December 18, 2018

Our friend Pakistan and other mental pretzels

On the same day that Americans are test-driving the idea that Osama bin Laden lived on the outskirts of Pakistan’s West Point, undetected, for six years, ” target=”_hplink”>they support the Afghan Taliban, even if they freed and lionize A. Q. Khan, who sold nuclear weapon designs to terrorist states.  We also need China, even if their antagonism to human rights is appalling.  We need Saudi Arabia, no matter what they do in Bahrain.  Pursuing our interests is messy and contradictory; some of our interests turn out to be more important than others.  That’s what Realpolitik means. 

If we had shared intelligence with Pakistan about our impending SEALS attack on bin Laden, the chances that it would not have leaked and been foiled are about zero.  Pakistan knows that, just as it knows that the palaver about friendship and sovereignty is meant to conceal as much as it reveals.  We’re all in on the wink.

But I don’t think that Orly Taitz is winking.  Nor are religious fundamentalists.  Where it gets hazy for me is the political fray.  Do Michele Bachmann and Donald Trump actually believe the things they say, or are they just cynical manipulators who know how to get attention?  When Newt Gingrich exonerates his extra-marital infidelity as a byproduct of ” target=”_hplink”>When Paul Krugman points this out, do supporters of the Republican budget somehow rewire their neurons to prevent this information from reaching the part of their brain where facts are supposed to penetrate, or is evidence simply irrelevant, and everyone actually understands that “cutting the deficit” is just wink-wink code for punishing the unworthy poor?

The coming days will no doubt include many accounts of bin Laden’s end.  The Administration’s version will include some elegant evasiveness about the double game that Pakistan has been playing, but that doesn’t bother me; Hillary Clinton is no Orly Taitz.  I wish I could say that with certainty about the other doubletalkers in our midst. 

Marty Kaplan holds the ” target=”_hplink”>USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.  Reach him at