Cross-border raids really make strange bedfellows, don’t they?
At the presidential debate last Friday, Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) said he would allow U.S. troops to cross Afghanistan’s ill-defined border with Pakistan to fight insurgents who are attacking them from Pakistan.
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) admonished Obama for not understanding (this coming from the guy who recently referenced the non-existent Iraq/Pakistan border), saying he would not support the cross-border attacks.
“You don’t do that, you don’t say that out loud,” McCain said at the debate. “We have to get the cooperation of the Pakistani people.”
Then, at a campaign stop in Philadelphia last weekend, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin stopped for a cheesesteak and a couple of questions. One customer asked whether she thought they ought to allow cross-border attacks from Afghanistan into Waziristan, Pakistan, Palin said, “Absolutely, we should.”
McCain said in a CNN interview Tuesday that his running mate’s comments were mischaracterized by the media, an opinion that CNN Political Producer Peter Hamby finds serious fault with in an online article on the incident.
Whether Palin’s comments were mischaracterized or not, and whether it’s Obama’s position or McCain’s that is naïve about Pakistan and the nature of the insurgency in the border region of Waziristan, the media and the candidates are missing one, undeniable fact:
This is not a hypothetical question. The U.S. military has been waging cross-border attacks into Pakistan for months.
Activity in the border regions by the U.S.-led force in Afghanistan has increased since Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari was elected this fall. He replaced a long-time ally of the U.S., Pervez Musharraf, who was disparaged as dictator-like by critics around the world and within his own country.
As early as June of this year, the newly-elected president of Pakistan accused the U.S. military of cross-border strikes that killed around one dozen of their soldiers. Though the Pentagon denied it at the time, the U.S. has since admitted crossing the Pakistani border with Afghanistan to fight insurgents. In fact, in July, President George W. Bush signed a secret order approving unannounced U.S. incursions into Pakistan for the purpose of fighting terrorists.
Shortly after the order was made public, Zardari said in his first major address as president that he would not tolerate foreign countries crossing Pakistani borders to attack insurgents.
U.S. military officials have confirmed that Pakistani and American troops exchanged fire in the border region last Thursday. As in the alleged incident this summer, though, Washington insisted that U.S. troops had stayed on the Afghan side of the border, while statements from Islamabad said they had crossed over.
On Wednesday, local security officials said a U.S. spy drone bombed a home in Waziristan. Reports of damages vary; anywhere from three to four people were reported killed and six to nine wounded. Prior to the bombing, one unnamed Pakistani official said Pashtun tribal leaders had been shooting at the drone.
Both former President Musharraf and current President Zardari have been criticized for not working hard enough to fight terrorists. It is widely thought that Osama bin Laden and other high-level terrorists are hiding in the border region between Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Obama is taking a hard line against terrorists, saying he wants troops to be able to get bin Laden, even if the cave he’s hiding in happens to be in Pakistan. McCain’s negation seems almost opportunistically contrarian, opposing Obama merely because they are opponents. Which is why Palin must have been so confused. Palin knows the Bush Doctrine, whether she can articulate it or not, and she can see where chasing bin Laden to the gates of hell (much less to a country adjacent to Afghanistan) fits right in.
Whatever one’s foreign policy bent, it’s shocking that the corporate media hasn’t put these two stories together. Jim Lehrer could have pushed the point at the debate, asking the two candidates whether they supported President Bush’s actions in Pakistan, instead of framing the question like a hypothetical. The dozens of reporters writing woodenly about casualties in Waziristan need to talk to the political pundits covering the elections, and vice-versa.
A BUZZFLASH NEWS ANALYSIS