HANDS up those who believed yesterday's report that in September 2001 the United States threatened to bomb Pakistan “back to the Stone Age” if it did not immediately side with the US against the Taliban? Well, my hand is up, anyway. Let's not forget that prior to 9/11 Pakistan was persona non grata with the United States and with Britain and the Commonwealth, because it was a military dictatorship. But since its airbases and other military facilities were essential for an attack on Afghanistan it was no surprise that Washington suddenly wanted to forget the past and recruit Pakistan as an ally. President Musharraf, however, had to think about his volatile country and its many tribes with loyalty to Afghanistan. Richard Armitage, the US Deputy Secretary of State alleged to have delivered the “Stone Age” message to Pakistan, yesterday denied that he had done so although he acknowledged that he was a member of a group who met with Pakistan's intelligence chief to convey the US's “strong determination” and need for help. President Bush said at his press conference with President Musharraf yesterday that he had known nothing about the threat. There was an embarrassing moment for Mr Bush at the press conference. Musharraf said he and Bush had discussed a push to deal with the “core issue” (which he did not identify) of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Yet, speaking first, Mr Bush had not even mentioned that discussion.


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