“What are the odds on Bhutto?” Redux

Archduke There were three suicide bombers on foot in the crowd and someone fired several shots that hit the bullet resistant glass where she was supposed to be sitting.

Musharraf has been the target of a number of assassination plots but this set of attacks on Benazir Bhutto just after she descended from the aircraft that brought her home raises once again the question of the future of Pakistan, a country that possesses deliverable nuclear weapons and aircraft configured to do the job.

The Pakistani military is thoroughly infiltrated by men of doubtful loyalty to a Western alliance.  Without the past help or passive acceptance of such men the Taliban and al-Qaeda would never have become the menace that they still are.

No.  The US did not sponsor either group.  We  sponsored other groups. Look it up.

Nevertheless, the situation in Pakistan remains largely a question of the survival of a handful of people like Musharraf and Bhutto.  Perhaps next time the plotters will have better luck.  If they do then, a sudden reversal in Pakistan which produces a government committed to an Islamist course is distinctly possible.

The threat of Iranian nuclear weapons is distant and still inconclusive.  The threat that would be posed by Pakistani weapons would be immediate.  pl



Someone killed her.  Is anyone surprised?  As I said, the country is inherently like this.  It was a mistake.  Now we know what the odds worked out to be.  What will we see now?  Will there be chaos in the streets?  Will Musharraf put his militarized police and army into the streets to shoot rioters?  What will we see?  pl

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41 Responses to “What are the odds on Bhutto?” Redux

  1. Jose says:

    Sad day for Pakistan, America and the world with condolences to all.
    America needs to stop trying to pick the right regimes and/or groups to be elected to serve our interests.
    Our President just spoke about the need to continue the democratic process in Pakistan, does anybody seriously believe that Pakistan wants Democracy over stability and/or breakup of the country?
    We haven’t learned anything from Iraq.
    “Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” – Sun Tzu

  2. pbrownlee says:

    The utterly inadequate “responses” of Bush and Brown assert that we must redouble our efforts in defence of whatever they mean by “democracy” and against whatever they mean by “terrorists”.
    Perhaps the dismissed former justices of the Pakistani Supreme Court were responsible for all this?
    Clearly there some antidemocratic terrorists are more equal than others.
    I would take a closer look at Pakistan’s Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence (past and present):
    “Gen Musharraf laid out his proposal to support America in the imminent war against the Taliban and Osama bin Laden. There was, he told them, simply no other choice. Officially the public was told the officers supported Gen Musharraf unanimously. But now it has emerged that four of his most senior generals opposed him outright. The Guardian has learned that the four openly challenged the president’s pro-US stance. In military terms it was a stunning display of disloyalty.
    “According to a source close to the military leadership the most angry among the four that night was Lieutenant General Mehmood Ahmed, the religious hardliner who headed the Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI) – responsible for internal security and covert operations – and was once Gen Musharraf’s closest ally.
    “Three other lieutenant generals joined his protest: Muzaffar Usmani, a corps commander who was instrumental in orchestrating the coup of October 1999 that brought the army back to power; Jamshaid Gulzar Kiani, commander of the powerful Rawalpindi corps; and Mohammad Aziz Khan, the Kashmir-born Lahore corps commander and a former ISI deputy chief.
    “Within a month the dissenters were silenced. Gen Ahmed and Gen Usmani were sacked. Gen Kiani lost his corps to become Adjutant-General while Gen Khan was promoted to the theoretically powerful, but largely ceremonial, position of chairman of the joint chiefs of staff committee.”
    In an earlier life I had some microscopic dealings with Ms Bhutto and as far as I was concerned she was unfailingly thoughtful, intelligent and charming.
    This is a loss.
    (When I tried to find out more about this I got on to CBS — the newsreader there seemed to have little actual news but a lot of trouble with those pesky Pakistani placenames.)

  3. Mad Dogs says:

    He who rides a tiger cannot dismount.

  4. pbrownlee says:

    But the tiger must sleep…

  5. Watcher says:

    Perhaps a precursor of things to come, ie Shah Masood…

  6. Grumpy says:

    But, the tiger sleeps best on a full belly.

