Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Son of the Tailor of Mumbai
This is an update of "The Tailor of Mumbai" that I did for Military.com. It includes some (but certainly not all) of the U.S. and foreign press shenanigans that have blossomed since I posted the original piece. One can just imagine the mammal Perry White would birth if he caught Jimmy Olsen pulling stunts like this. Great. Caesar's. Ghost!
My December 10 article "Our Man in Bananastan" discussed how the hasty conclusion that Pakistani militants were behind the terror attack in India sounded like the bogus intelligence described in satiric espionage novels by Graham Greene and John le Carre. The New York Times, following the journalistic standard it established when it helped Dick Cheney sell the Iraq invasion, reported the "facts" of the Mumbai affair as deduced from double secret hearsay.
The Pakistani group Lashkar-e-Taiba was behind the Indian attack, according to an unnamed State Department official who was rephrasing what unnamed American and Pakistani authorities had told him; but, unnamed American Embassy officials wouldn’t verify the story for the unnamed State official, nor would unnamed Pakistani officials in Islamabad.
NYT's unnamed source at State also said that his/her/its unnamed sources said that unnamed Pakistani authorities, under pressure from unnamed sources in India, had arrested Zaki ur-Rehman Lakhvi, a member of Lashkar. (Don't get the two confused now. "Lakhvi" is they guy; "Lashkar" is the thing.) NYT reported that Lakhvi (the guy) reportedly "masterminded the attacks," but didn't make clear which unnamed sources had leveled that allegation.
An anonymous senior Pakistani official apparently confirmed that Lakhvi had been arrested along with a bunch of other guys who belonged to Lashkar the thing, but the official "later backed away from the assertion."
Another NYT article reported that unnamed American counterterrorism officials in Washington "wanted to see proof that Mr. Lakhvi was actually in custody," but apparently zero officials, named or unnamed, American or Indian or Pakistani, gave a dog's last lunch about seeing proof that Lakhvi the guy or Lashkar the thing actually had anything to do with the Mumbai attacks.
The Washington Post took the Mumbai tale to the next level of incredibility when it published a piece by former counterterrorism czar Richard Clarke that purported to be expert opinion but read like the beginning of Clarke's next bad spy thriller. Clarke essentially tells us that in order to understand what's really happening in South Asia right now, we have to imagine that the shake and bake scenario he's about to present is true. By the end of the article, the Mumbai incident, like all terror acts, leads to al Qaeda, and Osama bin Laden is giving orders to a couple of Taliban characters and a guy from Lashkar the thing and a Pakistani intelligence dude on how they need to get cocked and loaded to defile with the new American president's head.
It took the BBC to report that all of the allegations against Lashkar stemmed from interrogations by the Mumbai police of the surviving member of the terror group, who might not have been a whole lot less dead than his nine former buddies when they shot truth serum in his behind.
Snow Thy Enemy
On December 11, Britain's Times Online reported that the UN Security Council, under pressure from the ubiquitous unnamed sources in India and the U.S., has placed Lakhvi and four other guys in Lashkar on a "terrorist blacklist." I'm dying to find out what kind of list Dean Wormer put them on. Keep in mind that Lakhvi and Lashkar are still only "suspects," still based on the sole evidence of a guy nobody has seen except the Indian police he supposedly confessed to. The UN has also placed sanctions against Jamaat-ud-Dawa, the charity arm of Lashkar.
On December 17, State Department spokesman Robert Wood said Pakistan has given the U.S. a "very solemn commitment" to disentangle the charitable Jamaat from the evildoing Lashkar. "I think the Pakistani government is being very sincere," Wood said.
Wood also said, "Look, they're (Pakistan) on the front lines of terrorism, as we've said many times before." However many times State has said Pakistan is on the front line of terrorism, I missed all of them. The last time I paid attention to that sort of bull jargon, Iraq was the "central front" in the war on terrorism. I expected the next central front to be Afghanistan, until the last minute to withdraw troops from Iraq came along and the central front shifted back there. I guess with Pakistan in the mix we now have a three front circus. I don't know how Iran fits into all this; maybe it's the enemy at our back. (Oh, watch the Pentagon propaganda fairies steal that one. And those Muslim agitators in Somalia, we'll call them "the enemy below!")
Indian police allegedly questioned two Indian Muslims they claim to have arrested in February during an attack on a police camp in northern India. One of the prisoners, Fahim Ansari, was said to be carrying maps highlighting Mumbai landmarks, several of which were hit in last month's attack, at the time of his arrest. If he were really carrying such maps, you'd think that might have clued in the Indian authorities that some evildoing was headed down the pike for Mumbai, but maybe I'm being too critical. I mean, think how many U.S. authorities had to be a-snooze at the switch for 9/11 to happen.
But one also has to wonder what Ansari was doing with maps of the next big terror job in his pocket while he and his buds were shagging the Indian police camp. Come to think of it, Indian authorities supposedly identified all those dead guys who pulled the Mumbai job from I.D.s they were carrying. If ten twenty-something year old guys were smart enough to sneak into the largest city of a nuclear power and hold its entire law enforcement and military establishment at bay for days, how could they be dumb enough to carry their wallets with them? Is that a Lashkar thing, a way make sure the authorities can trace their suicide commandos back to them? If so, why are the Lashkar guys denying they had anything to do with the Mumbai incident?
Pakistani news group Dawn claims to have visited the Pakistani hometown of the alleged suspect Indian police are holding and spoken to his father, who allegedly admits the alleged suspect is his son. India's The Hindu claims Pakistani authorities have cordoned off the town so no one can confirm Dawn's story.
Dawn and other Pakistani news outlets claim that the FBI, after interrogating the surviving Mumbai attacker, cleared Pakistan's Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI) organization of any involvement in the attack. As best one can tell, the Pakistani media's source for this story was Efrem Zimbalist Jr. An earlier story by Pakistan's The Nation claimed that the FBI, along with India's intelligence agency and Israel, were "hatching" a conspiracy to destabilize the ISI.
Then there's the scoop from India's Times Now about this guy they identify as "Sabauddin" who is the "alleged Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) finance[r] in India." The alleged financer Sabauddin is alleged to be the guy Indian authorities arrested in February along with that Fahim Ansari guy who was allegedly carrying maps of the Mumbai terror sites while he and Sabauddin supposedly shagged the police station in northern India. One has to wonder why LeT allowed its financer to go on a field job; maybe it was like in Twelve O'clock High where the chaplain and the admin officer sneak aboard a B-17 for a raid over Germany and General Savage doesn’t find out until afterwards.
The only thing we can say for sure regarding this unholy narrative is that both India and Pakistan are incompetent and crooked, that their news media are every bit as untrustworthy as ours, and that we'll never get to the bottom of the story.
But that doesn't matter. What matters is that we have "upheaval" in South Asia that constitutes "clear and present" security concerns to us in North America and which demands that we pour more troops into the Banastans and keep them there until things become less up-heaved, which they never will be as long as we're there heaving our weight around.
at 1:38 PM