Friday, October 19, 2007

The Anatomy of the Attack on Bhutto

Bill Roggio describes the attempt on Benazir Bhutto, which may have included attacks to breach the police cordon prior to going for the primary.

Bhutto herself said there were two suicide bombers involved in the attacks, while there were four suicide squads sent to kill her. "There was one suicide squad from the Taliban elements, one suicide squad from al Qaeda, one suicide squad from Pakistani Taliban and a fourth — a group — I believe from Karachi," she said. Bhutto also stated street lamps went dark as the procession moved through Karachi at midnight.

The bombings were also coordinated with sniper fire. "After the explosions, Bhutto's supporters reported hearing gunshots, and there were three indentations in the glass screen of her truck that appeared to have been caused by bullets," The New York Times reported.

It is clear this was a sophisticated, professional strike planned in advance. "It is a pattern that would suggest the attack was planned meticulously and conducted expertly, certainly not by a novice," Karachi's chief of police said.

Bill Roggio notes, "The assassination attempt against Bhutto bear the hallmark of the past al Qaeda attempts to assassinate President Musharraf."

The attempts on Musharraf's life have featured attacks on his motorcade, including suicide vehicles ramming to penetrate the security cordon. Although the blasts were attributed to al-Qaeda, a soldier from the Pakistani military was also involved. Interestingly, two attempts were made on Musharraf in rapid succession which may imply that a fallback plan against Bhutto may exist.


Blogger John Aristides said...

I've been trying to glean from our availables what kind of impact this might have on the politics of the election. Roggio's reporting, while excellent, is all meat and potatoes.

Do we have any way of anticipating what happens next, politically? Do we get a Lebanon-post-Hariri response, or do the Islamists double down?

10/19/2007 05:59:00 PM  
Blogger John Aristides said...

Most often, it seems to me, the Islamists have no after-action plans except those that resemble the Underwear Gnomes' from South Park:

1. Steal Underwear
2. ???
3. Profit

I wonder if they were prepared for failure, and if they were, whether the preparation makes sense.

10/19/2007 06:03:00 PM  
Blogger NahnCee said...

So everyone thinks it was real Islamist fanatic Bad Guys, and not Musharref himself throwing her a welcoming party?

10/19/2007 06:13:00 PM  
Blogger John Aristides said...

Wretchard, I apologize, but I wanted to ask what you thought about this.

Regarding waterboarding, the tactic of the Left is to argue that torture yields whatever confessions you want.

This may be true. However, I was thinking about what type of differences might accrue between those whose goal was to reap confessions (whatever their truth value), and those whose objective was to discover useful information.

Isn't it true that Leftists who make the above argument highly underestimate the difference between an interrogator seeking an imposed confession and an interrogator seeking truthful, actionable intelligence? I think an unassailable case can be made that the differences of intent -- seeking justification versus seeking truth -- create very real, very large differences in tactics and results.


10/19/2007 06:34:00 PM  
Blogger wretchardthecat said...

I can see the operational difference between using duress to save lives or avoid damage and simply using it to obtain a false confession. However, I think the objection to torture on moral grounds would reject it's use in either case.

In fact any real valid moral case against torture must accept that one is forgoing real advantages in exchange for forgoing certain kinds of duress. The reason the use of torture creates a dilemma is not because it doesn't work but because it sometimes does.

The Leftist argument that torture doesn't work really means giving it up is "costless", which is b.s. The real test is whether you would reject torture even if utilizing it would save your child's life. If you can affirm that you are taking a moral stance.

I think that people and societies have the right to consciously reject certain courses of action, fully knowing the cost. After all, some people choose to die rather than betray certain things they hold dear. We can accept additional danger and the loss of loved ones in exchange for upholding what we believe if that's what we want. Morality is fine, but it costs. All history, all religious thought, all literature teaches that taking a moral stance always costs. It's never free. What I find objectionable is the insistence on having it both ways. "Give me safety without guilt. Give me freedom without having to defend it." As I recall the original was "give me Liberty or give me death." There are guys who want to make a revolution, put on the Che Guevara beret and strut around without realizing it means killing people. Watching them bleed and ask for their mothers. Tell them it includes that and ask them if they're still along for the ride.

