Saturday, July 31, 2004

The War Party Candidate

Donald Sensing tries to understand the circumstances under which John Kerry would go to war. Sensing believes that the Kerry might have announced a qualified doctrine of preemption during his speech at the Democratic National Convention. Although he acknowledges that others, like Bill Hobbs perceive the Kerry's position as reactive, the equivalent of "no first strike", the Reverend Sensing feels that Kerry could be capable of "launch on warning" if intelligence detected a strike in progress but before it had actually arrived. He says:

... Kerry is saying (I think, but who knows?) that he will wage war pre-emptively: "to protect the American people ... from a threat that was real and imminent" (itals added), that is, not an immediately present threat. Furthermore, pre-emption of an imminent threat is a "justification for going to war," although it's the only justification. So just what is Kerry's basic defense doctrine? Apparently it is that Kerry will make war upon those who actually attack us, as would any president, and against those who threaten us, but only if the threat is imminent.

But imminence is an uncertain thing. Despite the large physical signatures of  ICBMs and bomber fleets "false warning" was a serious problem during the Cold War. One incident during the Carter administration was particularly instructive.

The false warning problem has never been a hypothetical one. During the Cold War and after, both the United States and Russia received mistaken warnings of attack. One of the most alarming incidents took place during 1980 when National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski received a middle-of-the-night phone call reporting that warning systems indicated a Soviet all-out attack of 2,200 ICBMs. Just before he was about to call President Carter, who would have had about three to seven minutes to make a decision, Brzezinski learned that other warning systems showed that there was no attack; it was a false alarm. Someone had inserted a tape for a military exercise into a warning system computer. The warning systems were finally accurate, but the danger and possibility of error was never more evident.

If a combination of failures could produce false warning signatures not just in the United States but in the Soviet Union during the Cold War, what standard of proof would a President Kerry require where indications of imminence are not 2,200 missile booster flares but human intelligence or chatter gleaned from intercepted signals? We now know that not only Western intelligence, but Arab capitals were convinced that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction in the days prior to Operation Iraqi Freedom, a consensus unlikely to be matched by any operational warning a President Kerry would have available to him.  General Tommy Franks says that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Jordanian King Abdullah both told him that Saddam had WMDs and would use them against Frank's command if he invaded Iraq. In an interview with Parade, the former CENTCOM CINC said:

The biggest surprise for him was that they've found no weapons of mass destruction (WMD), the "reason we went to war." He says multiple Middle Eastern leaders, including Jordan's King Abdullah and Egypt's Hosni Mubarak, told Franks that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. In January 2003, Mubarak said point blank to Franks, "Saddam has WMD-biologicals, actually-and he will use them on your troops."

Yet Kerry is one of President Bush's harshest critics in this precise case of "launch on warning", a category to which Operation Iraqi Freedom certainly belongs. The hope that Kerry will act preemptively assumes he will act like President Bush in the future when he would not act like him in the past. The political controversy surrounding Operation Iraqi Freedom decision has created an unreachable standard for future preemptive action. Kerry, having thrust a sword into George Bush would be the last to turn it on himself.

The real question is not whether this new avatar of the War Party is a "no first strike" or "launch on warning" kind of candidate: but whether he is at minimum someone who will retaliate after a first strike. In framing his policy in terms of how he would respond to a hypothetical attack on America, John Kerry glosses over how he intends to respond to the actual attack of September 11. That event is curiously undefined in his tale of events. If the attack on Manhattan was an act of war how would John Kerry win it? Is it already won and if so, did George Bush win it? If September 11 is not a first strike in John Kerry's eyes, then what is his theoretical threshold for decisive action?

Voters need more than an index of a Kerry administration retaliatory threshold to judge him as a potential Commander in Chief. Kerry should clarify how he plans to win, if not the present war, then at least a future one, if it comes according to his standard. The cast of characters, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan are unlikely to change. The electorate should be granted a glimpse into his roadmap to victory and whether he believes in the concept itself as distinct from mere retaliation. Any brawler with fists can retaliate but it requires a Commanders in Chief with a strategy to lead nations to victory. Even Bill Clinton was prepared to retaliate against Osama Bin Laden for the USS Cole attack by firing hundreds of cruise missiles at his training camps. But George Bush tried to defeat him and for this stood condemned. It is this precise striving for victory, not any single act of retaliation that has made George Bush so illegitimate in the liberal mind. For liberals retaliation  is soley used to "send a message"; it always an invitation to negotiation, like the ones Johnson sent Ho Chi Minh without reply; it is never part of the solution itself. In this curious mental universe, force is immoral unless it is also pointless. John Kerry's self-chosen identification with the Vietnam War is a strangely ambiguous image, which escapes being tragic only for so long as you allow only questions for which there can be no answers.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

A Study in Contrasts

The Philippines has nerved itself to summon the Australian ambassador to the Philippines to protest against the accusation that it encouraged hostage taking in Iraq by caving in to terrorists. The Australian reports:

The Philippines government was today expected to summon Australia's ambassador in Manila to express its anger over Foreign Minister Alexander Downer's criticism of its Iraq policy. ... The Philippines ambassador to Australia, Cristina Ortega, said her country was deeply hurt by the comments. "We are very, very disappointed with this harsh criticism," Ms Ortega has told ABC television. ... "It's not very diplomatic language, but Mr Downer is not a diplomat, he is a politician."

These fighting words can be compared to Philippine Deputy Foreign Secretary, Rafael Seguis' bowing and scraping before the Khalid Ibn al-Walid brigade (who held the Filipino hostage Angelo de la Cruz) on Al Jazeera. According to Reuters:

Al Jazeera broadcast footage of Philippine deputy foreign minister Rafael Seguis reading out a statement, which the television station translated into Arabic, shortly after the expiry of a new execution deadline set by the militants. "In response to your request, the Philippines ... will withdraw its humanitarian forces as soon as possible," Seguis said according to the translation of the statement, addressed to the Islamic Army in Iraq group holding 46-year-old de la Cruz. "I hope the statement that I read will touch the heart of this group," said Seguis. "We know that Islam is the religion of peace and mercy."

It is bravery or the certainty that Australia cuts no heads that makes the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs so bold?


In the meantime American missionary Gracia Burnham returned to the Philippines to confront and testify against 8 Abu Sayyaf rebels who participated in the murder of her husband. This from the BBC:

American missionary Gracia Burnham has made an emotional return to the Philippines to testify against her suspected former kidnappers. Mrs Burnham and her husband Martin were kidnapped with 18 others from a Philippine beach resort in 2001. ... Mrs Burnham is said to have identified six out of the eight suspects on trial as being her erstwhile captors.

"Gracia gave a very smooth narration of her ordeal. It was the strongest corroborative evidence," said state prosecutor Aristotle Reyes. "She cannot forget them because she ate and lived with them for almost a year," he said. Mr Reyes said he had shown her a rusty dog chain used by the militants to restrain her husband, as well as a pair of blue rubber boots she had worn during her captivity.

Gracia Burnham has caused controversy since returning to the US, by claiming that Philippine military officials were colluding with her captors. She made the claim in a book about her experiences called In the Presence of My Enemies.

Will the Philippines ask Mrs. Burnham to apologize for those remarks the way the Australian ambassador has been asked to explain why the reputation of that country's government has been besmirched?

Life is like a box of chocolates

David Frum examines the contradiction at the heart of the Democratic convention. It is the voice of a single hatred in the absence of a single idea. "The Democratic Party arrived in Boston emotionally united and intellectually divided. Democrats are united in their rage against and disdain for President Bush, but they are radically divided in their beliefs and loyalties." Frum goes on the catalogue how the bilocation of ideas has become curiously unimportant. In Boston, the Athens of America of all places, it is possible to believe in two mutually exclusive ideas or better yet, avoid committing to a single one.

On foreign policy, Mr Kerry has criticized Mr Bush from every angle, without ever worrying much about consistency. It has been, in a way, an impressive performance: Mr Kerry has criticized Mr Bush both for offending America's traditional allies in the Middle East, and also for not being tougher on the Saudis; both for siding too much with Israel while insisting that he would side with Israel just as much; both for requesting too much money for Iraq and also for not providing enough support to the troops there.

Mr Kerry has been hard-pressed to find issues that can unite his discordant party. The issue on which he has again and again fallen back is Mr Bush's alleged failure to internationalize the Iraq war. Michael Moore Democrats, who want America to evacuate Iraq immediately, and Thomas Friedman Democrats, who want America to commit to Iraq for the next decade, can at least agree that they wish the UN, France and Germany had bigger roles. This message has been music to many European ears. But now imagine that Mr Kerry has won ...

Then we would get to find out what he really believed, if we were lucky. David Brooks, writing in the New York Times, argues that the Democratic Party doesn't know what it wants, doesn't care where it is; but that it is "just sober enough to realize it needs a designated driver like John Kerry to get it home at night." (Hat tip: NRG)

This is a whacked-out party that has spent the past year throwing back Howard Dean hurricanes, being gripped with Michael Moore fever and indulging in Whoopi-esque animosity binges. And yet there's that moment when you are drinking, before you get really blotto, when you realize that you have just enough sobriety for one last lifesaving act of responsibility. For the Democrats, nominating Kerry is that act -- and now he's running a professional, disciplined campaign.

