Posts Tagged ‘terror’
At Harper’s, Scott Horton makes a great catch:
Senator Joseph Lieberman has developed a knack for craven fearmongering. His latest proposal was born from the police operation by New York’s finest that led to the capture of Faisal Shahzad last weekend. Shahzad, a financial analyst, is a United States citizen and, as a long-time resident of Bridgeport, one of Lieberman’s constituents, which Lieberman considers a troublesome complication. Lieberman says he will sponsor legislation under which the president will be given the power to deprive a person of his citizenship simply by bringing certain charges.
Lieberman is vague about the proposals, and he offers no explanation of how a citizen could be stripped of his citizenship by executive fiat consistently with the Constitution,a step that would have all the traditional badges of tyrannical government. He also apparently believes, incorrectly, that only U.S. citizens have a right to receive aMiranda warning. (That’s the sort of mistake that a young lawyer sitting for the bar would never make, although Lieberman has been a lawyer since 1967 and was a former Connecticut attorney general.)
Though obviously legislative adventures such as those of Mr. Lieberman should be avoided at all costs, I think it is important to remember that the “facts” of the Times Square incident are now murky and inconclusive at best. We have a “suspect”, but no idea if he actually did it; we have a confession, but no idea how it was extracted. For all the front-page accusations of his supposed “links” to “The Taliban”, we know only for sure that
1) – A crude, incompetent bomb consisting of M-88 firecrackers (the sort children play with), a sealed tank of propane, and a couple bags of fertilizer was placed at the back of an SUV in Times Square. This is not how you make a bomb, and given that the sort of firecracker he bought cannot undergo self-reignition (one M-88 can’t set off another M-88 with its detonation), I have real doubts that the “explosion” would have even broken through the car. It was hardly the sort of device one envisions upon hearing the phrase “car bomb”, particularly as the citizens of Baghdad have come to know it.
2) – A Pakistani-American citizen was picked up at an airport attempting to leave the country with a ticket he paid for in cash. The Times sent its reporters scurrying to find his relatives the moment the NYPD released his name, and they emerged with a hit piece on how the suspect, Mr. Shahzad, “fit the profile of a Terrorist”. Rife with circumstantial evidence, the article describes his “‘money woes”, his newfound “zeal for Islam”, his “strong religious identity” and so forth. The article does not mention the evidence against Mr. Shahzad, and takes his guilt as a foregone conclusion.
3) – The suspect confessed. But I should stress emphatically that that is all we know of his confession. Mr. Shahzad has been accused of five terrorism-related charges, according to the New Statesman, and apparently gave his interrogates “the goods” – that is, he confessed to having trained in Pakistan, having “links” with “The Taliban”, etc – precisely what our policy planners might have wanted. The AFP was kind enough to note that Mr. Shahzad has not been in a court, and has in fact, “disappeared” since his “dramatic arrest” 4 days ago. We don’t know where he was taken, who interrogated him, or what exactly he confessed to.
I do not wish to be called a “conspiracy theorist”, but it is well known (and given the tone of coverage, tragically well accepted) that if you are accused of the crime of Terrorism, you will be interrogated in secret and tortured at the very least by days or weeks of sleeplessness (try it, reader!). I have no idea how Mr. Shahzad was interrogated, except that it was done by the military. Unless I see documentary evidence to suggest otherwise, I think that given the military’s past experiences with interrogation, we can assume Mr. Shahzad was tortured.
Then what is his confession worth? Very little, it would seem, and even less given the almost hilarious nature of his “crime”. The contents of his car were essentially inert. Is it a crime to have firecrackers, a sealed propane tank, and a few bags of fertilizer in your car at Times Square on a Saturday night? Evidently, if you happen to be on a particular list, everything is a crime.
It would be difficult to overstate the danger of Mr. Lieberman’s proposal and those like it. By classifying a certain class of crime (“Terrorism”) as one for which normal rules do not apply, one creates a dangerous precedent. Who, after all, is a Terrorist? Mostly Muslims, for now, but the Administration has given indications for years that it plans on expanding the definition to, say, civil disobedience.
This is an unhealthy trend, and ought to be stopped. To have two sets of laws – one for people accused of “Terrorism” and the other for everyone else – is illogical and absurd; and worse, it demolishes the idea of whether or not we can conclusively ascertain a “Terrorist’s” guilt. Precisely because Mr. Shahzad likely confessed under torture, we shall never know whether or not he was actually guilty.
