Tuesday, January 5, 2010

If We Don't Discuss It, It Doesn't Exist?

There was a time when you'd find people - good, upstanding pillars of the community, members of the country club who went to the right church and everything - acted as though problems could be ignored into oblivion.

If you remember the fifties and sixties, you know about this sort of thing: the prominent businessman whose secretary had to take a long vacation; the society matron whose doctor prescribed extra-strength happy pills; and so on, all the way to that famous meeting of the Harper Valley PTA.

And, of course, there were the hidebound conservatives who really believed that any criticism of "the government" was tantamount to treason.

That was then, this is now. "The establishment" has a different preferred reality, apparently - and I find that I'm still at odds with it.

"Wouldn't it be Loverly?"

I've made the point before, that I don't think war is nice. I also think that it would be nice if everybody would just get along.

Somehow, though, I doubt that people like Osama bin Ladin are likely to decide that they'd feel a whole lot better if they stopped hating the west and killing Muslims who didn't live up - or down - to their standards.

It would be nice, if you could take a dedicated terrorist, be nice to him, show him how to draw nice pictures, and wind up with a nice person who's ready to embrace the whole wide world in one big fuzzy hug. As Eliza Doolittle sang, Wouldn't it be Loverly?"

Or, as the Beach Boys put it: "Wouldn't it be Nice?"

Not, however, very likely. In my opinion.

Art Lessons for Terrorists: You Can't Make This Sort of Thing Up

I've seen enough applied psychology work, over the decades, to be cautious about dismissing most ideas. "Art therapy rehabilitation," though, is quite close to the edge of the envelope when it comes my willingness to be open-minded.
"...Mohammed Atiq al-Harbi, also known as Mohammed al-Awfi, and Said Ali al-Shihri were sent home to Saudi Arabia, where they were admitted to an 'art therapy rehabilitation programme' and later set free, US and Saudi officials said...."
Those art lessons didn't go entirely to waste. A deputy leader (Said Ali al-Shihri) and a field commander (Mohammed al-Awfi) for Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP, now should be able to draw nice pictures - if called upon to do so. (France24)

Terrorists Don't Believe They're Terrorists

I'm going out on a limb here, but it seems that terrorists - the Islamic-crazy sort, at any rate - believe that what they're doing is right.

Just as Joseph Burges apparently thought that God wanted him to kill people who did naughty things. (A Catholic Citizen in America (July 24, 2009))

Except Al Qaeda and the Taliban have a whole lot of people like Joseph Burges - and they're organized.

I think it's the height of folly to act as if Osama bin Laden, Mohammed Atiq al-Harbi, Said Ali al-Shihri, and others like them, are like misunderstood street kids who just need a break to go straight.

War isn't Nice, But This is War

The War on Terror may no longer exist - officially (March 30, 2009) - but there's a (loosely) organized set of organizations who earnestly, sincerely, passionately believe that God is telling them to kill people.

The people they want to kill don't, quite often, want be killed. What we have, therefore, is a conflict.

The War on Terror isn't a nice, old-fashioned, gentlemanly war where a formal declaration of war is sent - and a battle arranged after tea on some mutually-acceptable afternoon. I rather doubt that wars were ever quite like that - and the War on Terror certainly isn't of that sort.

But it is a war. Over 3,000 people abruptly stopped breathing on September 11, 2001.

Some died when an exploding airliner sprayed bits and pieces of their bodies over New York City. Some didn't get out of New York City's World Trade Center in time. Some, the ones caught on floors above the impact points, couldn't.

Others were crushed, burned, or asphyxiated when an airliner crashed into the Pentagon.

Still others were retaking their airliner when it crashed into a field in Pennsylvania.
I won't 'Get Over It'
It might sound grand to say something like 'put the past behind me' or 'let bygones be bygones' or 'live and let live.' The problem is, the people who keep Al Qaeda and the Taliban going - as well as the other Islamic terrorists - (not all Muslims) aren't willing to 'live and let live.'

