Saturday, December 18, 2010

Of Benazir Bhutto #LeakSpin

After The WikiLeaks Publications, What Needs To Be Explained About The Assassination Of Benazir Bhutto

Benazir Bhutto returned to Karachi on 18 October 2007 to prepare for the 2008 Pakistan national elections ; the BBC reported that Ms. Bhutto's return was the result of a ''power-sharing agreement with President Musharraf.'' She was assassinated on 27 December 2007. One day after the assassination of Ms. Bhutto, Hana Levi Julian published a report in that the governments of each of Israel, the U.S., and Great Britain had ignored Ms. Bhutto's appeals for protection. Yet, after the publication by WikiLeaks of U.S. State department diplomatic cables, the exact role of the U.S. in Ms. Bhutto's October 2007 return to Pakistan, and her obvious need for protection, needs to be explained. For, in one of the cables, Asif Zardari, Ms. Bhutto's widower, recounted how Ms. Bhutto ''had returned despite the threats against her because of support and 'clearance' from the U.S.''

Moreover, several months following Ms. Bhutto's assassination, Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, had kicked the proverbial hornet's nest after it came to light that Mr. Khalilzad was providing advice and counsel (in some form or another) to Mr. Zardari. In the diplomatic confusion that played out in the news article published in The New York Times, it was reported that :

''Officially, the United States has remained neutral in the contest to succeed Mr. Musharraf, and there is concern within the State Department that the discussions between Mr. Khalilzad and Mr. Zardari, the widower of Benazir Bhutto, a former prime minister, could leave the impression that the United States is taking sides in Pakistan’s already chaotic internal politics.''

If the U.S. was, indeed, remaining ''neutral,'' as The Times had reported, then what did Mr. Zardari mean when he said that his late wife ''had returned despite the threats against her because of support and 'clearance' from the U.S.?''

The foreign policy in play by the U.S. during the time leading up to, and following, Ms. Bhutto's return to Pakistan, and her subsequent assassination, reveal the doomed U.S. strategy in Pakistan, and, to some extent, in Afghanistan. After having invested billions of dollars in planning a strategy of the war in Afghanistan on an expectation of a partnership with Pakistan, and in particular with then-President of Pakistan, Pervez Musharraf, the Bush administration was surely already ''taking sides in Pakistan’s already chaotic internal politics.''

Militants Set The Agenda

Following the coördinated terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, President George W. Bush became obsessed with causing regime change in Iraq, even though Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11. After it became apparent that the president did not believe that diplomacy alone was going to lead to regime change in Iraq, the president mobilised a unilateral first-strike in March 2003 against Iraq, in spite of opposition from the United Nations. This, and other belligerent examples of U.S. foreign policy under the Bush administration, would leave no cause to doubt that the Bush administration wanted to single-handedly ''control'' the circumstances of individual countries, during the prosecution of the war on terror. So, naturally, in August 2008, when John D. Negroponte, the deputy secretary of state, and Richard A. Boucher, the assistant secretary of state for South Asia, became ''angry'' over news that the U.S. United Nations Ambassador Khalilzad was offering counsel to Mr. Zardari in the time leading up to the Pakistan national elections, it was precisely because the aim of U.S. involvement in Pakistan was never to promote democratic elections, but to reserve the channels of communication and assistance between Pakistan and the U.S. solely at the hands of Mr. Negroponte, Mr. Boucher, Anne W. Patterson, the American ambassador to Pakistan, and Condoleezza Rice, the U.S. Secretary of State.

Notwithstanding Ambassador Patterson's remarks to Mr. Zardari, wherein she said that, ''we continue to support the [Pakistan People's Party] and our shared struggle against extremism and in favor of the democratic process in Pakistan,'' the U.S. couldn't even tolerate any kind of assistance or counsel that was being provided to Mr. Zardari or to the Pakistan People's Party, as evidenced by the backlash faced by Ambassador Khalilzad.

On the one hand, the U.S. wanted regime change in Iraq, but it could not, on the other hand, support democracy-building in Pakistan.

A Limited Strategy Of Containment

Many members of the U.S. Congress maintained close relations with Ms. Bhutto, according to one of the cables. Not only that, but three unnamed U.S. Senators also interceded on behalf of Ms. Bhutto's safety, when she requested President Musharraf for '' 'basic security,' including vehicles with tinted windows and private guards in addition to police guards. '' What is more, even as Ms. Bhutto's life was in danger, the CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer was in possession of information about the danger Ms. Bhutto was in, but he chose not to report about it until after she was killed.

If it was true that the Bush administration did not want any non-State Department channels of communication or support to be involved in the Pakistan national elections, then how did the Bush administration react, officially or unofficially, with the 3 U.S. Senators and the reporter, Mr. Blitzer ?

