Sunday, August 31, 2003

The Shadow in the Corner

The truth is often disturbing but lies are immensely comforting. Today, the 'progressive' forces can rest assured that all their cherished beliefs are intact: the bombing of Iraq's Najaf shrine was America's fault. 

The UK Independent intones "Even Iraq's highest Shia authority, Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, who has tried to stay out of politics, spoke against the Americans for the first time. 'The Americans bear responsibility for the bombing and for security in Iraq,' he said."

Come to that, who else? The Egyptian government daily Al-Ahram headline declares "The U.S. is Behind the Najaf Bombing". "The popular demonstrations seen in the Iraqi streets following this criminal act were all in agreement that the occupation forces were responsible for this incident, as part of their effort to provoke conflict among the Shiites and between the Shiites and the Sunnis."

The Iranian MEHR News Agency disagrees. The Americans are innocent. The Jews did it, although perhaps that is no distinction. "traces of Mossad agents were found at the Najaf blast site where Ayatollah Seyed Mohammad Baqer al-Hakim, the leader of the Supreme Assembly for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SAIRI), and more than 80 others were martyred on Friday. The analyst, who requested anonymity, told the Mehr News Agency that Zionist intelligence agents have made great efforts to infiltrate Iraqi groups in order to thwart efforts to create national unity."

The American motive for perpetrating this outrage? Cannibalism. Everyone knows that Americans, as well as Jews, have a taste for hotdogs made from human flesh and matzoh made from Palestinian babies' blood. Egyptian columnist Fatma Abdallah Mahmoud, who occasionally writes for Egyptian government newspapers, pulled no punches. In an article titled "May the Cannibals be Cursed", he says:

"In every country trampled by the feet of the American military forces, we see ghastly pictures of the remains of innocent civilian victims: eyes gouged out, noses cut off, limbs intentionally amputated with the flesh that covered them stripped off. I implore you to look at the pictures of Uday and Qusay, Saddam Hussein's two sons, who were horribly mutilated."

"The fight against America will be continued, Allah willing, by the peoples waging Jihad against the original pirates and criminals [i.e. the Americans] – or, to be more precise, against the cannibals and the human corpse-disembowelers!!"

That is today's newspaper fare for sophisticated European intellectuals and Islamists the world over. If anyone objects that none of it is true, what of it? Should anyone complain that the actual perpetrators identified by the Iraqi police are Saudi Al-Qaeda agents rather than Jews, how is that relevant? It is comforting and convenient. It is as reassuring as the fantasy press releases that the Nazi and Japanese militarist governments churned out in the final days of the war. For the truth is disturbing in proportion to guilt. And that judgment is coming.

Saturday, August 30, 2003

The Bomb at Najaf

Dan Darling at Regnum Crucis evaluates who might be responsible for the car bombing which killed the Ayatollah Mohammed Baqer al-Hakim, head of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution and more than 80 others in at the Imam Ali shrine in Najaf, Iraq. His two top choices:

  • Osama Bin Laden's Al-Qaeda, which has mass-murdered Shi'ites in Pakistan or
  • Ba'athists loyal to former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein

Darling felt the Ba'athists would be the likeliest culprits by exclusion, principally on the grounds that Al-Qaeda would not bite the Iranian Shi'ite hand that currently feeds them.

Another thing to mention is that a sizeable number of al-Qaeda's leadership is currently residing in Iran and if the Iranians learn that they were behind this attack, all of the doubts and discussion about whether to extradict members of the group to the United States or Europe will vanish and Saif al-Adel and Co will be shown the door (assuming they aren't immediately killed) by the IRGC if it is them.

The Iraqi police have now arrested four Al-Qaeda suspects in connection with the Najaf bombing. Assuming that the Iraqi cops are playing it straight, the identities of the men in custody are tantalizing. Two are Iraqis and two are Saudis. The Al-Qaeda connection, but going west to Saudi Arabia rather than east to Iran. A police official who refused to be named "said the bomb at the Imam Ali shrine was made from the same type of materials used in the August 19 bombing at the UN headquarters in Baghdad, in which at least 23 people died." If chemical analysis determines that  the Canal Hotel and Najaf bombs have the same provenance, there's a further complication. The principal suspects in the UN Headquarters bombing are someone else: Ba'athists, including UN security personnel shown to be members of Saddam Hussein's intelligence. This development means that either one of the two sets of perps is innocent or the two are working together. Time will tell.

Meanwhile, the Al-Qaeda, far from making themselves scarce after the Najaf bombing, are pouring more forces into eastern Iraq and Kurdistan, where Iranian involvement is more likely. (Hat tip: Regnum Crucis). Inasmuch as the fulcrum of postwar Iraqi power is centered on the Shi'ite majority, any Iranian hopes for turning Iraq into a new Lebanon rest on controlling the dominant factions within that sect. The largely Sunni Ba'athists, must for their part stake survival on plunging the Iraqi Shi'ites into chaos before the majority can overwhelm them. Thus the detonation outside the Imam Ali shrine suited the book of several parties for whom human suffering is no object. Whoever was responsible created mayhem and enmity but to what end?

Perhaps to no other end than the exercise of habitual malice. It would be a mistake to see deep policy in every enemy act. Sometimes carnage is nothing more than business-as-usual, an average day in the hellish world of Islamic terrorism. It was widely assumed that Islamic terrorists were converging on post-war Iraq simply to kill Americans; that this was the honey that attracted the Jihadis to the 'flypaper'. Under this scenario, the US troops would exploit this irrationality and mow down the hate-crazed Islamic terrorists as they struggled through the razor wire. The problem with this model is that it requires a totally irrational and brain-dead Jihadi leadership, for there was never any realistic prospect that Islamic terrorists would  inflict heavy casualties on US forces at all. It assumed that the stupid would attempt the unlikely in order to achieve the impossible.

The problem with the purely 'enemy as bait' or 'flypaper' motivation is that  Islamic terrorists have shown a curious indifference to inflicting militarily significant casualties on Israelis, never mind Americans. Despite their brutality, Islamic attacks in Lebanon, the West Bank and Israel proper have not even come close to attriting Israeli military manpower, in the manner analogous to the population-destroying wars of the 20th century. There is no conceivable timeline in which Jihadi tactics, carried on indefinitely, would result in the defeat of the Israel. And it would be unwise to ascribe this degree of imbecility to the enemy in order to describe their motives in Iraq. If killing the enemy were the ultimate inducement, then Israel, surrounded on all sides by Arab states, with a huge Arab population in its midst, with only a fraction of American military potential, would have been the ultimate flypaper. That it is not suggests that something else is attracting Islamists into Iraq.

The logical modification to the 'flypaper' scenario is the 'maggot' model. It relies on the observation that terrorism requires the corpse of a decaying society in order to survive. And while they may have others besides, existence may be their only goal. In fact it need be their only goal. Hamas requires an ecosystem like Lebanon to raise funds, replenish recruits and build a dysfunctional empire that could exist nowhere else but in such a place. Islamic Jihad, Lashkar Jihad, Jemaah Islamiyah, the Palestinian Authority and Al-Qaeda must keep up the mayhem because they need a job. Frankly, they are unqualified for anything else. Terrorists are flooding into Iraq because it is the only place where professionals in their line of work can get a job. Killing Americans is an optional extra but no one is counting on it.

The 'maggot' analogy should not be invested with more meaning than the slight insight it contains. But insofar as it is valid, the model implies that the emergence of a functional Iraq would be far more devastating to the Islamists than is currently assumed. Creating a civilized and prosperous Iraq would be tantamount to draining the swamp and starving out the alligators, setting a bad precedent for alligators everywhere. The Iraqi role in that task cannot be subordinated to the United Nations. Mark Steyn correctly observes that the while United Nations would take little harm from an Iraqi descent into chaos the world organization would be absolutely discredited by an independent Iraqi success. Decaying countries provide employment for the better sorts of people too.

Thursday, August 28, 2003

The True Cost of Silence

"The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." -- attributed to Edmund Burke.

In default of a doctor the quack runs the hospital. After a series of bombs killed 50 and maimed 100 in Bombay, the liberal prescription for the ailment was "restraint".  Pakistani Foreign Ministry spokesman Masood Khan said it best: do nothing.  "This is not the time for finger-pointing, nor should Indian leaders try to take political mileage out of this gruesome tragedy". After the great had dusted their hands of the matter, they left the field to Nazi charlatans.

