Saturday, October 22, 2011

Libya's Qadhafi, Qaddafi, Kadafi, or Gaddafi, is Dead: Now What?

The Colonel's name got spelled Qadhafi, Qaddafi, Kadafi, or Gaddafi: depending on who decided how to transliterate his name into the Latin alphabet.1 However it's spelled, the bottom line this weekend is that he's dead.

'Richest Man in the Cemetery'

The Los Angeles Times says that the Colonel may have earned a place in history. Folks are still piecing together the late ruler's financial records, but it looks like his investments totaled around $200,000,000. That's around $30,000 for each Libyan who wasn't the Colonel.

It's not the sort of accomplishment I'd want to be remembered for: but it is fame of a sort. The odds are pretty good that Qadhafi, Qaddafi, Kadafi, Gaddafi, or whatever, will join that elite cadre of ripoff rulers which includes Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire and Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines. Both of whom are dead.

Not that there's anything special about their being dead. That happens to all of us, given time. I'm more concerned about what happens after that. And that's another topic, for another blog.2

The Colonel's Death: Oops, There's a Video

Forensic evidence - and a video - doesn't match the official story about how the Colonel died. I'm not surprised: whoever made the official announcement may have been fed bogus information by whoever killed the Colonel. Still, it's not the best way to start a new government. I've put excerpts from recent news and views at the end of this post.3

I sincerely hope that whoever winds up running Libya next remembers that we're living in the Information Age: and that lies don't have anything close to the shelf life they did when I was growing up.

Speaking of shelf life: The Colonel's body was stored in a commercial freezer in a shopping center. Appropriate, in a way, considering the care with which the Colonel siphoned wealth out of Libya's citizenry and into his personal accounts.

The Colonel is Dead: Now What?

Folks in Syria who are fed up with the current regime say that their own autocrat is next on the list. They may be right.

As I've said before, this isn't the 20th century any more. Or the 18th, for that matter. I think we're looking at one of those big changes in world culture. Which is good news, since it looks like there's less room for rapacious rulers: and bad news, since old-school autocrats will probably kill quite a few folks before going down.

Related posts:
News and views:
1 Even when both writing systems use symbols to indicate sounds, like the Latin alphabet, transliteration from one alphabet to another can be tricky. American English, for example, uses either "k" or "ck" to indicate the same sound, but "c" can represent either the "k" sound, or the "s" sound - and "s" can represent the "sh" sound. I've mentioned issues involving spelling a few times:2 No rants about how someone I don't like will burn in Hell. I really don't need that kind of trouble. I've posted about life, death, and all that, in another blog:3 Excerpts from News and views:
"Libyan Official: Liberation to Be Declared Sunday"
Associated Press, via (October 22, 2011)

"Libya's new leaders will declare liberation on Sunday, officials said, a move that will start the clock for elections after months of bloodshed that culminated in the death of longtime dictator Muammar Qaddafi.

"But the victory has been clouded by questions over how Qaddafi was killed after images emerged showing he was found alive and taunted and beaten by his captors.

"The long-awaited declaration of liberation will come more than two months after revolutionary forces swept into Tripoli and seized control of most of the oil-rich North African nation. It was stalled by fierce resistance by Qaddafi loyalists in his hometown of Sirte, Bani Walid and pockets in the South...."
"Syrians Rally, Saying Assad Is Next"
Nour Malas, The Wall Street Journal (October 22, 2011)

"Bolstered by scenes of jubilation in Libya, protesters in Syria and Yemen streamed out to rally against their longtime leaders Friday, warning their presidents to take a cue from Moammar Gadhafi's violent death.

"Official reactions were muted in the region. Arab media marked the death of Libya's 42-year autocrat as a remarkable victory for pro-democracy protesters in the Middle East.

"In an image from an amateur video from Idlib, Syria, ralliers' signs call Libyan events 'a victory for all Arabs.'

