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The War Nerd / November 27, 2008

I sure didn’t expect to be spending Thanksgiving morning sucking down instant coffee and flicking channels between CNN and the BBC. But the attacks in Mumbai are so big and, like they keep saying, “brazen,” that I stayed up late and got up early.

By now we all know the basics: Islamist terrorists swarmed over the rich/tourist parts of Mumbai yesterday, took over two luxury hotels and opened fire in the main train station. They’ve also seized several other buildings, though I still haven’t gotten an accurate count; some reporters were saying there were 17 different attacks in all, others 10.

What’s clear is that this was a labor-intensive enterprise. Terrorism is usually a matter of spending as few of your people as you can, but somebody connected with Al Qaeda or its Pakistani fan club decided to spend a lot of lives here. That’s what’s interesting, looking at these attacks cold-bloodedly.

Suppose you’re an Al Qaeda honcho deciding how to get maximum bang for your resources. Until now the solution has been bombs, most of the time. Because bombs can be planted by a few men, and if they set the timers right and keep a low profile, there’s a good chance those men will get away to plant more bombs another day. And since good men are hard to find, especially good men willing to risk having their fingernails pulled out in a police basement, that’s the way most terrorist movements decide to go.

Not this time. If these guys sent men to ten different locations in Mumbai, they spent a lot of lives. They’d have to assume that none of these men will come back alive. About half will die, and the rest will get some serious interrogation, then be shot “trying to escape” or be thrown into a deep, dark cell if they’re very lucky.

Suppose they sent ten men to each location. You need numbers for this sort of frontal assault in a heavily policed city, so that seems like a good number. Even if the real number turns out to be lower, say seven men to each location, that’s 70 supporters’ lives spent in one raid. Not the sort of thing that makes your Human Resources manager happy.

But it comes down to what you might as well call market forces, and in those terms it makes perfect sense. Supply and demand. Supply: it looks like the gunmen came from Pakistan by ship. Supplies of dumb triggerhappy young Pakistanis in a hurry to find martyrdom are basically infinite. Thanks to the CIA, ISI and Saudi funding, there are now more than 4000 madrassas, martyrdom academies, in Pakistan. They’re like the only rec centers da yout’ have there, and they work overtime convincing Pakistan’s young, restless and stupid that volunteering for a suicide mission is like winning a free cruise. Which, if these guys really did come by sea, it was.

Now quality, that’s a different issue. How much is the life of one of these cannon-fodder kids worth, to the movement? That depends on a lot of factors. If you’re that Al Qaeda HR manager and you had to construct your dream recruit, he’d speak unaccented American or British English; he’d be white, or East Asian looking; he’d be comfortable in urban/yuppie life anywhere in the West; he’d have a cool head, know how to smile like a car salesman all the time and talk sports; and underneath he’d have total Terminator dedication to the cause and be immune to the attractions of the evil world you’d be sending him to infiltrate.

But when you look at the recruits the madrassas in Pakistan have been turning out, you see how far short of those goals these rookies are. Most of them are slum kids or village kids who like the free food and the idea of shooting people, the two things any teenage boy is naturally drawn to. They’re willing to pull a trigger and they’re dumb enough to volunteer; that’s about all you can say for them. All kids are game, but that doesn’t mean they got game. These guys don’t know how to blend in the airport world, the business world; they don’t speak English at all, or if they do it’s the sort of mangled Rawalpindi English that sets red lights blinking at every border checkpoint in the world. They look Pakistani, and not that pale, tall kind you get with elite Pakistanis like that cricket guy. They’ve still got plow dirt under their fingernails.

In other words, these are your human resources and they’re, let’s say, of limited value. They’ll never be James al-Bond moles infiltrating Wall Street and the FBI. They’re dumb as mud bricks. But they’re also brave and willing to kill. How do you use assets like that? Not in the classic Al Qaeda way, sending them in one or two at a time to liaise with local Islamists and prepare for the traditional strike where five bombs go off at once. They don’t have the finesse. They’d be spotted as soon as they showed.

