Saturday, November 03, 2007

The Dictator

Well, he's done it. The BBC reported today that General Musharraf has declared a national state of emergency in Pakistan, suspended the constitution (including free speech), and replaced the chief justice. That would be the chief justice he tried to suspend earlier this year, which caused the entire legal profession to take to the streets. This move, of course, is because he was reasonably sure the Supreme Court was going to rule that his recent election to the presidency was unconstitutional because he failed to resign as army chief first, despite having promised to do so at least 4 times that I recall offhand. From the AP article:
A copy of the emergency order obtained by The Associated Press justified the declaration on the grounds that "some members of the judiciary are working at cross purposes with the executive" and "weakening the government's resolve" to fight terrorism.
Why are we supporting this man? Are we back to the bad old days of "he's an SOB, but he's our SOB?" This is pure and simple dictatorship. The Bush administration considers Musharraf a vital ally in the war against terror, despite the fact that he has been entirely unable to control the Taliban in the border area next to Afghanistan. Condi Rice, next door in Turkey (trying to keep the Turks from invading Iraqi Kurdistan, I assume), is blethering that the U.S. "does not support extraconstitutional measures" and "urging a quick return to civilian rule." This is balderdash. Musharraf is still in power exactly because he declares a state of emergency every time he is faced with a genuine election (which he would lose; he's massively unpopular in Pakistan). Supporting him merely convinces the rest of the world that Americans really are arrogant, militaristic bastards who are using the "war on terror" to advance a set of principles that have everything to do with power and oil, and nothing whatever to do with freedom and democracy.

It's unfortunate that the known civilian alternatives to Musharraf, Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto, have been tried before and found grossly corrupt. In fact, both of them left the country some years ago to avoid arrest on corruption charges; and Bhutto has negotiated her return on the condition that the charges be lifted. The third alternative, of course, is the native Islamic militant political wing. So there aren't any good alternatives for Pakistan: an only moderately competent dictator, versus two known corrupt civilian politicians, versus the Pakistani equivalent of the Taliban.

But shouldn't we allow the Pakistani people to decide on their own what government they want? Isn't that the whole principle of democracy? We've developed much too much of a tendency in recent years to accept the results of democratic elections only if they bring people we like to power. Classic examples here are Hugo Chavez in Venezula and Hamas in Palestine. Whatever you think of them - and I don't like either of them - they were fairly elected (in Chavez' case, at least the first time; and he does have tremendous support among the poor); whereupon we took it on ourselves to declare that those people aren't suited to form a government. Unfortunately for Hamas, there's no oil in the West Bank or Gaza, so they couldn't ignore us the way Chavez does.

But back to Pakistan - every rational observer saw this development coming. It's too bad that the U.S. government (which seems to have thought that having Condi Rice call Musharraf at 3 AM Pakistan time, to urge him not to declare a state of emergency, would do the trick) can no longer be considered a rational observer.


  1. Anonymous6:28 AM

    Pakistan is turning into a debacle before our very eyes, primarily because of Cheney/Bush's abandonment of Afghanistan after a pr revenge assault which included letting bin Laden escape, this on the way to destroying Iraq because they thought it was a woman's head of hair and they could give it a permanent in a style they liked as they had their way with the woman because she had a coveted asset.

    And the whole idiotic dilemma involves a nuclear state. Are these people good at creating the necessary ingredients for Armageddon, or what? Gee, I wonder why I loathe them.

    Anonymous David

  2. I keep trying not to think about the fact that not only does Pakistan have the bomb, but its not very friendly neighbor India also has the bomb, and the hindutva factions in India are crazy enough to use it just to prove that they are better than those Muslims next door.

    Not to mention the equally appalling prospect of the Pakistani bomb falling into the hands of tribal Pushtun Islamic fanatics in the chaos that is likely to ensue in the next few months.

    Actually, most of the India-Pakistan mess is a local fight, going back to the split with India after the Brits left, and we don't really have a dog in it apart from the $10 billion in military aid that the Bushies have thrown Musharraf's way, (except of course that some of us would actually like to capture Osama Bin Laden). I read a quote from an unusually honest U.S. official today who said that we don't really have much influence over what's happening in Pakistan right now.

    You're quite right that the Bush administration is great at creating the ingredients for Armageddon, but believe me, that's not going on in Pakistan. That's in Israel and Palestine, where it's always been. Pakistan is a side show. Iraq is involved only because that's where the actual "plain of Megiddo" is located.

  3. Anonymous5:54 AM

    Yeah, the larger stage is Israel-Palestine, but all the global tumors add up. Interesting idea from Todd Gitlin:

    Who Lost Pakistan?
    By Todd Gitlin | bio

    Barnett Rubin of NYU, who knows his way around Afghanistan and Pakistan, blogs that Musharraf's motive for seizing power yesterday is to repair "the rock-bottom morale in the army, which has seen hundreds of desertions by soldiers in the field." And why's that?

    According to the BBC:

    Pakistan's army, deployed throughout the country's tribal regions to combat pro-Taleban militants, was losing ground to them. The last straw, in this regard, came when at least 300 army troops surrendered to militants in South Waziristan. Since then, the government and its security troops have all but lost control to the militants in the tribal areas.

    In other words, Bush's failure to crush the Taliban & Co. at Tora Bora has had this knock-on effect.

    Talk about dominos.

    How about this for a Democratic slogan: Who Lost Pakistan?

    And I liked this comment:

    login or register to post comments
    On November 4, 2007 - 1:24pm BevD said:
    I will gladly back you in this campaign to make this our democratic slogan if you'll back me in my campaign to change the national motto from "In God We Trust" to "Christ, What Next?"

    Anonymous David

  4. Anonymous5:56 AM

    Not to be a crazy conspiracy theorist or anything but I think Bush Co. might not give Musharraf a hard time about this because it is their own fondest dream. I often wonder when Bush will pull the same argument out to stay in office. The whole thing is very reminiscent of Germany just before WWII.

  5. Anonymous3:39 PM

    It does give one something of the willies, doesn't it, Stephen? The point might be not that Bushco will do something like this, but rather that it is so easy to imagine that they might.

    Anonymous David