  7. arthurdecco says:

    Bhutto didn’t end up with a purported $750,000,000, (That’s Seven Hundred and Fifty Million Dollars!)in her husband’s and her bank accounts by being a Pakistani Patriot or by caring unconditionally for “her people”.
    I’d look inside her family first and then to her “friends” before I went off the deep end over “Terists” being to blame for her murder.
    This was a crime – not an American movie.

  8. robt willmann says:

    This morning, December 27, I think I heard on MSNBC the voice of one Samuel Berger commenting on the death of Benazir Bhutto.
    Mr. Berger–document stealer and former national security “adviser” to pres. Bill Clinton–reportedly surrendered his law license to practice in the District of Columbia this year. But if I remember his sweetheart plea bargain correctly, his security clearance was going to be yanked for only three (3) years, just in time to get back into a friendly White House if the 2008 election goes in his favor.
    Yet, Mr. Berger said that the “extremists” in Pakistan were in the Northwest Frontier province.
    Pehaps he should have tried to steal a map of Pakistan from the National Archives while he was at it, and then he would be able better to tell the public where the undefined and undescribed “extremists” are in that country today. Is anyone remotely connected with reality claiming that the “extremists” are packed into that one northern area?
    The refreshing thing about concert piano playing, standup comedy (as exemplified by Johnny Carson and others), a capella singing, bronc and bull riding, and farming is that you cannot hide mediocrity behind a government title.
    With people like Mr. Berger operating at the “federal level”, it is no wonder that the U.S. position in the Middle East and South Asia has been destructive for years.
    The homicide of Ms. Bhutto is loaded up with intrigue like the killing of Rafik Hariri in Lebanon in 2005. Every person, group, and government with “an interest” in that geographic area is a suspect.
    I don’t know if it’s true, but the report linked here
    claims that a new agreement has been made between the U.S. and Pakistan, meaning Musharraf and Gen. Tariq Majid, the new head of the military. U.S. special forces are expected to “vastly expand their presence” in Pakistan, and provide training, assistance, and mentoring.
    I wonder what the folks in Waziristan are going to think about that?
    Happy New Year.

  9. condfusedponderer says:

    Al Quaeda has claimed responsibility for killing Bhutto. More in this article from the Asia Times.

  10. Hannah K. O'Luthon says:

    In his introductory remarks to the earlier discussion, the justly esteemed moderator of SST stated

    “The US did not sponsor either group [Taliban or Al Qaeda]. We sponsored other groups. Look it up.”

    I would like to know where an outsider might “look it up” with a reasonable chance of finding credible documents, and also just what “extremist” groups we did sponsor. For example, have we ever sponsored the MEK?

  11. Leigh says:

    According to pix shown on newschannels, she had left the rally (safely) and gotten into her armored car (safely). Then she decided to standup and wave at the crowd through the sun roof. Standing there, above the crowd, she made a perfect target, and nothing and no one could have protected her.

  12. W. Patrick Lang says:

    Hannah K. O’Luthon
    Interesting name.
    I know from an earlier life that in the seven party mujahideen alliance against the Soviets, the US supported (through Pakistan) all except the Sayyaf group. That group was heavily supported by Saudi Arabia. Bin Laden was associated with that group and the Taliban movement was also associated with that group and witrh various Deobandi activists. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abdul_Rasul_Sayyaf
    I don’t really know what the relationship between the USG and the MEK may be. pl

  13. J.T. Davis says:

    Apparently the Pakistanis now have a medium range, nuclear capable cruise missile. They won’t even need manned aircraft.

  14. Andy says:

    To add to what Col. Lang said, I would point Hannah to Steve Coll’s Ghost Wars, which is one of the definitive works on the subject.

  15. Fred says:

    robt willmann:
    Nice cheap shot at the Democrats – who do not run the exectuive branch.
    Samuel Berger has been out of governmnet service since 2001. Perhaps you would comment on the current government’s National Security Advisor, or perhaps the VP’s CIA outing former chief of staff or many of the other fine examples of leadership the Bush administration has brought to service at the ‘federal level’.

