Nobody Quite Like Benazir
Nobody Quite Like Benazir
There is nobody like Benazir in Nepal. The Prime Minister of India is amazing, a soft spoken, humble man who belongs to a minority community in India, a Sikh, kind of like Barack in America, someone who has given India growth rates like that of China, but he is not Benazir. There is nobody like Benazir in Bhutan. There is nobody quite like Benazir in Bangladesh even though its two biggest parties are led by women. Burma's Suu Kyi is amazing, but she has been under house arrest for over a decade. There is nobody like Benazir in Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Australia. There is nobody like Benazir in China and Japan. There is nobody like Benazir in Sri Lanka, in Maldives. There is nobody like Benazir in Pakistan, not no more. There is nobody like Benazir in Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Egypt. There is nobody like Benazir in Israel. There is nobody like Benazir anywhere in Africa. There is no Benazir in Russia. Germany's head of state is a woman, but she is no Benazir. In Latin America, there are more than one woman heads of state, but they are no Benazir. Hillary is smart, and I have always admired her commitment to public service, she is a progressive icon, in America and globally, just like her husband, but she is no Benazir. Barack is not Benazir, but I see a reflection of her in him.
It was not just Benazir's personal qualities, but the bigness of Pakistan, the near impossibility of governing that country, the super sexism in that part of the world. When she was Prime Minister, some police officers thought it was okay to kill her brother, some judges thought it was okay to jail her husband. Sexism ran so deep, her powers as Prime Minister could not protect even her own family. The president of Pakistan dismissed her elected, majority government twice. The Pakistani state was corrupt to the neck before she became Prime Minister. She did not make it worse. But that corruption does not even compare to the naked, flagrant, much much bigger in numbers corruption of the Pakistani army.
And to think her death was so very preventable. All we had to do was get salt, sugar, water out there on time. If America had been serious about fighting the war on terror, it would have taken a very personal interest in protecting Benazir. Benazir's death proves America to date has not been too serious about its so-called war on terror. It has talked like it were serious, but either that talk has not been smart, or it has been dishonest, too tainted by Washington ways where the military-industrial complex power brokers found out ways to make big bucks through the dumb diversion that the Iraq War has been.
The Al Qaeda And Political Organizations In Manhattan
Benazir, One Whose Looks Have No Parallel
Benazir, Last Month
Benazir Bhutto: No American Stooge
Benazir Should Address Many Mass Rallies, Hold No Street Events, Keep Tight Security Around Her House, Office
Benazir And Islamofascism
Who Killed Benazir? Bin Laden Or Musharraf?
There is a video of the actual shooting. It shows a "clean cut" man doing the shooting. The implication being it was someone from the Pakistani army, and it might as well have been. But that could also have been smart guy Bin Laden trying to kill two birds with one stone. You kill Benazir. And then you turn the public anger on your other enemy, Musharraf.
I am guessing that video was the work of the Al Qaeda. Video has always been their number one tool. Bombs and bullets have been number two.
But then the Al Qaeda and the Pakistan's feared military and the more feared intelligence agency, the ISI, are not like oil and water. It was the ISI that gave birth to the Taleban and the Al Qaeda. You could argue America itself gave birth to the Taleban when the Soviets were occupying Afghanistan. But there is a difference. For America it was about military strategy. For the ISI people who birthed the Taleban, it went beyond that. It went beyond military strategy or political ideology. It always had religious dimensions, it was to do with God. That is when it gets murky.
There were two attempts on Musharraf's life within a week. Those must have been carried out by people who knew his itinerary. It must have been hard to get the itinerary the first time. How did they get it the second time? They missed him only by seconds.
Were those attempts to kill Musharraf? Or were those attempts to make him fall in line? Are there elements inside Pakistan's military and the ISI that can engineer such attempts even on the top guy who made a career in the killing business, who was the guy who engineered Pakistan's last military skirmish with India in a blatant disregard for what Pakistan's then Prime Minister wanted? In the Pakistani state does power not rest at the top even when that top person is a guy and a guy who got there through a military coup?
It is possible there is a powerful clique somewhere inside the ISI that can make even Musharraf feel like some day he is no longer be the top military guy, some day he is no longer going to be president, then what?
Pakistan's ruling party that was created by the ISI sure wanted Benazir politically dead. Minutes before the first attempt on Benazir's life the day she got back to her country from exile, the street lights went out. Benazir got suspicious and went from the top of her truck to somewhere down and inside. If she had stayed at the top, she might have at least been hurt if not outright killed during that first attempt itself.
Bin Laden did not cut off the street lights. Some top person inside the Pakistani state gave the orders to cut off the street lights. They later explained that Benazir was getting too much TV attention and so they went ahead and cut off the street lights.
If the ISI can create the Taleban and the Al Qaeda, why is it not possible that it still has Taleban sympathizers inside its structure? If the Pakistani military and the ISI wanted Benazir politically dead, and there is no doubt they did, why is it not possible they wanted her physically dead?
