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The 2008 U.S. Presidential Candidates on the Bhutto Assassination

Rudy Giuliani:

“The assassination of Benazir Bhutto is a tragic event for Pakistan and for democracy in Pakistan. Her murderers must be brought to justice and Pakistan must continue the path back to democracy and the rule of law. Her death is a reminder that terrorism anywhere — whether in New York, London, Tel-Aviv or Rawalpindi — is an enemy of freedom. We must redouble our efforts to win the Terrorists’ War on Us.”

Mike Huckabee:

“I am deeply troubled by the news accounts this morning of Pakistani opposition leader and former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto’s assassination in a suicide attack. This is devastating news for the people of Pakistan, and my prayers go out to them as we follow developments regarding this dire situation.

“The terrible violence surrounding Pakistan’s upcoming election stands in stark contrast to the peaceful transition of power that we embrace in our country through our Constitution. On this sad day, we are reminded that while our democracy has flaws, it stands as a shining beacon of hope for nations and people around the world who seek peace and opportunity through self-government.”

Here’s an excerpt on Pakistan from Huckabee’s essay in January/February 2008 Foreign Affairs:

“TOUGH LOVE FOR PAKISTAN

Whereas our failure to tackle Iran seems to be leading inexorably to our attacking it, our failure to tackle al Qaeda in Pakistan seems to be leading inexorably to its attacking us again.

When we let bin Laden escape at Tora Bora, a region along the Afghan-Pakistani border, in December 2001, we played Brer Fox to his Brer Rabbit. We threw him into the perfect briar patch, under the direct protection of tribal leaders who do not consider their land part of Pakistan and under the indirect protection of the Pakistani government, which believes that it is. On September 12, 2001, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf agreed to sever his relationship with the Taliban and let us fight al Qaeda inside Pakistan. But distracted by Iraq, we have since allowed him to go back on his word.

Despite the Bush administration’s continued claims that the U.S. military will pursue “actionable targets,” according to a July 2007 article in The New York Times based on interviews with a dozen current and former military and defense officials, a classified raid targeting bin Laden’s top deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, in Pakistan was aborted in early 2005. Then Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld called off the attack at the very last minute, as Navy Seals in parachutes were preparing in C-130s in Afghanistan, because he felt he needed Musharraf’s permission to proceed. Why did Rumsfeld, instead of President Bush, call off the attack? Did he ask for Musharraf’s permission or assume he would not get it? When I am president, I will make the final call on such actions.

This missed opportunity was especially costly because in September 2006 Musharraf agreed to a cease-fire with frontier tribal leaders (which lasted until last July), allowing al Qaeda and the Taliban to gain strength and operate more easily and freely. With that, Pakistan’s halfhearted efforts against the terrorists in the region bordering Afghanistan stopped altogether.

Iraq may be the hot war, but Pakistan is where the cold, calculating planning is going on. If al Qaeda strikes us tomorrow, the attack will be postmarked “Pakistan.” And the American people, not understanding why a supposed U.S. ally refused to help and our government put up with it, will justifiably be outraged that bin Laden and his top people got away. In fact, we almost did suffer that next attack: the plot to blow up ten airliners over the Atlantic that the British government foiled in 2006 was hatched in Pakistan, as was an attack against U.S. targets in Germany that was planned to coincide with the sixth anniversary of 9/11.

Rather than wait for the next strike, I prefer to cut to the chase by going after al Qaeda’s safe havens in Pakistan. As commander in chief, the U.S. president must balance threats and risks in calculating how best to protect the American people. We are living on borrowed time. The threat of an attack on us is far graver than the risk that a quick and limited strike against al Qaeda would bring extremists to power in Pakistan.

To be sure, Pakistan is an inherently unstable country that has never had a constitutional change of government in its 60 years of existence. It has alternated between military and civilian rule, punctuated by assassinations and coups. Even during times of nominal civilian rule, the army and its affiliated intelligence service, the Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI, were the country’s most powerful institutions. But in the name of stability, the U.S. government has erred on the side of protecting Musharraf. We have an unfortunate tendency to confuse leaders with their countries and their citizens and to back them for too long, with too few questions asked and too few strings attached. As the Bush administration scrambled to cope with Musharraf’s state of emergency last November, it became clear that we had no Pakistan policy, only a Musharraf policy.