Beyond that, now that we are in the midst of the Cablegate news cycle, will the Obama administration deal with Julian Assange's role in the publication of the State Department cables the same way that the Bush administration dealt with the trading of sensitive information regarding Ms. Bhutto's safety, which would no doubt have risen to be considered, at the very least, sensitive State Department information, by the 3 U.S. Senators and the reporter, Mr. Blitzer ? Whatever the approach that the Obama administration takes in respect of Mr. Assange, it will look like a selective and arbitrary application of restrictions that would apply to Mr. Assange, but not to Mr. Blitzer.

The Predictable Election Cycle Offensive

Even though the Bush administration was conveying, through The New York Times article about Ambassador Khalilzad, that the Bush administration did want to be seen being involved in the Pakistan national elections, in one of the State Department cables, we find that Mr. Zardari was thanking the visiting Congressional Delegation of U.S. Representatives Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Allyson Schwartz (D-PA) for U.S. government ''support of credible national elections'' in Pakistan. Further, the U.S. government should have reasonably expected, even without Mr. Zardari's mentioning, that ''what happens in Pakistan has a spillover effect in Afghanistan, Iran, and India.''

Indeed, not only was Mr. Zardari requesting ''U.S. blessing for his leadership,'' but, at the time of his meeting with the U.S. Congressional delegation, Mr. Zardari was also ''struggling'' with how to explain to ''rank and file'' of the Pakistan People's Party the ''idea of continuing to work with a superpower which supported Musharraf.''

Whereas the ''official'' narrative of the U.S. State Department was that the U.S. had ''remained neutral in the contest to succeed Mr. Musharraf,'' in reality, the fingerprints of the U.S. government were all over Ms. Bhutto's return to Pakistan -- and on the meetings Mr. Zardari had, in an effort to build support for his campaign.

The ''official'' U.S. State Department narrative was a sham.

Scenesetter For The Rest Of The World

One day after Ms. Bhutto was killed, Ambassador Patterson filed a cable in which the U.S. was assessing the qualifications of Chaudhry Pervais Elahi, the Pakistan Muslim League's presumed candidate for Prime Minister. About one month later, on January 25, 2008, Mr. Zardari, Ms. Bhutto's widower, met with Ambassador Patterson. During the meeting, Mr. Zardari described the US as Pakistan's ''our safety blanket.''

But this meeting of 25 January 2008, and the intelligence and requests that were being gleamed from it, were coming too late, if one were to believe that the U.S. would be taking action to support democracy and a stable government in Pakistan. Otherwise, this meeting was coming right on time, if one were to believe that the U.S. would remain ''neutral,'' meaning that the U.S. would be taking no action to support democracy and a stable government in Pakistan.

Little more than one week later, Ambassador Patterson dispatched a cable to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen. In the cable, Ambassador Patterson expressed a need for Adm. Mullen's help with setting the scene for ''necessary reforms'' in Pakistan's military. She added :

''A year ago, Musharraf's popularity was high; we were working together to support a smooth transition to a civilian government. Beginning with his decision to fire the Chief Justice in March 2007, Musharraf has made repeated political blunders culminating in a state of emergency (SOE) and temporary suspension of the constitution. He is increasingly isolated after firing long-time advisors who disagreed with some of these decisions.''

After all of the hemming and hawing, we find out from Ambassador Patterson that, ''We can work with any of the likely candidates for Prime Minister. But it may take weeks or even months after the election before a new Prime Minister is chosen and Pakistan again has a functional government that can focus on tackling extremism and necessary economic reform.'' Too bad that Ms. Bhutto and Mr. Zardari believed, during the time that it mattered to Ms. Bhutto's safety and to the integrity of the Pakistan national elections, that Ms. Bhutto had returned to Pakistan with any real '' 'clearance' from the U.S.''

In his meeting with the Congressional Delegation, Mr. Zardari expressed the motivating fear of the Pakistani people : '' Zardari described the general distrust of the U.S. by the public and in political circles, 'fearing you will leave us again.' '' To the detriment of the democratic elections of our partners in the war on terror, the U.S. was playing both sides of the involvement coin. And this would not have been known, either officially or unofficially, by U.S. taxpayers, some of whom are paying the ultimate price for the war on terror, until Mr. Assange published the State Department cables.

#CableGate, #LeakSpin, #10ISLAMABAD416, #07ISLAMABAD5388, #08ISLAMABAD405, #08ISLAMABAD525, #08ISLAMABAD1998, #09ISLAMABAD236, #09ISLAMABAD1438

Author's Notes

This analysis is the first edition of research, based on a review of cables released as of 17 December 2010, which originated from Islamabad. A future edition may be published, provided that further releases of related cables are made. Please check here for a link to the publication of any subsequent editions : (placeholder intentionally left blank ; no updated edition is yet available). If no updates are yet available, you will not yet see a hyperlink in the immediately-preceeding placeholder. Not all of the listed cables are referred to in this analysis, but they were considered in the composition of this analysis.

This analysis and research is published under the constitutional right of freedom of the press, which allows for communication and expression of ideas and thoughts. As a blog that operates as a form of social media journalism, this blog posting is made under the rights and freedoms afforded under the First Amendment.

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