Jan 1, 2008

Kenya and Pakistan

I get ill and Bhutto gets her head blown off, while Kenya erupts in post-election violence. Coincidence? Probably not, but I'll still talk about those two more than my unfortunately timed cold (and I wont even talk about it happening during my first free time in months).

First we have the unusual assassination of Bhutto. I'm on a wireless right now, and even getting online risks the possibility of frostbite, so I haven't been able to call upon my usual levels of research and sources on this.

However, it doesn't take a genius to work out there is something odd about her assassination. Not least in the fact that she may not have fallen at the hands of an assassin's bullet, but rather a cracked skull that resulted from the explosion. Of course, we wont actually know until the autopsy is performed...

Oh, thats right, an autopsy wont be performed. Because the government of Pakistan, via the Police Chief of Rawalpindi, put pressure on the doctors to agree with their interpretation of events and bury the troublesome broad as soon as possible. Which kind of raises questions about how the government knows what killed her. Its possible they may be psychic, or merely trying to cover up evidence of their complicity by all means possible.

The assassin himself is an interesting one, too. While we know Al-Qaeda previously targeted Bhutto, their methods of assassination are pretty obvious - car bombs and suicide bombers. All they require is a skilled bombmaker and any religiously inclined idiot willing to go to Allah sooner than expected. It takes roughly $3 million a piece for the US to replicate the accuracy of these smart bombs with their own guided missiles, and its much cheaper to use people, cars and C4.

However, the fact he was using a gun is an anomaly. Al-Qaeda assassins don't use guns, as a rule. Not on assassinations, at least. For kidnapping people and within their own buildings, for defence, sure. However, trained gunmen, especially of the calibre needed to take out a potential head of state, are too useful to waste on suicide missions, which most attempts on people of Bhutto's political influence are. Bombs are far more useful because so long as you get it within range of the target, they don't really "miss", plus once they are fired its too late to do anything about them. Guns, on the other hand, are more difficult and if you screw up, you've exposed your position and intent and can expect a future of grief and pain if caught.

So bombs are definitely the professional assassin's weapon, at this level of the game. Factoring in the inexpensive nature of the personnel also needed, you can make high target kills much easier, even if you fail once or twice. Like much of terrorrism, its turned into a game of odds.

But if you are an organization who has access to a large number of trained gunmen, on the other hand, it might be better to use them, given Al-Qaeda's previous failure, right? The gunfire could be used to pin the target down, and then the bomb detonated - a pretty sneaky kill. You'd have to be willing to kill the gunman of course (the fact that you can have unwilling or unknowing suicide bombers is a problem little discussed in terrorism literature - its a great way of disposing of someone who knows too much once their primary goal is achieved), but if you have plenty of those already, is it really a problem?

Of course, one could look towards the Kashmiri groups, many of whom have quasi-military training, religious conviction and a cushy arrangement with Musharraf dating back to at least 1999 (where he heavily supported them in their war against India and made the case for them in military circles, according the rumours). While I could certainly see why they would want to take out Musharraf's key opposition, I'm not too certain of the extent of their resources within Pakistan proper, or their willingness to mess with the political system to this degree.

On the other hand, we always have the world's biggest bastards, the ISI. They despised Bhutto's PPP - enough to help rig elections against her party in 1990, ensuring her defeat, not to mention the whispers of involvement of the ISI in Shahnawaz Bhutto's assassination. And they have links to both Al-Qaeda and the Kashmiri terrorist groups, so many links its sometimes hard to tell where the ISI ends and they begin. It also has vast resources, well beyond that of the dreams of any terrorist group, and is often referred to as a "state within a state" because of both its highly independent nature and willingness to use the aforementioned resources for their own ends. Given that police were pulled from their posts shortly before the assassination, and the sheer level of interference in finding out the truth, in addition to the odd nature of her killing all seem to suggest that it may not have been Al-Qaeda at all, but elements far closer to the corridors of power in Islamabad.

And briefly, we have a disgusting situation in Kenya right now, which is really terrible to see. I'm not sure about the contested vote, truth be told, and it seems many people in Kenya are the same way, despite the party faithful backing their own candidates to the hilt. It should be noted that the EU observers raised concerns about irregularities and would be fair to assume that if there is cheating, it benefited the winner (otherwise the cheating was pretty pointless), but I don't know that for certain. But of course, with this being Kenya, political concerns invariably turn into ethnic concerns, which effect everyone.

That's kind of the problem with ethnic issues, especially if they get tied into politics, because you can't just keep your mouth shut and lie about who you voted for, when Mr Bigot who lives down the road knows that all the Kikuyu voted for that bastard Kibaki (for example). So it becomes a situation where each side is getting ready to beat the crap out of each other in a pre-emptive show of self-defence. And when you have that situation, all you need is one idiot, which nature has in considerable abundance.

And that is how we end up with Kikuyu being burned alive in a church, or women being "targeted for rape in the slums based on their ethnicity" or "ODM supporters in ODM strongholds being beaten, raped, and killed arbitrarily by GSU officers."

I suggest if you want to keep up with the situation in Kenya, use a mix of Kenyapundit's excellent blogging, along with BBC News and online reports, as the BBC will be increasing its resources in the country very soon. I suspect other British news outlets will too, so keep an eye on the Times, Guardian etc as well.

Well, thats it for my New Year News Roundup. Time to go back to the flavoured coffee and bad TV films. Later.

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