Thursday, December 27, 2007
Did Hillary Clinton kill Benazir Bhutto?
-- Reza Aslan, AC360 Contributor

Did Hillary Clinton kill Benazir Bhutto? Not quite, though Barack Obama's right hand man thinks she may have had something to do with it.

"She was a strong supporter of the war in Iraq," David Axelrod said, speaking of Hillary "which we would submit, is one of the reasons why we were diverted from Afghanistan, Pakistan and al-Qaeda, who may have been players in this event today. So that's a judgment she'll have to defend."

It is certainly not unexpected that a presidential campaign would use Bhutto's assassination to score political points. Look for Rudy Giuliani to ratchet up his "Muslims are coming to kill your babies!" stump speech in the coming days.

But Axelrod's comments are not just distasteful. They're nonsensical. Exactly how were we diverted from Pakistan because of the war in Iraq? If it weren't for the Iraq war, and the larger war on terror, we would not give Pakistan a second's thought. The country would still be under US sanctions for its illegal nuclear program.

Perhaps Axelrod means to say that our presence in Iraq has elevated the terrorist threat in Pakistan, thereby forcing the US into an uncomfortably cozy relationship with -- and $10 billion in aid to -- the country’s military dictator, Pervez Musharraf, which he seems to have squandered on military equipment to maintain a police state rather than fight al-Qaeda elements in the country, thereby compelling the US to send in Bhutto under a power sharing agreement with Musharraf to salvage what's left of Pakistan's democracy, thus tainting her as an American stooge and leading to her assassination by the very same al-Qaeda elements that Musharraf has yet to do anything about.

Perhaps.

One thing is certain though. If things continue to spiral out of control in the wake of Bhutto's death, Obama might get his chance to fulfill a campaign promise to invade Pakistan were Pervez Musharraf to lose power in a coup.
Posted By CNN: 6:04 PM ET
  13 Comments
Reza,
I have to agree with you...I think Axelrod's statement was the most inane thing I have heard in a while!! To say that Hillary caused Bhutto's death is ridiculous! If he wants to follow that logic then you can do that with Obama's drug use. He bought drugs so he contributed to the US's drug problem, the money made by bringing the drug into the US and selling it probably went to drug cartels which in turn may be helping terrorists and we know terrorists commited 9/11! So there you go he is connected to that! Go figure!!

I think the Iraq war did cause us to have to partner up with the "devil" so to speak instead of trying to stop their nuclear program. But I think somewhere down the line we would have had to deal with them one way or another with the war going on or not. Either partnering with them to keep an eye on the nukes or by war to stop them from making them and selling them to the highest bidder. It was a no win situation in my book.

Cynthia, Covington, Ga.
Posted By Blogger Cindy : 6:47 PM ET
Dear Reza,

I do not have a candidate of choice in this coming presidential election, but I think that the statement by David Axelrod is both reckless and unprofessional! Is Obama so desperate to win that he would condone or encourage such an irresponsible statement? If that is the case then he lacks the character to become president.

I have no respect for anyone who would use this horrible tragedy for political gain!

Obama may not have been around to vote for the war, but he seems to be unavailable to vote on controversial issues. Maybe his non-voting record should be examined more closely.

I seem to remember Obama saying some irresponsible things about Anderson earlier this year as well.

Jo Ann Matese
North Royalton, Ohio
Posted By Blogger Jo Ann : 7:01 PM ET
Although I am not a Hillary Clinton supporter, to even implicate, never mind accuse her, of being involved in this tragic event is ludicrous. If there is any logic to David Axelrod's reasoning, then ultimately any blame for involvement in Benazir Bhutto's death today, by anyone in American politics, lies squarely on our current president and his administration's tolerance of Pakistan and their contrived war on terrorism. In addition President Bush's focus on Iraq, which has yet to be linked to any significant acts or plans of terrorism, that is, until a disastrous invasion, occupation and transition policy created a sufficient power-vacuum for such, certainly left fewer US response options on the table to deal with a reluctant Pakistan.

To be fair, as a (until recently, former) member of Pakistan's armed forces, President Musharraf faces a difficult challenge in purging his country's military, particularly their secret service (ISI), of their pro-Taliban support, which ironically the US endorsed and paid for during US efforts to rid Afghanistan of the Soviet occupation during the early 1980's.

If there is anything positive to come out of today's assassination, with western Pakistan and eastern Afghanistan in the hands of pro-Taliban tribes and terrorists, being supported by factions within his government, President Musharraf faces his toughest choice: rally enough support within Pakistan's military to "clean house" of fundamentalist supporters, or fail to do so and lose power. It may not happen overnight, but any martial orders by Musharraf, beyond the current riot control of grieving Bhutto supporters, will be condemned by the rest of the free world and ultimately lead to his administration's downfall.
Posted By Anonymous Fred Henkel : 7:43 PM ET
Distasteful and nonsensical are just starters to describe the charge against Clinton. If this charge had any substance to it then why blame just Hilliary? What about all the others in Congress and in the White house that supported the war in Iraq?

Even though we have had to concentrate our foreign policy efforts on the Middle East for decades now, I wonder if we still retain a lack of understanding and a lack of imagination when it comes to dealing with the region.

Annie Kate
Birmingham AL
Posted By Blogger Annie Kate : 8:00 PM ET
Axelrod's comments were patently absurd. Luckily for Barack, he wasn't subjected to President Bush's rigged intelligence, cronyist policies, and suppressive political movements. Couple this with the nation's fear in the post-911 political scene, and it's a recipe for disaster.

