Saturday, July 30, 2005

Pakistan's Rape Rooms

Remember the phrase "Saddam's rape rooms"? George W. Bush used it endlessly both before and after the invasion of Iraq to explain why the world was so much better off without Hussein.

Saddam Hussein's monuments have been removed and not only his statues. The true monuments of his rule and his character - the torture chambers, and the rape rooms, and the prison cells for innocent children - are closed. And as we discover the killing fields and mass graves of Iraq, the true scale of Saddam's cruelty is being revealed.

But the same George W. Bush doesn't have any objection to warmly shaking the hand of Pervez Musharraf, who sanctions and supports rape as an institution that pervades Pakistani society. Nor does Bush have any problem with calling Musharraf a "stand-up guy when it comes to dealing with terrorists," or with considering Pakistan a valued friend and ally.

But as Nicholas Kristof writes, "terror takes many forms, not all of them hijacked airplanes or bombed subways."

For the vast majority of humans, terror comes in more mundane ways - like the violent hands that woke Dr. Shazia Khalid as she lay sleeping in her bed, and the abuse she's suffered at the hands of Mr. Musharraf's government ever since.

Pres. Bush ached to invade Iraq, and did so, because he had a personal hatred for Saddam Hussein; and because Hussein could not be trusted to represent U.S. interests in the region -- not because Hussein was a brutal dictator, or because there were rape rooms in Iraq; and certainly not because Bush wanted to spread freedom and democracy in Iraq. It was easy and convenient for Bush to condemn Hussein for atrocities that provided a handy cover for what Bush wanted to do anyway: overthrow Hussein and take over Iraq.

When Pres. Bush and his administration condemn Pervez Musharraf and Pakistani society's complete lack of regard for the physical safety and human rights of Pakistani women in terms as strong as Bush used to condemn Saddam Hussein; and when Bush shows a readiness to risk losing Pakistan's cooperation with his political agenda if that's what it takes to stand up for the rights of Pakistani women and to help liberate Pakistani women from the hell on earth they now inhabit, then and only then will I believe that he truly gives a damn about spreading freedom or democracy anywhere.

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