Sunday, November 30, 2008
Coordinated Terror Attacks
Coordinated terrorist attacks struck the heart of Mumbai, India’s commercial capital, on Wednesday night, killing dozens in machine-gun and grenade assaults on at least two five-star hotels, the city’s largest train station, a Jewish center, a movie theater and a hospital.
The NYT has a map showing where the attacks took place — 13 locations in all.
Who Did This Surprise?
British security and intelligence sources said there had been increasing concern, particularly in the United States, that a “terrorist spectacular” was on the cards. […] The Americans have been expecting an atrocity partly because of the recent CIA success in eliminating figures in al-Qaeda, using Predator unmanned drones, firing Hellfire missiles at hideouts in the tribal regions of Pakistan. About a dozen al-Qaeda figures have been killed this year.
Spy agencies around the world were caught off guard by the deadly attack, in which gunmen sprayed crowds with bullets, torched landmark hotels and took dozens of hostages.
“We have been actively monitoring plots in Britain and abroad and there was nothing to indicate something like this was about to happen,” a British security official told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of his work.
Britain is the former colonial power in India and Pakistan and closely monitors terrorist suspects in those countries.
“This type of terrorism is spreading, through Pakistan and now India, but we were all surprised by such a large-scale attack like this,” said Wajid Hassan, Pakistan’s High Commissioner in London. “This is no coincidence that this type of attack happened so soon after the bombing of the Marriott Hotel. People from all countries are being paid to fight this al-Qaida war. This is a war that goes beyond any nationality.”
How Many Attackers Were There?
An estimated 100 armed men launched what India police called “terrorist attacks” on 10 locations in India’s financial centre.
The identity of the attackers remained a mystery. CNN-IBN quoted police sources as saying they believed there were some 26 gunmen, most of them young.
Police say the attackers came by boats to the waterfront near the Gateway of India monument.
Nine suspects have been arrested in connection with the attacks, and seven are fishermen, police said. Police also found a boat loaded with explosives near the Taj Mahal, also located on the waterfront.
The gunmen hijacked cars — including a police van — and split into at least three groups to carry out the attacks, police said.
One group headed toward the Cafe Leopold, a popular hangout for Western tourists, firing indiscriminately at passers-by on the street. They then opened fire and lobbed grenades at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus railway station, a Victorian building.
As police rushed to the scene of the attacks, gunmen attacked the Cama Hospital.
Two other groups attacked the Oberoi and Taj Mahal, police said.
The gunmen appear to have come ashore at the Sassoon Docks, not far from the Leopold. They moved on to the train station, the old Victoria Terminus, and then opened fire on Cama and Albless Hospital — where some of their earlier victims encountered a second round of gunfire. At one point, the gunmen hijacked a police vehicle and opened fire on journalists and spectators gathered near a famous theater, the Metro Cinema.
Witnesses and security camera video of the gunmen built a portrait of them as young men dressed in jeans and trendy T-shirts, bearing rucksacks and guns. It remained unclear who they were, what they wanted, or how many survived.
Who Were The Targets?
Several witnesses said the gunmen demanded to see passports from cornered guests, separating American and British tourists from the others.
“I guess they were after foreigners, because they were asking for British or American passports,” said Rakesh Patel, a British witness who lives in Hong Kong and was staying at the Taj Mahal hotel on business. “They had bombs.”
Rakesh Patel, a British businessman who escaped the Taj, told a television station that two young men armed with a rifle and a machine gun took 15 hostages, forcing them to the roof.
The gunmen, dressed in jeans and T-shirts, “were saying they wanted anyone with British or American passports,” Mr. Patel said.
Witnesses at the hotels that were targeted said the attackers had singled out British and American citizens.
“They kept shouting: ‘Who has US or UK passports?'” Ashok Patel, a British citizen who fled from the Taj Mahal hotel, said.
Several European legislators, visiting Mumbai ahead of a European Union-India summit, were among those inside the Taj when it was besieged.
Guests who escaped recounted how the gunmen had methodically tried to round up US and British citizens.
“They said they wanted anyone with British and American passports,” said one Briton, Rakesh Patel.
Alex Chamberlain, a British citizen who was dining at the Oberoi, told Sky News television that a gunman ushered 30 to 40 people from the restaurant into a stairway and, speaking in Hindi or Urdu, ordered everyone to put up their hands.
“They were talking about British and Americans specifically. There was an Italian guy, who, you know, they said: ‘Where are you from?’ and he said he’s from Italy and they said ‘fine’ and they left him alone. And I thought: ‘Fine, they’re going to shoot me if they ask me anything’ — and thank God they didn’t,” he said.
Alex Chamberlain, a sports website director, escaped from the hotel through a fire exit. The militants ordered everyone upstairs, told them to put their hands up and asked if there were any British or Americans, he said. “My friend said to me: ‘Don’t be a hero, don’t say you are British’.”
