Wednesday, October 29, 2003


One of the reasons that Ba'athist combat capabilities declined so precipitously during Operation Iraqi Freedom was the disruption to daily life caused by combat operations. People couldn't communicate or travel easily and had to devote most of their time to scrounging for food and securing shelter. That included the Ba'athists. They lay low and became ineffective. One of the necessary consequences of the American efforts to return life in the Sunni triangle to normalcy is that it provides the very conditions necessary to resuscitate Ba'athist operations and enable them to mount attacks against Iraqi authorities and coalition forces. The lifting of the curfew for the Ramadan, the availability of electricity for longer hours, the freedom to assemble in a variety of locales without attracting attention -- all of these have unintended consequences. If one were looking for the primary facilitator of the recent attacks against Americans and Iraqis in the Sunni area, it would be none other than Paul Bremer, through no fault of his own.

It was inescapable that the Ba'athists and Islamic terrorists would adjust to peacetime faster in many ways than US authorities. Many simply had to pick up the now-working telephones to renew old acquiantances, including those now working for the CPA or in jobs inside the Green Zone. Reconciliation in action. Many simply had to become businessmen, like the traders on the Syria-Iraq border, to import things of interest. Americans thought it was wonderful, and so did they. Like anyone else, Americans are often blinded by preconcieved notions of the natural use of things. Where a sailor sees a road a soldier sees an obstacle; where an American sees a jetliner, a jihadi sees a bomb. Whoever said that the restoration of public amenities to Baghdad would necessarily lead to peace?

Whether it will critically depends on how rapidly the United States can overhaul the Ba'athist lead in local contacts. In one respect President Bush was indisputably right: the critical resource in Iraq right now is not more United Nations or French troops. It is not even American troops. It is Iraqi police and intelligence men. Little wonder that the Ba'athists have been focusing their attacks on the Iraqi police. That is who they fear most. While Americans have taken their share of casualties, the Iraqi cops have been dying by the dozen. Whether at the graduation ceremonies of a police academy, or being thanklessly blown up defending the UN building at a checkpoint, or in the station house, the Iraqi cops have been taking percentage losses that are only ignored because the press is too liberal to regard them as men. But other men notice, even if journalists will not. Boots on the Ground says:

The Iraqi Police were hit the hardest. Immediately, you would think that many would put down their badges and quit after all the death and chaos of yesterday. Yet, they all are still there, doing their job. It is truly amazing, and I am deeply inspired by it.

Yet that shouldn't blind us to the fact that there are Ba'athist agents in all levels of the new Iraqi bureaucracy. And the police is their prize. The US is in a counter-intelligence race with professionals on their home ground. Whether our Iraqis will beat their Iraqis is still an open question. America may outstrip the enemy in weaponry and humanitarian aid, yet lose this one key race. Phil Carter links to a damning report on the shortfalls of intelligence operations in Iraq.

The 69 "tactical human intelligence teams" operating in the country at the time of the study, at the beginning of the summer, should have been producing "at least" 120 reports a day, but instead were delivering an average total of 30, it states. It attributes that apparent underperformance to "the lack of guidance and focus" from the intelligence office overseeing the teams' work.

These are our eyes, and we will need them. After the America ended major combat operations in Iraq, it left the open spaces of the Clausewitzian world to battle terror on its shadowy soil. Here, enemies may have names without faces; voices beckon us alone into the dark; and unacknowledged tokens to monstrous things surface when we seem among friends. Yet always knowledge will be our guide; to anticipate, not be surprised; to persuade yet not be persuaded; to dishearten yet keep the faith; and to remind us that we are still at war.

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

Guerilla War Revisited

The classic requirements for the successful prosecution of a guerilla war have traditionally been:

  • a secure base in a foreign sanctuary or remote fastness where forces can be trained, equipped and readied;
  • a secure source of revenue
  • a guerilla army, or body of armed men;
  • a political arm, such as popular front, national liberation front or other such organization which puts forward an alternative program of governance

All successful guerrilla movements, from the US War of Independence onward, possessed these characteristics. Although Vietnam conflict was largely fought by North Vietnamese regulars, it still had these attributes. The intifada is a modern example of how these principles are applied.

The terrorist forces now attacking Iraq have all these characteristics, save one. They have not, as yet, created a political arm which will widely appeal to the different Iraqi ethnic groups. Other than that, they have cross border sanctuaries in Syria and Iran; a probable source of funding in the Ba'athist loot and Saudi money and fighters courtesy of international jihad. On the day they manage to cobble together a credible political movement, arising from the discredit of the current US efforts, they will be a guerilla force to reckon with. But not until.

Richard Nixon, who was perhaps the first US President since Kennedy to seriously consider winning the Vietnam War, attempted to deal with the problem of cross-border sanctuaries by incursions into the Parrot's beak and other NVA staging areas in Cambodia. He was not successful. He had greater success applying airpower directly against Hanoi, in the Operation Linebacker Series, and by mining the port of Haiphong, which essentially dried up the heavy weapons supplies from Russia.

The same problem now faces President Bush. This is ironic in one sense, because it was Syria and Iran that were supposed to have a cross-border problem with respect to Iraq, the new regime inflaming their own internal instabilities by example. But the pause in operational tempo arising from US grand strategy, has seemingly given them an opportunity to turn the tables and seize the initiative. "Seemingly" because the terrorist attacks, although they have succeeded in charming the Western media, have two glaring operational shortfalls: they have not dealt any kind of effective blow against US forces; second, they have killed dozens of Iraqis and maimed hundreds of civilians during a sacred holiday period. Their momentary fame on the pages of Le Monde must be paid for by incurring the hatred of ordinary Iraqis, and the cops in especial. There's nothing like bombing police stations to get the flatfoots really motivated.

But that does nothing to ameliorate the problem of sanctuaries, which the Iraqis cannot deal with. The problem with terrorist sanctuaries, as opposed to conventional guerilla training grounds, is that they can be very small, sometimes just a set of rooms in an apartment block in Damascus, or a basement in Teheran, or a marble-floored palace guest room in Riyadh. The terrorist operators can be infiltrated separately into Iraq and rendezvous within. The operational characteristics of terrorist cells make them hard to stop at borders. Yet they do have one glaring weakness. All foreign sponsored terrorist cells eventually have a point of contact with the secret services of that nation or with a high-ranking political leader. Some Syrian Ba'athist general, some Ayatollah, some Prince.

President Bush's warning against Syria and Iraq for not doing enough to stop terrorists infiltrating Iraq is less directed toward the leaders of that nation, as it is toward starting a thread, which will later become a basis for future action. That thread, which will amplified in the coming weeks, as US-controlled forces themselves infiltrate these unfriendly countries, is that there is a causal link between the bombing of innocents in a Red Cross facility and some loathsome controlling intelligence, which for the moment, sleeps safely across the border. Sleep tight.

Monday, October 27, 2003

Tet 2003

The appearance of the moon in its right phase signaled the start of a joyful holiday for a nation that believed it had at last put the worst of war behind it.

From the memoirs of a Vietnam Veteran.

It is 2:00 a.m., January 30, 1968, the beginning of the Vietnamese New Year, known as Tet. Celebrated with reunions, feasting and firecrackers, Tet begins with the new moon in January.

  From the New York Times

"If someone sees the crescent, he will go to his local sheik with two witnesses and there will be a list of Thuraya phone numbers for sheiks in different towns and sheiks in Baghdad," said Moayed al-Adami, imam of the Abu Hanifa mosque in Baghdad, a revered shrine for Iraq's Sunni Muslims...

Baghdad, October 24 -- Iraq's American overseers said Friday that they would lift the nighttime curfew on Baghdad's five million residents beginning Sunday, to accommodate the country's Muslims during Ramadan and demonstrate that the country is returning to normal despite the persistent armed resistance to the occupation. ...

From the memoirs of Michael Rovedo

January 31, 1968 - Low clouds cover the sky, early on Wednesday morning, when the Tet Offense begins in Saigon. Five enemy battalions of between 2000 and 2500 had infiltrated into the Saigon area. Attacks are spearheaded by the C-10 Sapper Battalion. The plan calls for 35 battalions of 4000 locals to attack the following six major targets:

The Vietnamese Joint General Staff Headquarters The Independence Palace (President Thieu's office) The American Embassy Tan Son Nhut Airport The Vietnamese Navy Headquarters The National Broadcasting Station The 716th MP Battalion, with approximately 1000 men, was responsible for the security of the 130 American installations in the greater Saigon area. Only one third were on duty, even though they were warned of trouble. Flak vests had been issued and they were doubled up on shift.

