Thursday, December 27, 2007

The Indispensable Voice

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 389

There aren't words - and believe me, every one of us with a keyboard and an internet connection, or a typewriter, or a pen and paper, have spent hours today trying to come up with some - to describe the utter chaos, hopelessness and despair arising from today's assassination of Benazir Bhutto. Such incidents have occurred in our own country, decades past, and we are still dealing with the after effects.

There are some leaders who speak to their people in a voice heard but once in a generation. For Pakistan, Benazir Bhutto was one of these. She was human, with vices as well as virtues, blindness as well as vision. But at this moment in history, her voice was indispensable, and, echo though it may in time to come, its absence now dooms her country to turmoil and the wider world to further uncertainty.

Here at home, far away in America, and, as it can often seem, farther away still in Iowa, these events strike at a pivotal moment in our own process of choosing our next leader. This is a somber and sobering moment, calling for leadership, and wisdom, and sound judgment. And, most inconveniently for many of us here in Iowa, it troubles our assumptions, our inclinations and our decisions exactly one week before we're required to render the first binding judgment on the field of candidates seeking to lead us in these times.

To those of us confronting our choices in light of these events, I commend to you Joe Biden, and his statements and bearing at a press conference in Des Moines today addressing the situation in Pakistan. The clip below is about twelve minutes long, but more than worth the investment of your time in watching.

What makes this clip extraordinary is that it marks but the latest chapter in Joe Biden's deep engagement on Pakistan, going back not weeks or months, but years. He knows Pakistan's leaders and the issues confronting them, and as the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has long worked to help the people of Pakistan regain their democracy. Biden is not, by any means, the only candidate in this race who has given thought to Pakistan, but he is, perhaps, the only one who has been obliged to reckon with it as a regular part of his day job.

Pakistan has lost an indispensable voice today. In America, Joe Biden is an indispensable voice of our own. I don't know what the future, political or otherwise, holds. I don't know if my hopes will be fulfilled and Joe Biden will be elected president. But I do know we are all the stronger for his running, all the wiser for his speaking, and all the braver for his courage. Joe Biden is the indispensable American voice in these times.

Biden Issues Statement on the Assassination of Benazir Bhutto

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 389

Joe Biden's Senate office has released the following statement on the assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.

Washington, DC – Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Joseph R. Biden, Jr. (D-DE) issued the following statement today after the assassination of Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto:

“This is a terrible day. My heart goes out to Benazir Bhutto’s family, friends and followers.

“Like her father before her, Benazir Bhutto worked her whole life – and gave her life – to help Pakistan become a democratic, secular and modern Muslim country. She was a woman of extraordinary courage who returned to Pakistan in the face of death threats and even after an assassination attempt the day of her return, she did not flinch. It was a privilege to know her these many years and to call her a friend.

“I am convinced Ms. Bhutto would have won free and fair elections next week. The fact that she was by far Pakistan’s most popular leader underscores the fact that there is a vast, moderate majority in Pakistan that must have a clear voice in the system. Her assassination makes it all the more urgent that Pakistan return to a democratic path.

“This fall, I twice urged President Musharraf to provide better security for Ms. Bhutto and other political leaders – I wrote him before her return and after the first assassination attempt in October. The failure to protect Ms. Bhutto raises a lot of hard questions for the government and security services that must be answered.

“I know that Benazir’s followers will be tempted to lash out in anger and violence. I urge them to remain calm – and not play into the hands of the forces of destruction. I urge Pakistan’s leaders to open a fully accountable and transparent investigation. We must find out who was behind this and bring those responsible to justice. And the United States should offer any assistance necessary, including investigative teams, to get to the bottom of this horror.

“The way to honor Benazir Bhutto is to uphold the values for which she gave her life: democracy, moderation and social justice. I join with the Pakistani people in mourning the loss of a dear friend.”


On October 24, 2007, Senator Biden wrote to Pakistan’s President Pervaiz Musharraf expressing the need for effective security for all candidates – particularly Benazir Bhutto – who would be participating in the upcoming election. Sen. Biden had previously written President Musharraf in September before Ms. Bhutto returned to Pakistan, urging him to provide her with full security. The full text of the October letter, signed also by Senators Leahy and Lieberman, is below:

October 24, 2007

President Pervaiz Musharraf
c/o The Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan
3517 International Court, NW
Washington, DC 20008

Dear President Musharraf:

We write to express our sympathy for the tremendous loss suffered by Pakistan in the October 18 suicide attack during a rally welcoming Pakistan Peoples Party leader Benazir Bhutto. The brutal murder of 140 Pakistani citizens in Karachi was a senseless tragedy, and we extend our condolences to you, to the victims’ families, and to all of the people of Pakistan.

We believe this devastating attack serves as a stark reminder of the need for effective security mechanisms for the protection of all candidates and their supporters (particularly, although not exclusively, Ms. Bhutto and members of her party), who will be participating in the coming election. To this end, we ask you to take the following points under close consideration, as you and your government develop a plan to confront these serious challenges:

1. We believe it is very important to the democratic process that Ms. Bhutto be provided the full level of security support customarily afforded to any former Pakistani Prime Minister. One of the most important security provisions would be government-provided bomb-proof vehicles and jamming equipment, in order to protect Ms. Bhutto and other senior political leaders from roadside bombs and improvised explosive devices.
2. We are troubled by allegations—well-founded or not— of potential links between certain currently-serving or retired military or intelligence officials and extremist forces who might target secular politicians. In order to dispel any suspicion of complicity on the part of any past or present government officials, we urge you to ensure that any individual involved in (or alleged to have been involved in) past political action against Ms. Bhutto and her supporters be excluded from any part of the former prime minister’s security detail.
3. We urge you to refrain from using security concerns as a rationale for imposing a ban on political rallies. We believe your government, like the governments of other nations afflicted by the scourge of terrorism, can adequately protect political leaders and their supporters without stifling the democratic process.
4. We urge the government of Pakistan to conduct a thorough and transparent inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the attack of October 18. We also encourage the government of Pakistan to accept whatever forensic, intelligence, and investigatory support from outside countries might be necessary to ensure a successful outcome to this inquiry. If the resources of the U.S. government would be helpful in bringing the perpetrators of this terrible assault on innocent Pakistanis to justice, we stand ready to facilitate the provision of such resources in any way we are able to do so.

We share the pain that you, and all Pakistanis, suffered at the brutal murder of 140 of your fellow citizens. We continue to believe in the critical importance of a strong friendship between the people of United States and Pakistan.


Joseph R. Biden, Jr.
United States Senator

Joseph I. Lieberman
United States Senator

Patrick J. Leahy
United States Senator


New Biden Ad: "Office"

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 389

Joe Biden has a new ad up in Iowa. Titled "Office," the 30-second spot makes the case that Biden's has the experience to clearly see the challenges facing our country and the statesmanship to meet those challenges as our next president.

Here's the script:

ANNOUNCER: We don't have to imagine the crises the next president will face. Ending the war, and bringing our sons and daughters home safe. Keeping nuclear weapons out of the hands of terrorists.

For 35 years, Joe Biden has been tested, and made the tough decisions that have protected out nation and saved lives.

Isn't that what we need in this office?

BIDEN: I'm Joe Biden, and I approve this message.

Here's the video:

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