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Commentary Last Updated: Dec 31st, 2007 - 01:13:51

Afghanistan does not exist: Viva Pakistan!
By Gaither Stewart
Online Journal Contributing Writer

Dec 31, 2007, 01:11

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ROME -- I must be paranoid for I believe that Washington stands behind the assassination of Benazir Bhutto. Since the truth is as hard to come by in Pakistan as it is in Washington, D.C. most observers can only hazard guesses as to what really happened there in recent days and weeks. So I, too, will take the liberty of expounding my version of events.

Though today even how she died is disputed, in my opinion Washington sponsored Benazir Bhutto�s assassination. Another of Washington�s mad plans gone wrong! Like so many others in that region. I mean, a courageous woman, secular, in a limited sense democratic, sent back home, probably with another bag full of dollars, to clean up the image of General Musharraf�s faltering military regime in Pakistan. And hopefully to make things right in the US military protectorate and ally in the East.

But make things right, how? With her life?

Now whoa there! That is stretching matters.

Abroad, Benazir was known as a democrat. Didn�t her children play with Clinton�s daughter? After all! On the other hand, everybody in Pakistan knew she was an ally of Washington. True, she was of an illustrious family, corrupt but illustrious -- anything or anyone, it is easy to think, is better than the military that has ruled over Pakistan forever.

Still, it is misleading to describe her as a martyr. Benazir Bhutto was certainly no saint. Still, a woman prime minister looks good. I can imagine some man, yes, it has to be a man, his shirt sleeves rolled up, his tie awry, his jacket hanging on the back of his chair at a conference table in some grotto across the Potomac. The others gathered around the table like the image of a woman at the head of a puppet regime in Pakistan this upper echelon bureaucrat depicts. Yes, just the thing we need, a woman to head these unruly Asians, Pashtuns, fundamentalists, terrorists all. And after all she is a pro-American woman. She will be malleable and controllable.

But, the idea man says -- now grimly, saving the best part to last, as if it were the natural outcome -- of course she will never be elected. She has to be sacrificed. Heads nod, lips tighten, pencils draw circles and bizarre figures.

Yet anyone in his right mind with only vague knowledge of Asia can grasp that a political alliance between Benazir Bhutto and the ex-general President Musharraf couldn�t exist in heaven or on earth. Nor does the establishment of democracy in Pakistan have anything to do with it. As if a woman, secular, mundane, not widely loved in Pakistan outside her own Pakistan Peoples Party, could successfully head this Moslem country of 165 million people in which power today is divided among the military, Taliban fundamentalists and Al Qaida terrorists.

Benazir Bhutto�s elite class not only supported the Taliban for years. With US help her class in fact created the Taliban in order to extend Pakistani control over Afghanistan and its rebellious tribes, and also organize them to fight the Soviet Communist invaders from the north, and perhaps also to somehow get their hands on the poppy plantations.

Instead, in the end, the Talibans talibanized parts of Pakistan so that today the northwest borders between the two countries have tended to vanish, creating a huge, Taliban Pashtun-infested no-man�s land. Italian reporters there say you can�t tell them apart. Now both Afghan Talibans and Pakistani Talibans are fighting against US and NATO forces in the same losing war others have fought earlier in history. It is the very same war that everyone has always lost -- one crisis, one conflict, one holy war.

For it is the same fundamentalism that both Musharraf and Washington have used and continue to use unabashedly when they agree with one faction or another. Any number of factions would have killed Mrs. Bhutto.

So this assassination, like that of Martin Luther King or of John Kennedy and legions of others down the trail of international intrigue, has much wider ramifications than a secular woman aspiring to political power.

A woman in the trenches against the entire force of the nation! Besides, Musharraf had told her he would never allow her to return home from her exile in London and Dubai. What changed his mind?

