December 28, 2007

Bad Business

Benazir Bhutto is dead, assassinated at a campaign rally as you surely know.

Her father was executed by President Zia in the late '70's during a military coup, and two of her brothers were "disappeared" and murdered in suspicious circumstances, to put it mildly. Now the Harvard and Oxford educated former prime minister, who could have easily lived a life of aristocratic wealth and ease for the rest of her life, but choose to return into the snake pit of Pakistani politics, a woman of extraordinary courage and commitment, is silenced as well.

This is a bit of bad business that will surely have a wide ranging ripple effect and may prove as seismic an event as the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand.

Since little can be done other than speculate as to those responsible and how things may play out, all I can do is offer a few observations this close to the event.

Firstly, the old axiom applies to this situation when trying to ascertain who is responsible... who stood to benefit? This would point to the dictatorial Musharraf regime first, and Islamic rebels second, though in this spot of nasty business, they may have found themselves in league with each other.

Musharraf had promised investigations into the mass killing and bombing that occurred in November when Bhutto returned to Pakistan, yet nothing has been done. It's doubtful we could expect anything remotely credible as far as determining who was responsible for this attack either in the near future or ever.

The reaction of presidential contenders was revealing.

On the Republican side, they all tried to use it as justification for yet more military adventurism, even if they didn't say so directly.

Pundits on the Republican side also rushed to deflect blame or finger-pointing from their guy Musharraf, whom Bush has stead-fastly propped up to the tune of over $5 billion in aid since 2001. They point out that Musharraf himself has been the target of several assassination attempts, which clearly doesn't absolve him of involvement in this, though they gamely try to suggest it does.

Rudy mouthed some general platitude about how this proves we need to "redouble our efforts in that area", ignoring of course that it was Bush who heedlessly paid little attention to the powder keg in Pakistan and Afghanistan and instead put all his (and our) eggs in the right wing neocon wet dream of taking over Iraq.

Romney said something. Doesn't really matter as it was eminently forgettable as always.

McCain laid the blame at the feet of al Queda and used it as a call to again increase our military adventures.

None addressed the root cause of the turmoil, namely, as many diplomatically put it, Bush's "flawed" policy in the region, including his stubborn support of Musharraf in the face of a myriad of serious actions which show he is more interested in placating al Queda and Islamic extremists to retain power and save his own skin than doing anything to promote democracy.

The fact that Musharraf had actually cut back on security for Bhutto is telling as well. Bhutto even went as far as sending an e-mail to CNN under the condition it could never be released unless she were assassinated, detailing security measures which were not being provided, and directly blaming Musharraf were she to be harmed or murdered. She detailed the lack of security efforts, citing that they routinely left her vulnerable to attack. The fact that a person with a handgun was allowed to get within feet of her is clear evidence that security was poor at best.

Many measures such as radio jammers, armored vehicles, escort vehicles on all four sides of her vehicle, and many other standards security procedures were glaringly not provided to Bhutto, despite the fact that she had requested them.

Joe Biden stated today that he'd written Musharraf personally citing these security concerns and urging him to provide specific security measures to try to ensure Bhutto's safety, but they were ignored. Bush's pal instead blatantly left Bhutto with inadequate protection, even though his government had pledged to provide it.

The Dems weren't much better, and the troubling thing about their responses were that they were all over the map, often directly contradicting each other.

While this situation is so unknown and unknowable at the time, that's not too surprising, but it is a bit disconcerting.

Bill Richardson, who has a stellar diplomatic resume and has accomplished amazing feats of international negotiation, was the only candidate who openly suggested that Musharraf should step down, a call that was immediately and roundly condemned as irresponsible by several of his fellow Democratic candidates, who asserted that it would only destabilize the situation further, leaving open the possibility that radical Islamists could then rush in to fill any vacuum left by the absence of any pro-democracy candidate with the loss of Bhutto.

Edwards, who talked with Musharraf immediately after the assassination, said he pushed him to do a credible investigation, including letting outside investigators handle the job, and pushed Musharraf to not do anything to further jeopardize the efforts to establish democratic reforms in his country. Edwards seemed to express serious exasperation with Musharraf and it could be surmised that he'd do all he could to promote the moderate majority in Pakistan rather than continue to prop up a dictator who shelters terrorists were he elected.

