Musharraf suspends the Constitution, arrests the Supreme Court, declares an indefinite state of emergency…to fight “extremism?”
I dunno, in my book seizing absolute power, shutting down the free press, and suspending the Constitution and civil rights in a nation is about as extreme as it gets. So much for Pakistan being a democracy, if our enemies hate us for our freedoms, does this mean they are winning? I can’t think of anything good to say about this situation, reverting to a military dictatorship pretty much puts an end to the fantasy that Musharraf was some sort of democratic ally in the so called “war on terror.” I suspect this simultaneously destroys his support among most moderate Pakistanis, and will definitely increase support for the people in Pakistan who distrust central western style government. New Al-Qaeda and Taliban recruiting posters are probably hitting the light poles of remote Pakistan as I type, speaking somewhat figuratively of course.
Instability in Pakistan was one of the predictable results of Bush’s foreign policy, I suppose I could take some credit for “predicting” this. However predicting this turn of events was about as easy as predicting that pouring gasoline on a fire was a bad idea, nothing to really take credit for. As the world slides ever deeper into wider war, depression, and “failed state syndrome” I can’t really take pleasure in more bad news. It’s really easy to destroy a functioning government, there was never any doubt that the USA would be able to topple the Taliban or Saddam. Replacing a defunct government with a new one made out of whole cloth is much harder, almost impossible in most cases. The result of our crusading democratic zeal are now painfully apparent, spreading instability in a region that was none too stable to begin with.
Putting good money after bad, the US has wagged its finger at Musharraf to at least give the appearance of supporting democracy, while pledging to keep pouring billions into Pakistan’s military coffers. In fact our biggest suggestion so far was that Musharraf take off his military uniform and put on civilian clothes, thus returning Pakistan to civilian rule. I didn’t make that up, I swear. Yeah, Adolf Hitler would have been a nice guy if it wasn’t for his habit of wearing a military uniform. We’ll see how this plays out, but I don’t expect the US to withdraw any serious support from the Musharraf regime. Our commitment to seeing American leaning governments in power trumps our commitment to democracy any day of the week. In the short run this makes some sense, in the long run this sort of blatant hypocrisy is turning the world against us.
Some might ask how else should Musharraf have dealt with the growing insurgency and spreading Al-Qaeda and Taliban linked violence? The answer to that is easy, what the hell does seizing absolute power and suspending civilian rule and the Constitution have to do with fighting insurgents? Nothing. The move was about keeping Musharraf in power since it was becoming abundantly clear that his “re-election” was simply illegal, and that he should have stepped down from power some time ago. This may make it harder for his democratic opponents to force him from office, but it won’t bother the insurgents a whit, they were already operating underground. This move is a victory for terrorists if anything.
Do I make a comparison to Hitler lightly? Of course not. And I don’t expect Musharraf to start the next holocaust, but a military strongman seizing absolute power and suspending civilian rule is about as fascist as it gets. Trite as the recently discussed Naomi Wolf’s “ten signs of impending fascism” may be, seeing all of them play out to the end in a key American ally is not something I wanted to be reading about in the news. Last week I said I could still hardly imagine something like this happening in the US. After watching the news this weekend, it’s gotten a little easier to visualize.
(The above image of Pakistani troops patrolling in front of Pakistan’s President House is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It is not being used for profit, it is central to illustrating the post, and it is an historically important image. Credit: BBC)