"The costs of open war are well known. But the price of endless, shadow conflicts is only improperly understood." -- Richard Fernandez, Belmont Club
Is Afghanistan another Vietnam? No, Pakistan is.
The American Left no more understood Indochina than the American Right, which is to say they understood nothing, and the U.S. military understood even less. Today, in Pakistan, we have recreated the wheel of our ignorance in Indochina, which saw the U.S. fund at least 80 percent of the French war against the native anti-feudalists (termed "communists") and indirectly fund the other 20 percent by propping up the French government in the wake of World War Two. This time, though, we won't be able to walk away from the consequences of our ignorance. From the December 20 (London) Sunday Times (H/T Brenda J. Elliott at RBO blog and Jihad Watch):
Scotland Yard has warned businesses in London to expect a Mumbai-style attack on the capital. In a briefing in the City of London 12 days ago, a senior detective from SO15, the Metropolitan police counter-terrorism command, said: "Mumbai is coming to London."Why has the light switched to green for a Mumbai-style attack in London? Most likely because Pakistan's military has finished relocating important warlords to the relative safety of Pakistani cities, away from regions in Pakistan's tribal areas that see American UAV attacks.
The detective said companies should anticipate a shooting and hostage-taking raid "involving a small number of gunmen with handguns and improvised explosive devices". [...]
"Before, there has been speculation. Now we are getting what appears to be a definite plot to carry out a firearms attack on London," he said. [...]
The first public word of the relocation effort came in a 'leak' to the Washington Times on November 20 that Mullah Omar had relocated to the large Pakistan city of Karachi. However, what use was it for Omar to relocate when he would need his support network with him? So while the Washington Times made no mention of this, it couldn't have been only Omar who headed for the bright lights of the big city. Word of this came in yesterday's Washington Post:
ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN -- Militants forced to flee their havens in Pakistan's mountainous tribal areas are establishing new, smaller cells in the heart of the country and have begun carrying out attacks nationwide, U.S. and Pakistani officials say.I am afraid the insistence rings hollow in light of recent history and the fact that the relocation of major terrorists and their supporters to major Pakistani cities wouldn't have been possible without the knowledge and cooperation of the military.
The spread of fighters is an unintended consequence of a relatively successful effort by the United States and Pakistan to disrupt the insurgents' operations, through missile strikes launched by unmanned CIA aircraft and a ground offensive carried out this fall in South Waziristan by the Pakistani army.
American and Pakistani officials say the militants' widening reach has added to the challenge for both nations' intelligence, which must now track an insurgent diaspora that can infiltrate Pakistan's teeming cities and blend seamlessly with the local population. A Pakistani intelligence official said the offensive had put militants "on the run" but added: "Now they're all over -- Afghanistan, North Waziristan and inside Pakistan."
"They have scattered their network and structure," said Muhammad Amir Rana, director of the Pak Institute for Peace Studies, a security-oriented think tank. "It's easy for many of them to hide in Punjab or Karachi."
Pakistani officials insist that they are doing as much as they can to counter the extremist threat and that they are paying the price.[...]
Washington has yet to confront that the insurgency in Afghanistan, to the extent it exists, is miniscule and can be handled largely by non-military means. The major part of the fighting against NATO troops in Afghanistan is directed by Pakistan's military and their intelligence service. As Rajeev Srinivasan explained earlier this month:
[...] Pakistan has clearly articulated its pursuit of strategic depth which, for instance, involves having a Plan B even if its major cities such as Karachi, Lahore and Rawalpindi, close to the Indian border, are obliterated in a possible Indian nuclear second strike (after Pakistan has wiped out Delhi and Mumbai in a first strike). They want to regroup from Afghanistan and continue their jihad against India from there.Got all that? As to what to do about it: For a few minutes set aside al Qaeda, the War on Terror, and Islamism. Get into the ballpark of what's actually going on in Pakistan. From there it's a hop and skip to working out a better war strategy in Afghanistan. Reaching the ballpark starts with realizing that we can't 'solve' Afghanistan until we confront what Pakistan is and what we've been supporting in Pakistan since (drum roll please) 1947: a form of feudalism that's supported by a caste system.
