Lately, neither right nor left has been talking much about our many murderous machinations in the Middle East. Perhaps it is the holiday season, or a nod to the establishment-picked presidential candidates who offer more of the same tired foreign policy entanglements. Maybe the recent NIE on Iran has caused visions of sugarplums to dance in the heads of the loyal opposition.
Mainstream media has had little to say of the ongoing rudeness between the Turks and the Kurds, or the ethnic cleansing already accomplished throughout Iraq — both conditions directly caused by the United States policies and actions. It speaks not of holiday ugliness in Gaza or the occupied territories. Apparently, for various made-in-America governments, as in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan, no news means good news.
Until Thursday, the biggest news from Pakistan wasn’t that our favored regional martinet magnanimously lifted his "state of emergency," one day after the date of Eid al Adha was announced. The six weeks of suspending the constitution and arresting the judges might have actually sounded like a good idea to the people in Washington who send their daily talking points to the friendly fourth estate.
We weren’t hearing much about how Congress was once and for all going to find out what happened to the billions of American taxpayer dollars that disappeared in Islamabad. And the top story from our American Pravda wasn’t that after six and a half years, we still don’t know where, in Pakistan, bin Laden is hiding.
This deafening silence may explain why Benazir Bhutto’s murder in Rawalpindi was such a wakeup call. She was Washington’s current democratic fave, fully expected to do everything she could to preserve the status quo in the Pakistani capital — much as the Washington establishment expects of its own favored presidential aspirants.
Harvard-educated Bhutto could have helped the Bush regime, and even done a bit to secure that ever-perilous Bush legacy. Had Bhutto and her "People’s Party" won power outright or shared it with Musharif, she would have been much more than a pretty face in a Muslim country. Bhutto’s return to, and political success in, Islamabad comes right out of Beers/Tutwiler/Hughes playbook, or perhaps the latest Victoria’s Secret catalog.
To sell the American brand abroad, and increasingly at home (as with overpriced lingerie), you need slick imagery and a near total suspension of disbelief.
For a long time, Americans have been determined to suspend their disbelief. But folks watching television, using the internet, and talking on their cell phones in the Middle East have long been wise to the bad deals being sold them by their various central authorities — many of which have deep and longstanding American ties.
Unlike most people in the Middle East, Americans are just now beginning to understand that we, too, live under a central government authority. It’s taken a strange combination of extensive and confusing wars abroad, an increasingly ominous police state witnessed by increasingly numbers of citizens, a rotten economic downturn, and an utterly inarticulate president — but we are getting there.
Ron Paul’s existence in the Republican race has helped — but it isn’t his charisma that is disturbing the political landscape. He is popular with people (and unpopular with the establishment) because he articulates the truth that many Americans already instinctively know, a common sense we’ve already embraced.
Thus, while many pundits exclaim that they know where the trouble in Pakistan lies, and what the death of Bhutto will mean, and what we should do, only Ron Paul says we should just get out, and simply cease our sinister and unconstitutional entanglements in the region.
Bhutto’s death is tragic, for her family and for her friends, and for her party organization. Her unnatural death, preceded by the demise of her father and two brothers at the hands of the state, is unfortunately typical for this particular dynasty. But what happens in the domestic intrigues in cities with exotic names most Americans don’t know is just not our business. Placing, positioning and protecting leaders in these cities is not our business. Spending U.S. cash and credibility in such places in not our business.
Thus, the real tragedy of Bhutto’s assassination is the harsh light it casts on the desires of the political establishment in Washington and New York. Americans know little, by design, of the real ramifications and the sordid history of our foreign policy and military strategy in the Middle East — or at home, for that matter. With the news of Bhutto’s death, we are reminded that we will be asked to pay — in blood and treasure — for troop increases in Afghanistan, permanent garrisoning of troops in Iraq, and more American military operations inside Pakistan. Bush, and the Bush-like presidential candidates of both parties, proudly aver that the NIE on Iran is irrelevant to America’s goal of Iranian regime change — and imply that again, we the people will pay whatever they decide to charge for the next big thing in the Middle East.
This Middle Eastern policy sales event is not emotionally supported — nor economically supportable — by most Americans. Even as Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul is treated like a hot potato by establishment media — he is seen by most thinking Americans as the only presidential candidate honestly offering a chicken in every pot.
Benazir Bhutto was a wealthy socialist who talked a lot about what the poor people of Pakistan needed, specifically egalitarian democracy and economic justice. The best way to observe her passing is not to place our military and intelligence forces on high alert and redouble our efforts to micromanage the world. Instead, Americans ought to simply and carefully consider the true meaning of egalitarian democracy and economic justice in our own upcoming elections.
LRC columnist Karen Kwiatkowski, Ph.D. [send her mail], a retired USAF lieutenant colonel, has written on defense issues with a libertarian perspective for MilitaryWeek.com, hosted the call-in radio show American Forum, and blogs occasionally for Huffingtonpost.com and Liberty and Power. To receive automatic announcements of new articles, click here.