Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Tolerance Only Goes So Far

There seem to be limits to America's tolerance.

The Westboro ("God hates America") Baptist Church (WBC) in Topeka Kansas has been, ah, picketing funerals of GIs for several years.

The guy in charge of WBC, Fred Phelps, is under the impression that the American military and America itself is some sort of homosexual conspiracy. "Thank God for dead soldiers" and "God hates fags" are some of the epithets his followers use. There's more at "Does Free Speech Include Disrupting Funerals?"

The answer to that post title's question is, for now, "no." A federal jury in Baltimore, Maryland, awarded $2,900,000 (USD) to Albert Snyder, father of Lance Corporal Matthew Snyder, who was killed in Iraq.

The American Judicial system being what it is, I suspect that there will be a seemingly-interminable series of appeals.

Albert Snyder has a website,, where he spells out how you can help. As I said, even with the verdict (this time) going his way, Mr. Snyder is far from being a millionaire.

And, as for donations made to Mr. Snyder's cause:

"In the event that more money is received than necessary to pay for the costs associated with my lawsuit against Phelps and his clan, any excess money will go to benefit veterans returning from the war, in the form of a scholarship. No donations will be paid to me. Your money will be put to good use. First, we will be able to fight back against Phelps and his followers when they retaliate (they have already threatened to do so). Second, if there is excess money, a well deserved veteran will receive help to further his or her education. Again, I will not personally receive ANY money." (from

Related posts, on Individuals and the War on Terror.
Related posts, on Islam, Christianity, Religion, Culture and the War on Terror.
Related posts, on tolerance, bigotry, racism, and hatred.

Al Qaeda and Company:
They Can't be 'Decapitated'

Over in Madrid, Judge Javier Gomez Bermudez told 21 of 28 defendants in the Madrid bombing trial that the Spanish court had found them guilty.

The news has focused on the trial, the March 11, 2004, backpack bomb attacks that killed 191 people, and how the court decisions ranged from acquittal to sentences running to thousands of years.

That's interesting, and important, certainly to the individuals involved.

There's a bigger story here, too.

"Most of the suspects are young Muslim men of North African origin who allegedly acted out of allegiance to Al Qaeda to avenge the presence of Spanish troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, although Spanish investigators say they did so without a direct order or financing from Usama bin Laden's terror network." (emphasis is mine)

Yesterday, I wrote briefly about WWII and the War on Terror, and how today's decentralized Islamic fanatics make a one-to-one comparison impossible.

This is an example. These terrorists, who included Spaniards, were inspired by Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden, but neither taking orders or getting support from Al Qaeda or the terrorist group's leader.

(Usama? Osama? read this post.)

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

American Death Toll Down in Iraq
But the War is Far From Over

One day left in October, and it looks like the U.S. death toll is going to be lower than it's been for a couple years. The Pentagon's representative said that it's too early to call this a trend. Iraq is still a dangerous place.

There's still fighting going on, and the sort of toss-a-grenade-out-the window violence that killed a shopper in Baghdad recently.

And, American soldiers are getting killed: 2/3 from combat this month.

As tragic as these deaths are, Iraq is looking less hopeless. Provincial security has been steadily being transferred to Iraqi (or Kurdish, in the north). Iraq's utilities are getting repaired and rebuilt after three decades of neglect, and sheiks are deciding that Al Qaeda isn't a good group to support.

"Less hopeless?" I'd say "hopeful."

I've compared aspects of the War on Terror to World War II. There are similarities. But the current conflict isn't a replay of that mid-century war.

For starters, WWII had a few well-defined nations threatening the rest of the world. The War on Terror is being fought against a loose collection of Islamic groups, with territories that shift from year to year.

I'll be surprised if I live to see the end of the War on Terror. But I hope that my children, or their children, will be free from religious fanatics who favor violence when it comes to spreading their beliefs.

Blackwater, U.S. State Department, FBI, and Iraq: Be Glad You're Not in Charge

Blackwater is back in the news. Or, rather, the American State Department and Blackwater are.

The State Department encouraged Blackwater guards involved in Baghdad's Nisoor Square shootings, by offering them immunity from criminal prosecution.

Right now, it sounds like the convoy with Blackwater guards was going the wrong way around a traffic circle. The guards thought they were under attack, and started shooting. They killed 17 Iraqis, but left enough witnesses to implicate them.

The FBI is investigating the shootings, but since the State Department promised the Blackwater guards immunity, that testimony isn't available to the FBI.

The guards aren't entirely off the hook. The FBI can try to turn up evidence - now that the crime scene has been in use for over a month - and can try to get testimony on by re-interviewing people.

Meanwhile, back at the American State Department, "it's not clear why the Diplomatic Security investigators agreed to give immunity to the bodyguards, or who authorized doing so." (

There may have been good reason for offering immunity to the Blackwater guards, but it looks to me like someone in the State Department managed to make America look bad: this time, by apparently shielding killers.

Posts about the Blackwater shootings at Nisoor Square, BaghdadThe U.S. State Department

Monday, October 29, 2007

Back to Syria's Mystery Building

Syria, Israel, and America have something in common.

None of these nations is helping the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) ("Employing science in the pursuit of international peace.") figure out what Syria had built on the banks of the Euphrates River.

A commercial satellite took a picture of something in Syria, back in 2003. It's the same facility that, at last report, Syria says was a big, unused, warehouse (see "Satellite Images of Syrian Reactor / Warehouse").

ISIS published a paper online (*.pdf format, 5 pages), "SUSPECT REACTOR CONSTRUCTION SITE IN EASTERN SYRIA: THE SITE OF THE SEPTEMBER 6 ISRAELI RAID?." It's a pretty good collection of available information about the Syrian site, including what kind of reactor it could be, based on similarities to a North Korean reactor building.

One of the bits of information is the size of the Syrian "warehouse," compared to a North Korean reactor building:
BuildingRoof Structure
Syrian "Warehouse"47 x 47 meters24 x 32 meters
North Korean Reactor48 x 50 meters/td>32 x 24 meters

That coincidence in size is no proof, of course. In fact, the ISIS paper says the images "raise as many questions as they answer."

David Albright, president of ISIS, seems frustrated at the refusal of America, Israel, and Syria, to give him all the information he needs to figure out what Syria built on the banks of the Euphrates.

I can understand Albright's frustration. I can also understand the reticence of these governments.

There's a war on. There will be secrets. Some things will be kept secret because lives depend on the other side staying ignorant. Some secrets will be kept to avoid embarrassing influential people.

I don't know what sort of secret the information about that square building is. My guess is that Israel and America don't want to tell any more than they have to about exactly what they knew - and know - about the "warehouse." And Syria isn't likely to admit that it's got a nuclear program: not even other Middle Eastern nations would be likely to take kindly to that idea.

As for the American government giving ISIS all the information it wants, the research organization says that "Throughout its history, ISIS has maintained a commitment to the wide dissemination of its major findings." That's a noble principle, but in times of war, "wide dissemination" of information can have unhappy consequences.

Iraqi Army Aids San Diego Arson Victims

"Iraqi Army Takes Up Collection For SoCal Fire Victims" - Dateline Baghdad - "Members of the Iraqi Army in Besmaya collected a donation for the San Diego, Calif., fire victims Thursday night at the Besmaya Range Complex in a moving ceremony to support Besmaya’s San Diego residents.

"Iraqi Army Col. Abbass, the commander of the complex, presented a gift of $1,000 to U.S. Army Col. Darel ...."

I didn't see this in the news, either.

Naturally enough: no IEDs, no pathetic victims (apart from the people in San Diego), no American brutality.

Maybe I'm getting cynical.

Nope: this should be a rather big deal in the news, and it isn't. The problem may lie in the post's subtitle: "The Truth Of Iraq And How America And Iraq Are Winning The War."

Azerbaijan has been Out of the News
And it's Going to Stay There

The Azerbaijani government, and U.S. and British embassies in Azerbaijan, aren't major news items today. That's because Azerbaijan's National Security Ministry raided a radical Islamic group.

The National Security Ministry says one suspect was killed, several others were caught in a village outside Baku, and that some got away: temporarily. The fanatic Muslims included an army lieutenant, who stole 20 hand grenades, a machine gun, four assault rifles and ammunition for the attack. Adding insult to injury, the lieutenant stole the weapons from his own unit.

