The high price of the Cold War

By BENAZIR BHUTTO: Former Prime Minister of Pakistan

Seattle P.I. Oct 2, 2001

   Whenever fundamental Principles are sacrificed in the cause of expediency, danger follows. Whenever a dictator is coddled, all democracies all over the world are weakened. Whenever human rights are abused, all of us become victims.
  For the people of the West, the Cold War ended with the crumbling of the Berlin Wall. For countries of the developing world that were instruments and surrogates of the East and the West for 40 years and especially for my own country of Pakistan we are still living with the profound and tragic consequences of the superpower confrontation.

  When the West correctly and bravely determined in the late 40s to confront and contain communism's expansion, morality took on a bipolar configuration. It strategically calculated that any nations who would stand with the West against communism would be treated as friends and allies. Political systems became irrelevant.

  Due process became irrelevant. Human rights became irrelevant Democracy became irrelevant.
The enemy, of my enemy became my friend. The Greek junta. The Marcos dictatorship The generals in Argentina. The Zia-ul-Haq bloodbath against democracy in Pakistan. The enemies of my enemy became my friends. And the victims of our friends be­came irrelevant.
  A democratically elected government in Pakistan was overthrown in a military coup. A democratically elected prime minister was murdered. A political party was decimated, tortured, sent into exile. The press was destroyed. Unions were, banned. Student organizations were prohibited. The cause of women was sent back into another century.

  And the world was silent.

  For in the polarity of the Cold War, the cooperation of the Pakistani dictator Zia ul Haq with the West’s effort to dislodge the Soviet aggression in Afghanistan was sufficient justification to disregard the political and social abuse, the human rights travesties, the suppression of democracy.

  For a long and bloody decade, from 1979 through 1989, the West   particularly the United States   used Pakistan as a surrogate in its final confrontation with the Soviet Union. Billions and billions in covert aid was channeled through Pakistan to the Mujahadeen. The Pakistan/Afghan border became a porous fiction. My country became the staging area for the West's final assault on the tottering Soviet empire.

  My country, which was totally unfamiliar to the drug culture, became a nation of heroin addicts. My country, which had no tradition of lawlessness, was so overridden with weapons in every neighborhood, on every street, in almost every house, that a Kalashnikov mentality emerged and the rule of law disappeared. Our cities were overwhelmed with crime and violence, a situation that persists today.

  Millions of Afghan refugees, driven from their country by the civil war in their country, took refuge in Pakistan and were housed, and educated, and provided with food and health care at extraordinary cost to Pakistani society. Almost 2 million of these refugees remain on Pakistani soil today.

  The consequences of the West’s strategic effort in Afghanistan transcended the impact on my own country. For the confrontation with the Soviets, and the support of the Mujahadeen itself became a symbol of the myopia of the Cold War.

  I visited the United States early in my first term as Prime Minister of Pakistan in 1989. The United States had made a military decision to arm and strengthen the fiercest fighters in the Afghan resistance   the forces of Gulbuddin Hakmatyar. I cautioned Mr. Bush that he was creating a veritable Frankenstein by aligning the United States with the most extremist of the Mujahadeen groups.

  The pragmatists and the moderates were shunned aside by the United State's single-minded efforts to strengthen the most extreme of the seven Majahadeen factions. I cautioned that this element of the Majahadeen was not only religiously fanatic, but viscerally anti Western.
I warned that we must look beyond the inevitable military victory against the communist regime in Kabul, and work toward setting up a successor government that was broad based and moderate.

  But because the United States chose not to opt for a political settlement involving all seven elements of the Mujahadeen, peace was not restored to Afghanistan. Indeed in the decade since the Soviets withdrew in 1989, the people of Afghanistan have not seen a single day of peace. The extremists so emboldened by the United States during the '80s are now exporting, terrorism to other parts of the world. To the extent that they use heroin trafficking to pay for their exploits, international terrorism and international drug trafficking intersect. And as terrorism and drug trafficking pervade Western society, the decision of the United States a generation ago has come full circle.

  For not only is stability in Afghanistan a victim, not only were the foundations and institutions of democracy in Pakistan destroyed in this process, but the recipients of the West’s support and largess have turned their venom against their benefactors.

  I think there is a long-term, strategic lesson for all of us in this sad and continuing by-product of the Cold War:

  Whenever fundamental principles are sacrificed in the cause of expediency, danger follows. Whenever a dictator is cuddled, all democracies all over the world are weakened. Whenever human rights are abused, all of us become victim. Whenever the West sacrifices the political values that have made Western democracy a model to the developing world, the chance for democratic change in Asia and Africa is tragically diminished.

  The principles of Western democracy can never again be selectively applied, only when convenient, only in isolated cases.
We have all learned a long and painful lesson from the lingering consequences of the Cold War.
  The selective application of morality is by its very nature immoral. So as you return to your comfortable homes in this wonderful country at peace and prosperity, remember those all over the world that have paid a heavy price for the West's triumph against communism.

  For you the Cold War is over. For the drug addicts of Karachi, for the victims of lawlessness in Lahore, for the leaders of the Pakistan Peoples Party rotting in jails all throughout Pakistan for us, my friends the war continues.

Excerpts from a speech delivered Sept. 10, 1998 by deposed Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto at the Royal institute of International Affairs in London.