Irony is what makes the Bush administration entertaining even as the world catches fire. Of course, it's probably more succinctly called hypocrisy but irony has that shrug of sweetness that makes us want to laugh or cry at the absurdity. In Pakistan, as Pervez Musharraf tears down a feeble constitution with swiftness, openly and bluntly, it's hard not to think of the insidious methods our own president has employed to whack away at America's sacred founding document.
In Pakistan, however, the irony that makes our president's friendship with the dictator Musharraf so hilarious is that American taxpayers are funding the military takeover. Using the War on Terror as its premise, the Bush administration has pumped about $10 billion dollars into the Pakistani military since 2001. So, when you see the evening newscasts from the TV networks or catch a video on the net, remember those guns doing Musharraf's oppressive work were paid for by you and me. And there is no sign from the Bush White House or Secretary of State Rice that the Pakistani bank account run by US taxpayers is going to be closed any time in the near future.
The rationale for these expenditures was that we could not afford to have an unfriendly Pakistan as we waged war in Iraq. Conveniently, this American president ignored the fact that the Pakistani leader had taken over his country in a 1999 coup. He was our guy (just as Saddam was before we decided he no longer was paying attention when we told him what to do.) Your tax dollars were supposed to help search the mountainous border regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan and crack down on al Qaeda and hunt down Osama bin Laden.
Nothing of the sort has ever really transpired, though. Musharraf has long tried to walk a squiggly line that separates him from the West while also trying to look like our ally in the war. However, if he pushes too hard against Islamic militants in his country, they will threaten to make his life miserable and his already tenuous hold on power even more fragile. Consequently, he allows his army, expending US tax dollars, to do a few cursory patrols into the border mountains to make it appear as if they are looking for al Qaeda and bin Laden. Occasionally, some stupid militant caught peeing along the side of the road will have to be arrested so there are results to share with the US and the rest of the world but no one of consequence is ever brought to justice in Pakistan.
The Bush team seems to be unwilling to make Musharraf do anything of value and consistently lets him flaunt his own ineffectiveness. If you want an example of the White House's own intransigence on this matter, go back to last summer's Aspen Institute appearance of Karl Rove. An audience member asked him why we didn't use military force of our own to go into Pakistan and get al Qaeda and find bin Laden. Rove, hilariously, said that we "can't exactly go running around with our military inside of a sovereign country without an invitation." Howls of laughter rocked the house before Rove corrected himself and said "unless you've got someone like Saddam Hussein that you have to deal with."
The need for democracy is apparently very selective. It doesn't look like we will be forcing it on Pakistan any time soon and Iraq's neighbor, Saudi Arabia, is not a target of the American president's desire to spread democracy, either. The Saudi Royal Family runs a nice little plutocracy that sells oil to America and as long as that relationship flows right along there won't be much pressure from the Bush White House to force democracy into their culture. Funny, too, how Iran's president is so dangerous. If only he would sell US oil companies some crude and stop bad-mouthing Israel he might be able to avoid a force-feeding of Western-style democracy, as well.
Let us not worry. Freedom is on the march; if only it knew where in the hell it was going and why.
James Moore is an Emmy-winning former television news correspondent and the co-author of the bestselling, Bush's Brain: How Karl Rove Made George W. Bush Presidential.
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