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Terror attacks in Mumbai

November 27th, 2008

The news from Mumbai is still unclear, but extremely grim. Scores of people are dead, and hundreds wounded in yet another murderous terror attack.

As the cycle of war and terror has gone on, it’s become increasingly clear that the kind of easy evasion involved in slogans like “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter” is no more tenable than the bogus arguments for war put forward by Bush and his followers. Terror attacks like this one are always crimes regardless of the purported cause, regardless of whether the terrorists deal death hand to hand or with bomber planes, and regardless of whether they are individual criminals, political or religious groups, or national governments.Phenomenon movie full

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  1. Socrates
    November 27th, 2008 at 12:37 | #1

    I agree JQ. I read several good pieces a few years ago that the whole “War on Terror” was a mistake and should have been treated as a campaign against a particularly nasty form of crime gang. It doesn’t meet any definition of a war as such. Glorifying the fight against them as a “war on terror” actually helps give the terrorists the publicity and notoriety they seek.

  2. November 27th, 2008 at 12:58 | #2

    John, you are undoubtedly right about the cycle of terror, and the range of perpetrators.

    The counter responses from extreme Hindu groups can be predicted, as can allegations of some association with Pakistan, although the reported name of the group, “Southern Jihadists”(Deccan Mujahideen) suggests they were home grown.

    There are many other people in India who have grievances, but I suggest it is important to find out what issues they have, even if the murderous and violent methods of addressing them is repugnant. Moral indignation is one matter, dehumanization, even of people who have broken fundamental moral codes, is another. We can so easily be caught in the language snare that brands people as terrorists and criminals to frame them as “others”.

    Furthermore, it will be important to scapegoat the wider Indian Muslim communities for the actions of a minority.

  3. billie
    November 27th, 2008 at 13:04 | #3

    Do you think they will strike again? Or will this attack have drawn world attention to their grievances?

  4. Ian Gould
    November 27th, 2008 at 13:16 | #4

    “There are many other people in India who have grievances, but I suggest it is important to find out what issues they have, even if the murderous and violent methods of addressing them is repugnant. Moral indignation is one matter, dehumanization, even of people who have broken fundamental moral codes, is another. We can so easily be caught in the language snare that brands people as terrorists and criminals to frame them as “others”.”

    India is pretty much ground zero for world terrorism. The perpetrators include Assamite separatists; Marxist “Naxalites”; Tamil groups using India as a base to support their civil war in Sri Lanka and various Hindu fundamentalist groups mostly associated with the Shiv Sena as well as various Muslim extremist groups.

    The current attacks have attracted attention in the West not because they’re exceptional in the Indian context but because their targets were westerners.

    Why India, widely regarded in the west as a model developing world democracy is the victim of so much terrorist violence is unclear to me.

  5. observa
    November 27th, 2008 at 14:09 | #5

    It’s not a well publicised fact that in recent decades India has been the subject of more murders by Islamic terrorists than the rest of us put together. Essentially no other country understands the ‘war on terror’ better than India. India’s top ranking by far has hardly raised an eyebrow until the plight of a few of our own raises media eyebrows, although not being able to leave Bangkok airport in the customary manner can likewise lift empathetic eyebrows. After all, being stuck in sweaty foreign airports with no flight schedule in sight is enough to conjure up personal 9/11 nightmares for any concerned Western media reporter. Well may we say God help them to understand freedom fighters everywhere and their unfortunate collateral damage, because nothing will save those bloody Thais now.

  6. Smiley
    November 27th, 2008 at 14:34 | #6

    As I’ve said before, the problem for those who wish to make exceptions for terrorism is that the same psychological tricks are used to encourage war crimes. Voltaire’s wonderful quote:

    Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities

    sums up the situation pretty well.

  7. Michael of Summer Hill
    November 27th, 2008 at 16:30 | #7

    John, reports indicate 101 people, including 6 foreigners have been killed by insane terrorists hellbent on creating instability within the region.

