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Bhutto coverage abysmal -fails to point out corruption and Pakistan lobbyist Siegel's lack of credibility

December 29, 2007

Bhutto Assassination Coverage Abysmal

December 28, 2007 - San Francisco, CA - - Network news coverage of the assassination of ex-prime minister Benazir Bhutto has so far failed to meet the minimum standards to which even television news should ascribe.

Case in point, CNN's affable appearing dupe, Wolf Blitzer "breaking" a story fed to him by longtime Bhutto fixer and big time Dem political schemer Mark Siegel in which a supposed October 16 email from Bhutto implicated - well before the fact - Pak strongman Musharraf in any harm that might eventually come to her.

"Two months before her death, former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto sent an e-mail to her U.S. adviser and longtime friend, saying that if she were killed, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf would bear some of the blame" [source,]

Fox and other cable news providers uncritically ran with Blitzer's story, failing to vet Mr. Siegel or note his past history, especially his status as a registered foreign agent with a penchant for media manipulation at key political junctures.

As the Washington Post reported at the time, in 1997 Siegel took the unusual step of also implicating Congressman Dan Burton1. in wrongdoing, accusing him of a political "shakedown" for money.

"I should tell you," Siegel wrote on July 25, in a two-page memo to a Bhutto aide in Islamabad, "that I worked in Washington for over 25 years and have never been shaken down by anyone before like Dan Burton's threats." [source,]

Of course the charge, never substantiated and failing to have resulted in any disciplinary action against Burton, found its way into the media via a "leak," thus accomplishing its primary goal of compromising the reputation of the hard charging GOP Congressman.

Siegel's clear effort to demonize Musharraf in the current matter played well into the soap opera-like coverage of the Bhutto assassination, coinciding as it did, nicely with what seems to be the running narrative - a beatification process, hard to discern from garden variety propaganda - during which no mention was made of Bhutto's scandalous personal and familial history.

Also absent from the debate was any discussion of the degree to which Siegel was shilling for Bhutto, having received from her government, according to the above noted Washington Post article, "$452,941 for his services for the year ending July 1995 according to his filing at the Justice Department as a registered foreign agent."

The media's role in granting Bhutto undeserved status pales in gravity however, as compared to the Bush administration's belief that she would be anything but a disaster if reintroduced into Pakistani politics.

That this administration orchestrated and facilitated that turn of events betrays a disregard for the dangers inherent in micromanaging the internal dynamics of a non-Western nation, especially one with such an explosive history. It also shows how easily calamity can result from an overemphasis on small "d" democratic forms in a nation so heavily in the spell of Islamism.

Noting that, we wrote on November 14 [see, U.S. State Dept. Delusional If It Sees Bhutto As The Answer].

"Why the U.S. diplomatic establishment views the re-injection of Benazir Bhutto into Pakistani politics as anything but alarming is hard to fathom. In the current crisis, which finds Pak military strong-man/president Musharraf attempting to manage his country's seemingly headlong rush towards Islamist madness, Bhutto's presence is anything but helpful. Fact - The Bhutto family is the poster child for Pakistani corruption, so it's hardly surprising that Benazir Bhutto was in exile because of massive evidence of her participation in money laundering schemes [a charge which sent her husband Asif Ali Zardani to jail for 8 years] before the U.S. State Dept. started its campaign of ill-advised meddling, which resulted in her return..."

Bhutto's venal quest for personal enrichment and past support of the Taliban should have marked her as unsuitable for governance under any conceivable circumstances by State Dept. professionals. It should also have sent a strong message to network execs to moderate their efforts to sanctify Bhutto in the wake of her death.

No matter how flawed Pervez Musharraf's governance has been, his "anti-democratic" actions including the dismissal of Supreme Court Chief Justice Chaudry, his previous declaration of martial law and program of detentions and house arrests must now appear mild given the alternative - a former ally becoming a radical Muslim enclave with very large teeth.

It's hard to imagine a more succinct proof of policy failure by the very same State Department dolts who are in open rebellion against the administration, who probably still continue to believe against all available evidence that a "free" election in Pakistan would not quickly devolve into an Islamist theocracy with its finger on the triggers of as many as 80 nuclear weapons.


1. Dan Burton [R - Ind, 5th Dist], a twelve term Congressman and as Chair of the House Government and Reform Committee was vocal critic of the scandal ridden Clinton administration and advocate for impeachment - famously calling Mr. Clinton a "scumbag" - who at the time of Siegel's charge was involved in an investigation of Clinton/Gore fundraising improprieties, during which over 100 witnesses either took the fifth amendment or fled the country.


MIM: Excerpt from FPM article " Pakistan's Peril" on Bhutto's ties with the Taliban.