And, nice as it sounds, it doesn't take two to make trouble. Not when one of them is intent on killing the other.

This is One Problem That Won't Just Go Away

Back to the 'Harper Valley PTA' strategy, of ignoring a problem - unless it involves someone else.

Pretending that the War on Terror doesn't exist makes about as much sense, I think, a giving terrorists art lessons and feeling that they'll be nice people as a result.

The people running Al Qaeda and like-minded outfits are, quite simply, not nice. Wanting them to be nice, hoping that they'll be nice, treating them nicely, and pretending that everything's nice: isn't nice. It's stupid. And, potentially, lethal.

There's More - There's Always More

If you haven't gotten enough of this post: There's more. I put excerpts from the news and op-ed pieces that got me started, as well as some of my running commentary, after the links in this post.1

Related posts: News and views:
1Excerpts from today's news and views:

Prisoners released from Guantanamo return to fight for al Qaeda

"You won't see this story in many of the U. S. Elite Media...in fact we could not find a mention of it in any of the major papers or broadcast networks. While it is true they all reported several different articles on President Obama's announcement that he was closing Guantanamo they somehow have missed the story. You have to look in the British press to find it.

"The story is that many of the Guantanamo prisoners that are being moved out of the Cuban prison have ended up back on the battlefield fighting with al Qaeda. In fact, 74, at least, have returned to the battlefield. Six prisoners were returned to Yemen last month.

"Meanwhile, there are also reports that a significant number of al Qaeda fighters have moved from Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan to Yemen...."
(News and Commentary, Beaufort Observer)
Lots of assertions, not many specific facts. This is what I started with, this afternoon. I thought that the claims made were quite likely true: but I've learned to research, rather than assume.

So, I started digging: starting with "look in the British press to find it." There's quite a bit of "the British press," but at that clue narrowed the search a trifle.

U.S. suspends Guantanamo prisoner transfer to Yemen

"The Obama administration on Tuesday suspended the transfer of detainees from the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay to Yemen as a result of the deteriorating security situation there.

"President Barack Obama bowed to political pressure from Democratic and Republican lawmakers not to send any more prisoners to Yemen as a result of revelations that a would-be bomber on a Detroit-bound plane had received al Qaeda training in Yemen.

"Several of the roughly 91 Yemeni detainees at Guantanamo Bay had been cleared to be sent home, as the Obama administration struggles to close the prison.

"White House officials made clear that the suspension was considered a temporary one.

" 'While we remain committed to closing the (Guantanamo) facility, a determination has been made, right now any additional transfers to Yemen is not a good idea,' said White House spokesman Robert Gibbs...."
Well, that's interesting. I'm not sure quite what to make of Reuter's turn of phrase - "...President Barack Obama bowed to political pressure...." - but let it pass. Besides, I doubt that someone with the Beaufort Observer would think Reuters was "the British press."

US suspends Guantanamo to Yemen transfers

"The US has said it is temporarily suspending the transfer of prisoners to Yemen from the Guantanamo Bay detention centre in Cuba.

"The move comes after it emerged the Nigerian man accused of trying to bomb a US plane on 25 December was allegedly trained by al-Qaeda in Yemen.

"More than 80 Yemeni men were due to be moved from Guantanamo Bay, as the US tries to shut down the camp.

"Officials fear many could re-join militant groups if sent back to Yemen.

"While we remain committed to closing the facility, the determination has been made that right now, any additional transfers to Yemen are not a good idea," said White House spokesman Robert Gibbs.

"US President Barack Obama has come under pressure to halt Guantanamo transfers to Yemen since investigators said 23-year-old Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab had been trained in that country to blow up a transatlantic flight to Detroit on Christmas Day.

"It was alleged last week that the bomb plot was planned by two men who were released by the US from Guantanamo Bay in November 2007.

