Who Killed Daniel Pearl?by Bernard Henri Levy
It was a horrible tragedy, but what if, hidden behind the story of the gruesome on-camera murder of journalist Daniel Pearl, was another, still darker story? What if the people who murdered him weren't actually fanatic followers of Osama bin Laden? What if he wasn't murdered – as was
The shocking book that caused a furor in Europe now comes to America...
It was a horrible tragedy, but what if, hidden behind the story of the gruesome on-camera murder of journalist Daniel Pearl, was another, still darker story? What if the people who murdered him weren't actually fanatic followers of Osama bin Laden? What if he wasn't murdered – as was universally assumed – because he was Jewish and American? What if he was murdered because he was onto something? In a groundbreaking book that combines a novelist's eye with riveting investigative journalism, Bernard-Henri Lévy, one of the world's most esteemed writers, retraces Pearl's final steps through a murky Islamic underworld, suffused by "an odor of the apocalypse." The investigation plunges Lévy into his own heart of darkness – and a series of stunning revelations about who the real terrorists are.
- Gardners Books
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WHO KILLED DANIEL PEARL?
By BERNARD-HENRI LÉVY
MELVILLE HOUSE PUBLISHINGCopyright © 2003 Melville House Publishing
All right reserved.
A NIGHT IN KARACHI
Arrival in Karachi.
The first thing that hits you, even inside the airport, is the complete absence of Westerners.
There was an Englishman on the plane, doubtless a diplomat, who embarked with me in Islamabad. But a bullet-proof car was waiting for him at the end of the tarmac and whisked him away, across the runways, before the other passengers had even begun to leave the plane.
And then, the closed faces and the calls to prayer mixed with announcements of arrivals and departures. From the customs officer to the porter, from the beggars to the taxi drivers swooping down on me amid the helmeted soldiers patrolling the perimeter, a harsh, hostile expression lights up their eyes as I pass, an air of surprise also, or of incredulous curiosity, which says much about the incongruous nature of the presence here, in this spring of 2002, of a Western traveller. No women. This is striking, this impression of a world entirely devoid of women. And, lost in the crowd, eyes lined with kohl, hair the color of dark honey, a dark blue, stained and rumpled double-breasted suit, the pockets crammed with improbable papers-but with a carnationlike blossom at the lapel, as a sign of welcome, I suppose-the driver sent by the Marriott, who leads me to his car on the other side of the airport. Traffic is snarled. The police just found a bomb and took it outside near the parking lot to detonate it, forcing a massive gridlock of vehicles to one side.
"American?" he asks after a long moment, observing me in the rear-view mirror.
He seems relieved. France's stance on Iraq, perhaps. France's policy in the Arab world.
"First time in Karachi?"
I am lying, of course. But I am not about to tell him that yes, I know Pakistan. I am not about to tell him he wasn't even born the first time I was here, in 1971, when Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, in all his majesty and glory, was on the very threshold of power. His style, his allure, the cultured air of a colonial Pakistani, product of the finest British public schools, who in his indomitable optimism never imagined he could end up at the end of a rope eight years later ... Giscard fascinated him ... and Servan Schrieber, whom he wondered if people my age in France were reading. This culture, the unveiled women in the party meetings ... Ayub Khan, Yayha Khan, the ruling military.... Those brutes, you'll see, it won't last. The war over Bangladesh, and then, supporting the oppressed Bengalis seceding from increasingly Westernised Pakistan. Entering Dacca with the Indian army ... President Mujibur Rahman, and his big glasses gleaming with irony ... my first job, as a policy consultant, my first book, in other words, my first involvement with what was, for me, a war of national liberation but remains, for the Pakistanis, the ultimate trauma-the carving up of their country, an irrevocable Alsace-Lorraine. I know that one of the most significant entries on Pearl's résumé was his posting in India before coming to Karachi. Worse still, in the minds of the Islamists, and perhaps of the Pakistani intelligence services, was the fact that he "kept an apartment in Bombay." In the crazy logic where the smallest sign is transformed into proof or confession, this confirmed him as an enemy of the country, the agent of a foreign power and, therefore, a man to eliminate. So, I say nothing. I am not about to reveal that in another life, thirty years ago, I was an active, militant adversary of the Pakistani regime. He seems once again relieved.
"And your religion? What is your religion?"
This I was not expecting. Or, in any case, not like that, not so fast, nor with such assurance.
Again, I think about Pearl and his last words, fixed on the video taken by his captors: "My father's Jewish. My mother's Jewish. I'm Jewish."
