Mumbai: Opportunities Lost

A Postscript Foreword:

The following essay was written soon after the Mumbai attacks and massacres on Wednesday to Saturday of 26-29 November 2008. At first blame was placed upon India’s own restive Muslim population. Sporadic Hindu-Muslim-Sikh communal riots still tend to break out now and then, and Kashmiris fighting for independence from India sometimes strike India.

Subsequent investigations uncovered the terrorists were not Indian at all but Pakistani Jihadists from Lashkar-e-Taiba, based in Pakistan. The same group was responsible for the December 2001 terrorist attack on the Indian Parliament in New Delhi. Both likely involved the Pakistani ISI. In both 2001 and after the Mumbai attack India and Pakistan came close to war. Their last major war was the Kargil War of 1999. Minor yet deadly on-going wars include the Kashmiri War and the Siachen Glacier War.

Both India and Pakistan, nominal allies in the larger Global War on Terror, are on opposite sides of the battle when it comes to Afghanistan, Pakistan, Kashmir, and their own frontier including tribal-autonomy issues over Punjab and Sindh. In fact, soon after the Mumbai attacks, Pakistan, while denying anything to do with the attacks at first, massed troops along the border even while fighting Taliban and al-Qaeda forces along the AfPak border.

Mumbai presented humanity with a novel opportunity. It especially presented India and Pakistan such an opportunity to rise up over their ridiculously infantile yet murderous differences. Even China, Russia, and the United States and perhaps Afghanistan missed a significant opportunity with far-reaching implications to help facilitate peace between these nuclear-armed nation-states.

What follows is an in-depth view into the aftermath of the Mumbai attacks, what the world came close to without much general awareness in the mainstream mass media or the populace at large, and unfolding scenarios. All-out destruction is still possible even as Mumbai recedes into the past, the situation in Kashmir remains highly inflamed, and tensions are high between India and China along their borders. The situation inside Pakistan has deteriorated so greatly many consider the nation a failed state. Perhaps more disconcerting, the relationship between the United States and Pakistan worsen with sporadic violence and open distrust breaking out between the two.

The U.S.A., which also has good relationships with India, has been instrumental in calming Indo-Pak violence and helping prevent all-out war. China, on the other hand, has allied itself with both Pakistan and Sri Lanka to surround India and achieve some degree of deterrence against the Americans. So anything remains possible, and unfortunately the doom-and-gloomers seem to be in the ascendency here, as it’s only a matter of time before yet another blow-up triggers another round of violence that easily and quickly escalates into mutually assured omnicide.

During this past July 2011 there was another terrorist attack in Mumbai. While smaller, the series of synchronized bombings still proved deadly and disrupted. While the LeT or the ISI could have been involved in some way, suspicion fell upon homegrown Indian terrorists such as the Indian Mujahideen or local Mafia-type gangs. Pakistan quickly condemned the terrorist attacks and offered condolences. Nor did they rush troops to the border. India’s government appreciated this and responded joint peace talks would continue with Pakistan.

A chance for peace thus blossomed between the two, even after the U.S. raid deep into Pakistan killing al-Qaeda’s Osama bin Laden hiding near significant Pakistani military bases. This brief flowering, however, was overshadowed by worsening relations between the U.S. and Pakistan and with issues regarding the Arab Spring revolts and renewed crisis over Iran.

Mumbai was and remains a pivotal point in international relations.

– The Author

Mumbai: Will Humanity Seize an Opportunity or Blow It?

South Asia and indeed all of Earth is in the crosshairs at this moment. What is at stake is far larger than a terrorist attack however horrendous. What is at stake is world peace. And world peace with liberty, prosperity, health, and the promise we will rebuild our economy and develop new sources of renewable energy.

We are in the midst of a slow-moving world war unlike any in our history. It is a mind-bending morass of multiple conflicts marred by atrocities on each side with the rise of Fundamentalist Islamic extremism on one side and the massive growth of the Euro-American Global Empire on the other.

This ugly global war is marked by corresponding increases in both radical jihadist Muslim terrorism and an alarming deterioration of democracy within the United States, Canada, and Europe and their Allies. This war has spawned hate groups around the world and has brought out the worse among the world’s great religions. Not just Muslims but Hindus, Christians, and Jews jockey for power as the Fundamentalists among them commit injustice and provoke outrage.

And this Global Long War on Terror, or whatever term this conflict comes to be called, has presented opportunities for welcome change. There are more peace groups, human rights groups, social justice groups, environmental groups, and humanitarian groups than ever before reaching out across religious and political lines toward one another. There are more and more people in the great middle who are sick of the violence, the hatred, the destruction, and the endless cycles of revenge.

Perhaps the most dramatic is the recent election of Sen. Barack Hussein Obama to the American Presidency. While Obama is no dove, he has after all threatened to attack both Pakistan and Iran; he is much more pragmatic and seeks to end this war. He is much more interested in restoring America’s great name as a beacon of hope, liberty, and opportunity.

