American-Style Colonialism and Imperialism, with Pakistan the Latest Victim

The world is littered with wreckage of many countries that fell prey to colonialism’s and imperialism’s ruthless march. All superpowers have hegemonic goals. One can only hope that such goals are achieved with minimum damage to vulnerable targeted countries and with minimum blowback that may make such policies and actions a spectacular failure. The U.S. way of colonizing other nations of interest is different from British and European colonialism that involved occupation of the targeted countries. The U.S. practices what may be called indirect colonialism (a variant of neocolonialism). It installs local, for-sale leaders, and keeps them in power with financial and military support. In exchange, the U.S.-installed politicians do what U.S. wants, even when it means sacrificing their national interest. Such politicians’ sole motive is to stay in power as long as possible and offer to the U.S. their countries’ strategic location and resources.

I write this article in the spirit of the eminent American author James Baldwin, who said, “I love America more than any other country in the world and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.”

The U.S. imperialist agenda, strangely not very different from its current policy, was articulated on January 9, 1900, on the Senate floor by Albert Beveridge during the brutal U.S. invasion and destruction of the Philippines. In his book, A People’s History of the United States, America’s famous historian Howard Zinn, cites Beveridge’s articulation of the following blatantly racist policy proclamation:

“The Philippines are ours forever.…And just beyond the Philippines are China’s illimitable markets. We will not retreat from either.…We will not renounce our part in the mission of our race, trustee, under God, of the civilization of the world.…The Philippines give us a base at the door of all of the East.…

“It has been charged that our conduct of the war has been cruel.…Senators must remember that we are not dealing with Americans or Europeans. We are dealing with Orientals.” (Cited in Zinn 313-314)

With that very brief background information, it will be instructive to analyze some of the latest regime-change actions by the U.S. in Muslim-majority countries that tried to exercise their right to have independent foreign policies and who have been critical of U.S.-supported atrocities on Palestinians committed by Israel.

Did the U.S. government play a role in creating Pakistan’s current political crisis?

Pakistan’s National Security Council has confirmed what the former PM Imran Khan has been saying that the U.S. government has colluded with anti-Imran Khan Pakistani politicians to have him removed from power. According to Khan, members of the U.S. Consular staff met several times with the opposition leaders and with only the dissident members of Khan’s party. Even more significant is what Donald Lu, Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs, said to Asad Majeed, Pakistan’s ambassador in the United States. Lu told the ambassador that if the no-confidence motion against Imran Khan succeeds and he is removed from power, then the U.S. government would forgive Pakistan. Otherwise, if Khan stays in power, there would be dire consequences for Pakistan. The ambassador communicated Lu’s words to Pakistan’s Foreign Office in Islamabad. He recommended in his message that Pakistan’s government should file a formal complaint with U.S. on the use of undiplomatic language used by Lu in his threat. Strangely, thickening the plot, Majeed’s message was reported neither to the Foreign Minister, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, nor to the then PM Imran Khan. It was only when Majeed inquired if Pakistan had filed a complaint with the U.S. government that his message was made known to Pakistan’s Foreign Minister and the then PM Khan. Who suppressed that extremely vital information is still unclear. The ambassdador’s communication to Pakistan and his reconfirmation of that information in Pakistan’s National Security Council’s meeting in Islamabad are clear evidence of U.S. meddling in Pakistan’s internal affairs.

Was it Simply U.S. Interference or a Conspiracy?

After the above-noted information was leaked, the politicians opposed to Imran kept denying that it was a conspiracy. In view of the clear evidence, they had to accept the fact of the U.S. meddling in Pakistan’s internal affairs. When a foreign country meddles in a sovereign country’s internal matters, the affected country condemns that action and files a formal complaint. The imported U.S.-installed government of Pakistan, instead of condemning U.S. interference, started singing praises of U.S.-Pakistan close ties and accepting U.S. aid. That leaves no doubt whatsoever that it was a conspiracy. As was the case of all countries victimized by U.S. regime-change actions, Pakistan’s progress has now been stalled and will soon be reversed because those put in power are convicted criminals on bail and Pakistan’s people are not going to accept such governments. The only way to prevent the impending civil war in Pakistan is to have the elections as soon as possible as demanded by Imran Khan and his party.

