I sincerely hope that the still unconfirmed worldwide reports of Ayman al-Zawahri’s demise following Friday’s airstrikes near the Afghanistan/Pakistan border are true. But just in case, I’ve decided to go out on a limb with this exclusive, unconfirmed report.
I can find no more reason to believe that al-Zawahiri has been killed than I could find to believe Dr. al-Zawahri when he stated “you have been defeated” in a video message to President Bush last week.
While there is more than enough irrational exhuberance in the blogosphere regarding this mirage, let us focus for a moment on Friday’s reporting on the story by The New York Times.
Mohammed Khan originally filed this report for the New York Times on Friday:
PESHAWAR, Pakistan, Jan. 13 — American planes crossed from Afghanistan into Pakistan’s Bajaur tribal region and fired on residential compounds in a Pakistani village early this morning killing 18 people…. The planes targeted residential buildings in the Berkandi area of Damadola…. Witnesses from the village said that 14 of the dead belonged to one family.
Later in the day, the following account was published for the January 14, with Douglas Jehr added to Khan’s byline in a filing from Washington:
WASHINGTON, Jan. 13 — An American airstrike carried out on a village in the Bajaur tribal region of northwest early Friday was aimed at Ayman al-Zawahiri
Thanks for the timely update, alas, we WERE trying to kill a terrorist and not just some family gathering on the holy day. As the Reuters wire explains:
Major Chris Karns, a spokesman at US Central Command in Florida, the command responsible for the region, said there had been no official report of an attack in Pakistan.
Wonder if he’d be comfortable confirming that, whatever is was that occured was officially an attempt to kill, say, al-Qaeda’s #2?
(An earlier Reuters filing may have been most accurate in quoting the deputy chief minister of the northwest Pakistani province: “It shows a failure of foreign policy”).
FURTHERMORE, since the Pentagon would never miss its target (remember, Rumsfeld wasn’t even aware of the war plans), immediately the blame is placed on… you guessed it: “a Predator drone aircraft operated by the Central Intelligence Agency.”
As noted above, Khan leads with airstrikes from American planes killing 18 in a residential compound. Jehr’s update from Washington obscures the mention of deaths, attributing the report to Pakistani officials after leading with “American and Pakistani officials” saying that the strikes were aimed at Ayman al-Zawahiri.
Khan’s piece features quotes from a tribal parliamentarian from a nearby village, who claimed to have “a feeling that something nasty was going to happen” after seeing the drone hover over the area for three days.
If in fact it was a drone, “those are operational details that we don’t track,” according to Pentagon public affairs officer Maj. Todd Vichon who then proceeded to implicate the CIA, according to Khan’s original piece.
Jehr’s subsequent Washington filing provides a pedestal for this nonsense in the form of an asinine, most likely imagined statement phantom anonymous sources:
A C.I.A. spokesman declined to comment, but the attack was described by other American and Pakistani officials. They spoke on condition of anonymity because of the classified nature of the operation.
The classified nature of WHAT operation?!?!? (Paging Mr. Calame….)
The cowboys cretins have the whole world so scared that, yeah, Al Jazeera is running the Times / ABC / CNN (apparently nobody wants credit for seeding this) story and NDTV.com of India even goes so far as to front with “Airstrike kills Ayman al-Zawahiri: Report”
Jawa scours the Pakistani press for details, but comes up well short of anything AQ-related.
Still hesitating on cracking that bottle of bubbly? Never fear, as Andrew reports at the Counterterrorism Blog:
A reliable source with high-level U.S. contacts tells me that U.S. “really believes” we might have whacked him.
Our gullible subservience to an ignorant quasi-dictatorship may be even worse than revealed in Wednesday’s humiliating “death-to-democracy” Pew poll.
First, it’s conceivable to find innocent citizens guilty with no pretense… and now, everybody’s rushing to report a fallen enemy without so much as an eyewitness’ rumor to back up the story???
I’d prefer “innocent until proven guilty.” And I’m definitely sticking with “alive until proven otherwise.”
Two Pakistani officials told The Associated Press on Saturday that the CIA had acted on incorrect information, and al-Zawahri was not in the village of Damadola when it came under attack.
Reaction: Capt. Ed — “…[T]he US would prefer to capture targets like Zawahiri alive anyway…. The forensic results should be announced by tomorrow on the bodies retrieved immediately after the attack. Hopefully they will prove to have been AQ leadership, especially Zawahiri or even Osama himself. If not, then the CIA has some explaining to do….”
With all due respect, the CIA has yet to even comment on the attacks and appear to be a victim of Pentagon swiftboating.
I also can’t help but note that in factual reporting of Al-Qaeda’s so-called #2 (i.e. the man in last week’s video), the madman/physician’s name is spelled/pronounced “ZaWAhri,” however, the fictional character often cited by the Bush Administration is universally referred to as “ZawaHIri.”
We really are being toyed with. Just Admit It (Nothing’s Shocking).