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The Road Ahead

Nov 14, 2015
You reap what you sow.

Western Europe and the United States have, for several hundred years, enslaved, colonized, and ravaged peoples around the world. We have overthrown legitimate governments and established and supported brutal tyrannies in the name of stability and to support unbridled capitalistic pursuits. While our enviable democracies have enabled a level of peace and plenty which made of us the beacon of hope for the rest of the world, we have taken every opportunity to withhold a share of our good fortune. And in being willing to go to any lengths to protect and enhance our own interests, we have created monsters of much of the rest of the world.

What happened in Paris last night; in New York, Pennsylvania, and Washington, DC, in 2001; in Madrid in 2004; in London in 2005; is going to happen continually and forever. Unless we change.

We know what we have to do, to undo what we have done. It will be a long and bumpy road. If we donít decide to take it, however, we know the cost, as we already have begun to see our enviable democracies under attack, both from within and without.

Our only avenue to continued peace, liberty, and plenty is to bring peace, liberty, and plenty to the world.

tags: Terrorism

Of Cartoons and Carnage

Jan 11, 2015
Leaving aside for the moment the wisdom of printing unfunny cartoons whose only point seems to be to express one’s elitist contempt for another’s deity, let us contemplate the awful events of the last week.

The boys and young men who have paid with their lives for their desperate acts have their roots, even if they were born in a civilized country, in uncivilized ones. They or their immediate forebears hail from North Africa or the Middle East, from failed states ruled over by tyrants, where “democracy” and a “liberal education” are as unknown as they were in the Dark Ages. They find themselves in a land that has no decent education or work for them; where day to day they struggle for subsistence, never mind inclusion or respect, in the midst of an obscene level of plenty; where any role models they can find fill them with hatred for the Other and a lunatic dependence on a willful misinterpretation of their deity.

And, for the most part, they are poor. Oh, yes, Mohammed Atta apparently was middle class and bin Laden was from a wealthy family. Spare me the “Yeah, but”s. This is poverty we are speaking about. Poverty of knowledge, poverty of experience, poverty of exposure, and just plain poverty. It is hopelessness, and not the siren call of an adoring deity, that delivers these young people to their early demise.

And it is anger. They see the West and our militarized over-reaction to matters appropriately left to the police. They know about the Afghan wedding parties, the Afghan children, the Afghan, Iraqi, Syrian, Pakistani, Yemeni, Somali, and other civilians slaughtered by our soulless drones, and every infant death produces a dozen more of them ready to die in order to avenge our brutality. Would it be any different with us, if the drones were dropping their fire on St. Louis?

The Forever War. It is enormously profitable for the American military-industrial complex. How much does a small-diameter bomb cost? $50,000. $100,000? Try $250,000, brought to the drop point by a plane that costs $68,000 an hour to operate.

How does it end? Who can tell? Easier to say how it will go on, because it will. And once again, it comes down to those two vital areas: education and adequately remunerative employment. We must pledge ourselves to the liberal development of every one of our human resources here in the West. No child can be left behind to be forged in the furnace of ethnic hatred and pseudo-religious fundamentalism. And we must guarantee every adult a decent job at a living wage. We must reverse the alienation and disenchantment which is turning more and more of our fellow human beings, here and abroad, into instruments of death.

And we must stop supporting tyrannies, even the creeping tyranny of the one-percenters that threatens our own democracy here at home.

It can happen if the people can be brought to realize it must happen. And that must happen soon, because already it is almost too late.

tags: Terrorism

Boston and Beyond

Apr 20, 2013
Now that both Boston bombers have been caught and the nine-days’ wonder that permeated the airways 24/7 has been stilled, perhaps we can pause a moment to remember the nameless hundreds of thousands of innocents our bombs have slaughtered over the past 12 years.

If you don’t want your heart broken, don’t go HERE to view seven of the 11 children—babies, really—slaughtered in the “fierce battle” between U.S.-led forces and the nefarious Taliban a couple of Sundays ago. And this was no anomaly. “Collateral damage” is practically the watchword of the “wars” we have fought in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Indonesia, Sudan, Somalia, etc., etc., over the past decade.

What ought to have been a police action—the meticulous pursuit and capture of individuals involved in an international conspiracy of religious fanatics—has instead turned into Apocalypse Now, with death raining down upon the general populations of a large slice of the world; with the abandonment of due process, the laws of war, and any human decency; with the revival of medieval confinements and tortures; and with no end in sight of vastly expensive conflicts that fill the pockets of the corporatocracy and bankrupt the public coffers.