Biden, who often has the most credibility on these matters, was clearly at the end of his rope with Musharraf as well, but cautioned against trying to change the status quo too quickly. Biden also clearly spelled out how the Bush policy of benign neglect, simply throwing billions at a military dictator in hopes he'd control his own country, rather than actively supporting and promoting pro-democracy moderates such as Bhutto, has directly led to the situation being nearly out of control.

Biden also strenuously urged that the elections in Pakistan, scheduled in only 14 days, to go on as planned, citing that it would be needed to retain stability.

Chris Dodd in an interview with Keith Olberman, in addition to condemning Richardson's call for Musharraf to step down, felt directly the opposite of Biden, saying that the elections should be delayed and rescheduled in order for Bhutto's party to reorganize and field a candidate. He felt, and I agree, that simply going through with a sham election immediately after Musharraf's opponent, and the candidate nearly universally expected to win the election, has been brutally assassinated, will do little to restore any faith in democracy there, and such an election would not be seen as legitimate at all.

I really don't understand Biden's call for the elections to go forward, as it would seem a waste of time. The only other pro-democracy candidate who has been forced out of the race, is calling for a boycott of the election, and if it were held the Pakistani people would never consider it truly legitimate, especially when millions will firmly believe it was Musharraf himself who had Bhutto killed.

Obama mouthed a stilted and rather emotionless pronouncement saying the usual things about how this isn't a good thing, that Bush blew it, but little else.

Clinton on the other hand spoke with some authority and personal feeling, citing her long friendship with Bhutto and her visits to meet with her in Pakistan in the past and said that we must support pro-democracy elements in the region and get away from the failed Bush policies.

Chris Matthews rushed to push the story-line that this will suddenly catapult the more hawkish candidates straight to the top, predicting it will mean a massive bounce for Clinton and McCain. I sincerely doubt it will be that dramatic.

Bush, meanwhile, in his usual Orwellian style, read some pronouncement in which he blamed "extremists", which was refreshing if only that he didn't try to pin it on the usual "terrists" or al Queda specifically, and also warned those who opposed democratic reforms in Pakistan, which, after all, includes his boy Musharraf and elements of his military.

In doing so, he described Pakistan as a "democracy", which is clearly a pipe-dream and laughable on it's face. But then again, we've long since seen that George W. Bush has an incredibly flexible vision of what exactly a democracy is.

Bhutto's assassination stands to have far-reaching consequences, both within Pakistan as it creates further caos in an already unstable country, giving Musharref an excuse to further enact anti-democratic measures, and in the region including Afghanistan and India, and literally across the mid-east and around the world. It could open up a vacuum into which Islamic extremists, allowed to survive and thrive in the tribal areas of northwest Pakistan with the complicity of Musharraf, and by extension George Bush, might be able to capitalize upon and secure even greater power in Pakistan, with the spill-over being that they would also gain power in Afghanistan where the government is already pathetically weak, controlling most of Kabul, and little else.

Bhutto herself often stated that Democracy needs to be fought for and demanded forcefully, and fought for continually.

When I hear folks on the right like Pat Buchannon, and even worse, Democrats like Chris Dodd and others trot out the "better the Devil you know" theory as justification for continued support for a military dictator who coddles bin Laden and terrorists, subverts democracy, rigs elections to deny the moderate pro-democracy majority of Pakistan a right to choose their own government, and quite possibly is complicit in assassinating pro-democracy opponents, it is very discouraging to say the least.

It seems the D.C. establishment is still entrenched with supporting power no matter how odious or dicatorial it is, as long as they play ball. This is a costly and dangerous approach to cling to in this era.

Until some leaders stand up and stop supporting and financing those who thrwart the very democracy they so fervently give lip-service to at every opportunity, then it doesn't take a genius to realize that we we never achieve democracy in such areas as Pakistan and elsewhere.

The situation calls for the most skilled diplomatic and covert actions, and a deft and nuanced hand.

And with Bush/Cheney and their Keystone Kops of foreign policy at the helm, God help us all.


At 12/28/2007 7:31 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting that you want the candidates to have the right response, right answer to this situation...when you don't want them involved in another countries business in any fashion.