Only 25 of the 300 Vietnamese MP's in Saigon were available.


  From the New York Times

An American colonel was killed and at least 16 people were wounded early Sunday when a barrage of air-to-ground missiles from a homemade launchpad slammed into a highly protected hotel where Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz was staying.

American military officials said they did not believe Mr. Wolfowitz was the target but they called the attack carefully planned.

From the Scotsman

The expected Ramadan rampage began in Baghdad today with multiple car bombings including a suicide attack on the Red Cross headquarters that killed at least ten people.

The bomber drove an ambulance packed with explosives into security barriers outside the Red Cross building in the Iraqi capital and then detonated his deadly cargo.

US Brigadier General Mark Hertling said three other vehicles exploded in the Baghdad area, at least two of them against police stations, on the first day of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Iraqi police reported about a dozen Iraqis were killed in the three other blasts.


From a review of Tet! The Turning Point in the Vietnam War

Tet might have been won on the battlefield, but it was an epic defeat on American televisions and in world newspapers. The Tet offensive's primary aim was to cause political upheaval in America to give the Communists a victory exactly like what defeated the French a decade earlier.

  From the Associated Press

But the bold blow at the heart of the American presence here clearly rattled U.S. confidence that it is defeating Iraq's shadowy insurgents.

The assault pointed up the vulnerability of even heavily guarded U.S. facilities in Iraq, where American forces sustain an average of 26 lower-profile attacks daily.

From the Independent

In a daring attack anti-American guerrillas yesterday fired a barrage of rockets at the al-Rashid hotel, a symbol of the US occupation, in the heart of Baghad, killing one US soldier and wounding 15 other people, mostly Americans.


From the website

Saigon was the center for most if not all of the news agencies that were covering the war in South Vietnam. Tet offensive of 1968 was the first time, during the war, that actual street fighting took place in the major cities. ... The news media were able to capture this street fighting on tape in addition to the attack on the American Embassy. ... The reports led the American people to think that we were losing the war in Vietnam and that the Tet Offensive was a major victory for North Vietnam. This was not the case. The VC suffered such high casualties that they were no longer considered a fighting force and their ranks would have to be replaced by North Vietnamese regulars. 

The misreporting, along with Communist and North Vietnamese agents in the United States, led to demonstrations in the streets by Americans in protest of the war. Gen. Giap later wrote in his book, that the news media reporting and the demonstrations in America surprised them. Instead of seeking a conditional surrender, they would now hold out because America's resolve was weakening and the possibility of victory could be theirs.

  From the Los Angeles Times:

Attack Is a Media Coup for Iraq Resistance, Experts Say

"They are picking targets for their media value".

From a film review of 8mm:

By strict definition, a 'snuff film' would involve the commission of murder for the sole purpose of capturing the act on film with the hopes of some sort of commercial distribution.

Karl Marx, from the The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, commenting on the attempt of a tyrant to break up a democratic assembly and reinstate a dynasty.

“Hegel remarks somewhere that all great, world-historical facts and personages occur, as it were, twice. He has forgotten to add: the first time as tragedy, the second as farce.”

Saturday, October 25, 2003

The Death of Minds

 This, from the New York Times, about suburbs in France where the name of the game is hunting down women for gang rape.

VIGNEUX-SUR-SEINE, France — The boys were patient, standing in line and waiting their turn to rape. Their two victims, girls of 13, were patient, too, never crying out, at least that is what the neighbors said, and enduring the violence and abuse repeatedly over five months. That was three years ago. Late in September, 10 young men, now aged from 18 to 21, were convicted of rape in a closed courtroom in nearby Evry and sentenced to prison terms ranging from three to five years. Seven others will go on trial in November.

Many of the boys are raised in closed, traditional families and are hopelessly confused or ignorant about sex; others are simply street toughs. In this world, women enjoy little respect; often girls who appear weak, or wear tight-fitting clothing, or go out unaccompanied by their fathers or brothers, are considered fair game. To avoid trouble, many girls have taken to wearing loose-fitting jogging clothes, and hidden themselves behind domineering fathers or brothers; others have organized themselves into their own gangs. Many of the Muslim girls have donned head scarves — more for protection than out of religious conviction.

This, from Space Daily, about a hundred foot (30 meter) telescope about to be constructed by the California Institute of Technology, "which would result in images more than 12 times sharper than those of the Hubble Space Telescope (and) ... will have nine times the light-gathering ability of one of the 10-meter Keck Telescopes, which are currently the largest in the world." The Caltech astro website has renderings which show a cutaway of the future 100 foot telescope in comparison with the Mount Palomar reflector, for many decades the largest optical instrument in the world, looming like an elephant over a goat; an instrument on the Krell scale. The hundred foot primary mirror will allow astronomers to look further back in time to conditions in the early universe; to discover hitherto unseen objects; to better understand the ground of reality on which we, mere mortals, live.

The contrast between the youth at Caltech, striving to touch the face of God and the illiterate Muslim boys in a French suburb striving to touch the underpants of their neighbors is a consequence, not of the difference in their natures, but of the contents of their minds. Nothing in the US Army arsenal has been half so devastating to the Muslim world as the Saudi-funded Wahabi madrassa. For where one can injure the body, the other can destroy the mind. Nor is there help in the land of France for those who have managed to leave Arabia yet are never quite permitted to arrive in Europe. The dole for food and a policeman's truncheon, maybe; but never a candle for the dark; nothing whatever from the condemned store of Western values.

The New York Times story goes on, without a trace of self-awareness or irony:

At the vast housing project where the girls lived and where the rapes occurred, the grounds are clean, even landscaped. The population is multiracial and multiethnic, blending both French-born citizens and immigrants from places like North and sub-Saharan Africa, Turkey and the Caribbean. Nearby are a butcher selling halal meat, an oriental pastry shop and coffeehouse, a laundromat, a health club and a supermarket — as well as drug dealers openly selling hashish.

 And in the corridors, a young man waits.

Friday, October 24, 2003

Et tu brute?

In Shakespeare's Julius Casear and Agatha Christie's semi-literary Murder On the Orient Express, the pact between conspirators is sealed by their common participation in stabbing the tyrant, in one act achieving their ends and ensuring their solidarity. Benjamin Franklin chaffed the hesitant signatories of the US Declaration of Independence with his famous observation that "we must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately."

Anyone who believes that the Ba'athist regime can be revived in Iraq will be disheartened by the international pledge of billions of dollars in aid to Iraq. Although Boomshock has pointed out that the total amounts and disbursement schedules have been variously and contradictorily reported, the existence of the aid package is not in dispute. The countries who are committed to ensuring a post-Saddam Iraq success are led by the US, with a pledge of $20 billion, followed by:

"Japan, the second biggest donor after the United States, pledged a total of $5 billion over four years. Saudi Arabia and Kuwait each pledged at least $1 billion. The European Union and its member countries have pledged a total of $800 million in Iraq aid for next year."

The rest will be made up of loans by multilateral instutions like the World Bank, and a hodge-podge of contributions from countries as small as Vietnam. Like Shakespeare's characters, we are all conspirators in tyrannicide now. The New York Times observed that "conspicuous by their absence were Germany and France, two of Europe's richest nations but also Europe's two biggest opponents of the war against Iraq". Yet even so they will also contribute, unless they can segregate their money from funds to be provided by the European Union or the World Bank, which will extend loans to the new Iraqi government. While making a big show of missing the train, Germany and France have characteristically purchased secret tickets and will presently board via the back door before the last coach leaves the station.

Where does this leave Saddam Hussein, variously rumored to be plotting secretly in Tikrit or leading the pastoral life of a goatherd in western Iraq? With a dwindling stash of funds. For however large his initial nest egg, coming as it did from emptying the Iraqi central bank cash reserves, it will never grow by a dollar more without access to oil revenues, which are barred to him forever. Where does this leave France and Germany, now making their way toward the dining car after their stealthy entry into the caboose of the aid train? Looking like cheap gatecrashers and not the Great Powers they styled themselves to be. And if they meet with a less than rousing reception, they might remember the bitter observation of Count Ciano, as the fortunes of his Duce dwindled, "victory has a hundred fathers but defeat is an orphan."

Thursday, October 23, 2003

The Dustbin of History

The Left has consistently portrayed itself as the party of the Future and the vanguard of history. But in truth it has become a party of the old. According to a recent survey by Harvard's Institute of Politics, nearly 90% of American college students consider themselves patriotic and nearly two thirds (61%) approve of President Bush's job performance. The rejection of the Left within its academic bastion can only be compared to a defeat of the US Army within the infantry training grounds of Fort Benning. If, having lost organized labor and the American working class, the Left cannot hold here, it can hold nowhere.

