Beast of the Month - December 2007
Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan Dictator
"I yam an anti-Christ... "
John Lydon (aka Johnny Rotten) of The Sex Pistols, "Anarchy in the UK"
Democracy is a funny thing when it comes to American foreign policy: it's really important. It's really important, that is, except when it's not.
Take, for example, the hissy fit the Bush Team and korporate media has had over Hugo Chavez in Venezuela. He has long been described as a would-be-dictator by these forces, and a recent public referendum had been widely labeled as an attempted constitutional coup. Never mind that he's won 3 elections as El Presidente and one referendum to stay in power, which means he's won four more elections legitimately than Bush ever has. Never mind that a failed plutocratic coup that tried to oust Chavez in 2002 with the Bush Administration's backing was the greatest threat to democracy in Venezuela since he took office. Never mind the public referendum voted on this month was constitutional and was decided by direct democracy: it involved changes in labor and property laws and executive power, including the big contention, removal of term limits for the office of President. Never mind the "controversial" attempted removal of term limits would hardly put it out of the norm of democracies in the Western world. And never mind that after voters legitimately concerned at the increase in executive power proposed (it also would have allowed Chavez to redraw political maps and appoint some local leaders, given him power over the central bank and allowed him to suspend civil liberties during states of emergency) voted against it 51 to 49 percent, Chavez announced: "I understand and accept that the proposal I made was quite profound and intense." So much for Mr. Dictator. But then again, most honest observers would admit the controversy isn't about democracy but of a Latin American leader with a vision for the future in conflict with the neoliberal agenda - and the petrodollars to fund it.
Compare this to the coverage of Mikheil Saakashvili in the nation of Georgia. When he took over in January 2004 after the Rose Revolution (which preceded Ukraine's Orange Revolution) he was widely admired in his country, winning over 96 percent of the vote. He was even more widely admired in the Western media establishment, being an admitted pro-Western politician. Like in the Ukraine, however, it appears he may have bet on the wrong side, and he has fallen from favor. Demonstrations against the government on charges of corruption, assassination and authoritarianism were met with riot police armed with batons, tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannons, as Misha declared a state of emergency. (Boy, that will get rid of those charges of authoritarianism!) Of course, there is more to this story that a Cliff Notes version can do justice (Saakashvili claims, with good justification, that the protests are being financed and promoted by the Kremlin) but it is odd that the disturbing attacks on democratic rights occurring in Georgia right now are not receiving the same outrage in the korporate media as the Chavez referendum. Odd, that is, until one considers Georgia's geographic importance in regards to the Caspian Sea oil reserve.
Or look at Burma. While officially the US government has never been in favor of the dictatorship that has ruled since 1962, opposition has been mild at best. Even after political protests involving Buddhist monks and Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, the regime hardly has risen on the pundit outrage-o-meter back in the USA. Perhaps that is because the dictatorship has long been friendly to American korporations, most notably Chevron.
Hmm, that's odd: all these examples have oil involved with them, and the side the US is on is coincidentally the side that the oil money is on. In fact, it appears that "democracy" has no importance in deciding which side the US government is on. Iraq under Saddam and Iran under Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: bad. Saudi Arabia: good. Russia under Vlad Putin: bad. Georgia and the Ukraine: good. Venezuela under Hugo Chavez: bad. Burma under General Than Shwe: good.
Perhaps the most naked example of political cynicism in the past month, however, is the case of Pakistan, which is led by General Pervez Musharraf, The Konformist Beast of the Month. This is because there is no question that Pakistan is a dictatorship, and there is no question that the US government supports it despite its lack of democracy.
Pakistan fell into dictatorship in October 1999, which is over eight years ago and back when Britney Spears was still jailbait. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was ousted by the military coup after he tried to remove Musharraf as Army chief. Instead, Sharif and members of his cabinet were arrested, forcing Sharif in exile to Saudi Arabia. Despite this, Pakistan remains a noted ally to Team America and the Bush Administration.
Of course, even before the 2000 election, Bush was on record as being supportive of Musharraf. Soon after the coup in 1999, Bush was asked to name the new leader of Pakistan and three other world leaders: he could only muster up "Lee" for Taiwan (his full name is Lee Teng-hui.) Despite not scoring well on the quiz if the game was Jeopardy, he had some revealing comments about the leader of Pakistan, declaring, "The new Pakistani general, he's just been elected – not elected, this guy took over office. It appears this guy is going to bring stability to the country and I think that's good news for the subcontinent." So there you have it: Bush in 1999 declared a military coup in Pakistan was good news.
As far as Bush and his minions are concerned, Musharraf is still good news, especially after 9/11. After all, the US needs a friendly neighbor bordering Afghanistan if it wants Operation Enduring Freedom to be a success (even if, as a success, Enduring Freedom has been marginal at best.) So in the name of Freedom, the USA has been in bed with a dictatorship. This continues even after last month, when Musharraf suspended the Constitution and declared martial law through the country, shutting down all private television stations and jailing dissidents. Among those jailed were members of the Supreme Court, including chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, who were about to rule that a sham "election" handing Musharraf the presidency was invalid, which apparently led to the state of emergency declaration. Later a kangaroo Supreme Court appointed by Musharraf dismissed all challenges to the election.
The punch line is, as an ally, Pakistan is certifiably two-faced. While officially they support the "War On Terror", they have been a not-so-secret hiding place for Al Qaeda and the Taliban ever since. It is also widely believed that Osama bin Laden, if still actually alive, is hiding in Pakistan (though considering the supposed videos of "bin Laden" speeches in recent years appear to be unconvincing forgeries, his status among the living is rather dubious.) Apparently, a subtle agreement exists between Musharraf and the Al Qaeda-Taliban members: if we give you sanctuary, you agree not to unleash terrorism against Pakistan. Which is understandable, after all: sometimes diplomacy requires one to do business with those you'd prefer not to. It's a shame the Bush Team can't owe up to this obvious truth, and declare that foreign policy is decided by Mammon instead of morality. But that would open up a can of worms, as it would give official evidence that nearly four thousand American soldiers and billions of dollars have been wasted in Iraq over lies.
In any case, we salute Pervez Musharraf as Beast of the Month. Congratulations, and keep up the great work, Pervez!!!