I think about the incredible story I read on the "Reporters Without Borders" website just before leaving. Aftab Ahmed, editor of a Peshawar newspaper, had published a letter to the editor mildly critical of the anti-Semitic wave engulfing the country, a suggestion to let up on the constant publication of article after article dragging Jews through the mud. Scandal! Trial for blasphemy! Huge demonstrations by religious leaders and Islamists before the courthouse. Newspaper shut down. Printing press burned down. Kill him! Hang him! Get rid of this infidel, we can hate whomever we want and for whatever reasons we deem appropriate. The editor, narrowly escaped the death penalty and, after fifty-four days, was released from jail, but only after writing a "letter of apology to the Muslim people." Publication was suspended for five months, and his colleague, editorial page editor Munawar Hasan, is still in jail a year later.
In fact, I think about all I have been told about the virulent anti-Semitism of the Pakistanis and about this second piece of advice: "Don't speak about it. Ever. There are anti-Semites who, as is often the case, have never seen a Jew in their lives and will not put two and two together when they hear your name. So silence, OK? Never respond to questions or provocations. With India in your past and, on top of that, being Jewish-it's a lot for one man, so don't mention either, no matter what."
The taboo subjects in Pakistan: India; Kashmir, which must be "liberated" from Indian domination and which they perceive as a modern-day Bangladesh, bleeding but still dormant; and of course, Judaism.
"Atheist," I finally say. "My religion is atheism."
The answer surprises him. I see his incredulous glance as he scrutinizes me in the rear-view. Atheist, really? Is that possible, to be of the atheist religion? Indeed it seems possible, since I don't appear to be joking, and so I suppose he concludes his passenger is a Western eccentric. That's better than a Jew, a Catholic, or a Hindu. He extracts an old cigarette, gone limp with sweat, from his pocket and offers it to me as a sign of friendship.
"No thanks," I say, "I don't smoke."
And now it's my turn to question him about his religion, his life, his children, about the beggars at the airport exit, the post card vendors selling photos of Bin Laden, the man perched on the scaffolding painting "Bush=Butcher" in black letters on a wall, and another man, his beard neatly tucked into a hair net, who offers to sell me some heroin as we stop at a red light. Are there as many drug addicts as they say in Pakistan? And bin Laden? Is bin Laden alive? I hear he's a hero for most people here in Karachi, is it true? I read that in the city there are two million Afghans, Bengalis, Arabs, Sudanese, Somalis, Egyptians, Chechens, in short, foreigners without papers forming an army of natural candidates for al-Qaida recruiting agents-what does he think? And those old men there, half naked, sooty with the years and dust, shaggy, hoisting bundles of sticks, appearing from a side street like a column of ants? And this other man, crouched by the side of the road, an apron around his waist, a straw hat crushed on his head, patiently rummaging in the ruins of a house? And this one with the scabby face and a crutch raised like a weapon menacing the cars? And that one, rigid, his arms outstretched like a scarecrow that the wind will blow away? I thought Karachi was a rich city, I didn't imagine there was so much misery, rubble, vagabonds.... I couldn't imagine these faces of the half-dead, their backs bent like teetering specters in the dying light of the coming night-do you know, my friend, they look like a pack of wolves? And that one, scratching his leprosy, do you know what he reminds me of?. And this squatting skeleton? In short, I ask him everything, all the questions possible and imaginable rather than allow him his, the one I know is coming, the one that asks what an atheist Frenchman on his "first trip to Pakistan" is doing here, in this city, at a time he knows to be on the edge of apocalypse: whether I'm here as a "tourist" or on "business," and, if that's the case, why?
Isn't the idea, for this first trip, to say nothing? To begin the investigation by remaining incognito as long as possible? Luckily I had kept the "multiple entry" visa given me in February, during my "Afghan mission." So I didn't have to say anything to anyone. Nothing asked. I didn't have to go by the Pakistani embassy to explain myself. And now that I'm here, I'm determined not to say more than I have to. That will last as long as it lasts. It will cause problems, of course, with various contacts and, especially, with officials. But too bad for the officials. I'll have other occasions for them to tell me what I already know: that Pearl had been here since Christmas. That he was on the trail of the man with the shoe bomb on the Paris-Miami airbus, Richard Colvin Reid. That he had been "overly intrusive," too "prying," sticking his nose into delicate matters that don't concern foreigners. That he was wrong to trust Omar Sheikh, who had hoodwinked him by promising to lead him to Reid's guru, Mubarak Ali Shah Gilani, leader of Jamaat al-Fuqrah, the terrorist sect on the FBI's list of terrorist organizations, and who on said day, instead of leading him to Gilani, took him to a house in the suburbs of Karachi where, after eight days, on 31 January, he was executed. That Omar Sheikh was arrested. That he is at this very moment on trial. That it is through his trial that the regime decided to focus on Islamism in Pakistan-we are following the case, Mr. Lévy! Let justice run its course! Don't be too nosy yourself....
