12/27/2007 06:07 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Who Profits When the Bhuttos Are Assassinated?

The old quip that was tossed out about Richard Nixon and his role in the Watergate debacle was: What did he know and when did he know it. We can also add: Who stood to gain the most from the discrediting or the outright elimination of his political opponents and popular critics? As subsequent events more than revealed, Nixon knew a lot, and did a lot to discredit and eliminate (politically and personally) his opponents and critics. It's almost always painfully true that far too many government higher-ups will go to any lengths to discredit their political opponents or the radical critics of their policies when they are seen to pose a direct threat.

The Nixon quip amply applies to the horrific and cowardly murder of former Pakistan Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. What did her opponents know, and that starts with the man at the top, President Pervez Musharraf, and when did they know it about the murder? The two other names of slain non-government leaders that immediately came to mind when news of the Bhutto killing broke were Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X. The circumstances surrounding their assassinations bear an uncanny similarity to Bhutto's and again tragically underscore the point that political opponents are always at mortal risk to wind up victims of political murder when they are seen as threats. It's equally tragic that some government agencies are indirectly complicit in their killings by turning a blind eye to the danger of assassination, ignoring or covering up details of the killing, and whitewashing their final report on the assassination.

In the King and Malcolm X assassinations we know this. Both received numerous death threats. There was an attempt on Malcolm's life weeks before his assassination. Their repeated demands for police and FBI protection were shrugged off. The police were strangely absent from the scene at the moment of King and Malcolm's killings. Undercover police officers and government agents maintained relentless tabs on them physically and electronically. Investigators quickly ruled out any government involvement in their deaths, knowledge of any plots against them, or any negligence in the failure to provide adequate protection for them. The final and official report on their assassinations predictably concluded that the murderer of King was a hate filled, embittered delusional racist (the standard lone nut theory) or in the case of Malcolm, he was killed by his own group, the Black Muslims.

There is absolutely no proof that the government had any direct involvement in the two assassinations. Yet, the deaths removed from the scene two outspoken, fierce government critics, and almost certainly their deaths did not prompt any tears to be shed by some political leaders and government agencies from the FBI that hounded and harassed King mercilessly to New York's Police Department's hyper-secretive Bureau of Special Services (BOSS) that shadowed Malcolm everywhere.

With the Bhutto assassination, the parallels with King and Malcolm X are striking. Here's what we know. Bhutto received numerous death threats. The government was well aware of them but took no action to ramp up protection for her. In fact, even after she was warned of other possible assassination plots against her, the police guard around her Karachi home was reduced. Bhutto repeatedly demanded to know if a "high government official" had ordered the street lights turned off on the street she drove down before the earlier assassination attempt against her that claimed dozens of lives. The government refused to bring in the outside forensic teams and investigators that she requested to probe the attack. Some government officials eagerly pointed the finger of blame for the attack at her political party.

In the assassinations of King and Malcolm X, the investigation was carefully micro managed and massaged to insure that there was absolutely no hint of even indirect complicity or negligence in their murders. As the Mishear government officially sorts out the sordid details of Bhutto's murder, it almost certainly will carefully micro manage and massage the details and facts of the killing to insure that there is absolutely no finger of blame pointed directly at Musharraf, the military, or Bhutto's political opponents.

Her murder won't change this fact. Bhutto, King and Malcolm X were popular and fierce government critics that championed social and political reforms and could rally thousands of persons to their cause. Their murders did not benefit the legions that want and demand social change and looked to them to be their voice for that change. The odds were good that in a clean and fair election Bhutto would have toppled Musharraf, been a thorn in the side of the military and Islamic fundamentalists, and given impetus to democratic reform. The answer to the question then who benefits when the Bhuttos are assassinated shouldn't be to hard to figure out.

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