ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) — A senior U.S. envoy who said Pakistan’s democratic process had been “derailed” carried a stern warning Friday to President Gen. Pervez Musharraf from the Bush administration to end emergency rule.

In an apparent move to blunt criticism from Musharraf’s key foreign backer, authorities freed opposition leaders including Benazir Bhutto as well as a U.N. human rights expert and let two independent news channels back on air.

But the general also pressed on with disputed plans for January elections, swearing in an interim government led by a loyalist charged with preparing Pakistan for the vote and defending his record during the eight years since he seized power in a coup.

“I take pride in the fact that, being a man in uniform, I have actually introduced the essence of democracy in Pakistan, whether anyone believes it or not,” a solemn-looking Musharraf said after the low-key ceremony at the presidential palace.

Full article here.


… William Shakespeare, Henry VI, Part II … or was it Pervez Musharraf?

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, Nov. 6 — In a telephone address to lawyers in Pakistan’s capital, the ousted chief justice of the Supreme Court urged the lawyers today to continue to defy the state of emergency imposed by the president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf. In the second day of protests, police arrested 50 lawyers in the eastern city of Lahore and clashes broke out between hundreds of lawyers and Pakistani police in Multan.

“The lawyers should convey my message to the people to rise up and restore the constitution,” the chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, told dozens of lawyers before his cellular phone line was cut. “I am under arrest now, but soon I will also join you in your struggle.”

It was unclear how Chief Justice Chaudhry, who is under house arrest, was able to gain access to a telephone. He and other lawyers said they hoped to recreate the protest campaign they carried out this spring when the lawyers mounted big rallies in major cities after General Musharraf removed Chief Justice Chaudhry from the Supreme Court bench. He was reinstated after four months, and then fired again on Saturday.

Full article here (registration required).  President Bush drew a lukewarm “hard line” against Musharraf’s decision to declare martial law in Pakistan in response to terrorist attacks by Islamic extremists:

WASHINGTON – President George W. Bush took a hard line with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf on Monday, demanding he relinquish his military duties and return the country to civilian rule.

The White House, using tough rhetoric against a strategic ally in the war on terrorism, also called on Musharraf to release hundreds of opposition leaders and activists who have been rounded up since the declaration of martial law on Saturday.

“We expect there to be elections as soon as possible,” Bush told reporters in his first public remarks on the crisis in Pakistan. “The president should remove his military uniform. Previous to his decision we made it clear that these emergency measures would undermine democracy.”

Despite the tough rhetoric, the White House has decided against taking tangible measures to show its displeasure with Musharraf. Administration officials said there would be no immediate cuts to aid to Pakistan.

Full article here.  Meanwhile, Pakistan’s wild card, former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, is traveling to Islamabad to discuss the state of emergency with leaders of opposition parties:

KARACHI (Thomson Financial) – Pakistan’s former premier Benazir Bhutto headed for the capital Islamabad Tuesday for talks with political leaders on the state of emergency but said she had no plans to meet President Pervez Musharraf.

‘I am going to hold discussions with the leadership of other parties on the current situation and chalk out a joint strategy with them,’ she told reporters at Karachi airport.

Bhutto said that a meeting with Musharraf was ‘not in her schedule during her stay in Islamabad.’

This will be her first visit to the capital since she returned to Pakistan on October 18 from eight years in self-exile on corruption charges, a homecoming that ended in twin bombings that killed 139 people.

Bhutto, 54, flew to Dubai briefly on Thursday but came home again following Musharraf’s decision to impose a state of emergency on Saturday.

Military ruler Musharraf and Bhutto, leader of the moderate Pakistan People’s Party, had been in contact for several months for a possible power-sharing deal after general elections due in January.

Musharraf gave her an amnesty on the graft charges in October to allow her to return home.

EPHRATA, PENNSYLVANIA – I’d like to begin by asking you to join me in saluting those who have given their lives in the service of our country, both in the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts, those who were there and are now home, and those who remain there. As we are here in Pennsylvania today, I ask that you remember, in particular, three American men who died in Iraq last month: Specialist Camy Florexil of Philadelphia, who died in a roadside bombing near Baghdad; Specialist Zachary Clouser of Dover, who died in a roadside bombing in Adhamiya; and Sgt. 1st Class Raymond R. Buchan of Johnstown, who died in small arms fire in Ta’meem.

After World War I, when the British were attempting to create the nation of Iraq, they were cautioned by an American missionary. “You are flying in the face of four millenniums of history if you try to draw a line around Iraq and call it a political entity!” he said. Very quickly, the British figured out what the American missionary meant – when a provisional government attempted to assert its control over the people in the region, full-scale tribal revolts broke out throughout Mesopotamia. British army personnel were murdered, and a holy war against Britain was declared by the Shi’ites in Karbalah. On August 7, 1920, The Times of London asked, “[H]ow much longer are valuable lives to be sacrificed in the vain endeavour to impose upon the Arab population an elaborate and expensive administration which they never asked for and do not want?”