  8. Michael of Summer Hill
    November 27th, 2008 at 16:38 | #8

    John, the latest info suggests a Lashkar-e-Tayiba terrorist of Pakistani origin from Mumbai has been arrested by the IB after tracing an e-mail.

  9. Jill Rush
    November 27th, 2008 at 17:32 | #9

    The language of war and terrorism has been useful to the political class but hasn’t solved any problems. The warrior class/caste in India is different to that of the criminal class or dacoits.

    Indians have a strong regard for the political process and democracy – something that doesn’t exist in China where repression would never allow the freedom of movement or religious belief to allow criminals seeking to kill indiscriminately access to the tools to do so.

    It is a sad day for India which has managed its people’s differences for many years with remarkably peaceful results.

  10. Spiros
    November 27th, 2008 at 19:05 | #10

    Look on the bright side. It gets our minds off the global financial crisis.

  11. Ikonoclast
    November 27th, 2008 at 20:10 | #11

    Much of the world is awash with weapons. Cheap small arms, grenade launchers, ammunition and explosives can be had by the ship container load by many relatively small groups around the world. These can be called variously guerillas, terrorists, rebels, freedom fighters, insurgents, etc. etc.

    However, you can be sure in almost all cases that the funds and the weapons are coming (originally) from the major nation states. It’s called the arms trade. Among the major guilty parties are the US, Russia, China, France, UK, India, Brazil and Iran.

    Just as domestic gun control keeps Australians safer than US citizens, so would controlling and diminishing the world arms trade keep the world’s people somewhat safer. It’s not only nukes that need to be limited it’s also the world’s total production of conventional arms and explosives.

    Until the world community tackles this issue we have little hope of preventing many local flare. Keeping major national armies on home soil would also help a lot in reducing the grievances and pretexts of many of these dangerous groups.

  12. Ian Gould
    November 27th, 2008 at 22:07 | #12

    Tell me Observa, is your typically incoherent reference to Thailand an attempt to imply that Thai Muslims are responsible for the attack on the airport there – because virtually all media coverage suggests it’s the work of the People’s Assembly for Democracy an overwhelmingly Buddhist group.

  13. ennui
    November 27th, 2008 at 22:16 | #13

    Iconoclast, if only your argument had some validity – it would make things so much easier.

    Unfortunately, historical experience has repeatedly demonstrated that social change doesn’t occur through “desisting” by reason of force but by being “attracted” to something else.

  14. rog
    November 27th, 2008 at 22:38 | #14

    Unfortunately this attack has overshadowed the news that another Australian soldier has been killedby Taliban in Afghanistan bringing the number to 7 – and hardly a peep in the media.

  15. sean
    November 28th, 2008 at 01:54 | #15

    A guy who does a lot of contract work for me was caught up in the fighting last night, his brother got hit and has now lost the bottom half of his arm.

    Ive stayed in the Taj a few times, the first time was Feb/march 2001, I remember watching the tv news in the lobby showing the Taliban blow up the Buddhas of Bamyan. I remember what a fellow guest said to me while watching, he was an Indian business man, “one day they will try to blow up you as well, they hate us but they also hate the west” his words came to mind immediately as I watched the second plane fly in the WTC tower.

    JQ you are falling into the western view of seeing QA as some sort of structure or design like we have in say a western bank or business or government.

    A Islamic Mullah is a leader in prayer not a priest, in Islam there is only you and god, no one in between. AQ or “the Base” are just that leaders by example.

    A Iraqi doctor college of my wife but it best, “when you are woken up in the early morning, dragged out of bed to the front of your apartment building along with your neighbors, and you are forced to watch your own brother stripped and put into a cloth sack and thrown off the top of the building alive, you know you are living in a state of war”

    Its about time JQ you worked out who the good and bad guys are. An interesting thing to note is that Pakistan has around 120-150 nuclear warheads, lets hope none find their way to Brisbane.