Bombay's Muslims were on edge yesterday as thousands of Hindu hardliners marched through the city in protest at the car bombings that killed 52 people on Monday. With black bandannas over their mouths, the extremist Shiv Sena party demonstrators congregated for a "silent protest" beside the Gateway of India, where one of the explosions occurred. "The culprits should be caught and shot in the middle of the road," said Roopali Dhongle, a housewife. This was a veiled reference to Muslims, who are widely blamed for the blasts. About a fifth of Bombay's 20 million population is Muslim. Leading the march was Uddhav Thackeray, the son and political heir of Shiv Sena's founder, the cartoonist Bal Thackeray. The father, an admirer of Adolf Hitler, has expressed his willingness to "wipe out" trouble-making Muslims.

But surely there can be no harm in letting Nazis take the lead because the problem -- Islamic terrorism -- doesn't really exist. The diplomatic adviser to French President Jacques Chirac, Maurice Gourdault-Montagne declared that neither Hamas nor Islamic Jihad were terrorist groups. He open-mindedly added that "if we find that Hamas and Islamic Jihad are indeed terror groups opposed to peace, we may have to change the EU's stand." And with Hamas absolved, who could regard the comparatively milder Students Islamic Movement of India's concussive exuberance in Bombay as anything other than an adolescent prank which we would be too mean-spirited not to indulge.  The real problem is probably India's Nuclear Nationalism, an explosive amalgam of Hindu fanaticism coupled with a misguided admiration for America. As the Indian 'pacifist' and distinguished film director Anand Patwardhan put it: "The collapse of socialism saw a revival of bigotry. America had now become our role model." And that bigotry is the real reason we can't all get along, the real answer to 'why we are hated'. From there it is easy to see how the Jews might have planted the bombs in the Bombay market, just as Zionist agents destroyed the World Trade Center. Come to think of it, Uddhav Thackeray might be exactly the right man to put in charge of this non-existent problem.

Next to the liberals, the greatest exponent of willful ignorance was CS Lewis' fictional demon, Screwtape, who advised his nephew Wormwood that everything was possible if he could first convince the world that the devil did not exist. Nothing sets a man on the road to hell, Screwtape said, better than "to enthrone at the center of his life a good, solid, resounding lie". And the best one of all was a lie so precious that one "does not believe it himself". The nervous choruses of Kumbaya bring no cheer and the camera lights shed no illumination on the dark hours of Bombay's mourning. But we are guided forward all the same. There is Screwtape's beckoning whisper: "the safest road to Hell is the gradual one…without milestones, without signposts…"

Wednesday, August 27, 2003

Unconditional Victory

Tokyo rocks under the weight of our bombs...I want the entire world to know that this direction must and will remain - unchanged and unhampered, Our demand has been and it remains - unconditional surrender." -- Harry Truman 1945

Now they've gone and done it, the Islamists, I mean. Brought America to the point that Franklin Roosevelt reached in 1943 and Harry Truman in 1945. President George W. Bush, in a speech before the American Legion today has laid down the end point of the War on Terror: the destruction or total surrender of the Islamist enemy.

.. on September the 11th, 2001 ...  America declared: we'll start the war from here. ... Nearly two-thirds of known senior al-Qaida leaders, operational managers, and key facilitators, have either been captured or killed. ... Now al-Qaida is wounded, yet, not destroyed. It remains a grave danger to the American people. ... Retreat in the face of terror would only invite further and bolder attacks. There will be no retreat ... 

And so it is today. Our course is set. Our purpose is firm. No act of terrorists will weaken our resolve or alter their fate. Our only goal, our only option, is total victory in the war on terror. And this nation will press on to victory.

Unconditional surrender. The same thing on offer to Hitler and Tojo. The Jihad to annihilate the Dar Al-Harb, the non-Muslim world, has ironically created its own fearful symmetry; and the suicide bomber's victim realizes that he might just was well fight as die. America will not retreat because it has no expectation of mercy from Islam. Radical Islam will fight on because otherwise it would cease to be what it is

But if the end goals are now crystal clear, the details remain fuzzy. What of Saudi Arabia and Iran? What of the hundreds of millions of Muslims the world over? Yet in a sense, they remain details. The essence is clear. We will do all it takes to survive; all we must to prevail.

Monday, August 25, 2003

Terrorism's Little Helpers

Hat tip: Glenn Reynolds links to Shanti Mangala, where this impassioned commentary exchange on the Bombay bombing takes place. Shanti is bemoaning what he perceives as the Western press's soft portrayal of Islamic terrorism.

Of course, Gaurav - don’t you know that Hindu zealots murder Muslims who defend themselves by turning to militancy - and even that is suspect since India “says so”. Ultimately to most, Hinduism is a pagan religion whose polytheistic followers are inherently inferior to the monotheistic regions’ followers. Only we can be zealots - not them.

Posted by: Shanti on August 25, 2003 09:27 AM

I don’t think it has anything to do with mono- or polytheism. The secular media has no respect for any religion that isn’t politically correct (which Islam is, right now). The monotheistic Israelis have the same complaints as the Hindus (a secular country is fighting barbaric fundamentalist terrorism, and it’s the one that gets blamed). And Israelis are the only ones accused of being “zealots.” Majority-Christian America, which is also a secular state, gets is treated the same way (but less so by American papers, and moreso by foreign news sources like the BBC).

The far left loves Islam because fundamentalist Muslims hate the current capitalist world system, and they adhere to its enemies (and non-fundamentalist Muslims are good props to hide behind, so they can accuse capitalists and freedom-lovers of racism). They want totalitarian communism and therefore they adhere to the enemies of freedom and individual liberty. They love Muslim terrorists because Muslim terrorists are evil, and they hate Hindus because Hindus tend to be non-evil. Anyone who isn’t evil isn’t “subversive” and is therefore “bourgeoise” and needs to be killed. Whether you are killed by secret police or by bombings in your decadent, capitalist shopping bazaars, they don’t care, as long as you bleed.

The blame for any crime always defaults to the nearest group of good people. If Hindus are running a responsible, decent government in India, and Muslims decide to blow something up there, Hindus take the blame. If Palestinian terrorists blow up a bus in Israel, the Israelis take the blame. If Muslim terrorists in Iraq blow up the UN HQ, that’s the fault of America and Israel. If Muslim terrorists from Afghanistan blow up some buildings in America, that’s America’s fault. Why blame us?

Because they hate and want to destroy all that is right and good in the world. It has nothing to do with religious bigotry, and everything to do with reporters’ outlook on the world. They hate all of us, we just have to accept it. I’m sure most of them don’t really think these thoughts consciously, but they reflexively sneer at good people, which is evidence there is something deeper underneath.

Posted by: Michael Levy August 25, 2003 03:43 PM

This isn't a new phenomenon. George Orwell pointed out that Second World War Marxist 'pacifism' was objectively pro-Nazi, an attempt to disguise the worst political desires with the perfume of moral sanctity. Albert Camus, who also turned his back on the Left, put the case higher. "...crime always finds lawyers, and innocence only rarely", or more tellingly "on the day when crime dons the apparel of innocence -- through a curious transposition peculiar to our times -- it is innocence that is called upon to justify itself." He was referring, of course, to his former comrades' defense of Stalin, the show trials, the Gulag, the starvation of millions and ghastly Socialist 'achievements' like the Road of Bones, but his finger points across the decades to the BBC, Noam Chomsky, John Pilger and Robert Fisk. But one should not despair. They are headed for the same historical footnote presently occupied by Pravda, Bertrand Russell, Lord Haw-haw and Joseph Goebbels.

Are suicide attacks the 'ultimate weapon'?

The Belmont Club argued in Replaying the Tet that Islamic terrorism's shift towards "soft targets" in the face of the relative invincibility of United States forces would unleash a tidal wave of hatred upon the innocent bystanders of the world which would swamp the Left's apologia of Muslim extremism. That carnival of carnage has begun. A series of bombs has just ripped through India's financial capital of Bombay, killing at least 40 and injuring more than 100. However ardently the media outlets work at blaming the latest outrage on America, the jihadis will always keep one bloody step ahead of them.

The New York Times is trying another tack. If Islamic extremism cannot be portrayed as innocent or wholesome, it can at least be invested with an aura of invincibility. In a story titled The Terror Industry Fields Its Ultimate Weapon, Don van Natta Jr. explains that "From Jerusalem to Jakarta and from Bali to Baghdad, the suicide bomber is clearly the weapon of choice for international terrorists." And the reason is simply that it appears to be an extremely cheap and deadly form of attack. The article quotes Jessica Stern, a lecturer in public policy at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government as saying "It's certainly cost-effective both financially and in terms of the number of terrorist lives ultimately put at risk." One of Professor Stern's sources, Hamas leader Ismail Abu Shanab gave this assessment:

A person using a knife, Mr. Shanab explained, is usually "nervous." A gun takes intensive training, and too much time. Knife and gun attacks also depend on a degree of luck. Things can go wrong. But a suicide bomber, to be a success, only needs that single moment of courage, Mr. Shanab said, which he found was in abundant supply in Gaza. Young men and women who carried out such missions had usually seen what they viewed as "something terrible, some kind of atrocity," he said. "Islam says, `an eye for an eye.´ We believe in retaliation. When someone is killed in jihad, it is a joyful day."