It is not surprising that a young and impressionable boy, helplessly watching the slaughter of babies, brides, and thousands of others of his co-religionists should be led to take the awful action that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev allegedly took last week, cruelly wounding 170 people and ending three innocent lives, his brother’s life and, effectively, his own. It is only surprising that more young men and women have not done the same.
tags: Terrorism

Posse Comitatus

Jul 30, 2009
The Posse Comitatus Act (18 U.S.C., Sec. 1385), passed in 1878, limits the powers of the federal government to use the military for law enforcement.1 The act has allegedly been violated to a significant and alarming degree, as reported on Democracy Now on July 28, 2009.2 The story goes well beyond the outing (via a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request) of a military informant, to describe scores of multi-jurisdictional intelligence fusion centers, where local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies and national intelligence entities, including the military, pool knowledge and resources to combat terrorism. Pooling intelligence is not, in and of itself, a bad thing. In fact, greater cooperation among federal intelligence agencies just might have prevented 9/11. However, when those intelligence bodies are tasked with domestic spying and include military intelligence, we need to fear a great deal more than the breaking of a 130-year-old statute.

Back in February, in The Gathering Storm, I wrote, “An army unit has been stationed inside the U.S. to control ‘civil unrest.’3 Protestors at the Republican Convention are being tried as terrorists....4 A perfect storm of militarism, domestic unrest, and the criminalization of dissent is gathering. If the spectre of fascism hovered over the Bush presidency, it has come to walk the earth in the second month of an administration swept to power on what are increasingly coming to appear to be fraudulent promises of hope and change.”

We have a do-nothing Congress and a very busy Executive branch, continuing and expanding the atrocities of the Bush administration. Domestic terrorism in the form of an Oklahoma City bomber is bad enough. When our federal government gets into the business of watching, recording, harassing, and, yes, terrorizing its own people, the spectre of domestic terrorism takes on a different and altogether too horrible face.

Will we wake up when they come for the anarchists? Will we wake up when they come for the socialists? Will we wake up when they come for us?
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1 Posse Comitatus Act, from Wikipedia, accessed Jul 30, 2009.
2 Declassified Docs Reveal Military Operative Spied on WA Peace Groups, Activist Friends Stunned, from Democracy Now, Jul 28, 2009, accessed Jul 30, 2009.
3 ACLU Seeks Answers on Reports of Domestic Army Deployment, from Democracy Now, Oct 22, 2008.
4 RNC Protestors Tried on Terrorism Charges Despite Acknowlegement They Didn’t Commit Alleged Acts, from Democracy Now, Feb 18, 2009.
tags: Terrorism

Words of Wisdom and Warning

Apr 27, 2009
We torture.

Reclaiming America’s Soul, by Paul Krugman, from the New York Times, Apr 23, 2009
“[N]ever before have our leaders so utterly betrayed everything our nation stands for.”

The Torture Moment, by Arianna Huffington, from the Huffington Post, Apr 24, 2009
“Since when is adhering to the laws that govern us a left-wing ‘point-of-view’?”

The Dubious C.I.A. Shortcut, by Philip Zelikow, from the New York Times, Apr 23, 2009
“[T]he methods of torment do not stack up well against proved alternatives that rely on patience and skill.”

Torturers Should Be Punished, by Amy Goodman, from truthdig.com, Apr 21, 2009
“Though [Obama] may occupy the most powerful office on Earth, there is a force more powerful: committed people demanding change. We need a universal standard of justice. Torturers should be punished.”

Time to Come Clean, by Nicholas D. Kristof, from the New York Times, Apr 26, 2009
“[T]oday’s revulsion at waterboarding is broad but fragile. And that makes it essential that the United States proceed with an independent commission to investigate harsh treatment and tally its costs and benefits.”

We Don’t Torture, with Jon Stewart, from the Daily Show, Apr 21, 2009
“We Don’t Torture. Three words that aren’t said enough, that symbolize America... No matter how bad it gets, no matter how ruthless our enemies, we don’t torture. Now, whether or not that statement is true isn’t the point. The point is, don’t f***ing worry about it.’

