Posted on December 17, 2014
When it was announced that the Pakistani Taliban slaughtered a bunch of school kids earlier this week, my mind immediately turned to Adam Lanza.
Lanza was the deranged teenager who gunned down 20 young children at Sandy Hook Elementary School two years ago.
Lanza was a certifiable crack-pot.
That pretty much describes the 9 religious extremists who stormed the school in Peshawar, bombs strapped to the bodies and hate filling their hearts.
The attack was so brutal, the Afghan Taliban, a group noted for its own brutality, condemned it.
The Pakistani Taliban released a statement, claiming responsibility and saying that it attacked the children of the military because the Pakistan military attacks against the Taliban strongholds had killed some of their kids.
Everything I know about Pakistan I have learned from the television show Homeland.
I am kind of kidding, but kind of not.
The Showtime drama illuminates the truth about this country. They both love and hate its Taliban.
They love them when then infiltrate Afghanistan and attack India. They hate them when they attack their own people and slaughter their children.
They also have a complicated relationship with America.
They love our money (and we still give them a lot of money to buy weapons), but they don’t love our culture or democracy very much.
Pakistan is a mess and has always been so.
As a country, it was founded in 1947, although as a civilization, it is much, much older.
Alexander the Great conquered it before the birth of Christ and the British Empire controlled it for a century or so, only loosening its control after the devastation of the Second World War.
The Pakistanis and the Indians used to be joined together under the British Crown, and then became the most bitter of enemies.
They both have nuclear weapons, so we have a vested interest in making sure that they don’t go to war again.
The Pakistanis didn’t like it so much when we figured out that Osama Bin Laden was hanging out there. They liked it less when we took the law into our own hands and shot him dead, right from under their noses.
I could never quite figure out why they were the ones who were pissed about our actions with Bin Laden. We should have been pissed at them for harboring him, which they obviously did.
Like I said, our relationship with the Pakistani people is very, very complicated.
And if you don’t believe me, watch Homeland, which may be fiction, but pretty much nails it as a descriptor of how things go.
Pakistan has many, many problems. Their economy is struggling. Terrorism is a daily occurrence. There is a bitter civil war between religious nutcases and the rest of the country. Polio is making a comeback and the Taliban has been targeting medical aid workers who are trying to fight the disease. The political structure is teetering.
We can’t allow the country to collapse outright, because that would have dire consequences, not only for the entire region, but also for the entire globe.
But I am at a loss to understand what we can do to help stabilize the country.
Perhaps this attack on the children will be a turning point. Perhaps its brutality will shake the soul of even the most rabid religious extremist.
Or things could just continue to get worse.
We shouldn’t forget about those kids who were slaughtered, nor should we forget the poor kids who were killed at Sandy Hook.
Some of my friends have pointed to this massacre as a way to justify the CIA’s use of torture.
Indeed a new poll has been released showing that the American people by and large support the use of those tactics if it is used to make the country more secure.
I think that logic is fundamentally flawed.
I don’t think our use of torture (or enhanced interrogation techniques) helps our cause to create a better world for our children.
Is America a shining city on the Hill or is it just another country that does the kinds of stuff that other countries do?
Are we really special or aren’t we?
We used to take pride, in the closing days of the Second World War, that German soldiers would go out of their way to surrender to the Americans rather than to the Russians, because they knew they would be treated better.
Can we say that today?
Perhaps the best way we can help the Pakistanis recover from this terrible blow is to once again become a country that exhibits the best traits of a moral and just society, a government that is functional and truly representative, and a land that embraces religious and cultural diversity.
We can lead by example.
We shouldn’t justify torture as a weapon that keeps us safe. It doesn’t.