One cuts through the fog of conspiracy theories that set out to prove that the Bush administration and Israel had, singly or jointly, staged the September 11 tragedy to create the casus belli for the re-conquest of the strategically indispensable Greater Middle East. One holds fast to the fact that a deeply frustrated Osama Bin Laden launched the attack to force the US to withdraw its military forces from Saudi Arabia and other Arab-Muslim lands and/or to overextend the US power to a point of exhaustion. And yet the ironies remain. A recent American poll revealed that 90 per cent of the Afghans know nothing about that event otherwise seared into the memory of millions across the globe. They are still confused why the US expended so much of its blood and treasure to maintain a decade-long occupation of their impoverished and medieval land. In Iraq, an ancient civilisation crumbled as up to a million children of this civilisation perished one way or the other. The myth of weapons of mass destruction was abandoned years ago. Now no less a person than Baroness Eliza Manningham-Buller, the former director general of MI6 has told a worldwide audience of BBCs Reith lectures that September 11 was a crime, not an act of war and that neither Saddam Hussain nor his regime had anything to do with it. Staggering losses On that fateful morning, Osama was still ensconced comfortably in Afghanistan, when his band of kamikaze pilots none of them an Afghan or a Pakistani brought down the towering symbols of Americas economic and military power. Afghanistan was the first target of retribution and still bleeds profusely from the wounds inflicted over a decade. Pakistan was the chosen one for facilitating the follow up of the first strike and is now confronted with staggering human and material losses; it has had 35,000 of its citizens killed in retaliatory terrorist attacks; its economy is in shambles and its social order is in ever-expanding chaos. Ironies abound for its hapless people who ponder why it suffered so grievously when it was being trumpeted as a partner, a non-Nato ally of Washington, earmarked for American largesse. Some of the reasons why Pakistan became a continuing victim of the processes set into motion by September 11 are easily identified. Washington decided that Pakistan would have to resume its role of being a lynchpin of its strategic plan. General Musharraf , still an unvarnished military ruler, was desperate for some legitimacy and turned out to be more eager to assume that role than the Bush administration had ever imagined. Ten years on, the Washington insider, Bruce Reidel, who was the first to give President Barack Obama an extensive briefing on Pakistan, says it was a mistake to trust Musharraf. No less importantly, Pakistan has a westernised ruling elite, powerful elements of which cannot visualise a foreign policy other than the one embedded in a strong alliance with the US. It was, once, willing to support the West on the Suez crisis of 1956 and was deterred only by massive pro-Egypt demonstrations. It played a key role in routing the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. It was glad to spearhead the latest campaign against Al Qaeda and its traditional, tribal hosts, the Taliban regime as the international community tightened the economic noose around its neck. Over the years, Musharraf has tried to rationalise his decision to commit Pakistan without settling the rules of engagement, its limits and above all, its ends. His regime claimed that America would have otherwise bombed Pakistan into the Stone Age, that it would have invited the Indians to settle their old scores and that without Washington and the IMF Pakistans economy would simply implode. Musharraf must have been a very poor military thinker to tell his nation that it would all be over in three weeks; his failure to anticipate the resistance in Afghanistan and the backlash against Pakistan was colossal. Kargil had shown him up as a military leader with a pathetic knowledge of the likely consequences and the capacity of his own side to sustain big adventures. By 2003, the Taliban had outwitted him on every score and their Pakistani supporters had created an indigenous counterpart capable of literally dominating large tracts of the vast tribal belt and of engaging Pakistans mighty army and auxiliary forces for years to come. For Pakistan, there is no easy closure on September 11. The general election was a moment to restore a more holistic policy towards internal and external terror but the powers that be permitted a transition from Musharrafs dictatorship on the condition that the successor democratic regime would continue his policy. A democratic dispensation threatened all the time by ethical and unethical plots to unseat it is often less efficient than a pure military rule. Pakistans decline in every sphere of national activity has constrained its capacity to fight the demons of September 11 further. That Pakistan had nothing to do with that epochal event has become academic. (Tanvir Ahmad Khan is a former Pakistani foreign secretary and ambassador to several states.) Gulf News