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Christine Fair- A true or a junk scholar?

Christine Fair

by Elias Davidsson

Christine Fair is widely quoted as an expert on South Asian political and military affairs. She is often requested by mainstream media to comment on terrorist acts occurring in India and Pakistan and invited to educate members of the US administration on issues in her field of expertise.

Prior to joining the Security Studies Program (SSP) within Georgetown University’s Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, she served as a senior political scientist with the RAND Corporation, a political officer to the United Nations Assistance Mission to Afghanistan in Kabul, and as a senior research associate in USIP’s Center for Conflict Analysis and Prevention. Her research focuses upon political and military affairs in South Asia. Her proximity to intelligence services can be gauged by her membership in the International Institute of Strategic Studies, the Council on Foreign Relations, Women in International Security, and the American Institute of Pakistan Studies. She serves on the editorial board of Current History, Small Wars and Insurgencies, Asia Policy, Studies in Conflict and Terrorism, and India Review. She is also a senior fellow with the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point.

Is her reputation deserved? In the following essay, I demonstrate through an analysis of her testimony before the House Homeland Security Committee in 2009, that her reputation is based on the services she provides to imperialism, not on her academic excellence. I submitted the following essay to Prof. Fair three for critical observations. After waiting in vain for her reply for approximately three months, I decided to publish this essay.

Critique of C. Christine Fair’s testimony before the House Homeland Security Committee, March 11, 2009, regarding “Antecedents and Implication of the November 2008 Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) Attack Upon Several Targets in the Indian Mega-City of Mumbai.”

1. In the Introduction, Ms. Fair mentioned that she had been asked to focus upon four specific areas related to 26/11: (a) to “contextualize” Lashkar-e-Taiba (a Pakistani organization designated as a terrorist outfit); (b) to provide specific information about Lahskar-e-Taiba; (c) to draw out the “antecedents and innovations” of 26/11; and (d) to outline the important “implications” that emerge from this and other LeT activities.  She was, in short, directed to focus her essay mainly on the party accused by India for having mounted 26/11.  Surprisingly, she nowhere mentioned in her testimony that LeT has emphatically denied responsibility for 26/11.

2. The author claimed that from 1999 if not earlier, “LeT and JM began operations in the Indian hinterland both in the name of ‘liberating Kashmir’ but also in the name of a wider jihad in India and exacerbating Hindu-Muslim discord within India to undermine India’s claims to be a diverse democracy that accommodates the aspirations of its varied religious and ethnic groups.”  (p. 3-4)

Apart from failing to substantiate these allegations, the author completely ignores efforts by powerful Hindu nationalist organizations to alienate the Muslim population of India, both by Hindutva ideology and by violent means.  She also ignores findings by Indian investigators, including Hemant Karkare – who was killed on 26/11 – that various terrorist acts in India blamed on Muslims had actually been carried out by Hindu nationalists. 

3.  The author claimed that “Pakistan-based militants” carried out the December 2001 attack on the Indian Parliament (p. 4).

She did not mention that this allegation is disputed in India. Thus, the alleged mastermind of the attack,  S.A.R. Geelani, a young lecturer at Delhi University, was ultimately acquitted on appeal by the High Court and Afzal Guru, sentenced to death for complicity and executed twelve (12!) years after the events, did not participate in the attack. According to the official narrative, all the actual attackers died in the attacks.

4.  The author claimed that LeT “massacred wives and children of army personnel in Kaluchak” in May 2002. (p. 4)  In the Kaluchak incident a couple of passengers, in what was reported as a tourist bus from Himachal Pradesh, allegedly began to shoot to kill.  The shoot-out continued outside the bus and resulted in 31 deaths, thereof women and children. The Government of India claimed that the attackers were Pakistani nationals (though it did not claim that they were operatives of LeT). No organization claimed responsibility for the attack. No inquiry is known to have been carried out to determine the exact circumstances of this deadly event.  Whatever transpired to the public domain about the event is sourced to the military and is marred by contradictions and unexplained facts. The author ignored completely the haze covering this incident until today.