Musharraf’s top priority is not the United States’ survival but his own, physical and political. Musharraf has done his best to convince the Bush administration that the United States’ destiny and his are inextricably interwoven — after him, the deluge. But this is not true. He has not kept extremists from seizing power in Pakistan; they have not seized it simply because they have not had the strength or the support to do so. He claims that he declared the state of emergency because of the threat of extremism to Pakistan. In fact, he was responding to a threat not to the country but to himself and not from extremists but from Pakistan’s Supreme Court, which was about to invalidate his recent reelection.

This puts into sharp relief what a waste, what a setback the United States’ Pakistan policy has been over the last few years. Al Qaeda and the Taliban have grown stronger; Pakistan’s native extremists have expanded east from their frontier strongholds and spread to the cities; the moderate secular parties led by former Prime Ministers Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif have languished. Musharraf has spent far more energy and enthusiasm sidelining the moderate Pakistani forces we must strengthen than he has going after religious extremists and terrorists. As of this writing, he is arresting the people who share our values and whom we need to empower: leaders and supporters of moderate parties, judges, lawyers, human rights activists, and journalists. He is on a collision course with his own people and with us.

Since 9/11, the United States has given Pakistan about $10 billion, including some $5.6 billion to pay for counterterrorism activities against al Qaeda and the Taliban. Less than $1 billion has gone to projects that directly help the Pakistani people by providing them with schools, food, or medical aid. The lack of schools creates demand for the madrasahs that produce terrorists. We have wasted money on counterterrorism that has not happened and spent precious little on projects to win hearts and minds.

Much of the aid is made up of cash transfers that are not monitored by any U.S. government agency; we must improve transparency and accountability in this area. If we consider cutting aid to Pakistan, we must distinguish among different kinds of funds. We should not cut money for projects that alleviate poverty. Money designated for counterterrorism must be spent for that purpose and with quantifiable results. Money designated for weapons not suited to fighting terrorists should be used as a carrot to reward the Pakistani government for demonstrated progress in strengthening moderate forces, improving its citizens’ quality of life, and fighting terrorism.

It is not enough for Musharraf to appoint a caretaker government, give up his post as army chief, and hold elections in early January, as he has promised: such elections cannot possibly be free and fair with the state of emergency still in effect, opposition politicians and their supporters under arrest, the media censored, assembly forbidden, and the judiciary packed. Opposition party leaders rightly threaten to boycott such sham elections, which would have no legitimacy in the eyes of the Pakistani people. Bhutto and Sharif must be allowed to move freely about the country. Whatever happens in Pakistan next, the country’s policy toward the United States is unlikely to change significantly. General Ashfaq Kiyani, the deputy chief of staff of the army and Musharraf’s most likely successor, is a moderate who wants the military less involved in politics. As prime minister, Sharif would sound more anti-American, and Bhutto more pro-American. But in any event, our problems with al Qaeda and the Taliban will not be magically solved for us. They are our problems, and we must face up to them.

I will assure the Pakistanis that we are with them for the long haul. When the Russians left Afghanistan in the late 1980s, we quickly lost interest in Pakistan. Many Pakistanis fear the same will happen when al Qaeda and the Taliban are no longer around to keep us engaged. They should not. Pakistan, like Iraq, is a regional problem rather than an isolated one. We must use our friendly ties with India to encourage and help it improve its relationship with Pakistan and to push for increased trade and cooperation between the two countries, all to bring greater stability to the South Asian region.

“The process will not be quick,” Ambassador Crocker told Congress of the progress in Iraq last fall. “It will be uneven, punctuated by setbacks as well as achievements, and it will require substantial U.S. resolve and commitment.” Does this sound familiar? To me, the statement could also have applied to the American Revolution, the American Civil War, World War I, or World War II. We paid a heavy price in each of those conflicts, but we prevailed. And we will prevail now. Our history, from the snows of Valley Forge to the flames of 9/11, has been one of perseverance. I understand the threats we face today. When I am president, America will look this evil in the eye, confront it, defeat it, and emerge stronger than ever. It is easy to be a peace lover; the challenging part is being a peacemaker.”

John McCain:

“I was deeply saddened today to learn about the death of Pakistani opposition leader Benazir Bhutto. My deepest condolences go out to the family and supporters of this remarkable woman, an individual who paid the ultimate price for her embrace of moderation and rejection of extremism.

“The death of Benazir Bhutto underscores yet again the grave dangers we face in the world today and particularly in countries like Pakistan, where the forces of moderation are arrayed in a fierce battle against those who embrace violent Islamic extremism.