Nor is the shrinkage of the Left confined to the demographic sphere. It is in full retreat across the whole map of the globe. First ousted from Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, the Left has been unceremoniously evicted from the formerly Nasserite Arabian peninsula, where it has been supplanted by radical Islam. Even in the Pacific, hardly a trace can now be found of the Communist Party of Indonesia or PKI, once the third largest in the world after China's and Russia's in the 1960s. It has been replaced by the Jemaah Islamiyah.

The last strongholds of Left are in the aging countries of Western Europe, whose liberal attitudes are increasingly at odds with the socially more conservative, burgeoning and youthful populations of the Third World. The recent elevation of the openly gay Gene Robinson by the American Episcopalian Church underscores the widening cultural gap: it was met with fierce criticism from the Third World Episcopalian Churches, who threatened schism unless the unscriptural act were withdrawn. The liberals, unaware how far out of step they were, and perhaps still under the illusion that they represented the future rather than the past, served notice that they would cut off the Third World churches from monetary assistance unless their gay bishop was accepted, to which Bernard Malango, the primate of Central Africa replied gamely, "This is simony. Let the powerful people keep their money."

The decimation of the Left, which has come upon them so quickly that they have hardly assimilated the fact, will have enormous implications. The first is the political vacuum created by its fall, which Islam will rapidly strive to fill. The second is the dislocation of organizations like the British Conservative Party, which have largely defined themselves in opposition to the Left, a Left that is no more, leaving them to grope for a positive reason for existence.

The Left is dead, although the fact is not yet apparent to all, least of all to the dwindling Communist faithful. But the fact remains, and it reminds us of Nietzche's prophetic parable which concludes:

"I have come too early," he said then; "my time is not yet. This tremendous event is still on its way, still wandering; it has not yet reached the ears of men. Lightning and thunder require time; the light of the stars requires time; deeds, though done, still require time to be seen and heard. This deed is still more distant from them than most distant stars - and yet they have done it themselves.

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

The Rumsfeld Leak

There's considerable debate, especially over at Lieutenant Smash, about the propriety of journalists reporting on an internal Department of Defense memo listing self-examinatory questions on the War on Terror. The memorandum from Secretary Rumsfeld  lists out what may need to be improved in the US defense establishment in order to effectively combat terrorism. It appears to have been addressed to a key inner circle concerned with these issues:

The memo was sent to Air Force Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz; Marine Gen. Peter Pace, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs; and Douglas Feith, undersecretary of Defense for policy.

The key point of the memorandum is that the US military may be too conventional to combat small groups of terrorists; spending "billions" to counter an opponent's efforts worth "millions". It also worries whether America is doing enough to counter Islamic militancy as an idea.

Rumsfeld asks whether the Defense Department is moving fast enough to adapt to fighting terrorists and whether the United States should create a private foundation to entice radical Islamic schools to a "more moderate course." Rumsfeld says the schools, known as madrassas, may be churning out new terrorists faster than the United States can kill or capture them.

The issue of whether or how the leakers should be tracked down will not be the subject of this post.

But it is not exactly true, as White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan said, that this self-questioning is "exactly what a strong and capable secretary of defense like Secretary Rumsfeld should be doing" -- it is what the nation should be doing, and it is not. The truly disturbing aspect of this memorandum is that Rumsfeld's transformational efforts were directed to a relatively small group of people. For many Congressmen and Senators, who ultimately determine what the military buys, national defense is still about jobs generated by Cold War bases and pork-barrel weapons projects, not about winning the war against a shadowy enemy. That attitude is probably shared by a plethora of defense contractors and career officers whose prospects would suffer should some of the Rumsfeld questions be answered forthrightly.

There is also the issue of whether Rumsfeld, like Jackie Fisher in an earlier era, may carry his zeal for change too far. Just as Admiral Fisher, in remaking the British Royal Navy for the age of battleship warfare, went a step too far in advocating the fragile battlecruiser design, configuring the US military to fight terrorism may ignore the fact that it may still be called upon to fight conventionally, both in the Middle East and in the Korean peninsula.

It is the mark of Liberal empty-headedness that the Rumsfeld memorandum should be simply regarded as revealing "significant doubts about progress in the struggle against terrorists", the kind of mentality that would have observed that lifeboats are smaller than the Titanic, instead of seeing it as an opportunity to debate how best to defeat an enemy that would first kill us, then pervert our children. Note to Rummy: address the memo to the American people.

Al-Qaeda's Deepest Secret

Wish I knew what it was, but Ron Rosenbaum thinks he knows what it is:

Here’s the passage in The New York Times with The Wall Street Journal’s statement—you decide: "[Mr. Lévy] nonetheless speculates that Mr. Pearl was pursuing evidence that Al Qaeda and North Korea were receiving nuclear secrets from Pakistani scientists with ties to the I.S.I. and fundamentalist groups ….

His speculation, based on a recent book by journalist Bernard-Henri Lévy, is that Al-Qaeda, North Korea and Pakistan are somehow involved in a plot to produce and detonate a terrorist nuclear weapon; that Danny Pearl stumbled on to the plot accidentally and was killed to silence him. The sadism was a bonus.

It sounds like a crock, but there's this just in today from the Washington Post:

U.S. investigators have concluded that Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl was slain by Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the senior al Qaeda leader believed to be the mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, sources familiar with the case said yesterday.

Although Mohammed has long been suspected of playing a direct role in Pearl's kidnapping and death -- and was named by two Pakistani defendants as the actual killer more than a year ago -- U.S. officials said previously that they did not have enough evidence to confirm those allegations.

But two U.S. officials said yesterday that new information obtained in recent months has confirmed that Mohammed slit the reporter's throat with a knife in January 2002. Mohammed was captured in March at a safe house in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, and has since been held and interrogated by U.S. forces at an undisclosed location.

"It is true that the U.S. government now believes that KSM was responsible for Pearl's death," said one U.S. official, referring to the common shorthand used to identify Mohammed. "Before, we simply didn't know, but we have now moved towards thinking that we do. Our view on the likelihood that he did it has certainly hardened."

The official declined to comment on what evidence led to the new U.S. view of the case, which was first reported yesterday by the Journal.

The new evidence is likely to be collateral evidence -- additional information from someone other than Khalid Sheik Mohammed -- of an extremely convincing nature, possibly from someone who also participated in Pearl's murder. But if KSM were in fact Daniel Pearl's executioner, the fact would be extremely suggestive.

  • Why would KSM hide his culpability? As the killer of more than 3,000 people on September 11, he would hardly fear being accused of an additional murder. The Washington Post earlier reported that KSM was 'cooperating' with US authorities yet apparently kept the Pearl incident under deep cover. What was so significant about the Pearl killing that it warranted concealment?
  • Why would KSM, the operational planner for Al-Qaeda, concern himself with the murder of a single journalist? The murder took place in the critical period between the ouster of the Taliban from Afghanistan and the commencement of operations in Iraq: a time of crisis for international terrorism.

None of these questions amounts to a hill of beans without further information and it is useless to speculate further. However, they provide enough purchase to alert us to watch for certain things. The first is whether the US government puts KSM on trial, for his participation in September 11 or the Daniel Pearl murder. And it doesn't look like KSM is going before a judge any time soon. According to CNN's Mike Ensor:

U.S. officials say they have what they call new evidence indicating to them that it was, indeed, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed ... who personally slit the throat of Daniel Pearl ... who was kidnapped and killed ... in January 2002. Now Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, this [would be] an extraordinary act for a man who was the mastermind, one of the senior officials in al Qaeda, to commit a murder personally. But U.S. officials say they are now convinced ... based on this new information, that he actually did the killing himself. Now, officials say they do not believe he will be put on trial any time soon for this murder. He is a prisoner at an undisclosed location outside the United States, of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, but officials wouldn't rule out a trial or legal action against him at some time in the future.

The strong implication is that US intelligence is eager to get certain secrets of such importance that they are willing to forgo KSM's prosecution for the time being. The second is to watch the Saudi-Pakistani-North Korean triangle. The truth is out there.

Monday, October 20, 2003

Islam Eats Up Marx, Part 2

Mr. Alex Magno of the Philippine Star eloquently skewers the five parliamentarians who walked out on President George Bush's speech to the joint session of the Philippine Congress. He describes them individually, describing the aspects of their careers in the Communist Party that make them such unattractive characters, including acknowledged participation in bloody purges, toadying to Saddam Hussein in Baghdad, cop-shooting and then fleeing at one stage to America for political asylum. But he forgives them these, being Communists, did they not demonstrate the additional and unforgivable crime of discourtesy to a guest.

