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Friday, December 28, 2007

Benazir Bhutto was not Killed by al Qeada

It was the day after Christmas, I was spending the holidays with my in laws when I went to check my email. Before I got to hotmail, I went over to Drudge's website and there it was in big bold letters in the space that Matt uses to post big news and boy was it huge. Benazir Bhutto had been killed while campaigning for Prime Minister of Pakistan. The elections are scheduled for January 8. Normally, with a headline like that I would have been scouring the net for information about what happened and who was responsible, but all I could do was see the headline, afterall it was the holidays and I was with family. Now that I am back at work ready to begin the new year, I have had time to read all the opinions and wires about what happened. One thing stands out from all of the stories that I have read from National Review Online to AP: everyone is already blaming al Qeada and not even telling the story of Bhutto's anti-US stance in the 90's.

Over at NRO, there is a huge section dedicated to the assassination of Bhutto with columns by Rich Lowry and Stanley Kurtz lamenting the brutality of the terrorists responsible for this atrocity. The teaser for Lowry's piece claims that Bhutto was "a frank voice against Islamism" and Kurtz's teaser makes the assertion that support for Bhutto in the pre-election polls was not because of her anti-Islamist stance, but in spite of it. Now, I have to come clean; I love the guys at National Review. I am on their side ideologically and frankly I wish I was on their payroll. But I cannot help but feel a little embarrassed that they would be so quick to jump on the al Qeada-did-it banwagon. Normally, I can always rely on NR to take a measured stance to big stories and wait and see what really is going on. But on this story it seems that they, like all the rest, have missed the story that lies underneath the surface of a pretty obvious conclusion. (Given the obviousness of blaming the terrorists, I really don't have too much of a problem with blaming them.)

Lowry's piece begins by comparing the murder of Bhutto with that of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. You will remember that Hariri was killed because of his anti-Syrian stance and wanting to expell Syria's influential hand from the affairs of Lebanon. To compare Bhutto's misfortune to that of Hariri's is a bit contrived. Then Lowry goes on to explain how the death of Bhutto will only weaken the support of Musharraf by the United States. I am not too sure about that seems how Musharraf's lack of zeal for hunting down terrorists in the border regions has not hurt his standing with President Bush. Then you have Kurtz's piece which can be summed up this way: Bhutto is a better alternative than Nawaz Sharif because Sharif is soft on terrorism/Islamists. Kurtz wants us to believe that Bhutto's enthusiastic support stems from her Socialist policies that would seemingly help the poor of Pakistan. This support comes in spite of her anti-terror, pro-War on Terror stance. Both of these pieces--Lowry's and Kurtz's--are full of false hope. I am rather surprised in this because I hold both men up to be among the brightest stars in the punditry galaxy.

I am not convinced of the conventional wisdom of the al-Qeada-did-it crowd because of a book written by an expert on Islamist terror in the past two decades: Yossef Bodansky. I will get right to it, in his book Bin Laden: The Man Who Declared War on America, Bodansky explains how Bhutto was not just soft on terrorism during her terms as Prime Minister but actively helping in the efforts of Islamist factions to unite and rule the entire Middle East. Quoting directly from pages 92-93 of his book, Bodansky writes, "Pakistan's growing role in this anti-US buildup was one of Bhutto's personal priorities.....The most important elements were stronger strategic agreements with Iran and North Korea." During a conference organized by Sudanese terrorist Hassan Abdallah al-Turabi, Bhutto's government "left no doubt that Pakistan saw itself as an active and loyal member of the Islamic bloc led by Iran." Within the borders of Pakistan, Bhutto appealed to Turabi to assure the Islamists "that the Pakistan People's Party would not attack Islamism or abolish Islamic law and of Islamabad's commitment to their common cause." This blatant support for Islamist terrorists began to take its toll on US-Pakistani relations, causing the Pakistani Intelligence survice to "create an area of deniability between Bhutto's government and its support for Islamist terrorism."(pg. 109)

So who are we to believe, the conventional wisdom or the writings of Bodansky who spent the 90's advising the security apparatus of the US on the threats posed by Islamist terror? There are three serious questions that need to be answered before there can be any hope of getting to the bottom of this. First, given Bodansky's book, why would al Qeada want to kill a political leader on the verge of regaining power who was a big ally during the 90's? Second, why would the terrorists want to help Musharraf by killing his biggest political threat? Last, why is Musharraf not cancelling the January 8th elections allowing the Pakistani People's Party time to get a new candidate? I do not want to jump right off the cliff by saying that Musharraf did it, but no one is going to convince me that the Islamists did it without the use of some pretty hefty intell reports and very thorough investigations into Bhutto's murder.

(As I was writing this, I had Hannity & Colmes on and Richard Miniter raised the suggestion that it could have been an inside job. Rich Lowry was filling in for Sean Hannity.)