The ISI functions like a state inside a state. There is not really any state oversight over the ISI. They play with big money, and they work shady. And they penetrate all aspects of Pakistani society.
Why could the ISI not have killed Benazir and made it look like the Al Qaeda did it? And if the Al Qaeda did it, they sure worked hard to try and make it seem like Musharraf did it? They attacked Benazir and released a video of a "clean cut man" pulling the trigger. If that was not proof enough not long after they sent out a suicide bomber after a protest rally of lawyers that killed 20 policemen and injured many more.
In Pakistan there are the democrats like Benazir, the autocrats like Musharraf, the jihadists like Bin Laden, and then there are the shady people, the ISI, the military. The secret service people are secret everywhere, but in the Pakistani society, they are weirdly, doubly secret. They don't have the equivalent of a congressional oversight.
After the first attempt on her life, Benazir did the smart thing. She held rallies, but they were not publicized before they happened. She stayed away from street events. But before she even came back to Pakistan she wrote a will. In the event of her death, her husband was to take over the leadership of the party. She was Zulfikar Ali Bhutto's daughter who promised the father before he died that she will carry on his work. But her husband got caught. He spent a decade in jail for being Benazir's husband. She felt bad for him. She said some day Pakistan will realize her husband's 10 years were kind of like Mandela's 25, 28. But she still felt bad for him. She also knew a woman as Prime Minister in a super sexist society like Pakistan, and an equivalent super sexist state, was bound to be ineffective the third time around also. Maybe a man will do better.
And she was disheartened by the west. The west just did not get it. She kept trying to get across the message. Your best friend for the war on terror are not the militarists, not the autocrats, they are the democrats. But the west did not get the message. America can give 17 billion to Pakistan's military. Why could it not give 17 million to the Pakistan People's Party? So it could have bought top security for its leader? So she could have run an election campaign that relied almost totally on communications technology so she reached the masses in the form of video speeches.
She did not publicize any of her rallies except her last one, the one in Rawalpindi. She died only miles from where her father has hanged. After the rally, she engaged in a street event. Her enemies got to know days in advance. They had the option to plan it out in great detail. They planned out the killing and the videotaping of the killing. She knew all she had to do was show up at a street event and wave to the crowd, and she would get whacked. Was Benazir a martyr for democracy? I don't know.
Musharraf wanted her politically dead. He sure maimed her. He declared an emergency. He put her under house arrest. He seriously curtailed her campaigning. Benazir could contest elections, but what if Musharraf could prove she did not have the mass support? Musharraf was okay with Benazir being the leader of a small, non ruling party in the Pakistani parliament.
Musharraf is not that innocent, not that innocent at all. He sure wanted Benazir politically dead.
Who killed Benazir? I don't know. I know who wanted her dead. Both of them. Both also want the other dead. So I don't know who actually pulled the trigger.
My bet would be on the Bin Laden people. The actual assassination has the Al Qaeda signature on it. Musharraf wanted Benazir dead politically. Bin Laden wanted her dead physically.
She had been elected president for life by her Pakistan's People's Party. That is not very democratic. That is strange for the west to understand. But that was not a decision Benazir imposed on her party. That was her party's democratic choice to make. Just like it is kind of strange that that same party elected the 19 year old son of Benazir - who I am now Facebook friends with - to chair it. It was a democratic choice by the party's central committee on which individuals from all parts of Pakistan sit. These were not exactly Benazir's handpicked people. They rose up the ranks of the party. That is strange but then it is not. A society, a country, that is still in the early stages of building the larger non-family institutions kind of acts stranger. When Benazir met Afghanistan's Karzai not before her death, he called her a "sister" later at a press conference. Bush would never call Merkel a "sister." In a society where the state and market institutions are early stage or even absent, the family is the dominant institution, the extended family. That is what explains how South Asia is one of the most sexist parts of the world, and it still had ended up with so many women heads of state. When the husband gets killed, the wife gets put on the throne. The public imagination fuels the propulsion.
Benazir was a product of that system, and add to that mix her amazing personal qualities. And you end up with something called a party president for life. She was a prisoner of her circumstance. Pakistan is a huge country. Two Pakistans and you get one America in terms of population. That is big. You can not change a country that big fast at all.
I wish Benazir had not publicized her last rally. I wish she had not popped up for the street event at all. But she must have felt pushed against the wall. She faced a dictator who had no plans to relinquish power, possibly planned to turn her into a nonentity inside a parliament that his people dominated, she faced a west that did not understand the fundamental importance of democracy in fighting terror. What was Benazir to do? The worst you can do to me is kill me, she thought. She felt like finally finally finally she understands her father did not have much of a choice. His choice was to die. Her choice was to die. There was no other choice. What else could she do?