That raid "prevented a large-scale, horrifying terror attack that was being prepared by members of this group against several state structures in Baku and embassies and missions of the countries which are members of the international anti-terror coalition," according to the Azerbaijani ministry.

The U.S. Embassy told American citizens to keep their heads down. Not in those exact words, of course. the embassy said that, because of a security threat, its consular office was closed indefinitely, and that Americans should "maintain a high level of vigilance."

The British Embassy is in the Landmark building in Baku. The embassy, and several other offices in the building, were closed today. The Landmark receptionist there said that Norway's StatoilHydro ASA and BP Azerbaijan, were also taking the day off.

My biases and beliefs being what they are, I'm generally impressed with people in the rear guard: the Horatios of this world, last to abandon a position.

That's why my hat's of to the Landmark building's receptionist. Terrorists may keep tenants away, but not that receptionist.

"Cowboy Diplomacy" and
"Live Long and Prosper"

"Cowboy diplomacy" galloped into the news again. One candidate assured the throng that they would see no more cowboy diplomacy, should that candidate be voted into the oval office.

Now, a disclaimer of sorts.

"Another War-on-Terror Blog" is not a political blog. However, since the War on Terror and politics do sometimes collide, I can't avoid the topic entirely.

I make no claim to be unbiased. I don't believe that America is the cause of the global crisis of the month. I do enjoy living in a society where I'm not expected to put my wife under a burqa, or kill my children if they besmirch the family honor.

That said, here's the meat of this post.

I think that individuals matter. Particularly individuals who are in a position to make decisions.

"Cowboy diplomacy" has been used to describe the dangerous, big, rough way that President Bush has conducted international affairs. The Texas-raised president isn't even a lawyer. Unlike most of the better sort in Washington, this Texan went to Harvard: Harvard Business School.

Since words and phrases have specific meanings, I decided to look up just what "cowboy diplomacy" meant.

The "Cowboy diplomacy" article in Wikipedia is one of those with references: and an "orphaned" one, with "few or no other articles" linking to it.

According to Wikipedia, cowboy diplomacy is "a term used by critics to describe the resolution of international conflicts through brash risk-taking, intimidation, military deployment, or a combination of such tactics."

The term's current incarnation is as a quote from the wit and wisdom of Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the USS Enterprise-D. Specifically, in the "Unification, Part II" episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, an American television series.

Back in the real world, American President Bush has caused much alarm and despondency - and anger - at his failure to follow time-honored standards of leadership. Instead of
  • Directing diplomats to discuss the arrangement of tables at meetings (anybody remember Vietnam?)
  • Forming study committees to investigate how to engage in dialog with all members of the international community regarding the complex issues
  • Carefully considering the opinions of leaders in the international community: particularly the French
Instead, the current president has taken what many believe is a reckless approach.
  • Making brash remarks like
  • Unilaterally going it alone in attacking terror-supporting nations (the "uni" in unilaterally" must not mean "one" - a couple dozen nations have been involved in the 'coalition of the willing' at one point or another)
  • Stubbornly refusing to let the seasoned wisdom of the international community - particularly France - determine American policy
I can see how the president seems to be a dangerous man.

On the other hand, I think that the conventional wisdom of avoiding armed conflict at all costs, or at least deferring it until someone else's watch, is dangerous, too.

America is a little over a year away from presidential elections. I expect to hear the phrase "cowboy diplomacy," coupled with an assurance that, should this or that candidate be elected, there will be no more such direct action.

There's a time and a place for seemingly endless rounds of meetings, resolutions, and declarations.

I also think that there is a place for taking action. And, I would prefer that the action take place before another 9/11 slips past law enforcement and the diplomatic corps.

Finally presidents practicing "cowboy diplomacy" predate the starship Enterprise by at least a generation. "The sources of international brutality, wherever they exist, must be absolutely and finally broken down. . . . We are going to win the war, and we are going to win the peace that follows." (Franklin Delano Roosevelt, December 9, 1941)

(see "Watch for Weird Words: Election's Coming Up!")

Related posts, on Individuals and the War on Terror.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Ten Iraqi Sheiks Kidnapped: Who's Promoting Islam Here?

Gunmen in Iraq kidnapped Ten Iraqi Sheiks who were returning home to Diyala province from a meeting in Baghdad. Since they were part of an 'Awakening Council,' a term used by organizations in Iraq like the Anbar Awakening, the odds are that Al Qaeda in Iraq snatched them.

I didn't find any details about the sheiks, except that seven are Sunnis and three are Shiites.

Although it's unlikely, I hope that these brave men escape, or are rescued.

I continue to be impressed by Iraqi leaders: those at local and regional levels, at any rate. Their heroic decision to defend their people, and their country, against Al Qaeda in Iraq may save Iraq from the sort of tyranny Afghanistan experienced.

Another point: These sheiks are Muslims. They oppose Al Qaeda in Iraq, that claims to promote Islam. I don't doubt that the sheiks follow Islam. I do think that Al Qaeda in Iraq, and other "Islamic" terrorist groups, may be no more representative of Islam, than the Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas is representative of Babtists, or Christianity in general.

Related posts, on Individuals and the War on Terror.

USS Cole Mastermind Back in Prison; Or Never Was Released; Or Something Like That

"Mastermind of USS Cole attack still in detention, 2 Yemeni government Web sites say" is how the International Herald Tribune headline reads.

So far, the Yemeni vote on whether or not Jamal al-Badawi was released from prison is two "no," and one abstention. SABA, Yemen's official news agency, didn't run the denial published by Yemen's Defense Ministry weekly newspaper (on September 26??), or the National Congress Party. The latter is the outfit that runs Yemen these days.

I've no idea who is more nearly truthful here.

My biased guess is that al-Badawi was released quietly, in the manner of Arafat's enlightened policy of publicly arresting terrorists, then privately releasing them. Such a policy, if carefully managed, is good for public relations without actually impeding terrorists' operations.

I suspect that the rulers of Yemen had no clue that infidels would ever hear of al-Badawi's release: or that they didn't realize that, even seven years after the Cole, some Americans still give a rip about who killed some of us.

More at

New, and More Complicated,
License System in New York

The Department of Homeland Security wasn't happy with New York state's inclusive plan to give driver's licenses to illegal aliens.

Since driver's licenses are used for so much identification, including getting onto airplanes, Homeland Security had something to be concerned about.

States' rights being what is in America, the federal Department of Homeland Security had to negotiate with the state of New York.

At this point, we're looking at a compromise. New York is still going to give driver's licenses to people who entered this country illegally, but they're going to use a "three-tier" system.

This makes four states with a similar arrangement:
  • Arizona
  • New York
  • Vermont
  • Washington
In this blog, I'm only concerned with the illegal alien situation as it touches on the war on terror.

The multi-tier system of driver's licenses should still allow driver's licenses to be used as identification, while addressing the perceived need to accommodate people who are in the country illegally.

The system should work. If:
  • Rules for using the system are simple, and clearly defined
  • State employees clearly understand the rules, and how to follow them
  • No mistakes are made while entering data, or distributing licenses
  • Airline employees, customs officials, airport security, and everyone else who checks licenses clearly understand the rules, and how to follow them
Mistakes will be made, any time that human beings are involved. The more complicated a system is, the more opportunities for mistakes there will be.

I hope that New York's three-tier system hasn't passed the point where mistakes happen too often.

Nantanz Next?
MOP Could Mop Up Nuclear Program

The bomb weighs around 30,000 pounds, is 20 feet long and has a three-and-a-half inch thick steel skin. It's designed to go as much as 200 feet underground before exploding. It's called "Massive Ordnance Penetrator," or MOP. Reporters call it a bunker-buster.

ABC News reporters discovered that U.S. military commanders wanted it for "an urgent operational need from theater commanders."

Some politicos seem to think that refitting B-2 bombers to hold the MOP is a plot.

ABC started its online article with:

"Tucked inside the White House's $196 billion emergency funding request for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is an item that has some people wondering whether the administration is preparing for military action against Iran.

