The journey to the martial law just imposed on Pakistan by its self-appointed president, the dictator Pervez Musharraf, began in Washington on September 11, 2001. On that day, it so happened, Pakistan’s intelligence chief, Lt. General Mahmood Ahmed, was in town. He was summoned forthwith to meet with Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, who gave him perhaps the earliest preview of the global Bush doctrine then in its formative stages, telling him, “You are either one hundred percent with us or one hundred percent against us.”
The next day, the Administration, dictating to the dictator, presented seven demands for a Pakistan that wished to be “with us” must meet. These concentrated on gaining its cooperation in assailing Afghanistan’s Taliban regime, which had long been nurtured by the Pakistani intelligence services in Afghanistan and had, of course, harbored Osama Bin Laden and his Al Qaeda training camps. Conspicuously missing was any requirement to rein in the activities of Mr. A.Q. Khan, the “father” of Pakistan’s nuclear arms, who, with the knowledge of Washington, had been clandestinely hawking the country’s nuclear-bomb technology around the Middle East and North Asia for some years.
Musharraf decided to be “with us”; but, as in so many countries, being with the United States in its Global War on Terror turned out to mean not being with one’s own people. Although Musharraf, who came to power in a coup in 1999, was already a dictator, he had now taken the politically fateful additional step of very visibly subordinating his dictatorship to the will of a foreign master. In many countries, people will endure a homegrown dictator but rebel against one who seems to be imposed from without, and Musharraf was now courting this danger.
A public opinion poll in September ranking certain leaders according to their popularity suggests what the results have been. Osama bin Laden, at 46 percent approval, was more popular than Musharraf, at 38 percent, who in turn was far better liked than President Bush, at a bottom-scraping 7 percent. There is every reason to believe that, with the imposition of martial law, Musharraf’s and Bush’s popularity have sunk even further. Wars, whether on terror or anything else, don’t tend to go well when the enemy is more popular than those supposedly on one’s own side.
Are You with Us?
Even before the Bush Administration decided to invade Iraq, the immediate decision to bully Musharraf into compliance defined the shape of the policies that the President would adopt toward a far larger peril that had seemed to wane after the Cold War, but now was clearly on the rise: the gathering nuclear danger. President Bush proposed what was, in fact if not in name, an imperial solution to it. In the new dispensation, nuclear weapons were not to be considered good or bad in themselves; that judgment was to be based solely on whether the nation possessing them was itself judged good or bad (with us, that is, or against us). Iraq, obviously, was judged to be “against us” and suffered the consequences. Pakistan, soon honored by the administration with the somehow ridiculous, newly coined status of “major non-NATO ally,” was clearly classified as with us, and so, notwithstanding its nuclear arsenal and abysmal record on proliferation, given the highest rating.