What I found interesting about the response to Benazir Bhutto's killing yesterday was how quickly it became linked with terrorism. And now, just 24 hours later, we already have al-Qaeda conveniently in the frame.
"We join with [Pakistan] in mourning her loss, and stand with them in their quest for democracy and against the terrorists who threaten the common security of the world."
"[Bhutto's] death is a reminder that terrorism anywhere — whether in New York, London, Tel Aviv or Rawalpindi — is an enemy of freedom," he said. "We must redouble our efforts to win the terrorists' war on us."
"She risked everything in her attempt to win democracy in Pakistan and she has been assassinated by cowards afraid of democracy," Brown said."This atrocity strengthens our resolve that terrorists will not win there, here or anywhere in the world."
“This is an appalling act of terrorism. Today Pakistan has lost one of its bravest daughters. Those responsible have not only murdered a courageous leader but have put at risk hopes for the country’s return to democracy.”
Consensus among politicians of the main stripes in our converged democracies of the US and the UK: it was terrorists. Terrorists are bad. We will fight them. Vote for me and I'll make things better.
Duh, that's a no-brainer, Vowl, you may be thinking: it was a suicide bomber. Suicide bombers = terrorists, and terrorists = al-Qaeda in the Muslim world, so case closed. Of course it was them!
Well, possibly. And most likely, probably. Yet at such an early stage, nothing can really be ruled out by anyone - especially not a journalist keeping an open mind. What a shame, then, that there aren't any of them to go around.
Pakistan says it's al-Qaeda, so it's al-Qaeda. According to 'intelligence'. (Indeed, according to 'Pakistan' says the BBC - an entire nation represented by its military leaders, who may or may not have a vested interest in putting the blame onto the bogeyman.) Can we see the intelligence? No. What is the intelligence? Not telling you. But it is al-Qaeda. Not anyone to do with Musharraf, let's make that clear. Oh, okay then. We'd better just report what you said without questioning it in the slightest.
The last par is tantalising though. A little tidbit that it really might have been worth expanding on:
After a previous attempt on her life in October, Ms Bhutto accused rogue elements of the Pakistani intelligence services of involvement.
Oh, not al-Qaeda then? So Bhutto herself thought it was Pakistani intelligence? And now we're reporting what, er, Pakistani intelligence are telling us word for word, not questioning it at all? And saying that their view is 'Pakistan says'. Isn't there something a little wrong with that?
This story is still developing. I'm not saying it wasn't al-Qaeda, maybe it was. I know very little about politics in that country. But I know about as much about the assassins as any journalist covering the story does - nothing. The difference is, I haven't made my mind up yet, and I don't think it's right to repeat unquestioningly everything that comes out of the Pakistan government, particularly as we can't rule out their involvement in this.
And when we have our western politicians cranking up the volume about 'terrorism' and 'al-Qaeda' on the back of this atrocity, I start to wonder. I don't think in terms of conspiracy theories, but in terms of expediency. Bhutto's death is a convenient peg to hang a lot of things on, and to attempt to justify atrocities against the Middle East. It is in a lot of people's interests to place blame for this death onto al-Qaeda, the bogeyman. They might just be right. But what if they're not? What then?