From a Command Sgt. Major serving in Iraq. The letter was written to the brother-in-law of a colleague of mine. Contact info deleted but the rest of the letter is unedited. WOC doesn't support photos (and I don't keep a personal blog right now for several reasons), so I can't share with you the photos he sent ... nearly a dozen shots of smiling kids, a new soccer field and a sports plex they'll enjoy.
Not all of the story is happy, though, as you'll see when you read it .....
Vocabulary: OPTEMPO = operations tempo, i.e. being incredibly busy; FOB = forward operating base; BN = battalion; IBA = individual body armor
Greetings from Southern Baghdad,
29 April, 04 I've missed a couple of days because of OPTEMPO. But here's what we've done.
Four incidents of RPG w/ small arms ambushes, found four Iraqi's setting up IED's (now in paradise ) Some of the weapons we have found have been home made rocket launchers, SA-7, RPG's and AK's. We've had two multi company raids and a few smaller cordon and searches.We have detained some >40 locals but have released a majority of them after investigating their stories.
Three days ago (mother shot twice and is currently in the hospital), two daughters (late teens early twenties) and a small one (8-10 YO daughter) were killed on their way to the FOB where they worked in different capacities. The mother and the little one worked in the barracks area for the BN doing general cleaning of the common areas. The other two daughters worked in one of the common offices on the FOB. It appears to be a vendetta killing because the shooters were familiar to the family. They were shot on the bus they were in then dragged out to the street and shot again. (also the bus driver was killed) An IP who was nearby did absolutely nothing because he feared for himself and his family(so he says). We picked up three out of the four involved in that shooting last night. We'll turn them over to the IP in the next couple of days.
Another raid one of the companies conducted resulted in us finding some armor piercing incendiary rounds fired out of AK's. (it is reported that these will penetrate our current IBA) (not a good thing out to 100 meters) These rounds have filtered down here from Russia and Afghanistan through Al Queda and other channels.
Two days ago we walked through one of the neighborhood (pictures attached) seeing the kids and a vast majority of the locals react is about the only thing that's good about this region. Over 95% of the population understand and are glad we are here. The other 5% (of 850,000 in our sector) are pissed because we're here. That <5% are the ones we deal with on a nightly basis. We have had a few incidents but the vast majority is done at night either in setting up the IED's or setting up ambushes. The pictures of the soccer field and sports plex is what we're opening up tomorrow.
There are four major projects we are working on, I'll explain one today and get another one next time. The power facility. Currently non operational. The power our sector gets is rationed in blocks of time, three hours on - nine hours off. A lot of the schools and government building have their own generators. The power plant is part Russian, part German, part British. The plant is supposed to be 25% operational by this fall, 50% by next summer. At that point it should be putting out approx 600 MW of power.
We're still tight in the barracks because the sub contractors have not fulfilled their contact to KBR who has not fulfilled their contracts with us. The facilities here are not too bad, this compound was previously used by the republican guard as a maintenance facility. I live in the headquarters building upstairs. It has shower and lavatories but the plumbing is so poor that in order to "do a class 1 (food) download we have to use porta johns set up out side the building. Oh for the feel of porcelain. We have small PX, laundry facility (three day turn around), barbershop, coffee shop and a small Iraqi shop. The rest of the unit is in a building with rooms that are about 12 × 15. four to a room.
Our email is still sporadic so I'll get this off. Have a great day
Update: The photos are now online here.
There are a number of people annoyed with ABC News' decision to air a special edition of Nightline, in which Ted Koppel will recite the names of those American soldiers killed in Iraq. ABC News has disingenuously asserted that they weren't aware that the planned broadcast date for the show was going to occur right during the May sweeps.
Thankfully, not all broadcasters are swallowing that tripe, and Sinclair Broadcasting in Baltimore, has announced that they will not air that edition of Nightline.
Baltimore-based Sinclair Broadcasting is pre-empting the live program on its ABC affiliates, citing ethical conflicts. "We find it offensive that Ted Koppel is trivializing the deaths of so many men and women. This is not a one-year anniversary of the war, or Memorial Day. This is 'sweeps week,' and he intends to use a news platform for a political agenda designed to undermine the efforts of the United States in Iraq," said Sinclair Vice President Mark Hyman yesterday.I say hats off to Mark Hyman, for taking a stand and refusing to sensationalize our war dead for ratings.
Update: Sinclair Broadcast Group's official statement regarding Nightline, and their response to Sen McCain's letter (reprinted in the comments section by asdf) can be found here.
Welcome! Our goal is to give you one power-packed briefing of insights, news and trends from the global War on Terror that leaves you stimulated, informed, and occasionally amused every Monday & Thursday. Today's "Winds of War" is brought to you by Dan Darling. of Regnum Crucis.
Other Topics Today Include: Iraq Briefing; Iran Reports; 12 Hezb-e-Islami members arrested in Kabul; Pakistan hopes amnesty deal will stem tribal support for al-Qaeda; Nek Mohammed formerly an al-Qaeda trainer; Hamid Karzai prepared for amnesty for rank-and-file Taliban; Abu Bakar Bashir tied to Bali bombing; self-professed al-Qaeda supporters operating openly in Europe; Captain Hook gets 9 more months in the UK; Saudi cash and Turkish jihadis fueling Chechen war; Philippines watching Janjalani; Saudi terrorists dress in drag and flee to mountains; al-Muqrin sez he didn't bomb Riyadh; Sudan ditches Syrian WMD; Damascus terrorist cell battle; Honduras investigating Muslim converts; and UFOs in Iran.
THE WIDER WAR
Only TWO bids!! The shame. The loss of face. I can't stand it.
[Updated Update: Forget the whole thing. It closes Thursday at midnight Pacific (GMT -0800).]
OK, I can't stand it any more.
I've been a worker bee for Spirit of America for a while, but haven't been a part of the recent blog frenzy to raise money for them. And I feel...lonely. Left out. Like I'm on the bench during the Big Game. They're so close to the $50,000 mark.
Well, put me in, Coach!!
Since I alwys root for the underdogs, we're going to join the Liberty Alliance.
I'm sure Joe (and Jan) will chime in with their own ideas, but I'm going to auction off one of each of these items:
Bids are in the comments below; I'll pick up all shipping on the goods, you're responsible for all damaged sensibilities. Please note which item you're bidding on...
Joe?? Jan?? Step up, step up...
I got this in my email box a few days ago, and set it aside to try and verify its source. I didn't get around to it (as I should have) and Blackfive beat me to it.
So let me send you over there to see how typical Americans react to our war dead, at the recent funeral of a Marine.
I post this both as a way of showing my own regard for our troops, those alive and well and those who are not, and as a cautionary reminder to those who may share many of my politics, but not my respect for the troops and the cause in which they fight.
The service was a fitting tribute to this hero. When it was over, we stood as the casket was wheeled out with the family following. The casket was placed onto a horse-drawn carriage for the mile-long trip from the gym, down the main street, then up the steep hill to the cemetery. I stood alone and saluted as the carriage departed the high school. I found my car and joined Chance’s convoy. The town seemingly went from the gym to the street. All along the route, the people had lined the street and were waving small American flags. The flags that were otherwise posted were all at half-staff. For the last quarter mile up the hill, local boy scouts, spaced about 20 feet apart, all in uniform, held large flags. At the foot of the hill, I could look up and back and see the enormity of our procession. I wondered how many people would be at this funeral if it were in, say, Detroit or Los Angeles—probably not as many as were here in little Dubois, Wyoming.I'm not sure that's true. But even the fact that it might be is a damn shame.
Regardless of how we feel about Bush or Kerry, regardless of whether we agree with the decision to go to war, we all owe the men and women in uniform our regard and affection.
Two more days, people.
In case you're wondering how the Grand Challenge Of The Blogosphere is playing out (raising money for Spirit of America), go check out the results a few times a day. Of course, you'll have a credit card handy...
We the undersigned former British ambassadors, high commissioners, governors and senior international officials, including some who have long experience of the Middle East and others whose experience is elsewhere, have watched with deepening concern the policies which you have followed on the Arab-Israel problem and Iraq, in close co-operation with the United States.
The decision by the USA, the EU, Russia and the UN to launch a "Road Map" for the settlement of the Israel/Palestine conflict raised hopes that the major powers would at last make a determined and collective effort to resolve a problem which, more than any other, has for decades poisoned relations between the West and the Islamic and Arab worlds. ... But the hopes were ill-founded. Nothing effective has been done either to move the negotiations forward or to curb the violence.Well, the Israelis seem to have done a pretty good job of curbing the violence. Note the sharp dropoff in suicide bombings in the last 4 years.
Britain and the other sponsors of the Road Map merely waited on American leadership, but waited in vain.No, they waited for Arafat to act like a statesman who wanted to found a nation, and not a kleptocratic thug. The U.S. played along with the fiction until recently.
Worse was to come. After all those wasted months, the international community has now been confronted with the announcement by Ariel Sharon and President Bush of new policies which are one-sided and illegal and which will cost yet more Israeli and Palestinian blood.You mean the abandonment of the fictitious 'right of return' which was stupidly fuzzed over in the Oslo talks by these professionals?
Our dismay at this backward step is heightened by the fact that you yourself seem to have endorsed it, abandoning the principles which for nearly four decades have guided international efforts to restore peace in the Holy Land and which have been the basis for such successes as those efforts have produced.And, looking at the facts on the ground in 2003, which successes, exactly, would those be? What 'principles', other than an overweening pride, and respect for the 'process of negotiation' for its own sake, would those be?
This abandonment of principle comes at a time when rightly or wrongly we are portrayed throughout the Arab and Muslim world as partners in an illegal and brutal occupation in Iraq. The conduct of the war in Iraq has made it clear that there was no effective plan for the post-Saddam settlement.No accurate plan, that's for sure. Here's the one valid criticism.
All those with experience of the area predicted that the occupation of Iraq by the Coalition forces would meet serious and stubborn resistance, as has proved to be the case. To describe the resistance as led by terrorists, fanatics and foreigners is neither convincing nor helpful.Well, that's funny. Because if the masses of Iraqi people were rising up, the news would look somewhat different than it does, wouldn't it? Which means that - wait for it - the forces we oppose are terrorists, fanatics, and foreigners. The masses of people haven't, and aren't - the trick is going to be making sure they won't.
... The military actions of the Coalition forces must be guided by political objectives and by the requirements of the Iraq theatre itself, not by criteria remote from them.Thanks, guys but war under diplomatic control was tried several places by UN forces. Didn't work so well. Let's not do it any more, OK? Soldiers fight, and make those decisions - when the fighting is over, or has the chance to be over, let's let the diplomatic corps take the lead.
It is not good enough to say that the use of force is a matter for local commanders.Heavy weapons unsuited to the task in hand, inflammatory language, the current confrontations in Najaf and Falluja, all these have built up rather than isolated the opposition.
Here's a metaphor. If someone (my uncle, say) has pancreatic cancer for two years and doesn't know about it - is the surgeon who's excising that cancer causing a problem, or solving one?
The basic failure of this cohort of diplomats - in the UK, US, UN, and elsewhere - is that for twenty years, they were silent and ineffective while Islamism grew in power and hatred.
They believed that by negotiating the terms of 'stability' - because, after all, when you negotiate for a living, a successful negotiation is the major thing you're looking for - even as one side made it clear that stability wasn't what was being sought - they were accomplishing something.
What they were doing was selling my uncle Lydia Pinkham's Elixir as the cancer grew deeper into his body. These men (interestingly, it appears to be an all-male group) should be ashamed; ashamed of writing this letter, and more deeply, ashamed for having dined on the Queen's silver while allowing this problem to grow unchecked.
In fact, they not only let it grow unchecked, but stood by, supportive and silent, as any real peace process was undermined by oil bribes.
One of the keys of any successful negotiation is the willingness to simply go 'basta!' - no more - and get up and walk from the table.
The problem with a policy of engagement and continuous negotiation supported by this crew is that you preclude that possibility.
Bush and Sharon have done just that in Palestine, and Bush and Blair have done it in Iraq.
That's infinitely preferable to a policy in which diplomats confer in luxury while suicide bombers murder innocents.
My uncle had surgery two weeks ago, at Columbia-Presbyterian in New York. His surgery was successful, and he's recovering at home.
Look, I'm not a historian of the Middle East, nor someone who lives and breathes foreign policy.
But I do know failure when I see it.And I'll quote an old reply of mine to Trent, who challenged my credentials in this area:
...the genius of the American system is that there certainly are experts on game theory, diplomatic history, and policy who have substantive and valuable expertise in these areas.I'll stand by those words, and voice a small appreciation that guys like the jittery fifty work for Tony Blair, and not the other way around.
And they all work for guys like me. Our Congress and our President are typically business men and women, lawyers, rank amateurs when it comes to the hard games that they study so diligently at ENA (Ecole Nationale d'Administration). And that's a good thing, in fact, it's a damn good thing.It is a good thing because the unique power of the United States comes from our willingness to diffuse power down into the ranks - to act in ways outside what a small cadre of mandarins sitting at a capital can envision.
Other Topics Include: Is the Latin American public moving away from democracy?; Are we stuck with Hugo Chávez?; Is Bolivia unraveling - again?; A dapper perp walk in Haiti; Guatemala's new president is a class act; a book recommendation on a Latin American country too often ignored.
DEMOCRACY IN LATIN AMERICA
The next installment of Randinho's Latin America Briefing will be May 26. Meanwhile, regular updates concerning Latin American events can be found at Beautiful Horizons.
I have no idea if this was really submitted as a test question anywhere - but it's still funny, so here it is. Thanks to frequest reader & commenter Lili for submitting this one:
Thermodynamics (contributed by Lilith)
The following is an actual question given on a University of Washington chemistry mid-term. The answer by one student was so "profound" that the professor shared it with colleagues, via the Internet, which is, of course, why we now have the pleasure of enjoying it as well.
Bonus Question: Is Hell exothermic (gives off heat) or endothermic (absorbs heat)?
Most of the students wrote proofs of their beliefs using Boyle's Law (gas cools when it expands and heats when it is compressed) or some variant. One student, however, wrote the following:
"First, we need to know how the mass of Hell is changing in time. So we need to know the rate at which souls are moving into Hell and the rate at which they are leaving. I think that we can safely assume that once a soul gets to Hell, it will not leave.
Therefore, no souls are leaving. As for how many souls are entering Hell, let's look at the different religions that exist in the world today. Most of these religions state that if you are not a member of their religion, you will go to Hell. Since there is more than one of these religions and since people do not belong to more than one religion, we can project that all souls go to Hell.
With birth and death rates as they are, we can expect the number of souls in Hell to increase exponentially. Now, we look at the rate of change of the volume in Hell because Boyle's Law states that in order for the temperature and pressure in Hell to stay the same, the volume of Hell has to expand proportionately as souls are added.
This gives two possibilities: 1) If Hell is expanding at a slower rate than the rate at which souls enter Hell, then the temperature and pressure in Hell will increase until all Hell breaks loose.
2) If Hell is expanding at a rate faster than the increase of souls in Hell, then the temperature and pressure will drop until Hell freezes over..
So which is it?
If we accept the postulate given to me by Teresa during my Freshman year that, "...it will be a cold day in Hell before I sleep with you," and take into account the fact that I still have not succeeded in having an affair with her, then #2 above cannot be true, and thus I am sure that Hell is exothermic and will not freeze over."
THIS STUDENT RECEIVED THE ONLY "A."
I like it. Bet it looks spiffy when Iraq's athletes stream into the Olympic Games holding it high, knowing that they won't be tortured this time if they come back without medals.
Kevin Drum has a guest post up by Bruce Reed, who was Clinton's chief domestic policy advisor (calm down!). It's a dead-on commentary on the pro-choice march in Washington last weekend (see pictures and commentary by a pro-choice Republican here).
He makes a key point:
After sharing the Mall with a million choice supporters yesterday, I don't see how anyone could say that our side lacks religious fervor. People made pilgrimages from thousands of miles to stand up for their convictions, flocking to the capital of compassionate conservatism to demand more compassion from their leaders.And he concludes...
At the same time, I couldn't help noticing that the one thing we seem to have no religious fervor for is religion.
Still, the Mall could have used more sermons on Sunday, and fewer celebrities. It’s not fair to compare a Sunday spent listening to well-meaning activists with that day Martin Luther King called all God’s children to join hands and sing the words of the old spiritual, “Free at last.” But as we helped our children count the number of dogs at the march so they wouldn’t count the number of obscenities one entertainer was shouting from onstage, I couldn't help thinking about what has been lost along the way.I'll drink to that.
And how much longer it will take to get where we want to go without it. (emphasis added)
I've followed the whole 'defending Howard Stern' discussion with a kind of sour grin. The only thing I like less than the coarsening of public behavior we're seeing now is the censorship proposed to cure it; that's as true of political discourse as entertainment.
"Jordanian authorities said Monday they have broken up an alleged al Qaeda plot that would have unleashed a deadly cloud of chemicals in the heart of Jordan's capital, Amman.
The plot would have been more deadly than anything al Qaeda has done before, including the September 11 attacks, according to the Jordanian government."
Dan Darling wonders why the media isn't giving this story a higher priority, not to mention other important developments in the Mideast that are being buried (like the one he notes in Saudi Arabia). Fortunately, Dan has more on this largely under-reported story, including details of the plot, key figures involved, and a number of interesting details... including the chemical attack part of the plan.
Lots of smart people here. I confess being a bit nervous entering this fracas. That said, this quote struck me as really getting to the heart of the matter (assuming that both sides generally would agree with their respecive charactarizations):
"Liberals think the idea of democratizing the mideast simply isn't going to work. Conservatives think that the idea of continuing to use the CIA and FBI to root out terrorists isn't going to work."
If I state the converse we get a more telling picture:
"Liberals think that the idea of continuing to use the CIA and FBI to root out terrorists is going to work. Conservatives think the idea of democratizing the mideast is going to work."
For me, the notion of "work" here is defined as Americans not being attacked by militant Islamic fundamentalist groups. What I think of immediately is the old laundry list of attacks we've suffered to date. The Embassy bombings, the Cole, The WTC bombing, and the most recent culmination in the 9/11 attacks. So, to "use the CIA and FBI to root out terrorists" doesn't seem like it has worked so far. I'm not saying it might not work in the future - I'm just saying it has clearly not worked so far.
Next, I wonder about "democratizing the middle east" and whether or not we have tried this before. Naturally, I can sense everyone's knees jerking with their examples of Japan or Germany, El Salvador or Vietnam, and so on. So far, I am unconvinced that any of the traditional examples square with what we're trying to do in the Middle East.
The folks that think that it's Japan/Germany all over again are missing just how thoroughly we pulverized those nations. We didn't RE-build them, we (and they) built something entirely new on top of the ashes and rubble. Similarly, the folks that think it's Vietnam (or pick your American colonialist conquest country du jour; and btw I'm only half mocking) are missing that we're trying to bring liberal democracy to an entire region, not just one country.
So as I see it, we tried to make it work one way and it demonstrably didn't work. Now we're trying to make it work a different way and we're hoping it works. Regardless of which 'side' you're on, if this current effort doesn't work - you are going to be in a still worse situation having tried two very expensive and difficult methods with still no solution.
As a right-leaning centrist, I support the war and consequently grudgingly support Bush. I know why I support the war and what I hope to see come from it. Where I live, Berkeley, naturally the war is extremely unpopular, and I've found myself retreating in conversations to the very question posed in this article, "what should be done instead?" It's not to get out of talking, it's because I truly do not know and am more interested in finding solutions than calling people names.
Sadly, I'm still waiting for an answer.
Jan's father died this weekend. It wasn't really a surprise - has was suffering from advanced Alzheimer's, and last week he had a serious stroke. I'm glad I'm able to be here with her, and for her.
The poem that follows is Jan's, edited and posted with her permission:
Late April, 2004
have ascended already
snow falling up
into the starbright night
There he goes:
a small boy pulls a wagon
through a wintry Montana town
he's with my mother
in uniform in Hawaii
fishing with his father
a child sleeps
in a parlour
under a baby grand
frightened of the noises in the barn
he removes a splinter from my finger
with a needle magnifying glass and iodine
drives his burgundy Citroen
plays Chopin Mazurkas while he waits
for mother or me
He grows lighter
until he is empty
released at last
takes his compass
checks his bearings
and heads home.
© J.K.Leininger, 2004
Welcome! Our goal is to give you one power-packed briefing of insights, news and trends from the global War on Terror that leaves you stimulated, informed, and occasionally amused every Monday & Thursday. Today's "Winds of War" is brought to you by Dan Darling. of Regnum Crucis.
Other Topics Today Include: Iraq Briefing; Iran Reports; Taliban attack NGO; Sydney terror plot; Cole bomber nabbed; al-Haramain Brigades takes credit for Riyadh bombing; JI tied to counterfeit trade; Mullah Krekar's got a memoir; Saudis want jihad in Iraq but not at home; possible Hamas link to Kosovo shooting spree; JI and MILF operatives busted in Philippines; and robot surgeon sued for maltinkering.
THE WIDER WAR
OK, here's a question for all of you who think that it's the hawks who are moonbats (and I know you're out there). It stems in part from Henley's post, as well as much of what I've read from people who want to be 'aggressively chasing terrorists' while not invading countries.
How - exactly - does that work? Because I can't figure it out. Let's take the following examples...
Let's take three hypothetical cases:
OK, let's toss this open.
"The lawyers wanted to know if the plaintiffs, the black children in Clarenden County, would show the same result as those we had tested earler."
- from 'Eyes on the Prize, America's Civil Rights Years 1954 - 65' by Juan Williams
(hat tip to Tim Oren)
While commenter Lilith and Trent put 'paid' to modern Islam in the comments to the post criticizing Henley's Grand Scheme below, it's important to note that there are signs of hope.
In today's L.A. Times, Walter Russell Mead has a column on Algeria.
It's important to note that it was in Algeria that the roots of modern anticolonial theory took hold - Fanon wrote from his experience as a psychiatrist in Algeria. The film 'Battle of Algiers' brought the brutal reality of counterinsurgency home to us, and the French policy toward the Arab world was shaped in Algeria.And now, some good things are happening there.
Algeria just completed the freest election in the history of the Arab world, it has lots of oil and gas, it wants to work closely with the United States against fanatical terror — and, as a special added bonus, it still doesn't like France. Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika has played a leading role in the reforms that are changing the country. First elected in a 1999 contest widely regarded as rigged, Bouteflika has lifted controls on the press and on the opposition. He was reelected earlier this month. A brash and independent press criticizes the president daily — and as long as it remains free, Algeria's institutions will continue to gain international respect.Reality is complex, and a very smart (and rich) fellow once told me that he'd made most of his money on the simple assumption that things are seldom as bad or good as people think.
Advice well worth taking.
On the serious good news front, my girlfriend is flying in from California. She'll landing here in Toronto at around 6:30am this morning.
As fate would have it, she's a pretty good ringer for her namesake character on Chris Muir's Day by Day strip... and an old college friend of Armed Liberal's. 24 hours together at A.L.'s wedding was wonderful, but this time we have a week together.
Erm, don't expect to see a whole lot of me on the blog this week...
Khajeh Shamseddin Mohammad Hafiz-s Shirazi, commonly known as Hafiz, is one of the more important and well-known Sufi poets. Writing in Shiraz (Persia) during the middle 14th Century, his career, spiritual development, and poetical works were influenced by the political events of the day. Like his near-contemporary Dante Aligheri, he was banished from his beloved city at various times as political leadership and loyalties shifted. Many of his early poems are dedicated to an unattainable woman, Shakh-e Nabat, who like Dante's Beatrice symbolized to the poet the idealized beauty of the Creator.
Many of his famous works are in the ghazal form, a Persian analog of the English sonnet. The following ghazal contains a number of typical Sufi themes, including drunkenness, illusion, concealment, and love:
Into the mirror of my cup the reflection of your glorious face fell And from the gentle laughter of love, into a drunken state of longing I fellWhat is Hafiz telling us?
Struck with wonder by the beauty of the picture that within my cup I beheld
The picture of this world of illusion from the reflection of my mind fell
From the house of prayer into the house of drink I fell not of myself
From eternity it was meant to be you came to me and into drunkenness I fell
From the beginningless beginning beneath the veil your face was hidden wellAll this world, reflected wonder, wine and love and song, in which we dwell
but upon those with love and wisdom a ray from your most glorious face fell
Is nothing but a fragment of the one whose reflection into my cup fell.
What do you say? What do you say when someone walks away in May of 2002 from fan adoration and a $3,600,000 NFL contract with the Arizona Cardinals, in order to make $18,000 as an anonymous combat soldier. What do you say when he consistently refuses media interviews, because it isn't about that for him. "After all," he thinks, "nobody interviews all the other guys who make the same commitment and put it all on the line - why should I be special?"
Rangers lead the way. Part Tillman served in Operation Iraqi Freedom, and was on his next posting in Afghanistan when an ambush by Taliban/Al-Qaeda forces hit his patrol on Thursday. Pat was killed, as was an Afghan Army soldier. Two other American soliders were wounded in the firefight.
Finally, this from the U.S. Army Ranger Association:
"There are those who think that this will affect our morale. To hell with them. We know better. We know that it is because we have guys like Tillman on our team - dedicated, smart fighting men and women who are willing to give everything for their country - that we will persevere through until the end.
God speed, Pat. We will miss you, and all of the Rangers, Marines, and others who have died fighting the good fight overseas. We cannot thank all of you or your families enough."
On one level, this is not good news, a loss made keener by the fact that we see so few people like Pat in positions of celebrity these days. On the other hand, Pat's whole life was a form of good news. I'm sad beyond words that he died. And very, very glad that he lived.
Scott at Demosophia has a measured and thoughtful response to Henley's Grand Plan up on his site.
Check it out.
My friend Donald Sensing is definitely in a groove with his latest series of posts:
"We are on the edge of the town..we see the minirets of the city and we hear the Immams sermons as they rail against us....good thing few here understand Arabic cause I can tell you the preachers weren't teaching the golden rule today. Morale, sky high...extra intensity..friends are on the line. the senior NCO's and officers here, feel the pull the most. They have served with or trained everyone on the line. The Corps is a small community. This is very personal."
Welcome! Our goal is to give you one power-packed briefing of insights, news and trends from the global War on Terror that leaves you stimulated, informed, and occasionally amused every Monday & Thursday. Today's "Winds of War" is brought to you by Dan Darling. of Regnum Crucis.
Other Topics Today Include: Iraq Briefing; Iran Reports; Afghan police arrest Hekmatyar lieutenant; LeT forms medical unit; al-Ghamdi still dead; Ingushetia Wahhabi leader killed; 12 dead in Algeria so far in April; Abu Sayyaf goes back to being an Islamic Movement; Jordanian police kill 3 terrorists; inner workings of the Salafi Jihad; mafia linked to al-Qaeda; Mullah Krekar gets damages; and Muammar Qadaffi's legal reforms.
THE WIDER WAR
Earlier this week, unconfirmed reports surfaced claiming that Abu Walid al-Ghamdi, the leader of the International Islamic Peacekeeping Brigade, had been killed by Russian forces in Chechnya. Details of his demise are still sketchy, but according to this account by Kavkaz Center, the chief media outlet for the Chechen insurgents led by al-Qaeda leader Shamil Basayev, al-Ghamdi was shot in the back while preparing for prayer.
Who is this enigmatic Saudi commander? What is al-Qaeda's history in Chechnya, and what are their goals in the region? And how does al-Ghamdi's death affect the war on terrorism? This analysis will endeavor to answer these questions.
