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Hands Off Bin Laden?

I never thought much of the CIA, and I still don’t. Articles like this one in the Times of London don’t inspire much confidence.

THE world may be better off if Osama Bin Laden remains at large, according to the Central Intelligence Agency’s recently departed executive director.

If the world’s most wanted terrorist is captured or killed, a power struggle among his Al-Qaeda subordinates may trigger a wave of terror attacks, said AB “Buzzy” Krongard, who stepped down six weeks ago as the CIA’s third most senior executive.

“You can make the argument that we’re better off with him (at large),” Krongard said. “Because if something happens to Bin Laden, you might find a lot of people vying for his position and demonstrating how macho they are by unleashing a stream of terror.”

This little theory relies on the assumption that Al Qaeda is restraining itself at the moment. Otherwise, it’s absolute nonsense. Bin Laden’s buddies are already “unleashing a stream of terror.” They don’t need any more encouragement than they already have.

Several US officials have privately admitted that it may be better to keep Bin Laden pinned down on the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan rather than make him a martyr or put him on trial. But Krongard is the most senior figure to acknowledge publicly that his capture might prove counter-productive.

Turning bin Laden into a martyr might not be ideal. But it sure beats leaving him alone so he can go on being a hero. Want to take care of bin Laden? Vanish him from the face of the earth. Turn him into the Jimmy Hoffa of terrorists.

Michael Savage: No Foreign Aid!

I’ve posted and linked to plenty of left-on-left action on this blog.

Now it’s time for a little right-on-right action. (Hat tip: Glenn.)

I’d say a post blasting the despicable Michael Savage is hardly worth

the bother, but the man has millions of fans – well, at least he has

millions of listeners. When I’m in the mood for some right-wing

whackjobbery (it happens sometimes when I get bored) I’m occasionally

one of them.

The New Stalingrad

The more hysterical doom-mongers among us predicted Baghdad would become the new Stalingrad. Obviously it did not…except in a way it did, sort of.

Terry Barnich explains in Tech Central Station:

In [Osama bin Laden’s] newest tape he has demanded that Iraqis refrain from voting in the upcoming elections and has declared those who do exercise the franchise to be apostates. In effect he has confirmed that what is really going on is an Islamic civil war. Bin Laden’s vision of a restored caliphate and a resurrection of Saddam’s fascistic absolutism are at war with acceptance of the need to reconcile Islam to modernity.

In contrast, Ayad Allawi, the interim Iraqi prime minister, believes in consent of the governed. There is no in between in that struggle. And on that score the issue should now be settled for Americans of all stripes.

It may once have been correct to claim that Iraq was not strategically significant. But neither were the fields at Waterloo, Gettysburg or Stalingrad until the contending armies met in those places. By accident or political design, insignificant places become enduring historical names. How strange that in his own twisted way bin Laden would align with Bush on the strategic importance of Iraq in waging this civil war.

UPDATE: Let me put it another way, inspired by a discussion in the comments. If the US had invaded, say, Bolivia – Osama bin Laden would have completely ignored it. And those who would have claimed invading Bolivia had nothing to do with the Terror War would have been correct.

For Entertainment Purposes Only

It’s generally a bad idea to cobble together a political theory that explains much of anything based solely on an idiotic comment thread found somewhere in the bowels of the Internet. Still. These things can be great fun to read.

On that note…the most asinine conversation in all of cyberspace is happening here.

The sad thing about it is that these people live in my city.

(Hat tip: Belgravia Dispatch.)

Gonzales and Torture Redux

I’ve been shellacked in the comments for trying to make Alberto Gonzales into a poster boy for torture. Since my critics pounced on me at the precise moment Gonzales came out strongly against torture in front of the Senate…allow me to back off for now. I’m not ready to exonerate the man without looking a bit deeper into this, but I will declare myself an agnostic.

However, I won’t climb down an inch in my opposition to torture. And I’m not talking about make-believe “torture,” I mean real actual torture, the kind Andrew Sullivan is talking about here:

Let’s retire at the start the notion that the only torture that has been used by the U.S. has been against known members of al Qaeda. This is not true. Many innocent men and boys were raped, brutally beaten, crucified for hours (a more accurate term than put in “stress positions”), left in their own excrement, sodomized, electrocuted, had chemicals from fluorescent lights poured on them, forced to lie down on burning metal till they were unrecognizable from burns – all this in Iraq alone, at several prisons as well as Abu Ghraib. I spent a week reading all the official reports over Christmas for a forthcoming review essay. Abu Ghraib is but one aspect of a pervasive pattern of torture and abuse that, in my view, is only beginning to sink in.

