Watch this press briefing at the White House on 23 April — following President Obama’s announcement that it had just been realized that two hostages [one American, one Italian] had been inadvertently killed in a US strike “in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region” in January…
In the briefing, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters that “Our CounterTerrorism people follow *Near-Certainty* standards” to carry out an operation, and then evaluate it later using a *high-confidence* battle-damage assessment [[drawin on multiple sources of intel] …
He explained that *Near-Certainty* standards mean “that it was an Al Qaeda compound frequented by an al-Qaeda leader + that civilans wouldn’t be hurt”…
All these *Near-Certainty* standards were observed, and yet two hostages [that the US did not even know were on the site] were killed, so there will now be some kind of reassessment to see how such ops could be improved, Earnest indicated.
But these ops will not be stopped, Earnest said: “These CT [CounterTerrorism] ops, which are critical to the nationale security of the US and to the safety of American people, will continue”…
Going over some of the newer details about the U.S. operation to take out Osama Bin Laden [OBL or UBL] here are a few answers, none from official sources:
A.) Question: Did they, or did they not, see the kill?
President Obama’s counterterrorism adviser John Brenner said to journalists on Monday afternoon/evening — not even 20 hours after the announcement that Osama Bin Laden had been killed in a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, then buried somewhere [north Arabian Sea?] at sea — that President Obama and his advisers watched the American operation that killed Ben Laden “in real time”. That’s what we thought was confirmed in this photo later released by the White House [Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is the only one showing any emotional reaction here]:
Here, now, is a very useful graphic published by the Washington Post, in an article published here, entitled “Breaking Down the Situation Room“, with contributions from a number of the WPost’s “in-house experts”:
1. Vice President Biden
2. President Obama
3. Brig. Gen. Marshall B. Webb
4. Deputy national security adviser Denis McDonough
5. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton
6. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates
7. Adm. Mike Mullen, Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman
8. National security adviser Thomas E. Donilon
9. White House chief of staff Bill Daley
10. Antony Blinken, national security adviser to Biden
11. Audrey Tomason, director for counterterrorism
12. John O. Brennan, assistant to Obama for counterterrorism
13. Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr.
[For some interesting excerpts from some of the WPost’s staff’s comments on this photo, see our page here.]
But, CIA Director Leon Panetta later said that the execution was, in fact, not witnessed live in Washington, in an interview on the PBS Newshour program on Tuesday evening, which can be watched here. Panetta told Newshour’s‘s Jim McNeil that: “Since this was a what’s called Title 50 Operation, which is a covert operation and it comes directly from the President of the United States … that direction goes to me, and I am the person who commands the mission … But having said that I have to tell you that the real director was [Vice] Admiral [William] McCraven, because he was on-site and he was actually in charge of the military operation that went in and got Osama Bin Laden … We had set up an operations post here at the CIA and I was in direct communication with Admiral McRaven who was located in Afghanistan, and we were in direct contact as the mission went forward … We had live-time intelligence information that we were dealing with, during the operation itself”.
Q: But did you actually see Obama Bin Laden get shot?
A: “No, no, not at all”...
There are now reports that Osama/Usama Bin Laden’s wife was wounded, not killed, in the U.S. raid that killed him [and that another woman was wounded as well].
What happened to her, and to any others wounded, or simply present, inside the compound?
Apparently, the U.S. special forces [Navy Seals???] took “computers” from the compound to search them for leads.
Does it make any sense that if, as U.S. officials said, they will be pursuing other al-Qaeda leaders in Pakistan or elsewhere, they would have left anybody in the compound?
