As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Monday, April 24, 2006


As King Gyanendra relents to protests and re-establishes Parliament, I think it's important to understand that the king dissolved Parliament in the first place because he claimed there was a terrorist threat, from Maoist rebels.

I don't mean to suggest that this would ever happen here, although in the event of a larger-scale terrorist strike in this country I do think you would see something appropriating martial law. However, invoking the word "terrorist" was basically all the king needed to do to fire the government and assume dictatorial control, and keep his critics at bay for over a year. It's that language of the "existential threat" that we've now exported all over the world. It's not just in Nepal; President Putin has used it in Russia to brutalize separatists (and I'm not only talking about Chechnya).

This rhetorical ploy is dangerous to the promotion of democratic societies. Countries learn from other countries as surely as criminals learn from other criminals (actually, that's a pretty apt analogy). If they see something that works in the suppression of dissent and the centralization of power, they're going to appropriate it. So we have here with King Gyanendra. "Terror!" has now become a bloody shirt that unstable despots can wave to consolidate their support. We're fortunate that it did not appear to work here. However, I find it interesting to note that according to this LA Times article from Sunday, before the king's latest concession, we were all too willing (along with the rest of the international community, I'm afraid) to let him off the hook:

The alliance is now squeezed between popular contempt for the king's offer and heavy international pressure to accept it and name a prime minister. The United States, India and the United Nations have expressed some support for Gyanendra's move, further inflaming tempers here.

"The Nepali people are not satisfied that the U.S. government is supporting this king," said Shrestha, the engineer. He looks forward to a country without an unelected ruler.

Obviously the US and UN want to deflate tensions. But they were willing to sign on to a plan that would allow the opposition parties to name a Prime Minister but would not reinstate the Parliament. In some way I think that legitimizing the swiping of power in the name of fighting terrorism. And certainly, at least in the United States, there's a vested interest in supporting that.

Another example of the collateral damage in the war on terror.