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Armitage thrust a finger at me and said "Dishkiaow!", says Musharraf

In the aftermath of 9/11, Richard Armitage threatened to bomb Pakistan back to the Stone Age. 


September 22, 2006

Not only that, Armitage ran around the conference room arms outstretched pretending to be an F-16, and made shooting and bombing sounds. Poor General Musharraf was reduced to hiding under the table, such was the realism of the show Armitage put on for him.

Okay, so it didn't happen. But that "prepare to go back to the stone age" remark was made. Not directly to General Musharraf, but to his intelligence chief. And Musharaff got the point very well indeed. Co-operate with the United States in overthrowing Taliban and bloody well join the War on Terror and everything, or Pakistan would be bombed back to the stone age. General Musharraf is one of the most pragmatic men on the planet. Change sides or kaboom. He didn't choose kaboom.

It is all a little sad and ridiculous, I think. I mean, do you really have to threaten a country's president and army chief, even if indirectly, in exactly those words? Diplomacy has evolved pretty well over the last one century or so precisely to avoid ever having to use such words to convey bloody intentions. In one or two lines, Armitage rode over all the amazing evolution and sophistication of diplomatic language like an armoured vehicle. The death of subtlety had to happen while I am still alive.

General Musharaf told CBS Television that "it was a rude remark." That should be the understatement of the century.

The story is poignant. As we know, Pakistan agreed to side with the US, but according to Musharraf, it was based on his country's national interest. Truly. No one can dispute that not being bombed back to the stone age ranks quite high on any country's list of national interests. As I said, General Musharraf is nobody's fool. he got that exactly right. His exact remark was, "One has to think and take actions in the interest of the nation, and that's what I did." Right on, boy.

The full CBS show will be telecast on Sunday. 

Quite coincidentally, the White House praised Pakistan for its co-operation in the War on Terror. I suppose Pakistan's own actions in the post- 9/11 days, can be described as 'War on Terror, in Terror.' 

The story doesn't end there though. It seems that Armitage also insisted that Pakistan stop domestic expression of support for attacks on America. Which Musharraf refused, flat out. No way. Nada. In the TV interview, he justified it saying that "If somebody's expressing views, we cannot curb the expression of views." Good point. Except when it comes to really important stuff like blasphemy or human rights or protests against rape. Then they have to be suppressed at any cost. There are some kinds of expression you have ban to hold certain countries in once piece - anger against America may actually hold his country together, and he knows it.

That stone age threat still hangs in the air, probably. US President George W Bush said that he would order US military action inside Pakistan if they found Osama Bin Laden hiding there. The word he used was, "absolutely." A day later, the pakistan foreign ministry responded with a Nope and Pthhbtt...!

But we know how that will end, too. We now know all about national interest. It is all about whether your country looks forward to using stone implements.

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