The aftermath

The ISI has leaked to the media the name of a CIA agent stationed in Pakistan as some sort of childish retaliation to American forces violating the sovereignty of their country. Apparently, the fact that the world’s most wanted terrorist was hiding in their country in a large villa opposite a military base isn’t bothersome enough for them. They are way more worried about how US helicopters entered their country undetected, and executed a surgical mission to kill a man who was responsible for the death of many Americans directly and indirectly responsible for bankrupting the country by leading them into two wars.

What I don’t get in this whole scenario is why America keeps funding Pakistan so much when it is seems that the Pakistani army and intelligence are definitely incompetent, and/or quite likely that there are some bad apples in the ISI.

Who cares? Let them cry foul and throw a tantrum. When they want to buy weapons to arm themselves against India, they’ll know whom to kiss up to. Cui bono is an important question to be asked in political debates. It basically means to whose benefit? It is in Pakistan’s financial interest and political expediency to foster terrorism within their borders. Keeping militants happy in their country ensures the death of a few Indians every year and guarantees the flow of cash from Uncle Sam to stem terrorism as it were.

The sovereignty of Pakistan is a tricky question. In a civilized world, it shouldn’t be legal for agents from one country to enter another and commit murder. Surely there’s something wrong with that. It would have been a different thing if CIA agents in disguise had entered the compound and killed bin Laden in some guerrilla way and quietly exited the country without a trace. Kinda like how Mossad runs things. The Obama administration needed a nice victory. No one would say that they killed bin Laden to increase polling numbers but publicizing this as an American effort and painting red, white and blue all over the news does reek of opportunism.

On the other hand, had this been a special OPs kind of operation, the Pakistani intelligence or army would’ve taken credit for this, further obfuscating their role in the war against terrorism. It must have been a dicey situation.

Now we have another question to answer. Did the enhanced interrogation techniques authorized by the Bush administration directly or indirectly lead to this operation? If it did, is it still fair for a democratic civilized nation to torture people for information, whether it is reliable or not?

There is some evidence to say that important information obtained about bin Laden’s courier was a product of torture, but the people who were waterboarded the most like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, produced very little usable information at best. They also misled the investigation more. This leads credence to what was said by Nice Guy Eddie in Reservoir Dogs, “If you f**king beat this prick long enough, he’ll tell you he started the goddamn Chicago fire, now that don’t necessarily make it f**king so!”

It is expedient, and not just politically, to do whatever measures seem necessary to protect innocent people. I just end up thinking that in that zeal, we might turn into the very people we are fighting against. We must draw a line. There are some things that civilized people just won’t do. Something as barbaric as torture should be one of them.

I think it is best summed up by Tommy Vietor, the spokesman for the National Security Council, “The bottom line is this: If we had some kind of smoking-gun intelligence from waterboarding in 2003, we would have taken out Osama bin Laden in 2003.”

bin Laden ke: my thoughts

My first reaction to the news was surprisingly nothing. I mean, I wasn’t really concentrating. I was on the phone and simply checking my google news feed during a lull in the conversation, but I must say that it took me to the moment I was checking my mail in 2001.

I was still using a dial-up internet connection and was logging into my rediffmail account, for which I had to go through rediff.com. While I was entering my username and password, I inadvertently noticed a piece of news saying something to the effect of “Plane crashes into World Trade Center building”. I barely took notice of it, and the page refreshed quickly anyway to my email inbox, which preoccupied me completely. I basically did nothing productive, just replied to a bunch of emails and logged out. I was brought back to rediff.com and by now the news had changed to “Second Plane crashes into World Trade center” or something like that. Now, my interest was piqued.

As I read about what would probably be the largest single act of terrorism I will ever see, I felt a kind of fear I didn’t understand. Sure, people died needlessly on the streets of Bombay and Delhi etc, but America was untouchable…or so I had thought.

Living in a developing country makes us susceptible to a bunch of misunderstandings about the developed world. To us, places like America seemed like a large playboy mansion where everyone was comfortable and getting a lot of nookie. Of course, I was 16 in 2001, so you can excuse my sweeping generalizations. But most of all, I was under the delusion that people in the Western world were a lot safer than us. This event scared me a lot because I just realized how far from the truth I was.

While I was but 16, I couldn’t understand what force could be so strong as to motivate 19 young educated people to giving up their lives and their futures while taking so many people with them. It was later revealed by the media that the planes were to hit the buildings at exactly the right height and angle, and with the right amount of speed in order to inflict the damage that they ultimately did. So this wasn’t some spur of the moment hot-headed act. It was planned, cold-blooded mass murder.

And now the perpetrator of that was dead. What bothered me so much was that all we heard was that he died. Sure, there were some details as to the incident, but was there an attempt to capture him alive? They said he resisted, but he didn’t seem to have a weapon. Just how do you resist capture by armed forces without weapons?

The reason I did not feel the closure I wanted to feel was that I wanted him captured. I wanted him handcuffed, held against his will, pleading for the right to live and be free. I wanted him tried in a court, so that we can show the numerous other misled folk what happens to people who hurt us. I wanted it to be clear that while we will avenge our wrongs, we are not barbarians. We will not deign to deal with scum like him the way he deals with our people. And most of all, I wanted his followers to see what a common man he was, who lived secretly and died a joke, and not the martyr they probably think he is now.

While the Republicans are scrambling for photos of his body, I do believe that releasing them to the public would be a bad idea. Photos of bin Laden with a bullet hole in his eye are inflammatory. Representative Duncan Hunter of California says that terrorists who want to hurt innocent people will not be dissuaded by the lack of these photos. Perhaps. But photos like these are great recruiting material for the Muslim fundamentalists. These people are easy to rile up. Mere Danish cartoons generated unbelievable vitriol, and actual photos of their hero’s corpse will shore up Al Qaeda’s enlistment numbers.

While I’m pissed off with President Obama for a bunch of things, I do believe he made the right call here. We all just need to move on.

Update: Chembelle argues that bin Laden could’ve had bombs strapped to his chest which he could’ve detonated at any time. Maybe trying to capture him alive would’ve been too big a risk to take.

Either way, hope this issue is settled now, and we can focus on real stuff.