The assassination of Benazir Bhutto: Blame it on Condi not Musharraf

This piece was originally written and submitted on January 4th, 2008. The author still considers it relevant today. What do they say – to paraphrase – in Deuteronomy 18:21-22, "listen to that person’s words and see if they come to pass." Though dated – except for the assassination of Osama Bin Laden – no one expected things to be as bad as they are in Pakistan today.  
I did and thought the whole attempt to return Benazir Bhutto – whose father had been an outspoken anti-Israelite (I do not use the word "anti-Semite" as it does not apply here, since he was certainly – like many others for instance not anti-Saudi) – was foolhardy in the extreme. In fact, I thought it was part of the ''feminist movement'' – not necessarily always wise.
Many thought, if the leader was feminine, it would certainly be a plus. In the case of Benazir Bhutto’s return to Pakistan, it has not been and not just for Pakistan, but for everyone, including tragically herself. Its final effects are still being worked out; but in the writer’s view the trend has been downwards. So here it is just as it was written and submitted in January 4th, 2008:
The fault in Benazir Bhutto’s assassination is Condoleezza Rice’s not Parvez Musharraf’s. No doubt Musharraf was unhappy about Mrs. Bhutto’s return (here, of course, is the first instance of State Department strong-arm tactics with him) and was not going to lift a very big finger to protect her. Nor, it is safe to say, did he shed many tears over her demise.
Of course, Mrs. Bhutto had, to some extent, herself to blame if, despite feeling that President Musharraf’s security arrangements – guaranteed, it would appear, by pressure from Dr. Rice and her colleagues – were insufficient and despite, too, the havoc wrought by the first suicide bomb attack the day she arrived in the country a month before (also blamed by her on insufficient security arrangements); she publicly went into the heart of Rawalpindi, long considered an army stronghold. Nor is this to say anything of her apparently momentary decision to stand up in an open vehicle in such a possibly hostile environment. In my opinion, this was foolhardiness or impetuousness of a dangerous kind.
Nonetheless, Benazir Bhutto loved the spotlight and obviously she enjoyed the public adulation. Though she probably didn’t like the risks involved, she appeared to thrive on them and Dr. Rice and her colleagues played on this. While one must acknowledge her courageousness and nobility in championing of women’s rights in a medieval Islamic world; still, she was a one-woman show and, reportedly, did not brook very much competition in her own party and was not very popular even in her own extended family. It has also been widely reported that even one of her nieces – the daughter of a murdered brother with whom she was, it seems, no longer on speaking terms – considered her return to Pakistan the worst thing for the country (and in this she might have been right). There are rumors even that she or her rather unsavory husband – now the de facto leader of her Party and President of the country – had something to do with the murder of this niece’s father.
Well, enough of this kind of thing – it is unkind to speak negatively about the dead especially in such cruel circumstances and she certainly was brave – too brave, perhaps, than what would might have been reasonable for her own self-preservation. Still, the fault can be placed at the door of Condoleezza Rice and the shadowy figures who both stand behind and control her. Nor is or will this be the end of her ill-considered judgments or insights and those of these colleagues. There are a few others to note over the past few years, the upshot of which would make it foolhardy or ludicrous for Israel to follow her present ploy of attempting to salvage George Bush’s reputation in the last year of his Presidency on the back of intrigues such as this and the Israeli-Palestinian “Peace Process.”
Of course, where the latter is concerned, we have been there and gone that route before. Shall I recall them? Remember Jimmy Carter? He ended up with a Nobel Peace Prize for efforts of this kind, which has stood him in good stead to the present day, even though he has now turned into something of ‘a pocket anti-Semite.’ And George Bush Sr. with his Madrid Conference, who emasculated Israel during the First Iraq War (and probably another ‘pocket anti-Semite’ – if not him, then certainly his mentor James Baker)? Or Bill Clinton, with his numerous invitations to Yasser Arafat (who was all the time laughing at him) to stay in the Lincoln bedroom of the White House, at the end of his Presidency after the Monica Lewinsky Affair? At least George Bush Jr. never did any of these things.
But let us go back to Dr. Rice. It was she who clearly played on Benazir Bhutto’s ambitions and natural flamboyance to convince her that she was Pakistan’s best hope and put pressure on Musharraf to see it this way too, though in the end obviously unsuccessfully. He did not finally really agree to her return to Pakistan and, if he did, only begrudgingly. In the end, after Nawaz Sharif’s precipitous return from his sponsor (and probably hers too) Saudi Arabia, she could bear it no longer and returned, regardless of the cost both to herself and Pakistan’s eventual destabilization.
And what was so bad about Pakistan under Musharraf? At least it was not at that point completely falling apart and ripe pickings for the Islamicists? Would hers have been any better, even if she could have succeeded in the face of the forces arrayed against her – a doubtful proposition? But for some reason Condi wanted her to go back and now she is dead. But who was behind Dr. Rice? Why her old boss, Brent Scowcroft (Bush Sr.’s National Security Adviser) and probably James Baker. Yes, we are probably back on the turf of James Baker again who had been effectively marginalized during the greater part of Bush Jr.’s White House tenure largely because Bush Jr. and Cheney couldn’t really stand him, despite the debt they owed him over his Florida election manipulations. 
