Inconvenient News,
       by smintheus

Saturday, November 03, 2007

  US is virtually silent on Musharraf's state of emergency

George Bush has remained silent as General Pervez Musharraf imposed martial law in Pakistan.

That's a pretty remarkable fact, one that you won't find the American news media saying much about. It's a token of the debasement of both our presidency and the media that nobody wants to discuss Bush's unwillingness to discuss this outrage against civil society in Pakistan.

It also reflects upon a foreign policy held hostage to its own worst demons; a policy so weakened, so chaotic and feverish that disasters like this are presumed to belong in the normal run of events.

A declaration of a state of emergency has long been predicted, yet when asked about the possibility in August, Bush could only shrug. It would all be ok, as long as Pakistan continued to be cooperative in the GWOT:

Thank you, Mr. President. One of your chief allies in the war on terrorism, President Musharraf of Pakistan, has faced so much instability and civil strife recently that there has been talk of declaring a state of emergency. How concerned are you about President Musharraf's situation and whether this might undermine Pakistani efforts against the Taliban and al Qaeda elements in the bordering areas of his country, which have been roundly criticized recently?

THE PRESIDENT: You know, I've seen the reports of what they call an emergency declaration. I have seen no such evidence that he's made that decision. In my discussions with President Musharraf, I have reminded him that we share a common enemy: extremists and radicals who would like to do harm to our respective societies -- in his case, they would like to kill him, and they've tried.

I have made it clear to him that I would expect there to be full cooperation in sharing intelligence, and I believe we've got good intelligence sharing. I have indicated to him that the American people would expect there to be swift action taken if there is actionable intelligence on high-value targets inside his country.

I'm not surprised that Bush has remained utterly silent while General Musharraf clamped down in Pakistan, and neither should you be. It echoes his silence during so many foreign policy crises—most infamously, during Israel's invasion of Lebanon last summer. Bush has no foreign policy; he has only the GWOT.

The US government's public response to Musharraf's crackdown, such as it has been, was left mainly to the State Department spokesman.

'A state of emergency would be a sharp setback for Pakistani democracy and takes Pakistan off the path toward civilian rule,' State Department spokesman Sean McCormack stated Saturday as the general's move took official Washington by surprise.

President George Bush was away at his weekend retreat in Texas and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is on a six-day trip to Turkey, Israel, and the Palestinian territories when Musharraf struck.

Condoleezza Rice has been nearly invisible:

In remarks posted on the state department website, Rice described the situation in Pakistan as 'an unfolding story' but suggested, 'We have not heard from President Musharraf, to my knowledge, yet.'

Earlier Thursday on her way to Ankara she told reporters 'We are in constant contact with the leadership and the political leaders in Pakistan. But you know, I'm not going to speculate on what might happen.'

Asked if she or Bush had specifically advised Musharraf not to declare martial law under any circumstances, Rice declined to 'get into the details of our conversations, but I think it would be quite obvious that the United States wouldn't be supportive of extra-constitutional means.'

The Pentagon has not stepped forward either to fill in for absent leadership:

The emergency declaration "does not impact our military support of Pakistan" or its efforts in the war on terror, [Pentagon spokesman Geoff] Morrell said of the country that's a key U.S. partner in the fight against al-Qaida militants.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is taking the U.S. lead in dealing with the situation, Morrell said, and Gates had not spoken to Musharraf and had no plans to during his 17-hour flight to Beijing.

Rice said that, to her knowledge, Bush administration officials had yet to hear from Musharraf since his declaration Saturday, although U.S. leaders had privately and publicly urged him against such a move...

Rice said she last spoke with Musharraf a couple of days ago but other U.S. officials had made the U.S. position clear to him more recently.

The State Department and Pentagon have barely acknowledged that a crisis exists. And this is the sum total of what the AP was able to report about the White House response:

In Washington, a White House spokesman said, "All parties involved should move along the democratic path peacefully and quickly."...

White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said Musharraf's move was "very disappointing."

"President Musharraf needs to stand by his pledges to have free and fair elections in January" and step down as army chief before taking the oath of office as president, Johndroe said.

You won't find a single mention of Pakistan or Musharraf at the White House website homepage, nor on its Current News page, nor on its Press Briefings page. Nor has George Bush spoken to reporters about the emergency in Pakistan, nor has he issued a public statement.

What George Bush has given us, once again, is silence.

crossposted from

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