Brief background on al-Qaeda involvement in Chechnya
Al-Qaeda fighters first began arriving in Chechnya in 1991 when former Soviet Air Force General Jokar Dudayev declared independence from Russia. Many of the other Soviet republics had already broken free of Moscow's control by this point, and Dudayev likely figured that he had a good chance of duplicating their success, particularly in a region that has never had any love for Russian rule. It took the tsars decades to conquer Chechnya during the mid-1800s and during World War 2 Stalin deported the entire population to Siberia and Central Asia en masse over alleged collaboration with the Nazis, with the Chechens were not allowed to return home until 1957 when Khrushchev restored the Chechen-Ingush Autonomous SSR.
During the early part of the 1990s, al-Qaeda involvement of Chechnya was primarily limited to assisting their co-religionists in achieving independence from Russian rule and the organization does not appear to have held any direct influence or control over the upper echelons of the rebel hierarchy. That all changed, however, with the rise of Shamil Basayev to prominence within the rebel leadership.
As Sobaka notes (though I disagree with their unwillingness to admit Basayev's affiliation with the larger al-Qaeda network for reasons that will hopefully become clear from reading this analysis), Basayev was originally a commander in the breakaway Georgian region of Abkhazia before going on to assist in the Azeri war against Armenia over the disputed enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh. Al-Qaeda had a contingent of between 1,500-2,500 fighters assisting the Azeri military during the war it is quite probable that during this time Basayev first learned of al-Qaeda and became radicalized by the organization's ideology. Rohan Gunaratna's book Inside al-Qaeda (where much of this information comes from) states that Basayev was trained at an al-Qaeda camp in Afghanistan and my guess would be that it was during this time period that this took place. There also a number of reports stating that Basayev was trained at the Amir Muawia camp in Khost province of Afghanistan controlled by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and that upon graduation in July 1994 he met with senior members of the Pakistani military and the ISI.
At any rate, Basayev resurfaced again in 1995 as the leader of the al-Jihad Fisi Sabililah Special Islamic Regiment accompanied by a number of prominent Chechen radicals including crime boss Arbi Barayev and Amir ibn al-Khattab, a Saudi al-Qaeda leader who had previously fought in the Tajik Civil War. Thanks to Basayev's rise to prominence within Chechen circles as a result of his actions in Budennovsk, where his men held hundreds of civilians hostage at a hospital and thwarted a Russian commando raid to free them, al-Qaeda's involvement in Chechnya continued to grow and following the Dayton Peace Agreement many al-Qaeda fighters who had previously been killing Serbs in Bosnia traveled to Chechnya to assist their co-religionists in killing Russians.
Despite Basayev's rise to prominence in Chechen circles, he failed to win the newly de facto independent nation's presidency, instead accepting the post of prime minister. In the wake of the Russian withdrawl from Chechnya in November 1996, Basayev and al-Khattab established al-Qaeda training camps at Gudermes and Serzhen-Yurt as well as sending a steady flow of hundreds of Chechens to Afghanistan for further training, which is how so many of them ended up stationed at Kunduz and Mazar-e-Sharif in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom. Actual figures as to the numbers of trainees vary, but by the summer of 1999 there were enough for Basayev and al-Khattab to mount an invasion of neighboring Russian republic of Dagestan, leading to the beginning of the Second Chechen War.
Since al-Khattab's invasion of Dagestan and the subsequent Russian assault of Chechnya, the Chechen leadership has been increasingly dependent on foreign backing for assistance (Russia has at various times accused Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Lebanon of backing or financing the rebels) and hence became even more dependent on al-Qaeda for assistance. Predictably enough, all of the familiar al-Qaeda hallmarks appeared from suicide bombing to mass casualty attacks on civilian targets. For over two and a half years these connections were more or less ignored or pooh-poohed by Western policy-makers as the creation of Russian propagandists seeking to justify their nation's brutal conduct in Chechnya.
After the fall of the Taliban, however, dozens of al-Qaeda operatives fled to the Pankisi Gorge, a key stronghold for Basayev and al-Khattab's fighters, where they sought to establish an alternate base for the terrorist network with al-Khattab's assistance. Combined with the number of dead or captured Chechens in Afghanistan and the involvement of Chechen-trained al-Qaeda in terrorist plots in Europe, the connection could no longer be ignored.
In April 2002, al-Khattab, now the commander of the International Islamic Peacekeeping Brigade, was assassinated by the Russian FSB, the successor to the KGB, using a poisoned letter. In the interest of keeping the IIPB up and running as a viable force against the Russian military, another Saudi was appointed to lead the organization, one Abdul Aziz al-Ghamdi, better known as Abu Walid.
It is worth noting that Abu Walid's surname, al-Ghamdi, is shared by 3 of the 9/11 hijackers as well as the Saudi cleric who met with bin Laden while he gloating on videotape over the 9/11 attacks.
From Saudi Arabia to Chechnya
Being one of the most mysterious of the Chechen leaders, little information on Abu Walid's background was known prior to his death, leading to some speculation that he may not even exist or could even be many different men. According to this report (it's from Pravda, so it must be true), Abu Walid was originally from the Saudi city of Najran and served in the elite National Guard, which are responsible for the personal protection of members of the House of Saud. He is said to have met bin Laden during the late 1980s, which fits with reports of him being an Afghan Arab and possibly an early member of al-Qaeda as it grew out of the original Afghan Arab movement.
Fighting under al-Qaeda leader Abu Abd al-Aziz Barbaros's Kateebat al-Mujahideen Battalion of the Bosnian Third Army in the Balkans, Abu Walid distinguished himself to al-Qaeda's leadership and even sent a video to the organization's leaders in Afghanistan that depicted al-Qaeda fighters playing soccer with the severed heads of Serb soldiers.
In 1995, Abu Walid arrived in Chechnya as part of the al-Tanzim al-Haz association of the Muslim Brotherhood to spread Wahhabism in the Caucasus and according to a September 25, 2001 statement by the Russian foreign ministry, he was one of 5 senior Chechen commanders receiving direct financing from Osama bin Laden. Serving as al-Khattab's top lieutenant, Abu Walid was involved in much of the planning that led to the Chechen invasion of Dagestan and is accused by the Russian government of orchestrating the 1999 apartment bombings in Moscow. Nor was his involvement with Khattab limited to merely Dagestan - during the First Chechen War, he had taken in part in one of the al-Khattab's more famous attacks in which Chechen insurgents successfully ambushed a column of the 245th Motorized Rifle Regiment in April 1996.
Unlike al-Khattab, who was quite familiar with the uses of video propaganda and frequently gave interviews to the jihadi and international media, Abu Walid was far more reclusive and less accessible to the media. What he lacked in terms of visibility, however, he more than made up for in body counts. As a result, after al-Khattab's death in the spring of 2002, he was the natural choice to succeed him as the leader of the IIPB.
The first major terrorist attack attributed to Abu Walid was the suicide bombing of the headquarters of the pro-Russian government in Grozny in December 2002, which was masterminded by one of Abu Walid's deputies, Abu Tariq (Abu Tarik). Evidence of Abu Walid's considerable financial connections can be seen in this raid in Ingushetia in which Russian troops seized upwards of $2,000,000 worth of weapons, explosives, and equipment. My suspicion is that it was this development that prompted Russia to up the bounty on Abu Walid's head to $100,000 (3,000,000 roubles). If the rising bounty on his head appears to have worried Abu Walid, there is no visible sign of it - he was on al-Jazeera just months later threatening attacks throughout Russia.
In December 2003, Abu Walid carried out his threat, bombing a hotel in Moscow. It is interesting to note that a spokesman for the Russian interior ministry identified Abu Walid's financier as Abu Omar As-Sayf, a member of al-Qaeda's ruling council whose name has shown up in the past calling for attacks on US forces in Iraq. One of As-Sayf's couriers, Madina Atabayeva, was captured with $180,000 in cash on him. RIA Novosti via Pravda is reporting that al-Qaeda has set aside as much as $10,000,000 for the Chechen insurgents this year, roughly 1/8 of what Iran has reportedly pumped into Sadr.
Finally, Abu Walid is believed to have masterminded the most recent attack on the Moscow metro prior to his death. It was this attack that truly put made him a renowned international terrorist and led the Christian Science Monitor to list him alongside Abu Musab Zarqawi and Abdul Aziz al-Muqrin as part of the next generation of al-Qaeda leaders. Shortly after the metro attack, Abu Walid again took to al-Jazeera, threatening further violence if Russia re-elected Vladimir Putin. While the outcome of Russian election was never in doubt, I suspect that Abu Walid was laying the justifications for future terrorist attacks against Russian targets.
Freedom Fighters? Think again.
One of the things that must be understood regarding the current mentality of the Chechen al-Qaeda affiliates that is frequently misunderstood by Western analysts is that they are not simply fighting for their independence against Russian occupation of their homeland - they plan on spreading Wahhabism throughout the Caucasus. Nowhere is this better highlighted than in a Kavkaz Interview with Amir Ramzan, the commander of one of Chechen jamaats (Chechen al-Qaeda contingents) fighting in the North Caucasus, makes this much quite clear:
From your words I can assume that you operate not only in Chechnya but all over the North Caucasus.
Yes, very much so. Not only we carry out raids to various areas in the Caucasus, but we also form local Jama’ats, militant sabotage groups locally. We are joined by a lot of Kabardinians, Dagestanis, Karachaevans, Ingushetians and even Ossetians (Muslims).
That means that those in Russia who say that you want to create a caliphate in the Caucasus from sea to sea, are right?
Yes, it is so. Since they are unwilling to negotiate with us, then we’ll be doing what we can. And there is a lot we can do. Next year the war will seize the entire Caucasus from the Caspian Sea to the Black Sea. Apart from Ossetia and Ingushetia, this year another guerrilla war has already started in two areas of Dagestan bordering Chechnya. I swear by Allah, this is only the beginning. Russian authorities are well aware of this and this is why they are trying to organize formations of the local residents in the area who could resist us effectively. Similar process is taking place in Chechnya. But it will come to absolutely nothing. Having reached a certain level of confrontation inside Chechnya, Russia will sooner or later have to withdraw its troops beyond the Terek River, for instance. In that case we will need no more than two weeks to destroy all the pro-Russian puppet formations.
One might well keep in mind that what holds true for the mentality of the Chechen al-Qaeda is likely to hold true of their comrades-in-arms in Iraq as well.
In conclusion ...
While Abu Walid was directly tied to any specific attacks on American targets, this was more a matter of geography than it was ideology or intent. As an Afghan-trained Saudi al-Qaeda leader, he personified al-Qaeda's influence within the Chechen hierarchy, an influence that has by and large succeeded in transforming the Chechen struggle for independence into a jihad dedicated to the establishment of a Wahhabi theocracy in the Caucasus. While there is a great deal of entirely legitimate and necessary if not obligatory criticism regarding what the Russians have done and continue to do in Chechnya, the death of Abu Walid has served to deliver justice to his hundreds of innocent victims - this man is responsible for more deaths in the last five years than Sheikh Ahmed Yassin was during his entire career. As such, one can only hope that his death brings a sense of justice to his many victims as well as hope that his removal from the gene pool will bring the Second Chechen War closer to an end.
A note on terminology: Some readers may object to my labeling Chechen leaders like Basayev, al-Khattab, or Abu Walid as "al-Qaeda leaders" - I certainly suspect that several of the sources used would. For me, this is a fairly straight-forward matter and is largely a question of semantics. All 3 men are Wahhabi extremists who see no qualms about the use of organized violence against civilians in order to achieve political results, that much is clear. That their key financier is also a member of al-Qaeda's ruling council and that the organization has also received substantial financial, ideological, and logistical assistance from bin Laden is likewise reasonably clear, as is the role of Chechen-trained al-Qaeda in terrorist activities in the Middle East and Western Europe. Given that who holds the purse strings is generally the ultimate means of determining who one is working for, I see nothing wrong with calling a spade a spade.
"A Grand Strategy for the Rest - The Unqualified Offerings Plan, not just for Iraq but for terrorism generally:OK, that makes sense. The problem of course is that - as in the oldest known form of drama, tragedy - the trouble we're paying for was borrowed generations ago. There's no 'ollie ollie oxen free'; no Original Position. So as a game-theory concept, it makes lots of sense. As a basis for real-world policy, it makes very little.
1) Stop borrowing trouble
2) "Wait" for the people behind the trouble we've already borrowed to get old and tired or die off outright.Right. First Rawls, then Kuhn; a full plate of philosophy's Greatest Hits. Sadly, the dynamics are little more complex than that. Yes, the changes are large largely generational, but - a big but - the dynamics making the new generation take positions can't be reset to zero, there are consequences for disengagement, and so there's little but hope that would lead one to believe that - absent some positive act - the next generations will be happier to coexist than the last.
No, they don't "hate us because we're free." Or put it this way, they may hate us because we're free, but very, very, very few people can get worked up enough about our freedom to dedicate themselves to ending it - absent concrete American interference in their business. There's a big difference between hating someone and troubling to cross the world to try to kick their ass.Well, there are two problems.
I want to be perfectly clear that this policy does not instantly remove all dangers. The first law of organizations is self-perpetuation. The existing anti-American terrorist organizations, like Al Qaeda, are not going to call off their jihad just because we pull out of Iraq and Saudi Arabia and stop writing blank checks to the Likud. But absent fresh humiliations, fewer and fewer young Muslim men will find the tired old call to yet more jihad worth heeding.What humiliations, exactly, did he have in mind? Because I think he's forgetting that OBL is talking about ancient colonial history, and battles in Andalusia and at the gates of Vienna. These folks have a much better sense of history than we do.
"Wait" is in scare quotes because it sounds more passive than the policy I intend. For one thing, I would continue to harry the men and organization behind the September 2001 atrocities to the ends of the earth. "Don't Tread on Me" is my policy, and that's what Al Qaeda did. Bite back hard. At the same time, don't pretend that everyone on earth doesn't respond to the same impulse - go tromping in the dens of others and they will bite back too. This country's conservatives of old were smarter about this kind of thing: they didn't think they were the only conservatives in the world. They didn't imagine that you could deploy trooin 150-odd countries without provoking a reaction. They wouldn't imagine that the reaction was noble, but they respected the force of nature that is the essential conservatism of the planet.How the hell do we do this, given that we're supposed to leave the Arab countries alone? Sneak in and assassinate them? Use Predators and Hellfires? Does he think that the Arab world won't freaking notice when these guys suddenly start turning up dead? How does he think the sovereign countries that we're supposed to be so sensitive to will react when we kidnap or kill their citizens or guests without their consent?
For another thing, I believe the American system, as conceived if not always as practiced, is deeply attractive. So let's be American. Let's be free, for one thing. Kill the excresences on the Constitution the current administration as brought forth - the PATRIOT Act, the evisceration of habeas corpus, the asserted power to unreviewably revoke citizenship and declare someone an enemy combatant. Let's trade and travel and welcome visitors to our shores. Let us, in other words, have the faith that we are our own best advertisement. Thence comes your Muslim reformation.Yes it is, and here for once we're largely in agreement. We're not selling what we've got, because in no small part, we're not living it.
"About those visitors. An obvious trend presents itself: young Muslim students who come to the West for a specifically technical education, who become radicalized politically by a poisonous combination of culture shock, homesickness, youthful hormones and - ironically - insularity (isolating themselves among other young Muslim men). America's university's are the glory of our educational system. And from what I've read, our graduate technical departments depend on a steady stream of foreign students to keep afloat. But I'd make it a requirement of a student visa that recipients take a heavy dose of humanities, especially American studies courses. I'd also have the State Department screen applicants better, though this would probably be of limited use. (I think the salient problem is students who are moderate at home and become radicals here.) Will cramming humanistic education down the throats of engineering students do any good? The college I dropped out of thinks so. MIT always bragged that it had the toughest humanities requirements of any elite school, glossing over the fact that it had to: it's the only way most of its students would take those courses. I don't for a moment believe the humanities requirement would convince every foreign student to love the United States. But it will help engage them with American culture in an open, nonviolent way. If nothing else, it's an opportunity to let off steam.Humanities like the Palestinian Studies courses they teach at Berkeley? Henley doesn't realize or chooses not to see that it is a strong strain of self-hatred in the West that is reflected and amplified into Islamist hatred of the West. They've read Fanon, too. They took our own doubts and anger, planted them in much more fertile soil, and are growing the hate that we are dealing with now.
What about the oil? Buy it, same as we do now. Who's not going to want to sell it to us? Saddam Hussein himself would have sold us all the oil we could use, absent sanctions. You can't eat the stuff. It doesn't even make a good salad dressing.Right. But as noted, they think we're screwing them by buying it, and we're supporting a kleptocracy in so doing.
What about Iraq? Bring the major players together in one room - anyone with a constituency. Tell them, "fellas, we're out of here in time for Christmas. Start talking. You've got a chance to make your country something much better than you could have imagined. Or you can turn it into hell on earth. It'll be your doing one way or another." Stop paying non-Iraqis to do work Iraqis can do.Right. You're on your own kids! Have fun storming the castle!! Declare victory and leave. That's a good plan. Our failure (of intention, planning, and execution) in Vietnam had significant negative consequences for our foreigh and domestic policies for decades.
Who will defend Iraq against its neighbors? Look at the place now. If you were the neighbors, would you want to bite that off? The real military estimated it would take a half-million US trooto secure the joint. You think Iran or Syria or Turkey dare to even try to scraup that kind of manpower?Hang on. Here we go again with the 'please pound the hell out of them - but do it while you leave them alone'. I think he has a different meaning for 'leave them alone' than I do.
What if Iraq becomes a weak state complete with Al Qaeda training camand weapons labs? See scare quotes around "wait" and the part about harrying the people behind the attacks on the US to the ends of the earth, above. If camset uwe pound hell out of them. It's not like we don't know how to bomb Iraq.
What About Israel and the Palestinians? Pull them in and tell them two things. 1) Israel will be paying its own way from now on. They can have what military equipment they can buy. 2) But we also will not be restraining them from any action they may wish to take to safeguard what they imagine to be their security. If they really want to kill Yasser Arafat, we're not going to stop them. If they want to nuke Tehran, that's Tehran's lookout. Concentrates the mind. But Israel will have to stand on its own two feet, financially and politically. If Israel can't survive as an independent country without ceaseless American financial aid and political backing, then Israel has failed as a refuge for the Jewish people - it's simply a different version of the very dependence on powerful patrons that the early Zionists were trying to get beyond. I think Israel can survive, with prudent leadershiIronically, the key to the survival of the Jewish people is actually the diaspora: it's much harder to exterminate the Jews if they aren't conveniently gathered in one place.So the end of Israel is AOK with our friend Jim; after all, the disapora will make sure that Jews survive. Who needs the only functioning pro-Western democracy in the Middle East? Ignoring the moral issues, this announcement is the trigger to the nuclear war scenario Trent seems to anticipate in the post below.
Some have feared that anti-Israeli terror grouwould make the US actually evicting Israel's Jews by armed force the price of peace. We would refuse, of course, and destroy those grouif they messed with us. See "Don't Tread on Me," above.So first off, we've just frozen the political sphere, saying we'll support existing governments against rebels no matter what our interests may be. And we'll send out trooabroad to die - as long as a) they're attacking terrorists within countries (who will sit by and let our troooperate freely without military or diplomatic consequence); or b) it's not in our interest, but some higher calling.
What about cooperation against international terror? I'm for it. For instance, I favor using American law to interdict fundraising and organizing for Hamas, Lashkar, the Tamil Tigers and the IRA within the United States. "Terrorism" will be strictly defined as war crimes by non-state actors, so say that we'll suppress fundraising for any armed rebellion - it's bad international relations juju. For the duration of our Al Qaeda problem, I'd keep bases at Diego Garcia, in Turkey, Oman and Qatar and Afghanistan. I'd be willing to provide American trooto help overmatched foreign governments against anti-American terror grouin their midst, but I'd do due diligence to make sure we weren't just being suckered into settling someone else's quarrel for them.
What about NATO? Remember when you were a kid, and you had a really good friend, so you started hanging out together constantly, and staying over at each other's house all the time and suddenly you realized you were really getting on each other's nerves? That's us and continental Europe. And the way Iraq is going, I think there's a good chance it's us and Great Britain within one to five years. We all need some quiet time to ourselves, in a politico-military way.Yes, it's America First, all over again. Let me go get my Lucky Lindy button...
What about Korea? Something like 50% of the South Korean population lives within artillery range of the North. I don't recall recommending that settlement pattern, do you? On the theory that South Koreans aren't stupid, I take it to indicate their true estimate of the danger from the North. South Korea is a rich, powerful country that can afford as much defense as it needs. Nevertheless, North Korea has to be watched carefully, since it is desperately poor and either on the verge of becoming a nuclear power or already one. We tell Kim Jong-Il that if he so much as glances in the direction of anyone remotely associated with Osama bin Laden, including the Pakistani ISI or the "government" of Saudi Arabia, we will make his country look like a jamboree of Osirak reenactors. And if we get the idea that he's trying to sell a nuke, we will provide him more than one of our own.The Godfather defense. Right. If my kid catches a cold...I'll kill you. How do we do this with a high enough standard of proof to satisfy a Congressional hearing after the fact? How do we show that KJI is actually running a sale on tactical nukes? Do we rely on the classified ads?
That's more or less the Grand Disengagement at a high level. Like I said, I see it taking a generation for the aftershocks to subside. That is, I'm solving the terror problem in no more time than the "reconstruct the entire Middle East" hawks, for a lot less money, with a lot less ammo and preserving a lot more freedom here. If they hate us because we're free, they'll really fucking hate us when I'm done.Excethat it won't solve the terror problem, it will make it worse. It will either leave terrorists free to operate with impunity or trigger wars with nations whose soverignty we violate to 'hammer the bad guys' as we chase them to the ends of the earth.
What if there's another catastrophic terror attack? That will really suck. It will be important to summon up the resolve to stay the courseif that happens. Look, there are no guarantees in life. And if we get attacked tomorrow, do you think the uberhawks will tell you that this proves they were wrong all along? No. They'll say it proves how urgent it is that we reconstruct the entire Middle East and probably Venezuela when we get a chance, and they'll remind us that it's going to take a generation. Like I said before, Fine, but then non-interventionism gets a generation too. And then a third one, and a fourth one? And then we lose patience and nuke the fuckers...and we've brought my nightmare to life; we're genoicidal killers. Because Mr. Henley and his crew want to have clean hands while they live in the world.
It takes time for things to play out. The atrocities of September 11, 2001, were in many ways the culmination of two taste treats that decidedly did not go together - the US buildup of militant Islam against the Soviet Union in the latter days of the Cold War and Phase I and II of the US War Against Iraq. (Now in Phase IV.) Phase III of the Iraq War - the invasion that began in March 2003 - was the sort of hideous foreign policy mistake that a country simply can't avoid paying for in numerous ways. Pulling out will lead to a loss of prestige and will embolden our enemies. For a time. Dragging things out another year or five will cost even more prestige and foster even more emboldening. But we are not looking at the Apocalypse either. Losing Vietnam cost us prestige and emboldened our enemies. Within five years we were tightly cooperating with one of those enemies (China) against the other, and within 15, the other (the USSR) was no more. We cut and ran and won. The Soviet Union stayed the course in Afghanistan and bled to death.Aha. It's our fault. Then again, to many, everything in the world is the fault of the West; kind of like those for whom everything in the world is their parent's fault.
The charity fundraising challenge is on across the blogosphere, though the refocusing of Michele's blog has led to a few changes in the rosters. The Command Post has the details, and explains how you can help.
The moral and financial scandal at the heart of the United Nations continues to deepen. At least 3 senior U.N. officials are suspected of taking multi-million dollar bribes from the Saddam Hussein regime, and documents have surfaced that link U.N. Undersecretary General Benon Sevan and 270 prominent foreign officials to a scheme that allowed them to trade in Iraqi oil at cut-rate prices.
Instapundit summarizes the ABC News roundup, and links on where you can find even more. Roger L. Simon, a U.N. supporter who has covered UNSCAM diligently from Day 1, believes this is a crisis point for the organization - and links to a new blog that will focus on covering this issue. Austin Bay, a U.N. supporter who has seen its humanitarian works first hand in the field, has more (Hat Tip: Instapundit):
"So many of the self-righteous left still scream about "blood for oil" and maliciously accuse the United States of toppling Saddam in order to secure petroleum supplies. The truth is otherwise. Oil for Food lined the pockets of Saddam, his international political supporters, and corporate cronies, and that oil was paid for, hour by hour, with the blood of Iraqis slaughtered by his brutal regime."
Or, in other words, blood for oil - to prominent international "anti-war" forces, and to the U.N. itself in return for managing this corrupt mess. Disgusting.
Another year, another naqba. I told you we were just messing with your head over the Game 7 thing, as our cunning plan was put into action. While our baseball team distracted you by heroically sacrificing itself in its game against your Crimson Jihad, the Ottawa
Senators Shaheeds were sent to their 4th straight early playoff exit by our Toronto Maple Leafs.
Outshot 238-154 in the series? We laugh at such things. Again and again the Shaheeds demand - nay, beg - for hockey martyrdom. Again and again, we grant it to them. Are we not generous, O Divine Blogging One?
Truly, they must feel blessed by Allah. Just like your Crimson Jihad. And the Cubs, of course.
O Great and Blessed One - do you think you could see your way clear to supporting the Philadelphia Flyers in Round 2? I've heard from reliable sources that flyers are supposed to be a particular favourite of yours...
Other Topics Today Include: South African elections reaction; Rwanda remembered; War on Terror update; Libya liberalizing (?); the continuing DDT debate; the final resting place of used clothing.
South African elections
Several bloggers noted the 10 year anniversary of the Rwandan genocide during which nearly a million Rwandans were slaughtered.
War on Terror
Ever wonder what happens to all of that used clothing--like all the stuff that doesn't ever get sold at Goodwill? Well, as Ethan Zuckerman discusses, a lot of it ends up in Africa. He seems to think this is a bad thing, but Kenyan Pundit disagrees.
I report, you decide.
Naaah... this one's way too easy.
Jeffrey Harrow discusses technology trends, and where they're taking us:
"Larger than a dust mote (but not by much); inexpensive to manufacture and distribute and deploy; millions, and later billions and trillions of them -- virtually everywhere. They will be sowed as if by the four winds, lodging into clothing, tennis balls, tools, passports, car keys, car VIN plates, books, banknotes, pamphlets, and letters. They will become pervasive. And wherever one is, someone will know. (Or at least will have the potential to know.)
This is not a futuristic discussion of nanobots or other bleeding-edge technologies; this is instead the likely results for the lineage of already commercially deployed "Radio Frequency Identification Tags" (RFID Tags) which seem poised to replace today's retail "UPC Bar Codes."
You might also want to peruse this reader comment, which follows my favourite rule and asks "how could this technology be used by criminals and others outside the law?"
Future Brief is a new site that offers brief summaries and other resources to help people, especially those on The Hill who form national policy, to keep up on technological innovations -- but with an added twist. The site "takes one step back and looks at the greater convergence of the accelerating changes in science and technology, with the equally rapidly accelerating changes in society and politics." Expect more links to their work here at Winds of Change.NET.
UPDATE: Tim Oren of Pacifica VC comments: "I'm here to tell you that the situation is actually both worse and better than that."
This one comes from the Baghdadee forum:
"Saddam's Mosqu's Khateeb "Shiekh Ali" dies and waits in line at the "Janna" Gates. Just ahead of him is a guy in casual shalwar (the loose outfit worn in the Middle East, Pakistan, et. al.). Malak (angel) addresses this guy, "Who are you, so that I may know whether or not to admit you to Heaven?"
The guy replies, "I'm Kaka Ali, Mini Bus driver from Kefri, Iraq."
Malak consults his list, smiles and says to Kaka Ali, "Enter into the Kingdom."
So the Iraqi driver enters Heaven and the Sheikh Ali is next in line. He stands erect. Without being asked, he proclaims, "I am Sheikh Ali Imam of Jama in Baghdad for the last 33 years during the Saddam God bless him!"