If the convention program reflected the collective party subconscious, the first night would feature a life-size rubber Dick Cheney doll, and the speakers would take turns throwing it around the stage. And yet the Kerry party elite is insisting that everybody wear a responsibility corset. Restrain yourself. Be positive.

"But now imagine that Mr Kerry has won"; that the designated driver has swtiched off the engine at the final destination. Where would we be? Why, everywhere else that everybody else didn't want to go.


Hugh Hewitt thinks one reason the policy debate at the Democratic convention is so incomprehensible is that the discussion is conducted in code. Some delegates, at least, want things that they aren't prepared to spell out above a whisper. But the plaintext isn't exactly protected by Rijndael encryption. Hewitt notes:

Delegates are far more truthful than the party operatives patrolling the hallways and ferrying prepped guests to the various radio rows. The delegates hate Bush, want out of Iraq, want courts to impose same-sex marriage, and want taxes hiked on all but the poorest Americans. The policy on abortion rights is absolutist; on race-based remedies, the answer hasn't changed since 1978 – quotas by any other name will do.

I played a game on the radio show yesterday, the convention's first day. We played a version of Groucho Marx's "secret word." We were prepared to declare a winner when the first Democrat I interviewed mentioned al-Qaida. None did. It just isn't an issue with them. The consensus seems to be that if Bush is beaten, al-Qaida will no longer threaten Americans.

Now the electorate can choose whatever it wants, but fairness demands truth in packaging. Are the Democrats, in Andrew Sullivan's words, "the conservative party" and "to the right of Bush on the war" or are they really saying to each other in code that Osama Bin Laden is not America's enemy? There are probably a range of views held by different factions at the convention which the hundreds of reporters and bloggers in attendance will describe in excruciating detail. But at the end of the day John Kerry has to decide what he believes and select the platform on which he will run. Moore, Gore, Carter and the two Clintons have demonstrated the convention's many faces; but only Kerry can show us its soul.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Boston and New York

The Democratic convention in Boston underscores how deeply September 11 has changed the political landscape for diametrically opposite reasons. For many conservatives the attack represented the first shot in a war waged against America. In contrast many liberals felt it was the response to the attack that opened hostilities against America; that there was no war except that which we subsequently called down on our feckless heads. John Kerry's slogan to 'restore respect for America abroad' and to 'make it safer' are an explicit accusation that we have created, or at least amplified the danger which faces us now.

Andrew Sullivan's belief that John Kerry will be Bush -- only a better Bush -- founders on this syllogism: Kerry cannot logically continue Bush's essential strategy, however competently, because according to the premise it is that strategy which is the fundamental source of peril. The honest thing to do; and for many liberals the right thing to do, is to reverse course as decently as possible. Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero believed that the campaign in Iraq served no purpose; and in accordance with his thinking withdrew the Spanish contingent without regard for the consequences to the interim Iraqi government. Whatever else his shortcomings, the Spanish Prime Minister knew how to follow his own argument to its logical conclusion.

Although the exigencies of politics and the need to attract away the conservative fringe (by playing Amazing Grace for example) may keep John Kerry from being forthright it cannot obscure the fact that two opposing, and therefore contradictory visions, are contending for the electorate this November. The first argues that despite the shortcomings of multilateralism, diplomacy and concession, it is still the best way to settle accounts with radical Islam. It will concede that more might have been done to prevent September 11 but it will maintain steadfastly that the alternative, which was to strike at enemies the way they have struck at us is fundamentally wrong and dangerous. And by exclusion it will maintain that whatever the dangers of Clintonian policy the world was safer then than it is today. Ths second point of view will argue that eight years of wilfull blindness; supporting Bosnian Muslims; ignorning the A. Q. Khan network of nuclear proliferation, buying North Korea its own reactors and receiving Yasser Araft at the White House; the whole policy of concession, bought not a whit of safety. It will argue that our enemies are even now on the point of obtaining nuclear weapons to turn against us, and will if we return to the policies of the past. It will concede that there have been disappointments in Iraq, but that by any historical yardstick our progress to victory -- and here is the unique word -- has been steady, irresistable and therefore inevitable.

This post is not the place to argue in favor of one or the other: but to maintain that the choices are distinct. That is why many Democrats want George Bush out with an almost religious fervor and why many conservatives are fighting for his re-election as if their lives depended on it, because they think it does. Current polls show the candidates nearly level, which means that when the choice is finally made in November, the nation will decide by the slimmest of margins which point of view will grip the wheel. The final count will not so much end the series as send it into overtime. At stake are the lives our children -- whose fates will be determined by what we do or refuse to do -- after Boston and New York.

Monday, July 26, 2004

Keeping Your Rep

Nations like individuals have a reputations which their rivals and opponents study to determine just how far they can be pushed. Readers will recall that Jacques Chirac demanded an explanation of Ariel Sharon's exhoration for Jews to leave France. The New York Times reported on July 19th:

When Israel's prime minister urged the Jews of France on Sunday to flee immediately to Israel to escape anti-Semitism at home, the reaction was swift, angry and unified. French officials, lawmakers, commentators and Jewish leaders all told Mr. Sharon that he was out of line. The office of President Jacques Chirac issued a statement on Monday saying Mr. Sharon would not be welcome in France until he explained himself. "France has asked for an explanation following Mr. Sharon's declaration," the statement from Élysée Palace said. The government, it said, "has let it be known that from today an eventual visit by the Israeli prime minister to Paris, for which no date had been set, would not be considered until such an explanation is forthcoming."

Sharon of course, refused to deliver any such explanation while France waited, and waited and waited ... and then France declared the crisis over. Finished, forgotten. According to the Jerusalem Post, Sharon is welcome in Paris like a long-lost brother.

French President Jacques Chirac has ended the row between Paris and Jerusalem over Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's call for French Jews to flee the wave of "wild anti-Semitism" in France and immigrate to Israel. Chirac sent a message to President Moshe Katsav via a senior government minister to tell him that the crisis is over. ...  However, beyond the media hoopla that ensued was a close relationship that developed between Katsav and Chirac during Katsav's state visit to France last February. ... Aware that Katsav had on numerous occasions during that visit and afterwards expressed his admiration for the efforts that Chirac is making to eradicate anti-Semitism in France, Chirac wanted to assure him that the excitement caused by Sharon's call for instant immigration did not have a long shelf life.

What a surprise. Ariel Sharon knew perfectly well that if Jacques Chirac lacked the stomach to face a relative handful of Islamic bandidos he would be thoroughly terrified to confront a technologically advanced state like Israel. France might bluff and bluster; but ultimately it would fold, and knowing this, Sharon simply bullied Chirac into submission. Once countries get a reputation for being thoroughly toothless people stop paying attention to their threats.

The Iranian refusal to convict the killers of Canadian journalist Zahra Kazemi by state agents similarly illustrates the Mullah's contempt for Ottawa, despite its bowing and scraping. Kazemi's indignant son complained that Canada was being pushed around.

"It's fair to say that Canada has failed to send a clear message to Iran that there will be consequences of their action," Stephan Hachemi, 26, said from Montreal on Sunday. "I don't see any reason why they shouldn't expel the Iranian ambassador from Canada," he said.

But the word "consequences" has long been expunged from the Canadian foreign policy dictionary. And Ottawa of course, lost no time deciding to let itself be pushed around and have its nose ground in the dirt. "The Canadian government is disturbed but has not yet chosen a course of action after an Iranian accused of killing a Canadian photographer was acquitted, Foreign Affairs Minister Pierre Pettigrew said on Sunday." Compare this with Australian Prime Minister John Howard's virtual promise that the Bali bombers, whose convictions were set aside on a technicality by the Indonesian Supreme Court, would be punished.

Prime Minister John Howard promised his government would do all it could to ensure the Bali bombers were punished despite a successful appeal against one of their convictions. Indonesia's constitutional court upheld an appeal which could throw all trials of convicted Bali bombers into doubt. In a majority 5-4 decision, the court ruled retrospective anti-terrorism laws used to convict several of the bombers were "against the spirit" of Indonesia's constitution.

"Let me make it very clear that every effort is being made by this government, in co-operation with the authorities in Indonesia, to ensure that the overwhelming desire of the people of both our countries (is met) - and that is, that those responsible for these horrible deeds are appropriately punished according to the full vigour of Indonesian law," he said.

There is no reason for Indonesia to doubt that Howard will use every instrument in Austrlia's power, including its military forces, to make sure this happens. Australia is not France and everybody knows it.


Canada has outlined the steps it will take to obtain justice for a photographer who was tortured and beaten to death in Iran.

The acquittal of an Iranian intelligence agent in the death of Canadian journalist Zahra Kazemi has done nothing to ensure that truth and justice prevail, says Foreign Affairs Minister Pierre Pettigrew. ... He also hinted at further legal or diplomatic steps to put pressure on Iran, saying the Canadian government is "reviewing its options." But he stopped short of announcing any concrete initiatives. ... Canadian officials said Sunday they had been unable to determine if the weekend verdict marks the end of judicial proceedings in Iran, or whether authorities there may continue investigating other suspects.

John Terry, a Toronto lawyer who represents Hashemi, said the verdict may be appealed through the Iranian courts, but he holds little hope of success there. He has been pressing Ottawa to take the case to the International Court of Justice at The Hague.