5.  The author claimed that “Pakistan’s various Deobandi groups [...] have also been responsible for numerous attacks against international targets such as the various attacks on the U.S. Consulate in Karachi, the suicide attacks against numerous French naval engineers working in Karachi, a church in Islamabad frequented by foreigners, among numerous others.” (p. 4)

None of the attacks on the U.S. Consulate in Karachi were claimed by any bona fide organization. In all these attacks, the victims were exclusively Pakistanis. No Americans died in these attacks alleged by the author to have been directed at “international targets.”  The author, unable to impute these attacks to any particular entity,  imputes these to an amorphous set designated as “Deobandi groups.” 

Anyone familiar with the attack on the French naval engineers, cited by the author, knows that the initial accusations have been replaced by a new direction of inquiry, adopted by French judge Marc Trevidic, namely that the attack was linked to the halting of commission payments (kickbacks) relative to Pakistani purchases of French military material, an affair dubbed “Karachigate.” It requires merely a couple of mouse-clicks to discover these facts. 

The barbaric attack on the church in Islamabad in 2002 was carried out in “one of the most guarded areas in one of the most secure cities in Pakistan.”  Yet, it was not claimed by any organization.  There was, thus, no basis for the author to impute this attack to “Deobandi groups”.

6.  The author claimed that the March 2, 2009 attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore was carried out by LeT and represented thus a “shift” in its operations. (p. 5)

No organization claimed responsibility for this attack.  Various theories were presented by the Governments of India, Sri Lanka and Pakistan regarding the identity of the attackers.  Although various individuals were later arrested in Pakistan in relation to these attacks, it is difficult to draw any conclusions from arrests made in a country where such arrests are routinely made for political reasons and trials are marred by government or military interference. The assertion that these attacks were carried out by LeT is baseless.

7.  The author claimed that LeT literature “demonstrates a commitment to targeting Indian Hindus, Jews, Americans and other infidels and apostate Muslims; stoking larger Hindu-Muslim discord in India; and liberating all of India and establishing a caliphate.” p. 7-8

This assertion is not substantiated. The author, elsewhere, claimed that she possesses posters and other printed items produced by LeT, which support her claim. Yet, she has not produced these documents nor authenticated them as emanating from LeT.  The author, later in her presentation, admitted that LeT has not for two decades undertaken attacks targeting Jews or Americans.  Yet, even on 26/11, the overwhelming majority of victims were ordinary Indians. 

8.  The author claimed that “many LeT-associated individuals and cells have appeared in Iraq, Australia, the United States, the United Kingdom and several European countries.” (p. 8)

The general nature of this allegation reeks of propaganda. While such a sweeping claim lacks any empirical quality, it can be asserted that in numerous cases involving alleged Islamic wannabe terrorists in the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and several European countries, police informants have been entrapping vulnerable Muslims in order to manufacture terrorist plots. Any claims by courts of links between the defendants and LeT must be assessed in the light of informants’ role to entrap the defendants, or as the case might be, to induce them to dwell some time in camps run by LeT, in order for them to be later arrested and produced as evidence for the terror threat.  As for Iraq, any claim regarding alleged links between detainees in Iraq to the Pakistani LeT ultimately depends on the observer’s trust in the honesty of Iraqi police.  

9 . The author claimed that “at least 14 young men from Hyderabad left for Pakistan for training, reportedly motivated by the massacre of Muslims in Gujarat in 2002...This cell was responsible for the May 18, 2007 terrorist attack in Hyderabad’s Toli Chowki area.” (p. 9)

Here the author mixes up the facts. The May 18, 2007 attack did not take place in Hyderabad’s Toli Chowki area, but inside the Mecca Masjid, a mosque in the old city area. This attack was not, either, imputed to a Pakistani cell, but to the Indian nationalist organization RSS.