And suicide attacks are the kind of tactic, the article went on to say, that advertise themselves -- with a little help from the media. Magnus Ranstorp, director of the Center for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence at the University of St. Andrews explains its attractions:

"In an instant you are propelled from being no one to someone who is glorified, and lionized with poems, and you live on in this historical chain of heroic martyrs, being remembered and saluted far longer than if you had not undertaken this kind of operation. ... Mr. Ranstorp worries that the next phase of suicide bombings will involve not just bombers posing for posterity but the videotaping of attacks. He worries that satellite channels will air the horrible moments almost instantly to a future generation of suicide bombers. "They learned from the psychological impact of 9/11, the horrible moment being replayed over and over," he said. "Someday, terrorists will be armed with bombs and cameras."

Is there nothing left but to surrender to the "ultimate asymmetric weapon", to bow before the invincible warriors armed with bombs and cameras? The Left has fielded that argument before. Finally unable justify Stalin, it attempted to portray a voluntary capitulation to tyranny as preferable to the annihilation that would attend defiance. "Better Red than dead," argued Bertrand Russell, and we meet the false dichotomy again in its modern form.

But the logic is wrong. Suicide bombing is warfare's least cost effective weapon because it puts any consideration of a negotiated settlement between the combatants out of the question. In economic terms, it destroys the Pareto optimal frontier and reduces conflict to a zero-sum game. When the passengers of Flight 93 learned their aircraft had been commandeered for a suicide mission against the White House, ordinary men like Todd Beamer rushed the cabin without hesitation or thought of survival. When faced with a fanatical enemy bent on killing everyone the battlefield choices are rapidly narrowed to either the acceptance of your own destruction or the total annihilation of the enemy. And it is the zero-sum game that Islam should fear. For the value of that game is the expected value that Islam will annihilate the world minus the expected value that the world will annihilate Islam. The natural outcome of the kamikazes was the atomic bomb over Hiroshima. Nothing else would do. The natural reaction of the passengers on Flight 93 was to fight on at all costs. Nothing else would do. And the eventual reaction of nuclear-armed Israel, Russia and India to the unlimited slaughter of their populations does not bear thinking upon. And it will not be surrender, but rather something else. That is the cost effectiveness of suicide bombing.

Sunday, August 24, 2003

The Grand Alliance

A lot of news recently, but not all of it obvious. The biggest sleeper item was the August 21 press conference by Secretary Rumsfeld and General Abizaid at the Department of Defense. Both emphasized that Iraq did not need any more American troops. What was needed -- and being supplied -- was more Iraqi troops. 

Q: General Abizaid, I'd like to ask you: Despite the litany of successes that the secretary just mentioned, horrors like that car bomb loom large in people's minds. The secretary says that you told Secretary Wolfowitz that you don't need more troops, that you have a sufficient number of troops. And he says that --

Abizaid: U.S. troops.

Q: U.S. troops, right. And you said that it's up to the Iraqis to eventually provide their own security. However, apparently they can't do that now. What are you doing in the short term, short of adding more troops, to provide some security? Are you bringing in some policemen quickly or -- what are you doing in the short term to try to provide more security?

Abizaid: Well, thanks for that question. I think it's clear that we've got to do a lot more to bring an Iraqi face to the security establishments throughout Iraq very quickly. Having said that, I think it's also important for people to know that there's more than 50,000 Iraqis already under arms that are working in coordination with the coalition. We've got 35,000 people, for example, in the police forces. We've got a border force that's forming. We've got Iraqi Civil Defense Corps volunteers -- over 2,300 of them -- that have come forward to form battalions to work with our divisions. We've got an awful lot of people that we've hired to defend infrastructure, somewhere close to 17,000. So --

Rumsfeld: This is in 3-1/2 months.

Abizaid: Yes, sir. Yeah.

Rumsfeld: This is the 50,000 or 60,000 Iraqis have been pulled together.

Iraqi security personnel are obviously better suited to the task than the Blue Helmets that the United Nations periodically threatens to send. Unlike the Nigerians, Uruguayans, Pakistanis and Malaysians who form the backbone of UN forces, Iraqis do not need to be transported in, rotated out, taught the language or given cultural sensitivity briefings. And Iraqi troops, unlike the UN's, might actually shoot back.

In this context, Paul Bremer's assertion that "it's not a question of more troops" but  "getting more Iraqis to help us" is really a restatement of longstanding policy. Presented under the obtuse heading "the US cannot go it alone" (the heading is actually taken from the reporter's assessment and not a Bremer quote) it is really a declaration of a growing US-Iraqi alliance whose major components are still being assembled. Aside from the Iraqi police, the United States is reconstituting the Iraqi intelligence service and creating a new Iraqi army. These Iraqi combatants will eventually number more than 100,000 and will far outweigh any kind of international "help" on offer from France or the United Nations. Around the fighting core of Americans, Brits, Aussies and Iraqis will be help from allied countries with specialized, complementary capabilities. One example is the burgeoning cooperation with Norway, which has made itself the world leader in mine-clearance and Czechoslovakia with its focus on chemical detection. But the main burdens will be carried by America and Iraq. The laughable fiction that 'only the United Nations can save Iraq' and that the 'Blue Helmets are needed to rescue America' conceals the humiliating fact that a UN deployment would at best be a public relations exercise with as much substance as the painted props upon a stage.

Ironically, the destruction of the UN Mission in the Canal Hotel may have accidentally prevented worse. Glenn Reynolds links to article by Mark Steyn who notes that:

Well, that's the luck of the draw at the UN, where so far this year Libya, Iraq and Syria have found themselves heading up the Human Rights Commission, the Disarmament Committee and the Security Council. The UN's subscription to this charade may be necessary in New York, but what's tragic is that they seem to have conducted their affairs in Baghdad much the same way. Offers of increased U.S. military protection were turned down. Their old Iraqi security guards, all agents of Saddam's Secret Service there to spy on the UN, were allowed by the organization to carry on working at the compound. And sitting in the middle of an unprotected complex staffed by ex-Saddamite spies was Sergio Vieira de Mello, the individual most directly credited with midwifing East Timor into an independent democratic state. Osama bin Laden (or rather whoever makes his audiocassettes) and the Bali bombers have both cited East Timor as high up on their long list of grievances: the carving out, as they see it, of part of the territory of the world's largest Islamic nation to create a mainly Christian state. Now they've managed to kill the fellow responsible. Any way you look at it, that's quite a feather in their turbans.

The usually perceptive Steyn fails to emphasize that the Ba'athist intelligence had effectively taken over the UN's Baghdad security apparatus. It had established a spy ring under United Nations diplomatic protection right in the Canal Hotel. So before the Jihadis break out the candy to celebrate de Mello's murder, they should stop to consider that they unthinkingly vaporized the last, best hope of Saddam's old spy network in the fireball of the blast.

In the last analysis, the battle raging in Iraq is an intelligence war in which locals are a much more valuable commodity than UN 'international troops'. Singapore's Rohan Gunaratna estimates that it took US intelligence 5 years to infiltrate Hezbollah and that a like amount of time will be necessary to penetrate Al-Qaeda. That process of infiltration will require Iraqis, not overpaid international civil servants, to complete. "The current multinational coalition started seriously fighting against them only after 9/11. Al Qaeda has a head start of ten years, so the fight has just begun." In that fight now are a host of willing Iraqis and they will be far more important than anything that Kofi Annan has to offer.

Saturday, August 23, 2003

Saving the Philippines

Robert Tagorda suggests that an American effort to reform the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) might be the only way to save that country. Before you agree with him -- and you should, because Tagorda is correct -- understand what this implies. For the reform to be fundamental and not simply cosmetic, the United States must have the authority to raze that corrupt organization to the ground and reconstitute it on an entirely new basis. The model for doing this already exists: it's called the de-Baa'thization of the Iraqi army. That model was itself derived from two historically successful enterprises, the demilitarization of Japan and the de-Nazification of Germany. It works. The catch is that it requires occupying the Philippines.

