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Who Killed Benazir Bhutto?

Who Killed Benazir Bhutto?
*by Rami G. KhouriReleased: 28 Dec 2007

BEIRUT -- The tragic assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir
Bhutto will engulf Pakistan in grief and turmoil. Her death symbolizes
the wider calamity that envelops us all -- throughout the Middle East,
Asia, Europe, and the United States. The real significance of this
latest killing -- and the others that are sure to follow -- is not their
surprise, but rather how common, almost inevitable, this sort of event
has become in our part of the world. If we wish to end this horror show
engulfing more Arab-Asian regions and increasingly sucking in American
and other Western armies, we should start getting serious about what it
means and why it happens.

We should largely dismiss the many exhortations we will now hear about
democracy, stability, restraint, terrorism, and patience in the face of
extremism. These are increasingly vacuous appeals by leaders who
willfully ignore a central, miserable reality in which they participate:
Much of the vast region from North Africa and the Middle East to south
Asia is now routinely defined by political violence as an everyday fact
of life.

A telltale sign in Pakistan today, as it has been in Lebanon for years,
and in many other similarly scarred countries, is that we can identify
multiple plausible culprits because so many political people -- good
guys and bad guys alike -- kill on the job.

Bhutto, her father, and brother have all been assassinated, as have been
successive generations of other political families, in Arab and Asian
countries. The lack of novelty is another telling sign that should
clarify for us the wider meaning of this crime, beyond Pakistan. After
grieving for one family and one country, we must react to the chronic
nature of political violence by trying to understand the entire
phenomenon, rather than its isolated, episodic manifestations.

An honest beginning in this direction would be to acknowledge that
political violence does not occur in a historical vacuum. Lone gunmen,
local militias, suicide terrorists, state armies, and even
democratically elected leaders in dozens of countries have all become
players in an extensive global drama. On this stage, the use of force is
an everyday event -- the threat of force is never off the table. It
makes little difference if this is the work of democratic or dictatorial
leaders: Dead children and war-ravaged societies do not value such

When the military and political violence of democrats and dictators goes
on for several generations, social values are distorted, and human
values are disjointed. It does not matter if this occurs in Pakistan,
Egypt, Algeria, Kazakhstan, Northern Ireland, or pre-democratic southern
Europe. The absence of credible governance systems based on the rule of
law and the equal rights of all citizens slowly pushes citizens and
rulers alike to rely on the law of the jungle. They use death and
intimidation, rather than electoral or accountable legitimacy, to make
their point, to perpetuate their incumbency, and to eliminate their

When everyone uses violence and intimidation as a routine, daily
expression of their political aims, when terrorists and presidents use
firepower to lay down the law, the circle of culpability widens like the
ripples from a pebble thrown into a pond. It is becoming harder and
harder to tell the difference between gunmen, gangs, and governments --
in Asia, the Middle East and parts of the West -- when the chronic use
of violence and lawlessness makes death and assassinations routine, and
subsequently inevitable.

We will hear passionate appeals this week about courage, democracy, and
terror, from presidents, kings and warlords alike. These emperors appear
increasingly naked as they exhort us to higher values. It is hard to
take them seriously -- these Asians, Arabs, Americans, Israelis,
Iranians, Turks, Europeans, Africans and anyone else who wishes to stand
up and be recognized. These pontificating presidents, kings, and
warlords who preach about life and democracy have spent the last
generation sending their armies to war, overthrowing regimes,
authorizing covert assassinations, arming gangs and militias, trading
weapons for political favors, buying protection from thugs, cozying up
to terrorists, lauding autocrats, making deals with dictators,
imprisoning tens of thousands of foes, torturing at will, thumbing their
nose at the UN Charter, buying and bullying judges, ignoring true
democrats, and blindly refusing even to hear the simple demands of their
own citizens for minimum decency and dignity.

I have spent my entire adult life in the Middle East -- since the 1970s
-- watching leaders being assassinated, foreign armies topple
governments, local colonels seize power, foreign occupations persist for
decades, the rule of law get thrown in the garbage, constitutions being
ignored, and, in the end, ordinary people finally deciding that they
will not remain outside of history, or invisible in their own societies.
Instead, they decide to write themselves into the violent and criminal
scripts. They kill, as they have been killed. Having been dehumanized in
turn, they will embrace inhumanity and brutality.

Who killed Benazir Bhutto? We all killed her, in east and west, Orient
and Occident, north and south. We of the globalized beastly generation
that transformed political violence from an occasional crime to an
ideology and an addiction.

/Rami G. Khouri is an internationally syndicated columnist, the director
of the Issam Fares Institute at the American University of Beirut,
editor-at-large of the Beirut-based/ Daily Star/, and co-laureate of the
2006 Pax Christi International Peace Award./

Copyright ©2007 Rami G. Khouri / Agence Global

Released: 28 December 2007
Word Count: 848

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