" 'He will be remembered in history as the chancellor of all tyrants,' an editorial in the pan-Arab newspaper Al Hayat said. Lebanese daily An-Nahar said the event 'takes the Arab Spring revolutions to a new turn, folding a painful page.' ..."
As Libya takes stock, Moammar Kadafi's hidden riches astound"
Paul Richter, Los Angeles Times (October 21, 2011)

"New estimates of the former leader's assets — more than $200 billion — are called 'staggering.' If they prove true, he would rank among the world's most rapacious leaders.

"Moammar Kadafi secretly salted away more than $200 billion in bank accounts, real estate and corporate investments around the world before he was killed, about $30,000 for every Libyan citizen and double the amount that Western governments previously had suspected, according to senior Libyan officials.

"The new estimates of the deposed dictator's hidden cash, gold reserves and investments are 'staggering,' one person who has studied detailed records of the asset search said Friday. 'No one truly appreciated the scope of it.'

"If the values prove accurate, Kadafi will go down in history as one of the most rapacious as well as one of the most bizarre world leaders, on a scale with the late Mobutu Sese Seko in Zaire or the late Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines...."
"U.S. and U.N. Demand Details From Libyan Leaders on How Qaddafi Died"
Kareem Fahim, Rick Gladstone, The New York Times (October 21, 2011)

"International calls mounted Friday for Libya's interim leaders to provide a fuller accounting of the final moments before Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi's violent, messy death, as new videos circulated that showed him and his son Muatassim alive, apparently while in the custody of the former rebels.

"The United Nations and two leading human rights groups called for a thorough investigation into precisely how Colonel Qaddafi, who was seen on the Internet in cellphone videos bleeding and heaving as he was manhandled by screaming fighters, wound up dead with what appeared to be bullet wounds to the head.

"One video in particular was receiving heightened scrutiny on Friday because it showed a conscious Colonel Qaddafi wiping blood off the left side of his face, revealing no bullet wound. Later videos of his corpse showed a bullet wound in the same spot, adding to skepticism about the interim government's official explanation that he was accidentally killed during a shootout with Qaddafi loyalists...."
"Colonel Gaddafi dead: Libyan tyrant's body stored in shopping centre freezer" (October 21, 2011)

"Colonel Gaddafi's blood-soaked body has been stashed in a shopping centre freezer, it emerged today.

"With his burial not scheduled for several days, the dead tyrant's corpse is being kept in a chiller used by restaurants to store perishable foods.

"The shopping centre is in the coastal city of Misrata, home of the fighters who killed the ousted leader a day earlier in his hometown of Sirte.

"Gaddafi's body, stripped to the waist and wearing beige trousers, is laid on a bloodied mattress on the floor of the room-sized freezer.

"A bullet hole is visible on the left side of his head and in the centre of his chest, and dried blood streaks his arms and head.

"Gaddafi final pleas to his captors emerged in new video today,[sic]

"He is heard to say: 'What you're doing is wrong, guys. What you're doing is wrong.

" 'Do you know what is right or wrong?'..."

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Infected Killer Robots! Unstoppable Virus!! MILITARY DENIAL!!!!!!!!!? No, not exactly

I've already done two posts today,1 so this one will be (fairly) terse.

Very briefly, a computer virus has gotten into the network that controls Predator and Reaper drones. It's a persistent little keylogger: but may not be a serious threat.

Those are the facts, as reported by two relatively calm journalists.2

It wouldn't take much to take those facts, and produce tabloid-style headlines. I haven't run into these, by the way:


That heading is accurate, but misleading.

America's Predator and Reaper drones not "robots" in the sense of being fully autonomous; but they are 'robotic' in the colloquial sense of the word. Their pilots are human, but operate the aircraft by remote control. These aircraft sometimes carry weapons, and so - in a way - they're "killer robots."

They're also infected with a keylogger virus: the sort of malware that records commands given by the pilots.

This is not a good thing. No classified data seems to have been copied, and pilots have control of the drones. On the other hand, bad code got into military networks - again - and the next infection might be more than just a nuisance.


Anyone whose knowledge of information technology comes mostly from playing video games and watching movies like Colossus: the Forbin Project or the Terminator movies3 might get the impression that computers are dangerous superintelligences, bent on world conquest and the destruction of humanity. Those of us who actually use information technology should have a better understanding of its potential: and limitations.

