Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Mumbai, India's 9/11: Good News, Bad News, Conspiracy Theories, and a Little Common Sense

There's a distinctive name for "India's 9/11" now: 26/11.

I read it in a few places today, including an article on a really imaginative take on the attack on Mumbai: "Pak TV channel says 26/11 hatched by Hindu Zionists" (Times of India (December 2, 2008)).

"Hindu Zionists?!" I'll get back to that.

Mumbai and Business as Usual: Good and Bad

Mumbai has something in common with New York City, besides being a national economic hub and target of a major terror attack: People in both cities are in the business of doing business.1
Business as Usual in Mumbai: 'the Light Side'
After last week's attack, Mumbai's people are picking up the pieces and getting their city running again. The physical damage in Mumbai doesn't seem to be as bad as New York's World Trade Center's destruction, but it's still bad.

For example, from what's gotten into the news, Mumbai's landmark Taj Mahal hotel may have to be scrapped, or go through major reconstruction. (My guess is that, considering how valuable it is symbolically, and as a draw for visitors, the Taj Mahal hotel will be rebuilt.)
Business as Usual in Mumbai, and India: 'the dark side'
It's painfully obvious that something went wrong in Mumbai.

So, the blame game has started: And the usual 'not me' responses.

The Mumbai police chief says he wasn't warned about an impending attack. The New Delhi government says they gave a warning, after being told by American intelligence. (My guess is that America will be blamed for the attack and/or the lack of preparation soon: if that hasn't happened already.)

It's always a good idea to review an event, and learn from it: what went wrong, and what went right.

Some of what's happening in India seems to be more a matter of trying to shift blame, than improve the system. And the crackpots are having their say.

After the Mumbai Attack: 28/11, rumors, and conspiracy theories

Over in Pakistan, a sort of tabloid television network aired an interview that revealed 'Hindu Zionists,' 'Western Zionists,' and the Mossad as being behind the Mumbai attacks. I think that's crazy: but a dedicated conspiracy theorist would assume that's what "They" want me to think. (Times of India (December 2, 2008))

India has hatched a few imaginative stories, too. One rumor in Mumbai was that Hindu extremists staged the attack to derail investigations of their terror ties. That practically made sense: one of the early reported deaths was the head of India's antiterror squad, Hemant Karkare.

And, reminding me of some of the wilder accusations made from America's 2000 'hanging chads' presidential election, another rumor had it that the whole attack was a plot to distract people from an upcoming election. (Time (December 2, 2008))

Mumbai: It Could Have Been a Lot Worse

With due respect paid to the terrible loss of human life in Mumbai last week, it could have been a lot worse.

Although numbers bounce around for one reason or another, it's beginning to look like around 180 people were killed in the Mumbai attack. For each family affected, the numbers don't matter so much: but that's less than a tenth the number killed in New York City, eight years ago.

And, just as America's government and people had to take a serious look at how they were dealing with threats from terrorists, India now has an opportunity to learn what worked, and what needs to be changed.

One thing that stands out is the matter of letting law enforcement know that there's trouble coming. I have no idea what happened, but it looks like somewhere along the line someone who should have paid attention and done their job, didn't.

Then there's the matter of equipping the police.

One news story described "a couple of local police cowering behind pillars as the attackers approach...." (CNN (December 2, 2008)) To the author's credit, the article does explain that Indian police aren't armed.

England had unarmed police for quite a while. I think it was a great tribute to British culture of the period: and something that I'd never recommend. If the police can't be trusted with weapons, they shouldn't be in that job.

Another article described a system of inadequate equipment and pay which made career in police work a path to sainthood or corruption. There may be a good reason for paying police officers about as much as unskilled municipal workers. On the other hand, it isn't a good idea to give the police a choice between not eating during their shift, or shaking down street vendors. (BBC (December 2, 2008))

A Little Common Sense

After the knee-jerk 'Pakistan did it' reactions, Indian officials seem to be getting a bit more careful about what they say.

Odds are very good, given the evidence, that the attack was planned and staged in Pakistan. That doesn't mean that Pakistan's civilian government is behind the attack. Let's face it: Pakistan doesn't have a very stable government, the civilian government doesn't have control of the outlying regions of the country - probably doesn't have very tight control of the military, and almost certainly have no control over Pakistan's intelligence agency.

Who knows? This situation might be what it takes for Pakistan's civilian government to start acting like a government, and not one faction in a fractured nation.

News and views: News Resource:
1 There's a very good chance that one reason Mumbai was chosen was its very successful economic life. Whether they're American sixties radicals or Islamic zealots, people who react violently to the realities of today's world seem to have one thing in common: they hate business, and people who do business.


Anonymous said...


Brian H. Gill said...

Thankful Paul,

Greetings, and welcome to this blog.

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Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

Even resources which, in my opinion, are simply inaccurate are sometimes useful: these can give valuable insights into why some people or groups believe what they do.

In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.