival India.
"I am well aware that there is a trust deficit," Clinton said in response. "My message is that's not the way it should be."
I am so glad that she was willing to talk directly to people and not just to the government. The people don't really trust their government anyways, and they don't understand what the US is doing and why - it's really important that they understand our motivations, even if they don't agree. And it's good for her to hear how the people feel so we can keep that in mind in our policy-making.

Nasim Zehra is a host of a political chat show on Pakistani TV who chatted with Clinton on the show earlier this week. He said about her: "She's impressive, insofar as she's candid, but there are fundamental policy issues, the most basic one being whether the United States understands the legitimate security concerns that the state and society both face in Pakistan. It is unprecedented that the secretary of state should decide to come and say all of this. We'll now see if she's bold enough to initiate policy change."


Jaimie said...

Cool. Thanks for sharing.

Bambang said...

nice info thanks for sharing