But I think we should be more hard nosed about what we regard as torture. I would personally put all permanent bodily and psychological harm, mutilation, etc off limits -- even if it meant I would have to suffer for it. However, I have no personal problem with pouring whiskey down somebody's throat, using drugs which eventually wear off, engaging in sleep deprivation, frightening him, and such things if it meant we could save somebody's life.

In other words once we decide not to cross a certain line, it's incumbent on us to make sure that line is appropriately drawn. Should we use waterboarding? Let's study the subject at least, and empanel doctors to submit a report on it. Because if we're going to forgo or not forgo it in a situation where it could save lives I'd like to know exactly why.

For the same reason I think we should amend international humanitarian law rather than either ignore it, or pretend to abide by it while secretly ignoring it which is how many nations in the world secretly act. This way the operators won't be asked to do something "while we look the other way". We should never ask any operator to do something which in principle we wouldn't do ourselves.

So in summary. I'm absolutely against real torture, but I don't think asking someone for more than his name, rank and serial number is anywhere near the line.

10/19/2007 07:15:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

krBhutto Says She Warned of Plotting Days Before Attack

Benazir Bhutto said she had given Gen. Pervez Musharraf names of people in his government who were plotting against her.
Friday that she had warned the Pakistani government that suicide bomb squads were going to go after her on her return to the country and that it had failed to act on the information.

Ms. Bhutto did not blame the president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, for the bomb blasts and said extremist Islamic groups who wanted to take over the country were behind the attacks, which killed 134 people.
But she pointed the finger at government officials who she said were sympathetic to the militants and were abusing their powers to advance their cause. She did not identify them on Friday, but said she had in a letter to the government this Tuesday. It was not clear if she was implicating the officials directly or accusing them of dragging their feet on her warning.

“I am not accusing the government, but I am accusing certain individuals who abuse their positions, who abuse their powers,”

Ms. Bhutto seemed careful on Friday not to implicate General Musharraf, taking pains for the time being to preserve the power-sharing arrangement that allowed her to return to Pakistan, and which may make her prime minister for a third time after parliamentary elections in January. She spoke to the president by telephone on Friday.

The ISI has for decades backed militant Islamic groups in Kashmir and in Afghanistan in pursuit of a military strategy established by the former military dictator, Gen. Muhammad Zia ul-Haq, in the 1970s. “I know exactly who wants to kill me,” Ms. Bhutto said. “It is dignitaries of the former regime of General Zia who are today behind the extremism and the fanaticism.”

Before her return, she said a “brotherly country,” which she did not identify, warned her that several suicide squads were plotting attacks against her — one from a Taliban group, one from Al Qaeda, one from Pakistani Taliban and one from Karachi.
That friendly government, she said, had also supplied Pakistan’s government with telephone numbers the plotters were using.

It added that the president had ordered law enforcement authorities to track down the mastermind of the bombings within 48 hours, and had offered a force of special services commandos trained by the United States to Ms. Bhutto for her protection.

10/19/2007 07:22:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Many, besides just the left, argue that torture does not work. A certain poster here with past connections to interrogations and present connections with the CIA makes that claim.
I cite such people as examples of the creeping political correctness, and Psychologizing under the influence of the dominate culture and institutions.

10/19/2007 07:32:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

I also consider many "moral" stands re "torture" to be immoral and selfish in the extreme when the people taking such stands do not have to directly bear the costs of those policies, nor do their loved ones.

10/19/2007 07:35:00 PM  
Blogger wretchardthecat said...

In order to fight the AQ in Pakistan, we need to get the Pakistani government "on board". But who exactly is the Pakistani government? Maybe it's a little bit like the Iraqi government, honeycombed with cabals and cliques and not a little bit infiltrated by the bad guys.

If you treat the Pakistani government like a monolithic entity and just walk up to the Minister or your counterpart and trust them with your life you are playing Russian roulette. For the time being, one has to deal with subsets of the government; with a private network of trusted persons. You trust people because you know them, not because they are Pakistani officials with some kind of ID or uniform.

Now if this sounds like a hell of a way to run a railroad, it is. And I imagine that the guys who are dealing with this issue have got their work cut out for them. Maybe it'll be a little like organizing the shieks in Anbar without quite ever being able to set foot in Anbar. At least officially.

10/19/2007 07:52:00 PM  
Blogger Alexis said...


