December 27, 2007
Benazir Bhutto was a ‘pro democracy proponent’? Benazir Bhutto was a ‘soldier for democracy’?
On what planet?
Benazir Bhutto was Pakistan’s Arafat. She stole billions of dollars from her nation and was forced to leave office twice because of corruption charges and allegations she had her own brother assassinated. Her husband spent 8 years in prison, convicted of those corruption charges.
Dr Sanity quotes Cliff May and sees clearly into the neighborhood in which Ms Bhutto lived and played.
Bhutto’s murder points to a lesson we (the Foreign Policy Establishment in particular) has been slow to learn:
This is not some extraordinary event. This is not the work of some lone madman. This is how militant Islamists contest elections – not just in Pakistan but also in Lebanon and Gaza and wherever they they get a foothold.
That there are Pakistanis who hail Bhutto as a ‘democratic’ leader should come as no surprise. There are those Palestinians who venerate Arafat and the Hamas leadership despite decades of corruption and deliberate exploitation.
Arafat spend decades being feted by European and American leaders. He dined with Kings and Princes, Presidents and Prime Ministers. In the end, not even they could not camouflage his corruption, repression and oppression and bestow upon him any kind of legitimacy. Arafat’s legacy is visible in the wretched lives, poverty and hopelessness of Palestinians.
The same is true in Pakistan. There are no more than 15 families that wield power and influence in that nation and during her lifetime, Benazir Bhutto did nothing to change that reality or empower her people, despite the most generous of election promises. Her legacy, like that of the Arab league, is one of maintaining the status quo.
She was a terribly conflicted person who deep in her heart wanted to save Pakistan from its evils, but was unable to put her personal lifestyle choices aside in doing so.
Arafat desperately wanted to be the George Washington of the Palestinians. Unfortunately, he could not change who and what he was. The same is true of Benazir Bhutto.
In the same way Arafat spoke out of both sides of his mouth when it came to terror, so did Benazir Bhutto. She recognized the Taliban regime (one of only 3 nations to do so) and made a deal to turn a blind eye to terror as long as it was directed elsewhere.
It may be in our political interest to play along and support a mythology that elevates Benazir Bhutto, for the time being, in the same way we gave Arafat a certain status he did not deserve. Certainly, political candidates on the stump are bestowing sainthood status on Benazir Bhutto faster than they did for Mother Teresa.
We gave Stalin support in WWII and we treat the most vile and dysfunctional despots in the Middle East as if they were equal to leaders of free and democratic societies, because it is in our best political interest to do so.
When in it is all said and done, Benazir Bhutto was Arafat in a hijab. Like Arafat, she will be remembered for who she really was- corrupt and oppressive and someone who cared little for her people.
*UPDATED* Reports of Bhutto’s corruption are not exaggerated. See the NYT’s Bhutto Clan Leaves A Trail Of Corruption In Pakistan. The article was written in 1998 and does not reflect later charges of corruption, or the ensuing conviction by Swiss courts on money laundering charges.
December 27, 2007
The following was originally published on November 14, 2007.
In an editorial in today’s LA Times, entitled Aunt Benazir’s False Promises, Fatima Bhutto, niece of Benazir Bhutto, clarifies a few issues.
Perhaps the most bizarre part of this circus has been the hijacking of the democratic cause by my aunt, the twice-disgraced former prime minister, Benazir Bhutto. While she was hashing out a deal to share power with Gen. Pervez Musharraf last month, she repeatedly insisted that without her, democracy in Pakistan would be a lost cause. Now that the situation has changed, she’s saying that she wants Musharraf to step down and that she’d like to make a deal with his opponents — but still, she says, she’s the savior of democracy.
…Yes, she now appears to be facing seven days of house arrest, but what does that really mean? While she was supposedly under house arrest at her Islamabad residence last week, 50 or so of her party members were comfortably allowed to join her. She addressed the media twice from her garden, protected by police given to her by the state, and was not reprimanded for holding a news conference. (By contrast, the very suggestion that they might hold a news conference has placed hundreds of other political activists under real arrest, in real jails.)
It is widely believed that Ms. Bhutto lost both her governments on grounds of massive corruption. She and her husband, a man who came to be known in Pakistan as “Mr. 10%,” have been accused of stealing more than $1 billion from Pakistan’s treasury. She is appealing a money-laundering conviction by the Swiss courts involving about $11 million. Corruption cases in Britain and Spain are ongoing…
Why did Ms. Bhutto and her party cronies demand that her corruption cases be dropped…?