UPDATE: Reports Tuesday night say that a wounded women and Usama’s children who were in the room with him when he was killed “resisting” are now in Pakistani custody. [A woman seized as a hostage by another man — not Obama — in another room was killed, together with the man who grabbed her…]
The Associated Press reported Tuesday night that “The White House says Osama bin Laden was not armed when a Navy SEAL raiding party confronted him during an assault on his compound in Pakistan. White House press secretary Jay Carney acknowledged that bin Laden did not have a weapon even though administration officials have said that bin Laden resisted during the raid. Carney said resistance does not require a firearm. Bin Laden was shot in the head and in the chest during the encounter. Carney said that a woman in the room with bin Laden confronted the U.S. forces and was shot but not killed”. This report is posted here.
UPDATE TWO: The Atlantic magazine has published a post by Garance Franke-Ruta entitled “The Slippery Story of the bin Laden Kill”, here, which notes that “the history of misstatements from U.S. government officials about various combat operations raises questions about whether briefers also were subjecting us to a counterterrorism strategy and not just completely confused in their initial statements”.
Avner Cohen posted the link on Facebook, with this comment: “Does the Slippery Story of OBL killing matter? Yes, it does! Slipping the truth on this matter undermines the very credibility and the moral ground of the United States, the very raison d’etre of this act.”
For full transparency and disclosure, I’ll post below my own comments in participation and interaction on this thread:
The transcript of the White House briefing, about 20 hours after Osama Bin Laden was killed in Pakistan by American special forces, is now posted online here.
President Obama’s counterterrorism Adviser John Brenner said to journalists this afternoon/evening that President Obama and his advisers watched the American operation that killed Ben Laden “in real time”, as is shown in this photo just released by the White House [Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is the only one showing any emotional reaction here]:
Some 24 hours after the deed, the UN Security Council is convening in consultations about a possible statement. Matthew Lee of Inner City Press, at the front lines outside the UNSC chambers, has just tweeted that there are going to be changes in a draft text, and/as the French Ambassador didn’t like the French version…
UPDATE: Sometime around 3am Jerusalem time, the American Ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, Tweeted (@AmbassadorRice): “This afternoon, the Security Council passed a statement welcoming the news that #UBL [Usama Bin Laden] will never again perpetrate acts of terrorism”.
This statement is not yet posted on the website of the US Mission to the UN, and it is difficult to find even on the official UN website. It is buried down at the bottom of a UN News Centre report on remarks made to the media outside the UN Security Council. The report says that “Ambassador Gérard Araud of France, which holds the rotating Security Council presidency this month, read out a presidential statement in which the 15-member panel welcomed the news that Mr. bin Laden ‘will never again be able to perpetrate such acts of terrorism’. The statement urged all countries to remain vigilant and intensify their efforts to defeat terrorism, including by working together to bring to justice the perpetrators, organizers and sponsors of terrorist attacks. ‘The Security Council stresses… that terrorism will not be defeated by military force, law enforcement measures and intelligence operations alone, and can only be defeated by a sustained and comprehensive approach involving the active participation and collaboration of all States, and relevant international and regional organizations and civil society to address the conditions conducive to the spread of terrorism and to impede, impair, isolate and incapacitate the terrorist threat’.”
This Presidential Statement by the UNSC is contained in a UN press release which “also reaffirmed that terrorism could not and should not be associated with any religion, nationality, civilization or group”.
The press release also says that “States must ensure that any measures taken to combat terrorism comply with all their obligations under international law, in particular international human rights, refugee and humanitarian law”.
According to the UN press release, “The meeting began at 5:30 p.m. and ended at 5:35 p.m”. The full text is posted here.
Meanwhile, here, for the record, is what John Brenner said at the briefing in Washington on Monday, especially about the burial at sea:
Because, for sure, there’s no way to ask any questions about this.
[Though, there are probably videos that will be shown later…]
U.S. President Obama said it was a “targetted operation”… which “took care to avoid civilian casualties”.
