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06 June 2011


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David Habakkuk

A very brave man, who deserves honour. And a reminder that journalism, however degraded its practioners so often are, can be an honourable profession.

FB Ali

Saleem Shahzad was probably killed by the ISI. Quite possibly, inadvertently; the ISI does not have its ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ as finely calibrated as the CIA’s.

Like other intelligence and security services in the world, the ISI commits crimes in a ‘noble’ cause ‒ ‘defending’ the country. As I wrote to some friends on Saleem Shahzad’s death:

One symbol of a failing (or failed) state: armed thugs (some claiming to be saving the state, others claiming to be trying to remake it) abducting people, robbing them, killing them. With impunity, with no check or accountability. Does it really matter who prevails?

To see how the US may be trending towards Pakistan in some other ways, read Nicholas Kristof’s op-ed in the NYT (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/05/opinion/05kristof.html).

William R. Cumming

Don't ask for whom the bells toll!

Michael Brenner

I wish to nominate one writer who measures up to Saleem Shahzad. He is Uri Avnery - the long-time Israeli peace activist aged 87. Some of you doubtless know him. His weekly essay is the epitome of humanism, erudition and sparkling political insight. His site is: www.avnery-news.co.il

There, you will find the archive of all his pieces. They carry more value per paragraph than anything else that I know of. The latest piece is a moving eulogy to his wife and collaborator of 58 years who died 10 days ago. I only hope that he carries on.



What is it that makes some of these employees of intelligence agencies be so brutal as they execute their "orders"? What is in it for them personally? It seems highly unlikely that it is wealth as they are just salaried employees. It also seems highly unlikely that it is power since they are just cogs in the wheel and not those that exercise power. Is it fear or the loss of a sense of belonging if they don't get the "job" done?

I am curious what drives the worker bees who commit acts of brutality while carrying out the orders of those with the power.

Eric Dönges


"It also seems highly unlikely that it is power since they are just cogs in the wheel and not those that exercise power."

I disagree. They have ultimate power over those people they torture and kill - power that they would likely never have in any other job they could ever hope to get.

William R. Cumming

A moving tribute to the deceased in a recent issue of the Economist!


Hillary, Gilani, Zardari - the encomiums flow, but I have yet to read anything that describes, let alone grapples with, the deeply shocking implications of Shahzad's reportage. This is a messenger truly in danger of being buried with praise. Talk about bitter ironies....


Michael Brenner,

Thanks for the mention of Uri Avnery, I had not read him before. A very eloquent tribute to his wife and very interesting articles I've only glanced at on his website.


James ben Goy

Mr. Brenner, I'm with you re: Uri Avnery. His writing is first rate - his piece about Rachel was heart-rending - but was he a street reporter like Saleem Shahzad? Forgive my ignorance but I've only been reading Uri for the last 10 years.

As to the question about what motivates the lowbrows and sub-normals in their brutality the answer is, very simply, impunity & a license to be vicious! Every military/intel/police agency has some of them. Speaking as a current employee of a 3-letter enforcement agency, following orders, no matter how odious or illegal, is what qualifies you for upper management, who do jack & get paid big, so that's another incentive.



I see what you mean. That requires a "special" person to feel fulfilled in that manner.


You are dead on. The content of Saleem Shahzad's reporting should be the focus. That would be what he would have likely wanted.

James ben Goy

Thanks for your insight. It seems you and Eric are on to something - "impunity & a license to be vicious". It would seem that it would be difficult to be an employee of character and principle if upward mobility is dependent on following orders that could be "odious or illegal". I must say that folks like me live in rather naive circumstances. In these types of agencies are those that are "vicious" examples to be emulated or despised? Or is that a function of the "command climate"?

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