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A visitor argues late into the night with Sairah, voicing criticisms of anti-Semitism among the public, and the role of rumor and innuendo in the press. "People here know far more about the rest of the world than Americans," replies Sairah. She allows that "there is some ignorance here." But, she says, "we are 80 percent illiterate. We are the third world. You are supposed to be 'the greatest democracy in the world.' What is your excuse?"
Across town, Javed Jabbar, one of Pakistan's leading intellectuals and a former minister in three governments, shares the popular indignation over what is viewed here as the hypocrisy inherent in U.S. foreign policy.
"The Iraqi people are punished for supporting Saddam Hussein," he says. "When it suited American foreign policy, he was allowed to repress his own country. But when it threatens U.S. oil interests, he is a bad man."
Like other Pakistanis, Jabbar is worried that U.S. attacks will bring a new flood of refugees. "It is said that Brezhnev and four other men made the decision to invade Afghanistan. Now they're all dead, and hundreds of millions of people are left with this mess. Next to Afghanistan, we are the ones who paid the highest price for the war in Afghanistan. No other country has had to take in millions of refugees and live with guns and the drugs, the environmental devastation. It is said that a nation should have 20 percent of its land forested. We have three percent. The refugees are desperate for firewoodin Ziaret, we had juniper trees 700 years old. They've been cut."
For many here, it is hard to know which is the more cynical move: Pakistan's turning its back on the Taliban government that it created and supported, or the U.S. becoming fast friends with Pakistan, a country that, until September 11, was on the verge of being declared a rogue state.
The man at the U.S. Embassy refers to Bin Laden as OBL. He becomes upset when asked about resentment on the street. "In the last two weeks we canceled two sanctions against Pakistan and gave them $100 million. Congress is looking at giving them another $500 million." He has the plaintive, outraged tone of a man who has given a lollipop to an ungrateful child.
Javed Jabbar is not impressed. "America talks about winning the hearts and minds of the people. You don't win the hearts and minds by distributing a little wheat, or by paying people. You are fooling yourselves. You win the hearts and minds by respecting others' cultures and morals and history. One hundred million does not buy hearts and minds. Pay a man and he may not say something for a bit, but he will harbor resentment."