After 9/11, our time of grief, Americans came together, Obama said. “We were also united in our resolve to protect our nation and to bring those who committed this vicious attack to justice. We quickly learned that the 9/11 attacks were carried out by al-Qaeda, an organization headed by Osama Bin Laden, which had openly declared war on the United States and committed to killing innocents in our country and around the globe. So, we went to war against Al-Qaeda to protect our citizens, our friends and our allies … In Afghanistan, we removed the Taliban government which had given Bin Ladan and Al-Qaeda safe haven and support, and around the globe, we worked to capture or kill scores of Al-Qaeda terrorists, including several who were a part of the 9/11 plot”, he said. “Shortly after taking office, I directed Leon Panetta, the Director of the CIA, to make the killing or capture of Osama Bin Laden the top priority in our war against al-Qaeda, even as we continued our broader efforts to disrupt, dismantle or defeat his network”…
Obama never once said the word “terrorist” or “terror” [this was one of the significant style changes in his administration]. No, this is a war against Al-Qaeda, Obama said, several times.
“There is no doubt that Al-Qaeda will continue to pursue attacks against us”, Obama added, so the U.S. “must be vigilant, at home and abroad”…
The U.S. then issued a worldwide travel alert and advisory to all U.S. citizens.
A warden message received on Monday afternoon from the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem says: “Given the uncertainty and volatility of the current situation, U.S. citizens in areas where recent events could cause anti-American violence are strongly urged to limit their travel outside of their homes and hotels and avoid mass gatherings and demonstrations … We urge U.S. citizens to keep in regular contact with family and friends”.
In his announcement, Obama also said that Bin Laden’s “demise should be welcomed by all who believe in peace and human dignity … justice has been done”.
Osama Bin Laden has been killed, somehow, in a “showdown with U.S. forces” in a luxurious villa in a heavily-fortified compound in Pakistan — a country which insisted he was not there, and where U.S. forces have been operating for years, while supposedly searching for Osama Bin Laden and his amorphous Al-Qaeda Organization, which any misfit or rebel who wanted to antagonize could claim to be part of (whether true or not, claims were accepted, usually without question, if convenient).
The villa was reportedly in, or on the outskirts of, Abbotabad, about two hours north of Islamabad. [And, the villa was reportedly about 800 yards from the Pakistan Military Academy.]
According to a report in The Guardian, here, the villa was identified last August, the U.S. was certain in February that Bin Laden and family were there, and Obama gave the order to get him on 29 April.
The same report added that “It was a surgical operation, he said, carried out by a small team and lasted only 40 minutes … The US force ran into a problem with one of their helicopters which had to be abandoned, but only after being destroyed by explosives set by the American troops”.
Some Pakistani forces reportedly accompanied the U.S. soldiers. Now, they say they’re not sure who fired the shot that actually killed Osama Bin Laden. But, there can never be another autopsy, a forensic examination, because, the U.S. says, his body has been “buried at sea” — according to Muslim tradition (which is NOT to bury a dead person at sea, but in the earth).
This happened within a very few hours — at 0200 in Washington DC time — and that would be according to Muslim (and Jewish) tradition which prefers burial (in earth) within 24 hours. The military operation apparently started just after 8pm, and Obama made his announcement after 10:30 pm, the time it was supposed to take place …
The U.S. took charge [“custody”, Obama said] of the body, and then said no country was willing to take the body for burial…
That’ll make it easy, they must have thought.
UPDATE: At a White House briefing after 9pm Monday night (Jerusalem time), with the White House Press Secretary Jay Carney and John Brennan of the President’s National Security team, Brennan said that “we were able to monitor it [the operation] in real time”. He said the COAs [Course of Actions] were determined over the past couple of months: if he’s captured, what do we do with him? And, if he’s killed what do we do. Arrangements for the burial were ready. The appropriate people were there. A decision was taken that the burial in the way it was done was the appropriate thing to do. He would not say exactly where it happened. He said that there have been differences between the U.S. and Pakistan on counterterrorism policy, and that the Pakistani authorities were briefed immediately after the operation. They were appreciative of the fact that there were no Pakistani casualties”.
