Pakistan's President Musharraf has been talking tough while touring the US during the past week, as he meticulously promotes his new book, In The Line Of Fire.
The book was supposed to be a round-up of Musharraf's career and a recent history of Pakistan, but the majority of the book is consumed by Musharraf spilling his guts on his version of the events of 9/11 and the 'War On Terror' that followed.
In headline grabbing interviews last week, Musharraf came across as a man righteously pissed off at how much criticism Pakistan has copped for allowing Islamic extremism to flourish in his country, and for Pakistan's years of backing the Taleban, and turning a blind-eye to al-Qaeda.
The book, and the round of interviews, are all about settling scores and getting his version of the 'War On Terror' into the headlines. He has been remarkably successful at doing just that.
And, let's not forget, Musharraf has democratic elections coming up and it's important for him to let all of Pakistan know he is not another Bush Poodle, like Britain's Tony Blair and Australia's John Howard.
Musharraf is rumourd to have scored a cool million for the book, and it has already proved to be one of the most controversial tomes ever written by a serving world leader.
There's plenty of good reasons for all that controversy.
We've already heard Musharraf's allegations that he was told by Richard Armitage that the US would bomb Pakistan "back to the Stone Age" in the days after 9/11 if Pakistan didn't join the US-led 'War Agaisnt Terror' (as it was then known).
But yesterday, an extract from the book published in the Times Of London revealed the first call Musharraf got from the US was from then Secretary of State, Colin Powell, who laid down the law with one clear message that would become President Bush's matra : "You're either with us, or against us."
Musharraf makes it very clear that the United State's first target of opportunity in US plans to strike back for 9/11 was Pakistan, not Afghanistan.
Incredibly, Musharraf's first reaction after Powell's phone call was to sit down with his war cabinet and contemplate just how Pakistan would sqaure up in a full-blown military conflict with the US :
So Musharraf admits that while he was opposed to terrorism in general, he only made the decision to join the US in the new war after he realised Pakistan could not win, or withstand, a full blown US military assault.
I made a dispassionate, military-style analysis of our options....I war-gamed the United States as an adversary. There would be a violent and angry reaction if we didn’t support the United States. Thus the question was: if we do not join them, can we confront them and withstand the onslaught? The answer was no, we could not...
Musharraf describes the 9/11 attacks as, "a great blow to the ego of the superpower. America was sure to react violently, like a wounded bear. If the perpetrator turned out to be al-Qaeda, then that wounded bear would come charging straight toward us."
The perpertrator turned out to be al-Qaeda, but the US charged straight at the Pakistan-
backed Taleban regime in Afghanistan, not Pakistan itself.
But Musharraf was deeply troubled about backing the US. He knew the Taleban, and al-Qaeda, enjoyed vast support from Pakistanis, and he was risking his own political career, and it turns out his own life, by throwing his side in with the US in the new war :
The ultimate question that confronted me was whether it was in our national interest to destroy ourselves for the Taleban. Were they worth committing suicide over? The answer was a resounding no.
Musharraf doesn't refer to his quandry as a "choice", he called it "the ultimate question".This book is Musharraf fighting back against critics in his own country, and around the world, and trying to secure his place in history as man who realised the mistakes that had been made in using extremists and terrorists as supplementary fighters, particularly in the 1980s during the Afghanistan War.
The history of al-Qaeda and the Taleban told by Musharraf is a version of history that no US president of the past two decades has ever had the balls to even go near, and Musharraf's telling of the rise of these terrorist groups confirms a lot of the legends about Osama Bin Laden and the help he received in his remarkable rise through the 1990s.
And it was help that Bin Laden received from three of the most powerful nations in the world, as Musharraf explains :
It has famously been said that “short-term gain for long-term pain” is foolhardy, but this is exactly what happened to the allies in the jihad against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, not least the United States, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia.
We helped to create the Mujahidin, fired them with religious zeal in seminaries, armed them, paid them, fed them, and sent them to a jihad against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan.
We did not stop to think how we would divert them to productive life after the jihad was won. This mistake cost Afghanistan and Pakistan more dearly than any other country. Neither did the United States realise what a rich, educated person like Osama bin Laden might later do with the organisation that we all had enabled him to establish.
Worse, the United States didn’t even consider the rebuilding and development of Afghanistan after the Soviets departed.
America simply abandoned Afghanistan to its fate, ignoring the fact that a wretchedly poor and unstable country, armed to the teeth with the most sophisticated weapons and torn apart by warlords, could become an ideal haven for terrorists.
Our greatest oversight was to forget that when you help to organise and use people fired by extraordinary religious or ideological zeal to achieve your objectives, you must consider that they might be using you to achieve their objectives and are only temporarily on your side for tactical reasons.
In (Taleban leader) Mullah Omar’s case the objective was to gain power in Afghanistan.
In the case of Osama bin Laden it was perhaps to get help from America, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia to create al-Qaeda, obtain funding and arms, and finally secure a base from which to operate. In such situations, who is using whom becomes murky. We — the United States, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia — created our own Frankenstein’s monster.
It is true that we had assisted in the rise of the Taleban after the Soviet Union withdrew from Afghanistan, which was then callously abandoned by the United States.
For a while, at the embryonic stage, even the United States had approved of the Taleban. We had hoped that the Taleban, driven by religious zeal based on the true principles of Islam, would bring unity and peace to a devastated country.
Absolutely remarkable confessions.
Musharraf also admits that Pakistan supported the Taleban (up until September 10, 2001) for "geostrategic reasons."
He claims that if Pakistan had opposed the Taleban, they would have turned against Pakistan and torn the country apart. Or worse. Pakistan had, and still has, nuclear weapons. One of the reasons why the US was considering "taking out" Pakistan was to keep the nukes out of the hands of Bin Laden and al-Qaeda.
Musharraf claims, "a vacuum of power" in Afghanistan would have opened up if Pakistan had not supported the Taleban, and the Northern Alliance would have stepped up to face off against Pakistan along the Afghanistan border.Ultimately, the two main reasons that Musharraf commited Pakistan to fight the 'War On Terror' were, quite simply, "Self-interest and self-preservation...(they) were the basis of this decision."
Go Here To Read The Relevant Extract From President Musharraf's In The Line Of Fire
Musharraf also tells the remarkable tale of how he survived two suicide bombing assassination attempts in late 2003 in this extract from the book.
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