Mr. Magno should take heart. Twenty years ago, these Leftist worthies would have been the life of the party. But their cachet is slowly fading among the elite, even of Philippine academia, because the faint odor of the passe has attached to them. And nothing is more lethal in the cocktail set of the archipelago than to wear yesterday's fashions. Today's darlings, in case these Communists bravos did not know, are Muslim militants. The paisley shirts, kaftans, denim jackets, bell-bottom trousers and sandals now belong in the museum of antiquities, or to use a less kindly phrase, the "dustbin of history". The apparel du jour are the billowy trousers, matted beard, skull-cap and upturned shoes of the Islamic jihadi, which these aging leftists are too chicken to wear. Or the Kevlar helmet, night vision goggles, desert camouflage utes and Oakley sunglasses of the Men of the West, which they are not worthy to wear.

Sunday, October 19, 2003

The Great Game

Ralph Peters, writing one of his last articles for US War College's journal, Parameters, characterized the September 11 attack as a final attempt by the Arabs to retain control over an Islam that had escaped its bounds. He pointed out that the bulk of Muslims lived outside of Arabia: in Central Asia, the Indian subcontinent, and in Malay archipelago. In a brilliant essay, Peters said:

Our focus on the Middle East has been so exclusive that we have come to see Islam largely through an Arab prism. But the Islam of the Middle East is as fixed, as unreflective, and ultimately as brittle as concrete. We have forgotten that Islam is the youngest of the world’s great religions, that it is still very much a work-in-progress on its vast frontiers, and that its forms are at least as various as the myriad confessions and sects of Christendom.

... Religions change, because men change them. Fundamentalists insist upon an ahistorical stasis, but evolution in the architecture of faith has always been essential to, and reflective of, human progress. ... On its frontiers, Islam remains capable of the changes necessary to make it, once again, a healthy, luminous faith ... But the hard men from that religion’s ancient homelands are determined to frustrate every exploratory effort they can. The Muslim extremist diaspora from the Middle East has one consistent message: Return to the past, for that is what God wants.

But for men like Osama Bin Laden to succeed, the non-Arabian Muslims must heed the call. Otherwise, the Islamic fundamentalist enterprise is doomed to fail. The world’s most populous “Muslim” countries stretch far to the east of the Indus River: Indonesia, India, Bangladesh . . . Pakistan . . . and other regional states, such as Malaysia, make this the real cockpit of crisis.

It is in this context that US geopolitical strategy is best understood. President George Bush is now completing a six-country tour of the Western Pacific, touching on Japan, the Philippines, Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia and Australia. In that group, Thailand, Singapore and Australia represent the hard core of new coalition ringing the Malay Archipelago, with the Philippines the weak and junior partner. His penultimate stop will be Indonesia -- the vast hinterland of Islam, in Peter's analysis -- before concluding his sojourn in Australia, whose massive bulk forms the westernmost anchor of the enterprise. But it is the Bush meeting with Chinese premier at the APEC meeting in Bangkok that may prove most interesting. Here the subject may shift to Central Asia, the great region of the Islamic 'stans, and China's concern there.

Traditionally, China has watched its western marches closely for signs of Islamic unrest. Across the Indus were the Czars, and their late heirs, the Soviet Commissars. But lately a new player has arrived on the scene: the United States. The sudden descent of the United States on Afghanistan and its presence in the neighboring ex-Soviet countries has awakened China to a new power across the Indus. It has reacted by adopting measures to strengthen it's hand in Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan, not just diplomatically, but with the intention of creating a new free trade zone there. For the first time since the long-gone days of the Raj, three major powers are met in depths of Central Asia, in the land of the 'stans: Russia, China and the United States. The parallels with the Raj are nearly exact because the United States, apart from its presence in Pakistan, has established a new diplomatic closeness with India. Pakistan, with its teeming Muslim millions, and India with greater numbers still, whose "more than 15 percent of its billion people are Muslims, outnumbering the Islamic population of Pakistan", in Ralph Peter's perceptive analysis.

This then, is the position. America has occupied Iraq, between the Arabian Peninsula and Iran; it occupies Afghanistan, between Iran and the 'stans of Central Asia. It is strongly posted on the Indian subcontinent. It is constructing a coalition in the Western Pacific composed of countries which would be in mortal peril should militant Islam gain a hold in the Malay Archipelago. It has drawn in Russia and China into the Central Asian arena, where a new Great Game would perforce create a three power oversight over the Islamic nations there. Whoever tries to create an Islamic state anywhere will find enemies ready-made. This is geopolitical quartering at the highest level, but it has one ultimate psychological goal: to develop an ummah that is physically and well as mentally free of the desert sands. America understands that this is Arabia's last call, and its response has been to invite Muslims elsewhere to take their own counsel and gaze, for the first time, at the land upon which they stand.

Saturday, October 18, 2003

Open Source Religion

Three apparently unrelated news items are united by a single thread: the question of whether the quest for knowledge can be subordinated to a preconceived goal or whether it must lead the seeker whither it will. The answer of Mahatir Mohamad is that the goal may be set in advance and knowledge simply made the means to achieve it. His goal is Islamic victory over the Jews and knowledge, scientific knowledge in particular, the signal method to attain it.

It is surely time that we pause to think. But will this be wasting time? For well over half a century we have fought over Palestine. What have we achieved? Nothing. We are worse off than before. If we had paused to think then we could have devised a plan, a strategy that can win us final victory. Pausing and thinking calmly is not a waste of time. We have a need to make a strategic retreat and to calmly assess our situation.

We are actually very strong. 1.3 billion people cannot be simply wiped out. The Europeans killed six million Jews out of 12 million. But today the Jews rule this world by proxy. They get others to fight and die for them. ...

We are enjoined by our religion to prepare for the defence of the ummah. Unfortunately we stress not defence but the weapons of the time of the Prophet. Those weapons and horses cannot help to defend us any more. We need guns and rockets, bombs and warplanes, tanks and warships for our defence. But because we discouraged the learning of science and mathematics etc as giving no merit for the akhirat, today we have no capacity to produce our own weapons for our defence. ...

We must build up our strength in every field, not just in armed might. Our countries must be stable and well administered, must be economically and financially strong, industrially competent and technologically advanced. This will take time, but it can be done and it will be time well spent. We are enjoined by our religion to be patient. Innallahamaasabirin. Obviously there is virtue in being patient.

In Mahatir's view science and mathematics can be harnessed to bring the 7th century into the 21st. "Whether we like it or not we have to change, not by changing our religion but by applying its teachings in the context of a world that is radically different from that of the first century of the Hijrah." In this conception, the iron-lunged muezzin is replaced by the loudspeaker at the minaret, but the Adhan remains the same. And in much the same spirit, he advises the ummah to put aside swords and horses in favor of "guns and rockets, bombs and warplanes" to secure the submission of the world as the prophet did in days gone by.

The second article is a review of the open source methodology. It is a cooperative method which has made possible the development of vast repositories of information, the most famous of which is the Linux operating system. But it has also generated a treatment for cholera costing a dollar and a quarter, mapped Mars, put vast libraries of literary classics online, created a free encyclopedia to rival Brittanica, catalogued the Human Genome and threatens to overturn the traditional regime of intellectual property rights. The Open Source method is a framework to achieve three things:

  • A Shared Goal
  • Shared Work
  • Shared Results

When Linus Torvald started building an operating system in 1991, he posted an appeal on a newsgroup asking interested programmers to contribute ideas and code. The result was Linux and the rest was history. But the one thing he didn't ask, which is the one thing essential to Mahatir, was how the effort related to the victory of the ummah over the Jews. In one sense, Linus Torvald achieved his spectacular technological result by relinquishing total control over the project and decoupling it from an external agenda. In the Open Source universe, the technological wonders Mahatir so ardently desires are readily creatable, but only at the cost of not aiming them against anybody.

The third article is an obscure announcement that the US Department of Defense has selected the Falcon, a rocket developed by a small startup company called SpaceX, to launch the TacSat-1 communications satellite. What's special about the Falcon is it's cost: "Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) is developing a family of launch vehicles intended to reduce the cost and increase the reliability of access to space by a factor of ten." Here a spectacular advance in the economics of space transformation has been made possible by a combination of venture capital and the entrepreneurial quality of the US economic system. And the question none of SpaceX's investors is asking is how their returns will square with Koranic teachings on rates of interest. Unlike the Open Source methodology, which rejects the role of ownership in the realm of knowledge generation, the market system stresses the centrality of ownership rights in the transformation of basic knowledge into products.