Obama is much more interested in ending this war so he can focus on not just national but global economic recovery as well as pressing environmental and energy challenges. These are all related. Finally, Obama understands global problems are indeed national and local problems and for humanity to solve them the nations of the world must learn to work together in peace. War and its destruction is the worse distraction.

My heart goes out to the victims of the Mumbai massacres. We are still not clear who the terrorists themselves are despite heated allegations. Evidence presented by governments with agendas in emotionally charged situations is often dubious and must be independently verified. Such transparency increases national security while secrecy diminishes security. It does appear at this point the human beings who committed the atrocities are a mix of Pakistanis associated with Muslim Kashmiri terrorist groups and Indian Muslims seeking revenge for the Hindu slaughter of Muslims. It is not yet clear.

But we do know whom these people murdered. That is clear. They killed their fellow human beings who were Jewish, Christian, Hindu, and also Muslim. They killed people who were Indian citizens as well as citizens of other countries including China, Israel, America, and Europe. They had specific targets and yet they murdered indiscriminately and tortured some of their hostages before killing them, especially Jewish captives.

As my mind reels from the horror and senselessness of it all my heart opens to all. To truly heal we first must forgive. We must forgive ourselves as well as those viewed as “the enemy.” That does not mean to ignore them and not seek justice. And it is not just forgiveness we seek but justice itself. Justice, however, does not mean war.

Allow me to rephrase that last sentence, especially as I am a citizen of the United States living in America. For America is and has been a nation at war now. The United States and its Allies are already at war whether we like it or not. I love my country; love the state in which I was born, and the state where I live now, and I love Planet Earth, my homeworld more than any artificial-demarcated nation-state existing only in our consensus and not in our biospheric reality. So as a human being I often though not always choose a planetary perspective.

From the perspective of my country, we are at war of other’s choosing. Our choice, however, is do we respond with more and more military force and increasing violence? Or do we refrain from all-out war against whole nations and work together to target terrorist bases and address the long-festering economic, ethnic, religious, and educational problems that breed terrorists?

There is much to be enraged about. There is much to seek revenge for. Every group of people in this complex global conflict has suffered outrages and atrocities including mass murder. Many people have historic grievances that go back millennia, grievances that still burn today. And we all need to rise above hatred and vengeance, acknowledge our emotions, our hurt, our anger, our shame, our rage, and break through to work together anyway. Anyway.

Or else we will end up much, much worse with this so-called Global War becoming a true world war on the scale we used to associate with such a term.

Imagine this scenario. It may be a worse case scenario, but it is likely. Some would dare say highly likely. This scenario unfolds below:

More terrorists associated with Pakistan and/or Muslim Kashmir attack India. These terrorists and their allies may also overthrow the current Pakistani government whose leader desires peace. We have an alliance of Afghan and Pakistani Taliban especially among the Pashtuns with al-Qaeda and the Kashmiri Muslim separatist terror group LeT, the Lashkar-e-Taiba (sometimes spelled Lashkar-e-Tayyiba), and both Afghan and Pak tribal warlords. Bangladesh, the former East Pakistan, also harbors anti-Hindu Muslim separatist terror groups that attack inside eastern India.

With tension ratcheted up by the terrorist assault on Mumbai, the latest wave of attacks is too much for India. Violence breaks out between mobs of Hindus and Muslims set on revenge. As waves of Hindu-Muslim communal violence washes across India and spills into Kashmir with many thousands dead on both sides, Indian military forces invade Pakistan and go on alert on the Bangladeshi borders.

Massive tank and infantry battles break out all along the border as India drives into Pakistan as Pak troops spill over into Kashmir in support of LeT. The Pakistani military and intelligence forces and the Taliban and tribal insurgents agree to a cease-fire between them selves and join hands against the Hindu Indians.

Despite this new intra-Pak Muslim alliance Pakistani groups remain highly suspicious of each other as they jockey for power and vent their rage against India. But Pakistan is already falling apart and is losing on the battlefield.

The United States has a deep interest in who controls Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal. So does India. So does Iran. So do a number of other regimes and terrorist groups. Meanwhile, Afghanistan is galvanized by the Muslim war against India and anti-Western sentiment peaks there.

The United States and NATO rush troops and supplies into Afghanistan to prop up the pro-Western government there. Their use of the Central Asian ‘Stans provoke an outcry from the Russians, but they allow it to happen as they welcome the distraction for NATO. American naval forces shift their focus from the Persian Gulf to the Indian Ocean.

Meanwhile as Pakistan begins to crumble Bangladeshi-Indian border battles break out with Muslim terror attacks in eastern India. Furthermore, ancient Persian imperial ambitions awaken inside Iran. Elements of the Iranian regime seek to take advantage of this break-up of Pakistan and the unification of Muslims against Hindu India to join the Paks and Afghan rebels to conquer as much territory as possible in the name of a new Muslim caliphate.

