“Why does Pakistan hate the United States”, by Christopher Hutchins

Christopher Hitchens comes out swinging in this article at www.slate.com. We recognize that Hitchens’ views are, and historically have been quite unfriendly towards Pakistan. Yet it is important to objectively read the views of a leading thinker in the Western world, who has the ears of influential people in White House. Hitchens wonders aloud the question that has befuddled many across the globe; why does Pakistan hate US so much. The usual argument goes something like this: US has an uneven international policy, it has supported dictators, it has been an opportunist when it comes to its own interests, it supports Israel, and that US has massacred hundreds of thousands of humans over the past century in pursuit of its aim to remain the dominant military power in the world.

I disagree with these naïve arguments; none of the world nations (Pakistan included) have held a uniform policy when it comes to international affairs. This happens despite the proclamation of high values and ideals that all nations supposedly stand for. For almost 50 years in the past century, US engaged in a bitter cold war against a Communist adversary; a lot of unscrupulous policies run by the United States were in context of the Cold War. It is not a pleasant thought if that Communist adversary had succeeded, and what the present world would have looked like. I do recognize that lesser of the evils is often the only strategy available in International politics. Yes, US has fought unjust wars over past many decades; it has killed thousands of innocent civilians in course of these wars. Yes its support of Israel that has annexed Palestinian land time and time again, is a horribly wrong policy. US is neither an angelic country nor the great Satan as it was made out to be. It is the most dominant military and economic power of the world, the de-facto policeman of this planet, and its actions consequently yield a large footprint. Yet the hatred that runs across the full spectrum of Pakistani society, rich or poor, right or left is unsettling. Even as Taliban rummage across the country, leaving an utter trail of destruction, we never stop hearing the blame on Pakistan woes casted solely on the United States.

Why Pakistan hates US? This is an important question, because despite hot and cold relationship between Pakistan and the United States, the US has been one of the biggest allies, militarily as well as economically for Pakistan. Do we hate it because we perceive US to be humiliating Islam, our religion; or conversely we hate US even more because despite our dislike, we are dependent on US. Is our hatred for US an expression or a convenient response to our own failures?

These are tough and yet unaswered questions. Hutchins seems to cast whole Pakistan as a monolithic entity, an approach that right wing sympathetic thinkers in Pakistan are guilty of doing towards the US. However we cannot deny a complex relationship that exists between Pakistan and the United States; where the biggest nation among the Friends of Pakistan is the one hated the most.

Hutchins further talks about India, and wonders aloud whether US support for Pakistan at the cost of a democratic and economically resurgent India is a folly.

For Pakistan, even though these questions are almost too uncomfortable, yet they are way too much critical to ignore. (AZW)


Christopher Hitchens “Why does Pakistan hate the United States”


Give credit to the Vice President: He really does enjoy politics and “can’t see a room without working it,” as a colleague of mine half-admiringly remarked last Wednesday morning. We were waiting to enter the studio and comment after Biden had finished his interview with the Scarborough/Brzezinski team, in which the main topic was Afghanistan. Exiting, he chose to stop and talk to each of us. Not wanting to waste a chance to be a bore on the subject, I asked him why he had mentioned India only once in the course of his remarks. Right away Biden managed the trick—several good politicians have mastered this—of reacting as if the question had been his own idea. Of course, he said, it was vexing that Pakistan preferred to keep its best troops on the border with India (our friend) rather than redeploying them to FATA—the so-called Federally Administered Tribal Areas—where they could be fighting the Taliban and al-Qaida (our enemy). My flesh was pressed, and it was on to the next. The newspapers that morning revealed that Pakistani authorities showed no interest in apprehending a Taliban leader in Afghanistan whom they considered an important asset. The newspapers the following morning reported that Pakistan was refusing to extend the visas to U.S. Embassy and other American personnel, resulting in a gradual paralysis of everything from intelligence-gathering to the maintenance of helicopters.

Several questions arise from this. The first: Who is in charge of policy in the area? When some hard words had to be spoken to President Hamid Karzai about the dire and ramshackle nature of his regime, it was the vice president who drew the job of delivering them. For the rest of the time, the Af-Pak dimension is supposedly overseen by Richard Holbrooke, who seems lately to show some outward signs of discontent. Yet on one day Secretary of State Hillary Clinton may appear on the tarmac at Kabul or Islamabad. On another it will be Secretary of Defense Robert Gates or the CIA or any number of a series of generals. If this is really a “team of rivals,” it doesn’t seem to have had the effect of clarifying policy differences by debate. It looks more like one damn thing after another.

The next question is a version of an older one. Why do the Pakistanis hate us? We need not ask this in a plaintive tone of “after all we’ve done for them,” but it is an apparent conundrum nonetheless. The United States made Pakistan a top-priority Cold War ally. It overlooked the regular interventions of its military into politics. It paid a lot of bills and didn’t ask too many questions. It generally favored Pakistan over India, which was regarded as dangerously “neutralist” in those days, and during the Bangladesh war it closed its eyes to a genocide against the Muslim population of East Bengal. During the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, Washington fed the Pakistani military and intelligence services from an overflowing teat and allowed them to acquire nuclear weapons on the side.