"The item: $88 million to modify B-2 stealth bombers so they can carry a newly developed 30,000-pound bomb called the massive ordnance penetrator, or, in military-speak, the MOP."

ABC says that stealth aircraft like the B-2 wouldn't be needed to take the MOP to tunnel complexes on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, but that a stealth bomber would be useful in an attack at the Iranian nuclear facility at Natanz.

I ran into a discussion on television this morning, where one politico was concerned about the White House trying to sneak in preparations for a raid on Iran's nuclear facilities, without consulting Congress.

Fair enough. Congress is supposed to be in the loop, where decisions like that are concerned.

I just hope that our leaders don't buy Iran's story about the Nantanz facility being "aimed at the eradication of deserts." It's about as likely to be true as Syria's claim that the Israeli jets blew up sand, an agricultural research station, an unused military building/warehouse, or (more plausible) nuclear reactor

It's just barely possible that Iran is run by nice people, and that Ahmadinejad's and other Iranian leaders' remarks about destroying Israel, their 'death to America' rallys and their habit of shelling Iraq are silly misunderstandings. Or, to use a currently popular word, misconstruings.

And, it's just barely possible that I'd buy a winning Minnesota Millionaire Raffle ticket down at Casey's today.

Serious matters can't be decided on the basis of wishful thinking and long odds. Well, they can: but it's a bad idea.

I think that the least-unlikely explanation for Iran's nuclear program is that Iranian rulers want nuclear weapons, and that they intend to use the things to make the world safe for Islam. Their version, that is.

If the leaders who follow in the steps of Chamberlain have their way, something like this could happen.
  • America and other non-Islamic countries make resolutions, send delegations, and express concern, but do nothing to stop Iran's nuclear program.
  • Ahmadinejad gets a Nobel Peace Prize for talking with the delegates (this is far from impossible: remember Arafat in 1994)
  • Iran gets at least one nuclear weapon
  • A city, probably in America, loses 10,000 or so people and several blocks of real estate, and has to evacuate the survivors.
Another option is to get as much proof as is practical that Iran is, in fact, developing a nuclear bomb. Then, destroy the facilities that Iran is using.

Obliterating the desert eradication/nuclear facilities that Iran's tucked under Nantanz and buried elsewhere won't end the underlying issues, but it will at least delay the bomb-making program.

The problem is that doing the rest of the world such a favor will leave the benefactor with a serious question: Was saving thousands of people's lives the right thing to do; or would it have been better to act like the good guy in stories, and let the bad guy strike first?

Iraqi Imams Declare Al Qaeda
False Holy Warriors

Imams setting off violence by making proclamations in mosques is just another example of Islamic fanaticism, right?

Not this time.

Near Samara, in northern Iraq, imams stated that Al Qaeda should be expelled from the area. They said that members of Al Qaeda were false mujahadeens, or false holy warriors. Fighting broke out after that, killing 16 terrorists.

Ideally, after being identified as false holy warriors, the Al Qaeda fighters would have had a sort of epiphany and renounced terrorism: somewhat along the lines of Jamal al-Badawi in Yemen, but with more plausibility.

That didn't happen, but there are at least 16 of Al Qaeda who won't kill again.

And, there's another part of the Islamic world where imams have spoken out against Al Qaeda.

I'd say this is good news.

Elsewhere in Iraq, responsibility for handling security has been handed off to the Iraqi government or the Kurdish regional government in seven provinces. Karbala will be the eighth province this Monday.

That makes eight handed off, ten to go.

Provinces handed off to Iraqi control:
  • 2006
    • Muthanna
    • Dhi Qar
    • Najaf
  • 2007
    • Maysan
    • Dahuk (1)
    • Irbil (1)
    • Sulaimaniyah (1)
    • Karbala
(1) The Kurdish regional government controls these provinces.

President Bush said that security for all the provinces would be in Iraqi hands by November. That isn't going to happen.

This post has two purposes.
  1. Point out that there has been real progress. It hasn't happened as fast as I'd like, but it's still good news.
  2. Briefly discuss reality, editors, and what we see in the news.
I do not think there is some sort of conspiracy to slant the news. In fact, the Associated Press article I took this information from was relatively even-handed about presenting facts.

However, Iraqi imams preaching against Al Qaeda, and a steady progression of Iraqi provinces being turned over to Iraqi authorities is not the emphasis of the article.

These three paragraphs, leading the article, set the tone. And, for someone skimming through the news, it might be all that was read.

"U.S. forces will turn over security to Iraqi authorities in the southern Shiite province of Karbala on Monday, the American commander for the area said, despite fighting between rival militia factions that has killed dozens.

"Karbala will become only the eighth of Iraq's 18 provinces to revert to Iraqi control, despite President Bush's prediction in January that the Iraqi government would have responsibility for security in all of the provinces by November.

"But the target date has slipped repeatedly, highlighting the difficulties in developing Iraqi police forces and the slow pace of economic and political progress in areas still troubled by daily violence."

Take a look at these phrases:
  • "...despite fighting between rival militia factions that has killed dozens."
  • "...only the eighth of Iraq's 18 provinces"
  • "...despite President Bush's prediction in January that the Iraqi government would have responsibility for security in all of the provinces by November."

One argument is that the AP has merely presented the facts. Just facts. And, that it's mere happenstance that a discussion of White House failures and a death toll of dozens leads the article.

Another is that those "despite," "only," "despite" phrases are intended to denigrate American accomplishments in Iraq, and emphasize the problems that still exist.

Take your pick.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Daylight Map

The war on terror is a global conflict. Right now, it's a little before dawn in Iraq, Well after sunset in North America, and mid-day in Australia.

I like to keep track of what part of the day it is in places I'm reading about, but I'm not all that good at doing time zone calculations in my head. As usual, there are gadgets that do that sort of thing. Here's one of them:

Arrogance, Stupidity, Iraq, and the State Department

U.S. State Department employees haven't been volunteering to work in Iraq, so soldiers have been filling in. The State Department's plan is to order employees to go to Iraq, if they don't get volunteers. Diplomatic work wouldn't be getting done, if it weren't for American soldiers filling in for the State Department types.

An Associated Press story says that "the U.S. military has quietly but repeatedly complained that its forces and other Defense Department personnel have been pressed into service in jobs that should have been filled by State Department personnel.

It's not just in Baghdad: Defense Department employees and service members had to pick up the slack "on provincial reconstruction teams for months to make up for no-show State Department workers. The State Department isn't the only one to ignore Iraq. Commerce and Agriculture have been slow, coming to Iraq: Military officials have said that expertise from those departments could help Iraqi business people get back to their jobs, and farmers back to work, improving the Iraqi economy.

I sympathize with the State Department types. Iraq's climate doesn't compare well with the south of France, and near-daily attacks in Baghdad don't add to the country's allure. There must be dozens of more attractive assignments: Paris, Sydney, Tokyo, Buenos Aires, to name a few.

And, parts of Iraq is a sort of dangerous neighborhood. The diplomats' union says, "assigning unarmed civilians into a combat zone should be done on a voluntary basis."

Fair enough.

I don't know about Commerce and Agriculture, but as far as the State Department goes, I wonder if it wouldn't be a good idea to keep the diplomatic corps in friendlier places, where they can help the global economy by enjoying the local culture.

The State Department has been handling those armed contractors, like Blackwater's, who seem to have developed a regrettable habit of shooting Iraqis - and leaving witnesses. And, the State Department is expected to resist a congressional move to put all armed contractors in combat zones under military control.

Then, there's Alberto Fernandez's little oopsie. CNN reported Fernandez's statement for Al-Jazeera:
"History will decide what role the United States played.... And God willing, we tried to do our best in Iraq.

"But I think there is a big possibility (inaudible) for extreme criticism and because undoubtedly there was arrogance and stupidity from the United States in Iraq." (emphasis is mine)
That was a year ago, and Fernandez appologized. Despite that blooper, he did show diplomatic acumen by coming up with at least two different explanations for his statement.

Fernandez is no low-level flunky in the State Department. When he made that "arrognace and stupidity" statement, he was director of the Office of Press and Public Diplomacy in the Bureau of Near East Affairs.