Predator and Reaper drones got infected. Or, rather, the network they're part of got infected. Removing the keylogger seems to be easy. But they get infected again as soon as they're reconnected to the network.

This is not good news, but it could be worse. I think this annoying bit of malware gives the folks running America's military data networks valuable experience. Eventually they may figure out how to keep the networks secure - and that all of a network has to be secure. Not just the 'important' parts.


A none-too-serious television drama involved Area 51, with an imaginative twist. In the story, there really were alien spaceships and extraterrestrials in Area 51: and stories about alien spaceships and extraterrestrials in Area 51 were a cover story. Accounts of UFOS and all that were so wildly over-the-top, that nobody would take the idea seriously. Even if some of the 'real' facts were discovered.

That's fiction.

Sadly, there seem to be a fair number of folks who really believe that the American military is run entirely by intellectually-challenged, paranoid, control freaks: who have for decades brilliantly concealed The Truth from us, while stoutly refusing to believe that they've got any problems.

I think America's military is run by human beings, and I've been over that before.4

Out here in the real world, the 'military denial' seems to consist of
  • Not shrieking down the hall in a mad panic
  • Using existing procedures to remove infections as they appear
  • Monitoring the system
  • Studying the issue

Information Technology: Good News; Bad News

My checkered job history let me keep up with developments in information technology. I don't mind being able to store, review, search, analyze, and transmit data with a speed and accuracy you just don't get with manual typewriters. Or quill pens, for that matter.

I think today's online communities are, for the most part, a good thing. Folks can get together and learn about each other - even if they live on different continents. Yes, there's a downside: but we're talking about human beings here. 'Trouble' comes with the package.

The Predator and Reaper drone infection happened when data was transferred via external hard drives. That shouldn't have happened, but I think that sort of problem highlights one of America's remarkable strengths.

We don't lead the world in the development of drop-dead-cute robots: but we've got an information technology industry that often lets our military use off-the-shelf hardware and software. That, and an increasingly tech-savvy population, lets the American armed forces concentrate their research and development efforts on something besides basic computer design.

Wouldn't it be nice, though, if we didn't need soldiers, and if everybody would decide to be nice. And that's another topic.

Related posts:
In the news:

1 Today's previous posts:
2 Excerpts from the news:
"..."[The drones] are controlled by standard PCs," Ghosh told "None of this should be surprising." The system should be replaced or "re-imaged" with a virus-free, bit-for-bit copy of the data on the drive in order to get rid of the infection, he said.

" 'If they are connected to a larger network they will be infected again," he said.

"A senior Air Force source with knowledge of the drone program and familiar with the virus that was caught in recent weeks told that Wired's story is 'blown out of proportion' and 'vastly overwritten.'

" 'The planes were never in any jeopardy of "going stupid",' the source said, and the virus 'is not affecting operations in any way ... it showed up on a Microsoft-based Windows system. We have a closed-loop system and heavily protected cockpits -- the planes were never in jeopardy.'

"The virus was introduced when the Air Force was transferring data maps between systems using external hard drives, he said. Very quickly the Air Force protective network tracked the virus...."
(Perry Chiaramonte, (October 7, 2011)

"A computer virus has infected the cockpits of America's Predator and Reaper drones, logging pilots' every keystroke as they remotely fly missions over Afghanistan and other warzones.

"The virus, first detected nearly two weeks ago by the military's Host-Based Security System, has not prevented pilots at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada from flying their missions overseas. Nor have there been any confirmed incidents of classified information being lost or sent to an outside source. But the virus has resisted multiple efforts to remove it from Creech's computers, network security specialists say. And the infection underscores the ongoing security risks in what has become the U.S. military's most important weapons system.

" 'We keep wiping it off, and it keeps coming back,' says a source familiar with the network infection, one of three that told Danger Room about the virus. 'We think it's benign. But we just don't know.'

