Democrats must oppose Islamic dictatorships
Published 12/4/02 in abridged form at the Duke Chronicle
Overdue introspection by Democrats is sadly dominated by those who would sacrifice principles for power and those who would sacrifice both for ego. Too many “Democrats” mimic Republicans to win office (failing to wonder why voters wouldn’t vote for the real thing) and too many “liberals” chase chic causes like bashing America & globalization or whitewashing Islamic fundamentalism for sheer narcissism.
A coherent vision for America that is superior to the President’s has yet to emerge. There is no shame in being liberal, either in foreign policy or domestic affairs. On both counts, Democrats have great scope to challenge the Republican agenda.
After Vietnam and Iran’s hostage crisis, Democrats ceded defense and foreign affairs to Republicans for a quarter century. Yet liberals have an honored and esteemed record in this arena. All 3 of the 20th century conflicts in which America fought and built democracies in the aftermath (World Wars I and II, Korean War), as well as the Berlin Airlift and Cuban missile crisis, were won by Democratic Presidents; the mantle of Wilson, FDR, Truman, and Kennedy should be reclaimed by Democrats in contrast to the cynical support of dictatorships which is the hallmark of Republican administrations.
It is therefore past time that the Democrats challenge the President on why he continues to mollycoddle Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. The first is the prime exporter of ideology and money for Islamic fundamentalists, the breeding ground of 15 of 9/11’s hijackers (for which there has yet been no apology and no change in the brainwashing that passes for society and education in that country). While evidence accumulates that the wife of the Saudi ambassador to the US sent tens of thousands of dollars to the wife of a man who gave thousands of dollars to 2 of 9/11’s hijackers, the administration ignores, suppresses, or brushes off these connections. This blind eye is of a pattern with Bush administration efforts to spirit out the relatives of bin Laden after 9/11 prior to interrogation, efforts to block the 9/11 victims’ lawsuit against the Saudi royals, and the appointment of Henry Kissinger (with long connections to Saudi royals and Pakistani dictators) to chair the 9/11 inquiry. Might long personal and financial connections between the Bush family and the Saudi royals through the Carlyle financial group have anything to do with all this?
Meanwhile, Pakistan is a country where the Islamic fundamentalist gunman who killed motorists in Langley, Virginia, was honored with a moment of silence in its National Assembly (as well as a hero’s funeral). Pakistan’s leading exports are nuclear weapons to North Korea and terrorists to India (ironically coupled to their import of terrorists besieged in Kunduz last year). Pakistan traded nuclear weapons technology for ballistic missiles from North Korea not just for years before 9/11 but this past July, using American military transport planes provided after 9/11 to boot (conveniently ignored by the President)! Bush administration officials now seek to give billions of dollars more aid to General Musharraf, continuing the fine Republican tradition of supporting military dictators, especially Pakistani ones (including Yahya Khan who committed the most intense genocide ever of Muslims, on Bangladeshis, in 1971 and Zia, who was instrumental in propagating shari’a in Pakistan and arming the Afghan mujahadeen).
“Allies” Saudi Arabia and Pakistan are dictatorships (one by mullahs and royals, the other by the military) that created the Taliban and continue to succor Islamic fundamentalists; their regimes are charter members of the axis of evil. During the Cold War, Republicans pioneered the tradition of foreign policy predicated on hypocritical expediency for the sake of oil or geopolitical games, engineering coups against democratically elected leaders in favor of military or right-wing dictators in Iran, Chile, Guatemala, Indonesia, and Zaire. This sorry saga of supporting dictators is now reaching new heights in the Bush administration with policies on Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Eritrea, and the administration’s support for the military coup in Venezuala earlier this year. Pinnacles of perversity are scaled by President Bush’s hosting 9/11’s checkbook terrorist paymasters at his ranch and his giving hundreds of millions of American taxpayer dollars to subsidize General Musharraf, landlord of much of the Taliban and al Qaeda, and quite possibly Osama bin Laden himself. Support of Saddam Hussein and the Afghan mujahadeen during the Reagan era returned to haunt us, as myopic and colossal errors in the guise of pragmatism. The US is poised to repeat these mistakes on a much larger scale with its continued support of Saudi Arabia and Pakistan; the argument that current regimes beat the alternatives is self-servingly dishonest, for the current regimes succor terrorists to blackmail others. It is incumbent on Democrats to challenge the President’s folly by emphasizing that holding fast to our democratic ideals best serves our interests in fighting Islamic fundamentalist imperialism.
Other domestic issues offers many opportunities for Democrats to lay out an agenda for progress with creative and innovative solutions for national problems, which I will explore in a subsequent column. But on national security, candor compels that the Democrats make the President realize that by continuing support for Saudi Arabia & Pakistan, he betrays the moral clarity he donned as the mantle of his presidency.