  16. condfusedponderer says:

    Hannah K. O’Luthon,
    there is talk, not much more, about the neo-cons trying to retain the MEK for later uses vis a vis Iran. If that is true, and I have just my hunch and no way of knowing that with certainty, but it is likely they are being kept for intelligence gathering and the like in Iran.
    The MEK claims it has discovered Iranian nuclear sites. I take that with a pound of salt or two. An alternative explanation is that the MEK were being used as an outlet by an ‘interested third party’ to publicise the discovery. Now guess who that might be.
    For an amazingly sympathetic view on the MEK just try this article. For some background this article by Richard Sale.
    Considering the MEK’s reaction to the NIE (it is false!) they have fallen from grace with their neo-con sponsors, which to me (anyway) suggests that there has been a re-assessment of the MEK in Gates’ Pentagon.
    If there is US support for the MEK, it is probably along those lines – espionage and probably also information operations. But as I said, it’s just my informed guesswork.

  17. jonst says:

    Ah Rob, you almost make me nostalgic for the days where the crimes that made the news were stuffing documents down your shorts/socks/whatever! Life was simpler in those days.

  18. Andy says:

    MEK’s claims about discovery are false and you are right to take them with a ton of salt. More information can be found here.

  19. Ken Hoop says:

    Admit it, Col Lang. In your heart you know he’s right. Ron Paul, that is.
    America Come Home!

  20. Matthew says:

    Is MEK the Farsi acronym for “Chalabi”?

  21. Paul says:

    The Bhutto assasination brings out the worst of our alleged leaders. Do they not understand the notion that one gets burned playing with fire? Instead of muted observation, these phonies elevate the volume of Muslim-taunting that will surely elicit a reaction. Rudy is going to get “every one of ’em”. One of his advisors (a 65+ tub of s**t) is going to chase them back to their caves. Yeah, right! The Europeans are relatively silent for they learned their lessons about meddling in Middle East. Maybe Bush and his ilk will invade Portugal when they will fail in Afghanistan.

  22. Babak Makkinejad says:

    There is no language that is called “Farsi” in English; one does not use “Italiano” to speak of Italian”.
    Ken Hoop:
    The United States cannot disengage from the World any more than any other state in the world since the present historical moment has coupled every state to one another [mor or less strongly].
    However, US certainly can and should reduce her global foot-print specially in Northeast Asia and in Europe; in my opinion.

  23. PeterE says:

    You ask, “Someone killed her. Is anyone surprised?” I hope the U.S. government isn’t surprised. Surely her assassination was moderately likely. Something for which the U.S. should have developed contingency plans. Or am I missing something?
    Another question: Bhutto complained that Musharraf’s government wasn’t providing adequate security and wasn’t effectively investigating (even discouraged investigating) the people involved in previous attempts on her life. Did the U.S. put pressure on Musharraf to provide adequate security and to investigate? I’d like to think that the answer is “Yes”, but maybe it’s “No”.

  24. McGee says:

    I think you meant Northwest Asia, no?
    Anyone here with better knowledge than mine of Pakistan think that this might now make Imran Khan a legitimate candidate? First thing I thought of….

  25. Trent says:

    Babak, English is a fluid language. Alas, Farsi is now an English word, as is Persian. Please see Merriam-Webster.
    PL, et al, any thoughts on the Russian, European and Iranian responses to the assassination?

