Saturday, August 16, 2008

Ron Suskind on Democracy in Pakistan and the U.S. Role

Excerpts From
The Way of the World: Ron Suskind on How the Bush Admin Deliberately Faked an Iraq-al-Qaeda Connection and Undermined Diplomacy, Democracy in Pakistan and Iran; August 13, 2008

AMY GOODMAN: ...Right now, there's a big move to impeach the president of Pakistan. Talk about your findings in relation to Pervez Musharraf and Benazir Bhutto.

RON SUSKIND: Just briefly, one of the big themes of the book is the enormous gap between word and deed, between official spoken morality and sweeping statements and the dark practices of the United States, all of which are coming out. You know, the fact is, that doesn't work in a hearts and minds era of increasing transparency. It just doesn't. And ultimately, it bleeds away the most precious fluid, our moral authority, which is the source of true power in the world. The book says it again and again.

Now, here's an example, with Benazir Bhutto, who I spend the last six months of her life with. I'm seeing her all the time, talking to her sometimes every other night.


RON SUSKIND: Well, you know, the fact is, she ends up becoming, in a way, an agent of US values, a vessel of them. You know, and Bhutto, of course, is corrupt right down to her socks, has been for years. She is a South Asian political boss. That's the way it works there.

But what happens as it goes through these last six months of her life, she sort of inadvertently, as she says to me in her last days—we're in Quetta together, just before she dies. We're getting chased around town by suicide bombers. We end up in the house of a warlord, which is the only safe place in town. And, you know, after all of our discussions, she's like, "You know, Ron? You know, I've been talking about these democratic values my whole life, but finally, just in the last month, I'm really starting to understand their power."

Part of it is Musharraf's missteps, putting her under house arrest, the terrible explosion in Karachi that killed 500 people, many of them her supporters. You know, she's seeing bigger crowds. She's becoming again a kind of hero martyr in the country, something she never expected. Musharraf's numbers are plummeting, Bhutto's are rising. She says to me, "Frankly, my success and his failure are now the same things. There's not going to be coexistence. It's putting the United States in a choice position. They've got to choose. And clearly, they've chosen Musharraf over me."

AMY GOODMAN: But hadn't they brought her back? Actually, the US pushed her back to shore up Musharraf.

RON SUSKIND: That's right, absolutely, but, you know, the fact is, what becomes clear is that democracy—not our kind, but maybe their kind in Pakistan—really took hold in Pakistan because of the missteps of force, both, you know, encouraged by the United States and carried forward by Musharraf, and Bhutto suddenly actually is becoming the thing she imagined, maybe even hoped for: a real vessel of democratic ideals, which might have, frankly, turned the tide in that whole region.

You know, interestingly, at this moment, Bhutto says, you know, "Look at my situation. I'm now going to wash away the entire Musharraf power structure, because the fact is, is I'm rising, and he's plummeting. That's one opponent. Also, the jihadists are realizing that I might create a counterpoint in this whole region to bin Laden. So now I've got two enemies, of course, who have been in an unholy alliance—dictatorial power, messianic radicalism—for many years, and I have no protection. Why? Because Dick Cheney won't make the phone call." We go on and on about this. She says, "Why? Explain it to me, the idea that they assured me Cheney would make the call to Musharraf simply to say, 'You're the dictator, make sure she is protected. She has to make it to election day. If she doesn't, we're going to hold you responsible.'"

Bhutto, at this point, realizes she's essentially been abandoned because the US has chosen illegitimate power over spoken principle. It's an extraordinary finish to her life of real clarity and also clarity about, oddly, the power, truly, of democratic ideals, if you actually believe in them. You know, it's an extraordinary story.

AMY GOODMAN: And what does President Musharraf say? What does the general say?

RON SUSKIND: Well, there's an amazing moment where Musharraf—I have this, you know, from our variety of sources, obviously, is that Musharraf says to Bhutto at a key moment, when she says, "Am I going to be protected?" he says to her, "Your safety is based on the state of our relationship. Make no mistake." I mean, it's all but a—like a Mafia threat. And this is something that the United States, frankly, deep down understands, too. They let this process unfold. And ultimately, folks around Bhutto now are saying that she was abandoned by America, and they're using Musharraf's comment, again, on the record in the book—I've talked to Bhutto about it many times before she died—as a cause to help impeach Musharraf now in Pakistan and maybe even take it further than that.

AMY GOODMAN: Where were you when she was assassinated?

RON SUSKIND: I had just gotten back. You know, it's—you know, I went to Afghanistan after I saw Bhutto. I saw her ten days before she died, and then I was just here in America. And it was quite harrowing.

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