Democracy vs. Terror – Islamic Countries Deserve Freedom Too
From The Wall Street Journal Editorial Page – September 25, 2001
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates–I feel America’s pain. Four of the happiest years of my life were spent at Harvard, where I learned of America’s freedom, tolerance, pluralism, openness and equal opportunity for all citizens. The microcosm of America that was destroyed on Sept. 11–people of all races and religions–is everything the extremists fear. These were educated men and women working side by side as equals. They were busboys and window washers earning money to send their children to college to have a better life than their parents. There were Muslims, Christians, Jews and Hindus, together and indistinguishable, building world-wide trade and communication. Modernity and diversity are the fanatics’ worst nightmare.
At this time of crisis, the American people must remember that those who use violence and terror in the name of Islam are hypocrites. Their goal is to establish theocracies of ignorance that they can control and manipulate for their own political ends. They oppose Western values. They also oppose Islamic principles.
Samuel Huntington of Harvard wrote of an inevitable clash of civilization between the West and the Islamic world. The clash is not inevitable. The precepts of Islam are consistent with those of the Judeo-Christian world which preceded it.
In the Muslim Holy Book, Abraham is our father, just as Moses and Jesus are our prophets. There will be a clash of cultures only if we allow ignorance and fanaticism to take control. Those who would use commercial airliners as bombs against cities to provoke the clash of cultures strive to destroy peaceful coexistence. They want this to be West, not of the civilized world against terror. Those in the West who would target and beat innocent Muslims as a response only jump at the fanatics’ bait, and advance the fanatics’ goals.
As prime minister of Pakistan, I stood up to, and battled with, many of these same people, including Osama bin Laden. I closed their universities that taught violence and disarmed their madrassas, or religious schools, that turned children into fanatics and criminals. I tried to restore law and order to our cities under incessant assault from terrorist attack. My government extradited terrorists, like Ramzi Yousef, who exported death and destruction to New York in the 1990s.
They struck back at me and my allies. They destroyed the Egyptian Embassy in Islamabad. They burned our National Assembly, hijacked a school bus, gunned down diplomats and businessmen in the streets, and organized and financed schemes to topple my government. Despite the political price paid, my regret is that our democratic government fell before they brought more terror to Pakistan and then to America.
As the international community prepares an effective response to the most monstrous terrorist attack in history, we can remember the lessons of history and avoid repeating the mistakes of the past.
In the closing days of the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, during a state visit to Washington, I cautioned the U.S. administration that our joint policy to defeat the Soviets had empowered the most extreme elements of the Afghan mujahideen at the expense of the moderates. The overall policy of standing against Soviet aggression in Afghanistan was right. Yet the early decisions by the CIA and its Pakistani counterpart at Interservices Intelligence to arm, train, and supply the most extreme fanatics unknowingly sowed the seed for the 21st-century terrorism now unfolding around us.
In our governments’ combined zeal to defeat the Soviets, we failed to plan a postwar Afghanistan built on coalition, consensus and cooperation. The fundamental mistake, contributing to a long-term historical calamity, was our inability to uphold in Kabul the values of freedom, democracy and self-determination that ultimately undermine the basic tenets of terrorism.
Just as democracies do not make wars of aggression, democracies also do not sponsor international terrorism. The Pakistan Peoples Party that I am proud to lead has given support to Pakistan’s military regime at a time of internal crisis. As the extremists took to the streets, we put aside partisan considerations in supporting Islamabad’s decision to assist the American-led international effort against terrorism. There is no large-scale violence in Pakistan’s cities, because the democratic parties of my country have rallied round the administration in confronting terrorism. And, as we proceed, together, to combat the immediate threat, let us keep sight of the long-range threat, and the long-range opportunity.
This is the time to promote reconciliation by encouraging moderation and compromise among Muslims and Hindus in Kashmir, Muslims and Jews in the Middle East, Muslims and Christians in the former Yugoslavia. Let us remember that building a moderate, stable and democratic political structure in Afghanistan could have marginalized the Taliban and the Osamas of this world well before they unleashed their terror war against the people of Afghanistan and of New York.
The goal of U.S. policy must be to promote stability and to strengthen democratic values. Gen. Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan’s military ruler, has made the right decision to stand with America at this moment of crisis. He has also promised elections in 12 months. South Asia’s regional security depends upon a democratic Pakistan. The U.S. and its allies need to ensure that these elections are free, fair and open to all parties and candidates.
A democratic Pakistan is the world’s best guarantee of the triumph of moderation and modernity among one billion Muslims at the crossroads of our history. The alternative of a long-term, nuclear-armed Pakistani dictatorship has consequences that could make Sept. 11 look like a mere prelude to an even more horrific future for the civilized world.
Ms. Bhutto was prime minister of Pakistan, 1988-90 and 1993-96.