Alex Chamberlain, a Briton who works for Indian Premier League cricket, was in the Oberoi hotel when the attackers opened fire. Chamberlain said that a group of about 40 people was “marched up like sheep” to the roof by a “young guy with a submachine gun, who was about 22 or 23.”
The gunmen then asked if any of the hostages were British or American, Chamberlain told SkyNews.com.
“My Indian friend told me, ‘don’t be a hero’ and ‘tell him you’re Italian’ and that kind of stuff,” Chamberlain said.
“They told everybody to stop and put their hands up and asked if there were any British or Americans,” Alex Chamberlain, a British guest at the Oberoi/Trident hotel, said after fleeing his captors via a fire escape.
“My friend said to me, ‘don’t be a hero, don’t say you are British.'”
They just fired randomly at people and then ran away.
— Nasim Inam, at Chhatrapati Shivaji railway terminus
At least three top Indian police officers — including the chief of the anti-terror squad — were among those killed, said A.N. Roy, a top police official.
What Is A Commando Raid?
Even by the standards of terrorism in India, which has suffered a rising number of attacks this year, the assaults were particularly brazen in scale and execution. […] Unlike previous attacks in India this year, which consisted of anonymously planted bombs, the assailants on Wednesday night were spectacularly well-armed and very confrontational. In some cases, said the state’s highest-ranking police official, A. N. Roy, the attackers opened fire and disappeared.
Security officials and analysts agreed that the assaults represented a marked departure in scope and ambition from other recent terrorist attacks in India, which targeted local people rather than foreigners and hit single rather than multiple targets.
The Mumbai assault, by contrast, was “uniquely disturbing,” said Sajjan Gohel, a security specialist in London, because it seemed directed at foreigners, involved hostage-taking, and was aimed at multiple “soft, symbolic targets.” The attacks “aimed to create maximum terror and human carnage and damage the economy,” he said by phone.
How Much Planning Was Involved?
Although Mumbai has been the scene of several terrorist attacks in recent years, analysts said Wednesday’s assaults required a previously unseen degree of reconnaissance and planning. The scale and synchronization of the attacks pointed to the probable involvement of experienced commanders, some observers said, suggesting possible foreign involvement.
State media Press Trust of India, citing Union Cabinet Minister Kapil Sibal, reported the gunmen had worked for months to prepare, even setting up “control rooms” in the two luxury hotels that were targeted.
Indian officials said that it was too early to say which [group] carried out last night’s attacks, but the scale, complexity and targets suggested that it was the work of an Islamist group.
It may indeed have been the work of an Islamist group. But to my eye, the scale, the complexity and the targets — combined with the reporting — suggested that it was something else entirely.
to be continued …
Saturday, November 29, 2008
The Mumbai terrorist attacks began Wednesday evening and I’ve been reading about the situation — and thinking hard — ever since. The most noteworthy feature so far is the prevalence of unsubstantiated assertions that make no sense at all. I haven’t been doing a systematic survey of the world’s media — just grabbing stories from wherever they pop up — and every item I’ve stumbled across has been contaminated with spin. Or at least that’s the way it strikes me.
Then again, maybe it’s become impossible for terrorism — and news of terrorism — to strike me any other way. I’ve seen too much, I’ve been lied to too many times, to ever take anything at face value — except the occasional (accidental?) admission of horrors committed by unrepentant (audacious!) perpetrators.
According to the Department of Defense, it is fighting a war on terror which requires, or allows, it to perpetrate (or con others into perpetrating) acts of “terrorism” which can then be used as pretexts for war against the “terrorist groups” thus “exposed”.
This is not a new tactic. It has been used often and very successfully, by Americans both at home and abroad, and by foreign nationals both ancient and modern.
But now, in post-9/11 America, it is official policy.
How do we know this? Chris Floyd wrote about it in 2002 for the Moscow Times:
This column stands foursquare with the Honorable Donald H. Rumsfeld, U.S. Secretary of Defense, when he warns that there will be more terrorist attacks against the American people and civilization at large. We know, as does the Honorable Donald H. Rumsfeld, U.S. Secretary of Defense, that this statement is an incontrovertible fact, a matter of scientific certainty. And how can we and the Honorable Donald H. Rumsfeld, U.S. Secretary of Defense, be so sure that there will be more terrorist attacks against the American people and civilization at large?
Because these attacks will be instigated at the order of the Honorable Donald H. Rumsfeld, U.S. Secretary of Defense.