Which makes me wonder about the attitude of senior State Department leaders. It's one thing for a professor at Boulder or Berkeley or some other citadel of cerebral pursuits to believe that America is an imperialistic, militaristic, warmonger oppressor. It's another matter when a senior State Department leader can unconsciously let a remark about the "arrogance and stupidity" of the United States slip out.

At least in places where it makes a difference, like Iraq, maybe the U.S. Military should be running the diplomatic end of the operation. That way, there'd be more assurance that the job was being done with American interests in mind.

Is that too harsh? I hope so, but I'm not sure.

Jamal al-Badawi: Al Qaeda Leader, Cole Conspirator, and Free Man

Jamal al-Badawi is in the news now.

He's the Al Qaeda leader I wrote about yesterday in "Jamal Badawi Blew Up USS Cole, Yemen Released Him."

Al-Badawi has been convicted of helping plan the attack on the USS Cole, seven years ago. News programs announced his release earlier today. Now, at least one news outlet has published an AP story, "Yemen Frees Al Qaeda Mastermind of USS Cole Bombing." That article fills in a few more details:
  • October 2000: Attack on USS Cole kills 17 American sailors
  • April 2003: Jamal al-Badawi and nine other people suspected of involvement in the Cole attack
  • 2004: Jamal al-Badawi escapes, this time with 22 others, mostly Al Qaeda fighters
  • July 2007: eight Spanish tourists, visiting an ancient Yemeni temple, killed in a suicide attack - After this, President Saleh has said that his government and Al Qaeda have a truce
  • October 11, 2007: Jamal al-Badawi turns himself in, swears loyalty to Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, is released, and Yemeni police are ordered to "stop all previous orders concerning measures adopted against al-Badawi."
  • October 27, 2007: Jamal al-Badawi receives well-wishers at his home
That last point isn't certain, but in case anyone's in the neighborhood and wants to say 'hi' to a terrorist, al-Badawi's home is in the al-Buraika district in Aden.

Yemen's being the ancestral homeland of Osama bin Laden may or may not have anything to do with al-Badawi's release.

Acceptance of the many ways that cultures have of running themselves is a good idea. However, in this case I think the release of al-Badawi smells of good old-fashioned graft: which has its own rules, like 'an honest politician is one who, when bought, stays bought.'

Friday, October 26, 2007

Jamal Badawi Blew Up USS Cole, Yemen Released Him

The former USS Cole commander said that Yemen's release of Jamal Badawi, Al Qaeda leader and planner of the 2000 Cole attack, shows that Yemen is not a reliable ally in the war on terror.

I disagree.

I'd say that Yemen is a quite reliable ally: but not America's.

Jamal Badawi's plan killed 17 American sailors. Yemen's government
  1. Sentenced Badawi to death
  2. Commuted the sentence to 15 years
  3. Released Badawi, after he pledged loyalty to the Yemeni President
Somewhere in there, Jamal Badawi escaped. Twice.


I try to provide links to relatively reliable sources in these posts. That won't happen this time. For one thing, I heard this little gem of Middle East justice on a news program, without an opportunity to nail down exactly where the information was coming from. For another, I can't find anything about Jamal Badawi's good news on the Web.

Finally, since I've spent more time than I should on this blog already today, I've got to quit.

Ballistic Missiles in Cuba = Anti-Missile System in Europe?

Granted, the Soviet Union is a hard act to follow. Now that it's Russia, the temptation to make people think it's the good old days must be enormous.

Just the same, I think but Russia's President Putin went straight over the top today, even by the notoriously flexible standards of accuracy enjoyed by politicians.

At a news conference, capping a European Union-Russian summit in Portugal Putin said that the American plan to put an anti-missile system in Europe is like the Cuban missile crisis. ("Caribbean crisis" is the Russian name for the event.) "Analogous actions by the Soviet Union, when it deployed missiles in Cuba, prompted the 'Caribbean crisis,'" he said.

I'll give Putin credit: He doesn't expect people to believe that the international situation is as tense now as it was back in the sixties. On the other hand, he says it's because he's in charge now, and able to make American leaders understand how serious things are.

In a way, this wacky statement is a sort of relief. In this pre-election season, at least American politicians aren't the only ones spouting nonsense.

On the other hand, Putin's disinclination to have a missile defense system in Europe is troubling. This could be a simple political issue: the Czech Republic and Poland used to be part of the Soviet Union. Putting a radar base and 10 interceptor missiles in those now-independent countries must rankle.

The anti-missile system, which is supposed to keep missiles from Iran from reaching America, wouldn't be ready until 2011, at best.

An argument against this system is that Iran doesn't have missiles, with nuclear warheads, yet. Since there's no threat, there's no reason for setting up a defense, yet.

Fair enough.

In a way, I could see the wisdom of waiting until Iran lobs a few nuclear bombs into this country. There aren't any high-value targets in my part of America, and nothing upwind for a thousand miles or so. New York, Washington, D.C., and Miami could be reduced to radioactive dust, and I wouldn't be directly affected.

Even so, I would prefer that such an attack be stopped, even if Putin doesn't like it.

Does Free Speech Include Disrupting Funerals?

You can't make this stuff up.

While Iraqi sheiks join forces with Americans to drive terrorists from their country, a small but determined group in Kansas is celebrating the deaths of American GIs.

Here are two examples:
"Thank God for IEDs
(Improvised Explosive Devices)
God Himself Has Now Become America's Terrorist, Killing
Americans in Strange Lands for Brokeback Mountain Fag Sins.
WBC to picket funeral of Lance Cpl. Matthew A. Snyder - at
10:15 a.m., Friday, Mar. 10, at St. John's Catholic dog
kennel, 43 Monroe St --- Westminster, Maryland. Killed by
IED - like the IED America bombed WBC with in a terroristic
effort to silence our anti-gay Gospel preaching by violence.

"Thank God for IEDs
God Himself Has Now Become America's Terrorist, Killing
and Maiming American Troops in Strange Lands for Fag Sins.
WBC to picket memorial for Staff Sgt. Donald Munn II -
at 9:15 a.m., Fri., Oct. 26 - at St. Margaret Catholic Dog
Kennel, 21201 Thirteen Mile Rd., Saint Clair Shores, MI.
'For there fell down many slain, because the war was of God.'
I Chron. 5:22. God has irreversibly cursed America.
A nominally Christian outfit, called "Westboro Baptist Church" (WBC) of Topeka Kansas," and run by someone named Fred Phelps, has been taking advantage of the American free speech, as interpreted by the courts, to preach what their leader says is so. (the Westboro Baptist Church of Westboro, Ontario, has nothing in common with the Kansas outfit, apart from the name.)

The WBC seems to think that the American military is run by and for homosexuals, and that God is punishing America for this and other violations of WBC's code of behavior. And, to deal with this perceived situation, they've been picketing the funerals of military personnel killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"Picketing" is something of a euphemism. Westboro Baptist Church followers have carried signs proclaiming "Semper Fi Fags" - with two stick figures that might either be engaged in sodomy, or ineffectively searching for a lost contact lens. There's a sample at one of WBC's websites, That site's content is so moonbat crazy that I suspected it might be set up to defame WBC. A quick check confirmed that the Westboro Baptist Church actually had registered the URL.

WBC has made an impact on America. After disgusting enough people by harassing mourning families, we've got several state laws and a federal law about funeral protests.

Now, a Maryland father is carrying the effort to control WBC to the grassroots level.

The father of Lance Corporal Matthew A. Snyder, Albert Snyder, may be the first individual to file a suit against WBC. And, more to the point, Fred Phelps, the pastor of the outfit. Albert Snyder's motives seem to be what he says they are: "that this suit will spark similar legal actions against Mr. Phelps wherever he seeks to inflict harm upon the memory of our heroes and their families."

Albert Snyder is hardly a hawk, trying to silence anti-war protesters. He told a newspaper: "...And I want answers. They said he was the gunnery on top of the Humvee and the Humvee rolled. When is this senseless war going to end?"

Mr. Snyder's had one setback already. The York Daily Record reports that "Judge: Church didn't defame dad / A federal judge ruled in favor of Westboro Baptist Church in one part of a lawsuit against them." He's keeping up his efforts to
  1. Discourage Mr. Phelps and he merry minnions from hounding mourners
  2. Encouraging other victims of WBC to sue the alternatively-fervent bunch to sue, too
A major problem is that, although the legal fees don't amount to much, less than $100,000 USD, that's more than pocket change for someone in Mr. Snyder's position.