Reasons for the U.S. Meddling in Pakistan’s Internal Matters

There are many details that reveal Washington’s displeasure with Imran Khan. On becoming U.S. President, Joe Biden called almost every world leader, but he did not call Imran Khan. Moreover, in a Congressional hearing, the Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, accused Pakistan of ties with the Taliban in Afghanistan. Most people do not know that of the total number of the Taliban (most Taliban are Pashtun), nearly 40 percent are Pakistani citizens; the rest live in Afghanistan. Like a good leader, he has to look after the interests of the citizens of his country who have close ties with their brethren in Afghanistan. At the same time, for regional solidarity and security, a sensible Pakistani leader would certainly want to have cordial ties with a neighboring country that has been the victim of the world’s two super powers’ brutal invasions since 1979. Khan believes in diplomatic solutions to political problems and warned the U.S. that there was no military solution to their war in Afghanistan. He was right. It took the U.S. government nineteen years of its longest war, an expense of trillions of dollars, and sacrifice of innumerable lives to replace the Taliban with the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Other possible reasons why the U.S. government might have wanted to remove Imran Khan from power

In addition to Pakistan’s peace-motivated ties with Afghanistan and disagreement with the U.S. government’s non-diplomatic, military action to solve a political problem, Khan’s refusal to allow U.S. military bases in Pakistan seems to have been a big factor in incurring the wrath of the United States. To pursue its hegemonic goals, U.S. wants a pliant Pakistani leader who will give priority to U.S. interests at the cost of Pakistan’s national interest. He flatly refused to let his country be used as a “hired gun” to fight for the U.S. the so-called “war on terror.” For Pakistanis, a more accurate phrasing would be calling it the “war OF terror.”

Among other reasons why the U.S. government felt this urgent need to remove Khan from power, one important reason has been well-articulated by Pakistan’s Justice Nasira Javed Iqbal, daughter-in-law of Pakistan’s greatest national poet-philosopher Allama Muhammad Iqbal. In an article titled “Why Imran Khan Was Quickly Removed from Power,” she points out that to promote Pakistan’s economy, Imran took two steps—one China-related and the other Russia-related. Khan was the first Pakistani leader who, in 2019, made a deal with China to import exclusively Chinese semiconductors, transformers, and other electronics. The U.S. government was not happy with Khan’s decision because it meant loss to U.S. exports.

Secondly, in 2022, again to improve Pakistan’s economy, Khan was very close to signing an agreement with Russia to purchase oil and wheat from Russia in Russian currency at 30% discount. For Khan, it was a necessity to control the skyrocketing inflation that has been a global phenomenon. If signed and implemented, that agreement would have benefited both Russia and Pakistan. However, the U.S. found it unacceptable because it would have reduced the demand for U.S. currency and exports.

By way of relevant background information, in 1974, the then U.S. President Richard Nixon and the then Saudi King Faisal made an agreement that created the term “petro dollar.” According to that contract, Saudi government would guarantee that all countries, known as OPEC, would sell oil in U.S. dollars only and deposit the proceeds in U.S. banks and the Federal Reserve Bank. The incentive for the Saudi government was the U.S. guarantee that the al-Saud dynasty would always remain in power. Khan’s agreement with Russia would have weakened U.S. sole control over the purchase of OPEC oil.

“We will make a horrible example of you” (Kissinger threatens Bhutto)

As to why the anti-Khan Pakistani political leaders might have embraced the U.S. plan for regime change in Pakistan, I use the term “indirect colonialism” that I coined to describe more precisely than neocolonialism the U.S. regime-change strategy that it employs consistently. In this kind of colonialism, the colonizing power uses local self-seeking, nation-betraying leaders to sacrifice national interest for the sake of self-advancement. The colonizer does not have to spend its resources on launching a formal invasion to occupy a country. Local corrupt politicians prostitute national interest to do the colonizer’s bidding. Besides the politicians, a few of Pakistan’s military leaders have also been guilty of subservience to U.S. indirect colonialism, as the following example will show.

