Showing posts with label Bombay 26/11. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Bombay 26/11. Show all posts

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Enemy in Our Midst

“Fighting terrorism is like being a goalkeeper. You can make a hundred brilliant saves but the only shot that people remember is the one that gets past you.”
Paul Wilkinson

While the Republicans and Democrats continue to expend time and energy fighting and arguing about what to call terrorists. And Conservatives blame misguided left wing political correctness for using soft terminology and for lack of profiling, the world and the profile of the Extremist is being totally re-defined with every new homegrown terrorist being caught in America and abroad. It is becoming increasingly and frighteningly clear that our old rules, profiles and profiling definitions no longer apply. The terrorists are now recruiting and succeeding in creating a totally new breed of monster: people who are virtually impossible to sniff out or detect, most times until they actually commit an act of terror.

In the last year alone, all the men (and a few women) who have been arrested in the act of committing an act of terror, planning one or are already trained and hardened members of Al-Qaeda - not one of them fits the old profile of disenfranchised, poor, uneducated, Muslim and non-American.
Omar Hammami, was born to a white Southern Baptist woman from Alabama and a Syrian immigrant father. He had the most normal middle class childhood and upbringing in Daphne, Alabama until he showed up in a Somalia Al-Qaeda terrorist propaganda video one day with his nom de guerre, Abu Mansoor Al-Amriki, “the American” (The Jihadist Next Door - New York Times). Bryant Neal Vinas was an altar boy who grew up in a middle class suburb on Long Island, New York, with a passion for baseball and the Mets. His father is from Peru and his mother Argentinean. Vinas was arrested last year in Afghanistan and confessed to being trained and assisting Al-Qaeda in a plan to bomb the Long Island Rail Road. Friends describe Vinas as a sweet, charming, young boy with a kind heart, who was perhaps a little gullible. David Coleman Headley has a wealthy former Pakistani diplomat for a father and a white American Pittsburgh socialite mother. By all accounts he had a very privileged childhood. He lived with his father in Pakistan until the age of 17, when he arrived in the United States to live with his mother. In 1998 he was convicted of smuggling heroin into the US. As part of a deal for a lighter sentence, he agreed to work undercover for the Drug Enforcement Agency, which gave him unfettered access to Pakistan, India and the United States. It is now clear he was training with Lashkar, raising the possibility that he had made contact with militants while still working for the DEA. He has admitted to helping plot the 26/11 terrorist attacks in Bombay, in 2008. Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab, better known as the underwear bomber, is the son of a former minister and chairman of First Bank of Nigeria. He lived in a four million dollar apartment in Central London, and was an Engineering student at a prestigious London University. His teacher and friends remember him as model pupil and “very personable boy". Faisal Shahzad, the terrorist who tried to set off a car bomb in Times Square is the son of a former Air Force vice marshal and Deputy Director of Civil Aviation in Pakistan. Shazad graduated from the University of Bridgeport, came back to earn a Master’s in the same school, and was working with a marketing and consulting firm as a junior financial analyst. He became a US citizen in 2009 and married a Colorado-born girl with Pakistani parents. They have two children. He is the epitome of the “average student, employee, and neighbour” that litters the suburban American landscape today.

The list goes on, but what is most alarming to me about all of these men is that they have only one thing in common. Not one of them fits into any of our pre-defined categories or profiles that have been established and used by law enforcement for more than two decades for the hard core
Jihadist. Yet to consider them anything less would be a foolish mistake. After 9/11 we were all painted a picture of the poverty-stricken, opportunity-less, uneducated Muslim male as the person we should fear most to be a likely terrorist. We were told that these men could be found in poorer cities and villages in Muslim countries. And we were led to believe that the focus was on preventing these men from penetrating our borders, not that they already reside within them. Or the fact they are from upper or upper middle class backgrounds, clean cut, born and bred American and some even non-Muslim. So what the hell happened and how did our governments get it so totally wrong? “There's clearly been an acceleration in radicalization in the United States," said Mitch Silber, the director of intelligence analysis at the New York Police Department. He says that Bryant Neal Vinas and many of these men are “poster children for the process, the unremarkable nature of the people who might go through this process and the potential to link up with al Qaeda and the danger that it presents" (‘The radicalization of an all-American kid’ - CNN). Clearly, the internet has made it much easier for people to access and find Al-Qaeda or radicals around the world and more frighteningly the reverse is also true. There was a long held belief that integration and assimilation of the population was not an issue in the United States as it has been in Europe, but that myth, too, has been shattered by among others the Fort Hood shooter and the Times Square bomber. What is clear is that we are witnessing a totally new phenomenon and one that has caught International law enforcement by surprise. But what is far more frightening to me is that it is seemingly impossible to find a common thread between all of these men or a common motivation to profile them in any meaningful way. Without an understanding of their motivations or the turning or tipping point as it may be, we are totally defenseless to identify these men or track them down until after they have shown the demon within them, which most often is too late.