The Taliban, of course, are Pakistani Army and ISI soldiers dressed in baggy pants and beards for the occasion. The fact that alleged seminary students (whom the Taliban are supposed to be) suddenly started driving tanks and flying planes is indirect evidence that they were trained soldiers.
Therefore, Taliban rule in Kabul means Pakistan has achieved its strategic depth. Clearly, they have no desire to fight or eliminate the Taliban, despite the fact that some factions (such as the one from the Mehsud tribe) have begun to inconvenience Pakistan through a campaign of suicide bombings. Dead Pakistani civilians are considered acceptable collateral damage by the ISI, but their attacks on the military apparatus is a big no-no. They are clearly ‘bad Taliban’, and will not get any share of the spoils.[...]
However, we don't have enough time to become armchair anthropologists in the effort to help rectify a situation that goes back not to Pakistan's independence but to thousands of years into the past. As I noted in Part 1 of this essay, Pakistan has not so much a feudal system as the remnants of the Indian subcontinent's maharaja system, which in turn is based on a much older system of government in agrarian ages.
So I will fall back on weaving an allegory from two struggles between good and evil that exposed a larger evil, and which intersect in the present war. This to warn that time is running out, as the news from London today indicates. How long have we got? Well, toward the end of the siege of Mumbai in 2008, one of the terrorist's handlers said that the carnage in Mumbai was just the film trailer and to wait for the film.
(The First Indochina War was fought from 1946-1954. The Second Indochina War, also referred to simply as the Vietnam War, did not start until 1959.)
Reds' Time Bombs Rip Saigon Center blared a headline in The New York Times of January 10, 1952. Written by Tillman Durdin, a Times reporter in Saigon working in tight collaboration with the CIA, the story called the bombing "one of the most spectacular and destructive single incidents in the long history of revolutionary terrorism" carried out by "agents here of the Vietminh."Fast forward a half century:
A blood-chilling photograph of the carnage appeared as the Picture of the Week in the January 28 LIFE magazine, with a caption that asked people to focus on the most gruesome results of this terrorism by the "Viet Minh Communists":
"The bomb blew the legs from under the man in the foreground and left him, bloody and dazed, propped up on the tile sidewalk."
The bombing certainly came at a convenient time for the war hawks, including LIFE, whose previous week's lead editorial, Indo-China Is in Danger, was a near panicky call for major U.S. participation in the [First Indochina War] (which the French were still fighting, with U.S. assistance), because "It's all one war, and our war, whether the front be in Europe, Korea, or Indo-China."
Graham Greene, who was then wintering in Saigon, wondered how LIFE happened to have a photographer on the scene, as he explained in his 1980 memoir, Ways of Escape:
"The LIFE photographer at the moment of the explosion was so well placed that he was able to take an astonishing and horrifying photograph which showed the body of a trishaw driver still upright after his legs had been blown off.
This photograph was reproduced in an American propaganda magazine published in Manila over the caption The work of Ho Chi Minh," Greene continued, despite the fact that General Trinh Minh Thé, a warlord masquerading as Vietnam's savior from colonialism and communism, "had promptly claimed the bomb as his own."
"Who," Greene pondered, "had supplied the material" to this "bandit?"
A few months after this bombing and a series of bicycle bombs set off later in January by Thé's agents, Greene began writing his answer in The Quiet American.
When Greene, a veteran of British intelligence, used his contacts in French security services to investigate the Saigon bombings of January 1952, he discovered a U.S. campaign to create a "Third Force," opposed to both Communism and colonialism and designed to evolve into a U.S.-backed 'democracy' in Vietnam. [...]
The hotbed of U.S. Third Force activities was the Economic Aid Mission, headed by someone French commanding General Jean De Lattre called "the most dangerous man in Indochina."
Greene himself had been ardently sermonized about the wonders of Third Force democracy by a boyish, enthusiastic member of the Economic Aid Mission, a likeable young man who, according to Greene, was the original model for Alden Pyle.
By the time The Quiet American was published in 1955, America's Third Force democracy had actually been institutionalized in Saigon in the person of the brutal puppet dictator Ngo Dinh Diem, a former New Jersey resident who claimed to be the legitimate ruler of the entire country of Vietnam.