But there are a lot of them. You couldn’t get them into Manhattan, or London, but there is a soft target much closer to Pakistan where lots of American and British people hang out. Better yet, it’s the financial heart of India, Pakistan’s hated enemy, which gets the ISI on your side because nothing infuriates the Pakistani intelligence elite more than watching India get rich and popular while Pakistan sinks into miserable chaos.

Now when I say this gets the ISI on the attackers’ side, I’m not saying that every single ISI honcho in Pakistan knew and rubberstamped this plan on official ISI letterhead. Nothing is that simple in Pakistan. Everything is murky in Pakistan, even the air is pure murk. It’s more like some ISI honcho knows about the plan, gives it the unofficial nod of approval and passes it to some poor loser who’s expendable, who can be hanged or handed over to the Western “allies” when it’s all over as the traitor who collaborated with these evil militants.

This cutout lowlevel official sees to it that the ship leaving Karachi full of young, dumb, bloodthirsty madrass products doesn’t get stopped by customs. It steams down the west coast of India right up to the peninsula where all the high-value targets in Mumbai are concentrated. And if you look at a map of Mumbai (for the next few days you’ll have no problem finding maps of Mumbai), you see how easy it would be to land small boats from a ship off the peninsula by night.

The reason this was such a good plan is that it maximized the Islamists’ local assets. These guys aren’t smooth enough to get through normal hotel security to plant a bomb, but they didn’t have to be. They just stormed in through the front door, firing at full automatic.

That’s why this talk about whether security at the hotels was adequate is ridiculous. Hotel security is aimed at stopping sneak attacks, bomb-planters. To stop the sort of heavily-armed suicide squads that hit these hotels, you’d need a full platoon of infantry.

So what you see here is something economists would understand as well or better than traditional military analysts. I hate to sound cold-blooded, putting it this way, but what happened is that Pakistan’s islamists had a surplus of raw labor, and thought of a way to get it to a place where it maximized its global value in terms of pure blood and destruction.

Gary Brecher is the author of the War Nerd. Send your comments to

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Add your own

  • 1. Boarhunter  |  November 30th, 2008 at 4:37 pm

    Porkers are always in denial….somebody else did it. The Joos did 9/11, MI5 agents did 7/7, etc.

  • 2. wYSe Guy  |  November 30th, 2008 at 7:33 pm

    LOL Boarhunter you useless piece of scum: this ain’t a Paki:

    Fucking wait till the Indian gov’mt admits in 48 hours, yeah its Indian Muslims.

  • 3. wYSe Guy  |  November 30th, 2008 at 7:34 pm

    Here, this ex-commis sez the same thing:

  • 4. wYSe Guy  |  November 30th, 2008 at 7:58 pm


  • 5. dave  |  November 30th, 2008 at 8:17 pm

    @xyz – (i bite my tongue) you are overdone and irrelevant.
    *please dont post anymore*

  • 6. xyz  |  November 30th, 2008 at 9:15 pm

    @Lulldapull, I readily admitted that our Indian government doesnt have the balls to do anything serious. Its not just the Indian government, but the entire mainstream media and chattering ‘intellectuals’ are just wimps who refuse to face tough truths that would shake up their liberal theories. ‘Militant’ Hindu organisations are mostly made of under educated mobs and lead by myopic leaders who are strong enough to vandalize Hallmarks shops on Valentines day to ‘protect’ Indian culture, but dont have the balls to do anything serious. All that remain to stop terrorism are defense forces and some police units and paramilitary forces, but without able political leadership they are useless. There I again admit that Indians dont have the balls for tough action.

    You are right when you say that for decades the US has been funding, training and partnering with the ISI and the Pakistani army. For over four decades the US has been talking democracy while imposing sanctions on democratic India and encouraging one military dictator after another in Pakistan. The CIA actively built the Taliban in its war against the Soviets. During the Kargil war Clinton and the CIA ensured that the repercussions on Pakistan would be minimum.

    But you make a mistake in believing that the CIA controls the ISI. The ISI is probably a far more efficient and ruthless organisation than the CIA. Over the last few decades the
    ISI too has learnt to play the great game and control its CIA masters. The USA too is helpless against the machinations of the ISI. I will go so far as to say that the ISI is perhaps the most potent covert agency today.