In the world described by the first article, the essential knowledge is fixed and can only be found within the hive, although its accidental manifestations may be as modern as you like. In the world of the second article, truth can be found most efficiently by a hive, but neither the nature of the truth nor the membership of the hive is fixed. In the world of the third, knowledge must be possessed not by the hive, but by individuals, in order for their economic application to take place. A country like the United States enables it's citizens to transit seamlessly between the second and third universes, which exist in parallel, one fertilizing the other. The challenge before Mahatir Mohamad is to allow the inhabitants of his first universe to sojourn briefly in the alien spaces of the second and third, before returning gratefully, at each day's end, to their separate otherness. That, he said, was the way of the Jews.

Friday, October 17, 2003

The Storm Breaks

Daniel Drezner's excellent post on The State of Islam uses the Organization of the Islamic Conference's 10th Summit as a proxy for measuring the state of Muslim attitudes toward the Unbeliever, and the Jew in particular. The widely reported remarks of Mahatir Mohammad to the effect that Jews rule the world are Drezner's first datum. The fact that the remarks went unchallenged, and were indeed applauded by some Muslim leaders like Megawati Soekarnoputri is his second.

While Al-Qaeda has been operationally trounced, it has apparently succeed in raising a standard under which many Muslims, including their leaders, are ready to flock. Mahatir Mohammad's speech represents an open rebellion against the heretofore unchallenged diplomatic legacy of the West. It is a public rejection of the secular standards of conduct which have largely governed the conduct of international affairs since the Second World War. It marks the return of long banished words like Jew, Christian and Mussulman, pogrom and jihad to the vocabulary of international discourse. It is a line in the sand inscribed with a scimitar.

And the sword has been sharpened on both sides. An ABC poll taken in mid-October of 2003 showed that:

The percentage of Americans having an unfavorable view of Islam has jumped from 24 percent in January 2002 to 33 percent now. The portion of Americans who say that Islam "doesn't teach respect for other faiths" rose from 22 percent to 35 percent.

This is astounding considering that the January 2002 poll was taken in the immediate aftermath of the September 11 attack and that the Western public has been unremittingly assured by its leaders that Islam is pacific. There has been a mustering in the night driven by some unspoken instinct which the press is loathe to report.

It is becoming increasingly clear that the aircraft which destroyed the World Trade Center towers smashed the United Nations as well. The great loser of the post 9/11 world has been the secular internationalist movement, what Steven den Beste refers to as Tranzism, symbolized by the European Union, the International Criminal Court and the United Nations. Mahatir openly regards secular internationalism as another abominable Jewish invention, to be rejected root and branch. At the 10th Islamic Summit, he presented his false dichotomy:

We are up against a people who think. They survived 2000 years of pogroms not by hitting back, but by thinking. They invented and successfully promoted Socialism, Communism, human rights and democracy so that persecuting them would appear to be wrong, so they may enjoy equal rights with others. With these they have now gained control of the most powerful countries and they, this tiny community, have become a world power.

And he wants it destroyed. Yet in his own way and for other reasons, President George W. Bush has been loosening the foundations of Tranzism from the other direction as well, nowhere so effectively as by his magnificently ironic characterization of Islam as "the Religion of Peace". And by paying outward respect towards the United Nations while disregarding it in practice, he has single handedly demolished it, with its attendant companions, like the International Criminal Court and the Kyoto, regarding it perhaps, as less a defense than a hindrance, more a suffocating cloak than a sure shield. He too has been raising a standard to which the many have flocked, sensing and perhaps anticipating, what course events would take. It is not the flag of Jewish conspiracy, but really the American vision of 1776, offered up to a larger world.

Mahatir should have known that those who would present, sword in hand, a final revelation to the world will inevitably call forth a new prophet from out of the desert -- or from beyond the seas.

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Hasta la vista, ma cherie

Alfred, Lord Tennyson, could celebrate the fecundity of Europe without irony or embarrassment when he wrote, in Locksley Hall that:

I that rather held it better men should perish one by one,
Than that earth should stand at gaze like Joshua's moon in Ajalon!
Not in vain the distance beacons. Forward, forward let us range,
Let the great world spin for ever down the ringing grooves of change.
Thro' the shadow of the globe we sweep into the younger day;
Better fifty years of Europe than a cycle of Cathay.

Unless plans miscarry, within the next 36 hours, Yang Liwei, Zhai Zhigang and Nie Haisheng will be the first Chinese to ascend into the cosmos in a spacecraft manufactured in Cathay. It is an historic moment in more ways than one. For the first time since the humiliation of the Opium Wars, China will demonstrate a clear mastery over Europe in a key and complex technological area.

Nothing could underscore the emptiness of European socialist pretensions more than the imminent launch of the taikonauts from a country at once ex-socialist and ex-colonial. Nothing daunted, the Guardian sneers: "What will the Chinese find on the moon? Anything and everything that the Americans may have left behind." And there, in a phrase, is the entire imposture of supposed European superiority and sophistication. It manages to embody a disdainfulness of everything American together with the suggestion that they simply scorn to achieve what they could easily win were they to turn away from 'higher' pursuits. Now comes a hint that the lofty 'would not' is really a 'could not'. And the darker suggestion that their reluctance to confront Islamic Terror is less attributable to moral courage than to a palpating and naked fear.

But where they could clothe themselves in the mantle of artistic loftiness to explain away the fact that middle class white Swedes earn less than blacks in Alabama, what excuse remains now for European backwardness in the face of the Chinese technological demonstration? None whatsoever. And so:

Thro' the shadow of the globe we sweep into the younger day;
Better fifty years of China than a Brussels stuck in yesterday.

Whose Bells are Ringing?

Hat tip: Glenn Reynolds. Kevin Sites of MSNBC is blogging from Baghdad. One of the vignettes is his encounter with a Filipino-American soldier named Conrad Vasquez (photo included).

Crossing the border from Jordan into Iraq, I meet a young Filipino-American private named Conrad Vasquez (shown in the photo at the top of this post). He has an M-16 with 40mm grenade launcher slung over his chest. He is highly professional and remarkably good-natured considering he has been here going on eight months now. He says border duty is a vacation after a tour in the infamously hostile city of Fallujah, one point of the so-called Sunni Triangle filled with Saddam die-hards. I ask him if he wants to use my phone to call his family.

“No sir,” he says, “it’s just me and my sister and she’s serving in Baghdad.”

“What happened to your parents?”

“My mother died of a stroke and my father…well he was killed in the Philippines.”


“Well sir, have you heard of Abu Sayef.”

“Of course, the Philippine fundamentalist Islamic group with reported ties to Al Qaeda.”

“Yes. Well sir, he was a member.”

“So are you Muslim,” I ask.

“No sir. I’m Catholic. But the people around here are very respectful when they heard my father was.”

That one story encapsulates the improbabilities that every person of Filipino descent is heir to. Anglo first name, Hispanic surname, dark complexion, American infantryman with a sister in the US armed services, father killed while a member of an Islamic fundamentalist group, Roman Catholic. Yet indubitably, fighting for us all. What would you make of Conrad Vasquez?

Well, the answer that most Filipino customs officials would give is: money. Philippine officialdom, remiss in nearly all things, sedulously finds ways to shake down any person of Filipino descent returning for a visit. Is that chocolate you have in your bag? Do you mind if I have it? How about $50 as a homecoming gift?

The answer that most Filipino 'nationalists' would give, if they are ever to qualify for an interview with the BBC is: traitor. Never mind that the elite would never have admitted him into their homes or into their counsels. He has betrayed the nation in the deepest way possible: by forgetting his place, which was to serve as a menial and to obey without question the pronouncements of the graduates of the University of the Philippines.

The answer that most overseas Filipinos would give is: a man. A man who has seen the world, stands on his own two feet and is building a modest nest egg toward his future. A free man. And the Bells of Balangiga ring wherever he walks the earth.

Monday, October 13, 2003

What Shootout?

The death of Fathur Roman Al-Ghozi as he 'attempted to run a checkpoint' in Pigcawayan, North Cotabato probably did not happen as advertised. But first, to the basics. It apparently is Al-Ghozi. Compare this file photograph of the Light Rail Transit bomber from the Sydney Morning Herald to his picture, lying on a mortuary slab, in the Philippine Star. One will at once notice that his two prominent front teeth are identical in both photographs, in addition to the striking resemblance between the two faces. It is Al-Ghozi.

But the next thing to notice from the mortuary picture is the bullet entry wound to his left chest right about where the heart would be. It is not an exit wound, otherwise the hydrostatic shock of a bullet fired at close range (he ran the checkpoint, remember?) would have pushed out considerable material from the wound channel. This is inconsistent with the story of the shootout.