Sympathies should go out to the Kazemis, whose mother was murdered in the course of covering a story in Iran. She had been arrested for taking photographs outside a Tehran prison during student-led protests against the government. "Iranian authorities initially said Kazemi died of a stroke, but a presidential committee later found that she died of a fractured skull and brain hemorrhage from a blow to the head." If Ottawa's strongest remaining action is to go before the International Court of Justice at The Hague it will have tacitly admitted that the problem lies beyond its unilateral capacity to solve without answering the key question of how the Court will enforce its decision, assuming it rules in Canada's favor. At best, a favorable ruling will provide a political basis around which to organize an international regime of sanctions or punishments on Teheran.

Don't You Go, Don't You Go to Far Zamboanga

An article in the Weekend Australia describes the reality behind the Philippine's bluster about "standing tall" and "preserving it's dignity". Martin Chulov reports from Zamboanga City.

WITH a sweep of his arm across the bay, the rebel leader warned: "Whatever you do, don't go anywhere out there by yourself. The Germans were taken from that island," he said, pointing at a small atoll. "They'd just gone there to swim. ...

"Them" are the militants and kidnappers who have terrorised the archipelago for the past 10 years. The Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiah are two legs of a troika of rebel groups, who have fought the Philippines armed forces under the banner of Islam. The third is the separatist but semi-legitimised MILF, accused in the past of harbouring the terrorists and still continuing to co-operate with them.

In Southeast Asia's war on terror, it is the depth of this link that troubles regional governments, including Australia's, which last week described Mindanao as a hotbed of terrorists. In many of the MILF's 13 declared base camps across the province, there is clear evidence JI and Abu Sayyaf members have joined MILF insurgents in combat training. Many have gone on to commit terrorist acts in The Philippines and Indonesia. And only good fortune and smart intelligence work has prevented catastrophic attacks in Malaysia and Singapore. In prison cells across all four countries are members of JI who have trained in the Mindinao camps and subsequently been accused or convicted of atrocities. Three of the Bali plotters trained in Mindinao, including one, Abdul Ghoni, who was said to have helped to make the Sari Club bomb.

The Manila government has long surrendered sovereignty over large parts of the southern Philippines to the enemy. It is not uncommon for children in Basilan, Jolo or Tawi-tawi to point to arrivals from the capital and exclaim "Look! Here come some Filipinos!" The concern which Arroyo showed towards a Filipino hostage in Iraq does not extend to simple farmers even in the heavily Christian Zamboanga peninsula. "Zamboanga's medical examiner said this week that Abu Sayyaf rebels had been responsible for 76 beheadings over five years in the area surrounding the troubled city."

The Philippines "has a long-standing Islamic insurgency powerful enough to limit state capacity in much of the south, yet so decentralized that what ensues is not a shadow government, but pockets of anarchy", the report says.  "These enclaves are dominated by local rebel commanders owing varying degrees of allegiance to umbrella coalitions like the MILF, or ASG, but whose power is rooted in pyramids of particularistic clan and tribal loyalties."

How do those under the gun in Zamboanga feel about Arroyo "standing tall" in Iraq, bravely defying the pressure of arrogant America by going, belly to the floor to feet of a small gang of terrorists? They are not very impressed.

But in the eyes of two military officers contacted by The Weekend Australian, the events of the past week, rather than strike fear in the hearts of the Abu Sayyaf fighters may well have emboldened them. "We take the fight to them every day and our message has been to never give in to terrorism," said one officer insisting on anonymity. "Yet our Government has given in in the blink of an eye when terrorists in Iraq threatened us," he said, referring to the withdrawal of Philippines troops from Iraq following threats to behead the kidnapped contract truck driver Angelo de la Cruz.

Three quarters of a hundred beheadings around Zamboanga never persuaded Manila to stop offering concessions to terrorists in the south. It's a habit long ingrained in leftist circles in the Philippine capital.

Sunday, July 25, 2004

Al Qaeda Marches South

Just days after the Indonesian Supreme Court threw the convictions of the men convicted of killing hundreds in Bali into doubt, the European branch of Al Qaeda threatened to turn Australia into a "pool of blood". The Indonesian justices held that the law under which the killers had been convicted was invalid because the anti-terrorism act had been passed after the crime had been committed.

July 24, 2004 -- An Indonesian court ruled yesterday that tough anti-terrorism laws passed last year could not be used retroactively, a decision that raises the possibility of fresh appeals by 32 militants convicted in the 2002 Bali bombings. The Constitutional Court's 5-4 decision could also complicate efforts to prosecute others awaiting trial in the bombings that killed 202 people, mostly foreigners. Among them is Abu Bakar Bashir, the alleged head of Jemaah Islamiyah, the al-Qaeda linked terror group blamed for the attacks.

This has forced the Australian government to seek new ways to keep the convicted killers in jail. Indonesian authorities have informally assured the Aussies that the murderers would not be released, although the basis for these promises remains vague. Indonesian domestic politics, as in the Philippines, often proves more important than international commitments or the pursuit of abstract justice. Meanwhile in Europe, the Tawhid Islamic Group sought to repeat the tactics which proved so successful with the Philippines -- on Australia. The New York Post reports:

July 25, 2004 -- A group calling itself the European branch of al Qaeda threatened to turn Australia and Italy into hellish "pools of blood" if the two nations did not withdraw their troops from Iraq, while a growing wave of kidnappings swept the country yesterday. The Tawhid Islamic Group, which earlier threatened attacks on Bulgaria and Poland if they kept their troops in Iraq, posted its warning on an Islamic Web site. "We call upon [Australia] to leave Iraq before your country turns to pools of blood," the group said. "We will shake the earth under your feet as we did in Indonesia, and lines of car bombs will not cease, God willing."

The statement referred to the 2002 Bali bombing that killed 202 people, many of them Australians. The group also warned Italy that if it did not withdraw its troops, "you will see the lines of cars laden with explosives hit your towns and turn your nights to mornings.

Australia feels it has been set up by Manila's weakness. The Melbourne Age reports:

Mr Downer said the Philippines decision to withdraw troops from Iraq to save the life of a father-of-eight hostage was behind the Tawhid Islamic Group's internet threat against Australia. ''This is the problem with the Filipino decision, you see,'' he said. ''They've acceded to the demands of terrorists and within a day or so of the Filipinos doing that six more people were taken hostage in Iraq. ''Unfortunately these actions have encouraged terrorists to continue these threats so now we are subjected, as the Italians are and the Poles and the Bulgarians, from this particular group, to further threats, and it's very important we send a strong message that we will not be threatened by terrorist groups.''

These sentiments were surprisingly echoed by the famously pacifist New Zealand and the Australian Labor Party.

New Zealand Foreign Affairs Minister Phil Goff, visiting Australia for official meetings, said it was important for countries in the Pacific to stand up to terrorists. ''We do not want the Pacific to be a weak link that enables international terrorist groups to exploit opportunities in the Pacific or to base themselves in the Pacific,'' he said.

Labor's foreign affairs spokesman Kevin Rudd said the government needed to take the threat seriously. ''We believe this is our number one national security objective,'' he told reporters. ''It therefore should command all the resources of government. ''We offer the government today bipartisan support in redoubling our effort to eliminate al-Qaeda and any associated terrorist organisations such as the one that has made this threat against Australia today.''

Although the Kiwis and the Australian left are dreamy-eyed, they can recognize an oncoming train when they see one. Counterterrorism experts in Canberra have long felt that the Philippines now constitutes the main source of danger to Australia because the Jemaah Islamiyah can operate, train and arm with impunity in the areas of the Philippines south where virtually no government control exists. ABC News Australia says:

The commander of United States forces in the Pacific, Admiral Thomas Fargo, has raised concerns about the presence of al-Qaeda-linked Jemaah Islamiyah militants in the southern Philippines. Philippine Defense Secretary, Eduardo Ermita, says US authorities are very particular about how Manila is addressing terrorism in the Philippines. Mr Ermita says the US is conscious that there are about 40 JI members in the southern region of Mindanao. The JI regional terror group is blamed for the October 2002 bombings which killed 202 people in Bali and other attacks in Indonesia.

The weakness of the Philippine state has created the regional equivalent of Taliban-era Afghanistan, providing an area of chaos in which terrorists can muster unhindered. The Jemaah Islamiyah is particularly dangerous because it aims at destabilizing every government in the region and establishing an Islamic state including Northern Australia.

The al-Qaeda terrorist group and Jemaah Islamiah aspire to create an Islamic superstate in South-East Asia, called Daulah Islamiyah, which would embrace Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei, Thailand and Cambodia. Last month, the Philippines' national security adviser, Roilo Golez, told ABC's Four Corners that Abu Bakar, with al-Qaeda backing, was trying to include northern Australia in its plans. As secretary-general of the Mujahideen League, the cleric is alleged to have established four territorial groups, called mantiqis, to serve the aim of a pan-Islamic Asian state. One of those covered Irian Jaya and northern Australia.

