Monday, December 31, 2007

Democracy – Pakistani Style

It has always amazed me how the media, politicians, and pundits will elevate someone in death to a place they wouldn’t give them in life. I am often reminded of the eulogy given by Ted Kennedy (probably his greatest moment in public life) for his brother Robert where he said, “My brother need not be idealized or enlarged in death beyond what he was in life.” The recent tragic death of Benazir Bhutto and its subsequent media frenzy reminds me of those words. Many of those who are idealizing her today were aware of the lit fuse that followed her arrival in Pakistan and refused to respond to it. They were aware of the constant threat of death that all of the opposition candidates in Pakistan were under and yet this government continued to fund Mr. Musharraf and play the terrorist card while he created the atmosphere for political assassination and crushed the seeds of democracy.

Ms. Bhutto will be chalked up as another casualty of extremists or al Qaeda, another casualty of the war on terror. The truth of course is anything but, Ms. Bhutto was a casualty of democracy in Pakistan. You see democracy in Pakistan has its own rules and procedures for campaigning. There are no candidate debates, instead there is candidate assassinations and attempted assassinations. There are no Party platforms to discuss, there is intimidation and suicide bombings. To those who are advocating the war on terror, democracy is part of the collateral damage. They create these copious photo-ops espousing the need for democracy, while continuing to funnel money to the tyrants and dictators. Ms Bhutto was no more a casualty of the war on terror as she was a casualty to business as usual, the US does not want democracy, they want stability.

The truth of the matter was that Ms. Bhutto was sacrificed by the US, her return to Pakistan was orchestrated by the US. Despite the MSM, she was brought to Pakistan not to win, but to lose. Her presence was to give legitimacy to a corrupt system that we didn’t want fixed, we just wanted it legitimized. The goal of the State Department was to parade her and the other opposition candidates around before the elections to give the appearance of free and fair elections, when in truth they were never going to be allowed to assume power. The problem was that Mr. Musharraf became nervous, he knew his stock in the US was falling and he was not willing to take the US at its word. Maybe he remembered Saddam or the Shah who knows, but one thing is certain he wanted to ensure that there would be no Election Day coup. There was not going to be any Orange Revolution in Pakistan.

"The U.S. came to understand that Bhutto was not a threat to stability, but was instead the only possible way that we could guarantee stability and keep the presidency of Musharraf intact," said Mark Siegel, who lobbied for Bhutto in Washington and witnessed much of the behind-the-scenes diplomacy.

But the diplomacy that ended abruptly with Bhutto's assassination yesterday was always an enormous gamble, according to current and former U.S. policymakers, intelligence officials and outside analysts. By entering into the legendary "Great Game" of South Asia, the United States also made its goals and allies more vulnerable -- in a country in which more than 70 percent of the population already looked unfavorably upon Washington.[1]

For those who need convincing consider this, if al Qaeda killed Bhutto why is the only one with something to gain from it is Musharraf? If Musharraf is so hated by al Qaeda and the Taliban why would they do something to benefit him just two weeks before an election? Also, consider how the Bush administration is not calling for postponement of the election, they are calling for it to continue. The country is in a state turmoil with violence breaking out in every major city. Both opposition party leaders were targeted for assassination and their Parties are in disarray. I wonder who is going to prevail in this election. The real trick will be how fast the Neo-cons spin this into a mandate to continue the heavy-handed policies of Musharraf. This thing was a powder keg and all of our years of support for this man, the military, and his tactics came to fruition in the death of Ms. Bhutto.

Do I believe the US was complicit in the death of Ms. Bhutto? No, but do I believe they set the ball in motion that created an atmosphere for her to be murdered? Yes, I do. I believe they underestimated Musharraf and his desire to cling to power by any means necessary. I believe they thought they could play both sides against each other and the plan backfired horribly. The problem is when you are dealing with dictators and megalomaniacs it is kind of hard to know what they are capable of. Once again the arrogance of the Neo-con intelligence prevented them from seeing the very real possibility of this assassination taking place. There was a deep hatred between the two and to not foresee this is inexcusable. Especially after the “state of emergency” recently enacted and only through international pressure finally removed by Musharraf.

The turning point to get Musharraf on board was a September trip by Deputy Secretary of State John D. Negroponte to Islamabad. "He basically delivered a message to Musharraf that we would stand by him, but he needed a democratic facade on the government, and we thought Benazir was the right choice for that face," said Bruce Riedel, a former CIA officer and National Security Council staff member now at the Brookings Institution's Saban Center for Middle East Policy.

"Musharraf still detested her, and he came around reluctantly as he began to recognize this fall that his position was untenable," Riedel said. The Pakistani leader had two choices: Bhutto or former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, whom Musharraf had overthrown in a 1999 military coup. "Musharraf took what he thought was the lesser of two evils," Riedel said.[2]


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