Condoleezza Rice is off to India this week, to "stand in solidarity with the Indian people " in the wake of the Mumbai attacks.
The Bush administration says it shares the horror and pain of the Indian people. In fact, it shares a good deal more than that.
It shares experience in ignoring terror warnings, for one thing. In 2007, a report to the Indian Parliament warned that that country's shores were open to attack (and several of the Mumbai attackers seem indeed, to have come by boat. ) As U.S. National Security Advisor, Rice was present on August 6, 2001 when the Presidential Daily Briefing was presented to George W. Bush at his ranch: "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US." Condoleeza Rice knows all about ignoring warnings like that. Anti-terror laws? India's considering passing more draconian anti-terror legislation in response to the attacks. Shrinking civil liberaties and expanding police powers? Shredding democracy in defense of democracy? The Bush administration knows all about that. There's no excuse for terrorism, but in today's global economy there are plenty of real grievances to manipulate. In India's growing economy, a middle class of around 100 million live affluently, while 800 million-plus are miserable. India's Muslim minority are routinely discriminated against -- even subject to pogroms. But the government would far rather point fingers than look at economic disparities -- or India's treatment of its minorities -- to explain what might have motivated the attack.
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Blame, don't explain: India's hardly alone in that.
Top of India's blame-list is Pakistan and purported Pakistan-based terrorist camps. The pressure's on George W Bush and Rice to rein nuclear India back from a deadly revenge attack on its neighbor. But in the name of combatting terrorism, the US has been conducting missile attacks into Pakistan for months. A week before Mumbai, protestors in Islamabad were urging their government to sever ties with the United States over those assaults. What is Rice going to say to India: your missiles would be wrong, but ours are right?
Rice may manage to stand in solidarity when she arrives in India this week. But when it comes to advising caution, urging diplomacy and discouraging reprisal attacks, it's hard to imagine that Bush's Secretary of State will be able to do any of that with a straight face.