Which brings me to a major reason for my posting this.

Lance Corporal Snyder's Father Needs Help

The Snyder family's lawsuit "simply alleges that one does not have the right to conspire to use lies in order to inflict intentional harm upon persons who are grieving the death of their children." Sounds reasonable to me.

Mr. Snyder has a website,, where he spells out how you can help.
One reason I like living in America is that we enjoy freedom of speech and expression. Even deplorable disgorging like WBC's funeral protests are granted a level of tolerance. I doubt that many governments would put up with Mr Phelps's remarkable views, as expressed on

I do wonder if Westboro Baptist Church would be given so much consideration, if they were not anti-war, but that's an entirely different topic.

Two more points, and I'm done.
  1. The Westboro Baptist Church does not accurately reflect Christian beliefs, any more than (I trust) outfits like Al Qaeda accurately reflect Islamic beliefs.
  2. Although I've provided links to WBC, I do not endorse their beliefs in any way. As a devout Catholic, I'm not likely to: I regularly attend one of those "Catholic dog kennels;" and the Church does not teach that sort of hatred.
Related posts, on Individuals and the War on Terror.
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No Casualties in Anbar - Violence Down in Iraq

Good news from Iraq.

Yesterday, for the first time since March of 2003, there were no military casualties in Anbar.

No American casualties, No Iraqi casualties.

None, zero, zip.

Joint Chiefs spokesman Major General Richard Sherlock made that statement Wednesday.

This looks impressive:
Violence in and around Baghdaddown 59 %
Car bombsdown 65 %
Casualties from car bombs and roadside bombsdown 80 %
Casualties from enemy attacksdown 77 %
Operations against Iraqi security forcesdown 62 %
Assassination attempts for sectarian reasonsdown 72 %

I may be over-simplifying, or being naive, but this really does look like good news. For America and Iraq, at least.

Two things happened in Iraq this year:
  • The Anbar Awakening - sheiks decided that Al Qaeda in Iraq wasn't good for Iraq.
    (They were thinking about it before September, when Sheikh Abdul Sattar Abu Risha's assassination helped make up their minds.)
  • The troop surge that peaked in June, 2007.
At the risk of being simplistic, I think that talking with the sheiks in Iraq, while making a determined effort to weed out terrorists who were beheading and blowing up Iraqis, may have resulted in today's good news.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

America Declared Sanctions Against Iranian Armed Forces

America has declared sanctions against Irans Revolutionary Guard, and about two dozen Iranian entities that the RG controls: including companies and individuals.

This is historic, since it's the first time that America has made these sorts of sanctions against the armed forces of another country.

I'd see this as good news, except that
  • Sanctions don't have a very good track record, in terms of results.
  • America doesn't trade very much with Iran anyway, thanks to the ayatollah's takeover a few decades back.
  • European countries will, unless things have changed a great deal, go on with business-as-usual with Iran.
The sanctions were, however, definitely a gesture. At least it's now clear that America doesn't approve of the way the Revolutionary Guard of Iran supports terrorism.

Satellite Images of Syrian Reactor / Warehouse

Satellite images may or may not have shown that whatever the Israeli armed forces hit last month was a reactor. At any rate, there was a big building there that was within a few yards of being the same size as a reactor in North Korea, with another building on a nearby river that could be a pumping station.

Syria has refined its 'unused military building' to "largely empty military warehouse." The list of Syrian identities for what the Israeli air force blew up, updated, is now:
  • An unused military building largely empty military warehouse
  • An agricultural research station
  • Nothing but sand
  • Nothing at all: There was no raid
Meanwhile, in France, International Atomic Energy Agency director, and Nobel Peace laureate, Mohamed ElBaradei, is angry at the
  • Syrians
  • Israelis
  • foreign intelligence agencies
... because none of them told him about the Syrian nuclear program. That Syria says doesn't exist. "Frankly, I venture to hope that before people decide to bombard and use force, they will come and see us to convey their concerns." (Emphasis is mine.)

Besides, ElBaradei said, an airstrike puts efforts to contain nuclear proliferation in peril. Here's his argument: "When the Israelis destroyed Saddam Hussein's research nuclear reactor in 1981, the consequence was that Saddam Hussein pursued his program secretly. He began to establish a huge military nuclear program underground," he said. "The use of force can set things back, but it does not deal with the roots of the problem." (MSNBC, from Le Monde.)

True, to a point. But not using force doesn't seem the best idea, either.

Although you have to admit that it would be easier to:
  • Let the Bashar al-Asads and Osama bin Ladens of the world do what they want.
  • Give the Mohamed ElBaradeis clerical staffs, paper, and plenty of toner and ink cartridges.
  • Encourage panels and groups of experts to discuss why terrorism isn't the fault of the terrorists and their leaders.
  • Wait and see what gets blown up or burned away next.

Quran to Oklahoma Legislators:
Not the Worst Idea

The Oklahoma Governor's Ethnic American Advisory Council (EAAC) decided to give each of the state's 149 senators and representatives a copy of the Quran. Personalized, embossed with their names.

Not the worst idea I've heard of. Although Muslims are a small minority in Oklahoma, Islam is very much in the public's mind. Encouraging the Oklahoma leadership to get informed about Islam's holy book makes sense.

EAAC even sent an email to the proposed recipients, asking them if they wanted a copy, last Sunday.

Chairwoman of EAAC and Muslim Marjaneh Seirafi-Pour said the Quran was a way to introduce EAAC to Oklahoma lawmakers so they can use it as a resource to "serve their offices and constituents." Oklahoma lawmakers got a copy of another holy book, the Bible, earlier this year from The Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma.

"In the spirit of commemorating Oklahoma's 100th anniversary of statehood, the Governor's Ethnic American Advisory Council is distributing the holy book of Quran to its legislative members," the email said. The Quran giveaway is supposed to be "inspired by a local church, which provided legislators with a copy of the Bible that bears the state's centennial seal. The Quran to be distributed also will bear the centennial seal, either on its jacket or on its first page, Seirafi-Pour said Tuesday, and members' names will be embossed in gold on the cover." ( Sounds spiffy. Pricey, but then these are state legislators: people in that class tend to be rather up-scale.

One of the Oklahoma leaders, in a televised interview, said that he first asked if any state money was being used to prepare and distribute the Qurans. The answer was 'no.' He declined, anyway, since he said that sending him the book wouldn't be a useful way to spend time and money. I failed to catch his name, confound it.

Some of the Oklahoma legislators declined politely, some made it into the headlines: "OK-Some legislators reject Ethnic American Advisory Council's Quran."

One of Oklahoma's representatives, Rex Duncan, said that he's read about the Quran on the Internet.

in his reply to the EAAC email, Duncan wrote "Please encourage you (!) fellow Oklahoma Muslims to speak out and condemn acts of violence committed in the name Muhammad and the Quran.

"Most Oklahomans do not endorse the idea of killing innocent women and children in the name of ideology" Fair enough. However, he says that the Quran supports that sort of killing. "That's exactly what it says," Duncan said. "I think it's pretty straightforward. By their own admission those are the exact words. They don't all practice that." (Duncan, about that Baptist Bible: "It's one of the nicest things I've received in my three years in the Legislature.")

EAAC's Seirafi-Pour, on Duncan's assessment of Islam: "I know he referred to Islam as an ideology. That is not a fact. It is a religion. It is very peaceful, very inclusive."

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) spokesman in Washington, characterized Duncan's characterization of the Quran and Islam as "disturbing" and "offensive" to Muslims. "It just points to the amount of education about Islam and the American Muslim community that is needed in all levels in our society, including elected officials," he said. I'd say Hooper is right.

Other (non-Muslim) people don't go as far as Duncan, but aren't on the same page as the EAAC. One blogger began his post with, "Is there only one kind of Ethnic American in Oklahoma?"

Here's the score, so far, in the Oklahoma legislature:
Total legislators:149
Asking that the Quran not be sent17
Thanking EAAC For the Quran5
Legislative Assistants Requesting Copy1

Not every legislator who asked to not receive a Quran had Duncan's attitude. Representative Scott Martin said 'thanks, but no thanks. David Derby made a don't-send reply, because he already had a copy of the Quran. Others were in the same position. Derby says he got his at Bible college.

