December 28, 2007

"Bhutto was fearless."

David Ignatius on Benazir Bhutto:
I remember encountering her once when she was a graduate student at Oxford, shaking up the august and occasionally somnolent Oxford Union debating society as its president. She was wearing a Rolling Stones T-shirt, the one with the sassy tongue sticking out, and I recall thinking that Pakistani politics would never be the same once she returned home, and I recall thinking that Pakistani politics would never be the same once she returned home.
Christopher Hitchens:
I found out firsthand how brave she was. Taking the wheel of a jeep and scorning all bodyguards, she set off with me on a hair-raising tour of the Karachi slums. Every now and then, she would get out, climb on the roof of the jeep with a bullhorn, and harangue the mob that pressed in close enough to turn the vehicle over. On the following day, her Pakistan Peoples Party won in a landslide, making her, at the age of 35, the first woman to be elected the leader of a Muslim country....

And, right to the end, she carried on without the fetish of "security" and with lofty disregard for her own safety.


George M. Spencer said...

O, what a thumb-sucking essay.

Sounds like he's writing about Mary Tyler Moore.

Key sentence is buried: "She wasn't perfect; the corruption charges that enveloped her second term as prime minister were all too real."

AllenS said...

Benazir Bhutto's exploits makes Hillary Clinton's cattle futures look like child's play.

Anonymous said...

Key sentence is buried: "She wasn't perfect; the corruption charges that enveloped her second term as prime minister were all too real."

That footnote is appended to JFK's administration too, but it doesn't stop him from being a martyr, and it certainly doesn't mean that what happened to him was right or just. And that's about this amounts to: she is Pakistan's JFK, and her family are Pakistan's Kennedys.

Joaquin said...

And, right to the end, she carried on without the fetish of "security" and with lofty disregard for her own safety.

Yeah, and now she's dead........

George M. Spencer said...

Hitchens writes...

"How prettily she lied to me, I remember, and with such a level gaze from those topaz eyes, about how exclusively peaceful and civilian Pakistan's nuclear program was. How righteously indignant she always sounded when asked unwelcome questions about the vast corruption alleged against her and her playboy husband, Asif Ali Zardari. (The Swiss courts recently found against her in this matter; an excellent background piece was written by John Burns in the New York Times in 1998.)"

Here is the lede from the Burns piece..

"A decade after she led this impoverished nation from military rule to democracy, Benazir Bhutto is at the heart of a widening corruption inquiry that Pakistani investigators say has traced more than $100 million to foreign bank accounts and properties controlled by Ms. Bhutto's family."

Yes, it is horrible that she is dead and was assassinated. But her father was a dictator, and she wasn't much better. She and her husband used her position to steal $100 million. No one ever accused JFK or his family of doing anything like that.

Her niece also thinks that she, Benazir, ordered the assassination of her own brother, an allegation that a Pakistani commission said warranted further investigation. (Don't have the link now, but I posted it in the first Bhutto item below.)

Unknown said...

Nice job, Ann. No lies told by you in this post! Keep up the great work!

Anonymous said...

She and her husband used her position to steal $100 million. No one ever accused JFK or his family of doing anything like that.

Dood. The Kennedy fortune is 100% illicit loot. Or didn't you know that?

Moose said...

Going out on a limb here, but I think that Musharaff has been losing control of the intelligence services for some time now, and his was a calculated move to bring back Bhutto to give himself a 5th column into the opposition thru her.

This backfired when she took the bit in her teeth and started rabblerousing in order to regain her populist base. When he ordered her detained in house arrest, it was as much to keep from getting out of control as it was to protect her from the Islamic fundementalists. He needed her, but not dead.

Her death is going to either galvanize and solidify opposition to the fundamentalists, or it's going to cause wholesale crackdowns by the government if it doesn't. In either case, Musharaff's position is shaky, if not untenable.

I'd say that the US is banking on Musharaff's demise, given the fact that we have been giving the Pakistani government money and men on the sly to guard their nuclear facilities and weapons. The question is will it be enough to preven them from falling into the wrong hands.

Moose said...


So, if Obama is the second coming of JFK, what does that say about him?

Icepick said...

George, just don't quote the Burns' article, link to it.

Icepick said...

George wrote: She and her husband used her position to steal $100 million.

You're selling them short. The amount they stole was closer to $1.5 billion. Given the speed with which they stole it, they even made the Marcos's look like pikers.

Unknown said...

Benazir Bhutto was a woman of real accomplishment and experience. She devoted her life to her people. She is the exact opposite of Hillary Clinton, who has accomplished nothing, was a second rate lawyer, and devoted her whole life to covering her life up. They do have one thing in common- corruption.

