Ruin seize thee ruthless King!
Confusion on thy banners wait
Though fanned by Conquest’s crimson wing
They mock the air with idle state. -- Thomas Gray, The Bard
It’s been kind of confusing what with Pervez Musharraf being in Washington eagerly awaiting the publication of his book (and also getting to see George Bush), the F-16s being almost ready for delivery and George Bush getting confused and actually thinking for a brief time that Pakistan was a sovereign nation. It all started the week before Mr. Musharraf came to Washington.
It was during that week that Mr. Bush said that Pakistan was a sovereign nation. It happened at a press conference in which he was asked why he opposed sending troops into Pakistan to look for Osama bin Laden. Explaining his opposition he said: “First of all, Pakistan is a sovereign nation. In order for us to send thousands of troops into a sovereign nation, we’ve got to be invited by the government of Pakistan.” (No one asked him whether Iraq had been a sovereign nation before it became a Bush fiefdom.) Pakistan remained a sovereign nation (in Mr. Bush’s mind) until the next week when, asked what he’d do if Osama bin Laden or a high ranking al-Qaida leader was found in Pakistan Mr. Bush said he would “absolutely “ order U.S. military strikes on targets inside Pakistan. In less than a week Pakistan had ceased to be a sovereign nation. Unaware of his country’s loss of sovereignty, Mr. Musharraf said, “We wouldn’t like to allow that at all. We will do it ourselves.”
The week grew even stranger when, in an interview on CBS’s 60 Minutes in which Mr. Musharraf was promoting his book that went on sale two days after the broadcast, he revealed that right after 9/11 Deputy Secretary of State, Richard Armitage, told Mr. Musharraf that if he failed to cooperate with the United States in its hunt for Osama bin Laden, the United States would bomb Pakistan back into the Stone Age.
Before 9/11, Pakistan had been one of very few countries that had diplomatic ties with the Taliban. Not wanting to return to the Stone Age, Pakistan promptly broke off relations with the Taliban and Mr. Musharraf became one of Mr. Bush’s good friends. Mr. Armitage, of course, denied he’d ever threatened Pakistan and Mr. Musharraf declined to comment when asked about the denial at a press briefing with Mr. Bush because, as he explained, he was sworn to pre-publication secrecy by his publisher. That was quite understandable.
Not being bombed back into the Stone-Age by a trigger happy Bush, was not Mr. Musharraf’s only reward for cutting off relations with the Taliban. There was the obvious reward of having George Bush as a friend. During a 2004 Christmas time visit to the White House by Mr. Musharraf, Mr. Bush said: “There is nobody more dedicated in the protection of his own people than President Musharraf.” Mr. Musharraf would have had to look long and hard to find a Pakistani to make such a statement. And that was not his only reward. Another was being permitted to buy a bunch of F-16 airplanes.
In the late 1980s the United States had promised to sell F-16s to Pakistan but changed its mind after Pakistan had made a substantial down payment. The planes were not delivered. A suit by Pakistan to recover its down payment was eventually settled. In 2005, as a reward for Mr. Musharraf’s friendship, Pakistan was again told it could buy the planes. Until Mr. Musharraf’s most recent visit to Washington, it had been thought the deal would be finalized any day. That has all changed.
On September 22, 2006, it was reported that Pakistan is having second thoughts about the planes. That’s because it has learned that the planes are to be delivered without electronic warfare systems that are reportedly “vital for real time monitoring”. That means that the planes’ radars are only programmed to detect enemy aircraft that are non-NATO aircraft such as China or India. If Pakistan gets into a war with a NATO country it would be at a big disadvantage since its radar would not detect the presence of those enemy aircraft. (What particular NATO country Pakistan thinks it might get into a war with is unclear but Mr. Bush’s friends have lots of ways of surprising us.)
As a result of the disclosure of this omission of equipment, the Pakistani weekly, Friday Times, said Pakistan’s signing of the “letter of acceptance” has been postponed. According to the Friday Times a Pakistani official said: “So the signing deal is off. . . . . But the entire deal is likely to spark much more debate and change before finalization.” It’s not hard to see why. As I said at the outset, the week was confusing. Most weeks under George’s rule are.
For Christopher Brauchli's political commentary see his web page Human Race and Other Sports.
Email to: Brauchli.firstname.lastname@example.org