    ” Pacifism is objectively pro-fascist. This is elementary common sense. If you hamper the war effort of one side, you automatically help out that of the other. Nor is there any real way of remaining outside such a war as the present one. In practice, ‘he that is not with me is against me. ” Not GWB but George Orwell

  16. jquiggin
    November 28th, 2008 at 06:42 | #16

    Sean, if you’d been around a little longer you would have seen Instapundit’s use of the “objectively pro-Saddam” construction, followed by his discrediting when it was pointed out that Orwell himself had repudiated his own use of it as dishonest.

  17. Lord Sir Alexander “Dolly” Downer
    November 28th, 2008 at 07:34 | #17

    Sean is all over the place and his point is a mystery. Saddam’s henchman throwing people off buildings is not Islamic terrorism. In fact, they may killed that guy because he was a bearded fundamentalist and hence a threat to the regime.

    Such irrational thinking, conflating of different issues, is what drives those terrorists.

  18. Socrates
    November 28th, 2008 at 08:15 | #18

    Sean

    Your response is inconsistent to the point of being incoherent. You mix up Iraq (which lots of leftists acknowledge was a virtual state of civil war while Bush was denying it) and the Taliban in Afghanistan (a state in a civil war for almost 20 years) with terrorist attacks in places like India, which are nothing like that situation. I say again – we should treat terrorism like crime. Margaret Thatcher had the right approach, and she wouldn’t have fallen for Bush’s spin.

    Another logical fallacy in your post is to imply that the only alternatives in combating terrorism are either a war on terror or pacifism. Untrue.

    I suppose you must think the British in Malaya in the 50s were niave idiots for trying to win the hearts and minds of the villagers? Funny thing is, those tactics worked and peace was restored. The war on terror is not only immoral, it is ineffective.

  19. smiths
    November 28th, 2008 at 09:55 | #19

    mixed up is the umbrella for this whole discussion

    RDX is the explosive used in this attack

    so lets see, how do you go about getting RDX?

  20. observa
    November 28th, 2008 at 10:39 | #20

    ‘Tell me Observa, is your typically incoherent reference to Thailand an attempt to imply that Thai Muslims are responsible for the attack on the airport there’

    No, just a comment on the attention span and predilictions of much Western liberal media. Not that any of us should ever have any doubts about their fierce search for truth and unbiased reporting like some troglodyte skeptics- http://www.howobamagotelected.com/
    Never let it be said that our warriors for truth would swept up in any fads from time to time like educators or their hoola hoops, yo-yos and marbles crazed flock. Perish the thought!

    Curiously enough in another totally unrelated Indian/Thai connection in the good war on all things terrible, came the good news that an Indian destroyer had sunk a nasty Somali pirate mother ship. Good on yer captain thinks I, until it leaks out that he sunk a Thai fishing ship that was actually being boarded by Somali pirates at the time. Oops and you and your Commander-in-Chief can praise your God you’re not a US naval captain thinks I. Don’t be so cynical O meboy. It all depends on the right sort of C.I.C. One that can sit down with these people and really understand each other, say sorry, reconcile and all move on together. It must be so because the media is telling you so. Peace in their deadline time I suppose.

    Speaking of incoherence Ian, it would be remiss of this Austrian conservative not to enquire as to how that mild recession of yours is going, but please redirect any of those Keynesian counter-cyclical policy suggestions elsewhere, in deference to our host and space ;)

  21. November 28th, 2008 at 11:42 | #21

    Quotes to “validate” a point belong in a psychology essay.

    Semantics over who may or may not have uttered some words, or decided they would prefer to have not uttered some words, in no way has any bearing on the validity of a point.

    The point as put by Sean is valid.

  22. Michael of Summer Hill
    November 28th, 2008 at 12:17 | #22

    John, after interrogating nine Lashkar a-Tayeb members, the Indian security services are now certain that the so-called Deccan Mujahideen are in fact a front for the terrorist organisation Lashkar a-Tayeb.

