Saturday, December 29, 2007

Who Is Behind The Bhutto Assassination?

Written from Needham, Mass.--

After the American journalist Daniel Pearl was beheaded in 2002 in Karachi, Pakistan, the French writer Bernard Henri Levy wrote a book, "Who Killed Daniel Pearl?" that suggested the crime resulted from Pearl finding out too much about the connections between Pakistan's intelligence services, nuclear scientists, and Islamic terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda.

That book comes to mind today as we consider who was behind the assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, an act which has spun that chaotic, dictatorial country into a greater crisis that affects the whole world.

Much has been written about the assassination in the 48 hours since it occurred. I particularly was impressed by the Op Ed Page piece in the Los Angeles Times by Amy Wilentz, wife of Op Ed Page Editor Nick Goldberg, who had known Bhutto since their student days at Harvard, and had interviewed her only recently in Dubai. Wilentz wrote that Bhutto, as prime minister, had been "notoriously-high handed," before being removed for allegedly being corrupt, and she suggested "the desire for political redemption pulled her back" from exile in the present situation.

"Certainly, she knew the mess she was stepping into: a nuclear-armed country governed -- or not governed -- by an unstable military-affiliated regime in the neighborhood of two U.S. wars. It was clear that her return might make the mess messier," Wilentz wrote.

"Bhutto's hideous murder has made the situation even more obscure, but as events play out, perhaps we will see more plainly who the real players are in Pakistan. Her death, and the definitive end of the Bhutto dynasty, means a new era for Pakistan. But a new era is not always a better one."

Certainly, Bhutto was a conflicted character, as the obituary in the New York Times by its great Middle Eastern reporter, John Burns, now stationed in London, made clear yesterday. Burns described Bhutto as "a woman of complex and often contradictory instincts. Mrs. Bhutto was a politician who presented herself on public platforms as the standard-bearer for Pakistan's impoverished masses, for civil liberties and for an unfettered democracy, while at the same time she often behaved in an imperious manner in private, and in her dealings as prime minister with government officials, diplomats and reporters.

"She once rebuked a reporter who was left waiting for an interview in the living room of the prime minister's residence in Islamabad for having the temerity to look at family photographs on the mantel shelf. 'Where do you think you are?,' she asked."

Bhutto, when she returned to Pakistan recently, seemed to have a death wish, not forgetting that her father, the onetime president and prime minister, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, had been hung by a military dictator in 1979. What else can explain her insistence on appearing in risky situations in public even after suicide attacks directed against her had killed 140 persons on the night she returned?

Bhutto, like John F. Kennedy, was riding visibly in an open car in a dangerous city, when she was shot and her car blown up. Since then, there have been suggestions that Al-Qaeda was behind the crime, but there have been charges by her allies that elements in the Pakistani government close to the present military dictator, Pervez Musharaff, may have been at least complicit in the crime.

On the basis that Al Qaeda and its allies in the Taliban have the most to profit from the lack of stability in Pakistan, I might be inclined to let Musharaff himself off the hook. Why would he want a murder that could only compound the dangers to himself?

But the fact is that Musharaff, an "ally" of the United States after a fashion in the War on Terror, does not well control his own government, military or intelligence services. They are rife, as I remarked two days ago, with conspirators, traitors and loonies capable of anything. It is representative of the larger, tortured Islamic world.

Now, there are many calls for an international investigation into Bhutto's assassination. But just what good that would do escapes me, since, like the Kennedy assassination, masses of the public would never be satisfied with the explanation. It is also clear that, regardless whether they were guilty in this instance or not, the leaders of Al-Qaeda, for the good of humanity, must be exterminated just as soon as they can be found. It is unbelievable that this has not already happened.

Besides that, there are bigger issues in Pakistan than Bhutto's death. What would happen were Pakistan's nuclear weapons fell into the hands of the extremists?

It could well be that foreign intervention in this country will be needed. It would be mandatory did it appear likely that Musharaff was going to fall and possibly be replaced by the terrorists.

This indeed is a world crisis, and, fundamentally, it involves nuclear proliferation. It should certainly be clear that the U.S., India, Israel and even Russia and Western Europe could not afford to live with an Al-Qaeda-dominated nuclear weapon.

A dynamic, ambitious and, to a degree, a noble woman with high aspirations, is dead. What will now follow?

One thing that must follow is a strong dedication to their own personal security by the world's leaders. Assassins are loose, and none of these leaders should go riding around anywhere in an open car.

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