Did Bush Risk Bhutto To Save Musharraf?
With the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, the general consensus seems to be that the Bush Administration's policies in Pakistan and central Asia are in a shambles, but that has not stopped the Administration's least credible agency from leaking stories blaming the murder on al Qaeda. Even if that's true, responsibility is a broader concept.
Dropped right in the middle of the New York Times lead story on yesterday's tragic killings is this:
On Thursday evening, officials from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Homeland Security issued a bulletin to local law enforcement agencies informing them about posts on some Islamic Web sites saying that Al Qaeda was claiming responsibility for the attack, and that the plot was orchestrated by Ayman al-Zawahri, the groupÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s second-ranking official.
One counterterrorism official in Washington said that the bulletin neither confirmed nor discredited these claims. The official said that American intelligence agencies had yet to come to any firm judgments about who was responsible for Ms. BhuttoÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s death.The likelihood that extremists associated with al Qaeda could be responsible seems accepted by several sources -- see e.g., Tariq Ali, writing for the Guardian. But no official investigation has occurred and no one has explained the security breakdown despite repeated warnings. Apparently no autopsy was performed to confirm whether the gun reportedly found near the suicide bomber was the murder weapon. [CNN reporting this a.m. Bhutto was killed by shrapnel.]
In the face of suspicions about possible complicity by the Musharraf regime, and without knowing what happened, our FBI and DHS are giving unverified reports to US media in which al Qaeda takes responsibility. It may be true or false, but we have been conditioned to believe it, so it may be enough to divert attention from reports like this Times article:
The assassination of Benazir Bhutto on Thursday left in ruins the delicate diplomatic effort the Bush administration had pursued in the past year to reconcile PakistanÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s deeply divided political factions. Now it is scrambling to sort through ever more limited options, as American influence on PakistanÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s internal affairs continues to decline. . . .
The assassination highlighted, in spectacular fashion, the failure of two of President BushÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s main objectives in the region: his quest to bring democracy to the Muslim world, and his drive to force out the Islamist militants who have hung on tenaciously in Pakistan, the nuclear-armed state considered ground zero in President BushÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s fight against terrorism, despite the administrationÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s long-running effort to root out Al Qaeda from the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.