The Nelson Report on Bhutto Assassination

-

Chris Nelson is correct that while the world is debating the state of democracy in Pakistan — the military and intel elites are worried about what they should be concerned about — the nukes.
Here is today’s Nelson Report in full:

The Nelson Report, 27 December 2007
PAKISTAN SITUATION. . .predictable? Nukes safe. . .

SUMMARY: the assassination of Benazir Bhutto is one of those horrible “shocking surprises”. . .something expected at almost any time since her dramatic return after 8 years of exile, but the event itself is stunning.
At the risk of sounding callous to the predicament of the Pakistani people. . . for the world, key questions tonight are whether the military will be able to keep control of the nuclear weapons arsenal. . .and, is there a risk that Pakistan will literally blow-up into uncontrollable chaos, and so spill-over into the region?
Answers, based on hurried consultation this afternoon with authoritative US sources, are “reassuring” in a crude sense: the nukes are under control, nothing happening now, including the likely imposition of martial law by President Musharraf, is expected to change that situation for the worse.
Experts warn that if the current violence extends from Karachi, Ms. Bhutto’s PPP party stronghold, to Lahore, home of the military leadership. . .that will be Musharraf’s decision-point.
Suspicion as to the killer/killers must include lower ranking Pakistani military. . .so look to see if renewed attempts are made on President Musharraf and other political figures. The assumption is that Al Qaeda and/or Taliban were involved in today’s events. . .and if so, it would be “logical” for further assassination attacks to be launched against Pakistan’s leadership.
Indeed, as unwelcome in principle as martial law is, the immediate chaos and risk of violence in Pakistan’s major cities probably means it is the best of a bad situation, short and even medium-term. Setting aside the nukes, does that situation pose a threat to the region? Stay tuned for the next 24-48 hours. Again, the prediction, or conclusion, however reluctantly given, is based on a martial law response and the assumption. . .presumption. . .that “order will be restored” however painfully.
Regional risk assessment must include India’s reaction. In recent months, the rising uncertainties in Pakistan have caused India to beef-up troops along the Kashmir border. Our experts note that bilaterally, professionals on both sides of the India/Pakistan border have been working to reduce tensions, so for now, the risk is seen as coming from Kashmiri separatists trying to capitalize on the situation by somehow provoking India.
Continued domestic unrest. . .and/or the need to pull troops from the Afghan border. . .clearly will not help US interests, or regional stability.
What about the US goal of free elections as scheduled Jan 8? Seemingly impossible, for obvious reasons. And if re-scheduled, the PPP must designate another candidate. This may prove either impossible or essentially meaningless, since politics in Pakistan is intensely “personal” and Ms. Bhutto was really all the PPP had to offer.
Her husband may seem the logical pick, but his well-earned reputation for corruption and mendacity exceeds even her record, during her second term. . .so not a happy choice.
“Saudi Arabia’s” candidate, former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, or Imran Khan, are expected to try to move to the front of the political pack, but our experts. . .looking at a situation which, obviously, can change overnight. . .do not think either gentleman will be able to capitalize (one almost uses the word “profit”) from Ms. Bhutto’s murder.
For now, Nawaz is saying he won’t be a candidate so long as Musharraf stays in power, so one of the things we need to find out is whether he has ties to the military. . .and not just to Riyadh. . .and is hoping to see what comes his way.
Flawed as she was, Ms. Bhutto was really the only “candidate” the US had with the capacity to make and enforce some kind of a deal with Musharraf, and to set in motion a return to something resembling normal political life and liberalization.Right now, US policy is in shambles. Is there no hope?
Our experts say if some semblance of order can be restored, and something resembling a real election scheduled, and held, perhaps former caretaker Prime Minister Qureshi. . .or, more likely, Chief Justice Chaudhry, fired by Musharraf. . .may gain mass public support as an alternative to military rule.
Recall that Chaudhry’s sacking, which set off the dramatic “lawyers revolt”, saw well-dressed professionals in the streets. . .by the thousands. It was seen at the time as “the collapse of the center” which might herald a collapse of the Musharraf regime.
But for the next day or so, perhaps through the weekend, basically “all hell will break loose”. . .not a pretty picture, and a real tragedy in the Shakespearean sense, an historic change with unforseeable consequence.

