Topic: War on Terror
Deputy secretary of State, John "give me another job, I don't like this one" Negroponte, told the House Foreign Affairs Committee yesterday that U.S. aid programs (i.e. weapons sales) to Pakistan were "crucial" to the WOT. "Cutting these programs would send a negative signal to the people of Pakistan," Negroponte said.
Sitting back and praising Pervez Musharraf, as W. did the other day, as a valued ally in the fight against extremism and radicals -- whilst he shuts down the electronic media, locks away human rights' activists without charges and allows his security forces to beat and tear gas lawyers in the streets -- sends a signal, too.
In fact, the "on-again off-again interactions that have characterized our relationship in the past" with Pakistan, as Negroponte put it, which have been pretty much on-again with the autocratic Musharraf since 9/11, transmits the very clear signal that W. & Co. care more about US strategic policy objectives than about spreading democracy. In describing the difference between his responses to Musharraf's "emergency decree" versus the reaction to the Burmese Junta's crack down on the Monks, W. said yesterday:
"Look, our objective is the same in Burma as in Pakistan, and that is to promote democracy. There is a difference, however. Pakistan has been on the path to democracy. Burma hadn't been on the path to democracy."
[W. says he told Musaharraf "You can't be the president and the head of the military at the same time." But isn't W. the president and the commander in chief of of the military at the same time? He probably shoud have come up with a better argument. WaPo]
When exactly was Pakistan on the path to democracy? When Musharraf got elected while still in uniform and by the current parliament, all of which was blatantly unconstitutional? Was it when he fired Ifktihar Chaudhry when it looked like he was going to rule that Musharraf was ineligible to run in uniform? Is he talking about his knuckle-headed gambit to install a fig leaf on Musharraf's autocratic rule by setting Benezir Bhutto up in partnership? (Boy that really blew up in the administration's face.)
To me and to many others now well schooled in W.'s fractured double-speak, its pretty clear his "very frank discussion" with Musharraf isn't going to lead to elections anytime soon. And even if Musharraf allows elections to go ahead, now one month later than scheduled, according to him, they'll be something less than free and fair. But will nonetheless be hailed as such by W. & Co, regardless.
Obviously, W. and the most experienced foreign policy team in the history of the world haven't got a clue about what to do about Pakistan, so they'll just stay with what they know: Back Musharraf to the hilt, throw more money at the problem and hope for the best. There are various bills floating around Congress to cut off aid to Pakistan's military, but I don't think either W. or Musharraf are very worried about it. All W. will have to do is imply the Democrats are weak on terror and all talk of punishing the regime in Islamabad will crumble.
The question is how long do we have until Musharraf's rule crumbles? And if W. & Co. actually do have any other general's numbers, as Rep. Gary Ackerman suggested, will they be around to answer the call? It seems the Pakistani army itself is beginning to crumble a bit. Suicide bombings in Rawalpindi, the main garrison town, are now almost a daily occurrence; over a thousand troops have died in the past few years fighting militants of various stripes; hundreds have been captured and held hostage; and many more hundreds have simply handed their weapons over to the Talibs and gone home.
And for all the discussion by the "intelligence community" about how unlikely the chances are of the nightmare scenario of OBL or Mullah Omar getting their hands on a nuke via sympathetic junior military officers, the more worrying scenario is the lack of accounting of the materials that could be turned into a nuke or at the very least a "dirty-bomb." Ron Moreau and Michael Hirsh write in last week's NEWSWEEK that, last year the country's Atomic Energy Agency "began publishing ads in newspapers instructing the public about how to recognize radioactive materials and their symbols. The ads were quickly withdrawn after they incited fears that fissile materials had gone missing."
The fact is, no one really knows how much of this fissile material the Pakistanis have made and if it's all under wraps. Keeping in the mind that Pakistan leaves North Korea and Iran in the dust when it comes to nuclear proliferation -- thanks to the good works of A.Q. Khan who Musharraf declared a national hero -- OBL & Co. wouldn't necessarily find it too difficult to get their hands on the tools they need to make nukes.
But, let's all just pull together in hoping our bastard in Islamabad can get his house in order and at some point in the future get around to actually getting his security forces to do something about the extremists and radicals who live and operate in the open and free of any interference by their buddies the ISI in Peshawar and Quetta and recruit and re-arm in the refugee camps of Jalozai and Shamshatu. Of course, beating up bespectacled lawyers, rounding up pacifists and old ladies is so much easier.