For now, there are the places. The atmospheres. The air Pearl breathed, every day, after his arrival on a winter morning at the Karachi airport. There's the Marriott, where I also have taken a room. The Hotel Akbar, in Rawalpindi, where he met for the first time his future executioner, Omar Sheikh, and where I must go myself. The Village Garden, in the lower city, their rendezvous the evening of his abduction. There is the place of his ordeal. The place where his body was found, cut in ten pieces, then put back together for burial: the torso, the head placed at the base of the neck, the arms severed at the shoulders, the thighs, the legs, the feet. All the places he had been, tragic or ordinary, where I want to try to find, to sense, his presence. And for all of that-all the mystery surrounding Pearl, to retrace his steps, to imagine what he felt, lived, and suffered-I don't need a visa or meetings in high places, or, especially, too much visibility.
The role of an ordinary tourist suits me fine. At least it allows me to ward off the real risk of being taken for a "journalist": a category not only defamatory, but unintelligible in a country which I know (and which I will soon have the occasion to verify) is drugged on fanaticism, doped on violence, and has lost even the very idea of what a free press could be. Daniel Pearl.... The group of English journalists stoned in December in the Pashtun hills of Chaman.... The BBC team attacked around the same time somewhere on the Afghan border.... The journalist from The Independent, Robert Fisk, beaten and injured by a crowd of fanaticized Afghan refugees.... Shaheen Sehbai, the courageous editor of the Karachi News threatened with death by the secret service for going too far on, precisely, the Pearl affair.... In fact, he was forced to flee to the United States.... So, low profile. I'm content with a low profile.
"Sorry, it's the police," the driver says suddenly as he pulls over to the side.
I had asked him to leave the main road, using the traffic as a pretext, but in fact what I wanted was to find a guest-house down a side street where I had stayed thirty years ago, just before leaving for India and Bangladesh. I was absorbed in my recollections-the bizarre feeling of having already seen these streets, these low houses, but as if in another life, as if in a dream-engrossed, also, in grim reflections on the freedom of the press in Pakistan and on the disappearance of this city's languid past, a city I once liked but which now seemed horribly metamorphosed. So I hadn't noticed the policeman stepping out of the half-light-long hair, wrinkled peacoat, bloodshot eyes lined with kohl, young but not juvenile, hard features, a machine-gun held nervously at arm's length and, in the other hand, an absurd flashlight, whose beam isn't larger than a pencil, which he aims at us.
"You'll have to get out. He's going to ask you something. I was going too fast."
The cop-a real cop?-pulls me out of my seat a little roughly, looks me up and down, surveys with some distaste my old leather jacket and three-day beard, and then takes from my pocket the handful of rupees I had changed at the airport, and my passport.
The passport visibly surprises him.
"Lévy?" he says incredulous. "Are you Lévy? Is your name really Lévy?"
Instantly I tell myself: "Catastrophe! Immediate invalidation of the theory according to which the Pakistanis never having seen a Jew in their life, my name, etc...." And then, the memories of Bangladesh come back to me and I remember that "Lévy" is the name of a prestigious paramilitary battalion, created by the English to police the borders. (To be more precise: the "Levy Malakand," named for the Malakand, the semi-tribal zone near Afghanistan, where the regular army won't go, leaving it to the "Levys" to maintain order.) I remember the homonym, almost cheered by it, and sense it will help me out again, like thirty years ago in Jessore when, having gotten somewhat lost, I found myself face to face with an elite unit of the Pakistani army.
"Two thousand rupees," he says, softening, in the tone of a merchant giving you a real good deal. "Speeding, your situation is not in order: but, for you, only two thousand rupees."
I think about protesting. I could get on my high horse, invoke the respect due the Levy Malakand, call on the driver who has remained in the car with his head on the steering wheel pretending to sleep during the whole incident. But no. Above all, no. I leave the two thousand rupees. And as if nothing had happened, without a word of reproach or the slightest comment to the driver, I get back in the taxi, only too happy to step into the role of a swindled tourist. All is well. Good beginning. Balthasar Gracian: "The things of this world must be looked at in reverse, to be seen the right way round."
Chapter TwoHOUSE OF TORMENT
I am in the house where Pearl was held captive.
Well, I say "the" house as if there had been only one and as if I were certain that he was detained, tortured, dismembered and buried in the same place.
In reality no one knows for sure.
Excerpted from WHO KILLED DANIEL PEARL? by BERNARD-HENRI LÉVY Copyright © 2003 by Melville House Publishing
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author
BERNARD-HENRI LÉVY is one of France's most famous philosophers and one of the bestselling writers in Europe. One of the world's preeminent journalists, he began his career as a war reporter for Combat, the famous underground newspaper founded by Camus. Lévy covered the war between Pakistan and India over Bangladesh. His 1977 book Barbarism With a Human Face caused the kind of sensation that Camus' The Rebel incited in the 1950's, and since then, Lévy's novels and essays have continued to stir up such excitement that The Guardian recently noted he is "accorded the kind of adulation in France that most countries reserve for their rock stars."
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