Tag Archives: faisal shahzad

III. War in a New York minute

I am not the only one. I received this via email from an incisive friend who’s agreed to let me put it up. Hopefully, s/he will be writing more often. As the ‘experts’ sound the drum to expand the global war into North Waziristan, those who question the war and the shoddy un-knowledge on which it turns are being shut down and pushed out of public discourse. The papers would have you believe otherwise, but there are those who reject this war, and we are not the only ones. So, without further ado, here are some sharp observations about the war narrative building up around Pakistan from the Underground Man:

To say that the pro-war narrative in Pakistan is exasperating is to put it mildly. Some days the op-eds in the English dailies are worse than the others, but it increasingly seems that we have collectively shut down all avenues for a discourse against the war. I’m going to point out just three examples of the kind of dialogue we are consuming on a daily basis that subtly informs our opinions and in the end perpetuates the myth of an honourable, necessary war.

  1. Firstly, the short comments on Foreign Policy by Af-Pak (why can’t we retire that term already?) Channel’s experts on Faisal Shahzad, (the person alleged to have been behind NYC Times Square failed bombing plot) have been irritatingly ignorant, to say the least. For example, this comment written by Saba Imtiaz notes that:

Pakistan is lucky that the United States after 9/11 and India after Mumbai did not bomb the country into oblivion.

O RLY! How awfully lucky is Pakistan to have thus far avoided a full-scale war, shielded itself from US’ imperialist designs and nearly escaped an escalation in bombs and drone attacks from within…. oh wait. All of that did happen. So given this logic, a singular terrorist attack warrants bombing the country of the bomber’s origin into oblivion. Any other response is a tad generous on the victim country’s part.

But at some point, some country that is the target of an attack by a terrorist group that was trained in or received support from Pakistan will react.

I can’t imagine what that would look like, but Af-Pak Channel experts would surmise that it would be wholly justifiable given the case of Faisal Shahzad. Moving on:

Jumping into another immediate military offensive might not be the best idea […] but Pakistan needs to move toward serious military action.

Bomb North Waziristan NOW! I don’t know what gives this writer the audacity to call the operations in Swat and South Waziristan not serious. Let’s think more about why it has not been such a grand idea so far. Internally displaced people? Civilian casualties from the offensive? Complicity of the army and the intelligence agencies with certain militant groups?

The contradiction in that quote, by the way, is part of a single sentence.

Why is Foreign Policy recruiting inexperienced people to write for them and then calling them ‘experts’? If the comment has to be brief and lacking nuance, I’d rather it came from someone with at least marginal experience in military strategy, war reporting, imperialism 101… heck, actual knowledge of even one of those subjects would produce something infinitely more intelligent.

2.   Let us peruse the opinions suggesting the war expand to North Waziristan a bit more. Here’s what the Daily Times editorial titled “North Waziristan: The New Terrorist Epicentre” had to say:

This is not only necessary for the success of the military’s efforts elsewhere in FATA and Swat, it is now critical generally to ensure the militants are unable to regroup and cause headaches to Pakistan and the world through attacks such as the New York one. Failing to take action against the terrorists holed up in North Waziristan will doubtless bring renewed pressure from the US, and if cooperation is not forthcoming, the millions of dollars of US military and civilian aid may be threatened.

Express Tribune quotes the New York Times which quotes unnamed Pakistani officials who said:

There is a growing consensus that North Waziristan is now the source of the problem, there is a continuing debate in the military over when and how to tackle it. The evolving nature of the militants has made them more dangerous-and made the necessity of going after them in North Waziristan increasingly unavoidable.

Notice how none of these voices give any details besides assuring us that there is a general consensus that North Waziristan is the most ‘dangerous’ place harbouring an undisclosed number of militants and that attacking it now is more ‘critical’ than ever. This is easy to grasp and easier to swallow language found in all of the mainstream media. I’ll have more of that pro-war attitude please.

Alright then, how about some real experts? Ahmed Rashid is as good as any when it comes to a good dose of support for military action. Here’s what he had had to say post-Faisal Shahzad –failed-plot-situation:

North Waziristan is the hub of so many terrorist groups and so much terrorist plotting and planning that neither the CIA nor the ISI seems to have much clue about what is going on there.

And hence, we should, to quote Af-Pak experts, bomb the place into oblivion because one man has allegedly received some training there that, mind you, did not succeed.  A place about which the CIA, the ISI and probably the army have no bloody clue about. It is certain though, that it is definitely dangerous and bursting at the seams.