There is another argument concerning torture the Left has not used. Let's say, for the sake of argument, there is an untried form of interrogation that is at least as useful as waterboarding and sleep deprivation -- and cannot be legitimately called torture.

At least for the sake of propaganda, wouldn't it be better to use this alternative form of interrogation instead of something Hollywood can sink its teeth into?

Without going into too many details, there are forms of interrogation that involve cultural disorientation and immersive theater. I think they will work wonders. (If you want, I'll email you examples, but this is an open forum.)

Also, it may be useful to create audio-video records of every second of a detainee's incarceration. Reason: the al-Qaeda detainee is trained to complain about torture, and one then allows Amnesty International to watch every single minute of the video of his detention, his lies and be thoroughly and conclusively disproven. And disproving al-Qaeda lies for a European audience is important.

For your information, while I don't regard waterboarding, sleep deprivation, and the "Swedish Drink" (used during the Thirty Years' War) to be legitimate, I do regard providing hallucinogens to terrorist prisoners to be a legitimate form of interrogation. We have a strong interest in understanding the enemy's dreams, especially since this information strongly affects theatrical interrogation techniques.

10/19/2007 08:12:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

What are your objections to waterboarding, Alexis?
As you no doubt know, some of our services utilized waterboarding in their training.

10/19/2007 08:40:00 PM  
Blogger Alexis said...

Here's another operational concern about torture. Let's say it works, and works like a charm. It may still undermine our ability to gain information because it shows our desperation.

An interrogation is like a bazaar. Each side feels out the other concerning a balance of power. If I'm a prisoner, torture, especially torture as a means of extracting information, shows me that I'm important. He may be using pain as leverage against me, but if I hold out, I'll be a hero and I will be seen as an important man by friend and foe alike. In contrast, there are times when it is important to lead a prisoner to believe that you aren't really interested in what he has to say. And the less interested you sound, the less value the prisoner will think he has when he talks to you. You want him to want your attention. You don't want him to think you are desperate for his attention. You want his need for attention from you to become a means to get him to spill the beans, not your need for attention from him to become a way for him to play you like a violin.

Torture often shows weakness and desperation. It either shows how utterly important the prisoner's information is or it shows how angry the prison guards are. The imprisoned ANC leadership could often tell when they were winning because that's when they got more beatings by Afrikaner guards.

Also, your desperation for information from the enemy may lead the enemy to waste your time by telling you too much information and overload your intelligence analysis with garbage.

10/19/2007 08:41:00 PM  
Blogger Alexis said...


What are your objections to waterboarding, Alexis?
As you no doubt know, some of our services utilized waterboarding in their training.

I'm not surprised they have, Doug. I also suspect that President Bush and Vice President Cheney would not have allowed such an activity unless they themselves had experienced waterboarding earlier in their lives.

My principal objection to waterboarding is that while waterboarding may be intended to create the impression the prisoner is drowning, there is a real possibility he will actually drown. Beyond any "moral" qualms about waterboarding, any prisoner deaths resulting from waterboarding would be a political embarrassment and thus undermine the war effort.

Other concerns include:

a. We must not seem too desperate in seeking the enemy's information.
b. Disorientation of the enemy may be more important than creating physical discomfort.
c. Luxury, in and of itself, can become a cause of moral discomfort for some prisoners. And complaints by prisoners that they live in too much luxury would be greeted with derision worldwide.
d. Torture or "torture light" may ironically make the enemy feel more comfortable, as it would feel more like home.
e. Waterboarding is something al-Qaeda prisoners now expect, so using this technique will likely elicit diminishing returns.
f. Al-Qaeda prisoners desire regularity in their lives; randomness in their lives tends to create anxiety for them. Waterboarding, by not being a random event, is assimilated into the enemy's worldview while random temperatures for his room would drive him to distraction. Ironically, waterboarding would be most effective against the enemy precisely when it is illegal for a guard to inflict, for its very legality leads the enemy to devise means to guard against it.

10/19/2007 09:14:00 PM  
Blogger wretchardthecat said...

Let's try this thought experiment. Suppose you could safely find your child, who has been hidden in an underground room with limited oxygen by a pedophile by submitting to waterboarding yourself. Grant the premise for a moment.