How can anyone who claims to be an American; who remembers—or lives among those who remember—Stalin, Hitler, Mao, Pol Pot; who lays claim to being a human being with some vestige of imagination or empathy; how can we (because this includes you and me) live with this awful knowledge, that we have torn bodies, ruined lives, driven our fellow creatures to madness and suicide, in a decade-long vengeful holocaust of ineffectual bestiality that has placed us in the company of the worst monsters in history? How can we know this, and not be on the streets with pikestaffs and pitchforks, howling for the restitution of justice and the restoration of our morality?

It beggars understanding.
tags: Terrorism

The Forever War

Feb 05, 2009
We borrow the excellent title of Dexter Filkins’s excellent book1 for this item, even though the Rand Corporation refers to global hostilities over the next unspecified number of years as the Long War, as in Unfolding the Future of the Long War: Motivations, Prospects, and Implications for the U.S. Army, by Christopher G. Pernin, et al.

For those who like their downers straight, reading this report should result in as deep a depression as one could hope for. The folks at Rand imagine eight possible avenues (which they call “trajectories”) down which our military may travel in the long war, none of them promising much relief from the status quo, and some of them depicting scenarios no less daunting than a contemplation of doomsday itself. Of course, the intent of the report is to assess implications for our military should one or more of the trajectories occur, so it is not surprising that the report is shot through with dependence upon militarism.

One of the seven strategy options the report outlines, however, contains a hint of hope and relief. This is the “Underlying Causes” strategy, where the Army backs off and leaves it to the State Department, the Peace Corps, USAID, and other nonmilitaristic bodies of the U.S. government to address the socioeconomic disasters, wrought by wretched governance, which have turned most of the nations harboring terrorists into basket cases.

If we could only stop tolerating—let alone supporting—regimes which deny their own people the income, education, and freedoms that every rational human being craves, we are convinced that this reversal of longstanding U.S. policy alone would reduce global terrorism to a significant degree.
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1 The Forever War, by Dexter Filkins, 2008 (accessed Feb 1, 2009)
tags: Terrorism

Going Soft on Terrorism

Oct 07, 2008
On the brink of an election where one major candidate has proposed the possibility of staying in Iraq for anywhere from a hundred to ten million years,1 and the other has retreated several steps from his primary-season promises,2 we may be certain there will be no disengagement of military force in Iraq during the next administration. Furthermore, both candidates have pledged to increase troop levels in Afghanistan.3, 4

And so the hemorrhaging of money and American lives, and the displacement, injuries, and deaths of countless civilians will continue into the foreseeable future. In a recent post,5 we noted that terrorist activity has been defeated by military force in only a scant seven percent of cases since 1968. Now from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace comes a paper entitled Saudi Arabia’s “Soft” Counterterrorism Strategy: Prevention, Rehabilitation, and Aftercare, by Christopher Boucek.

Following an upsurge in terrorist activity in 2003, the Saudi government concluded that “violent extremism cannot be combated through traditional security measures alone,” and they got busy implementing others. “Central to the Saudi strategy is the message that the use of violence within the kingdom to affect change is not permissible.” Their three-pronged strategy seeks to deter its people from becoming involved with militant Islam in the first place; to rehabilitate them when they do; and to facilitate their reintegration into society after their release from custody. The Ministry of the Interior oversees the program, and involves many other ministries and agencies, including Education and Labor.

Though we are no friend to dictatorial regimes that indulge in vicious public punishments of those who threaten it, we are nevertheless impressed by the intensive efforts adopted by the Saudis in attacking the root of the problem rather than futilely hacking away at its myriad shoots and branches. By alleviating poverty, reforming education, redesigning prisons to facilitate rehabilition, caring for families while one or more of their members are in the judicial system, and treating adherents to radical Islam as victims rather than transgressors, the Saudi methods have succeeded in almost eliminating recidivism.

It is too soon to evaluate the overall effectiveness of the program, but it has been impressive enough that variations of it have been initiated throughout the Middle East and even by American forces in Iraq.6

Side Note: Eric Hoffer’s The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements remains one of the most brilliant analyses of the personalities and motivations of those who align themselves with violent religious and nationalist organizations. In a day when we are burdened by a terrorist government within and many terrorist threats from without, every citizen of the world should read it.
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1 McCain Said ‘100’; Opponents Latch On, by Kate Phillips, from the New York Times, March 27, 2008 (Accessed October 4, 2008)
2 Obama’s Non-Plan for Ending the War in Iraq, by Anthony DiMaggio, from Counterpunch.org, August 12, 2008 (Accessed October 4, 2008)
3 Obama, McCain Offer Quick Reaction to Bush’s Troop Leval Plan, by Alexis Matsui, from the Online NewsHour at PBS.org, September 9, 2008 (Accessed October 4, 2008)
4 McCain Wants More Afghanistan Troops, by Adam Aigner-Treworgy, from MSNBC.com, July 15, 2008 (Accessed October 4, 2008)
5 Where Will It All End?, All Together Now, September 24, 2008
6 Detainee Operations Changes Command Leadership, from the Multi-National Force Press Desk, June 8, 2008 (Accessed October 4, 2008)
tags: Terrorism

Where Will It All End?

