Benazir Bhutto

Democracy And Internationalism: Post Iraq - May 19, 2003

Benazir Bhutto
May 19, 2003— Turin, Italy
The World Political Forum
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With Iraq divided into American, British and Polish controlled zones, we gather together in Turin at an extraordinary and difficult time. Whatever our own views on the path leading to the recent Iraq War, it is time to look forward.

It is time to assess the new world reality.

The post Iraq international situation gives an opportunity to look for ways to promote the cause of democratization, human rights and the global community to which we are all committed.

Many in the international community felt uncomfortable with a war without United Nations sanction.

Demonstrations for peace broke out in the heart of Europe, at times larger than demonstrations within the Muslim world.

No one likes war.
No one likes Repression either.
Western societies absorb dissent.

Non-Western societies are yet to deal with the challenge of those victimized, persecuted, imprisoned, tortured and exiled because of their political views.

This community of the disaffected and the disenfranchised played a pivotal role both in Afghanistan and Iraq.

In Kabul and Baghdad, popular voices of the people were denied political space. They formed the political front for a war to reclaim their own land.

Countries descend into the darkness of international terrorism and state terrorism when pluralism is disrupted, when diversity is suppressed, when one man directs the destiny of millions be it a Mullah Omar or Saddam Hussain or other dictators.

America's President George Bush justified war claiming:

"Men and women in every culture need liberty
like they need food and water and air.
Everywhere that freedom arrives, humanity rejoices;
and everywhere that freedom stirs, let tyrants fear."

Post Iraq, tyrants should fear.

It is troubling that some of those tyrants still feel little fear. Sadly, some of them are still close allies of Washington. In the case of Pakistan, a repressive regime exiles the popular opposition, imprisons dissidents and rigs elections.

In the post Iraq world that dawned this April, the words rationalizing the Iraq war can be used to press all nations, and especially Washington, to make consistent application of democratic principles the essence of internationalism in this new millennium.

There were moments in recent history where historic moments were squandered.

When the moving finger of history writes of the end of the 20th century, it will write of the international community's failure to reinforce the democratic breakthrough that the end of communism brought as the era's greatest missed opportunities.

I recall speaking to European Parliaments, to the Congress of the United States proclaiming that the era of the dictator was over, that militaries all over the world had finally returned to their barracks, that democracy was blooming on every continent.

In retrospect, I fear it was merely a mirage. The forces of real politic were waiting to collide with the ideology of democracy.

We proclaimed a new moral era, but actually constructed an era of moral relativity. And ladies and gentlemen, selective morality is by its very definition, immoral.

Our standards are inconsistent and our policies selective. Those that decry dictatorship in Burma are silent about tyranny elsewhere. Those decrying dictatorship in Iraq, stay close to dictators in Pakistan. Many in this room rightfully demand self-determination in Palestine, but are less vocal about the rights of the Kashmiri people.

In this age of moral relativism, political standards vary according to political expediency and economic imperatives. Democracy for Iraq, but dictatorship just miles away. Iraqi violations of UN resolutions bring a strong response. Violations of UN resolutions in the Middle East or in South Asia draw a less vocal reaction.

We evaluate national security by hardened borders and tanks and missiles. But true security is linked to the fight for economic justice that will liberate nations; true security is linked to the fight against famine and AIDs; true security means protecting the environment from pollution and desecration.

No matter how great and powerful a nation may be, true leadership is more than military action. It is leading the fight against AIDS, against hunger, against poverty, against racism, and for women, the fight for justice.

Ladies and gentlemen, the post Iraq world situation allows us to focus once again on the principle of freedom. This time it must be more than rhetoric that is exploited in pursuit of limited, foreign policy objectives.

I remember a time when the world walked from Afghanistan after the defeat of the Soviets in 1989.

The fundamental mistake was that we were not consistently committed to the values of freedom, democracy and self-determination that ultimately undermine terrorism. The result was Taliban dictatorship, Al-Qaeda and terrorism.

Dictatorship doesn't constrain fundamentalism or terrorism. It provokes it. The goal of rational foreign policy must always be to simultaneously promote stability and to strengthen democratic values.

The stakes are high. Every war in the South Asian subcontinent from where I come started when my country was under a military dictator or one of its civilian surrogates.

I do not know of a single case when a democratic country has gone to war against another democratic country.

Dictators are not accountable and do not need a popular mandate behind their policies.

The tragedy of Iraq is that Saddam Hussain spurned all offers of a peaceful transition from his regime to a democratic one. None dared tell him that he could not win a military war against American technology.

None dared criticize his flawed strategy of a prolonged guerrilla conflict with house to house fighting in Iraq's cities to force Washington into a ceasefire while he remained in control.

Dictators are cut off from reality by sycophants too scared to tell them the truth allowing for miscalculations that innocent people pay for in lives.

Democracies are different. Democratic leaders are accountable before the Parliament, the Press and the People. Democratic governments must provide for the public welfare, must provide schools and hospitals, health and housing. Dictatorships need not. They rely on unaccountable secret services and are free to divert resources to schemes that parliamentary scrutiny simply would not permit.

History has taught us the very hard lesson that when democratic states turn against democracy, they turn against themselves.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

The international press has speculated about Islamabad's support to North Korea's nuclear program. Islamabad denies the charges.

Even though Islamabad is a key ally of the US in the war against terrorism, Pakistani citizens are finger printed and photographed when they visit America.

Military dictator General Musharaf promised the world community he would seal the borders with Afghanistan to prevent fleeing Al Qaeda from slipping into Pakistan. Yet scores made their way into the country as the recent arrests by the FBI demonstrate.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

I believe a democratic Pakistan is the best guarantee of respect and dignity for the people of Pakistan. I believe that a democratic Pakistan living by the rule of law within and without is the best guarantee of the triumph of moderation and modernity amongst one billion Muslims at the crossroads of our history.

These are difficult times. We stand at the crossroads of a new world order. We witness the dawn of a uni polar world environment where wars can take place with the coalition of the willing. We witness disunity in the United Nations Security Council, in NATO, in Europe and in the Muslim world.

We can remember that the future is in our hands. As the European philosopher Goethe once wrote, "Freedom must be reinvented in every generation."

Unipolarism can lead to unilateralism. As power shifts to new paradigms the challenge is to find ways where the voices of the rest of the world community can also be heard effectively.

This is our turn to reinvent freedom.

And we shall prevail.

Thank you ladies and gentlemen.

Panhwar, Sani H. (ed). 2009. Benazir Bhutto: Selected Speeches 1989-2007. Hyderabad : M.H. Panhwar Trust.