What is the ISI?
Author and journalist David Ignatius’s new novel, “Bloodmoney,” is a spy novel set in modern-day Pakistan. Focusing on a rogue CIA unit in that country, some are probably wondering how true to life his chosen subject may be.
Ignatius calls the ISI “a pervasive intelligence presence” that frightens people in Pakistan. As part of the Pakistani military, it its offices around that country have been targets of Taliban and suicide bombers, so it has lost many officers. Ignatius says the ISI is the “eyes and ears” of the military.
“Have there been rumors that the ISI may have been infiltrated by al Qaida?” Diane asked.
“There are rumors. They’re persistent,” Ignatius said. The ISI is so complicated partially because, Ignatius says, the U.S. asked it to recruit among Islamic fundamentalists at the time when America had decided the best way to drive the Soviets out of Afghanistan was to effectively organize a Jihad against them. Now, the U.S. is asking for the ISI’s help in cracking down on, for instance, the Haqqani network that has been killing American and NATO soldiers in Afghanistan – but Ignatius says we “have to be honest enough to remember” that the Haqqani network first came into power because the U.S. provided the money and training for its members decades ago.
A Book About Revenge
Ignatius’s main character, Omar al-Wazir, is a modern, well-educated and well-traveled Pakistani man from the tribal region of Waziristan. He sees his whole family killed as the result of a Predator drone attack.”This is a book about revenge – it’s about his revenge against the people who killed his family, it’s about our revenge against the people who killed so many of our fellow citizens on September 11, 2001. It’s about this cycle of revenge that we’ve gotten caught up in,” he said.
After seeing his family killed in such a brutal way, al-Wazir’s life changes dramatically, and his quest for revenge begins. One of Ignatius’s challenges that he set for himself in writing the book was to try to “see this war from the eyes of the people under our bombs, which is not something we normally do.”
The U.S.’s Increasing Use of Drones
Diane read an email from a listener in Hartford with a question for Ignatius: “I keep hearing our drones are creating enemies and therefore, we should stop sending drones,” she wrote. “Shouldn’t we stop sending drones because it’s the moral thing to do? We always talk about the cowardly al Qaida. What could be more cowardly than fighting with drones?”
Ignatius said the same questions began to haunt him over the past several years, and is one of his main reasons for writing this book.[The drones] allow you to kill people from 10,000 feet, which seems, to our public, I think wrongly, less bloody than if we did it right up close standing next to someone with a gun,” he said.
Read an Excerpt
From David Ignatius’s “Bloodmoney.” Copyright 2011 by David Ignatius. Excerpted by kind permission of W. W. Norton & Company.