Also, shocked to see that you had (almost blame) for the Bush Administration! (as though this outcome was at all a surprise - or could have been prevented, as you yourself seem to state).

You indeed are comical.

At 12/28/2007 12:20 PM, Blogger UMRBlog said...

All the Repubs, except Huckabee, used it as an occasion to puff themselves up. Obama/Axelrod imploded (so much for being good on his feet.). Edwards was thoughtful and excellent. HRC was good and personal.

Rudy was particularly laughable. You are right, Mitt saying that doing the Olympic construction site qualified him to pick better dictators was the laugh of the day. As I have been saying, these Bozos are going to hand the nomination to a blindfolded crazy man.

On the bigger picture, the impact is likely comparable to the assassination of Robert Kennedy. Do a scan on the next six months after that one and be very afraid for the good people of Pakistan.

At 12/28/2007 3:11 PM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

Anon 7:31.

Since it's a problem to you that I prefer politicians have a rational response to this crisis based on reality in the region rather than dogmatic right wing ideology, and that consists of more than mindless mouthing of yet more macho posturing, it seems clear that you'd only be happy if I endorsed politicians having what I consider the WRONG response, wrong answer on this crisis.

Very weird indeed. Sorry to disapoint you.

I kindly urge you to stop expecting this blog to suddenly start reflecting your peculiar viewpoints, since that will likely be rare. Expecting it to and huffing and puffing and getting angry that it doesn't is really very silly.

Apparently you've never run into anyone that honestly disagrees with you and won't stammer and back down simply because you demand that they see things your way. That's a shame really. There's a lot more of us out here than you think.

Also, if you have to resort to your fevered imagination and invent things I supposedly said, in order to then criticize it, please just hang it up and quit. You look foolish.

If I said anything remotely suggesting that the U.S. should never engage in foreign policy, please point it out. Don't think we'll be hearing back from you on that.

And just imagine that when a terrorist harboring dictator refuses to heed demands to increase security for Bhutto, not only doesn't beef up her security but actually cuts BACK on it, and fails to protect a pro-democracy candidate who was assured of winning election, that anyone would question the very leader of our country who's policy it has been to steadfastly support said dictator.

I forgot the law that NOTHING, literalyl NOTHING is every this president's fault in any way, shape, or form. He can be the "decider", but he is never to be held accountible for anything he decides. Forgive me for breaking that iron-clad rule you demand everyone obey.

Yeah, that's comical alright. The only thing comical is your comic book depth of thought. Actually most comic books show more consideration than your pronouncements, which are about on a "Nancy" level.

Now, can we please get back to addressing the fallout of this tragic event?

At 12/28/2007 3:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do you not understand that simply because the USA has to deal with Pakistan leadership in order to benefit US interests, this does not mean that it supports all aspects of said Pakistan leadership?

Do you not believe that the Bush Administration, as well as every POTUS candidate of both parties supported Bhutto - regardless of the fact that the Bush Administration (and that of every Democrat POTUS candidate should they become POTUS) has the obligation to work with the Pakistan Administration - TO THE BENEFIT OF THE UNITED STATES!

This does not mean that they support a dictator, but that they support the interests of the United States.

If only the worls were as simplistic as you WISH it to be.

At 12/28/2007 8:32 PM, Anonymous nooncat said...

anonymous 7:31 am, it's people like you that ruin political discourse wherever you post. You believe in freedom of speech, until someone says something that offends you. You cling to every scrap of bullshit you can find to support your ludicrous belief system, and reject all empirical evidence to the contrary. You know the difference between patriotism and nationalism--it's nationalism when foreigners do it. You hate anyone who seems smarter than you. You care more about zygotes than actual people. You love to blame people for their misfortunes, even if it means screwing yourself over. You still think Republicans favor limited government. You tolerate the phrase "enhanced interrogation techniques." You think the government is actually trying to improve education. You think watching FOX News makes you smarter. You think two parties is enough. You can't spell. You think $9 trillion in debt is manageable. You believe in an afterlife for the sole reason that you don't want to die. You think lowering taxes raises revenue. You think the economy's doing well. You're an idiot.