  23. smiths
    November 28th, 2008 at 12:45 | #23

    the Indian security services are now certain that the so-called Deccan Mujahideen are in fact a front for the terrorist organisation Lashkar a-Tayeb

    well i have been looking for any news media that raises the possibility that they could in fact be hindu extremists but there are none,

    terrorist = muslim

    seans anti-muslim pastiche sums it up really

  24. November 28th, 2008 at 12:47 | #24

    Michael,
    I would be uncertain of whether they have been tortured and/or whether to accept:
    1. The word of the “interregated”,
    2. The word of “interregatees”; or
    3. Whether this is actually from the “interregated” or the “interregatees”.

  25. smiths
    November 28th, 2008 at 12:55 | #25

    Four top police officials, including Mumbai Police Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) chief Hemant Karkare, were among the 10 policemen killed as security forces took on terrorists here in the early hours of Thursday, authorities said.

    Karkare was heading investigations into several recent cases of terrorist attacks here.

    That being the recent attacks that are linked to hindu extremists and the indian army

  26. Jim Birch
    November 28th, 2008 at 13:24 | #26

    #20 SATP: The point being what? I read it but can’t understand it, except psychologically. Maybe you could explain his argument in coherent language for us. (This is a genuine request.)

  27. mitchell porter
    November 28th, 2008 at 18:54 | #27

    “Do you think they will strike again? Or will this attack have drawn world attention to their grievances?”

    This is just the biggest of numerous terror attacks in the last few months in India. And their messages are not encouraging. They have a list of grievances for sure, but they’re also getting off on the righteous power-trip of it all.

    What remains to be seen, if it can be seen, is the role of Pakistani influence and support. The Pakistani government announced less than a week ago that the political wing of their big intelligence agency, ISI, was being closed; and then a few days later, we have this. I am reminded of the attack on the Indian parliament in December 2001, just a month after the fall of Kabul. Like that attack, this was an enormous operation, carefully planned, and not something which would be unleashed on a whim. Some event or set of conditions caused the masterminds to decide that now would be the time. And I tend to think that the ongoing post-Musharraf crackdown on elements of the ISI (though not necessarily the closure of the political wing, specifically, which may be more of significance to Pakistani politicians than to anyone outside Pakistan) would be a factor.

    Just to spell it out, the idea is that in both cases the loss of a strategic asset (Taliban Afghanistan, freedom from civilian oversight) caused the pro-jihad elements in the ISI to try a doomsday option.

  28. November 28th, 2008 at 19:57 | #28

    India is mostly pre-occupied with parity with the PRC in economic prosperity and national security games. Pakistan is really only nuisance value but at least gives the Indian Artillery Corps some valuable field practice.

    One of these days Pakistan is going to seriously overstep the mark. Then India is going to chuck a monster wobbly and turn Pakistan into a parking lot.

    When I suggested this to an old (and impeccably Left-liberal) journalist hand who has covered the region for yonks his immediate response was “couldnt happen to a better country”.

    Even I was shocked.

  29. November 28th, 2008 at 20:20 | #29

    The terrorist attack is an attempt to hit India in its newly won globalising heart. Mumbai is rich and worldly, exactly the opposite of those who desperately crave austerity and purity.

    India’s burgeoning middle class will want to conserve its hard-won accumulations of residential and educational human capital. The Indian neo-bourgeois will not tolerate free-for-all pitched battles in its ritziest city.

    With so much of India;s resources and reputation at stake there will be alot of Indian’s thinking seriously about “working for the clampdown” (Joe Strummer). The immediate upshot of all this will be a clamp down on India’s much lauded civil liberties.

    Foreigners will have to segregated somewhat from the more general community. Border controls tightened. Machine gun toting police will be a highly visible presence in touristy precincts, as they were the last time I was in London, post-2005.