Brennan, a “counterterrorism” advisor, said that “we are talking to the Pakistanis” about the location where Bin Laden was found, but initially “they seemed as surprised as we were”…
Brennan said that Bin Laden did participate in the firefight when the U.S. raid occurred, but when asked specifically, Brennan said he didn’t know if Bin Laden got his hand on a weapon or fired any rounds.
Others died, too, including “the two al-Qaeda facilitators” [two brothers], one of his sons [Khaled], and “a woman being used as a hostage shield”… presumed to be one of Osama Bin Laden’s wives, Brennan later said, adding that he did not know how it was she was interposed in the line of fire in front of Bin Laden, including whether she put herself in that position herself.
It is not clear whether Bin Laden was buried alone, at sea, or with this wife, and his son…
But, in the best post-Second-World-War American tradition, the U.S. is leader of “the free world”, and no questions can be asked. [Or, as happened on Monday evening, there will be a press conference with dozens of questions, and not too many full answers…]
There will be no trial. Osama will not be water-boarded in Camp Guantanamo to extract “the facts” in a full investigation. We will never know what really happened, and we will believe what suits us.
There is no body to show = no need to know: just accept our word, we’re the “good guys”?
Just trust the leaders. Or, what’s wrong with you — get the hell out! Go… to Gaza!
On Twitter, Pakistan’s Ambassador to the U.S., Husain Haqqani, tweeted (@husainhaqqani) just after 1:15 in the afternoon, Jerusalem time:
**”Official Pakistan statement being released in Islamabad on our US bringing Osama bin Laden to justice 14 minutes ago via Twitter for BlackBerry®”
**”Pak statement: In intelligence driven op, Osama Bin Ladin was killed in the surroundings of Abbotabad in the early hours of Mon morning”
**”Operation was conducted by US forces in accordance with declared US policy”
**”Earlier 2day, President Obama telephoned President Zardari on the successful US operation which resulted in killing of OBL”
**”Al-Qaeda had declared war on Pakistan. Scores of Al-Qaeda sponsored terrorist attacks resulted in deaths of 1000s of innocent Pakistanis”
Binyam Mohamed, an Ethiopian-born refugee with British residency, was released from the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo, Cuba — and put on a chartered plane heading to a British military base in the early morning today.
He is being accompanied on the flight “by officers from the Metropolitan Police Counter-terrorism Command, a uniformed police escort team and a doctor”, but is not expected to be detained once he arrives in the U.K., according to a report by The Times of London. He will reportedly report regularly to U.K. police and will be kept under surveillance, but will be able to live at home. At one time he was accused — perhaps without sufficient basis, it now appears — of working with others [including Jose Padilla] while in Pakistan on the construction of an “improvised radioactive bomb” or a “dirty bomb” that would be detonated in the U.S.
Arrested at Karachi airport Pakistan on 10 April 2002 while attempting to fly out using a fake or false passport — he said his had been lost — Mohamed has since “been held in US custody for a total of eight years”, according to the report in The Times published here — first in Pakistan, then taken in extraordinary rendition to Morocco, Afghanistan, and, finally, September 2004, in Guantanamo.
Agence France Presse has reported this afternoon that Benazir’s husband refused an autopsy, but wants a Hariri-style UN/international investigation into her killing:
“Bhutto’s husband Asif Ali Zardari, demanded a United Nations probe into her assassination along the lines of the world body’s probe of the killing of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri. ‘We demand a Hariri commission-style investigation’, Zardari told reporters. ‘We are writing to the United Nations for an international probe into her martyrdom’. With her party openly ridiculing government assertions that she had died by hitting her car sunroof on Thursday — and not from bullet or shrapnel wounds in the attack — Zardari said he had denied permission for an autopsy. He said he had lived in Pakistan ‘long enough to know’ how it would have been handled”. This AFP report is here.