  26. Okay here goes. I hope this passes for thoughtful analysis and not posturing.
    Let’s discuss Pakistan relationships seriously. Clearly that geographic entity has been the subject of great power politics for a long time. Being used now to counter-balance India (which is a fully nuclear-capable power) and even China (also fully nuclear capable). Pakistan through the wild and violent history of its immediate neighbor Afganistan have been the focus of central/south asian events for almost 200 years. The US continues to state on the record that its foreign policy is not ruled by religious issues but is non-sectarian. What are real power politics in this arena. Since the countries involved are all driven in their foreign policy largely by religion how does that intersect with our non-religious foreign policy? China and Russia seem to also have a non-sectarian foreign policy publically while behind the scenes they are at least to some degree anti-religion, more so with China than Russia. The US does not own this area. The two large issues for National Security seem to be possession and control of WMD and conventional capability that might be utilized against the US and its allies. Look to the policy of India, China and Russia and see how those countries align with us on issues. Doubtful that the dynamic of WMD possession and conventional power is going to change dramatically short of nuclear warfare in that arena for the indefinite future. China wants internal security and the ability to manipulate the long term power arrangements. So do India and Russia. Do those countries really want a full-scale Islamic WMD capability in Pakistan? Are they the most affected? What are the real interests of the US in this arena? It seems to me that the US is still tied in knots over the illusion of control. What would happen if we just let the countries of Russia, India and China sort out Pakistan? Otherwise eventually it looks like US boots on the ground over an arena that cannot be delt with conventionally or by special ops. Bhutto was threatened even in exile by various groups. The Pakistan leadership is now really between a rock and a hard place and should have maximized steps to avoid the politics of assassination dominating its political life. It did not see it that way and so the rest of the world has to sit back and watch the feeding frenzy. My guess is that China, India and Russia not the US has the most to lose from this event, and perhaps Afghanistan. Am I wrong?

  27. This issue is out of my league. All I can say is that it is another case of complete confusion for me – a recurring theme in my life as an American trying to keep up with what my government is doing in my name.
    For a country with so many news sources, it sure is amazing how these events pop up out of nowhere. Until the first assassination attempt I had never even heard of her. Then she disappeared from the news channels. Now it’s wall-to-wall coverage again.
    How are we supposed to make informed decisions with a news media that has completely lost its way?
    Here endeth the venting.

  28. Babak Makkinejad says:

    No, I meant Japan & South Korea.

  29. Babak Makkinejad says:

    So the speech of illiterate Iranians has been accepted by Merriam-Webste; shame, shame, shame.

  30. jedermann says:

    re: William R. Cumming comment
    China and Russia, so long as the U.S. remains the focal point for Islamic rage, will likely keep relatively low profiles while they quietly build commercial ties with anyone and everyone and take steps to secure Middle East sources of petroleum with long-term development deals. In the short term a fundamentalist regime in Pakistan would be little threat to these countries and could offer a strategic opportunity to limit U.S. influence and access to vital resources. In the longer term it will be in their interest to keep U.S. assets within striking distance of Pakistani elements as both irritants and viable targets. Look for a lot of duplicitous maneuvering to hinder U.S. disengagement in Iraq while signaling disapproval of the hegemonic bully. Also look for subtle (or maybe not so suble) impedance of Israeli/Palestinian peace efforts.
    India is another matter. A fundamentalist Muslim regime in Pakistan would likely be viewed by India as a direct and immediate threat. Kashmir would again be a flashpoint. India, too, would probably prefer to see Pakistani fundamentalists focused on the U.S., but it must ultimately see itself allied with the U.S. and would probably not risk overt moves to make America’s position in the Middle East more difficult. That said, India will no doubt take whatever steps it considers prudent to defend itself against any kind of Pakistani assault or incursion. No doubt their tracking of which internal faction is in control of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons will be acute. They will constantly be weighing whether conditions dictate a preemptive strike to ensure their own survival. The historical enmity between India and Pakistan has been violent and intense, yet constrained by some kind of realism on both sides. We will have to see if a fundamentalist Pakistan will exhibit a similar realism, and just as important, if India will perceive it so.

