Friday, November 09, 2007

Bush & Musharraf: Partners in Terror

Today is Friday, 9 November 2007.

Poor Pakistan: So far from God and so close to England.

When the British Empire came to what is now India and Pakistan, it came with the one interest of all colonial regimes: to loot. To this end, they created a civil administration composed of relatively thin layers of Brits supervising thicker layers of corrupt locals willing to betray their comrades. The same system obtained in the military. When the British abandoned India and Pakistan in 1947, the corrupted local elites assumed much power in politics, the bureaucracies, and the military.

In contrast to Pakistan, India’s military has never played a significant role in politics, due mainly to a wealthier economy, more vigorous political parties, stronger civil administrations, and lack of need for it to function in a police role. In Pakistan, a poorer, more restive population and relatively weak political parties gave its military more of a policing function, and, in 1958, building on widespread public dissatisfaction with corrupt political elites, General Muhammed Ayub Khan seized power.

Of course, given the origin of Pakistan’s military as an instrument of British corruption, the coup merely gave the officer cadre a turn at lining their pockets. And so it would go to the present time, with corrupt military and civilian elites exchanging pride of place at the trough.

It is hard to see how the history of Pakistan could have turned out differently. Wherever European colonial regimes sufficiently distorted and degraded conquered societies, the same pattern obtained (cf. France in South Vietnam and Chad, the USA/USE in the Philippines, etc.). And, of course, the core instrument of colonial conquest and rule was terror, implied or executed, a strategy eagerly adopted by the succeeding local elites.

In the grand American tradition, when General Perez Musharraf seized power in 1999, the Clinton regime paid lip service to democracy but real service to muscular stability. After 11 September, the Bush-Cheney regime eagerly adopted the Musharraf state terror dictatorship as a full partner in the chimerical “global war on terror”. As W. Bush likes to say: If you support a terrorist, you are a terrorist.

It is hard to imagine a way forward for Pakistan. The distortions and dysfunctionalities imposed by the British Empire on Pakistan are seemingly intractable, and the country thus seems fated to suffer from continued alternating military and civilian rule, with the people always condemned to exploitation and terror.

The British built well.


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