In an earlier Pakistan-related regime change U.S. action, on July 5, 1977, the U.S. government used the then Pakistan’s army chief Gen. Zia-ul-Haq to overthrow the democratic government of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, whom the dictator arranged to be hanged on murky, incredible charges. According to credible reports, this blatant intrusion into Pakistan’s internal affairs was hatched inside the U.S. Embassy in Pakistan on July 4, 1977. In that case, U.S. just carried out Henry Kissinger’s threat to Bhutto: “We will make a horrible example of you” if you do not stop pursuing the bomb. After India detonated its nuclear device, Bhutto was trying to assemble a similar bomb to maintain the balance of power.

Other Regime Changes with U.S. Involvement

Since the United States has interfered negatively and disastrously in the internal affairs of more than 70 countries in its regime-change misadventures since the Second World War, it is not possible to enumerate all those examples. Just a few examples, limited to the Muslim-majority countries destroyed by the United States, will suffice. The U.S. killed close to one million innocent Iraqis and destroyed a prosperous Muslim-majority country when, using a completely false and preposterous pretext that Iraq posed a threat to the U.S., it carried out its regime-change goal in Iraq to remove Saddam Hussein from power. To carry out regime change in Libya, the U.S. and its allies killed thousands of Libyans and destroyed another prosperous Muslim-majority country. Because of Russia’s stiff opposition, the U.S. regime-change goal in Syria did not materialize, but the civil war has killed more than a quarter million Syrians and destroyed another stable, Muslim-majority country.

In another Muslim-majority country, the democratically elected Egyptian President, Dr. Mohamed Morsi, was removed from power the way Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was removed and hanged. He was allowed to stay in power for just one year. Gen. Abdel Fattah el-Sisi removed him in a coup d’etat in 2013. Ordinarily, U.S. government stops giving financial aid to countries that overthrow democratic governments. However, in Egypt’s case, it continued the aid because the overthrow of Morsi removed a challenge to U.S.-Israel hegemonic goal for the sole control of the Middle East.

Representing the will of the Egyptian people and acting on their mandate, Morsi was demanding that Israel end its brutal occupation of Palestine. At one point, the Israeli ambassador had to be rescued from Egypt. Egyptians asked their President to close down the Israeli embassy and consulates in Egypt until the Zionist country complied with the United Nations Security Council Resolution 242 and other Resolutions. Morsi died in jail under mysterious circumstances. It is suspected that he was put to death. It is the same demand that Pakistan’s Imran Khan made in his speech at the United Nations when he unequivocally declared that Pakistan would not recognize Israel until the Palestinian rights were met. Both Morsi and Khan stood for justice and rule of law, which was too much for Israel and its patron U.S. to allow. Hence their removal from power.

In a blatant regime-change operation in yet another Muslim-majority country, in 1953, the U.S. government colluded with the British government to overthrow the democratically elected Iranian Prime Minister, Dr. Mohammad Mosaddegh, and replaced him with the dictator, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the last Shah of Iran, who did whatever he was asked to do by the United States. Like Imran Khan, Dr. Mosaddegh was putting his national interest above the greed of foreign, imperial powers that tried to force him to accept an insultingly low royalty from its own oil. As a result of U.S. aggressive meddling in Iran’s internal affairs, the relations between the two countries continue to be strained even today. The U.S.-installed dictatorship on Iran’s people was eventually overthrown in the 1979 Revolution of Iran. In the long run, all such puppet regimes are overthrown by the oppressed masses but not before incalculable damage has been done to their countries.

