Jun 122008

If Israel very wisely is talking to Hamas through Egypt, with Hizbollah through Germany, and with Syria through Turkey, what is so wrong with Pakistan establishing some sort of a dialogue with the Taliban?

When Senator Barack Obama made one of his first public gaffes last year, I remember writing about him and appealing to his handlers to give him a geography lesson. This was the time when one of his political opponents had wryly commented that “he’d gone from being Jane Fonda to Dr Strangelove in less then a week!”

There is an old saying: “Once is happenstance, twice is coincidence, and the third time…well, let us just leave it at that.”

In Senator Obama’s case, that “once” was when he wanted to bomb Pakistan last year. Remember? Ok. We will overlook that one, he hadn’t done his geography homework at the time. Let us label it happenstance.

Then last week he played to the gallery again. This time to a gathering of pro-Israeli lobbyists. Understandable, considering there are more Jews in America than there ever will be Muslims, and no one running for the White house can ever hope to get elected if he (forget the she now) doesn’t get their vote. If the first time was happenstance, this must be “coincidence”.

We won’t talk about the sequential “third time” yet. That’s because I don’t believe in diatribe, Senator. I believe in dialogue.

It is just that I am having difficulty reconciling duality with duplicity. Perhaps you could help. Where do you really stand, Senator? You flip-flop on major issues, you are promising us the moon, and you want the American people to believe that there is going to be “a change” in Washington. One minute you want to talk to Iran and the next you want to bomb it too.

You say Jerusalam, yes, the same one that used to be in Palestine but is now considered to be in Israel. Maybe I heard it wrong but, if I am not mistaken, you did say that you considered “Jerusalem as the one Capital of Israel!” And you still want to know why Hamas, Hezbollah, Al Qaeda and a few others that your statement may have given birth to, hate, and the rest of the Muslim world distrusts, leaders like you.

You would do anything and say anything to get elected. You do no service to either the cause of world peace or to Israel by such statements. You can’t get out of this one, Senator, despite your legerdemain talent for words. There is something seriously wrong with your moral compass.

No one seemed to pay attention when Hillary Clinton kept saying you didn’t have the experience for the job you are seeking. Well, here is how I look at it, folks. Here is a man who for twenty years listened to his pastor for spiritual guidance and political direction but couldn’t figure the man or his politics out when he was sitting there saying “Hallelujah!” to everything the pastor said.

He now says he has distanced himself from the pastor. Please explain to me how Mr Obama in less than a year of his bid for a new job and the 4 years that he wants in the White House, if he beats Senator MaCain and is elected, is going to deal with burning issues like Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan and Kashmir, issues that have been percolating longer then he’s been around in Washington or on this planet.

George Bush has had eight years to learn on the job and look at the great job he’s done. Maybe the lady had a point.

With less than six months to go to the US elections, the two main contenders McCain and Obama have finally started circling each other like two prize fighters, so far without either having chosen a running mate. This is not Madison Square Garden or Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas, this is the real thing. It is a global arena this time around.

The brash and the bold up against the seasoned and the solid; a sprinter against the measured pace of a long distance runner. Obama has youth on his side, is a liberal and has packaged himself in the Kennedy mould. But then he is no Kennedy.

McCain is a decorated veteran of wars and the voice of reason and conservatism reminiscent of Reagan although he may lack some of Reagan’s effusive charm. But then McCain has been to places and dealt with issues that would take a life time for Obama to cover.

Above everything else, in the final analysis it is going to be about style over substance. Obama has all the makings of a great politician, McCain has it all to be not just a great president but a great statesman as well.

Staying in America, Mr Zardari’s PPP, which is the Government of Pakistan, has finally had delivered the long threatened “request” to the United Nations to investigate Benazir’s assassination. My old friend Munir Akram, Pakistan’s representative “embedded” — as CNN is prone to say — at the UN delivered the “official request” to the Secretary General’s office personally.

Now if memory serves me right a similar assignment was undertaken as far back as 2005 to investigate the brutal murder of Rafik Hariri, albeit the circumstances surrounding that assassination were somewhat different in as much that a foreign country was allegedly involved. That investigation some four years later is still ongoing.

Leaving aside the merits or the demerits of such a request, if the Hariri investigation is to be viewed as a “precedent” and as any kind of a yardstick then this investigation is likely to outlive not only Ban Ki-Moon’s tenure as Secretary General but in all likelihood Munir Akram’s as well, and His Excellency does so like New York.

But let us get back to this duality thing or would you prefer duplicity.

The Bush administration is incensed that Pakistan is “talking” or even contemplating to talk to the Taliban. Never mind that repeated air and ground incursions and surgical strikes by gunships and Predator drones are leaving more collateral damage in the wake of their attacks than anyone in Washington and Islamabad would care to admit. In response those that hold sway in Pakistan’s northern reaches send in their suicide bomber squads to wreak havoc in Pakistani cities.

Remember when Hezbollah katyushas struck Israeli border real estate and Israel sent in its mechanised columns, battle tanks and its combat aircraft to seek and destroy the Hezbollah? Well they failed to get them but did succeed in the process in killing and maiming innocent Lebanese men, women and children. No one restrained Israel — not Bush, not Rice and not Blair. Diplomacy suddenly went into slow motion and duplicity came on to the fast track.

Today, if Israel very wisely is talking to Hamas through Egypt, with Hezbollah through Germany, and with Syria through Turkey, what is so wrong with Pakistan establishing some sort of a dialogue with the Taliban?

That folks like the old soap ad says is “99 and ¾ percent” pure duality.

Meanwhile, let us watch these two words play out during the next few days during this “long march”.

Mahmud Sipra is a best selling author and an independent columnist. He can be reached at sipraindubai@yahoo.com

Source: Daily Times, 12/6/2008

 Posted by at 9:45 am

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