First Published: 2007-12-28

 
US Illusions Die With Benazir Bhutto
 

The US State Department sent Benazir Bhutto to her death when it devised the plan to save Musharraf's legitimacy by power-sharing with her. A New Diplomacy is required to focus more coherently and comprehensively on Pakistan's security, says Christian Parenti.

 

Middle East Online

The ad hoc and shortsighted nature of US policy toward Pakistan is on display once again. Benazir Bhutto has been murdered, most likely by religious fanatics. In the West, pundits and diplomats now wring their hands and lament: “Oh no. All our eggs in one basket.” But let's step back for a second to look at how thoroughly bankrupt US policy in that region has become, and recognize the desperate need for a New Diplomacy toward the Muslim world in general.

From the beginning, the putschist General Pervez Musharraf has been backed by the United States as the indispensable ally in the global war on terror. The New York Times reported recently that since 9/11, the United States has spent more than $5 billion to bolster the Pakistani military’s effort to fight Al Qaeda and the Taliban. But -- what a shock! -- much of the aid money was stolen or diverted to build up Pakistan’s military posture vis-a -vis India. Meanwhile, elements of the Pakistan security forces are working with the Taliban.

This game -- Pakistan having it both ways -- was working well for Musharraff. But then he attempted to stack the supreme court and triggered a massive and robust backlash from lawyers and judges, and suddenly the General needed an image makeover.

So, as the Pakistani author Tariq Ali put it, Washington concocted an “arranged marriage”: Bhutto would return to Pakistan, there would be elections, and probably a power-sharing deal with the General. And the status quo would carry on with renewed legitimacy.

But who was Bhutto? As ‘chairperson-for-life’ of the Pakistan Peoples Party she brooked no dissent. The PPP had populist roots, but over the decades its democratic and redistribution programs had devolved into largely meaningless rhetoric.

Bhutto’s two terms as Prime Minister, in the late 1980’s and then again beginning in 1993, delivered nothing. She was implicated in the murder of her brother. Pakistan under her was one of few countries in the world to recognize the Taliban regime in Kabul. And she grew increasingly corrupt, appointing her husband as Minister for Investment -- meaning he was in charge of all state investments, at home and abroad.

The couple is accused of having accumulated $1.5 billion -- much of it public money. Upon her death she was facing corruption cases in Switzerland, England, and Spain.

Partnered with Musharraf, Benazir Bhutto would not have transformed the deep rot of corruption, poverty, and underdevelopment that fuels a growing discontent -- in the form of Islamic fundamentalism and Pashtun nationalism -- in Pakistan’s frontier provinces. Nor would she have controlled Pakistan’s security forces, which are economically and politically quite powerful and autonomous institutions. In short, Bhutto could not have delivered for Washington, and won the local "war on terror." She could not have provided domestic stability.

And what of Washington's $5 billion largely misspent Pakistani aid? The key ingredient in that fiasco was how much had been diverted to the military face off with India. The threat from India is crucial in understanding why Pakistan supported the Taliban and Hezb-i-Islami in Afghanistan, and why fundamentalism is on the rise through out that region.

Pakistan feels menaced by India -- and it is. To move towards stability is not a matter of setting up this leader or that one. It requires a whole new direction for US policy: a New Diplomacy.

The United States could use its power to de-escalate the many interconnected conflicts in South Central Asia. This would require a concatenate series of regional peace conferences involving all the great powers as well as each set of regional powers. The process would take years -- and it might not work. It would have to be on the scale of the 1919 Paris Peace Conference, in which the allies redrew the map of the world after WWI. But the New Diplomacy would have to follow a very different progressive logic of de-escalation -- not the imperial logic of winners dividing spoils.

For Pakistan, the New Diplomacy would require a regional conference to deal with the standoff between Pakistan and India. China and Russia would have to be involved in the talks. In other words, a central but often over looked piece of The Global War On Terror is Pakistan’s security. Why does Pakistan tolerate and even support the Taliban to keep Afghanistan, to its West, weak? Because, Pakistan is threatened by India to its East.

Settle the security issue between India and Pakistan -- fix the question of Kashmir -- and then Pakistan can be credibly pressured to stop subverting Afghanistan.

Finally, with a New Diplomacy, the United States must accept the limits of its power. America does not have the right to control everything, nor does it have that power.

The brutal murder of Benazir Bhutto is just the latest proof of that.

Christian Parenti is an investigative journalist and scholar. His most recent book is The Freedom: Shadows and Hallucinations in Occupied Iraq (2004), is an account of the US occupation in Iraq. Parenti has reported from Africa, Afghanistan, Iraq, Venezuela, and Bolivia.

© 2007 Christian Parenti

 

Turkey mulls military action against jihadists on its doorsteps

Palestinians to UN: Israel occupation must end in 2016

Assad: Countries that backed terrorism can't defeat jihadists

Retired US general says Syria rebel training could 'take years'

Foreign jihad lures Tunisia youth: About 3,000 in Syria alone

Settlements, Iran stir new discord between Netanyahu, Obama

Gazans turn war remains into art objects

Skeptical Netanyahu seeks Obama reassurances on Iran

Turkey pushes for long-term solution to ‘Islamic State’ crisis

Metamorphosis of Salim Benghalem: From weed-smoking clubber to US-wanted jihadist

Violence across Iraq kills at least 1,119 people in September

Bahrain court lifts travel ban on Maryam al-Khawaja

Israel, Palestinians agree on one thing: Futility of peace talks

Netanyahu to Ban Ki-moon: Probe into Gaza war ‘one-sided’!

Kurds battle to defend strategic border town in Syria

Iran Nobel laureate questions Tutu's silence on Dalai Lama visa row

Iraqi Kurds hope US-led air strikes can break stalemate

Libya militants vow to continue ‘military operations’

Argentine President charges US could kill her

IS jihadists close in on Turkish border

US troops to return to Mideast

Israel settlers forcefully occupy 25 homes in East Jerusalem

Gunmen wound Saudi policeman in Shiite village in Eastern Province

Erakat likens Netanyahu to leader of ‘Islamic State’

Voters to choose among 27 candidates in Tunisia presidential race

Iran offers military equipment to Lebanon army

Iran extends compulsory military service to 2 years

Frustration grows over Huthi occupation of Yemen capital

US-led air strikes pound ‘Islamic State’ near Syria border town

Britain plans action against extremism ‘in all its forms’

Vigilante groups terrorise Syria refugees in Lebanon

Kurd troops launch offensive on IS on three fronts

Balkans clamp down on jihadist recruitment

Syrian refugees try their luck in Latin America

Indian PM warns US to repeat Iraq 'mistake' in Afghanistan

Israel PM warns Iran poses gravest threat to world

Kuwait strips 18 nationals of citizenship

Ahead of Tunisia elections, Ghannouchi appeals for US support

Israel deploys extra forces as two faiths mark major holy days

Egypt, Libya plunge in good governance rating

Saudi Arabia breaks silence on Huthi occupation of Yemen capital

Air strikes fail to halt advance of IS jihadists in Syria

Rival Libya factions meet for reconciliation talks

Iran-P5+1 nuclear talks ‘to resume’ by mid-October

HRW criticises human rights rollback under Erdogan