The second item of interest is an article from Rexel Sorza of Islam Online dated September 21, 2003, at least three weeks before Al-Ghozi's demise.

In August 2003, Al Ghozi was reported to have sought refuge in Sultan Naga Dimaporo and Maigo, both of Lanao del Norte. The manhunt suddenly shifted to Kabuntalan and Datu Piang in Sultan Kudarat, all of Maguindanao, and Midsayap and Pigcawayan of North Cotabato.

That would seem to indicate that even newspaper reporters knew that the Philippine Military were closing in on Al-Ghozi. Anyone familiar with towns like Pigcawayan knows it consists of a single main drag off which a number of muddy cowtracks diverge. The idea that a hunted Al-Ghozi would come barreling down that single highway right through a cordon sounds a little strange. Here's the 'official' version of events.

Military and police officials said Al-Ghozi, 32, and an unidentified man were tracked down in a small van that tried to run through a checkpoint on the Cotabato-Davao Highway at about 8 p.m. Sunday in Barangay Pugon in Pigkawanan town, North Cotabato. Al-Ghozi allegedly fired twice at the police officers and troops manning the checkpoint and was killed. Police said Al-Ghozi took five bullets — two in the chest, one on his left side, one each in both arms. Philippine National Police chief Director General Hermogenes Ebdane, who flew to Mindanao yesterday, said the other man escaped.

Right. The van just drove on. Or maybe the other 'unidentified man' jumped out and showed the breathless cops a clean pair of heels. But not before Al-Ghozi fell out of the van or jumped out, maybe, with five wounds, including one right through the heart, which remember, had to be fired from the front.

Fathur Roman Al-Ghozi killed many people in the December 30, 2000 bombing of a commuter train in Manila, including children. Although his death removes a public danger, there is little to be gained by this crude Philippine government dramatization. If there's one thing we should hate more than being lied to by the enemy, it is being taken for fools by our friends. The Philippine government should say he was summarily executed, and that he had it coming. That would be the manly and responsible thing to do.

Giants in the Stratosphere

At the end of September, 2003, Lockheed Martin won a Department of Defense competition to build a 500-foot long airship that would hover quasi geosynchronously (as if it were hovering over a fixed spot) at the 70,000 foot altitude. The altitude was chosen, according to Lockheed Martin because the quiet wind conditions above the Jet Stream minimized the energy required to keep it in position. That propulsion would be provided by an energy generating solar film which would power the motors required to keep it in position.

The stratospheric airships are part of a constellation of 11 which will be deployed by NORAD to "provide overlapping radar coverage of all maritime and southern border approaches to the continental U.S." They will be as long as a destroyer, 22 stories in height and will remain on station without descending, for six months at a time. Each airship will loft an electronics package of 4,000 pounds in weight.

The concept and general physics of a high altitude airship have been touted for some time. Both the European Space Agency and the Japanese have long understood the potential of these platforms for communications relay, remote sensing and surveillance, but the Lockheed Martin ship is the first serious attempt at actual flight and series production. The commercial potential of these platforms is so great that the United States government hopes to recover a part of its investment by selling communications bandwidth under 10 U.S.C. 2371 and Section 845 of Public Law 103-160.

According to a recent article by ABC News, high-flying blimps would be an ideal platform to deliver wireless internet services blanketing whole continents.

These high-tech blimps could carry up to 4,000 pounds of telecommunications gear and float it up to 13 miles into the stratosphere. At that height, far above any conventional commercial air traffic or turbulent weather patterns, the Stratellite would act as a wireless communications hub to provide wireless voice and data services for an area of up to 300,000 square miles.

"It's perfect for outlying areas that can't get broadband telephone or cable [TV] access," says Sanswire CEO Michael K. Molen. "[Subscribers] just put up a small antenna and they're in business."

It's early days yet, but with the advent of manned commercial suborbital flight now imminent, the development of outer space is continuing apace. The twenty first century, if it can avoid reverting to the eighth under the dominion of radical Islam, will mark the start of mankind's first tentative essays into the solar system.

Saturday, October 11, 2003

Would you like DDT or Coffee?

The FDA is warning that terrorists will probably attempt a mass poisoning attack in the United States within a year (Hat tip: Little Green Footballs). According to Reuters:

WASHINGTON, Oct 10 (Reuters) - There is a "high likelihood" within the coming year of a deliberate attack or accidental outbreak in the U.S. food supply that sickens a large number of people, the Food and Drug Administration said on Friday. Although no specific threats were identified, the FDA said it came to the conclusion because of recent foodborne outbreaks and recent reports that al Qaeda was plotting to poison the food supply. ... The agency said salmonella, E. coli 0157:H7 and ricin pose a significant threat because of there easy dissemination to food. Anthrax and botulism were considered the most deadly.

In Would you like flies with that?, the Belmont Club noted that Al-Qaeda was already perfecting the poison attack method by testing it on the acting President of Chechnya. The story from the September 29 Guardian noted that "The acting president of the war-torn Russian republic of Chechnya was last night fighting for his life after an elaborate attempt to poison him days before crucial presidential elections. The attempt would appear to mark the Chechen rebels' first successful use of poison to attack a Russian official". Recalling the history of the airplane attack tactic, which was in development since 1995, the Belmont Club concluded that a mass poisoning would sooner or later be attempted on "the chow line on an aircraft carrier,  a major industrial plant or a major sporting event" just as soon as the tactic was perfected. A poisoning attack would strike at one of the most vulnerable points of American life. The food service business is universal and almost no one subjects cooks, busboys and kitchen staff to security scrutiny. The FDA warning is official notice that a poisoning attack will probably happen.

With the old Al-Qaeda core rapidly withering under US pressure and on the defensive everywhere, the Islamists must  hearten their base by inflicting thousands or tens of thousands of casualties in the United States. Given the extent of their current penetration, their best bet is to create a brand new attack cell. Dan Darling links to an article suggesting they may be planning just that:

Dubai: Al-Qaeda is preparing a new attack in the United States on the scale of September 11 after adopting a new operational structure which is impenetrable to US intelligence, a Saudi weekly reports in its Friday edition. "An attack against America is inevitable," Al-Majallah quotes the Islamic militant network's newly-appointed spokesman Thabet bin Qais as saying in an email to the paper. Al-Qaeda has "carried out changes in its leadership and sidelined the September 11, 2001 team", the paper quotes bin Qais as saying. "Future missions have been entrusted to the new team, which is well protected against the US intelligence services. The old leadership does not know the names of any of its members."

A successful mass poisoning would create a strategic problem for the United States. With the reduction of Afghanistan and Iraq, all the obvious geopolitical terrorist targets have already been eliminated. A new 'September 11' might provide the motivation to strike Iran, Saudi Arabia or Syria in response, but there will be questions over whether this is direct or creative enough. The other aspect of responding to mass poisoning is that terrorists will have crossed the biological weapons threshold, albeit in less than theatrical manner. Hollywood has accustomed the public to thinking of biological weaponry in terms of an Ebola virus, anthrax or other exotic pathogen in the manner of the 28 Days Later. But an attack that wipes out half the audience of a football game or the diners at a school cafeteria will be a chemical or biological strike all the same.

One unconventional type of response would be anonymous retaliation. Suppose airline catering food were contaminated at five different sites, leading to the crash of a three dozen wide bodied passenger jets. One riposte, in addition to conventional operations against state supporters of terrorism, would be to counterpoison the chow lines of the most notorious madrassas, those which are thinly disguised Islamic terrorist training centers, without attribution. There are a number of problems with this approach, as well as singular advantages. The most obvious problem is legal. Although the US President can initiate the assassination of a terrorist individual, it is unclear whether he can order what amounts to a secret biological counterstrike against an enemy. But there are advantages too. It means that the US can retaliate proportionately against the guilty parties without warring on entire nations. It also avoids the problem of not retaliating against a biological weapon with like. Just as the lack of response to numerous pre-September 11 attacks convinced Osama Bin Laden that he could continue to strike with impunity, a simple manhunt for the perpetrators of a mass food poisoning which the FDA is now warning against will convey a fundamental unwillingness by the United States to defend itself against weapons of mass destruction. Some means must be found to retaliate against a biological attack which avoids the twin pitfalls of either a blanket response against state supporters of terrorism or doing nothing at all.