I foresee for you a gradual decline into abject poverty as you continue to vote against your own self-interest, followed by death by an easily treated disorder that your health insurance doesn't cover. People like you are why the rest of the world derides and laughs at the U.S.A. you claim to love.

At 12/29/2007 4:49 AM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

Anomaly 3:34

What you're doing, as usual, is confusing Bush policy with "U.S. interests", apparently thinking that any other course must be not in our interest. That's utterly false, of course.

It's not particularly creative to simply parrot the right wing position without even considering that there are many other courses of action available in Pakistan.

While we couldn't simply let Musharref fall and leave a vacuum or weak and impotent government in his place, as we've done in Afghanistan, the fact remains that Bush has been far too soft with him. Real pressure should have been brought on him long ago to institute free and open elections, as well as to do something to capture bin Laden and not allow al Queda to essentially have an entire province to operate in with impunity. The only reason Musharref allows this to continue is that if he struck against them, his personal power would be in jeopardy. So what?

I'd rather have al Queda routed out and Musharref gone, replaced by a democratically elected government.

Will you now say that's not in U.S. interests?

While Musharref has made some cosmetic changes, such as his agreeing to essentially a wardrobe change by no longer sporting his military uniform, and being forced to allow Bhutto to return, the fact remains that he is still coddling the very terrorists that the right says is our number one threat and has more than likely played a role, even if tangential, in eliminating all his political challengers.

He is in league with the very terror elements that Bush has said want to rape our dogs and who "hate our freedom" (gag)

What freedom to the Pakistani people have under Musharref? Little to none.

Bin Laden operates with impunity in Pakistan's northwest provinces, and Mushareff continues to eliminate any challengers to his power by either violence or political chicanery and abuse of the judiciary, or simply suspending the constitution to prevent legitimate elections.

Now if the elections there are carried through with as planned next weeek, it will be a sham of an election which Musharref will, surprise, surprise, miraculously win, and what has been accomplished?

What you're apparently unable to fathom is that there is an option to promote stability and democratic reforms in Pakistan without relying on Musharref. It should be clear that Musharref is never going to willingly give up power. So why be so stunningly stuck in a rut and insist on continuing to prop him up?

Those who quake in fear and tremble in their boots and who are too timid and squeamish to dare challenge Musharref for fear that the "evil-doers" will gain control of nuclear weapons are allowing the terrorists to win.

That's exactly what the goal of their terror is, to intimidate governments into doing nothing to challenge them, and allow them to opperate with impunity.

Saying we must support Musharref is by extention saying we better not bother al Queda.

Is it in our interest to allow them a safe haven to launch attacks from?

Or is it in "U.S. interest" to root them out and support a leader of Pakistan who is willing to stand up to them?

To continue with the flawed strategy of supporting Musharref as if he's the only possible person who can run Pakistan is a dead-end and will only lead to more unrest and turmoil, and more danger to U.S. interests in the future.

To be such an unimaginative lemming and blindly support current policy is against U.S. interests in my view.

Good for Bush, as it kicks the can down the road, and good for old Pervez, but bad for Pakistanis, bad for the region, and bad for the U.S. who in addition to allowing it's primary threat to flourish in Pakistan, will continue to be seen to support oppressive dictators.

Having the strength to actually make a committment to supporting moderate elements fighting for the very democracy and freedom that Bush incessantly gives lip service to would be a good start, rather than continuing to engage in the gross hypocrisy of supporting a dictator who thwarts every effort at democratic reform.

Part of the reason we have a problem with terror is that we've consistently backed the wrong horses in that region, from the Shah to Musharref, and this has created the atmosphere in which al Queda and the Taliban have flourished.

Why do you think it's wise to continue to make the same mistakes?

At 12/29/2007 7:57 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The effort in Iraq demands the utilization of Pakistan airspace and their assistance.

I appreciate the fact that you do not agree with the Iraq effort, and I really do not care to see your response, which, no doubt, ramble on against this effort,

But as every serious Dem POTUS candidate has stated, as well as republican candidate, we are in Iraq for the long haul and it would do serious damage to the region and (possibly) the world if we were leave 100% at this time, consequently,

we need Pakistan. And when one needs Pakistan, one must accept a stable Pakistan - whether we like the government or not.