Pakistan launches nuclear missiles into India. India retaliates. Some bombs are duds. Some work too well. Tens of millions if not hundreds of millions are killed and injured in an atomic holocaust that engulfs both sides. Not only are entire cities destroyed in the Indo-Pak nuclear exchange, but also great masses of tanks and infantry are incinerated on the battlefield. Clouds of radioactive fallout drift around the entire planet. Enraged Indian forces bereft of command, go rogue. Some invade Bangladesh. But not much is left.

China, professing to protect the security of its borders and to restore its “rightful borders” but also seeking to crush Tibetan separatism once and for all invades India. Chinese forces “liberate” Arunachal Pradesh in far eastern India and drive into Assam. Chinese troops also take their disputed chunk of Kashmir, occupy Nepal at the request of their Maoist allies, and drive toward Dharamsala to capture the Dalai Lama.

Indian military resistance is fierce, harder than the Chinese had imagined, but is decapitated and disorganized after the nuclear exchange with the Paks. The United States is in no position to interfere as they scramble in the Middle East. Nor the Russians, for that matter. And the Chinese forces are exposed to massive radiation.

Israel, relieved that Muslims launched nukes first in this war, attacks Iran with nuclear weapons. Iran launches retaliation all across the Middle East, sending swarms of missiles against American and Allied forces in Afghanistan and Iraq as well as against Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States. Iranian allies in Lebanon and Syria including Hezbollah swarm Israel with tens of thousands of missiles as Hamas explodes out of Gaza with rocket barrages and waves of desperate and enraged people.

American forces retaliate against Iran. Egypt gets pulled in. Ethiopia goes back into Somalia. Eritrea attacks Ethiopia. Muslims riot all across Europe. Christians and their secular governments strike back. Millions die across the Middle East alone.

Events spirally quickly out of control and not just there. The impact of this mass collapse ripple as far away as Venezuela, Brazil, the two Koreas, Taiwan, Ukraine, Poland, and the war-torn regions of Central Africa. The global economy not just collapses but ceases to exist. Radiation from nuclear explosions across South Asia and the Middle East spreads around the world.

A global humanitarian crisis of epic proportions sweeps the planet and overwhelms even the richest states. Environmental, health, energy, food and water, energy crises all converge as epidemics mutate into pandemics and regional warlords and pirates carve out new empires.

China finds itself overextended. With its economy collapsing, China spirals into a centrifuge of regional violence and begins to break apart. Their economy in shock and the battlefields of Asia a nuclear wasteland, the North Americans withdraw from the rest of the world to hunker down. The Americans in particular resort to a fortress mentality and vent their frustrations upon each other. The economically stressed U.S.A. fractures along racial and socio-economic lines. Obama’s dream of hope and change is destroyed and an authoritarian regime takes control over what is left of the United States and imposes martial law as radiation sickness and epidemics sweep the land.

Mumbai is the linchpin in all this. We can go another way. India and Pakistan, along with the Bangladeshis, Afghans, and even the Chinese can refrain from attacking each other. Any all-out military assault by either Pakistan into India over Kashmir or by India into Pakistan over Kashmir incited by the Mumbai massacres, will likely trigger and trigger fast all-out warfare. Any full-scale war between India and Pakistan will most likely degenerate into a nuclear tit-for-tat in which millions die immediately with many more affected worldwide by spreading radioactive atmospheric clouds and ocean currents as well as global economic disruption.

Such a war, instead of keeping horrified nations out of it will likely merge with other wars and draw in even more countries. If dust from a sandstorm anywhere on Earth can sweep the planet, imagine the atmospheric consequences of massive and concentrated nuclear war. Imagine radioactive glaciers and rivers. Imagine immune systems suppressed by radiation poisoning succumbing to a plague of bacteria and viruses.

The monster here is not “them or us” or even religious Fundamentalists and nationalist idiots. The monster here is war. And war begins inside of each one of us. The tragedy of Mumbai is also a gift. It is an opportunity for the nations of Pakistan and India to work together in peace and harmony to resolve their differences. They share the same challenges: terrorism, threat of atomic destruction, separatist rebellions, border wars, environmental problems, economic, health, and energy problems, religious extremism, financial problems, structural challenges – in fact the rest of the world have many of the same problems.

By working together India and Pakistan can demonstrate to the rest of the world what is possible. Together with a new president in America and with reinvigorated allies and olive branches to our enemies we all can bring peace and unity to our Earth. Planet Earth is the one home we all share. It is all one land, one ocean, one atmosphere, one core, one biosphere, and one humanity.

Mumbai is a beginning. We can choose what it shall begin: war, tyranny, and death or peace, prosperity, liberty, and life.


William Dudley Bass
9 December 2008
Revised and rewritten 18 December 2011
Seattle, Washington

NOTE: This article was originally published as “Mumbai: Will Humanity Seize an Opportunity or Blow It?” in one of my earlier blogs, At the Brink with William Dudley Bass at,, on 9 December 2008. Then it was revised and reposted here this December 2011. Thank you.


Copyright © 2008, 2011, 2016 by William Dudley Bass. All Rights Reserved until we Humans establish Wise Stewardship of and for our Earth and Solarian Commons. Thank you.




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