The main question facing coalition partners USA and Australia is whether to keep working with the Indonesian and the Philippine governments which seem unwilling or unable to face the forces that are slowly tearing them apart; or prepare for a scenario that accepts the failure of these two states. Clearly, a state which cannot even save itself or enforce its authority within its own territory will be of little help in carrying out international agreements. The problem with relying on the dysfunctional regimes in Manila and Jakarta indefinitely is it allows things to go from bad to worse with hands tied out of diplomatic deference to the host "governments". But neither is it feasible to simply await the final collapse or breakup of these two countries before acting. The prudent course would be for America and Australia to develop ways of directly influencing events on the ground by creating structures which bypass the existing and inutile bureaucracies in the capitals. In this respect, both countries will be playing catch-up with Indonesia and Malaysia which have long since created armed groups under their control in Mindanao, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-tawi. The Balkanization of the southernmost regions of the Philippines began thirty years ago. One of the most familiar sights in "peace negotiations" between Manila and Muslim rebels is the presence of uniformed Indonesian officers by the side of the rebels, with the deceptive title of "facilitators". Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's abject surrender to a handful of Iraqi terrorists has simply demonstrated internationally what has long been evident domestically: that no one respects Manila except the punctilious diplomats in Washington and Canberra.

Saturday, July 24, 2004

Not Any Safer

The Philippines has found that safety hasn't come with paying ransom. The Philippine ABS-CBN news network  reports that:

Filipino truck drivers working in the Middle East are now banned from entering Iraq to prevent another kidnapping by terrorists in that country. President Arroyo ordered the Department of Foreign Affairs Friday to ensure that Filipino truck drivers working in countries near Iraq are stopped at the border should they attempt to enter that country.

Saudi and Kuwaiti companies involved in the reconstruction effort in Iraq hire foreigners to transport crude oil and construction materials into that country. After the kidnapping of Angelo de la Cruz, Filipino officials realized that Filipino truck drivers are the most vulnerable to the terrorist acts of militants.

But why? Doesn't giving in to terrorist demands make one safer? Can't Filipino workers, if confronted by armed men, simply wave their Philippine passports as a kind of laissez passer? Or has paying ransom made them all walking $6 million certified checks? "Mrs. Arroyo said, meanwhile, the Philippines has tapped the assistance of coalition camp commanders in Iraq to help ensure the safety of some 4,000 Filipino workers in Iraq." That in plain English means that Americans, Britons, Australians and Iraqis are expected to lay their lives on the line to protect citizens of the very country that has provided their enemies millions of dollars to buy new and better weapons so that the Philippine government can take their cut from the paychecks these men send home to their families.

The preemptive ban on Filipinos working in Iraq follows from the belated realization in Manila that they just may have committed a diplomatic boo-boo. Consider if the situation were reversed. If an expatriate working in the Philippines had been kidnapped by the Abu Sayyaf and his government had negotiated directly with the kidnappers without reference and against the wishes of the Philippines some eyebrows might be raised. Suppose the home government of the hostage had further announced a deal with the kidnappers on a foreign TV network and paid ransom to a group which had put a bounty on the head of the President of the Philippines, might that not be embarrassing? If Manila suddenly finds that its overseas workers are no longer welcome throughout the region it just might, with some effort, figure out why.

"You were given the choice between war and dishonor. You chose dishonor and you will have war."
Winston Churchill on Munich

The Hostage Game Continues

An Egyptian diplomat was kidnapped and new demands for money were made on the truck drivers who had recently been taken hostage. It is worth noting that neither Egypt nor the truck driver nationals are part of the "Coalition of the Willing". Sky news reports:

An armed group has kidnapped an Egyptian diplomat in Iraq, according to a video tape shown on the Al-Jazeera Arab network. A man identified as Mohammed Mamdouh Hilmi Kotb, a third most senior official at the embassy in Baghdad, was shown on the footage sitting in front of six masked armed men dressed head-to-toe in black.

Kotb was purportedly kidnapped by a group called the Lions of Allah in response to Egyptian Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif's offer to Iraq of his country's security expertise. Staff at the embassy confirmed a diplomat had been abducted.

Meanwhile, a group in Iraq which has threatened to behead seven foreign hostages has issued a new 48-hour deadline. The new ultimatum was made to the hostages' Kuwaiti employers and they demanded that Iraqi prisoners are freed, according to Al Jazeera television. The TV station said that the group has given 48 hours to meet demands that the company pays compensation to the families of the dead in Falluja and Iraqi prisoners in American and Kuwait jails.

Egypt had previously refused to join the US coalition and merely offered to guard any UN premises in Iraq. According to the Washington Times:

Egypt expressed in the past its readiness to dispatch a small contingent to Iraq to guard U.N. offices and centers, but Presidential spokesman Majed Abdel Fatah said Wednesday that the Egyptian troops will not be part of the multinational force and their mission will be strictly limited to protecting U.N. premises.

However, Egypt and all of Iraq's Arab neighbors had recently met to control illegal border crossings in the region. According to the Financial Times:

Iraq's neighbours agreed in Cairo yesterday to try to co-operate more closely on security and in controlling their common borders. "Iraq has all it wants," said Hoshyar Zebari, Iraq's foreign minister, as he left a meeting in the Egyptian capital where he met foreign ministers from Egypt, Turkey, Syria, Iran, Jordan, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. Mr Zebari said Iran had offered to host a meeting of interior ministers from the eight countries in which more detailed plans for addressing common security issues and sharing intelligence would be discussed.

Ever since the Philippines capitulated to terrorists in Iraq armed gangs in the region have been ever more ready to intimidate sovereign governments and extort money. The Arroyo surrender differs qualitatively from the Spanish case because Zapatero had already announced his intention to withdraw Spanish troops long before the Madrid attack of March 11, 2004. In the case of the Philippines that sovereign nation, which guards its "dignity" and "sovereignty" jealously when dealing with the United States, obsequiously bowed and scraped before a nameless group of extortionists. Its Deputy Foreign Secretary, Rafael Seguis addressed the kidnappers in tones so craven it is hard to imagine them being spoken to an American ambassador. According to Reuters:

Al Jazeera broadcast footage of Philippine deputy foreign minister Rafael Seguis reading out a statement, which the television station translated into Arabic, shortly after the expiry of a new execution deadline set by the militants. "In response to your request, the Philippines ... will withdraw its humanitarian forces as soon as possible," Seguis said according to the translation of the statement, addressed to the Islamic Army in Iraq group holding 46-year-old de la Cruz. "I hope the statement that I read will touch the heart of this group," said Seguis. "We know that Islam is the religion of peace and mercy."

The hostage taking game had begun to taper off before the Philippines gave it renewed impetus; an externality to its behavior of convenience that must now be cleaned up by others.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Blood Money

The Belmont Club wrote that Filipino hostage negotiators had a bad habit of skimming stuff off the top when handling ransom money. Maybe it was no different in the case of Angelo de la Cruz. A story from the AP says (hat tip reader JM):

The Malaysians contacted Islamic clerics to "reach out to the hostage-takers" on behalf of dela Cruz and the Philippine government, Bunye said. Bunye also denied that a ransom was paid for dela Cruz. Diplomatic sources, however, said that the government offered up to $1 million to the kidnappers but only about a quarter of the amount was eventually turned over to the abductors. "This release of Angelo is based on negotiations and on meeting the conditions" of the Iraqi insurgents, Bunye said.

Where did the three quarters of a million go? In the Six Million Dollar Man, written before the Filipino hostage was released noted that there were reports six million dollars in ransom was offered: 1 million from the Philippines and 5 million from Malaysia:

Michelle Malkin links to an article in the Philippines Daily Tribune which reports that the Philippines has paid an Iraqi terrorist gang US$6 million dollars for the release of hostage Angelo de la Cruz.

A ransom of $6 million was offered and paid out to the Iraqi rebels holding Filipino truck driver Angelo de la Cruz hostage, to ensure his release before President Arroyo's scheduled State of the Nation Address (Sona) on July 26, a high level Philippine intelligence officer told the Tribune yesterday. This offer was alleged to have been approved by the President herself, who then tapped Malaysian emissaries for the job, the intelligence officer, who asked for anonymity, said. Of the $6-million payoff, $5 million was shouldered by Malaysia and $1 million by the Landbank of the Philippines, the officer added.

... Filipino hostage release negotiations have traditionally been scuppered by the disconcerting tendency of negotiators to pocket part of the ransom money for themselves. Terrorist leader Galib Andang, aka "Commander Robot" bitterly accused Philippine Government officials of cutting themselves too large a slice of the cake.

The two vital points confirmed by the AP report were that the Malaysians were involved and that a ransom was offered. That quarter of a million dollars, paid to the Khalid Ibn al-Walid brigade (who held the Filipino hostage) is coincidentally almost exactly the amount being offered by Zarqawi for the head of Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi. According to Reuters:

A group led by suspected al Qaeda ally Abu Musab al-Zarqawi offered a reward of $282,000 on Sunday for the killing of Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, according to a statement posted on an Islamist Web site. "We in Khalid bin al-Walid Brigade announce to the Iraqi people a reward of 200,000 Jordanian dinars ($282,000) to whoever gets us Allawi's head," said a group statement posted on the site.

How about that?

US Envoy to the Philippines Recalled for Consultations

The Chinese news agency Xinhua says the US ambassador to the Philippines, Francis Ricciardone has been recalled Washington for consultations after the Philippines capitulated to terrorist demands.