Indirectly colonized countries are not allowed to have an independent foreign policy

In cultivating good relations with China and Russia, Khan was just doing the right thing for his country’s progress. He cultivated close ties with the neighboring China (much to the dislike of the U.S.) and adopted a friendly stance toward another neighboring country, Russia (another of his peace-motivated moves that the U.S. did not like). The U.S. government has been following this dangerous Bush doctrine: “You are either with us or against us,” leaving no room for neutrality. However, the U.S. does not threaten big countries like India for their neutrality and deal-making with Russia. India refused to be ruled by Washington in its relations with Russia, which were in India’s best national interests. No action was taken against India. India is fortunate in not having for-sale, self-seeking politicians. The kinds of threat that Donald Lu, the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State, used in the case of Imran Khan are reserved for those countries like Pakistan that have found that 100 percent subservience to the United States has not been beneficial to them. It seems impossible for the U.S. to understand this simple logic: The interests of the United States are not necessarily those of other countries.

Khan’s meeting with Putin and the potential of Pakistan-enabled end of hostilities between U.S. and Russia

Khan’s meeting with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin seems to have been another reason why the U.S. government wanted Khan removed from power. The meeting had been scheduled long before the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Instead of cancelling his long-planned visit, he went to meet with Putin with the consent of Pakistan’s army chief but did not make any statement about Ukraine. His cultivation of close ties with Russia and adopting a neutral position like India was another irritant for the U.S. government that fails to see the positive side of neutrality: Pakistan could play an important role in bringing the U.S. and Russia together, as it did in arranging the first secret meeting between the two estranged powers, U.S. and China. According to a Dawn report, “Former US secretary of state Dr. Henry Kissinger recognised Pakistan’s ‘key’ role in arranging his secret visit from Islamabad to Beijing in 1971 for making breakthrough in China-US relations.”

Sacrifices that Pakistan made to help U.S. in its war on terror

Before Khan, the preceding governments sacrificed close to 80,000 Pakistani civilian lives and 6,500 soldiers in America’s war of terror, incurring also financial loss of close to 90 billion dollars. Before Khan, the U.S. drone attacks on Pakistan (400 of them!) with tacit approval of the then Pakistani governments, killed thousands of innocent Pakistanis. Those attacks indiscriminately killed school children (for example, when a school bus was bombed, killing 60 children), wedding parties, funeral processions, and, in one case, an 80-year old woman who was picking okra. It was atrocities like these that made Pakistan’s author Mohsin Hamid write in his novel The Reluctant Fundamentalist: “No other country inflicts death so rapidly upon the inhabitants of other countries, frightens so many people so far away, as America.” Acting as a sovereign leader, Khan ordered all those drone attacks to be stopped. With that important step, Khan brought terrorism within Pakistan to an end. With the spineless and incompetent interim government of Pakistan that has replaced Imran Khan, the country is poised to slip back into U.S. vassalage, to the grave detriment of Pakistan’s sovereignty and well-being of its citizens.

Terrorism inside Pakistan

Before Khan, Pakistan’s own citizens had launched terror campaigns against Pakistani governments for caving in to U.S. pressure in allowing drone attacks that killed their innocent family members on a daily basis. It must be noted that those victimized Taliban had nothing to do with the terror group Al Qaeda that had attacked the U.S. on 9-11-2001. Their ambitions and actions were limited to their native country. Unlike Al Qaeda, they had no international agenda or ambition and had never been anti-American. The then U.S. President Obama at first made that important distinction but, in the Afghan War hysteria, lost that common sense and started pursuing the insane policy that anyone over the age of 12 should be treated as a potential terrorist, subject to elimination. Kept under control when Imran Khan was Prime Minister, terrorism has erupted again in Pakistan under the U.S.-installed hugely unpopular government.

Comparison of Imran Khan with those politicians who have replaced him with U.S. help

As for the people who brought the no-confidence motion against Imran Khan and conspired with the U.S. to remove him from power, they have been proven to be ill-educated, incompetent, corrupt, and always putting personal interest above the national interest. The Panama Papers revealed that the Nawaz Sharif family has laundered billions of dollars out of Pakistan and put it in foreign banks. As for the other clan, the Zardaris, they have also illegally moved billions of dollars out of Pakistan. Their leader was known as Mr. 10 percent because for every government contract during the time when his wife Benazir Bhutto was the Prime Minister, his share was automatic 10 percent. He is suspected of having Benazir Bhutto’s brother Murtaza Bhutto assassinated when he ran against Benazir to become Pakistan’s PM. Murtaza’s daughter, the famous journalist and author Fatima Bhutto, has spoken out about her father’s assassination.