  • 7. xyz  |  November 30th, 2008 at 9:20 pm

    @Lulldapull I have no idea why you keep insisting that the terrorists are ‘south indian boys’. I will not take the official story of ‘Faridkot’ at its face value, but your arguments are stupid. I know enough Punjabis who are short and dark. These terrorists could be of Pakistani (punjabi, Karachi/Sindi), bangladeshi or Indian origin. It is almost certain that some of terrorists would be Indian nationals, but your argument about ‘four foot south indian looks’ is stupid.

  • 8. xyz  |  November 30th, 2008 at 9:30 pm

    @dave, I hope you have bitten off your tongue. History is very important, its a bit difficult for Americans and even many Europeans to comprehend that people can fight because of events that happened centuries ago. Westerners find it difficult to understand the myriad religious and ethnic rivalries of Asia and Africa, so instead they try to impose their stupid world view and flaccid theories on the rest of the world. Read up some Indian history and not just the sanitised versions that westernised Indian intellectuals propound. Then you may begin to understand the complex issues of south asia.

  • 9. wYSe Guy  |  November 30th, 2008 at 10:03 pm


    “mostly made of under educated mobs and lead by myopic leaders who are strong enough to vandalize Hallmarks shops on Valentines day to ‘protect’ Indian culture, but dont have the balls to do anything serious”

    Oh, you mean nothing serious like initiating the pogrom of 2000+ of its own citizens in 2002?

    Puh-lease, Let the numbers do the talking:

    Muslim Population of India: 150 Million
    Hindu Population of India: 850 Million

    Oh those terrible, terrible Indian Muslims! Its like……like they outnumber us !!! We So Have to get tough! 😛

    God, Gary post something else you War Nerd. This is gonna get old.

  • 10. i  |  December 1st, 2008 at 2:37 am

    having comments on war nerd (think youtube insanity) i think is a bit of a bad idea….maybe you should make a forum instead

  • 11. Lulldapull  |  December 1st, 2008 at 2:51 am

    To #106

    xyz……….for you to say that the piece of shit third world naked and hungry ISI is now somehow bigger than its paymaster the CIA/NSA is the biggest joker statement I have recently heard!

    Are you kidding yourself?

    The Illuminati are openly doing this to India and you are dumb enough to blatantly ignore it?

    Who would support this Pakistan if these punjabi’s in the ISI living on CIA scraps start disobeying their paymasters?

    What you are implying here is that the third world servant now controls his super power master? bhuwahahahaaaaa…….

    What the hell is this some third world bollywood movie?

    Without the $10 billion from the U.S. charity dumped on Pakistan since 9-11 happened where would your Pakistan be now had the U.S. decided to end it? But NO! with your ISI’s finger prints all over the 9-11 incident(isn’t that what we believe)?…they instead dumped the $10 billion on Pakistan? What does this tell you?

    Hint: The dog wags his tail when the master tells it to! If this high profile operation was planned by the ISI….then you bet your smooth ass that the green light came from Washington.

    Reality check for xyz is that the guy who planned the Indian parliament attacks (for which India massed half a million troops on Pakistan’s border for 1 year) and who is currently on death row in India is none other than Mr Afzal guru…..An Indian Kashmiri.

    Go on……deny it…….Say that Pakistan and ISI trained him….while he was having a wet dream on Dal lake in Srinagar…..


    Go on….

  • 12. wYSe Guy  |  December 1st, 2008 at 2:57 am

    Wow, bringing in the Illuminatti.

    I don’t know who’s more insane; Lulldapull or xyz….

    Lulldapull, every one here has identified their nationality; where are you from?

  • 13. Mar C  |  December 1st, 2008 at 3:33 am

    Seems like 9/11 for India. I have a suspicion that the CIA funded the operation to declare Pakistan a terrorist state. Thatway the World Police can send troops to look for bin Laden within Pakistani borders.

  • 14. Lulldapull  |  December 1st, 2008 at 3:44 am

    Marc…..the ‘world police’ already control Pakistan, its ISI and most likely these Mumbai terrorists aswell.

