Bush-Pakistan relationship is ironic

By By Luke Hinz

By Luke Hinz

For how central the ideology of spreading democracy across the globe has become to President Bush’s foreign policy, it seems that the recent chaos in Pakistan is nothing short of a thorn in his side.

Even with the recent assault on democracy, neither the Bush administration nor Congress has made any move to halt aid to Pakistan or change our policies regarding the country.

Gen. Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan’s president, declared emergency rule throughout the country Saturday night and began rounding up about 2,000 opposition leaders who he said represented a threat to stability in the country. Musharraf also said he was taking the action not as Pakistan’s president but as the chief of the Pakistani army, making it akin to martial law.

Along with these actions, Musharraf suspended the constitution, dissolved the Supreme Court and the provincial High Courts and silenced several television news channels. Since then, he has attempted to fill the courts with judges loyal to him.

So far, Bush has stayed relatively mum regarding the incident, but in past instances of such attacks on democracy, the United States has acted swiftly to condemn it. A month ago, the Myanmar junta cracked down heavily on monk-led protests. Bush was so irate, he took his concerns to the United Nations and voiced them there, calling for more sanctions against the democratically-lacking country.

Administration officials argue that Pakistan is different because it is a strategic ally in the war on terror. Since Sept. 11, 2001, the United States has pumped more than $10 billion into Pakistan, 75 percent of which was earmarked for fighting the Taliban and al-Qaida. Even administration officials point out that Musharraf’s plans for dealing with terrorists in his country have shown poor results.

Yet, Bush, Condi and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates reiterated their support for Musharraf this week, saying, “We are mindful not to do anything that would undermine ongoing counter-terrorism efforts.”

Nevermind that Musharraf has imposed martial law and is planning on delaying elections for at least a year if not more. Nevermind that Musharraf has suspended the Supreme Court so he can retain his title as chief of the army. Nevermind that Pakistan officials said bluntly that they expected little resistance from the United States regarding the emergency rule because of their role as an ally in the war on terror.

For all his rhetoric stating that spreading democracy across the globe comes first (isn’t that the latest reason of why we invaded Iraq?), Bush has found Pakistan to be a dangerous and particularly cranky bedfellow. So far, Bush has refused to take action against Musharraf, fearing that it will weaken his war.

The whole mess would be simpler if Bush admitted he was wrong and decided to withhold aid from Pakistan until Musharraf allowed general elections and reinstated the constitution. Considering Musharraf’s poor job at combating terrorists, why should we continue to give him financial means that instead are used to root out his political opponents? Until we stop aid, we are fueling a government that is denying democratic progress, a central theme in Bush’s policies.

It is no secret that Pakistan does not like Musharraf. A poll showed that Osama bin Laden had a 46 percent “favorable” rating by Pakistanis, and Musharraf rated at 38 percent. I guess Bush likes to support people with approval ratings similar to his own.

The real question is, are we prepared to sell our country out for the sole purpose of fighting the terrorists? Do we, as a nation, want to support a man akin to a dictator simply for our own protection?

“The United States is a democratic government, and democratic governments should work for democratic values across the globe,” said the Pakistani Supreme Court Justice, Rana Bhagwandas, while being under house arrest. “Pakistan is no exception.”

Of course, that’s exactly what Bush is doing. He’s making it the exception for his own benefit.

[email protected]