Malak consults his list and says, "I'm sorry, you're on the waiting list. You have to pass some tests before you get entry to the Kingdom of Heaven."
Shikh says, "Just a minute. That man was a Mini Bus driver, and you issued him instant entry! But I have to go through more tests. How can this be? Please double check the names."
Malak says, "Up here, Imam, we go by results. While you preached, people slept; while he drove, people prayed."
Now there's a joke that would work in a lot of other places, from Egypt, Israel and Iran to Quebec and even Latin America. Definitely a good one to have on call if you travel abroad.
Winds of Change.NET Regional Briefings run on Tuesdays & Wednesdays, and sometimes Fridays too. This Regional Briefing focuses on Central Asia & the Caucasus, courtesy of Nathan Hamm of The Argus. Nathan served in Peace Corps Uzbekistan from 2000-2001.
Other Topics Today Include: Much More on the Tashkent Bombings; Georgia's Parliamentary Elections; The Ajarian Thorn in Georgia's Side; I Love You Turkmenbashi!; Armenia Protests; China's Designs on Central Asia; When Congressmen Get Involved in Custody Cases; Sgt. Hook: Live From a Mountaintop in Afghanistan; Coolio Comes to Baku; and, Much More.
TERROR IN UZBEKISTAN
It is the nature of men that when faced with an impending doom, they will do something, anything, to avert it, even if that brings doom down upon themselves sooner and more surely then if they had done nothing. Such was the case in ancient Greek tragedies. So it was with the World War Two Nazis and Imperial Japanese. So it is now with Iran's Mullahocracy in their "spoiling attack" on America in Iraq.
Dan Darling, Michael Ledeen, and Wretchard of Belmont Club (here and here) have all recently gone on documenting at length the size and scope of the Iranian and Iranian hired Syrian attacks in Iraq, and in Ledeen's case what needs to be done about it. What they haven't done is explain the wider pattern in terms of the Iranian objectives for their spoiling attack.
A spoiling attack in military terms is when one side attacks the other while it is preparing to launch an offensive in hopes that its attack will disrupt and or permanently delay the inevitable. Spoiling attacks are normally aimed at major boundaries between units or forces as this causes the most confusion due to separate chains of command stepping all over each other trying to coordinate their superior forces to deal with the attack.
Napoleon was famous for winning this way over over. A modern and less successful example was World War Two's Battle of the Bulge, wherein Hitler intended to separate the British from their American allies and take back the major seaport of Antwerp. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor exploited the "unit boundary" split in America's Pacific chain of command between the Army and the Navy over the defense of Hawaii, and let them run wild for six months in the Pacific.
In Iraq we are seeing multiple "unit boundaries" struck by the Iranian inspired attacks at once. America's Spanish, Ukrainian, Polish, Bulgarian, and Italian allies have all been struck by either the Ba'athist remnants or the Sadr militia with the result being that the Spanish Socialist government is cutting and running. Many private military corporations have been hit with K.B.R., for example, suffering 30 dead, missing, or captured for future 'snuff video' production.
The ultimate "unit boundary" that the Iranians are striking isn't tactical, operational or even in Iraq. It is strategic - the "unit boundary" between American Presidential Administrations.
The Mullahs' Goal
Iran's Mullahocracy has been America's enemy since 1979. They have learned that America alternates between weak/malleable and strong/bold executive leadership, having faced both Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan. The former President it held hostage for over a year while the latter President traded arms for hostages, then turned around and broke the Mullah's will to fight against Iraq with a "secret" naval war, the downing of an Iranian Airbus by an Aegis cruiser and intelligence assistance for Saddam's reconquest of the Iranian Al Faw peninsula with chemical weapons.
The one thing the Mullahs have leaned in all of this is that American Presidential Administrations have an extremely difficult time doing new foreign policy or national security policy an election year or during the first six months of a new Administration. They are now taking advantage of this to strike, and hopefully cripple, the Bush Administration's reelection chances or failing that make America abandon its plan to democratize Iraq and destabilize their theocracy.
As Amir Taheri notes in the New York Post:
"The Iranian analysis is simple: The Americans do not have the political stamina to stay the course in Iraq. Negative polls could force President Bush to withdraw his troops into bases in the Iraqi desert, allowing the cities to fall under the control of Iraqi armed groups.
In such a scenario, pro Saddam groups would seize control of the so called Sunni Triangle while Shiite groups beholden to Iran would dominate central and southern Iraq, leaving the Kurds cantoned in their two mountainous enclaves.
The Tehran leadership is also certain that John Kerry, if elected, will abandon Bush's plans for a "democratic" Middle East. "The United States has become vulnerable," Rafsanjani told his cheering audience in Tehran. "The Americans do not know which way to turn."
Behind the scenes of revolt in parts of Iraq lies the broader picture of the war that various brands of Islamism have waged against the United States for almost a quarter of a century.
Tehran leaders believe that the U.S. defeat in Vietnam enabled China to establish itself as the rising power in Asia. They hope that a U.S. defeat in Iraq will give the Islamic Republic a similar opportunity to become what Rafsanjani calls "the regional superpower."
The Khomeinist mullahs believe that an American defeat in Iraq will destabilize all Arab regimes, leaving the Islamic Republic as the only power around which a new status quo could be built in the region. "Here is our opportunity to teach the Americans a lesson," Rafsanjani said."
In short, the Iranians mean to defeat America, "Lebanonize" Iraq and dominate its various factions. Al Sadr was only the first Iranian sock puppet. There will be many others. Iraq cannot be pacified as long as terrorists attack us from secure bases in Iran, and the mullahs are both providing those and funding terrorists against us, including Al Qaeda as well as Al Sadr.
4th Generation Warfare
As Joe's piece on "Iran's Great Game" noted, the mullahs correctly believe they have to do this to retain power in Iran. America's goal of creating a successful democracy in mostly Shiite Iraq means the end of the mullahs' rule in Iran - they can't keep their own people from making religious pilgrimages to Shiite holy sites in Iraq, which means they can't stop the effects on their own unsettled population. Democracy next door is an immediate threat to tyranny. Russia's former Communist regime created the Iron Curtain to block freedom in Western Europe from menacing their Communist tyranny in Eastern Europe.
Joe Katzman and a number of others have made much of "4th Generation Warfare" and "asymmetric attack" as a way for the weak to defeat the strong. The key thing about the concept is that the stronger party has to submit to the ground rules of the weaker party in order to be defeated.
America does not have to play by those rules if it doesn't want to, so why are we?
First, Kerry and the Democrats want to believe that 9/11/2001 didn't happen and that everything wrong in the world is Bush's fault. They are worse than useless in facing up to the Iranians.
Bush on the other hand is playing the part of the Wizard of Oz, telling us not to see the Iranian Mullah behind the Iraqi curtain until after the election. When it comes to political choices about the war and the Presidential election, a friend of mine put it this way:
"Given a choice between a f*** up whose heart is in the right place and a Hamlet who hasn't got a program, Americans are gonna go with the f*** up."
So where does that leave the rest of us? Demanding "Faster, Please" will not cut it.
More than Iraq is at stake here there are other players, notably Israel.
Iran's mullahs are developing nuclear weapons, which they view as a magic shield against America and a sword to destroy the Jewish state. They have made overt threats to nuke Israel as soon as they have nuclear weapons, and said they believe Iran would survive any exchange of nukes with Israel. The mullahs do not at all understand that their inflammatory rhetoric intended for domestic political effect has a whole new meaning for other countries when backed up with nuclear weapons.
This brings up the following question:
Does anyone doubt for a moment that Israel will, absolutely, positively WILL preemptively destroy Iranian nuclear facilities, with nukes if necessary, to prevent another holocaust?
Since Iran has taken steps to see that an Israeli conventional air attack, such as that against Osirak, Iraq http://www.fas.org/nuke/guide/iraq/facility/osiraq.htm can't work, Israel must use nuclear ground bursts, producing highly radioactive short term fallout, against Iran's hardened nuclear facilities.
But it won't be just against those. The remorseless logic of nuclear conflict with an irrational opponent will force Israel to eliminate Iran as a strategic threat for the long term. That entails hitting more targets than just those currently known to be working on Iranian nuclear weapons.
A Democratic President would create this worst of all possible worlds, where pre-emptive nuclear attack is used as a tool of state policy. It is not a world we want to live in.
Iranian casualties (@10 - 20% will be dead) would range from several hundred thousand to several million, depending on the target set, weapons selection and local weather patterns. In short, welcome to the world of Wretchard's "Three Conjectures." The EMP from this attack (high altitude bursts to disrupt Iranian C3I) will affect American forces in the area, including in Iraq, and devastate Persian Gulf oil production.
It is therefore unlikely that the USA will let this happen by doing nothing. A friend I spoke to thinks that Iran will have domestic nuclear weapon production capability by spring 2006. I agree. He is also in print that nuclear weapons will be used in anger by 1 Jan 2006 unless we invade Iran first. The only way I can see to prevent this future from coming to pass is with the near term conquest of Iran.
Bush will do this in time, if reelected. Kerry won't. Even Thomas Friedman of the New York Times recognizes the willingness of Bush foreign policy to destroy unacceptable status quos.
Given the certainty of Israel's nuclear preemptive attack on Iran, I don't see America waiting for an Iranian revolution. We will do it ourselves no later than my friend's fall/winter 2005 prediction. We both feel that the deal between Sharon and Bush on this has already been made. If a successful Iranian revolution makes the invasion unnecessary, fine, but we won't take the risk of delay.
Iran is at war with us whether or not we want to be at war with them. Nukes are on the table now, and they are not our nukes. We are on a count down to invasion to keep the nuclear genie from escaping.
Much more is at stake in November's presidential election than President Bush is willing to admit.
April 18-19 is Yom Ha'Shoah, Holocaust Day.
Thanks, Michele. Feel better!
Paul Berman has an oped up in the New York Times that summarizes my position on the election and the current situation in Iraq brilliantly. His concluding sentence:
This is not a project for after the election ... this is a project for right now. America needs allies. Today, and not just tomorrow. And America needs leaders. If the Bush administration cannot rally support around the world, let other people give it a try.
Meet my blogging theme for the next month.
Welcome! Our goal is to give you one power-packed briefing of insights, news and trends from the global War on Terror that leaves you stimulated, informed, and occasionally amused every Monday & Thursday. Today we also have a separate Winds of War briefing, covering the global War on Terror. Today's "Winds of War" is brought to you by Dan Darling. of Regnum Crucis.
Other Topics Today Include: Reports from the front lines; Iraqi politics & economy; The international stage; WMD.
Reports from the Front Lines
Iraqi Politics & Economy
The International Stage
Welcome! Our goal is to give you power-packed briefings of insights, news and trends from the global War on Terror that leave you stimulated, informed, and occasionally amused every Monday & Thursday. Today we also have a separate in-depth Iraq Report. and both reports are brought to you by Dan Darling of Regnum Crucis.
Other Topics Today Include: Iran Reports; al-Qaeda wins round 1 in Waziristan; Pakistani tribals unite for terrorist hunt; LeT is the new al-Qaeda trainer post-Afghanistan; Taliban kill 10 in hit-and-run attack; Hekmatyar lieutenant captured; Zarqawi lieutenant ordered 3/11; David Hicks requested to serve as suicide bomber; Australian medical student arrested as LeT member; Saudi grand mufti issues fatwa on Fallujah; new al-Qaeda recruits in Saudi Arabia; JI hideouts identified in North Cotabato; Tunisia thwarts bomb plots; and the Star Trek communicator becomes a reality.
THE WIDER WAR
2001-2003. 3 years, 3 playoff hockey series, Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Ottawa Senators. 3 series losses for the Sens... and counting. Ottawa has outplayed the Leafs in many of these games, but the will of fate is adamantine. Again and again, they have snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. So it is once again in 2004, as the Senators faced elimination last night in Game 6.
There can be only one explanation for all this - the Sens have been blessed by AllahPundit.
Surely, nothing else can explain such consistent futility. And how could the Infinite Blogger not love a team representing the politicians and bureaucrats in Ottawa, willing friends to all manner of terrorists, who were nonetheless content to let AllahPundit's beloved Saudis torture Canadian citizen William Sampson without significant protest? Now add red uniforms, helmets, and a penchant for violence; and you have worthy counterparts to his beloved Crimson Jihad in Boston!
And we all know what that means....
UPDATE: 2-1 Senators, in double overtime. You know we're just messing with your head by taking it to Game 7, don't you Big Guy?
Swept at home by the Detroit Tigers. Swept at home by the Baltimore Orioles. That's 0-6 to start the season at home, the Toronto Blue Jays worst start in history. This team is showing us nothing. No consistent starting pitching, no dependable relief, no offense, unrealiable to poor defense, stupid baserunning mistakes, and a consistent stream of mental errors that may not make the "E" column, but cost us all the same.
Take this recent home series (please!) 0 hits in 11 at bats with runners in scoring position over the last 2 games. Embarassing scores of 11-2 and 7-0, and one we lost 5-3 when we allowed 2 runs in the 9th. The crowd was booing today. The crowd should have been booing today. The whole game was just painful to watch.
The Batters Box has a valid point when it says (in rhyme) that all is not lost. Still, every game counts - and the Toronto Blue Jays are playing like a last place team on all levels. It's bad, bad baseball. This team should be better than that.
On the one hand, TBB is right. There's really no alternative but to stick with the plan (for the first half of the season, at least), see what we have this year, and try to identify some more building blocks that will make us competitive in 2005-2007. On the other hand, reputations tend to stick - and the 2004 team is building one that will make it hard to bring fans back to the SkyDome this year.
Another genocidal Hamas leader, another missile, another funeral. Goodbye Rantissi. Good shot!
AllahPundit has just posted the "Help Wanted" sign again. My thoughts? I think I'll just let my little friends from Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory do the talking:
Oompa Loompa doompadee doo
I've got another puzzle for you
Oompa Loompa doompadah dee
If you are wise you will listen to me...
Who do you blame when your kids are all crazed?
Killed to please others like old Baalite days
Training for murder and genocide, hate
Paid by dictators to keep their lives great
A useful distraction!
Oompa Loompa doompadee dar
Civilized peoples tend to go far
Oompa Loompa doompadah dee
If you are wise you will listen to me
Who do you get when you head up Hamas?
Judenrein future by bombs and not gas?
We are so sorry to disappoint you
Jews will fire missiles into your car too.
Oompa Loompa doompadee doh
If you want a state then terror must go
You could live in happiness too
Like the Oompa Loompa doompadee do
And that's all I have to say about that.
A.L. is currently out doing the road trip thing, but he wanted y'all to know that Spirit of America raised USD $600,000 yesterday for its "Iraqi T.V." project, as a result of that Wall St. Journal article. Donations continue to come in, and they continue to be very welcome. This is an important mission.
Readers of our blog know that we've done a lot of work with Spirit of America, ever since Jim Hake sent me that Dec. 10 email inviting suggestions for the Marines and some help at Camp Pendleton. He got both, and he'll continue to get it. While we continue to publish and update our directory of ways to support the troops and people from many nations, Spirit of America has become the official cause/charity of our blog. Our involvement will continues to deepen - we are, to use my colleague Armed Liberal's words, "damn serious" about this.
On a personal note, there are other bloggers who have put a lot of time and effort into helping out in Iraq, through this effort and others. We've honoured Paul "Chief Wiggles" Holton, Michele Catalano, Dean Esmay and Matt Evans in a previous article - and Iraq remains a better place because of them. They are not alone.
To the bloggers, the donors, the volunteers, the Iraqis, and the Marines working to make Iraq a better place, our sincere thanks. We are, all of us, in this together.
[Update by A.L.: just want to point people to Dean Esmay, WizBang, or John Donovan, who will be having a competition to see who can raise more money toward SoA next week...may the best blogger(s) win!!]
"Finnessey, a statuesque 5-foot-11 blonde from St. Louis, wrote a book called "The Furrtails," as part of her aim to integrate mentally retarded children into regular classrooms. She has a master's degree in counseling and also plays piano and violin."
Which is great - but that's not the good news.
"A Republican, she told Reuters she would use her position to help explain America's involvement in Iraq. "What needed to be done had to be done," she said."
Nice, but unless we can convince her to do a Guest Column here on Winds of Change.NET, that isn't the good news either.
"At a party following the event, Fennessey described her social life as "totally single and looking."
Now THAT is some good news for y'all. Winds of Change.NET readers, start your engines!
UPDATE: ...or, as I note in the comments, nominate a comparable example.
The Sufis are schools of Islamic mystics with roots in many religious traditions, whose lessons are often communicated through humorous stories and mystical or romantic poetry. One of their most popular literary figures is Mulla Nasrudin, a "wise fool" everyman. IIn The Pleasantries of the Incredible Mulla Nasrudin, Idries Shah relates a Nasrudin tale for our times:
Mulla Nasrudin and his wife came home one day to find the house burgled. Everything portable had been taken away.The lessons here are obvious. Or are they?
'It is all your fault,' said his wife, 'for you should have made sure that the house was locked before we left.'
The neighbors took up the chant:
'You did not lock the windows,' said one.
'Why did you not expect this?' said another.
'The locks were faulty and you did not replace them,' said a third.
'Just a moment,' said Nasrudin,' -- surely I am not the only one to blame?'
'And who should we blame?' they shouted.'What about the thieves?' said the Mulla.
Exxon Mobil recently decided that sources of renewable energy weren't attractive enough to include in its near-term to medium term investment portfolio. Fred Cowans notes that others beg to differ.
I wonder what M. Simon thinks of all this...
As I've said, I'm a fan of Valentino Rossi, who bravely changed teams and is now racing Grand Prix motorcycles for Yamaha.
So here are Friday's MotoGP Qualifying Results From South African Grand Prix:
1. Valentino ROSSI, Yamaha, 1:33.353
2. Sete GIBERNAU, Honda, 1:33.378
3. Loris CAPIROSSI, Ducati, 1:33.709
4. Max BIAGGI, Honda, 1:33.730
5. Kenny ROBERTS, Suzuki, 1:33.841
6. Colin EDWARDS, Honda, 1:33.859
7. Marco MELANDRI, Yamaha, 1:34.100
8. Makoto TAMADA, Honda, 1:34.177
9. Nicky HAYDEN, Honda, 1:34.208
10. Carlos CHECA, Yamaha, 1:34.540
Note that Roberts, Edwards, and Hayden are all Americans (although Edwards is a Texan, so some may disagree...). It's like the 1970's again in MotoGP...
Catherine Belton of the Moscow Times had an interesting article yesterday about Russia's growing place in the global energy industry... and how it intends to leverage that position economically and politically.
Norm Geras has run profiles for a number of prominent bloggers, sending them questions and printing the answers. Today's the day for his "Joe Katzman Profile".
It's an eclectic set, from why I began blogging, to my solution for the UN (hint: it's 3 words long), to what books I'm reading, what I see as the big threats to the peace and security of the world over the next half century; even questions like what talent I'd most like to have and what animal I'd most like to be. So, if you want to know a bit more about the crazy guy who started this online hangout, head on over.
UPDATE: Here's the full text of my favourite poem: A.J.M. Smith's evocative "The Lonely Land."
Other Topics Today Include: Pakistan Becomes a MNNA, India Reacts, Enemy Within, Proliferation, Terrorism in South Asia; and more.
PAKISTAN AND INDIA
SOUTH AND SOUTH EAST ASIA
...well-deserved kudos to a guy who gets things done.
With turnout anticipated as high, President Thabo Mbeki’s ANC is expected to win its 3rd major electoral victory since the end of racially restricted voting in 1994. Though parties continue to be polarised by race and the country continues to struggle with high unemployment, this week’s elections reflect the striking consolidation of democracy that has taken place in South Africa since the fall of apartheid.
Interesting contested provinces in this year’s election include KwaZulu-Natal, which the ANC is hoping to wrest from the Zulu nationalist Inkatha Freedom Party, and the Western Cape, where the Democratic Alliance has been polling strongly.
While political violence has subsided greatly since 1994, violence still marked past elections: three people were killed in KwaZulu-Natal during the last elections, and parts of the province remain tense in this election cycle...
While he is expected to coast to an easy victory, President Mbeki has come under sharp criticism from opponents because of his repeated denials of both the extent to which AIDS has spread in South Africa, and of the existence of a link between the HIV virus and AIDS. Mbeki has been quoted as saying publicly “personally I don’t know anyone who has died of AIDS.” For its part, the opposition Democratic Alliance has promised free anti-retrovirals for all South Africans and hopes to increase its share of the vote.
South Africa presently is in an early nationalist phase of its political existence, with the ANC after securing an end to apartheid emerging quite easily as the nation’s dominant party, a political configuration which is likely to continue until new generations of voters with weaker links to the party enter voting age.
This year’s elections come as the country grapples with unemployment rates which exceed 40%. Democracy in South Africa is now solidly grounded, with a robust free press, a liberal and respected constitution, plentiful opposition parties and civil society organizations, and a legal system which is clean, if slow. Strong unions and wage controls, however, have discouraged firms from hiring, and a black middle class still has yet to emerge. Daily life continues to be largely segregated by race, a fact which also is true for political parties – such as the Xhosa-dominated ANC, the predominantly Zulu Inkatha Freedom Party, the English-speaking white Democratic Alliance, and the Afrikaans-speaking New National Party. But promisingly, the political violence of the country’s first post-independence years has waned, and relations among race communities have been bolstered significantly by the work of Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
Algeria has just held what have been widely appraised as free and fair elections, following a decade-long civil war between military and Islamist factions which left as many as 150,000 dead.
Algeria’s political development reflects a frequent pattern in the region.
A single-party socialist state held power since independence with the support of the military, and had left the imams as its only credible opposition. The clerics and their supporters, looking to Iran as a model of Islamic democracy, in turn swept parliamentary elections when the government finally attempted to adopt liberal reforms amid criticism and economic failure in 1991. With the Islamic Salvation Front promising to adopt Shar’ia and easily having gained the requisite two-thirds majority to amend the constitution, the military stepped in to cancel the election’s result and outlaw the ISF.
Algeria’s civil war followed.
Holding on to power, the military-backed government banned members of the Islamic Salvation Front from taking part in politics and amended the Constitution to prohibit the formation of political parties based on religious belief. It also successfully encouraged formation of moderate Islamic parties to draw away much of the radicals’ support, a major such party being the Movement of the Society for Peace.
With the Islamist parties successfully marginalised, Abdelaziz Bouteflika ('Abd al-'Aziz Abu Tifliqa) was handily reelected (campaign website). Bouteflika, who enjoys the support of the military, was a leader in the Algerian War of Independence and also a former foreign minister.
The lesson to be learned from Algeria’s experience of democratization, some analysts say, is that in 1991 the country picked the wrong moment to open the doors to pluralism and then opened them too wide. This year, these observers say, reflected a more wisely chosen moment for holding elections, and a restriction of participation to parties which supported liberal democracy.
Liberal democracy still remains weak in Algeria - nearly three-quarters of Algeria's population is under the age of 30, and half of those below the age of 25 are unemployed. The Islamist movement enjoys particularly broad support among young unemployed males, and among the state’s greatest challenges will be to find a way to secure their support for, and participation within, the liberal democratic system.
I've argued that the 9/11 Commission is fundamentally flawed in that it's trying to review history as though it were lived with the perfect knowledge we have of the past - which we obviously cannot have of the future.Tim Oren points us to an excellent op-end in the N.Y. Times on just this subject. It's by risk analyst Nassim Nicholas Taleb, and here are three great quotes:
Much of the research into humans' risk-avoidance machinery shows that it is antiquated and unfit for the modern world; it is made to counter repeatable attacks and learn from specifics. If someone narrowly escapes being eaten by a tiger in a certain cave, then he learns to avoid that cave. Yet vicious black swans by definition do not repeat themselves. We cannot learn from them easily.
...I think we desperately need to learn to identify and respond to black swans, and that we need to build systems in our society and government that will let us do so. The swans are getting bigger and more deadly.
...infinite vigilance is not possible. Negligence in any specific case needs to be compared with the normal rate of negligence for all possible events at the time of the tragedy — including those events that did not take place but could have. Before 9/11, the risk of terrorism was not as obvious as it seems today to a reasonable person in government (which is part of the reason 9/11 occurred). Therefore the government might have used its resources to protect against other risks — with invisible but perhaps effective results.
...The greatest flaw in the commission's mandate, regrettably, mirrors one of the greatest flaws in modern society: it does not understand risk. The focus of the investigation should not be on how to avoid any specific black swan, for we don't know where the next one is coming from. The focus should be on what general lessons can be learned from them. And the most important lesson may be that we should reward people, not ridicule them, for thinking the impossible. After a black swan like 9/11, we must look ahead, not in the rear-view mirror.
Other Topics Today Include: Iraq Briefing; Iran Reports; al-Qaeda link to 3/11; UK imam tied to 3/11; truce with Spain is over; 3/11 financed through drug trade; Yadokhel and Janikhel tribals give differing views to Pakistani government; Hekmatyar wants to be an Afghan Sadr; Taliban kill Afghan intel chief; Indonesian sends extra cops to Sulawesi; 2 rubber workers killed in southern Thailand; 3 LeT commanders killed; southern Filippino province sealed off; Australia and Singapore say Mindanao's a terror haven; new Afghan al-Qaeda near Khost; Syria shipping WMD components to Sudan; Arafat approved convoy attack; 4 Saudi cops killed; FBI questioning Hamburg cell member; Debye on the Khawaja case; Art of Peace on Saudi bloggers and Iran; and a dead politician wins votes.
THE WIDER WAR
Before you condemn a man, walk a mile in his shoes.
That way, if he doesn't like what you have to say...
At least you'll be a mile away and have his shoes.
UPDATE: VT points out that my choice of title was more apropos than I thought... a similar item apparently ran in "Jack Handy's" SNL routine at one point. Thanks, Jack!
Here, in a nutshell, is why I can't step up and absolutely condemn Little Green Footballs. The folks that do this kind of thing don't get to sit at the table and have 'legitimate grievances'. No grievance justifies this kind of behavior. It is, in a word, barbaric. They videotaped butchery to satisfy their rage and inflame others:
Aljazeera earlier described the tape as "too bloody" and said it will not air it "in order not to upset viewers sensitivities".
In a statement accompanying the tape, the abductors of the four Italians justified the killing.
"When your president says pulling the troops out of Iraq is non-negotiable then this means he does not care for the safety of his citizens as much as he is concerned with satisfying his masters in the White House," the statement said.
"We have killed one of the four hostages we have in order to teach a lesson for those who are involved. We know they are guards working for the American occupation in our country."We ask you one more time to revolt once again in the face of your leaders and reject this unjust war on us so that we can protect your citizens. We are waiting for that from you or else we will kill them one by one," added the Green Brigade.
Who are we to judge, you ask?
If you have to ask, you aren't going to understand my reply.
UPDATE: More here - a show of true bravery by the executed hostage.
A couple of items in local news. One is that my preferred Toronto paper The National Post now has a blog where "members of the National Post's editorial board discuss real-time impressions of the day's major news stories." They're the first major paper in Canada to do so.
Kudos to them - but you folks need working permalinks. Badly. More members would be nice too. Post columnist Andrew Coyne also has a blog, and it's one of the best Canada-focused blogs out there, but he isn't part of the paper's official effort. They'd be better off taking a cue from NRO's The Corner, and letting people like Andrew in too.
Mind you, they'd be even farther ahead if they had just kept brilliant columnist Mark Steyn...
On another local front, vandalism and scattered anti-Semitic incidents continue in Toronto. Meanwhile, Meryl Yourish is seeing this stuff in Richmond, VA too. Talk about your "broken windows" therory of deviance.