Matthew Lee described on his Inner City Press blog the negotiations conducted by the president of the UN Security Council before the statement issued concerning Benazir Bhutto’s assassination: “In the hours after Benazir Bhutto was killed, the 15 members of the UN Security Council negotiated and agreed to a Presidential Statement of condemnation. A sixteenth country was consulted: Pakistan. According to Council diplomats involved in the negotiations, among the changes made before the final Presidential Statement was issued was the omission of any temporal reference in the Council’s statement of the ‘need to bring perpetrators, organizers, financiers and sponsors of this reprehensible act of terrorism to justice’. The proposal was to say this should be done as soon as possible, but this was omitted, apparently to make it less likely that the matter could be brought back before the Council if the investigation is too slow or otherwise not credible. Before these Security Council negotiations, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had issued a statement, including a ‘call for the perpetrators to be brought to justice as soon as possible. I convey my heartfelt condolences to Mrs. Bhutto’s family, her colleagues and to the people of Pakistan. While strongly urging for calm and restraint to be maintained at this difficult time, I call on all Pakistanis to work together for peace and national unity‘. In the Council, it was suggested that the Presidential Statement should track Ban Ki-moon’s already-issued statement. But issue was taken with the phrase “as soon as possible” and “peace” — “international peace and security” being the legal hook for the Council to send peacekeepers or investigators, as in Lebanon, to a country … [And so] the phrase ‘as soon as possible’, which is in the Secretary-General’s statement…did not make it into the Council’s Presidential Statement … The real question, though, concerns the omission of those fighting for democracy and rule of law.
While the final Presidential Statement offers a ‘tribute to former Prime Minister Bhutto’, it had been proposed to also mention those fighting for democracy and the rule of law. But this too was omitted, apparently under the theory that it might embolden and even empower those questioning the rule of Pervez Musharraf. One is left with a watered down statement, and ever-multiplying questions”. Matthew Lee’s post is here.
And, here is the final result, the UNSC’s Presidential Statement, read out by the current SC President for the month of December, Ambassador Marcello Spatafora of Italy:
“The Security Council condemns in the strongest terms the terrorist suicide attack by extremists that occurred in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, on 27 December 2007, causing the death of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and numerous other casualties, and expresses its deep sympathy and condolences to the victims of this heinous act of terrorism and their families, and to the people and the Government of Pakistan. The Security Council pays tribute to former Prime Minister Bhutto.
“The Security Council calls on all Pakistanis to exercise restraint and maintain stability in the country.
“The Security Council underlines the need to bring perpetrators, organizers, financiers and sponsors of this reprehensible act of terrorism to justice, and urges all States, in accordance with their obligations under international law and resolution 1373 (2001) and consistent with resolution 1624 (2005), to cooperate actively with the Pakistani authorities in this regard.
“The Security Council reaffirms that terrorism in all its forms and manifestations constitutes one of the most serious threats to international peace and security, and that any acts of terrorism are criminal and unjustifiable, regardless of their motivation, wherever, whenever and by whomsoever committed.
“The Security Council further reaffirms the need to combat by all means, in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations, threats to international peace and security caused by terrorist acts. The Council reminds States that they must ensure that any measures taken to combat terrorism comply with all their obligations under international law, in particular international human rights, refugee and humanitarian law.
“The Security Council reiterates its determination to combat all forms of terrorism, in accordance with its responsibilities under the Charter of the United Nations.”
This statement is contained in a UN press release here.
And, as the UN press release says, the meeting started at 2 p.m. and ended at 2:05 p.m.
The AP had a fuller version of comments quoted yesterday from Bhutto’s spokeswoman Sherry Rehman, who had been with Benazir when she was shot and rode with her as she was rushed to the hospital:
“She was bleeding profusely, as she had received a bullet wound in her neck. My car was full of blood. Three doctors at the hospital told us that she had received bullet wounds. I was among the people who gave her a final bath. We saw a bullet wound in the back of her neck,” she said. “What the government is saying is actually dangerous and nonsensical. They are pouring salt on our wounds. There are no findings, they are just lying.”