The model for failure is also clear: it's called the Military Assistance Command Vietnam (MACV), and the concept as applied to the Philippines is the Joint United States Military Assistance Group (JUSMAG). It is premised on the erroneous assumption that the AFP is a decent, professional organization that is only in want of a little money and training to become effective. But as the recent 'escapes' of Islamic terrorists and repeated attempts to overthrow civilian government show, the Philippine Armed Forces is a collection of undisciplined hoodlums in want of reform, if not incarceration, which was the starting point for the discussion in the first place. Tagorda understands that the problem has gone beyond the power of gentle cures. He says, "Education will hardly serve as a panacea. But it will at least begin to put the spotlight on stabilizing and strengthening institutions that have important counterterrorism responsibilities."

One almost gets the sense, especially in the presence of references to Kaplan's "Supremacy by Stealth", that subversion in a good cause is what America should actually be aiming at in the Philippines, if only it were politic to say so. There's a model for that too. It's called the 'Roadmap' and it describes the American effort to oust Yasser Arafat and his gang of thugs from the Palestine Liberation Authority and supplant him with a group of lesser devils. It represents the second attempt by an American administration to re-engineer a terrorist organization in the interests of peace. (The first was the US upgrade of Soviet communications links in the aftermath of the Cuban missile crisis to prevent an accidental launch. It included the installation of the famous "hotline" between the American and Soviet leaders.)

The JUSMAG and the 'Roadmap' represent two extremes in the spectrum of approaches to transforming a foreign military organization. The JUSMAG model has manifestly failed in the Philippines. Time to shift the dial closer to the 'Roadmap'.

Replaying the Tet

The leftwing media has hit upon the possible winning strategy of describing every event in the world as a setback for the Bush Administration. Both the attack by Hamas on a Jerusalem bus and the Israeli retaliatory execution of the perpetrator are portrayed as setbacks. The American acceptance of a United Nations refusal to guard its headquarters is a setback. The American attempt to improve cooperation with the UN to prevent further attacks is a humiliating admission of its indispensable legitimacy. The Afghan arrest of dozens of Taliban only proves that the threat has grown larger. Ten thousand wholly avoidable deaths due to a French heat wave illustrate the American culpability for Global Warming. Given this, it is hardly surprising that the Jews are about to be sued by the Egyptians (hat tip Across the Atlantic) for escaping during the Exodus. Yet despite the apparent inventiveness of the 'setbacks', the concept is wholly derivative. The Big Lie is a tactic as old as the Left itself. One in which they repose much confidence. In 1968 the press portrayed the disastrous North Vietnamese Tet offensive as a Communist victory and bluffed the real victors into retreating from the battlefield. Surely they can do it again?

Two problems stand in the fabulist's path. The first is that while the North Vietnamese had no ability to chase a retreating US army back to California the jihadists will almost certainly follow a withdrawing America right back to the streets of New York -- and London and Sydney. The second is the existence of alternative sources of news that make it impossible to sustain a  Walter Duranty-like lie for very long. A fiction cannot be maintained when reality can make an imminent appearance. Perhaps if the Internet had never been invented by Al Gore.

It is the propaganda of the deed -- the classic nihilist description of terrorism -- that really threatens the Leftist media campaign. The pen, however mighty, is ultimately less convincing than a bomb in the face, and it is this, not American so-called propaganda, to which the Left has no answer. It was Hamas, not Ariel Sharon's pathetic rhetorical skills, which defeated the once dominant Labor Party in Israel. It was Bali, not John Howard's dubious public presence, that set him streets ahead of his political rivals in Australia. And it was September 11 that ensured that Al Gore could never again run against George W. Bush.

Yet worse lies hidden in the political consequences of the fact that Islamists, now unable to damage American forces, are now concentrating on soft targets, like the UN building, European tourists in the Sahara, the Marriott Hotel in Jakarta, the Pickering nuclear power plant in Canada. It means that a tidal wave of homicidal violence, pent-up, defeated and unable to reach its target, will be now be redirected against the Egged buses of the world. Paris may now be in greater danger than New York. This is will prove absolutely fatal to the peddlers of the fiction that 'the United Nations will protect us' and there is nothing the Leftist press can do about it.

Those seeking an historic parallel will recall that in September, 1940, after finding itself unable to destroy the RAF, the Luftwaffe switched from the attacking air bases to striking major cities. The Blitz -- the shift to soft targets -- was really the first admission that the German air force had lost the war over British skies. It was also the last nail in the coffin of British fascism. And just as the Islamic Blitz will be ineffective against the wellsprings of it's enemies strength, it will prove devastating to the editorial shennanigans of its apologists. In the end, the truth destroys the lie and the Communist collapse mocks the myth of the Tet victory.

Thursday, August 21, 2003

The Road Ahead

Hat tip to Donald Sensing, who links to the Braden Files:

The Army has more attacks because their AOR encompasses Baghdad and the surrounding areas where the bulk of the attacks have taken place. I've noticed the press does a poor job in reporting our response to these ambushes. To put it plainly, we kick butt! The usual 'real' report reads: "Five IZ (Iraqis) fired AK-47s and RPGs at patrol (or convoy), soldiers (or marines) returned fire resulting in 3 KIA, and 1 WIA, 1 escaped. RPGs missed, AK fire ineffective, no US casualties."

That's the ratio in ambushes. Where the US forces are doing the ambushing things are very bad for the terrorists. The Belmont Club's informal analysis is that about 60 perps are killed or captured each day, based on a sample of operations and known operational tempo. And that doesn't include what doesn't get reported. The most recent celebrity perp to fall is Chemical Ali, who was captured several days ago but kept out of the news while followup contacts were prosecuted. Although each American death is a tragedy, the terrorists are losing badly in the ruthless arithmetic of the battlefield.

Ralph Peters thinks the Islamists are whistling past the graveyard now. Despite a maximum effort to flood Iraq with every terrorist in Arabia, the number of US combat deaths has continued to decline, forcing them to switch to targeting the UN.

It's ugly. But it's an indicator of their weakness, not of strength. Demoralized by constant defeats, our enemies have become alarmed by the quickening pace of reconstruction. Consequently, we will see more attacks on infrastructure, on international aid workers and on Iraqis laboring to rebuild their country. We'll also see al Qaeda and other terrorist groups become the senior partners among our enemies, as Ba'athist numbers and capabilities dwindle. There is more innocent blood to come ...

Like 9/11, the Canal Hotel attack, though impressive at the moment, will prove another disaster for the terrorists. Our enemies are frantically trying to prove to the people of Iraq and the world that they remain powerful and viable. But they aren't powerful or viable: They're reduced to a faltering program of assassinations, blowing up aid workers and infrastructure attacks that will alienate the people of Iraq. Any support they gain through such actions will be negligible, while the anger they have rekindled can only harm their cause.

The Pacific War was essentially over in 1942 after the Imperial Japanese Navy was hurled back in the Solomons and at Midway. Japan was doomed from that point. Yet the hardest fighting and worst bloodletting was still to come -- Tarawa, Iwo Jima, Saipan, the Philippines, Okinawa -- and so it may be today. Radical Islam may have shot its bolt, but a long and bloody road remains ahead. The enemy, still unfought, holds many strong positions in Saudi Arabia, Iran, Pakistan, Russian Central Asia and the Indonesian archipelago. Peace will come as surely as the sun will rise. But for now we must remember Churchill's words:

"Death and sorrow will be the companion of our journey; hardship our garment; constancy and valour our only shield."

The UN Headquarters Bombing and the War on Terror

The destruction of the United Nations Headquarters in Baghdad and the subsequent withdrawal of UN personnel from Iraq has firmly subordinated the Europeans to the Pentagon. The French, Germans and the UN bureaucracy were at first eager to find a replacement for the Oil for Food bonanza which had pumped billions into their pockets. After holding out unsuccessfully for a "central" UN role in Iraq by threatening not to recognize the Iraqi National Council, both France and Germany were compelled by events to simply accept a "major" role after it became clear that they could not withhold legitimacy from a de facto government forever. That "major" role was headquartered in the now-ruined Canal hotel. But the truck bomb which drove the UN out of Iraq has left the continental Europeans with no alternative presence in the central battleground for Arabia. The Islamists proved that the league is too rough for international civil servants or European diplomats to play in. The Europeans must now accept any role that the Pentagon will grant it.

All that is on offer is an enlarged version of the ISAF model in Afghanistan. Under those arrangements, the French, Germans and Canadians got to play traffic cops in Kabul and act like glorified security guards in front of public buildings while strictly limited to the city limits. All the real military power and access in Afghanistan was reserved for CENTCOM. Secretary Colin Powell is now said to be discussing a role for European forces in Iraq. Although the press is attempting to portray a repentant America finally seeking help from Europe, the fact is that the continental Europeans are being asked to become CENTCOM auxiliaries now that their great UN flagship has been reduced to ashes. They can now become traffic cops in Baghdad or watch entirely from the sidelines. The Europeans will swallow hard but they have no alternative but to become as subordinate to General Abizaid in Baghdad as they are in Kabul. The Europeans must accept the CENTCOM way or the highway.