July 22 (Xinhuanet) -- United States Ambassador to the Philippines Francis Ricciardone is due to fly back to Washington Thursday for what he described as "consultations" with the US government after Philippines withdrew its contingent from Iraq to save the life of hostage Angelo dela Cruz, reported local media. During a meeting with some local media reporters, Ricciardone said that he is not being recalled, and that he will stay for two-weeks in Washington, during which time he will also take care of some personal affairs. But the ambassador did not exclude "consequences" on relations between the United States and the Philippines because of the pullout, although he did not specify, according to local media reports.

This comes as kidnappers calling themselves the "Holders of the Black Banners" took six other nationals of Third World countries hostage. Newday reports:

"We announce we have captured two Kenyans, three Indians and one Egyptian," said one of the masked men in a video aired on the Arabic TV channel Al-Arabiya. "We tell the company to withdraw and close its offices in Iraq."

The new hostage-taking, by a militant group calling itself the "Holders of the Black Banners," suggested that anti-U.S. guerrillas feel they've found a successful tactic to weaken the U.S. military presence here: seizing the civilian workers who deliver many essential supplies and services to U.S. forces.

It came a day after guerrillas freed Filipino truck driver Angelo dela Cruz, having gotten the Philippine government to pull its small military contingent out of Iraq one month ahead of schedule.

In the meantime, Philippine authorities denied they paid ransom to terrorists in Iraq. AFP reports:

President Gloria Arroyo's government denies reports the Philippines has paid millions of dollars in ransom to buy the freedom of a Filipino truck driver released by kidnappers in Iraq. "We know that some newspapers have engaged in speculation" that Manila paid up to $US6 million ($A8.3 million) to buy the liberty of Angelo de la Cruz, presidential spokesman Ignacio Bunye told a news conference.

"That is not true," he added.

Diplomatic sources earlier told AFP a ransom was offered on behalf of the Philippine government to convince the kidnappers to free the hostage. The sources said the kidnappers, who called themselves the Khalid Ibn al-Walid brigade, rejected the unspecified cash offer. In the end Arroyo gave in to the kidnappers' demand and recalled the Philippines' 51-member military contingent in Iraq a month ahead of schedule.

The diplomatic sources in effect confirmed that the Philippine Government had offered money to the Khalid Ibn al-Walid brigade. This is the very same Khalid Ibn al-Walid brigade that has recently offered a bounty of US$285,000 for the head of Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi. According to Reuters:

A group led by suspected al Qaeda ally Abu Musab al-Zarqawi offered a reward of $282,000 on Sunday for the killing of Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, according to a statement posted on an Islamist Web site. "We in Khalid bin al-Walid Brigade announce to the Iraqi people a reward of 200,000 Jordanian dinars ($282,000) to whoever gets us Allawi's head," said a group statement posted on the site.

Belmont Club reader JM from the Philippines asks "Why are we so surprised at the RP gov'ts attempt to pay ransom? Aren't we just trying to use the "tried and tested formula" used by Congressman Jules Ledesma to help free his 2 children when they were kidnapped 2 years ago?" He was referring to the formula made famous by a prominent Philippine politician.

Ledesma's children, Carlos Thomas Pek, 10; and Christina Julieta Victoria, 6, were abducted ... they were released days after the abduction near the Makati Medical Center as a result of what Rep. Ledesma said was a "tried and tested formula." His "formula" was generally taken to mean that he paid ransom money.

Except in this case the Philippines was trying to pay ransom to a terrorist organization that had put a bounty on the head of the host government. There will be consequences and they have only just begun.


It would be wrong to speculate on Sandy Berger's ultimate motive for removing classified documents from the National Archives. Working with insufficient information is the best way to mislead one's self. However, there might be some value to adopting a preliminary framework for understanding new information as it comes to light. The model that comes readily to mind is to regard Berger's escapade as a kind of information countermeasure. The most common ways to conceal information are to 1) create a decoy signal; 2) generate enough noise to blot out the underlying information; and 3) to reduce the signal of the original information which you want to conceal.

Most readers are broadly familiar with the countermeasures used on military aircraft. They can release decoys, like flares or drones. They can emit signals from jamming pods to white out the enemy radar screens. They can employ a variety of measures to reduce their reflection so that they remain unseen, the so-called stealth technology. Each of these corresponds to one type of countermeasure described above. As an exercise one can hypothetically regard the Plame-Wilson affair, the Richard Clarke book and Sandy Berger's bungled theft as representatives of these three kinds of information countermeasures. The first establishes a false "blip" -- the Bush Lied meme -- which misled intelligent bloggers like Oxblog's Patrick Belton for weeks as he followed this phantom echo. The Richard Clarke book can be considered a noise barrager type of countermeasure. It was for the most part a big sound and light show laced with ominous drumrolls with nothing behind it. When the time came to set Clarke's book against Condoleeza Rice's testimony at the 9/11 hearings there was curious lack of collision, as might be expected once you got past the boundary generated by a noise jammer. Berger's attempt to stuff codeword classified documents into his pants and socks looks like signature-reduction exercise on its face. It was an attempt to excise information; to create a stealth object which could pass through unnoticed.

The presence of countermeasures almost always indicates the presence of real information which the jamming is intended to protect. One of the reasons that coverups are so dangerous is they create the danger of "home-on-jam", where the source of jamming signal is itself targeted. The significance of catching Sandy Berger in the act of purloining classified couments is that it enables investigators to "home-on-jam", to find the beneficiary of the coverup. Where will it lead? Stay tuned. Remember that jamming needs to work just long enough for the real bandit to accomplish its mission.

Six More Hostages Taken After the Philippines Surrenders

The New York Times reports that six more foreign hostages were taken by terrorist groups in Iraq very shortly after Philippine hostage Angelo de la Cruz was released.

Baghdad, Iraq, July 21 — Insurgents in Iraq said today that they had kidnapped six more foreign hostages — and threatened to behead one every 72 hours — a day after a Filipino truck driver was released in exchange for his government's withdrawal of troops from Iraq.

In taking six more hostages, insurgents here seemed aimed at repeating what seemed a concrete success in gaining widespread attention and forcing an American ally to weigh the cost of its presence in Iraq: On Monday, the Philippines finished withdrawing its 51 troops in Iraq, after the captors of the Filipino truck driver threatened to behead him unless his government did so. Iraqi and American officials urged the Philippines not to bend to the captors' demands, for fear that it would encourage more kidnappings.

Today, a group calling itself the Holders of the Black Banners released a videotape, photographs and a statement saying that it had kidnapped six more truck drivers — three Indians, two Kenyans and an Egyptian. The group threatened to kill one captive every three days unless their employer, identified as a Kuwaiti company, closed down operations in Iraq.

These six men, all workers from Third World countries, are the first fruits of the Philippine capitulation. And before the Philippine Left gets started on how it is all the fault of these countries for supporting America it should note that India does not, repeat does not, have any troops in Iraq. Success breeds imitation and the world is witnessing the repetition of the Sipadan hostage appeasement incident on an international scale. These new victims are simply the first of a long series of unfortunates who will be threatened with decapitation unless all nations emulate the surrender of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. Even she knows it. Al Jazeerah reported Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's reaction to de la Cruz's release.

After putting down the phone, Arroyo raised both arms and cried “Praise God!” to the cheers of several officials in her office. ... She added, with a hint of warning to all other Overseas Filipino Workers: "Every life is important. Angelo was spared, and we rejoice. We are all rewarded for it, particularly his loving family and friends. But our people must also know that will not always be the case. Innocents will come into harm's way, and circumstances may not allow such a successful outcome."

What circumstances? When the Philippines runs out of ransom money or concessions to offer? If Arroyo's policy were correct then not only Kenya, India and Egypt, but the Philippines itself, faced with a similar situations in the future, should show no hesitation in repeating the performance. But we are not all rewarded for it, particularly the loving family and friends of the new hostages. These and future victims will pay the price of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's domestic political triumph.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004


The Berger story will make it impossible to post until a sense of its extent emerges. The story of the former National Security Adviser stuffing classified material pertaining to the 9/11 terrorist investigation into his pants and socks is like an opening scene into a larger show; the vestibule into a darkened mansion; the trailer to a movie we are half afraid and half compelled to watch.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Where's the Hostage?

Update: Hostage Released

Philippine hostage Angelo de la Cruz was delivered to the Embassy of the United Arab Emirates. Reuters reports:

A Filipino truck driver held hostage in Iraq was freed and handed over to the United Arab Emirates embassy in Baghdad Tuesday, an Emirates official said. "He has been handed over and we will hand him over to the Philippine authorities," the official told Reuters. Manila ignored criticism from the United States and Iraq's interim government, which accused it of bowing to terrorists, and completed the withdrawal of its humanitarian contingent of troops Monday in response to demands from the kidnappers. The Philippine ambassador in Baghdad could not be reached, and a source at the embassy said he had heard nothing.

In another story Reuters also reported that "the wife of freed Filipino hostage Angelo de la Cruz thanked her husband's kidnappers on Tuesday for not harming him". President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo said "'it was a time of trial and a time of triumph'. She also spoke with Philippine diplomats in Baghdad, thanking them for their efforts. After hanging up, she raised her arms and said: 'Well done!'

I wrote this just an hour earlier.