But Bhutto was not always what she appeared to be.

Under her leadership, Pakistan in the 1990s became one the leading patrons of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. Even as she promised to take her country into the 21st century, Bhutto secretly provided military and financial aid to Islamic guerillas whose ideology placed them closer to the middle ages. Publicly, she rejected any affiliation with the Taliban. Behind closed doors, she subscribed to the view that they were a pro-Pakistan force that could help stabilize Afghanistan.

Duped by Bhutto's act was the Clinton administration and prominent Democratic Congressmen like Texas Rep. Charlie Wilson. As reporter Steve Coll noted in Ghost Wars, his detailed account of the rise of Islamic fanaticism in Afghanistan, when it came to supporting the Taliban, "Bhutto had decided that it was more important to appease the Pakistani army and intelligence services than to level with her American friends."

Even then, there were those who cautioned that Islamic militants, once empowered, would prove impossible to control. Either out of naiveté or political calculation, Bhutto didn't listen. Like her father before her, she failed to realize the fanatical force that she helped unleash.

The price for that terrible error in judgment, it now seems, was her life.


MIM: Excerpt from William Darlrymple's article "Pakistan's flawed and feudel princess" depicts Bhutto's corruption and how she helped the rise of Islamism.

Today, Benazir is being hailed as a martyr for freedom and democracy, but far from being a natural democrat, in many ways, Benazir was the person who brought Pakistan's strange variety of democracy, really a form of 'elective feudalism', into disrepute and who helped fuel the current, apparently unstoppable, growth of the Islamists. For Bhutto was no Aung San Suu Kyi. During her first 20-month premiership, astonishingly, she failed to pass a single piece of major legislation. Amnesty International accused her government of having one of the world's worst records of custodial deaths, killings and torture.

Within her party, she declared herself the lifetime president of the PPP and refused to let her brother Murtaza challenge her. When he persisted in doing so, he ended up shot dead in highly suspicious circumstances outside the family home. Murtaza's wife Ghinwa and his daughter Fatima, as well as Benazir's mother, all firmly believed that Benazir gave the order to have him killed.

As recently as the autumn, Benazir did and said nothing to stop President Musharraf ordering the US and UK-brokered 'rendition' of her rival, Nawaz Sharif, to Saudi Arabia and so remove from the election her most formidable rival. Many of her supporters regarded her deal with Musharraf as a betrayal of all her party stood for.

Behind Pakistan's endless swings between military government and democracy lies a surprising continuity of elitist interests: to some extent, Pakistan's industrial, military and landowning classes are all interrelated and they look after each other. They do not, however, do much to look after the poor. The government education system barely functions in Pakistan and for the poor, justice is almost impossible to come by. According to political scientist Ayesha Siddiqa: 'Both the military and the political parties have all failed to create an environment where the poor can get what they need from the state. So the poor have begun to look to alternatives for justice. In the long term, flaws in the system will create more room for the fundamentalists.'

In the West, many right-wing commentators on the Islamic world tend to see the march of political Islam as the triumph of an anti-liberal and irrational 'Islamo-fascism'. Yet much of the success of the Islamists in countries such as Pakistan comes from the Islamists' ability to portray themselves as champions of social justice, fighting people such as Benazir Bhutto from the Islamic elite that rules most of the Muslim world from Karachi to Beirut, Ramallah and Cairo.

This elite the Islamists successfully depict as rich, corrupt, decadent and Westernised. Benazir had a reputation for massive corruption. During her government, the anti-corruption organisation Transparency International named Pakistan one of the three most corrupt countries in the world.

Bhutto and her husband, Asif Zardari, widely known as 'Mr 10 Per Cent', faced allegations of plundering the country. Charges were filed in Pakistan, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States to investigate their various bank accounts.

When I interviewed Abdul Rashid Ghazi in the Islamabad Red Mosque shortly before his death in the storming of the complex in July, he kept returning to the issue of social justice: 'We want our rulers to be honest people,' he said. 'But now the rulers are living a life of luxury while thousands of innocent children have empty stomachs and can't even get basic necessities.' This is the reason for the rise of the Islamists in Pakistan and why so many people support them: they are the only force capable of taking on the country's landowners and their military cousins.

This is why in all recent elections, the Islamist parties have hugely increased their share of the vote, why they now already control both the North West Frontier Province and Baluchistan and why it is they who are most likely to gain from the current crisis.

Benazir Bhutto was a courageous, secular and liberal woman. But sadness at the demise of this courageous fighter should not mask the fact that as a pro-Western feudal leader who did little for the poor, she was as much a central part of Pakistan's problems as the solution to them.,,2233261,00.html

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