The way that the reports have been coming out with respect to Bhutto’s death is not totally surprising. The fact that there are differing facts emerging is also not surprising – although the conflicting and “evolving” stories regarding just how she died, who is taking responsibility and who is pointing fingers (not to mention where the fingers are being pointed) is a bit more disturbing.
First it was bullets, then no bullets but shrapnel, then no bullets or shrapnel but the sunroof of the car causing so much force that blood was covering much of the interior of her car (warning – pics that you may not want to see) with no head wound takes this into the lone-gunman-with-bad-rifle-and-worse-angle-and-magic-bullet territory.
What is even more questionable here is that the Interior Ministry was claiming that there was no wound from the attack and at the same time blaming al Qaeda for the attack on Bhutto’s life. And, just for good measure, we can throw in the police abandoning their posts while Bhutto was still in the area – reminiscent of , if not necessarily on par with the last minute changes to JFK’s route in Dallas, the Secret Service being told to stand down and the lack of other measures taken to protect Kennedy.
Now, this may or may not be what we are told it appears to be at this point. But there are parallels that can already be drawn which require answers now – before more theories are put forth and can’t be verified or discounted. With no autopsy being performed (as one contributor at TalkingPointsMemo points out):
I am not a forensic pathologist, and so my opinions should be taken with something of a grain of salt. However, as a pediatrician, I see a fair amount of head injuries, both acutely and in follow-up. I find the explanations coming from Pakistan regarding the mechanism of Bhutto’s demise to be unconvincing, to say the least. If they are positing that Ms. Bhutto died from an essentially self-inflicted injury while ducking, I find that contention absurd. It is implausible in the extreme that she would have generated sufficient velocity in ducking that short distance to sustain a skull fracture, much less a fatal head injury that would have prevented emergent resuscitation. And yes, any reasonably competent physician would be able to distinguish between a gunshot wound, a shrapnel injury and a skull fracture, open or closed. Further, if no post-mortem was done, it is essentially impossible for them to attribute the cause of death to a head injury, unless it was an open head injury. Traumatic brain injury as a cause of death cannot be effectively diagnosed by visual inspection alone. If an open head injury is supposedly the cause of death, shrapnel is a much more likely cause of the injury than ducking. I find their explanation patently preposterous.
So, the internal bleeding that had to have been caused by the sunroof was so severe that the inside of the car was covered with blood, but this cause of death apparently doesn’t seem likely – especially without a more detailed examination than was done.
As for the “it was al Qaeda’s fault” – well, that certainly is plausible, even if it is some group that is sort of affiliated with al Qaeda but hasn’t taken responsibility for the assassination. There were many who wanted Bhutto killed – al Qaeda among them. But what threat did she actually pose to al Qaeda? She was the US hand picked puppet who was once and could have again been a popular leader. But her terms as Prime Minister were littered with corruption charges, and she may not have been nearly as effective as many would have thought.
All of that notwithstanding, the excuse of “eliminating a friend of the United States” doesn’t seem to be the general reasoning for al Qaeda to be responsible for assassinating a figure such as Bhutto. Of course, this may very well turn out to be true, but “some communication between al Qaeda members that was intercepted” doesn’t seem to be all that convincing – at least not yet. It certainly doesn’t seem as though she would be able to take a very hard line against them – even if she was very outspoken against religious extremists. While she would have certainly been more of “an issue” for the Taliban and al Qaeda, it is difficult to imagine her doing more than reversing the “wink and a nod” approach that Musharraf has been taking – even more so with a power sharing agreement between Bhutto and Musharraf.
The assassination attempt against her recently also had some strange elements to it, as noted by Gareth Porter:
Bhutto had been the object of an assassination attempt in Karachi two months ago under circumstances that raised suspicions of official complicity. The street lights had suddenly failed to work, making the would-be assassin’s work easier, despite protests by her staff.
After that attempt, Bhutto believed elements in and close to the military aligned with the extremists wanted her dead. “I know exactly who wants to kill me,” “They are dignitaries of General Zia’s former regime who are behind extremism and fanaticism,” she told the French magazine Paris-Match. She pointed specifically to the army’s powerful Inter-Services Intelligence agency, which was instrumental in creating the Taliban regime and has been managing Pakistan’s alliance with the Taliban — and al Qaeda — ever since.
The fact that Musharraf stepped down from his military leadership post doesn’t have as much bearing as it would seem in terms of his supporters. He was (and is) very unpopular, with approval levels hovering in the Cheney territory. And while I am not in any way pointing the finger at him for Bhutto’s death, Musharraf was in an interesting position. A man with few supporters but those who supported him were pretty powerful and loyal to him. He was losing his grip on power and is more interested in keeping whatever power he can than he is in placating Bush or Cheney in the “WarOnTerror(TM)”. And it certainly can be argued that Musharraf would have much damage to his political life as a result of this as well.
But, it is not out of the question for certain elements in the very powerful ISI to be in cahoots with elements of the Taliban or al Qaeda. And it merits explanation as to why the police suddenly left their posts, why there was no autopsy (even if it was put out there that this was requested), why the stories kept changing – with all of the changing stories coming from the Interior Ministry and not the doctors and why so many different explanations, accusations and charges are being thrown out with respect to the cause of death and those who are responsible for her death.
When nearly all of the changing stories and accusations are coming from the same place, it warrants even more scrutiny.