The death of Ms. Bhutto is a tragedy. The life of Ms. Clinton is a farce.

Unknown said...

She and her husband used her position to steal $100 million. No one ever accused JFK or his family of doing anything like that.

The Kennedy fortune was based on stolen loot and crime syndicate associations. The Kennedy family never made an honest dollar and to this day never earn an honest dollar. They are the original and longest lasting crime family.

blake said...

Anyone else have a hard time squaring the idea that she was a kleptocrat on the one hand but returned to Pakistan on the other?

Did she just want more money? How many attempts did they make prior to succeeding? Three? And if you steal $1.5B or even $100M, why would you go back (and then stay!) to almost certain death?

Lust for power? Belief that you can do good?

The more I read the more confused I get.

Randy said...

She may have been corrupt but Benazir Bhutto was still the best of a bad lot. After all, most of the corruption charges were directed at her useless husband, but even if she were 100% responsible for it, in terms of what typical third world pols walk off with, it wasn't all that much (unless you accept Icepick's overly generous estimate). The average former Mexican president walked out the door with much more, and, as a rule, all of the paintings that graced the walls of the presidential palace to boot.

George M. Spencer said...

For a moment, forget about Ms. Bhutto and the Kennedys.

Here is a 2006 clip from MEMRI TV of Hamid Gul, the former head of the Pakistan's intelligence service:

"The Jews have always have caused the wars.... Even today, our war is not against America or Europe. Our basic war is against Israel."

He's a Nazi.

When did he head Pakistan's version of the CIA?

During the late Ms. Bhutto's first term as prime minister.

Kirby Olson said...

I'm still upset about James Garfield. He, too, was wide open with jobseekers and let people into his inner circle.

Warhol learned this too late, too.

Garfield could write Latin and Greek with two hands simultaneously and blindfolded.

What a prez!

He only lasted a month, the poor dear.

Icepick said...

Randy, that's not my "overly generous estimate". That's how much a Swiss magistrate found that Bhutto and her family had stashed away in Swiss bank accounts alone. Assets elsewhere no doubt include more.

Also, were you as generous in spirit to Ferdninand Marcos' corruption as you are of Bhutto's? What about Manuel Noreiga? Pinochet? What about Robert Mugabe's corruption in Zimbabwe? Because this is basically the same thing: a politician lining his/her pocket while the rest of the country goes to hell. Add that the theft is accompanied by a socialist populism, and it's easy to conclude that she's wasn't all that different from Chavez in Venezuela.

Randy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Randy said...

Ah, yes, the Swiss magistrate who magically found volumes of incriminating evidence. From Wikipedia:
Bhutto maintained that the charges leveled against her and her husband were purely political.[13][14] "Most of those documents are fabricated," she said, "and the stories that have been spun around them are absolutely wrong." An Auditor General of Pakistan (AGP) report supports Bhutto's claim. It presents information suggesting that Benazir Bhutto was ousted from power in 1990 as a result of a witch hunt approved by then-president Ghulam Ishaq Khan. The AGP report says Khan illegally paid legal advisers 28 million Rupees to file 19 corruption cases against Bhutto and her husband in 1990-92.

Now, I won't argue there was no corruption but, unlike you, just because I don't particularly agree with her politics, I'm not prepared to accept documents generated with funds paid by political opponents with their own axes to grind (and overseas bank accounts to hide). The Swiss magistrate was quite the useful tool. It really is too bad the Auditor General exposed the fabrications, because it makes such a good story.

In answer to to your questions about the others: Noriega was a third-rate thug of no consequence and no better or worse than most. I didn't care then what happened to him. IMO, Pinochet did the wrong thing for the right reasons and left an enduring legacy of a much stronger Chilean society. The attempt to arrest and try him in Europe was a fine example of political correctness run amok, particularly when the same nation regularly welcomed Fidel Castro with open arms. Mugabe is just one more in a very long line of so-called revolutionary freedom fighters who really believe in nothing but freedom for themselves and their cronies. The world will be a better place when he leaves it, preferably sooner rather than later. That you appear incapable of making any distinction between the genuinely nefarious activities of some of these, and the long-term results of their actions and Benazir Bhutto, whose sum total years in power add up to less than 6, should some as no surprise since it appears the only important point to you is that she was a socialist and that means she was evil incarnate in your book.

Well, with a bit of work you might just find out that many of the reforms attempted in her first administration were somewhat similar to those enacted by Chiang Kai-shek when he ended up in Taiwan. Now I imagine old baldy is a genuine hero to you because, first and foremost he was no socialist and he was a firm anti-communist. The reform programs put in place in Taiwan ultimately laid a firm foundation for one of Asia's most successful genuinely democratic societies and capitalist economies, despite the fact that most of them could easily be described as radically socialist today.

