There is virtually no public discussion of the implications of American support for a military dictatorship that imprisons Pakistani lawyers while harboring anti-US jihadists. Instead of enforcing the existing Leahy Amendment (1997), which bans military assistance to human rights violators, the US has spent approximately $10 billion in five years supporting the Musharraf regime, alienating a majority of Pakistanis, and lending credence to the claims of Muslim extremists. Having contributed to, or at least failing to have prevented Pakistan’s fall into chaos, “senior officials” quoted by the Times now are blaming Al Qaeda for plotting all along to achieve “the big prize, creating chaos in Pakistan itself.”

It is ironic that Democrats like Obama, whose campaign was built around questioning the intelligence justifying the Iraq War, would now be arguing for a preventive war in a sovereign country if evidence gathered by intelligence sources is merely “actionable.”

The further irony is that the “war on terrorism” is escalating without meaningful discussion or dissent in the midst of the most open and democratic of American processes, the presidential debates.

Congressional hearings and questioning by the presidential candidates might stall, circumscribe or prevent the escalation. An alternative policy of reducing US military assistance to Pakistan and demanding the full restoration of civil liberties there, while seeking diplomatic de-escalation in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran and Palestine, is being ignored in the march towards a wider quagmire.