The strategic role of Iraq in the overall War on Terror has been astutely debated on Winds of Change. Opinion is divided on whether Iraq is actually "flypaper" -- a killing ground for radical Islamists -- or whether it is a springboard for further attack on other Islamist positions. The first school likens Iraq to a position which the Islamists must retake in order to survive, like a high hill intruding on conventional lines. The second school regards Iraq as a launch pad to eventually occupy Saudi Arabia, Syria and Iran; like Okinawa was to Japan. The analogies have a certain validity, but they fail insofar as the War on Terror is not a war of logistics and geography. It is grand politico-military struggle with certain logistic and geographic aspects, but its key characteristics have no conventional counterparts. The War on Terror is the first war of its kind in history and new terms will have to be invented to describe its characteristics.

The engagement between US forces and a coalition of Ba'ath and Islamist elements has thrown up a bundle of ratlines -- the threads of cells, clandestine routes and support structures which are the basic tactical units in this war. But unlike wars of the past, tactical units are not engaged linearly. The prosecution of a ratline discovered in Mosul is not geographically confined to Iraq but may immediately translate to action in Amman, the West Bank, Thailand, the High Seas or Buffalo, New York. In this deadly game, cells are not always destroyed but sometimes turned. The "sting" operation aimed at corralling arms dealers selling surface to air missiles is one example. And the overall aim of the War is not the physical death of Islamic militants per se so much as the corruption and weakening of their organization and parent regimes. Nor is this effect imaginary. The seismic effect of the War on Terror can be gauged from the upheavals in Riyadh and Teheran.

Thomas Friedman has accidentally hit upon the key strategic value of Iraq in the War on Terror. It is a rich recruiting ground of Arab intelligence assets. It is bursting with ratlines. Iraq is valuable to America because it is full of Kurds and Arabs -- the raw material of the American sword. America is in Iraq for the very same reason that Al-Qaeda set up shop in London, Berlin and Paris: to seize human beachheads in the heart of enemy territory. As such Iraq is both flypaper and springboard and has the potential to be a decisive battleground in and of itself. The War on Terror is a struggle for the hearts of hundreds of millions. Its task is not to turn Arabs into imitation Americans so much as to create the conditions under which Muslims can reconsider and remodel their whole culture. In the process, every regime in the Middle East will be shaken to its very core. Ruling houses will fall. Boundaries will be redrawn. America herself will be transformed in ways that no one understands.

Whatever the outcome of this titanic struggle, Europe will have missed the chance of a decisive role. By pursuing the failed policy of scavenging for lucrative contracts in the shadow of America rather than participating in history, the current generation of European bureaucrats will have adopted the meanest and most short-sighted of policies in the history of the Old Continent. How low they have fallen, the once great. UN personnel have now been ordered out of Iraq. They shouldn't let the door hit them on their way out.


Wednesday, August 20, 2003

Suffer Little Children

The Belmont Club hesitates to devote any space at all to the latest attack by Islamic 'militants' on a bus in Jerusalem which killed five children and injured 40 others.

Strollers were scattered near the stricken bus, medics carried away children with blood-smeared faces and a baby girl died in a hospital before doctors could find her parents. At least five children were among the 18 dead in Tuesday's suicide bombing by a Palestinian militant who blew himself up on a Jerusalem bus. Forty children were among more than 100 people injured.

You see, the children were only Jews. And respected Oxford academics tell us it is all right to reject students who are Jews. And the wife of the President of the European Central Bank tells us that Palestine's woes are caused by an "elite club of rich American Jews". So the Belmont Club will save its electrons to endorse the three days of official mourning for Sergio Vieira de Mello, the senior United Nations diplomat killed a suicide bombing in Baghdad. The great rarely care for children, except perhaps for the one who was called the 'King of the Jews'.

'And they brought young children to Him, that He should touch them: and His disciples rebuked those that brought them. But when Jesus saw it, He was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto Me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God'  -- (Mark 10:13-14).

Closing the Ring

Here is the bout that we've all been waiting for, the one the papers said was never going to happen. While the Saudi and US governments publicly celebrate their mutual solidarity in the War on Terror, their forces on the ground have begun a steel-cage deathmatch. The Financial Times describes how thousands of Saudi Arabian Islamists have crossed over into Iraq to drive the American infidel from Arab land.

According to Saad al-Faguih, a UK-based Saudi dissident, the Saudi authorities are concerned that up to 3,000 Saudi men have gone "missing" in the kingdom in two months, although it is not clear how many have crossed into Iraq. Saudis who have gone to Iraq have established links with sympathetic Iraqis in the northern area between Baghdad, Mosul and Tikrit, where they have hidden in safe-houses, a Saudi Islamist source said on Monday.

This comes when Al-Qaeda is mounting an open challenge to the Saudi Royal family itself. A series of attacks on Saudi targets, expatriate housing facilities and an aborted plot to destroy airliners at Riyadh airport has shattered the facade of calm in the desert kingdom. And the attacks are being coordinated by none other than Osama Bin Laden.

A letter from Osama bin Laden and a telephone call made from Iran by his son Saad are linked to a series of al-Qa'ida attacks on Westerners in Saudi Arabia, according to Western diplomats and Saudi intelligence officials. The letter from al-Qa'ida's leader was found on the body of Yosif Salih Fahd Alayeeri, one of 19 attackers involved in a closely co-ordinated series of bombings in Riyadh on 12 May, who was killed in a shootout with security forces in central Saudi Arabia in May. The Saudi authorities have refused to divulge the contents of the letter, confirming only that it was found on the dead terrorist. Two days before the bombings, which killed 34 people, including nine Americans and two Britons, Saad bin Laden made a telephone call from somewhere in Iran to another member of the same al-Qa'ida gang, according to a senior Western diplomat. The unidentified Saudi suspect was arrested as part of a crackdown on Islamist militants after the May bombings. Authorities said he had revealed the details of the telephone conversation between himself and Saad bin Laden under interrogation.

The Saudi Royals have belatedly mounted a defense. Utilizing their position as guardians of Muslim holy places, they Sauds have issued a fatwa proscribing terrorism directed against Muslims (i.e. them). They have attempted to stem the flow of oil money to Al-Qaeda. It is all too little and late. The serpent bred for decades by Saudi Wahabism has turned on its master and will no longer return to its cage. The Saudi princes may speak to President Bush, but the question is now whether they can speak for Saudi Arabia. The locus of Islamic terrorism was never Iraq. It was always in the Kingdom and the oil wells that gave it potency. Yet it would never have done for Americans to tell the Muslims that. They would have to discover it for themselves. There are moments when the faithful of a world religion find devil in themselves and go on to either cleansing or damnation. In a world awaiting that decision, is it any surprise that the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad has been destroyed by a suicide bomber?

Baghdad Iraq, Aug. 19 — A suicide bomber drove a gleaming new cement mixer full of explosives into the side of the United Nations compound here today and blew it up, killing 17 people and wounding at least 100 in an attack on one of the principal agencies in charge of rebuilding Iraq. The bomb demolished the three-story converted hotel that served as the United Nations headquarters, scattering the wounded and the remains of the dead. United Nations employees, many of them recently flown in from Europe and the United States, crawled and ran from the wreckage, their clothes torn and splattered with blood. Many were delirious, calling out to friends and colleagues left in the rubble behind. Among the dead was Sergio Vieira de Mello, 55, the United Nations secretary general's special representative in Iraq.

The real shock was that international civil servants would continue to believe that they were somehow above the fray. 'How could this happen to us, the Internationals?' How disappointing that the mantle of anti-Americanism did not protect them. Yet they still cannot utter the name of the enemy who struck them down and continue to nurture them. In a rational world, the BBC would close its Islamic prayer rooms, the EU would stop paying ransom to Algerian hostage takers,  the United Nations would withdraw the observer status it has bestowed on the Palestine Liberation Authority and France would withdraw its subsidy for the madrassas which advocate a French Islamic state. But like the Sauds, who long believed that appeasement would protect them, the 'progressive forces' of the world have clung too long to their illusions. And now, perhaps, it is too late.

Monday, August 18, 2003

The Past is Never Gone

There's a saying that while our parents live there's a home somewhere for us on earth. On the day when both are gone, and we are orphaned in our middle age, the door to childhood is finally closed. Dean Bocobo's father,  Israel de Castro Bocobo, passed away today, and he must truly understand what the Filipino poet Jose Rizal meant when he wrote:

Adios, padres y hermanos, trozos del alma mia;
Amigos de la infancia en el perdido hogar.