1) Should a parent be allowed to exchange this pain and suffering, (given the assumption of this thought experiment) for the safety of his child?
2) Assuming that it was OK for submit to waterboarding yourself to save your child, why in principle would be it be not OK to question the pedophile himself with identical methods if you were racing against time?

Why would we be willing to accept the voluntary suffering of an innocent parent but reject inflicting involuntary suffering on the probably guilty?

I think posing the question this way helps us focus on what exactly we object to. Is our objection to the taboo of inflicting pain in itself? Or is it in the moral degradation really the result of inflicting it on someone pleading to be spared it?

I am sure many parents would gladly consent to have their arms lopped off if it would save their child from asphyxiation. But because they submit to this willingly, we might ironically feel less reluctant to harm an innocent volunteer doing something "noble" rather than inflict an objectively lesser hurt on a probable perp, because we are doing something "ignoble".

And in fact, isn't this what we do? Soldiers agree to bear that much extra danger even if they could reduce it by resorting to duress because that's not the American way. The expected value of the pain they might feel as an undiscovered EFP slices off a limb is mitigated by the fact that the risk is experienced "voluntarily". That's pain but it's not torture. While if we caught Khalid Sheik Mohammed any duress he suffers would be endured involuntarily and therefore mark us as torturers.

People think in the damndest ways, but I accept that. To me the question comes down to how much we are willing to pay for our own self-respect. We are obviously willing to pay something. Maybe we are willing to pay with our very lives to retain self-respect, or for a civilizational or religious belief. And there's nothing wrong with that. But it's nice to know what you're paying for.

10/19/2007 09:45:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

I have more respect for those that preserve the lives of the good guys at the expense of those PROVEN guilty, rather than vice-versa, other arguments notwithstanding.

Also, the equation often involves non-volunteers on the innocent side.
Mall Explosion in Manila Kills 9

MANILA, Philippines (AP) - A powerful blast ripped through three floors of a shopping mall in the heart of Manila's financial district Friday, killing nine people and wounding more than 100, authorities said.
Police bomb investigators told President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo at a Cabinet security meeting covered live on local radio that they had detected the high explosive RDX at the site of the blast.

"It's a bomb, but as to what kind of bomb, we are still trying to determine," national police chief Avelino Razon told The Associated Press. "Likely it's a terrorist attack, but what terrorist group, we have no indicator."

Al-Qaida-linked Abu Sayyaf militants have waged a yearslong bombing campaign in the southern Philippines in their aim to establish a separate state for the majority Muslims in the region. Abu Sayyaf and the Indonesia-based Jemaah Islamiyah network have also launched attacks in Manila.

10/19/2007 10:35:00 PM  
Blogger Alexis said...


I like the philosophical tone you are taking. However, I would caution against making the analogy of a parent consenting to his own torment to save his child.

Many women resort to prostitution in order to raise the standard of living of their families. Yet, most governments in the United States criminalize this behavior. If a parent isn’t allowed to sell sex to put food on the table, wouldn’t the government be even less inclined to allow a parent to torture himself to save his child? Then, there’s medical marijuana. Although treatment for glaucoma may be a political subterfuge by latter day hippies, people are told that it is better to see one’s elderly mother suffer than to get marijuana for her, all because the government has decreed that marijuana is illegal.

Drug laws and laws against prostitution function on the principle that the government has an obligation to prevent people from making decisions that will harm themselves, even if (and perhaps especially if) people are harming themselves as a means to help their children. In Australia, prostitution is decriminalized, so this isn’t as much of an issue there, but in the United States it is presumed that the government has an obligation to prevent people from harming themselves, the consequences be damned.

It would be much easier to accept an argument that tormenting al-Qaeda prisoners is acceptable if American government recognized the liberty of American citizens to torment ourselves and make stupid self-defeating decisions for ourselves. As it is, we need to ask ourselves, if al-Qaeda did it to us, would it be torture? If we are willing to conduct torture to save lives, that is a political decision. As it is, Justice Potter Stewart once said about pornography, “I know it when I see it.” And just as defining pornography is subjective, slippery, and confusing, so is defining torture.

In any case, torture does need to be defined in future international treaties in a manner that doesn’t let al-Qaeda define every single inconvenience they feel as “torture”.

