The news from Pakistan this week portends more conflict, more bloodshed, and more international ill will for our nation under the benighted leadership of President George W. Bush. Unfortunately, the topic of the bad news is Pakistan, a nation about which most Americans know very little. Even more unfortunately, Bush has once again bet our future on a losing horse—namely his stooge Pervez Musharraf, the former general who took control of the country by military coup, ruled with a bloody fist, and whose party was reduced to minority status in the recent elections on Feb. 18. What’s at stake? Oh, just a country with 162 million people and it’s own army, navy, air force and ballistic missile array capable of delivering the 100 or so nuclear warheads in its hidden arsenals.
For most Americans, Pakistan came to their attention when Bush took the decidedly treacherous General Musharraf as his ally in his infamous “global war on terror.” According to Bush, the United States needed to bolster our influence in Pakistan so we could track and kill al-Qaeda and Taliban operatives who fled across the border with neighboring Afghanistan after our invasion and occupation of that country. In typical Bush fashion, we bought that influence with billions of taxpayer dollars, bombs, bullets, and high-tech armaments—a sadly predictable effort by the current administration to establish world peace through weapons proliferation and endless bloodshed.
While the White House has ballyhooed this alliance, the people of Pakistan have by and large despised and rejected it, which became undeniably obvious in the results of this week’s election. For one thing, Pakistan is not particularly fond of foreign powers calling the shots in their own country. Having had their fill of the British Empire, Pakistanis treasure their independence and have fought fiercely to maintain it.
The country, which is about the size of France and Britain combined, is bordered by Iran and Afghanistan to the west, China to the north, and nuclear-armed India, with which it has warred several times over disputed border regions, to the east. It has a 630-mile coastline on the Arabian Sea not far from the narrow Straits of Hormuz, through which the Persian Gulf oil flows to the world. It is the sixth most populous nation in the world and, as it’s official name, the Islamic Republic of Pakistan suggests, contains one of the highest concentrations of Muslims.
While much remains unknown about its nuclear capabilities, Pakistan possesses nuclear warheads that could be delivered by short and long-range missiles, modern French, American and Chinese fighter-bombers, as well as submarines and naval vessels. The country has not agreed to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Act, has not declared a “no first strike” policy and refuses to allow international monitoring of its nuclear capacity. In fact, when offered “safe guards” for their nuclear weapons by the Bush administration last year, the Pakistanis declined, citing their belief that somehow America was trying to trick them into accepting devices which they believed would allow the United States to disable their weapons.
Given the high level of suspicion concerning the United States and its motives under Bush, it is perhaps no wonder that Pakistanis took the opportunity this week to overwhelmingly reject the ruling party of Musharraf, whom many describe as a dictator. The national elections saw Nawaz Sharif, the former Prime Minister ousted in Musharraf’s military coup in 1999, come back with a vengeance. Running a campaign targeted specifically at Musharraf’s cooperation with Bush in military actions against fellow Muslims and calling for his ouster, Pakistani voters gave the opposition parties enough votes to muster the two-thirds majority needed to impeach Musharraf and bring his 8-year military rule to an end, most likely seriously curtailing cooperation with United States.
Just last month, an unmanned American Predator drone killed a high-priority al-Queda leader in Pakistan with a missile strike. While some military figures and politicians are calling the strike “a model for the future,” the disturbing fact is that the U.S. military launched the strike on foreign soil without receiving prior approval from Pakistan’s government, alienating the very people from whom we had sought help.
So what does this mean to us? Well, it means our government has now decided we can go anywhere we want, including the sovereign lands of our allies, and conduct military operations that result in the death of foreign nationals. To put it in another perspective, this would be like having Russia, China, or even North Korea decide it was okay for them to buzz some missile-carrying drones over Montana and fire them at anyone they thought should be killed. Would we be outraged? You bet we would and would likely consider any such strike as an act of war.
Even more outrageous is that such operations are being conducted while Democrats hold the majorities in both houses of Congress. Given the intensity of the presidential campaign right now, it might be a good time to ask just who approved this operation. If the Democrats in Congress voted to allow such actions, which promise only to escalate both violence in the region and ill will toward our nation, they should be held accountable. If they did not, they should immediately vote to preclude any such unilateral action in the future.
One way or another, events in Pakistan provide yet another indicator of how far our country has slipped down the humanitarian scale under President Bush, who has now apparently decided he can wage war anywhere against anyone any time he wants. Unfortunately, the Democrats, who won their majorities vowing to end the senseless, bloody, and extremely costly Bush wars, seem all-too-willing accomplices in expanding, not limiting, those conflicts.
Helena’s George Ochenski rattles the cage of the political establishment as a political analyst for the Independent. Contact Ochenski at firstname.lastname@example.org.