Ms. Bhutto’s repeated promises to end fundamentalism and terrorism in Pakistan strain credulity because, after all, the Taliban government that ran Afghanistan was recognized by Pakistan under her last government — making Pakistan one of only three governments in the world to do so. [emp-SC&A]
My father was Benazir’s younger brother. To this day, her role in his assassination has never been adequately answered, although the tribunal convened after his death under the leadership of three respected judges concluded that it could not have taken place without approval from a “much higher” political authority…
Benazir Bhutto’s younger brother is by no means the only death in which she has been implicated. Killings and death plots are common in that part of the world and Ms Bhutto has clearly shown she can ‘play with the boys.’ In fact, another of her brothers died under mysterious circumstances in 1996. The suspicion that surrounded her was so great that she was forced to resign, with most Pakistanis believing she was implicated in the killings.
She only returned to Pakistan after Musharraf agreed to drop corruption charges against her, as part of a power sharing agreement. Under current Pakistani Constitutional laws, Bhutto is not allowed to run for the Prime Minister’s office, having already served the maximum two terms, something Ms Bhutto will not discuss.
The Bhutto government sang a nice song when it came to women’s issues in Pakistan. Her speeches voicing concern for women’s social, health and discrimination issues were widely noted. Benazir Bhutto announced plans to elevate and entrench womens’ rights into the Pakistani society, but despite the well publicized promises, Bhutto did not propose or introduce any legislation to improve welfare services for women. She promised to repeal laws (such as Hudood and Zina ordinances) that curtail the rights of women in Pakistan, but even those blatantly discriminatory laws were never addressed or challenged by her government. Despite her majority in Parliament, she blamed the opposition.
Benazir Bhutto and Hillary Clinton have strong ties. Bhutto has hired Clinton campaign staffers. See this for some Bhutto background on corruption and political ties here in the US. It’s no wonder the Clinton campaign has been silent on the matter of Pakistan and Ms Bhutto.
For more, see Benazir Bhutto, AQ Khan And Potatoes…
Given Bhutto’s track record of corruption (documented in small part here and here), her potential access to a nuclear weapons program and technology ought to scare the hell out of any sane person. By contrast, AQ Khan is small potatoes.
The Sanity Squad will be podcasting live on BlogTalkRadio tonight, Monday 26 November, beginning at 9:30 pm. PLEASE NOTE THE TIME CHANGE…due to time difference between here and Karachi, Pakistan.
In what promises to be a fascinating podcast, The Sanity Squad’s Dr Sanity, Neo-neocon and Shrinkwrapped will interview Fatima Bhutto, niece of Benazir Bhutto who is one of the opposition leaders in Pakistan. We will discuss the state of emergency in Pakistan; upcoming elections and the prognosis for that country and its relations with the U.S. and the West.
The podcast with Fatimah Bhutto can be found here. In light of Benazir Bhutto’s assassination, the interview proved to be prescient and offers listeners some real insight into the political quagmire that is Pakistan. Given that nation’s nuclear capability, instability is a danger that cannot be overlooked.
December 27, 2007
…we see and understand that we ourselves are connected with a part of history. We are part of an inter-connected chain, with cause and effect relationships. Earlier man looked skyward and understood his primary relationship was with the cosmos only.
…what separated Europeans from others was time. How we used and assimilated time to define the priorities of our culture and the priorities of our personal relationships. ‘Westerners’ made the deliberate effort to use time in a more progressive way and effective way, integrating the progressive use of time into our lives and our relationships. ‘Easterners’ chose not to do the same.
As a result, western cultures forged ahead, tying even personal relationships to time. Eastern cultures placed no such premiums on time. For example, birthdays, anniversaries, etc., are really more of a western cultural phenomena, adopted as significant by eastern cultures only recently.
The better psychosphere bloggers- Dr Sanity, Shrinkwrapped, Gagdad Bob, Neo-neocon, Assistant Village Idiot and host of others, predicate their opinions and beliefs on how those opinions and beliefs impact relationships. It is less about ideologies than it is about who benefits and who is put at risk. They base their well qualified opinions with an eye to the outcome and repercussions on society, not just today, but down the road.
For western societies and cultures, there was a time when ‘empire’ was defined by territorial conquest and dominion. For the Romans, the acquisition of empire meant increased taxation and revenue that was to flow into Rome. They saw conquered people as producing assets only. As long as tributes and taxes were collected and allegiance to Rome assured, the Romans didn’t care how you lived or who you prayed to. The compact they established with conquered nations was simple: We’ll make your lives better by giving you roads and Roman technology so that your economy will expand and we’ll collect increased taxes. The Roman Empire built roads not as monuments but rather as both long and short term investments.
The Greeks were different. They saw conquest as an opportunity to spread Greek education, aesthetics, culture, philosophy and political ideology as a primary effort. They were determined to have Greek values replace local cultures, religions and value systems or at the very least, influence local cultures and religions. The Assyrians are an example of how the Greeks influenced the nations they conquered. Paul the Apostle (born Saul) was a sort of ‘Hellenized’ Jew born in Tarsus. He was no doubt looked upon suspiciously by some Jews, notwithstanding his constant challenging the Hellinists.