(No government in either Saigon or Hanoi ever recognized the U.S. invention of two separate countries called "South Vietnam" and "North Vietnam.")
To prepare for Diem's insertion into Vietnam, CIA operative Colonel Edward Lansdale [photograph above] arrived on June 1, 1954, in the midst of the Geneva peace negotiations, to launch a systematic campaign of sabotage and terror in the north and to supply a military force for Diem to gain control of Saigon.
Building on the CIA contacts that Greene had earlier discovered, Lansdale employed terrorist warlord General Trinh Minh Thé to secure the city [...] Thé was paid by the CIA. [...]
Especially since Lansdale's covert activities were revealed in his top-secret reports included in the Pentagon Papers, most commentators on the novel have assumed that he must have been the model for the Quiet American, something denied repeatedly by Greene.
Whether or not Greene wrote Lansdale into his novel, Lansdale wrote Greene into the next version of The Quiet American, the 1958 film directed by Joseph Mankiewicz. Just as the CIA in 1952 had orchestrated terrorist bombings in Saigon to incite a U.S. war in Vietnam, the CIA and several of its front organizations used the 1958 film to resurrect those bombings, blame the Communists once again, build support for Diem's dictatorship, and savage Greene personally as the archetypal 'intellectual' Communist dupe who menaced the democracy that America had built in Vietnam.
In March 1956, shortly after Mankiewicz bought the film rights to The Quiet American, Lansdale wrote to the director from his Saigon operations headquarters and, showing his skills as a former advertising executive, explained how to turn the novel into an assault on Greene and an advertisement for Diem.
Although Lansdale acknowledged that Trinh Minh Thé had done the bombing and claimed credit for it in a radio broadcast, he assured Mankiewicz that no "more than one or two Vietnamese now alive know the real truth of the matter, and they certainly aren't going to tell it to anyone," so he should "just go ahead and let it be finally revealed that the Communists did it after all, even to faking the radio broadcast."
Mankiewicz cast Audie Murphy, the most decorated U.S. soldier of World War II, as "The American" (he has no other name in the film), got one of Diem's henchmen to organize the on-location shooting, dedicated the film to Diem, and arranged for the first screenings to be benefits for one of Diem's main sponsors, the International Rescue Committee.
"The American" is completely innocent and thoroughly heroic. In the car bomb scene, it is not he but Fowler (Michael Redgrave) who is unmasked. The American arrives with medical equipment in a "United States Christian Mission" truck (the movie makes Murphy closely resemble Tom Dooley) to care for the wounded.
When Fowler, who has been duped by the Communists, stands amid the carnage hysterically accusing him of involvement in the bombing, The American, fuming with righteous indignation, shouts, "For once in your life, why don't you just shut up and help somebody?"
Later, The American tries one last time to convince Fowler of the righteous destiny of the democratic Third Force.
"I met a very prominent Vietnamese living in exile in New Jersey," he earnestly explains. "If all goes well, if Vietnam becomes an independent republic, this man will be its leader."
This was, of course, the man actually reigning in Saigon in 1958, five years before another covert U.S. plot arranged his murder.
The Good Cop
In a city famously corrupt the Mumbai police force has a well-deserved reputation for corruption. Money intended for upgrading weapons goes instead to buying fancy cars for officers, and bribe-taking officers routinely buy themselves higher ranks -- where they can collect even bigger bribes. That leaves Mumbai's honest and best police at or near the bottom of the rank and file; overworked and underpaid, more often armed with nothing more than a night stick or an antiquated rifle, they are the front lines against crime in one of the world's Alpha Cities.
One such policeman was Assistant Sub-Inspector Tukaram Omble. (Picture above.) Officer Omble, an army veteran who served on the Mumbai police force for 34 years, was a cop's cop and the kind of cop you'd want answering your call for help. Omble Story: When Mumbai residents ignored warnings to keep off a jellyfish-infested beach he read up on jellyfish, then with his own money bought a bag of limes and applied lime juice to sting injuries.
There are slightly different versions of how Officer Omble sacrificed his life to aid in the capture of the only terrorist to survive the November 2008 massacre in Mumbai. But the gist is that Officer Omble, armed only with a night stick, charged straight at the terrorist when he drew an AK-47. Officer Omble grabbed onto the gun barrel with both hands while the terrorist pulled the trigger and pumped by different accounts anywhere from five to nine bullets into him. Mortally wounded, Officer Omble still wouldn't let go of the gun, shielding other police officers and making it possible for them to wrest the weapon away and pin down the terrorist. Only then did Officer Omble collapse and die.
The Indian commandos who later retook the city from the rest of the terrorists made no effort to take prisoners and it's unlikely they would have been successful if they'd tried. The terrorists had been drilled by their commanders to keep shooting until they were killed.
The reason for the order is obvious: survivors could talk. I think the commanders knew they must make every effort to prevent the attack being traced with certainty to their organization because the heat was on. The Americans had become increasingly vocal about the Pakistan government's involvement with terrorist groups.
So here's the part that gives me chills: While Officer Omble's struggle with the terrorist protected his fellow officers it also protected the terrorist from being shot dead, as happened to the terrorist's partner just before the encounter. With Omble in the range of fire the policeman who'd shot the other terrorist couldn't get a bead. That meant one terrorist survived; like a slow-spreading stain from a pool of blood that's having far-reaching consequences.
The Joker Cards
Within the first hours of the commando-style terrorist attack on Mumbai, India's R&AW ("Research and Analysis Wing") intelligence agency had learned many things with reasonable certainty about the attack; among them:
1. The attackers were Pakistani members of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), a terrorist organization that was the creation of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency, and which retained close ties to ISI and Pakistan's military.
2. Throughout the entire 60 hour siege of Mumbai the attack was micro-managed, almost minute-by-minute, in textbook military fashion by Pakistani handlers who were most probably situated in Pakistan, thus making it unnecessary to use highly trained operatives for the attack and making it likely that the handlers were current or former Pakistan military or ISI officers.
By the time an Indian interrogator had finished questioning Mohammed Ajmal Amīr Kasab, the captured member of the terrorist commando team, R&AW had reasonable confirmation of points 1 and 2. (The questioning began even before the siege was ended, while Kasab was still in the hospital.)
How did R&AW learn so much at such an early stage, even before the attack on Mumbai ended? At the outset of the attack the Mumbai police, paralyzed with confusion about what seemed a large-scale invasion, took a shot in the dark and began monitoring cell phone conversations in the city. They did this even though there were so many conversations that any chance of intercepting an exchange among the terrorists, if they were even communicating by phone, would be very remote. But to their wonder the police locked quickly into conversations between terrorists and their commanders.
It turned out Indian defense operatives had done good groundwork. Earlier they'd seeded cell phone stores with SIM cards that were locked into the police frequency. Miraculously, three of the cards turned up in phones used by the terrorists. So the police were able to follow in real time more than 200 conversations between the commander/handlers and three of the five two-man teams while they carried out the massacre.
Then another Joker card turned face up: the terrorists, all of them green at playing commando, had not thought to sink the rubber dinghy they disembarked from when they arrived at the Mumbai shore, and they'd left various supplies on board that could be traced to Pakistan -- oversights considered serious by the terrorists' handlers and discussed in one of the intercepted conversations.
The intercepts also made it clear that the terrorists had been prepped for a shahid operation; i.e., they were to kill as many people as possible but under no circumstances were they to be taken alive. The Mumbai police monitoring the intercepts learned that the issue was considered so critical that when the handlers realized from watching television coverage of the attack that a terrorist had been captured they tied down one of the teams at Nariman House in an effort at a hostage exchange negotiation with the Indian government.
The surviving terrorist, Kasab, was also a Joker card in LeT's deck. Kasab was not exactly what you'd call good Fedayeen material -- Fedayeen being those warriors for Islam who refuse to leave the battlefield alive. He was run to ground while trying to flee in a hijacked car. And during his interrogation he threw LeT and militant Islam under the bus in the course of his heart-tugging account of how he'd gotten involved with terrorism.
If you've seen the video of that part of the interrogation you know that even the interrogator was having a hard time sitting on his sympathy for the kid, even though he gruffly told him to stop crying. Kasab blurted out enough to convey that as a poor village boy he'd been brainwashed by LeT and he explained that his father had sold him to the terror organization.
"I do not sell my sons," said his father when he was finally located.
It turned out Kasab was a punk. He got angry when his father couldn't afford to buy him new clothes for the Eid Muslim holiday, left home, took up petty crime, then turned to armed robbery. Then he thought he'd try terrorism.
He was a mighty scared punk without his AK-47. Stripped of his blood-stained clothing, clothing stained with Officer Omble's blood, lying naked under a wool blanket on a gurney with a video camera running, he sang like a bird. He named every name he could think of connected with LeT, blurted every detail of the attack he was privy to, told where to locate a satphone and other items the commandos left on a trawler. And, when he said that the attack was originally planned for September, unknowingly confirmed information that the FBI had passed to R&AW earlier in the year.
Update Dec 21 8:30 PM ET
The information that the FBI had alerted R&AW of a pending Sept. 2008 attack on Mumbai came from Gerald Posner's Dec. 8, 2009 report for the Daily Beast, which I mention below, and which broke the news in the USA that the Indian government had been alerted by the US about a planned Sept. 2008 attack. Today's edition of The Hindu (Dec. 22) reports unnamed Indian government sources giving the CIA as the source for the alert.
Because the Posner report does not state when the alert was given to R&AW or the exact date of the planned Sept. 2008 attack, I simply reported above that the alert came "earlier in the year." According to the Hindu, which quotes Kasab's statement under interrogation that the date of the planned attack was Sept. 27, 2008, the Indian government received the alert from the CIA on Sept. 24, 2008 -- only three days before the planned attack.
The Hindu report contains a number of other disturbing revelations so I'm appending it to this post.(2) The Headley Affair is turning into a major scandal for the U.S. government, although I doubt it will make headlines in the USA. Now to continue (I am not revising the following text to take the Hindu report into account):
In light of Kasab's revelation, the FBI warning, which was detailed -- even to naming the two hotels that were to be struck in the attack -- now gave fresh urgency to the question of how the U.S. had obtained the information. Was it from 'signals intelligence' -- phone or internet intercepts and the like? Or was it obtained from human intelligence -- a U.S.-sponsored mole at LeT? Or from a combination of the two?
If the source had been HUMINT, had the FBI reeled in the mole or would it do so now, while the carnage from the Mumbai attack was airing on international television?
Here I must fall back on speculation but I'd say it's a fair guess that as soon as the Indian goverment got confirmation that the attack had been originally planned for September, it urgently asked the FBI to provide more information about how they learned of the attack. If indeed such a request was made it seems in light of unfolding events that the Indian government got stonewalling in reply.
In any event, 40 days later, on January 5, 2009, the Indian government officially presented Pakistan's government with a 69-page dossier. The document contained forensic evidence about the massacre, which included a transcript of several of the intercepted conversations between the terrorists and their handlers. India's government also released the dossier to several 'friendly' governments, including the U.S. one. And within two days Indian officials released a PDF copy of the dossier to the national Indian newspaper, The Hindu.
The evidence presented in the dossier is damning. And while it doesn't directly point at the U.S. government, any U.S. official who read the dossier and knew of the FBI warning to India's government would have realized India was asking whether the U.S. had withheld vital information that could have saved lives.
On Monday, January 7 The New York Times published a report on the dossier with a link to The Hindu's copy of the dossier. The Times report speculated on the reason for the dossier's release:
The compilation seems intended to achieve at least two objectives for India: demonstrate that the attackers were sent from Pakistan, and rally international support for India’s efforts to press Pakistan on its handling of terrorism suspects.After providing a short list of the dossier's evidence the reporter adds:
[T]he dossier chronicles India’s efforts in recent years to persuade Pakistan to investigate suspects involved in terrorist attacks in India and to close terrorist training camps inside Pakistani territory. In the final pages, India demands that Pakistan hand over “conspirators” to face trial in India and comply with its promise to stop terrorist groups from functioning inside its territory.Oddly for the Times, a favored conduit for CIA leaks, and which can always be counted on to scare up comments from an unnamed U.S. official or two, the report contained nary a word of comment about the dossier from any U.S. official, named or unnamed.
Although the dossier takes pains not to blame current or former officials in Pakistan’s army or spy agency, Indian officials have consistently hinted at their complicity, at least in training the commando-style fighters who carried out the attack.
On Tuesday, the Indian prime minister, Manmohan Singh, upped the ante, but stopped short of naming any specific entities or individuals. “There is enough evidence to show that, given the sophistication and military precision of the attack, it must have had the support of some official agencies in Pakistan,” he said.
Pakistan on Tuesday rejected the Indian allegation. “Scoring points like this will only move us further away from focusing on the very real and present danger of regional and global terrorism,” Sherry Rehman, Pakistan’s information minister, said in a statement, according to Reuters. “It is our firm resolve to ensure that nonstate actors do not use Pakistani soil to launch terrorist attacks anywhere in the world.”
From what is known today it's a fair guess that any U.S. officials knowledgeable enough at the time to comment on the dossier were too busy doing CYA to spare a moment for a reporter's question. What is known today is that the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) had been knowingly using an informant with terrorist ties and, at the least, not been keeping close track of him.
That, in one sentence, is the still-murky back story to the arrest on October 3 of one David Coleman Headley aka Daood Sayed Gilani -- an American citizen with a Pakistani father whose European looks inherited from his American mother made him very useful to the LeT as a scout for planned terrorist operations.
The original U.S. complaint mentioned only the accusation that Headley had traveled to Denmark to scout the building of the Jyllands-Posten newspaper (home of the famous Mohammed cartoon) and a nearby synagogue.
It wasn't until December 8 that the FBI added to the complaint the accusation that Headley had been an integral part of the "26/11" plot -- the November 2008 LeT terrorist attack on Mumbai.
Since then the unwinding ball of yarn continues to roll across the floor. Perhaps because rumors were flying that Headley had been working for the CIA, unnamed officials in Washington finally found their tongue. They confirmed for investigative reporter Gerald Posner on December 7 that Headley was the DEA's mess. However, Posner's December 8 report for the Daily Beast on the Headley affair didn't do much to quash the rumors:
It was shortly before the Mumbai attacks that the FBI evidently first put Headley under its surveillance, leading to his arrest this past October. The FBI has rejected the requests of Indian investigators to talk to Headley or his co-conspirator, Tahawwur Hussain Rana, a 48-year-old Pakistani native with Canadian citizenship.Those are the least of the questions. B. Raman, one of the best counterterrorism experts writing for the general public, was initially willing to give the U.S. government the benefit of the doubt. Earlier in the investigation he pointed out on his blog that the details the FBI provided to India's government about the planned September attack didn't include the Nariman House as a target, even though Headley had scouted the building for LeT. Raman speculated that the omission could have meant the FBI obtained information about the attack from signals intelligence.
U.S. officials blamed “bureaucratic” and “procedural” hurdles for denying Indian investigators access to Headley. But keeping Headley locked up and away from other investigators isn’t stopping the questions posed by some foreign governments about whether an American informant turned on his handlers and might have helped pull off India’s 9/11.
There are a few other ways of looking at the same data: For example, it could be that Headley was indeed the source but that Nariman House was added as a target after he informed his U.S. handlers about the September attack; i.e., Nariman House was chosen as a target only after the September attack was scrubbed and replaced with the November one, and Headley wasn't informed of this.
That last line of speculation takes on a little weight in light of unfolding events. On November 14, 2009 the Wall Street Journal reported that, in the year since 26/11, India's government has disrupted at least six more plots by Lashkar-e-Taiba to launch terror attacks in Mumbai. So the fact that Headley scouted Nariman House as a target doesn't necessarily mean LeT was going to include it in the planned September 2008 attack. LeT was scouting a range of targets for a series of attacks.
In any case Raman is now less willing to be charitable in assessing the Headley Affair. In his December 15 post, titled Headly: A Quadruple Agent (the ball of yarn has many skeins) he observed:
[...] The communications between Headley and his LeT handler intercepted by the FBI in July and August also indicated that he was planning to visit India in October to prepare the ground for another terrorist strike. The FBI had two options: either allow him to go to India, alert the Indian intelligence and keep him under surveillance -- or arrest him before he left for Pakistan and India. If he had been allowed to go to India, watched there and arrested by the Indian intelligence, his past contacts with the US agencies and his role in 26/11 would have come to the notice of the Indian authorities. [...]Yes. And that would have been unwelcome in Washington because it could have turned up the famous smoking gun that a U.S. official told the Los Angeles Times this November didn't exist:
A report distributed in late 2007 by the [U.S.] National Intelligence Council was characteristically conflicted on the question of the ISI's ties to the Afghan Taliban, a relationship that traces back to Pakistan's support for Islamic militants fighting to oust the Soviets from Afghanistan.I wonder how many more smoking guns U.S. officials will identify as a bag of potato chips? Never mind; that's just me blowing off steam.
"Ultimately, the report said what all the other reports said -- that it was inconclusive," said a former senior U.S. national security official.
"You definitely can find ISI officers doing things we don't like, but on the other hand you've got no smoking gun from command and control that links them to the activities of the insurgents."
Kasab tries his hand at blackmail
For a Fedayeen Kasab is trying his darndest to avoid the hangman's noose. His latest move, yesterday in an Indian court, was to recant his videotaped confession and his July courtroom confession on the grounds that he was tortured into incriminating himself.
As for the famous photographs of Kasab showing him shooting unarmed civilians, he now claims he's not that man. It's a complicated story but moving right along, it seems that either he or his attorney decided to play Monkey See, Monkey Do: If Headley was able to get a reduced jail sentence for cooperating with the U.S. government, and if Headley might avoid the death penalty if he knew anything of substance about a U.S. agency getting too cozy or negligent with LeT, the tack was worth a shot for Kasab. So he announced in court that while he was in jail in Mumbai he received a visit from "four white men," including David Coleman Headley.
According to the AP reporter who filed the story, the judge then told Kasab "not to reveal any more details on Headley."
He didn't need to reveal any more details, if he even had any. All he needed to do was drop the name "Headley."
And that's the way it's going to be from now on, with every terrorist on the planet who thinks he can do on a small scale what Pakistan's government has been doing on a grand scale: blackmailing the government of the United States of America. Any terrorist who has information pointing to U.S. complicity with Pakistan's sponsorship of terrorism, or who's even good at telling a whopper, has gotten the idea he might pick up a few million dollars in hush money and even get the U.S. to studiously overlook his gang's terrorist activities.
We're not in 1946 anymore, Toto, but then did we ever leave it?
There's no need to ask, 'How did it come to this?' We just need to look back down the yellow brick road. What started with a photograph in LIFE ended up with many American troops murdered in Afghanistan by agents of a U.S. client state -- and with Washington's only protest to engage in butterknife rattling at the client state. And, perhaps in the hope that two clattering butterknives would equal the sound of one rattling saber, London joined Washington in telling Pakistan's military and ISI that if they didn't stop blowing up ISAF troops in Afghanistan, well, they needed to stop. This tough line was followed by Britain's Prime Minister Gordon Brown fobbing hush money on Pakistan's government to the tune of £60m, "which will include funds for education and clean drinking water for children, to be delivered before the end of the financial year."
"None Dare Call it a Rogue State"
On December 9 a sharp American military/foreign policy analyst by the name of Mark Safransksi, who blogs at Zenpundit, came right out and called a spade a spade:
[...] The horns of our dilemma is that our long time “ally” whom we have hitched ourselves to in a grand war effort against revolutionary Islamist terrorism is not our ally at all, but a co-belligerent with our enemy. By every policy measure that matters that causes the United States -- justifiably in my view -- to take a tough stance against North Korea and Iran, applies in spades to Islamabad. Yet none dare call Pakistan a rogue state.True, true, all true. However, getting grounded in reality in this case means we untangle our contradictory policy toward Pakistan and understand what the country is like. Only then can we deal intelligently with Pakistan's rogue regime.
We play a bizarre game, our leaders being more concerned about Pakistan’s “stability” than Pakistan’s own generals and politicians who egg on, fund and train the very militant Islamist groups spreading death and chaos inside Pakistan and beyond its borders.
Until America’s bipartisan foreign policy elite grapple with the fact -- and it is an easily verifiable, empirical, fact -- that Pakistan’s government is in chronic pursuit of policies that destabilize Central Asia, menace all of Pakistan’s neighbors, generate legions of terrorists and risk nuclear war with India, no solutions will present themselves.
A strategy will only have a chance of success when it is grounded in reality.
In the next post I'll fall back on the insights of Pakistani intellectuals to examine whether the country is truly a feudal society. I think that will help Americans understand more about the country we've poured so many billions of dollars into for almost a half century, either through direct aid or indirectly through international organizations such as the World Bank.
On November 26, 2009, the date of the one-year anniversary of the first night of the 60-hour siege of Mumbai, the American cable TV channel HBO aired a 64 minute documentary titled "Terror in Mumbai."
From HBO's interview with the director, HBO had not at that point found a television station in India that was willing to broadcast the documentary and one shouldn't wonder why. The film represents the most harrowing footage I've ever seen aired on American television because it juxtaposes scenes of the carnage, and interviews with survivors, with real-time phone conversations between teams of terrorists and the commander who was micro-managing their murder rampage.
Those are the conversations I mentioned earlier in this post but I gave no hint of how rough they are to listen to for anyone with a conscience. The documentary also features part of Kasab's interrogation in the hospital, and which I also mentioned.
I warn that Americans of conscience who know a great deal about U.S. sponsorship of Pakistan's terrorist regime will find the film almost unbearable to watch. This said, I think it's very important for as many American voters as possible to see the documentary. We must confront what we have done by blindly allowing our tax dollars to go to financial assistance to Pakistan's government -- and by not criticizing our government's pandering to Pakistan's military and ISI in the name of fighting terrorism. Watch the documentary to see the kind of terrorism we have helped finance; that this happened unwittingly does not change what we did.
"Terror in Mumbai" will air next at these times:
Mon 12/21 08:00 AM - HBO2 - EAST
Mon 12/21 11:00 AM - HBO2 - WEST
Sat 12/26 10:00 AM - HBO2 - EAST
Sat 12/26 01:00 PM - HBO2 - WEST
Here is the link to HBO's interview with Daniel Reed, the award-winning director. Perhaps only a director of Reed's caliber could have persuaded the Indian government to agree to release excerpts of the phone conversations -- the worst of which do not show up in the film; in other words you won't hear the terrorists torturing people before they murdered them.
Graham Greene and Tukaram Omble
On the surface you could not find two men who were more different. Officer Omble, a tower of strength for others, never giving into illness, never missing a day's work, a man who believed that if punctuality was abandoned everything else fell apart. Greene, a train wreck of a man -- suffering from bipolar disorder, always on the verge of suicide, a man of poor morals in many areas and whose political views were hopelessly contradictory.
Yet when you sweep away the differences you find two people of great spiritual strength. Both stumbled across real evil and fought it, each in his own way, and both got in the last word. That, I should think, is a fact to keep in mind when you watch "Terror in Mumbai."
This entry, as with all Pundita essays, is crossposted at RBO. Many thanks to Brenda for helping me with the illustrations and proofreading, as she's done do many times before.
1) From H. Bruce Franklin's review of the 2003 remake of Mankiewicz's version of the Greene novel. The review was originally published in January 2003 in the leftist magazine The Nation, which introduced Franklin as the John Cotton Dana Professor of English and American Studies at Rutgers University in Newark, New Jersey and the author or editor of 18 books, including the "just published" Vietnam and Other American Fantasies.
If the 1958 film took too many liberties in favor of the war hawks, the 2002 version got even. Made at the height of the controversy about the U.S. entry into Iraq and with the benefit of hindsight about the Cold War that Greene didn't have in 1952, it does double duty as a polemic against Bush's war policy.
Someday, somebody's going to make a film about the damn novel that just tells the story Greene put down on paper.