    (Musharraf sensibly curtailed Pakistan’s civil liberties when the their whack-job brigade threatened to bring the house down. He relented somewhat, after a chorus of civil libertarian disapproval including usual suspects in the Northern media, and raised up the clamp. Sure enough Ms Bhutto got knocked and half the country went berko for a while, causing tremendous amount of death and destruction. Still, at least the liberals could congruatulate themselves on their ideological purity.)

    Australia’s few remaining dyed-in-the-wool liberals have no cause for national self-congratulation. We are equally prone to donning the fur-lined jack-boots. Hence our meek acceptance, even enthusiastic embrace, of Howard’s mildly repressive anti-terror legislation. (I thought he didnt go far enough, but there is no satisfying some people.)

  30. gerard
    November 29th, 2008 at 13:08 | #30

    maybe some Muslim fundamentalist version of Sean convinced these people that if they were too “Pacifist” to commit acts of terror against Western targets, then they were being “objectively pro-Bush”.

  31. Michael of Summer Hill
    November 29th, 2008 at 14:16 | #31

    John, if I may reply to jack strocchi by saying the language you use is very similar to that of the buckwit terrorists. Dream on.

  32. haiku
    November 29th, 2008 at 14:46 | #32

    Machine gun toting police will be a highly visible presence in touristy precincts, as they were the last time I was in London, post-2005.

    Jack,
    I’m sure you may have spied one or two post 7 July, but I read this and felt it was a substantial over-exaggeration, having lived there through that period.

  33. November 29th, 2008 at 15:06 | #33

    JS wrote “…half the country went berko for a while…”

    I have been trying to make sense of “berko”. The nearest I can get is that might be a dig at the actor Steven Berkowitz, who sometimes played the wild-eyed maniac sort of role. What is going on here?

  34. Ian Gould
    November 29th, 2008 at 17:11 | #34

    Apparently, security at the hotels is already normally very tight.

    Apparently, there was an alert from the intelligence sources a month or so back which led to security being tightened further.

    Then tragically a week or so back when the threat hadn’t eventuated the intelligence services decided it was a false alarm and called off the alert.

  35. November 29th, 2008 at 18:56 | #35

    haiku Says: November 29th, 2008 at 2:46 pm

    Jack, I’m sure you may have spied one or two post 7 July, but I read this and felt it was a substantial over-exaggeration, having lived there through that period.

    I was only in London for a week or so a year after 2005. I saw a half-dozen or so in Pall Mall in one day. Another couple in Oxford St. I remember noticing others here and there. Is that a “substantial exaggeration” of the phrase “highly visible presence”?

    Perhaps there was a temporary alert on. But no one seemed to be very agitated by their presence. Traditional British phlegm?

    I never saw any automatic weapon-armed police in London during the eighties. This was during the height of the IRA terror campaign.

    London today – with its sensational inequities of wealth, rich foreigners seeking safe havens for ill-gotten gains, roving gangs of intoxicated youth bent on bother, constant pan-handling coming from every quarter and heavily armed cops – is starting to resemble New York a generation ago. Without the New Music scene.

    I didn’t much care for it.

  36. November 29th, 2008 at 19:21 | #36

    IG, repeated false alarms – the wolf crying wolf – is one of the four standard ways of breaching security. The Indians would have known this, and not simply called off an alert for that reason alone. There must have been other factors in their decision.

  37. November 29th, 2008 at 20:00 | #37

    # Michael of Summer Hill Says: November 29th, 2008 at 2:16 pm

    John, if I may reply to jack strocchi by saying the language you use is very similar to that of the buckwit terrorists. Dream on.

    If “the language [I] use is very similar to that of the buckwit terrorists” then they must be channeling Otto v. Bismark, the politician I feel most sympathy for these days. We should be paying more attention to old “Blood and Iron”.

    I am unashamedly on the side of law-and-order, border security and “mindful conformism”. Obviously the good citizens of Mumbai will shortly follow suit, if they arent there already.

    Terrorism seems to be a allergic cultural reaction to the post-modern Shock of the New and the the post-colonial Shock of Other. You cant really stop the urge, just constrain and defuse it.

