By John E. Carey
Peace and Freedom
November 6, 2007
Let’s face it: if anyone in the government of the United States of America ever though President General Pervez Musharraf was dedicated to a future democratic Pakistan, he was naïve, stupid or smoking some illegal substance.
Just try to name one other U.S. ally ever who wanted to be called “President General.”
Musharraf is and always has been a military man. He came to power in a coup. And he is a strong man holding together a rats nest of Islamic extremists, militants and terrorists. In Pakistan, the question isn’t “Are these guys bad guys?” The more appropriate question almost always is, “Who’s side are these bad guys on?”
I have been into and out of Pakistan a few times assisting people battling the Taliban and other terrorists. It is not a pretty place to “vacation,” as my friend Mike dubbed my sojourns today.
And I have always questioned the full-throttled support for Musharraf that the U.S. has proclaimed. And the support is not just words: it amounts to about $130 million (USD) every month.
On NBC’s “Meet the Press” with Tim Russert on Sunday, September 10, 2006, Vice President Dick Cheney expressed such strong U.S. Government support for President general Musharraf of Pakistan – that I thought at the time the words were clearly over the top. Mr. Cheney expressed U.S. support for Musharraf as follows:
“President Musharraf has been a great ally. There was, prior to 9/11, a close relationship between the Pakistan intelligence services and the Taliban. Pakistan was one of only three nations that recognized, diplomatically recognized the government of Afghanistan at that particular time. But the fact is Musharraf has put his neck on the line in order to be effective in going after the extremist elements including al-Qaeda and including the Taliban in Pakistan. There have been three attempts on his life, two of those by al-Qaeda over the course of the last three years. This is a man who has demonstrated great courage under very difficult political circumstances and has been a great ally for the United States”.
“So there’s no question in that area along the Afghan/Pakistan border is something of a no man’s land, it has been for centuries. It’s extraordinarily rough territory. People there who move back and forth across the border, they were smuggling goods before there was concern about, about terrorism. But we need to continue to work the problem. Musharraf just visited Karzai in, in Kabul this past week, they’re both going to be here during the course of the U.N. General Assembly meetings over the course of the next few weeks. We worked that area very hard, and the Paks have been great allies in that effort.”
“Pakistan, we’ve gone in and worked closely with Musharraf to take down al-Qaeda. Saudi Arabia, same thing. In all of those cases, it’s been a matter of getting the locals into the fight to prevail over al-Qaeda and al-Qaeda-related tyrants.”
“Think of Musharraf who puts his neck on the line every day he goes to work, when there’ve been attempts on his life because of his support for our position. And they look over here and they see the United States that’s made a commitment to the Iraqis, that’s gone in and taken down the old regime, worked to set up a democracy, worked to set up security forces, and all of a sudden we say it’s too tough, we’re going home. What’s Karzai going to think up in Kabul? Is he going to have any confidence at all that he can trust the United States, that in fact we’re there to get the job done? What about Musharraf? Or is Musharraf and those people you’re talking about who are on the fence in Afghanistan and elsewhere going to say, ‘My gosh, the United States hasn’t got the stomach for the fight. Bin Laden’s right, al-Qaeda’s right, the United States has lost its will and will not complete the mission,’ and it will damage our capabilities and all of those other war fronts, if you will, in the global war on terror.”
Have you ever heard any President or Vice President of the United States express such unbridled support for anyone at any time?
I think not.
So why did Musharraf get the full trust and confidence of the United States – and billions of dollars? Because he was in power on 9-11 and we were in no position to invade Iraq, Afghanistan AND Pakistan. Pakistan at least had a ruler that didn’t drop gas on his own people, the way Saddam used gas on the Kurds.
So, Musharraf was a guy we were stuck with: not the guy we chose to take to the dance.
It rankles me some that Mr. Cheney felt he had to so obviously oversell this lemon. I wish he had just said: “Musharraf will never give us democracy in Pakistan. But he might keep the various factions from creating total chaos.”
Today Musharraf said he would still hold democratic elections in January. That, my friends, is happy talk nobody in Pakistan believes. Musharraf is holding on for dear life. And it is uncertain if he’ll still be above ground in January. If he is it will be because many of his enemies disappear without a trace.
Now we may be on the brink of total chaos in Pakistan and the U.S. can do little but stand on the sidelines like a deer in the headlights.
But it looks like we already decided to stay with the gal we’re dancing with. As long as she can do it.