December 27th, 2007

Bhutto: into the jaws of death

The big news today seems to hardly be news at all. Like a tragic play you watch anyway, knowing it will not end well, Benazir Bhutto’s assassination—once by shooting and again by bombing, just to make certain—almost seems to have been an inevitability.

Of course, those words were written by someone (me) who thought—back in September of 2001 when Pakistan’s Musharraf publicly threw in his lot with the US, post-9/11—that she was watching a dead man talking. That part of the world is a graveyard for politicians, and Musahrraf’s continued survival is a testament to what must be extreme caution, excellent bodyguards, and no small measure of good luck.

Then again, Musharraf doesn’t (at least as far as I know) make public appearances at rallies of the type Bhutto was involved in when she was assassinated. But if you’re running as the people’s candidate, I suppose you must be among the people, and that’s risky, because the people of Pakistan live in a dangerous neighborhood indeed.

Whatever you may think of Bhutto’s politics (my recent take is here), it’s impossible to argue with her bravery. She must have known what was her likely end, although I also would imagine she hoped to avoid it. Perhaps her Moslem faith, with its emphasis on fatalism and the afterlife for martyrs, sustained her in the knowledge that she had to do what she felt was necessary, and accept the possible consequences.

The media is filled with articles about her; just Google her name and you’ll find them. Wikipedia has already ammended her profile to reflect her demise. The most likely candidates for the identity of her assassins would be al Qaeda and related groups, who are already taking credit—but of course they would, even if it were not their handiwork.

Bhutto was was no stranger to violence, having been reared not only in the lap of luxury, but on tales of martyred female leaders Joan of Arc and Indira Gandhi (and see this for more on the latter’s death). Her controversial Prime Minister father was executed by his successor and political rival General Zia when Benazir was twenty-five years old. This is how she described it:

Benazir Bhutto had her last meeting with her father a few hours before he was hanged, separated by a heavy metal grille. “I pleaded, begged with them to let me embrace my beautiful father for the last time. They refused. We parted without being able to touch. But I did not cry. Daddy told me not to.”

Although Benazir had an English governess and graduated from Harvard and Oxford, I think it can be agreed that she attended a very hard school indeed. May she rest in peace.

[NOTE: The title of this post comes from a phrase in Tennyson's poem "The Charge of the Light Brigade," about riding to almost certain death in a futile effort.]

31 Responses to “Bhutto: into the jaws of death”

  1. njcommuter Says:

    The question that demands asking is “To what degree did Musharraf or the military knowingly and willingly contribute to her death, by action or by inaction?” I hope the answer is “To no degree at all,” but I don’t know who could give the answer.

    Meanwhile, Musharraf faces a no-win situation on the elections. He’s pledged to hold them and will be roundly condemned if he doesn’t, with serious consequences for his external support. But without Benazir Bhutto, are they meaningful? Will Musharraf be condemned (and lose support) for holding elections on the grounds that they are sham?

    Somebody help me here, please. And tell me what company supplies antacid to the White House so I can buy some stock.

  2. njcommuter Says:

    Second thought: A few days ago I wrote of the “fecklessness” of the Left. Now is the time for political leaders of whatever stripe to declare, in language hard to retract, that the vermin who are determined to shatter civilization before its foundations can set deserve to be hounded to their extermination, whether on highest peak or in the rockiest, most desolate valley.

    But of greater concern yet is Pakistan’s nuclear weapons, materials, foundries and expertise. I have read that the US has been quietly providing Musharraf with advice. Now is the time for some other nation to offer to remove these things from Pakistani soil. I’m not sure whom Musharraf or the rest of the generals would trust, but surely the point may come when even they will admit that the choices are to get the weapons away, use them against the terrorists, or have the Taliban lay hands on them, with consequences that do not bear imagination.

    South Africa built nuclear weapons, and has since dismantled them. If push came to shove, could South Africa be accepted as that impossibly honest trustee? Would they want the job? Who would accept them, and who would not?