Besides robbing the country of its people’s wealth, other ramifications of such money-laundering are huge for a developing country like Pakistan. To take money out of the country, the thieves have to convert it from Pakistani rupees to dollars, pounds, or other foreign currencies. When the amount is billions of dollars, it creates shortage of foreign currency, reduces the value of the local currency, leading to inflation and poverty.

By comparison, Imran Khan has a clean track record of no corruption, investing his own money and doing extensive fund-raising to open two universities and three cancer hospitals. He is highly educated and perhaps the only unselfish Pakistani political leader in the past half century. When he became Prime Minister, Pakistan was teetering on the verge of bankruptcy. Through personal efforts and charisma, he arranged to get close to $ 6 billion loan from Saudi Arabia and United Arab Amirates to pay off the IMF so that the country could be saved from defaulting on the loan.

Despite COVID-19, global skyrocketing inflation, and zero cooperation from the opposition parties, whose only focus was to make him fail, he was able to reduce the national deficit from Rs. 22 billion during Nawaz Sharif’s administration in 2018 to Rs. 1 billion in 2022 at the time of his ouster. These figures are from a broadcast on Pakistan television hosted by the anchor Imran Khan. In three years, he created close to 6 million jobs. He introduced health cards for the poor to provide them free healthcare. His “No one will sleep hungry” program in the country’s most vulnerable populations looked after the very poor. He encouraged exchanges between students from private and public schools to promote national integration. At the time of his ouster, Pakistan’s economy was growing by 5.6%, Pakistan had lowest unemployment in Asia, highest tax collection in the country’s history, highest remission of money into Pakistan from abroad ($31 billion according to Imran Khan in his speech in Lahore, Pakistan, on April 20, 2022), highest yield per acre in all major crops, and largest exports in the country’s history.

A notable step that Imran Khan’s government took in March 2019 was initiating the program called ehsaas (meaning compassion). It is a welfare and poverty-alleviation program to uplift the poor and reduce income inequality. As of 2021, this program has two major components. One is Ehsaas Emergency Cash (introduced during the COVID-19 pandemic) and the other is Ehsaas Kafalat (meaning sufficiency). Kafalat expanded its coverage from 7 million people to 10 million people in 2021. During the Pandemic, monthly stipends were given to 13.2 million people. Even the anti-Imran Khan Geo News of Pakistan reported that the World Bank included this program in the top four “global social protection interventions.”

Another major achievement of Imran Khan is that he rid the country of terrorism. Pakistanis and foreign visitors could walk the streets without fear of being kidnapped for ransom. That freedom had never been possible during the Zardari and Nawaz Sharif eras when terrorism was rampant and no one felt safe. Many such accomplishments go to his credit. It was not in his power to control the world-wide phenomenon of inflation, which was made worse in the case of Pakistan because of hoarding and arbitrary price fixing by the wealthy mafia, whose sole goal from the very beginning of Khan’s term as Prime Minister has been to remove him from power. One way for them to achieve their goal was to worsen the inflation. They did not care for the suffering of the masses.

Imran Khan is not perfect. No one is. He made some mistakes. Everyone does. But given the overwhelming odds against him, he did accomplish a great deal. I have yet to see anyone in U.S. media mention the important fact that Imran Khan served as the Chancellor of University of Bradford in England for nine years (2005-2014). He left that prestigious and honorable position to pursue his political career in Pakistan.

Imran Khan’s and Pakistan’s future and the prudent direction for the U.S. to take

From the massive demonstrations inside and outside Pakistan in support of Imran Khan, he seems certain to return to power as soon as the next election takes place in a few months. It would be wise for the U.S. government to drop its ill-advised anti-Khan stance because he is the undoubted leader of Pakistan. He has declared many times that he is not anti-America, anti-India, or anti-anyone. He welcomes friendship of all but slavery of no one. He is everyone’s partner in peace but no one’s partner in war. He believes in settling all political problems through negotiations and diplomacy, never through military action.