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.

Recyclable Sources

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.


  1. Gaza strip, indeed. Is there a Chabad House there?

  2. No, but it sounds like there's a real opportunity for a Pizza Hut franchise.


  3. Anonymous9:43 AM

    Is it just me or does everything the military and the state department touches automatically turn into a clusterf**k?

  4. It's the latter, Jeg. ;-)


  5. The account I liked a lot was the one I read about, from the hotel employee, (who was either on his way to work -- or had gone out for a smoke.) Either way, he saw the inflatable boat full of guys pull up to the pier. Watched them all get out with knapsacks. And, Called the cops.

    So, maybe forewarned really isn't fore-armed.

    Any way you slice it Commander, sounds like the whole region is the central front of the war on terror, or the breeding ground for Al Quaeda, or whatever it is that keeps us spending most of our GDP on new toys for the Pentagon.

    Which -- BTW --- If Chrysler goes bankrupt, who's going to make jeeps?

    And, if GM goes bankrupt, who's going to make Humvees?

    Do you suppose Blackwater can diversify into manufacturing? *snark.*

  6. I'm thinking Blackwater can rent the Army enough vehicles to keep them going until we contract out to the Germans and Japanese to make our Hummers for us.


  7. Anonymous9:04 PM


    I anxiously await your essay on the Somali pirates.


  8. GQ,

    I can't remember if we discussed this, but did you read "Shiver Me Neocons?"

  9. A query Commander.

    Did the former Admiral, (Blair Harris, I think ) that Obama is proposing to run the CIA -- really try to waterski behind a destroyer?

    And, if he did -- can we expect our intelligence services to improve to any degree?

  10. I believe that the answer to the second question--no--is independent of the answer to the first question. ;-)


  11. Anonymous10:51 AM


    Correction: "I anxiously await your next essay on the Somali pirates."

    They seem to me a perfect metaphor for the times.


  12. Anonymous11:34 AM

    From Best of Both Worlds:

    MR. DeMUTH [AEI president]: You mentioned the word stimulus. And as you know, your successor is thinking about a big new stimulus program emphasizing public works, I believe. An issue that has interested a lot of people at AEI recently is this: While we're looking for public expenditures to help stimulate the economy, we're also at a point where defense expenditures are I think something like 3.4 or 3.5 percent of GDP -- very, very constrained. A lot of weapons systems that a lot of people like to buy from us are being closed down, even after we've only produced fewer of the weapons than had been anticipated.

    (Me: "Very constrained"? AHHAHAHA!)

  13. Gee, the Pentagon needs a bailout too?

    Thanks for bringing this to my attention. So much raw material, so little time...


  14. Boy, did I mess up my post.

    The Admiral is Dennis Blair.

    And, he's not going to be just a plain ole Director of anything.

    He's going to be an intel czar.

    Kinda like a drug czar, or a car czar. Or something like that.

    (Too much rushing around everywhere, trying to get ready for the holidays.)

    And, too many pups. Another hurricane. Another animal rescue.

    Some days my halvesheimers is worse than others.

  15. Blair is another military industrial warrior:

    "As president of the Institute for Defense Analyses, Mr. Blair was involved with a study of a contract for the F-22 fighter jet while sitting on the board of a subcontractor on that program, EDO Corp. The inspector general found in a 2006 report that Mr. Blair violated the institute's conflict-of-interest standards but didn't influence the outcome for the study. IDA is a nonprofit corporation that administers federal research programs. Mr. Blair was forced to resign from IDA over the matter and he also stepped down from the EDO board."

  16. Anonymous8:27 PM

    Do you know a single retired Admiral who is not a military-industrial warrior? I cannot think of one who just went home after a long, satisfying career.


  17. Just one. To the best of my knowlege, VADM Dennis Brooks, who was CARGRU on my first cruise, retired out of his job at COMMIDEASTFOR (now 5th Fleet) and just went home.

    I served with his son, who is a great guy, in CAG 9.


  18. Jeff,
    In keeping with your banana republic politics theme, I thought you might want to have a gander at this article from Gareth Porter,

    It describes an act "of open defiance [to] an agreement which the US military has never accepted," namely the withdrawal agreement recently signed between Iraq and the US. I'm not so naïve as to believe that that agreement is worth much but it makes you wonder who's in charge here when Odierno and Petraeus are openly defying the commander-in-chief's plans, whatever they are.

    My take on the matter



  19. Thanks, A. Yeah, I'm glad Gareth is keeping on top of this stuff. Jeff

  20. I'd happily settle for India and Pakistan being merely incompetent and crooked, it's the evidence that they're stark raving nuts that keeps me up at night. Unholy narrative, indeed.

    Somebody in Bollywood should probably look into an Indian remake of The Day After. Preferably, at least a day before.

  21. Oh, my golly gosh. That is nuts, jp.



  22. Anonymous9:29 PM


    Is this essense of the following post correct:

    i.e. Gates, Petraeus, Odierno, etc plan to violate the SOFA by simply reclassifying combat troops as support troops? If so, I would think they absolutely have Obama's buy in...

  23. Ed,

    I fear they have the stamp of the
    imperator as well.

  24. So, instead of just "burrowing" (re-classify from Presidential appointments, to civil servants,) people in the federal beauracracy, they are going to "burrow" troops? (Reclassify from combat to support.)

    Some of those poor guys may never get home.

    This time of year is depressing enough -- without all the bad news.

    Hard to know what to tackle first, if you are a new President -- trying to undo the most recent damage, or trying to undo all the last eight years worth. Tough call either way.

    My new hero is a student from Utah who went into an auction for oil leases,(another Bush last minute environmental disaster.) Auctioning off public park land for drilling.) (Kid had no money to bid - but they didn't know that.) So they gave him a bidding paddle thingy.

    He sent the bidding up so high, on some parcels, that it discouraged some of the majors, and actually bought himself 22,000 acres of public park land in Utah (which he can't pay for.)

    Feds will file charges sometime later today. Lots of folks have made the offer of pro bono legal help.

    Meanwhile --- none of the land he (bought) can be put up for auction again for 30 days.

    My kind of college kid.

    Meanwhile Al Jazeera says Pakistan is on "high" alert, expecting some military action from India.

    Happy Holidays Everybody!

  25. Anonymous12:00 PM

    Jeff/EL et al,
    Reclassifying billets to get around the law has been going on for a long time in DoD. I served at a very large shore organization in the mid 1990's that by mission/function should have been classified as a joint command, probably in the form of a Joint Task Force. Establishing joint billets was not possible due to fiscal constraints and congressional caps on joint billets, so each service merely ponied up separate commands of about 500 people, each administratively/nominally under its own CO. However, the people worked together in a "joint" environment under the operational control of a "commander" (no such official billet existed), who was separate from, and senior to, all of the service commanding officers, whose mission was simply to provide trained people to execute the operational mission. Voila! Bastardized jointness. We don't need no stinkin' laws. We will have ersatz combat "support" too.


  26. EL,

    Good for the college kid.


    Amazing, though, that what they're actually doing now is putting troops in a combat zone and saying they're not combat troops.


  27. Anonymous8:45 AM

    Commander - brilliant observation about Pakistan - the truth is the opposite of any denial or confirmation they may publicly pronounce.

    Perhaps if they reclassify combat troops as not combat troops, they won't have to pony up the hazardous duty pay, the combat pay, the hardship pay, etc.


  28. Heh; when are combat troops not combat troops?

    When they're support troops in a combat zone with no combat troops to support or to support them.


  29. Anonymous9:40 AM

    Off topic, but time presses.
    Merry Xmas!

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