Thursday, November 08, 2007

Show me the money

By Michael J.W. Stickings

I've already written about Tyrant Musharraf here and here -- on what he is doing in Pakistan and to the Pakistani people, as well as on his friendly alliance with Bush and Bush's reaction to his power grab. For an excellent analysis of the situation, I highly recommend this piece -- "The Freedom Agenda Fizzles" -- by Fred Kaplan at Slate. Here are a few of key passages:

The state of emergency in Pakistan signals yet another low point in President George W. Bush's foreign policy -- a stark demonstration of his paltry influence and his bankrupt principles. More than that, the crackdown locks us in a crisis -- a potentially dangerous dynamic -- from which there appears to be no escape route.


It should now be clear, if it wasn't already, that Musharraf has been diddling Bush & Co. the past three years or longer.


One consequence of this crisis is that Bush's "freedom agenda" is finally bankrupt. He will never again be able to invoke it, even as a rhetorical ploy, without evoking winces or laughter.

It was bankrupt long before this, I would argue, but the point is well-taken.

Essentially, Bush has given Musharraf about $10 billion in aid (i.e., to fight the war on terror, more specifically, al Qaeda and Taliban forces inside Pakistan) -- and "nearly all of [it] has gone to its military," not to democratic instutitions, or for the purpose of building up democratic institutions, or otherwise for supporting Pakistan's pro-democracy movement. But it's not just that the money has gone to the military, that is, to Musharraf's own instrument of power, an instrument of tyranny, it's that, as Spencer Ackerman explains at TPM Muckraker, no one on this side quite knows where the money has gone:

After Pervez Musharraf declared martial law this weekend, Condoleezza Rice vowed to review U.S. assistance to Pakistan, one of the largest foreign recipients of American aid. Musharraf, of course, has been a crucial American ally since the start of the Afghanistan war in 2001, and the U.S. has rewarded him ever since with over $10 billion in civilian and (mostly) military largesse. But, perhaps unsure whether Musharraf's days might in fact be numbered, Rice contended that the explosion of money to Islamabad over the past seven years was "not to Musharraf, but to a Pakistan you could argue was making significant strides on a number of fronts."

In fact, however, a considerable amount of the money the U.S. gives to Pakistan is administered not through U.S. agencies or joint U.S.-Pakistani programs. Instead, the U.S. gives Musharraf's government about $200 million annually and his military $100 million monthly in the form of direct cash transfers. Once that money leaves the U.S. Treasury, Musharraf can do with it whatever he wants. He needs only promise in a secret annual meeting that he'll use it to invest in the Pakistani people. And whatever happens as the result of Rice's review, few Pakistan watchers expect the cash transfers to end.

About $10.58 billion has gone to Pakistan since 9/11. That puts Pakistan in an elite category of U.S. foreign-aid recipients: only Israel, Egypt and Jordan get more or comparable U.S. funding. (That's only in the unclassified budget: the covert-operations budget surely includes millions more, according to knowledgeable observers.) While Israel and Egypt get more money, Pakistan and Jordan are the only countries that get U.S. cash from four major funding streams: development assistance, security assistance, "budget support" and Coalition Support Funds. Pakistan, however, gets most of its U.S. assistance from Coalition Support Funds and from budget support. And it's those two funding streams that have minimal accountability at best.

That's right, there's yet more evidence of gross negligence and lack of accountability in the Bush Administration. But this isn't just about appointing some Bush crony to some position in some government department somewhere, this is about sending billions and billions of dollars to a regional nuclear power run by a military dictator whose record in the war on terror has thus far been sketchy at best -- he has cracked down on Islamists, more or less (and more out of self-interest), but the safe haven for al Qaeda and the Taliban in the northwest remains as safe as ever -- and who apparently has no interest whatsoever in democratic reform (and certainly not in sharing power with Benazir Bhutto). Indeed, Musharraf is now in the process of cementing his tyrannical rule -- and it is unaccountable American largesse, a monetary of Bush's friendship, that is propping him up.

We might not know where the money has gone, but we do know that the crackdown on the pro-democracy movement and on Musharraf's other opponents is being funded, in part, by the U.S.

Yes, so much for Bush's freedom agenda.

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