December 29, 2007

Bhutto assassination: thoughts

A couple thoughts on the tragic assassination of Benazir Bhutto, and the theories of her death.

The government moved quickly in this case to attribute the death to a significant injury on the right side of Bhutto's head, at the same time releasing video showing an assailant shooting a handgun from the left rear side of her vehicle. The thesis, unclearly expressed in some quarters, was that the explosive force of the subsequent suicide explosion led to the victim's head colliding with the car.

The idea of an explosive blast leading to a person's head striking the side of a sunroof opening is hardly implausible. Accident experts for years have said the real danger in an auto accident is the "second collision" of the human body with the inside of the passenger compartment, and this is similar. An explosive blast in close proximity to the car could plausibly lead to an exposed person's head colliding with the car frame. Many of the serious injuries military armoured crewmen receive are similar, with sudden stops or jerks leading to their face colliding with the sides of their cupolas or hatches.

The reason for offering the early explanation has to have been to forestall speculation by the public based on the right-side location of the most prominent injury that possibly another shooter was firing from the other direction. Shades of the JFK conspiracy stuff. But since Bhutto was apparently facing front, the only ways you can get a massive and potentially fatal right-side head injury in the single-shooter scenario that the released video supports is either a) a bullet exit wound, or b) an interior collision.

As to the government's responsibility, the video shows the practical limits on what Bhutto was prepared to accept herself in this regard in terms of protection... not much, in other words. Submitting to a full government security cordon would have inevitably put significant limitations on Bhutto's ability to move freely around the country, and generate crowds with advance notice of her appearances, let alone giving up the personal interactions with supporters she seemed to enjoy so much. At the October assassination attempt, Bhutto had dozens of her own security personnel guarding her; 50 of whom reportedly died in that explosion. One suspects private security staff will form a large part of this week's fatality count, as well.

UPDATE: This video tends to support that Bhutto was struck by a bullet.

Posted by BruceR at 02:40 PM