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August 08, 2008

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Oh? So they get to impeach their President, but we can't impeach ours? Fuck this shit, I'm moving to Pakistan. People over there apparently have balls.

Posting rules... No profanity...

Well, Musharraf has done more to earn impeachment than Bush has. But, yes, the courage and activism displayed by the Pakistani political-legal community in opposing Musharraf does tend to make Americans look like a bunch of wankers. And I'm not so sure the move toward impeachment doesn't deserve a "yay" rather than "uh oh" for a headline.

"The emphasis on the Constitution and democracy is, I think, important, and welcome."

Right! And think how welcome it would be if that attitude were applied to the government of this country!

Or is respect for the Constitution something only the Pakistanis can manage, or try to?

Tom: if you read the first NYT piece I linked, it sounds as though the Pakistani government is doing this out of weakness, not strength. It's a coalition of two parties that have never gotten along, and have not been working well (read: at all) together recently. And this despite a whole bunch of very, very serious problems that really need attention.

And trying to impeach Musharraf is not something I would do from a position of weakness. It's a very, very dangerous business.

Zifnab's comment @ 11:06

-1 for violating posting rules.

+5 for absolute awesomeness.

Off topic, but speaking of impeachment I've been listening to all the news about Ron Suskind's new book. It still infuriates me that despite a multitude of offenses and ample of evidence that crimes were committed at the highest levels of government−and Suskind claims to have documentation that proves it− that there seems to be, at best, an infinitesimal chance of impeachment proceedings (and thinking that there’s even an infinitesimal chance shows how foolishly optimistic I am).

Also, I listened to Suskind’s interview on Fresh Air today and heard something that I hadn’t heard anywhere before. In 2006 when there were the arrests of the people suspected of doing coordinated airline bombings of UK to US flights Suskind reports that these arrests were prompted by George Bush’s domestic political concerns, i.e. the 2006 midterm elections. The British had a long running investigation of the people who were planning these bombings and had thousands of people working on the case and monitoring their every movement, simply waiting for them to do something that they could document and use to get a conviction in court. Bush, however, needed something to support the Republican parties tough on terror shtick, so he ordered a CIA official to go to Pakistan and get the ISI to arrest one of the group’s contacts. The ISI obliged, but the arrest would have lead to tipping off the bombers in the UK, therefore British police and intelligence had to jump the gun and make premature arrests in the middle of the night. That result of the early arrests is that now that those cases have gone to court there’s no damning evidence to convict these people.

In other words, George Bush wanted to look tough on terror and to do this he disrupted an investigation that was underway by doing an end-run around the British which has led to the very people that were under investigation may very well be able to get off without any criminal charges. Yet somehow the Republican party is the party that most people think is tough on terror? Um, hello? Is anyone awake!?

Posting rules... No profanity...

:-o Sorry. Forget what boards I'm on sometimes.

In other words, George Bush wanted to look tough on terror and to do this he disrupted an investigation that was underway by doing an end-run around the British which has led to the very people that were under investigation may very well be able to get off without any criminal charges. Yet somehow the Republican party is the party that most people think is tough on terror? Um, hello? Is anyone awake!?

Whoa, whoa. Waaaaaay too much nuance for the average American reader. Just put it to me in terms I can understand.

Four legs are good.
Are two legs bad or better?

Four legs are good.
Are two legs bad or better?

Clearly, the more legs the better. Arachnids for president! If Obama chooses Charlotte for VP will that placate the Hillary dead-enders?


:-o Sorry. Forget what boards I'm on sometimes.

ooooh, you've really stepped in it now.

Correction from Gary that this is a blog, not a "board" due to arrive in 3, 2, 1...

Also, two thumbs up on the profanely awesome comment.

Arachnids for president!

McCain/Shelob '08 - Age before beauty

McCain/Shelob '08 - Age before beauty

I resemble that remark!

In other words, George Bush wanted to look tough on terror and to do this he disrupted an investigation that was underway by doing an end-run around the British which has led to the very people that were under investigation may very well be able to get off without any criminal charges.

Yeah.

