Thursday, May 5, 2011

Salman Rushdie's BS meter is pinging as well...

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Key graphs:

In the aftermath of the raid on Abbottabad, all the big questions need to be answered by Pakistan. The old flim-flam (“Who, us? We knew nothing!”) just isn’t going to wash, must not be allowed to wash by countries such as the United States that have persisted in treating Pakistan as an ally even though they have long known about the Pakistani double game—its support, for example, for the Haqqani network that has killed hundreds of Americans in Afghanistan.

This time the facts speak too loudly to be hushed up. Osama bin Laden, the world’s most wanted man, was found living at the end of a dirt road 800 yards from the Abbottabad military academy, Pakistan’s equivalent of West Point or Sandhurst, in a military cantonment where soldiers are on every street corner, just about 80 miles from the Pakistani capital Islamabad. This extremely large house had neither a telephone nor an Internet connection. And in spite of this we are supposed to believe that Pakistan didn’t know he was there, and that the Pakistani intelligence, and/or military, and/or civilian authorities did nothing to facilitate his presence in Abbottabad, while he ran al Qaeda, with couriers coming and going, for five years?

You think he ain't byin'?

"Revenge is dish best served with pinto beans and muffins."

Thus Spake Khan Noonian Singh



What brought this on?

This evolutionary biological/psychological/physiological look at revenge via one of my always reliable wiki-sources. Damn. I know I'll have to post on it sometime or other, but for now, I'm too lazy, and am satisfied with pinto beans and muffins.

First reaction though: It pays insufficient attention to the moral element in the spontaneous celebrations of the demise of OBL/UBL, and treats the phenomenon as akin to certain mindless quasi thermodynamical social hierarchical sorting processes that animals go through. This seems to be a common paradigm in these sorts of evolutionary/psychological hypotheses. I don't know how you go about verifying or falsifying such speculations. Be that as it may, there is a decidedly normative element to the human phenomenon, at least in the case of U/OBL and cases like it. Is there also some schadenfreude? Yes. Is that necessarily a bad thing? No. The writer seems to think differently.

And I don't share the hand wringing attitude evinced in this bit:

There is, nonetheless, something uniquely dismaying in the exorbitant glee shown by so many Americans in the immediate aftermath of bin Laden's death, just as there was in the celebration by Al Qaeda sympathizers after 9/11, and in the oafs and thugs who revel in TV reports of a state-sanctioned execution.

Why does he consider the celebrations "exorbitant"?

And, this closing passage beggars explanation:

In killing Osama bin Laden, the United States may or may not have achieved justice; we have definitely obtained a measure of revenge. But it remains to be seen what we shall do, and what others will do, with the rest of our lives and theirs.

"..may or may not have achieved justice"? Is there a question about this? I think it is safe to say that in the eyes of most, the converse of this puzzling statement is true, i.e., "In killing OBL the U.S. may or may not have achieved revenge; we have definitely obtained a measure of justice.."

But, enough for now.

More later.

U.S. to Pakistan: Our B.S. Detectors are pinging.


And we're losing patience.

The lede from this WSJ article...

U.S. and European intelligence officials increasingly believe active or retired Pakistani military or intelligence officials provided some measure of aid to al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, allowing him to stay hidden in a large compound just a mile from an elite military academy.

[Note to those with a background in logic: The repeated uses of the disjunctive "or" are intended in the inclusive sense, and also probably meant as a slight rhetorical hedger for what they really think, which I now roughly render, using that other more rhetorically and logically strong logical operator, conjunction, familiar from logic class, "and"]:

"U.S. and European intelligence officials increasingly believe active AND retired Pakistani military AND intelligence officials provided A GOODLY AMOUNT of aid AND COVER to al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, allowing him to stay hidden in a large compound just a mile from an elite military academy."

OK. Sounds damning, but the story, as it unfold is chock full o hedges, from Paks and U.S. folks. So much hedges it looks like Normandy, or maybe a freaking French Garden.

More from the WSJ write up:

Two senior U.S. officials and a high-level European military-intelligence official who have direct working knowledge of Pakistan's military intelligence agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate, say similar elements linked to the ISI have aided other Pakistan-based terror groups, the Haqqani militant network and Lashkar-e-Taiba.

"There's no doubt he was protected by some in the ISI," the European official said of bin Laden. The officials say they believe these ISI elements include some current and former intelligence and military operatives with long-standing ties to al Qaeda and other militant groups.

