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The International Writers Magazine: Opinion

Sudden Death in Pakistan
Dean Borok

The 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 it’s 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 administration’s 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 general’s 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. It’s 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 can’t understand why Pakistani politics should be any more difficult to manage than the New Hampshire primary. It’s like watching the idiots on Hardball or Bill O’Reilly coming to grips with the Sunnis, Shi’ites 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, “It’s 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 Musharraf’s rule, never to displace him.That’s 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.

Musharraf knows 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 Afghanistan’s 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 wouldn’t 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. It’s like an earthquake.”

In the meantime, the dynamic of US presidential politics has now shifted to address the Bhutto assassination. Naturally the candidates don’t 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.

© Dean Borok Jan 5th 2008

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