Also: many of the people arrested on that night Bush decided he needed an electoral stunt, were not, as far as any investigation was able to show, guilty of anything beyond hanging out on the wrong boards, chatting with the wrong people. Fortunately, the UK justice system is not yet wholly sold out...

Also: the whole "liquid bomb" schtick: while it appears that at least some of the men arrested may have believed it was possible, anyone with any sense knew it was impossible. While causing mild inconvenience to millions of flyers doesn't weigh in the scale next to killing a million people and creating several million refugees, still, I live in hope that these things too will be counted against George W. Bush in Hell.

(I've decided to start believing in Hell, since I can no longer believe that Americans will ever put George W. Bush on trial...)

In other words, George Bush wanted to look tough on terror and to do this he disrupted an investigation that was underway by doing an end-run around the British which has led to the very people that were under investigation may very well be able to get off without any criminal charges.

I didn't know about this. Thanks for ruining my day by making reality intrude. But to be honest, I'd be more surprised if Bush didn't do something sleazy like that.

(I've decided to start believing in Hell, since I can no longer believe that Americans will ever put George W. Bush on trial...)

I've had to consider that approach lately. There's no way the reality can tolerate their kind of BS. Hell will spontaneously form when Dick Cheney dies. I hope that it outlasts the heat death of the universe.

I know this is taking us well into tangent-land, but I was just thinking of hell lately and I was struck by how much I really buy into the C.S. Lewis ("Great Divorce") concept of hell. Not so much about the particulars of what hell might be like, but that he surely must be right about the idea that you can still choose to go to heaven later after you die. Just because the lake of fire exists for eternity doesn't mean that any particular person has to spend all of eternity in it.

Interesting article, except no one in their right mind would boil peroxide to distill it.

Why should the sight of the people of Pakistan standing up against a particularly evil dictator be something to fear?

now_what: the people stood up to him when they turned him out of office. At present, the government is trying to impeach him. It's a risky thing to do, what with Pakistan's history of military coups. If they have judged, correctly, that they will be able to pull it off, then I will be happy. But if, as the coverage suggests, they are doing it to keep their coalition together, that does not suggest promising things.

Bear in mind, this same government tried to rein in its intelligence services about two weeks ago. The day I arrived in Pakistan, the headline was: ISI to be brought under Interior Ministry Control. The next day, the headline was something like: Oops, we didn't mean it.

Responding to the first day's headline by saying something like: hey, why not applaud the government for trying to bring the ISI to heel? would have missed the point, I think. Succeeding in doing that would have been really good. Trying and failing, not so much. Same here. But here, the consequences are potentially a lot worse.

It's a risky thing to do, what with Pakistan's history of military coups

Door #1: They pull it off, and get rid of him.
Door #2: They don't pull it off, there's a military coup, and they get the same or another dictator.

What exactly is the downside?

Still off in tangentland--this is one of those cases where I hope Sebastian is right (about hell).

Seb- Full disclosure- I'm a deist and I'm not really sure I believe in a personal afterlife at all, Heaven or Hell. (I'm also a big fan of C.S. Lewis. James Dobson and William Donahue could learn a lot from him.)

I'm inclined to agree with Lewis, if there is a Hell. While God may be perfectly just, God is also merciful and good, and I just can't imagine how eternal punishment for temporal failure jives with justice.

now_what: he's not the military dictator now. He's the President, which is a post that has some responsibilites, but not nearly as many as the (democratically elected) Prime Minister.

Pakistan just got its first civilian, democratically elected government in years a few months ago. It would be a shame to lose it.

As the Independent said:

An alien from another universe might have been impressed yesterday by the appearance of democracy, and the claim that the vote marked a move towards a more representative system. But in Washington and London it will have been seen as a necessary charade to safeguard General Musharraf's presidency and retain him as an ally in the "war on terror".

I'll call a dictator a dictator.

Pakistan just got its first civilian, democratically elected government in years a few months ago. It would be a shame to lose it.