"Mohammed Atiq al-Harbi, also known as Mohammed al-Awfi, and Said Ali al-Shihri were sent home to Saudi Arabia, where they were admitted to an 'art therapy rehabilitation programme' and later set free, US and Saudi officials said...."
Do I really need to say it? BBC - the British Broadcasting Corporation - is, well, British. This could be the source alluded to by the B.O.

Said Ali al-Shihri isn't exactly a household name here in America, but it looks like he's a very important person in Al Qaeda. Specifically, there's good reason to believe that he's the deputy leader of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP. Mohammed Atiq al-Harbi? He's only an Al Qaeda field commander. ("Key figures in al Qaeda's Yemeni branch," France24 (January 5, 2010))

Well, at least both of them should be able to draw nice pictures now.

'Bad guys' make it difficult to close Guantánamo

"The Christmas Day airline bomb plot, with its direct links to al-Qaeda in Yemen, is causing a big headache at home for President Obama and, in particular, for his already deeply troubled effort to close Guantánamo Bay.

"Of the 198 detainees still in the prison, nearly half — 91 — are from Yemen.

"In the past 24 hours there have been calls from Republicans and Democrats for the White House to freeze plans to repatriate many of them to Yemen...."

"...There is little confidence in Washington over Yemen's ability to secure its prisoners, or keep tabs on those that have been released. Memories are still fresh of a 2006 jailbreak by 23 top al-Qaeda members. 'All transfers of Yemeni detainees should stop,' Senator Joseph Lieberman, an independent, insisted.

"Two of the four top leaders of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula — Saudis called Said al-Shiri and Muhammad al-Awfi — are former Guantánamo detainees who crossed into Yemen after being sent back to Saudi Arabia. Of the more than 800 who have passed through the site in Cuba since it opened in January 2002, 108 have been Yemenis — and only 18 have been repatriated.' 'Yemen has produced an unusually high percentage of seriously bad guys,' said Benjamin Wittes, a Guantánamo expert at the Washington-based Brookings Institution. 'Given Yemen is likelier than the average country to be really scary, and the Government less likely than about all others to keep an eye on them and manage the risk, you end up with a very difficult combination of circumstances.' "
(Times Online (UK))
Or maybe this is "the British press" resource that the Beaufort Observer's writer used. Or, maybe not.

That failed Christmas weekend attempt to bring down Northwest Flight 253
(December 27, 2009) has been quite an embarrassment to the American president. From the looks of it, though, traditional American news media has recovered from the surprise - and administration officials are being quite a bit more prudent about off-the-cuff remarks. (December 28, 2009)

The Yemen connection? Not so obvious in American news coverage. My opinion.

Key figures in al Qaeda's Yemeni branch

"Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has claimed a botched Christmas Day attack on a US-bound flight in a statement released on the Internet. FRANCE 24 takes a look at some of the group's top leaders.

"Days after the failed attack on Detroit-bound Northwest Airlines Flight 253, the international spotlight has focused on Islamist networks in Yemen, where 23-year-old Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was reportedly trained by an al Qaeda bomb-maker. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has called the situation in Yemen 'a threat to global and regional security'.

"But the threat from Yemen – especially from al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the group that has claimed the Christmas Day plot – is not a new phenomenon.

"US and Yemeni authorities have been familiar with some of the key figures in Yemeni jihadist circles for the past few years. An alarming number of top AQAP leaders have passed through US and Yemeni detention centres and they are well-known to authorities in both countries.

"The 'emir': Nasir al-Wuhayshi

"A Yemeni former aide to Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan, al-Wuhayshi, was in Tora Bora, near the Pakistani border, during the US-led offensive after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. He escaped via Iran and was arrested by Iranian authorities who then extradited him to Yemen in 2003...."
(France24 (January 5, 2009))
This is a pretty good background resource: I hope France24 keeps the page online.

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Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

Even resources which, in my opinion, are simply inaccurate are sometimes useful: these can give valuable insights into why some people or groups believe what they do.

In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.