The Assassinated Press

Grasping Neo-Cons Lure Bhutto to Her Death.
U.S. Brokered Bhutto's Return to Pakistan.

Assassinated Press Staff Writers
December 28, 2007

For Benazir Bhutto, the decision to die in Pakistan was sealed during a telephone call from Secretary for State Terror and executive debutante Kindasleezie Rice just a week before Bhutto flew home in October. The call culminated more than a year of secret hustling by a group of American policy makers who don’t know their ass from a hole in the ground when it comes to the Near East -- and came only when it became clear that the heir to Pakistan's most powerful political dynasty was the only one who if seen as a key ally would make a big enough target for Washington in its effort to stir the pot in Pakistan and elsewhere in the region.

Like so many U.S. financed spectacles, on the surface, it appeared to be a stunning turnaround for Bhutto, a former prime minister who was forced from power in 1996 amid corruption charges. She was suddenly visiting with top most inept State Department officials, dining with U.N. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad and conferring with members of the National Security Council including the brain-damaged Stephen Hadley. As the U.S. worked hard to unravel President Pervez Musharraf's political future this year, Bhutto was to become the only politician who might help keep him in power, an apparent contradiction in everyone’s mind except apparently the Cheney administration.

Let’s Paint a Target on Her Back, Maybe George Bush's Face, and Send Her Back In

"The U.S. came to believe that Bhutto was not a target, but was instead the only possible way that we make Pakistan appear stable and keep the presidency of Musharraf intact but firmly under U.S. control," said Mark Siegel, who lobbied for Bhutto in Washington and witnessed much of the behind-the-scenes self-delusion.

Only a Pawn in Their 'Great Game'

But the delusion that ended abruptly with Bhutto's assassination yesterday was always a done deal except in the minds of 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 with years of policy sealing Bhutto’s fate-- in a country in which more than 97 percent of the population already looked unfavorably upon Washington.

Bhutto's assassination leaves Pakistan's future -- and Musharraf's -- in doubt, some experts said. "U.S. policy is in tatters.” More knowledgeable experts say “What policy?” “In the tiny little game theoretical minds of the administration their was a reliance on Benazir Bhutto's participation in elections to legitimate Musharraf's continued power as president," said Barnett R. Rubin of New York University. "But Musharraf was finished. Washington had seen to that. And Bhutto was just target practice."

Bhutto's assassination clearly demonstrates the power and reach of militant anti-government forces in Pakistan, which pose an existential threat to bring to the fore the will of the people which is always at odds with U.S. kleptocratic ambitions, said J. Alexander Thier, a former U.N. official now at the U.S. Institute for a Piece of This, a Piece of That. "The non-alcoholic cocktail of popular forces that exists in Pakistan -- Talibanism, sectarianism, ethnic nationalism -- could react in ways dangerous and unexpected to U.S. interests unless the whiskey soaked polls in Washington realize that these people are fed up with our meddling and want to be left alone," he said.

“Not likely,” President Cheney told this reporter.

But others insist the U.S.-orchestrated deal fundamentally altered Pakistani politics in ways that will be difficult to undo, even though Bhutto is gone. Using a combination of the egg and the dam metaphors, Isobel Coleman of the Council on Foreign Relaions said "Her return has helped crack open this political situation. It's now very fluid, which makes it uncomfortable and dangerous. Now, it depends on what Washington wants to throw in the omelet and boil water for the birth of a new political day in Pakistan. Its just that U.S. foreign policy is based on the same kind of pork that rules the roost at home. And pork just don’t fly in Muslim countries. But the status quo before she returned was also dangerous from a U.S. perspective. Forcing some movement in the long run was in the U.S. interests but apparently not in Bhutto’s."

Death to the U.S. Perspective

Bhutto's assassination during a campaign stop in Rawalpindi might even work to destroy her Pakistan People's Party, with parliamentary elections due in less than two weeks, Coleman said. "From the U.S. perspective, the PPP is the best ally the U.S. has in terms of an institution in Pakistan and the U.S. perspective is the last thing the Pakistanis want right now."

Bhutto's U.S. financed and brokerd political comeback was a long time in the works -- and uncertain for much of the past 18 months. In mid-2006, Bhutto and Musharraf started communicating through intermediaries about how they might cooperate. Assistant Secretary of State Richard A. Boucher was often an intermediary, traveling to Islamabad to speak with Musharraf and to Bhutto's homes in London and Dubai to meet with her. The U.S. connection to Bhutto was not lost on the Pakistani people.