    The authorities response to it should be epidemiological. Quarantine risky areas, surgically excise infected parts and administer palliative medication. Then sit tight until the locals evolve antigens (ie feminism and neoteny) to the pathogens of modernization (gangs, drugs, hot-heads).

    The civilized powers (including India now that it is on the path to civic modernity) should aim to “do no harm”. Begin by getting the hell out of Islamic Dodge. Its what the British and French did in Bengal and Algeria. And its what the Americans will have to do in Mesopotamia.

    We are well past the stage of Great Powers playing the Great Game. Let the UN send in posses of US robots to chase outlaws in the Badlands.

    And invite those remaining within their lawful jurisdiction who dont want to play by the rules of modernity to fit in or clear out.

  38. Ubiquity
    November 29th, 2008 at 22:33 | #38

    The 9/11 incident changed our world dramatically. It changed the US relationship with the world. It changed the Wests relationship with the world. The initial reponse to 9/11 may have been popular, including The military presence of the US and its allies in Afghanistan and Iraq. But the reality of war and the prolonged occupation / presence of the US and its allies in the middle east has done nothing but create more social and economic problems.

    We musn’t underestimate the blatant disregard for, and reduction of civil liberties in most Western countries as a result of the 9/11 incident . Would the Haneef incident have ever arisen except for the AFP and Co. greater powers.

    I have no doubt the Indian government will respond in a similar fashion. Hell it may even be an excuse to blow Pakistan of the face of the earth. The state can get away with anything when the people are at their most vulnerable.

  39. Donald Oats
    November 29th, 2008 at 23:08 | #39

    I don’t have any answers when it comes to why people believe that killing a bunch of other people in a busy city is going to improve anything.

    Treating these terrorists as perpetrators of a particularly nasty crime, and locking them up for (a long) life in a cell somewhere; perhaps thats the best that can be done for now. In the meanwhile, the politicians can do their talking thing with the terrorists having gone through the legal system. If Pakistan home-grown terrorists are involved, then the processing of the perps through the criminal justice system gives India the high moral ground.

    Senseless!

  40. Michael of Summer Hill
    December 1st, 2008 at 15:11 | #40

    John, if I may respond to jack strocchi by saying I can only reiterate what I said before. Dream on.

  41. December 7th, 2008 at 09:25 | #41

    War is no (can never be a) solution to peace. War against terror can not and will not be able to solve this complexity of terrorism to bring about peace. What war against terror has done is just added fuel in the fire, helping to further prolong the fire.
    The war against terror is very much against the fundamental and basic principle of Mahatma Gandhi.
    War against terror is nothing, except playing at the hands of terrorist.

  42. December 7th, 2008 at 12:18 | #42

    I don’t pretend to understand this issue, but I suggest readers open their minds to the possibility that the Mumbai attacks were a ‘false flag’ operation as were the devastating terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001.

    The Mumbai attack is discussed, amongst other places, here.

    If anyone considers my claim about the September 11 attack to be far-fetched, view this YouTube presentation or read this post and subsequent discussion from an Online Opinion forum on “9/11 Truth” and then try to convince yourself that the ‘collapse’ of World Trade Center Tower 7 on 11 September 2001 was not a controlled demolition.

  43. free
    December 13th, 2008 at 09:17 | #43

    Socrates,

    I assume that Thatcher’s “right” approach was killing civilians? As the English paramilitary did many times all around the world. You maybe be right that she wouldn’t have “fallen” for Bush’s plan, however,her plan would have been a lot more evil.

  44. December 13th, 2008 at 11:28 | #44

    “War is no (can never be a) solution to peace”.

    Of course it is; if peace itself is your problem or an intrinsic part of it (as when, say, someone is practising “peaceful penetration” against you, or there is a strategic resource embargo like that of the USA against Japan in the early 1940s), then war is a solution or an intrinsic part of it, if there is one. While all good outcomes involve peace, not all peace involves good outcomes.

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