Pervez Musharraf is a liar, and not a very good one at that. How suspending the Supreme Court and postponing elections indefinitely will protect his country against Al-Qaeda and its allies isn’t exactly clear, since no known terrorists sit on the court, or for that matter, practice law.
The modus operandi of terrorism is guerrilla warfare, and the terrorists he claims he’s fighting are running around the mountains in the Northwest Frontier Province, not in the courts of Islamabad, Karachi and Lahore. Then again, he can say whatever he wants; he’s got the power and, unless the protests unleash an Iranian-style revolution, there’s not much anyone can do about it. And there’s not much anyone will do about it, either.
The mood in Washington right now is probably one of frustration due to Musharraf’s current bungling because the Bush administration pinned its hopes for stability on their manufactured alliance with former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. Designed to bring stability, they achieved the exact opposite and the turmoil Pakistan is currently embroiled is the direct result of that meddling. Bush, like Musharraf, is also a liar, and not a very good one, either. Though he hasn’t gone the full route to dictatorship like his Pakistani counterpart, he’s used terrorism to justify trampling the constitution in an all-too-familiar scenario constantly replayed on Jon Stewart’s “Daily Show.” But the biggest lie Bush has made — next to Iraqi WMDs, that is — is that spreading democracy is his main foreign policy goal. The proof is Musharraf himself and the 100 billion dollars Washington invested in his dictatorship — he took power in a coup in 1999 — for the past six years to maintain stability and fight Al-Qaeda. Musharraf is fighting Al-Qaeda in the Supreme Court, earning semi-harsh words and nothing else from his paymasters. You get the picture. Spreading democracy as an antidote to “terrorism” and “extremism” was doomed to failure for many reasons, not least of which that Washington never intended to spread genuine democracy, but client regimes that would follow its orders. In addition to covert operations from the intelligence community, “democracy” is promoted through programs administered by the State Dept. through funding and training of opposition movements mostly in countries that don’t follow orders, in order to influence them. Those that do follow orders are often un-democratic and are given the green light to torture at will; a history of this double standard that long precedes the “war on terror.” Spreading democracy was an ideological counterweight against the Soviet Union’s spreading communism during the inter-imperialist struggle known as the Cold War. It’s a soft weapon aimed at regimes that don’t follow orders, whether it’s Iran or countries that are backed up by Moscow. A central issue involving both is energy — oil and natural gas — and rolling back Russia’s sphere of influence and expanding America’s in this area lies at the heart of the color revolutions in the Ukraine, Krygyzstan and Georgia. Georgia, in fact, provides a good example of the double standard at work. In late 2003, a popular revolution overthrew the Edward Schevardnadze regime and installed Mikhail Saakashvili, who still runs the country. Called the “Velvet Revolution,” the Russian-backed leader said bye-bye and the American educated lawyer Saakashvili took office. A month before the Velvet Revolution, elections in Azerbaijan were stolen outright by Ilham Aliyev, the son of longtime ruler Heydar Aliyev, in what was little more than a dynastic succession to the throne. The opposition responded by taking to the streets, and the protests turned into riots, leaving hundreds arrested, many injured and several killed. Then the deputy secretary of state and former co-chairman of the United States-Azerbaijan Chamber of Commerce, Richard Armitage, phoned Aliyev, congratulating him on his “strong showing,” according to a New York Times editorial on Oct. 27, 2003. A similar situation developed during the recent crackdowns in Myanmar and Pakistan. When Buddhist monks and a Japanese photojournalist were gunned down in the streets of Rangoon, Bush immediately criticized the regime and attempted to bring the issue before the U.N. Security Council. It was clear why Washington made an issue out of it — Rangoon’s ties to Beijing; “Not only as a captive market for civilian goods… but as a pawn to keep India in check and assure China of key strategic access to the Indian Ocean,” according to Pepe Escobar in Asia Times Online. Because Pakistan is tied to Washington, no such similar action has taken place. Economics, strategic leverage and politics determine pro-democracy action, not ideals. It’s the proverbial pig in a dress, that’s still a pig. On the back of the hugely successful, yet ridiculous and hypocritical book, “The Case For Democracy,” by Israeli politician Natan Sharansky, Bush gave his endorsement on the back cover. “If you want a glimpse of how I think about foreign policy read Natan Sharansky’s book,” he said. Sharansky is also a great believer in the power of democracy as a means of subduing his political enemies, and like the current administration — like all administrations — his record is marked by inconsistencies, mainly in regards to the Palestinians. In 2005, Bush announced with much fanfare that a key foreign policy goal would be the spread of democracy as a means of rooting out extremism and eliminating terrorist breeding grounds. Sec. of State Condoleezza Rice even made a trip to the Middle East, giving remarks at the American University of Cairo in June 2005, suggesting the U.S. was breaking from 60 years of supporting autocracy for “stability,” code for hegemony. “Now, we are taking a different course. We are supporting the democratic aspirations of all people,” she said. From then until early 2006, elections in Egypt, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories suggested that when people in the Middle East did have a chance to vote, they voted in anti-American Islamists, a refutation of both autocracy and U.S. influence. Washington’s outlook changed. The Bush administration stopped talking about freedom and continued working with the same autocrats in order to protect those interests threatened by the very democracy they claimed to support. A NYT editorial noted this: “With so many other things to worry about in the Middle East, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and President Bush also seem to have lost their earlier fervor for Egyptian democracy.” When Rice returned to Egypt almost two years after her previous visit, no mention of democracy and the rule of law made it past her lips. “Instead, the Secretary heaped praise on the country’s autocratic rulers for their support of American foreign policy in the region,” wrote Prof. Mark Levine on the Huffington Post blog in Jan. of this year. More recently, the Washington Post observed in the subheading of a Nov. 6th editorial, that “President Bush’s feeble response to Pakistan’s coup mocks the “freedom agenda.” They’re wrong; the freedom agenda mocks the very notion of democracy. That’s because democracy is narrowly defined in the West as being little more than free and fair elections, freedom of speech and the rule of law. Such a system is preferable to dictatorship and theocracy, no doubt, but such a system will fail in the Middle East because it doesn’t completely address the core issues affecting Third World peoples; it doesn’t work that much better here. In order for democracy to work, it has to have two other ingredients that are more important than elections — equality and independence from outside influences. Without one or both of these, then it’s not in the hands of the people, and therefore lacks legitimacy. This is why fundamentalists were sweeping elections in 2005 and 2006 — because voters saw them as legitimate. Such legitimacy is at odds with American interests because equality and independence will reject American economic and political hegemony. But the client democracy that the Bush administration claims as its policy has been conveniently discarded and business as usual goes on, in Pakistan and elsewhere.