10/19/2007 10:55:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

The sacrifice of Col Kurilla and his troops safety to a released terrorist represents some kind of desperation to me:

A desperate pursuit of some perverted moral height by the deciders and their lawyers at the expense of others.

Kurilla himself disagreed vociferously with the policy before he was shot.

10/19/2007 10:56:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Indeed, Alexis:
Letting lawyers into the process not only leads to situations like Col Kurillas, but to terminal cancer patients being denied proper pain medications to avoid their becoming addicted to them!

10/19/2007 11:01:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

The nobility of suffering is most often endured by those outside the decision making loop!

10/19/2007 11:03:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Tea With Obama

10/19/2007 11:29:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

I'm not aware that drowning is a serious concern with waterboarding, esp with competent medical help at hand for accidents.
The Swedish Drink, oth, was too often fatal!
"They lay the bound servant on the ground, stuck a wooden wedge into his mouth, and poured into his belly a bucket full of foul manure water, which they called a Swedish Drink.

Use of the Schwedentrunk is recorded in the histories of towns throughout Southern Germany. Though specific circumstances differed, in every case a restrained and gagged victim was forced to swallow (by means of a funnel) a large amount of unappetizing, sometimes boiling liquid. Substances such as urine, excrement, liquid manure, and sullage were used for this purpose.

Apart from disgust, illness, and the possibility of bacterial infection, the Schwedentrunk inflicted intense gastric pain. Because liquids are incompressible, the victim's stomach and bowels must expand to painful proportions to accommodate the copious quantities of fluid.

The torturers then squeezed the distended belly with wooden boards or trampled the victim underfoot."

10/19/2007 11:57:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Man's inhumanity, cont.
--- The Slave Ship: A Human History
Marcus Rediker
Sick sailors were often abandoned by Captains, who would replace them with healthy new ones for the next voyage.
(much like we burn through young illegal workers in a decade or two, then abandon them and employ a new crop of young illegals)
Slaves would sometimes nurse these men back to health, and many were buried in "slave cemetaries"

The law was used to good effect by an insurance company when a captain threw his sick slaves overboard before a storm hit:
Insurance company claimed he murdered them, and thus they were not liable for paying him.
The begining of some legal standing for slaves!

10/20/2007 12:41:00 AM  
Blogger davod said...

Bill Rogio's forte is reporting on things he knows about. Just how much does he know about the internal politics of Pakistan.

Let's not forget that Bhutto has a reason for inflating the number of groups wanting to attack her. She is not the paragon of democratic virtue she is made out to be.

10/20/2007 02:52:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Bhutto Confused Over Her Attackers?
Something weird is going on with Bhutto's statements on the assasination attempt yesterday...

10/20/2007 04:11:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

In Pakistan Quandary, U.S. Reviews Stance

After years of compromises and trade-offs, there are questions inside and outside the administration about whether Mr. Bush has invested too heavily in a single Pakistani leader, an over-reliance that may have prevented the administration from examining longer-term strategic options dealing with a country Mr. Bush designated, somewhat optimistically, a “major non-NATO ally.”

“It never stitched together,” said Dan Markey, a State Department official who dealt with Pakistan until he left government earlier this year. “At every step, there was more risk aversion — because of the risk of rocking the boat seemed so high — than there was a real strategic vision.”

10/20/2007 04:12:00 PM  
Blogger PeterBoston said...

If anybody would be able to recognize the lack of strategic vision it would be somebody from the US State Department.

Tomorrow Should Be Exactly Like Today is the motto at State.

10/20/2007 05:10:00 PM  
Blogger Mad Fiddler said...

It will be useful for the discussion of torture in this context to review the videotape "Return with Honor" which documents interviews with a number of U.S. airmen who had been held as prisoners by the North Vietamese for years at a stretch.

Their stories illuminate the difficulties of "breaking" dedicated and prepared prisoners, with details that will pierce your heart.

10/20/2007 10:15:00 PM  
Blogger Peter Grynch said...

Aaron Mannes over at NRO does a great job of listing all the various suspects for the bombing.

"The question of who was behind Friday’s assassination attempt on Benazir Bhutto is the whodunit from hell and, instead of a pistol, the drawing room dénouement will feature Pakistan’s nuclear weapons."

10/23/2007 07:07:00 PM  

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