The officials didn't offer specific evidence, but pointed to the town's proximity to the capital and its high concentration of current and former military and intelligence officers. They said aid likely included intelligence tips to help keep bin Laden ahead of his American pursuers.

Captain Louis Renault [Vichy (ret)] might very well be the Superintendent of said Academy. He certainly seems to have had a heavy influence on the Pak PAO. Evidence? These gems from the article:

Details continued to emerge Wednesday that added to questions about what officials may have known. Abbottabad had come to the notice of Pakistani intelligence as a suspected hiding place for al Qaeda leaders as long ago as 2003, and was the focus of searches for top al Qaeda figures in years since.

In 2005, the man who was later identified as bin Laden's courier acquired the property in Abbottabad on which the compound was built, U.S. officials said Wednesday. The name he used, Arshad Khan, is the local alias he employed. It was this courier who, nearly six years later, eventually led the U.S. to the compound.

Pakistan denies it knew of bin Laden's whereabouts or sheltered him. Pakistani officials point out they passed the information about the 2003 search to their American counterparts.

The slippery bits of the Pak protestations are in bold. Notice, they claim that 'Hey Abbottabad' came under suspicion in '03, a full two years before the Rabbit Hut was built, and they also claim that they "passed on info" about a single search, one carried out in '03. That is Louis Renault weasely. There is vague reference to other searches "since." '03.

Well. Damn it, did you search the Rabbit Hut in that period or not? Did you not notice the Rabbit Hut? We all know the town itself is well known AQ-hierarchy favored country and had been visited by the courier earlier, and other very prominent AQ (al Libbi) have been tailed in the town but we get the unbelievable claim that it never occurred to them that the Rabbit Hut, with battlements, just might harbor AQ types. No...not at all..Wouldn't have dreamed it. Yeah, right Louis.

B.S. meter pinging.


In Abbottabad in December 2003, Pakistani intelligence officials mounted an unsuccessful strike to capture Abu Faraj al-Libbi, al Qaeda's No. 3, from a safe house in the town, according to Asad Munir, a former ISI official who oversaw the area at the time. In 2004, according to local news reports, Pakistani authorities arrested an Egyptian al Qaeda operative using Abbottabad as a base to plan attacks.

Abbottabad's recent history raises the question of whether the U.S. missed earlier signs that could have identified the town as an al Qaeda sanctuary. A senior U.S. official said Abbottabad was "a place we always looked" because "we always figured that Osama bin Laden would not be in a cave."

We knew it, but the Paks apparently did not.

And, guess what, they "compartmentalize" to give grounds for plausible deniability. Say it ain't so Joe:

The U.S. primarily deals with the ISI division responsible for counterterrorism, a former senior intelligence official said. That means ISI officials who work with the U.S. would be separate from ISI officials working with militants.

One senior U.S. defense official described the ISI as "highly compartmentalized," allowing networks of current and former operatives to act with relative autonomy and without the knowledge of their superiors.

U.S. officials say they have evidence that the Haqqani network, a militant group based in Pakistan's mountainous North Waziristan region, receives material support from the ISI in executing attacks against U.S. and North Atlantic Treaty Organization forces in neighboring Afghanistan. Lashkar-e-Taiba carried out a deadly 2008 assault in Mumbai.

Well. Isn't that convenient. They don't place a premium on oversight. The stove pipes are given autonomy. I know this is old news, but, what is being put in high relief now is the utter duplicity of it all. Are these governmental agencies completely autonomous weapons? Is there no knowledge at higher levels of the various stovepipe's activities? Do they really expect us to believe this, given their propensities to feed anti-Western bizzaro world conspiracy theories in order to maintain control?

And, how, praytell, would you so confidently know you have in no way provided support or cover for uncle Binnie these 6 years, if you have intentionally compartmentalized your ISI agency?

In any case, you are not trying to tell us you were completely in the dark about the doings in these other compartments are you Clyde? Analogy time:

I may intentionally choose to give drunk uncle Buck a few hundred clams and then studiously avoid contact with him afterwards, and then claim ignorance, but I'm at least partially responsible for his being found drunk in the gutter the next day.

B.S. meter pinging Capt. Renault. Pinging.

And, get this gem from an unnamed former U.S. intel person:

One former intelligence official with extensive experience in Pakistan said the ISI would have responded immediately when the compound came under attack if it had been his protector.

