Thursday, November 27

A disquieting response to India's 9/11 from Bush and Obama (UPDATED 2X)

(Reader alert: Cover your ears before reading! Pundita uses foul language!)

The Bloomberg headline from this morning reads "Obama Leads Global Condemnation of Mumbai Attacks."

Huh? Obama's transition team issued a canned statement in his name. That's not condemnation; that's pro forma.

The same can be said for the response from President Bush. There was no direct statement from the leader of the free world; the response came through the White House press secretary.

Here's condemnation:
"This kind of terrorism is unforgivable, extremely despicable and vicious. I feel strong resentment and deeply condemn it. ..." -- Taro Aso, the Prime Minister of Japan

"We are concerned about the loss of life and consider that acts of terrorism of this type are harmful to the whole international order and are a challenge to humanity." - Dmitry Medvedev, the President of Russia

"Whichever group has perpetrated this attack, they are cowards, absolute cowards, and murderers. This cowardly attack on India's stability, peace and democracy reminds us all that international terrorism is far from defeated, and that we must all maintain our vigilance. ... " - Kevin Rudd, the Prime Minister of Australia

“These outrageous attacks in Mumbai will be met with a vigorous response. ..." Gordon Brown, Prime Minister of Britain [See footnotes 1,2 for the complete statements]
Medvedev made his statement through a translator; he was in Venezuela at the time, but he spoke personally. Of course, that's the only thing that should be done because the attacks in Mumbai were far more than terrorism:

Scores of men armed with machine guns, RDX and grenades laid siege to one of the world's largest and most important cities. They launched coordinated attacks on rail stations, hotels, hospitals, cafes, movie theaters, at least one police station, a Jewish center, and heaven knows what else because we're still dealing with the fog of war. And they took hostages.

India has suffered many terrorist attacks but there is no precedent for such an act of war against civilians in a modern democracy. For several hours, the attackers virtually took command of a major world city. While the death rate from the attacks seems to be holding at this point to around 100 with estimates of wounded at around 1,000 not even the 9/11 attacks, not even Beslan, reflect such an onslaught against modern civilization.

So, the Thanksgiving holiday in the USA is no excuse. President George Bush should have made a direct statement from Camp David, and President-elect Barack Obama should have done the same from Chicago. Instead, they followed the approach of United Nations Secretary Ban Ki-moon, who issued his criticism through a spokesperson.

The three statements condemning the terrorism are generic and while Bush and Obama offer help to India on behalf of the United States, the full statements from other national leaders also offer help. Such offers need to be accompanied by a recognition of the magnitude of the situation; statements from leaders such as Taro Aso reflect this need, whereas those from Bush and Obama do not.

The question is why there was such an outrageously muted response from Bush and Obama. Reticence about offending the Muslim vote is not an explanation. Even Gordon Brown, who has a horror of saying anything to offend Muslims, managed to sharply condemn the attacks without mentioning the M word.

I don't like being forced to the conclusion that the Bush administration, Obama's advisors, and the U.S. Department of State are so determined to prod Israel into compromises before Olmert leaves office that they don't want to say anything that could possibly suspend negotiations. But I will be driving straight toward that conclusion unless I see a stronger response from Messrs. Bush and Obama -- and from Secretary of State Rice.

With regard to the affiliation of the attackers -- since when has Pakistan's ISI been interested in attacking a Jewish organization and taking Israeli hostages in India or elsewhere?

As to an al Qaeda connection: I am trying to recall a successful large scale commando-style raid, in which the attackers were clearly not suicide bombers, launched by al Qaeda.

Maybe my memory is faulty on that point but in any event I still think it's a mistake to jump to the conclusion that the attackers are funded and trained by al Qaeda; while it may turn out to be the case the attacks don't quite fit Qaeda's modus operandi. I think the attacks would fit the profile of Hezbollah's MO. Just throwing that out there for consideration.

Of course, if Hezbollah is behind the attacks and in consideration that Hezbollah is supported by Iran, we'd be looking at a whole 'nuther order of global threat.