The New York Times’ jingoist At War blog gives us a fantastic proposition, starting with the observation that Yemen is not the only “haven” out of which Al Qaeda might operate.
But there is nothing new about Yemen. It has long been a base for Al Qaeda. Osama bin Laden’s family comes from Yemen, the U.S.S. Cole was attacked in Yemen in 2000, many Yemeni fighters were either killed or captured in Iraq, and, during the last decade, the US has helped the Yemeni government fight.
As a side note, will we ever forget this USS Cole incident? It happened a decade ago, and only killed 17 soldiers. I’m willing to bet more die per year in just run-of-the-mill accidents. Taking that aside, this intrepid blogger continues:
But there are many havens for radical militants who follow the violent tenets of Al Qaeda — from North Africa to Europe to Asia.
Today, the front line of the war against terror can be anywhere in the world. Mr. Abdulmutallab was radicalized, recruited and trained in three continents before attempting to explode the Detroit-bound plane.
Yes, that is the solution – instead of rethinking our parameters in this “war against terror”, we must infinitely expand them! But of course this would not be The New York Times without the assumption of the justice of our goals:
The war against terror did not begin with the Bush administration and it will not end during President Obama’s. The battle has started, but I do not see any end. The release of Guantanamo’s prisoners has not helped to deter attacks. President Obama’s use of soft power, the withdrawal plan from Iraq, his Cairo speech, his alteration of the semantics of war, by dropping the term “war against terror,” have not stemmed the flow of would-be suicide bombers.
Imagine! A slight change in semantics (following no real change in murderous policy) failed to staunch the anger against the US! Who would have thought?
Of course, all this war-mongering must have some kind of internationalist counterweight, so our intrepid blogger throws this line in at the very end:
The U.S. cannot unilaterally wage this war. The war against terror is universal; it has no specific zone because the entire world is its war zone. Who will be the next: Yemen or Somalia or Nigeria, or…….? It is a long list.
This is one of the most insidious articles I’ve ever seen out of the Times.
The Times calls that unfortunate desert a “Qaeda bastion” in its headline, while the Post goes for a vaguer effect by claiming that “Al Qaeda” is merely “gaining prominence” there. These stories come on the heels of a premeditated slaughter of Yemeni civilians via US forces, and they can only be seen as justification for further US attacks on the impoverished Yemeni citizens. Let’s see for ourselves how such acts are justified.
The country has long been a refuge for jihadists, in part because Yemen’s government welcomed returning Islamist fighters who had fought in Afghanistan during the 1980s. The Yemen port of Aden was the site of the audacious bombing of the American destroyer Cole in October 2000 by Qaeda militants, which killed 17 sailors.
Audacious! Except it occurred more than 9 years ago, and killed only a fraction of the Yemeni citizens we killed last week (42 dead in one “drone” strike!). And remember, the Yemeni “terrorists” were kind enough to target the US military (which, after all, has no business in their country.) We, on the other hand, kill their civilians with impunity.
The Post goes for more recent justification, dubious and uncorroborated though it may be:
U.S. authorities say Umar Farouk Abdulmuttalab, the Nigerian suspect who tried to ignite explosive chemicals with a syringe sewn into his underwear, may have been equipped and trained by an al-Qaeda bombmaker in Yemen. He allegedly made that claim to FBI agents after his arrest.
Emphasis mine. Given that our secret police routinely interrogate by torture, I think it would be wise to take any “confession” thus extracted with a large grain of salt.
The Times treats us to yet more evidence:
Meanwhile, there have been increasing Yemeni ties to plots against the United States. A Muslim man charged in the June 1 killing of a soldier at a recruiting center in a mall in Little Rock, Ark., had traveled to Yemen, prompting a review by the F.B.I. of other domestic extremists who had visited the country.
A Muslim man traveled to Yemen? Stop the presses! Let us review what The Times is trying to say here. A man charged with killing a soldier, who happens to be Muslim, had, at one point, traveled to Yemen. Therefore, Yemen is a “dangerous haven for Al-Qaeda”, and we must pummel them into their dusty graves. Astounding.
Ironically, The Post gives us the real reason for the “increase in terror activity in Yemen” as a closing line:
On Sunday, Al-Qaeda in Yemen issued a communique declaring that it would take revenge for the Dec. 17 airstrikes.