What Pakistan needs is elections to a constituent assembly, a popularly elected body that would give the country a new constitution. A constitution that will bring the entire Pakistani state under a popularly elected parliament and a directly elected president. An arrangement where the Pakistani military and the ISI would be under the thumb of parliamentary committees.
Democracy: The Only Way
That is the only way. There is no real military solution to the Al Qaeda, although there are clear military elements to fighting the Al Qaeda, but most of the effective military options are all so very unconventional.
Killing the mosquitoes: that might be short term necessary. But you don't go after mosquitoes with bulldozers. Step one is finding where the mosquitoes are. If you can spot them, you can swat them. Spotting is the hard part, swatting is the easy part. The only way to penetrate the Al Qaeda is through human intel. You have to have people who look like them, talk like them, know how exactly they think. You have to send such people to go assimilate in their territory, people who can blend in.
But the key is to drain the swamp. You drain the swamp with democracy.
Pakistan Is Where The Action Is
Pakistan is the number one theater for the war on terror right now. It is not Iraq, not Afghanistan. If the Al Qaeda manages to get nuclear material, it will likely be through their sympathizers hiding inside the opaque structures of the ISI. Although there are other options also, like the black markets in the former Soviet Union.
It feels ugly even thinking about it, but I would think their next goal inside America would be a dirty bomb. And it makes absolutely no difference to them if the president of America is black or white.
America has to proactively work to turn Pakistan into a first grade democracy. A constituent assembly is how you do it. And the Pakistan People's Party is the best vehicle for that roadmap.
War On Terror And President Obama
If things go unlucky, the war on terror could last decades. If things work out good, it could still last a decade. It will definitely last both of Barack's two terms. The number one thing President Obama will deal with will not be health care, not Social Security, not the debt, the deficit, it will be the war on terror. He has to shift the action from Iraq to Pakistan, and he has to make draining the swamp his primary concern. The idea should be to turn Pakistan into a first grade democracy.
That does not take you off the hook on preventing the Al Qaeda's next possible big 9/11 style attack inside US territory. Whatever it will be, it will carry the hallmark of their out of the box thinking. It could be a dirty bomb. It could be something else. Or they could keep at their attacks elsewhere. Their heat sensors constantly look for the weak spots in the belly and for them the entire world is one big theater. They are global. They know they don't have to strike America to keep growing, and they also know they want to.
How It Will All End
The war on terror will end the way the cold war ended. It will end with a wave of democracy that will engulf the entire Arab world. So if you can find a way to turn all Arab countries into democracies in 10 years, the war on terror ends in 10 years.
The Maoists Of Nepal, The Al Qaeda Of Arabia
They are similar, and they are not.
The Maoists are the largest, most sophisticated, armed ultra-left group the planet saw since the Cold War ended. They were going to establish a communist dictatorship in Nepal and they were going to do it "through the barrel of a gun."
The Al Qaeda is the top terrorist organization in the world. They talk through acts of violence.
The Maoists were primarily a political party, the Al Qaeda are not a political party. The Maoists did not engage in acts of violence outside of Nepal. The Al Qaeda brought about 9/11 so as to demolish the "myth of superpower."
The Maoists of Nepal have largely been mainstreamed. The Al Qaeda keeps getting bigger and deadlier by the day.
Is there a Nepal lesson for the war on terror? Yes, there are a few, big time. Nepal's April Revolution 2006 shows spreading democracy is a science, it can work like clockwork, in country after country after country. That would be how you drain the swamp.
But then there is also a more direct lesson in how you deal with the Al Qaeda. Eat their political lunch. Look at some or all of their political agenda, and eat up as much of it as possible. How much of what the Al Qaeda wants politically would I want on my own, with or without the Al Qaeda, because I am a democrat, a progressive?
Creating Palestine tops that agenda. That unresolved issue is the sore thumb in the Arab psyche. I be damned if I need to be inspired by the Al Qaeda to hurry up to the two state solution.
Another thing is toppling dictators. The Al Qaeda wants Mubarak out, so do I. The Al Qaeda wants Musharraf out, so do I. The Al Qaeda wants the House of Saud out, so do I.
It is like the Maoists wanted the king or Nepal out, so did I. But instead of ending up with a communist republic, I wanted to end up with a democratic republic.
The Al Qaeda wants to get rid of dictators to end up with theocratic, super sexist, I am so sexist I don't even believe in having sex kind of sexist, societies. We want to topple dictators to end up with democracies.
There has to be a progressive way of spreading democracy like clockwork and there is.
The neocon way is to react to 9/11. The progressive way is to proactively spread democracy wherever it does not exist. My specialty happens to be to get the diaspora of a country and the NGO and private sectors everywhere to get excited. Governments have their role, but that role is limited.
War On Terror Will Dominate The Fall Season
When Barack is battling the Republican nominee, this will be topic number one.
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