By Mario Roy La Presse Translated for Truthoutby Leslie Thatcher 11/06/07

Since the imposition of a state of emergency on Saturday, the White House says it is “concerned” and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice declares herself to be “disappointed” by what is happening in Pakistan.

Now these are quite weak terms to describe the point to which the sudden hardening of the Pervez Musharraf regime smashes the entire apparatus of American foreign policy in another one of those dead ends that have become the favored whereabouts of the Bush administration.

As in Iraq and Afghanistan, where it is as perilous to stay as to go; as in the power struggle with Iran, where backing off is impossible, but increasing the pressure is still more so; as in Turkey, which must be humored because it is a significant piece on the political chessboard, but which must, at the same time, be prohibited from going in to protect its own interests in Iraq.

As in all these cases, in short, Washington finds itself face to face with Islamabad in an untenable situation. In fact, the United States may: either continue to support a dictatorship engaged in crude and outright dictatorship, which is political suicide; or it must drop the dictator, which strategically is just as suicidal!

All that without even mentioning some troubling subsidiary questions:

One: How has the $11 billion the American Treasury has cabled to Musharraf’s palace since 2001 been spent? With what degree of loyalty and conviction have the Pakistani Army and secret services pursued that good old “war against terrorism” to which their government committed itself for that $11 billion remuneration? And where is Osama bin Ladin, again?

Two: Now that the president and head of the Pakistani military has lent himself to what one might consider the most extreme of the coercive measures he may impose, what will happen if they now fail to maintain order – even a relative as well as an (of course) immoral order? And that, in a poor, divided, churning country, hammered by al-Qaeda (420 victims of attacks in four months) sharing borders with Afghanistan and with Iran, and, on top of all that, armed with nuclear weapons?

The main character in this saga, Pervez Musharraf, is, in the end, a rather mundane dictator.

He took power in 1999, obviously without recourse to democratic processes. He has kept himself in power through force and cunning. In the course of the most recent days and hours, he has acted like all the others once things follow their course: He sent the army into the streets, bombed the judicial power that had made itself ever more threatening, and intimidated the private media which are often, as elsewhere, the toughest; arrested the most visible of the recalcitrants (as of yesterday, there were officially 1,500 arrests. which means that, in fact, there were more).

He’s a clever man who understood that he could, without encountering any opposition – at least from Washington – risk a heavy-handed maneuver to consolidate his power. Understood that, a year away from the American presidential election and after an accumulation of fiascos, the Bush administration no longer had much room for maneuver – in fact, yesterday, George W. Bush refused to brandish even the tiniest little stick in the direction of the Pakistani potentate!

To sum up, Pakistan has suddenly become neither a “concern” nor a “disappointment,” but truly the accident waiting to happen that we have been bracing for, for some time now.

Translation: Truthout French language editor Leslie Thatcher.