I leave you to ponder the words of author Michael Marshall from his book, Blood of Angels:
“Terrorism isn't James Bond or Tom Clancy. Even Al-Qaeda is looking old school these days---now it's just some guy with a bomb. He walks the same roads as us. He thinks the same thoughts. But he's got a bomb.”

Sunday, November 30, 2008

My City. My Country.

"You must be the change you want to see in the world.”
Mahatma Gandhi

I feel guilty today as I helplessly watch my beautiful Taj burn. I hang my head in shame. I am part of that vocal majority that expresses outrage at every act of violence perpetrated against my people and I point my silent finger at the politicians and so called leaders of my country. I sit in my comfortable armchair and sip my scotch as death looms in every shadow around every dark corner on my streets. Today, I feel like I am part of the problem.

The reality is a pill much harder to swallow. When you realize and accept that no matter how you articulate this defense, the fact remains that our politicians who rule and whom we blame for all our woes, are only there because we have put them in office. If they are corrupt it is only because we feed their corruption; every time we offer ‘chai paani’ to a cop for a traffic violation or an MTNL worker to set up that broadband connection at our home. They are never held accountable for their actions or lack thereof because we do not hold them responsible nor do we ever demand accountability, especially if it means having to get up off our comfortable little armchair. Today, I accept and realize that I am a large part of the problem that plagues the country that I love so much.

On many days I fret and fume, amongst likeminded friends, and convey indignation when the likes of Raj Thackeray stir up hate and communal passions for personal gain and imposters calling themselves Hindu’s protest and succeed in blocking the showing of “Through the Eyes of a Painter," an award-winning short film directed by M.F. Husain, at the 39th International Film Festival of India. I am embarrassed when people like Mamta Banerjee succeed in taking the country back 61 years and the center and Sonia Gandhi stay silent so they can ensure TMC support to fill their vote banks, in the next Lok Sabha elections. And today, once again I wonder who is actually calling the shots and running my country when I see Manmohan Singh’s spiritless leadership; a man whose intellect and integrity I had a great deal of respect and hope for. And I shout and scream silently from my comfortable armchair.

And once again today, I am silently heartened when I read Amitabh Bachchans’ blog where he adamantly states, about the 26/11 attacks, “But let us not conveniently use it as our cover sheet, pull it over our heads and go off to sleep. Because that is what has been happening every time." I too smile with pride when Rahul Bose, on CNN-IBN, vilifies Pramod Mahajan and Milind Deora saying that “this is the last straw,” and that Bombay and India will never again tolerate her politicians and leaders’ incompetence and indifference. As I sit upright, I can feel my sense of hopelessness and despair momentarily dissipate. I feel a part of their righteous anger and protest and I too am willing to do nothing more about it, as I adjust my posture and then recline comfortably back into the depths of my armchair.

But on this Twenty-Ninth day of November 2008, I feel something different. Mr. Rajan, a Taj maintenance man who put himself between the bullets of one of the gunmen (and a hotel guest, his wife and two daughters), Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan, the nameless stranger at Café Leopold who jumped on top of a British tourist, pushing him to the floor as a barrage of bullets reigned, ATS Chief Hemant Karkare and VD Zhende, the VT timetable announcer, who had the presence of mind to warn people not to come toward the main platform and refused to leave his post despite being fired at and Gajendra Singh, along with countless other nameless women and men who gave up their lives to save others, make me proud to be Indian. Today, they are responsible for killing my apathy and making me want to get up off my comfortable armchair; so that their sacrifice for their country, my country, and our country will NEVER be in vain.