HH: A grim night in Pakistan, where in Karachi, more than 150 injured, 100 people dead in two bombing attacks on the motorcade bringing back to Pakistan Benazir Bhutto. To discuss this and other stories of the day, Columnist To the World, Mark Steyn. You can read all of Mark’s columns at www.steynonline.com. Mark, it reminds us, doesn’t it, that al Qaeda is hardly down for the count.
MS: That’s right, and I think it also reminds us that in fact, the subversion of Pakistan is one of the critical fronts in the Islamist strategy. And this is very sad. I…Benazir Bhutto is an old neighbor of mine from London, and I like her personally. But the fact of the matter is she represents the mainstream corrupt Pakistani political class. And although she presents a very attractive and modern face of Pakistan to the world, the fact of the matter is that large sections of that country would want nothing to do with any government led by her.
HH: Now is it because she is a woman, or because she is corrupt, or because of both?
MS: I think it’s a combination of factors. The predecessor regime to General Musharraf, Nawaz Sharif, was a disgustingly corrupt regime, and it actually shows, I think, the limitations of democracy. You know, it’s all very well for us to talk about free and fair elections. You fly Jimmy Carter and the UN in, and they sanction it as free and fair. But if the people you elect just take the opportunity to loot the treasury, as the Pakistani political class has mostly done, then in fact you end up inevitably with this sort of seesaw back to military dictatorship. We should be very grateful for General Musharraf. You know, at that time in the nuclear showdown with Indian, just six months after September 11th, had Nawaz Sharif still been in power, who was this sort of buffoon little braggart twerp, things could have gone an awful lot more unpleasantly.
HH: Now we’ve got, obviously, an Islamist front in Pakistan which is vibrant and quite large, and it’s got Kashmiri revolutionaries allied with Waziristan, Taliban. How stable do you consider that country to be? If they got Musharraf, what would happen?
MS: Well, I think in a sense, at the moment, it is in fact a kind of one-man state. And he has been trying to broaden the base of support for what he’s trying to do. People complain about him. He often seems to be playing both sides off against each other. But the fact of the matters is that his writ does not run in large sections of Pakistan. You mentioned Waziristan, for example, where effectively, Islamists, hard-core Islamists, are in control, and the writ of the Pakistani state does not run. So in effect, Pakistan’s claim of sovereignty over those regions is meaningless. And at some point or other, that’s an issue for the United States, because that’s where a lot of the enemies of the United States are holed up.
HH: Let’s take, stay on foreign affairs for a moment, Mark Steyn. In that part of the world, Turkey’s been much in the news this week, not only because of their threat to follow the PKK rebels over the border into Kurdistan, our ally, but also because Democrats saw this as an opportunity not to help win the war, but to help lose it by poking a stick in the eye of Turkey by bringing up the Armenian genocide. We know it happened, but what do you make of Democrat political tactics subverting the United States military’s need for free flowing of supplies?
MS: Well you know, one of the things that annoys me about the left in general is that they’re always on the right side of things after the event. And I know that’s a generalization, and I’m sure I’m going to get a bunch of e-mails about it, but that is the fact of the matter. And I don’t really want to fight the Armenian genocide. I don’t want to fight the Holocaust or the Second World War. They’re over and done, and everybody who could have been killed in those has been killed. I’d like to get on and deal with the issues now. And so for cheap political posturing of the worst kind, because Congress has expressed its view on the Armenian genocide I think at least twice before, they’re actually, as you say, poking a stick in a country which is quite a delicate situation at the moment. It’s elected a so-called soft Islamist government. I met a couple of them, they seem, you know, very pleasant fellows, but the fact of the matter is that Turkey is in a state of transition, and seems less and less like a rare exception to the state of governments in that part of the world, and something that’s more and more in line with some of its neighboring governments. So I don’t see, I don’t see what on Earth the point of this stupid thing that the Democrats thing, unless it actually is a kind of deliberate attempt to subvert a U.S. ally.
HH: Well, they will do and say pretty much anything. Earlier today, Representative Pete Stark, California’s 13th district, in the House of Representatives 25 years now. He’s a pretty powerful Democrat. He’s a very senior member on Ways and Means, runs their health committees, getting all hot and bothered about the SCHIP thing. And he lets loose with this comment, Mark Steyn.