One of the most important variables to watch in the negotiating process is how the power balance changes at each bargaining step. This is especially true when negotiating the release of a kidnap victim. Before the ransom is paid each side has something the other wants. But once the victim's family has paid the power balance shifts completely to the criminal's side. He's got the money and the victims family can only hope that someone who has lied all his life will suddenly keep his word.

When the Philippine Government pulled all of its 51 troops out of Iraq (and reportedly paid $6M in ransom) it effectively transferred all of its chips to the terrorist gang which kidnapped Filipino truck driver Angelo de la Cruz. Now despite the fact that the Philippines has completed its pullout the hostage has still not been released. ABS-CBN reports:

The nation anxiously awaited Tuesday word on the fate of Filipino truck driver Angelo de la Cruz. Malacañang (the equivalent of the White House) said it is hoping that de la Cruz will be released by Iraqi militants after the government complied with their demand to pull out troops. The last batch of soldiers left Iraq Monday morning and reached the Kuwaiti border at dawn. Reports said they are to board a commercial flight to Manila. Government officials in Manila and Philippine negotiators in Baghdad issued very limited information on de la Cruz's condition.

The Malacañang press corps stayed overnight at the press office awaiting possible announcements from the administration. Reporters who have closed in on the relatives of de la Cruz were likewise clueless as to the progress of the situation. De la Cruz was last seen in a video sent by his captors to Arab TV network al Jazeera.

Hope is all they've got. What is worse, the Philippine Government needs the hostage released more than ever. It would be a political catastrophe for President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo if, despite everything his captors held him back. In fact, his kidnappers would be in a position to demand even more from the Philippine Government to avert both domestic and international humiliation. Where once they held a man now they hold a nation.

Even if de la Cruz is finally released, the Philippine Government may still have to contend with the families of those who may be killed from weapons purchased with the ransom money they may have paid for de la Cruz's release. The Virginian Pilot reports that the families of the sailors who died on the USS Cole are suing Sudan for $105 million "claiming the East African nation provided financing and training for the al-Qaida terrorists who carried out the attack in October 2000." (Hat tip: Jenn Martinez)

“Al-Qaida could not have existed or planned its acts of terrorism, including an act directed at an American Naval vessel, without the support of state sponsors of terrorism” including Sudan, the suit filed in the Norfolk U.S. District Court , says. The lawsuit was filed by the families of Richard Costelow, James R. McDaniels, Andrew Triplett, Kenneth E. Clodfelter, Ronald S. Owens, Kevin S. Rux, and Lakiba N. Palmer.

James Cooper-Hill, a Texas attorney for the Cole plaintiffs, said if this suit is successful, he will seek Congressional approval for payment from $29 million in Sudanese assets that the United States has frozen, but he realizes that is not enough to cover the amount he is seeking. The lawsuit is seeking $10 million for each of five spouses, $10 million for a long-time companion of one of the victims, and $5 million for each of eight children of the victims, and $5 million for one victim’s sibling.

Sudan last year acknowledged its support of terrorist groups, but has since vowed to crack down on such organizations. In May 2003, the Sudanese minister of foreign affairs, during a visit to the United States, issued a public apology for the aid his nation provided to al-Qaida and other terrorist groups.

Any suit against the Philippines may be bigger. Six million dollars buys a lot of IEDs and it has more money than the Sudan. Paying extortion is really another term for giving money to a bully so he can buy a bigger pair of brass knuckles to tattoo your face. Once he's got the brass knuckles he can force enough from you to buy a meat cleaver. After that, the sky's the limit.


Los Alamos on the Potomac

Your not in Kansas any more when things like this happen. (Hat tip: Instapundit).

President Clinton national security adviser, Sandy Berger, is the focus of a Justice Department investigation after removing highly classified terrorism documents and handwritten notes from a secure reading room during preparations for the Sept. 11 commission hearings, The Associated Press has learned.

Berger's home and office were searched earlier this year by FBI agents armed with warrants after he voluntarily returned documents to the National Archives. However, still missing are some drafts of a sensitive after-action report on the Clinton administration's handling of al-Qaida terror threats during the December 1999 millennium celebration.

Berger and his lawyer said Monday night he knowingly removed handwritten notes he had made while reading classified anti-terror documents at the archives by sticking them in his jacket and pants. He also inadvertently took copies of actual classified documents in a leather portfolio, they said.

Berger said, ""I deeply regret the sloppiness involved", demonstrating the little known fact that it is common to stick documents of all descriptions into pants, especially when you are looking for places to store classified material. As of this writing the story had not yet found its way into the Washington Post or the New York Times although the incident apparently took place at least some weeks ago.

The FBI searches of Berger's home and office occurred after National Archives employees told agents they believed they saw Berger place documents in his clothing while reading sensitive Clinton administration papers and that some documents were then noticed missing, officials said.

Following on the recent revelations that former Ambassador Joseph Wilson lied to discredit the Bush administrations claim that Saddam was seeking uranium yellow cake in Africa and a 9/11 Commission involvement that Iran was linked to at least 10 of the September 11 attackers one might be forgiven for thinking that there were efforts to twist the facts to suit a political agenda. It's time to dust off those old Watergate adages: 'It's always the cover up that gets you' and 'Follow the money'.


Reader DN links to the Seattle Times

Breuer said the Archives staff first raised concerns with Berger during an Oct. 2 review of documents that at least one copy of the post-millennium report he had reviewed earlier was missing. Berger was given a second copy that day, Breuer said. Officials familiar with the investigation said Archives staff specially marked the documents and when the new copy and others disappeared, Archives officials called Clinton attorney Bruce Lindsey to report the disappearance.

... Justice Department officials have told the Sept. 11 commission of the Berger incident and the nature of the documents in case commissioners wanted more information, officials said. The commission is expected to release its final report Thursday. Congressional intelligence committees, however, have not been formally notified.

Berger is the second high-level Clinton-era official to face controversy over taking classified information home. Former CIA Director John Deutch was pardoned by Clinton just hours before Clinton left office in 2001 for taking home classified information and keeping it on unsecured computers at his home during his time at the CIA and Pentagon. Deutch was about to enter into a plea agreement for a misdemeanor charge of mishandling government secrets when the pardon was granted

Monday, July 19, 2004

The Swarm

The Palestinian leadership crisis continues to unfold a breakneck speed.

Hundreds of armed Fatah members clashed Sunday evening in Rafah with Palestinian military intelligence troops loyal to Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat's nephew. Shots were fired during the clashes, and the Fatah gunmen torched several buildings used by the military intelligence in the Gaza Strip. The gunmen were protesting the appointment of Musa Arafat by the Palestinian leader over the weekend to the post of head of the Palestinian security forces. Musa said earlier Sunday that he would not resign, despite the protests in the Gaza Strip against his nomination. Arafat's weekend decision to promote his nephew sparked a wave of criticism in the Palestinian leadership Sunday, a day after thousands took to the streets of Gaza City to protest the appointment.

The first gusts of the storm were felt much earlier when United Nations Envoy to the Middle East Peace Process, Terje Roed-Larsen saw fit to criticize Arafat, something the UN does not often do. "Mr. Larsen spoke a couple of days ago before the UN General Assembly in New York on the situation in both Palestine and Israel, holding President Arafat responsible for the current security deterioration and delay in Palestinian reforms." Arafat responded by declaring Roed-Larsen persona non grata throughout the Authority, an ironic order from a man himself confined to a small compound by the Israeli Defense Forces.

Then Arafat's own Prime Minister, who had declared Roed-Larsen's statements out of order, himself resigned ostensibly over the appointment of one of Yasser's relatives to the position of security chief in Gaza. That followed on the heels of the kidnapping of "Gaza Police Chief Razi Jabali and Colonel Khaled Abu Aloula, the director of military coordination for the Gaza Strip, and four French aid workers" by factions opposed to Arafat. If the message needed emphasis his opponents provided it by torching and looting the Palestinian government offices. Trapped in his headquarters on the West Bank Arafat removed his relative, Moussa, as an apparent concession to his opponents. Reuters reports:

Abdel-Razek al-Majaideh was named director of General Security for the West Bank and Gaza Strip, replacing Moussa Arafat, whose appointment to the post on Saturday triggered clashes between gunmen and his loyalists. Moussa Arafat's apparent demotion seemed to be an attempt by the Palestinian president to defuse the most serious leadership crisis he has faced since returning from exile a decade ago. Gunmen opposed to Moussa Arafat -- viewed by many Gazans as a symbol of entrenched corruption -- battled security forces on Sunday in clashes that left 18 people wounded.

The Israeli newspaper Haaretz dryly suggested that all was not well with the Intifada and that Gaza had begun to look like Iraq with team colors reversed and both sides losing.

The reports of chaos and intra-Palestinian violence coming from the Gaza Strip demand a look at parallel situations in other places in order to grasp what is going on. Certain elements of the Gaza instability that ignited over the weekend appear at first to be copied from Iraq: the abduction of political leaders and foreign citizens, the armed local uprising, the establishment of fragmented and family-oriented organizations.

It was not the first time that factions had opposed Arafat. There had been political opposition to him before. What was new was an acceptance that terrorist tactics against him were now permissible. Suddenly Gaza appeared less a threat to Israel than to Egypt. The whole skein of terrorist networks was threatening to blow back right on to its state sponsors.

