Contrary to ill-informed media comment imbued with liberal assumptions, the kidnapping and decapitation of US journalist Daniel Pearl in Pakistan was not an act of ‘senseless or irrational violence’; he was targeted for assassination by terrorists. His death was not “tragic”; it was the result of an Islamic terrorist operation whose inspiration, and most likely training, was from Bin Laden.
Pearl’s death was certainly not at variance with Islamic precepts and history, which has avidly employed assassination as a political tool and to humiliate targets for over fifteen hundred years.
Pearl’s sympathy for Islam
According to media reports, Pearl was ‘sympathetic to Islam’ and in 1998 criticised the US cruise missile attack codenamed Infinite Reach against the El Shifa plant in Sudan on 22 August 1998. The CIA assessed the factory was involved with the production of chemical weapons and had been concerned with the link between bin Laden and Sudan and his professed interest in chemical weapons and warfare since the end of the Gulf war in 1991.
In his series of critical articles against US claims of chemical weapons manufacture in the Sudan, Pearl wrote ‘the hardest evidence is a scoop of soil and judged by the US to contain a chemical used to make nerve gas. But other evidence becomes murkier the closer you look’. If he had looked “closer’ he may have found that the CIA had located the ‘scoop of soil’ from an agent source in December 1997, which contained 2.5 % times the normal trace of EMPTA, a chemical precursor used to produce the nerve gas VX. The formula is unique to the Iraq weapons of mass destruction program.
The CIA provided the Clinton administration with all-source information including agent reports, satellite photographs, and communications intelligence, to verify the plant’s covert objectives. Iraq was a valued customer of the chemical plant.
Under the pretext of buying medicines, Iraqi officials associated with the chemical weapons programme had travelled to Khartoum and helped establish the plant. Intercepts revealed contacts between senior Shifa officials and Emad al Ani, popularly known as ‘father’ of Iraq’s chemical weapons program. Further, Bin Laden had resided in Sudan from 1991-1996.
However, Pearl was armed with the liberal journalist’s most valued asset- ‘scepticism’ towards the US government. He was described by the former Asian editor of the Wall Street Journal in a newspaper article published in Pakistani papers ‘as a friend of Arabs and Muslims, who often supported their cause and as a person whose reporting had at times cast the US in a negative light’. Pearl was kidnapped whilst seeking ‘to interview leaders of Islamic groups-trying to publicise the views of the Muslim world’.
At the time of his abduction, Pearl was researching a hot story in one of the world’s terrorist hot zones; namely the links between British shoe bomber Richard Reid and Al Qaida. Such field work is intrinsically dangerous and best conducted covertly by intelligence organisations, not Western journalists.
Pearl was seduced into a sophisticated terrorist operation involving strategic deception, operational pseudonyms ( the person he was introduced to prior to the kidnapping used the pseudonym ‘Bashir’). The National Movement for the Restoration of Pakistani Sovereignty, which claimed responsibility for the kidnapping, was a fictional organisation using false identities, untraceable emails, cellular phones (bought with false name and address) and the promise of a clandestine meting with a particularly dangerous terrorist identity based in Pakistan.
Pearl was a good man, a brave man. Pearl did not understand Islam. Those who do not understand Islam will be its victims.
Pearl assassination: Al Qaida methodology
The terrorists followed Al Qaida methodology:
– protracted surveillance of the target
– tactical and strategic deception
– symbolic targeting, and
– traditional warning to investigators.
Three senior Pakistani investigators received calls from terrorists using Pearl’s mobile phone warning them to drop investigations. The terrorists knew the details of the investigators families; how many children, the schools the children attended, their routes to school and the places where their families shopped. They also had detailed and precise information about the activities of their family members.
Assassination is central to Islam
An historical study of Islam reveals that assassination is central to Islam. Mohammed’s approval was sufficient reward for assassinations and assassination was used by ‘warriors’ to atone for failing to live to Islamic precepts. Mohammed passed sentences on those he deemed unfit to live and authorised assassinations of prominent persons or those on its peripheries, ‘hypocrites’, whose behaviour offended him. Their deaths increased the fervour of believers.
Purifying or consolidating the nucleus of believers by martyrdom, terrorism and assassinations in particular, was the precondition for the expansion of Islam. Muhammad employed military forces and assassins during the emigration (hijra) to create the ideal Islamic society. Assassination was no longer used for tactical reasons and most significantly ceased only after decisive military defeats of the assassin based sects in the eleventh and twelfth century.
