The Terror in Mumbai Deconstructed
Armed attackers struck a number of targets in Mumbai, India’s largest (and the world’s fifth largest) metropolitan area. It’s getting a lot of news coverage, in fact an almost unbelievable amount of news coverage considering the scale of the attack. Sensationalism is the watchword of the day in the mainstream media I guess. No disrespect meant to the victims of this terrible crime, but I have to wonder if the media spotlight is making it even worse for them. Rambling aside, there really isn’t a whole lot of information available about the attacks yet, so I’m going to try and deconstruct the situation with what we do know and see what’s going on. What follows is often my opinion, and is subject to change as more information becomes available.
The first point is…we don’t know much and likely never will. Initial media reports in a situation like this are always garbage, it’s best not to even pay attention to them. The perpetrators of the attack may very well want to obscure aspects of their operation, so they aren’t a reliable source even if they can be identified. Add to that the fact that the governments involved are going to do their best to spin the situation to their benefit and we have a situation where everything we hear is suspect. So our analysis is going to have to be based only the most bare boned facts available.
So what do we know? A few dozen attackers attacked ten high profile targets in Mumbai almost simultaneously with grenades and small arms. That’s pretty much it. The number of attackers and their obvious professionalism and careful selection of targets pretty much rules out any sort of amateur effort, so this was conducted by an established insurgent group and/or a government. That’s not much, but it’s a start. The selection of targets is the other obvious clue. And here we immediately see one thing…the attackers have already achieved at least one of their objectives in spades. The selection of international targets in India’s financial centre was obviously designed to garner as much international and domestic media attention as possible…in that sense the attack is already wildly successful. If they wanted to sow fear and confusion, and it’s a good bet that was part of their aim, they’ve already won. Great.
It gets worse. Since the attack was designed with publicity in mind, it’s a pretty good bet that they were hoping for a knee jerk response. The obvious knee jerk response is “kill all the Muslims.” This immediately suggests to me that people who are responding this way are doing exactly what the attackers wanted. Which again suggests we shouldn’t leap to any conclusions about who launched this attack. Fortunately, I’m not seeing much of this from governments, not surprising, the “crazed Muslim terrorists are out to kill us all” line has turned out to be one of the most counterproductive propaganda campaigns in history. Sure, it got Bush’s crusades in Iraq and Afghanistan American public approval, but it has hurt moderate Muslims and encouraged Muslim extremists to no end everywhere.
So, really, who knows. I do think it can safely be said that the world’s media are over-reacting. As a friend said, if this happened in Kinshasa it wouldn’t even make the last page. Similar terrorist and military attacks kill over 100 people almost daily somewhere in the world, so the only thing different about this is the location and targets. Basically, because white people were targeted in what were supposed to be bastions of western civilization, this is huge news. In most cases, it’s brown people killing brown people or white people killing brown people somewhere the in third world. That kind of violence hardly makes a ripple in the west.
To extend this thought, a case can be made that the western media’s reaction to this case shows just how deeply racist and colonial attitudes still pervade the western mind set. We are shocked beyond belief when a few western tourists get caught up in terrorist violence, yet we have no trouble sending armies into foreign lands that have killed and are killing innocents in numbers that dwarf the casualties in Mumbai? To claim that this is some sort of terrible crime while ignoring the equally horrible crimes committed in our name is pretty, basically, demented. Or as I recently read “How can anyone think we can stop terrorism by invading Islamic countries?” Not that’s there’s any shortage of demented thinking all around, the Jihadists have their own problems in this regard. That’s why this sort of tit-for-tat madness has continued throughout human history. The crusader/crusadee game, whose side are you on?
However, I digress. The nature of the attack (its size, sophistication, and knowledge of Mumbai) and the history of similar attacks (similar attacks were a hallmark of an insurgent group in Kashmir) point to the idea that this attack may very well have originated within India’s enormous Muslim minority. There’s 150 million Muslims in India, it’s the third largest Muslim population in the world. So we may be seeing something here akin to the creation of the IRA or Hamas. Probably/possibly with the backing of Kashmir militants and maybe even sinister third parties: rogue counter-intelligence elements in Pakistan, etc. The later part though is the stuff us worms won’t know the facts about for years or decades or ever. There’s a fairly good succinct overview of the background to this attack here, it didn’t occur in a vacuum. It’s not the whole truth, but at least gives some information for those that are trying to analyze this situation.
I any event, I hope no one took offence here, none was meant. These are terrible crimes and my thoughts and prayers go out to the victims. My efforts here are directed at understanding what happened so that maybe the mistakes that led to this can be prevented in the future. I know there’s going to be a chorus of “we have to kill all these monsters”…I can only hope that cooler heads prevail. This isn’t a problem that can be solved with a simple black and white military solution, it’s going to have to be more nuanced than that.
We’ll see though, I have been saying for years that when the next 9/11 occurs, try not to leap to any conclusions. That’s what they want us to do. Well, this could be it.
(The above image of one of the mystery attackers is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It’s not being used for profit, its use here in no way interferes with the copyright holder’s commercial use of the image, and arguably it is a historically important image. Credit and copyright: AP. I predicted that the world is going to end before next July, an analogy for the Mumbai attacks are the John Brown’s Raid on Harpers Ferry in 1859…a harbinger of the things to come.)