If someone were to ask me where I think we ought to draw the line while interrogating prisoners, I couldn’t answer. I don’t know. A question like that isn’t exactly a no-brainer. Reasonable people can argue about it and, most likely, come up with a reasonable compromise. But I will say this: raping, electrocuting, and crucifying boys (or girls or adults or anyone else) absolutely is over the line.

The fracas in my comments section only seemed to prove (at least to me) one of Glenn Reynolds’ points: Making this issue about a person (Bush or Gonzales) only turns the argument into a partisan bitch-fest. I’m sorry for “going there.” But I’m not sorry at all for saying that some things are over the line and that I don’t want them done in my name.

UPDATE: Please see The Belgravia Dispatch.

Sink Alberto Gonzales

Glenn Reynolds and I are both against torture. He’s worried that it’s too politicized and might actually be legalized as a result.

I’ve been against torture since Alan Dershowitz was pushing it back in the fall of 2001. (Okay, actually I was against torture even before Dershowitz was pushing it). But I think the effort to turn this into an anti-Bush political issue is a serious mistake, and the most likely outcome will be, in essence, the ratification of torture (with today’s hype becoming tomorrow’s reality) and a political defeat for the Democrats.

Perhaps. If George W. Bush becomes the poster boy for torture, and if the Bush=Hitler people frame the debate in their own hysterical terms, and if the moderate left and moderate right sit the debate out, Glenn could be right. But it doesn’t have to go down that way.

And what about Alberto Gonzales, Bush’s pick to replace John Ashcroft as attorney general?

Here is Anne Applebaum in the Washington Post.

Last month — really recently — lawsuits filed by American human rights groups forced the government to release thousands of pages of documents showing that the abuse of prisoners at Guantanamo Naval Base long preceded the Abu Ghraib photographs, and that abuse has continued since then too. U.S. soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan have, according to the administration’s own records and my colleagues’ reporting, used beatings, suffocation, sleep deprivation, electric shocks and dogs during interrogations. They probably still do. [Emphasis added.]

Although many people bear some responsibility for these abuses, Alberto Gonzales, along with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, is among those who bear the most responsibility. It was Gonzales who led the administration’s internal discussion of what qualified as torture. It was Gonzales who advised the president that the Geneva Conventions did not apply to people captured in Afghanistan. It was Gonzales who helped craft some of the administration’s worst domestic decisions, including the indefinite detention, without access to lawyers, of U.S. citizens Jose Padilla and Yaser Esam Hamdi.

If any American deserves to be the poster boy for torture, it’s Alberto Gonzales.

He’s expected to win confirmation for his nomination. But I’m not so sure. The Republican-controlled Congress has far less reason to be defensively partisan on Gonzales’ behalf than on behalf of the president. He has no constituency. He is not a GOP leader. There will be no popular backlash if he isn’t confirmed. Most people who aren’t politics junkies probably don’t even know who he is.

Some Republican Congressman might think he’s a good choice. Others will surely vote to confirm him because he’s “one of them.” Some Democrats would raise a ruckus about Gonzales no matter who he is or what his record looked like. But there are plenty of people who can’t be dismissed as namby pamby liberals or partisan sheep who think the ascendancy of Alberto Gonzales to the post of attorney general would be a disaster.

A dozen high-ranking retired military officers took the unusual step yesterday of signing a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee expressing “deep concern” over the nomination of White House counsel Alberto R. Gonzales as attorney general, marking a rare military foray into the debate over a civilian post.

The group includes retired Army Gen. John M. Shalikashvili, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The officers are one of several groups to separately urge the Senate to sharply question Gonzales during a confirmation hearing Thursday about his role in shaping legal policies on torture and interrogation methods.

Although the GOP-controlled Senate is expected to confirm Gonzales to succeed Attorney General John D. Ashcroft, some Democrats have vowed to question him aggressively amid continuing revelations of abuses of military detainees in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The letter signed by the retired officers, compiled by the group Human Rights First and sent to the committee’s leadership last night, criticizes Gonzales for his role in reviewing and approving a series of memorandums arguing, among other things, that the United States could lawfully ignore portions of the Geneva Conventions and that some forms of torture “may be justified” in the war on terror.