The length of the present crisis in Gaza is likely to determine whether the outcome will be a civil struggle and a mass of organizations that lack any overall control. Such a scenario is the primary concern of the PA as well as of Egypt and Jordan. Senior Egyptian officials held long conversations with Arafat over the weekend concerning the outbreak of violence. According to Egyptian sources, Arafat tried to calm down the Egyptians, and told them everything was "under control." It's questionable whether this claim relaxed the Egyptian security forces, who determined that a continuing deterioration of the situation in Gaza was likely to lead to the failure of Egyptian intervention in the Strip in connection with Israel's disengagement plan.

Egypt is no longer relying on Palestinian cooperation with an Israeli pullout, an Egyptian source said. "Egypt doesn't want to be caught in the crossfire among PLO organizations, and between them and Hamas. If the Palestinian house cannot organize itself, we will not do it for them," he said. An Egyptian military analyst suggested that "it's possible that at the moment Egypt will be compelled to wait and see who is directing the Palestinian Authority - the street or the leadership."

The near civil war in Gaza; the fighting within the House of Saud; the conflict between terrorist factions in Iraq may not be isolated phenomenon but the consequences of the Israeli and American campaign against terror. From Iran to Lebanon the terror masters are no longer secure in their own kingdoms. In an article in the Naval War College Professor Edward Smith reminds us that Clausewitz defined victory as imposing a state of chaos on the enemy: the definition of a rout. Chaos was itself a condition that the enemy had sought to impose upon us by applying disruptive terrorism to set routines of civilization. Smith points to

a dangerously misleading assumption underlying much thinking today about the “revolution of military affairs”: that the United States will always be technologically superior and thus fight faster and better. In reality, tempo of operations is not solely a function of technology; it is also a function of the centralization of command. One can choose to trade centralized control for speed and scope of operations. This may forgo some of the ability to mass effects on a specific objective, but if the effect sought derives from the pace and scope of the attacks rather than from the amount of destruction, or from a cumulative impact rather than specific actions, then this trade-off may be acceptable. In other words, one could confront a technologically superior enemy by creating a new asymmetric zone in which small, decentralized units could operate successfully but in which an opponent using large formations under centralized control could not respond coherently.

America was going to be left defeated and confused. Those decentralized units, like Al Qaeda's airplane hijackers, could tie down a disproportionately large conventional force as the hapless United States was engaged everywhere and effective nowhere. Yet America, in its own way, was redressing the balance by organizational adaptation and the application of new technology. What if it could act so swiftly, so multifariously and so locally that the enemy would be literally overwhelmed by an attack on all fronts?

Instead of thrusting a rapier into the OODA cycle at precisely the critical time, we could unleash something akin to a swarm of bees. Even if no single unit has a decisive impact, the overall effect might be to leave the victim swinging helplessly at attackers coming from all directions, unable to mount any coherent defense save retreat. In essence, we would provide so many stimuli that adversaries could no longer act coherently but must constantly recycle ... The result would be lockout.

A cyclical reboot. The Blue Screen. By broadly attacking terrorism at many levels yet targeting leadership figures individually, the United States and Israel may have created the chaotic effect of an attacking "swarm" upon the foe. Psychologically speaking, this moment may have arrived when Israel targeted Hamas chief Yassin with a Hellfire missile although the effort existed long before. The perceptive Steven den Beste suggested that Israel's real goal in striking Yassin was to create a series of permanent power vacuums in the enemy ranks: in other words, to unleash chaos. The decentralized and cellular nature of terrorism would then begin to recoil upon the enemy state sponsor. Like a carnival dinosaur, the terrorist murder machine had to be carefully caged to prevent it from turning on its masters. In fact, the whole point of terror was to direct the whole mass of frustrations in repressive and dysfunctional societies at the external scapegoats: the Jihad is an excuse for avoiding the task of making Islamic society work. A successful American and Israeli effort to blunt the enemy attack and destroy its command linkages would turn the beast on its keepers. The key to successfully surfing this wave of chaos is to sit right on the boundary of control and watch the enemy get eaten away.

Opposing forces in any battle are therefore likely to have their own, quite different, edges of chaos. These two edges of chaos define three zones. Zone 1 is the zone of chaos—all the combinations of scale, scope, and pace that neither side would be able to manage. Zone 2 defines a complex, asymmetric region in which the better equipped and trained force can coordinate operations but the other cannot. In Zone 3 is the realm in which both sides can operate comfortably—the zone of order. ... If one side is consistently able to operate beyond the other’s edge of chaos, it can induce a state of despair in which further resistance is, or at least appears to be, futile. Focusing precisely on vulnerabilities most likely to drive the enemy into chaos can accelerate this process.

Whether this is in fact beginning to happen is open to speculation. But in the meantime, let's all watch Arafat try to stay in the tube.

The Six Million Dollar Man

Michelle Malkin links to an article in the Philippines Daily Tribune which reports that the Philippines has paid an Iraqi terrorist gang US$6 million dollars for the release of hostage Angelo de la Cruz.

A ransom of $6 million was offered and paid out to the Iraqi rebels holding Filipino truck driver Angelo de la Cruz hostage, to ensure his release before President Arroyo's scheduled State of the Nation Address (Sona) on July 26, a high level Philippine intelligence officer told the Tribune yesterday. This offer was alleged to have been approved by the President herself, who then tapped Malaysian emissaries for the job, the intelligence officer, who asked for anonymity, said. Of the $6-million payoff, $5 million was shouldered by Malaysia and $1 million by the Landbank of the Philippines, the officer added.

Newspapers in the Philippines are not always reliable but their lies are rarely self-consistent. One way to gauge the plausibility of the Malkin citation is to examine whether it dovetails with past and related events. Let's recall that the initial announcement of the Philippine capitulation was made by Filipino Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Rafael Seguis. He said:

"In response to your request, the Philippines ... will withdraw its humanitarian forces as soon as possible," Seguis said according to the translation of the statement, addressed to the Islamic Army in Iraq group holding 46-year-old de la Cruz. "I hope the statement that I read will touch the heart of this group," said Seguis. "We know that Islam is the religion of peace and mercy."

This is the same Rafael Seguis who is engaged in "peace negotiations" with the branch office of Al Qaeda in the southern island of Mindanao brokered by Malaysian authorities.

The Malaysian advance survey team on the Mindanao peace process will not investigate the alleged existence of Jemaah Islamiyah terrorist training camps in the region although it has been invited to do so. "That's not in their (survey team's) mandate. There will be no probe of JI camps," said Malaysian Ambassador to the Philippines Mohammed Taufik as he led members of the survey team in paying a courtesy call yesterday on Acting Foreign Affairs Secretary Rafael Seguis and members of the Philippine and Moro Islamic Liberation Front peace panels.

There is an established money trail leading directly from contacts which Seguis would have had in the Philippines to international terror. A story attributed to the Philippine Star claims the existence of financial conduits between Islamic groups in the Southern Philippines and Osama Bin Laden's network.

The Abu Sayyaf and other local Islamist terrorist groups appear to be channeling huge sums of money from kidnapping activities to Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda terrorist network in Afghanistan, Justice Secretary Hernando Perez disclosed yesterday. Quoting a US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) intelligence report, Perez said Bin Laden has been using "Muslim terrorists" in the Philippines as a source of funds to finance his worldwide terrorist operations.

So the short answer is, 'yes it could have happened'. The Philippine Foreign Affairs Department had enough contacts through Malaysia and their partners in the 'Peace Process' to hand over six million dollars to Angelo de la Cruz's captors in Iraq. When they wanted to negotiate his release the Philippine Government officials knew exactly what intermediaries to use. But this does not mean that de la Cruz's release is necessarily assured. Filipino hostage release negotiations have traditionally been scuppered by the disconcerting tendency of negotiators to pocket part of the ransom money for themselves. Terrorist leader Galib Andang, aka "Commander Robot" bitterly accused Philippine Government officials of cutting themselves too large a slice of the cake. Among those who provided "matching funds", as in the Malkin citation above, were Malaysian intermediaries. This from Gulf News:

Ghalib Andang, the high profile leader of the hostage-taking Abu Sayyaf Group who was arrested on Sunday, claimed that he shared the $21 million ransom payment he received in 2000 with 10 mediators, including a military general. Andang said he received only a "measly P10 million" ($181,818) in ransom, out of which he gave P1 million ($18,181) each to his first and second wife, P2 million ($36,363) to his third wife, P4 million ($72,727) to Abu Sayyaf leader Mujib Susukan. The Malaysian government and representatives of Libyan President Muammar Kaddafi had paid $1million for each of the hostages, or a total of $21 million.

The greatest danger to the Filipino hostage's release now is the possibility that the Philippines Daily Tribune account is false or inflated. The Abu Sayaf used to suspect that they had been shortchanged by negotiators and turned on their captives. While no collusion can be proved at this point in the Angelo de la Cruz case this sort of thing has happened in the past. The Belmont Club has described how the kidnapping of European tourists at Sipadan in Malaysia degenerated into a virtual slave market where even the European journalists sent to cover the story were kidnapped and redeemed in their turn.