Over time, western civilization was to redefine ‘empire,’ albeit slowly.
The British colonials may have benefited economically from their empire, but they also left behind a legacy. Former British colonies, including India, Pakistan, and Kenya, all have educational systems that were instituted by the colonial power and parliamentary systems of government.
Former French colonies were not so fortunate. After centuries of exploitation, those colonies were abandoned to tremendous violence which in many cases continues to this day.
In any event, ‘empire’ became synonymous with ideas and time.
The American Empire refers to the influence American ideas have throughout the world. The fall of communism was in no small measure due to the desire millions had for freedom and democracy, ideals espoused, enshrined and promulgated by this nation and exemplified by American successes. It became clear that left to determine his own efforts, the individual could and would succeed. Capitalism was and remain an ideas that address moral and philosophical truths, notwithstanding efforts by many to portray it as a cold and economic engine only (see this). Of course, the proof is in the pudding. Nations that have embraced capitalism have succeeded. Nations that have not have failed. The poorest people in a capitalist society are far better off than the poorest nations that eschew capitalism.
In western societies, time became the measure of freedom. The more time you had to devote to determining your own destiny, the freer you were. The more time and time consuming demands the state placed upon you, the more enslaved you were.
To a large extent, the Jews were responsible for how we came to view and understand time and empire. While their contribution was more intellectual and cultural, it took Christianity to make that evolution practical.
It is in how Jewish and Christian ideologies worked together to understand the relationship of time and empire that came to define the Judeo-Christian ethic.That ethic seeks to sanctify time and relationships, not land or any particular religion. Each and every hour presents an opportunity for man to ascend to a more elevated status. That is our highest calling.
For the Jews, empire was never a defining characteristic. Jews did not need a homeland or any specific piece of geography to be identified as Jews or possessing a culture. In fact, Jews had many diverse cultures defined by geographical location. There were Ashkenazi Jews, Sephardic Jews, Mizrahi Jews and derivatives thereof. What tied these disparate groups together were values. Geography played no role in their identity, save for the desire to someday return to Zion. The idea of time was important in that it was in how we spent time relating to each other in the here and now and in reinforcing community values.
Nations that were to embrace democracy and allow for religious freedom saw no need for empire. Those nations came to understand that relationships with other democracies were far more advantageous than relationships defined by colonial rule. Social, economic and political alliances forged with shared values are more enduring and productive than forced social, economic and political alliances. Time was to be used to improve the lives of all, in the here and now.
In much of the Arab and Islamic world, how time and empire are defined account for much of their failure as nation states. It must also be said that these definitions have been authored by dysfunctional leaders driven by corruption, for whom Islam is no more than a tool to be employed as a hammer.
In the Judeo-Christian ethic, time is precious in a very literal sense. Jews may be waiting for the Messiah and Christians may wait for the Second Coming, but in the end, it is in how we live with each other in the here and now that counts. In much of the Islamic world the here and now mean nothing. Everything can be sacrificed (or slaughtered) in the name of the new empire and Caliphate.
Current Islamist teaching and political ideology divide the world into two camps. Those nations that are under the flag of Islam and those nations to be brought under that flag by force. The is no ‘Swiss neutrality.’ In the Middle East, the idea that the threat of force is an option that will never be abandoned, is enshrined. The Palestinians are a prime example. They believe a viable Palestinian state can only come when Israel is destroyed. The Palestinians have sacrificed millions of meaningful lives in the here and now, all in the name of an ideology (and tyranny) that cares little for them. These leaders have no real relationship with their people. Healthy relationships address the quality of life in the here and now. As far as the Palestinians and most Arabs are concerned, it is the old style empire they covet, no matter how long they must wait and no matter how many lives are ruined in the process. They Arabs have becomes the wannabe colonialists of our time, seeking to exploit the successful nations they cannot hope to equal.
These ideas serve the ideologues and despots well. Enemies are concocted and leadership is absolved from improving the lives of their people in the here and now.
…This highlights another reality. In Arab cultures, there is no real reward or recognition for loving the sanctity of life. Those who profess a desire for real peace, non violence, less corruption and less oppression are considered reformers.
…Repression, oppression, terror, genocide and hate flourish. Entire populations are groomed to know only hopelessness, and not hope. There are failed economies, failed civil infrastructures and failed educational infrastructures. A child born in the Arab world today has little hope of achieving success on his own. There is little in the way of opportunities or a way out if the bleakness. There is no bright future to look forward to.
So much for ‘Enlightenment.’