Who Killed Daniel Pearl?
Barack Obama won't say.
12:00 AM, May 18, 2010 • By THOMAS JOSCELYN
At Commentary’s Contentions blog, Jen Rubin points out that President Barack Obama did not identify who killed Daniel Pearl at a signing ceremony for a bill that bears Pearl’s name – the Daniel Pearl Freedom of the Press Act. Obama, like other members of his administration, failed to identify the forces of radical Islam, Islamic extremism, Islamist terrorism, jihad, or the like as the culprits behind Pearl’s ruthless murder.
That is a noticeable omission in the president’s remarks. There is another noteworthy omission as well.
Consider the president’s words in these paragraphs (emphasis added):
President Obama is right to call out those “countries and governments” that feel “they can operate against the press with impunity.” In a discussion of an act named after Daniel Pearl there is one such government that springs to mind: Pakistan.
Pearl’s murderers worked for a consortium of jihadist groups operating in Pakistan. All of them were either created or sponsored by Pakistan’s powerful Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Agency. In his book, Who Killed Daniel Pearl?, Bernard-Henri Lévy first noticed how seamlessly members of these various groups (Lashkar e Taiba, Jaish e Mohammed, Lashkar i Janghvi, Harkat ul Mujahideen, and, yes, al Qaeda) came together in a single act of treachery. Levy writes:
The answer to Levy’s question is, of course, that the ISI puppet masters behind this alphabet soup of Pakistani terrorist groups are not as “fringe” as we might hope. For instance, Omar Saeed Sheikh, the terrorist who lured Pearl to his death, has ties to Pakistani intelligence officers who were in the upper echelons of the ISI. Omar Saeed Sheikh was likely assisted by the ISI in various ways throughout his career, including during the negotiations that led to his freedom from an Indian prison in 1999. Sheikh was put in that prison for kidnapping westerners.
Thus, when President Obama speaks of “governments that are specifically condoning or facilitating this kind of press repression,” he is most certainly speaking (even if he doesn’t know it) of that part of the Pakistani government that has sponsored Pearl’s murderers for years.
While it is not helpful for the president to eschew any mention of “radical Islam” or similar terms altogether, it is somewhat more understandable that he would not call out the Pakistani government here. The Pakistani government is both divided and duplicitous. The Pakistani civilian leadership was not in power at the time of Pearl’s murder, and would not condone such an act. However, the ISI – the state within the state – maintains substantial power to this day. Some parts of the ISI are on our side; some parts are not. It is a messy situation.
But on a day when America is remembering Daniel Pearl and the American president is standing up to those who would kill more journalists, it is also worth remembering that Pearl’s murderers have powerful friends in Pakistan.
Just ask Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Thomas Joscelyn is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
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