The same AP story reported that Interior Ministry spokesman Javed Iqbal Cheema, who gave the press conference saying — preposterously — that Benazir died from banging her head on a lever of the sun roof in the car in which she was riding, “stood by the government’s version of events, and said Bhutto’s party was free to exhume her body for an autopsy…[And he] defended the government’s ability to carry out its investigation. He said an independent judicial probe should be completed within seven days of the appointment of its presiding judge. ‘This is not an ordinary criminal matter in which we require assistance of the international community. I think we are capable of handling it’, he said”.
At-largelyhereshows photos shown on Pakistan’s Dawn TV of the assassin – clean-shaven, in a suit, with sunglasses (could it be a woman, Larisa asks?). Comments on democraticundergroundhere say that the suicide bomber, with white fabric over his(?) head, stays right behind the person with the gun:
Meanwhile, the same AP story added, “White House spokesman Tony Fratto said Pakistan had not officially requested U.S. help. ‘It’s a responsibility of the government of Pakistan to ensure that the investigation is thorough. If Pakistani authorities ask for assistance we would review the request’, he said. A senior U.S. official, however, said Pakistan was already ‘discussing with other governments as to how best the investigation can be handled’. With the United States, the discussions ‘are about what we can offer and what the Pakistanis want. Having some help to make sure international questions are answered is definitely an option’, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because no agreement had yet come from the discussions. There was no immediate confirmation from Pakistani officials”. This AP report is posted here.
One of the things I’ve been wondering about is why Benazir studied for two Bachelor’s degrees — the first from Harvard, the second from Oxford in the U.K. — instead of going for a Master’s. Then, a New York Times story made me realize that it was all about networking, about making contacts, rather than earning one degree or another. (But a second bachelor’s degree would also be a bit easier than going for a Master’s …especially if Benazir is one of those girls who just want to have fun.)
The NYTimes article today, entitled How Bhutto Won Washington, reported that “Ms. Bhutto, the Pakistani opposition leader and two-time prime minister, who was assassinated in Rawalpindi on Thursday as she campaigned for the office a third time, had a more extensive network of powerful friends in the capital’s political and media elite than almost any other foreign leader. Over the years, she scrupulously cultivated those friends, many from her days at Harvard and Oxford. She was rewarded when her connections — at the White House, in Congress and within the foreign policy establishment — helped propel her into power in Pakistan … She arrived at Harvard in the fall of 1969 as a primly dressed 16-year-old, bewildered by American customs … But Ms. Bhutto adapted, and quickly befriended not only Mr. [Peter W. Galbraith, identified in the NYTimes piece as “a former United States ambassador and a longtime friend of Ms. Bhutto’s”] Galbraith but E. J. Dionne and Michael Kinsley, now both columnists for The Post, and Walter Isaacson, the president of the Aspen Institute and a former managing editor of Time. By the time she got to Oxford, Ms. Bhutto drove a sports car, and she soon became president of the Oxford Union debating society. ‘I remember her being very intense’, Mr. Isaacson recalled. ‘But she had this really big smile, and she had this ability to be charming’. Ms. Bhutto’s first important trip to Washington was in the spring of 1984, when Mr. Galbraith, then a Democratic staff member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, acted as her host and tutor. By then she was 30 years old and scarred from the bloody politics back home. Her father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, had been president and prime minister of Pakistan but was hanged in 1979 on the orders of Gen. Mohammad Zia ul-Haq, Pakistan’s military ruler. Ms. Bhutto, who had spent months in prison and years under house arrest, was now leader of the Pakistan Peoples Party of her father and determined to oust General Zia. Her goal in