Two little stories from the last week’s news take me back to the crazy days of the 1980s. Back then, under the Reagan/Bush Administration, America was playing nasty games in the Middle East, supplying weapons and advisory assistance to both sides in the war between Iran and Iraq.
Today, under the direction of President George W. Bush, the United States is engaged in the same kind of dangerous double dealing with India and Pakistan, who are constantly on the verge of going to war against each other. Condoleeza Rice went to India and Pakistan this week, in order to negotiate the terms for sending F-16 attack military aircraft – to both countries. You got that right – George W. Bush’s bright idea for making the world a safer place is to provide powerful weapons to two nations on the verge of going to war against one another.
The parallels with the Iran – Iraq arms sales of the 1980s are strong, but not complete. You see, although Ronald Reagan and George Bush Sr. helped arm and advise the regimes of Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeni and Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, at least Iran and Iraq did not possess any nuclear weapons. India and Pakistan do.
At a time when the George W. Bush invaded a country because of false allegations that that country was merely trying to develop nuclear weapons, at a time when the United States is pressuring North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons, and at a time when the Bush Administration is threatening sanctions and possible military action against Iran for a program which might be working towards building nuclear weapons, why is the American government actively arming two nations who already have nuclear weapons aimed at each other?
Personally, I can’t decide upon an answer. Profits for American arms merchants is one possibility. An ideological conviction that peace is guaranteed through immense arsenals of nuclear and conventional weaponry ready to completely destroy entire populations of civilians is another possibility.
Certainly, the good intentions of the leaders of India and Pakistan are not a plausible excuse for Bush’s arms-trafficking to South Asia. You see, I read in a second news story this week that the leader of Pakistan has just pledged to continue to develop Pakistan’s arsenal of nuclear weapons to make it even more deadly to India. Pervez Musharraf, who took control of Pakistan in a military coup, supported the Taliban, and has blocked all attempts at restoring democracy to his country, declared, “The nation’s nuclear capability, which enjoyed the broadest national consensus, was developed for Pakistan’s own security and will continue to receive the highest national priority… The capability was here to stay, will continue to go from strength to strength and no harm will ever be allowed to come to it.”
It was just last week that Pakistan admitted that it has supplied equipment needed for making nuclear weapons to Iran. Earlier, it had been revealed that Pakistan gave nuclear weapons technology to Libya.
India is not blameless either. Hindu nationalists have led massacres against muslims in India, and are pushing for nuclear war against Pakistan, if necessary, in order to restore what they regard as a Hindu “homeland” in a disputed area in the north. India has refused to give up its own nuclear weapons, and has pledged to match Pakistan’s escalations, missile for missile.
Sending F-16s to both India and Pakistan does not benefit anyone other than the extremists in both countries who are itching for a fight. With American soldiers in Afghanistan right next door to both India and Pakistan, it does not serve the American national interest to encourage the nuclear arms race between these two nations. Yet, the Bush Administration’s decision to send more weapons to both India and Pakistan will certainly be interpreted as a signal that the Bush White House will not only look the other way as nuclear weapons are developed, but is willing to add more fuel to the fire that burns towards nuclear war.