    Mr Bin Laden at the head quarters in Langley VA is a series of spliced video clips with voice additions/ deletions as appropriate released on cue when ever is deemed convenient.

    xyz…’s not important where we are from…who the hell cares about that?

    It’s what you know and speak is far more important.

  • 15. xyz  |  December 1st, 2008 at 6:14 am

    @wyse, Gujrat 2002, Mumbai 1992 were aberrations. The reason I wrote such long comments was to give some historical background in the Hindu-Muslim divide in the subcontinent. ‘Pogrom’ is a strong word for the death of 2000 people. Remember that it started with 30 Hindus being burnt alive. A reactionary riot produced in the heat of the heat of the moment is different is from the cold blooded random attacks planned over months. These attacks are on the Indian state, not just some Hindu mobs. You can justify one attack as a revenge for Gujrat 2002, not so many and not so many spread around India. And I wonder why nobody is speaking of revenge for the murder of tens of thousands of Kashmiri Hindus, most would not even call that pogrom, even though the valley was cleansed of the Hindus. It is in this context that I say that Muslims in India have been having it easy. They have literally been able to get away with murder.

  • 16. Mark  |  December 1st, 2008 at 11:08 am

    I agree that the comments should be disabled. The analogy between arguments on the Internet and a race in the Special Olympics is apt here…

  • 17. Anka  |  December 1st, 2008 at 12:36 pm

    More facile gibberish from the Ignacious O’Reilly of warfare.

  • 18. wYSe Guy  |  December 1st, 2008 at 12:50 pm

    Illuminati? World Police??

    What kind of right wing Alex Jones freak show did you guys crawl out of?

    Have you even been to Pakistan? Do you have any intimate knowledge about that country? Like Gary Brecher have you even read a book? Or did you dredge everything of

    Maybe this comment section should be disabled. Either that , or the War Nerd will never be able to write anything on South Asia ever again.

  • 19. Sam  |  December 1st, 2008 at 12:58 pm

    Here’s Arundhati Roy on the attacks, albeit obliquely, whose opinion I asked for though I’m not happy with what she has to say — but here it is anyway…

  • 20. xyz  |  December 1st, 2008 at 1:18 pm

    @Lulldapull #91. There is a Faridkot Multan. The Indian media is stupid, but they wont make such a mistake. The news release clearly said Faridkot, Multan. Besides this is not yet an official statement, but derived from ‘sources’. Lastly Jalalabad is in Afghanistan but a stones throw from the Paki border. Even Karachiwalas like you should know that these border regions of afghanistan are effectively ISI territory. Have you taken a look at some of the Pakistani cricketers, they are just as dark and some just as short as the ‘south indians’. Even a lot of you Pakis are dark and short, so you fool only the westerners who see Imran Khan as a representative specimen of Pakistan.

  • 21. Lulldapull  |  December 1st, 2008 at 1:45 pm

    xyz, the point I made is that Pukhtoons would not train these ‘Indian’ or for that matter Punjabi types at their FATA locations. Because everyone says that pukhtoons train suicide bombers and attackers in the FATA areas…….That’s bullshit!

    Punjabi’s don’t go to the NWFP!

    These days if Pukhtoons in the frontier see an Indian or punjabi looking guy walking around in the Frontier, he dies pretty quick.

    Now if ‘short/ dark’ Pakistani Punjabi’s are trained by ISI in that small 100 people tehsil of an even smaller village on the outskirts of Multan……Boy! Don’t you think the Punjabi dominated ISI are asking for trouble, taking on India in these tough times, with the U.S. holding a gun to their head?

    So the theory that ISI trained short/ dark/ Punjabi duggay (because Pukhtoons would kill them on sight in the present political/ military circumstances) at some remote site called ‘Faridkot’ in Pakistan……fully aware that if one is caught he’d spill the beans….is very difficult to believe, and Pakistan will be again in the spot light over this spectacular terrorist attack.

    ISI is no longer in that 80’s business of training and supplying Mirpuri/ Punjabi duggay to go attack India anymore.