"Military network security specialists aren't sure whether the virus and its so-called 'keylogger' payload were introduced intentionally or by accident; it may be a common piece of malware that just happened to make its way into these sensitive networks. The specialists don't know exactly how far the virus has spread. But they're sure that the infection has hit both classified and unclassified machines at Creech. That raises the possibility, at least, that secret data may have been captured by the keylogger, and then transmitted over the public internet to someone outside the military chain of command....

"...The Air Force declined to comment directly on the virus. 'We generally do not discuss specific vulnerabilities, threats, or responses to our computer networks, since that helps people looking to exploit or attack our systems to refine their approach,' says Lt. Col. Tadd Sholtis, a spokesman for Air Combat Command, which oversees the drones and all other Air Force tactical aircraft. 'We invest a lot in protecting and monitoring our systems to counter threats and ensure security, which includes a comprehensive response to viruses, worms, and other malware we discover.'

"However, insiders say that senior officers at Creech are being briefed daily on the virus...."
(Noah Shachtmanm, Danger Room, Wired (October 8, 2011)

3 I've discussed technology, science, and the Hollywood treatment, in another blog:4 The American military has sometimes blundered. But I've noticed that they also make a point of learning from mistakes. I've posted good news and bad news about America's armed forces:

Pakistan, Threats, Diplomacy, and All That

Pakistan had more news and editorial coverage toward the end of September, 2011, than usual. About 50 imams said that Muslims should attack America if this country attacks Pakistan.

I don't doubt that some imams issued that sort of fatwa. Odds are that around four dozen did so: which even in a nation the size of Pakistan is a noticeable number.

This doesn't mean that I've started digging a fallout shelter under the basement, though: or try to make my house vapor-tight. I'm concerned, of course, but after decades of 'death to the great Satan America' stuff, the shock value of what those imams did is somewhat reduced.

Pakistan: Still a Mess

I don't envy the folks who are apparently trying to establish a plausible national government in Pakistan: and extend the reach of their influence beyond parts of Islamabad and a few other cities.

They've got a country with a long and complicated history, where much of the territory seems to be in the hands of folks whose culture hasn't changed much in several thousand years.

On the bright side, Pakistan is better off than Somalia.

For example, a few years ago Pakistan's bosses lied about how they would use money they got from the United States. The idea was that the money would go to Pakistan's military. Instead, Pervez Musharraf and his cronies used it for domestic programs.

I think it's a testament to their character and ethics that they used it for government projects, instead of simply pocketing it. Granted, those domestic projects probably helped their public image: but hey, they've got elections to think of. (October 5, 2009)

Diplomacy, Cultural Sensitivity, and Getting a Grip

Some op-ed pieces1 about Pakistan's edgy imams were drearily predictable:
"...But don't the American's [sic] understand the psyche and character of Pakistan's military/intelligence nexus yet? Rather than spurring the ISI/Army into doing more, this public humiliation will have only further dented the frail ego of the military - an ego that has only just recovered from the dishonour of the Osama bin Laden raid...."
George Fulton, South Asian News Agency (September 29, 2011)
There's something to that criticism.

As I recall, American forces had tried several times to capture or kill Osama bin Laden. Every time, bin Laden had moved before they arrived. American commanders had been sharing information with their Pakistani counterparts. Showing the 'insensitivity' Mr. Fulton deplores, the Americans decided to launch an attack without telling Pakistani officials. Perhaps by coincidence, that time Osama bin Laden hadn't gone elsewhere: and now he's dead.

Pakistani officials were furious. Naturally enough. Rules of hospitality have ancient roots. I think they serve a useful function in society. But somewhere along the line, Western civilization learned that sometimes dealing with serious threats is more important than accommodating a guest.

I'm assuming that someone in Pakistan's alleged government was passing information along to bin Laden's people: but who knows? Maybe the string of failed raids with shared information, followed by one successful raid without shared information, was pure coincidence.

Diplomacy, Assumptions, and 'Natives'

America seems to have finally flushed overt bias, the sort that drips from Chief Justice Taney's opinion in Dred Scott v. Sandford,2 out of its system. It's hard to imagine someone describing folks living in the Darfur region as an 'inferior race,' and being taken seriously. Or avoiding legal trouble, most likely.

That's the good news.

