Benazir Bhutto: Why is the US in Iraq again?

Former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto met an early death when she was killed by a suicide bomber following a rally outside Islamabad today. This tragic incident will eventually focus attention on why US ally, General Pervez Musharaff, didn't provide more security for her leading up to the Jan. 8 elections, although Bhutto's camp stated numerous times that they had evidence that an assasination attempt was being planned by political opponents. And now, many sources today believe that Musharaff had more sinister intentions all along.

From Time Magazine:

But there are some who think the Bush Administration is not without blame. Hussain Haqqani, a former top aide to Bhutto and now a professor at Boston University, thinks the U.S., which has counted Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf as a key ally against terrorism since 9/11, bears some of the responsibility. "Washington will have to answer a lot of questions, especially the Administration," he says. "People like me have been making specific requests to American officials to intervene and ask for particular security arrangements be made for her, and they have been constantly just trusting the Musharraf Administration." U.S. officials said they were leery of intervening in another nation's internal affairs, and didn't want to give Bhutto Washington's imprimatur.

Haqqani is not shy about pointing fingers. He blames Musharraf himself, above all, for Bhutto's death. "It's quite clear that Musharraf does not want an election — you can quote me — he is the one who has constantly wanted anybody who can threaten him or his power, out." Haqqani told Congress in October that U.S. aid for Pakistan has for too long been tilted toward the Pakistani military. "Since 1954 almost $21 billion had been given to Pakistan in aid," he told the House Armed Services Committee. "Of this, $17.7 billion were given under military rule, and only $3.4 billion was given to Pakistan and the civilian government."

It is Musharraf's iron grip on power that has made Washington's own policy toward Pakistan such a target of criticism. While Washington has publicly extolled the virtues of democracy and hoped that Bhutto's return to Pakistan in October would usher in a power-sharing deal with Musharraf, it was also clearly nervous about the instability if the country's strong man were to lose power entirely. Pakistan — the world's second-most-populous Muslim nation, with elements of al-Qaeda and the Taliban controlling lawless mountainous pockets in the northwest — is also the only Islamic state with a nuclear arsenal. And though Washington publicly says Pakistan's nuclear weapons are safe, there are always private concerns about their security, concerns that will only heighten in the wake of Bhutto's assassination.

All I have to say is that if the White House was paying less attention to countries that poise no threat (Iraq) and more attention to countries that do (Pakistan, nukes!!!), maybe Bhutto would probably still be among us today. But the Bush Administration continues to support dictators like Musharaff when it is convenient to push there agenda.

More to follow as story develops...


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