As for me, I'd be happy to have a free Quran, as a research source. Providing it was in English. Having my name embossed on it? That's not so much of an incentive.

And, I hope we have more leaders like Martin and Derby, and fewer like Duncan.

Related posts, on tolerance, bigotry, racism, and hatred.

Beheading Iraqis: Not Al Qaeda's Brightest Idea

What happens when you try to bomb and behead your way into the hearts and minds of a country?

In the case of Iraq, you get Osama bin Laden criticizing his followers. In a public forum. And, more to the point, a lot of angry, determined, Iraqi sheiks.

Taking a look at what doesn't make the headlines, it's obvious that American leaders and the rest of the coalition have much less time to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat than headlines suggest.

The commanding officer of Regimental Combat Team-6, Colonel Richard Simcock, recently said, "... we get all sorts of congressional visitors who are looking for the 'Anbar' story, and let me tell you what I tell them: we are winning, but we have not yet won." [emphasis is mine]

Colonel Simcock made that statement in "Interview with Col. Richard Simcock," on ("Benefiting the US Army, US Navy, US Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard").

The Iraq he described, at least Fallujah and the rest of the Anbar Province, is not the bomb-ravaged, fanatic-infested, America-hating, hopeless case that we've heard so much about.

The Iraqis he deals with sound a lot like most of the people I know, here in America:

"Q -- What do the local citizens want -- either from their mayor or from us?
A -- They want the same things in Fallujah as we have in America; health care, education, and technology. They want good schools, markets with food and stuff to buy, along with electricity to run their computers, air conditioners, and businesses.

The assassination of Sheik Sattar Abu Rishi (also Latinized as Sheik Sattar Abu Risha) had an effect: but not the one Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) intended.

Colonel Simcock said, "... they are not intimidated. They saw it as a very tragic event.

"It had the opposite effect that AQI wanted. AQI's message was “Look what happens when you work with the Americans, you wind up dead.” That is not what I am getting from the sheiks that I work with in AO Raleigh, it is just the opposite. They are saddened, but they are angry and makes them work with more energy to get to the same end state that we are trying to reach."
I strongly recommend reading all of "Interview with Col. Richard Simcock." Particularly if you've just heard the latest car bombing scores.
Doing research for this post, I ran into some unfamiliar acronyms used by the American military, and their definitions, from and

AQIAl Qaeda in Iraq
AOArea of Operations
IAIraqi Army
IPIraqi Police
ISFIraqi Security Forces
MiTTMilitary Transition Team

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Resolutions "Worthless Papers" - Iran's President Ahmadinejad

Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said that U.N. Security Council sanctions on Iran are "worthless papers." He declared that Iran will not give up what he calls its right to enrich uranium and produce nuclear fuel.

In a way, I admire his clear declaration. At least you know where he stands.

The U.N. has imposed sanctions on Iran, twice, and now we're into the second day of talk with the European Union's foreign policy chief, about Tehran's nuclear program: That Tehran didn't acknowledge until it was uncovered several years ago.

America and its allies say that the ayatollahs of Iran want to make nuclear weapons. Iran's rulers say 'no.' They say that the major oil-exporting nation needs nuclear reactors to provide power to its people.

Here's what President Ahmadinejad said: "The so-called dossier at the Security Council is a pile of papers that have no value. They can add to those worthless papers everyday because it has no effect on the will of the Iranian nation," at least according to Iranian state television.

I don't often agree with Ahmadinejad, or the ayatollahs who actually run Iran, but this time I think he's got a point.

Another man, a little over ninety years ago, had a few words about how useful ink on paper is. It was 1914, an eventful year:
  • June 28: Archduke Franz Ferdinand assassinated
  • August 3: Germany declared war on France
  • August 4: Germany declared war on Belgium
  • September 15: first western front trenches dug
America's President Franklin Roosevelt wrote a 3,000+ word piece for the New York Times:
"In the first place, events have clearly demonstrated that treaties not backed by force are not worth the paper upon which they are written. Events have clearly shown that it is the idlest folly to assert, and little short of treason against the nation for statesmen who should know better to pretend, that the salvation of any nation under existing world conditions can be trusted to treaties, to little bits of paper with names signed on them, but without any efficient force behind them. The United States will be guilty of criminal misconduct, we of this generation will show ourselves traitors to our children and our children's children, if, as conditions are now, we do not keep ourselves ready to defend our hearths, trusting in great crises not to treaties, not to the ineffective good will of outsiders, but to our own stout hearts and strong hands."

Theodore Roosevelt, writing in The New York Times (October 18, 1914 Magazine Section, Page SM1) (Previewed in The New York Times Archives)
I don't often find myself on the same page as Presidents Ahmadinejad and Theodore Roosevelt. But this is one of those times.

Resolutions and treaties are are effective: as long as the nations affected are law-abiding, and want to cooperate. If the nations affected don't want to comply, resolutions and treaties are no more valuable than so much scrap paper.

Unless there is force to back up the agreements.

I heartily agree with those who believe that it would be nice if everyone were nice.

This isn't a perfect world, though, so accommodations have to be made for nations whose leaders want to bring death and disruption. Unhappily, some of those accommodations involve using military force to stop terrorists and others who don't like freedom.

Related posts, on Individuals and the War on Terror.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Osama bin Laden:
Something Old, Something New

Excerpts from Osama bin Laden's latest audio tape played on Al-Jazeera television yesterday: along with a still photo of the Islamic philosopher and apparent spiritual leader of Al Qaeda.

There was a surprise in the excerpts, and something that wasn't so surprising.

First, the non-surprise.

"It is the duty of the people of Islam in the Sudan and its environs, especially the Arabian Peninsula, to perform jihad against the Crusader invaders and wage armed rebellion to remove those who let them in," a translation and transcript provided by IntelCenter. (Hats off to the Boston Herald for telling where they got the information. IntelCenter monitors extremist Web sites.)

Bin Laden is talking about U.N. 'peacekeepers' in Darfur, trying to slow down the genocide there. This 'death to the peacekeepers' thing is hardly news. Bin Laden deputy, Ayman al-Zawhiri, did a jihad cal for Darfur in a September 20 video. Bin Laden
did about the same thing back in 2006, telling his followers to fight a proposed U.N. force in Sudan.

Another tape, another jihad: Not really news.

An article in the Sudan Tribune pointed out something unusual in the latest audio recording released by bin Laden. "In the sections of the message broadcast Monday, bin Laden took the highly uncharacteristic step of acknowledging that al-Qaida had made mistakes and chiding followers for not uniting their ranks — a reference to the squabbles among various insurgent groups in Iraq.

" 'Everybody can make a mistake, but the best of them are those who admit their mistakes,' " he said. "Mistakes have been made during holy wars but mujahideen have to correct their mistakes."

Osama bin Laden's very unusual criticism of his followers may be more than "the squabbles among various insurgent groups in Iraq." It could be that Al Qaeda and company in Iraq did such an effective job bombing and beheading their way out of the hearts and minds of Iraqis, that bin Laden believed that a public reprimand was called for.

It's not good news for Al Qaeda, when an AP article says, "October is on course to record the second consecutive decline in U.S. military and Iraqi civilian deaths and Americans commanders say they know why: the U.S. troop increase and an Iraqi groundswell against al-Qaida and Shiite militia extremists."

Major General Rick Lynch pointed out that Shiites and Sunnis have joined Americans in defending Iraq: 20,000 "Concerned Citizens" in the past four months.

Related posts, on Individuals and the War on Terror.

"Islamo-Fascism Week" - Neo-Nazis! Commie Haters! Islamophobes! Racists!

Posters popped up at George Washington University (Washington, D.C.)

They made interesting reading.:
  • "Hate Muslims? So do we."
  • "typical Muslim" has features such as
    • "lasers from eyes"
    • "venom from mouth"
    • "suicide vest"
    • "hidden AK-47"
    • "peg-leg for smuggling children and heroin"
  • "to find out more, come to Islamo-Fascism Week"
That's an excerpt, you get the picture. The posters had, presumably, been put up by Young America's Foundation, a conservative group, that is promoting the event.

