Today, Pakistan’s government released a transcript of what it said was an intercepted call from an al Qaeda leader that showed that Benazir Bhutto’s murder was carried out by terrorists. That seems likely, as Islamic terrorists have tried to assassinate President Musharraf and other Pakistani politicians on a number of occasions. Further, on the same day as the attack on Bhutto, gunmen opened fire on a rally for rival politician Nawaz Sharif, killing several people. This sounds like it could be a coordinated al Qaeda attack.
In Pakistan, conspiracy theories are rife, and many of Bhutto’s backers believe that Musharraf’s government was behind the murder. That’s possible, but it seems unlikely: why would Musharraf permit an election next month, and then set out to murder the candidates? Just about any course of action, including continuing martial law and canceling the election, would have been far simpler.
Given the turmoil now prevailing in Pakistan, it was unfortunate that author Mark Siegel promptly publicized an email from Bhutto, blaming Musharraf, in advance, for her assassination:
“Nothing will, god willing, happen,” began the email sent to Siegel. “Just wanted you to know that, if it does … I would hold Musharraf responsible.”
Siegel said Bhutto sent the email one week after returning to Pakistan on Oct. 18 to run in an election. Her Pakistan Peoples Party was expected to win the majority of Parliamentary seats.
A failed assassination attempt that killed 179 supporters during a celebration to mark her return prompted Bhutto to send him the message, he said.
Bhutto wrote that she had been made to feel insecure by Musharraf’s “minions” and had not received the requested improvements to her security.
Siegel said she had been stopped from taking private cars with tinted windows and had not received radio jammers or four police escorts — as she had requested.
Siegel elaborated on the email by saying that Bhutto would be alive if Musharraf’s government had gone along with her request for police vehicles on all four sides of her own car. Siegel’s response to the tragedy of Bhutto’s murder is understandable, but having viewed video footage of the attack on Bhutto, and in view of the theory that she was killed by the force of the suicide bomber’s explosion pushing her head against the sun roof of her vehicle, it is hard to see how a police car between her and the bomber would have made any difference. In any event, it seems counterproductive to focus blame on Musharraf for failing to prevent the attack, rather than on the Islamic militants who, most likely, carried it out.
If Siegel’s contribution is unhelpful, Hillary Clinton’s response to the murder is far worse. She gave an interview in Des Moines in which she attacked Musharraf’s government and called for an international inquiry:
“I’m calling for a full, independent, international investigation,” Clinton said in an interview with CNN.
“I think it’s critically important that we get answers and really those are due first and foremost to the people of Pakistan,” Clinton said.
The former first lady suggested the probe could be along the lines of the international investigation that followed the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri in 2005.
“I don’t think the Pakistani government at this time under President (Pervez) Musharraf has any credibility at all. They have disbanded an independent judiciary, they oppressed a free press.”
This is, I think, shocking. It is hard to see how an American presidential candidate could say anything more inappropriate and destructive. Calling for an “international investigation” is a crude insult to the sovereignty of an American ally. Worse, Clinton’s suggestion that President Musharraf–an ally of the United States, and perhaps the only viable alternative, at the moment, to Taliban-like rule–has no credibility to carry out the investigation, is precisely the kind of arrogant meddling in other countries’ affairs of which Democrats like to accuse the Bush administration, falsely.
Clinton’s analogy to Lebanon is misplaced. An international investigation made sense in that case precisely because Lebanon’s sovereignty is legitimately in doubt, due to interference on the part of Syria. It is widely believed that Syria was responsible for Hariri’s murder and was also likely to be able to control any investigation carried out by Lebanon’s compromised government. For Clinton to say that Musharraf “lacks credibility” while drawing the parallel to Lebanon is, in effect, to say that she suspects that Musharraf is responsible for Bhutto’s murder.
Hillary Clinton’s schoolmarmish arrogance has always been her Achilles heel. It is on full display in her ill-advised comments on the situation in Pakistan. It is no wonder, perhaps, that in today’s AOL Hot Seat poll, 64% say that Clinton lacks the experience necessary to be president.
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