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Juntas Convene
Cheney and the Pakistan-Qaeda Alliance

Osama's Highwaymen: Karzai, Cheney, Bush, Rice, Musharraf

It’s a remarkable opening paragraph in the Times’ lead story Monday—even for the Times, whose sense of irony has been catatonic since around the time of the 2000 election: “Vice President Dick Cheney made an unannounced trip to Pakistan on Monday to deliver what officials in Washington described as an unusually tough message to Gen. Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan, warning him that the newly Democratic Congress could cut aid to his country unless his forces become far more aggressive in hunting down operatives with Al Qaeda.” If true, if Cheney did, in fact, tell the little dictator of Pakistan that the Democrats will pull funding if he doesn’t straighten up, has there been clearer proof of the Bush junta’s indifference to Pakistan’s alliance with the Taliban and al-Qaeda in the last five years, when Republicans controlled Congress? The Times is essentially saying that Cheney made an emergency trip to Pakistan to tell Musharraf that the good days of cozy cover-ups between him and Republicans are over. That a party actually interested in going after al-Qaeda is in charge. And what Cheney is telling us is that, yes, the Bush junta really wasn’t paying attention. That it enabled Musharraf enabling al-Qaeda’s reconstruction in Waziristan, the Pakistani province on the border with Afghanistan that’s now controlled by the Taliban-al-Qaeda alliance, and with whom Musharraf signed a truce last fall. That truce was astounding on its face. Recall the reporting from the Times:

The central government and tribal elders signed a peace agreement on Tuesday that will allow militants to operate freely in one of Pakistan's most restive border areas in return for a pledge to halt attacks and infiltration into Afghanistan. The deal is widely viewed as a face-saving retreat for the Pakistani Army, which has taken a heavy battering at the hands of the mountain tribesmen and militants, who are allied with the Taliban and Al Qaeda. But the government may have in effect ceded the militants a sanctuary in the area, called North Waziristan. In one of the most obvious capitulations since it began its campaign to rout foreign fighters from the area, the government said foreigners would be allowed to stay if they respected the law and the peace agreement. Osama bin Laden and other leaders of Al Qaeda are believed to be among the foreigners who have taken refuge in the area.

Musharraf would not have done it without the tacit, if not the explicit, approval of the Bush junta (one junta scratching another’s back). Cheney at the time was assuming his troops would keep control of Congress. He was wrong. Now he’s panicking, the Times in the last few weeks has been catching up in story after story to the truth we’ve known all along, that Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, Mr. and Mrs. Midwife to the Taliban in the 1990s, are the true problems, that without them neither al-Qaeda nor the Taliban could exist. So here we are, back in 2001. Just as Frank Rich had it, only worse.

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