I will close by first offering my condolences to residents of Mumbai, and to the families of these foreigners murdered by the attackers, and with a special thanks for the bravery of the Indian police and soldiers who have died fighting the attackers.

My prayers go out to the remaining hostages, with hopes that the Indian forces are able to free all of them.

Now I have a few words for the organizers of the Mumbai attacks and those who cheer them on: Oil at $20 a barrel, motherfuckers.

And finally a few choice words for Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives: You want to save the planet? You should be more concerned at this moment about averting a commando raid on your favorite restaurant in Washington, D.C. and being taken hostage.

There is only one message to read into the Mumbai attacks, Madame Speaker, and the message is "Drive oil down to $20 a barrel." Drill, drill, drill, you sniveling piece of shit.

What else? Oh yes; Happy Thanksgiving!

1) (UK) Telegraph

2) Live Mint
12:30 UPDATE

"No reaction"

B. Raman, a top Indian intel expert on terrorism in South Asia, sounded many warnings. Indian officials didn't listen. Raju Narisetti, writing today for the Wall Street Journal's Live Mint blog, backs up Raman's comments about the refusal of the Indian government to confront reality by observing that top Indian officials have met the Mumbai attacks with A Shameful Silence.

In his report for Rediff (H/T John Batchelor) Raman analyzes the implications of the Mumbai attacks and asks:
How safe are our nuclear establishments?

"The war of civilisation between the Muslims and the infidels has begun in Indian

So said the first statement issued in the name of the so-called Indian Mujahideen in November 2007, after the three orchestrated explosions in three towns of Uttar Pradesh outside local courts.

We saw the latest round of this war in Mumbai on the night of November 26, 2008, as an unestimated number of terrorists -- divided into small groups and wielding hand-held weapons and improvised explosive devices -- literally took control of Mumbai and targeted with frightening precision famous hotels preferred by the rich of the country and foreign tourists, railway stations, a hospital and many other places scattered across this business capital of India.

It is not just 9/11. It is not just Madrid, March 2004. It is not just London 2006.

It is -- I am using the present tense because the situation is still not under control at 5-30 am despite the Army's assistance being sought -- an act of terrorism the like of which the world has not seen before. Mind boggles as one tries to think and figure out how the terrorists could have planned and carried out terrorist strikes of such magnitude, territorial spread and ferocity without our intelligence and police having been able to get any scent of it. Like what the Vietcong did during the Tet offensive

The iceberg of jihadi terrorism to which I have been drawing attention since November 2007, in article after article, in interview after interview, in discussion after discussion has struck not only Mumbai, but the Indian State.

The iceberg moved from UP to Jaipur. From Jaipur to Bangalore. From Bangalore to Ahmedabad and Surat. From there to Delhi. From Delhi to Assam. From Assam to Mumbai now -- despite the claims made by the Mumbai police some weeks ago of having discovered and crushed a plot of the IM to carry out strikes in Mumbai.

The government of Manmohan Singh reacted to the repeated warning signals of the moving iceberg since November 2007, in the same way as the Bush Administration reacted to reports about the plans of the Al Qaeda for aviation terrorism in the US; in the same way Megawati Sukarnoputri reacted to reports of the activities of the Jemmah Islamiyah; and in the same way Khalida Zia reacted to reports of the plans of the Jamiat-ul-Mujahideen .

Bovine. It just did not react. It was in a total denial mode. I wrote and said again and again -- hand over all the investigation about the IM to a central investigating agency for a co-ordinated investigation instead of their being investigated by the police in a piecemeal manner in different states ruled by different political parties. No reaction.

From a localised threat, jihadi terrorism has become a pan-Indian threat with a pan-Islamic ideology. Deal with it with a pan-Indian strategy, I said. No reaction.

The terrorists arrested some weeks ago in Mumbai, three of whom were IT experts well-placed in transnational companies, pose a new dimension of the threat. Seek the help of the US, I said. No reaction.