What Christopher Hitchens once said of John Ashcroft is also true of Gonzales: he might make a fine secretary of agriculture. I don’t believe for a minute that he is the best person available for the job of top cop. There are plenty of others who can fill that post in his stead, who can honorably prosecute terrorist suspects, who won’t tarnish the reputation of the United States of America, and who won’t be a polarizing lightning rod for the next four years.

I don’t know if I agree with Glenn Reynolds or not that an anti-torture campaign shouldn’t focus on President Bush. But it damn well better focus on Alberto Gonzales. Anyone who is against torture and doesn’t speak up is shirking their duty as a citizen in a democracy. I don’t know how big the “pro-torture” contingent is, but since it includes some liberals (like Alan Dershowitz and Oliver Willis) for all I know it could be huge. And it could win if the rest of us keep our mouths shut.

Glenn continues:

[M]any Administration critics are adopting a broad-brush view of “torture” that I think is likely to backfire. In fact, my fear — as noted in the original post — is that a big brouhaha will be made about torture, with various mild issues swept in to demonstrate the pervasiveness of the problem.

I completely agree. And that’s precisely why moderates (including the moderate left and the moderate right) need to speak up.

Where The Communist Manifesto Meets The Koran

My Libyan travelogue isn’t ready for publication yet. But my new Tech Central Station column is up, and it’s about Libya – Where The Communist Manifesto Meets The Koran.

Terrorist Caught in the Act

Take a look at this picture.

r3811391753.jpg

Here’s the Reuters caption:

A suspected insurgent asks residents for mercy after they caught him planting explosives under civilian vehicles, at a busy area in Baghdad, January 3, 2005. Insurgents killed 17 Iraqi police and National Guards on Monday in another bloody spree of ambushes, bombings and suicide attacks aimed at wrecking Iraq’s January 30 national election.

If this guy was caught planting explosives under civilian vehicles, he is not an insurgent. He is a terrorist. Good God, will Reuters never figure this out?

It says something, doesn’t it, that he’s begging for mercy in front of a crowd of random Iraqis. He is not one of Mao’s revolutionary “fish” who swims in “the sea” of the people. He’s the scum of the earth. And he knows the Iraqi people think he’s the scum of the earth. He was caught trying to kill them. That’s why he’s begging for mercy.

I can’t vouch for the accuracy of the translation of this Iraqi poll posted at Powerline. But I have no reason to believe it’s not accurate. 87.7 percent of Iraqis reportedly support military action against terrorists inside their country. Why shouldn’t they? They’re constantly being attacked. The man in that photo is toast .

(Hat tip: Dougf in the comments.)

Who’s Stingy?

Jonathan Last notes that tsunami relief donations from rich Muslim countries are – shall we say – stingy compared with Japanese, Taiwanese, and Western donations. I don’t expect fat aid packages from Afghanistan and Somalia. But surely the House of Saud can spare more than 10 million dollars. Amazon.com raised more than that. Oil-rich Iran won’t even pledge one million dollars.

Since so many people who desperately need help are Muslims, I was first tempted to say “so much for Muslim solidarity.” But I don’t think that’s the issue. Except for Turkey (which so far promises less than 2 million dollars) every rich stingy Muslim country cited is a dictatorship. And with the exception of China, the top 16 donors are Western and East Asian democracies.

Free people are generous. Tyrants are not.

UPDATE: I should not have suggested the Saudis are stingy. They spend Allah only knows how much money exporting their racist knuckle-dragging jihadist ideology to the rest of the planet.

SECOND UPDATE: It looks like the Arab states in the Gulf are contributing quite a lot for relief aid. Kuwait and Qatar have now matched Saudi Arabia’s10 million dollars, according to the New York Times. (Hat tip: Katherine in the comments.) The United Arab Emirates pledged 20 million dollars. The populations of these countries are only a miniscule fraction of the populations of Iran and Saudi Arabia. Kuwait, Qatar, and the UAE aren’t democracies, but their governments are a lot more moderate and benign than the House of Saud and the mullahcracy. Whether or not a country is Muslim seems to have little or nothing to do with the generosity of its government. It’s the Middle East’s worst regimes that aren’t pitching in as much as the rest of us.

No Peace in Sight

Try to imagine an alternate America where well-armed right-wing death squads make regular incursions into Canada to massacre civilians on buses and in restaurants in Vancouver, Montreal, and Toronto. Then imagine an upcoming election where the front-runner, a Republican, not only pledges to protect the death squads from Canadian counter-measures but also brings them along on his campaign.

That’s basically what’s happening in the West Bank and Gaza right now.

