On December 27, 2007, Benazir Bhutto, twice-former Prime Minister of Pakistan, had a celebrated homecoming tragically cut short. An assassin approached Bhutto’s vehicle, while she was waving to crowds through its sunroof and mortally wounded her by gunfire. Almost immediately, the assassin’s own life, and the lives of 20 more ended when a bomb detonated. The hope for a democratically-elected government in Pakistan may also have been mortally wounded in the aftermath of this day’s violence.
A “tense” George Bush responded to reporters repudiating the event, deriding the “murderous extremists who are trying to undermine Pakistan’s democracy.” No doubt, the President didn’t even consider the irony of his words.
The government of Pakistan has for quite some time been mired in turmoil. Bhutto herself, though very popular in Pakistan, had been removed from office twice for accusations of corruption. Her return was preceded by a grant of amnesty, allowing her to campaign for her old job in upcoming elections; elections that General Pervez Musharraf would rather not occur. Musharraf only stepped down as head of the army in October of this year, having usurped executive power on October 12, 1999 in a military coup which ousted then-President Nawaz Sharif.
Unless you speak Urdu or Punjabi, sources in English regarding Pakistan have to be viewed with some skepticism. However, according to the Cooperative Research Project, the U.S. had been pressuring Pakistan to stop supporting the Taliban in Afghanistan back in 1998. Pakistan’s ISI — an agency like the US CIA — achieved a great deal of wealth cooperating with the Taliban, supplying arms and aiding heroin-smuggling efforts. In fact, shortly after the coup, Musharraf replaced the head of the ISI, Brig Imtiaz, for skimming profits and depositing them in a Deutsche Bank account.
While there was outward talk that the coup was planned because Sharif was too friendly to the US, this was probably just propaganda. Musharraf may have been publicly reluctant to withdraw military support to the Taliban, but he did just as the U.S. asked and thus received the benefits of U.S. military and economic aid, in spite of the fact he had overthrown the duly elected government. Given the C.I.A.’s history, it wouldn’t be surprising at all if Musharraf was chosen by U.S. intelligence officials as somebody who would cooperate and appease the Pakistani population when an invasion of Afghanistan occurred sometime later.
Which would mean, of course, that an invasion of Afghanistan had been in the works for a significant period prior to October 12, 1999 when Musharraf took power.
While many have said the Iraq and Afghanistan wars were about oil or terrorism, natural gas may have been the prime motivator for the invasion of Afghanistan. In 1998, the attacks by Osama bin Laden on U.S. embassy locations in Africa had the unpleasant effect — to UNOCAL corporate officers — of diplomatically isolating Afghanistan, which had finally agreed to allow the energy giant to route a natural gas pipeline through their territory on its way to the Caspian Sea; an idea first proposed in 1995. This diplomatic isolation was so unpleasant that the Northern Alliance had already begun capturing Northern Afghan cities by March of 2001 with the alleged blessing and cooperation of the U.S., India, Russia and Iran. Keep in mind that this military activity in Afghanistan was occurring 6 months prior to the attacks of September 11.
Whether or not UNOCAL will ever benefit from the new regime in Afghanistan (it claims publicly to have abandoned the pipeline project), the corporate interests that clamor for war are not hard to spot. Before Enron imploded, it was regularly meeting with the Bush administration about energy policy; Afghanistan being a hot topic of conversation. In Bin Laden: The Forbidden Truth, authors Jean-Charles Brisard and Guillaume Dasquie outline the Bush administration’s involvement in pipeline negotiations and proclaim that just a month before the Trade Center Attacks, the Taliban were offered "a carpet of gold or a carpet of bombs" to close the deal.
The situation in Afghanistan paints a stark picture of how corporate interests become "national interests." Some deals, according to those who subscribe to managed-trade theories, are not possible without the use of force. The bigger the potential profits, the more force is required, up to and including, all-out war.
Back to Pakistan. While Musharraf was a handy tool in the “real politik” arsenal (Ron Paul calls him a U.S. puppet) he was also a liability. When your country is claiming its aggressive wars are waged to spread democracy, a guy like Musharraf is an unpleasant reminder of the truth. So, the U.S. apparently prodded Musharraf to deal with Bhutto. Musharraf’s decision earlier this year to give up his military commission was arguably to improve his image both at home and abroad. The decision to hold elections and allow Bhutto to compete was another step in that direction.
But, people who gain power by illegitimate means are not likely to suddenly get religion and give it up. Musharraf has held power illegitimately for over 8 years. He was willing to kill to gain that power. Yet we are supposed to believe — as nearly every pundit asserts and newsreaders assume — that Bhutto’s assassination was the work of Al Qaeda or some other crackpot extremist group, even though there are several reasonable suspects, including Musharraf. Whether a false flag, or truly carried out by terrorists seeking to destabilize elections in Pakistan, it may just work.
Whatever motivated the killer, the result may be that Musharraf continues to wield illegitimate power. He may even reclaim his military commission in order to “restore order." At this point, there are many, including apparently, George Bush, who will give Musharraf every benefit of the doubt even as his government seeks to punish political dissenters under the guise of rooting out terrorism. The current situation in Pakistan begs more than a few questions.
How can anyone in their right mind defend the mercantilist foreign policy our country has practiced these past 140 years? If we are to accept intervention which results in the deaths of political office seekers and innumerable private citizens within our allies’ borders, are we not inviting the same policies to be put in place here? Ron Paul was right (and Giuliani dreadfully wrong) regarding blowback, which is the inevitable consequence of such policies. If it doesn’t result in bad policy at home, it most certainly antagonizes those abroad who suffer under these policies. U.S. "aid" to nations such as Pakistan can only prolong the agony for the citizens subject to these puppet dictators.
If a leader can support the actions of a Musharraf, what would lead anyone to believe he had the moral restraint to prevent himself from taking that plunge?
This isn’t to say that a Musharraf couldn’t be approached. But to give him money ($10 Billion in the past 8 years) from your own citizen’s pockets? How wicked. Worse, to stand up and claim that such action is necessary to promote “democracy.” The rise of neoconservatives has resulted in more naked aggression and ever more shrill pronouncements about how non-intervention makes America less safe in spite of the fact that any honest look at the results of these policies would lead one to conclude otherwise.
The truth is, the tangled webs of foreign intervention put us at risk both in terms of real national security and domestic security. With the large majority of our defense forces abroad, we are at risk of being unable to defend against a military attack. Ron Paul suggests that bringing our troops home from all foreign nations can save us 1 trillion dollars and improve our defensive capabilities. How can that approach be any worse than what is being promoted today?
If our leaders are willing to support the suspension of elections and military coups amongst our so-called allies, is it then only a matter of time before they engage in the same activities here at home?
Rick Fisk [send him mail] is a 45-year-old software developer and entrepreneur. He is married, has three children and resides in Austin, TX.