In an op-ed published by The New York Times, former Pakistan prime minister Benazir Bhutto (1988 to 1990; 1993 to 1996) and head of the Pakistan People’s Party, writes:

Pakistan is a military dictatorship. Last Saturday, Gen. Pervez Musharraf removed all pretense of a transition to democracy by conducting what was in effect yet another extraconstitutional coup.

In doing so he endangered the viability of Pakistan as an independent state. He presented the country’s democratic forces with a tough decision – acquiesce to the brutality of the dictatorship or take over the streets and show the world where the people of Pakistan really stand.

General Musharraf also presented the democratic world – and especially the countries of the West – with a question. Will they back up their democratic rhetoric with concrete action, or will they once again back down in the face of his bluff? …

It is dangerous to stand up to a military dictatorship, but more dangerous not to. The moment has come for the Western democracies to show us in their actions, and not just in their rhetoric, which side they are on.

The Stiletto hates to break it to Bhutto, but the Bush Administration favors cynical pragmatism over principle to hold together the iffy coalition of Muslim countries helping the effort in Iraq – no matter what.

For instance, Turkish and Saudi operatives have been caught red-handed funneling insurgents or funds for their upkeep into Iraq, but the U.S. looks the other way and provides massive economic and military aid packages to both countries. Despite ritualistic hand-wringing by various members of Congress, the U.S. will look the other way and continue to pour money into Pakistan to support various military and foreign policy objectives.

Here’s WaPo columnist David Broder’s description of what India – Pakistan’s next door neighbor geographically, but a world apart politically – thinks of the tepid U.S. response to Musharraf declaring martial law:

During a visit to New Delhi that happened to coincide with the crisis, I found that Indians were both puzzled and dismayed that the U.S. government seemed so ambivalent about Musharraf’s actions. The Indian press reported, along with U.S. journals, that the Bush administration had sent urgent messages to Musharraf counseling him against the crackdown.

But when he ignored their advice and declared martial law, President Bush and the State Department offered only the mildest reprimands and immediately signaled a willingness to continue to support Musharraf and his regime.

To many here, that made it appear as if democracy was less important to the U.S. government than whatever help Musharraf might supply in fighting the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

And consider how the Bush administration chose pragmatism over principle by sending a parade of cabinet members to the House of Representatives to parrot Turkey’s Armenian Genocide denial and derail a symbolic resolution acknowledging Ottoman Turkey’s crime against humanity.

If the Turks were able to bully Bush on the Armenian Genocide Resolution – an internal U.S. matter – Musharraf can be assured that the U.S. will do nothing to force him to hold parliamentary elections, should he decide to renege on his promise to do so.

And you can be sure that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, too, understands that the Turks have unmanned Bush. No amount of Viagra can counteract U.S. impotence in the Middle East now.

Note: The Stiletto writes about politics and other stuff at The Stiletto Blog.

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