Excellent, quick analysis by Chris Nelson.
I’ll offer more on the implications of Bhutto’s assassination and politics in Iowa after I get to Carson City, Nevada tomorrow.
— Steve Clemons

Comments

15 comments on “The Nelson Report on Bhutto Assassination

  1. Dipesh says:

    Well, Bhutto’s Assasination was seriously a shocking incident,various political leaders are assuring that full investigations will be done, in order to solve the whole issue, this was the worst impact of terrorism, that the world had witnessed!

    Reply

  2. Dipesh says:

    Well, Bhutto’s Assasination was seriously a shocking incident,various political leaders are assuring that full investigations will be done, in order to solve the whole issue, this was the worst impact of terrorism, that the world had witnessed!

    Reply

  3. Chesire11 says:

    “Suspicion as to the killer/killers must include lower ranking Pakistani military”
    Although the possibility of direct military involvement in the assassination cannot be completely discounted, this sounds like the least likely scenario to me. Had the assassin not blown himself up, I would entertain the possibility of direct military involvement, but suicide attacks are the hallmark of fanatics, not career military men. Certainly, it is possible that radicals within the military were responsible for the attack, but in that case, I would suggest that their military credentials were incidental – they killed her to advance a radical agenda rather than a military one.
    Of course, I am no area expert on Pakistan, so you can take all of that for what it’s worth (not much!).
    What really stands out to me about the American involvement in this whole affair is that, even after almost eight years experience, this administration is still hopelessly amateurish in formulating policy. Yet again, we find that Bush/Cheney/Rice and the rest of the crew have shaped our foreign policy around their obsession with individual actors with reliably disastrous outcomes.
    After meeting Putin, Bush declared that he had “looked into his soul” and determined he was a man who could be trusted. Obsession with Saddam Hussein infused every argument in favor of invading Iraq (at the eleventh hour, we even offered not to invade if he would abdicate). The Iraqi insurgency was attributed not to tensions between the Sunni and Shiite communities, lack of planning for the occupation or nationalist hatred of foreign occupiers, but to Saddam Hussein and his sons, then to Muqtada al-Sadr, then al-Zarqawi. Fallujah was leveled because a few American contractors were hung from a bridge there. Mahmoud Ahmedinejad’s belligerent, but empty rhetoric provides reason to gin up a war with Iran. The list runs on and on…
    Rather than building policy on rational analysis of all parties national interests and capabilities, and a grasp of the internal dynamics of other countries, in a white hat (whether they fit or not) and proceed accordingly. Consequently, we built our entire Pakistan policy on the assumption that Benazir Bhutto would win the next election and enhance our influence over Musharraf (our ex-white hat in Lahore). Now that Bhutto is gone we are left with nothing to show for our efforts but another lit fuse.
    After almost eight years of practice, these guys are still not ready for prime time.

    Reply

  4. Carroll says:

    Think Pakistan is bad?
    Click on this for an even better nightmare.
    http://www.jta.org/cgi-bin/iowa/home/index.html
    This combination would make me give up my idealist vow to quit voting for the lesser of all evils and go straight for whoever the dems nominate.

    Reply

  5. Jeff Hutt says:

    Has anybody considered the money trail? Supposedly Bhutto had nearly £740 million frozen in Swiss banks. This money would be released if the amnesty deal of October would have gone through. What happens to the money now, and who profits? I think these are real questions worth asking.

    Reply

  6. serge says:

    I’m willing to accept that she wasn’t perfect, but Ms Bhutto’s killing scares the living crap out of me.

    Reply

  7. Carroll says:

    One of my earthy friends mailed me today with the suggestion we institute the Dog Policy in our foreign affairs.
    If you can’t h*** it or eat it, piss on it and walk on by.
    Makes more sense than what we are doing now.

    Reply

  8. Pernicious Pavlovian says:

    Pakistan President For Life, Perv Musharraf, will be deposed. It is inevitable. Probably a lot sooner than later given the assassination of Ms. Bhutto. It’s just another fine mess the Bush gang of war criminals has created by their bungling and inept foreign policy. Someone ought to ask old Shotgun Cheney if he’s got a “remedy” for this twist of fate. Perv will be “assassinated” in turn and then…Pakistan’s nuclear weapons become a significant problem for the entire planet.

