First, my take.
I Try to Keep an Open Mind - But There are LimitsI've ranted, on occasion, about red, white, and blue-blooded American nitwits who don't seem to realize that most of the world isn't in the 48 contiguous states - and that although foreigners are, by definition, un-American: that's okay. When an American goes to another country, we're the foreigner. I also have little patience for the more 'sophisticated' folks who are equally convinced that America is the source of everything they don't approve of.
I don't usually say that I've got an "open mind," since I remember the old gag: "Don't be so open minded that your brains fall out."
Still, I try to take cultural differences and other points of view into account. I don't want to come across as one of those Frank Burns clones who seem convinced that there's a moral imperative to drive on the right side of the road.
That said, I think that piloting airliners into New York City's World Trade Center was a bad thing to do. Even if the terrorists felt that they were completely justified.
I'm also convinced that having a shot at blowing up an SUV near Times Square was not justified. But then, I don't think America - or 'the commies' - are to blame for everything that goes wrong.
"One-Off" Attempt by Someone Who Didn't do His Homework?Back to that botched attempt. several points set Faisal Shahzad apart from the Oklahoma City bombers.
- Timothy McVeigh and company knew
- Which sorts of fertilizers required careful handling
- And which wouldn't explode
- Which sorts of fertilizers required careful handling
- Faisal Shahzad
- Not so much
- The Oklahoma City bombers were a group of American citizens
- With no discernible foreign backing
- Faisal Shahzad is an American citizen
- With foreign backing
I see that some staunch defender of the fatherland came up with the bright idea of taking away Mr. Shahzad's citizenship. (CBS News (May 5, 2010)) And that there have been the standard-issue comments about how American Muslims better be careful or the conservatives will come after them.
Like I said, I'm not Anglo, so I'm a bit biased about whether or not letting all those 'foreigners' into the Anglo-Saxon States of America is safe. In my opinion, America isn't in dire danger from the:
Back to the Times Square car bomb: At first, there was no evidence that this was anything more than a one-off botched attempt from some 'regular American' with a few screws loose. Later, there still wasn't evidence that Faisal Shahzad was working with anybody.
The key phrase there is "no evidence." I might feel that Elvis is behind every terrorist attack on America - but without evidence, that's just be a feeling. And a fairly crazy one, at that.
Now, we've got evidence.
Pakistan, the Taliban, Terrorists, and a "Shazam!" Moment?I've used "shazam! moment" to describe a person's sudden understanding of information that he or she already had. Organizations can have "shazam!" moments, too.
Judging from what I read in the news, I think the outfit that's nominally running Pakistan may have had a "shazam! moment recently.
Maybe, just maybe, a few key people in Pakistan's central government may have realized that those nice Islamic fellows who have been killing people they don't like in Pakistan's tribal regions are doing Pakistan no favors - and that America, un-Islamic as it is, isn't against Pakistan.
Here are a few excerpts from the news, plus my take:
"Times Square bombing plot has converged Pak-US' interests: Expert"I'm not quite sure what to make of that phrase, "...the United States' tirade against Pakistan...." I wasn't aware that the United States had made "a speech of violent denunciation" against Pakistan. (Princeton's WordNet definition of "tirade")
oneindia (May 15, 2010)
"Analysts believe that following the botched Times Square bombing plot which saw the United States' tirade against Pakistan asking it to transform its lip service into action and work to dismantle the terror breeding camps flourishing on its soil, Islamabad has begun to see and take seriously the threat posed to its government by the Taliban.
"The recent arrest of two men, who are said to be the failed Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad's accomplices shows how the US and Pakistan's interests have converged, said Stephen Biddle, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington.
"The big change in Pakistan is they have become much more aggressive against the Pakistan Taliban because they have come to see them as a threat to their regime," The Christian Science Monitor, quoted Biddle, as saying.
"The United States, for long, has been asking Pakistan to destroy the jihadi camps running inside its territory, and has been providing all monetary and military assistance, but years of continuous demands have resulted in little ground action...."
It depends on your point of view, of course. While I was doing time in American academia, just about anything that the wrong sort said about America was supposed to be just simply fraught with violence and hatred. But I didn't detect that sort of 'sophistication' in the rest of the oneindia article.
Oh, well: one more unsolved mystery.
"How Times Square bomb arrests unite US, Pakistan"This seems to be the CSM article cited by oneindia that mentioned Stephen Biddle. I'm inclined to agree: Pakistan's central government arresting someone just because that person paid to have Americans killed is a step in the right direction. From my point of view, of course.
The Christian Science Monitor (May 14, 2010 )
"Pakistan's arrests of at least two members of the Pakistan Taliban in connection with this month's attempted bombing in New York's Times Square reinforces how the interests of the US and Pakistan have begun to coincide.
"A senior military official confirmed Friday that in recent days Pakistan arrested at least two individuals who provided training and resources to Faisal Shahzad, the American from Connecticut who allegedly attempted to detonate a car bomb in Times Square earlier this month...."
Bottom line? Pakistan's apparent cooperation with American authorities is probably good news for America and Pakistan. The advantage for American interests is fairly obvious. For Pakistan's leaders, wrapping their minds around the idea that terrorists who want to kill them aren't safe to have around, and that Americans who are trying to restrain the terrorists aren't the enemy, may eventually lead to a Pakistan that's not as much of a mess as the country is now.