Assassination: Psyswar and humiliation of the target
Assassination is central to psychological warfare. To demonstrate commitment, the assassins violated and hit their targets in intimate encounters and in the context of their most cherished feelings. Umay ibn “Adi, the first assassin, killed his kinswoman (a poet who mocked Mohammed) ‘asleep with her children around her. The youngest, still at her breast lay asleep in her arms’.
The context in which the assassination occurred was all-important. The victim was struck in a sacred context which was also the source of power, family or tribe; the secondary aim was to humiliate the target.
Historical Background to Islamic assassination
According to the Qur’an, sura XLV11, verses 3 and 4,’When you meet the unbelievers strike off their heads, and when you have laid them low bind them firmly’.
Of the fifty-five caliphs (successors) list, including the first four caliphs, between eighteen (31 per cent) to twenty six (43 per cent) were assassinated over the right to rule the Muslim community.
n 681, Hussein, the oldest son of Ali claimed the caliphate or right of succession. In consequent battles and a climactic battle against Yazhid, he died a martyr’s death as leader of a small band of believers against Yazhid’s overwhelming force of 4000. He was the last to fall. He was decapitated and his head was presented to Yazhid. Martyrdom was thereby established as a tactic in Shi’ism and Hussein’s martyrdom is celebrated in popular Shi’ite rituals to this day and he is widely regarded as a heroic figure,notably In Iraq.
Hassan al-Sabbah and the assassins. C.1100
Terrorism in the name of Islam ‘holy terror’ was established by, the shi’ite, Hassan al –Sabbah in eleventh century Iran. He divided his followers into three categories;
Hassan al- Sabbah: the Bin Laden of the eleventh century
Hassan al-Sabbah created the first fundamentalist terrorist sect –the Assassins. Sabbah waged war with incredible ferocity against the Sunni dominated Iran of the time. Hassan was the founder of modern chiliastic and revolutionary warfare involving:
The assassins were the prototypical Islamic fundamentalist terrorist group characterised by:
The historical dimension of Islamic terrorism- the doctrinal and organisational continuity from Hassan al-Sabbah to Bin Laden and al-Qaida must be understood, if the war against terrorism is to be waged, with any degree of success.
Daniel Pearl’s Decapitation: An established Islamic tradition
Daniel Pearl’s kidnapping and the video recording his decapitation is consistent with the terrorist prescriptions established by Sabbah in the eleventh century. Videos featuring decapitation are available in mosques in London and have circulated in Chechnya. The technique is old, the medium is new. The medium is definitely the message.
The three minute ‘jump tape’ (part of a larger videotape of over three minutes, forty five seconds,) was passed to police by a terrorist associate or a journalist posing as a terrorist.
The video is in three edited parts: the first segment shows, ‘My name is Daniel Pearl. I’m Jewish –American. My Father is Jewish. My Mother is Jewish. I am a Jew.’
He is also forced to read a statement criticising US actions against Muslims. Pearl looks off camera and states: ‘We can’t be secure, we can’t be free, as long as our government polices are continuing and we allow them to continue’. After another edit of the tape, Peal says, ‘We as Americans cannot continue to bear the consequences of our government’s actions, such as the unconditional support of the state of Israel’.
The second segment lasting forty five seconds shows him being stabbed and his throat being slit, then decapitated and lying on the ground, either unconscious or dead.
The third segment, shows Pearl decapitated by at least two men, using a blunt instrument. His body has not been found.
Terrorist Propaganda: Counter-Measures
The video is terrorist propaganda. Throughout the video images of Afghanistan, prisoners and bombing sites and buildings are shown on a split screen alongside the images of Pearl.
The video was made public on the eve of the Muslim holiday, Eid-al Adha, when sheep are ritually slaughtered by having their throats slit before being roasted. In Islam, traditions die hard.
US countermeasures: World media circulation of the Terrorist video
The video of Pearl’s decapitation should be circulated at no cost, throughout the Western and Arab world media as a high priority, aimed at policy makers, opinion makers, elites and particularly the media. The target groups should be the ambiguists, relativists, waverers, the neutralists and the undecided.
The presentation should be factual including a chronological record of Pearl’s kidnapping, the terrorist operational techniques, entrapment techniques, email and media manipulation and the use of tactical and strategic deception and conclude with a historical presentation of the role of terror in Islamic fundamentalism.
The United States government and its citizens must face incontrovertible historical facts: Islam hates Americans. Islam hates the West, Islam hates Jews. Islam hates the Other.