El perdido hogar. The lost home. I have often wondered why Rizal closed the journal of his consciousness, mere hours before he was marched to the place of execution, on the memory of his sunlit boyhood. Not hatred nor defiance bore him forward on that dawn so much as the wings of remembered love. It was a slight thing to set against death; yet Rizal, mason though he was, knew what Thornton Wilder knew:

But the love will have been enough; all those impulses of love return to the love that made them. There is a land of the living and a land of the dead and the bridge is love, the only survival, the only meaning.

Rizal was going home.

How much ransom?

The news blackout over the negotiations to free 14 European hostages who have been held captive by Islamists in the Sahara for 5 months dodges the essential question: is ransom being paid for their release? It would appear so:

Two German television stations, ARD and n-tv, said a handover had been due to take place on Sunday but did not occur for unspecified reasons. ARD said the handover could take place on Monday. The German Foreign Ministry declined comment. Another German television station, ZDF, said the hostages had ''very probably'' been released already and that ransom money had been handed over, but diplomats in Mali said the report was wrong. The German Foreign Ministry declined comment again.

Algerian commandos were said to have rescued 17 other European hostages in May, but Belmont Club linked to French news sources which alleged that ransom had also been paid. This is a replay of the Philippine Sipadan hostage-taking which funnelled millions of dollars into the hands of the Abu Sayaf terrorist group, transforming them overnight from an underfunded band of criminals to one of the most powerful gangs in Mindanao. The policy of Europe appears to be the payment of ransom. It is tempting to excoriate the Europeans as craven wimps, but the emasculation of continental will and military capability are the true root causes of their policy of appeasement.

In the years following US independence, the Barbary Pirates of the North African coast began to seize American shipping, which was no longer protected by the British Royal Navy. These Muslims reserved the right to take Americans as slaves unless the US paid them an annual tribute of $25,000 in additional to a large initial downpayment. America agreed: in 1784 Congress appropriated $80,000 as initial tribute to the Barbary States. But by 1791, the Muslims had upped the price and demanded a million dollars for the release of 115 sailors whom they had captured, in addition to more annual gifts. Thomas Jefferson, who was by then the President, proclaimed that the policy of ransom payment was unsustainable and declared that the Barbary demands  "admitted but one answer. I sent a small squadron of frigates into the Mediterranean." The infant republic abandoned its policy of appeasement and waged an unremitting campaign against the North African pirates. After Edward Preble, John Rogers and William Eaton reduced the Barbary fleet and had bombarded and threatened to take Tripoli, the pasha sought an end to hostilities in exchange for a final settlement. A period of uneasy confrontation continued until Bainbridge and Decatur crushed the Barbary pirates for good.

The incident is now largely forgotten except for two surviving linguistic fossils: the first being the the declaration of Ambassador Charles C. Pinkney that America was willing to pay "millions for defense, sir, but not one cent for tribute", and the second being the first line of the Marine Corps Hymn: "from the Halls of Montezuma to the Shores of Tripoli", which recalls the Leatherneck's amphibious campaign there. But it should be remembered. Today we are accustomed to thinking of the United States as a nation unyielding to tyranny. Yet the fact is that once it paid money in fear and without Thomas Jefferson and the bold commodores of the United States Navy the nation would have continued paying blood money to the pashas of North Africa for an indefinite period.

Europe may be old in history; but it is young in defiance. There is no reason why Belgians, Frenchmen, Swiss and Germans must pay craven extortion to bandits in the Sahara desert other than the fact that they have not yet brought forth their Thomas Jefferson. And they will, if they want him.

Saturday, August 16, 2003

Safe House Envy

All over the world, ex-clandestine operators must be going over Hambali's last hours in their mind's eye, wondering what they would have done differently. Most would note, with envy, how well resourced he was. A safe house in a decent block of apartments; escape documents which included an EU (Spanish) passport; facial reconstruction; a small arsenal of weapons and probably several million dollars in ready cash. A level of support which was staggering. During the Communist heyday most clandestine cells even in Western Europe lived on the cheap. Fake documents from criminal forgers. Guns bought from the back of a truck. Macaroni and cheese in the cupboard. Maybe a decent coat or two for urban camouflage; but facial reconstruction, no; not even for Carlos the Jackal.

Aging radicals all over the world are probably thinking back to when, if ever, they crossed borders to meet with co-conspirators. When they could purchase military explosives by the thousand pounds. When they could throw away brand new vehicles for one way trips. And the answer for most, is never.

But then, there was never a terrorist organization like Al-Qaeda. The trip to their bosom in the halcyon days of the early 1990s was like a journey to a cave of wonders. You went up in stages to the prophet in his cave. First through a sympathetic imam in a madrassa or mosque, perhaps in a British High Street. Then by endorsement to a religious school in Pakistan or Egypt for further examination. Finally, if suitable, there would be passage to Afghanistan, where under the widest skies on earth in the midst of the loftiest peaks in Central Asia you would cross crystal streams over bare hills, training by day, roused to Islamic prayer by night, until you were fairly drunk with a dream. And then there was money, lots of money. Recruits to whom $50 would have been a fortune were given tens of thousands to speed them on their mission. It was, for most, a moment of election and an experience of anointment from which they returned as prophets with uplifted arms to an unsuspecting world.

To seekers who came to Osama Bin Laden from the West, there were prodigies of a different sort. By the 1990s, the venceremos camps of Cuba and the Marxist kibbutzes of Israel were history. There was nowhere in the decayed Marxist universe to experience the international brotherhood which had been the staple of Leftist formation since the 1900s;  no Catalonia, no foco in the Columbian hills which the pilgrim could reach at the end of long days. You could, like the American Lori Berenson, be content to sit at the feet of  Abimael Guzman whose friends had dwindled to the level of Jose Maria Sison. But the price was jail from which the ineffectual Leftist support groups could offer no escape. The smell of rancid wool, pomade and lice hung over the plastic glasses in Marxist meeting halls. Only by the cool gorges of Afghanistan, beside roaring cataracts under banners in flowing Arabic script could the Western pilgrim meet the peasant from the Sudan or the farmer from Mindanao in the earnest of brotherhood which he sought.

The one thing which plastic surgery could not hide were the strange men who Hambali's neighbors noticed visiting his apartment. Men who stood out in that carefree Thai tourist town with an aura of earnestness; whose backgrounds, once examined by the alerted police didn't quite add up. Every clandestine operator should know the danger: the unmistakable signature of a coven of true believers caught like deer in the headlights by accidental intrusion of neighbors from the workaday world. But Hambali did not.

As he returned to his apartment on his last night of freedom, other men forged in equally strange but different ways  foregathered in the dark. They, too, had walked the hills of Afghanistan; they too had found a brotherhood. They too were prophets from another place. Hard-muscled and in mufti, they were joined by trusted members of the Thai police. Hambali's neighbors recalled the urgent knocks on the door answered only by silence. After an interval a crash and the sounds of a struggle before silence returned anew.

Most professionals going over Hambali's capture in their minds, must be asking themselves at what point captivity became inevitable. Could he not, had he known on the day before, bolted in some way? Could he not have had a scuttling charge ready to deny capture and destroy evidence? Hambali will have a long time to think about it in Guantanamo Bay, but it will seem shorter than the eternity which lies before the Leftist in the reading corner of a Revolution bookstore.

Friday, August 15, 2003

The Socialist Sun

Glenn Reynolds links to a National Review forum to quote the following gem, submitted in connection with the large scale blackout that hit the American northeast:

we’ve heard a lot about the need to move to a hydrogen economy and more renewable sources of energy like wind or solar. All of the Democratic candidates for president are calling for renewables targets or austerity measures designed to monkey with our modern technological and industrial resource base. In The Revolt of the Masses, Jose Ortega y Gasset captured their mindset perfectly:
As they do not see, behind the benefits of civilisation, marvels of invention and construction which can only be maintained by great effort and foresight, they imagine that their role is limited to demanding these benefits peremptorily, as if they were natural rights.
Maybe the blackout will prompt folks like Sens. Joe Lieberman and John Kerry -- or their comrade in arms in green causes Sen. John McCain -- to pause and register a moment of appreciation for a delicate technological infrastructure that didn’t just magically happen.