'Racial Profiling,' 'Cultural Insensitivity,' and Getting the Job DoneFBI agents, apparently following up on connections between the alleged suspect in the attempted Times Square car bomb attack in the alleged city of New York - sorry, that slipped out, but I'll let it stand - asked a distraught businessman a few questions.
He may not have anything in particular to do with the botched bombing: bit I'm inclined to think that the FBI agents were acting properly.
I'd think the same, if (this is a hypothetical situation) some blond guy named Johnson had been questioned by the FBI in connection with another attempted attack by Scandinavian Lutherans who were incensed over the West's lack of lefse-awareness. (August 1, 2007)
Investigations of attempted bombings have to follow all leads. It'd be nice if the FBI could ignore everybody who isn't directly connected - but they won't know who that is, until after they go through the investigative process.
Here's the news item that got me started on that topic:
"Camden businessman raided by FBI faces eviction"From some points of view, the 'harassment' of Mr. Hinjhara is pure racial profiling and an example of the Gestapo tactics the FBI always employs because they're mean, icky people. To its credit, The Philadelphia Inquirer didn't take that line.
The Philadelphia Inquirer (May 15, 2010)
"A Cherry Hill man whose condo was raided Thursday by FBI agents investigating the attempted bombing in Times Square faces eviction over unpaid rent.
"Court documents show that Iqbal Hinjhara and another resident are three months behind on the $1,285 monthly rent and have been served with an eviction notice. The landlord, Dana M. Covert, filed a complaint on April 22 in Superior Court in Camden County seeking $3,213 in rent and to have the tenants and their belongings removed.
"A hearing is scheduled for Thursday.
"The complaint doesn't spell out Hinjhara's relationship with the other person facing eviction, Assia Quadid. Hinjhara's brother Muhammad Fieaz lives at the condo but isn't listed on the complaint...."
Quite a bit further down in the article, we get a look at what could be called the American justice department's cultural insensitivity:
"...Earlier on Friday, Hinjhara spoke to Fox 29 news.I don't know anything about the Camden businessmen, apart from what I read in the news. I think it's possible that their either unfamiliar with the American preoccupation with paying bills on time and filing all those pesky tax and business forms.
"He said he didn't know Faisal Shahzad, the Pakistani-born suspect charged in the botched May 1 Times Square terror attack.
" 'We have very limited relationship with the community. We are busy in our work,' Hinjhara said.
"U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents detained three other Pakistani men, two in Boston and one in Maine.
"The federal agents were tracing financial connections to Shahzad.
" 'We are very simple. We do . . . international business and we do it through the bank and everything is OK,' Hinjhara said. 'We come home, go to work. That's it.'
"Hinjhara said the agents did not ask him about Shahzad.
"But agents did ask about the business that sells printing machines and ships equipment to Pakistan, India, and Europe.
"Hinjhara bought the Camden property in September from the Long View Publishing Co. for $237,000, according to tax records.
"He is listed in a state business database as agent for M.Y. Printing Equipment, which receives mail at the Cherry Hill condo.
"The state revoked the company's status as a corporation in 2006 for failure to file annual reports. Prompt Printing Press operated at the site for years before closing in early 2009.
"Hinjhara said investigators removed files from his Camden business.
"He said the agents were 'very friendly people.'
" 'We don't mind. We appreciate it they came . . . They're satisfied now,' Hinjhara told Fox 29.
"He said he understood that the FBI was doing its job...."
(The Philadelphia Inquirer) [emphasis mine]
Me? I was raised in America, so I know that it's a good idea to fill out and mail forms that the IRS expects. I'm also rather old-fashioned in my attitude toward paying my bills: partly for ethical reasons, partly because I realize that people will give me more leeway when I really can't pay, if I've got a record of prompt payment. Enlightened self-interest.
Or, it may not be cultural conflicts at all. Some - but not, I think, most - American businessmen and women get the bright idea that it's the little people who pay their bills. Then, a few months or years later, they get their names in the papers, for having failed to practice enlightened self-interest.
- " 'Loose Lips Sink Ships,' Times Square Bomber, and News Leaks"
(May 11, 2010)
- "New York City Times Square, The Pakistani Taliban, and Being Prudent"
(May 9, 2010)
- "Another Bomb Scare in New York City"
(May 7, 2010)
- "New York City Times Square Wannabe Bomber: and We Still Don't Know Everything"
(May 4, 2010)
- "New York City's Time Square: A Bomb, a Vietnam Vet, Electricity, and Congress"
(May 2, 2010)
- "Car Bomb in New York City's Times Square: An Update"
(May 2, 2010)
- "New York City's Times Square, a Smoking SUV, and Decisions"
(May 1, 2010)
- "Pakistan's Swat Valley: Civilians, Soldiers, and the Taliban"
(May 31, 2009)
- "Pakistan, the Taliban, and Peace Through Diplomacy"
(February 17, 2009)
- "Mumbai, India, Pakistan and a Breath of Common Sense"
(December 7, 2008)
- "Pakistan, Terrorists, and the Mohmand Frontier Region: America is to Blame"
(June 20, 2008)
- "YouTube Banned by Pakistan"
(February 24, 2008)
- "The War on Terror: India Has Troubles, Too"
(January 1, 2008)
- "Pakistan is not America"
(December 30, 2007)
- "Pakistan: Still a Mess"
(November 17, 2007)
- "Pakistan: What a Mess"
(November 12, 2007)
- "Pakistan, the Taliban, Al Qaeda, and Nuclear Weapons"
(October 19, 2007)
- "Moderate Muslim Video from Pakistan: Very Good News"
(August 7, 2007)