Let's face it, Iraq is 'regime change/ nation-building' and this is a practice that we need not involve ourselves (to this I expect that you agree). Why would we do anything different in Pakistan?

I know...regime-change and support of Masharef are not the same thing. However, we are not supporting Masharef, but Pakistan.

They are not one in the same, no more than the United States is George Bush, or Bill Clinton before him.

Do you believe that nations that need US trade, but dislike its President, are expected to turn and not trade with the US (thus wrecking their own economy)?


Thanks for your time.

Nooncat - take a pill. You have no idea what I believe.

At 12/29/2007 2:57 PM, Blogger UMRBlog said...


Let's assume the we in fact DO have to hold our noses and accept the Odd Shah of Iran and whack the annoying Salvator Allende from time to time. What, exactly, is it that Mushie has done for us in the last three years that justifies his enjoying ANY support from us for one more minute?

Go back to any of the several western interview shows and listen to his answer to the questions "If OBL is located in your western provinces and the intelligence is sound, will you allow U.S. special ops, along with your personal, to enter your country to kill or recover him?"

The short answer, distilled from five minutes of feedlot floor is "no". This turkey is taking gobs of our money, then placating the radical islamists in his own country by feathering back on any kind of true anti-terror effort.

Even if we take your "practical" view, we were, and are, just running laps with this bird.

At 12/30/2007 1:14 PM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

Anon 7:57

Thanks for making my point exactly.

You apparently cannot fathom anything other than blind support for Musharref as being in our national interest.

Yet you state that we're supposedly supporting the Pakistani people, not their government.

So what problem is it exactly that you have with my assertion that Musharref is anti-democratic, and actively thwarting the will of the majority of the Pakistani people by preventing free and fair elections?

What part of my argument are you willfully ignoring? The part where I maintain that we not only don't need to support Musharref in order to promote both our interests and the interests of the Pakistani people? Or the part where I specifically stated that we can't simply remove Musharref without establishing some legitimate alternative? Or any of the other points I made which seem to escape you?

The fact is that if we support efforts to establish democratic leadership in Pakistan, while at the same time ensuring that we don't destabilize the government to the point where the Taliban or some similar religious extremists gain control, then we need to abandon our propping up of this dictator.

It's crystal clear that Musharref is either unable or unwilling to deal with the radical Islamist elements within the country. There exists a large moderate secular majority of the country who would overwhelmingly support someone such as Bhuto, if "our" guy didn't manage to allow them to dissappear so frequently.

Backing a different horse in the race is not the equivelent of abandoning the interests of the U.S. or the Pakistani people.

It might cause problems for the corporations who are benefitting handsomely from the billions in aid dollars we ship them, and for those who philosophically agree with dictatorship as the most effective means of control.

At times we are forced to pick a lesser of evils when it comes to national interest, but we've propped up Musharref for years now and bin Laden is still lounging around in the country, he's imposed martial law, broken the constitution, eliminated political opponents and used the military as a personal political army.

Obviously this is someone Bush envies, which might explain his mindless support.

But I don't think the U.S. should continue to be seen as embracing dictators and by extention, serving to thwart the desire for democracy of millions of people.

Even if you and some others think this is somehow the only means to protect OUR interests. What about theirs? It is, after all, their country.

At 12/30/2007 1:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dope, you are so incredibly funny...

Should someone agree with any position of the present United States administration, you accuse them of 'blindly following...'

However, you DISAGREE with EVERY position of the present US Administration. What would this make you?

(And "enlightened" is not the correct answer!).

At 12/30/2007 9:17 PM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

You don't get to dictate the correct answer. Sorry.

It would make me someone who disagrees with government policies.

Evidently this just drives you right around the bend, though I'll never know why.

You'd fit in so nicely in a more dicatorial authoritarian country. You might consider a move to China or perhaps any number of other countries who love people who'll attack anyone who disagrees with their rulers.

You should really take a look at John Dean's "Conservatives without Conscience" to see if you fit into the authoritarian loving personality type.

At 1/01/2008 8:35 PM, Blogger nicodemus said...