Steven den Beste has long pointed out that the role of oil-based products in modern industrial society is far more widespread than naive environmentalism understands. The chemical derivatives of oil, used as process chemicals, catalysts, lubricants, etc are the stuff around which whole systems are designed. You might not imagine that the MRI machine in your hospital requires oil-based products, but a glance at its ball-bearings proves that it does. Moreover, he argues, current civilization has a huge investment in producing internal combustion motors of all kinds, including reefers on containers, emergency generators in hospitals and the motive power that Third World countries rely on, whose sudden replacement would be astronomically expensive. Naive environmentalism has no grasp of the interconnectedness of modern industrial systems and cannot realize how existing systems are necessary to deliver necessities to the key nodes of our society. The connection between the gas pump and the food supply in an African village might be apparent to the Nigerian truck driver, but never to the Oxford educated Greenpeace activist. After all, the activist is educated.

Solar, wave and wind power will take their place in modern industrial systems as clever engineers and businessmen create products which can successfully displace their oil-fired counterparts. The process, in all likelihood, will be pioneered in the First World, where capital investment is easiest. And it will be gradual. The last survivals of oil-fired machinery will be found in isolated villages many decades after they have all but disappeared from the major cities.

Yet incrementalism in nature or engineering are political anathema to revolutionary movements, who by definition are in the business of proffering discontinuous change. The movement of glaciers, the evolution of species, the slow refinement of industrial systems and the stately procession of the celestial spheres cannot be reconciled with the dramatic needs of the barricade, which must always sharply separate the ancien regime on the one side with the 'world of tomorrow' on the other. There are no dramatic unities, no sudden bursts of song, no stirring intrusions of a fanfare in the actual workshops of the world. But they will be imagined. The blackout in the American northeast lasted a few hours. The blackout in the Leftist mind lasts forever.

Thursday, August 14, 2003

Buh-bye Hambali

Riduan Isamuddin, also known as Hambali, a senior figure in Al-Qaeda, the Bali bombing mastermind and boss of Fathur Roman Al-Ghozi, is in United States custody today. He was said to have been captured in Thailand earlier this week. Hambali was born in Indonesia, became attracted to radical Islam, and hooked up with Osama Bin Laden in Afghanistan. (Hat tip: Thugburg) The Muslim cleric had received a large, but unspecified amount of money in Pakistan earlier this year to mount a major terrorist attack. He was an operator, said to be closely associated with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the overall operations chief of Al-Qaeda.

The San Diego Channel reports that Hambali was captured by the Central Intelligence Agency. If true, the snatch represents one of the first public attributions of success to the Agency's secretive paramilitary wing, sometimes referred to in open literature as the Worldwide Attack Matrix. It also stands in stark contrast with the more cautious approach that Australia has taken in response to the murder and maiming of more than a hundred of its citizens at Bali. Australia has chosen to treat the Bali bombing like a very large, but still ordinary, criminal act. It has invested thousands of man-hours of the Australian Federal Police to investigate and convict Amrozi, the man who planted the bomb but who is at best, a cog in the Jemaah Islamiyah  machine. In the terrible calculus of war, the exchange of a hundred Australians for a single terrorist minion is a poor bargain. In contrast, the United States chose to regard the September 11 attacks as an act of war. In so doing, America has simply mirrored the intent of the deadly jihad declared against it. Under American accounting, the exchange of one terrorist for a hundred victims is not acceptable.

In this respect, the interrogation of Hambali at an unspecified location, but presumably known to the Central Intelligence Agency, must be aimed at identifying his paymasters. Who paid a large sum of money to stage a mass killing to advance the glories of radical Islam? The net is closing. Saudi Arabia delenda est.

Update: Al Qaeda in Pakistan Gunbattle

This from the Australian:

PAKISTANI security forces were locked in a fierce gunbattle with a group of suspected al-Qaeda militants holed up in a house in the suburbs of the north-western city of Peshawar overnight, officials said. "The fighting erupted when Pakistani security (personnel) raided a house where al-Qaeda men were holed up," a senior security official said, requesting anonymity. "The fighting has been going on for the past four hours and the suspects are well armed," he said. "They are believed to be important al-Qaeda operatives and the intelligence information is that they are foreigners."

Could be that Hambali has been talking. This is the general area in which Osama Bin Laden is said to be hiding. Stay tuned.

The AQ Tries a Comeback as the Left Cheers On

A recent flurry of activity from the Al Qaeda, including:

suggests that the Al Qaeda has started its counteroffensive against the United States. Too bad the Americans are counterpunching before they can set up. That is yet another reason for the Left to get Howard Dean into the White House, or require the American President to obtain a Presidential Finding before turning the Special Operations Forces loose on them. This surge of action corresponds roughly to the increase in tempo prior to the original attack on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. That earlier burst of activity included attacks on two American embassies in Africa and on the USS Cole.

In the eyes of the Left, terrorism cannot really exist. Or if it does, the phenomenon is confined to a few misguided individuals who can easily be corralled by Interpol and the United Nations. The case for terrorism has really been "sexed up", in the immortal words of the BBC's Andrew Gilligan. And if terrorism really does exist, it is better to pretend that it doesn't, because then it might succeed in accomplishing what the Left failed to achieve in its historical mission.

The uptick in activity conveys three things about the changed reality since September 11. First, the capability of Islamic extremism has been greatly reduced. Second, the will of the extremists remains unbroken, and if possible, more resolute than before. Third, Western will, by contrast has wobbled considerably since the attack on Manhattan, due the efforts of the Left. The principal problem, for many in the Western Left, is that since the predicted military defeat of America did not come, a means must now be found to turn victory into defeat by political means. But therein too, lies the danger. In the nature of things, one of the Islamist outrages is bound to eventually succeed. Then the cream pie will come straight back into Leftist faces and they must begin their sneering and denigration anew, but this time from a lower and more discredited base.

At no point since 1940 has the Left been forced to into such an absurd position. Just as Hitler and Stalin had to be portrayed as beneficent when they were patently predators soley to satisfy ideological requirements, the Left must project the simultaneous image of an omnipotent and helpless America; of a War on Terror at once unwinnable and yet too easily won by a bullying United States. The Islamic "militants" must be portrayed as both supermen and victims, and the Left the soul of reason. But absurdities are familiar friends to true believers; and the Left are the neediest of all the faithful.

But whether the AQ is shattered in its counteroffensive, as is probable, or whether it gains a signal success, the Left will have been its principal victim. The Marxist church has been bleeding adherents to Islam for a decade now. By attempting to maintain its presence as a political player by hanging on to the coattails of Islamism, Marxism will be diminished by either an Islamic success or an Islamic defeat.

Wednesday, August 13, 2003

Mad Max

Is the Saudi Royal House truly at war with Islamic militants? Well, there's lots of smoke:

More than 15 raids have uncovered a network of Islamic extremists, arms and sophisticated equipment all over Saudi Arabia, indicating sleeper cells authorities say they were unaware of before May 12 suicide bombings in the Saudi capital prompted the crackdown. ... A day earlier, Saudi police arrested 10 militants who allegedly belonged to a terrorist cell planning to attack a British target. British Airways suspended flights to the kingdom Wednesday after Britain's Department for Transport said it received "credible intelligence of a serious threat" to British aviation interests. Last month, police found underground arsenals at farms in central and eastern Saudi Arabia, and cars and trucks ready for use as bombs. They have also discovered dozens of fake passports, surveillance equipment and donation boxes. ...

And there's a body of opinion alleging that the Saudi Royal House has woken up to the threat.

"The extremists had infiltrated and developed sleeper cells in Saudi Arabia to an extent that neither society nor the authorities were aware of. I believe they were still in the process of getting organized and setting themselves up when they were first raided by police" in May, said Mishari al-Thaidi, an expert on militants and a journalist with the pan-Arab Asharq al-Awsat newspaper. ... Sulaiman al-Hattlan, a research associate at Harvard University's Center for Middle Eastern Studies, says the extremists' strength is the result of years of mobilizing, organizing and raising money on the pretext of helping embattled Muslims in Afghanistan, Bosnia and Chechnya. ... Journalist Mansour Al-Nogaidan says the extremists have been forming cells and growing in strength for years, right under the nose of the authorities, who looked the other way or believed Saudi Arabia would not be targeted.

But, as Ralph Peters has often argued, the Islamic threat is largely the consequence of the House of Saud and other despotic Middle Eastern repressive regimes. Of all the Arab countries, only one -- Iraq -- is moving in the direction of constitutional democracy. The rest remain police states and the opiate of the oppressed remains radical Islam. What we are witnessing in Saudi Arabia is more akin to the crackdown on the Islamic Brotherhood in Egypt  after its involvement in the assassination of President Anwar Sadat, more than genuine conversion away from the ideals of the jihad.

