Admittedly not a hard thing to do to a man who would lose a game of checkers to a 16 oz. bag of shredded mild cheddar cheese.
We learn today that all of the reasons the White House has been backing Musharraf, and all of the ways in which the White House was trying to make it look pretty — make it look like they weren’t ever backing a dictator — are falling apart.
* The White House had hoped former Pakistani Prime Minister Bhutto would take part in a for-show power-sharing agreement with Musharraf. It now apprears she will not do so.
* Musharraf’s aides are now admitting the declaration of martial law had little to nothing to do with cracking down on extremists.
* Those aides also say no moves are planned against said extremists.
More after the jump . . .
London Times Online reports:
From The Times
November 6, 2007
Benazir Bhutto, the former Pakistani Prime Minister, vowed yesterday to bring her supporters on to the streets to force President Musharraf to lift a state of emergency and restore democratic rule.
— snip —
Until Saturday, Miss Bhutto had been in talks with General Musharraf on a power-sharing deal, backed by the US and Britain as a way to broaden the Government’s mandate to combat Islamic extremism. She now appears to be on a collision course with the President, whose emergency measures have banned political rallies and taken private television channels off the air.
This puts the US’s and the West’s little scheme in the toilet. The New York Times described the scheme on Sunday:
By SHERYL GAY STOLBERG and HELENE COOPER
Published: November 4, 2007
WASHINGTON, Nov. 3 – For more than five months the United States has been trying to orchestrate a political transition in Pakistan that would manage to somehow keep Gen. Pervez Musharraf in power without making a mockery of President Bush’s promotion of democracy in the Muslim world.
— snip —
There has long been a deep fear within the administration, particularly among intelligence officials, that an imperfect General Musharraf is better for American interests than an unknown in a volatile country that is central to the administration’s fight against terrorism. In recent months the White House had been hoping that a power-sharing alliance between General Musharraf and Pakistan’s former prime minister, Benazir Bhutto, would help the general cling to power while putting a democratic face on his regime.
But with Bhutto now on a “collision course” with Musharraf, White House dreams of putting a happy face on a dictatorship are ended.
On a seperate note, it appears that Musharraf has been playing Bush for a fool. Today, Bush said:
. . . I asked the Secretary [Rice] to call him to convey this message: that we expect there to be elections as soon as possible, and that the President should remove his military uniform. Previous to his decision we made it clear that these emergency measures were — would undermine democracy. Having said that, I did remind the Prime Minister that President Musharraf has been a strong fighter against extremists and radicals, that he understands the dangers posed by radicals and extremists. After all, they tried to kill him three or four times. And our hope is that he will restore democracy as quickly as possible.
Bush is backing Musharraf, apparently, because Musharraf is an ally in the war on terror. Musharraf himself has encouraged this idea. London Times Online writes, “General Musharraf told the foreign ambassadors that he had declared the emergency because the courts and the media were interfering in his campaign against Islamist militants.”
However, we read in Tuesday’s Washington Post a double whammy on all of this talk.
(Whammy 1) Islamabad officials are now acknowledging that Musharraf’s declaration of martial law had little to do with “extremists”.
(Whammy 2) Musharraf has no intention of cracking down on “extremists” in the near future.
On Saturday, Musharraf said he had declared an emergency in the interest of fighting terrorism. But top Musharraf aides have conceded that his primary motivation was an impending Supreme Court decision that would have disqualified him from serving another term.
Musharraf aides have said the government has no plans to use the emergency to launch an offensive against insurgents in the northwest, where the military has suffered embarrassing losses recently. On Sunday, authorities freed 30 Taliban fighters in exchange for more than 200 captured soldiers, even as police continued to round up activists from the mainstream political parties.
Q Thank you, sir. It was just last week that you said again that your administration stands with people who yearn for liberty. How does that square with continuing to partner with Pakistan, given what’s going on now, and given that President Musharraf has gone back on promises before?
PRESIDENT BUSH: As I said earlier in my statement, that we made it clear to the President [Musharraf] that we would hope he wouldn’t have declared the emergency powers he declared. Now that he’s made that decision, I hope now that he hurry back to elections. And at the same time, we want to continue working with him to fight these terrorists and extremists, who not only have tried to kill him, but have used parts of his country from which to launch attacks into Afghanistan, and/or are plotting attacks on America.
So now that Bhutto is on “a collision course” with Musharraf, the West faces a much starker decision. Side with her and her progressive backers, or side with Musharraf, who now acknowledges through his people that he declared martial law to hold on to power and who has no intention of strongly facing Islamic radicals in the near future — the supposed justification for White House winking at Musharraf’s draconian tactics.
No way to have it both ways, now.