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SPGB Socialist Opposition To War - Obama and the War in Pakistan and Afghanistan

Bob Dylan wrote his song THE TIMES THEY ARE A CHANGIN' during the Vietnam War period. Many protested against the war, burnt their draft cards and many demonstrators were beaten up by the police. At Kent University they were shot. A sizeable proportion of his generation actually fought and died in the war; some 56,000.

Nearly fifty years later there has not been a year between 1964 and now without a war being fought over trade routes, spheres of influence and mineral and oil resources. Barack Obama, whose presidential ambitions were launched by his opposition to one war, moved in February 2009 to expand the U.S. deployment in another.

In his first such action as president, Obama ordered an additional 17,000 combat troops to Afghanistan. His administration cast the move as an interim step to battle the resurgent Taliban, secure Afghanistan's border with Pakistan and stem the decline in a war that the United States now risks losing

Why would the United States be so obsessed with Pakistan?

One reason is that Pakistan is traditionally a strategic ally and economic partner of China, a country which the US and British are determined to oppose and contain on the world stage.

Specifically, Pakistan could function as an energy corridor linking the oil fields of Iran and possibly even Iraq with the Chinese market by means of a pipeline that would cross the Himalayas above Kashmir.

This is the so-called “Pipelinestan” issue.

Pipelinestan encompasses Macedonia, Iraq, Iran, Tajikstan, Uzbekistan, Paskistan and maybe a few more 'stans whose geography straddle oil and gas lines (RESOURCE WATCH January 2010).

This would give China a guaranteed land-based oil supply not subject to Anglo-American naval superiority, while also cutting out the 12,000 mile tanker route around the southern rim of Asia.

The government in Beijing has been pressuring Tehran for China’s participation in the pipeline project and Islamabad, while willing to sign a bilateral agreement with Iran, has also welcomed China’s participation.

According to an estimate in the ASIA TIMES, such a pipeline would result in Pakistan getting $200 million to $500 million annually in transit fees alone.

The article said: “China and Pakistan are already working on a proposal for laying a trans-Himalayan pipeline to carry Middle Eastern crude oil to western China. Pakistan provides China the shortest possible route to import oil from the Gulf countries. The pipeline, which would run from the southern Pakistan port of Gwadar and follow the Karakoram highway, would be partly financed by Beijing. The Chinese are also building a refinery at Gwadar”.

And the article went on to say:

Imports using the pipeline would allow Beijing to reduce the portion of its oil shipped through the narrow and unsafe Strait of Malacca, which at present carries up to 80% of its oil imports. Islamabad also plans to extend a railway track to China to connect it to Gwadar. The port is also considered the likely terminus of proposed multibillion-dollar gas pipelines reaching from the South Pars fields in Iran or from Qatar, and from the Daulatabad fields in Turkmenistan for export to world markets. (Syed Fazl-e-Haider, “Pakistan- Iran sign gas pipeline deal,” (27 May 2009).

This is the normal practice of international competition and alliances over world resources, trade routes and spheres of strategic interest.

And it is the working class soldiers who are killing and being killed in Afghanistan for the pipe and gas routes which are being built and will be built over “Pipelinestan”.

They are expendable pawns just as they were in the 19th century.

Here is Rudyard Kipling:

When you’re wounded and left on Afghanistan’s plains,
And the women come to cut out what remains,
Just roll to your rifle, and blow out your brains.
An’ go to your Gawd like a soldier.

White Man's Burden"

Well the soldiers who are doing the dying in Afghanistan are of all races, gender and creed.

And with the first black President it is no longer a white man’s burden. President Obama has ordered missile attacks into Pakistan most of those being killed being women and children and a military surge in Afghanistan which now looks like being settled by buying the Taliban off.

And the interests of Obama’s administration remain exactly the same as it did for George Bush; Oil and Gas, their strategic position in Eurasia and the growing political and economic power of China.

Oil and natural gas pipelines from Iran across Pakistan and into China would carry energy resources into the Middle Kingdom, and would also serve as conveyor belts for Chinese economic influence into the Middle East.

This would make US control tenuous in a part of the world which Washington have traditionally sought to control as part of their overall strategy of world domination.

As President this is where the interest and policy goals of the Obama administration lay.

Here is Juan Cole of the Global America Institute:

A common explanation for the US presence in Afghanistan is Washington's interest in Central Asian fuel sources-- natural gas in Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan and petroleum in Kazakhstan. The idea of Zalmay Khalilzad and others was to bring a gas pipeline down through Afghanistan and Pakistan to energy-hungry India. Turkmenistan became independent of Moscow in 1991, making the project plausible. For this reason some on the political Right in the US actually supported the Taliban as a force for law and order.

If that was the plan, it has failed. Instead China has landed the big bid to develop a major gas field in Turkmenistan along with a pipeline to Beijing. Turkmenistan had strongly considered piping the gas to Moscow instead, but developed conflicts with Gazprom.

So the US is bogged down in an Afghanistan quagmire, and China is running off with the big regional prize
(15. 12. 2009)

There is a painting of the last British Soldier leaving the Kyber pass after the British Army was routed by a tribal force in the 19th century. No cartoonist yet has re-used this painting and transposed the dejected face of the soldier with the face of President Barack Obama. Time will tell.

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