Inside the Walls
Well, on my last post I was accused of both over-analyzing and under-analyzing the attack in Mumbai. I am flattered, if I am taking fire from both flanks, I must be in the middle ground I was aiming for. Not to mention that the person who most approved the post was from (and in) Mumbai. I did try to watch some of the news about the whole thing, but it was very upsetting. No doubt it is nightmarish for the people of Mumbai. And no doubt it is a significant event, it’s being called India’s 9/11. Which is an interesting comparison in and of itself. So in the spirit of further understanding this event, not to mention confounding (or at least annoying) my critics, another Mumbai attack post.
At second pass, still ain’t a whole lot known at this point. There are a lot of claims that this attack got support from Pakistan and a Pakistan supported militant group in Kashmir. No surprise there, it would have been surprising if India wasn’t suspicious of Pakistan. I’m pretty skeptical of such claims, some of it seems based on evidence that is oddly convenient. It’s almost as if the attackers didn’t care if their sponsors got identified, which seems a bit careless. There’s also a fair amount of stuff not being covered much in the western press, here’s some of it, though again, keep a sack of salt handy.
First off, some claim that some Indian Intelligence agencies knew the attack was coming, but did nothing. I can safely say that allegations like this are always made, it’s comforting to think that a tragedy could have been prevented, it’s a coping mechanism. While it is possible, it’s probably safer to say that intelligence agencies are always getting warnings about impending attacks, the vast majority of which turn out to be nothing more than rumours. They can’t act on all of them, and it’s unrealistic to expect them to prevent all attacks. By the same token, it’s also unfair to claim that the sites in question should have had “better security.” Better security how? If a bunch of guys with guns try to storm a building, the only way to defend it is with a bunch of guys with guns. Deploying thousands of troops 24/7 to guard against this sort of extremely rare event is prohibitively expensive.
One commenter claimed that it was obvious somehow that this was all part of some global conspiracy, but he seems to have misunderstood my argument. He says:
“I mean give me a break, you don’t really believe there are bands of terrorizing psychopaths, bent on destroying the fruits of colonial conquest, by planning focused attacks throughout the world.”
No, I don’t believe that. Virtually all terrorism is local and home grown, and even when we do see terrorists acting on the world stage, their motivation is still rooted in some local conflict. And frankly, almost always by some local repression, occupation, or other human rights disaster. There are some exceptions of course, some of the anti-western European urban terrorist groups of the sixties and such, but these groups always remain very small and rarely pull off anything big. They don’t hold a candle to local resistance groups with thousands of members and millions of covert and overt supporters. In any event I don’t want to argue with conspiracy theorists, because it tends to be a waste of time, I am merely stating my take on the situation for those who have logical counter arguments.
A commenter also claimed that these were just more or less random plotters out to kill non-Muslims, and that further analysis of their motives is a waste of time. Apparently based on the logic that there are “obviously” going to be a tiny of number Muslims who will simply act out there hatred of non Muslims from time to time. I’d love to hear of a comparable example. Individuals sometimes snap and go on killing sprees, maybe even pairs of individuals…but dozens of people plotting and preparing a suicide attack like this motivated by pure hatred unadulterated by any political motivation? And why only Muslims? Again, show me an example. And in any event, so what? Even if it were true, there’s no harm in analyzing the attack even if it’s just to see how people and nations respond to it. Whatever the attacker’s motivation, governments are going to ignore that and use the attack to promote their own agendas, an important point that I urge people to watch out for. I hardly need point out that the USA used one such attack to justify the invasion and occupation of a country that had nothing to do with the attack.
The same person took umbrage with my contention that this sort of thing happens all the time in the third world with barely a ripple in the western press. OK, if one wants to be a complete literalist, yes. I didn’t mean it completely literally. There’s a nice example just unfolding now. Hundreds of people were just killed in riots in Nigeria. Are we seeing 24/7 news coverage with detailed family biographies of the victims? No. And the almost daily carnage in Iraq, Somalia, Afghanistan, Sudan, do we see their faces in the news? Nope. But gun down some well-off westerners while they are having their lattes…world wide front page news for days!
Granted, that’s not entirely fair, but I am trying to get to a point here as is usually my ulterior motive. The picture above is the west. By that I mean, all of us westerners live inside a walled city. It’s a wonderful place, prosperity and peace for all who dwell in the city, it in fact is a truly wondrous and beautiful city. Most of its inhabitants are only vaguely aware, if they are aware at all, that all the wealth and food in the city comes from beyond the walls. Heck, most inhabitants of the city seem to think the city just sprang up out of the ground from the efforts of its superior inhabitants. They know there are bad things happening outside the city, but they never go out there, and even when they do, they travel on well protected routes to well protected enclaves. Do I need need mention that the inhabitants of the city consider themselves civilized, while the people outside the walls aren’t?
And this is the reason why the western media went nuts over the Mumbai attacks, because these barbarians were inside the walls. In any event this and all my arguments in this post are presented as fodder for discussion, not disagreement. I will be posting further on the growing disparity between the haves and the have-nots of the world, as well as further discussion of the perceptual disconnect between carnage inside and outside the walls. Lastly, I offer The Age of Celebrity Terrorism for yet another perspective on this troubling event.
(The above image “Tenby in 1586” is claimed as Fair Use under US copright law. It is not being used for profit, is a low resultion version of the original, and its use here in no way interferes with the copyright holder’s commercial use of the image, arguably the opposite. Credit and copyright: Eric Bradforth/Tenby Museum.)