These sorts of things are on the rise, and it isn't just happening out of the blue. Antipathy to Jews is more open these days, even fashionable in some circles. There are examples of upstanding conduct out there, but they don't address the underlying dynamics, and overall Canadian trends remain troubling.
While these incidents aren't yet at the serious threat level, they are an indicator that something unpleasant is going on in the popular Zeitgeist. We ignore them at our peril.
I can't believe I forgot to blog this today...
We've been working closely with Jim Hake, of Spirit of America; Jim has fielded a new request from the 1st Marine Division - you know, the guys and gals in Falluja - they want to help set up a series of low-powerd TV stations, staffed by Iraqis, that will try and counter the two dominant themes in media coverage in Iraq:
I'm not going to comment on how obvious this is, and how, instead of working with one guy in West L.A. and a bunch of bloggers, we should have been doing this as our troops moved North.
Instead, I'm going to comment on the wonderful flexibility of our people over there who will do what it takes to get what they need to do the job.
Click here to see what the Marines need, and help them (and us) out. And thanks to all the other blogs who are working on this as well, and to Jim for letting us help.
(and yes, I know I don't have a TV set; in this case, I'll make an exception!)
I'd write about it, but Instapundit has already done it so much better, with some excerpts, some thoughts, and a roundup from all around the blogosphere.
Sometimes I just god-damn wonder about people.
It's been a year and a month, roughly, since the start of the war in Iraq, and approximately a year since army-to-army hostilities ended.
And, overall, large groups of people - both within Iraq and the West - are declaring the occupation a failure, and the economy in Iraq collapsed and doomed. And, on a basic level, it's our fault, because we didn't have a Plan.
Now I have a number of issues with what has been done, and I'll set some of those out in a later post, but I want to make one point first as a way of framing the discussion around a basic set of facts.
For many of us, there's a kind of black hole between Hitler and Eva's last stand in the bunker and the Porsche 911. Somehow, Germany - without taking a lot of room in history books - went from war, to partition, via the Airlift, to world economic leadership.
That's not quite the case. Let me offer up a few tidbits, so that you'll understand how hard things were - and how much had to be done - between June 5, 1945 and, say 1950.Here's what the economy looked like in 1946 and 1947:
After World War II the German economy lay in shambles. The war, along with Hitler's scorched-earth policy, had destroyed 20 percent of all housing. Food production per capita in 1947 was only 51 percent of its level in 1938, and the official food ration set by the occupying powers varied between 1,040 and 1,550 calories per day. Industrial output in 1947 was only one-third its 1938 level. Moreover, a large percentage of Germany's working-age men were dead. At the time, observers thought that Germany would have to be the biggest client of the U.S. welfare state.and this:
The winters of 1945/46 and 1946/47 were the worst Germans can remember. They were cold, and as many houses were still damaged, there was a lack of fuel (coal) and people were undernourished, many starved or froze to death. The British and the Americans, in their respective zones, did their best to alleviate the situation. The US Red Cross distributed addresses of German families to US citizens who were descendants of German emigrants and, in many cases, relatives of those in need. The American relatives than sent CARE PARCELS containing durable goods extremely scarce in war-torn Germany. The British efforts to prevent the German population from starvation stressed the country's economy (which had not recovered from 5 years of war either) to the limit. During this process, the population of West Germany began to regard the British and Americans as liberators rather than occupants.In large part, this was both the result of the extraordinarily destructive war, but also of deliberate policy on the part of the victorious Allies:
With surrender came the time for retribution. In the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) Directive 1067 of April 1945, General Dwight D. Eisenhower was instructed to occupy Germany "not...for the purpose of liberation but as a defeated enemy nation." Allied occupation was to bring "home to the Germans that Germany's ruthless warfare and the fanatical Nazi resistance have destroyed the German economy and made chaos and suffering inevitable and that the Germans cannot escape responsibility for what they have brought upon themselves."To an extent, it was a result of inadequate planning. In his essay rebutting James Bacques' charges that Eisenhower deliberately starved a million Nazi POW's, Stephen Ambrose says:
...Such a shift in policy from retribution to rebuilding, from collective guilt to assistance, also meant a renunciation of reparations and of the dismantling of factories: Draining financial and industrial resources from Germany was hardly beneficial to its economic recovery. In early 1946, less than a year after V-E Day, this was a hard pill to swallow for most Americans. But Truman agreed with Churchill, and on May 25, Truman halted all reparations from the U.S. Zone. The punitive Reparations and Level of Industry Plan for the four zones—agreed upon only after months of haggling on March 27, 1946—was quietly scuttled.
After the first week of May, all of Eisenhower's calculations as to how many people he would be required to feed in occupied Germany became woefully inadequate. He had badly underestimated, for two reasons. First, the number of German soldiers surrendering to the Western Allies far exceeded what was expected (more than five million, instead of the anticipated three million) because of the onrush of German soldiers across the Elbe River to escape the Russians. So too with German civilians - there were millions fleeing from east to west, about 13 million altogether, and they became Eisenhower's responsibility. Eisenhower faced shortages even before he learned that there were 17 million more people to feed in Germany than he had expected.As we realized the inadequacy of the Morgenthau plan, which intended to 'pastoralize' Germany as a way of ending the militant nature - and capabilities - of the German people. By all accounts, the plan was a disaster in conception and execution. In reaction, elements of the U.S. Government reacted with their better natures.
No food shortage? This is the report of the Military Governor for Germany in July 1945: "The food situation throughout Western Germany is perhaps the most serious problem of the occupation. The average food consumption in the Western Zones is now about one-third below the generally accepted subsistence level." The September report declares, "Food from indigenous sources was not available to meet the present authorized ration level for the normal consumer, of 1,550 calories per day."
Mr. Bacque says that the prisoners were receiving 1,550 calories a day, and he contends that such a ration means slow starvation. He apparently never looked at what civilians were getting, in Germany or in the liberated countries. In Paris in 1945, the calorie level was 1,550 for civilians. It was only slightly higher in Britain, where rationing continued. It was much lower in Russia, where rationing also continued. As noted, the official ration for German civilians was 1,550, but often not met. In Vienna in the summer of 1945 the official ration sometimes fell to 500.There is such a thing as common sense. Anyone who was in Europe in the summer of 1945 would be flabbergasted to hear that there was no food shortage.
I need not tell you that the world situation is very serious. That must be apparent to all intelligent people. I think one difficulty is that the problem is one of such enormous complexity that the very mass of facts presented to the public by press and radio make it exceedingly difficult for the man in the street to reach a clear appraisement of the situation. Furthermore, the people of this country are distant from the troubled areas of the earth, and it is hard for them to comprehend the plight and consequent reactions of the long-suffering peoples, and the effect of those reactions on their governments in connection with our efforts to promote peace in the world.And they showed results:
In considering the requirements for the rehabilitation of Europe, the physical loss of life, the visible destruction of cities, factories, mines, and railroads was correctly estimated, but it has become obvious during recent months that this visible destruction was probably less serious than the dislocation of the entire fabric of European economy. For the past 10 years conditions have been highly abnormal. The feverish preparation for war and the more feverish maintenance of the war effort engulfed all aspects of national economies. Machinery has fallen into disrepair or is entirely obsolete. Under the arbitrary and destructive Nazi rule, virtually every possible enterprise was geared into the German war machine. Long-standing commercial ties, private institutions, banks, insurance companies, and shipping companies disappeared, through loss of capital, absorption through nationalization, or by simple destruction. In many countries, confidence in the local currency has been severely shaken. The breakdown of the business structure of Europe during the war was complete. Recovery has been seriously retarded by the fact that two years after the close of hostilities, a peace settlement with Germany and Austria has not been agreed upon. But even given a more prompt solution of these difficult problems, the rehabilitation of the economic structure of Europe quite evidently will require a much longer time and greater effort than has been foreseen.George Marshall - June 5, 1947
During the last 10 months notable progress has been made in Western Germany, which is apparent to all the world. An entirely new atmosphere of hope and creative activity has replaced the lethargy and despair of a year ago. Dean Atcheson - April 28, 1949It took 4 years from the end of hostilities to start the turnaround of the German economy.
We started to implement a plan that would have turned Germany into Southern France, and turned 180 degrees and helped Germany reindistrialize.
That's how things work in the real world. They progress in fits and starts, change and turn, and most of all, they take time.
The forces that oppose us are convinced that they are more patient than we are. They are convinced that if things in Iraq aren't perfect - if the power isn't on and unemployment ended and all the Iraqi women listening to NPR by September - well, it'll be a quagmire then. And then what'll we do?
Dean Atcheson and George Marshall were probably worried about quagmire as well. But they simply put their heads down and worked, and experimented, and tried things until - at the end of the day - they outlasted the problem.
They were leaders. We need some too.
As the holiday comes to a close, so too must this year's Passover coverage. Like the Seder service itself, it finishes in contemplation - and in hope:
"Ended is the Passover Seder, according to custom, statute and law. As we were worthy to celebrate it this year, so may we perform it in future years. Oh pure one in heaven above, restore the congregation of Israel in your love. Speedily lead your people to Zion in joy. Next year in Jerusalem!"
Cairo columnist Tarek Heggy has been a frequent contributor here at Winds of Change.NET. In the wake of his Passover greetings, we've been having an interesting email exchange around the story of Passover, the role of the Egyptians, and one specific part of the Passover Seder: the spilling of 10 drops of wine, as the plagues visited upon the Egyptians are recited.
Why do we do that? The more I thought about it, the more I wondered if perhaps the standard explanations were missing something - something that goes right to the heart of this holiday of freedom. Here's what Tarek wrote:
"Once again, my warmest Passover greetings (it is heartily meant while I would have preferred if Egypt would have been able to accommodate happily this wonderful expatriate community and motivate them not to flee to Sinai some 34 centuries ago and deprive us from their wonderful skills and peerless talents!!)."
It would have been nice if it all could have been settled amicably... but absolutist despotisms of any stripe are rarely good at that sort of thing. Which brings us to the central points of Passover.
In one sense, Passover is really about preparation for the giving of the 10 Commandments on Mt. Sinai. Abraham is the first major break: belief in the existence of one G-d, without shape or form. His acceptance of G-d's existence creates ethical monotheism, but its real impact is not felt until the second major break. For the corrollary of ethical monotheism is the idea that good and evil have an existence independent of earthly agents or representatives, and untouchable by earthly authority.
This idea will change the world - and the Passover story is both its grand entrance and its clarion call.
Which is great, but how does that relate to the Egyptians?
Some Jewish sages believe that G-d wished to make a serious example of an absolutist earthly ruler, to convey with utmost clarity that now and forever, no human was equal to or above G-d, and that moral law was not something dictated by societal conventions or the pronouncements of human "authorities."
In other words, Egypt's Pharaoh was simply being used to make a divine point. A very very important divine point with enormous future implications, but one that could also have been made anywhere else in the world at that time. Slavery? Almost universal. Belief in idols? Ditto. Cruelty? Then, as now, the rule not the exception. Absolutist rulers claiming divine descent or status? Pharaoh isn't the first, and won't be the last by any means.
We focus on the Egyptians during Passover (and both Islam and Christianity made it part of their stories too), but really, there was nothing especially blameworthy about Egypt as a society that didn't apply equally to most of its neighbours.
Which brings us to the spilling of the 10 drops of wine.
Drops of Freedom
I've always seen the spilling of the 10 drops of wine while the names of the plagues are recited as being about basic human compassion for anyone's suffering. That still applies, I'm sure, but the more I talked to Tarek, the more I wondered if I was missing something. Something big.
As noted above, the 10 Plagues could have happened to so many other societies. Most of humanity was like that at the time... and many people even today live under systems no less absolute. Yet all Egyptians suffered in the Plagues, because of decisions that many had no part in. Granted, many would also have been involved - but without a moral framework that separates morality from a God-King's dictates, it isn't even possible to talk about complicity. The concept would be meaningless.
That's why it was not Israel alone who was redeemed at Passover.
Indeed, it's only after Exodus and Sinai that the world can even begin to talk about the prospect of a different future - for the Egyptians themselves, and for all mankind, as well as for the Israelites.
And so we spill the drops of wine in sorrow every year. Not only for the Egyptians' suffering, but also for the lack of freedom that led to it - and which remained after the Israelites has left. Because after the 10th Plague, Israel went free. But the Egyptians, too, were slaves, subject to Pharaoh's absolute authority. Their lives remained his even after Israel's Exodus, to be snuffed out at a whim or a word.
Who cries for them? We do. Every year.
We drink the Passover wine to commemorate our freedom, and - and yes, we spill it in compassion. But maybe we also spill it to remind ourselves of those we left behind, unable to share in the wine of freedom because they were still unfree.
And as long as that remains the case, our cup of freedom is never really full.
TOP NEWS ITEMS:
Other Topics Today Include:More Taiwan election coverage; Cheney's upcoming Beijing trip; Hepatitis B carriers are damned to be jobless; You just can't win a Chinese lottery; and the implications of the impending death of the man who took the fall for the Tiananmen Square Massacre 15 years ago this June.
ZHAO ZIYANG'S IMPENDING DEATH
DOMESTIC AND OTHER
C. Blake Powers, newly recovered from surgery (which I'm proud to say I helped talk him into...) and a depressing job-hunt experience, is celebrating his one-year blogiversary. Happy birthday, blogson. Here's to better days ahead...
This came around via email:
"You read about all these terrorists -- most of them came here legally, but they hung around on these expired visas, some for as long as 10-15 years. Now, compare that to Blockbuster; you're two days late with a video and those people are all over you. I say we put Blockbuster in charge!"
Fred Kaplan takes on Condi Rice in Slate. I'm not enough of a judge of inside-the-beltway baseball to have a sense whether Rice is a good bureaucracy wrangler or not. I do fully accept that doing so is a critical part of her job, and is a big part of what she'll ultimately be judged for, which means in part that I'm reserving final judgment on how she's done in the job for a bit.
Kaplan makes some arguments about why she isn't, and you ought to read them and make your own decision.
But before you, do, let me alert you to a large steaming prairie platter set in the middle of his argument.
This was one of Clarke's most compelling points. In his book, testimony, and several TV interviews, Clarke has argued that the Clinton administration thwarted al-Qaida's plot to set off bombs at Los Angeles airport on the eve of the millennium because intelligence reports of an impending terrorist attack were discussed at several meetings of Cabinet secretaries. Knowing they'd have to come back and tell the president what they were doing to prevent an attack, these officials went back to their departments and "shook the trees" for information. When Bush came to power, Rice retained Clarke and his counterterrorism crew, but she demoted their standing; terrorism was now discussed (and, even then, rarely) at meetings of deputy secretaries, who lacked the same clout and didn't feel the same pressure.This is a key point, and is, in fact the only fact-based argument he makes.
And, from all the information I've seen, it's completely full of it.
I haven't read Clarke's book (yet), but I do remember the news accounts both at the time and afterward of the arrest of Ahmed Ressam, was that he had acted hincky when at the border checkpoint, and a normal border patrol officer hunch caused them to pull him in for close inspection. They searched his car - for drugs - and he tried to run and was chased down.
I missed the part in this story where - like at Waco - senior government officials stood by an open phone line and communicated closely with the troops on the ground. No one took credit for it in 2000, when it would have made a difference in an election.
And I've got to believe that if Clarke is taking credit for it now - claiming that good senior staff work foiled the Millennium Plot - either he's puffing like a freaking blowfish, or there's some data out there that hasn't made it to the public record.Here's the story from the Seattle Times:
The Coho arrived in Port Angeles in the dark, just before 6 p.m., the last boat of the day. Customs inspector Diana Dean stopped each car as it rolled off, asking the drivers a few basic questions and wishing them a good trip.Funny, I don't see Richard Clarke's name anywhere in that story.
The last car in line was a green Chrysler 300M with British Columbia plates.
"Where are you going?" "Sattal."
"Why are you going to Seattle?" "Visit."
"Where do you live?" "Montreal."
"Who are you going to see in Seattle?" "No, hotel."
The driver was fidgeting, jittery, sweating. His hands disappeared from sight as he began rummaging around the car's console. That made Dean nervous.
She handed him a customs declaration to fill out, a subtle way of stalling while she took a closer look. He filled out the form and handed it back. By this time, Dean observed, he was acting "hinky."
She asked him to turn the car off, pop open the trunk and step outside. Noris was slow to respond but complied.
At this point, the other customs inspectors were finished and waiting to go home. They came over to help process the last car of the day. Dean told them this might be a "load vehicle" ... code for one used for smuggling. Inspector Mark Johnson took over the interrogation.
"Habla español?" he asked.
"Parlez-vous français?" the man replied, handing over his ID. Not a passport or driver's license, but his Costco card.
"So you like to shop in bulk? You know, the 120-roll pack of toilet paper?" Johnson joked. He escorted Noris to a table, where he asked him to empty his pockets.
Inspector Mike Chapman searched the suitcase in the trunk. As he was doing that, inspector Danny Clem reached in and unscrewed the fastener on the spare-tire compartment. He opened the panel, looked inside and called out to Johnson.
Johnson, grabbing Noris by the shoulders, led him over to the trunk. At a hefty 240 pounds, Johnson had no trouble maneuvering the slim Noris. They peered in and saw no spare tire. In its place were several green bags that appeared to filled with white powder, as well as four black boxes, two pill bottles and two jars of brown liquid. A drug dealer, perhaps?
Johnson felt Noris shudder. He escorted Noris back to the table and patted him down for weapons. Inside Noris' camel's-hair coat was a bulge. As Johnson was slipping off the coat to take a closer look, he was suddenly left holding an empty garment. Noris was fleeing.
By the time it sank in, Noris was nearly a block away. Johnson and Chapman took off on foot, yelling, "Stop! Police!"
With his head start, Noris escaped. The inspectors couldn't find him. Then Chapman noticed movement under a pickup parked in front of a shoe store. He squatted down, saw Noris, drew his gun and ordered him to come out with his hands up.
Noris stood up, arms raised, and looked at Chapman, just 20 feet away with his gun drawn. Then he turned and ran. "Stop! Police!"
Johnson joined Chapman on Noris' tail. Noris bounced off a moving car but continued running. When he got to the middle of a busy intersection, he reversed direction, headed for a car stopped at the light and grabbed the driver's door handle. The woman behind the wheel, startled, stepped on the gas, ran the red light and sent Noris spinning. Chapman and Johnson swarmed him.
They took him back to the terminal and handed him over to the Port Angeles police, who put him in the back seat of a patrol car.
Johnson took a sample of the white powder from the trunk to test. Was it heroin, speed, cocaine? Negative on each. As he shook the jars of brown liquid, Noris, who could see Johnson from the patrol car, ducked down to the floor.Within a couple of days, the inspectors would learn that the brown liquid Johnson had shaken was a powerful, highly unstable relative of nitroglycerin that could have blown them all to bits.
Fred, care to shed some light on it for us?
Other Topics Today Include: RAND study of ROK-US relations; Major US military realignment; SK elections and key info sources; More on SK & Iraq; NK Freedom Day April 28; NK budget & reforms bad news; What - no visas?; NK TV & Internet; NK - a middle way?; Libya model for NK; Spotlight on NK apologists in SK & USA.
South Korea (ROK)
ROK and the War on Terror
North Korea: The International Stage
Not a spoof, a real event. You'll have to read this one to believe it... it's pretty funny in a dark sort of way.
Other Topics Today Include: Iraq Briefing; Iran Reports; order restored in Faryab; Abu Sayyaf leader dead; Abu Sayyaf jailbreak; Spanish al-Qaeda cell targeted major shopping mall; top European al-Qaeda leader tied to 3/11; Hungarian al-Qaeda letter offers cash in return for withdrawl from Iraq; al-Qaeda funding Chechen jihad; recent violence in Tashkent due to foreign instigators; Nek Mohammed sez he ain't gonna surrender; Muslim extremist leader arrested in Zanzibar; and the ultimate neocon T-Shirt.
THE WIDER WAR
Thought this was appropriate for Easter Monday, too. If you're Israeli, or know Israelis, you'll understand:
As the El Al plane settled down at Ben Gurion airport, the voice of the Captain came on:
"Please remain seated with your seat belts fastened until this plane comes to a complete stop at the gate, and the seat belt signs have been turned off. We also wish to remind you that the use of cell phones on board this aircraft is strictly prohibited.""To those of you who are still seated, we wish you a Merry Easter, and hope that you enjoy your stay in the Holy Land. And to those of you standing in the aisles and talking on your cell phones, we wish you a Happy Passover, and welcome back home."
In the comments section of "Daily Kos - Again", Amy Alkon asks:
"...as a sort of common-sense-loving moderate...I keep waiting for somebody to offer me a reasonable explanation of the following:
The US is attacked in the most major way ever on our shores, by Osama Bin Ladin and co. We respond, not by decimating Osama and his evil followers, but by waging war on...Iraq! ....Come on -- somebody answer me - not with defending the current administration in mind as you write every word - but by persuading me with the (supposed) common sense behind what we did."
That's an in-depth question, Amy, and it demands an in-depth answer. So let's look at the situation as if you were in charge back in 2002. Then tell me what you want to do instead....
Afghanistan's Taliban (really, al-Qaeda) government is gone, and al-Qaeda can no longer use it as a secure base. So, we did that. Most of the Taliban and al-Qaeda terrorists we faced in Afghanistan now live in Pakistan.
America went in with a small number of forces because going in with overwhelming numbers was impossible given the supply lines, and because it would just repeat the Soviet approach in Afghanistan. You'll recall how poorly that turned out. So we have bases with mobile forces that can appear to crush any groups of Taliban, and go out on sweeps, while maintaining a fairly low profile. It's not like we have lots of infrastructure to protect or anything.
The warlords are being dealt with by slow political maeuvering and a slow build-up of national Afghan institutions (incl. an Afghan Army) instead of major US military operations for the same reason - you don't want them uniting against you.
Sometimes, more gets you less. This would be true no matter who was in charge back in America.
On the other hand, Tora Bora proved that the Afghans can be unreliable allies, so we're trying to use more U.S. forces in critical engagements. NATO is pledged to help, and they are helping, but not as much as they promised and requests for more international troops never got us much action even though we're talking relatively small numbers. Even if we got that aid, though, it wouldn't really change our strategy.
Bottom line: What you see is about all you can expect in Afghanistan, though a bit more aid might be nice. The "Provincial Reconstruction Team" model of paramilitary aid teams is also worth following with interest.
Pakistan already has nukes. Their ISI's links to the Taliban and al-Qaeda are a matter of record, and large sections of its "lawless frontier" provinces feature widespread support for al-Qaeda. The government is reluctant to confront the jihadis too openly, as this is dangerous for them. Especially because when they do, jihadi infiltration of the military and intel apparatus results in the jihadis being tipped off in advance. You won't get much overt help there, or permission to operate in their territory.
You're the President. Your plan to decimate al-Qaeda there, ma'am?
"Yes, it's wonderful that we got rid of a murderous dictator -- and if that's our standard for waging war on a country, there's a long list of other murderous dictators in front of us. If it's WMD we're after, well Kimmy's sitting on a bunch of nukes over there in Korea, but we're not doing too much about that."
Ah, Korea... Given that the South Koreans prefer a policy of enablement (that's "enablement" in the friend-of-alcoholic sense) toward North Korea, we have very few options there. The only thing we do know is that negotiating any more "agreements" just pays Kim et. al. to go ahead and break them, and so makes no sense at all. Current efforts are focused on drawing in the Chinese, Russians, and Japanese, but especially the Chinese who may see several new nuclear powers in their backyard (Japan, South Korea, Taiwan) if they don't find a way to put pressure on Kim. And there we sit, because it's a slow process.
If you have an idea that no-one else in the world has come up with, please share. Frankly, this one baffles everybody.
The Ideological/Financial Nexus & The Saudis
Now that you've got Afghanistan and Korea as under control as they're going to get, you have the larger problem to deal with of widespread support in the Islamic world for terrorism, an ideology of carefully cultivated hatred for West fostered by their regimes and institutions in order to distract attention from their massive societal failures, and the perception of same as a cost-free approach for regimes and other organizations that sponsor it.
If you refuse to grapple with these issues, then even destroying the Taliban will net you nothing, and the source of the decade-long war against America remains untouched. So, what do you do?
The Saudis' funding of religious extremism including al-Qaeda and many of the world-wide madrassas who teach ignorance and hate and recruit for AQ is a huge problem. Past experience with the Khobar Towers bombing and other incidents has shown that they really have no interest in dealing with this, or cooperating with America in any meaningful sense in this area. Indeed, there seems to be a quid-pro-quo deal that makes Saudi Arabia itself immune from attack in exchange for this funding and support, and the weakness of their regime means they won't give that deal up except under the most extreme pressure.
You can't isolate the Saudis because they have too much oil (they'll just buy other allies, and no sanctions will stick), and if you invade then the rallying cry of "save Mecca and Medina" will touch off an all-out war with most of the Islamic world. America would win that one, but you probably don't want to kill 100 million people or so unless you absolutely have to. Right?
Oh, and the USA has troops in Saudi Arabia, just in case Saddam decides to invade again. This is a major bone of contention in parts of the Islamic world, and as long as they're needed there your options for confronting the Saudis over their other behaviour are very limited.
Your plan for dealing with them?
Then there's the problem of a world in which a number of Islamic regimes, answerable to no-one but themselves and with clear state ties to Islamic terrorism, are developing chemical, biological, and nuclear capabilities. They explicitly support a mentality of suicide bombing, too, which kind of throws the concept of deterrence out the window.
Take Iran. The #1 world sponsor for terrorism, including terrorist atacks far beyond the mideast. Some of their client groups have openly vowed that chemical and biological attacks are part of their long term strategy. Rafsanjani, a major figure in Iran, has openly mused that even if it resulted in the nuclear destruction of Iran, taking out Israel would be acceptable because there are other Muslims elsewhere and so this would constitute victory. They have an active nuclear and chemical weapons program, plus they're building ballistic missiles. There's discontent over there, but it isn't at the rebellion stage. Furthermore, the nation still remembers the last war with Saddam in the 80s, and sees him as a problem if they ever become weak or divided. Add one more disincentive to revolution.
There's no way that any of your Gulf allies will provide bases for an attack on Iran, because they have large Shia populations. It might be possible for the Marines to land, set up a beachhead, then bring in other forces slowly by sea. But that would be very, very risky in military and political terms. Especially since the EU is very cosy with Iran's mullahs for business reasons.
What do you propose to do about this, Mme. President?
Syria is Iran's ally. Has WMD. Major supporter and sponsor of terrorism, including several major terrorist acts against Americans. Your only routes to Syria, however, are through Turkey, Israel, or Lebabon. Turkey almost certainly won't let you. Going through Israel has problems that are self-evident. And the LAST place you want to touch is the eternal quagmire of Lebanon. Plus, Syria is run by Alawites, who are only 10% of the population. Take their Ba'athist regime out, and you'll be trying to police the remnants of 2 utterly failed, anarchic states.
You could do it, Mme. President. Do you want to?
Technically, you're still at war - and Iraq has violated the ceasefire terms. It's also refusing to cooperate with efforts to keep tabs on its WMD program. You're getting intelligence that suggests possible links to the 1993 WTC bombings, an assassination attempt on a US President, and even al-Qaeda. Like all intelligence, it's uncertain - but what if it's true? Connections with some terrorist groups are certainly a known quantity, and Saddam has a long history of making disastrous miscalculations fed by overconfidence and underestimation of risk (Iran, Kuwait, etc.).
In the "Evil Mideast dictators club," this guy is in a class by himself. Torture, mass murder on a unique scale even in that part of the world, ecocide, you name it. Plus, there are real questions about the country's stability and succession - Saddam's sons are less rational than he is, and more brutal.