  31. Martin K says:

    As always, very interesting discussion. Some points:
    * Re: Pakistan, I wonder how the main religious leaders stand on this. Anyone here know who Pakistans answer to Sistani is? Also, again and again, remember this is just as much a conflict between criminals as it is a ideological/religious conflict. We westerners have a tendency to think in ideal forms, whereas the muslim world is all about interdependence and interconection.
    * Paul: “The Europeans are relatively silent for they learned their lessons about meddling in Middle East.” We/They are also very quiet because the anti-muslim wave has been much higher on the ground over here, and has made responsible people not inclined to listen to the mob aware of the huge muslim communities all over western Europe. In my city, Oslo, they constitute approx 8%, thats quite a significant presence in a city of 500000. As the riots of France showed, the youths of these groups are now torn between conflicting loyalties, that is where the real battle for the Hearts & Minds are taking place. Wich, AGAIN, is one of the main reasons that Gitmo/Waterboarding as a PR-effort (wich it has been clearly marketed as) is counterproductive and criminally stupid.
    The historian in me sees this as the end-result of Rumsfeldts attempt to enter the Great Game. The Arc of his ambition projected as far as Uzbekistan at its zenith, with bases in almost all the stans, E. European soldiers in Iraq and agressive movemens towards Russias areas from all fronts at once. This hybris has backlashed somewhat mightily and has now caused the possible loss of half of Iraq, half of Afghanistan and in a worst case scenario, Pakistan. Reminds me of another Eastern Front, where someone did not understand the meaning of stand and hold. Imagine if he had not done Iraq, but put all that potential into Afghanistan? Argh.
    BTW, if my english is stilted, pardon me sirs, cause I have just finished “The System of the World” by Neal Stephenson abouyt the emergence of the scientific and economic paradigms of the west, and it is filled with polite discourses in high englis. Very good historical magical-realistic read.

  32. b says:

    PeterE says:
    “Surely her assassination was moderately likely. Something for which the U.S. should have developed contingency plans. Or am I missing something?”
    Washington moves to anoint a Bhutto successor’ and push for an immediate vote after the assassination

    It was a decidedly odd moment. On Thursday, within hours of Benazir Bhutto’s assassination, State Department spokesman Tom Casey told reporters in Washington that his boss, Condoleezza Rice, had quickly made two calls. One was to Bhutto’s bereaved husband, Asif Ali Zardari. Rice’s other call, Casey said, was to the man he called Bhutto’s “successor,” Amin Fahim, the vice chairman of her Pakistan People’s Party. Casey couldn’t even quite master this obscure politician’s name, but he said, “I’ll leave it up to Mr. Amin Fahir—Fahim—as the new head of the Pakistan People’s Party to determine how that party is going to participate in the electoral process.”
    The problem is, nobody but the State Department—especially not the political elites in Pakistan, even those within Bhutto’s own party—sees Fahim in such a role, and certainly not so soon. Critics suggest that the administration is so eager to graft legitimacy onto President Pervez Musharraf, its ever-more-unpopular ally in the war on terror, that it is pressing too hard to move past Bhutto and continue with scheduled Jan. 8 parliamentary elections, even though riots are paralyzing the country. “They’re trying to rush everything. This is a disaster,” says Marvin Weinbaum, a former State Depratment official and current scholar at the Middle East Institute. “This is now our new game plan: We’re working out a deal between Fahim and Musharraf after the election. They mention Fahim because they don’t know any better. The fact is, she [Bhutto] didn’t trust him.”

  33. Duncan Kinder says:

    It looks as if both Kenya and Nigeria are heading towards similar difficulties.
    Reportedly, the Kenyan election, which might mean the ouster of its current government, is suspect and is provoking ethnic unrest. Kenya abuts Somalia, which has experienced an Islamist insurgency.
    Also, reportedly, Nigeria’s top corruption official, who seems to have played a role analogous to Bhutto’s, is being shoved aside. Nigeria is a major oil exporter and is the locus for MEND insurgents on the Niger delta.
    The overall image is similar to that of a California wildfire. Even it the Pakistan blaze is dampened down, other blazes are churning in Africa, sending sparks across the firewalls.