  3. Mitsu Says:

    This is a bad day for Pakistan, for Musharraf, and for us — and Musharraf is probably smart enough to realize that, though it’s not entirely clear he is. Whether or not he failed to protect Bhutto adequately, he will be blamed for this, directly or indirectly, and it can only help to destabilize Pakistan, which is definitely not in our interest. Dark, dark day.

  4. Ymarsakar Says:

    This is why elections are meaningless without military power to back it up with. In that part of the world, only america ever has the power and the elections at the same time going together.

  5. Ymarsakar Says:

    This is a good pre-emptive strike, in order to cause problems for their enemies, which is both us and non-terrorist loyal Pakistan.

  6. david foster Says:

    In the title, you reference the charge of the Light Brigade. One of the reasons this pointless slaughter happened was the feud between two senior leaders on the scene: Cardigan and Lucan. Had they not hated each other so much, they might have discussed the fateful order between them, and realized they were misinterpreting it.

    Some of today’s political feuds could have consequences much greater than the destruction of one brigade.

  7. Truth Says:

    It’s so sad day, after day become darker and darker…
    God Bless her (Rahmatallah) upon her.

    Pakistan is providing another good example of the bankruptcy of the U.S. government’s foreign policy of empire and intervention, which has brought so much damage to our country.

    Will Bush order an invasion of Pakistan to liberate the Pakistani people and bring democracy to that country? Don’t forget that that was one of Bush’s supposed reasons for invading Iraq—well, after Bush couldn’t find those WMDs that he scared Americans with in order to garner their support of his invasion.

    No. Not only is Bush not going to invade Pakistan, he is going to continue sending Americans’ hard-earned money to Musharraf because Musharraf continues to be a pro-U.S. ruler.

    Musharraf, Lincoln, and Bush
    by Jacob G. Hornberger

  8. nyomythus Says:

    Bush order an invasion of Pakistan? That’s idiotic. Pakistan is a sovereign country. BTW, Iraq was not a sovereign country, it was the shell of what was a state, imploding into by all indications a mega-Rwanda. U.S. coalition forces prevented the death of millions, a just, neccessary and moral intervention, one that prevented the invasion of Iraq which would have come from Iran and Saudi Arabia to protect their proxies, and from Turkey in the North of seize the oil reserves there. Your wish-thinking is an example of trying to create a neocon boogeyman, a scape goat, and wish away the reality of jihadic imperialism.

  9. Truth Says:

    Iraq was not a sovereign country,

    What BIG Lie here by some off the planet guy he says false thing like this.

    But let’s say this convenient way to swallow a State of Iraq on false claims of convenes lies.

    The reset of your “Rubbish” you put here, find nearest rubbish bin and damped Please.

  10. DBrooks Says:

    “The reset of your “Rubbish” you put here, find nearest rubbish bin and damped Please.”

    That pretty much says it all. Whatever “all” is. I nominate this quote as the end-all to every argument. No matter the subject, or one’s stance on the subject, there is simply no comback to “The reset of your “Rubbish” you put here, find nearest rubbish bin and damped Please.”

  11. nyomythus Says:

    Your reply was almost completely incoherent, but I think I got it right. Iraq after 1991 was not a sovereign country, with international inspectors and no-fly zones, that’s not sovereignty. Saddam forfeited Iraq’s sovereignty by trying to annex a sovereign country (Kuwait, member of the Arab League) and for acts of genocide (Kurdistan). If these things don’t constitute a lose of sovereignty, then nothing does.

  12. Trimegistus Says:

    Mr. “Truth” illustrates a point I keep coming back to: Liberals are no longer capable of coherent thought and speech. He’s just a crude computer program randomly combining bumper-sticker slogans and spitting them back.

  13. Truth Says:

    from Turkey in the North of seize the oil reserves there.

    Their note continues with a statement sure to interest critics of the current conflict who suggest that the UK and US intervention was motivated by oil in Iraq.


    “We could lose the goodwill we have been slowly and painfully trying to build up since the resumption of diplomatic relations aimed at gaining access to large projects and the Iraqis’ huge oil wealth.”