The Kurds have a quasi-state under protection of a no-fly zone that costs billions to maintain. That may prove helpful, as will your bases nearby in Kuwait. The souther Shi'as have risen in revolt at least once, so they're a wild card. And Saddam's conventional military is much weaker now. That's helpful. You're certainly in a better starting position here, if you want to start somewhere (or, you can rest on your laurels after Afghanistan - your call).
The Risks of Inaction
Less helpful is the fact that the sanctions that were supposed to keep Saddam bottled up are being undermined by the Russians and especially the French, and the UN is typically ineffective in enforcing them. Pretty soon, Saddam will have a free hand again. This will be seen, widely, as a major failure of U.S. policy, will and prestige in the region.
That's a dangerous outcome.
ALL parties already question the U.S. commitment to dealing with Islamic extremism (or indeed, any threat), since there's a general belief that the USA will not risk major efforts that may result in casualties. The operation in Afghanistan, while impressive, is still seen in many quarters as proof of that because of the way it was conducted. This belief stunts their cooperation with you. As a result, very few are inclined to take risks, or end the lack of civil freedoms coupled with quiet incitement against non-Muslims that forms much of the political culture of the Middle East.
So, don't expect a whole lot of cooperation in tracking or going after al-Qaeda within those countries. Especially if efforts to contain Saddam are seen to fail.
In fact, barring something to change the equation the understated non-cooperation from the Arab world that has characterized the past decade is your best prediction. Probably coupled with quiet suggestions to radical elements that they should go off and make trouble elsewhere. Problem is, YOU'RE the elsewhere.
Iraq: Action's Potential Gains
On the other hand...
Iraq: Action's Potential Risks
Of course, you could also fail. That is always a possibility in statecraft.
Yes, you could definitely try and fail here.
So, I ask again... Mme. President, what do you want to do?
Bob Kerrey has an oped up in today's New York Times on his response to Condi Rice's testimony and on his criticism of Bush's strategy in dealing with the WoT.
First. let me say what a colossally offensive idea it is to me that someone charged with one of the most serious investigations of my lifetime - more serious in many ways than the Watergate investigation - would , before concluding hearings and outside the context of his fellow committee members - take a public stand like this.
I've been critical of these hearings as having been overly politicized, and focussed too much on the good of the respective parties involved, rather than of the Republic and this bit of gratuitous grandstanding validates all of those criticisms.
We need a careful, thoughtful, ruthless examination of the failures in doctrine and practice that led up to the events of 9/11, and based on this column alone, this circus of a hearing isn't it. The fact that he's willing to go public with his prejudgement at this point in the process makes a mockery of that process, and in turn damages our ability to look at the real problems that led to 9/11.
But let's move past my annoyance about the provenance of the document, and talk about it on its merits.
At Thursday's hearing before the 9/11 commission, Condoleezza Rice, President Bush's national security adviser, gave a triumphal presentation. She was a spectacular witness.I'm sorry - they didn't have a powerful recruiting presence in 2000? The videos of the USS Cole and the ruins in Manhattan weren't good recruiting tools? What - you're afraid they're going to get pissed off at us? Here's a question for you, Senator: How would we tell the difference?
I was a tough critic of some of her answers and assertions, though I believe I was at least as tough with the national security adviser for President Clinton. At the beginning and end of every criticism I have made in this process, I have also offered this disclaimer: anyone who was in Congress, as I was during the critical years leading up to Sept. 11, 2001, must accept some of the blame for the catastrophe. It was a collective failure.Two things about that failure are clear to me at this point in our investigation. The first is that 9/11 could have been prevented, and the second is that our current strategy against terrorism is deeply flawed. In particular, our military and political tactics in Iraq are creating the conditions for civil war there and giving Al Qaeda a powerful rationale to recruit young people to declare jihad on the United States.
Of course the attacks on 9/11 could have been prevented. So could the assassination of JFK, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and the battle at Little Big Horn. History is contingent, and the chains that lead to large events are themselves fragile. The problem is that we have only partial information at any time, and that we're selective in what we look at. Looking forward, we're usually looking at the wrong information, and don't have all of it.
How many Arab men flew on 9/11? Which ones do we look at, which ones do we devote resources to, which ones do we detain?How the hell do we know? Today, we know because we had the passenger manifests (and brave members of the cabin crews identified the hijackers by seat in their calls from the doomed planes). We know because we spent millions of investigator-hours poring over the trails left by those 19 men. But how do we do it moving forward in time?
The case for the first conclusion begins with this fact: On 9/11, 19 men defeated every defense mechanism the United States had placed in their way. They succeeded in murdering 3,000 men and women whose only crime was going to work that morning. And they succeeded at a time of heightened alert ... long after we recognized that Al Qaeda was capable of sophisticated military operations.I've said in the past that what we had was largely a failure of doctrine and imagination. We allowed people to freely fly with knives (I flew with a Spyderco Delica for eight or ten years). The only sophisticated thing they did was to find four people who knew they would die and were willing to learn to fly, and 15 thugs who went along for the ride.
Remember, the attack occurred after President Clinton had let pass opportunities to arrest or kill Al Qaeda's leadership when the threat was much smaller. It occurred after President Bush and Ms. Rice were told on Jan. 25, 2001, that Al Qaeda was in the United States, and after President Bush was told on Aug. 6, 2001, that "70 F.B.I. field investigations were open against Al Qaeda" and that the "F.B.I. had found patterns of suspicious activities in the U.S. consistent with preparation for hijacking." Once again I know that President Clinton, President Bush and Ms. Rice all faced difficult challenges in the years and months before 9/11; I do not know if I would have handled things differently had I been in their shoes. It has been difficult for all of us to understand and accept the idea that a non-state actor like Osama bin Laden, in conjunction with Al Qaeda, could be a more serious strategic threat to us than the nation-states we grew up fearing.But here's the nub of the question: would Al Quieda have been a serious threat as a non-state actor without the explicit and tacit support of states?
But this recognition does not absolve me of my obligation to ask those who were responsible for our national security at the time what they did to protect us against this terrorist threat. One episode strikes me as particularly important. On July 5, 2001, Ms. Rice asked Richard Clarke, then the administration's counterterrorism chief, to help domestic agencies prepare against an attack. Five days later an F.B.I. field agent in Phoenix recommended that the agency investigate whether Qaeda operatives were training at American flight schools. He speculated that Mr. bin Laden's followers might be trying to infiltrate the civil aviation system as pilots, security guards or other personnel.Yes, and I'll bet we can find memos from other FBI field agents worried that Aryan Nation supporters are planning to break members out of jail, abortion clinic murders are prepared to attack ... and so on. It the process of setting priority that's critical, and sadly, we're human and sometimes don't have the right ones; and when we do have the right ones, it's often for the wrong reason.
Ms. Rice did not receive this information, a failure for which she blames the structure of government. And, while I am not blaming her, I have not seen the kind of urgent follow-up after this July 5 meeting that anyone who has worked in government knows is needed to make things happen. I have not found evidence that federal agencies were directed clearly, forcefully and unambiguously to tell the president everything they were doing to eliminate Qaeda cells in the United States.As opposed to all the other competing priorities (white supremacist cells, organized crime, drug smugglers, etc.) which were as high on the radar before 9/11? In reality, at that time the Bush administration was focussed on the 'long game' in taking the attack to Al Quieda, from what I've read. It was one of many foreign policy issues cooking in the background, and yes, the failure to move it up was a horrible one - but as Greg Easterbrook pointed out - I'm not sure it's one that could have been changed.
My second conclusion about the president's terrorism strategy has three parts. First, I believe President Bush's overall vision for the war on terrorism is wrong. ... military and civilian alike.OK, here's a conclusion. Let's see where it goes.
Second, the importance of this distinction is that it forces us to face the Muslim world squarely and to make an effort to understand it. It also allows us to insist that we be judged on our merits ... and not on the hate-filled myths of the street. Absent an effort to establish a dialogue that permits respectful criticism and disagreement, the war on terrorism will surely fail. The violence against us will continue.Yes, that's absolutely true. We need to be judged on our merits; but the state controlled and sponsored media, and the state sponsored religious institutions are the ones spreading hatred about us. How does he suggest that we pick that puzzle apart?
Such a dialogue does not require us to cease our forceful and at times deadly pursuit of those who have declared war on us. Quite the contrary. It would enable us to gather Muslim allies in a cause that will bring as much benefit to them as it does to us. That's why President Bush was right to go to a Washington mosque shortly after Sept. 11. His visit ... and his words of assurance that ours was not a war against Islam but against a much smaller group that has perverted the teachings of the Koran ... earned the sympathy of much of the Muslim world.One of us - he or I - is completely wrong in our understanding of the nature of the Arab and Muslim political world right now. In my understanding, the governments in the much of the Arab (and non-Arab Muslim) world are faced with increased pressure from fundamentalist religious movements that want to see sh'aria imposed and see the Muslim world in a conflict with the secular West. Who, exactly, does he think he can gather in to think kind of constructive mutual dialog? How do we have such a dialog with diplomats from a country where we are pursuing 'those who have declred war on us'? When the act of pursuing them is itself an act of war on the host country?
That the sympathy wasn't universal, that some in the Arab world thought the murder of 3,000 innocents was justified, caused many Americans to question whether the effort to be fair was well placed. It was ... and we would be advised to make the effort more often. Third, we should swallow our pride and appeal to the United Nations for help in Iraq. We should begin by ceding joint authority to the United Nations to help us make the decisions about how to transfer power to a legitimate government in Iraq. Until recently I have not supported such a move. But I do now. Rather than sending in more American forces or extending the stay of those already there, we need an international occupation that includes Muslim and Arab forces.OK, so the UN has been a cesspool of corrupt (or inept while others corruptly took advantage) oversight of the Iraqi export economy for the last decade. In addition, it is essentially the creature of forces who see themselves in opposition to or desiring to extract something from the West - an international version of the 'poverty pimps' of the urban programs of the 1970's. And we're supposed to hand the keys over to them? Their effectiveness in Palestine aside, let's add Bosnia, Rwanda, and a number of other spots on the tourist maps in Hell as places where the blue-helmeted smurfs have shown themselves to be at best ineffective and at worst, a fig leaf for disaster.
Time is not on our side in Iraq. We do not need a little more of the same thing. We need a lot more of something completely different.Time only isn't on our side if we say it isn't, and so demonstrate to the world that we can't stick with this long enough to win. Pronouncements like that are basically idiotic. Should we broaden diplomatic efforts both within the West and outside it? Of course. But our basic diplomatic position should be borrowed from the Civil Rights days, when people sang "We Shall Not Be Moved."
Matzah. If you aren't Jewish, imagine a cracker with no shortening, no butter, no nada. Just flour and water, mix and bake. It's a big part of the Passover diet, because breads, pastas, cakes, etc. are all off-limits. Whazzup with that? Aish.com explains:
"Why is matzah so basic to the celebration of Passover? Why is Passover called Chag HaMatzos, "the Holiday of Matzos" by the Torah? Why is this simple food a foundation of Jewish experience and ideology? Why has matzah come to symbolize human freedom?"
It's all about fermentation, deliverance - and time. An interesting read.
Over at Political Animal, Kevin Drum is properly ridiculing Jay Nordlinger for claiming that "those who despise Wal-Mart are the very ones who may not be so crazy about the United States."I've got a better criticism right here, from last week's Business Week magazine which had a great article comparing Costco and Wal-Mart.
A bad cop, with the likely connivance of a bad D.A. arrested 45 poor black defendants on trumped-up drug charges in Tulia, TX. They sued and ultimately got justice.Now, the wheel turns.
The district attorney who prosecuted a succession of defendants arrested in a since-discredited drug bust in the west Texas town of Tulia now faces possible disbarment for his conduct during the trials. In a disciplinary petition filed by the State Bar of Texas on Wednesday, Swisher County Dist. Atty. Terry D. McEachern is accused of failing to tell defense lawyers about the criminal history of his star witness, undercover agent Tom Coleman.Note that they're not talking about firing him from his post as D.A.; they're taking about disbarring him, which would (rightly, it appears) end his career as an officer of the court. I've commented in the past that righting these wrongs - that we live in a society where these wrongs can get righted - makes me happy.
I’m interested in why it is, when we correct the injustices of the past, and devise tools to ensure that it will be difficult to make the same mistakes again, we are dwelling on the "Oh, no, we were so bad" rather than the "we're getting better". See, I think that real liberalism...the kind that builds schools and water systems and improves people's lives...comes from a belief in progress. We aren't perfect. No one is or ever will be...to quote William Goldman, "Life is pain, Highness! Anyone who says differently is selling something." But we can either keep trying to get there or sit on the floor dwelling on our shortcomings. Which one would you rather do, and why?
Adam, a.k.a. Single Southern Guy, wrote:
"Today is Good Friday as observed by my faith. It is also the fourth day of the Jewish holiday of Passover. As most careful observers will note, many of the traditions of Christianity can be closely traced back to its Jewish heritage.... In that spirit, I sat down to meditate on what both Easter and Passover meant in the most general of terms to both Christians and Jews and I realized the observances both are founded in hope.... It is in this spirit that I give you a few thoughts on hope that perhaps Christians, Jews, and any person can share, and perhaps, celebrate on this day."
Part of our weekly Sufi Wisdom series. As militant Islam does its level best to discredit the religion, it's important to remember that there are other voices within the faith.
This week, I wanted to find a Sufi story that would help illuminate Passover in some way, and found one in Idries Shah's The Parable of the Host and the Guests. I thought it provoked insights into the central Passover tradition of the Seder ceremony, as well as Sufi teaching and discipleship:
"The teacher is like a host in his own house. His guests are those who are trying to study the Way. These are people who have never been in a house before, and can only have vague ideas as to what a house may be like. It exists, nevertheless..."
When the guests enter the house and see the place set aside for sitting in, they ask: 'What is this?' They are told 'This is a place where we sit.' So they sit down on chairs, only dimly conscious of the function of the chair.
The host entertains them, but they continue to ask questions, some irrelevant. Like a good host, he does not blame them for this. They want to know, for instance, where and when they are going to eat. They do not know that nobody is alone, and that at that very moment there are other people who are cooking the food, and that there is another room in which they will sit down and have a meal. Because they cannot see the meal or its preparations they are confused, perhaps doubtful, sometimes ill at ease.
The good host, knowing the problems of the guests, has to put them at their ease, so they will be able to enjoy the food when it comes. At the outset they are in no state to approach the food.
Some of the guests are quicker to understand and relate one thing about the house to another. These are the ones who can communicate to their slower friends. The host, meanwhile, gives each guest an answer in accordance with his capacity to perceive the unity and function of the house.
It is not enough for a house to exist - for it to be made ready to receive guests - for the host to be present. Someone must actively exercise the function of host, in order that the strangers who are the guests, and for whom the host has responsibility, may become accustomed to the house. At the beginning, many of them are not aware that they are guests, or rather exactly what guesthood means; what they can bring to it, what it can give them.
The experienced guest, who has learned about houses and hospitality, is at length at ease in his guesthood, and he is then in a position to understand more about houses and about many facets of living in them. While he is still trying to understand what a house is, or trying to remember rules of etiquette, his attention is too much taken up by these factors to be able to observe, say, the beauty, value or function of the furniture."
Your mission, should you choose to accept it... relate any part of this description to either the process of Sufi discipleship, or the Passover Seder. In the latter case especially, if you think about it you'll find some personal experiences that ring bells - this doesn't have the be highfalutin' stuff.
Kim du Toit has a couple of links for y'all about a person most of you probably don't know - and should. Here's a brief excerpt from the Atlantic magazine article he links to:
"Borlaug is an eighty-two-year-old plant breeder who for most of the past five decades has lived in developing nations, teaching the techniques of high-yield agriculture. He received the Nobel in 1970, primarily for his work in reversing the food shortages that haunted India and Pakistan in the 1960s. Perhaps more than anyone else, Borlaug is responsible for the fact that throughout the postwar era, except in sub-Saharan Africa, global food production has expanded faster than the human population, averting the mass starvations that were widely predicted -- for example, in the 1967 best seller Famine -- 1975! The form of agriculture that Borlaug preaches may have prevented a billion deaths."
That's billion, with a "b". And he's still at it.
"People nickname me (amongst other things) The Street Rabbi, because of many people that consult with me on Ashdod's sidewalks. My esteemed friend the TownCrier has now crowned me The Road Rabbi, and is trying to make a shidduch between me and a Jewish Bikers' Club in Florida that's looking for a spiritual leader. You think I'm joking? No way! Read this...
March 23, 2004 09:30 AM US Eastern Timezone
South Florida's Jewish Motorcycle Riding Association - King David Bikers -- Seeking Motorcycle Riding Rabbi...."
Rumours that Armed Liberal is considering conversion if the idea makes it to Los Angeles are probably untrue.
UPDATE: Reader 'Ursus Maritimus' writes: We already know that the original King David was a biker. "His Triumph was heard across the land."
As Joe noted, today is the same day that the statue of Saddam Hussein came down in Firdus Square. In the wake of Sadr's uprising, some readers have asked where all of the allegedly pro-US Iraqis are right now and why they aren't opposing this Khomeini wannabe's efforts to take over their country.
The answer? They are. Per CNN:
"Tribal leaders in Kut -- apparently opposed to the violence incited by militant Shiite Muslim cleric Muqtada al-Sadr -- fought with his milita and plan to hand the southern Iraqi city over to U.S. forces, a U.S.-led coalition source close to the situation said Friday.
The tribal leaders have seized al-Sadr's office in Kut and have called on U.S. troops to help them push his Mehdi Army fighters out of the city, the source said."
Now Kut is one of the 2 cities that was under Sadr's control at this same time yesterday after the Ukrainian contingent retreated back to their base outside of town after a clash with the Mahdi Army. In the absence of any discernable coalition support, these Shi'ite tribal leaders' decision to move against Sadr was an exceedingly dangerous move for them - as the Iraqi blogs make extremely clear, a lot of Iraqis are afraid of Sadr and he's currently holding Grand Ayatollah Sistani as his de facto prisoner in An Najaf. In the aftermath of the tribal action against Sadr, coalition forces have since retaken the city, likely with Iraqi help. So this whole notion that the Iraqi general population or even just the Iraqi Shi'ites are going to just roll over and accept Sadr as their new Maximum Leader would appear to be misleading at best.
One other item of note is that thus far the Mahdi Army has been unable to expand its sphere of influence in any discernible fashion outside of Sadr's traditional power base. All of the other major southern cities remain under coalition control for the most part without incident - an attempted Mahdi Army attack on the Polish/Bulgarian contingent in Karbala seems to have failed miserably. The inability of the Mahdi Army to spread to other Shi'ite areas is a clear demonstration of its own weakness and lack of support among the Iraqi Shi'ites outside of Sadr's traditional power base in Sadr City (reports suggest that the An Najaf contingent is being reinforced by and is at least partially composed of a combination IRGC and Hezbollah) - in short, this is not a viable or even widespread Shi'ite uprising in any sense of the term and is certainly nowhere near the apparent media perception that we're just minutes away from losing control of 1/3 of the country. With the loss of Kut, the only town still under Mahdi Army control is Kufa and I have my doubts that that'll be the case for much longer.
In closing, it is worth noting that Radio Farda is citing the Italian intelligence and media reports that Sadr is receiving in excess of $70,000,000 in funding from Iran to carry out this little uprising in addition to corroborating other reports about him being reinforced by the IRGC and Qods Force, the latter being an elite division of the Iranian military answerable only to Ayatollah Khamenei. If this is in fact true, then there is no way for anyone conclude that Sadr isn't being backed at the highest levels of the Iranian military-intelligence establishment or that Khamenei is at the absolute least providing tacit assistance to attacks on US and coalition forces in Iraq.
UPDATE: MEMRI has a nice round-up of Iranian involvement inside Iraq, as well as a good look at just how isolated Sadr is in terms of his power base. We also have Rafsanjani (a name that should be familiar to anybody who knows anything about the Iranian hierarchy) coming out in support of Sadr's uprising.
Down came the statue. And I'm still glad.
UPDATE: Looks like I'm not alone. Omar at Iraq the Model celebrates and lights a candle, and an international NGO worker at Babelonandon offers some sharp observations of his own in this 4:07am April 9th post.
Sara Yoheved Rigler's spiritual journey includes 15 years of Vedanta philosophy and meditation, as well as extensive Torah study. Writing at Aish.com, she explains that:
"The exercise of choice is the essence of freedom. Forget the taskmaster's whip and the massive bricks. Each of us is enslaved every time we act on automatic pilot, every time we react according to our instinctual programming."
True freedom is about tools that allow us to break out of autopilot, switch the controls to manual, and take up meaningful moral choice. Indeed, she argues, it's the only true freedom humans have... and Passover can be an opportunity to cultivate this kind of "mindful freedom".
Tacitus again. It's the 10th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide, and "Mille Collines redux" offers a full account of exactly what happened in Rwanda, posted after returning from a week in that sad country.
His account is detailed, clear, and easy to follow. Pay special attention to his description of the role of the French (something we also covered last September), the deadly consequences of a process over content mindset for the Tutsis, and the aftermath for Rwanda. I do wish he had paid more attention to the endless cynicism and complicity of the U.N. and Kofi Annan (see Belmont Club's post and follow-up, but it was even worse than he describes and Annan played a personal role). Even so, this is a great article:
"The mists never dissipate over the Mille Collines, and the green terraced slopes and the red wounded earth forever yield their bounty of tropical crops and grasses for the cattle. Rwanda's silent hills swallow up their history, till all that is left in the mud-brick homes and winding dirt paths is the hope and fortitude of the peasants and laborers who are not "bilingual," but speak the Kinyarwandan tongue to friends, loved ones, and enemies. Who is which changes too frequently, and so they look to their beloved leaders to let them know. And therein lies the danger of Rwanda; therein lies the slumbering volcano whose eruption is heralded by barely-felt rumblings of electoral fraud, Hutu political neutering, and the furtive, erratic return of the corvée. The government functionaries may smile, and the Western consciousness may end in July 1994. Scratch the surface, though, and you realize the awful truth: History -- that history -- is not over yet."
Just when I was hoping to forget about constructively criticizing Kos and struggle with how to constructively criticize LGF, Stirling Newberry, over at Daily Kos lays a huge egg.Here's what he says, in criticizing Rice's testimony today:
The picture that emerges is that Rice believed that dealing with terrorist threats was a matter that little people on the ground who were "alert" would catch the people responsible, freeing the people at the top to talk about the "structural" changes to America.Yes, in fact, that's how it's supposed to work. The people on top think up strategy and policy and the folks on the street carry it out.
And, in fact, how it did work. In fact, it has worked without the benefit of policy direction or grand strategy.
At Victoria, U.S. immigration pre-clearance agents were mildly suspicious of Ressam. They made him open his trunk, but saw nothing. He presented his fake Canadian passport, and the computer check turned up no previous convictions or warrants in the name of Benni Noris. Ressam drove his rental car, with its concealed bomb, onto the ferry heading for Washington state. Upon his arrival at Port Angeles, a U.S. customs agent became suspicious of his hesitant answers to her questions, and she asked for identification. Agents began searching the car. As they discovered the explosive materials -- which they at first took to be drugs -- in the trunk of the car, Ressam tried to run away. He was caught and arrested.Flight 93 did not hit the Capitol because the passengers - the 'little people' Kos dismisses - stopped it. In his interview in the Atlantic, Security expert Bruce Schneier points out that
"The trick to remember is that technology can't save you,” Schneier says. “we know this in our own lives. We realize there’s no magic anti-burglary dust that we can sprinkle on our cars to prevent them from being stolen. We know that car alarms don't provide much protection. The Club at best makes burglars steal the car next to you. For real safety we park on nice streets where people notice if somebody smashes the window. Or we park in garages, where somebody watches the car. In both cases people are the essential security element. You always build the system around people.” (emphasis added)There are a lot of things to criticize the Bush Administration for. There are a lot of things to criticize Condi Rice for.
But Kos has picked the wrong horse here.
The reality is that we would all be better served by pushing down the role of securing our country against terrorism to the 'little people', rather than to large, rigid, unresponsive policy-driven organizations.
Back to Kos, I think, simply that the root issue remains that Bush et al decided to respond to the sponsors of the terrorist acts, rather than the individual actors. That's a legitimate policy distinction, and one where, as I've said in the past, I fall on the side of the White House.
But to somehow assume that the President and National Security staff will personally foil every plot (although the image of Condi Rice dressed up as Wonder Woman might be pleasing to some) - or even manage the response to every plot is ludicrous.It's up to us; not as vigilantes or even armed defenders, but just alert neighbors. And baggage handlers.
One approach to the War on Terrorism is to built giant formally structured security systems, backed by massive, centralized technology, and as the complex, ‘wicked’ world keeps asking questions the system can’t ask, add pages and pages to the three-ring binders of regulations and policies the minimum-wage front-line employees must follow. You can hire and retain them based on their ability to follow the rules, even when it means taking the wire clippers away from a uniformed Special Forces soldier—who has his mouth wired shut because he’s wounded, and needs the cutters to cut the wires in the event he has to throw up. Or who want to take away the Congressional Medal of Honor from an 80-year old man flying to give a speech at the Air Force Academy.Update: Praktike busts me for not reading the byline, and thinks I'm completely wrong
It will involve a massive investment in machines that will be rushed into production and still be obsolete long before we have finished paying for them.I obviously don’t think much of this model in this application. I think it is based on old, Taylorian models in which you attempt to break the process into a finite series of discrete steps, and train the human portions of the system in performing these exact steps as precisely and efficiently as possible. It also removes the necessity for any kind of judgment or expertise on the part of the employee.
Go read Tacitus "In Search of Lost Time," about events in Iraq. Now.
I pretty much agree with everything he's saying, especially this:
"In fact, fellow American, there are only two things in the world that can stop them, and make their earnest sacrifice for glory or for naught: You and me.
UPDATE: I'll add a comment from Clint Smith that seems somehow appropriate as well: "A gun isn't a magic wand that will make your problems disappear when you wave it." The same is true of armies.
I watched a bunch of the Rice testimony at the gym this morning; sadly I didn't hear much of it, since 3 grown adults couldn't figure out how to turn on the closed-captioning on the TV sets there; we obviously needed a kid to show us how.
I've read a bunch of it, and found it sadly predictable. Both that the partisan 'blame game' was really the context of the discussion, and that neither side was willing to take the blame for the true causes of the failure.
I'll skip over the whole issue of historicity; that the infallibility of prediction only works in one way - backward.
Conservatives are strongly lined up behind the "we never knew!!" and were shocked, just shocked, to find that the reports that terrorists planned something in the US were true. Of course, Rumsfeld had stopped flying commercial by that point, so someone in the security apparat took it seriously.
The reality is that Bush and his team weren't looking for this, and so as the pattern emerged, they didn't see it. It is human nature to look for patterns, and particularly to look for patterns we have already observed. While sitting at the side of the track, I read a wonderful book called 'Complications,' by surgeon Atul Gawande. In it, he tells the harrowing story of suspecting and then diagnosing flesh-eating streptococcus in a young woman's leg, and then saving her leg through heroic surgery and treatment.
He suspected it only because he had just participated in another, failed surgery, in which a man infected with this disease died, so he was obsessed by this disease.
But let's share the blame.
The left and the Democrats are also to blame for 9/11, and not because it was the culmination of eight years of events under Clinton's administration (although in the histories, that has to be considered as well).
The reality is that had Bush responded to the warnings, the logical responses - to preclude Arab men from flying, from taking flight schools, or to have disarmed them (note that pre-9/11 it was perfectly legal to fly with a 3-1/2" Spyderco Delicia, as I did on every flight. I pretty much have one around all the time; they are quite useful).
So, imagine of you would, the response from Senator Kennedy, from the academic Left, from the ACLU.
On vague, unspecified intelligence, we would have detained, inconvenienced, embarrassed, and enraged any number of men - mostly innocent.
