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The Clout of George Bush
Nature teaches beasts to know their friends. - Shakespeare, Coriolanus
There are advantages to be gained from taking possession of a country rather than simply befriending its leader. Consider Iraq and Pakistan.
Iraq, as was recently observed in this space, is a possession of George Bush. Though sovereign in theory, Iraq was powerless to contradict Mr. Bush when he said it was all right for Turkey to invade that country. All Iraq could do was have its prime minister, Nouri al Maliki, make a phone call to Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish Prime minister, to let him know of the need to "respect Iraq sovereign authority." The call preceded the invasion. Being sovereign, however, Iraq could play host to Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad even though Mr. Bush dislikes him and he is the leader of one of the countries that might be described as the Bush-Cheney axis of hatred.
Pakistan is a country whose leader Mr. Bush has befriended without first invading his country. Although he continues to instruct Pakistan on how it should conduct its affairs, he lacks the clout he has in Iraq. As a result, the country's citizens and officials have enjoyed thumbing their noses at Mr. Bush, notwithstanding his friendship with its president, Pervez Musharraf. Most recently the nose thumbing by the good citizens and officials pertained to elections and judges in Pakistan.
Before the Pakistani elections on February 18 that resulted in the election to parliament of a majority of members of Mr. Bush's two least favorite parties in Pakistan, Mr. Bush expressed his hope that Mr. Musharraf's party would retain its parliamentary majority. In an interview with Charles Gibson on ABC's "World News" on November 20, 17 days after Mr. Musharraf had summarily dismissed Iftikar Mohammed Chaudhry, Chief Justice of Pakistan's highest court and placed him under house arrest, Mr. Bush described Mr. Musharraf as "somebody who believes in democracy". That would have been a somewhat awkward statement if made by anyone other than the singularly obtuse Mr. Bush, since it ignored the fact that Mr. Musharraf became what he was by sponsoring a military coup, had 17 days earlier replaced not only the chief justice of the Pakistan supreme court but all the other justices, and declared martial law in order to make sure that the elections that were to be held in 2008 would be completely fair and open.
The elections did not turn out as Messrs. Musharraf and Bush had hoped. They were, instead, a disaster from the men's respective points of view. Mr. Musharraf's party was soundly defeated and a coalition now exists between the two opposing parties who have agreed to unite in their opposition to Mr. Musharraf.
According to a report in the New York Times, shortly after the February 18 elections the U.S. Ambassador, Anne Patterson, met with Benazir Bhutto's widower, Asif Ali Zardari, the head of the Pakistan Peoples Party, one of the parties that emerged victorious from the February 18 elections. Believing herself divinely ordained if not by God, by Bush, she informed Mr. Zardari that the man from whom she came and whose emissary she was, favored the non-reinstatement of Mr. Chaudhry as chief justice. On the other hand, she let it be known, the reinstatement of all the other judges was now acceptable to the United States, an outcome that had been hinted at before the elections took place. She could have saved her breath.
On March 9, a press conference was held by Nawaz Sharif, leader of Pakistan Muslim League-N and Asif Ali Zardari. Reading from a prepared text Mr. Sharif said: "In today's summit meeting between the coalition leaders of the Pakistan Peoples Party and the Pakistan Muslim League-N, it was decided that the restoration of the deposed judges as it was on November 2, 2007 shall be brought about through a parliamentary resolution to be passed in the national assembly within 30 days of the formation of the federal government."
Commenting on the Ambassador's attempts to influence Mr. Zardari as reported in the Times, Tariq Mahmood, a former president of the Pakistan Supreme Court Bar Association said he told the ambassador that the United States should "appreciate the results of the election. My message was very simple. You love democracy, you live in a democracy, why do you want to deprive us? You are always supporting the dictator."
Mr. Mahmood doesn't realize that Mr. Bush doesn't' recognize the difference between invading a country and befriending a dictator. He should hope that Mr. Bush doesn't figure it out. If he does, he may decide that it would be in his best interest to invade Pakistan to help it become the kind of a place Mr. Bush thinks it should be. This is one of those rare occasions when the world is a better place because of Mr. Bush's profound ignorance.