Friday, December 3, 2010

WikiLeaks and Conspiracy-Mongering Pakistani Media

The ongoing release of State Department documents on WikiLeaks has been a trove of material for Pakistan's conspiracy-minded media. Both Pakistan Media Watch and Café Pyala, both Pakistani web sites devoted to monitoring the foibles of their country's various news outlets, have published many posts detailing how Pakistani newspapers and television networks consistently engage in gossip-mongering, baseless journalism, and outright mendacity in reporting on the WikiLeaks documents.

Here is another of the same: a column written by Sultan M. Hali, who utilizes the WikiLeaks documents to promote the meme that 9/11 was preplanned. He writes:
The sensational WikiLeaks exposé has caused people to lend credence to the earlier rumour grist that 9/11 was an indigenous conspiracy, planned and executed by the United States to find an excuse for attacking and invading Afghanistan. The recent disclosure of the presence of precious metals in Afghanistan, the information of which the US had prior to 9/11, is a case in point. It has now come to the fore that The United States has discovered nearly $1 trillion in untapped mineral deposits in Afghanistan, far beyond any previously known reserves and enough to fundamentally alter the Afghan economy and perhaps the Afghan war itself, according to senior American government officials. The previously unknown deposits—including huge veins of iron, copper, cobalt, gold and critical industrial metals like lithium—are so big and include so many minerals that are essential to modern industry that Afghanistan could eventually be transformed into one of the most important mining centers in the world, the United States officials believe.

An internal Pentagon memo, for example, states that Afghanistan could become the “Saudi Arabia of lithium,” a key raw material in the manufacture of batteries for laptops and BlackBerrys. The vast scale of Afghanistan’s mineral wealth was discovered by a small team of Pentagon officials and American geologists. The Afghan government and President Hamid Karzai were recently briefed, American officials said. While it could take many years to develop a mining industry, the potential is so great that officials and executives in the industry believe it could attract heavy investment even before mines are profitable, providing the possibility of jobs that could distract from generations of war. “There is stunning potential here,” General David H. Petraeus, commander of the United States Central Command, said in an interview. The value of the newly discovered mineral deposits dwarfs the size of Afghanistan’s existing war-bedraggled economy, which is based largely on opium production and narcotics trafficking as well as aid from the United States and other industrialized countries. Afghanistan’s gross domestic product is only about $12 billion. However, it has now come to light that the US was in picture of the existence of the minerals before it invaded Afghanistan.
What has come to the fore, what has come to light? He doesn't say because he doesn't know. Since many of his readers are lazy as he is, and will eat up whatever is given to them by the media, Mr. Hali doesn't bother listing sources. But this is not the point since Mr. Hali, without proof, claims that the United States invaded Afghanistan in order to rape the country for its precious metals.

The United State invaded Afghanistan in 2001, soon after 9/11. So the United States knew well before 9/11 that Afghanistan was a mining bonanza and put in motion an elaborate plan, including killing over 3,000 of its own citizens, in order to keep Afghanistan all for itself. On top of that, spending nearly (if not over) a trillion dollars to occupy and prop-up Afghanistan. And if the United State knew beforehand, why wait till now to reveal this information? And why announce a hard withdrawal date of 2014? You would think the United States would continue to occupy the country until every last ounce of precious metal was extracted from Afghanistan. This is what imperialists do after all.

This is the exact same line of reasoning used for the invasion of Iraq, just replace minerals with oil. That war probably cost the United States two trillion dollars. If capturing a nation's mineral and energy wealth was the utlimate goal, there are a lot cheaper ways to do it than invading and occupying a country, including suborning dictators in Iraq or warlords and the Taliban in Afghanistan. If it sounds nonsensical because it is.
At the same time, American officials fear resource-hungry China will try to dominate the development of Afghanistan’s mineral wealth, which could upset the United States, given its heavy investment in the region. After winning the bid for its Aynak copper mine in Logar Province, China clearly wants more, American officials said. However, it is alarming that the US has orchestrated one of the oldest imperialistic façades of invading a country, it suspected contained rich minerals. It could thus be assured of having exclusive rights to mine the minerals and pocket the profits. If this is true, then the US has a lot to answer to the international court of justice, since its war machine has already slaughtered over 30,000 Afghans and despite suffering defeats at the hands of the Afghan resistance, it is reluctant to depart from Afghanistan.
China knew of the mineral wealth of Afghanistan as well, per this New York Times article:
The corruption that is already rampant in the Karzai government could also be amplified by the new wealth, particularly if a handful of well-connected oligarchs, some with personal ties to the president, gain control of the resources. Just last year, Afghanistan’s minister of mines was accused by American officials of accepting a $30 million bribe to award China the rights to develop its copper mine. The minister has since been replaced.
China paid a bribe. No mention of this by Mr. Hali. Since he often carries China's water, I didn't expect him to mention it. It would raise inconvenient questions about the veracity of his columns. And speaking of veracity, it seems Mr. Hali sourced much of his information from the aforementioned New York Times article. A closer reading of the two will find many similarities, including the wording.

But since Mr. Hali is engaging in conspiracy theories, let me engage in one of my own. Let's put the shoe on the other foot. It is equally valid to say that China and Pakistan are just as keen as the United State to exploit Afghanistan's mineral wealth for their greedy needs. Pakistan and China are thick as thieves on this score. How do we know that Pakistan's end game in Afghanistan is not driving out the Americans in order to restore peace and stability on its border, but to a achieve clear path to Kabul to install a puppet government so both Pakistan and China can keep Afghanistan's mineral wealth all for themselves?

Sounds absurd doesn't it? Well this is exactly Mr. Hali's line of thinking. The last paragraph about "imperialistic facades" and "international court of justice" is just palaver to give Mr. Hali some moral cover for his thinly-sourced column. But Mr. Hali realizes that if the United States was brought to dock for it’s alleged crimes, it would be the International Criminal Court (ICC), not the International Court of Justice (ICJ) as Mr. Hali erroneously claims, that would oversea the trial?

The lack of details is another hallmark of the Pakistani media.

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