And the odds are that most of the 9/11 hijackers would have been able to fly - and act - unchecked.
If not that day, than someday soon when the intense pressure from the Democratic side had forced this 'profiling' program to stand down.
So while we're apportioning blame for 9/11 - and, personally, I'd like to see the entire national leadership stand up and take some - let's do it correctly.
Other Topics Today Include: Iraq Briefing; Iran Reports; Saudi Arabia opposes Pakistani terror amnesty; Singaporean JI leader offers to stop attacks; Dawood Ibrahim gets plastic surgery; ex-IMU member sez there's a revolution on the rise; Uzbekistan sez most of the IMU are jugged; Abu Sayyaf down to 400; MILF harbored Abu Sayyaf, JI; JI trained Abu Sayyaf; French arrest 15 Moroccans; new threat to Spain; Hekmatyar lieutenant captured; al-Qaeda affiliate linked to Somali NGO killings; assassination attempt on Ingushetian president; dynamite theft in Norway; France links Courtailler to 3/11 and Casablanca; and vodka-flavored ice cream!
THE WIDER WAR
Recent events in Iraq have forced me to postpone my response to noted commenter Andrew Lazarus for a week or so, though elements of that response can likely be found in this analysis, as it contains indirect elements of a polemic (the explanations of the consequences of pulling out of Iraq not being among them). In the meantime, this analysis will endeavor to explain what exactly is currently occurring inside Iraq as well as some observations with regard to who is likely behind it and a look at what could happen if we should fail.
There is more to life than your own petty domestic politics ...
One of the most annoying factors that one encounters within blogosphere, shifting only back and forth depending on which side of the ideological spectrum that a blog in question is located on, is that US foreign policy in general and success or failure in Iraq in particular is viewed solely through the lense of which US political party will benefit from it. I'm not particularly certain when this point of view became prevalent and to be quite frank, I really don't care. US success in Iraq is a good thing for the United States as a whole, not just for George Bush. Similarly, a US failure in Iraq will be an unparalleled disaster for us all, not simply for all of the chickenhawk warbloggers like myself who supported the invasion.
Taking this into perspective, I view declaring the situation in Iraq hopeless or civil war in the country inevitable to be little more than a tacit admission of US defeat as well as a justification of al-Qaeda's combat doctrine - the United States, for all its vaunted prowess, can be defeated through protracted guerrilla warfare. As Rohan Gunaratna notes in Inside al-Qaeda, bin Laden has long sought to entrap the US in a protracted guerrilla conflict out of the belief that his minions can defeat us in the same manner they did the Soviet Union. That is precisely why al-Qaeda is pulling resources from Afghanistan or calling in the international brigades of the Harakat ul-Mujahideen and Lashkar-e-Taiba, as well as fighters from Chechnya. And in case this issue is brought up, the much-maligned refusal of the US to place Afghanistan under direct military occupation but rather to subcontract that duty to the Northern Alliance is the only reason they haven't done it there. Ultimately, this is more about defeating the United States than any particular location, which is why resources previously allocated to the Taliban in Afghanistan are now being diverted to Iraq just as Mullah Omar's thugs were starting to have some semblance of success in briefly retaking a few border districts (think counties) in Zabul province.
In short, the situation is such that should the US lose badly in Iraq, al-Qaeda wins and this cannot be allowed if we hope to prosecute a successful war on terrorism, quite independent of who wins the US elections in November.
Villain #1: Muqtada al-Sadr
The first of two sources of the current unrest is the Iraqi Shi'ite leader Muqtada al-Sadr. Some of the biographical information on the man is rather sketchy and I've seen him listed as being between 22 and 31 years old, but all accounts agree that he is the son of late Shi'ite ayatollah Mohammed Sadiq Sadr, who was assassinated by Saddam Hussein in 1999. Prior to Operation Iraqi Freedom, he was the leader of the Jamaat-e-Sadr Thani.
He first appeared after the invasion of Iraq in connection with an attempt to seize control of the Shi'ite holy city of An Najaf from Grand Ayatollah Sistani, at which time he likely assassinated the pro-US Shi'ite leader Abdul Majid al-Khoei. While the situation was resolved when Sadr backed down, the young firebrand next showed up demanding the establishment of sha'riah and arguing in favor of the Khomeinist principle of velayet-e-faqih or rule by men of religion, which as we all know has worked out just peachy in Iran. This was also one of the first major indications of Sadr's main support base in the Sadr (formerly Saddam) City, a slum Shi'ite quarter of Baghdad whose inhabitants were brutalized by the former regime. These first signs of Sadr flexing his political muscle coincided with the return of the previously underground al-Dawaa political party, which was founded by one of Sadr's predecessors. Al-Dawaa advocated the formation of an Islamic state in Iraq and opposed the US occupation, but opted for a non-violent resistance for the time being.
Sadr's next major appearance came in mid-May when Sadr's supporters disrupted the return of Ayatollah Baqir al-Hakim to Iraq. Al-Hakim was one of the leaders of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), an Iranian-backed organization designed to counter-balance Saddam Hussein's own support for the Mujahideen-e-Khalq. It is somewhat unclear whether or not Sadr was involved with the Iranians at this point or not, though my own view of the situation is that he was from the very beginning, but was backed by a different faction within the Iranian leadership that favored a much more direct method of confrontation with the US than the kind of gradual control of the Shi'ite regions that SCIRI would have enabled. Amir Taheri listed SCIRI among one of the Iranian front groups controlled by the more accomodationist members of the civilian government, so clashes between the two might be expected as their ultimate backers due the same in Tehran.
The question of who Sadr was working for, however, became much more clear following his meeting in Tehran with members of the Iranian leadership in June. Upon his return, Sadr banned trading with Kuwaitis and formed the Mahdi Army as his own independent military force. One of the more interesting things to note with regard to Sadr is that his initial objective of kicking the US out of An Najaf is something that he and his Mahdi Army have to this day been unable to accomplish, a point to be noted to anyone who wants to over-estimate the threat posed by Sadr and his jackboots.
The first sign that Sadr and his Mahdi Army were starting to move beyond mere anti-American rhetoric came in August, when the Shi'ite residents of Sadr's support base Sadr City demanded an end to the US presence in the Baghdad suburb. Shortly thereafter, Sadr formed an alliance with the anti-Western Sunni cleric Ahmed Kubeisi, whose power base has greatly expanded in the Sunni Triangle since the fall of the Baathist Party. As a result, Sadr was able to expand his influence and his agenda into the old Baathist heartland - not that it stopped him from instigating sectarian cleansing in An Najaf and Karbala. More stand-offs in Sadr City soon followed, including a clash with the Mahdi Army in Baghdad that killed 2 American soldiers. In my view, it was this incident that marked Sadr and his thugs as a threat to the US occupation in Iraq that would have to be dealt with sooner or later.
Sadr's announcement of a creation of his own alternate government complete with a Ministry for Preservation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice combined with his ill-fated attempt to drive Sistani from Karbala. Now Sistani, unlike numerous other Iraqi political figures, has chosen not to maintain his own private army, so he had to rely on his followers using small arms. It was this event, in my opinion, that led Sistani to be so critical of the CPA and so insistent of direct elections in Iraq as well as a crackdown on small arms.
Following several tentative confrontations with both the US and Sistani, Sadr drifted back into obscurity until March 2004, when he declared 9/11 an act of God and announced his support for Hamas and Hezbollah, the latter being one of his most disturbing statements to date given that ICT believes him to be the head of Iraqi branch of the latter organization.
One of the more popular fallacies now being argued is that it was the closure of his newspaper that led Sadr into his current period of radical activities - in fact, his Mahdi Army had already demolished the village of Kawlia a full day earlier. To date, US forces have been engaging Sadr's followers in Baghdad as well as in and around An Najaf, but he still commands a formidable force of anywhere between 1,000-7,000 fighters, with a number of media reports and Healing Iraq claiming that he is being supported in these efforts by Iran and its proxy arm Hezbollah. Ignoring that this is arguably an act of war against the United States, so long as Sadr continues to receive support from his Iranian backers he is likely to remain a threat for the near-term future.
Villain #2: Abu Musab Zarqawi
While a lot of media commentary has focused on the prospect of Iraqi Baathists having staged the recent attacks against US forces in Fallujah and Ar Ramadi, few have discussed the very likely possibility of an al-Qaeda connection to the recent attacks there. There have been claims of an al-Qaeda cell operating in Fallujah since at least July 2003 and an al-Qaeda operative was captured in Ar Ramadi in October 2003 with 11 SAM missiles, suggesting that the organization also has a presence in the area - the US destroyed a terrorist training camp in the general area for foreign jihadis back in June.
In the case of Fallujah, the US has long been aware of an active al-Qaeda cell in the city and killed one of Zarqawi's lieutenants there little more than a month ago. Combine this with intelligence reports that non-Iraqi Arabs were involved in the brutal slaying of 4 US military contractors and an al-Qaeda connection becomes even more likely. Many commentators have suggested that the brutal mutilation of the contractors (for which al-Qaeda has posted a justification on one of their Yahoo! groups) was designed after the killing of 18 US servicemen in Somalia, yet not one commentator has raised the possibility that the killers might be one and the same as or have trained under the very same people responsible for that carnage over a decade ago.
What is even more disturbing is the way in which Moqtada Sadr and Abu Musab Zarqawi appear to be accomodating one another in terms of rhetoric. Sadr's actions and sectarian cleansings play to Sunni fears that the Shi'ite will retaliate against them en masse for decades of oppression under the Baathists, while Zarqawi's latest rant (the claims of a former Indian intelligence chief that Zarqawi was once a member of the SeS and LeJ certainly appear a lot more credible in light of the rhetoric he is employing) plays directly to Shi'ite fears that they will soon be persecuted again by their Sunni bretheren. The events of the Ashura Massacre in particular play into this perception and the result is that both the Shi'ites and the Sunnis are more than radicalized enough to provide a ready supply of cannon fodder for the likes of Sadr and Zarqawi. I am have no direct evidence that the two are actively in cahoots, but this strikes me as far too convenient (particularly with regard to the timing of Zarqawi's latest denunciation of the Shi'ites now that Sadr's feeling the heat from the US) a coincidence to ignore. Reports of an alliance across sectarian lines in support of Sadr would seem to strengthen this position.
One more thing to keep in mind about the remaining Iraqi Baathists - those still loyal to the cause are split in 3 arguing over who gets to be the next Maximum Leader now that Saddam Hussein is behind bars. Most the rank and file as well as the attendant cannon fodder have been absorbed into the jihadi infrastructure in the wake of Saddam Hussein's capture because they now recognize, for better or worse, that Zarqawi represents their best hope of regaining their former livelihoods.
The Iranian Game Plan
As Joe noted in Iran's Great Game, Iran seeks to undermine coalition efforts in Iraq, particularly in the Shi'ite areas, because they understand that an Iraq that is either unstable or ruled by Sadr is an Iraq that won't pose an ideological threat to the future of the Iranian regime. I think we can safely expect another move by Sadr against Sistani in the near future, Sistani's firm rejection of velayet-e-faqih poses too great an ideological threat to the underpinnings of the Islamic Republic to be allowed to fester in the long-term.
In addition, Zarqawi, like most of the surviving al-Qaeda leadership, has received refuge inside Iran despite his apparent sectarian views and is dependent on the IRGC for weaponry and support to his Ansar al-Islam cadres. These ties simply cannot be ignored when one takes into consideration Iran's imperialist designs with regard to Iraq and how to combat them. The attackers in Ar Ramadi sought to take advantage of the perceived US inability to retaliate against them while our forces were busy dealing with Fallujah and Sadr and in the event that Muqtada Sadr's Mahdi Army is decisively dismantled it should not be at all surprising to see the Sunni areas flare up again in some of the more traditional hot spots in the Triangle.
A self-fullfilling prophecy?
Ultimately, claims that this is the beginning of the end for the US occupation in Iraq or the start of the long-anticipated sectarian civil war (the latter being particularly odd in light of apparent cooperation across Shi'ite/Sunni divide) are inaccurate at this phase. Ultimately, the success or failure of the Iranian strategy with regard to the US in Iraq will depend on whether or not the United States and its allies retain the collective national will to defeat the insurgents. The question of whether or not Iraq will become a second Vietnam (i.e. a US defeat) is probably best answered, "No, and it won't be as long as we don't let it."
As most historians will tell you, the Tet Offensive was a resounding failure for the Viet Cong from a military perspective. Nevertheless, it served as the catalyst for the US withdrawl from South Vietnam and its subsequent conquest and oppression by their northern kinsmen. In the case of Iraq, we have already screwed the general population over once - in 1991, when we left the Iraqi people to rot in the midst of their own rebellion against the tyranny of Saddam Hussein. Now, for better or worse, we have overthrown the tyrant and I don't think it's arrogant to say that we owe them one this time around before we turn around declare our efforts there an abject failure.
More to the point, the implications for Iraq in regard to the larger war on terrorism are enormous. Whether or not one accepts (and I do) Iraqi complicity with regard to al-Qaeda, there can be little doubt that the terrorist network and its satellite groups are there in force now and is seeking to defeat us in a protracted guerrilla war in order to forcibly evict the United States from the country. Should they succeed in this objective, the propaganda as well as strategic implications for the entire Middle East are enormous. In addition, to emboldening Islamic radicals throughout the Gulf (Sunni in Saudi Arabia and Yemen and Shi'ite in Bahrain), a Taliban-esque enclave in central Iraq ruled by Zarqawi would easily be in a position to topple the Jordanian government, bringing al-Qaeda and its affiliates directly to the Israeli border. An Iranian-controlled (either de facto or de jure) southern Iraq would provide the Iranian regime with a great deal more economic muscle than it currently possesses (particularly if al-Qaeda's backers in Saudi Arabia due seize direct power over the Kingdom and put an end to its pro-Western veneer) and the loss of Bahrain would deprive the US of its naval bases in region, leaving Qatar isolated.
These are just some of possible scenarios that a US collapse in Iraq, which is why I feel that Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle probably said it best on the Senate floor:
"America will not be intimidated by barbaric acts whose only goal is to spread fear and chaos throughout Iraq," Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, said in a moving floor speech last Thursday after the initial attacks that began the weeklong string of violence.
"Yesterday's events will only serve to strengthen America's resolve and seal America's unity. The brave people who lost their lives did not die in vain. Americans stand together today and always to finish the work we started and bring peace and democracy to the citizens of Iraq," he said.
While I thought that some of the comments were unfair, on the whole I saw this discussion as a positive thing. Detractors and defenders from the Right, Left and Centre were engaging each other over provocative questions, making solid points, and for the most part participating in intelligent debate. If Winds has become the kind of place where this sort of thing can happen, it's fulfilling my vision.
Overall, I'd say that Charles' other readers (for I am one too) did a fine job. I was especially impressed by the postings from LGF's "contrarian caucus" of commenters who regularly disagree and criticize there. For them to show up here and defend his blog the way they did is a testimonial that should not be ignored. Ditto for the several Arab & Muslim commenters who posted here as regular LGFers, and of course thoughtful Winds regulars like Sam Barnes et. al.
Bottom Line: Do I believe that LGF is a valuable, informative site? Absolutely. Will I continue to link to it, and encourage other team members to do so? Yes. Are LGF's readers as a body an important resource? Yes. Are they also a problem for his site? Again, yes. Do I believe that Charles can fix this problem? No, not with the tools at his disposal - incl. some that he custom built in order to try.
Candidly, that has me worried for Winds of Change.NET's sustainability, because I believe we're looking at a side effect of the "power law" phenomenon.
More on these subjects, the place of LGF in the blogosphere, and my own thoughts on the "Anger, Hatred & War" controversy in my next post. Which, given my time constraints, probably won't happen until next week.
In every generation, every Jew is obligated to envision himself as if he personally had gone out from Egypt (vid. Exodus 13:8). Hence this excerpt and reminder from our Passover Hagaddah (lit. "tale, saga") called Russia, 1959, from a refusenik who was imprisoned in the Soviet Union:
"...Only that great moment when they set me free
From barbed wire fences and the licensed prisons,
That moment suddenly arrived, unguarded,
With early March's glittering frost, and heaven
Lit up with stars at noon, and on my lips
The blessing not said since childhood suddenly
Recalled as if it were but yesterday -
I make myself believe: to every lover
Of humanity that day will be a holiday,
Arriving without asking to come in."
-- Samuel Halkin, trans. by Edward Honig
In every generation. For in every generation, there are real stories to be told - and if we are true in our purpose, more holidays around the world that arrive without asking to come in.
First 'Freedom Fries,' Now Oil-for-Food Lies: Give France a Break
By Jean-David Levitte, Jean-David Levitte is the French ambassador to the United States.
...I have been deeply surprised in the last few days to see a new campaign of unfounded accusations against my country flourish again in the media. These allegations, being spread by a handful of influential, conservative TV and newspaper journalists in the U.S., have arisen in connection with a recent inquiry into the "oil for food" program that was run by the United Nations in Iraq during the final years of Saddam Hussein's government.
These allegations suggest that the government of France condoned kickbacks — bribes, in effect — from French companies to the Iraqi regime in return for further contracts. They say Paris turned a blind eye to these activities.No tome to research and comment now, but I'm sure a few of you folks have some time on your hands...
Let me be absolutely clear. These aspersions are completely false and can only have been an effort to discredit France, a longtime friend and ally of the U.S.
As the former French ambassador to the U.N., let me explain how the oil-for-food program worked. Created in 1996, it was intended to provide Iraqis with essential goods to alleviate the humanitarian effect of the international sanctions that remained in place. The program authorized Iraq to export agreed-on quantities of oil, and allowed money from the sales to be used for food and other necessities. The program was managed by the U.N. and monitored by Security Council members.
Between 1996 and the end of the program in 2003, every contract for every humanitarian purchase had to be unanimously approved by the 15 members of the Security Council, including France, Britain and the U.S. The complete contracts were only circulated to the U.S. and Britain, which had expressly asked to see them and would have been in the best position to have known if anything improper was going on. Though a number of contracts were put on hold by the American and British delegations on security-related grounds, no contract was ever held up because malfeasance, such as illegal kickbacks, had been detected.
Was there corruption and bribery inside the program? Frankly, I don't know. Iraq was not a market economy; it was under sanctions at the time. Customs experts had little choice but to assume that the prices set by outside companies were "reasonable and acceptable," a criterion of acceptance used by the U.N. secretariat, and they had no way of checking whether some contracts were overpriced.
That is why France fully supports the independent inquiry set up by the U.N. The truth must come out.
Was France a major beneficiary of oil-for-food contracts, as several conservative columnists have claimed recently? Definitely not. From the beginning of the program to its end, French contracts accounted for 8% of the total. We were Iraq's eighth-largest supplier.
In addition, throughout the program a sizable proportion of the contracts dubbed "French" were in fact contracts from foreign companies using their French branches, subsidiaries and agents. Among them were U.S. firms providing spare parts for the oil industry (including several subsidiaries of Halliburton). They submitted contracts through French subsidiaries for more than $200 million.
It is also suggested that the money from the oil-for-food contracts passed exclusively through a French bank, BNP Paribas. Wrong again: 41% of the money passed through J.P. Morgan Chase Bank, which, like BNP, was contracted by the U.N. with the approval of Security Council members.
This leaves us with one remaining accusation: that the French positions on the oil-for-food program and Iraq in general were driven by the lure of oil. Yet France was never a major destination for Iraqi oil during the program. In 2001, 8% of Iraqi oil was imported by France, compared with 44.5% imported by the U.S., which was the No. 1 importer all along.At a time when the U.N. is considering a return to Iraq, and we all agree on the need for close international cooperation to help a sovereign, stable Iraq emerge, I don't understand this campaign. Or the hidden agenda behind it.
Armed Liberal has begun a thoughtful attempt to unravel the issues surrounding use of force. In the case of what happened in Fallujah, and as we look at the Kos vs. lgf conversation below, I thought it might be useful to consider how the theory of just and unjust warfare addresses these issues.
Below is an excerpt from a book that many professional military officers read -- and debate. The book was written after the Vietnam war and I've selected it because it goes to the heart, not only of how terrorists justify atrocities, but also what actions (including language on blogs) we might want to take - or to refrain from justifying - in response.
From the 3rd edition of Michael Walzer's Just and Unjust Wars:
Overriding the Rules of War
The Decision to Bomb German Cities (note: during WWII - rkb)
The decision to bomb cities was made late in 1940 ... What had once been called indiscriminate bombing (and commonly condemned) was now required ... The purpose was explicitly declared to be the destruction of civilian morale.
... A number of reasons had already been offered for the British decision. From the beginning, the attacks were defended as reprisals for the German blitz. This is a very problematic defense, even if we leave aside the difficulties of the doctrine of reprisals (discussed earlier in the book - rkb) ... Nor was it Churchill's purpose, once the blitz began, to deter German attacks or to establish a policy of mutual restraint.
"We ask no favor of the enemy. We seek from them no compunction. On the contrary, if tonight the people of London were asked to cast their votes whether a convention should be entered into to stop the bombing of all cities, the overwhelming majority would cry, 'No, we will mete out to the Germans the measure, and more than the measure, that they have meted out to us.'
...Reprisal was a bad argument; revenge was a worse one. We must concentrate (then - rkb) on the military argument. ...(long analysis of Britain's military posture in 1940 here - rkb) ... Today many experts believe that the war might have ended sooner had there been a greater concentration of air power against targets such as the German oil refineries. But the deicsion to bomb cities was made at a time when victory was not in sight and the specter of defeat ever present. And it was made when no other decision seemed possible if there was to be any sort of military offensive against Nazi Germany.
Bomber Command was the only offensive weapon available to the British in those frightening years. .... 'The bombers alone', Churchill had said as early as September 1940, 'provide the means of victory.'
The bombers alone - that poses the issue very starkly, and perhaps wrongly, given the debates over strategy to which I have already referred. Churchill's statement suggested a certainty to which neither he nor anyone else had any right. But the issue can be put so as to accomodate a degree of skepticism and to permit even the most sophisticated among us to indulge in a common and a morally important fantasy: suppose that I sat in the seat of power and had to decide whether to use Bomber Command (in the only way that it could be used systematically and effectively) against cities. Suppose further that unless bombers were used in this way, the probability that Germany would eventually be defeated would be radically reduced.
... the more certain a German victory appeared to be in the absence of a bomber offensive, the most justifiable was the decision to launch the offensive. it is not just that such a victory was frightening, but also that it seemed in those years very close; it was not just that it was close, but also that it was so frightening. Here was a supreme emergency, where one might well be required to override the rights of innocent people and shatter the war convention.
Given the view of Nazism that I am assuming, the issue takes this form: should I wager this determinate crime (the killing of innocent people) against that immesurable evil (a Nazi triumph)? Obviously, if there is some other way of avoiding the evil or even a reasonable chance of another way, I must wager differently or elsewhere. But I can never hope to be sure; a wager is not an experiment. Even if I wager and win, it is still possible that I was wrong, that my crime was unnecessary to victory. But I can argue that I studied the case as closely as I was able, took the best advice I could find, sought out available alternatives. And if all this is true, and my perception of evil and imminent danger not hysterical or self-serving, then surely I must wager. There is no option; the risk is too great. My own action is determinate, of course, only as to its direct consequences, while the rule that bars such acts is founded on a conception of rights that transcends all immediate considerations. It arises out of our common hsitory; it holds the key to our common future. But I dare to say that our history will be nullified and our future condemned unless I accept the burdens of criminality here and now.This is not an easy argument to make, and yet we must resist every effort to make it easier. ...
This argument says: sometimes it is right to decide an emergency exists which requires us to do things we otherwise judge to be illegal and wrong. Do them we must, if the risk is sufficiently great and sufficiently immediate. But we should never kid ourselves that they were right - just that they were necessary.
Does this argument provide us with a way to distinguish between the murder and desecration of the contractors in Fallujah and casualties inflicted by the Marines there afterward?
And does it provide a useful way to critique terrorism as opposed to war?
UPDATE: I have a few minutes free right now and would like to expand on my questions here, in response to some of the comments so far.
One strength of the argument I quoted is that it accounts for two different, and conflicting, factors at work during war - factors which I believe differentiate just war from terrorism.
First and foremost, this argument ties the loss of civilian life to a pressing danger which cannot be handled (insofar as the decision maker can judge) in any other effective way.
This argument was made about the invasion of Iraq. Can the mob in Fallujah make the same claim about the Blackwater contractors? Can the perpetrators of the Madrid bombs, or of 9/11, do so?
My own belief is that they not only CANNOT do so, they do not even care to try.
Second, this argument acknowledges that the loss of civilians and innocents is deeply regretable and cannot be swept aside as inconsequential.
In other words, the Islamacist terror networks fail to do 2 things that the Coalition forces are doing in Iraq. First, they fail to claim that they face a massive risk which necessitates their actions. And second, they fail to show remorse or concern for having commited acts which might be considered immoral or regretable.
Now, how does this apply (if at all) to the controversy about Kos and lgf?
One way we might apply it is to say something along the following lines:
"Strong emotions and harsh judgements may be the only way to get at the stark realities in a horrible situation.
However, it is regretable when we use this language, because it inevitably makes important discourse impossible, it does serious injustice to those whom we dehumanize this way and it undercuts our own credibility and judgement.
Therefore, extreme rhetoric may occasionally be justified, but it carries with it a true cost. Use it very rarely and very carefully, lest you become what you criticize."
By its violent nature, war inflames our emotions. As humans, we have reactions that are in part biological as well as deeply ingrained through our cultures, and the naked confrontation which leads to war as well as the violence embodied in it trigger those emotions.
"I have often preached that the proper antidote to fear is anger, and I see no reason to change my opinion on this. However, there is another mental condition that serves as well or possibly better, and that is concentration. I have discussed this matter at great length with people who are in a position to know, and I am not without experience of my own, and I can state positively that when you find yourself facing deadly danger, your ability to concentrate every mental faculty upon doing what needs to be done to save yourself leaves no room for fear." -- Col. Jeff Cooper
"In strategy your spiritual bearing must not be any different than normal. Both in fighting and in everyday life you should be determined though calm. Meet the situation without tenseness yet not recklessly, your spirit settled yet unbiased... Do not let your spirit be influenced by your body, or your body be influenced by your spirit. Be neither insufficiently spirited nor overspirited. Do not let the enemy see your spirit." -- Miyamoto Musashi
Much martial arts training, and much military training (as I understand it) is about learning to manage those emotional reactions. But note that 'managing' them is not to completely deny them...
Because, in truth, they serve as an engine for the human reluctance to confront or to risk and commit violence.
When faced with confrontation, hatred, or violence, part of our human nature is to withdraw, to look away, to act like prey - not predator. Another part reacts aggressively.
The question in any instance is which is the appropriate reaction?
In this case, we're taking about the anger in response to the events in Falluja - and let's make one thing clear; the events are not simply the attack on and killing of the civilian guards. That's tragic, but in most of our worlds would have been a blip. It was the brutal treatment of their bodies once they were helplessly dead, in defiance of Islam, which like most religions, requires a certain respect for the dead.
So we're angry. And to an extent, it's important that we have some anger, because otherwise we would be helpless.
And to that extent, when we see things like suicide bombings, when we remember the images of 9/11, anger's not a bad thing. It is, as Cooper says, far better than fear.
But in the actual conflict, in the actual decision to fight and fighting, I'll take Cooper's 'concentration' and Musashi's 'settled yet unbiased' spirit. Showing anger - standing in front of the enemy or potential enemy, and frothing at the mouth in rage - does two bad things. First, it helps create a fight where it might have been possible to avoid one. And second, if your enemy is at all strong, it shows weakness.
One of the things that the Arab media shows me, with their constant displays of rage, is how weak the Arab world really is.
That doesn't mean we have nothing to fear from them, and it's not a suggestion that we ignore them.
