You could have knocked me down with a feather.
President Bush's alliance with Pakistan's leader came under fire from a Republican congressman who said Thursday the U.S. should not support what he branded a military dictatorship. At a House hearing on human rights, shortcomings in Saudi Arabia, Iran and Uzbekistan were the designated topics.Next up, the Right hammers Sen. Rohrabacher for speaking truth to power the way they have Harry Reid? I think not, somehow. It's a pity Reid's people and the liberal bloggers involved made such a mess of what could have been a "backbone" moment.
But an official from Human Rights Watch added Pakistan to the mix. Tom Malinowski, a former State Department official, characterized the government of Pakistan's president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, as "the most egregious and harmful example of a human rights double-standard in American foreign policy today."
Bush's support for Musharraf, Malinowski said, "appears to align the United States behind one man against virtually every decent segment of Pakistani society - against the very people in the country who are most likely to be America's friends and to support a moderate, modern course for Pakistan."
Musharraf is estranged from moderates, relies politically more on Islamists and refuses "to crack down on the Taliban elements who are killing American and NATO troops in Afghanistan," Malinowski said.
"It is a classic case of muting human rights concerns to protect a security relationship," Malinowksi said. "But it is in fact as contrary to U.S. security interests as it is to America's commitment to democracy."
The top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on human rights, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher of California, endorsed Malinowski's criticism.
Pakistan's army "is allied with radical Islam and always has been," the lawmaker said. "Let's not support a military dictatorship in Pakistan."
As Kevin Drum says:
there's nothing wrong in principle with criticizing high-ranking military leaders. Too many people (some deliberately, some not) conflate this with "not supporting the troops," but that's claptrap. General officers who support lousy policies deserve brickbats, and plenty of them have done just that in the Iraq war. If Reid has legitimate criticisms to offer, there's nothing out of line about offering them.Taylor Marsh says the delays and prevarications allowed the Right to frame the issue and Dems will now be eating it for a while. She's right.
Let's see some liberals step up and grab Sen. Rohrabacher's comment and frame it properly as an indictment of Bush's foreign policy double standards and weasel wordings, which have caused untold havoc for America's prestige and credibility. (E.g. "we do not torture", because the Bush administration redefined the word until they could say they don't torture.)