Musings On Musharraf & Bush: Birds Of A Feather? genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Musharraf And Bush

Every now and again, I decide to post an item that offers little more than an interesting observation...with little relevance in the larger scheme of things. I've been preoccupied with Pakistan and Pervez Musharraf of late...likely a function of my ADD tendencies...and after reading that the Pakistani President has decided against declaring a state of emergency in a new article in the Washington Post, I was struck by the similarities in the political strategies and skills of Musharraf and George Bush. I'll explain after the following excerpts.

Senior government officials said Wednesday that an emergency declaration was being considered. But after a call early Thursday from U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and dire warnings from his own advisers that such a move would have disastrous consequences, Musharraf appeared to abandon the idea.

"President Pervez Musharraf after hectic consultations with his colleagues has decided that emergency should not be declared in the country," Minister for Information and Broadcasting Muhammad Ali Durrani told Pakistani television, according to the country's official news service. "The main objective of the government is to ensure free, fair and transparent elections in the country . . . The President is very clear that steps like emergency can hinder the democratic process and should therefore be avoided," Durrani said.

Under the country's constitution, the president may impose emergency rule if Pakistan faces a severe internal or external threat. Such a decree could restrict freedom of speech and movement. Elections, now scheduled by year's end, could be postponed or suspended. Military analysts in Pakistan said emergency rule would not be accepted by the great majority of the public.

Musharraf took power in a bloodless coup in October 1999 and has since been a key ally in the U.S. fight against terrorism. Analysts say he has ruled with a relatively light hand, seeking to co-opt both political and religious groups while bending the laws to his political aims. He has hoped to be reelected by Parliament to another five-year term without having to give up his position as army chief.

Musharraf's popularity has tanked in recent months and there are indications he is attempting to build a coalition government with Benazir Bhutto, the former Prime Minister. As I read about the possibility of a state of emergency, my political antennae was alerted and I began speculating that Musharraf never intended to declare a state of emergency; rather it was a political stunt to force Bhutto to cooperate with the President since Musharraf will likely need her support to maintain power.

As I read the Washington Post article, it struck me that Musharraf is operating in much the same way as George Bush. Both are rather unpopular...and both seem to use fear to paralyze their opposition and to convince the voting public that their countries face bigger issues than an unpopular leader.

Musharraf invokes fear through threats of a state of emergency...based upon an internal threat from radical extremists supportive of the Taliban and al Qaeda; George Bush invokes fear through heightened concerns of terrorist attacks in the homeland sponsored by radical extremists connected to al Qaeda.

Musharraf, through the imposition of a state of emergency, has the power to restrict civil liberties in the interest of national security; George Bush, through the Patriot Act and the expansion of the FISA law, has the power to disregard long standing civil liberties in the interest of national security. Both men couch these measures as essential to protect the integrity of the nation...both men seem to invoke them when their approval ratings are low...and both men know how to use these issues to manipulate their political opponents.

Musharraf and Bush are both "Commanders in Chief" of their respective military establishments and each is willing to use the military to advance their respective political ideologies...often with a noticeable level of inconsistency...and frequently with a disregard for voter opposition.

Both have attempted to manipulate the judicial system in their favor ; George Bush through his embattled Attorney General ; Musharraf by attempting to remove the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. As an aside, remember the Florida vote count fiasco and the Supreme Court declaring George Bush the president in 2000.

Back in 2006, when Musharraf signed an accord with the Pakistani tribal leaders who are frequently viewed to be supportive of the Taliban and al Qaeda, George Bush said that when Musharraf “looks me in the eye and says the tribal deal is intended to reject the Talibanization of the people and that there won't be a Taliban and there won't be al-Qaida, I believe him."

Bush also stated that “When he (Musharraf) looks in my eyes and speaks with confidence, I believe him." “He has been a strong and forceful leader with courage." Musharraf responded, “We trust each other."

Perhaps I should feel warm and fuzzy about the bond that these mutual statements seem to suggest exists between these two men...but when I couple this shared admiration with the above mentioned similarities...the ones that seem to limit civil liberties through the invocation of fear...I get a cold chill.

While I wholeheartedly reject conspiracy theories, I do have to admit that I've wondered if George Bush has ever thought about invoking a state of emergency such that he would consider suspending elections for a period of time. Each time the thought has entered my mind I've immediately discounted it as nonsense.

As I read this Washington Post article and drew the above comparisons, it took a little longer to convince myself that George Bush and Pervez Musharraf weren't birds of a feather. Consistent with my opening remarks, I certainly hope my interesting observations turn out to be irrelevant.

Tagged as: al Qaeda, George W. Bush, Osama bin Laden, Pakistan, Pervez Musharraf, Taliban, War On Terror

Daniel DiRito | August 9, 2007 | 1:10 PM
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