Because, as I've noted, an eleven-year old with a shotgun still warrants your attention and reaction.
But if we want to win - which I'll define as coming out on top without turning the Arab world into rubble - we'll do it in the spirit of Jeff Cooper and Musashi.
The Passover Seder includes the story of the 4 children: the wise, the wicked, the simple, and the one who does not even know how to ask. Each is told the story in their own way, at their own level of understanding.. and some Haggadahs (lit. "telling, saga, tale") include additional materials that enhance their points:
"The monument... shall serve as a reminder for us who have survived to remain loyal to our people and to the moral principles cherished by our fathers. Only through such loyalty may we hope to survive this age of moral decay... let us clearly recognize and never forget this: that mutual cooperation and the furtherance of living ties between Jews of all lands is out sole physical and moral protection in the present situation. But for the future our hope lies in overcoming the general moral abasement which today gravely menaces the very existence of mankind."
Who is this wise son? Albert Einstein, at the monument to the martyred Jews of the Warsaw Ghetto, on April 19, 1948.
We're dealing with pretty visceral emotional reactions at the same time that we're trying to maintain some sense of moral clarity, and those are not easy things to do.
But I thought of something that happened this weekend, and it shed some light on the question, so I'll open with a brief story.
TG took a motorcycle riding class held on a racetrack here in Southern California (I'll be slightly evasive on exactly which one, where, so forgive me, but we've been to most of the big schools), and I was her pit crew (and I'm not bitter about not getting to ride, no I'm not at all bitter...). This involved hanging out, reading two good books, intermittent flurries of activity on her behalf, worrying a lot (there's an interesting post on that), and chatting with folks, as I tend to do.
One guy I chatted with was the father of an AMA professional road racer who has recently retired, whose son - a 15-year old - was interested in following in his father's footsteps. The boy had a successful career in other kinds of motorcycle racing, and was ready to start roadracing, and so was at the class polishing his skills (he was, thank God, in a more advanced group than TG was). The grandfather was an unbelievably neat guy; he called me on my anxiety when TG was out on the track, and got me to sit back and relax and enjoy myself, and we chatted about racing and kids and marriage and life for much of the day.
At the end of the day. when we'd packed the bikes onto the trailer and were headed home, I stopped by his motor home and said goodbye, and wished him and his grandson success. I complimented him grandson, pointing out that he was amazingly polite, helpful, and just overall a good kid.
"Yeah, he is," the grand-dad said proudly. Then his face changed, and he added, "but I worry that he's too nice to succeed as a racer, and that's something he really wants to do."
Too nice to succeed. An interesting thought. But it makes sense to us; you automatically understand what it means, and it helps me put a frame around the questions that I've been wrestling with for the last few days.
First, why is it OK for us to be cruel, and not OK for them?
Next, what is the place of anger in conflict?
Finally, is it legitimate for us to be angry at the Arab world or elements of the Arab world?
This is turning out to be longer and messier than I'd intended, and I don't have time to do as good a job of editing as I'd like, so let me just jump into the first question today, and follow up with the others tomorrow.
Nathan Newman challenged those who criticized Kos by posting a graphic image of a dead child and asking why that child's death didn't spur the same level of outrage as the deaths of the American civilian guards, and by extension, why the deaths of Iraqi civilians in the crossfire in Falluja last week didn't outrage us.
The answer to Nathan's question is, in no small part, that we're not that nice. We don't value all lives lost the same way; we value ours more than theirs, those murdered more than those killed in accidents, and so on.
And the reality is that it's impossible to value all lives equally.
If we did, we could never go to war. Some people might think that's a good thing; but there are other people in the world who aren't that nice, and they would then win; they would force us to do their will and we'd be back where we started. I believe that; others disagree; they see our not-niceness as the cause of the conflicts, not a defense against them, and in large part, that defines the boundary between the two sides in the conflict over this war.
But it's not only war. If we valued all lives, no one would smoke, or drink, or engage in risky sports, or eat anything except tofu and lentils.
Every decision we make kills someone. Every dollar we spend is a dollar that doesn't save a starving child, everything we buy leaves a trail of pollution, exploitation and death behind.
My father built high-rise buildings. He probably lost a worker on every third or fourth project; he was devastated when it happened. We would go to the funerals. But it isn't possible to build buildings like that without risk.
I ride motorcycles; in my circle of fifty or so riding acquaintances, we've had 4 deaths in six years.
My oldest son wants to join the military and fly jet fighters. In reality, flying them is riskier than fighting in them.
I value TG more than myself; I know that I would die to protect her. And yet I sat by when she took her motorcycle out onto a racetrack and rode. I did that because there are some things more important than life itself; the freedom to express yourself and to act, for one.
So we do accept deaths as a consequence of what we do.
Making political decisions involves accepting deaths, too.
How much will we spend on emergency medical care versus home heating subsidies? How much will we spend on food stamps for the elderly versus prescription drugs? How much energy will we spend on creating jobs and how much on preserving the environment? Each decision means deaths; from disease or injury, from cold, from malnutrition (the elderly poor still suffer from that); from uncontrolled illness, from unemployment and descent into poverty, from illness caused by environmental conditions.I've made a point of criticizing much of the modern left because of it's desire for purity; for the belief that they can, somehow, stand apart from what Sartre called 'the filth and the blood' of living in the world. I said:
A long time ago, I talked about the moral importance of hunting… that I felt it somehow wrong for people to both eat meat that they buy in the store and yet somehow they deny their responsibility for the life that was taken for their consumption. For me, having hunted somehow solves this problem…I have taken the responsibility, I have had my hands up to the elbows in the bloody mess, and changed something from an animal to meat for my table.That's not a nice position to take.
But when I read much of what comes from the left, I'm left with the feeling that they want to consume the benefits that come from living in the U.S. and more generally the West without either doing the messy work involved or, more seriously, taking on the moral responsibility for the life they enjoy.
We enjoy this life because a number of things happened in the world’s (our) history. Many of them involved one group dominating (or brutalizing or exterminating) another, or specific actions (Dresden, Hiroshima) whose moral foundation is sketchy at best.
"Do you think one can govern innocently? Purity is a matter for monks, clerics, not for politicians. My hands are dirty to the elbows. I have shoved them in filth and blood," Hoederer says in Sartre’s ‘Dirty Hands’.
Part of political adulthood is the maturity to realize that we are none of us innocents. The clothes we wear, money we have, jobs we go to are a result of a long, bloody and messy history.
I see my job as a liberal as making the future less bloody than the past.
But I accept the blood on my hands. I can't enjoy the freedom and wealth of this society and somehow claim to be innocent. I don't get to lecture people from a position of moral purity. No one spending U.S. dollars, or speaking with the freedom protected by U.S. laws gets to. I want to make the future less bloody than the past; that may mean accepting my responsibility for the blood shed today.
But it doesn't put me on a par with Islamists, and that matters.
It doesn't for two reasons. First, because on a basic level, the world is divided into teams. One point I've also made in the past is the attachment of the modern left to cosmopolitan values, as opposed to patriotic ones.
On one level, that's a good thing. Sharing the humanity of the rest of the world means something, and means something good. But as I've also talked about, there is a real value in patriotism, particularly the unique patriotism of America, which is based on shared values and not blood and soil.Many on the left reject it, as Schaar pointed out:
Opponents of patriotism might agree that if the two could be separated then patriotism would look fairly attractive. But the opinion is widespread, almost atmospheric, that the separation is impossible, that with the triumph of the nation-state nation. Nationalism has indelibly stained patriotism: the two are warp and woof. The argument against patriotism goes on to say that, psychologically considered, patriot and nationalist are the same: both are characterized by exaggerated love for one's own collectivity combined with more or less contempt and hostility toward outsiders. In addition, advanced political opinion holds that positive, new ideas and forces--e.g., internationalism, universalism; humanism, economic interdependence, socialist solidarity--are healthier bonds of unity, and more to be encouraged than the ties of patriotism. These are genuine objections, and they are held by many thoughtful people.And those thoughtful people, by virtue of their attachment to the wider world, cannot take sides; they can't view the tragedy of an American soldier's death as deeply different than the tragedy of an Iraqi soldier's death. They are one and the same; and so are paralyzed. They can't make a decision because all deaths weigh the same.
They don't weigh the same to me.
I value ours more than I do theirs; I value them most of all because they are fighting for me and the values which have created me and given me the life I enjoy. Yes, I value them because they are 'like me' as well, but the Pakistani troops who die fighting Al Quieda are, in the context of their own politics, fighting for me and my values as well. I don't see the sides as morally equivalent, and even if I had opposed the invasion of Iraq - which I almost did - I wouldn't see them as morally equivalent.
I feel for the deaths done to innocents; to children, woman, and men whose only wrong was to be in the wrong place in the wrong time. To me the enterprise of war is inherently tragic, and that tragedy is nowhere more represented than in these deaths.
But like the deaths we choose when we decide on healthcare policy - which are no less tragic for being less visible and shockingly photogenic - they are an inevitible consequence of the decisions we make. I've read a lot of history, some of which was military history, and I'll point out that in all wars, from Attic Greece forward, innocents have suffered.
I'm proud of our military that they work so hard, and take such risks to minimize that suffering.
I'll note here that there's an interesting (if frighteningly depressing) theory that one reason why we will have so much trouble rebuilding Iraq is that we didn't damage the civilian infrastructure enough, and that the civilians didn't suffer enough. I'm a ways away from that position, but at some point, it'll be something worth discussing.
But the reality is that there's no way to pick apart what we want (and I think need) to accomplish and some quantity of suffering. Personally, I want to minimize the aggregate quantity of it.
But if there is a trade between ours and theirs, I'll take theirs. Because I do believe that there is a 'them' and an 'us'.
Next, the place of anger.
Not one of the Top 5 Dylan songs I chose made it onto Norm Geras' Top 20.
Statistically, that's unlikely, although it may have something to do with Mike A's comment on my disconnect from mainstream pop culture.
My picks were:
Update: Charles links over and a hockey match ensues in the comments below. More debate here, as Joe joins the scrimmage.
Folks, if you go to the comments, you'll see that I've edited out a series of comments centering on the notion that LGF should be shut down or sanctioned because it promotes 'hate speech'.
Sorry, not on this pitch; that's not a topic of discussion I'm interested in having on one of my posts. Regardless of my bias toward (or against) any blogger, I'm not in the business of shutting people down.
If any of you post on this again, I may elect to ban you.
For all the visitors from LGF, I'm glad you're here and hope you stick around. Our place is somewhat different from Charles'; think biker bar and college bull session. Each of us (there are a bunch of authors here) control the comments on our threads, and I tend to be fairly ruthless in criticizing and at some point banning people who don't want to make arguments, but want to have them instead. Hope you browse around and we're interested in what you have to say.]I've been corresponding with ex-blogger (come baaack!!) and uber-commuter Ann Salisbury about the whole Kos issue, and snce she suggested it, I think I'll just post our last emails:
...I didn't get the impression that Nathan was cheering by posting the pic, but setting it out there for what it was -- which, in my mind, is tragedy, plain and simple.
I can't see any violence being "better" than another, but I can see "justified" or "more justified" violence. Self-defense and defense of others is usually "more justified," but even the law in the United States requires that the perceived threat giving rise to the self-defense be a reasonable perception. (For example, "He looked at me funny," just doesn't do it.)
Glad to see you're working through the hard stuff - and I appreciate you sharing it, because it's helping me to work through it too.
I'm breaking the issue into two basic areas:
Is our violence better than their violence? And if so, why?
What is the place of hate in conflict?
I've met Charles, and he's a liberal who was shocked by 9/11 into reading Arab media, and shocked by what he saw there. I really do think he's provided a service in opening that up to wider discussion, and I think he's damaged the service that he does by allowing his comments to be as bile-filled as they are.
I think that the good thing about our side is that we're willing to accept the humanity of everyone - including our enemies, which is why we grieve, not cheer, at the picture on Nathan's site. When we stop doing that - as Kos did, and as many of Charles' commenters do, we erode our own standing.
One blogger had predicted the possibility of trouble, but obviously the warning signs were ignored. Mind you, at least we didn't start our season on a losing note by coughing up 6 runs in the 9th inning (Chicago White Sox). Or blowing a 3 run lead, then giving up the winning run in the 9th without giving up a hit (Houston Astros).
Hey, there's always tomorrow...
Daniel Drezner will be away from his computer for a little while, but he does have a pair of articles worth your time. The common theme of both is the role played by hidden compomises, and the difference between stated goals and what actually happens in the real world of intelligence and foreign policy.
Drezner's first piece excerpts Andrew C. McCarthy's essay "The Intelligence Mess: How It Happened, What to Do About It." in the April issue of Commentary. McCarthy led the 1995 prosecution of Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman in connection with the first World Trade Center bombing. Like Trent Telenko, he's skeptical that the mantra of "greater interagency coordination" will accomplish much, and believes the problems go deeper. Read why.
The other article notes that the biggest difference between Bush and Kerry will be which groups act as invisible constraint on the administration's policies:
"Many voters won't think about it this way, but in choosing between Kerry and Bush, they're not just picking which side of the multilateral-unilateral divide to be on; they're also picking which actors -- the Chiracs or the Rumsfelds -- will serve as hidden constraints on the next president's stated foreign-policy convictions."
Thought provoking, though I suspect he may be wrong about the likely results of the realists' influence on Bush from 2004-2008. What do you think? And what do you think of his take on a Kerry administration's likely options?
Passover begins tonight with the First Seder, and I'm at my parents helping with preparations. Mike Sanders of Keep Trying covers the meaning of Passover in Undersdtanding Freedom, which includes good thoughts and good links about the holiday and its spiritual meaning.
For those who prefer a more immersive approach, you can watch Charlton Heston in The 10 Commandments and get the holiday story that way. As a tip of the hat to Mr. Heston, I should note that if the ancient Israelites had owned guns, all the plagues, sea parting et. al. would not have been necessary and we could have headed straight to Mt. Sinai. Just sayin', is all.
Meanwhile, Rabbi Lazar Brody (who has owned his share of guns) talks about the 3 paths to faith in Matzah and Faith. Here's the key Passover quote:
"That's the whole message of Pesach. Leavened bread is symbolic of a puffed up ego and intellect. Matza is the symbol of simple faith. During Passover, we leave the prison of our own intellectual confinement to put our simple trust in G-d. For some folks, that's a tough task. Without faith, there's no freedom and no redemption."
May this festival of freedom herald a new dawn of freedom for many people - and nations - around the world.
UPDATE: And best wishes to you, too, Michele! Nice set of links, and many thanks for your own freedom-centered efforts over the past couple of years.
Very young children who watch television face an increased risk of attention deficit problems by school age, a study has found, suggesting that TV might overstimulate and permanently "rewire" the developing brain.We haven't had TV (with brief periods of cable connection) since my oldest son was born. I can't tell you how much I recommend it.
For every hour of television watched daily, two groups of children -- ages 1 and 3 -- faced a 10 percent increased risk of having attention problems at age 7.
Littlest Guy just invented a game involving a chessboard, Lego parts, and dice today and taught it to me. That's what kids do when they aren't sucking on the glass teat (sorry, Harlan)
WASHINGTON, April 4 The leaders of the independent commission investigating the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks agreed Sunday that evidence gathered by their panel showed the attacks could probably have been prevented.
Their remarks drew sharp disagreement from one of President Bush's closest political advisers, who insisted that the Bush and Clinton administrations had no opportunity to disrupt the Sept. 11 plot. They also offered a preview of the difficult questions likely to confront Condoleezza Rice when she testifies before the panel at a long-awaited public hearing this week....
While reading that, don't under any circumstances forget to go check out Phil Carter's take on Clarke:
Also appearing on "Meet the Press," Karen P. Hughes, one of Mr. Bush's closest political advisers and an important strategist for his re-election campaign, rejected the suggestion that the attacks could have been prevented."I just don't think, based on everything I know, and I was there, that there was anything that anyone in government could have done to have put together the pieces before the horror of that day," Ms. Hughes said. "If we could have in either administration, either in the eight years of the Clinton administration or the seven and a half months of the Bush administration, I'm convinced we would have done so."
As for Mr. Clarke's argument regarding Iraq, I closed his book without having been persuaded by his argument. He did not marshal enough evidence to persuade me that the Bush Administration had deceived the American public to march towards war, or that it had considered (and disregarded) all of the strategic costs of the war. That's not to say that these things aren't true -- only that Mr. Clarke's book didn't do a good job of making these arguments. Similarly, I was unimpressed by Mr. Clarke's argument that the war in Iraq has been a distraction from the war on terrorism. With his knowledge of this issue, I expected a detailed breakdown of all the ways that the war in Iraq took away resources, political capital, and focus from the domestic and foreign war on terrorism. I found that argument to be lacking as well. He did not, for example, discuss how intelligence assets devoted to finding Iraqi WMD might have been devoted to finding Al Qaeda personnel and equipment. Nor did look at the resource-allocation problem with his NSC-trained eye, in order to make the argument the billions spent on Iraq might have been otherwise programmed for homeland security.Damn. Now I have to go read it.
Other Topics Today Include: Iraq Briefing; Iran Reports; Saif al-Adel orders an attack on Canadians; Abu Sayyaf makes threats and trains Muslim converts; Afghan national army intervenes in Herat; international arrest warrants issued for 3/11 suspects; Canadian arrested in connection with UK plot; Pakistan link to UK terror suspects; Germany monitoring Islamic radicals; al-Qaeda reeling from WoT; JI members acting under bin Laden's fatwas; Turkish Arabic teachers arrested; al-Tawhid cell busted in Jordan; 63 Devrimci Sol busted in 5 countries; Polish president an al-Qaeda target; US generals link al-Qaeda to drug and blood diamonds trades; and a New Zealand sheep-run.
THE WIDER WAR
This isn't remotely the last one, or even the worst that we will face. Resolve and sitzfleisch are what's called for at this point.Here's where it started:
In an ominous development that threatens to widen the rift between Iraq's Shi'ite majority and the occupation forces, Sadr told his supporters yesterday to "terrorise" the enemy as demonstrations were now pointless.More as it develops...and my thoughts are with the troops and innocent civilians. May this pass quickly and safely for them.
"There is no use for demonstrations, as your enemy loves to terrify and suppress opinions, and despises people," Sadr said in a statement distributed by his office in Kufa, south of Baghdad.But Shi'ite spiritual leader Ali Al Sistani appealed for calm and urged Shi'ite demonstrators to resolve their differences with coalition forces through negotiation.
I have no personal animus toward Markos Zuniga; I don't know the guy personally, and up until now, my major Post-It abut him was that I thought it was cool that someone was bridging the gap between this amateur political discourse we do in the blogosphere and electoral politics.
He's always been a bit strident and chest-beating, but I've chalked that up to personal style (or, on my more cynical days, the kind of extreme posturing that gets attention).
He crossed a line with his now-infamous comment, and that's changed my view of him.
Since we don't know each other, that's a kind of 'so what?' comment. Except for one big and one little thing.
The big thing is simple; in my view, there's good and bad. Good involves peace, justice, liberty (from exploitation as well as oppression), and the fundamental acceptance of the humanity and value of everyone - and bad involves the opposite. In my view, the constructive dialogs are ones among people who have different views of how to attain Good, and different visions of exactly what it looks like, manifested in the messy world of reality.
Was invading Iraq the best path from here to there? Were there better alternatives? What are the alternatives today, and how do we decide among them? Those are things that I believe people on the side of Good can discuss - even debate heatedly and struggle over politically.
But, in my mind, there's a pretty clear line between Us and Them. Being with Them is about supporting blowing up busses and pizzerias - not as criminal acts, not as errors of negligence or simple chance, but as core acts; acts that define who you are and what you do. Being with Them is about torturing and murdering captives, not fattening them up and teaching them to snorkel (and yes, I know Guantanamo is worse than that - but it's better than the fate of the soldiers in the Ramallah police station).
On this blog, one of our co-bloggers crossed that line with a comment extolling the terrorist bombing of the UN headquarters in Iraq. Joe, to his credit, asked Trent to step away from the blog for a while because the sentiments he expressed were so deeply against what Joe and this blog (and by extension, I) stand for that no other reaction was possible. Trent was (and is) a valuable member of this community, as much as he and I may disagree, but with that comment...
And similarly, Kos stepped neatly across the line with his comment, and has only walked further away from it with his actions since (redirecting the link to the comment, pulling the post it was attached to off his blog, his non-apology, and his most recent response, in which he says something stupid and the evil minions of the underworld attack him for it).
Does that mean we're better than he is?
I'll step up and say yes.
Look, we all say and do stupid things on occasion (some more than others, of course). But what's missing in Kos is the notion that what happened to him is anything except a political ambush by his enemies.
And that, in turn matters because Kos is plugged deeply into current Democratic electoral politics, as one of Joe Trippi's advisors in the Dean campaign, in the Clark campaign, in the Joe ("it's the Jooos") MBNA Moran campaign.
I've said in the past - and been harshly criticized by people who probably agree with most of my policy beliefs (except Iraq, no doubt) - for criticizing the left for 'not loving America'. I've talked about what a left that does love America might look like - or what it's philosophical roots might be.
And I'm told, over and over again, that I'm setting up straw men.
No, I'm not.
And that matters, both because many of those I oppose are, I believe, on the wrong side of the divide above - but because they have and will take the left down with them.
Reading the comments on the Kerry blog about the delinking of Kos is informative.
If I were a GOP tactician (and I assume they already are, because they do this for a living) I'd be planting the seeds about the cash Kos had bundled for Kerry, and asking 'will it be returned?'
And if it is, we're about to see an internecine battle which will guarantee the White House to Bush.
(it's late, and I'll add links in this tomorrow morning)
JK: John Farren is one of the sharper commenters here on Winds of Change.NET, and that's no small distinction. Today, he posted this addendum to the "Good News Saturdays 2004" comments...
Some fascinating and wonderful science news this week:
Other good news: Spring is here, sun is shining, daffodils in flower, apple buds breaking, and I'm going for a walk. "The force that through the green fuse drives the flower..."
A happy Sabbath to all.
As militant Islam does its best to discredit the religion, it is important to remember that there are other voices within the faith. One such is the Sufis, a branch of Islamic mystics with roots in many religious traditions. The lessons of Sufism are often communicated through humorous stories and mystical or romantic poetry. As a part of Joe's Good News Saturdays, we spend some time each week with the Sufis and their "wisdom of idiots."This week, it's back to Rumi. I'm reading Coleman Barks' collection The Essential Rumi at the moment. This short poem caught my eye, as a nice crossover between Sufism and Zen:
When you are with everyone but me,Who is speaking here? And how can one "be everyone", as Rumi suggests?
you're with no one.
When you are with no one but me,
you're with everyone.
Instead of being so bound up with everyone,
When you become that many, you're nothing.
Why would a man who has just won his third world championship leave the team that had brought him such dominance in favour of an inconsistent, underachieving operation that had not produced a world champion in 11 years? The most recent time a Yamaha rider had dominated the tracks was back in 1992 (Wayne Rainey), and in the ensuing years, a succession of Hondas, ridden first by Mick Doohan and then Alex Criville, and finally Rossi himself, had taken the championship. The only interruption to the Honda reign was Kevin Schwantz's 1993 title and Kenny Roberts jnr's triumph in 2000, both riding a Suzuki. Roberts' victory came in the year that a then 20-year-old Rossi was making his debut in the 500cc class, then motorcycling's top category. Rossi finished second in the title race that year, but never again was Roberts, or anyone else for that matter, to give him much trouble as he became the last 500cc title winner in 2001 and the first man to take out the new four-stroke 1000cc MotoGP category in 2002 and 2003. At the time of his departure last year, Rossi simply said he was bored with the domination he had achieved on his Honda, and needed a fresh challenge. Some believed he was chafing at the demands being made on him by Honda. Others -- including his former mentor and boss of Honda Racing Corporation, Doohan -- suggest the reportedly $17 million a year pay cheque had prompted his desire to switch camps. Rossi disagrees. In an interview on his personal website, he said: "There was nothing to prove. It was just that the motivation riding for Honda had finished, we won three world championships in a row, we won at favourite tracks, at my least favourite tracks, and in all conditions, so what was left to do?Hemingway made a simple distinction between sports and games; a sport can kill you. I have a more than healthy respect for the risks racers like Rossi take; but to me the sportsmanship shown in his latest decision - to walk away from a sure thing and give himself a new challenge - is really far more wonderful than the daring he shows on the track. Now for the Good News. Last weekend, the teams had a final shakedown before the first race of the season. April 17 in South Africa. On the track at Catalunya, Spain, all the leading teams came out to test their machines and setup. The final results? 1. Valentino ROSSI, Yamaha, 1:44.571 2. Alex BARROS, Honda, 1:44.631 3. Nicky HAYDEN, Honda, 1:44.634 4. Colin EDWARDS, Honda, 1:44.653 5. Sete GIBERNAU, Honda, 1:44.669
One last point before we switch over to Good News.
Guys like Roger Simon, Michael Totten and I are always being accused of demonizing the left by painting it with the colors of its most extreme members. "That's not really the antiwar movement. Other than a few extremists..." etc., etc.
It's hard to be much more mainstream than Markos Moulitsas Zúniga (Kos); he was involved in the Dean and Clark campaigns, and is building a political consultancy that works on national Democratic campaigns.
Kos said something quick and stupid yesterday...
[Update: And has now, in act of true courage, pulled it off his site without explanation. Here's a screenshot of it, in case you need to be reminded. Which side is it again that's fighting against Oceania? ]...and followed it up today with something longer, more honeyed in tone, and saying exactly the same thing.
There's been much ado about my indifference to the Mercenary deaths in Falluja a couple days ago. I wrote in some diary comments somewhere that "I felt nothing" and "screw them". My language was harsh, and, in reality, not true. Fact is, I did feel something. That's why I was so angry.
I was angry that five soldiers -- the real heroes in my mind -- were killed the same day and got far lower billing in the newscasts. I was angry that 51 American soldiers paid the ultimate price for Bush's folly in Iraq in March alone. I was angry that these mercenaries make more in a day than our brave men and women in uniform make in an entire month. I was angry that the US is funding private armies, paying them $30,000 per soldier, per month, while the Bush administration tries to cut our soldiers' hazard pay. I was angry that these mercenaries would leave their wives and children behind to enter a war zone on their own violition. So I struck back.So by attacking - striking back at - the dead civilians, he somehow felt he could remedy an injustice - the disregard by the media of the soldiers who were killed that day.
Unlike the vast majority of people in this country, I actually grew up in a war zone. I witnessed communist guerillas execute students accused of being government collaborators. I was 8 years old, and I remember stepping over a dead body, warm blood flowing from a fresh wound. Dodging bullets while at market. I lived in the midsts of hate the likes of which most of you will never understand (Clinton and Bush hatred is nothing compared to that generated when people kill each other for politics or race or nationality). There's no way I could ever describe the ways this experience colors my worldview.And, by extension, there's no way any one of us who hasn't shared his experiences can judge Here he wraps himself in the accusation-proof flag of victimhood, spins, and bows to the audience.
Back to Iraq, our men and women in uniform are there under orders, trying to make the best of an impossible situation. The war is not their fault, and I will always defend their honor and bravery to the end of my days. But the mercenary is a whole different deal. They willingly enter a war zone, and do so because of the paycheck. They're not there for humanitarian reasons (I doubt they'd donate half their paycheck to the Red Cross or whatever). They're there because the money is DAMN good. They answer to no one except their CEO. They are dangerous, hence international efforts (however fruitless they may be) to ban their use.I'll skip over the whole "we have a volunteer army" argument as too obvious, and point out that the motivation of the contractors - like the motivation of the soldiers, or the motivation of the private contractors charging hazard pay to work in Iraq - is probably a little more complex than that. And that - as with the overarching importance of his feelings above, the fact that he besmirches the dead by challenging their motivations - rather than their actions - speaks volumes.