The damned cheek! The US murders 43 Yemeni citizens and they have the audacity to want revenge? Don’t they understand we’re doing this for their own good? As they said in Vietnam, “we had to destroy the village in order to save it.” It should be clear to anyone not in the pay of our “defense contractors” that our actions in the Arab world are a direct catalyst for international terrorism. Even a cursory look at history should demonstrate this quite easily. The US sends its military into a country, and behold! They see a dramatic increase in “terrorism”!
Pakistan, you will remember, had almost no “terror problem” prior to 2007, when the US began a ham-fisted attempt to “combat Al-Qaeda” by waging war on Pakistan’s villagers. Iraq, under the “brutal tyrant” Saddam had no terrorists of which to speak. Now bombings in Baghdad are a weekly affair. Afghanistan… well, just look at it.
So what makes our politicians blind to such an obvious conclusion? Campaign donations! The Times, to take one example, quotes Joe Leiberman as saying:
“Yemen now becomes one of the centers of that fight,” said Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, independent of Connecticut and chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, who visited the country in August. “We have a growing presence there, and we have to, of Special Operations, Green Berets, intelligence,” he said on “Fox News Sunday.”
Could this full-throated endorsement of war have anything to do with his campaign donors? Given that the largest contributor to Lieber-campaign is “United Technologies” a major arms manufacturer that makes, among other things, our Black Hawk helicopters, I think the answer to that question should be clear.
The time will soon come, I hope, when the American public realizes that those who speak out in favor of this insane “war on terror” do so because their campaign donors compel them to. If I am invested in an arms company, I have every reason to see this war drag on indefinitely. And if that arms company gives me a healthy donation every election cycle, you can bet that I will defend this war at all costs, Yemeni citizens be damned!
Time, I guess, for another out-of-proportion terrorist scare, if today’s newspapers are any indication. This season’s lunatic, conveniently an Arab, was even more incompetent than the celebrated “shoe bomber”, but this of course has not prevented our military establishment from touting it as an act of “sheer terrorism.”
Very, very few details are known at this point, only that the flight was from Amsterdam to Detroit and that the bomber, named Abdul Farouk Abdulmutallab, intended to ignite some primitive “explosive” by mixing a powder and a liquid. We don’t know the scale of the explosive (very small, to judge by its preparation), with whom, if anyone, Mr. Abdul associates, or, most importantly, how he was able to enter a plane with a vial and syringe taped to his leg.
What we do know is that passengers heard a “series of pops” emanating from the rear of the aircraft, subdued Mr. Abdul, and saw the plane land safely. Oh, and we also know the response of our Department of “Homeland Security”.
“This was the real deal,” said Representative Peter T. King of New York, the ranking Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee, who was briefed on the incident and said something had gone wrong with the explosive device, which he described as somewhat sophisticated. “This could have been devastating,” Mr. King said.
On one hand it is clear that inflating the significance of such incidents does nobody any good. Even if Mr. Abdul had successfully brought the plane down, it stands to reason that one airplane falling out of the sky hardly constitutes an “existential threat” (Compare, for instance, the weekly explosions rocking Baghdad). But further, this episode illustrates the fact airport security is a meaningless nuisance and determined persons can still smuggle “explosives” on board. Still further this shows how both “Al-Qaeda” and our present establishment benefit from throwing the US public into a state of anxiety.
There is no doubt that a government seriously interested in mitigating the effects of terrorism would downplay the significance of those acts that occur. Our US government does the exact opposite – they frame every failed attempt as further proof that the world is out to get us, and do more than their part in concocting fear among their citizens (which, after all, is only the definition of “terrorism”). Only thus can they gain popular consent for their brutal resource wars.
It is a sad irony that the citizens of the states least likely to be hit by terrorism (the Midwest) are often the most fervent supporters of our “War on Terror”. Watch now for the assembly-line of “commentators” and “pundits” to come forth, declaring that this latest “attack” stands as further proof that we must “win the War on Terror”.
If Mr. Abdul knew the consequences of his actions, I am sure he would be full of apologies to Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The Obama-Karzai tag team has come up with a novel method for “winning” the war in Afghanistan…… wait for it…… Bribery! Well, not that exactly; we’re just offering them jobs!
One begs for clarification. Are the Taliban dangerous terrorists who pose an “existential threat” to the United States and will provide a “safe haven” for Al-Qaeda because they “hate our freedoms”™? Or are they just wayward souls, essentially good but led astray, whose allegiance can be purchased for a few jobs? (I should mention, in passing, that we could use a few jobs in America also.) Maybe this is just the last-ditch effort of an exhausted fighting-force to exit their quagmire without completely losing face.