I drew attention to an article by Hamid Mir, journalist from Pakistan, which spoke of Indian Muslims going to Afghanistan to fight with the Taliban against the US and which also said that India is one of the routes being used by foreign jihadis going to Afghanistan. No reaction, just as Rajiv Gandhi did not react to repeated wake-up calls from the then Afghan President Najibullah that Muslims from Kashmir were being trained by the Afghan Mujahideen.

In October, when I had come to Delhi for a seminar, two diplomats from EU countries sought an appointment with me for a discussion on the IM. They expressed their surprise and concern over the fact that the Indian intelligence and police seemed to know so little about the IM despite their having arrested many perpetrators of the previous blasts and interrogated them.

Is the IM the name of an organisation or of a movement? Is it one or many organisations in different states acting, like the International Islamic Front of Osama bin Laden, as a united front -- autonomously where they can and unitedly where they should? Who constitute its command and control? Where are they? In India or outside? Nobody knows for certain.

I could not sleep the whole of last night. One question which kept bothering me again and again was: how safe are our nuclear establishments and material?

Till now, we were greeting with glee Pakistan's incompetence in dealing with terrorism. We can no longer do so. We have become as clueless as Pakistan.

I wanted to write much more, but my mind doesn't work. As I watch on the TV what is happening in Mumbai, I shiver and sweat at the thought of what is waiting to happen tomorrow and where.

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retired), Cabinet Secretariat, Government of India, New Delhi and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai.
November 30 UPDATE
Strike up the band. On Friday, two days after the massacres began, President Bush and President-elect Obama crept out from behind their spokespersons and delivered statements condemning the carnage in Mumbai and expressing sympathy for the victims.

Bush did a little better than Obama in his choice of adjective to describe the attacks. For Bush it was "horrific;" Obama contented himself with "outrageous." But at least both spoke up instead of leaving it to others to speak on their behalf, as they did initially.

And on Saturday, as he returned to the White House from Camp David, President Bush even managed to squeeze out a few words about Mumbai to the press gathered on the South Lawn. The speech has been called "brief" -- it was two minutes in length -- but I would describe it as terse:
On behalf of all Americans, Laura and I extend our condolences to those suffering from the terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India. We mourn those who lost their lives, including American citizens. We pray that the injured will recover. We pledge the full support of the United States as India investigates these attacks, brings the guilty to justice, and sustained its democratic way of life. [...]

The killers who struck this week are brutal and violent, but terror will not have the final word. People of India are resilient. People of India are strong. They have built a vibrant, multiethnic democracy that can withstand this trial. Their financial capital of Mumbai will continue to be the center of commerce and prosperity.

The leaders of India can know that nations around the world support them in the face of this assault on human dignity. And as the people of the world's largest democracy recover from these attacks, they can count on the world's oldest democracy to stand by their side.

Thank you very much. May God bless the people of India.
Better than nothing. On November 27 Wretchard proffered an explanation for the -- er, outrageous -- reticence on the part of Bush and Obama to speak for themselves and to speak with force:
[...] This I think, is because the LeT [Lashkar-e-Taiba], the ISI or whoever else turns out to be behind the attack on Mumbai has an unreported hostage in play. That hostage is US operations in Afghanistan and cooperation in the hunt for Osama Bin Laden. As most people now realize, the logistics for the Afghanistan flow through Pakistan. And since the US can’t cross the border openly, they must rely on Pakistani proxies to do a lot of the heavy lifting. [...]
I learned from a Long War Journal report yesterday that LeT, as with al Qaeda:
[...] seeks to establish a Muslim caliphate in southern and central Asia. Lashkar-e-Taiba "consistently advocated the use of force and vowed that it would plant the 'flag of Islam' in Washington, Tel Aviv and New Delhi," the Southeast Asia Terrorism Portal reported.

Also, like al Qaeda, Lashkar-e-Taiba practices Wahabism, the radical Islamist school of thought born in Saudi Arabia.
So. I grudgingly concede Wretchard's point. Although while falling back I will say that if Pakistanis and Indian Kashmiris are now intent on murdering Jews in India and planting the flag of the caliphate in Israel, these are not indigenous sentiments and for their locus we must still turn our eyes to the Middle East.

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