International Writers Magazine: Opinion
Death in Pakistan
assassination of Benazir Bhutto again throws US diplomacy into a
tailspin because, not having any better ideas, US experts
had placed all their bets on her, the way an inexperienced bettor
would put all his chips on one number at a roulette table. Not having
established any reliable political contacts within the country,
they were obliged to almost literally parachute her in.
The concept of a
Pakistani democracy as its understood in the west was always illusory
anyway, strongman Pervez Musharraf having won the presidential
election in October by a majority of 98%, which is about the equivalent
of an election in Cuba or Zimbabwe. Nobody talks about that result,
or the fact that the Islamist parties boycotted the election. If the
Islamists had participated, the situation would have been worse than
it is now because Musharraf would have stolen the election anyway, but
the fact remains that the election was essentially held for purposes
of the Bush administrations selective commitment to spreading
democracy. India has democracy because of a democratic tradition and
a democratic intellectual elite. Pakistan, not.
For Pervez Musharraf
to exchange his generals uniform for a Seville Row suit is so
much more window dressing for public relations purposes. The US Department
of State and its esteemed leader, the redoubtable Condoleeza Rice, are
engaging in an exercise of futility by pretending to be able to influence
events in such an incomprehensible boiling cauldron of conflicting interests
as Pakistan. Nobody in the State Department leadership has any understanding
whatever of the cultural, political and military history of the region.
US policy toward the country is a laughable French farce. Its
closer to a Three Stooges comedy. US policy planners are essentially
seeing Pakistan through the prism of their own understanding, which
is limited to life in the cushy precincts of Northern Virginia or Connecticut.
They cant understand why Pakistani politics should be any more
difficult to manage than the New Hampshire primary. Its like watching
the idiots on Hardball or Bill OReilly coming to grips with the
Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds in Iraq as though it were a football
game. Yeah, if our team runs around the end, the other team will
respond by moving its line over to the left blah blah blah. The
best that these imbeciles could accomplish was to pressure Musharraf
to permit the re-entry of the exiled Benazir Bhutto into the country
to contest the bogus parliamentary elections scheduled and then rescheduled
for early 2008, which the State Department forced upon him for purposes
of internal administration ideological considerations.
As though anybody in the US cares if Pakistan has a parliament or anything
else, for that matter! Seen in that light, Bhutto was a marked woman
right from the start. She knew she was being set up by the Americans
to take a fall. How could it be otherwise, with all the State Department
officers calling her every day, telling her, Its OK, Musharraf
will agree to let you go back! She was being used as a pawn. It
was clear from the start that this whole democracy push
from the Bush administration was to legitimize Musharrafs rule,
never to displace him.Thats why Musharraf was cooperating, because
the State Department had convinced him that it was in his interest to
do so. But even so she decided it was worth a shot, even if it was 1000-1.
Politicians are essentially characterized by their enormous egos.
he is the keystone of US policy in Pakistan, so he concentrates on consolidating
his own power. He is a corrupt oligarch kept in power to protect Afghanistans
eastern flank from the indigenous Taliban. None of this charade would
have been necessary if instead of invading Iraq the American government
had decided to consecrate the necessary resources needed to properly
occupy and rebuild Afghanistan.
Musharraf is a shaky
foundation indeed upon which to construct an edifice in the shifting
sands of Pakistani society, and with the construction job being contracted
out to the hopelessly inept engineers of the U.S. State Department,
I wouldnt want to bet on its resilience in the event of a violent
tremor. As the Marquise de Païva was heard to remark in 1870, at
the inset of the bloody and violent paroxysms that constituted
the Paris Commune, Yes, one day the structure cracks all over.
Its like an earthquake.
In the meantime,
the dynamic of US presidential politics has now shifted to address the
Bhutto assassination. Naturally the candidates dont know any more
about Pakistan than they do about anything else, and even if they did
they are not letting on, so as not to appear more sophisticated than
the electorate. They are really behaving stupidly, telephoning Pervez
Musharraf to express their condolences to him, as though Musharraf gives
a damn about Benazir Bhutto!
The (non-) candidate
who stands to gain the most from this mess is Mayor Bloomberg, who only
has to keep quiet on the issue to appear presidential while the other
bozos are trying to crowd past each other to get in front of the issue.
The smartest thing he could do, it seems to one observer, would be to
issue a statement that under a theoretical Bloomberg administration
the necessary resources to control and pacify Afghanistan would be transferred
as needed from Iraq to that country, which we rightly invaded because
it was being used as a staging ground by al-Qaeda and Bin Ladin to mount
attacks against the United States. He could propose using the good offices
of the US State Department to call a conference of all the factions
in Pakistan, including the Islamists, to force Musharraf into a power
sharing agreement that would include all the political factions.
This last part may be unrealistic, but it makes sense from the standpoint
of US electoral politics and it at least sounds reasonable.
Borok Jan 5th 2008
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