This astonishing admission was buried deep in a story which was itself submerged by mounds of gray newsprint and glossy underwear ads in last Sunday’s Los Angeles Times. There – in an article by military analyst William Arkin, detailing the vast expansion of the secret armies being massed by the former Nixon bureaucrat now lording it over the Pentagon – came the revelation of Rumsfeld’s plan to create “a super-Intelligence Support Activity” that will “bring together CIA and military covert action, information warfare, intelligence, and cover and deception.” According to a classified document prepared for Rumsfeld by his Defense Science Board, the new organization – the “Proactive, Preemptive Operations Group (P2OG)” – will carry out secret missions designed to “stimulate reactions” among terrorist groups, provoking them into committing violent acts which would then expose them to “counterattack” by U.S. forces.
In other words – and let’s say this plainly, clearly and soberly, so that no one can mistake the intention of Rumsfeld’s plan – the United States government is planning to use “cover and deception” and secret military operations to provoke murderous terrorist attacks on innocent people. Let’s say it again: Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, George W. Bush and the other members of the unelected regime in Washington plan to deliberately foment the murder of innocent people – your family, your friends, your lovers, you – in order to further their geopolitical ambitions.
For P2OG is not designed solely to flush out terrorists and bring them to justice – a laudable goal in itself, although the Rumsfeld way of combating terrorism by causing it is pure moral lunacy. (Or should we use the Regime’s own preferred terminology and just call it “evil”?) No, it seems the Pee-Twos have bigger fish to fry. Once they have sparked terrorists into action – by killing their family members? luring them with loot? fueling them with drugs? plying them with jihad propaganda? messing with their mamas? or with agents provocateurs, perhaps, who infiltrate groups then plan and direct the attacks themselves? – they can then take measures against the “states/sub-state actors accountable” for “harboring” the Rumsfeld-roused gangs. What kind of measures exactly? Well, the classified Pentagon program puts it this way: “Their sovereignty will be at risk.”
The Pee-Twos will thus come in handy whenever the Regime hankers to add a little oil-laden real estate or a new military base to the Empire’s burgeoning portfolio. Just find a nest of violent malcontents, stir ’em with a stick, and presto: instant “justification” for whatever level of intervention/conquest/rapine you might desire. And what if the territory you fancy doesn’t actually harbor any convenient marauders to use for fun and profit? Well, surely a God-like “super-Intelligence Support Activity” is capable of creation ex nihilo, yes?
The Rumsfeld-Bush plan to employ murder and terrorism for political, financial and ideological gain does have historical roots (besides al Qaeda, the Stern Gang, the SA, the SS, the KGB, the IRA, the UDF, Eta, Hamas, Shining Path and countless other upholders of Bushian morality, decency and freedom). We refer of course to Operation Northwoods, oft mentioned in these pages: the plan that America’s top military brass presented to President John Kennedy in 1963, calling for a phony terrorist campaign – complete with bombings, hijackings, plane crashes and dead Americans – to provide “justification” for an invasion of Cuba, the Mafia/Corporate fiefdom which had recently been lost to Castro.
Kennedy rejected the plan, and was killed a few months later. Now Rumsfeld has resurrected Northwoods, but on a far grander scale, with resources at his disposal undreamed of by those brass of yore, with no counterbalancing global rival to restrain him – and with an ignorant, corrupt president who has shown himself all too eager to embrace any means whatsoever that will augment the wealth and power of his own narrow, undemocratic, elitist clique.
There is genuine transgression here, a stepping-over – deliberately, with open eyes, with forethought, planning, and conscious will – of lines that should never be crossed. Acting in deadly symbiosis with their supposed enemies, the terrorist mafias, Bush and his cohorts are plunging the world into an abyss, an endless night of black ops, retribution, blowback, deceit, of murder and terror – wholesale, retail, state-sponsored, privatized; of fear and degradation, servility, chaos: the perversion of all that’s best in us, of all that we’ve won from the bestiality of our primal nature, all that we’ve raised above the mindless ravening urges and impulses still boiling in the mud of our monkey brains.
It’s not a fight for freedom; it’s a retreat into darkness.
And the day will be a long time coming.
Into The Dark
The darkness has been descending quickly. Chris Floyd wrote this column in early 2005:
More than two years ago, we wrote here of a secret Pentagon plan to foment terrorism: sending covert agents to infiltrate terrorist groups and goad them into action – i.e., committing acts of murder and destruction. The purpose was two-fold: first, to bring the terrorist groups into the open, where they could be counterattacked; and second, to justify U.S. military attacks on the countries where the terrorists were operating – attacks which, in the Pentagon’s words, would put those nations’ “sovereignty at risk.” It was a plan that countenanced – indeed, encouraged – the deliberate murder of innocent people and the imposition of U.S. military rule anywhere in the world that American leaders desired.
This plan is now being activated.
In fact, it’s being expanded, as the New Yorker’s Seymour Hersh revealed last week. Not only will U.S.-directed agents infiltrate existing terrorist groups and provoke them into action; the Pentagon itself will create its own terrorist groups and “death squads.” After establishing their terrorist “credentials” through various atrocities and crimes, these American-run groups will then be able to ally with – and ultimately undermine – existing terrorist groups.
