National Commentary

Nicholas F. Benton: The Bhutto Smoking Gun

As former U.S. Senator George Allen of Virginia can tell you, the modern day proliferation of hand-held video cameras can have a devastating impact in politics. Especially if you are trying to lie, as the Musharraf regime in Pakistan and its patrons can now tell you, as well.

Its attempted blatant cover up, including the rush to burial without an autopsy, of the actual cause of death of Benazir Bhutto last week only heightened suspicions and distrust in that government, both among the people of Pakistan and the world as a whole. Contrary to the Musharraf claim that Bhutto died by accidentally hitting her head on a sun roof lever, indisputable evidence provided by video tapes from a variety of angles shows that she was shot in the head at close range by what appears to be a professional assassin.

It is also clear that a terrorist bombing was in place to occur at the same time as the assassination to provide credibility to the claim that Bhutto was killed by al Qaeda or other terrorist radicals, and not by the Musharraf regime, itself.

The orchestration of the bombing with the shooting only adds to the mounting evidence of the culpability of Musharraf and his patrons.

In fact, the coordination of the two aspects of the assassination, its execution and cover-up, reveal a level of sophistication and logistical capability that are probably beyond the means of Musharraf and his military, itself.

When the question of “qui bono?” (who benefits?) is added, it seems more plausible to look to Musharraf’s Bush administration patrons, in particular more toward Langley, Virginia than the hills of northern Pakistan. Such would be in the hallowed tradition of well-known U.S.-sponsored assassinations of figures opposed to tin-horned dictators it has propped up.

There is evidence in the behavior of key U.S. figures this past weekend. It comes in the form of an untoward determination to deflect the blame away from Musharraf. This included two Democratic presidential candidates speaking on Sunday talk shows.

It was a huge disappointment, but a sobering dose of reality, to witness Sen. Barack Obama state declaratively twice in one interview that Bhutto was killed by “a suicide bomber.” It is disappointing because it suggests he’s not the agent of change he purports to be, but a compliant mouthpiece for the highest levels of the U.S. establishment.

He had no reason to attribute the death to a “suicide bomber” in such a matter-of-fact way, especially given the initial reports of doctors on the scene last Thursday that she was killed by up to five bullets fired from a gun.

But given the way the assassination scenario was set up, replete with the simultaneous suicide bombing, Obama is revealed placing the blame exactly where those who orchestrated the caper wanted it placed.

In a second case Sunday, candidate Sen. Christopher Dodd said, unbelievably, that it would be “completely irresponsible” for anyone to attribute blame for the assassination on Musharraf because, he said, it would add to instability in Pakistan where stability, above all, is needed.

This assertion was a brief glimpse at the kind of intense behind-the-scenes pressure undoubtedly placed by the Bush administration on the news media last weekend. Even on Monday, when CNN News showed more video tapes of the assassination that more clearly than ever displayed the assassination, the descriptive language by newscasters was shifted by midday. Instead of describing a gun, a shooting, and Bhutto falling, they said only that “it appears Bhutto’s veil flew up.”

The pressure was on CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, too, who in the first hours after the killing Thursday, said he had possession of an e-mail from Bhutto which he’d agreed would be read publicly only in the event of her assassination. It came to him via Bhutto’s U.S. friend, Mark Segal. Blitzer read the letter on the air Thursday afternoon, and it said explicitly that if she were killed, the blame would lie with Musharraf. However, no further mention of the letter was made.

Sen. Dodd’s brazen statement makes it clear why. Forget the truth, he intimated, perceived U.S. strategic interests matter more. Hasn’t that been the same approach used to justify the U.S. invasion of Iraq and a myriad of other transgressions?