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Greta Van Susteren Does Not Question John Bolton’s Suggestion The U.S. Should Interfere With Internal Politics In Pakistan

Reported by Ellen - December 23, 2009 -

Co-authored by Fred Sanders

John Bolton appeared on On The Record last Thursday (12/17/09) to argue that the Obama administration should be doing more to “influence” the domestic political situation in Pakistan. He told the audience the U.S. should “try and influence personnel and personnel decisions within the Pakistani military to favor a pro-American anti-radicalism Islamic line.” Instead of questioning what he was exactly advocating, host Greta Van Susteren helped advance his meme by suggesting his assessment was correct. With video.

Van Susteren began by referring to a New York Times article about U.S. diplomats being “harassed by parts of the Pakistani military and intelligence services,” mainly by refusals to extend diplomats’ visas and searches of their diplomatic vehicles. But she also referenced a recent ruling by the Supreme Court of Pakistan stripping President Zardari, as well as numerous other politicians and military figures, of previously granted immunity to prosecution for alleged past acts of corruption.

Van Susteren asked, "Is it likely that the President... will be tried for corruption and how will that de-stabilize an already unstable government?"

Bolton joined the two issues by saying, "I actually think the two events, the Supreme Court decision stripping immunity and this evidence of anti-Americanism in parts of the Pakistan military are tied together. I think what they both signify is a continuing weakening of Zardari's position which is bad news for us and bad news for the continuing fight against terrorism.”

Later, at about the 2 minute mark in the video below, Bolton said, “I think what’s going on here, is the continuing instability that in effect the U.S. helped bring on by pushing former President General Pervez Musharaf out of office a couple of years ago trying to force Pakistan into elections. I think the U.S. focus going forward has to be to continue to press the Pakistani military to take the fight against Taliban and Al Qaeda forward and also to try to influence, and this is difficult I acknowledge, but to try and influence personnel and personnel decisions within the Pakistani military to favor a pro-American anti-radicalism Islamicist line (my emphasis). We’ve allowed a lot of time to go by without enough education of Pakistani officers in the United States and I think you can see at the lower levels and some at the higher levels are decidedly anti-American. I think that’s what this harassment and denial of visas in part is all about.”

Just how was Bolton thinking of “influencing” the Pakistani military personnel to be more pro-American? Was he suggesting meddling and interfering in the internal affairs of a sovereign nation? But instead of pressing for more details, Van Susteren offered what seemed like a tacit approval by talking about the anti-Americanism she found in a recent visit to Pakistan. “It’s astounding how hostile we witnessed this country many are against the United States.”

Bolton said, “This anti-Americanism is a consequence, it’s an evidence of the growth of radical Islamism… We are really in a race against time inside Pakistan. Our ability to influence events is not great but we’ve got to continue to do it to make sure that the government is not further destabilized, fall into the hands of radical Islamists and see that large arsenal of nuclear weapons potentially deliverable to terrorists around the world."

There was that suggestion of “influence” again. And again Van Susteren did not press for details. Instead, she said, “It’s almost as if we’re caught between a rock and a hard place in Pakistan because… they seem so ungrateful about the $7.5 billion (in aid)… My first thought was, ‘Well, then, we won’t give it to you. We’ll take it back.’ But if we do that, then a government that’s very unstable, it’s sort of teetering in existence, is gonna fail and it’s gonna go to the Islamic extremists.”

Bolton said, “The fact is, when it comes to Pakistan, you’ve gotta grit your teeth, you’ve gotta keep your eye on our national security objective, which is making sure that country’s nuclear weapons don’t fall into the hands of Pakistani Taliban and Al Qaeda, and you’ve gotta play a long and determined game to move the military and civil society to away from Islamism and toward a recognition that they’ve got a place in the broader world. That’s not easy. It’s the source of enormous frustration. But again, it’s something we just have to have determination to continue. We’ve been hot and cold with Pakistan over the years. We’ve got to bear down now.”

Once again, Bolton suggested interfering in Pakistan’s internal affairs and once again, Van Susteren did not ask him what he meant, exactly, by “moving the military and civil society away from Islamism.” Instead, she ended the segment.

Can you imagine if Pakistan was urged by a commenter, an ex-Ambassador, appearing on a major television ‘news organization’ in Pakistan, to interfere with the U.S. military in any way? Nobody would be squawking about it louder than Fox News.