    The U.S. has outlawed that after 9-11-2001…..and the ISI obeys like a loyal dog.

  • 22. wYSe Guy  |  December 1st, 2008 at 3:19 pm

    “Punjabi’s don’t go to the NWFP”

    So what was a Karachi-wallah like me doing visiting Peshawar this summer?

    I stopped reading after that sentence.

    We agree that Indian Muslims did this in Bombay, but I have to ask:

    Lulldapull have you ever been to Pakistan?

    Have you ever read a news article through, instead of scanning its headlines?

    Go pick up a book. Learn something then come back.

  • 23. xyz  |  December 1st, 2008 at 5:57 pm

    @Lulldapull is crazy. The ISI can pick up recruits from anywhere in the subcontinent. With enough indoctrination and money fanatics will volunteer for a lot of stuff. Multan is not exactly a small town. You write ‘The theory that…’ as if it is mine. It is your bloody ‘theory’. All I said is that your remarks that these guys were Indian since they were dark and short is bullshit. There are enough such people in Punjab and Sind. The photos of the others have not been released, they may just turn out to be fair skinned Pukhtoons. I will readily admit that an operation of this type has to have plenty of support in logistics, planning and even execution from Indian muslims and there are enough fanatical muslims in India to volunteer.

    You are totally crazy, talking about world police and international CIA conspiracies. You sounded like the Pakistani ‘analyst’ on TV who was ranting that this whole thing was the work of Indian intelligence along with Zionists and Hindu radicals. The analyst and news commentators were not some illiterates or madarassa educated villagers, but English speaking city slickers in suits. If this is the junk that educated urban Pakistan watches and believes, then the world has a real problem dealing with the Paki cesspool.

  • 24. Dkahh  |  December 1st, 2008 at 7:47 pm

    RobertD, could you perhaps be referring to the “Hindu elite”? I fear that you may be making, amid your logorrhea, that all-too-common mistake of mixing up a religion and a language.

  • 25. Orthodoxy  |  December 1st, 2008 at 8:31 pm

    I have no problem with a comments section, so long as someone gets off their ass and starts delivering some promised censorship! Enough of this heresy!

  • 26. John Smith  |  December 1st, 2008 at 9:41 pm

    #125: That seems unlikely to me, because moderating or even reading long comment threads is such a thankless task, even compared to blogging.

  • 27. burbl  |  December 1st, 2008 at 10:26 pm


    “I agree that the comments should be disabled.”

    Why do you post any then?

  • 28. LB  |  December 2nd, 2008 at 2:15 am

    “I agree that the comments should be disabled. The analogy between arguments on the Internet and a race in the Special Olympics is apt here…”
    I assume you mean “Winning an internet debate is like winning in the Special Olympics, you are still a retard”?
    Unfortunately the retard who coined this forgot to take into consideration that people who take part in the special olympics are disabled, not retarded. Rather ironic really, unfortunately people who do not realise this still use the rejoinder thus condemning themselves to retardation.

    Monsieur Brecher (or is it Comte du Brech?) almost certainly does not read the comments, if he does, he will not give a fuck about the BS any one of us pumps out in said comments, so sit down, shut the fuck up and stop taking it so fucking seriously.

  • 29. Lulldapull  |  December 2nd, 2008 at 6:14 am

    At this Indian Xyz….I told you before that Pakistan does not have the balls to do something this stupid in this prevailing climate.

    Lo and behold now the truth is coming out in the media that this entire operation was planned by Indian muslims.

  • 30. PSmith  |  December 2nd, 2008 at 2:24 pm

    > 22 Sriram | November 28th, 2008 at 12:00 am
    >I hope India doesn’t respond the way America did – that would be stupid, but it begs the question, what can a country like India do against a terrorist attack like this? It seems impossible to prepare against.

    It would indeed be (very) stupid to react as America did. Though America seems to have intended to use such an attack that oh so conveniently ‘happened’ as a pretext for goals of empire.

    The sensible answer – Don’t react at all. Or not with the heart. At least not with random violence. React with the head.

    The deaths of two hundred in a country of a billion people – one thousand million – is a rounding error.