"Hate Muslims? So do we" - What's Going On?

When I read excerpts from those posters, I thought that one of the genuinely wack nativist "conservative" groups was advertising their biases. Happily, I kept reading.

Islamo-Fascism Week is a series of discussions of which is being promoted by the conservative group, Young America's Foundation. Islamo-Fascism week is planned for dozens of campuses, including George Washington U. "Organizers — who are planning events at dozens of campuses — say that they are just trying to make students aware of the threats posed by radical Islam to the United States." ("Are You Ready for 'Islamo-Fascism Week'?," Inside Higher Ed (October 9, 2007))

At first glance, I thought that Young America's Foundation were tring to be funny, and failing miserably. George Washington U. officials ripped the posters down - an understandable move - and enraged students with more traditional views.

Hats off to Inside Higher Ed. Their article included a link to a Web page about Islamo-Fascism Week by the event's sponsor, Terrorism Awareness Project (TAP).

More remarkable, Inside Higher Ed posted a long quote from the TAP page:

"The purpose of this protest is as simple as it is crucial: to confront the two Big Lies of the political left: that George Bush created the war on terror and that Global Warming is a greater danger to Americans than the terrorist threat. Nothing could be more politically incorrect than to point this out. But nothing could be more important for American students to hear. In the face of the greatest danger Americans have ever confronted, the academic left has mobilized to create sympathy for the enemy and to fight anyone who rallies Americans to defend themselves. According to the academic left, anyone who links Islamic radicalism to the war on terror is an 'Islamophobe.' According to the academic left, the Islamo-fascists hate us not because we are tolerant and free, but because we are 'oppressors.' "

I'm going to repeat two points from that quote.

According to the academic left:
  • Anyone who links Islamic radicalism to the war on terror is an 'Islamophobe.'
  • The Islamo-fascists hate us not because we are tolerant and free, but because we are 'oppressors.'
I spent quite a bit of the sixties near a college, and the seventies and eighties on campus: those attitudes and beliefs are very familiar to me.

Back to the Posters

According to the Muslim Students Association (MSA) at George Washington University, the posters "were incorrectly attributed to a conservative student organization called Young America's Foundation (YAF), and the GW chapter of YAF denied any involvement with the posters. Seven GW students later confessed to having put up the posters to create awareness about the Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week (IFAW) that YAF will be hosting at the end of this month."

The MSA has their own event, scheduled during the same week: "We would like everyone to know that the MSA values the first amendment right to freedom of speech a does not look to prevent the occurrence of Islamo-fascism Awareness Week (IFAW). Moreover, the MSA in cooperation with GW PeaceFORUM, Islamic Alliance for Justice and the Arab Student Association campus will be hosting an educational outreach program , “Peace…not Prejudice”(PnP), that hopes to advance campus dialogue and provide a platform for constructive academic discourse. Peace…not Prejudice is a nationwide program guided by MSA National and is being hosted at 50 other college campuses during the week of IFAW."

Hats off to the MSA at George Washington University. Instead of claiming that Islamo-Fascism Week is an attack on them, they're setting up their own discussions. These could be "constructive."

Red Scare, Neo-Nazis, Racists, and All That

I'm not so impressed by remarks like "Islamo-fascism Awareness Week polarizes the campus community and keeps stereotypes alive. ...The most glaring indication that the program has a sinister motive is in the name itself. By branding the week as 'Islamo-Fascism,' it immediately sets up a charged atmosphere targeting a group of people based on race and religion. It also immediately simplifies very complex issues into the current stereotypes of terrorism perpetuated by media and pundits.

"These events are reminiscent of the Red Scare Era, when fear of Communism swept across the nation." (The Daily Californian (October 16, 2007))

So, if you don't agree that conservative concerns about Islamic terrorism are legitimate, you're a McCarthyite? To be fair, The Daily Californian doesn't quite say that.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) said that "the main speaker for an upcoming series of "Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week" lectures at university campuses nationwide recently offered a keynote address at a European gathering that included representatives of racist or "neo-Nazi" political parties." (PR Newswire (October 21, 2007)

That "European gathering" seems to be the 'Counterjihad Brussels 2007' conference in Belgium, attended by those with links to far-right parties such as Filip Dewinter of Vlaams Belang (Belgium) and Ted Ekeroth of Sverigedemokraterna (Sweden). Both parties have been accused of either having a racist platform, a neo-Nazi past or having links to neo-Nazis and other racists.

I emphasized "have been accused of." Let's remember that it's an accusation. Just an accusation. I could accuse Nancy Pelosi of being a space alien, or an agent provocateur in the pay of North Korea, but that wouldn't mean that such (lunatic) accusations are true. Lets remember: Accusation isn't proof.

Debate Not Wanted

On the other hand, accusation can be very effective at stopping debate. Provided that the accusations involve emotionally charged words and phrases, and that the accusers what I'll call momentum: a history of people reacting in predictable ways.

"Nazi," "racist," "Red Scare:" these are emotionally-charged words. "Islamophibic" or "Islamophobe" promise to become equally effective; provided that they are repeated often enough over the next several years.

After all, nobody wants to be 'phobic' - that isn't 'mature.'

I see much of the outcry against "Islamo-Fascism Week" as an effort to suppress discussion on college and university campuses. My experience has been that there is a well-defined set of acceptable beliefs in American higher education, and that opposing views are most certainly not welcome.

This is just a suggestion, but: If you read or hear about those neo-Nazi, Commie-hating racist islamophobes at "Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week," take a deep breath and think before forming an opinion.

Related posts, on censorship, propaganda, and freedom of speech.
Related posts, on tolerance, bigotry, racism, and hatred.

Monday, October 22, 2007

The World Needs Heroes -

And it has them.

At 2:24 p.m. today, the president of the United States presented the Medal of Honor, posthumously, to a Navy Seal.

Michael Murphy's four-man unit was under attack by a numerically superior force. To radio for help, Murphy moved to an exposed position. He got a message out, but was wounded. He was killed later, after he re-joined his unit.

Today, about two years later, the American president said: "For his courage, we award Lieutenant Michael Murphy the first Medal of Honor for combat in Afghanistan. And with this medal, we acknowledge a debt that will not diminish with time -- and can never be repaid."

I'm pretty sure that Lieutenant Murphy wasn't the last hero America has.

To everyone in the American armed forces: Thank you.

(Transcript and photos of the presentation at President Bush Presents Medal of Honor to Lieutenant Michael P. Murphy, U.S. Navy )

More posts about Individuals and the War on Terror.

UPDATE October 23, 2007

If you didn't read or hear about this ceremony, or Lieutenant Murphy, in the news, don't be surprised. CNN and MSNBC didn't cover it during the hours they call 'prime time.' The New York Times did cover the event: in the "Metro" section.

Related posts, on censorship, propaganda, and freedom of speech.
Related posts, on Individuals and the War on Terror.

Fires in California: a Reality Check

As if we didn't have enough problems already: Wildfires are burning in California from Malibu to San Diego. About 226 square miles are involved. If the fires were all in one place, they'd cover a square about 15 miles on a side.

Arson seems to be the cause of one of the fires in Orange county. Make that all three in that county, I heard on televised news.

As for the rest, it's probably early days to say how they started.

It's certainly odd, even given the weather, that a series of fires broke out pretty much simultaneously all the way from Malibu to San Diego.

About a quarter of a million people have been evacuated in the San Diego area.

What I haven't heard, or read, in news is any connection with the War on Terror.

Except for a comment left on AOL News' "Raging Calif. Fires Burn Scores of Homes." I'm quoting the whole thing, exactly as it appeared, so you can get the full flavor of this pronouncement.

"jerdking 09:54:13 PM Oct 22 2007
Report This!


(The same comment was posted in the same place 09:54:12 PM Oct 22 2007, and 09:54:10 PM Oct 22 2007.)

Of course, that's not news: it's someone's idea of a comment on a news item.

What's the Point of this Post?

Although I seriously doubt that the California fires are connected with the War on Terror, it isn't out of the question.

Attacking the western states of the United States with wildfires has been tried before. Around 1944, balloons from Japan started landing around the west coast of America. The balloons carried three types of bombs: explosive antipersonnel devices, and two kinds of incendiary devices.

