I just made up a spectacularly unfunny riddle. Wanna hear it?
What do you call a military dictator who supported the Taliban, took the world to the brink of nuclear war in late 2001 and early 2002, shelters al-Qaeda terrorists, and calls the man who sold nuclear weapons to our worst enemies a hero?
Believe it or not, the answer is "friend."
I told you it wasn't funny.
That's what President Bush called Pakistan's military dictator, President Pervez "the Perv" Musharraf during the lovey-dovey, grip-and-grin mini-press conference the two held in the White House earlier this month.
Maybe Bush is in such a good mood since his re-election that everybody is his friend now. Scarier yet, maybe he's so eager to follow in the footsteps of his political hero, Ronald Reagan, that's he's taken to mimicking the early symptoms of Alzheimer's that, in retrospect, seemed to hinder Reagan during his second term. What other possible explanation is there for the following Bush remark from the same press conference:
"Some believe that the only solution for government in parts of the world is for there to be tyranny or despotism. I don't believe that. The Pakistan people have proven that those cynics are wrong."
Yeah, Pakistan, that revolving cast of generals who've ruled you for most of the past 60 years sure proves "those cynics" wrong. Way to stick it to 'em, guys!
Anyway, this column isn't about Bush's premature senile dementia. It's about Pakistan, its behavior, and our current administration's unwillingness and/or inability to protect the American people. So, without further delay, here's a list of some of the actions that have earned Pakistan the title "friend" of the United States.
1) Pakistan has scaled back its hunt for Osama bin Laden: Call me crazy, but if bin Laden is in your country and you're not deploying a big chunk of your armed forces to hunt him down, how exactly are you a "friend" of the American people? After all, doesn't the Bush administration keep saying that third-string al-Qaeda operative Abu Musab Zarqawi's mere presence in Iraq in 2002 and 2003 means that Saddam Hussein was an ally of al-Qaeda?
Bin Laden fled Afghanistan and headed to Pakistan's tribal regions (see atlanta.creativeloafing.com/2003-10-09/panic.html) in late 2001. Yet the Perv didn't begin a serious military offensive to nab bin Laden & Co. in Pakistan's tribal regions until the end of 2003. The so-called offensive was called off (or scaled back, depending on who you ask) last month, even though bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri, the Bo and Duke of Islamic terrorism, remain at large. In fact, the offensive didn't lead to the capture of a single person on our al-Qaeda wanted list. Despite that, the Perv recently claimed that his forces had "broken the back of al-Qaeda in Pakistan." Nice.
No wonder they called the operation an offensive. I'm, like, totally offended.
2) Pakistan is moving away from democracy: In 2003, the Perv promised that he'd relinquish some of the power he'd gathered for himself after the 1999 coup that brought him to power. His biggest promise: that he'd step down as head of the Pakistani military by January 2005. That's a little more than two weeks from now, but guess what?
No, seriously, guess what? He's not stepping down. And damn it, why should he? After all, he recently told The Washington Post that Pakistan is already "a total democracy." You can't be anymore democratic than the "total democracy" of military dictatorship, so why bother with those annoying, time-wasting elections and stuff, right?
3) The Khan con: This year, we figured out that the father of Pakistan's nuclear weapons program, A.Q. Khan, was also the baby daddy of several other national nuclear programs, including those of North Korea, Iran and Libya (see atlanta.creativeloafing.com/2004-02-12/panic. html). Instead of punishing Khan, the Perv pardoned him and still calls him a hero. Our investigators would love to talk to Khan and get a complete account of what he sold and to whom, but the Perv won't let us. He says that U.S. requests to speak to Khan demonstrate "a lack of trust" for the Perv personally. It's like he's our girlfriend now.[email protected]