Sep 24, 2008
There has been a great deal of work on why individuals or groups resort to terrorism. There has also been a growing literature on whether terrorism “works.” But there has been virtually no systematic analysis by policymakers or academics on how terrorism ends.1

Now there is, thanks to a study by Seth G. Jones of the Rand Corporation. Jones’s statement before the House of Representatives Subcommittee on Terrororism and Unconventional Threats and Capabilities of the Committee on Armed Services (whew!) has been published as a Rand Testimony entitled Defeating Terrorist Groups.

And terrorist organizations do close down their operations—eventually—usually. Examining the international terrorist scene since 1968, Jones finds that approximately 62 percent of all terrorist groups—though only 32 percent of religious terrorist groups—have ceased their activities. In the overwhelming majority of cases, these culminations have come about either through political negotiation or police action. Overall, military force has ended terrorist activity a scant seven percent of the time.

Though there have been some victories wrought by terrorist activity overall (10 percent of the time), no religious terrorist group has achieved victory during the period Jones studied. He recommends a two-prong strategy in dealing with al Qa’ida: more cooperative international police and intelligence work supplemented by military action taken by indigenous forces as opposed to the U.S. military.

Although most of Jones’s testimony concerns the implementation of that two-pronged assault on al Qa’ida, early on in his testimony he lists other tactics that bear emphasizing: “redressing grievances and meeting the legitimate aspirations of Muslims; and countering al Qa’ida’s ideology.”2

Let us lay to rest the nonsense regarding the motivations of suicide bombers. No one blows themself up in order to enjoy the favors of 70 virgins in the afterlife. They do so because they despair of attaining their interpretation of liberty and justice in this life, and they do what they do in hope of attaining it for others. And among their grievances are legitimate ones involving foreign intervention, resource theft, and religious and social persecution. That their methods are horrifying and inexcusable only speaks to the depth of their despair, and to the urgency with which it needs to be addressed—by all legitimate means available—by the international community.

Jones’s full-length study, upon which his testimony is based, is entitled How Terrorist Groups End.
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1 Defeating Terrorist Groups, pg. 1
2 Op. cit., pg. 7
tags: Terrorism

Getting Anti-Terrorism Right

Sep 14, 2008
Haiti is a mess. Probably everyone would agree with this, even ATN Golden A awardee Paul Farmer.

In late 2006 and early 2007, however, a United Nations operation in Haiti served as a model for the way things ought to be accomplished in a dangerous world. Gangs of thugs had taken over Port-au-Prince and were operating out of the city slums, kidnapping, robbing, and murdering at will, and with the financial backing of various political factions. After a spate of child kidnappings, the president of Haiti, René Préval, had enough and called for a United Nations peace enforcement initiative which ultimately defeated the gangs.

The U.N. needed—and received—a lot of help in their operation, from a mandate from the top to local military and police involvement, and reaching down to the level of the populace for actionable intelligence. A Special Report from the United States Institute of Peace (USIP)1 entitled Haiti: Confronting the Gangs of Port-au-Prince, by Michael Dziedzic and Robert M. Perito, offers a detailed analysis of the operation, its successes and its shortcomings. Together with its extensive recommendations for ameliorating those shortcomings, it is a blueprint for success in urban conflict against a nebulous foe entrenched within a civilian population. And it even makes from some exciting reading.

Its bottom line: “[T]he United Nations must be capable of mounting assertive operations to defend and enforce its mandates, and ... given the proper enabling conditions and the will to act, it is capable of doing so quite successfully.”
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1 The USIP is “an independent, nonpartisan institution established and funded by Congress. Its goals are to help prevent and resolve violent international conflicts, promote post-conflict stability and development, and increase conflict management capacity, tools, and intellectual capital worldwide.”
tags: Terrorism

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