Washington was to persuade conservative Reagan administration officials that they would be better off with her in power. It was not going to be easy: Ms. Bhutto’s father was known for his fiery anti-Western rhetoric, and she had marched against the Vietnam War at Harvard. ‘What she was up against was her reputation of being this anti-American radical’, Mr. Galbraith said. ‘So we spent a lot of time talking about what messages she needed to convey’. In meetings with key members of Congress at the time — among them Senator Charles H. Percy, the Illinois Republican who was chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, and Representative Stephen J. Solarz of Brooklyn, who was a senior Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee — Ms. Bhutto, under Mr. Galbraith’s tutelage, expressed her support for democracy and the mujahedeen ‘freedom fighters’ who were battling the Soviet invasion in Afghanistan. ‘She was this completely charming, beautiful woman who could flatter the senators, and who could read their political concerns, who could persuade them that she would much better serve American interests in Afghanistan than Zia’, Mr. Galbraith said. On that same trip, Mr. Galbraith introduced Ms. Bhutto to Mark Siegel, a political operative who had been executive director of the Democratic National Committee. Mr. Siegel was taken with Ms. Bhutto and supported her cause. He became a lobbyist for the government of Pakistan when Ms. Bhutto was in power. Most recently he was her collaborator on a book scheduled for publication in 2008. ‘I started to walk the halls of Congress with her in 1984, and she developed poise and confidence and maturity’, Mr. Siegel said. ‘She also understood how important these relationships were’. Still, he said, ‘I would have dinner parties at my house in the beginning, and it was not so easy to get journalists and congressmen and senators to come’. That changed in November 1988, when Ms. Bhutto’s party won a plurality in Parliament in the Pakistani elections but fell short of a majority. As Mr. Galbraith tells it, Reagan administration officials went to Ghulam Ishaq Khan, Pakistan’s acting president, and told him that since Ms. Bhutto commanded the most votes, he would have to invite her to form a government. Ms. Bhutto became prime minister on Dec. 2. ‘And that was the direct result of her networking, of her being able to persuade the Washington establishment, the foreign policy community, the press, the think tanks, that she was a democrat, that she was a moderate, that she was going to be against the Soviets in Afghanistan’, Mr. Galbraith said … Although Ms. Bhutto was twice expelled from office on charges of corruption, she kept up her visits to Washington, usually several a year. She would call on administration officials and members of Congress willing to see her as well as reporters and editors at The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal. Soon her American Christmas card list, excluding people in government and Congress, was up to 375 names. ‘She understood the nature of political life, which is to stay in touch with people whether you’re in or out of office’, said Karl F. Inderfurth, the former assistant secretary of state for South Asia who attended a dinner for Ms. Bhutto at the Willard Hotel on her last trip to Washington, in September. ‘She was a superb political operative’. Like other foreign leaders, Ms. Bhutto engaged a public relations firm to arrange meetings for her with administration officials, members of Congress and journalists. For the first six months of 2007, the firm Burson-Marsteller took in fees of close to $250,000 for work on behalf of Ms. Bhutto”. This NYTimes analysis is published here.
Another NYTimes article, an opinion piece, said that “Much has been made since her death of her apparent recklessness. But she had done her calculations and reached the conclusion that the only way she could rally her supporters was by going to them. ‘She wasn’t as reckless as people are making her out to be’, the former police officer told me over the phone. ‘The bulge that you saw under her shalwar kameez wasn’t extra pounds that she had put on during exile. She always wore a bulletproof vest in public’.”
Well, but she also put on some extra pounds, and you don’t need to look at her midriff to see it — it was evident in her face, and neck, and hands.