PS: You’re going to tell us lies like you’re telling us today? Is that how you’re going to fund the war? You don’t have money to fund the war or children. But you’re going to spend it to blow up innocent people if we can get enough kids to grow old enough for you to send to Iraq to get their heads blown off for the President’s amusement.
HH: Get their heads blown off for the President’s amusement, Mark Steyn. Your reaction?
MS: Well, I think if he was just in the game of blowing heads off for amusement, he might like to start with Pete Stark, who seems to me to have flown the coop. I mean, it’s not possible to have civilized political discourse in a functioning two-party democracy if that’s one party’s contribution to the debate. So the issue here is whether other Democrats want to go down that lunatic road. The fact of the matter is he wasn’t even talking about the war here. He was talking about this stupid SCHIP thing, this health care thing, which is, you know, a whole other issue. But the fact of the matter is he couldn’t even stay on that issue without dragging in somehow the clichés of the war, that these people are children, and that the President now needs, apparently, uninsured, health uninsured children to breed, so he can send to Iraq to have their heads blown off. Well, if that is the level of political debate in this country, we might as well sign up with General Musharraf, because that is not the act of a mature democracy.
HH: But that is the level of political debate. I mean, that’s what we’re…
MS: It is, and what’s so pathetic about it is Congress is, as a parliamentary legislature, a debating chamber, to those of us who come from kind of more robust debating cultures, it’s a joke. You’re never challenged on these things. You’re just generally speaking to empty rooms for the benefit of TV cameras. The fact of the matter is that in any reasonable real debating chamber around the world, there would be loud…in the House of Commons in London or in Ottawa or in Canberra, there would be loud boos of shame, and that man would have at least been confronted with the fact that his mouth had run away with him.
HH: Speaking to cries of shame, Vicente Fox is touring the United States, lecturing us on immigration policy. This is very unseemly, especially given the efforts that the President went to, to try and help Vicente Fox get Mexico in order. Talk about a guy losing stature overnight, Mark Steyn…
MS: Well you know, I think one of the interesting things about Bush is that he was elected as the most pro-Latin American President ever. President Fox was the first guy he met with rather than as is traditional, the prime ministers of Canada and Britain. And I think he realized on September 11th that whatever economic advantage Mexico wants to gain from the United States, it’s not there in other ways. The fact of the matter is they’ve sat out the war on terror when they haven’t actively been cheering Osama bin Laden and booing the Americans at beauty contests and soccer games, and things down in Mexico City. And I think the fact of the matter is that since 2001, we’ve learned, President Bush learned the hard way the limitations of his so-called friendship with President Fox. And I’m surprised, I’m surprised, really, that in fact, this guy hasn’t been smacked down more, because he was largely useless in the broader scheme of things as president.
HH: Now I’ve got to get a quick question in for you, Mark Steyn. We have had a young friend visiting for two days, just graduated from Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism. He’s slated to begin a talk show in January of this year on Salem. His name is Guy Benson. And you know, I’ve been trying to talk him out of going into journalism, and to go get a trade or something. What’s your advice to people who want to be journalists now?
MS: I’ve never known, until I came to the United States, people who’d paid money to train for six years to be journalists. Everyone I knew when I started in London had gone into journalism, because their life had gone horribly wrong…
MS: And they needed some money in a hurry. It was something you fell back on. The idea that you’d set out to become a journalist would have struck most of these people as bizarre. And I think that’s realistically it. I think the idea of having a nice sinecure at the Minneapolis Star Tribune for thirty years, I think those days are long gone. And if you want to do something with your life, I think training for that is a complete waste of time, to be honest.
HH: And 45 seconds, the Nobel Laureate goes to Doris Lessing. Good choice? Bad choice? Indifferent choice?
MS: Well, the one thing I like about almost all the other Nobel prizes, apart from the peace prize, is that they tend to go to very elderly people. I have a small modicum of respect for Doris Lessing, and I think she’s at the end of a long and distinguished career. And in that sense, she certainly deserves it more than Al Gore deserved his prize.
HH: On that note, Mark Steyn, thanks. Always a pleasure to talk with you, www.steynonline.com, America.
End of interview.