All the effort the Japanese put into the balloon bomb program succeeded in some useful propaganda programming, and six American fatalities: five kids and a woman near Bly, Oregon. It looks like they were clustered around the balloon, and someone tugged at it the wrong way.

(There's a detailed, discussion of Japan's remarkable weapon system at "The Great Japanese Balloon Offensive.")

It Could Happen Again

The habit Islamic fanatics have of using human agents, like suicide bombers, makes arson a distinct possibility.

A handful of people with weapons no more complicated than a four-gallon backpack weed sprayer filled with alcohol or gasoline could, under the right conditions, send a nearly-unstoppable wildfire toward towns and cities in southern California.

Muslims, Money-Laundering, and a Mistrial

Holy Land Foundation Mistrial

The headlines were mostly of the "Mistrial For 5 Of 6 In Texas Terror-Funding Trial" variety. The Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development (HLF) had been giving money to legitimate-seeming Palestinian charities. Since HLF said it was helping Muslim families and children who were poor and/or homeless because of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, they had been pretty good at raising money. And, making friends among Muslims. The federal government said that HLF was laundering money for Hamas.

Since Hamas is a terrorist organization, this would be illegal. The American government froze Holy Land Foundation's assets, and has been trying several of its officials on 32 counts, including aiding a terrorist organization, conspiracy, money laundering and tax charges.

The trial has been long, and complicated. Apparently, the connection between the Palestinian charities and Hamas depended mostly on one man's testimony: a "a lawyer for the Israeli domestic security agency Shin Bet, who was allowed to testify under a pseudonym."

Now, it looks like there's been a mistrial. Three of the jurors said that the jury's verdict as read wasn't what they'd agreed on.

There's a gag order on the prosecution (and, I suppose, on the defense, too), so we don't know if the Federal government is planning to go for a retrial.

HLF and the Mideast Peace Process

The Holy Land Foundation has earned the FBI's attention at least as far back as 1993. That's when eavesdropping on a meeting in Philadelphia showed HLF participants supporting the Hamas goal of "derailing a peace agreement between Israel and Palestinians." Keeping the Israeli-Palestinian conflict going is a reasonable policy for HLF, from one point of view. Without all those poor, homeless children, they'd be out of a job.

CAIR Celebrates HLF Trial Non-Results

With HLF officials not-exactly-exonerated today, we're reading what we're supposed to think about it.

Here's what a civil rights organization had to say:

CAIR Speaks

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) Board Chairman Parvez Ahmed approved the jury's actions. Here's part of what he said:

"After 19 days of deliberation, the jurors did not return even a single guilty verdict on any of the almost 200 charges against these men, whose only 'crime' was providing food, clothing and shelter to Palestinian women and children. It seems clear that the majority of the jury agreed with many observers of the trial who believe the charges were built on fear, not facts. This is a stunning defeat for prosecutors and a victory for America's legal system."

He may be right.

Whether the HLF officials are guilty or not, this is the way the American judicial system is supposed to work: methodically and carefully. I don't know whether HLF is a front for terrorism, or the victim of circumstance - being in the wrong place, at the wrong time, doing the wrong things, with the wrong people.

The "fear, not facts" line got re-phrased by CAIR's executive director, Nihad Awad. The federal case "failed in Chicago, it failed in Florida, it failed in Texas," he said. "The reason it failed is the government does not have the facts; it has fear."

It's a good line. And, for me, evokes memories of Franklin D. Roosevelt's "we have nothing to fear, but fear itself."

However, there's more to a person, or an organization, than effective rhetoric. What they do, and why the do it, is important, too.

CAIR is an enthusiastic, maybe over-enthusiastic, upholder of what it calls Muslim rights: and quick to speak out against what it says are islamophobic acts. I've written about CAIR's forthright approach before:At least once, that I know of, CAIR quickly changed a page on their website: one calling people "bigots," when they didn't properly appreciate New York City's "Muslim Day" being celebrated a few days before the anniversary of 9/11.

CAIR may have a very good reason for wanting to see the HLF officials found not guilty: a reason beyond their battles against those they call islamophobes.

I found only one news source mentioning that the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) is one of a dozen or so Muslim groups named as unindicted co-conspirators. It's part of the AP story, but most news outlets seem to have decided to edit that detail out.

Why the relative silence on this point?

I could be wrong, but I'd guess that there are two major reasons why so many news outlets don't report the a major civil rights group (allegedly) helping the other side of the War on terror:
  • Most editorial boards are staunch supporters of civil rights, and the groups they think are supporting civil rights
  • CAIR has a marked tendency to identify any attack, real or imagined, on a Muslim person or group, as some sort of bigotry - at best

Pakistani Government Promises Objective Investigation of its Involvement in Bhutto Assassination Attempt

Last week, Benazir Bhutto survived an assassination attempt that killed over 130 people in Karachi, a major port city in Pakistan. She was in a convoy, celebrating her return from exile. One reason for the high death toll was Bhutto's popularity. She and her convoy were surrounded by a crowd of supporters. And, at least one suicide bomber.

The Pakistani government has to investigate the attack: over ten dozen deaths in a major city, of a returning popular leader, with international news coverage, can't be ignored. My guess is that at least some in Pakistan's government would just as soon close their eyes and pretend the attack never happened. The October 18, 2007, assassination attempt involves some debatable judgment and odd coincidences.
  • Bhutto refused government plea to take helicopter to Pakistan founder's tomb
  • Bhutto's convoy took 10 hours to get through Karachi
  • Street lights went out at sunset, giving attackers cover
  • Phone service went out, preventing Bhutto's convoy from asking for help
  • Bhutto went inside her armored vehicle shortly before the blasts
  • Bhutto wants American and British experts to help Pakistan's government investigate the attack
  • Pakistan's government
    • Refuses foreign help
    • Made an odd choice for chief investigator of the attack:
      a police officer who had been present when Bhutto's father was "allegedly" tortured in 1999
      (Bhutto's father was accused of corruption: presumably, that's why he was "allegedly" tortured)
Pakistan's Interior Minister Aftab Khan Sherpao said that the investigation will come to correct conclusions without foreign help. Or interference? "I would categorically reject this," he said. "We are conducting the investigation in a very objective manner."

Pakistan's government has evidence to work with:
  • Photographs
  • Pieces of vehicles
  • Pieces of people
    including what presumably is a suicide bomber's head - somewhat the worse for wear, but recognizable
I don't blame Bhutto for wanting American or British experts to be involved in the investigation. First, they might have more experience and training that the local specialists. Second, they'd be good witnesses of the investigation: a sort of guarantee that facts get considered.

Pakistani politicos and others already have their own explanations for who's to blame for the bombing:
  • Bhutto, who should have followed government advice, and taken a helicopter instead of driving through Karachi
  • Bhutto's husband, who tried to blow up his wife in order to boost her popularity
  • Elements in the Pakistani government, who don't want Bhutto to win upcoming elections
The idea of Pakistani government people being involved isn't as bizarre as it might seem. Mujahedeen groups, formed in part by General Zia-ul Haq to fight the former Soviet Union in Afghanistan, later helped form Al Qaeda and the Taliban.

Pakistan leader Musharraf's religious affairs minister is Haq's son. The young Haq is one of the people that Bhutto is responsible for the assassination attempt.

It's a complicated situation, to put it mildly.

I think it's also a case in point for how we can't assume that countries in the Middle East and elsewhere are equivalent to America and other countries that enjoy the rule of law.

One of the most obvious differences is that here in America, politicos throw metaphorical mud at each other. Elsewhere, they throw bombs. Or, send young nitwits with grenades and suicide vests.

Related posts, on Individuals and the War on Terror.

Posts about Benazir Bhutto.

Individuals and the War on Terror

Although I acknowledge the importance of vast socio-economic forces and other metacauses, I also think that individuals make a difference. In the War on Terror, some people stand out.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran
American Armed Forces
American Civilians
Benazir Bhutto, Pakistan
The Holy Father
Iraqi Leaders
Supreme Leader of Iran Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
Osama bin Laden, from Saudi Arabia
Stanislav Petrov, the man who saved the world

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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.