'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Musharraf Off the Script 

Gen. Pervez Musharraf, President of Pakistan, has had a busy couple of days. On Sunday he told Wolf Blitzer that the Iraq War was a mistake and that the world is now less safe because of it. Here's the transcript:

BLITZER: Was the U.S. justified to go to war and remove Saddam Hussein?

MUSHARRAF: Well, we were against it initially. Pakistan was against going into Iraq. And now, with hindsight, one can say that we've landed ourselves into additional problems.

But having said that, I would like to say that Saddam Hussein was certainly not a person who was loved in Iraq. He was a hated man. He was very cruel. Those are the realities.

But when we go inside and when we are now inside as foreigners, people at the lower level don't like the visibility of foreign troops ruling their country.

BLITZER: So the bottom line, is the world safer today as a result of the removal, the invasion of Iraq, or is the world less safe?

MUSHARRAF: Oh, I think it's less safe, certainly. We are...

BLITZER: So it was a mistake for President Bush to order this invasion, with hindsight?

MUSHARRAF: Yes, with hindsight, yes. We have landed ourselves in more problems, yes.

After the taped interview aired Blitzer tried to downplay Musharraf's comment by quoting an unnamed "Pakistani government spokesman" as saying that "General Musharraf didn't want to be that categorical in his assertion that President Bush had made a mistake by invading Iraq," which is odd, given that a day later Musharraf expressed much the same opinion on the BBC2's Newsnight:

Asked if the war on terror had made the world less safe, President Musharraf said: "Yes, absolutely. Unfortunately, we are not addressing the core problems, so therefore we can never address it in its totality. We are fighting it in its immediate context, but we are not fighting it in its strategic long-term context."

Also, yesterday he refused to tell the UK Times that he thought the situation in Iraq was improving when asked directly:

Q: Given what you know about terrorism and extremists: looking at Iraq do you think its improving?

A: I wouldn't see say the position is getting better or worse…It is a very difficult situation on the political side. On the Sunni side, I think whatever we are doing, we are fighting terrorism. And trying to think about political change. I am of a conviction that the Palestinian situation is at the heart of the problem. And the solution will pull the rug under all extremist organisations. So it is an indirect strategy and I am following an indirect strategy influencing Iraq and other places

I find it interesting that in all of these interviews Musharraf repeatedly states that the best way to stop terrorism is to address its root causes. It's an obvious point that one doesn't see mentioned in the Western media often.

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