Given Pakistan’s strategic location, the international terrorist groups that operate from its soil, and its nuclear arsenal, the future of that country has deep implications for the security of the United States and its allies. America must stand on the right side of this ongoing struggle.

“In my numerous visits to Pakistan – to Islamabad, to Peshawar, even to the tribal areas of Waziristan – I have seen first hand the many challenges that face the political leadership there, challenges so graphically portrayed by today’s tragedy. There are, in Pakistan, brave individuals who seek to lead their country away from extremism and instability and into the light of a better day. America, I believe, must do all we can to support them.

Mitt Romney:

“We are still learning the details of today’s tragic events in Pakistan, but this is a stark reminder that America must not only stay on high alert, but remain actively engaged across the globe. Pakistan has long been a key part in the war against extremism and radical jihadists. For those who think Iraq is the sole front in the War on Terror, one must look no further than what has happened today. America must show its commitment to stand with all moderate forces across the Islamic world and together face the defining challenge of our generation – the struggle against violent, radical jihadists.

“At this difficult time, our thoughts and prayers go to the family of Benazir Bhutto, and to all the people of Pakistan who are fighting against extremist forces that would commit such heinous acts as the whole world has witnessed today.”

Fred Thompson:

“It is a tragedy, of course. It reminds us that things can happen in faraway places of the world that can affect the United States. I think this should be of great concern to us. It is almost a perfect storm in a very bad sense because two forces are operating against each other that are both desirable. One is democracy: they were making progress in that regard in that country. Former prime minister Bhutto was an important part of that process. But the other is stability. Pakistan is a nuclear country, and we cannot afford to let nukes fall into the hands of dangerous Muslim radicals. We are hoping those two things can be balanced out. We can see the continued progress toward a democratic society but also maintain stability in the country, which seems to be very much in doubt right now….”

Hillary Clinton:

“I am profoundly saddened and outraged by the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, a leader of tremendous political and personal courage. I came to know Mrs. Bhutto over many years, during her tenures as Prime Minister and during her years in exile. Mrs. Bhutto’s concern for her country, and her family, propelled her to risk her life on behalf of the Pakistani people. She returned to Pakistan to fight for democracy despite threats and previous attempts on her life and now she has made the ultimate sacrifice. Her death is a tragedy for her country and a terrible reminder of the work that remains to bring peace, stability, and hope to regions of the globe too often paralyzed by fear, hatred, and violence.

“Let us pray that her legacy will be a brighter, more hopeful future for the people she loved and the country she served. My family and I extend our condolences and deepest sympathies to the victims and their families and to the people of Pakistan.”

Barack Obama:

“I am shocked and saddened by the death of Benazir Bhutto in this terrorist atrocity. She was a respected and resilient advocate for the democratic aspirations of the Pakistani people. We join with them in mourning her loss, and stand with them in their quest for democracy and against the terrorists who threaten the common security of the world.”

John Edwards:

“Benazir Bhutto was a brave and historic leader for Pakistan. Her assassination is a sad and solemn event, and our hearts go out to her family and to the Pakistani people. But we will not let this contemptible, cowardly act delay the march of progress in Pakistan for a single second.

I have seen firsthand in Pakistan, and in meetings with Prime Minister Bhutto and President Musharraf, the instability of the country and the complexity of the challenges they face. At this critical moment, America must convey both strength and principle. We should do everything in our power to help bring the perpetrators of this heinous act to justice and to ensure that Bhutto’s movement toward democracy continues.”

Joe Biden:

“This is a terrible day. My heart goes out to Benazir Bhutto’s family, friends and followers.

Like her father before her, Benazir Bhutto worked her whole life – and gave her life – to help Pakistan become a democratic, secular and modern Muslim country. She was a woman of extraordinary courage who returned to Pakistan in the face of death threats and even after an assassination attempt the day of her return, she did not flinch. It was a privilege to know her these many years and to call her a friend.

I am convinced Ms. Bhutto would have won free and fair elections next week. The fact that she was by far Pakistan’s most popular leader underscores the fact that there is a vast, moderate majority in Pakistan that must have a clear voice in the system. Her assassination makes it all the more urgent that Pakistan return to a democratic path.

This fall, I twice urged President Musharraf to provide better security for Ms. Bhutto and other political leaders – I wrote him before her return and after the first assassination attempt in October. The failure to protect Ms. Bhutto raises a lot of hard questions for the government and security services that must be answered.