The bad news is that too many folks apparently still see humanity divided three ways:
  • Citizens of my country
  • Civilized foreigners
  • 'Natives'
Old ideas die hard.3

I think old notions about what can be expected from 'civilized foreigners' and 'natives' is behind demands for 'cultural sensitivity.' It's like the old movies:
  • 'He's simply not British.'
  • 'You see, Throckmorton? Typical native superstition.'
  • 'An American! You will realize what's at stake!'
Over-simplified? Yes.

Maybe there are diplomatic reasons for ignoring blatantly unethical, and occasionally self-destructive, behavior on the part of national leaders. Maybe an American official wasn't as suave as possible, dealing with yet one more Pakistani government SNAFU.

But I think it's a huge mistake to assume that 'foreigners' can't be held to the same ethical standards Americans should expect from our leaders. And that it isn't
'tolerant, 'open-minded,' or 'diplomatic' to expect the same standards from foreigners.

Ethical Standards? American Leaders?!

I said that Americans should expect ethical standards from our leadership. Competence would be nice, too. As far as the lot we've got in Congress right now? There's an election coming next year: and that's another topic.

Related posts:
News and views:

1Excerpts from news and views:
"Pakistani Threat Escalates as Imams Call for Jihad" (September 27, 2011)

"The United States' strained relationship with Pakistan has grown more tense after 50 influential imams and religious leaders there threatened a jihad if the U.S. attacks the nuclear-armed country.

"The threat came as Pakistan seemed to speak from both sides of the mouth. Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar insisted to the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday that the government is part of the solution in Afghanistan.

" 'Pakistan is willing to do its best with the international partners and, most notably, the governments of Afghanistan and the United States, to acquit itself of this high responsibility (in Afghanistan),' she told the 193-nation assembly.

"But her remarks came after Pakistan warned the United States to stop accusing it of playing a double game with Islamist militants and as it showered praise on China....

"...The religious leaders threatening jihad are associated with the Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC), a coalition of local groups. According to Pakistani news reports, the council issued a press release declaring that it is illegitimate to call the U.S. a superpower because only Allah deserves the title.

"The scholars urged the Pakistani government to end the country's role in the war on terrorism and to try to establish a new international bloc made up of China, Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan....

"...Last week, Adm. Mike Mullen, the outgoing chairman of the U.S. military's Joint Chiefs of Staff, linked the Haqqani network, the most violent faction among Taliban militants in Afghanistan, to Pakistan.

" 'The Haqqani network, for one, acts as a veritable arm of Pakistan's internal services intelligence agency,' Mullen said...."

"Understanding the duplicity"
George Fulton, South Asian News Agency (September 29, 2011)

"The writer lived for several years in Pakistan, working for various TV channels such as Geo and Aaj. He has now moved back to the UK and does freelance consultancy work
The very public spat between Pakistan and the US which emerged last week after Admiral Mike Mullen, a man known for his straight talking, outed the ISI and called the Haqqani militants a 'veritable arm' of the spy agency, has left many analysts perplexed. Why do it? What benefit would America gain from such a public announcement? Perhaps it was frustration on behalf of the Americans. Admiral Mullen is due to retire at the end of the year. Maybe, with his forthcoming demobbing, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff felt able to candidly blow off steam at the perceived duplicity of the ISI? Unlikely. This evidence given to the Senate Armed Services Committee on September 22 was a designed ratcheting up of pressure on Pakistan. The defence secretary, Leon E Panetta, threatened 'operational steps' against Pakistan — a euphemistic term for possible American raids against the Haqqanis in North Waziristan.

"But don't the American's understand the psyche and character of Pakistan's military/intelligence nexus yet? Rather than spurring the ISI/Army into doing more, this public humiliation will have only further dented the frail ego of the military - an ego that has only just recovered from the dishonour of the Osama bin Laden raid. Mullen's announcement will only have helped embolden those anti-American elements within the intelligence services and undermine the pro-Americans within the military...."

"Pakistan won't do more in war on terror: Yousuf Raza Gilani"
AFP, via Economic Times (September 29, 2011)

"Pakistan on Thursday hit back at mounting US demands for action against Al-Qaeda-linked extremists, refusing to be pressured into doing more in the war on terror.