The old question holds here: Who stands to benefit most from her death? In an air of her martyrdom and in the atmosphere of chaos reigning in Pakistan, the result of her removal is that the United States, backed by martial law imposed by a US-supported military regime, can concentrate on a military build up in Pakistan as a substitute for defeat in Iraq and impending debacle in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan is an illusion. It is only virtual. Afghanistan doesn�t exist. England learned that the hard way. Soviet Russia experienced it. Once a favorite goal of the jet set of former times, Kabul, like the country, is no more. An Italian journalist friend depicts Kabul today as a place of dust, mud and bivouacs, heavy Chinese bicycles, rickety taxis, sirens and fires and bombs. In other words, another Baghdad.

Pakistan is thus the soft under belly of an illusion. Pakistan is to become the site for future US concentration . . . and more illusions.


Nonetheless, Bhutto�s return was important for Bush and his ridiculous �exportation of democracy� slogans. Nonetheless, sane observers can only guess at possible strategic purposes. Yet, the project itself was stupid.

Everybody knew, including Benazir Bhutto herself, that the variegated forces of the country wanted to kill her. Don�t forget that Benazir�s father Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, an autocratic opportunist who called himself Socialist who headed one of the few non-military governments of Pakistan in the 1970s, was overthrown and hanged by another general-dictator, Zia ul-Haq. There is a tradition here, a script to be followed.

That must have been the goal.

The country was already in chaos, civil war a constant threat. The obvious next step for Washington was application of the good old �strategy of tension.� For now, after the assassination, the road is paved for a ferocious unrelenting crushing of all opposition inside the identifiable borders of the country and the salvation of a tottering regime and collapsing US policies in the whole region.

The assassination of Benazir Bhutto is a disaster, the Pearl Harbor permitting American military build-up in Pakistan. Though al Qaida denies the attentat, it or one of many fundamentalist groups could have been the willing arm -- the version Musharraf proposes -- but surely Washington organized the return home of Benazir Bhutto, back home to die.

In that sense she was a victim, a sacrificial victim of the US urge for world supremacy. Benazir Bhutto was a calculating politician. One wonders how she could be so na�ve as to believe in �bringing democracy� to a chiefly military-fundamentalist nation, with a thin fa�ade of democracy, and a puppet of the USA?

In the end, it seems, her pro-American, Anglo-Saxon nature and her natural courage got the best of her. No rational calculation could have suggested return to Pakistan. I suspect only promises of glory by those gray men in Washington, a guarantee of total US support and perhaps bags of money could have swayed her.

Again and again, it is the same old story of the USA taking the wrong side, in this case, of being on any side at all. Which goes to prove that the battle for justice and democracy has absolutely nothing to do with it; perhaps not even control over those nuclear weapons held by the Pakistani military regime is the issue. The issue is again the gas and oil pipelines from former Soviet Central Asia running through Afghanistan and Pakistan to the sea . . . and those poppy fields, too.

Again: Who benefited from the assassination of Benazir Bhutto? Like Musharraf, Fox News naturally goes for al Qaida. So that is obviously the line of part of the US establishment. At this point Musharraf had little to gain from her death. The truth is that before her assassination the United States had already set in motion a plan to strengthen its position in Pakistan since the Iraq war is already lost and the Afghanistan adventure a failure.

Chaos never hurts the truly powerful. Bhutto�s murder and the subsequent upheaval are the pretext for an iron fist to cover the arrival and concentration of US forces there, a deployment reportedly scheduled for early 2008. Thus America is stepping into this huge and complex nation in the first person.

Therefore, I go for the secret services of the United States of America erring again. In a few years we will doubtless be writing and reading about an exit strategy from Pakistan.

This is not the first such mistake.

Yet, puppets like Benazir Bhutto and Pevrez Musharraf, courageous or malicious, continue to come and go.

Gaither Stewart is originally from Asheville, NC. He has lived his adult life in Germany and Italy, alternated with residences in The Netherlands, France, Mexico, Argentina and Russia. After a career in journalism as a correspondent for the Rotterdam newspaper, Algemeen Dagblad, he began writing fiction. His collections of short stories, "Icy Current Compulsive Course, To Be A Stranger" and "Once In Berlin" are published by Wind River Press. His new novel, "Asheville," is published by He lives with his wife, Milena, in Rome, Italy. E-mail:

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