I know that Benazir’s followers will be tempted to lash out in anger and violence. I urge them to remain calm – and not play into the hands of the forces of destruction. I urge Pakistan’s leaders to open a fully accountable and transparent investigation. We must find out who was behind this and bring those responsible to justice. And the United States should offer any assistance necessary, including investigative teams, to get to the bottom of this horror.

The way to honor Benazir Bhutto is to uphold the values for which she gave her life: democracy, moderation and social justice. I join with the Pakistani people in mourning the loss of a dear friend.”

Bill Richardson:

“Benazir Bhutto was a courageous woman. Her death, and the deaths of so many of her supporters, is more than just a tragedy. It is a testament to the will of the Pakistani people to see democracy restored. My thoughts and prayers are with the families of those who died today.

“Ms. Bhutto knew the dangers to her safety. But she would not be intimidated. We also must not be intimidated.

A leader has died, but democracy must live. The United States government cannot stand by and allow Pakistan’s return to democracy to be derailed or delayed by violence.

We must use our diplomatic leverage and force the enemies of democracy to yield: President Bush should press Musharraf to step aside, and a broad-based coalition government, consisting of all the democratic parties, should be formed immediately. Until this happens, we should suspend military aid to the Pakistani government. Free and fair elections must also be held as soon as possible.

It is in the interests of the US that there be a democratic Pakistan that relentlessly hunts down terrorists. Musharraf has failed, and his attempts to cling to power are destabilizing his country. He must go.

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Joe Biden’s Pakistan Policy

In an address earlier this morning at a New Hampshire college, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, announced a fairly comprehensive Pakistan policy — the first candidate to do so.

It consists of four main elements:

  1. Triple non-security aid, to $1.5 billion annually.  For at least a decade.  This aid would be unconditioned: it’s our pledge to the Pakistani people.  Instead of funding military hardware, it would build schools, clinics, and roads.”
  2. Condition security aid on performance. We should base our security aid on clear results.   We’re now spending well over $1 billion annually, and it’s not clear we’re getting our money’s worth.  I’d spend more if we get better returns—and less if we don’t.”
  3. Help Pakistan enjoy a ‘democracy dividend.’  The first year of democratic rule should bring an additional $1 billion — above the $1.5 billion non-security aid baseline.  And I would tie future non-security aid — again, above the guaranteed baseline — to Pakistan’s progress in developing democratic institutions and meeting good-governance norms.
  4. Engage the Pakistani people, not just their rulers.  This will involve everything from improved public diplomacy and educational exchanges to high impact projects that actually change people’s lives.

His speech’s conclusion is noteworthy:

“I believe that Pakistan can be a bridge between the West and the global Islamic community.  Most Pakistanis want a lasting friendship with America.  They respect and admire our society.  But they are mystified over what they see as our failure to live up to our ideals.

The current crisis in Pakistan is also an opportunity to start anew… to build a relationship between Pakistan and the United States upon which both our peoples can depend – and be proud.”

 

 

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[Op-Ed] Obama, Osama and American Trauma (The Daily Times)

The Daily Times

August 18, 2007

By Arif Rafiq

Pakistan is emerging as a frontline state in yet another war: the battle for the presidency of the United States.

The firestorm caused by Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama’s roundly criticised pledge to violate Pakistani sovereignty should President Musharraf not respond to actionable intelligence concerning Al Qaeda has since subsided. But rather than letting out a sigh of relief, Islamabad should see Obama’s comments as an ominous sign of things to come.

The current US political environment makes Pakistan the ‘perfect culprit’ during high-stress periods in the American “war on terror” and is marked by increased levels of pessimism towards and opposition to the war in Iraq and an imminent, subverted, or successful terror plot against a Western country. A bi-partisan consensus on Iraq as an irreversible failure or a successful terrorist attack on European or US interests could put Pakistan in great difficulty.

There are two reasons for this push-Pakistan dynamic. First, it is easier to go after identifiable targets than an elusive adversary. Plus a thought is precipitating that the Taliban-Al Qaeda lifeline starts in Pakistan. If Pakistan is not effective in stemming the tide on its side, there is no point mopping up the floor in Afghanistan; the US should attempt to turn off the tap and that lies in Pakistan.

Second, it is election season in the US: partisan sentiments are high, terrorism is a major issue, and American voters prefer strength to weakness. Democrats largely favour a pullout from Iraq, but by no means will lay down their guns. They cannot be seen as pusillanimous, so they will replace ‘a war that cannot be won and should have never been fought’ (in Iraq) with the ‘real war Bush didn’t finish’ (in Pakistan-Afghanistan). The Pakistan card is the Democrats’ means to establish their national security credentials.