Wednesday, October 08, 2003

The Tormentors

Parapundit links to a Mark Bowden (Blackhawk Down) interview on the use of torture. Bowden uses the word "coercive interrogation" to refer to the whole spectrum of pressures which can be applied to a suspect to extract information or cooperation. Many types of coercive interrogation are actually legal, even when more distressing to the subject than traditional physical violence. "In fact, the word 'torture' does not even apply when interrogators employ only moderate physical and psychological pressure, Bowden argues". But Bowden less interested in the ironies of torture than whether "coercive interrogation" should be used -- and perhaps used more often -- in the War on Terror.

Bowden begins by noting that coercive interrogation fell into almost total disuse in the period before September 11:

It's fairly clear that starting in the mid-1970s, when there was a general crackdown on the CIA, the United States stopped using coercive methods of interrogation for a long period of time—although I believe they started up again after September 11.

That provides the setting for the question he really wants to pose: is coercion ever justified if it will save lives. He sets forth his position this way:

I set out to do this story without any clear idea of how I felt, other than a sense that in certain circumstances it seemed that torture was the appropriate thing to do. But I hadn't made a serious study of the matter, and I really didn't know how I would feel about it when I got to the end of writing this article. So what you see in the course of this article is me wrestling with the implications of torture and the current situation and what I really think about it. Like any sensitive person, I don't relish the idea of inflicting pain on someone, or making someone miserable. But by the same token, if you can save lives—if people are plotting mass murder and you have a chance of preventing it—it's hard to argue against whatever methods work. And so I wanted to know how I felt about it, what exactly I was talking about, what was being practiced by people today and whether it was legal or not. Those are the questions that I've tried to answer. And I know the Administration, judging by its reluctance to cooperate with me in any way, was not particularly eager for me or anyone else to do this.

Bowden comes to the conclusion that "coercive interrogation" beyond certain strictly defined limits should never be legally permitted but quietly practiced when absolutely necessary. He argues that maintaining "coercive interrogation" as contrary to policy will ensure it will be resorted to only under extraordinary circumstances -- when those who apply it feel so situationally compelled that they are willing to run the risk of imprisonment to attempt it.

So I agree with Jessica Montell, the very articulate activist I interviewed in Israel, in saying that if the law bans torture, at least those people who are practicing coercion have to face the possibility of being held accountable for their actions. The law acts as a constraint on the use of coercion.

Randall Parker disagrees. He thinks this dualistic attitude is not only mentally dishonest, it also forces low level subordinates to assume the legal liability for pursuing tacit national policy. "The public shouldn't be allowed to morally have it both ways. Ditto for leaders. This is corrupting and unfair to those who protect us and dishonors them." Under this dictum, any coercion applied to a terrorist must be explicitly authorized by policy as exercised by responsible officials.

Yet moral issues aside, is explicit authorization for coercion even practical? The usual examples used to justify coercion normally involve scenarios when innocent lives can be saved by extracting time-critical piece of information from a ruthless enemy. This best describes tactical interrogation, which often occurs opportunistically, in the field, far from any judges, ombudsmen or lawyers, under conditions of uncertainty and unbearable time pressure. But any time an interrogator can afford the delay necessary to authorize coercion is a circumstance he almost certainly doesn't need to use it. And for that reason Bowden may be right. Almost any conceivable system of authorized coercion will be unjustifiable, given the time overhead and the availability of alternative compulsions within broadly legal limits. And almost any morally justifiable act of coercion will arise in circumstances which often cannot even be foreseen and where obtaining the necessary permission is impractical.

While conceding the justice of Randall Parker's argument, the most practical attitude is probably Bowden's. Excessive coercion should remain illegal except in circumstances so grave that nobody gives a damn.

Islam eats up Marx

Steven den Beste continues a fascinating article on the nature of Tranzism, a term for the new, post-Marxist ideology of the Left, and doesn't seem to think that Tranzis and Islamists are in competition,

I don't see how Islamism competes for followers with transnational progressivism. They are not really playing in the same space, physically or demographically or culturally. They really aren't in competition with one another yet, and for the moment they're cooperating against their shared enemy of capitalist liberal democracy.

probably in response to this Belmont Club comment:

The Left will continue to lose adherents to Islam. It will be cannibalized by Islam in its most militant fringes. Only the softies, i.e. artists, writers, 'sympathizers' will stay in the dreamy Tranzi universe, which will no longer have a viable clandestine substructure. All the hardcases will have to go elsewhere.

While Islam and Tranzism share democracy as a common enemy, there is no love lost between them. Nowhere is the takedown of Marxists so apparent as in the guerilla movements. For example, the leadership of the Philippine southern insurgency passed from the Marxist Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in the 1970s to the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in the 1990s. Those who once read the Little Red Book now read the Koran.

Who can remember now that the PKI or Indonesian Communist Party was once the third largest in the world, after China and the Soviet Union? It's gone, replaced by the Jemaah Islamiyah.

But nowhere has the Marxist loss been so dramatic as in the Arabian Peninsula. The Mideast Web has a page describing the history of Palestinian poltical parties, including Fatah and Hamas, and the majority had Marxist beginnings. And yes, Yasser Arafat was a Marxist once, a fact that makes socialists mourn like exiles by the waters of Babylon remembering Zion. It would be possible to draw similar comparisons in Algeria or South Yemen.

Even Marxists in the West have found themselves gravitating, willy-nilly to the Islamic cause. Perhaps the most potent image of a Marxist 'martyred' to Islam is the American Rachel Corrie. In an earlier era, she would have found a suitable Socialist cause to fight for. This was how she ended her days.

Tuesday, October 07, 2003


Steven den Beste has a fascinating post on the new ideology of the left, which he calls Tranzism, short for Transnational Progressivism.

In essence, the deep ideology is a combination of neo-Marxism, idealism, elitism (i.e. anti-populism), post-nationalism and, it turns out, a form of compassionate neo-racism.

Unlike the Belmont Club's take on the same phenomenon, Islam and the End of the Left, Mr. den Beste does not regard the new ideology as "nonsensical or internally contradictory". He believes it may hang together nicely. While the basic thesis of Islam and the End of the Left is that the Leftist periphery has taken over the vacuum produced by the death of the Bolshevik core in a destructive implosion, the 'Tranzism' theory asserts that an evolution of formerly Marxist elements has stepped forward to replace it. If so, Tranzism is Bolshevism's successor, not its remnant, and represents a new ideological point of view.

In contrast, Belmont Club regards the new ideology as precisely nonsensical and internally contradictory because the old Bolsheviks purposely accoutered the outer layer of the Party with all kinds of inconsistent 'fronts' as protective coloration. And now that the Bolshevik inner Party has shriveled, the parti-colored skin has wrapped itself around the skeleton, contradictions and all.

It would be interesting to see whether Tranzism proves consistent or whether it contains unresolvable inner contradictions that will lead to its self-destruction. The best test is to advance a hypothesis and see how it bears out. In the spirit of discussion, Belmont Club will make these predictions:

  1. The Left will continue to lose adherents to Islam. It will be cannibalized by Islam in its most militant fringes. Only the softies, i.e. artists, writers, 'sympathizers' will stay in the dreamy Tranzi universe, which will no longer have a viable clandestine substructure. All the hardcases will have to go elsewhere.
  2. The Left will continue to fragment. It will be unable to solve the problem of factionalism which plagued early Socialism, and remained until Lenin invented the Bolshevik Party as a device to provide closure to the endless debates and to provide a vehicle for militant action.

This will not happen if Tranzism were truly a viable combination. I will make the partisan argument that we are already seeing Number 2 happen in the US Democratic Party and the UK Labor Party and in the recent reverses suffered by the EU and the Kyoto Treaty efforts. But time will tell.

Sunday, October 05, 2003

No More Safe Haven

The Israeli strike against a terrorist training camp in Syria has just raised the cost of the diplomatic game that France, Germany and much of the Arab world have been playing. In essence, that diplomatic arrangement provided for the continuation of the intifada against Israel as a perpetual theatrical scapegoating of the Jews to provide the psychodrama so beloved by the Western Left and middle eastern dictatorships. Israel alone could provide the Left with the illusion of righteousness, however twisted, with which they wanted to invest themselves. But the ritual slaughter of Jewry required that immunity be conferred on Yasser Arafat, the continued subsidy of the Palestinian Authority and its subordinate creatures, Hamas and Al-Aqsa by the European Union; and the willful blindness  by the Security Council toward the Syrian occupation of Lebanon and its proxy war against Israel via Hezbollah.

The price of the ritual slaughter has just gotten a tad too high.

