Inconvenient News,
       by smintheus

Sunday, November 04, 2007

  Bush continues his silence on Musharraf's coup

On Saturday I commented that the American news media were pretending to themselves that the Bush administration had taken a strong stance against the imposition of martial law in Pakistan. The opposite was true: Bush had gone completely silent, while the Pentagon had let it be known that it wouldn't let a little coup stand in the way of their close cooperation with General Musharraf. It was left to a State Dept. spokesman to issue a tepid expression of chagrin about the "state of emergency". Condoleezza Rice managed to weaken that even further while showing that she was barely cognizant of who was in touch with Musharraf.

The harvest of shame continues today. Bush is still ducking questions and Rice remains mealy-mouthed. What has changed, however, is that a few in the media have discovered that American journalists were fibbing yesterday when they credited the administration with a strong response to the coup.

Why the sudden about-face? Several prominent politicians today decried the Bush administration's failure to take a clear stance against the coup, making it acceptable (evidently) for journalists to tell the truth on Bush.

Here for example is an AP report by Anne Gearan, who notes in passing that Bush has been "silent so far":

"This administration has a Musharraf policy, not a Pakistani policy. It's tied to Musharraf. ... Its hands are pretty well tied right now. And it's put itself in a very difficult position, and in turn us in a difficult position," said Biden, a 2008 presidential candidate.

Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., said Bush should speak out forcefully. "We have bolstered Musharraf with billions of dollars in recent years, and military support, and we ought to be specific that it's not going to continue," the senator said.

"I wouldn't support Pakistan with U.S. aid here. He's doing everything which is against democracy. Seizing the Supreme Court is just outlandish. What he's done is declared himself the dictator," Specter said. "And he hasn't been helping us enough on terrorism, so that I think we ought to get very tough with him and try to drive him into line."...

Fred Thompson, said the U.S. must "play hardball" with Musharraf, including a potential aid cutoff.

When even the somnolent Fred Thompson wakes up from his nap and declares that your foreign policy is adrift, there can't be any denying that you've got troubles.

So what has the Bush administration done today in response to bipartisan demands for action?

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Sunday the U.S. will review aid to Pakistan...

"Some of the aid that goes to Pakistan is directly related to the counterterrorism mission," Rice told reporters traveling with her. "We just have to review the situation. But I would be very surprised if anyone wants the president to ignore or set aside our concerns about terrorism."

Bush, who has received steady updates on developments in Pakistan, is likely to make his first public comments Monday. He had not spoken directly with Musharraf as of Sunday afternoon, said national security adviser Gordon Johndroe.

"The Pakistanis and President Musharraf know well our position, and the president's position," he said. "And they are hearing it from all different levels of the U.S. government."

Returning to the White House from Camp David, Md., Bush did not respond to shouted questions about Musharraf. "We're obviously not going to do anything that will undermine the war on terror. That's not in our best interests," Johndroe said.

Well there's a tough stance if ever there were: (i) a review of aid, some of which you guarantee in advance will continue to flow to the dictator, and (ii) a total lack of communication between Bush and Musharraf. Because what's the big rush to pick up the phone?

The operative excuse principle for doing nothing, though so far only hinted at, is that the Bush administration has all but given up on the idea of spreading democracy in the region. Bush will be satisfied instead with a stable regime as long as it's headed up by a strongman who can act as a bulwark against religious extremists.

It occurs to me to ask, however: Isn't that the role Saddam Hussein was playing in Iraq until not long ago?

crossposted from

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