To Bush, Spreading Freedom Means Arms Sales To Those Who Assist Terrorists
When we hear the Administration talk about its commitment to spreading freedom and democracy throughout the Islamic world and around the globe, one would assume that spreading freedom and democracy means opening up societies to greater political participation, opening up economies so that the benefits of a capitalist system can be spread on many, and allowing an expansion of cultural opportunities. This administration has been clear since Day One that what many would think is meant by spreading freedom and democracy really means the insertion of multinational corporations and free-market capital institutions into developing countries so that they can be plundered. We also know now that the Bush Administration’s concept of spreading freedom and democracy also means letting the military industrial complex have additional opportunities to make profits while sparking arms races in global hot spots.
On the same day that the Los Angeles Times broke the story that Pakistan has been discovered to be illegally buying nuclear weapon-making equipment from American firms, with the White House preventing law enforcement agencies from stopping it, the Bush Administration announces that it plans to sell President Musharraf F-16 fighter jets. This is the same White House that has already stopped the FBI from investigating Saudi links to terrorism, and this is the same President Musharraf who has prevented the United States from getting access to Pakistani national hero A. Q. Khan, who we know has assisted Iran, North Korea, Libya, and even Al Qaeda in its efforts to go nuclear. It is also the same President Musharraf who has been likely harboring and assisting Mr. Dead or Alive, Osama Bin Laden, whose trail the Pakistanis conveniently told the world had gone cold last week. Yet Mr. Bush is selling Musharraf these advanced fighters as a reward for his cooperation in the war on terror. Does anyone really think outside of the White House that Musharraf has any real intention of capturing Bin Laden, especially after getting the F-16s for doing nothing?
Musharraf began his efforts to buy the nuclear weapon-making equipment in 2003, after Bush began treating him as a key ally in the war on terror. This was also after Rummy allowed Bin Laden to escape at Tora Bora into Pakistan. Yet it appears that not only is Bush actually crippling the war on terror by his protection of the Saudis and Pakistanis, he is also being played for the fool by both countries. I can still remember California GOP representative Christopher Cox wailing about how Bill Clinton had allowed China to gain our nuclear secrets, yet I hear no Republican in Congress wailing now about how Bush is actually helping to arm and support our sworn enemies in Al Qaeda, and those host countries who support Bin Laden like Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.
Stupidly, the administration and others claim that this deal will give Bush more influence with Musharraf in getting access to Dr. Khan and getting help in capturing Bin Laden, and reflects the growing importance of Pakistan vis-à-vis India. Yet Musharraf has shown time and time again that he has done little to capture Bin Laden because he knows he doesn’t have to in order to get what he wants out of Bush. And Musharraf also knows that every time the United States leans on him about Bin Laden or Dr. Khan, all he has to do is wail about how vulnerable he is from Islamic forces in his own country. Worse yet, the F-16 deal seems to equate the repressive Pakistan with India, and in an ugly attempt to assuage the Indian government over the deal, Condi Rice said we’ll sell even better planes (F-18’s) and weapon systems (the Patriot missile system) to New Delhi (how does that make Musharraf feel about his acquisition?) The Bushies feel they are being clever because they sell F-16’s to Pakistan and then cement a deal on joint production of F-16s and F-18s, as well as energy deals with India. Washington is trying a balancing act between the two countries by appealing to India’s desire to be a superpower, yet at the end of the day, we’re still being strung along by Musharraf, and Bush is blocking attempts to hold Pakistan and Saudi Arabia accountable for arming and supporting terrorists. Bin Laden still runs free even though the Pakistani military knows exactly what it is looking for, Dr. Khan is still inaccessible, and we have equated the spread of freedom and democracy with arms sales.
In fact, aside from Musharraf, the only clear winner in this version of spreading freedom and democracy in the Islamic world is Bush’s own home-state military industrial complex campaign contributor Lockheed Martin in Fort Worth. Go figure.
There is an alternate view of all this, which could be called the Realist's view of the transaction and this backstory, which goes something like this:
1. Let Musharraf have his weapons; it allows us to set the pretext for buying our way back into the good graces of New Delhi, and holding off their headlong rush into the arms of Russia and China. Besides, this arms sale may actually prod Musharraf to do something for us on Bin Laden and Khan.
2. Capturing Bin Laden now is nothing more than symbolic, since we have misplayed the war on terror so bad by diverting into Iraq at a critical moment that Al Qaeda has splintered into a more deadly and multi-headed hydra that capturing Bin Laden is irrelevant.
3. Pakistan and India were going to become major military players anyway; why not let our defense firms get the booty?
4. Playing to India's desire to be a superpower, and Musharraf's need to show his military that he can deliver new toys only helps them and us at the same time. Plus, both of these countries went nuclear before the Bush Administration came on board, so big deal.
5. Sure, we're getting played by Musharraf, but he's our boy, and not an enemy. We're better off with him there, playing us, than taking steps to push along his demise. Selling him somewhat outdated F-16's to puff up his pride is a small price to pay in the big scheme of things.
Even if you accept the Realist's view of all this, one can still come away from these developments over the last four years with an uneasy sense of the commitment the Bush Administration has to fighting terror and the proliferation of nuclear weapons, and a serious question as to where they place their real priorities.