Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 5
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

    Stop supporting dictators

    In lieu of what many thought would be: or already was: a fixed election, the voice of the Pakistani democracy prevailed.

    Benazir Bhutto’s Pakistani People’s Party and the Pakistani Muslim League (Nawaz) split a vast majority of the vote while the Pakistani Muslim League (Q), President Pervez Musharraf’s party, was left in their wake.

    Though the United States has allied itself with him in the past, the fact that Musharraf failed to win this election is a good thing.

    Call me obtuse, but I have never really understood why the Bush administration so resiliently backs Musharraf in the first place.

    Musharraf’s rise to power was anything but legitimate.

    As general of the Pakistani army in the late 1990s, he wielded military power without consent of the government. In 1999, Musharraf impulsively started the Kargil War, a military conflict against India for the cessation of the Indian province of Kashmir. The war left 4,000 of the 5,000 Pakistani troops killed, according to the Pakistani government.

    Presidents and prime ministers from all around the world have condemned Musharraf’s actions for being deceitful and contemptible, yet it seems as though Mr. Bush has commended them.

    Later that year, Musharraf seized the Pakistani presidency in a coup d’├ętat as he and his allies ousted democratically-elected Nawaz Sharif’s government and took over Pakistan’s largest airport. After the overthrow, Musharraf arrested Sharif and many members of his cabinet to prove his authoritative power.

    Many point to Musharraf’s seemingly ground-breaking speech denouncing Islamic extremism as the sole reason for Bush’s support of his illegitimate rule. In the speech he made an empty promise: he condemned all forms of terrorism and vowed to fight religious Islamic extremism within Pakistan.

    This is all well and good, except it is too bad that Mr. Musharraf didn’t condemn his own brand of terrorism as well.
    Musharrafism (n.): the act of using one’s military might to seize one’s own democratically-elected government; giving speeches in order to woo the United States into being your ally and deter them from questioning the legitimacy of your government; and then using all of your power: and the power of others: to maintain control, all the while oppressing your own people so that no one outside the country really knows what’s going on inside.

    Just a few months ago, Mr. Musharraf even tried to prevent these elections from happening. Back in November, he called a state of emergency and told the people via television (whose channels are state-controlled in Pakistan) that it was because he wanted counter the increasing threat of terrorism and the sliding economy. In one fell swoop, Musharraf suspended the constitution, called the state of emergency and threw out the chief justice to the Supreme Court. Since then, he hasn’t disclosed any national security threats that would legitimize his spontaneous declaration.

    This declaration came just two months before the upcoming general election. Days after Musharraf declared the state of emergency, his information minister spoke about the upcoming election on national television to tell the country that they would indeed be “suspended indefinitely.” Again, no reasons were provided for the spontaneous decision.

    Bush may not have kept up on Mr. Musharraf’s biography, but the act of U.S. presidents not keeping up on the biography of the foreign leaders they support is a trend that transcends the Bush administration.

    Bush’s support for Musharraf parallels Nixon’s support for fascist Chilean dictator Agusto Pinochet, Reagan and others’ support for Ferdinand Marcos’ military rule of the Philippines and Hoover’s support for Rafael Trujillo’s bloody dictatorship of the Dominican Republic.

    Haven’t we learned enough from our mistakes?

    The United States needs to stop this “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy with regards to buttressing the ascension to power of dictators worldwide. There is no such thing as a benevolent dictator. Thus, if we seek to be the purveyors: or, more appropriately, the example: of worldwide democracy, then we shouldn’t be hypocritically supporting dictators. Period.
    Fortunately, Pakistan’s government will no longer be run by a military coup. And fortunately, the Pakistani people pacifically came to the conclusion that military governance is undesirable. But will fortune be so kind as to convince Mr. Musharraf to step down from the presidency?
    We will see.

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