Even Mansour Al-Nogaidan acknowledges that the Kingdom's violent reaction was precipitated by the targeting of domestic installations rather than a rejection of principle. Had the Islamists confined their mayhem to infidels living abroad, say in the Twin Towers in New York, there would have been no cause for alarm. There may be certain quarters in the State Department who will view the Saudi crackdown on Islamists as a good thing. Saudi Arabia as Egypt. Manageable. But anyone who takes the long view must understand that neither Egypt nor the corrupt Arab world is really manageable, except for the duration of a diplomatic cocktail party.

Here is the real challenge facing the architects of the war on terror. There is a whole class of countries, namely: Pakistan, Egypt, Indonesia and Saudi Arabia -- to name some -- which are not overt enemy states, but whose oppressive natures provide a natural breeding ground for Islamism. To a certain extent, countries which have descended into anarchy or near-anarchy, such as African nations, and the Philippines will become functionally indistinguishable from oppressive regimes like Saudi Arabia, insofar as they generate the raw material for terrorism and transnational lawlessness.

In the end, the War on Terror cannot be separated from the larger question of the implosion of the Third World, as countries  born in the post-colonial era following the Second World War, and nurtured by Marxism and elitist mumbo-jumbo, reach the end of their trajectories. Their world is not so much post-colonial as the post-Armageddon universe of Mad Max. Some will escape their blasted shores to make a new life; others will seek to cross the oceans only to pillage.

Monday, August 11, 2003


Victor Davis Hanson reminds us that it is culture, not physical combat, that is the decisive aspect of the War on Terror. Much of Western society, he says, lives in its own fantasy world, hedged around with artificial expectations and utopian dreams, for which the common shorthand is political correctness. Such a world, he says, is already laid out for barbarian conquest:

What does all this mean? Western societies from ancient Athens to imperial Rome to the French republic rarely collapsed because of a shortage of resources or because foreign enemies proved too numerous or formidable in arms — even when those enemies were grim Macedonians or Germans. Rather, in times of peace and prosperity there arose an unreal view of the world beyond their borders, one that was the product of insularity brought about by success, and an intellectual arrogance that for some can be the unfortunate byproduct of an enlightened society. ...

We should take stock of this dangerous and growing mindset — and remember that wealthy, sophisticated societies like our own are rarely overrun. They simply implode — whining and debating still to the end, even as they pass away.

Ralph Peters asks the equivalent question when he wonders why American society, nearly two years after September 11, cannot bring itself to name the real culprits in the attack. His answer is that our political elites have been bought by the nation's enemies.

OUR immediate missions in the War Against Terror aren't enough to win a decisive victory. ... One cannot have much sympathy with Osama bin Laden, whose vision of a vengeful god thirsty for infidel blood is utter blasphemy. Nor could any decent human being excuse the acts of terror committed by his followers, or by Palestinian suicide bombers or by any of the morally crippled youths who murder in the name of their religion. ... But it is possible to recognize that the majority of the lower-rank terrorists whose lives their overlords throw away so callously have been set up psychologically by the corruption and hopelessness of their societies. ... And those societies have been wrecked by Arabs and other Muslims to whom we cling as partners and whom we even imagine to be our friends.

From North Africa through Arabia's sands to Kashmir, those with whom we do business, upon whom we rely for advice and assurances of stability, with whom we have dinner and play golf - these are the very creatures who have stolen everything they could steal from their own people, who have ravaged educational systems, looted treasuries, corrupted institutions, tortured and murdered populist opponents and turned once-promising states into financial and moral basket cases.

Peters, who was a revolutionary and maverick US Army intelligence officer, has long held that it is in the long-term interest of the United States to wage war against the corrupt Third World elites who oppress their own people. His insight -- which is correct yet not widely accepted --- is that even Third World revolutionary or "progressive" movements are elitist enterprises with exactly the same goals as their "reactionary" counterparts: to keep power in the hands of a few and preserve the many in misery. The ideology of the political movements is window-dressing. Their character is the same.

Together, the arguments of Hanson and Peters fit in a complementary fashion. The Western cultural elites don't recognize the barbarism lurking at their door because it has assumed the human face of their overseas classmates who attended Harvard, Stanford and Princeton. And the Third World sharpies understand, all too well, what buttons to push when it comes to dealing with the guilt-ridden West. After all, many of the post-war dictators who ruined and looted Africa attended either Oxford or Cambridge. What is left out of the equation are the ordinary folk, the non-lawyers, the people without corporate expense accounts; the ones who don't hate their society as much as they hate themselves. Hanson and Peters reminds us that it is the tug of war between the Western elites and the man in the street, the culture wars, that will decide whether civilization survives or not.

There is one respect in which I disagree with Dr. Hanson. He believes that we have run out of outrages to motivate us. September 11 no longer evokes an image of incinerated firemen, innocents leaping out of skyscrapers, or the stench of flesh and melted plastic, but rather: squabbles over architectural designs, lawsuits, snarling over Mr. Ashcroft's new statutes, or concerns about being too rude to the Arab street.

Don't you worry Dr. Hanson, the enemy will provide. The enemy, among us and without, will provide.

The Keystone Cops

On August 10, the Philippine Daily Inquirer intimated that Fathur Roman Al-Ghozi, notorious Al-Qaeda operative and escape artist, had been killed by Philippine troops in Mindanao. On August 11, the Philippine Star's headline was that Al-Ghozi had been captured in Mindanao. Later that same day, the Philippine Sun Star reported that Al-Ghozi had slipped the "military dragnet". Assuming that Philippine journalists did not set out to make fools of themselves, the only explanation for a state of affairs in which a suspect can be simultaneously dead, captured and still at large, must be that the news sources never had him in custody, but thought they did; or had him in custody, but never knew they did; had him and then lost him; or were making the story up out of whole cloth, like the storyboard artists of Filipino horror komiks, such as Hiwaga or Lagim.

In the debate over whether President George Bush should visit the Philippines, one must evaluate what the information is obtained by dealing with Philippine government authorities. In any exchange of messages, there is typically a signal which contains the information masked by a certain degree of noise. When the noise overwhelms the signal, you are better off not listening to the signal. The disinformation is greater than the information.

Because the principal protective tool of the Secret Service is the security advance, which aims to detect any possible threats to the US President and route him around those threats, any coordination with Philippine authorities actually increases, rather than decreases the danger to the American President. Information provided by the Philippine Government is so unreliable it dangerous to act on it. It is better to assume that one knows nothing and not enter a situation rather than assume one knows something and enter it on that basis. Moreover, because the Philippine Government is the host country and cannot be kept ignorant of President Bush's itinerary, his movements will almost certainly become known to terrorist groups in the process of "coordination".

The United States should not insult the Philippines by flying President Bush into an airfield secured by US Forces and have him appear unannounced to Philippine officials. That would be extremely offensive to most Filipinos. But on the other hand, neither can he "coordinate" with the Filipino authorities because that is tantamount to handing the Al-Qaeda a program to his movements. Given this dilemma, the US President can only give the Philippines a miss and reschedule a visit when things are better. God send a near day.


Saturday, August 09, 2003

Sleeping with the Enemy

Dwight Meredith asks tough questions about the composition of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon The United States, which is:

chartered to prepare a full and complete account of the circumstances surrounding the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, including preparedness for and the immediate response to the attacks. The Commission is also mandated to provide recommendations designed to guard against future attacks.

In particular, he is concerned about Jamie Gorelick.

"For Jamie Gorelick, answering a simple question is not enough. Gorelick is a litigation partner in the Washington law firm of Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering. Gorelick was formerly the number two person at the Department of Justice where she held the position of Deputy Attorney General of the United States. According to Newsweek, Gorelick’s firm has agreed to represent Prince Mohammed al Faisal in the suit by the 9/11 families. The families contend that al Faisal has legal responsibility for the 9/11 attacks. While her firm is representing Saudi interests against the 9/11 families, Ms. Gorelick is a member of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon The United States."

How can an attorney for the the Saudis sit on the Commission? The answer, according to Just One Minute, is that Gorelick is the Democrat's political rep on the Commission. In particular, she is Hillary's: a significant player in the Clinton scandals - briefly, she was perceived as Bill and Hillary's woman in the Justice Dept after Webb Hubbell left. Gorelick's brief, according to Newsmax, is to spin the story of September 11 as a Bush cover-up.

But it is not just the Democrats who are turning the Commission into a partisan carnival. Former Secretary of State James Baker is reported to be putting in a good word for the Saudis. Maybe we should label the gasoline pumps at each of our service stations, 'the Saudi Arabian legal defense fund'.

The Saudi Arabian lobby has metamorphosed into a national security menace, whose minor manifestation may have been the September 11, 2001 attacks. There should be continuous pressure on both parties to definite a war plan which will end the Saudi menace for good. Saudi Arabia delenda est.