This is not about Pakistan. There's plenty being written and said these days about Pakistan. But back in 2002, as it was selling the Iraq war "product", the Bush administration advanced three criteria for invading a country like Iraq: it had harbored terrorists, it had WMD, and it had threatened or invaded its neighbors. Even then, it was possible (thanks to the published statements of intelligence analysts Greg Thielmann in the US, Dr. Brian Jones in the UK and Andrew Willkie in Australia) to know that the WMD part wasn't true.
So, I began to wonder, to what country did all three criteria actually apply? Bingo. Pakistan. Had nukes, had cross-border wars with its neighbor India and--most chillingly--its ISI intelligence service had long nurtured the Taliban, long after we stopped funding the mujahadeen in Afghanistan. Except, by declaration of President Bush, Pakistan was our friend in the GWOT, and so wouldn't be subjected to the dire consequences of the Three Criteria.
Yet, in the ongoing argument about the Iraq War, now almost sure to outlast the war itself, both supporters and opponents have been complicit in one great illusion: the insistence on discussing Iraq in isolation. No comparison to other countries, like Pakistan, no discussion of consequences for neighboring countries, like Iran (except late in the game). The only hint in the whole discussion that other countries mattered in this matter was the airy assurance of the neo-cons that "victory" in Iraq would "democratize" the Middle East. Presto, vote-o.
Highly complicit in this compartmentalization of Iraq was the Washington-New York press corps. They bought the Administration's focus on Iraq as the center of the known universe, and fought--when they did fight--the rhetorical battle on that constricted field. Critics allowed onto the air or the op-ed pages struggled to downplay Iraq as the center of the GWOT with occasional glancing references to forgotten old Afghanistan, but none to Saudi Arabia or Egypt or, for that matter, Hamburg---areas far more central to the history of 9/11.
Pakistan, when it was mentioned at all, was our hardy, if momentarily undemocratic, ally in the war.
A few newspapers have long since apologized for the addled credulity almost all the media displayed over the Administration's kabuki intel. None have apologized, and none will, for buying into the Administration's world view, because that narrow focus played to journalism's own tunnel vision. They overcompensate for that error now with hyperventilating over the sudden discovery that Pakistan has no intention of moving a large part of its huge army away from the Indian border to fight against a Taliban that large parts of its intelligence and military apparatus still support.
At the same time, back in Iraq, the former Sunni insurgents--with their American paychecks running out and the promised melding into the army and police forces not forthcoming--are increasingly reverting to insurgency. The place is de-surging.
One way the modern American media dumb us down is by their insistence on being able to focus on only one story, one country at a time. Pakistan is this week's missing white girl.
Have you seen Zardari?
Harry Shearer is an actor, writer, director, musician and radio host. He is best known for his role on The Simpsons and his work on Saturday Night Live.