Top-level officials in the Pentagon, the U.S. intelligence services and the Bush administration confirmed to Hersh that the plan is going forward, under the direction of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld – just as we noted here in November 2002. Through a series of secret executive orders, George W. Bush has given Rumsfeld the authority to turn the entire world into “a global free-fire zone,” a top Pentagon adviser says. These secret operations will be carried out with virtually no oversight; in many cases, even the top military commanders in the affected regions will not be told about them. The American people, of course, will never know what’s being done in their name.
The covert units – including the Pentagon-funded terrorist groups and hit squads – will be operating outside all constraints of law and morality. “We’re going to be riding with the bad boys,” one insider told Hersh. Another likened it to the palmy days of the Reagan-Bush years: “Do you remember the right-wing execution squads in El Salvador? We founded them and we financed them. The objective now is to recruit locals in any area we want. And we aren’t going to tell Congress about it.” Indeed, we reported here last summer that Bush has already budgeted $500 million to fund local paramilitaries and guerrilla groups in the most volatile areas of the world, a measure guaranteed to produce needless bloodshed, destruction and suffering for innocent people already ravaged by conflict.
Incredibly, as Hersh notes, the Bushists are now openly citing a sinister role model for their campaign: Britain’s brutal repression of the Mau Mau in Kenya during the 1950s, when British forces set up concentration camps, created their own terrorist groups and killed thousands of innocent civilians in putting down an “insurgency” against their colonial rule. And in fact, Rumsfeld and other Bush officials increasingly talk of combating not just terrorism but a “global insurgency” – as if the whole world is now an American colony, filled with recalcitrant “natives” rising up against their rightful masters.
The activation of the Pentagon terrorist operation is part of Bush’s second-term expansion of the “war on terror.” Despite some obfuscating rhetoric about “diplomacy,” the Bush regime is pressing ahead with a hard-line strategy aimed at opening new military fronts in the “global free-fire zone.” Any dissenting voices within the government are being ruthlessly purged. The Pentagon’s secret forces are set for operations in at least 10 countries, and Bush insiders “repeatedly” told Hersh that “Iran is the next strategic target.”
Iran has long been a focus of the small clique of “global dominationists” – led by Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Dick Cheney and their acolytes – who engineered the invasion of Iraq. This group is determined to “whack Iran,” as one insider put it, and they’re not at all discouraged by the debacle in Iraq; indeed, to them it’s a rousing success. Their first objective – openly stated years ago, before Bush took office – was the overthrow of Saddam’s regime and the planting of a U.S. “military footprint” in Iraq. This has now been done. The fact that it has plunged the Iraqi people into a hell of violence, chaos, terror and extremism is of no real concern to the clique. Their lofty rhetoric about “freedom” and “liberation” is meaningless sham, shuck and jive for the rubes. By the admission of the clique’s own publications, they seek strategic control over the world’s energy resources in order to preserve and expand American geopolitical and economic hegemony in the new century. Everything else – including the security of the American people, put at increasing risk by the clique’s reckless policies – is of secondary importance.
U.S. forces are already conducting military reconnaissance inside Iran in preparation for strikes on alleged nuclear weapons facilities, Hersh reports. The Pentagon is feverishly updating war plans for a “maximum ground and air invasion of Iran,” incorporating the new staging areas now available in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, while employing an Iranian terrorist group, MEK, to launch covert ops and terrorist acts against Tehran. MEK was once given sanctuary by Saddam Hussein, who used the group as a brutal enforcer against Kurd and Shiite insurgents. Now Bush, “riding with the bad boys,” has embraced the MEK murderers as his own.
In their ignorance and arrogance, the Bushists will almost certainly strike at Iran – despite the fact that even Iranian dissidents support the effort to make their nation a nuclear power and would join the mullahs in retaliation. The result will be a conflict far surpassing the horror and magnitude of the Iraq disaster.
In our original report on the Pentagon’s terror scheme, we wrote: “Bush and his cohorts are plunging the world into an abyss, an endless night of murder and terror – wholesale, retail, state-sponsored, privatized; of fear and degradation, servility, chaos, and the perversion of all that’s best in us.” Now the night has come. Now the United States stands openly – even proudly – for terrorism, torture and the Hitlerian principle of aggressive war. America has fallen into the pit – and the hopes of the world go with it.
And It Makes Me Wonder …
This deliberate crossing of the line — or diving into the pit, as you prefer — has demolished any shred of “plausible deniability” the CIA and its clandestine operations may once have enjoyed.
And now, whenever we see terrorist acts — especially attacks such as these: spectacular multi-pronged assaults that seem to come from nowhere, which are claimed by groups nobody has ever heard of — we always have to wonder. And for every detail that doesn’t make sense, a dozen suspicions arise.