This, then, is why the Pakistani elite hates the United States. It hates it because it is dependent on it and is still being bought by it. It is a dislike that is also a form of self-hatred of the sort that often develops between client states and their paymasters. (You can often sense the same resentment in the Egyptian establishment, and sometimes among Israeli right-wingers, as well.) By way of overcompensation for their abject status as recipients of the American dole, such groups often make a big deal of flourishing their few remaining rags of pride. The safest outlet for this in the Pakistani case is an official culture that makes pious noises about Islamic solidarity while keeping the other hand extended for the next subsidy. Pakistani military officers now strike attitudes in public as if they were defending their national independence rather than trying to prolong their rule as a caste and to extend it across the border of their luckless Afghan neighbor.

This is, and always was, a sick relationship, and it is now becoming dangerously diseased. It’s not possible to found a working, trusting, fighting alliance on such a basis. Under communism, the factory workers of Eastern Europe had a joke: “We pretend to work, and they pretend to pay us.” In this instance, the Pakistanis don’t even pretend that their main military thrust is directed against the common foe, but we do continue to pay them. If we only knew it, the true humiliation and indignity is ours, not theirs.

This will continue to get nastier and more corrupt and degrading until we recognize that our long-term ally in Asia is not Pakistan but India. And India is not a country sizzling with self-pity and self-loathing, because it was never one of our colonies or clients. We don’t have to send New Delhi 15 different envoys a month, partly to placate and partly to hector, because the relationship with India isn’t based on hysteria and envy. Alas, though, we send hardly any envoys at all to the world’s largest secular and multicultural democracy, and the country itself gets mentioned only as an afterthought. Nothing will change until this changes.

One reason the Pakistani army coddles the Taliban in Afghanistan is because it has recently been told that the United States will not be deploying there in strength for very much longer. Who can blame them for basing their future plans on this supposition and continuing to dig in for a war with India that we are helping them to prepare for? Meanwhile, though, it is the Afghans who get the lectures about how they need to shape up. “Lots of luck in your senior year” was the breezy way in which the vice president phrased his message to Kabul as I watched. (I wonder how that translates into Pushtun.) Speed the day when the Pakistanis are publicly addressed in the same tones and told that the support they so much despise is finally being withdrawn.

Why Does Pakistan Hate the United States? Because it is dependent on us.

Christopher Hitchens is a columnist for Vanity Fair and the Roger S. Mertz media fellow at the Hoover Institution.



Filed under Army, Democracy, India, Islamabad, Kerry Lugar Bill, Obama, Pakistan, Religion, Taliban, Terrorism, USA, War On Terror, World

5 responses to ““Why does Pakistan hate the United States”, by Christopher Hutchins

  1. I think a lot simply boils down to the US position on Kashmir. Kashmir is important to Pakistan, it knows that it needs great power intervention to resolve that conflict in its favour. I think this was one of the fundamental reason Pakistan courted the US, and the US, wary of a non-aligned India mostly obliged.

    However, the US never really could take a stand against India in Kashmir. It could never even get India to accept third party mediation. I dont know exactly what stopped the US from condemning India on Kashmir, especially since it so vehemently opposed India’s actions in the 1971 war.

    Obviously, there are all sorts of other important factors, but I feel the reluctance of the US to ever really take a hard stand against India (of course completely unimaginable right now) is one major reason.

  2. For the uninformed to get a sense of what I mean, here is the US reaction to the Goa and Bangladesh liberation wars (from wikipedia, usual caveat applies),

    “The United States’ official reaction to the invasion of Goa was delivered by Adlai Stevenson in the UN Security Council, where he condemned the armed action of the Indian government and demanded that all Indian forces be unconditionally withdrawn from Goan soil.

    To express its displeasure with the Indian action in Goa, the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee attempted, over the objections of President John F. Kennedy, to cut the 1962 foreign aid appropriation to India by 25 percent.”

    “The United States supported Pakistan both politically and materially. U.S. President Richard Nixon denied getting involved in the situation, saying that it was an internal matter of Pakistan. But when Pakistan’s defeat seemed certain, Nixon sent the USS Enterprise to the Bay of Bengal, a move deemed by the Indians as a nuclear threat. Enterprise arrived on station on 11 December 1971. On 6 December and 13 December, the Soviet Navy dispatched two groups of ships, armed with nuclear missiles, from Vladivostok; they trailed U.S. Task Force 74 in the Indian Ocean from 18 December until 7 January 1972.”

  3. Majumdar

    Alas, though, we send hardly any envoys at all to the world’s largest secular and multicultural democracy, and the country itself gets mentioned only as an afterthought. Nothing will change until this changes.

    No, no Hitchens sahib. I hope this does not change. We are happy the way we are.


  4. Mustafa Shaban

    I totally disagree with Hitchens, Pakistani elite does not hate the US, but the general public definitely does for obvious reasons. Also I do not consider Hitchens to be the brightest of people. There are many other Athiests like Bob Avakian, Sunsara Taylor, Raymond Lotta and also people like David Icke who are different but a lot smarter and intellectualy higher than Hitchens. The only thing I like about Hitchens was his opposition to the Vietnam War, and I think he also opposed the sanctions in Iraq during 90’s and his documentary on the monster war criminal Henry Kissinger. After that he went downhill and really lost his touch.

    Respect MP George Galloway got it right when he mentioned Hitchens as a Butterfly morphed back into larva or something.

  5. Ayesha

    @ Mustafa Shaban,

    Galloway said—“butterfly morphed back into a slug”. Though I will have to say that both the elites and the average person dislikes the US—it is not one or the other.