Yes, the Baker Plan, which seemed dead on arrival a year ago – and which proclaimed, inter alia, the benefits of negotiating with your enemies – is back in play again. One can see the evidences of it everywhere. Cheney, obviously an ardent friend of Israel and no lover of the Lawrence of Arabia/St. John Philby mystique, is in the doghouse and Condi is in the driver’s seat once again; and we are back on the road to her (and their) ‘Road Map’ or ‘Peace Plan.’
First, we have the revised National Security Estimate that Iran had abandoned its nuclear weapons program several years ago (though apparently no one had heard about it previously) – this announcement obviously in the interests of some ‘backroom deal’ that was being negotiated between Saudi Arabia and Iran. And now we have this debacle in Pakistan. For some reason Musharraf wasn’t perceived as doing a good enough job there. We needed more “democratization,” as they put it, in Pakistan and the results were predictable.
How can you have “democratization” in a fanatical Islamic pressure cooker, fed by Saudi oil money and waiting to explode? Musharraf had already lost about a thousand troops trying to fight the extremists in Waziristan at our behest, but that wasn’t good enough. We wanted him to destabilize himself by sending more lackluster and ill-disciplined troops into the fray who, in any case, were disinclined to sacrifice themselves. And now he really was destabilized, Mrs. Bhutto is dead, and Pakistan really is in play.
And what else has Condoleezza been involved in lately? We probably should not blame her for the attempt to extend Nato anti-missile systems into Eastern Europe, which seems to have sent the brutally clear and autocratic Putin into a tailspin of bellicosity. Of course, he may have been headed in this direction anyhow – but this from someone supposed to be a Russian expert? And then, of course, there is the turn-about vis-à-vis the Kurds in Northern Iraq.
Now Condoleezza Rice’s State Department has given the Turks the green light to attack locations in Northern Kurdistan, if news reports can be believed and there is not some other strategy at work – the same one, say, that recently brought Pres. Ahmadinajav of Iran to Riyadh to visit King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia and, thereafter, on the Hajj to Mecca – something most Shi’ites never put much stock in, their main pilgrimage sites (An-Najaf, the burial place of the Prophet’s cousin and son-in-law ‘Ali and Kerbalah, the burial place of his younger son, the Imam, Hussein) being in Iraq anyhow.
But all of this is the Baker Plan behind-the-scenes and probably that of his factotum, Brent Scowcroft, to say nothing of Bush 41, all operating through Condoleezza Rice. But imagine alienating the Kurds, America’s only real friends in the Iraqi three-way maelstrom, but now we are doing even this (in the interests probably of a pro-Saudi foreign policy again) by siding with the Turks, who refused the U.S.’s access into Northern Iraq in the original invasion, thus helping to undermine the entire war and occupation policy from the beginning. But the Kurds were the U.S. fallback position in Iraq. If all else failed, then the Kurds were the place the U.S. would and could have withdrawn to, to set up their airbases and the like (though, now with Saudi help conciliating the Sunni Tribes, it looks like it will not). Still, with the help of Condi’s genius and Russian expertise we are well on our way towards alienating this fallback position as well.
No matter again, because now we are ready for the final act in the twilight year of the Bush Presidency; and this is what is reserved for Israel – Sinai 2 or Madrid 2? And who knows, maybe even Bush 43 or Olmert or Mahmud Abbas or even Condi will win a Nobel Peace Prize as well? But Israel should be well aware and forewarned. Now Condi is dealing with an extremely weakened Israeli power structure, one bent on doing almost anything to survive and continue in power. This is grist for the mill for the Baker/ Scowcroft manipulation syndrome, just as it was after the First Gulf War. Squeeze Israel. Let her pay for the great favor done her by taking her under the wing of our missile-defense and allowing her to be hit by scud missiles without a response – this, the initial humiliation; and all to rescue the Alliance.
And now we hear about the kind of negative comments Condi makes about Israel and attitudes there. We hear that she is comparing Israel’s treatment of the Arabs to what she experienced as a little girl and the treatment of the American blacks by white Southerners in the old “Jim Crow” days. This is a frightening analogy and shows not the slightest bit of comprehension of the true reason for the state-of-affairs in the Israel-Palestine situation, nor any understanding of Israel’s real character or raison d’etre in the first place. It is truly out of all proportion. But to add to this, we then hear of pandering comments by an editor of one of Israel''s most important Hebrew newspapers to the effect that Israel is “a failed” Democracy and “must be raped” into signing a Peace Treaty with Mahmud Abbas. 
Moreover, that the speaker is so beside himself at being in the presence of the magisterial American Secretary-of-State that he is  even quoted as going so far as to vulgarly recount to her the substance of what he seems to have regarded as off-color dream of some type. To my knowledge, no responsible Israeli has ever spoken like this to a foreign leader in such a sensitive environment at such a sensitive time and needs to be severely disciplined. Such an individual needs to be literally placed “beyond the Pale” and one means by this the old Jewish meaning of such a “Pale.”
Israel and Israelis should beware indeed. They should witness the fate of tragic Benazir Bhutto in Pakistan, relying on Condoleezza Rice’s State Department guarantees. They should witness the present state of the Pakistan polity when only a modicum of back-room tinkering was probably all that was necessary to bring that situation into better alignment – like him or not, Parvez Musharraf being perhaps one of the only ostensibly reasonable persons functioning in the maelstrom of that society. At least one can understand what he is trying to do in order to survive in that world and a mild military dictatorship probably being far better than another Islamic State.
But beware of people like Condi. The fault in the death of Mrs. Bhutto (and probably other things now in the process of occurring) is theirs.