CAN BUSH POSSIBLY SCREW THINGS UP EVEN MORE? MEET PAKISTAN
I loved the time I spent in Afghanistan-- everything about the country was a great big plus for me, the breathtaking scenery, the ancient culture and traditions and especially the straight forward kindness and generosity of the people. When I first got there late in 1969 I decided to stay for a few months and just get to know the place. Two years later I was back again. Both times I went through Pakistan-- as fast as I could. What a hellhole. Pakistan is between Afghanistan and another place I loved visiting, India. But Pakistan has none of the charms of either.
Recently I was pumping a U.S. Embassy official in Asuncion, Paraguay about the location of Bush's notorious (and very secret) ranch in that country. He wouldn't veer away from the carefully-crafted party line: there never had been and never will be a Bush ranch in Paraguay; the Cubans made it up. He was still an OK guy and we made the kind of chit-chat you can rarely do with embassy officials in countries where more than 2 or 3 Americans a week come to visit. He and his wife kind of hate Asuncion and they, as well as everyone at the Paraguayan station, spend as much time as they can in Buenos Aires. I asked him if it's the worst diplomatic posting. "Well, other than Pakistan... that's the real bottom of the barrel." Amen to that!
The country is overcrowded (170 million), many of the people desperately poor, uneducated, steeped in religionist superstition and bigotry, filled with resentment and fatalism. A vastly disproportionate amount of the country's wealth is controlled by a few powerful and politically-connected families and the country is one of the worst-governed anywhere in the world, its people taught to reflexively direct their hatred towards outside threats-- once India, increasingly George Bush's America-- rather than focus on making life more equitable at home.
You may not know much about Pakistan but still may recall a few factoids: Pakistan has a nuclear arsenal; Osama bin-Laden lives there, protected by tribal chiefs in the wild (north)west; the elected Islamist fundamentalist parliament is kept in check by military strongman Pervez Musharref, a brutal dictator who Bush threatens one day and calls his dear friend and ally the next; they have periodic wars and skirmishes and other incidents with India, which is also a nuclear power; and Cheney was just there publicly humiliating Musharraf by acting the bully.
Today's Australian includes a frightening headline, US looks at plan to out Musharraf. If it seems far-fetched and unreliable, Sunday's New York Times alluded to many of the same points in The Australian.
Inside Washington, the frustration of doing business with Pakistan's president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, is matched only by the fear of living life without him.
For years, the notion that Mr. Musharraf is all that stands between Washington and a group of nuclear-armed mullahs has dictated just how far the White House feels it can push him to root out Al Qaeda and Taliban operatives who enjoy a relatively safe existence in Pakistan.
The specter of Islamic radicals overthrowing Mr. Musharraf has also limited the Bush administration’s policy options, taking off the table any ideas about American military strikes against a resurgent Al Qaeda, which has camps in Pakistani tribal areas.
But just how fragile is Mr. Musharraf’s hold on power? And might the United States have more leverage than it believes?
The Times goes on to report that Islamic extremism is "a dominant force" in the increasingly out of control country. Bush's approach to this is to pay gigantic bribes to Musharraf and his cronies under the guise of "foreign aid," to keep a lid on. But now the Bush Regime has been souring on him and entertaining changing horses. They're insane and their analysis of Pakistan is based on the same realities that got us bogged down in Iraq, a country, unlike Pakistan, with no viable military and no weapons of mass destruction. Pakistan has both-- big time.
For decades, the military has been the most dominant institution in Pakistan. If Mr. Musharraf were to fall to an assassin’s bullet, American diplomatic and intelligence officials say, it is unlikely that there would be mass uprisings in Lahore and Karachi, or that a religious leader in the Taliban mold would rise to power.
“I am not particularly worried about an extremist government coming to power and getting hold of nuclear weapons,” said Robert Richer, who was associate director of operations in 2004 and 2005 for the Central Intelligence Agency. "If something happened to Musharraf tomorrow, another general would step in.”
Based on the succession plan, the vice chief of the army, Gen. Ahsan Saleem Hyat, would take over as the leader of the army and Mohammedmian Soomro, an ex-banker, would become president.
Pakistan's version of the CIA, the I.S.I, is in cahoots with the Taliban, who they helped bring to power in Afghanistan. They hate the American puppet government in Kabul and are eager to bring it down and help their Taliban allies regain power. Today's New York Times paints a grim and deteriorating picture, with America-hating/bin-Laden-loving Islamic fundamentalists gaining an upper hand in some regions of the country and bringing mayhem and chaos to other areas. The basic premise of these stories is backed up in the local Pakistani press as well.
If Bush really is trying to serve the desire for Armageddon expressed by the 24 or 25% of Americans who still support him-- our homegrown version of Pakistanis I referred to above as "uneducated, steeped in religionist superstition and bigotry, filled with resentment and fatalism"-- there are probably few better ways to do it than to destabilize the already fragile situation in Pakistan. It's a big country with nearly as many people as we have-- more than Russia's population-- and a huge military (bigger than ours) and plenty of nuclear missiles and modern equipment. And, worst of all, we have George W. Bush as Commander-in-Chief.