If he were a senator in the same boat, he'd have voted exactly the same.

Hillary's biggest problem is she wants universal health care in the wealthiest country in the world.

How terrible!
Posted By Anonymous Ryan Stevens : 8:23 PM ET
Perhaps a long hard look into a mirror is needed for everyone in this world. There's no excuse for terrorism. The blame game and pointing fingers has already begun, but not one person can say he or she has all the answers.
The reality is we are in Iraq and Afghanistan. The past is gone, it can be debated, but it's gone.
We live in a dangerous world, to think we don't and it's all just President Bush's fault is a very foolish notion. Just my opinion.

Lorie Ann, Buellton, Calif.
Posted By Blogger Lorie Ann : 9:24 PM ET
Reza,

Have you been paying attention? Osama bin Laden was not in Iraq. No Iraqis were involved in the 9/11 attack. There was no operational relationship between al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein. Of course Iraq is a distraction from Afghanistan and Pakistan, where Osama bin Laden has been and al-Qaeda continues to operate.

It is your assertion that "If it weren't for the Iraq war [...] we would not give Pakistan a second's thought" that is "nonsensical" and "distasteful". Osama bin Laden most likely has been in Pakistan since he fled Afghanistan, before the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

President Bush bears the most responsibility for diverting U.S. forces from Afghanistan/Pakistan to Iraq. Hillary Clinton has supported his diversion and should be accountable for her position.
Posted By Blogger linuxguy : 10:33 AM ET
Reza:

It would probably help if you noted that Axelrod was asked about whether the assaination put foreign policy credentials on the front burner and whether it cut against Obama's candidacy and that his statement was in response to that question. As you've portrayed here, he just offered up this statement without prompting, which is disingenous and misleading.
Posted By Anonymous Noir : 1:15 PM ET
I completely agree with Linuxguy and completely disagree with you Reza. We have about 15,000 troops in Afghanistan and 150,000 in Iraq.
I would say that we have been nearly completely distracted from what should have been the war on terror after 9/11. In fact, we have conducted nearly no war on terror as of yet. Every explanation Bush or his cronies have given for Iraq has been hollow.
Posted By Anonymous Mark : 1:23 PM ET
Reza,

You have to be kidding me. It is rather ironic an intellectual person such as yourself falls to the usual media spin. I suppose all of us are willing to become a little "dishonest" as long as is willing to pay our bill.

The fact is and you know it too well, Axelrod did not say Hillary Clinton kill Bhutto! That's the media spin Cooper and co fed us last night. What he said was, and let's see if you can refute this substantially, that the Iraq war has taken the US focus off the real war on terror!

Dont you agree?
Posted By Anonymous Wayne : 1:28 PM ET
Reza,
I think you are being disingenious and you know it. This is a continuation of twisting and turning and CNN has been in the forefront of pushing this nonsense.

I didn't come to that conclusion after reading Axelrod's statement. Also, I am suprised that you didn't post the question that prompted Axelrod to say what he said, which was a reporter asking him if this event somehow gives Hillary an advantage.

His response was right on the money. When Obama was talking about Pakistan and how it is a very important issue, you all didn't want to listen.

Hillary and co's mistake contributed to the problems in Pakistan by taking our eye off the ball in Afghanistan and allowing terrorists to flourish in those border regions.

Your statement about Iraq being the reason for us concentrating on Pakistan also shows your level of ignorance.
Our focus on Pakistan is due to Afghanistan not Iraq.
Get your facts straight. Whether we went into Iraq or not, our engagment in Afghanistan ties us to Pakistan.

Axelrod's point is that we have done a terrible job in Afghanistan simply because when it was our greatest test and challenge, Hillary and co's vote gave Bush the power to move away from it to go chase pipe dreams in Iraq at the expense of our soldiers' lives and at the expense of greater threats in Afghanistan and Pakistan and now the chicken has come home to roost.
Posted By Anonymous Jason : 1:52 PM ET
Reza,

I think axelrod needs to sue you for libel.

NOBODY. I repeat NOBODY ACCUSED CLINTON OF KILLING BHUTTO. And you know it. And you have people ignorantly commenting on this blog. If you read the PROPER reporting of this in the NYT, you'd see why this is a long-term national security question.

You're a total disgrace to journalism. And by the way, I'm supporting Hillary Clinton, and I'm sure you do too. But I'm a good christian and a person with a conscience. I would not bow low to this kind of dirty politics to misrepresent a rival campaign at the 11th hour.
Posted By Anonymous Sarah-Jane : 2:09 PM ET
The forest which seems to be getting lost but for the trees is that the choices we make with respect to the dispensing of our limited resources have consequences.

A choice to allocate troops and treasure into looking for wmd's and nation-building in Iraq meant there were less available to seek out Bin Laden in Afghanistan.

A choice to commit to a grand-scale overhaul of Iraq that stood a high likelihood of fostering widespread resentment and discontent meant there was always a possibility instability could ripple across the region.

The money's run out, we're $9 trillion in debt, social security's at risk, oil prices have skyrocketed, the troops are exhausted, and China is thriving. To posit that Hillary's choices led to the conditions that resulted in Bhutto's death is a bit of a stretch, but there were definitely consequences to her choices which one shouldn't dismiss as mere 'politicking' in these important times.
Posted By Anonymous Sam : 2:10 PM ET
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