10. The author claimed that in July 2006, LeT working with local operatives, detonated seven explosions across Mumbai’s commuter rail system. That 2006 assault was even more lethal than the 2008 carnage, killing at least 187.” (p. 9-10)

The author appears oblivious to the failure of Indian authorities to impute the attacks to LeT or to the Pakistani ISI.  Initially, admittedly, it was believed that LeT operatives had been responsible for that attack. Both LeT and the Indian SIMI denied responsibility for the bombings. Various arrests were made in subsequent years, but none led to conclusive results regarding the responsibility for the bombings. The author’s assertion turns up to be nothing but prejudiced opinion.

11.  The author claimed that in 2000, “Indian authorities intercepted three Pakistani LeT cadres who had planned to kill Bal Thackeray, leader of a Hindu nationalist group called the Shiv Sena.” (p. 10)

The only source known to me for such views are statements made by David Headley at the witness stand before a Chicago-court. Headley, a double or triple agent for the DEA and FBI with a murky criminal background, is certainly not a credible witness.  The author did not provide any source for her allegation.

12.  The author claimed that in 2004, “another LeT cell was disrupted that aimed to attack the Bombay Stock Exchange.” (p. 10)

No organization claimed an attempt to attack the Bombay Stock Exchange.  No trial followed this alleged attempt. The author did not provide sources for her claim. I did not either find sources for the author’s claim.

13.  The author claimed that in June 2006, “the Maharashtra police arrested an 11-member LeT cell that shipped some 43 kilograms of explosives, assault rifles and grenades to India using sea routes.” (p. 10). 

This case is known in India as the “Aurangabad arms haul case.” As these lines are written (March 2014), the case is still being examined by Indian courts. The main defendant in the case, Zabiuddin Ansari, alleged to be a LeT operative involved in 26/11, retracted in court his confession, claiming that he has been falsely implicated and his signature obtained under duress. He also denied to bear the name Abu Jundal.  The conflicting reports regarding his alleged participation in the arms haul were not mentioned by the author. 

14.   The author claimed that with respect to the Mumbai attack of November  2008, “at least two Indian operatives played critical roles: Fahim Arshad Ansari, a key LeT operative from Mumbai, and Sabahuddin Ahmad of Uttar Pradesh.  Both men helped prepare maps and videotapes to guide LeT’s operatives to their targets.” (p. 10)

Both individuals were acquitted by the Special Court in Mumbai in the 26/11 case, because no evidence could be found that they helped prepare maps in preparation of the attacks. The author apparently forgot to wait for the verdict of the court before making her claim.

15.  The author claimed that “British forces captured two Pakistani LeT operatives in Iraq and rendered them into U.S. custody.” (p. 11)

The author does not provide any details for this claim – no names, dates, locations or sources – making such a statement lacking any evidentiary value.

16.  The author claimed that “a number of Australians (including apparent converts to Islam) have been trained in LeT camps and have plotted to attack Australian targets.” (p. 11)

The only source for this claim I found is a testimony by a certain Yong Ki Kwon, who claimed that he met an Australian man “known as Abu Asad” at a LeT camp in Pakistan in 2001.  Kwon made his testimony to an Australian court via a video link from the United States in January 2009.  Is this all the evidence for the above claim?

17.   The author stated that “at least one of the bomber (Shahzad Tanveer [sic]) in London’s 7/7 subway attack is alleged to have contacted LeT officials while in Pakistan as well as those associated with JM.”  (p. 11)

While hedging her statement by the word "alleged", the author offered this statement as evidence in a testimony to a Congressional Committee. As demonstrated by various authors, including me, there exists no evidence that Shahzad Tanweer or his three colleagues carried out the London bombings.  Whatever Tanweer may have done while dwelling in Pakistan – where he had family – is not only highly speculative but is irrelevant, unless it is proven that he participated in the bombings of 7/7. Such proof has not been produced by the British authorities, notwithstanding what the author might believe or had read in the newspapers.

Conclusion

The above demonstration constitutes a warning. In the present case, a warning against the alleged scientific expertise of Christine Fair who readers might hear or see in media interviews.  Persons presented by mass media as terror experts, are more often than not academic prostitutes whose sole achievement resides in providing a scientific mantle to governmental criminal policies.  This essay is the second in a row. The previous essay dealt with Bruce Hoffmann, another academic prostitute widely presented as a terror expert.


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