New Delhi, Sunday, 06 December 2015
TERROR COCKTAIL, SHAKEN IN PAKISTAN, SERVED IN US
Former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had spoken of “snakes in Pakistan's backyard”. With the San Bernardino attack, one of them has sunk its poison fangs into the hand that so lovingly feeds Pakistan
For all the vaunted homeland security measures, including Orwellian intrusion into private spaces and legally sanctioned eves-dropping into electronic communications, initiated after 26/11, America and Americans may claim greater safety but are in no manner entirely immune from terrorism fuelled by jihadi hate ideology. The ghastly Boston bombings have been surpassed by the grisly massacre of December 2 at San Bernardino, California, when Syed Rizwan Farook, a born-in-US American citizen of Pakistani origin, and his wife Tashfeen Malik, a Pakistani who grew up in Saudi Arabia, shot dead 14 people and injured 21 others.
The death toll would have been manifold had the jihadi couple got to use the deadly arsenal, including assault rifles, 4,500 bullets and improvised explosive devices attached to children’s toys (much like the remote-controlled ‘doll bombs’ that are the latest fetish of Islamic State barbarians) they had put together. Ironically, the guns and bullets they used to kill Americans in cold blood were acquired in America, legally. Regular mass killings, including the slaughter of children in schools, racially motivated attacks and targeting of Jews, have done nothing to change stupid laws that allow Americans to buy weapons of assault and run amok.
If that’s the downside, the admirable bit is about the remarkable speed and accuracy with which the first respondents, the police, in acts of terrorism react in the US. Farook and Tashfeen fled the scene of the massacre but were tracked to their home. They tried to escape in their SUV. A gunfight follfoll. They were shot dead. But that’s only one part, possibly the most inconsequential part, of the story. Jihadis are conditioned to kill mercilessly; they are prepared to die a ruthless dead. No tears need to be shed for them.
Treacly stories have appeared of how Farook and Tashfeen left their six-month-old child with her grandmother, how a bleak future lies ahead for her. There is no denying that the child shall grow up parentless and carry the burden of her parents’ crimes. She is as much a victim as those who died or suffered injuries, a testimony to the veracity of what Golda Mier said in a not-so-different context: “Peace will come when the Arabs love their children more than they hate us.” We could well adapt that wisdom to our terrible and terrifying times: “Peace will come when Islamists love their children more than they hate the rest of the world.”
There were two initial responses to the San Bernardino killings. The first was organised by the Council on American-Islamic Relations. It was the usual hackneyed stuff about how “shocked we are”. Farook’s brother-in-law was trotted out to inform the world that he was not aware of what was being planned. This is now a perfectly honed standard operating procedure for CAIR which is also in the forefront of branding critics of Islamic fanaticism as Islamophobes and hounding them with the help of Left-liberals in academia, politics and people at large. There is no shortage of them in America. But even CAIR’s crocodile tears are inconsequential and must not distract us.
The second response came from investigators who suggested the killers were driven by the impulse of “sudden jihad”. That’s a new inclusion to the ever-expanding lexicon of terrorism as well as counter-terrorism. Beyond that it means nothing. Subsequent revelations bear out this point. Also demolished once again are bleeding heart notions of denial, deprivation, lack of education, joblessness, discrimination, in brief, imagined victimhood, fuel the jihadi impulse. Farook was educated, had a reasonably good job with San Bernardino County, while Tashfeen came from a well-off family and had studied pharmacology. Workplace colleagues do not appear to have been non-inclusive. They lived in a home and neighbourhood far more decent than they would have in Pakistan.
So what do we know now that should worry America and make us feel concerned? Three revelations by the FBI, which has designated the killings as ‘terrorism’, are of import. First, Farook visited Saudi Arabia where he met and married Tashfeen. He may also have met his jihadi mentors there. Farook is likely to have been in touch with one or more terrorist organisations. It is unlikely his conversion from chasing the American dream to chasing the jihadi dream was of recent vintage. Like the beard he grew, the jihadi impulse must have taken time to overwhelm his critical thinking after being planted in his mind.
Second, before they embarked upon their shoot-to-kill mission, Tashfeen is believed to have declared her allegiance to the Islamic State. Her crossing the line and entering the zone of no return would have followed contemplation and reasonable exposure to jihad’s dark ideology and acceptance as well as internalisation of the Islamic State’s message of recreating the caliphate on the foundation of hate. Nobody crosses over just like that. The years she spent in Saudi Arabia, imbibing Wahaabi fanaticism, would have prepared her for the final step.
Third, Tashfeen, who grew up in Saudi Arabia after moving there at the age of two with her parents, returned to Pakistan to study pharmacology. Investigators say she came in contact with Maulana Abdul Aziz who is the chief cleric at Islamabad’s infamous Lal Masjid with which she was subsequently associated. Lal Masjid became a terror den during Gen Pervez Musharraf’s time, taunting the military and mocking him. Matters came to a pass when Lal Masjid thugs went after Chinese workers. To pacify an enraged Beijing, Musharraf ordered a raid on Lal Majid and its fortified madarsas for men and women. Aziz tried to escape in a burqa but was caught.
That was in 2007. Two years later Aziz was back in business after being set free by Pakistan’s sainted judges occupying seats in its hallowed courts of justice. All he had to do was plead “Not guilty”. The state, as always, did not press for prosecution. Aziz has since named the library at Lal Masjid after Osama bin Laden, set up a network of madarsas that are cradles of future terrorists, declared allegiance to the Islamic State and refused to condemn the 2014 Peshawar School carnage in which 148 children aged eight to 15 were killed by the Pakistani Taliban. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s alleged civilian Government and the Pakistani Army mollycoddle him.
So it’s a deadly cocktail of Army, Allah and America, shaken in Saudi Arabia, stirred in Pakistan and served in America. Hillary Clinton spoke of “snakes in Pakistan’s backyard”. One of them has sunk its poison fangs into the hand that so lovingly feeds Pakistan. Deceit and duplicity, when used as instruments of dollar-funded ‘strategic diplomacy’, can never fetch anything that is even remotely good. A second lesson: Both Paris and San Bernardino suggest we will increasingly witness female jihadis playing a prominent role in terrorist attacks. Paris was a repeat of 26/11 in both tactics and strategy. San Bernardino was more a ‘lone wolf’ attack. Paris proved, at a grievous cost to human lives, that our cities remain vulnerable in the face of unrelenting Islamism, especially of the vicious Islamic State variety. San Bernardino has shown what we are up next.
(The author is a current affairs journalist based in NCR)