    It adds: “In light of the above considerations, it is recommended that we should¿ tell the Iraqis that we would be prepared to supply the optical version of Rapier [surface-to-air missile], the Scorpion family of armoured vehicles and the 105mm Light Gun.”

    UK arms sales to ‘respectable’ Iraq

  14. anonymess Says:

    It seems to me that Benazir Bhutto’s death was “inevitable” largely because, despite warnings, she chose to follow the dangerous path of campaigning and holding public rallies in a very, very dangerous country where virtually everyone knew she was being targeted by many violent factions while arguably under-protected by government forces. Because she was fatalistic about herself and did not wish to compromise the strong belief that freedom-loving people and the democratic process should not be cowed by terrorists, she chose to ignore warnings and stay on this dangerous path. Thus, for most observers of Pakistani politics, her assassination, when it came today, was not unexpected and certainly was not surprising, especially with the election date in Pakistan drawing very near.

    While I realize it’s unpopular to be critical of Bhutto at this time, especially on the day of her death, I submit that she was much more valuable alive than dead, she had to have known that and should have taken whatever precautions necessary to stay out of harm’s way, including curtailing her speaking engagements in public, even if only until after the election. Whatever gains that were being made by rallying her supporters, they were far outweighed by the loss of the popular Bhutto, herself. Now, as a martyr, she of course continues as a rallying point for opponents to the Musharraf regime, and possibly in time someone in her party will rise up to fill this tremendous void, but an alive Bhutto would likely have done so much more for the democratic process in the very near future, especially as the next prime minister of Pakistan. In foresight and now in hindsight, Bhutto’s judgment to trust or tempt fate was shortsighted and risky for the democratic process–in Pakistan, the rest of the region, and, considering political and possible nuclear ramifications, for the rest of the world. Score one for terrorism and for military regimes.

  15. Vince P Says:

    I had a thought or two that this woman was living on borrowed time doing what she was doing. Pakistan is a much darker place then it was when she was PM.

    The joys that Islam brings to every society it poisons.

  16. nyomythus Says:

    You exculpate the killers when you say she should not have been speaking in public, it was her right, she was an astonishingly courageous person, and to be courageous is what you are required to do when you are a leader in such a country, you don’t want to be killed, but you can’t cower either — democracy dies when you can’t face that which threatens liberty (brings the Boston Massacre to mind). Democracy is difficult, delicate, and precious and would be much easier if the far Left stood with classical liberals, neocons, and others of conscious to face this barbarism.

  17. njcommuter Says:

    Saying that the homeowner should have locked his doors does not exculpate the burglar. Saying that society should have locked up or executed a twice-convicted murderer does not excuse his third murder.

    Counselling prudence in a society facing a war of enslavement does not excuse the slavers.

  18. Perfected democrat Says:

    following the pattern of assassinations in lebanon, mo’s hordes are slowly but surely spreading out, infiltrating, intimidating, murdering daily, daring anyone to dare death to stand up to them, from christians in gaza and bethlehem to buddhists in thailand, to today’s assassination, the tentacles are spreading into south america, mexico, india, england, france, almost no place is truly safe anymore, while the american and european bush haters take advantage of every situation much like putin and jintao, to jockey into a better position, they think… oblivious that they are just a little further down the list of victims, as long as they are useful…. now even rice is intellectualizing and rationalizing with a strategy completely in denial of the substance of the truth that is the bottom line in mo’s theology…. pretending that abbas is not just one of mo’s dedicated soldiers, like albright negotiating with kim, clinton with arafat, the fool and the huckster; as the hard left dragged the world into the greatest mass murder scenarios the world had ever seen during the 20th century, now by aiding and abetting mo’s hordes the left lite are again setting the stage, this time for nuclear war…. a little solidarity and common sense from the dimocrats now would go a long way, but i’m afraid they won’t learn until they’ve visited tragedy on us all, probably starting with israel…..