Republicans might have little choice but to join the chorus. This is an unlikely scenario and dependent on their abandoning Iraq and the easing of US-Iran tensions. The latter possibility would generate interest in and free up resources to focus on Pakistan and a ‘winnable war’.

But the most dangerous is the potential for unilateral action in Pakistan by the Bush administration. It is conceivable in two scenarios. In the first, a legacy-driven Bush administration in its last year in office is desperate to cap the war on terror and needs a ‘decisive’ achievement. It possesses what it believes trustworthy intelligence on the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden or Ayman al-Zawahiri in the northwest of Pakistan. Pakistan’s ruler at the time is politically, militarily, and psychologically unable to act upon the information. Seeing its potentially last opportunity to apprehend or eliminate one or both of Al Qaeda’s top two vanishing, Bush authorises one or more of the following against the high-value target(s): a US Predator strike, capture by teams of US Special Forces, or elimination by a not-so-surgical air strike.

In the second scenario, Al Qaeda successfully attacks the US again and a mix of intelligence, assumptions, and political convenience help Washington conclude that the plot emanated from Pakistan. Not only does the American president authorise actions from scenario one against Al Qaeda in Pakistan, but sees fit and is compelled by political allies, opponents, and public opinion to punish Islamabad diplomatically, economically, and even militarily.

The range of potential punitive actions against Pakistan is wide and the resulting damage even wider. At its worst, Pakistan could be cemented as an economically backward, socially fragmented, politically unstable, militarily weak international pariah for decades.

So what must be done to prevent such a dire outcome? Islamabad must first appreciate that a worst-case scenario is indeed possible. Next, it must take preventative measures to reverse the push on Pakistan trend before it fully takes hold.

At home, it must work to develop a broad political coalition sufficient to decisively eliminate or apprehend those in Pakistan engaged in or plotting terror both within and outside of the country. Additionally, it needs to convince its sceptical populace of the need to confront terrorists militarily. Finally, it should wean the indigenous population of Waziristan from foreign terrorists that have entrenched themselves among them.

In the United States, Islamabad must commit to a pro-active and wide-ranging communications and diplomatic programme to reshape and consolidate elite and popular opinion of Pakistan. More specifically, it should help shape an American political discourse in which calls for unilateral strikes in or punitive actions against Pakistan by credible individuals are inconceivable.

Pakistan’s diplomats work most effectively with their American executive branch counterparts, but are ill-equipped to deal with the broad spectrum of actors involved in a potential push-Pakistan policy. The Pakistan Foreign Office must select appropriate internal and external talent to liaise with leading Democratic and Republican presidential campaigns; relevant members of Congress and staffers; editorial boards, news and opinion writers for key newspapers and major mainstream and partisan magazines; Middle East and South Asia experts in the US think tanks; hosts of major cable news and talk radio programmes and elite bloggers.

Islamabad must figure out how to ensure that its perspective is processed through the vast political machinery in Washington — the vast community that makes things happen. It can no longer afford to simply speak to the man at the top, especially since he is close to leaving.

Islamabad can take heed from its counterparts in Riyadh and Tel Aviv, who in recent years each tasked a young, media-savvy diplomat (versed in American, not British English) with speaking before the US media. The Saudis’ rocky road post-9/11 was softened by the smooth-talking Adel al-Jubair.

Additionally, the Pakistani government should invite each major presidential candidate and their foreign policy advisors to meet with senior political and military leaders. Briefings with top Pakistani officials and secure tours of areas close to the Pak-Afghan border will also help greatly in making these candidates understand the complexity of the situation. This would be timely and critical as US politicians’ perspectives on Pakistan are remarkably undereducated and fluid.

Lastly, Islamabad should also consider periodically embedding major print and electronic American journalists with Pakistani military units along the border with Afghanistan. Firsthand glimpses of Pakistani forces in action, combined with meeting families of slain Pakistani soldiers, best display Islamabad’s commitment to combat terrorism.

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Editor:

Arif Rafiq, a Washington, DC-based consultant on Middle East and South Asian political and security issues. [About]

For Media and Consulting Inquiries:
E-mail // Tel: +1(202) 713-5897

On Twitter:
@PakistanPolicy

On the Radio:
Arif Rafiq regularly appears on the John Batchelor Show Friday nights from 09:30-10:00pm Eastern Time. Tune your dial to 770AM in New York or 630AM in DC. The show appears on affiliates in other cities. Listen live online at WABCRadio.com.
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