    Reply

  9. rich says:

    I’d have to agree–but respectfully question–Cook’s statement that:
    “for the world, key questions tonight are whether the military will be able to keep control of the nuclear weapons arsenal.”
    The Pakistani military was NOT able to keep control of its nuclear weapons arsenal prior to this juncture, as evidenced by the free market sales of AQ Khan’s nuclear expertise. Agreed those nukes are a concern–but Bush didn’t keep his eye on the ball when proliferation was his stated priority/nominal concern and Pakistan was relatively tranquil.
    Cook, again:
    ” . . and, is there a risk that Pakistan will literally blow-up into uncontrollable chaos, and so spill-over into the region?”
    Agreed–but Pakistan HAS been a platform for delivering violence/terror across its borders into Iran, Afghanistan, and very likely other nations. It’s military has long-standing and well-developed ties to & cooperative relations with religious extremists & terrorist groups, includingthe Taliban & al Quaeda.
    It’s a grievous error to equate Pakistan’s military with secular or moderate forces.
    Just as Scott Paul observed that pro-democracy politicians may be corrupt–something never proven in a court of law–so too it must be said: taking off a military uniform and putting an a suit and tie does not make Musharraf a civilian, nor a democrat–nor a moderate.
    Cook:
    “Answers, based on hurried consultation this afternoon with authoritative US sources, are “reassuring” in a crude sense.
    Cook does stellar work. Still, these “authoritative US sources” need to be named, publicly, and their evidence cited and examined, in the cold light of day.
    Even before this assassination—attributed by Bhutto herself to Musharraf, who pulled security protection and repeatedly refused to reinstate it over the past several days—the policies and anonymous sources leading us to this sorry pass had already wreaked great damage to America’s national security. Bhutto’s assassination is just the exclamation point.
    It’s foolish to think Musharraf’s acting on America’s behalf or in our interest: the extent to which he coordinates with current U.S. policy is the extent to which Musharraf’s relationship with Washington–and to terror networks–must be examined publicly, in full.
    Eight+ years teaches one great lesson: Secrecy is no friend, necessarily, to national security. The average American citizen can sniff out this kinda wrongheaded thing, if given the chance, and that’s Precisely what American democracy was founded to accomplish.
    If they (Bush, American intel) don’t have anything to hide, they shouldn’t have anything to worry about. Cuts across a lot of issues, but that has to be said when American character & law is so openly turned on its head.
    At minimum, I’d like to know who those “authoritative sources” are before taking their reassurances on faith. That ‘approach’ — that dictated circumstance — has hurt, not helped us, and allowed Khan to proceed unmolested.
    It’s long past time to get this right.

    Reply

  10. Dirk says:

    Well, this truly is terrible news. As tainted as B. Bhutto was N. Sharif is worse.
    But, Sharif is not likely to move to the “front of the political pack” as Chris puts it. This is because when he was exiled by Musharraf he was exiled and banned for 10 years and although Musharraf allowed him back in the country, he is still banned from running for office.
    The election will probably be held on time with second tier candidates for Prime Minister with Musharraf remaining as President.
    Good luck Pakistan for both of our sakes.

    Reply

  11. karenk says:

    Very illogical,risky, to get into an armored vehicle then pop out the sunroof when the crowd is pressed so close to the car, knowing lots of people want you dead and they’ve already tried once. Makes you wonder…Also, that Al Qaeda is pretty efficient at ticking off their kill list, if they are behind it. She hasn’t been back that long. Could Musharref be next? What would our plan be then?

    Reply

  12. Robert Morrow says:

    Bhutto was as crooked as Bill Clinton’s ____. No wonder the Islamists hate us. Her husband’s nickname was Mr. 5% or Mr. 10%, meaning that he wanted a 5-10% kickback on every deal coming out of Pakistan.

    Reply

  13. Easy E says:

    A former CIA analyst stated awhile back that the three most powerful interests shaping U.S. Foreign Policy are (1) Oil, (2) the Defense Industry, and (3) Israel.
    It would appear that the U.S. Military Industrial Complex (#2, Defense Industry) benefits in one form or another from the latest Bhutto tragedy…..not to mention the rest of the perpetual conflicts consuming much of the Third World.

    Reply

  14. RonK, Seattle says:

    Bhutto was US Plan B, and a major share of US Plan A … but we must have contemplated this contingency. What was US Plan C?

    Reply

Add your comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *