Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Daniel Pearl's Forgotten War

Operation Anaconda - ask yourself was it full of bleeps and blunders,
did they ever find Osama?

And why in the fuck did Daniel Pearl have to pay the price
for his life and his wife plead twice?
-- From "War" by Outkast

Four years ago today, Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl was kidnapped by militants in Karachi, Pakistan on his way to interview a terrorist leader.

The group claimed that Pearl was a CIA agent and photos of him handcuffed with a gun to his head were circulated. Despite pleas from Journal editors and his wife, Mariane, who was pregnant with their first child, Pearl was decapitated on February 1, 2002, his body cut into pieces and buried in a shallow grave on the outskirts of Karachi, where it was later found.

It is incidental that Pearl's abductors were not in the mainstream of the Islamic jihad against the West then so very much on people's minds because of the 9/11 attacks three and a half months earlier. Pearl had gone to Pakistan to investigate links between "shoe bomber" Richard Reid, who had been arrested aboard a U.S.-bound jetliner a month earlier, Al Qaeda and the all-powerful ISI – Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence and Military Intelligence unit.

Danny Pearl was on the right trail.
Four years later, as Carlotta Gall notes in a compelling Sunday New York Times story, there is no question that there are deep ties between Al Qaeda and the ISI, with the re-emergent Taliban playing chaperone.

This is further evidence, as if it was needed, that the government of Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has been extraordinarily duplicitous – paying lip service to fighting the War on Terror and accepting billions of dollars in U.S. aid and military hardware while allowing the Taliban and Al Qaeda free reign in his western provinces, which border on Afghanistan.

Writes Gall:

Western diplomats . . . and Pakistani opposition figures say that Pakistani intelligence agencies . . . have been supporting a Taliban restoration, motivated not only by Islamic fervor but also by a longstanding view that the jihadist movement allows them to assert greater influence on Pakistan’s vulnerable western flank.

“More than two weeks of reporting along this frontier, including dozens of interviews with residents on each side of the porous border, leaves little doubt that Quetta [in western Pakistan] is an important base for the Taliban, and found many signs that Pakistani authorities are encouraging the insurgents, if not sponsoring them.

(So touchy were Pakistani officials about Gall's reporting that she was physically assaulted by Pakistani intelligence officials. Agents also broke into her hotel room and copied her notes and computer files. They then tracked down and questioned everyone she had interviewed in Quetta.)

What were the White House’s coddling of Musharraf merely another example of making a bad decision about who to back and who to crack down on in the crazy post-9/11 world.

But that is not the case.

In its own way the U.S. has been even more duplicitous as the Pakistanis. (And, it should be added, European governments have been exceedingly reluctant to add more of their own troops to the NATO-led mission in Afghanistan.)

Despite early successes following the invasion of Afghanistan two months after the 9/11 attacks, the Bush administration never took seriously its obligation to Americans and freedom loving people everywhere to prosecute the War on Terror to the fullest extent possible in its hotbed in Afghanistan, its mountainous border region with Pakistan and satellite Al Qaeda outposts in the Philippines and elsewhere.

While Pearl was peeling away the layers of the Al Qaeda-ISI relationship in Pakistan, the White House was going balls out on planning a war against Iraq, where there was nary an insurgent and (despite years of subsequent digging by the conservative media) any link of substance between Saddam Hussein and the 9/11 attacks, as the administration still occasionally claims in justifying the Mess in Mesopotamia.

There is no guarantee that the Taliban would been driven to ground and Al Qaeda routed, let alone Osama bin Laden and Taliban leader Mullah Omar captured or killed, had there not been the enormous diversion of attention, troops and resources to a war in Iraq that has, of course, devolved into civil war.

As Wretchard wryly notes over at The Belmont Club:

"In the global jihad the difference between friend and foe is less often due to national and organizational affiliation as it is to personal belief. It is networks of personal loyalty or tribal and religious affiliation rather than such Western concepts as 'nationality' or membership in a particular government department that determines actual behavior. The modern day jihadi is like a ghost who walks through international and organizational boundaries where their enemies are stopped by them, often for legal reasons. Until we learn to walk through walls as they do, we will be operating at a disadvantage."

We will never know where the War on Terror would be today, let alone whether Wretchard's admonition had been taken to heart, without the war in Iraq to drag down the entire undertaking.

What we do know is that OBL apparently is alive and that Mullah Omar, according to reliable sources, is ensconced in the area of western Pakistani now controlled, with the support of the ISI, by the Taliban. And that the Taliban have been launching an increasing number of cross-border strikes against undermanned NATO patrols and terrorized Afghanis who had hoped they were rid of the fanatics who had turned the rout of their Soviet occupiers into an Islamic inquisition.

Will President Bush mention Afghanistan and Pakistan in his State of the Union speech tonight?

Does it matter?

Only if Daniel Pearl's Forgotten War matters to you, and it damned well should.

* * * * *
Four men were arrested for Pearl’s murder and tried in Pakistan’s Anti Terrorism Court in July 2002.

Ahmed Omer Sheikh, the man the government contents was the ringleader, was sentenced to death on charges of kidnapping and killing Pearl. Three accomplices, Fahad Naseem, Syed Salman Saqib and Sheikh Muhammad Adil, were sentenced to life in prison.

Appeals of the sentences are still pending.

* * * * *
The Daniel Pearl Foundation was formed in memory of the journalist to further the ideals that inspired his life and work. The foundation's mission is to promote cross-cultural understanding through journalism, music, and innovative communications.

Click here for more information.

* * * * *
Finally, there is another anniversary should not pass unnoticed.

Three months ago today, Army Specialist Ahmed Qusai al-Taayie, an interpreter who had emigrated from Iraq to Michigan as a teenager, was kidnapped by armed men in the Karrada neighborhood of central Baghdad where he had gone to see his wife, Israa Abdul-Statar.

Al-Taayie was badly beaten after his abduction and remains in captivity. A group whose political affiliation remains unclear has demanded a $250,000 ransom for his release. The U.S. government is offering a $50,000 reward for information leading to his recovery.


Anonymous said...


Sorry I didn't get around to reading your fine post earlier...I'll remember Daniel Pearl on February 1st.

I also mentioned Musharraf and the Pakistani nonsense in a post earlier this week - I'll update mine with a link to this one, since this provides more depth. Thanks.

Deepak Adhikari said...

Great post, though I feel a bit late here. Check out my post on similar subject. http://deepakadk.blogspot.com/2007/02/at-home-in-world-dannys-dispatches.html