It wasn’t nationalism that caused the tribal revolts then, nor is it a desire to conquer some nation called Iraq that inspires them today. The leaders of the various tribes that make up the Iraqi population, then and now, thrive on anarchy and fanaticism, and are united only in seeing very clearly a big old red, white and blue bull’s eye on the backs of American troops and the “Iraqi nationalists” who support them. The only sense of nationalism that Iraq has ever enjoyed was the punitive nationalism of a totalitarian regime.  For almost 40 years, Saddam Hussein was Iraq; and before him, the face of Iraq was either a propped-up monarch or a military strongman. The notion that Americans would be greeted as liberators, and that from the outpouring of affection for America would grow a desire for a unified democratic nation, was a naïve notion from the beginning.

The U.S. must find its way out of Iraq.

The decision to enter Iraq was one driven by ideology, not necessity. Our country was ill-prepared for it, and frankly, and rather embarrassingly, we never got up to speed.

When one of those pathological mainstream presidential candidates has a good idea, my policy is to admit it. Democrat Joe Biden and Republican Tommy Thompson, who just terminated his own candidacy, each have some good ideas on Iraq. Joe Biden calls for a partition of Iraq into a rough confederation of Shi’ites, Sunnis and Kurds. He says that a centralized federal government of Iraq should remain in charge of border security and the distribution of oil revenues. Tommy Thompson says that oil revenues should be divided “in thirds among the national government, the provincial governments and individual Iraq citizens,” a sort of Alaskan revenue-sharing plan for Iraqi oil. I like what they say – give the three regions of Iraq as much autonomy as possible … tell them to form their own governments and keep us out of it… break the problem down into chewable bites … take the piss out of the ethnic and regional conflicts … give ordinary Iraqis a livelihood outside of the seductive economy of terror …

And like a fat boy getting off the see-saw, let’s stand up and take our leave, allowing al-Qaeda, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and the Mahdi Army to come crashing down on their collective asses, without a countervailing American ass to buoy their violent activities.

It is not a perfect solution. Certainly there will continue to be bloodshed in Iraq while the borders of the three semi-independent states of Mesopotamia take shape, but at least it needn’t be American blood that is spilled in some vain attempt to impose a government upon them that they haven’t asked for and do not want. Iran is smart enough to realize that it can waste a lot of time and resource trying to manage the remaining conflict – that was the job that its intelligence operatives like Ahmed Chalabi called upon the Americans to do for them, after all. The importance of al-Qaeda in Iraq within a Sunni-dominated sub-state will diminish over time, as will the activities of a Mahdi Army within a Shi-ite-dominated substate; al-Qaeda, in particular, thrives upon opposition to its aims, and its support will begin to shrink, as they have begun to in al-Anbar province already, with the press of day-to-day subsistence after the end of American occupation. Yes, strongmen will fill the voids — strongmen who will need to sell us oil in order to sustain their power — and something like stability will return to the region. Meanwhile, we can focus on U.S. energy independence; the only genuine way of achieving victory over Middle Eastern terrorism is to be strong enough to abandon the policy of U.S. intervention there that riles up the blood of future terrorists.

Iraq was a failed experiment in fighting a war on the cheap, and fighting to impose a democracy on people who are fundamentally disinterested in it. So let’s remember a few other things. War is a tool that we use to protect our nation and its interests. It is not a tool that is effective in the propagation of democracy where democracy has not previously existed. Doing that is like taking a sledgehammer to a hunk of raw granite and hoping that, in the end, it will turn out looking like Michelangelo’s Pieta. We should remember that waging war in order to promote democracy is bound to fail.

We should also remember that waging war without the full commitment of the American economy and the American people, from the very wealthy on down, is bound to fail. If we need to go to war, we need to use every available resource to do so; if our resolve is tested by that standard in any way, then perhaps we shouldn’t be going to war in the first place. As I have said before, if we had courageous leaders in the country, we would be fighting “a real war on terror … [with] a comprehensive strategy that includes a domestic economic plan oriented toward preparedness. They would level with us and actually require real sacrifices from all of us — on a national, equalitarian scale of the kind we witnessed during World War II,” instead of giving tax breaks to the wealthy and telling the rest of us to roll over and go back to sleep.

This has been the message of my campaign all along, and it will continue to be my message: in order for us to succeed at whatever important national objective may exist, we must all participate. We can’t just continue to sit on the couch, cursing at the news. Each of us has to examine our own role in providing moral authority within our communities, and we need to exercise courage in seizing the initiative. In the case of war — a war waged for all the right reasons — we need to seize the initiative to sacrifice all that our country needs in order for us to win. In doing so, we exercise the liberty that our soldiers die for, and we honor their memory.

I thank you for listening, and I’ll be seeing you along the trail.