3.   Lastly, a brief glance at the popular language being employed much closer to home. Here are just three headlines from DAWN’s Sunday paper that say volumes about how the discourse has shaped up among expert columnists:                

But then he adds that the problem is that no one — not the news wires, not the foreign media, not even Pakistani papers or news channels — has direct access to the site of a strike.

Is the argument about there being no protests against drone attacks in the tribal areas valid if there has not been direct access to the site and we are relying on official quotes and on-ground reporters who also only report official quotes since they aren’t exactly allowed to be …on ground?

Can we back up a minute here and seriously rethink about the kind of war narrative we are perpetuating and at who’s whose expense? Where are the dissenting voices? Why have we collectively given up on responsible, accurate, locally produced journalism? Whither saner voices?

-The Underground Man

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II. War in a New York minute

Was it the drones or the mortgage? Certainly, Faisal Shahzad has made no claims; all we have to go by is the infuriatingly racist coverage. Faisal Shahzad is a Pakistani-American, but according to the media, he’s a PAKISTANI american, who the media emphasizes, had been a citizen for just one year. Good liberal Pakistanis have gotten into the act throwing a pity party about all that’s wrong with Pakistanis and urging Pakistani-Americans to cooperate. In the rush to assign nationality to acts of terror, they forget that Shahzad was living in the US for over a decade. So was Nidal Hassan, the Fort Hood bomber gunman. And Anwar al-Awlaki is a US citizen who was partially raised there. These people are obviously pissed and it’s possible that they’re pissed about the Iraq war, about Afghanistan, about Pakistan, about the attack on Muslims both in their home countries and their marginalization and demonization within the west. But if that is true, then one could almost say that all paths of terror lead through the US, or at least some toxic transnational mix.

Joshua Keating has a good list of contradictory reportage about Faisal Shahzad to highlight what we don’t know. Here’s my addition:

Rachel Maddow says it:

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I. War in a New York minute

While some early reports claimed that it was NYC (attempted) car bomber Faisal Shahzad’s wife and parents or his relatives who were picked up from Karachi where they had been residing, other news now suggests that anywhere between five to eight men were arrested in connection with the Times Square car bomb attempt. One of the men detained in Karachi may be his father-in-law; Shahzad’s parents meanwhile left their Peshawar home once they learned of their son’s arrest. The family was seen leaving their well-to-do home in Hayatabad. Two of the men have reportedly been identified as Tauhid Ahmed and Muhammad Rehan who says he travelled with Shahzad to Peshawar where they stayed for about two weeks in July.Pakistan’s Interior Minister, Rehman Malik claims that no arrests have been made in connection with this case, but some people are being detained for questioning. Rehman also said that no official request has been made by the US, but Pakistan intends to cooperate fully.

Shahzad is the son of  retired air vice-marshal and deputy director general of the civil aviation authority, Baharul Haq. Shahzad’s cousin, Kifayat Ali expressed disbelief about the former’s arrest, according to al-Jazeera

“This is a conspiracy so the [Americans] can bomb more Pashtuns,” Ali said, referring to a major ethnic group in Peshawar and the nearby tribal areas of Pakistan and southwest Afghanistan.

Family members in the family’s village of Mohib Banda, near Pabbi in Nowshera district echoed Ali’s denial about their relative. Another cousin, Sameerul Haq also charged conspiracy and reportedly said Shahzad had gone to the US for the sole purpose of studying. A villager who claimed to be Shahzad’s childhood friend told the News, “I don’t think Faisal had links with any militant group.” Interviews conducted with relatives and those familiar with Shahzad by the AP had similar findings.

Earlier this morning, when I visited North Nazimabad, a relatively quiet, upper middle class neighborhood of Karachi, neighbors were tight-lipped. Sources claim that the detentions of people from Nazimabad were made by military intelligence, not the local police. I was told that officials dressed in civilian clothing came looking for people connected with Faisal Shahzad and enquired about Shahzad in the neighborhood. If true, the involvement of military intelligence in these detentions poses some serious problems: the establishment is well-known for disappearing people. Jeremy Schahill raises concerns on the American side where American intelligence planes may have been used to locate Shahzad. The trouble with this, explains Scahill is that:

If true, that could mean that secretive programs such as “Power Geyser” or “Granite Shadow,” remain in effect. These were the unclassified names for reportedly classified, compartmentalized programs under the Bush administration that allegedly gave US military special forces sweeping authority to operate on US soil in cases involving WMD incidents or terror attacks.

See Scahill’s full post here.

[Post in progress…]

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