  19. Perfected democrat Says:

    one last comment tonite…. there are plenty of people posing as republicans these days too (ie the paul camp who think we can just dance our way out of the “snake pit”, something like that he said recently), and who are contributing to this morass of political evasion of the truth of what kind of responsibility it’s going to take to meet these challenges…. people don’t have enough respect for how much has been accomplished in iraq, just connecting those dots…..

  20. Vince P Says:

    Perfected democrat

    Things are looking pretty bleak if you ask me

  21. Roland Dodds Says:

    This is a sad day fro reform and democracy. All true believers in the liberal democratic process should be distraught by this.

  22. Ymarsakar Says:

    In foresight and now in hindsight, Bhutto’s judgment to trust or tempt fate was shortsighted and risky for the democratic process

    An indication of the worth of her judgement once she was in power.

    You exculpate the killers when you say she should not have been speaking in public, it was her right

    Rights exist because Americans killed and died to defend those rights. Who has Benazir Bhutto killed to defend such rights? Dying is not enough really. Any slave or serf can die trying to get the right of self-expression. They won’t achieve it without armed force, though.

    democracy dies when you can’t face that which threatens liberty (brings the Boston Massacre to mind).

    Democracy is dying in Lebanon regardless of how many people face up to their assassins and die in the bombs that occur. Or maybe because of it.

    Dying in the pursuit of liberty is not enough. It has never been enough.

    Saying that society should have locked up or executed a twice-convicted murderer does not excuse his third murder.

    This is not about excusing people’s actions. This is about taking the consequences of your own actions. Bhutto made choices and these are the consequences of her choices. It would not have changed in principle if she had lived and came to power in Pakistan. She still would have made choices and had consequences spring from such choices.

    pretending that abbas is not just one of mo’s dedicated soldiers, like albright negotiating with kim, clinton with arafat, the fool and the huckster

    As I said, liberty is defended not just by dying in its pursuit but by killing its enemies.

    One of the relatives of Bhutto was recently on the Sanity Squad. She wanted to work with the terrorists in the north/west of Pakistan on social problems. My solution was “first you had to kill most of them” before any social problems could be solved.

  23. Occam's Beard Says:

    Well said, Y. My only comment was that reading

    first you had to kill “most.
    of them” before any social problems could be solved

    put me in mind of my sons’ Pokemon cartoons, the theme song of which says “gotta get ‘em all.”

  24. Occam's Beard Says:

    Sorry about the funky formatting.

  25. Ymarsakar Says:

    Watch Naruto and Bleach for other entertaining and surprising takes on “gotta get ‘em all”.

  26. Perfected democrat Says:

    Some people think global warming is the more immediately compelling problem…. after all, San Diego will be under water in 3 decades…. Mo’s soldiers must be half laughing, and half salivating…..”

  27. Occam's Beard Says:

    Kinda like refusing a last cigarette before facing a firing squad for fear of getting lung cancer.

  28. Vince P Says:

    Mo’s soldiers have to really love the Europeans…. Some of those idiots actually work up enough emotion to break down in hysterics thinking about global warming… the Mohemmedans must think they’re in bizarro land.

  29. Perfected democrat Says:

    and one of the reasons they’re becoming more emboldened; bizarro land, where al turns your adversaries into fools, reinforcing that deeply inculcated sense of superiority…. the american left then jumps on the bandwagon that it’s bush’s fault, there was no problem in iraq until bush invaded…. truly a fool’s game…..

  30. Richard Aubrey Says:

    Bhutto was marketed as a moderate Muslim leader. Presumably, she was, all her baggage notwithstanding. It’s probably inevitable that a moderate Muslim leader will have that kind of baggage.
    Innyways, a moderate Muslim leader went into a genuinely Muslim country.

  31. Erik Kain Says:

    I heard the news in my car on my way to work. I didn’t even hear her name, but I knew it must be her when they mentioned a female had been assassinated. I felt no surprise either. It was inevitable, really, and very sad.

    Regardless of her corruption, she was, as you said, quite brave, and this is just one more sign of Pakistan’s fall into darkness.

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