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February 22, 2024

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Bush’s hypocrisy evident in travels

Ah, democracy. Ain’t it great? And the best part is the way we’re spreading the joys of free government all over the world.

Although, someone may have forgotten to tell the Pakistani opposition leaders – who were arrested just before the arrival of President Bush last weekend – that democracy is great.

Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad, was turned into a fortress for President Bush’s visit. Over 10,000 troops were on hand to make sure the Pakistani public could welcome Bush properly – from behind a wall of heavily armed soldiers.

They did so according to strict tradition, calling a nationwide strike and burning U.S. flags.

So why does Bush – who on a daily basis rattles off rhetoric about promoting democracy in the Middle East – consider Pakistan’s dictator, Pervez Musharraf, to be a good buddy?

The simple answer is because Musharraf is even more afraid of terrorists than we are.

Since seizing power in a military coup four years ago, Islamic extremists have attempted to assassinate Musharraf on four separate occasions, some of which he only narrowly escaped.

The guy must soil himself every time someone knocks on his door.

As for democracy, I suppose Pakistan is about as free as any military dictatorship.

Musharraf has been roundly criticized for rigging the 2002 elections which supposedly legitimized his rule despite producing less than a 30 percent turnout. He has also reneged on promises to relinquish control of the military – his main source of power.

According to Juan Cole, professor of history at the University of Michigan, “Bush has all along made the mistake of playing to Muslim leaders rather than to Muslim publics.”

Yet, he has at the same time undermined authoritarian leaders with his talk of spreading democracy.

At this point, I think Bush playing to the Pakistani public might be like throwing a bucket of water on an inferno. It will take a lot more than that to put out all the hastily constructed Bush effigies.

Maybe we could start by not bombing Pakistani villages in failed attempts to kill al-Qaida leaders like we did last month.

To make matters worse, Bush first visited India, Pakistan’s arch-rival, to sign a landmark nuclear deal – a deal not offered to Pakistan.

Afterward, Bush dropped into Islamabad in the middle of the night and stayed just long enough to lecture Musharraf on how he needs to do more to fight al-Qaida and the Taliban, groups which his military is still sympathetic to.

Michael Scheuer, retired Central Intelligence Agency operative and author of the acclaimed book, “Imperial Hubris,” argues that this behavior, along with other U.S. policies like the poor treatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay “are doing what no Muslim leader has done: They are persuading Muslims to hate Americans for being Americans.”

Recently, the U.S. government refused to recognize Hamas, the Islamic fundamentalist party who won in Palestine’s democratic elections, and has threatened to cut funding to the region unless Hamas renounces violence and recognizes Israel.

Although we all hope these things occur, the policy does not match Bush’s rhetoric about supporting and promoting democracy as though it were universally good. Instead they only expose the hypocrisy of a president who is willing to hold hands (literally) with oppressive monarchs in Saudi Arabia provided they keep shipping us their oil.

Of course, Bush’s ability to alienate people at home and abroad is world renowned.

Between the foreign policy debacle of the Iraq war and recent events like his support for the Dubai port deal, Bush seems determined to drive his 34 percent approval rating even lower.

While in Pakistan he even embarrassed himself by sucking at cricket. I was just waiting for a classic Bush-ism. “I love President Musharraf. I call him Mushie. Hehehe. Mushie, you’re doing a heck of a job!” And he sure is doing a heck of a job – suppressing dissent, torturing detainees and rigging elections.

Maybe next year Bush will travel to North Korea and anoint Kim Jong Il as the new ally in the war on terror.

Send comments to Jon at [email protected].

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