Operationally these ransom payments are actually cash infusions into terrorist coffers and the "matching funds" are probably a kind of disguised contribution by certain Malaysian and Libyan sympathizers to the cause. However that may be, the scale of the ransom reported by the Philippines Daily Tribune can be gauged by comparison to the World Trade Center attacks which cost Osama Bin Laden half a million dollars. The "ransom" paid by the Philippine Government is twelve times that amount and will kill dozens of Americans and Iraqis before it is expended. Six million dollars buys a lot of IEDs.

While it is unclear that there is any statutory restraint to a payment of ransom to kidnappers, it may be unlawful to award oneself a commission in tacit collusion with the kidnappers. If the Philippines Daily Tribune report is accurate, the involvement of the Land Bank of the Philippines in providing the payment may also raise issues of corporate wrongdoing and money laundering.

An additional consideration when corporations decide whether or not to pay a ransom may be the corporation's responsibility to its stockholders. Although there may be a perceived moral obligation to take action, a ransom payment may be a violation of the corporation's legal responsibility to its shareholders as set forth in its corporate charter.

It would be interesting to see whether there is any recorded vote by the Philippine Land Bank directors on this matter or what method was used to pay ransom if any. The Philippine Anti-Money Laundering Act provides:

SEC. 4. Money Laundering Offense. -Money laundering is a crime whereby the proceeds of an unlawful activity are transacted, thereby making them appear to have originated from legitimate sources. It is committed by the following:

(a) Any person knowing that any monetary instrument or property represents. involves, or relates to the proceeds of any unlawful activity, transacts or attempts to transact said monetary instrument or property.

(b) Any person-knowing that any monetary instrument or property involves the proceeds of any unlawful activity, performs or fails to perform any act as a result of which he facilitates the offense of money laundering referred to in paragraph (a) above.

(c) Any person knowing that any monetary instrument or property is required under this Act to be disclosed and filed with the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC), fails to do so.

One "unlawful activity" is specifically identified as "Kidnapping for ransom under Article 267 of Act No.3815 ... " -- the very offense concerned. The Philippines passed this act despite domestic opposition when threatened by international sanctions, including denying licenses to Filipino banks to operate in certain international settings. Yet one can lead a horse to water without getting it to drink. The relatives of Americans and Iraqis who may die in coming months would do well to remember that the Philippine government undertook not to provide money to terrorists. It remains to be seen whether they have kept their word.

Saturday, July 17, 2004

The Man with No Name

David Warren is all for naming a certain branch of Islam as the enemy. He argues that common journalistic and policy references to "Al Qaeda" have misidentified the true enemy.

In the course of three years' intense study of the issue, I've become convinced that there is -- well, this is a slight exaggeration -- no such thing as "Al Qaeda" It is, more precisely, only a name applied vaguely to one of several financing and logistical arms of the Wahabi branch of what could more accurately be called the "Islamic Jihad".

And the reason this is so important, he argues, is that it allows Homeland Security to use the appropriate kind of filter to root out the enemy. It recalls the scene played out in B-movie science fiction plots where the deadly aliens remain invisible until the sensors are tuned to the right frequency. And then they stand out plainly.

This may sound a very abstract analysis, but it has practical consequences for "homeland security". For starters, it means we cannot draw neat, legalistic lines between who's in and who's out of the cabal. For instance, a journalist working for Al-Jazeera may be every bit as committed to the struggle as a man rehearsing the assembly of a mid-flight bomb. Each is advancing the Jihad by the means most available to him. And, exempting the one from prosecution while arresting the other is entirely obtuse.

Indications especially from the FBI are to expect a major terrorist hit on North America, sometime between now and the U.S. election in November. I think they are right to expect this. The political, economic, and social fallout from such a hit is unpredictably huge. But I am less and less confident that it can be prevented by anything resembling normal police methods. This is because, thanks chiefly to "political correction", we cannot look at the whole Jihad, and are in fact only looking for the pointy bits.

Warren argues that only by seeing the real enemy can we fight it. The idea of grappling with the unnameable threat also pervades the writing of Bat Y'eor who recently gave an address to French Senators. What, she asked, was the meaning of all the internal security preparation she had encountered.

One need only look at our cities, airports, and streets, at the schools with their security guards, even the systems of public transportation, not to mention the embassies, and the synagogues – to see the whole astonishing array of police and security services. The fact that the authorities everywhere refuse to name the evil does not negate that evil. Yet we know perfectly well that we have been under threat for a long time; one has only to open one’s eyes and our authorities know it better than any of us, because it is they who have ordered these very security measures. ... Today the war is everywhere. And yet the European Union and the states which comprise it, have denied that war’s reality, right up to the terrorist attack in Madrid of March 11, 2004.

Y'eor maintains that "today, Europe itself is living with this Great Fear" the source of which everyone knows but is afraid to mention in almost the same way that an earlier, more superstitious generation avoided mention of the Devil for fear of conjuring it. But the problem with conceding the point to David Warren and Bat Y'eor is that it merely articulating the word would cause a revolution in domestic and international politics something neither Democrats nor Republicans are prepared to do. Domestically it would mean that for the first time in American history, a major branch of a world religion would be declare a de facto enemy of the state. Not people, not a country; nothing with a capital unless it be Mecca, but a system of religious belief. It would strike at the very root of the American Constitutional system. Internationally it would signify that the principal enemy host, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, whose ruling house is intimately connected to and supports this ideology, should be targeted or its regime changed. Naming Wahabism as an enemy would indicate that the Iraq campaign, which the Bush administration was at pains to reach, was not the end but merely the beginning.

One the most most striking things about the Global War on Terror is how closely it's resolution is linked with the longest standing issues of Western society. For that reason the war intrudes directly and insistently on Western domestic politics. The Madrid bombing of March 11, 2004 and the American Presidential elections in November are cases in point. Both are essentially about the War on Terror. The enemy cannot be named because doing so would overturn the 20th century political and economic foundations to its roots. It would tear down the Big Tent of political correctness; put a prosperity heavily dependent on oil supplies at risk; and replace an entire paradigm of international relations. For that reason naming the enemy will avoided for as long as possible; perhaps even after a mushroom or biological cloud darkens an American city.

Nelson Ascher at Europundits describes how deeply ingrained the Western aversion to waging all out war is. He recalls how Israel of all countries set the standard for appeasement in the 1990s. Despite daily attacks by those who explicitly called for Israel's destruction; despite a memory of the holocaust; despite an intimate knowledge of the Middle East and the presence of a large number of native Arabic speakers who could read the enemies daily messages perfectly, Israel clung to the illusion that it could make peace with murderers until it was no longer possible to deny that they would have to fight if they wished to survive.

In the 90s, not only the Israeli leadership, but much of the population nourished the idea that a definitive peace was well in the way to be achieved and, because of this faith, most newspapers and the media, whenever there was a terrorist attack, said that Israel wouldn’t give in to the terrorists who wanted to destroy the peace process. In other words, one of the requirements for peace was a toleration of the murdering of Jews, and far too many Israelis agreed with this.

Quite simply, no country on Earth tried so hard to appease terror, to believe terror was not terror, to believe not only that peace with the terrorists was possible, but also that it was right around the corner as Israel did in the 90s.

Shortly after the beginning of the current Intifada however, even the Israelis got fed up and thus, after having elected the politicians who were willing to satisfy almost every one of the Palestinians’ exigencies, they changed their minds and not only sent the appeasers to history’s dustbin, but also elected and then re-elected the country’s principal hardliner, a man whose very name had been taboo for many years: Arik Sharon.

Why did they elect Sharon? Because they discovered that, more than inevitable, the conflict with the Palestinians and much of the Arab-Muslim world had never ceased, had never gone away. Anyone who wanted peace got to the conclusion that there wouldn’t be peace before or without victory.

The public awareness of the threat to America despite September 11 is many orders of magnitude less than Israel's. America's immense size, wealth and power provide it with the illusion of invincibility that was never available to the Jews. Consequently its road of appeasement will be much longer; its Michael Moores more numerous and its final awakening more tragic. The Israeli experience shows the end of appeasement is inevitable. But for the present many will regard national security as a game whose rules are to be flouted. Something profoundly uncool. The loss of hard drives containing classified information at a premier nuclear weapons lab shows how few people inhabit the world of David Warren and Bat Y'eor.

For the third time in five years, Los Alamos National Laboratory is shutting down all classified work and hunkering down for investigations and political lashings over the loss of two disks of nuclear-weapons related secrets. ... "I don't like the culture at Los Alamos," said UC vice president for lab management Robert Foley. "I've said it before and I'll say it again: I don't like the culture."

"There is talk going around Congress of having legislation that will forbid the University of California from bidding on (the lab) contract because of this incident," (Los Alamos director) Nanos told lab employees. "People in Washington just don't understand how any group of people who purport to be so intelligent can be so inept." Some critics of security at the nation's weapons complex say the Energy Department should get rid of the university as Los Alamos' manager immediately. "I don't think UC should be given any more chances," said Danielle Brian, executive director of the watchdog group, the Project on Government Oversight. "I don't see how they can redeem themselves any more. It's become laughable."

If it is laughable, then it is dark laughter. What was on those disks? "Think about this,"  Nanos told reporters, "If you were to tell everybody in the world that this information is out there, you might start a treasure hunt." And that 'everybody' includes the men with no name.