January 1st, 2008

fashionable

Musharraf crony suspected by Bhutto of trying to kill her linked to her assassins.

According to this article, the death squad that assassinated Benazir Bhutto were part of the anti-Shi’ite militant group Lashkar-i-Jhangvi, operating under al-Qaeda orders.

... but were they really controlled by al-Qaeda, or by someone else?! 

It should be noted that Lashkar-i-Jhangvi was one of the terrorist groups that General Musharraf was forced to outlaw due to US pressure, shortly after 9/11. Several of their leaders were also arrested in the post 9/11 crackdown. 

As a result, LiJ joined a coalition with Kashmiri militant groups Jaish-e-Mohammed and Harkat-ul-Jihad-i-Islami to form Lashkar-e-Omar in 2002. 

Now, some of you may be familiar with Lashkar-i-Jhangvi's partner organization, because one of Jaish-e-Mohammed's leaders, terrorist Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh -- commonly referred to as Omar Sheikh or Sheik Omar -- was sentenced to death in 2002 for the abduction and death of journalist Daniel Pearl. The abduction and execution of Pearl was carried out as a combined operation between Jaish-e-Mohammed and Lashkar I Jhangvi, with Sheik Omar's personal involvement.

Wikipedia notes that at the time of Daniel Pearl's abduction, he was investigating alleged links between Al Qaeda and Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).

Interestingly enough, after the first assassination attempt against Bhutto, she did an interview with British journalist David Frost, in which she mentions a letter she sent to Musharraf, asking him to investigate three Pakistanis she had reason to suspect may have been involved with the attack.

She said the following about one of these individuals at about 4 minutes into this video:

"one of them is a very key figure in security. He's a former military officer. He's someone that has had dealings with Jaish-e-Mohammed. . . and he also had dealings with Omar Sheikh. . . "

... who killed Daniel Pearl, the journalist investigating ties between the ISI and Al Qaeda.

It appears that the person Bhutto was referring to was Lt. General Mahmoud Ahmad, who's wikipedia entry is as follows:

"former head of Inter-Services Intelligence, the principal intelligence body of Pakistan. He along with other generals were successful in overthrowing the elected government of Nawaz Sharif, in the 1999 coup d'etat to bring General Pervez Musharraf to power. He was serving as the Corps Commander Rawalpindi at that time. After the coup, General Mahmoud was transferred as the Director General ISI. . .

General Mahmoud was known to visit the United States regularly during his time as the head of ISI consulting senior officials in the U.S. administration in the weeks before and after 9/11. In fact, he was with Republican Congressman Porter Goss and Democratic Senator Bob Graham in Washington, discussing Osama bin Laden over breakfast, when the attacks of September 11, 2001 happened. He was immediately called into meetings with American officials where demands of Pakistani cooperation were made and he was told to convey this to the Pakistani government.

In early October 2001, Indian intelligence revealed that Mahmoud had ordered Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh — the convicted mastermind of the kidnapping and killing of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl — to wire US$100,000 from Dubai to one of 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta's two bank accounts in Florida.

In other words, Bhutto wanted Musharraf to investigate the former ISI head -- who was arguably the money man for 9/11 -- because he had ties to terrorists with a track record for assassination. The same organization even tried to kill Musharraf's other rival, former Prime Minister Sharif in the past.

Frederic Grare, a former French diplomat in Pakistan and a scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said the following to Time in this recent article:
"It is probable there are links between Lashkar-i-Jhangvi and al-Qaeda . . . but it is certain they do have links to the government . . . If the government itself says Lashkar-i-Jhangvi is involved, it is suicidal because it opens the door to speculation about their own role."

The question is, who are these terrorists loyal to... Al Qaeda or to Pakistan's ISI intelligence agency? Both, perhaps...  especially during those times when their agendas coincide? Who's calling the shots for the ISI? Musharraf? The White House? The CIA? Or is the ISI a corrupt organization with their own agenda? 
fashionable

New Iowa poll -- Obama, Edwards on the rise.

 Could Hillary Clinton get skunked in Iowa? The final pre-caucus poll by the Des Moines Register suggests as much...  

Obama was the choice of 32 percent of likely Democratic caucusgoers, up from 28 percent in the Register's last poll in late November, while Clinton, a New York senator, held steady at 25 percent and Edwards was virtually unchanged at 24 percent.

The telephone survey of 800 likely Democratic caucusgoers was taken Dec. 27-30. Interestingly enough, support for Edwards rose significantly -- by 3% -- for those sampled in Dec. 27-28 versus those polled Dec. 29-30, while Clinton's numbers have declined by 4% in that time period.

If this is an actual trend, as opposed to a statistical variance, then Hillary Clinton might find herself with a very disappointing 3rd place finish in Iowa... something likely to significantly impact her results going into the other primaries.

Interestingly enough, when respondents were asked which candidate best matched their core principles, 28% said Barack Obama, 25% said John Edwards, and 21% said Hillary Clinton.

If this election ultimately came down to people choosing honest candidates over politics as usual, it would be a refreshing change.

***UPDATE***

Clinton campaign chief strategist Mark Penn -- that unlikeable political hack who made a point of referring to Obama's teenage drug use, even after Hillary's campaign promised to stop bringing it up -- tried to spin this bad news in a pretty pathetic way.

"The Des Moines Register poll adopts an unprecedented new turnout model for the caucuses, and its new poll is out of sync with the other polling done in the race. . . So we do not see this poll as accurately reflecting the trends we are seeing in other polls, on our nightly canvasses or in our own polls, and voters should understand this is a very close race, and that their participation on caucus night could make all of the difference."

Indeed. Mark Penn is annoyed that The Register is predicting that Iowans feel that this is a very important election, and that they are more motivated to vote this time around. He's annoyed that the Register are listening to the opinions of a higher percentage of those Iowans they polled, rather than writing them off as not being  "likely voters".

He is counting on independent-minded Iowans -- young voters, first-time voters, disillusioned voters, voters tired of an unending, unaccountable conflict in Iraq, tired of sacrificing their rights and freedoms, tired of politics as usual -- *NOT* to vote, because he believes that as long as enough people *DON"T* show up to causus, Hillary Clinton could win.

He's right. This is a close race, and the people of Iowa's participation on caucus night could make all the difference.

Vote!