"Washington says it is conducting a final review on whether to blacklist the network linked to Pakistani intelligence as a terror group, which risks then exposing Islamabad to economic sanctions.

"The outgoing top US military officer, Admiral Mike Mullen, accused Pakistan of exporting violent extremism to Afghanistan and called the Haqqani network a 'veritable arm' of its Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency...."

2 Dred Scott v. Sandford, the slavery compromise, and 19th century treaty violations, are part of America's history. But we do, eventually, correct injustices:3 I think it's a good thing that using phrases like 'inferior races' to describe folks without congenital melanin deficiency is something of a faux pas these days. I also think that too many folks cling to old biases, at least unconsciously:

Still Blogging About Anachronisms, Autocrats, and America

My eldest daughter recently asked me if I was writing for Another War-on-Terror Blog any more. If you follow this blog (thank you!), you've noticed that posts are few and far between: particularly compared to a few years ago.

About Interest: Mine and Yours

It's not that I've lost interest. I'm still following what I think may be the major conflict of the 21st century. I still think that the efforts of a few folks to impose their anachronistic views on everybody else are a real threat. Not just a threat to America: Outfits like Al Qaeda have a distressing habit of killing folks who don't dress the 'right' way, or who simply get in the way.

On the other hand, I don't think I'd be doing anyone a favor by spouting off about every event and personality connected with the war on terror. I've posted 1,410 times so far, this one will make it 1,411: and who's going to have time to read all that? Or be interested??

Autocrats in the Information Age

I'm optimistic about the eventual outcome of the war on terror. Al Qaeda and others who desperately want to live in what seems to be an imagined past where their foibles were accommodated face a terrible obstacle. It's not the armed might of the United States, or United Nations resolutions. Most people simply don't like being killed at the whim of their ruler.

Folks in Afghanistan don't seem to have enjoyed having their lives run by the Taliban.

Iraq's citizens didn't like Saddam Hussein, but cooperated in their country's defense. They cooperated with Al Qadea in Iraq, too: until they noticed that the 'lions of Islam' were killing their neighbors for trivial reasons, while the foreign devils were rebuilding Iraq's infrastructure and making progress at stopping the aforementioned lions from killing their neighbors. That's when the Anbar Awakening happened.

Over-simplified? Yes. But I think there's a pattern here. Folks in places like the Middle East put up with remarkably brutal and incompetent leadership, until they learn about what's happened in the last thousand years or so in places like Europe.

The last I heard, old-school autocrats were still killing their subjects in an effort to instill loyalty. And failing.

Why the American Emphasis?

If you've read more than a few posts, you'll have noticed that:
  • I
    • Am an American citizen
      • Who prefers living here
    • Think that America isn't
      • perfect
      • The source of all ickiness
    • Think that
      • Freedom is precious
      • War isn't nice
      • War may be preferable to the alternatives
  • This blog
    • Is written from my point of view
    • Is not
      • Chauvinistically 'pro-American'
      • A screed against
        • Yankee imperialism
        • Western oppression
        • Fluoridated water
"Fluoridated water?!" I remember the 'good old days,' when the establishment was mostly conservative and nearly all Anglo-American: and never want to go back. And that's almost another topic.

So, why the American emphasis?

As an American citizen, I tend to notice what's happening in this country: and pay attention, since there's always an election coming up. More topics.

I think that America is one of the few countries that's able to deal with terrorists: and one of a handful that's willing to do so. Just as important, American leaders are often able to encourage other national leaders to form coalitions.

'Wouldn't It be Nice - - -?'

As I've said before, I don't think war is nice. Things get broken, people get killed. But we don't live in a 'nice' world.

Someday we may have a global authority that's able to deal with threats to the common good. Maybe even without using force. I don't think that's going to happen any time soon.

Until we've got something like Tennyson's "parliament of man ... federation of the world," we'll have to muddle along with coalitions operating under United Nations mandates.

And I'll be writing posts from time to time, about what I think are interesting or major developments in the war on terror.

Somewhat-related posts:

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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.