A frequent reader, Ed Beauford – who styles himself as an analyst with a Norfolk-based think-tank, the Joseph A. Mahon Center for Strategic Studies, about which I have been unable to divine much – has sent me a provocative email with a modest proposal for solving the Iraq problem. I’m not sure what to make of it, so I’ll let you be the judge:

The experience of the American and British governments in Iraq over the past three years has unfortunately definitively demonstrated two principles of modern geopolitical organization. These principles can be described as follows:

  • Pluralistic, multicultural democratic institutions of government are inherently incapable of reproducing themselves within other sovereign lands. They are like mules – crossbred, figurally disproportionate, and ultimately sterile.
  • Pluralistic, multicultural democratic governments are inherently incapable of achieving lasting revolutionary change through conventional warfare. For every dollar spent on warfare, such institutions will spend two hours on the moral and ethical implications of that dollar. Moreover, such institutions are fundamentally different from the regimes of history’s great conquerors. When Genghis Khan rolled through most of Asia in the 13th century, he occupied and dominated his conquests, with no thought of handing over the keys to the vanquished. Within democratic circles where dissenting voices have the power to influence policy, “occupation” is a nasty word, and “domination” is unthinkable — except through puppet institutions that are ultimately toothless because they are restricted by democratic principles imposed on them by the democratic institutions that have created them. Such limitations show the folly of warfare conducted by democratic nations in the 21st century.

Where governments take aggressive action and ultimately fail, the result is typically described as “chaos.” The analogy adopted by the Iraq Study Group in its recently released report is that the situation in Iraq is “grave and deteriorating.” The facts that underlie such assessments are that individuals in Iraq, banding together and taking aggressive action under the auspices of tribal factions, have filled the power vacuums created by the failure of governmental action.

The unspoken conclusion of almost every partisan voice in the American landscape — whether they support increased troops, a reduction of troop levels combined with diplomatic maneuvers, or a complete pullout of Coalition forces — is that tribal activity in Iraq is currently more powerful than the military activity by governments in the region. The seductive principle one may fashion from all of the foregoing is that tribal activity is inherently more influential than governmental activity, and is therefore the most influential force that can be imagined within the Iraqi situation.

Experience elsewhere throughout the last century, however, supports a different conclusion. When government fails, tribal activity certainly does follow to fill the power vacuum in almost every instance. However, corporate activity — defined here as the activity of multinational corporations whose primary purpose is the achievement of higher profits — has shown itself to be the most powerful force in human affairs in the 20th and 21st centuries, subduing and marshalling tribal behavior through the utterly irresistable effects of its marketing and, in effect, forcing governments “to go along to get along” with its aims. Corporations thrive within the alleged “chaos” of the marketplace.

The U.S. government is spending approximately $6 billion per month on the Iraq situation. Such figures are not unfamiliar to oil companies such as ExxonMobil, which spend billions of dollars per year on exploration projects. The Central Intelligence Agency estimates that there are 112,500,000,000 BBL of proved oil reserves in Iraq. That makes Iraq the fourth most oil-rich nation in the world, behind Saudi Arabia, Canada and Iran. Iraqi oil, combined with the “chaos” of tribal activity, provides a unique opportunity for a forward-thinking multinational corporation to rise to the occasion.

It is time for a multinational corporation (an “MC”) to stage a coup inside Iraq, wresting control of the situation from both the ineffectual coalition of U.S., UK and “Iraqi nationalists,” as well as from the factional leaders of the Sunnis, the Shiites and the Kurds.

For a cost comparable to that of the U.S. effort in Iraq, an MC can hire a force of 600,000 trained mercenaries, and arm them and protect them better that the U.S. has proven itself capable of doing, without the necessity of hacking through a partisan political debate over the reinstitution of a draft. It can use this force to secure the borders of Iraq, cutting off all supply lines to the insurgents and pointing big guns at Iraq’s neighbors – Syria, Iran, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Jordan. Attempts to breach the sovereignty of an MC-controlled Iraq may be met with a swift corporate military response. At the same time, corporate money can be applied in ways to prevent interference – by giving Iran, for example, a favored partner for its own oil development plans. Once the borders are secured, an MC can use its hiring and firing capabilities to bring a measure of prosperity to warring factions, as well as holding up the prospect that there is something to lose by continued in-fighting.

Force and ruthlessness are the MC’s greatest tools, however. An MC can go into the Iraq situation with the express objective of conquest, at the cost of death, in an effort to control oil reserves. This means that waging war on factional leaders – in effect, taking them out – will not be restricted by the moral and ethical considerations that hamper democratic governments.

The real solution in Iraq will never come from the “Iraqis.” Without the strength of an autocrat such as Saddam Hussein, there is no Iraqi nation-state – there are merely tribes of angry neighbors, elbowing each other endlessly. An MC can act as an autocrat within the region, without subjecting itself to the paralyzing wrath of the international diplomatic community.

1. Sweden 9,88
2. Iceland 9,71
3. Netherlands 9.66
4. Norway 9,55
5. Denmark 9,52
6. Finland 9,25
7. Luxembourg 9,10
8. Australia 9,09
9. Canada 9.02
10. Switzerland 9.02

. . . according to the Economic Intelligence Unit Index of Democracy. See summary report here.