Monday, November 05, 2007

Releasing Terrorists, Jailing Lawyers

"If Bush and Cheney are ever tempted into extreme measures in the United States, Musharraf has provided a template for how it would unfold. Maintain you are moving against terrorists and extremists, but actually move against the rule of law."
When the normally calm and unflappable Prof. Juan Cole sees in the events now transpiring in Pakistan a "template" for how the Bush administration could destroy democracy in the United States, it's time to sit up and pay close attention.

Make no mistake: the coup engineered over the weekend by Gen. Pervez Musharraf wasn't really against Islamic militants. It was against the rule of law in Pakistan. As Prof. Barnett Rubin writes from Islamabad --
Judging by the General's actions, judicial activism is a much more sinister and immediate threat than terrorism, as all of his actions since yesterday have targeted the former rather than the latter. Indeed Musharraf's agents managed to pirate the codes to prevent Geo TV from uploading its programs to satellite, while Maulana Fazlullah's FM station in Swat continues to broadcast calls for jihad without impediment.
What were those "actions?" Even as Pakistan's government was doing a deal to release "28 insurgents from government custody, including some allegedly connected to suicide attacks," as the International Herald Tribune reports, Gen. Musharraf was busy firing the Pakistani Supreme Court, putting hundreds of other judges under house arrest, and re-filling the jails with lawyers.

"Hundreds of opposition leaders and lawyers have been arrested,"Karachi's International News reported in its on-line edition yesterday. Hundreds more lawyers in Islamabad and Lahore were beaten by police, Reuters reports. The Associated Press reports more lawyers were arrested in Rawalpindi and Multan.

The New York Times and others are reporting that Musharraf decided to move when word reached him that the Pakistani Supreme Court intended to rule unanimously this week that Gen. Musharraf was ineligible to continue serving as the nation's president:
His decision to suspend the Constitution and fire the Supreme Court was taken days before the court was due to decide whether his re-election on Oct. 6 was valid. A close aide to General Musharraf said the Pakistani leader had decided to declare an emergency when he was told last week by a Supreme Court justice that the court would rule within days that he was ineligible to continue serving as president. The ruling would have been unanimous, according to the aide.
The UK Guardian -- unconstrained by what has become the lazy and survile American journalistic habit of relying on anonymous government sources -- quotes a political ally of Musharraf to the same effect:
Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, president of the ruling PML-Q party, said the decision to impose emergency rule was triggered by fears that the supreme court would rule against Gen Musharraf's recent re-election in a legal appeal. A friendly judge passed the information to the government last Wednesday. "He said the verdict may be unanimous. So we had no choice," he told the Guardian. "The debate was whether to impose emergency before or after [the court ruling]."
Foreign correspondent Griff Witte reports in today's WaPo that the U.S. and Great Britain OK'd Pakistan's Gen. Pervez Musharraf's coup against civilian opposition leaders and the Pakistan court system.
A close adviser to Musharraf said Sunday that the president's inner circle believed that before he issued the order, the United States and Britain had grudgingly accepted the idea of emergency rule, despite earlier objections. He said he did not expect any action against Musharraf by the West. "When we convinced them that it would only be for a very short time, they said, 'Okay,' " the adviser said.
An unnamed "Western" diplomat (there you are again) disputes that claim, according to Witte. But even as the reporter dutifully transcribed Anonymous' words, there's the strong suggestion of substantiation:
"The U.S., along with Britain and other countries in the E.U. and the Commonwealth, made every effort to try to dissuade Musharraf's government from doing this," the diplomat said on the condition of anonymity, adding that "Rice couldn't have been stronger in several phone calls" to Musharraf.
Therein lies the rub: only the hapless Condoleeza Rice made mere "phone calls." David Sanger and David Rohde explain the contextual importance of that in today's New York Times:
[A]ides to General Musharraf... said they had anticipated that there would be few real consequences.

They called the American reaction “muted,” saying General Musharraf had not received phone calls of protest from Mr. Bush or other senior American officials. In unusually candid terms, they said American officials supported stability over democracy.

"They would rather have a stable Pakistan — albeit with some restrictive norms — than have more democracy prone to fall in the hands of extremists," said Tariq Azim Khan, the minister of state for information. "Given the choice, I know what our friends would choose."
So, it seems the U.S. certainly enabled Musharraf's coup if it didn't outright green light the thing. This isn't the first time the Bush administration has accepted Musharraf's bald-face lies at face value. It also would not be the first time Bush and his authoritarian enablers imitated the crimes of another country's excesses. Bush has shown time and again that his administration can survive, and indeed thrive, only by creating "an atmosphere in which law [is] constantly subverted to political expedience," to use Scott Horton's words from last month's speech about the Nuremberg trials.

"When fascism comes to America," Sinclair Lewis wrote in 1935, "it will be wrapped in the flag, carrying a cross." And, as Musharraf has shown us, braying about the terrorist threat.

Can't happen here? Read the new books by Naomi Wolf or Joe Conason and think again. As this excerpt from Conason's book states:
For the first time since the resignation of Richard M. Nixon more than three decades ago, Americans have had reason to doubt the future of democracy and the rule of law in our own country. Today we live in a state of tension between the enjoyment of traditional freedoms, including the protections afforded to speech and person by the Bill of Rights, and the disturbing realization that those freedoms have been undermined and may be abrogated at any moment.

Such foreboding, which would have been dismissed as paranoia not so long ago, has been intensified by the unfolding crisis of political legitimacy in the capital. George W. Bush has repeatedly asserted and exercised authority that he does not possess under the Constitution he swore to uphold. He has announced that he intends to continue exercising power according to his claim of a mandate that erases the separation and balancing of power among the branches of government, frees him from any real obligation to obey laws passed by Congress, and permits him to ignore any provisions of the Bill of Rights that may prove inconvenient.

Elsewhere, Wolf had provided a ten-step summary "shopping list" for the Bush administration to "close down democracy." By our count, nine of them have been taken off the shelf. There remains only one: "Suspend the Rule of Law."

Bush's buddy, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, has shown him the way.


landon said...

you are a lunatic

jernigan said...

The only lunatics I see are Bush and his neocon buddies and those voters who still support him when he says he is above the law. Nixon left office in disgrace for that. History shows that once our nation is taken down that road there will be no turning back. Why then did the Greatest Generation sacrifice themselves? Rule by Emperor Bush? Torture conducted by our own spies but not theirs? I am disgusted that Bush is still in the White House. he belongs in prison.

panicbean said...

See above, landon.

Also, please enlist! It seems to be what Bush likes best about his 'boys'. That way they can't talk back!



Anonymous said...

Jailing lawyers? I think Musharraf is onto something.