Sunday, November 04, 2007

Pentagon Backs Musharraf

By Cernig

Quelle Suprise! Via Raw Story, the Pentagon has said that it will be business as usual with Pakistan's dictator.
“Pakistan is a very important ally in the war on terror and [Secretary Gates] is closely following the developments there,'' [Pentagon spokesman Geoff] Morrell told reporters aboard Gates' plane as he traveled to China.

The emergency declaration “does not impact our military support of Pakistan'' or its efforts in the war on terror, Morrell said of the country, which is a key U.S. partner in the fight against al-Qaida militants.
This is the actual response of the Bush administration - there's no way this decision is a purely Pentagon one - while Rice mouths weasel words about Musharraf's martial law declaration being “highly regrettable.” As the NY Times notes today, the White House's pretense of supporting democracy in Pakistan in order to put a mask of respectability on Musharraf's regime has been left in tatters. I'm forcibly reminded of Musharraf's threats last September:
In the leaked report, a naval commander at the Ministry of Defence (MoD) claimed Pakistan's intelligence service, ISI, had indirectly helped the Taleban and al-Qaeda.

In the BBC interview Mr Musharraf rejected these claims and said ISI's support was vital.

"You'll be brought down to your knees if Pakistan doesn't co-operate with you. That is all that I would like to say. Pakistan is the main ally. If we were not with you, you won't manage anything," he said.

"Let that be clear. And if ISI is not with you, you will fail."
Meanwhile, the White House's cheerleaders are grasping at straws. My friend Ali Eteraz wrote an article for the Guardian yesterday, based upon early reporting, which is being seized by rightwingers as proof that Musharraf's declaration isn't actually martial law and isn't as abject a failure of their support for the Pakistani dictator as it seems. Captain Ed, for example, writes that:
Pervez Musharraf's seizure of power yesterday did not extend as far as feared, but instead falls in a legal gray area. The assemblies continue to operate and the status of press freedom remains unchanged, according to the Guardian's Ali Eteraz. However, Musharraf appears to have taken a page from Shakespeare's Richard III, and rounded up all the lawyers...Musharraf's PCO doesn't even cancel the upcoming legislative elections. In fact, he assured Pakistanis that those would run on schedule. It only affects the legislature and the lawyers, a group which had -- in Musharraf's opinion -- become too political in recent months.
Then, today, comes news that Musharraf is rounding up 1500 political opponents, delaying elections indefinitely and heavily censoring the media. Up to five hundred opponents of the dictator have already been rounded up.
Among those detained were Javed Hashmi, the acting president of the party of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif; cricket star-turned politician, Imran Khan; Asma Jehangir, chairman of the independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan; and Hamid Gul, former chief of the main intelligence agency and a staunch critic of Musharraf's support for the U.S.-led war on terror.
The BBC further reports that international news stations are being blocked and has a quick rundown of Musharraf's orders under his assumption of emergency powers:
Constitutional safeguards on life and liberty curtailed.

Police get wide powers of arrest.

Suspects can be denied access to lawyers.

Freedom of movement restricted.

Private TV stations taken off air.

New rules curtail media coverage of suicide bombings or militant activity.

Chief justice replaced, others made to swear oath of loyalty.

Supreme Court banned from rescinding emergency order.
Any criticism of the head of state, members of the armed services and any other senior member of government is now banned in Pakistan. Anyone breaking these rules faces a three-year jail term and a 10 million rupee ($167,000) fine. Moreover, as Newshoggers regular empty noted in comments earlier:
Benazir Bhutto in an interview in Karachi has pointed out that the emergency order was signed by Musharraf the Chief of Staff, not Musharraf the President. Therefore, this is not an emergency declaration which only the president can authorize but a declaration of martial law.
When it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck and sh*ts like a duck, protestations that in fact its a goose are rather futile.

In March this year, Indian counter-terrorism expert B. Raman, the former head of the counter-terrorism division of the Research & Analysis Wing, India's CIA, wrote as part of a forum for the rightwing Frontpage magazine that:
The most likely scenario as of today is that Musharraf will continue to be in power; he will manipulate the next elections, with the US closing its eyes, in order to ensure the victory of the parties loyal to him; will continue to use terrorism against India while making a pretence of stopping it; will continue to keep the Neo Taliban alive and kicking hoping one day it could come back to power in Kabul and carry out the Pakistani agenda; and will extend co-operation to the US in its operations against Al Qaeda to the extent he can do so without undermining his own position. Jihadi terrorism originating from Pakistan will continue in the short term.
That's what Bush, his Pentagon and his supporters have decided they will accept while mouthing useless words of approbation.

Update Dr. Steven Taylor writes:
it is hard to ignore the simple fact that Musharraf was faced with the possibility of diminished power, either by having to resign his generalship or by being told his candidacy for the presidency was void. As such, this crackdown looks a whole lot more like a classic move by a military regime to quash the opposition and hold on to power than it does a response to an imminent attack by extremists.

Indeed, this very much looks like coups during the Cold War period wherein the military leadership used fighting communism as the justification for the crackdown.

Not surprisingly, the harder core of the rightward blogosphere is buying that justification, hook, line and sinker.
He follows up with a roundup of rightwing bloggers doing exactly that, including Reliapundit, Jihad Watch, Jules Cretinhead, and Stop The ACLU.
Jihad Watch seems to think that Musharraf is all that stands between Pakistan and “an era of Sharia” (reducing the whole complex discussion to an odd binary choice: Musharraf stays in power and does whatever he wants or its Shariaville). Jules Crittendon similarly casts the whole thing as being solely about the fight against extremism. Stop the ACLU likewise buys the WOT narrative, but notes that there are “reasons to be of concern.”

...At a minimum, if authoritarian rule was the elixir that cured the world of jihadism, it would have been wiped out some time ago. Or have we not noticed that this type of extremist thinking and actions was conceived, gestated and born in the context of mostly secular authoritarianism in the Middle East and Central Asia? A “strong hand” is not some automatic fix. Indeed, such strong hands often inspire further radicalism. No doubt, for example, these “preventive arrests” will inspire the opposition to greater ties and sympathies with extremists, not diminish them. In simple terms, if the opposition wishes to continue its fight, and Musharraf is shutting down existing political mechanisms to do so, what choice will they have but to deepen their connections to radicalized elements in Pakistani politics?

Musharraf full well knows that rhetoric about fighting extremists will provide him some political cover, at home and abroad. However, the idea that that is what is guiding the actions is absurd.
Musharaff to U.S. Republicans: "Fish-hook!"

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