Anyway, this same NYTimes piece reported that “In the London press conference [just before her return], she was asked about her deal with Mr. Musharraf, which was going to allow her to return without facing charges for the rampant corruption that occurred under her watch. It was a question that had become the bane of her existence. Suddenly, her calculated, irritated voice mellowed and she spoke like the naïve, passionate activist I had seen as a child: ‘I lost my father. Both my brothers were killed violently. Scores of my party workers have died in the struggle for democracy, and now our citizens are being killed indiscriminately every day. We have to stop this. And in order to stop this I’ll talk to anyone that I have to‘ … Throughout her career there were attempts to portray her as a Westernized woman of questionable character. Shortly after her death, I was talking with another friend, one who had never thought much of her. ‘Remember those leaflets we used to collect before her election?’ he asked. He was referring to the 1988 election campaign, when her political rivals hired planes to throw leaflets with photographs that were doctored to show her wearing bikinis and miniskirts and dancing at college parties. It did not stop the people from voting her into power. For Pakistan’s military-mullah establishment, she always remained a bad girl. Not just any ordinary privileged heir to a political dynasty, but a girl half the nation swooned over; a sharp political operator, a speaker who even in her stilted Urdu could have a million people dance to the wave of her hand. And she was not a revolutionary by a long shot — but she could bring people to her rallies, and more important, polling stations by promising them jobs and reasonable electricity bills. On Thursday a heartbroken Bhutto-lover called and left a teary message on my voice mail. He just wanted to share his grief, but reminded me of something else: ‘She might have lost her political battle, but look at it this way. She raised three kids, took care of an ailing mother and still managed to stay in South Asia’s most notorious arranged marriage’.” This opinion piece in the NYTimes is published here.
Juan Cole has posted his comments comparing the reactions to Benazir Bhutto’s assassination by two American Democratic candidates for President, Hilary Clinton and Barack Obama, on his blog, Informed Comment, today — starting with Hillary Clinton’s comments in her interview Friday with Wolf Blitzer on CNN’s Situation Room: “I don’t think the Pakistani government at this time under President Musharraf has any credibility at all. They have disbanded an independent judiciary, they have oppressed a free press. Therefore, I’m calling for a full, independent, international investigation, perhaps along the lines of what the United Nations has been doing with respect to the assassination of Prime Minister Hariri in Lebanon. I think it is critically important that we get answers and really those are due first and foremost to the people of Pakistan, not only those who were supportive of Benazir Bhutto and her party, but every Pakistani because we cannot expect to move toward stability without some reckoning as to who was responsible for this assassination.
Therefore, I call on President Musharraf and the Pakistani government to realize that this is in the interests of Pakistan to understand whether or not it was al Qaeda or some other offshoot extremist group that is attempting to further destabilize and even overthrow the Pakistani government, or whether it came from within, either explicitly or implicitly, the security forces or the military in Pakistan. The thing I’ve not been able to understand, Wolf – I have met with President Musharraf, I obviously knew Benazir Bhutto and admired her leadership – is that President Musharraf, in every meeting I have had with him, the elites in Pakistan who still wield tremendous power plus the leadership of the military act as though they can destabilize Pakistan and retain their positions; their positions of privilege, their positions of authority. That is not the way it will work. I am really calling on them to recognize that the world deserves the answer; the Bhutto family deserves the answer, but this is in the best interest of the Pakistani people and the state of Pakistan …
Blitzer: Senator, just to be precise; you want a United Nations international tribunal, or commission of inquiry, whatever you want to call it, along the lines of the investigation into the assassination of Rafik Hariri?
HRC: There are other institutions that are international that have credibility, like INTERPOL and others. It doesn’t have to be the exact model of the Hariri investigation but it needs to be international, it needs to be independent, it needs to have credibility and nothing that would happen inside of Pakistan would. I’m reluctant to say it should be an American investigation where we send our law enforcement personnel, because I’m not sure that would have credibility for a different reason. So that’s why I’m calling for an independent international investigation”...
Juan Cole adds: “Barack Obama objected to Clinton’s call for a UN special inquiry, saying that ‘It is important to us to not give the idea that Pakistan is unable to handle its own affairs’. While Obama’s concern for Pakistani sovereignty is admirable, Clinton’s suggestion of a United Nations commission would, I think, be quite popular in Pakistan except in military circles … And it is certainly the case that the Pakistani public would be more likely to believe a UN commission than it would to believe Pervez Musharraf on this issue”. Juan Cole’s comments on Clinton’s and Obama’s response to Benazir Bhutto’s assassination are posted here.