By striking the terrorist training camps in Syria, Israel is forcing the Palestinian Authority's international backers to assume the costs of its campaign against the Jews. 'We will widen the war', Sharon seems to say. The explosions will no longer be confined to Israel. Now they will be felt in downtown Damascus and will echo in the Champs de Elysee. The Western Left will not be able to continue their riskless game of Jew-bashing unless without feeling the effects in their pocketbooks. For the reality is that Europe, more than anyone else, is dependent on Middle Eastern petroluem. Now that the torchings and window smashings can no longer be confined to the global ghetto and threaten to spread unchecked to the oil supplies on which their holidays depend, the spectacle of mutilated Jewish children will no longer be very funny to the Leftist European.

Now the real consequences of French miscalculation will be felt. The Quai d'Orsay's anti-American campaign has riven the Security Council, which can no longer be counted on to push the Israeli flood back between the dikes. Since Europe is powerless to restrain Israel from striking its Arab clients, only America can rein in Israel and France is in no position to ask George Bush to act on its behalf. The only course left to Syria and the Quai d'Orsay is to sponsor a Security Council resolution condemning Israel, in the hope that America will be pressured into forcing Sharon back so that the psycho-dramatic massacre of Jews can continue. Yet even here the bats will be flapping back to roost. America and Israel have been so demonized by France and the Arab capitals that one more invective will literally count for nothing. One more pie in the face is irrelevant to a man covered in spit and crowned in thorns. Israel has grown insensible to insults and America too weary of Arafat's shenanigans to make more than a token attempt to appease domestic Leftist opinion.

The truth is that the Left has prepared its own bed of nails. Now it must be prepared to lie upon it.

The End of Al-Qaeda

Donald Sensing links to an assessment by Singaporean terrorism expert Rohan Gunaratna that Al-Qaeda has nearly been exterminated. In "the past 24 months, al-Qaeda has severely suffered and ... within one year al-Qaeda will be totally destroyed". But he warned that, in going out of business, Al-Qaeda's had redefined itself as an enabler rather than a direct supplier of terrorist services. "Al-Qaeda does not pose the same level of threat it posed in the past and today most of the attacks are being conducted by groups armed, trained and financed by al-Qaeda and not by al-Qaeda itself", so that while in declining, it has passed on the baton to other groups willing to take its place. What Professor Gunaratna does not answer is how an Al-Qaeda penetrated by American intelligence can safely nurture budding terrorist organizations without compromising them. But clearly Gunaratna was surprised at American gains. A year earlier, he saw little chance that Al-Qaeda would be overthrown. An interview with the Indian Express in August, 2002 made it clear he thought them a strong as ever.

Q: Nearly a year after 9/11 how do you assess the US-led effort to neutralise the Al Qaeda?

A: I think it has been a failure. Their biggest failure was their inability to capture or kill Osama bin Laden, Al Zawahiri, Mullah Omar. Unless these three are killed or caught the US cannot say they have been successful. The Al Qaeda can replenish its human losses and material wastage as long as these leaders are alive. What the US has done is only destroy their training camps. As a result, the Al Qaeda has decentralised operations into regional theatres like Somalia, Indonesia, Yemen, Chechnya, the Pankshi Valley in Georgia and others. This means that the Al Qaeda will survive for a longer period.

Today he is giving them a year to live. The surprise is that Al-Qaeda agrees with Gunaratna's new pessimistic assessment. According to Amir Taheri, Osama Bin Laden's deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri has just circulated a tape calling for a strategic retreat. "In a taped message, played in Islamist cells all over the world and broadcast in part by two Arab satellite-TV channels, the Egyptian (believed to be hiding either in Pakistan or in Iran) presents the strategy in three segments."

  1. A campaign to seize power in Muslim countries, especially Pakistan;
  2. Expanded efforts to attack the United States in Iraq and Afghanistan; and
  3. The exploitation of instability in Muslim countries like Indonesia, Yemen and Somalia.

Taheri points out that the al-Zawahiri tapes mark a return to a conception, once rejected by Osama Bin Laden, that radical Islamism needed to gain strength within the Muslim world before taking on the "the last champion of unbelief in the world" -- the United States of America. Where Bin Laden felt ready to challenge America directly, al-Zawahiri is tacitly acknowledging the need to gradually seize state power within the Islamic world as a prelude to the great showdown. Al-Zawahiri is seeking two things in particular: a nuclear weapon through Pakistan and the creation of a 'Vietnam' in Iraq and Afghanistan which would allow the western left to withdraw the forces confronting the Islamic terrorists.

If so, Al-Zawahiri's strategy to seize power in Pakistan is off to a bad start. It is uncertain whether he even has the capability to save himself. "Oct. 03, 2003 ANGORE ADDA, Pakistan - Pakistani soldiers swooped down on an al Qaeda mountain hide-out in  the country's forbidding tribal region Thursday, killing 12 suspected terrorists and capturing 18 others in the military's largest-ever offensive against Osama bin Laden's network. It was not clear whether any senior al Qaeda figures were among the dead or the captured, who all appeared to be foreigners, army officials said. The area in Pakistan's fiercely autonomous Waziristan region has long been considered a likely hiding place for bin Laden, a Saudi exile, and his top deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, an Egyptian." Certainly the ring is closing on the Egyptian. Pakistani newspapers report that "Authorities in the semi-autonomous South Waziristan tribal region are being given a three-day deadline to tribes, calling on them to surrender Al Qaeda suspects and take punitive action against anyone harbouring terrorists" who had escaped from the deadly raid.

Considering these circumstances, it is doubtful whether Gunaratna's assessment that Al-Qaeda will continue to arm, train and finance franchisees will prove realistic. Any clandestine operator worth the name would shun it like the plague. A dying clandestine organization is terminally infected with double-agents, compromised safe houses, dubious funding sources as well as the legatee of a failed strategic model, and Al-Qaeda is no exception. The only hope for a radical Islamic successor would be to develop a new organization and sidestep the failures of the old ones. It has become increasingly likely that Al-Qaeda, like the Nihon Kaigun after the Marianas Turkey Shoot, is now a spent force. What America must await is its successor, which may appear at any moment, as the kamikazes did at Lingayen, in the clear skies above a still unsuspecting world.

The Press that Saw Nothing

Just 8 months ago, CNN touted Haifa as the triumph of tolerance over Arab-Israeli suspicion:

HAIFA, Israel (CNN) -- Billboards in Arabic say: "I Love Haifa," posters advertise "Co-existence Works," there is an Arab-Jewish Center, and the city is serious about community relations. Resident Dr. Mordechai Peri says Haifa follows its mayor, Amram Mitzna's, lead. "He knows how to deal with minorities, he knows that equality is the most important thing between Arab and Jews," the doctor said. Another resident Dr. Butrus Abu-Manneh agrees, adding Mitzna has given three top city jobs to Arabs. Jews come to the Arab quarter, to mingle, drink coffee, go shopping and get along. Mitzna says he can do for Israel what he's done for Haifa.

Some of the gloss came off that prospect today as a huge bomb ripped through a popular Haifa restaurant:

At least 19 people were killed today when a suspected Palestinian suicide bomber set off an explosion inside a landmark beachfront restaurant packed with a lunch crowd at the start of a long holiday weekend, according to Israeli police, who said they believe the bomber was a woman.

The victims included children and at least four Arabs. Haifa Mayor Yona Yahav said, "This restaurant was a microcosm of Haifa society -- Jews, Christians and Arabs worked together in this restaurant for many years. The suicide bomber tried to jeopardize the co-existence we've worked so hard to build up." He left out one element of the microcosm: Islamic terrorism. That name remained unmentioned in Reuters account, which cast the suspicions, if anything, on the lack of Jewish tolerance in Haifa as the root cause of the tragedy.

"Arabs, who make up 12 percent of Haifa's population, became citizens of Israel when the Jewish state was created in 1948 in parts of what had been British-mandate Palestine. Many complain of institutionalized discrimination by the Jewish majority, and three years of fighting between their Palestinian brethren and Israel has driven a wedge of suspicion between the country's Arabs and Jews.  Though several suicide bombings in buses and cafes have shaken the Haifa's confidence in itself as a rare example of coexistence, residents still believe harmony can be preserved. 'I can't hear the words Arab and Jew,' Tony Matar, one of the Arab owners, said at Haifa's Rambam hospital where injured relatives and employees were taken."

Tony Matar's sentiments are laudable. But those who wish to utter the words 'Arab' and 'Jew' in the same sentence must first learn to intone 'Arafat', 'Hamas' and 'Al-Aqsa'. One of the great myths of the liberal project was that it was possible to speak of good without mentioning evil; that universal brotherhood was attainable without abolishing slavery. The Roadmap to Peace leads nowhere in large part because the press has made murderers and terrorists out as 'militants' and 'activists', turning them into invisible men, not only without guilt, but also without existence. Only the victims in Israel have names.