A civilian government that is too afraid to exercise its power because if it does the military will snuff it out? That isn't much of a civilian government.

now_what: first, he really does not have the power to be a dictator now. Wikipedia:

"The position of president in Pakistan has traditionally been one of a figurehead, with actual powers lying with the Prime Minister. However, at various times in history, often related with military coups and the subsequent return of civilian governments, changes in the Constitution have altered the powers and privileges associated with the office of the president. The current constitution gives the president reserve powers - subject to Supreme Court approval or veto - to dissolve the National Assembly of Pakistan, triggering new elections, and thereby to dismiss the Prime Minister. The president also chairs the National Security Council and appoints the heads of the Army, Navy and Air Force."

It's not nothing, but it also does not involve control of a whole lot of issues -- the economy, the courts, etc. Most power is actually wielded by the Prime Minister.

Second, a civilian government in the shadow of a powerful military that might at any point depose it is of course less -- genuinely civilian? well, less something -- than one that is not. But it still beats the hell out of a military dictatorship. And if you wait for a civilian government that meets your standards, Pakistan might never get one. (Turkey still doesn't, but I don't think it's a matter of indifference whether the military stages a coup.)

There's somewhat of a contradiction in your arguments. You're claiming, if I read correctly, that the president has limited powers, that an impeachment of that president is very likely to trigger a military coup, and that the country is not a military dictatorship.

If the president's powers are as limited as you claim then his impeachment should not be a major issue. And a country that must fear intervention of the military over minor issues is certainly a military dictatorship.

now_what: it should be a minor issue. If I were Musharraf, it would be a minor issue. But I'm not. For one thing, I suspect I'm a lot more willing to absorb affronts to my dignity. And becoming the first President in Pakistan's history to be impeached would be an affront.

Plus, this is the civilian government picking a fight with the Army. That fact alone makes it more than a minor issue, in Pakistan.

If you want to redefine 'military dictatorship' so that it does not require the existence of an actual dictator, be my guest.

this is the civilian government picking a fight with the Army. That fact alone makes it more than a minor issue

The search for your required dictator would do well to use that sentence as a guide, noting that "picking a fight with" here translates to "taking a course of action disapproved by".

"And a country that must fear intervention of the military over minor issues is certainly a military dictatorship."

That, you appear not to realize, doesn't remotely follow.

Is Turkey a military dictatorship? But setting aside counter-examples, the logic simply makes no sense. A military could intervene in any kind of government system, if it chooses to. The military could intervene in the U.S. if it chooses; that doesn't make us a military dictatorship. Whether a military is in danger of being out of control, and what kind of government exists, are simply orthogonal questions.

Musharaff doesn't dicate much these days, and is obviously not a dictator. Saying otherwise doesn't make it so.

The military could intervene in the U.S. if it chooses; that doesn't make us a military dictatorship

It could. No one fears it will. Hilzoy expressly fears that impeaching Musharraf (an almost powerless figure, in her estimation) will lead to a military intervention.

You will notice a difference between the two situations, if you pay very close attention.

Whether a military is in danger of being out of control, and what kind of government exists, are simply orthogonal questions.

That's a silly argument. Suppose there is a government elected by a vote, and suppose that any time said government makes a decision the army doesn't like, the army removes the government from power.

Is your name for this arrangement, "democracy"?

Because I would call that a military dictatorship. Perhaps your definitions are more liberal than mine.

"Because I would call that a military dictatorship. Perhaps your definitions are more liberal than mine."

Yes. They call for having a, you know, dictator.

Meanwhile, the government of Pakistan has not been removed. So by your own definition, it isn't a military dictatorship. Perhaps you should drop a note to Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Asif Ali Zardari, and Nawaz Sharif, informing them that their government is a military dictatorship. Could you perhaps explain how it is that a military dictator allows impeachment proceedings against himself to proceed? Could you explain this to Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry?

Thanks!

"Musharaff doesn't dicate much these days, and is obviously not a dictator. Saying otherwise doesn't make it so."

Yeah, well maybe we have to invent a new term for a military dictator whose re-election as president by parliament was never approved by the supreme court, which he then proceeded to suspend. Because maybe now_what is technically not correct anymore since he has since given up his military uniform, but this certainly is some kind of hybrid between civilian and military rule.

It's a little strange that your post ends with "Could you ask Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry" since Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry was suspended precisely when he was going to rule that Musharraf's re-election while still in uniform was invalid.

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