Thursday, September 6, 2007
Jacob Hornberger’s Blog [Blog Archives]
Lessons About Dictatorship from Pakistan
by Jacob G. Hornberger
The Washington Post carried an interesting article yesterday about dictatorship that provides valuable lessons in both domestic and foreign policy for the American people.
The article was about Pervez Musharraf, the military dictator of Pakistan who took power in a coup in 1999 and has refused to permit democratic elections to take place in the country since then.
Musharraf is a good friend and ally of President Bush, a fact that constitutes strong circumstantial evidence that President Bush’s claim that he ordered the invasion of Iraq in order to spread democracy was a lie. If Bush was really committed to democracy-spreading, as he claims he is, then why would he be an ardent supporter of one of the biggest anti-democratic regimes in the world — that of Pakistan’s army General Pervez Musharraf?
Another lesson from the article relates to how dictators use national emergencies to expand power. Since Pakistani law prevents Musharraf from remaining as president, he is considering declaring a national emergency, which would enable him to cancel elections and crack down on civil liberties. Musharraf, like Bush, understands that emergencies provide a time-honored way for government officials to expand power and take away people’s freedom.
That, of course, is what 9/11 was all about — using the terrorist “emergency” to secure passage of the USA PATRIOT Act and the Military Commissions Act, expand the warrantless wiretapping, increase secret judicial proceedings, implement the “enemy-combatant” doctrine, cancel habeas corpus, engage in torture, sex abuse, and rendition, and deny people due process of law, right to counsel, and trial by jury.
It shouldn’t surprise anyone that politicians use emergencies to expand their powers. Consider, for example, scorpions. They sting because that’s what scorpions do — they sting. It’s their nature. Politicians do whatever they can to get more power over more human beings. It’s their nature. Of course they rely on emergencies to expand their power because they know that emergencies are among the best ways to accomplish that.
What has been so disappointing since 9/11 has been the reaction of the American people. They fell for the whole shebang, hook, line, and sinker. Frightened and quaking after 9/11, Americans told the politicians — “Do whatever you need to do to keep us safe, even if you have to cancel the entire Bill of Rights and Constitution. We don’t care. We’re not terrorists and therefore we have nothing to worry about.”
Thus, Americans of our time became one of the many people in history who traded their freedom for security. Of course, they have now learned what others in history have learned when they made that trade — they got neither liberty nor security. After all, despite all the infringements on their freedom, how secure do Americans really feel? The irony is that despite the most powerful government in history, Americans are the most frightened people in the world. It’s not a coincidence. It’s causation. Big governments result in little citizens.
If President Bush follows through with Vice President Cheney’s wish to attack Iran, you can rest assured that there will be plenty of new “emergencies” to justify new dictatorial powers that Bush and Cheney will be exercising. Let’s just hope that Bush’s close friend Pervez Musharraf, the unelected military dictator of Pakistan, doesn’t convince Bush to use the “emergencies” as a way to postpone the 2008 presidential election.
Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.