    Were the attacks disgusting? An outrage? Something that cannot be ignored? Certainly. But India certainly has the ability to root out the cancer with microsurgery rather than by lopping of limbs. In particular its own Muslim limbs.

    Hopefully the saner elements in India will have learned from the U.S. example of the last eight years and they will not allow their bonkers right wing elements to co-opt the event for their own fanatic aims, as was done in the U.S. We hope.

  • 31. Sam Clemens Twain  |  December 2nd, 2008 at 8:15 pm

    ibtrippen – you alive? Damn you dropped off radar like a while ago. I’m gonna be in Irv. on the 18th, think you can make that?

    Oh yeah, on topic: who would benefit the most from the India-Pakistan War? That’s who’s most likely responsible, just my two cents.

  • 32. Sam  |  December 5th, 2008 at 6:24 am

    Now this is news — — that the Mumbai attackers were on long-term anabolic steroids, injected cocaine and LSD(!). Most striking for the absence of amphetamine, obvious drug of choice for days-long killing sprees ( Will some MD please explain this choice?). strategically, this carnage cocktail suggests a whole new pharmacology of terror that must get interwoven with the religious indoctrination to priovide these guys their ideological boost phase.

    Anyone who’s seen “Suicide Killers” — — the documentary of interviews with failed corset bombers in Israeli prisons — will recall these similarly baby-faced killers explaining, out of straight faces and true-believer sanpaku eyes, how they just knew they needed to die as martyrs in order to have good sex — without a scintilla of doubt apparent!

    Such convictions, and how well deluded faithful serve the ends of some Cheney-league cynics on the jihadi side, can’t help but resonate for history fans with Hassan i Sabbah’s 11th Century army of Hashashshim — — who were indoctrinated in a rhetorically fluid Shia fundamentalism spinnable to justify any action its practitioners fancied, that rewarded successful surviving assassins with a majoun-fueled trip to Hassan’s movie-set Garden of Paradise in his stronghold of Alamout, where similarly-indoctrinated houris gave God’s Soldiers their best approximation of the 600-year orgasm some scripture hints at, then sent them off to slit more Sunni gizzards and earn thereby more stoned unearthly cooze.

    What fascinates me most here is how all this drugging must’ve got knotted around fundy doctrine, and what the subjective experience of these Fedayeen must have been as they were basic-trained to search and destroy on roid-rage, blow and acid. I’m guessing they each met the Prophet at least once. Imagine the potential blockbuster: “The Teachings of Sheikh Owsley: a Jihadi Way of Knowledge”

    Now that’s serious Gnosticism!

  • 33. Nicholas Dahlheim  |  December 5th, 2008 at 9:31 am

    What a great and interesting analysis of the Mumbai hotel attacks. Pakistan really is a basket case of a country. And it is sure to get worse in that place before long. Maybe the military and intelligence elite in Pakistan want to start another war with India just to share the fun of being a failed state with another volatile polity like India.

  • 34. Sam  |  December 5th, 2008 at 1:35 pm

    On a much downer side, this is the worst historical news yet

    from “The Daily Telegraph” for December 2, it begins:

    “Mumbai attacks: Jews tortured before being executed during hostage crisis

    Israeli hostages killed by Islamic terrorists during the attacks on Mumbai (formerly Bombay) were tortured by their captors before they were bound together and killed….”

  • 35. buy kamagra online  |  December 5th, 2008 at 7:33 pm

    Hi! buy kamagra online

  • 36. Lulldapull  |  December 13th, 2008 at 6:08 am

    #133 you like other buffoons pointing fingers at pathetic ass Pakistan on this blog are full of shit. Pakistan had nothing to gain by pulling this stupid attack and taking the blame.

    look at this:

  • 37. jasim  |  January 11th, 2010 at 10:36 pm

    All the accused are the from the Land of Pure aka Pakistan. Pakistan should be leveled to the ground for international peace

  • 38. glasnost  |  March 19th, 2010 at 2:59 pm

    Well Done! I Like it!

  • 39. Johng41  |  May 5th, 2014 at 9:46 pm

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