Trying to identify assassins of the great is a zero sum game. Theories sprout up instantaneously, depending on where the theorists are coming from politically. The real assassins are hardly ever definitely identified. Surprising, then, that an experienced journalist like Seymour Hersh slipped into the maze called 'Who killed Benazir Bhutto?' I should refresh your memories. Pakistani newspapers of May 18, 2009 carried a story by Online, a private Pakistani news agency, that Hersh had claimed in an interview to an Arab TV channel that a "US special squad killed Benazir Bhutto"? The channel was not identified. Try as I might I have not been able to find the purported interview on any English language Arab television channel. The salient points in the story are? Seymour Hersh told an Arab television channel that the Joint Special Operation Command was formed and headed by Dick Cheney. Within the JSOC is a "death squad". The squad killed Benazir Bhutto. At the time General Stanley McChrystal, the new US army commander in Afghanistan, headed it. It also killed Rafik Hariri and the Lebanese army chief for refusing to allow the US to set up military bases in Lebanon. Ariel Sharon, the then prime minister of Israel, was also a key man in the plot. Many websites suspect that Benazir was killed because she said in a November 2, 2007 interview to Sir David Frost on Al-Jazeera TV that Osama Bin Laden had been murdered by Omar Saeed Sheikh because it took away the justification for the presence of the US army in Afghanistan. The BBC website that carries transcripts of Al-Jazeera interviews edited out her words about Osama's death. Newspapers of May 20 carried a vehement denial by Seymour Hersh. The Nation also carried a rather acerbic letter to the editor written, it seems, in some umbrage by the US ambassador to Pakistan, Anne Patterson. Hersh described as "complete madness" reports that the squad headed by General McChrystal "had also killed Hariri and the Lebanese army chief." "Vice president Cheney does not have a death squad. I have no idea who killed Hariri or Bhutto. I have never said that I did have such information. I most certainly did not say anything remotely to that effect during an interview with an Arab media outlet." McChrystal, he said, had run a special forces unit that engaged in "High Value Target activity...while I have been critical of some of that unit's activities in the pages of the New Yorker and in interviews, I have never suggested that he was involved in political assassinations or death squads on behalf of Cheney, as the published stories state." He regretted that he hadn't been first contacted by any of the publications before they printed the story (point taken). "This is another example of blogs going bonkers with misleading and fabricated stories and professional journalists repeating such rumours without doing their jobs...and that is to verify such rumours." Then there's Her Excellency, who made the following points: "We...are offended and outraged that your newspaper would republish this especially repugnant brand of spurious and unsubstantiated rumor." "Regrettably, these baseless, sensational and third-hand allegations have been repackaged and republished without any responsible attempt at either verification or solicitation of comment from an official source of the United States government." "This, without any byline story, was distributed by a Pakistani wire service, which in turn allegedly quoted an unidentified Arab broadcast organization, which in turn allegedly quoted a single source (a journalist), who in turn relied on comments that were allegedly erased from an interview that took place almost two years ago." "Regrettably, these baseless, sensational and third-hand allegations have been repackaged and republished without any responsible attempt at either verification or solicitation of comment from an official source of United States government...most troubling of all is the complete failure to provide an opportunity for the accused party, the United States government, to refute these claims." "...We take exception to allegations that the US government had anything whatsoever to do with the tragic assassination of Pakistan's former Prime Minister, late Benazir Bhutto." Lectures on the ethics of journalism we've all heard before. How one wishes, though, that Her Excellency would deliver the same lecture on the ethics of journalism to US media. They need it more than we do - "The Taliban are about to take over Islamabad", "Pakistan's nuclear weapons about to fall into terrorist hands" and other such garbage. The important point in her letter, one that cannot be challenged without proof, is that the US government had anything to do with Benazir's assassination. Benazir certainly alleged that Omar Saeed Sheikh had killed Osama Bin Laden because on January 4, 2008 the BBC's Steve Herrmann acknowledged that, "Under time pressure, the item producer responsible for publishing the video on the BBC website edited out the comment, with the intention of avoiding confusion. The claim appeared so unexpected that it seemed she had simply misspoken. However, editing out her comment was clearly a mistake, for which we apologise..." On January 9 the BBC added: "As promised above, we've now updated the original clip with the full version of the interview." People have heard the interview many times. Benazir said the words deliberately and cautiously, after stopping and taking a breath before uttering Osama's name. Spurious excuses such as these insult people's intelligence and beget conspiracy theories for which people are then mocked by the perpetrators of spurious excuses. What adds spice to the story is that former President Pervez Musharraf says in his best selling autobiography that Omar Saeed Sheikh, a British national educated in the London School of Economics, was first recruited by Britain's intelligence agency MI6 and sent to Bosnia and Kosovo to fight the Jihad there. It could be that he later 'turned', says the general. But it could also be, say I that he is still working for MI6 pretending that he has 'turned' as a smokescreen or camouflage. Isn't that what is called a 'double agent'? What makes me not believe the theory that Benazir was killed by the US - a point that Hersh missed - is: If she was killed because she revealed that Osama Bin Laden was dead, killed by Omar Saeed Sheikh, in her interview with Sir David Frost was telecast on Al Jazeera on November 2, 2007, why was the first assassination attempt against her was made two weeks earlier, on October 18? Or was that somebody else? If it was, then how do we know that it was not that somebody else that killed her on December 27, 2007 and not the US? In any case, her assassination was more a case of misadventure. Her assassins were certainly there, but got no opportunity until she suddenly stuck her head out of the sunroof of her vehicle, which she was not supposed to. That is when they went for her with everything blazing. While everyone has been asking why the place was hosed down, no one has asked why Khalid Shahinshah, supposed to be looking after her security, along with two photographers behind him, were making such peculiar gestures standing besides Benazir on the stage, as if signaling something to someone? What possessed her to break with security protocol and stick her neck out of the window? Have the numbers on the SIMs of all the phones of those in her vehicle been examined, including her own phone? Hersh's denial is interesting, for it reveals more than it denies. He certainly makes it clear that he never said or wrote anywhere that a US special death squad killed Benazir Bhutto and I haven't found anything where he even remotely says so. However, he doesn't deny the existence of what he called "an executive assassination wing" in a speech at the University of Minnesota on March 10 this year... "General McChrystal ran a special forces unit that engaged in High Value Target activity." If people - important politicians and not just terrorists or those that the US thinks are terrorists - are not "High Value Targets", I'll eat my hat Mr. Hersh. Perhaps I'll continue with this next week because there's so much to tell, unless something happens - which is well within the realm of possibility - that demands more attention. E-mail: