CINCINNATI (TDB) -- House Minority Leader John Boehner led a congressional delegation to Islamabad six weeks ago. The visitors from Washington huddled with Pakistan's strongman, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, and publicly praised him as a rock solid ally in the war on terror. There is no mention, though, that Boehner, R-8, or anyone else in the House delegation urged Musharraf to refrain from despotic conduct, or warned him against dictatorship. Boehner is now telling conservative bloggers that he's absolutely "shocked" Musharraf declared martial law this week. The general seized absolute power by dissolving democratic institutions that tried to put the brakes on Pakistan's slide into military dictatorship.
There was an active pro-democracy movement in Pakistan at the time of Boehner's visit. It seems to have been ignored by the Americans. Here's what Justin Higgins reported in Right on the Right about what Boehner told the bloggers in a conference call after the general imposed martial law:
"I've got real concerns about what Musharraf is doing. He's been an important ally to us, and Pakistan has been an important ally in the War on Terrorism . . . I am shocked by the actions he's taken. I am hopeful he will restore the Constitution and put Pakistan back into democratic rule as soon as possible."
Others in the delegation were U.S. Rep. Pat Tiberi, a Columbus area Republican, and Charles Wilson, a Democrat who represents eastern portions of the state near the Ohio River.
How could Boehner -- or anyone for that matter -- be shocked that the general seized power? Musharraf became Pakistan's president in October 1999 by leading a military coup. The general, who headed the Army at the time, overthrew a democratically elected government. Boehner surely had to know that Musharraf had autocratic tendencies.
The Pakistani general has this account of his Sept. 15 meeting with Boehner and the Congressional delegation on his official presidential web site. There is nothing there that indicates Boehner or the others pushed him away from dictatorship. Instead, Musharraf's account said everyone emphasized his partnership with the U.S.
"The members of the Congressional delegation underscored the importance the US attached to its partnership with Pakistan and the desire to expand cooperation in diverse fields. The delegation expressed appreciation for the President's commitment to fight extremism and terrorism and recognized Pakistan's contribution to counter-terrorism efforts. The delegation also noted the sacrifices of Pakistani security personnel in this endeavour. They said there was a need for better mutual understanding and avoiding elements that could cause difficulties in the relationship."
Boehner issued this statement when he landed in Pakistan, which was about fighting terror and not about democracy for the people of that nation.
"It is important that we continue consistent, coordinated efforts with others in the international community to defeat Al Qaeda and other Islamic extremists who have declared war on us. Without question, our relationship with Pakistan is at the forefront of this strategy, and I will reaffirm to President Musharraf the importance of his country's cooperation in the face of a determined enemy."