Archive for July 28th, 2008

On Monday, President Bush praised Pakistani PM Yousaf Raza Gilani “for his commitment to their joint battle against extremists.” According to the Associated Press, “Bush and Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani strolled before the assembled media on the South Lawn after a private Oval Office meeting. Appearing upbeat, they sought to publicly ensure their constituencies that the U.S-Pakistan bond is tight and intact despite tensions between Washington and Islamabad.”

This is Gilani’s first visit to the United States since his PM appointment following the February 2008 elections. Reuters, in its coverage, noted Monday’s meeting came just “hours after a suspected U.S. missile strike killed six people, possibly including an Al Qaeda chemical and biological weapons expert, in a Pakistani tribal region.” The news agency added, “The strike underscored U.S.-Pakistani tensions that Gilani’s visit was intended to dispel…”

After watching Bush’s statements to the press Monday, I realized we obviously weren’t going to hear the uncensored, no-holds-barred details of his and Gilani’s talks. Although Gilani said the Pakistani government was “committed to fight against those extremists and terrorists who are destroying and making the world not safe,” he stopped short of making any concrete public promises about how Pakistan would deal with militants in its border areas, noted Reuters. The U.S. President was equally vague, calling today’s session “constructive,” predictably asserting, “After all…Pakistan is a strong ally and a vibrant democracy.”

The reality of most official state visits is that the public only hears a regurgitation of official rhetoric. Politicians often “play nice” for the camera, summoning images of pixies, fairy dust, and prancing hand-in-hand through fields of daisies. Although Washington is no doubt impatient with Pakistan’s new government, Bush seemed to play extra nice today, particularly when he added almost as a sidenote, “Of course we talked about the common threat we face…extremists who are very dangerous people.” Somehow I think the more gritty details played out during the off-the-record meetings. [See the video below]:

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