  34. Question? Do the Naxahalites (sic) in India have any foreign backing? Given that India is one of the largest Islamic nations by populations (I believe) and given internal development friction how do they realistically think that they are in position to oppose a fundamentalist regime in Pakistan? Also, China seems to be getting away with mowing down Mosques in its Western Provinces, it is again just a case where like the British pre-1947 in India the US led factions are the “Soft” targets in South Asia? Finally, other than huge territory and populations, if you treat Pakistan and Afghanistan as a unit (which I don’t but for arguments sake) what is the interest of the International community there but for WMD proliferation issues? Did the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan have any long-term impacts in that country on its development or just slow the mass sinking into poverty and ignorance that now looks like will be the future of Pakistan? Is the real choice democracy or fundamentalism or does democracy mean fundamentalism in this part of the world. My belief is that except for outside interests, Pakistan at this point would be better off without WMD proliferation and control issues surfacing since it makes it more likely than not that other powers will continue to use it for a playground, including the Islamic Fundamentalists. Finally, who (what international groups and states) are really assisted in their Pakistani objectives by this most recent assassination? What internal groups benefit? I think no one benefits which makes the act more likely random than not.

  35. martin K says:

    WR Cummings: You have been overrun by the parameters of the conflict. It is moving very fast now.

  36. Walrus says:

    The simplest question about this whole affair is Cui Bono?
    Musharaf gets rid of a challenge to his power.
    The Taliban get rid of a threat to their power.
    Please understand that secular (or even religious) democrats espousing western values are a relatively small elite in Asian countries, and they are regarded with deep suspicion by the majority of the population.
    Bhuttos assassination will be popular with the peasants. She was western in her outlook and she is female. Thats enough for a death sentence.

  37. Arun says:

    Paraphrasing an Indian commentator: Pakistanis come in the secular and fundamentalist varieties. The secular ones hate India. The fundamentalists hate India and the West. Regardless of who is in control, the missiles are pointing at India. With Bhutto gone, Pakistan can no longer keep up its secular facade with the West, which is a good thing for India. Moreover, let the West now deal with the monstrosity they’ve propped up for so long.

  38. robt willmann says:

    My remarking about Samuel “Sandy” Berger as a “hook” to get into the incident in Pakistan drew comments showing that this is indeed election season.
    The gangster foreign policy, of which Mr. Berger was a practitioner and which has been dramatically employed by the Bush jr administration, is still in place in Pakistan.
    The key to that policy, obviously based on intimidation and violence, is to prevent the existence of independent thinkers and actors in foreign governments or groups in areas that are strategic geographically or where money is an issue.
    So far, Musharraf, who may be playing his own double- or triple-crossing game, has not wandered too far off of the the U.S. policy reservation. That is what matters. And who knows how much of the billions in U.S. taxpayer money sent to Pakistan has gone into the pockets of Musharraf and the new Gen. Tariq Majid. So far as I know, when the U.S. government does the bribing, it does not violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
    Here is an article on Benazir Bhutto that appears in the British Guardian of today (December 30).
    The alleged new agreement between the U.S. and Pakistan that I referred to and which is supposed to increase the presence of U.S. special forces in that country is troubling, but it illustrates that the “policy” is not the propaganda cover story of democracy, but gangsterism.
    Cold War Zoomie is bothered that the news media has “lost its way”. The media has not lost its way. It has been and is actively promoting the administration’s policies since 2001.
    This brings us back to Mr. Berger. Why did MSNBC put him on a national cable network? To be a Good Samaritan? Is it because a psychiatrist called and said it would be good for his self esteem to be back on TV in the role of an alleged “expert”? Why?
    There is an answer to that question, and it is not pretty.

  39. Trent says:

    Babak, language changing over time is shameful only to pedants. What will Iran do regarding Pakistan? Anything? Happy New Year to you and all the SST family.

  40. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Yes, language changes but now we have 4 names for the same language: “Persian”, “Dari”, “Farsi”, and “Tadjiki”. There are political reasons for this but accepting this terminology only furthers confusion.
    At one time, the Shah of Iran and the Prime Minister of India had discussed a contingency plan for occupation of Pakistan if the state structure disintegrated there.
    My guess would be that the Iranian Government and People will do nothing in regards to Pakistan even if that country is plunged into complete anarchy. For they have watced US in Iraq and NATO in Afghanistan; they (Iranians) have better things to do with their oil money than to squander it.
    Thank you for your good wishes for the New Year; likewise, I hope you will have a comfortable and pleasant 2008.

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