The article details how our Generals have struck deals with various “tribal elders” to persuade their supposed constituents to lay down their arms and respect the Afghan Constitution. The strategy stinks of the so-called “surge” in Iraq during 2006-2007, though the latter might have been better named “surge-and-pay”. Along with a massive influx of new troops, President Bush’s “surge” strategy entailed making huge cash payments to former militants, bribing them, essentially, into going along with the Maliki government.
One problem, though. It didn’t work. In 2009, the year after President Bush declared the surge a “success” and Obama used that line in his campaign, Iraq has seen 76 suicide bombings, including the horrific bombing of their foreign ministry last month, which left upwards of 800 casualties, and in which US-sponsored security forces are alleged to have participated.
So what seems to have happened is that Iraq quieted down just enough for the US to rest assured that its oil deals will be honored (our exit strategy formulated mere months after the first deal was signed). Political reconciliation, an end to suicide attacks, any semblance of peace – the surge brought none of these to Iraq.
Now Obama, who has repeatedly claimed that the Iraq surge “exceeded [his] expectations”, evidently wishes to try for the same success in Afghanistan.
God help them.
The Times devotes a front-page article to the Afghan Question today, and in doing so, reveals much of the systemic bias we have come to expect from our dear Grey Lady. The article opens with the question on nearly everybody’s mind – “Does the United States need a large and growing ground force in Afghanistan to prevent another major terrorist attack on American soil?” – but goes about answering it in a most curious fashion. Afghanistan’s centrality to our “war on terror” is hardly questioned. Instead, the so-called “debate” centers around how to subdue that desert people: whether by rifle-wielding Marines or by pilot-less “predator drones”. The continual expenditure of resources on that far-off desert appears a foregone conclusion, and is barely questioned.
However it is worth taking a look at the assumptions inherent within the article linked above. In one form or another these assumptions contaminate nearly all mainstream discussion of our role in Afghanistan. They constitute an orthodoxy, from which our media and leaders dare not sway, and they severely limit the scope of what can and cannot be said regarding Afghanistan.
From the above link:
While it may take years to transform Afghanistan into a place that is hostile to Al Qaeda, it may be the only way to keep the United States safe in the long term.
You see, the “only way” to keep the US safe is by “transforming” Afghanistan. And naturally such transformation can only occur via bombs and bullets. It is interesting to note the choices The Times lays before us: either we send in marines or pummel Afghanistan with remote-control bombs. Infrastructure, food aid, educational initiatives – none of these are viable options in the “transformation” of Afghanistan. We must “keep America safe”, after all.
A so-called “terrorism expert” from Georgetown University concurs. Again, from the above article:
“We tried to contain the terrorism problem in Afghanistan from a distance before 9/11,” Mr. Hoffman said. “Look how well that worked.”
Look how well it worked indeed! He might have said, “look how hard we tried.” It is a fact, well documented, yet hardly discussed, that the United States actively funded and supported the Taliban during the years 1981-2001. All throughout the Soviet War in Afghanistan we armed Taliban fighters (see the adjoning picture of a Talib with a US Stinger Missile), and afterward we viewed them with utter complacency, as a “strange but stabilizing force”. (source)
Again, from The Guardian:
“The United States encouraged Saudi Arabia and Pakistan to support the Taliban, certainly right up to their advance on Kabul in 1996. That seems very ironic now.”
So how hard did we really try to “contain the terrorism problem from a distance before 9/11”? The answer, of course, is “not very.” That The Times’ erudite scholar from Georgetown is unable to grasp this basic fact betrays a very real historical bias.
And once again, The Times appears to be taken in by the idea that Bin Laden attacked us for “our freedoms”, and not very real criticisms of US foreign policy. The assumption appears to be that only a pro-US, anti-Taliban Afghanistan can possibly secure US safety. No mention is given to the causes of terrorism – to The New York Times, terrorism is apparently some senseless, lunatic evil which cannot and should not be explained, only destroyed.
Imagine how it would be if we apologized to Afghanistan for the 30 years of hell we put them through, apologized to the Palestinians for the sheer bullying we support via Israel, and apologized to the Iraqis for a misguided war based solely on greed for their resources. Does The Times think that may do its part in reducing terrorism? Apparently not.