The bodies were still being counted in Mumbai when U.S. television networks, with CNN in the van, erupted with speculation that the U.S. was the real target of the coordinated terrorist attacks.
Yes, there was some taking of American hostages and among the 140 dead were Westerners, including at least two Americans. But who would you expect these cowards to go after in India's most cosmopolitan city? Street vendors selling japatis and beetle nuts?
In a predictable mantra, the nets cited unnamed intelligence sources who asserted that Al Qaeda had been planning "a big one," so the real target must be the U.S. Alas, that self-fulfilling assertion faded quickly as a hitherto unknown radical Muslim group that may not even exist took credit.
Indian officials, of course, were quick to label the attackers as foreign led because of their belief that homegrown terrorists could not have pulled off such a sophisticated operation. That is bullshit given that Indian Muslims have been implicated in a string of bombing attacks that have killed 200 people this year alone.
No matter who the perps are, intelligence experts say they probably have ties to Pakistan.
Relations between the two nuclear powers have long been strained, primarily over the disputed territory of Kashmir, but there are a host of other issues and grievances, as well. Pakistan's own intelligence service has close ties to a number of anti-Indian terrorist organizations, and thanks to the Bush administration's schizophrenically bankrupt policy toward the South Asian nation it continues to flourish as the world's hotbed of radical Islam.
President-Elect Obama has suggested that working toward a rapprochement between Indian and Pakistan will be a key element of his foreign policy, and that if Pakistan focuses less on India and more on Al Qaeda, the Taliban and tribal militants in the lawless mountain region it shares with Afghanistan outlaws then Pakistan, and the larger world, will be a better place.
The U.S. has had but a single attack of the magnitude of 9/11 and Al Qaeda was indeed the culprit. But the assault on India's commercial and tourist center was merely its latest 9/11 in a decades-long series of mass revenge killings and other atrocities committed in the service of one side or another in profound religious and ethnic divisions that Americans can hardly comprehend.
Hindus make up about 80 percent of India's population of 1.13 billion, with Muslims making up about 13 percent, and many of them are extremely pissed off. Not at America, because Mumbai attacks were not us.
Photograph by Reuters