Read: What Cheney Wrought
Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid writes in a Washington Post op-ed: "The spread of anti-Western feelings and the rise of Islamic fundamentalism have been fostered by a U.S. policy that has sought to prop up Musharraf rather than forcing him to seek political consensus and empower a representative civilian government that would have public support for attacking the extremists."
And who's most responsible for that policy? Here's what Rashid wrote in The Post in June: "Current and past U.S. officials tell me that Pakistan policy is essentially being run from Cheney's office. The vice president, they say, is close to Musharraf and refuses to brook any U.S. criticism of him. This all fits; in recent months, I'm told, Pakistani opposition politicians visiting Washington have been ushered in to meet Cheney's aides, rather than taken to the State Department.
"No one in Foggy Bottom seems willing to question Cheney's decisions." (source)
Tragedy in Pakistan, danger for the West: Benazir Bhutto assassinated
In the world of politics, the alarming news out of Pakistan is as ugly, brutal and violent as it gets: Opposition leader Benazir Bhutto was assassinated today after taking part in a rally of her Pakistan People's Party in the city of Rawalpindi. Bhutto, who recently had returned to her homeland after years of exile in the U.K., had been campaigning on behalf of the PPP in the lead-up to parliamentary elections that are expected to take place next month.
Reuters reports: "Police said a suicide bomber fired shots at Bhutto as she was leaving the rally venue in a park before blowing himself up." A policeman told the news agency: "The man first fired at Bhutto's vehicle. She ducked and then he blew himself up." Farzana Raja, a high-ranking PPP official, said: "It is the act of those who want to disintegrate Pakistan because she was symbol of unity. They have finished the Bhutto family. They are enemies of Pakistan." Reuters reports that a "witness at the scene of the attack said he had heard two shots moments before the blast." A second witness "saw bodies and a mutilated human head strewn on a road outside the park" where the political rally had taken place.
Dawn, a Pakistani daily, reports: "Bhutto succumbed to her injuries in the hospital" to which she had been taken following the bomb attack in the park. "She had received grievous bullet injuries in the neck region and head injuries from the bomb blast...which also claimed at least 20 more lives."
Notes Britain's Guardian in response to the news of Bhutto's assassination: "The death of Benazir Bhutto is not just a tragedy for her family but threatens to plunge Pakistan deeper into political turmoil at a time when it was desperately seeking to regain some semblance of stability. Already[,] her supporters are describing Bhutto, her life cut short at 54, as a martyr, and leaders of her Pakistan People's Party...will have to struggle to keep feelings of revenge in check. For the West, Bhutto's death is just about the worst outcome, as the U.S. and Britain had been banking on her pro-Western and moderate leanings to keep Pakistan [on their side] and help stem the rising tide of militancy in the country."
The killing of Bhutto raises many questions. Who was behind the attack? Supporters of Pakistan's U.S.-backed, democracy-crushing, power-hungry dictator, President Pervez Musharraf? Radical, fundamentalist-Muslim militants who do not want to see Pakistan democratize and who would especially reject the notion of a Western-educated woman (Bhutto had studied at Harvard University in the U.S. and at Oxford University in Britain) becoming the next head of the government?
Musharraf's regime, which has used every ploy in its leader's bag of tricks to thwart his political rivals in advance of January's parliamentary elections, had recently banned the live broadcasting of political rallies. Just before her death, Bhutto criticized that move, "saying it showed the government had panicked because of the people's support for opposition leaders...." At a recent rally, she told her supporters "that inflation, unemployment and lawlessness bred terrorism and extremism, adding that the PPP, if elected to power, would provide jobs to youth, reduce inflation and give total freedom to the media." At that rally, she stated: "Pakistan is facing a grave threat from extremism. The nation should join hands with the PPP to get rid of extremism....The country is in crisis, the judiciary in shackles, extremism is rising, and suicide attacks are increasing. It is time for moderate forces to come into power to bring the country out of crisis." Bhutto also "said that some elements were masterminding suicide attacks and subversive activities in [Pakistan in order] to continue dictatorship and spread fear among the people...." (Daily Times, Pakistan)
Some background about Benazir Bhutto: Her father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, "was Pakistan's first popularly elected prime mister. He was executed in 1979 after being deposed in a military coup. [Benazir] Bhutto became the first female prime minister in the Muslim world when she was elected in 1988....She was deposed in 1990, re-elected in 1993, and ousted again in 1996 amid charges of corruption and mismanagement. She said the charges were politically motivated but in 1999 chose to stay in exile rather than face them." (Reuters)
At the hospital to which Bhutto's wounded body had been taken and where, ultimately, she died, some of her supporters "began chanting, 'Dog, Musharraf, dog.'" (In the Muslim religion, dogs are seen as unclean animals. To call someone a dog is an insult.) (Associated Press, cited by BBC)