Friday, December 28, 2007


Benazir Bhutto, 1953-2007. - By Christopher Hitchens - Slate Magazine

Benazir Bhutto, 1953-2007. - By Christopher Hitchens - Slate Magazine: "How prettily she lied to me, I remember, and with such a level gaze from those topaz eyes, about how exclusively peaceful and civilian Pakistan's nuclear program was. How righteously indignant she always sounded when asked unwelcome questions about the vast corruption alleged against her and her playboy husband, Asif Ali Zardari. (The Swiss courts recently found against her in this matter; an excellent background piece was written by John Burns in the New York Times in 1998.) And now the two main legacies of Bhutto rule—the nukes and the empowered Islamists—have moved measurably closer together."

Please, first read the article. Now on this second day, following Benazir Bhutto's assassination, I had been rather impatiently awaiting Hitchens' take. You might ask if I have a mind of my own, with my constantly parroting of this hero. A reasonable question indeed. Hitchens, unlike others who speak so fondly of having met Bhutto, does not stand to gain a position of power and always speaks frankly of his first-hand experiences with powerful people. He has been blessed with many such meetings, and has the kind of insight that someone like me cannot draw from to make assumptions or conclusions on issues like "the future of Pakistan". I mean that's a rather complex matter that is so far above my pay grade as to not be listed, so to speak. So, I think it is incumbent upon me to find the people that speak most honestly about their experiences in order to at least have a better sense for newsmakers.
The question that came to me as the wall-to-wall coverage dragged on yesterday was the validity of the many charges against her and whether I would much care if I understood what those charges entailed. A brief description of them on Greta Van Sustern's show did not sound terribly serious, although that was a less than thorough account of those charges. I also wondered if her past much mattered given the state of Pakistan now. Is that country in such turmoil as to need a leader like her warts and all? There are seemingly many who thought so.
And then there are the image issues. Americans tend to like foreign leaders who speak English so well. We can better relate. And though this is not a reason to follow a person, it is rather incredible to think that a 35 year old woman could lead a Muslim country. There is also the issue of liking the enemy of your enemy. If she was that hated by the Muslim extremists, then there must be something I can admire here. She also seemed to have a good sense of the right things to say. When asked whether the fight against extremism in Pakistan was worth her life, she wisely said that it was not one person, but 160 million. I though at that moment that she (at the very least) said exactly the right thing. That is never a substance thing. It is an image thing, but a brilliant response nonetheless. It would take a great deal longer than a couple of days watching the news to get a sense of whether that is who she was deep down. I, for one, will never know.
The event was not surprising. She had been targeted her first evening back in Pakistan and pretty much every news outlet on the planet wanted a few minutes with her knowing her fate. She clearly seemed to oblige, as there were no shortage of interviews between May of this year and several days prior to her assassination. What will be interesting going forward is how the world changes in the wake of her death. Most seem to say that changes to the future of Pakistan and the broader Middle East is inevitable, but no one's crystal ball is very clear. So the coming days will both be interesting and a little frightening as Pakistani's decide who will fill her shoes in the PPP, and if Musharraf is allowed to remain in power.

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