Wednesday, December 17, 2008
The Tailor of Mumbai
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 paraphrasing 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 Southern 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, 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 the 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. One wonders what the Security Council will do to the Iranian Red Crescent for trying to sneak food into the Gaza strip for Palestinians who have been reduced to eating grass and painkillers.
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 are going to question two Indian Muslims the arrested in February over 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 snoozing at the switch for 9/11 to happen.
But one also has to wonder what Ansari was doing with a map 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 guys were smart enough to sneak into the capital 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?
Since Pakistan's government says it's cooperating with "requests" by the U.S. and India to investigate the matter, that means it isn't; and since it insists its Inter-Service Intelligence directorate isn't linked up with Lashkar, that means it is; and since it says it will abide by UN sanctions against Jamaat-ud-Dawa, that means it won't.
The only thing we can say for sure regarding this unholy narrative is that both India and Pakistan are incompetent and crooked, 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 the region that constitutes "clear and present" security concerns and demands that we pour more troops into the region and keep them there until things become less up-heaved, which they never will, at least not as long as we're there heaving our weight around.
By the way, I still can't figure out if they actually arrested Lakhvi or not, and I haven't run across any reports that Indian authorities have arrested any Hindu militants.
Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes at Pen and Sword . Jeff's novel Bathtub Admirals (Kunati Books), a lampoon on America's rise to global dominance, is on sale now. Also catch Scott Horton's interview with Jeff at Antiwar Radio.
at 3:38 PM