So not only was I wrong to say I felt nothing over their deaths, I was lying. I felt way too much. Nobody deserves to die. But in the greater scheme of things, there are a lot of greater tragedies going on in Iraq (51 last month, plus countless civilians and Iraqi police). That those tragedies are essentially ignored these days is, ultimately, the greatest tragedy of all.It's funny; many of us are debating the issues around the war and around what to do. I certainly don't feel that I am ignoring the deaths that happen in Iraq every day (I do, however, believe it is important to put them into context, so that we are able to make intelligent judgments about where we are and what to do).
The reverence for life of the antiwar movement would be funny if it were not so wrapped up in the issues of Bad Philosophy. What matters isn't whether the world as a whole or even the set of people we're taking about is better or worse off - what matters is whether you can make sure you are morally isolated from any taint of blame.
I don't think you can live in the world and be isolated that way. Kos does. And, of course, that attitude helps as he takes money from Jim Moran, friend of the Jews (and MBNA) to help run his campaign.
Here's the second part of Andrew's argument, including (about halfway down) his suggestions for what we do now.Point: The Iraq War caused severe damage to international and domestic institutions, probably on purpose
From my perspective, a consistent and unfortunate habit of the Bush Administration across many issues has been self-confidence and self-righteousness so extreme that all restraints imposed by law or tradition are seen as hindrances. The Executive of the strongest power the planet has ever seen must not be encumbered (at least when the incumbent is a "good man" from the Republican Party).
The archetypical example is related to the War on Terror on its domestic front. In the case of José Padilla, the Bush Administration has torn up literally eight centuries of Anglo-American law that established the right of citizens to trial before a neutral tribunal. The Bush Administration's position is that American citizens may be detained incommunicado, indefinitely, without any recourse to the courts, entirely at the President's pleasure. I start with this example because even a number of conservative lawyers [Volokh, link is audio file; Viet Dinh] are opposed, as are some of the pro-war readers of this blog.
The Iraq War is the first implementation of the Bush Doctrine of Pre-emptive War, and Iraq is to the doctrine of casus belli as Padilla is to the Bill of Rights. There have been several blog arguments on whether the Administration claimed that Saddam constituted an "imminent threat". The pro-war position, oddly enough, is in the negative. Now, it's beyond question that the Administration portrayed Saddam as all manner of terrifying threat: "grave and gathering", "immediate", "mushroom cloud". (Donald Rumsfeld on "Meet the Press" denied ever using "immediate threat" and was then left looking silly when Thomas Friedman read his own words back to him.) Given that we were going to war—war!—with Saddam, what exactly was the problem with calling him an imminent threat? The answer, I believe, is that "imminent threat" is a term-of-art in international law, and acting against such a threat is as justified as self-defense after an attack is already underway. (See in particular, 1967 Israeli attack on the Egypt.) So if we called Saddam an "imminent threat" then there would be nothing novel, no bounds broken, in the Bush Doctrine. The faulty intelligence isn't the reason Bush avoided this one specific word, because the Iraq we actually invaded was neither imminent, nor grave, nor capable of mushroom clouds, nor very threatening to American security at all.
Bush, in campaign mode, ridicules the idea of multilateralism as holding
Let's be blunt: even though I find the humanitarian argument for the Iraq War insufficient, it's much, much better than the argument by the Administration at the time. That argument was based almost entirely on the putative threat, and on spurious connections between Saddam and the 9/11 attack (largely by VP Cheney), and there can't be any force to an argument whose premisses are not true. Out of the rival threat assessments available to the Administration before the war, they chose to be deceived utterly by a convicted grifter, Ahmad Chalabi, whom we are still paying hundreds of thousands of dollars monthly. This was no innocent error. Chalabi told the marks what they wanted to hear: not only about WMD, but about his internal resistance movement ready to create a pro-American and pro-Israel (!)
Those of you who don't think that knowingly false propaganda contributed to public acquiescence in the war: something like half of the country believes that most of the 9/11 hijackers were Iraqi, when of course the correct number is zero. On 9/12, what reason would anyone have for this erroneous belief? None. I suspect at that time those Americans who could answer the question at all would remember that nearly all of the terrorists were Saudi. The error came from frequent and deliberate juxtaposition of Saddam and 9/11 in repeated speeches that (with the exception of an egregious statement by Cheney that Bush was forced to repudiate) were not literally untrue, but which were designed to leave a false impression.
Here I must admit that my pre-existing animus against George W. Bush probably contributed to my belief that most of his WMD allegations weren't true. Even in my dreams, though, I didn't guess that they had simply decided on WMD as an expedience because the Administration was divided on other rationales. And those other rationales would never have gotten enough support in the Congress and in the American public to support a war. I don't think that sending the President (State of the Union), the Vice President, and much of the Cabinet out to snow the American people is healthy for our democratic political system, nor is insulting the intelligence (pun intended) of our allies good for our position in the world, and I think that the war should have been resisted on these grounds alone.
Point: Even before the war, there were reasons to believe we were entering a quagmire.
Here I have to admit, I was one of the war's opponents who overestimated the difficulty of taking
Point: What we could do now.
Armed Liberal suggested that besides rehearsing why I opposed the war (which is something of a moot point, except to the extent that I think the Administration responsible for this error should not be returned to office), I mention how I think the situation can be improved.
We can't follow
Let's see. DailyKos:
"Let the people see what war is like... There are real repercussions to Bush’s folly. That said, I feel nothing over the death of merceneries. They aren’t in Iraq because of orders, or because they are there trying to help the people make Iraq a better place. They are there to wage war for profit. Screw them."
Nice to see where Kos really stands. My turn now...
Fortunately, there are many others in the blogosphere with a bit of decency, and a penchant for pointing out what should be obvious to civilized human beings. Tacitus has a series of excellent responses to Kos; and Judith Weiss' article offers the best collection of those links, while drawing the same parallel A.L. saw yesterday and highlighting 2 solid pieces from Donald Sensing re: America's best response. By the way, this is who Kos was dissing.
This incident is changing some minds, however. Fallujah, plus the Madrid bombings, has shifted the views of at least one previously anti-war blogger. Iraqi blogger Ali adds some perspective of his own in "Crime and Punishment," while his countryman Fayrouz is just disgusted and disheartened:
"I know most Iraqis are like the Iraqi bloggers, who are trying to make a difference in this world. I know bad news makes more noise than the good news. I know I still have faith Iraq will have a great future. Then, I get depressed from time to time and wonder if this is just a fantasy, or it may become a reality in the near future."
Keep the faith, Fayrouz. We will, too. And we'll win. Together. It's the best answer to the Ba'athists... and to people like Kos as well.
Despite voluminous evidence that EU funds are making a substantial contribution to financing terrorism (see esp. Die Zeit's "Arafat Bombs, Europe Pays" and "With Unyielding Faith"), the EU has investigated and decided to give itself a clean bill of health.
Maybe we could have EU investigations of terrorist culpability, too, before American forces are committed anywhere. Or the U.N., since they're so obviously above reproach. That would certainly make a lot of Democratic Party activists very happy.
Putting aside the (much-deserved) ridicule for a moment, there are 2 other interesting - and important - angles to this story...
One angle is accountability, or rather its consistent, systemic lack within the EU. I've expressed serious concerns about this before, and noted its tendency to lead to much worse things down the road. Suffice to say that my fears are not quieted by this recent episode.
In an interesting sidenote, the OLAF anti-fraud office that performed this "investigation," recently ordered the arrest of a leading investigative journalist, holding him for 10 hours without a lawyer and seizing his computers, his address books and archive of files. What was Hans-Martin Tillack, the Brussels correspondent for Germany's Stern magazine, investigating? Corruption in the OLAF. Wonder how many of those files will ever be returned?
Good thing that those enlightened Euros are too sophisticated to put a troglodyte like John Ashcroft in charge. Otherwise, they might have problems with abuse of basic freedoms.
What this incident also highlights a larger geo-political pattern of EU hostility to Israel, a hostility that is transferring to Jews in general via revival of old prejudices, immigration from states that preach and teach that hate, political trends among the worldwide Left, and more official coverups in response to the growing tide of anti-Semitism.
EU Comissioner Chris Patten's steadfast refusal to investigate no matter what evidence was supplied, followed by this grudging farce, makes it abundantly clear that this investigation into terrorist financing was never serious. Instead, this was about "plausible deniability" for an EU policy that has made them quiet co-belligerents against the Jewish state. While America's support for Israel and global War on Terror limits the EU's freedom of action by attaching real costs to open hostilities and support, these policies will nonetheless be pursued by diplomatic, economic and covert/deniable means. LGF pretty much sums this one up in EU Hits Bottom, Digs:
"...they examined the voluminous Israeli evidence, then talked with Palestinian officials and decided to believe the Palestinians.
What can you say?
In other news:
14:08 European Parliament calls for suspension of EU-Israel trade agreement if Israel's assassination policy continues
14:51 Dutch foreign minister predicts Syria, EU will soon reach compromise on economic partnership agreement"
Ah, yes, those noted respecters of human rights the Syrians, who would never think of supporting assassinations and terrorist killings and are therefore an excellent trade partner for the EU. Maybe they could dip into their own vast experience, and offer the Euros some useful tips on how to treat meddling journalists. And Jews.
Remember all this next time some snotty European politico offers their services as a "mediator" for the "Mideast Peace Process".
Silflay Hraka discusses recent reports about growing "dead zones" in the oceans, caused in part by human activity. Most media cover science poorly, but Bigwig explains exactly what's going on clearly and persuasively.
Which is great, because once you see the whole picture it's possible to imagine useful solutions.
Still, when you combine this trend with the coral die-offs, bottom-dragging deep nets (quite common, and the effects are like burning down a forest to catch deer), species overfishing to the point of fishery collapse, orca mortality, etc., it sure looks like our oceans are under ecological pressure. Their vastness can absorb a multitude of human sins, so it's wise not to panic... but their absorption capacity isn't infinite, either.
The pictures and story from Falluja are horrible. As we should, we recoil from the rage and inhumanity of the actions that led to them, and try to figure out how to respond. On one of my email lists, the discussion is between those who want to respond with massive destruction and those who - equally hopeless about the future of Iraq - want to simply leave.
I'll offer the photo linked here (note that it is slightly, but not horribly, graphic) as evidence why we shouldn't do either.
Note the dateline: Marietta, GA, 1915. That's where Leo Frank was brutally lynched.
In case you think those horrors are in our distant past, I'll suggest that Andrew Goodman, James Chaney and Michael Schwerner would probably feel differently - if they were alive.
While some might disagree, I think I can safely say that the American South is, today, civilized.
Andrew Lazarus has been one of the most fervent - and yet thoughtful - opponents of the war in Iraq in our comments, and I thought it would be a good idea to invite him to set out his whole argument in a more expansive format.
By Andrew Lazarus:
Armed Liberal has very generously suggested that I write my reasons for opposing the Iraq War. I appreciate the opportunity, both because the exercise has allowed to determine in my own mind which arguments I feel are most cogent, and because from now on in the comments, I can just incorporate my prior arguments by reference.
Point: The assault on Iraq contributes little, if anything, to the personal security of Americans.
On 9/11, the United States suffered a dastardly attack masterminded by a transnational guerrilla movement with hundreds (perhaps thousands) of members organized into cells in at least half a dozen countries. Their leader was Osama bin Laden, and their headquarters was, roughly speaking, Afghanistan, which they controlled through their allies, the Taliban. This attack followed several other Al Qaeda operations against other American targets. This organization is unquestionably the greatest threat to American lives, and we got off to a great start by attacking it on several fronts. First, we used a combination of our own military, our ally (the Northern Alliance), and a combination of threats and bribes with the various warlords of Afghanistan, to overthrow the Taliban. (We promised the Afghans a better life, which we are delivering very, very fitfully, notwithstanding their splendid new constitution.)
Iraq had nothing to do with the 9/11 attack, and the defeat of the Saddam government does nothing to disrupt Al Qaeda's command structure, which is elsewhere. It does nothing to seize Al Qaeda's financial assets, which instead are being located by the much-derided law enforcement methods. It does nothing to deprive Al Qaeda of war materiel. It does nothing to discover the identities of sleeper agents, who were not controlled from Iraqi soil (with the possible exception of Ansar Al-Islam, over which the Saddam government had no control). Iraq was not even a source of Al Qaeda operatives.
Meanwhile, every dollar we spend on the Iraq War is a dollar we don't spend on finding Osama bin Laden. Every soldier we commit to Iraq is a soldier who is not in Afghanistan, including crack Arabic-, Pashtun- and Dari-speaking special forces whom we redeployed from the Osama search to the Saddam search. What I find most incredible is that the response of the Spaniards to the ability of Al Qaeda to commit a terrorist act in Europe (as well as other acts in Asia and Africa) without any difficulties imposed by the Iraq War is taken as "appeasement". The theory that Western security can be vouchsafed by attacking a third party (evil as it was) has been tried, and found wanting. The Spanish punished a government that was unable to protect them because it didn't try.
Faced with the obvious, that none of whatever success we have enjoyed in locating Al Qaeda agents and frustrating their plans is in any way related to anything captured or interdicted in Iraq, proponents of the war propose various grandiose general theories to explain why the Iraq War has made us safer.
The flypaper theory posits that by attracting Islamoterrorists to Iraq, we are first distracting them from conducting further attacks in the United States, and second localizing them where our superior conventional military strength can annihilate them. The first argument is weak. For one thing, on 9/10/2001 we could have made a similar, mistaken, claim about the success of the Clinton and Bush anti-terrorism policies pursued until then. Even more important, this line of reasoning falters on Al Qaeda's post-Iraq attacks in Europe. The second argument is scarcely any better, for while it might apply to a traditional army being lured to a strongpoint and destroyed, it makes no sense in talking about a fairly small terrorist movement which will not attack in massed formation, and which moreover can abandon Iraq for other countries if the heat is too great.
More realistic than the flypaper theory is the theory that Arab governments everywhere will be so awed by the American military might in Baghdad, and the bases we will establish there with or without the consent of the Iraqi government, that they will cooperate in the fight against terrorism. (Why the fate of the Taliban isn't sufficient example is unclear to me.) Perhaps it is because, as Rumsfeld said, Iraq has better targets. There is evidence of a weak effect along these lines, although Libya and Syria were both seeing some liberalization before 9/11. Overall, the collapse of the Tunisia meetings and the lack of any forward motion for Bush's Middle East Initiative suggests that the benefits are limited. Perhaps the anti-American forces inside and outside of these governments have done the addition and decided that we simply have no troops to spare to occupy any more countries. Or perhaps the country most closely linked to Al Qaeda, namely, Saudi Arabia, figures its close personal friendship with the Bush family will continue to exempt it.
And last, and most ridiculous, is the triple-bank-shot theory that we will establish such a wonderful democracy in Iraq (doing what, I ask, with Fallujah?) that flowers begin to bloom over the entire region. Instead, the popularity of the United States is at low ebb both in Europe and the Arab countries. The existing democracy in Spain, much less any democratic states that might arise in the Middle East, has just repudiated our program. It says something about the PR capabilities of people like Richard Perle that they are seen as "realists" with this millennial fantasy, while antiwar liberals seeking to work in the realm of the possible are dismissed as fools.
Point: The Iraq War was not worth the damage to international structures. Point: The Iraq War could not be sold to Congress and the American people on the basis of humanitarian arguments (even though these were to some extent valid) and was therefore sold on the basis of exaggerations, unproven assertions, falsehoods, and outright lies, and should have been opposed for the damage it caused to the American political structure.
Though American taxpayers will pay the bill, it is the Iraqis who will suffer. The deteriorating security situation will disproportionately hurt contractors, relief agencies and non-governmental organizations much more than it hurts the military. The US Marines and US Army can adjust to a more threatening environment much more easily than these civilian agencies can. And it is these civilian agencies that do the majority of good for the Iraqis. The tough task now is to convince the Iraqi population of this fact, so that they take the lead in stopping their own insurgent brethren.I have a proprietary interest in the Marines in Falluja. They are the young men and women I packed supplies with for Spirit of America, and they are the ones pushing us to get them tools - literally right now, tools - to help improve the lives of the Iraqis they deal with every day.
Other Topics Today Include: Iraq Briefing; Iran Reports; Pakistan declares victory in Waziristan; 2 Pakistani district officials killed; KSM sings on 9/11; Australian helps Indonesia to decrypt computer files; Russia gave Pakistan intel; Mullah Omar wounded; 1,000 Afghan militiamen disarmed; Saudis still funding al-Qaeda; Ottawa Muslims questioned in terrorism probe; al-Qaeda transiting Romania; Basayev vows revenge; ISI may have been at al-Qaeda training camps in 1998; and AOL's porsche raffle.
THE WIDER WAR
resistentialism (n., ri-zis-TEN-shul-iz-um) The theory that inanimate objects demonstrate hostile behavior toward us.
You know they do. If you've ever had a feeling that your photocopy machine, computer, et. al. are out to get you, and time their problems for maximum inconvenience, now you know the word for it. It was coined by humorist Paul Jennings as a blend of the Latin res (thing) + French resister (to resist) + existentialism (a kind of philosophy). My Santa Cruz sweetie also supplies this report of scientific experiments confirming the validity of your paranoia.
Eric Olsen of Blogcritics.org offers his list of "The 10 Best Rock Bands Ever" in this MSNBC article, along with a well-researched bio entry justifying each choice. Here's the discussion thread if you wish to praise or throw abuse at his choices.
My big quibbles: Led Zeppelin should have been higher than #6 - and if we're talking about bands that changed Rock N' Roll, Nirvana has to be there.
NOTE FOR COMMENTERS: This blog's anti-spam defenses include software that forces comments made on old posts like this into moderation before they can appear on site. Your post will be received, it just won't go up until I get my email and approve it. Which I do, as you can see. I'l add that we believe in free speech, so even if you vote for KC and the Sunshine Band, I'll still approve you. I just won't respect you. For those about to rock, we salute you! (and see our post re: the REAL School of Rock).
Since September 11, numerous commentators including Glenn Reynolds have been noting for some time that al-Qaeda has a major Algerian component to it. This analysis will take a larger look at that particular component and how it has changed to become what increasingly appearing to be the preferred African arm of al-Qaeda.
The Genesis of Algerian Extremism
The origins of Algerian extremism are fairly common knowledge, though Fred Pruitt has theorized that one of the reasons that extremism is so prevalent in Algerian is that as a result of the sheer brutality of the nation's war for independence against France that barbaric violence became ingrained as an element of the national culture. As a result, Fred sees the Algerian Islamists' decision to orchestrate their war against the civilian government as being an entirely logical decision given the violent tendencies of the culture. Whether or not he's right I can't say, although that would certainly explain the equal levels of brutality with which the Algerian military has responded against the extremists ...
In any case, in December 1991 the Algerian political party Front Islamique de Salut (Islamic Salvation Front or FIS) won 188 seats in the National People's Assembly during the first round of elections, with the National Liberation Front (FLN) that had governed Algeria ever since its independence winning only 15. FIS had already declared its intention to dissolve the Assembly and implement the sha'riah upon being elected and a quote from FIS leader Ali Belhadj ("When we are in power, there will be no more elections because God will be ruling") is one of the origins of the phrase, "One man, one vote, one time." The second round of elections was never held as a state of emergency was declared, FIS was banned, and a military junta took control of the country through the Higher Council of State that is today commonly referred to by Algerians as simply le Pouvoir or "the Power." FIS leaders Abassi Madani and Ali Belhadj were arrested, though several other key leaders including Abdelkader Hachani, Rabah Kheir, and bin Laden's ally Khamareddine Kherbane managed to escape to Europe, where the organization established an executive branch and a military council in exile in Germany.
Back in Algeria, the Islamic Salvation Army and the Armed Islamic Group (GIA) emerged to fight the Algerian military for control of the country. The latter, formed in 1993, was particularly ruthless with its assassination campaigns against Algerian diplomats, priests, industrialists, intellectuals, feminists, Sufis, and foreigners. Razing entire villages and claimed that its actions were motivated by jihad, the GIA hacked its victims to death with swords, axes, and chain saws as a means of saving ammunition. Those believed to be guilty of apostacy were doused with petroleum and set on fire. To further compound the violence, the Algerian military was known to wipe out villages on its own accord, claiming the destruction to be the work of the GIA, in order to turn the public against them.
I am uncertain as to when exactly the GIA first became an al-Qaeda affiliate, though it is known that one of the group's first emir-generals, Abdel Haqq Layada, was himself a member of the terrorist network so it would have had to have been prior to his rise to power. In any event, the GIA under Layada and his successors staged one of the most ruthless terrorist campaigns ever conceived and over 120,000 Algerians civilians have died since the carnage first began in 1992. Antar Zouabri, who assumed the emir-generalcy of the GIA in June 1996 following the death of his predecessor, even proceeded to issue a 60-page fatwa that declared the entire Algerian general population to be kufr for failing to support his campaign against the government as well as justifying indiscriminate attacks against civilians.
It was this fatwa, despite its blessing from Abu Qatada, bin Laden's ambassador in Europe and the editor of the GIA propaganda tract al-Ansar, that earned Zouabri bin Laden's disapproval. In addition to doing a great deal of damage to the support for Islamist revolution in Algeria, Zouabri was also spending too much of his time killing villagers and not enough fighting the Algerian government. As a result, al-Qaeda contacted Hassan Hattab, the head of the GIA's European arm and convinced him to form a separate organization - the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat, better known by its French acronym as the GSPC.
Al-Jamaa al-Salafiyyah al-Dawaa
Under Hattab and his pledge not to attack civilian targets (though the GSPC still does so on a regular basis), the GSPC has flourished as al-Qaeda's chosen proxy in Algeria as well as developed ties to Sudan and Iran from which to receive training and weaponry in order to destabilize the Algerian government. Most of the "North Africans" arrested in Europe for involvement with al-Qaeda belong to this organization.
Some analysts will tell you that the Algerian government "exaggerates" the links between al-Qaeda and the Algerian extremists in order to get its hands on Western military assistance and to be quite frank that's patently untrue. The GSPC has been part of bin Laden's terrorist coalition for years and the difference between al-Qaeda and GSPC operatives, particularly in Europe, is at best a form of semantics.
Among some of the more recent examples of collaboration between al-Qaeda and the GSPC:
Clearly, the GSPC's ties to al-Qaeda (or Sudan and Iran) should not be disregarded just because the government that they are fighting happens to be a fairly nasty military junta. The same should be said of the governments of Uzbekistan or the Russian-backed administration in Chechnya.
Signs of a Broader Agenda ...
Al-Qaeda has long sought to exploit the poor security and weak central governments that exist throughout West Africa in order to establish an enclave there and forged ties to the governments of Liberia and Burkina Faso both before and after 9/11 to assist in their global financing operations. After being driven from Afghanistan, the network set up enclaves in Algeria, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, and Nigeria in the hopes of compensating for the loss of their main base and as this UPI commentary explains, the region is extremely fertile ground for the terror network if a little bit further away from their main staging area of the Middle East.
In early June 2003, a coalition of Islamic militants and Baathists (thank goodness we know they'd never work together!) led by Colonel Lamine Ouhd Ndeiane and Colonel Salah Ould Hananna attempted to overthrow the government of Mauritanian dictator Maaouiya Ould Taya. While the coup failed and loyalist forces quickly regained control of the capital, US ambassador Vicki Huddleston recently disclosed US fears that the coup plotters led by Colonel Hananna, most of whom fled to northern Mali, could link up with the GSPC for a second attempt to depose Ould Taya.
While it is hardly my intention to defend Ould Taya or his thug government (which, among other things, still tolerates slavery), the establishment of an Islamist military government similar to the NIF in Sudan in Mauritania would be an unprecedented gain for the GSPC and their al-Qaeda backers, as it could serve as a base from which to support instability throughout West Africa, just as Afghanistan was for al-Qaeda from 1996 until 2001. If the GSPC was involved in even a peripheral role with the Mauritanian coup plot, it should only serve to underscore their ambitions in this regard.
The Merger and the Management Shuffle
Al-Qaeda has suffered some exceedingly high losses in terms of leadership as a result of the US-led war on terrorism since September 11 and has increasingly had to call upon affiliate groups to fold back into the core network in order to for it to remain a viable entity. As a result, as part of the network's reorganization involved the GSPC folding back into the core network along with two Yemeni and also a Saudi affiliate group in September 2003.
This process also coincided with an interesting shift in leadership within the GSPC, with Hassan Hattab being deposed in favor of Nabil Sahraoui due to anger among the GSPC rank and file over a lack of terrorist attacks. Sahraoui, whose inner circle of advisors includes 15 Libyan and Tunisian al-Qaeda operatives, openly declares his allegiance to al-Qaeda as well as his hatred of the West. Since Sahraoui assumed control of the group, the organization has definitely adopted much more of a transnational character, as can be seen in this plot by GSPC commander Abderrazak el-Para to attack the Paris-Dakar Rally and kidnap several of the participants. The plan, which sounds like a bad movie plot, involved over 100 GSPC fighters, or between a fourth to a twentieth of the total GSPC force depending on which statistics one uses, suggesting that this was a major delegation of resources in a strike that has little if anything do to with the GSPC's stated goal of overthrowing the Algerian government.
My contention is that events like the thwarted Paris-Dakar Rally plot begin to paint a clearer picture that al-Qaeda is attempting to use the GSPC to create something similar to Jemaah Islamiyyah in West Africa: an autonomous affiliate with a pan-regional outlook that crosses numerous national borders and serves as almost a miniature version of al-Qaeda on its own right. The ultimate goal, I would speculate, is to create enough large transnational regional or continental affiliates as a means of ensuring that the organization will survive even if the core network is completely destroyed at some future date. We have already seen what they have been able to accomplish in Southeast Asia operating virtually unchecked for nearly a decade - this process cannot be allowed to proceed in Africa as well.
Further Expansion and the US Response
Fortunately, it appears that these developments in Africa are not being neglected by Washington. From Mali to Algeria, US troops are training North Africa's ill-equipped militaries to fight the GSPC. In addition, at least one report from a somewhat dubious source claims that US Special Forces are already on the ground in Algeria battling the GSPC near the southern border with Mali.
The most recent major engagement between local governments and the GSPC occurred in late February, starting in Niger and then spilling over into Chad with the US providing support in the latter case. GSPC commander Amari Saifi (the real name for Abderrazak el-Para) was rumored to have been killed during the battle, but more recent reports have suggested that he survived to lead his fighters back into Algeria.
More ominously, however, is the fact that the majority of the GSPC fighters killed during the battle were not Algerians but rather from Nigeria, Niger, and Mali. That first mention should definitely set off some alarm bells for those of us who have followed the situation in northern Nigeria, mostly notably with regard to the Miss World riots and the rise of the Nigerian Taliban back in December. It's been an open secret for some time now that bin Laden has supporters in Nigeria, but it's quite another thing to learn that they have gone as far as to actively join the nearest al-Qaeda affiliate.
Not Just An African Problem
To be certain, Africa is a continent full of problems and has been for sometime now - it's kind of like the situation in Haiti on a much larger scale in many ways. However, because of its connections to al-Qaeda and growing reach across Africa, the GSPC is rapidly becoming a global problem with regard to prosecution of the war on terrorism and, as we saw with the Taliban before 9/11, ignoring these problems a sure way to make certain that they can and will come back around for even more trouble down the line.
For example, al-Qaeda bases in the Sahara have been public knowledge since at least the summer of 2002 and until recently no one has been serious about doing anything about them, not even the regional governments that Sahraoui likely plans to overthrow later down the line. The result? According to the Washington Times, al-Qaeda has established a rear base in the Sahara for staging attacks in Europe - such as the attacks we saw just last month in Madrid.