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Monday, January 14, 2008

Another Original LR Translation: Illarionov on Bhutto (by our Original Translator)

NOTE: The noted Russian author (shown above, right, with Benazir Bhutto, former Primer Minister of Pakistan), a former Kremlin insider, compares Russia and Pakistan, and finds that Russia is in some ways the more desperate of the two. In the forum that follows the article, several readers commented grimly that while tens of thousands of Pakistanis took to the streets to protest Bhutto's murder, only a few hundred Russians could bestir themselves to protest their own rigged parliamentary elections.

The Word and the Bullet

Andrey Illarionov

Yezhednevniy Zhurnal

January 10, 2008

On December 27, 2007 Benazir Bhutto, twice the Prime Minister of Pakistan, the leader of the opposition People’s Party, and the sure victor in 2008 parliamentary elections, was assassinated in a terrorist attack in Rawalpindi.

Three months before her death Benazir Bhutto appeared before a large gathering of representatives from the American political, economic and intellectual elite. Her presentation simply captivated the auditorium. No matter what the topic, she demonstrated astonishing erudition, clarity of thought and lightning speed in her responses. And all this with a surprising sense of tact, respect for her interlocutors and conviction in her own position. With what grace she carried herself! When the thin scarf that lightly covered her head slipped momentarily to her shoulders, one simply had to see it, the genuinely royal gesture with which she replaced it!

In the hall were several former U.S. Secretaries of State and Defense, along with a number of high-ranking officials from the current Administration. The topic of discussion was U.S. - Pakistan relations. Bhutto talked about the mistakes the U.S. had made in this relationship, and what heavy consequences followed from America’s support for the military regime - consequences for Pakistan, for South Asia as a whole, and America itself. One of the former U.S. Secretaries of Defense tried to object. Bhutto’s response was instantaneous, parrying the objection with several examples. And she did this with such conviction, so perfectly pointing out the horrible failures of the Pentagon’s actions in those very years when her questioner was its leader that the latter sat back down with a gloomy expression, not daring to pose any further questions.

At the end of her presentation the entire hall rose and gave Benazir Bhutto a standing ovation. One should note that the American establishment is not easily won over. It has seen it all, and is not known for its sentimentality, especially toward those who publicly flay America for its mistakes. But all five hundred participants in the event (with a total net worth of probably several hundred billion dollars) stood and applauded this brave woman in a white Muslim headscarf, finding themselves enraptured and unable to resist the genuine miracle that had just taken place before them.

One of the U.S. presidential candidates had addressed the same audience a few hours before Benazir. Without a doubt, the possible future U.S. President did not receive one-tenth the applause, attention and praise that was lavished on this former Prime Minister of a foreign country. That same evening, under the deafening roar of applause, the organizers of the conference in almost total seriousness urged Bhutto to run for president of their own country.

I talked for awhile with Benazir Bhutto. Naturally, the discussion turned to the political situation in our two countries, Pakistan and Russia. And naturally as well, we noted more than a few parallels.

Both Pakistan and Russia are large, developing countries with diversified economies and a diversity of internal regions. In both countries the intelligence services were never brought fully under control by a civilian government. In both countries for the past eight years all power has been held by intelligence and military officers. In both countries, all the institutions of modern governance - separation of powers, independence of the legislative and judicial branches, an independent press - have been systematically destroyed. Both countries have had their epic struggles against the regime - in Pakistan from the bar association, in Russia from the Yukos oil company. In both countries the main means by which the regime interacts with is people is brute, demonstrative force. In both countries there are border regions that are poorly controlled by the central government, but which the intelligence services actively use as places to iron out their methods and recruit assassins. In both countries the victims of terrorist attacks are leaders of the press and public opinion – politicians, activists and journalists. In both countries the clients and authors of contract killings are the masters of bullet and bomb.

In Pakistan they killed Benazir’s father, the former Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, two of her brothers, and thousands of pro-democracy advocates.

In Russia they killed Aleksandr Men, Larisa Yudina, Galina Starovoytova, Nikolai Girenko, Sergey Yushenkov, Yuri Shchekochikhin, Anna Politkovskaya, Aleksandr Litvinenko, Yuri Chervochkin, hundreds of residents of the apartment towers blown up in Fall 1999, members of the audience in the “Nord-Ost” theater raid, schoolchildren and parents at Beslan, and tens of thousands in the Northern Caucuses. In Ukraine they killed Vyacheslav Chornovil, the leader of parliament and leading presidential candidate in 1999, and poisoned the presidential candidate Viktor Yushchenko in 2004.

Terror is used against leaders of the press and public opinion because people listen to them and follow them by the thousands and millions. Because unlike intelligence agents, public opinion leaders are influential. And not only influential, but genuinely powerful as well – in their words, their convictions, and the support they receive from millions of followers. In the battle of words, the secret police are doomed. The have nothing with which to oppose the leaders of public opinion except terror. Terror is the weapon of losers, of the defeated, of those who don’t stand a chance in normal, peaceful, human life.

The word is the argument of the strong. The bullet - the argument of the weak. The question most frequently asked of Bhutto by participants at the event three months ago was, “Won’t it be dangerous for you to return to Pakistan?” Benazir invariably replied: “I cannot not return. They are waiting for me at home.” These words reflect the main difference between the leaders of public opinion and the Masters of Cloak, Dagger and Bullet. People await the first. The second need only themselves. The first are flooded with letters. But no one writes to the Colonels (intelligence officers). The first are remembered with gratitude and reverence. The second are cursed for eternity.

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