Monday, November 5, 2007

He’s Our Son of a Bitch

From the New York Times:

The government of Gen. Pervez Musharraf, the Pakistani president, making no concessions a day after seizing emergency powers, rounded up leading opposition figures and said Sunday that parliamentary elections could be delayed for as long as a year.

Security forces were reported to have detained about 500 opposition party figures, lawyers and human rights advocates on Sunday, and about a dozen privately owned television news stations remained off the air. International broadcasters, including the BBC and CNN, were also cut off.

The crackdown, announced late Saturday night after General Musharraf suspended the Constitution, was clearly aimed at preventing public demonstrations that political parties and lawyers were organizing for Monday.

“They are showing zero tolerance for protest,” said Athar Minallah, a lawyer and a former minister in the Musharraf government.

In Islamabad, police forces continued to block the Parliament and Supreme Court buildings. But the day was mostly quiet, there was no formal curfew, and most people went about their business as usual. Several small protests were broken up, including one involving two dozen people who scuffled with the police.

Police officers armed with tear gas broke up a meeting at the headquarters of the Pakistan Human Rights Commission in Lahore and took dozens of people away in police vans, including elderly women, schoolteachers and about 20 lawyers, according to people at the meeting. In all, about 80 lawyers were detained, and many others who faced arrest warrants remained in hiding, according to members of a nationwide lawyer’s lobby that has grown increasingly influential as an anti-Musharraf voice.

Not surprisingly, the Bush administration is a little flustered by this event, not that it wasn’t predictable. The Pakistani Supreme Court was on the verge of ruling that Musharraf couldn’t become the president and remain the head of the army, so he pre-empted their ruling by declaring the state of emergency. (Now there’s one way to deal with “activist judges.”) But as far as the Bush administration is concerned, they say the most important thing is the war on terror, so if a few million people get denied their constitutional rights, opposition leaders get arrested, and the media is shut down, it’s all for the right reason, right?

For the last seven years, the United States has propped up a dictator because he’s nominally said he’s on our side. As one statesman noted back during the Cold War in talking about a brutal dictator who was also anti-Soviet (and echoing American statesmen going back to the Civil War), “He may be a son of a bitch, but he’s our son of a bitch.”