Bhutto and Chiang ticked off the same landed and monied elites. The difference is that they had the power to remove Bhutto while Chiang had the power to massacre his opponents. It is probably true that once in office Bhutto was less effective than she was in opposition, as a symbol of what could be. It was up to the Pakistani people to decide, though. Not you or me. Twice they elected her. Twice, after the government was dismissed by the president, they voted against her. In 2002, her party once again secured the largest number of votes.

Whatever the result might have been, all that doesn't matter now because she is dead. The thing I've never understood about times such as this is why people like you revel in dancing on such freshly dug graves, but don't let me stop you:

Dance, little man. Dance.

Nichevo said...

Gosh, an Asian politician is a thief. I am shocked, shocked, I tell you! Actually I would be more shocked to learn of an honest one. Baksheesh (or whatever they call it; every language has its own word from "lagniappe" to "pishkesh" to "mordida" "h'eung yau") is - am I stereotyping yet or will a scholar back me up? - part of the culture. Literally, bribes are factored into an official's compensation. Have we forgotten that Vladimir Putin is lately alleged to have grafted $40 BILLION for himself off oil sales?

Frankly the corruption is not important. Since they are all corrupt, it evens out, so there is only what can the (dirty) pol do for the people/the country?

By that score Bhutto was...


the last quote I recall from her was something about how the Pak people would starve, or eat grass, but Pakistan would get the Bomb.

Oh, gee, thanks.

But doubtless I am ignorant of her. Since she showed some skin in her time at Western schools, she must be all right. And perhaps she was. The notion that she rejected security is gobsmacking, as is Hitchen's apparent endorsement of same. Maybe she was more valuable as a symbol than as a day to day administrator.

But apparently she was 'on our side,' enough for AQ (supposedly) to blow her up/shoot her/whatever happened to kill her. For that she deserves our thanks and sympathies. Too bad she didn't take better care of herself. The kind of liberal who can't imagine that people would hurt her, perhaps?

...icepick, hate to break into a perfectly good rant with a, well, nitpick...but Pinochet is widely believed to have left a flourishing economy behind him. I am not sure what he did or did not steal - I always thought the leftist grudge was that he assassinated leftists who probably, but not certainly, deserved it, without due process, not that he stole or wrecked the joint.

Marcos? I always thought he found Yamashita's gold.

Mugabe? OMG can there be anything left to steal in that poor, poor land, once a land of milk and honey? I should think his trip is power and revenge not wealth - surely a committed thief would have the brains not to strangle the golden goose but to tax it an egg a day?

Noriega? Got nuthin' on old Pineapple Face. I suppose an unkind person would say Winston Churchill also looked like a toad but nothing like Noriega. Chavez, incidentally, whom you briefly mention, is also a fiendishly unattractive man. I wonder if it means anything - probably not.

But I do often think on Shakespeare's "There's no art to find the mind's construction in the face." One is always encouraged to swallow the ancients whole but really, let's vote, who believes that and who doesn't?

...Anyway, if AQ wanted her dead, I suppose I should have wished her Banzai. Now let's see if this turns some, more, or all Paks against AQ...or what.

Joe said...

Bhutto wasn't brave, she was stupid. And corrupt. The notion that Bhutto would have made a difference in Pakistan is fantasy. If there was ever a case of projection of ideals, this was it.

The question is, when are we going to invade? Seriously. Unlike Iraq, Pakistan really does have nuclear weapons and when those fall into the hands of the fanatics, it's going to be an unpleasant world.

Kanwalful said...

Honestly, it is about time people got over how she died and did something that would benefit Pakistan. Speculating over the deaths of these people is just one step towards recognizing the problems plaguing the country. It is time to move on to the next step and addressing the problem of dishonesty and corruption that is infesting the life of an average Pakistani.
Mrs. Zardari was a living example of corruption. I won't attempt undermining her excellent political qualities and academic acheivements but I will stress on the fact that she NEVER used her calibre to positively affect the country. Along with her Mr. Ten Percent she quietly robbed the country before sneaking off in to self-exile, living an extravagant life of riches that she robbed off our taxes.
What is even worse is that the brain-washed mob of cloned individuals that constitute the MAJOR part of our country mourned so bitterly over the death of a woman so corrupt. Rather than quietly burying her, as she deserved her fanatic followers made life living hell for us. Note the irony: A woman who condoned terrorism in every interview, was succeeded by people who did nothing less than terrorize the nation for a period of FOUR days after her death. Karachi was alight with fire and deaths the day this woman died. She was a true embodiment of dishonesty and hypocrisy. We live in deceitful times, my friend.
There is nothing more left to say.