THE SPINE MAY 4, 2009
There are two front page articles in the Times--yes, we are still
dependent on the Times for our news, very much dependent--that are,
well, positively terrifying. They are about Pakistan.
The first is a story by Sabrina Tavernise who documents the
historic educational vacuum in the country, a vacuum that was filled by
the madrasas, overwhelmingly of the fanatical Islamic persuasion: their
graduates possess a certain limited religious literacy, are militant in
matters of God and faith, sworn to a life-long crusade is easily
assimilated into the Taliban now sweeping through the country. This
force can be traced back to the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan when
fervent Muslim militants from Pakistan basically eliminated the
unmarked border between the two countries.
Tavernise notes that there are now roughly 12,000 madrasas is Pakistan.
Of course, these are only the ones that are registered. Perhaps a
historical note would be useful. When Pakistan was founded by Mohammed
Ali Jinnah in 1947, after Mahatma Mohandis Gandhi's "non-violent"
campaign for Indian independence turned into a romp against the
Muslims, "the father of the nation" hoped to keep the new country
secular and constitutional.
At that point there were only 245 madrasas in the country. In 1960,
there were 464; in 1980, 2056. Alas, now there are the 12,000
mentioned above. Pakistan is an intrinsic disaster. As Tavernise
points out, one of three children do not attend school at all; a third
drop out by third grade. "Girls' enrollment is among the lowest in the
world, lagging behind Ethiopia and Yemen." Yes, Ethiopia and Yemen.
So is not Pakistan a failed state?
But it is a failed state with 60 to 100 nuclear bombs, as David E.
Sanger reports in his account, "Pakistan Strife Raises U.S. Doubt
On Nuclear Arms." There are many reasons why these bombs are liable to
be seized and used. And one of them is that America has only the
slightest notion of where these weapons are dispersed and, for that
matter, how many there are. The president has said that he is
"confident that we can make sure that Pakistan's nuclear arsenal is
secure." Still, the fact is that we can't even guarantee that one or
two of them are not in Al Qaeda's or the Taliban's possession. Why
would Abdul Qadeer Khan, the country's mad nuclear physicist and
weapons entrepreneur, now completely free, have not sold some of his
products to some party in the Islamic Internationale?
Besides Israel, another reason that Shi'a Iran is frantically pursuing
a nuclear arms capacity is that Sunni Pakistan already possesses one.
There is no hatred in the world that has taken as many innocent lives
in recent years as the hatred between Shi'a Islam and Sunni Islam. This is a rancor that goes back a lot longer than a millenium. But
since our leaders have convinced themselves that Islam is a peaceful
religion--intrinsically and presently--they are reluctant to confront
the terrible truth that would give them nightmares and trouble their
I read in Saturday's Wall Street Journal an op-ed by former
American ambassador to the U.N. John R. Bolton titled "The Taliban's
Atomic Threat." Oh, yes, I know, some of you think that Bolton is a
fear monger. Well, read Sanger's Times piece together with Bolton's
op-ed. This is not the best of all possible worlds.In fact, it's
pretty close to the worst.
And apropos Palestine: it is an annoyance in world politics. It is
not a danger. Put it in perspective and put it in the drawer. You
won't solve it anyway.