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September 22, 2006
Armitage Threatened To Bomb Pakistan

Richard Armitage, it turns out, has a big mouth. We found out this month that he leaked the information on Valerie Plame's identity to Robert Novak and Bob Woodward, a fact that destroyed the myth that Bush allies leaked it to the pair as a vendetta against Joe Wilson. Now it turns out that Armitage told Pakistan that the US would bomb them "back to the Stone Age" if the former Taliban ally did not accede to American military demands in the aftermath of 9/11:

The Bush administration threatened to bomb Pakistan "back to the stone age" after the September 11 attacks if the country did not cooperate with America's war on Afghanistan, it emerged yesterday.

In an interview to be aired on CBS television this weekend Pakistan's president, General Pervez Musharraf, said the threat was delivered by the assistant secretary of state, Richard Armitage, in conversations with Pakistan's intelligence director.

"The intelligence director told me that (Mr Armitage) said, 'Be prepared to be bombed. Be prepared to go back to the stone age'," Gen Musharraf was quoted as saying. The revelation that the US used extreme pressure to secure Pakistan's cooperation in the war on terror arrived at a time of renewed unease in the US about its frontline ally.

Despite considering this "rude", Musharraf apparently smelled the coffee percolating and decided that discretion was the better part of valor. The Guardian (UK) details a number of demands made by the US, including allowing US overflights and intelligence coordination with the Americans, to which Musharraf agreed. He refused to allow the US to conduct border-control operations out of Waziristan and to allow American access to Pakistani army bases. He also says that the US wanted him to put an end to any anti-US demonstrations, which sounds like a strange request for an intelligence service; better to have demonstrations aboveground where agents can spot people than to drive them underground entirely.

Armitage, for his part, denies that specific language in his formulation. Musharraf insisted to CBS that his intel chief specifically quoted Armitage, and Armitage does not deny communicating the general feeling. It seems that the deputy to Colin Powell had no problem threatening war against a nation that had not attacked the United States, a war of total destruction, if the nation did not cooperate fully with us. And understandably so, as we wanted to take out the Afghan government that had sheltered and supported the terrorists who had just attacked us and wanted to make sure their patron provided them no succor, although the fact that Pakistan has nuclear weapons didn't appear to give Armitage any pause.

Given all of that, one then has to wonder why Armitage so bitterly opposed the Iraq war in 2003 and afterward. After all, we had been in a state of war with Iraq for a dozen years at that time. Saddam Hussein refused to cooperate with the US, and in fact with the UN, defying 16 Security Council resolutions. He continued to light up American and British aircraft patrolling the no-fly zones with fire-control radar, itself an act of war and a violation of the cease-fire agreement. In fact, he had often shot missiles at American and British patrol aircraft, by any definition an attack on the two nations.

One cannot explain this away by proposing that a war with Pakistan would have been easier than one against Saddam's Iraq. Even aside from the nuclear weapons, Pakistan's mountainous terrain would have given the Americans fits, as would the logistical problems of invasion. Even a bombing campaign would have been difficult, especially since we wanted to destroy the Taliban and flush al-Qaeda from their caves and could not have committed the resources needed to do both effectively. Plus, Pakistan has a serious military equipped with excellent, modern materiel -- which the US mostly provided.

Either Armitage got a bad case of pacifism in 2003 or he has been strangely inconsistent on war policy. The latter seems much more likely. It looks like Armitage simply detested the Bush administration and by 2003 disagreed with policy for the sake of disagreement, creating a strange track record that borders on incoherence.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at September 22, 2006 5:17 AM

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