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Pakistan’s Anti-Americanism

Pakistan’s anti-Americanism is certainly scary, but it is hardly new. When I went to Pakistan last year to interview former ISI leaders, senior diplomats, and political party activists—including from Jamaat-e-Islami, the anti-American Islamist party—I heard a range of views, but Pakistanis of all stripes referred to the “great betrayals” of 1965 and 1971.

Here, the story goes back to the Eisenhower administration: In an effort to create a southern corollary to NATO, Eisenhower sponsored the Baghdad Pact, also known as the Central Treaty Organization (CENTO). Pakistani authorities believed their membership would, akin to the basis of NATO, trigger automatic American defense should Pakistan be attacked.

Pakistan, of course, has a knack for starting wars and convincing themselves that India is responsible. During both the Indo-Pakistan wars of 1965 and 1971, Pakistani authorities believed the United States should have dropped everything—despite involvement in Vietnam—and come to Pakistan’s aid. This, of course, is delusional, but several generations of the Pakistani elite—even before the radicalization of Pakistani society began in earnest—grew up believing the United States had “betrayed” Pakistan.

Radicalization sure has been a kicker, however. In the financial district of Islamabad—a wealthy, privileged area—I photographed graffiti last year calling for a new Holocaust in language that would make even Iran’s Qods Force blush.

So, what’s most scary about Pakistan’s anti-Americanism?  Perhaps it is the fact that Pakistan is not alone. As bad as things in Pakistan are, however, they may still be worse in Turkey which, according to the Pew Global Attitudes Project, is the only country surveyed that is more anti-American than Pakistan.



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