Richardson Calls for an End to Pakistan Military Aid
Update 4:15 p.m.
By Dan Balz
New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, keying off the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, sharply criticized the Bush administration's Pakistan policy and called for an immediate cutoff of all military aid to that country that does not go directly to the fight against terrorism.
"President Bush should immediately suspend non-terrorism related military aid to Pakistan until President [Pervez] Musharraf resigns," he said. "Not one penny more until Musharraf is gone and the rule of law is restored."
A day after calling on Musharraf to step down, Richardson delivered a broad critique of the administration's policies, arguing that President Bush has failed to uphold American values. He also highlighted his own foreign policy credentials and argued that now is no time to elect a new president who is a neophyte on the international stage.
"President Bush faced a choice with Pakistan," Richardson said in a speech to an overflow audience at the Des Moines Botanical Center. "He needed to choose whether to support the dictator or the Pakistani people. He chose the dictator. Repeatedly. And by doing so, he has let down both the American and the Pakistani people."
Richardson said America has lost its way as the world's leader and his speech included an appeal for a foreign policy grounded in human rights and democratic principles, rather than accommodating dictators or tyranny. "If we have learned anything over the last seven years, it is that when America fails to live up to its own ideas, we are weaker, not stronger, as a result."
Richardson acknowledged the risks of forcing Musharraf from power, given Pakistan's instability and its status as a nuclear state. But he said Musharraf has proven inadequate to the task of dealing with the resurgence of al-Qaeda and the Taliban along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.
Richardson argued that the risks are far greater if Musharraf were to remain in power and accused some of his Democratic rivals of making the same mistake as the president in putting too much faith in Musharraf.
"Like the Bush administration, they cling to a misguided notion that Musharraf can be trusted as an ally to fight terrorism or to change his despotic ways. Despite their faith, Musharraf has thumbed his nose at America again and again. How many times does the Washington conventional wisdom need to be proven tragically wrong before Washington insiders give up on it?"
Earlier this year, Richardson was more supportive of Musharraf. "I think the vice president is right. You have to lean on Musharraf, who is our ally," he said in February on MSNBC. "And what you don't want to do is provoke a situation, even though he's not a great champion of human rights, democracy, et cetera, to have somebody replace him who is less friendly to us, who would cause us real problems."
"Whatever slight hope existed that Musharraf could reform himself and regain credibility with his people is now lost," Tom Reynolds, press secretary for Richardson's campaign, said about those earlier remarks. "Unless Musharraf steps aside, Richardson does not believe elections can be fair or that the country can make progress toward true democracy."
Given the administration's record and the problems Bush will leave behind, Richardson said, "We cannot afford another president who is a foreign policy novice....We cannot afford another president who takes the easiest path rather than the right path."
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