That is either terribly naive, or stupid, to be blunt. The ISI would almost certainly NOT respond. Think about it. Who else but U.S. Special Operators would have been able to fly in to Hey Abbotabad. Now, play ISI guy. Given your previous knowledge of the U.S. recently developed propensity to violate your sovereign airspace and territory with death dealing drones and CIA agents, what would you think was going on? So, here you are, sitting in one of these autonomous compartmentalized stovepipes at ISI central, or Pak military central, or at the freaking military academy, and you get wind of things going on over at Uncle Binnie's Bunny Ranch, (more than likely you hear it, and the plaster is being dislodged from your ceiling due to 'splodin' super sekrit aircraft, and the intense fire fight) and you are a-cogitatin' and a-decidin' what to do now that the U.S. has come a callin'.

You probably think:

Option #1, go in, get in a firefight with the Americans, Americans think: Hmmm. First responders are ISI or Pak military guys. They must have a vested interest in whoever is in this place. Oh look! OBL. American sez: 'Youz guys sure are investing alot of fire and manpower in protecting this place. Seems like you knew he was here all along.' Busted. No more soup for you. Foreign aid from Uncle Sam dries up.

Option #2, stay away, let the local yokel Keystone Cops handle it, or show up after they try to handle it, and probably well after we would directly encounter SEALs. Gives the impression that we had no especial interest in this private residence, were just as shocked as Capt. Renault to find out that Uncle Binnie had taken up residence there..honest.

Which option gives plausible deniability? If you have already adopted "compartmentalization" for the obfuscatory conveniences it affords you, then why would you also not avail yourself of this added layer of plausible deniability?

That's the PAK game.

B.S. meter pinging. I can't believe this "former U.S. intelligence official" believes what he said.

Now, there is yet more infuriating obfuscation from U.S. sources contained in this WSJ story. Notice the internal inconsistency, and near contradiction in this bit:

U.S. officials say they don't believe that Pakistan's Army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, or ISI head, Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha, had knowledge of bin Laden's whereabouts or of secret assistance that may have been provided to him.

"The United States does not have any indication at this point that there was official Pakistani knowledge of bin Laden's whereabouts," a U.S. official said.

Neither Gen. Kayani nor Lt. Gen. Pasha were informed about the U.S. intelligence or the planned raid until after the U.S. helicopter-borne Navy Seal team carrying bin Laden's body exited Pakistani airspace, U.S. officials say.

Officials and experts are divided about whether Gen. Kayani and Lt. Gen. Pasha are aware of the activities of ISI personnelwho may be based in isolated tribal outposts and have had longstanding ties with al Qaeda and the Taliban leaders.

The conflicted material is in bold. Let me see if I can reconstruct, once again using that basic logical operator, CONJUNCTION, to bring out the B.S. Meter-pinging nature of this passage:

We don't believe the good generals knew Bin Laden was being aided or supported by Pak military or ISI AND we didn't tell 'em we were dropping in at the Rabbit Hut BECAUSE (ok, not strictly speaking a logical operator, so sue me) we (more precisely, some of us)do believe that the good generals are aware of ISI activities in support of Uncle Binnie.

(They throw in reference to 'isolated tribal outposts' to obfuscate the contradictory nature of the beliefs, to buy cover for their duplicitous Pak counterparts. Throwing up dust to hide the conflict, and allowing the "compartmentalization" excuse/gambit, in the interests of maintaining what is believed to be a necessary relationship. (Why do we think it is necessary, and is it really? Here's a concise history thanks to Richard Miniter of our uneasy "cooperation" with, and toleration of, the Paks. It is also a damning indictment of their double dealing.)

I wrap up giving an extensive excerpt from the piece:

The American relationship with Pakistan was born out of necessity and then, borne out of necessity. Pakistan emerged as a key U.S. ally during the Cold War, when Islamabad was decidedly anti-communist and India decidedly “non-aligned.” Pakistan was America’s only ally in the region and the best territory for supplying forces in Afghanistan.

When Soviet tanks roared through the snow-slicked streets of Kabul on Christmas Day 1979, Pakistan’s leader, Gen. Mohammed Zia ul-Haq, quickly phoned President Jimmy Carter. Adversity drew them together. By 1981, Zia ul-Haq found an attentive ear in President Ronald Reagan. Pakistan became a key staging area for funding and equipping the mujahideen, a motley collection of Afghan factions devoted to driving out the Soviets.

At the peak, the U.S. was spending close to $1 billion per year in financing the Afghan resistance, much of the money flowing through Pakistan’s feared intelligence service. After the Soviets retreated by driving their last T-72 tanks across a bridge over the Oxus River, the U.S. declared victory and went home. Its relationship with Pakistan entered a dormant stage. Military and other aid continued on auto-pilot.

