The next to last assassination attempt on Benazir Bhutto came on Dec. 13, when a man in the crowd got the former prime minister's attention. He was holding a 1-year-old baby -- Bhutto said later she thought it was a girl -- and tried to hand the child across the sea of bodies. Bhutto said, "He kept trying to hand it to people to hand to me. I'm a mother. I love babies. But the [streetlights] had already gone out and I was worried about the baby getting dropped or hurt." So she turned away and ducked into her armored vehicle. Just then, the baby's body, rigged with explosives, detonated.
That is the nature of the enemy. Thursday morning brought news that another bomber has succeeded in killing Bhutto. Early reports suggest that this time the terrorists relied on a suicide bomber and a gunman. Al-Qaida was quick off the mark. "We terminated the most precious American asset which vowed to defeat [the] mujahedeen," said commander and spokesman Mustafa Abu al-Yazid in a phone interview with Adnkronos International. Whether al-Qaida really did the killing or opportunistically claimed credit is unclear. But there is no doubt that Bhutto represented a modernizing movement within the Islamic world and was accordingly seen as a threat by the seventh century zealots who rig babies with explosives.
That she was a woman was an added provocation. Al-Qaida's pronouncement reveals once again that however much we may wish to pretend that these overseas convulsions have nothing to do with us, however much we might want to avoid their tangled rivalries and primitive violence, they won't let us.
The world thus rudely intrudes on what had become a parochial, oddly detached primary election campaign focusing on competing Christmas greetings, quail hunting, and the bugaboo of "special interests." But now, at last, and perhaps just in time, the campaign season will get serious.
Among the Democrats, the question of foreign policy gravitas is moot. Their front-runners are a first-term senator who has been on the national stage for only three years, a former senator who served only one term but knows a great deal about getting money out of juries for malpractice cases, and a current senator whose tenure as first lady is her chief claim to foreign policy experience.