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip – Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas said Saturday that he wants to shield Palestinian militants from Israel and indicated he has no plans to crack down on gunmen after upcoming presidential elections.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Abbas defended a series of recent campaign appearances with gunmen, saying the Palestinian leadership has a responsibility to protect its people.

“When we see them, when we meet them, and when they welcome us, we owe them,” Abbas said. “This debt always is to protect them from assassination, to protect them from killing, and all these things they are subject to by the Israelis.”

Abbas, the front-runner in Jan. 9 Palestinian presidential elections, has been courting militants, appearing with gunmen at campaign stops in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in recent days.

capt.nn10512301439.mideast_israel_palestinians_elections_nn105.jpg

Comparing my alternate-universe North America and the real-world Middle East has its limits, I know. Canada isn’t occupying the United States, for one thing. (Of course, Canada has no reason to do so. If the US had launched a series of failed genocidal wars against Canada, and if Americans continued to threaten the annihilation of Canada, things would be different.)

But let’s say Canada was occupying the United States. Can you imagine how absurd it would be if the most prominent American politician said he’s against a proposed Canadian withdrawal of its forces from, say, New England?

That, too, is happening in Gaza right now.

Abbas also said that Israel’s planned withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, which is being planned without any Palestinian input, is “unacceptable” and demanded a resumption of peace talks.

I suppose a reasonable person might explain how a unilateral Israeli withdrawal from Gaza is “unacceptable.” But a man who campaigns with terrorists isn’t the guy.

hamas-no-peace.jpg

Counter-terrorism will exist as long as terrorism exists. There is just no getting around it. The Palestinian people will be given a choice in their upcoming election. Do they want to continue bearing the brunt of Israeli counter-terrorism? Or would they rather do it themselves? They have to choose one. “None of the above” is not an option right now. A vote for Abbas looks like a vote for war and, whether they see it this way or not, a vote against their own sovereignty.

First Stingy, Now Unilateral

First we’re accused of being stingy in the wake of the tsunami. Now Clare Short is laughably accusing us of trying to help unilaterally.

United States President George Bush was tonight accused of trying to undermine the United Nations by setting up a rival coalition to coordinate relief following the Asian tsunami disaster.

The president has announced that the US, Japan, India and Australia would coordinate the world’s response.

Why single out Bush for this? Australia, India, and Japan are in on this neoconservative plot, too.

But former International Development Secretary Clare Short said that role should be left to the UN.

“I think this initiative from America to set up four countries claiming to coordinate sounds like yet another attempt to undermine the UN when it is the best system we have got and the one that needs building up,” she said.

“Only really the UN can do that job,” she told BBC Radio Four’s PM programme.

What a bizarre assertion. If the UN didn’t exist, what on earth would we do? Would south Asia drown in wreckage and mud while we tried to create a UN from scratch before we could send in some aid?

“It is the only body that has the moral authority.”

The US, Japan, India, and Australia don’t have the moral authority for crisis relief? Who bestows this moral authority? Clare Short? Who gave her the authority to do that?

”But it can only do it well if it is backed up by the authority of the great powers.”

Well, it isn’t backed up by the authority of the great powers. There’s a reason for that, Clare. Can you say Bosnia? Rwanda? Oil for food? What about the totalitarian and genocidal regimes like Libya and Sudan on the U.N.’s farcical “Human Rights Commission?”

The UN has no moral authority. None. Zero. Nada. Zip. Zilch. But the UN still manages to pull off some decent crisis relief once in a while. If even the UN can do that, surely the US, Japan, India, and Australia can do something, too.

“I don’t know what that is about but it sounds very much, I am afraid, like the US trying to have a separate operation and not work with the rest of the world through the UN system,” she added.

Over a hundred thousand people are dead. This is not the time to seethe and whine about process. Process means absolutely nothing to people who need help and need it right now. Speed and results, Clare. Speed and results. Roll up your sleeves and stick a sock in it.

Adventures in News-Doctoring

I’m sure it’s fun taking a quote out of context and sticking it in a headline. You can make it seem like anybody said anything if you limit your excerpt to only three words.

Here’s an AFP wire story titled Insurgency in Iraq ‘will not end’: Powell.

And here’s a snippet:

[Colin] Powell reiterated that Iraq’s January 30 elections will take place as scheduled and that the US and Iraqi forces are working to have security in place for the polls.

But, he told CBS television, “the insurgency will not end.”