The September 11 attacks made Pakistan more important than ever. For the U.S., fighting a war in Afghanistan meant using Pakistan’s air space and sea ports as well as its extensive intelligence and military connections. Necessity, again, had restored the romance.

Certainly Pakistan’s help has been vital. More than two-thirds of the 600 high-level al Qaeda operatives killed or captured anywhere in the world since 2001 were slain or seized in Pakistan.

But any measure of Pakistan’s helpfulness suggests its complicity. In addition to bin Laden, Ramzi Yousef (the 1993 Word Trade Center bomber), Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (the 9/11 mastermind), Ramzi Binalshib (who sought to be 9/11’s 20th hijacker), and Abu Zubaydah (a 9-/11 operative) were all found in comfortable homes in Pakistan’s elite enclaves. Bin Laden’s mansion-hideout in Pakistan was not the exception, but the rule.

Or consider that, in 2001, nine out 10 calls between suspected al Qaeda operatives in Europe and the rest of the world went to Peshawar, a city in Pakistan teeming with Afghan refugees. In 2002, almost half of those same calls shifted to a single city in Pakistan, Karachi. Both Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Ramzi Binalshib were known to be in Karachi at the time. Al Qaeda now considers Pakistan to be home.

Members of the intelligence community say their concerns about Pakistan have been growing for more than a decade.

Doubts began when al Qaeda bombed two U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, killing 224 people, on Aug. 7, 1998, and the Clinton administration formally requested Pakistan’s help in taking bin Laden into custody. Pakistan’s diplomats politely said they had little real influence, despite Pakistan being the first nation in the world to recognize the Taliban government. “That’s when we first started hearing about bin Laden having medical problems,” said a Clinton-era National Security Council staffer.

Initially, the intelligence community believed that bin Laden had a kidney ailment or related health problem, until, in 2002, bin Laden’s personal doctor was detained in Pakistan. He revealed that bin Laden was a healthy, vigorous man with no chronic health issues. Intelligence analysts learned not to take the word of their Pakistani counterparts at face value.

Links between al Qaeda and top Pakistani officials kept cropping up. When Pakistani police raided the home of al Qaeda suspect Zahid Sheikh Mohammed, they found several photographs of Zahid with top advisers to then-Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. One photo showed Zahid with the prime minister himself, while another put Zahid with bin Laden. Zahid’s younger brother is Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who later planned the Sept. 11 attacks.

While Sharif narrowly defeated Benazir Bhutto in an October 1990 election, his victory was soon tainted by charges that bin Laden had bankrolled his victory. Former Pakistani intelligence official Khalid Khawaja said as much to ABC News.

A month before Sharif faced Bhutto in an October 1993 rematch election, al Qaeda’s bomb maker, Ramzi Yousef, who had bombed the World Trade Center towers only months before, tried to kill Bhutto in her walled home. The bomb exploded prematurely and Yousef was hospitalized. The motive was clear enough: Stop a reform-minded woman leader while helping Sharif.

Al Qaeda operatives seem to have an endless Rolodex of Pakistani establishment figures who are ready to help them. When Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was captured in his nightshirt, it was in the home of Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan, a prominent microbiologist whose wife is a local leader in Pakistan’s largest political party. When Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl was kidnapped, held for weeks and then crudely killed in 2002, it was on property owned by a Pakistani textile magnate. When Pearl’s kidnapper decided to turn himself in, he went to the home of a friendly brigadier general whom he knew well. And so on. When you know terrorists well enough to let them stay over for months on end, they’re family.

Miniter ends on the somber note:

Its time to confront the brutal fact that Afghanistan is a sideshow, like Cambodia in 1973. Our war, with its drone planes and Special Forces strikes, is in Pakistan. And a Pakistan that opens its spare bedrooms to al Qaeda leaders and lets the most-wanted man in the world build a three-story complex in its midst isn’t really on our side.

The case cannot be gainsaid. IF the level of support and safe haven given to Bin Laden and his organization was sufficient trigger for military operations against the 2001 Taliban Afghan regime, then the level of Pakistani support and safe haven given to Bin Laden and his organization since that time is sufficient trigger for military operations. The only difference between the two cases is that the Afghans were stupid enough NOT to take pains to construct plausible deniability.

We have indicators this is the thought of the administration, what with increased drone activities and CIA presence. The only reasons we have for not carrying out a larger scale and more conventional war: practicalities and nukes. Practicalities and nukes. Pakistan is a much harder nut to crack with a much larger population, and military. But, speaking bluntly, they deserve the treatment.