I am going to put a few ideas out there for consideration:

1. I have seen no proof that Benazir Bhutto is dead. I did not see a body in any news coverage. This is unusual. I realize that Muslims have to bury their dead very quickly. But with an event like this, it is uncommon not to see a body. That coffin might have been empty as far as I know.

2. I see no proof that Bhutto was killed in the manner that the "authorities" claim. The video shows me absolutely NOTHING. Okay, first it was the gunshots and then, no was the lever on the sunroof that did her in! I mean come on, gimme break! If Bhutto was whacked, it may have been the result of an inside job. It could easily have been someone in her own "security" detail inside her SUV, an agent of Musharef or who knows, some other intelligence agency.

I saw an x-ray of the skull but that doesn't tell me much.

3. I noticed there is no identity of the alleged Al Quaida assassin. This is also hard to believe when there were so many people around and surely he would leave some evidence as to his identity. Are we supposed to think he blew himself to bits leaving no trace of his identity, not even fingertips? If we could figure out who the 9/11 hijackers were, we could find out who this was too. Another "lone gunman" I suppose? C'mon gimme a break. Let's take a step back and look at the lack of evidence and ask some questions.

At 1/02/2008 2:33 AM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

I think she's living with Elvis in Paraquay.

At 1/02/2008 10:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dope, you seem to have a very isolationist streak in you.

If we are not in Iraq, it is very likely that Iran will increase their influence there - and then further increase their influence in the Middle east in general. This is not a good thing.

If we did not boost masharuf, then the terrorists would be running Pakistan.

If we did not back the Afghan rebels 20+ years ago, communist-Russia would have have taken over that country, and then likely most of the Middle East and their oil. With the oil money, the Cold War would have heated up real quick. With oil money, the United States very likely may not have been able to hold off Russia.

If we did not get involved in WWII, Hitler would not have been stopped and you would be speaking German right now.

History clearly indicates that Isolationism just is not good policy.

At 1/03/2008 12:01 AM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

For the love of all things holy, could you just ONCE try to avoid reduceing such complex and crucial issues of foreign policy to some sort of '50's western movie mentality?

I'm not in the SLIGHTEST "isolationist", yet you keep banging that drum because that's what you're prepared to argue against, and by God, you're going to make me into that no matter what.

Secondly, your views rely entirely on HUGE assumptions, namely those that you've heard trotted out by war-loving right wingers.

It is by no means assured by any means that if Mushareff is eased aside in favor of a more moderate leader that "THE TERRORISTS WILL TAKE OVER PAKISTAN!!!!!" as the alarmists love to bellow.

To assume so is being way over-simplistic and facile.

And your views of history are literalyl laughably jingoistic and frankly, utter crap.

If we hadn't armed the mujahadeen (sp?) against the Russians, then we'd never have a heavily armed, organized and trained al Queda to begin with. WE created them, and also enabled the Taliban to take control of Afghanistan by making the bone-headed mistake of simply turning our backs on the country once the Russians were routed in Charlie Wilson's excellent adventure.

We provided the stinger missles which turned the tide and stopped the Russian Hind helicopter gunships which were until then marauding the country with impunity.

And all this happy horseshit about speaking German is just laughably pathetic. I wouldn't have believed anyone would even say it if I hadn't seen it myself.

If you think for a New York second that WWII bears even the slightest resemblance to the conflict we've blundered into now, you're ... well, I won't say it.

Let's just say you'd be "innacurate", shall we say.

Anyone can spout government clap-trap and repeat things they heard some right wing mouth-breather say on Am radio or Fox news.

But to actually find out for yourself what the situation is like there, to try to find reliable and knowledgable sources who don't have a political ax to grind, that takes a little work.

But you wouldn't embarass yourself by saying what you do anymore, which would make me proud.

At 1/03/2008 7:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Again - everything is black-and- white in your world, and...shockingly, you have all the answers.

I would certainly think that the United States of America would be a far better place if you would run for office.

We certainly need someone that knows everything running this Country.

At 1/03/2008 10:06 PM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

Anon 7:09

It's really clear that you often engage in projection, ascribing to others the very traits you demonstrate.

The thing that pisses you off, my friend, is that I'm willing to realize that things ARE NOT black and white.

That upsets your tidy little scenarios and really drives you nuts.


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