Along With Those "Innocent" Villagers
Last week's Predator strike in northern Pakistan also killed some terrorists. The New York Post has more. Also turns out that Zawahiri was among a group of 10-12 jihadists who had been invited to dinner in the village. So much for that "innocent victims" angle.
Break bread with terrorists, get a Hellfire through the window. I'm guessing those border villages will be hosting fewer "Osama Appreciation Banquets" in the future.
What I find interesting is how quickly--and effectively--Al-Qaida used the incident as a propaganda vehicle. Reporters arrived on the scene quickly, and they obligingly photographed the "collateral" damage, including dead cattle, destroyed homes and injured children. Not to mention the NYT's infamous "missile" photograph. Hat tips to Michelle Malkin, Thomas Lifson and others who spotted the staged photo.
As we have noted, the U.S. conducted a similar strike in the region in early December, killing Al Qaida's #3 man. But there was very little outcry over the incident, and few protests in Pakistan. There may be several reasons for the milder reaction to that strike: first, it was identified as a Pakistani operation (with U.S. support), even though the coupe de grace was delivered by an American missile. Secondly, there was less collateral damage, and (finally), the strike appeared to catch Al-Qaida off-guard, leaving them unable to mount an effective propaganda effort. But this time around, the terrorists had a plan, and they were able to paint the strike as an attack on innocent villagers, shaping initial reaction to the event, particularly in the Muslim world.
Unfortunately, initial media impressions are lasting, so it will difficult for the truth to trump the original exaggerations and erroneous reports. However, observers will note a dramatic change in the tone of Pakistani spokesmen, who now emphasize the terrorist presence in the village, and the consequences of harboring Al-Qaida. As reaction to the event fades, Islamabad can drop the initial rehtoric (which was designed for public consumption), and get back to the serious business of tracking down terrorists. We can only hope that Zawahiri is a little less choosy in accepting future dinner invitations.