In the great spirit of UK tabloid journalism, the Telegraph gives us this headline:
“Al-Qaeda allies build huge Pakistan base” — “A banned terrorist group which counts British-born al-Qaeda suspect Rashid Rauf as a member is setting up a huge new base in Pakistan’s most heavily populated province.
The background for these allegations — unstated in the article — is a shadowy web of leaks and unsupported statements from various intelligence organizations (mostly Pakistan’s). All of which lie as SOP. So, despite the Telegraph’s confident words, we (the public) do not know if the key assertions in this article are correct.
- About the involvement of Rashid Rauf with terrorism; courts in the UK and Pakistan took no action against him.
- If Rashid Rauf is or was a member of Jaish-e-Mohammad (“army of Mohammad”) — or even still alive.
- To what degree Jaish-e-Mohammad is an ally of al Qaeda.
- If al Qaeda (or perhaps we should say “the original al Qaeda”) still exists as significant entity.
But it’s in the interest of the war’s supporters to convince that these things are true.
Although giving no evidence for the opening statements, the Telegraph does describe this terrifying new base (emphasis added):
Bahawalpur is a backwater, a dusty, dirt-poor town which is swelteringly hot in summer. Its isolation allows it to function quietly as a centre for ideological indoctrination and terrorist planning, a jihadist oasis surrounded by parched fields. … Bahawalpur and the surrounding districts also serve as a safe resting place for jihadists battling in Afghanistan, including, it is believed, for British-born Muslims who go to fight there.
… Jaish’s new site, about 5km (3 miles) out of Bahawalpur at Chowk Azam, on the main road to Karachi, is much larger, with evidence that it could contain underground bunkers or tunnels. Surrounded by a high brick and mud wall, little can be seen from the road.
However, The Sunday Telegraph discovered that it has a fully-tiled swimming pool, stabling for over a dozen horses, an ornamental fountain and even swings and a slide for children – all belying claims by the group and Pakistani officials that the facility is simply a small farm to keep cattle. There were signs of construction activity.
The article does not give any evidence that “it could contain underground bunkers or tunnels.” Since any plot could contain these things, what would be evidence that it did not contain bunkers and tunnels?
Hat tip on this to Joshua Foust’s excellent new post “Strategic Incoherence Watch“, Registan, 13 September 2009.
The inspiration for this Telegraph headline, and all tabloids everywhere
Bedfellow: “Hello!? Bloom Beacon?! This is Senator Bedfellow! What’s with this *@#! HEADLINE?”
Bedfellow: “Yes! There’s no story … just a headline!”
Milo: “Which headline?”
Bedfellow: “The *BIG* Headline on the front page!”
Mile: “Read it to me, Senator.”
Bedfellow: “BEDFELLOW: THE SECRET LIFE OF A WIFE-SWAPPING ATHEIST”
Mile: “Oh, that’s just a typo.”
— From an episode of “Bloom County”, Berke Breathed’s great comic strip
For more about Rashid Rauf
- “Rashid Rauf – The mysterious adult life of a Birmingham baker’s boy turned alleged al-Qaida terrorist“, Guardian, 22 November 2008
- “Airstrike Kills Qaeda-Linked Militant in Pakistan“, New York Times, 22 November 2008
- For more information, see the links at his Wikipedia entry.
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To see some posts about al Qaeda:
- Was 9/11 the most effective single military operation in the history of the world?, 11 June 2008
- The enigma of Al Qaeda. Even in death, these unanswered questions remain important, 15 September 2008