They killed Danny Pearl after forcing him to denounce his country’s war and say he was a Jew. They made a video tape of the fun they had cutting his throat and decapitating him. The thought of reliving their grisly deed by watching the snuff flick probably gave them the same warm fuzzy feeling that you or I would get from thinking about the video of a favorite niece’s birthday. They say that revenge is a dish best served cold. For the diseased swine who killed Danny Pearl, we should have a big buffet of it on ice waiting for them. Make no mistake: Danny Pearl didn’t die in vain. His death is an expensive lesson to us all.
Before 9-11, reporters taken hostage were thought more valuable alive than dead. Reporters, like passengers on airliners, are no longer just pawns. Now they are ammunition for weapons, intended casualties in the battle plan of people who operate like the Nazis did, killing innocents as a means of making a point. Mr. Pearl, by all accounts a skilled correspondent and a good man, was guilty of nothing except perhaps being a little naive. He went into Pakistan without training or proper equipment, and went to a meeting without someone covering him. He and his bosses had no reason to know he needed these things. The lesson is that no reporter can operate like he did in places where terrorists may be.
They must keep going after the story. But from now on, reporters will have to be trained and protected whenever they are going where the bad guys are. It is the job of their bosses — media people who have little knowledge and less appreciation of matters military — who must ensure that the people they send in harm’s way are properly trained in avoiding trouble and being protected from it. We can’t spare a squad of Delta operators to cover every Jimmy Olsen looking for a scoop. But training and hired help can probably keep all or almost all of them alive. Once you have the training and some professionals covering your six, you can think out rules of engagement, and make intelligent plans to deal with the risks you are taking. I’d go anywhere to cover this war. But if I leave the States, I’m damned well going with some RTGs (Real Tough Guys, a species of Real Smart Guys) to watch my back.
There aren’t many things in life that are certain, but one is that more Americans will be taken hostage by terrorists. It goes without saying that we won’t ransom them, or give in to demands to release prisoners in trade. (Remember, please, that Algore is not president.) We also can’t divert forces that may be needed urgently elsewhere. Our intelligence people aren’t good enough to find hostages in time for them to be rescued. We have to rely on the locals for that, and many of them may not even want to help. If we can get lucky and find where a hostage is being held, we can probably mount a rescue, either covertly or overtly. When we don’t get there in time, and the hostages are killed, it is our obligation to kill the killers. And whoever sent them to do the killing. I’m not talking about some tuxedo-clad James Bond type. I’m talking, as I have before, about the dogged and covert down and dirty types of the Israeli Mossad who hunted down the killers of the athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics. It took over a decade to find and kill some of the terrorists, but they did it one by one. We must find out who Pearl’s killers were, and if Pakistan doesn’t capture and execute them, we owe it to Danny Pearl to do it ourselves.
Pakistani President Musharraf has promised to “liquidate” — his word, not mine — the murderers of Danny Pearl. It is important he succeed, not only for him, but also for us. In a January speech, Musharraf put forth his new doctrine. He asked his countrymen to choose between being a prosperous democracy or a Stone Age theocracy like Iran or Afghanistan under the Taliban. This was a bold statement, the likes of which no other Moslem leader has had the courage to say since Kemal Ataturk eighty years ago. The terrorists who killed Danny Pearl saw Pearl’s murder as a way to thwart Musharraf’s plan. Kidnapping an American and holding him for political ransom while Musharraf visited Washington was a powerful sign of Musharraf’s vulnerability. Killing Pearl and getting away with it would be a major blow to Musharraf.
It’s important for us to let Musharraf take his shot at getting these guys. His success is turning Pakistan into the next Turkey — rather than let the terrorists turn it into the next Iran — is too important to us to interfere in too quickly. Musharraf’s path is the path to peace for both sides.
But if he doesn’t succeed, someday — in a dark corner of some mud hut — a few guys with suppressed MP-6s should corner Pearl’s killers and deliver justice up close and personal.
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