Everyone knows the saying, “You can’t teach an old dog a new trick.” Apparently, this adage applies to governments, too.
Last weekend, John Bolton, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, told CNN he believes the U.S. should continue to support embattled Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, in spite of the continuing breakdown of the country’s democracy.
The bigger concern, he said, is the likelihood of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons ending up in the hands of the country’s ever growing terrorist population.
This concern comes after Musharraf’s highly publicized declaration of a “state of emergency,” and the subsequent suspension of Pakistan’s constitution and judicial system. Opposition leaders have said the move was made to prevent an anticipated Supreme Court ruling that would have barred him from another term in office.
The “emergency,” according to Musharraf, is the ever-pervasive terrorist element in his country and a judiciary that is “at cross-purposes” with the government trying to keep it citizens safe.
According to CNN, this move has left thousands of lawyers in jail and many judges under house arrest. Since the judicial process has been shut down, these prisoners will remain in custody for an indefinite amount of time and have no forum to appeal for their release.
In addition, many journalists and human rights workers have been arrested for terrorist offenses. News organizations have also been ordered not to print any stories critical of Musharraf. Any person publishing unauthorized criticism faces fines and jail time.
Western news organizations like CNN and BBC have also been taken off the air.
In the face of this breakdown, the U.S. response, up to this point, has been surprisingly mature.
Bush and others have condemned the attack on civil liberties and have been clear that should Musharraf attempt to suspend elections, it will not be tolerated.
It was only a matter of time until somebody would confuse the real issue by bringing up the point that terrorists could capitalize on this and get their hands on weapons of mass destruction.
Bolton’s assertion that continuing to support Musharraf will keep nukes safe is wrong and dangerous, for both the U.S. and the people of Pakistan.
Tyranny is one of the biggest catalysts for terrorism. Musharraf’s actions as of late have probably inspired many to join the terrorist ranks.
Also, as Bolton admitted in his interview with CNN, Islamic fundamentalists are infiltrating Pakistan’s government and military, making it a possibility that somebody on the inside could gain access to nuclear knowledge or weapons even if he is to remain in power.
The fact that Musharraf is losing the heart of his people only makes this scenario more plausible.
It would be a gross humanitarian folly for the U.S. to continue to support this man over concerns about weapons of mass destruction. While the threat of terrorists with nukes is very serious, the repercussions of such a move would be too horrendous to ignore.
We have played this game many times.
During the Red Scare, we tried to keep communism out of South America by supporting brutal fascist regimes that hid their crimes by doing many of the same things Musharraf is doing — censoring the media, suspending judicial and other rights, etc.
We may have been successful in preventing the spread of communism, but we also enabled some of the worst human rights violations in history.
We did the same in Iran, and, suffice it to say, things are a bit messy between the Iranians and the U.S.
It would be much the same in this situation.
The government would do well to keep this in mind before supporting another yet another tyrannical leader in the name of the red, white and blue.
Editorials Editor Sean Reed is a junior political science major. His column appears Mondays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.