December 27, 2007

We interrupt this vacation to bring you late-breaking news

It was certainly brave of Benazir Bhutto to return to Pakistan. Amazingly so. She didn't have to, after all. She could have stayed in London, in safety, with her children. She had lost two brothers to violence in Pakistan, and her father had been executed by Zia al-Huq following a military coup. Pakistan is perhaps the most unstable and dangerous country on the face of the earth. I imagine Osama bin Laden lives there because he's addicted to chaos; it's his scene, man. Nuclear weapons, the Kashmir flash point poised to spin the world into Armageddon at any moment, an unpopular dictator running the country, 165 million people crowded into a small place. What a mess.

Bhutto's assasination occurred, of course, while Bush was on vacation. W can't buy a break. Nobody respects his time off. One must temper the notion of freak coincidence with the observation that Bush takes a lot of time off. What are the odds that a major world event will occur while Bush is on vacation, if a date is chosen at random? 1 in 3? 50-50? Still, the world should go on red alert when Bush goes to Crawford. While he's been there, the 9-11 hijackers finished up their planning, Katrina destroyed New Orleans, and now this. Bush dutifully put on a blue suit down there in the Western White House (he really should call it the "Southwestern White House" out of respect for the hallowed memory of Richard Nixon) and trooped before the press for a two-minute statement in which he demanded that the "extremists" responsible for this "cowardly act" be "brought to justice." Certainly we've heard that phrase before. The guy most immediately responsible exists now only in an atomized state, so he can be crossed off the list. What he did was certainly "extreme," but if others were behind him, Bush might want to hold off on calling them all "extremists." For example, running a fake democracy, arresting the chief justice of the Pakistani supreme court and rounding up all the lawyers might also be seen as "extreme acts," but Bush would never call the perpetrator an "extremist."

I noted that Mitt Romney cited the attack as further evidence that "radical jihadism" threatens the civilized world, then quickly added he didn't know who had done it, then noted that the attack proves violence is not confined to Iraq and Afghanistan. It seems likely that al-Qaeda will claim responsibility for the murder; it fits their M.O. It's not as if they're concerned about their international reputation. If someone other than the attacker was involved in the assassination, my guess is we'll never really know who those people were. Romney's comments, as incoherent as they are, point the way to the conservative's favored characterization. These events always have a blind-men-with-the-elephant feel to them, of course. Bhutto's supporters, with perhaps a better sense of Pakistani reality, will accuse Pervez Musharraf. The Bush Administration will not entertain such disturbing speculation, and all of the presidential candidates, Republican and Democratic alike, will steer away from such "radical" thinking. Even if it's true.

Meanwhile, a brave and principled woman who dared to lead a Muslim country is dead, and a decent period of mourning will be truncated in favor of using her demise as a political football. Such is the way of the world. It would not have surprised Benazir, I'm sure, which makes her courage all the more poignant.

No comments:

Post a Comment