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Another Bush Backfire

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By Dan Froomkin
Special to
Monday, November 5, 2007; 1:30 PM

President Bush's coddling of Pakistani leader Pervez Musharraf suddenly risks being exposed as another case of White House anti-terror policies going spectacularly bad.

The ultimate anti-terror backfire, of course, is the war in Iraq, which U.S. intelligence shows has helped al Qaeda much more than it's hurt it.

But now, with Musharraf declaring emergency rule over the weekend, the country that Bush considers a bulwark against terror may gain infamy as a crucible for terror instead.

Michael Hirsh writes for Newsweek: "After six years of propping up and making excuses for Pervez Musharraf . . . Washington doesn't have many friends left to call on in Pakistan -- perhaps the No. 1 generator of anti-U.S. terrorism in the world today. That's the dilemma that democracy crusader George W. Bush faces after Musharraf, one of his firmest allies, took the dictator's path and declared martial law on Saturday. . . .

"Some U.S. officials now fear that that this nuclear-armed nation is teetering on the verge of chaos, and the result could be every American's worst nightmare: that nuclear material or knowhow, or God forbid, a bomb, falls into the hands of terrorists. 'If you were to look around the world for where Al Qaeda is going to find its bomb, it's right in their backyard,' says Bruce Riedel, the former senior director for South Asia on the National Security Council."

Ben Feller writes for the Associated Press: "President Bush says he gains influence with world leaders by building personal relations with them. Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf got a dose of that diplomacy at the White House last fall, when Bush hailed him as a friend and a voice of moderation.

"'The president is a strong defender of freedom and the people of Pakistan,' Bush said that day, side by side with Musharraf.

"Over the weekend, that advocate of freedom emerged with a different world image: a military dictator willing to crush the rights of his own people. . . .

"By unleashing a police state on his country, Musharraf put in motion a trifecta of trouble for the Bush administration. A nuclear-armed Pakistan lurched further into instability, civil rights and parliamentary elections were shoved aside, and the credibility of a Bush-backed leader took an enormous hit."

Renee Schoof and Warren P. Strobel write for McClatchy Newspapers: "The imposition of emergency rule on Saturday in nuclear-armed Pakistan underscores how little influence the Bush administration has on events in a country that has become the bulwark in the U.S. fight against terrorism. . . .

"Washington's lack of influence . . . was palpable. On Friday, both Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, in Turkey for talks on Iraq, and Adm. William J. Fallon, the commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East, had warned Musharraf not to impose emergency rule. But Musharraf didn't even wait for Fallon, who was in Pakistan, to leave the country before making his declaration."

Paul Richter writes in the Los Angeles Times: "In Musharraf, an American president sometimes accused of naive neoconservative faith in democracy made the ultimate realist's bargain to help prop up an authoritarian leader.

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© 2007 The Washington Post Company

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