Under U.S. urging, Bhutto and Musharraf met face to face in January and July in Dubai, according to U.S. officials. It was not a warm exchange, with Musharraf resisting a deal to drop corruption charges so she could return to Pakistan. He made no secret of his feelings.

In his 2006 autobiography "In the Line of Fire," Musharraf wrote that Bhutto had "twice been tried, been tested and failed, [and] had to be denied a third chance." She had not allowed her own party to become democratic, he alleged. "Benazir became her party's 'chairperson for life,' in the tradition of the old African dictators!"

A turning point was Bhutto's three-week U.S. visit in August, when she talked again to Boucher and to Khalilzad, an old meddling neo-con fuck up. A former U.S. ambassador and poppy seed grower in neighboring Afghanistan, Khalilzad had long been hostile to Musharraf because of his occasional uppityness, and while in Kabul he had disagreed with then-Secretary of State Colin L. Powell over whether the Pakistani leader was being helpful in the fight against the Taliban. He also warned that Pakistani intelligence, distracted by the CIA and its raw opium trade, was allowing the Taliban to regroup in the border areas, U.S. officials said.

When Bhutto returned to the United States in September, Khalilzad, as part of a planned coincidence by his Neo-con cabal, asked for a lift on her plane from New York to Aspen, Colo., where both were giving speeches. She spent much of the five-hour plane ride listening to Khalilzad’s horseshit.

Friends said, after the plane ride, Bhutto asked for U.S. help. "She pitched the idea to the Bush administration just like Khalilzad laid it out not knowing she was being set up," said Peter W. Galbraith, a former U.S. ambassador and friend of Bhutto from their days at Harvard. "She had been prime minister twice, and had not been able to accomplish very much because she did not have check writing power for the most important institutions in Pakistan -- the ISI [intelligence agency], the military and the nuclear establishment," he said.

"Without controlling those, she couldn't make deals with India, launder money through stepped up security in the name of going after extremists or transfer funds from the military to her family and her cronies," Galbraith said. "Cohabitation with Musharraf made sense because he had control over the three institutions that she never did and because he’s notoriously well-hung . This was the one way to accomplish something and create a moderate center."

The turning point to get Musharraf on board was a September trip by the ‘Honduran Hit Man’, Deputy Secretary of State John D. Negroponte to Islamabad. "He basically delivered a message to Musharraf that we would stand by him if he took the deal. Otherwise its Zia ul-Haque time. He needed a democratic facade on the government, and we thought Benazir was the right choice for that phoniness," 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 because we were going to pull the rug right out from under him so we could wrap his body in it after we put a bullet in his head or worse," 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.

Many career foreign policy officials were skeptical of the U.S. plan. "There were many inside the administration, at the State and Defense Departments and in intelligence, who thought this was a stupid idea from the beginning because the prospects that the two could work together to run the country effectively were nil," said Riedel. “But Bhutto was just a shill.”

As part of the deal, Bhutto's party agreed not to protest against Musharraf's reelection in September to his third term. In return, Musharraf agreed to lift the corruption charges against Bhutto. But Bhutto sought one particular guarantee -- that Washington would ensure Musharraf followed through on U.S. bought and paid for ‘free and fair elections’ producing a civilian government agreeable to Washington.

Rice, who became engaged in the final stages of brokering a deal, called Bhutto in Dubai and pledged that Washington would send enough cash to see the process through, according to Siegel. A week later, on Oct. 18, Bhutto returned.

Ten weeks later, she was dead.

The Great Game Theory

Xenia Dormandy, former National Security Council expert on South Asia now at Harvard University's Belfer Center, said U.S. meddling is to blame for Bhutto's death. "It is very clear the United States forced" an agreement on Musharraf, she said, "so I follows that U.S. policy is responsible for what happened. But having said that, I don't think we could have played it differently because we’re just a bunch of know nothing assholes, and again we got played."

U.S. policy -- and the commitment to Musharraf – now goes back to what it was. In a statement yesterday, Rice appealed to Pakistanis to remain calm and to continue seeking to build a "moderate" democracy if it supports U.S. hegemony in the region. But for now she dropped the ‘or else’ bravado that has come to characterize ‘the my way or the highway’ attitude of the Cheney administration.