The very same article quoted Powell as saying “the insurgency will be defeated.” Instead of writing a headline that said Insurgency in Iraq ‘will not end’: Powell it could just as easily have been written this way – Insurgency in Iraq ‘will be defeated’: Powell. Both are technically accurate.

If you want to know what Colin Powell actually said about the insurgency, what I wrote above is as worthless as the AFP headline and the story’s first couple of paragraphs. But, hey, at least the reporter fills in some of the context around one of those contradictory quotes. Too bad he or she didn’t do the same for the primary quote. [That would have wrecked the headline - ed.]

Here’s the relevant context:

“These insurgents are determined to have no representative government. They want to go back to a tyranny,” Powell said.

“And so the insurgency will continue and the insurgency will have to be defeated by coalition forces, but increasingly the insurgency will be defeated and brought under control, if not completely defeated, by Iraqi forces that we are building up as rapidly as we can,” he added.

I can only guess at the context of the primary quote, the one that appears in the headline. The reporter never did bother to tell us.

UPDATE: Spartacus has fun with subordinate clauses.

Video of the Tsunami

Pundit Guy is hosting several “home videos” of the tsunami. There is no gore, but more than enough horror. Some videos even show tourists on the beach who have no idea what is about to happen to them. If someone you know is missing you might not want to watch these.

He’s getting hammered with bandwidth charges, so if you watch the movies please click the “Make a donation” link. He promises to send half the proceeds to disaster relief.

Worse Than (Our) Vietnam

The number of people killed by the South Asian tsunami will likely exceed the number of Americans killed in the Vietnam War. The AP reports the casualty count has now passed 52,000. And it is going to be a lot worse.

The ministry statement said this figure did not include data from districts on Sumatra’s hard-hit western coast, including the town of Meulaboh — meaning that the final death toll will almost certainly rise significantly.

Earlier, the country’s national disaster director, Purnomo Sidik, said 10,000 people were killed in Meulaboh alone.

New Blog — Liberal Iraqi

Welcome Ali, Liberal Iraqi, to the blogosphere.

I am honored to be one of the first six linked on his blogroll. I consciously write to an American audience, and it never ceases to amaze me where in the world some of my readers live. When I first started this blog I had no idea people in Iraq would ever stop in to read it.

What does Ali mean when he describes himself as a liberal Iraqi? I’ll let him answer that.

I want to say that it’s a common knowledge that compared to the west, Iraq is a very conservative society, so being a liberal in Iraq caries a very different meaning than being a liberal anywhere in the west or more advanced countries. This does not mean that I’m against liberals anywhere, as on the contrary I find myself more close to them than conservatives, and I do have many friends on both sides as well as other centrists and independent people. I’m only against their view of OIF and the WoT in general. This is one of the few points where I do agree with the conservatives. I know that some conservatives have their own selfish motives behind their support for democracy in Iraq, but I believe that the majority of them just want Iraq to succeed and also want to have a friendly democratic government in the ME instead of a brutal mad dictatorship that has ties with terrorist organizations allover the world.

Back to Iraq and the main topic of this post, I and many freedom-loving Iraqis see traditions whether Islamic or tribal in origin as the main obstacle towards our march for a free democratic Iraq. You can count Arab nationalism as another obstacle in this field. We, those who call ourselves liberal Iraqis, are totally against such traditions and rotten ideologies. We see ourselves as part of humanity and that’s all. Some people in Iraq accuse us of being too liberal to the degree where we lack a real identity. This is not true, as we have one and it’s called humanity.

So there’s no sophisticated ideology that I endorse, I just support freedom of press, freedom of expression, women’s freedom, separation of “Church from the state”, freedom of religion and limited control by the government over economy. I do, however support strongly international aggressive interference in countries’ internal policies to save others from oppression and humiliation.

In Iraq, we longed for a revolution to save us from what we suffered at Saddam’s days. We made feeble attempts, but some Iraqis in the south and the north sacrificed and risked much more for the sake of our freedom, and the end was horrific. After that we almost went into total despair, and then the Americans came and our joy was beyond description. Still we do need a revolution, a revolution on the level of minds which without it, all the help we are getting from others and all the sacrifices that were given for Iraq to be free from tyranny, all these would be in vain. I still enjoy my freedom tremendously despite all the problems and dangers, and I have full trust in my people but I’m not ashamed of saying that we still need your help.

The last time I checked his Technorati profile, no one in the blogosphere had linked to him yet. Get the word out. Help promote this guy.

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