« Fact-Checking Applebaum | Main | Duke Cunningham: Singing Like A Canary »

July 18, 2007

Comments

Good post. Minor comment, just before someone else gets to it: the last Soviets withdrew from Afghanistan in Feb. 1989. However, they were out of the Pashtun areas by 1988. (See here.)

That said, al Qaeda's precursor organization, the Maktab al-Khidamat, had been up and running well before that.

Like I said, I just wanted to preempt anyone who wanted to make the 1989 point, and say: as far as the regions you're concerned about, you're right.

"This administration -- and many supporters -- have from the beginning used facts that are simply wrong."

Er, then they weren't facts. This is an oxymoron.

Fair point, but I still think the old afghan-ussr organization was different in kind. I remember this coming up in the context of the 9/11 comm report - i.e., whether "al qaeda" was actually around when bin laden went to sudan or whatever, and before the camps got going.

but i'll defer to others on that. even if i'm 100% wrong and the old precursor organization should count, the larger point still stands. feel free to excise that and judge the rest accordingly.

Thanks Gary for the helpful tip

Second, the transformation of the war into “us vs. al Qaeda” leads to the idea that either victory or defeat is possible in Iraq. Neither is possible. That’s because it’s not a Blue/Grey war in the sense that McCain is implying.

Strongly disagree with this idea, publius, I think defeat very much is possible. In fact, that's currently what is happening. That doesn't mean Washington DC is going to be invaded or anything.

Why is it that we say the Soviets were defeated in Afghanistan, but not call this a defeat for the USA?

This is a (self-inflicted) defeat, and because the government has, idiotically as you have pointed out, portrayed it as a battle against Al Qaeda, they will inherit many of the spoils of victory

"Thanks Gary for the helpful tip"

I'm afraid I have great trouble shutting off my automatic copyeditor, and mentally circling stuff that should come out; some stuff just totally breaks focus on the substance, which is why it's bad; apologies if it's an unwanted note.

@ byrningman: I guess the meaning of defeat does depend on how one's goals are defined. It may be meaningless to engage at all in debate over the term "defeat" at this point.

So, abandoning the term "defeat" altogether and speaking in more concrete terms: U.S. troops leaving Iraq would not result in al Qaeda (or any group adopting that name) actually gaining control of territory; and it wouldn't make it any easier for al Qaeda to attack the U.S. itself.

I'm not sure what you mean by "many of the spoils of victory"; I guess al Qaeda would gain some prestige, but U.S. rhetoric has been conferring unwarranted prestige on al Qaeda since 2001.

If you believe that "victory" over al Qaeda ultimately depends on winning "hearts and minds," i.e. trust, loyalty, and respect, then the U.S. needs to get out of Iraq in order to make that possible, since the continuing occupation of Iraq tends to make us look ineffectual.

I am cynical enough to believe that some strategists on the right know very well that there will be no "victory" but that this opens the possibility to shift the blame for "defeat" to the political opposition that is likely to take over in the next election (let's call it the 90 years jubilee of the original back-stab).
And at least in the long term it will probably even work [retch].

Two points.

1. Another very important point to make about clear definitions is Sun Tzu's famous phrase: "know thy enemy." If we really are not describing the enemy properly, we will not employ the right tools that take that enemy down. We see this so painfully and tragically clear in Iraq.

2. About the Soviet Union being "defeated" in Afghanistan. This is a very interesting point. My own personal belief (and I haven't studied the Soviets' actions and consequences in Afghanistan enough) is that this hurried the Soviet Union's decline and ultimately their downfall in the world. They spent so much energy, resources, and money in this failed venture that it really drained them.

Our nation is in a much stronger position vis a vis the Iraq war in comparison to the Soviets in Afghanistan. Our forces are an all-volunteer force, and the general cost to our society is quite minimal in comparison to the Soviets'.

However, the point is that the Soviets came out of Afghanistan in a significantly weaker position wherein the other nations of the world were able to exploit that weakness to ultimately bring the Soviet Union to its knees.

This is a dangerous position for us to be in. I think if someone like John McCain was honest with himself and really looked at the bigger picture, he'd see that Iraq is not as important as what would happen if the rest of the world decided right now to start taking advantage of our weakened state to further undermine our strengths.

General Michael Rose of Britain said the following recently:

It is hardly an overstatement to say that had Britain not ended the American War of Independence when it did, it could never have been in a position to defeat Napoleon.

Today, of course, the United States finds itself in much the same position as Britain in 1781. Distracted and diminished by an irrelevant, costly and probably unwinnable war in Iraq, America could ultimately find itself challenged by countries like China and India. Unless it can find a leader with the moral courage of Pitt, there is a strong probability that it will be forced to relinquish its position as the global superpower — possibly to a regime that does not have the same commitment to justice and liberty that the United States and Britain have worked so hard to extend across the world over the past two centuries.

The sound of the first shot fired at Lexington in 1775 echoed across the world. So too did the firing of the last shot six years later at Yorktown. That second echo brought salvation for Britain, and ultimately great benefit to the entire world.

There are times when a venture we are on comes to a critical point where it becomes self defeating and dangerous to our national security. We're way past the line in Iraq.

It’s a small group of foreign terrorists who have entered and started calling themselves that name. Second, there aren’t many of them – of the 19,000 detainees, about 135 are foreign.

Only 135? How many would be a concern?

Fighters from Saudi Arabia are thought to have carried out more suicide bombings than those of any other nationality, said the senior U.S. officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the subject's sensitivity. It is apparently the first time a U.S. official has given such a breakdown on the role played by Saudi nationals in Iraq's Sunni Arab insurgency.

He said 50% of all Saudi fighters in Iraq come here as suicide bombers. In the last six months, such bombings have killed or injured 4,000 Iraqis.

Not al Qaeda?
Others contend that Saudi Arabia is allowing fighters sympathetic to Al Qaeda to go to Iraq so they won't create havoc at home.

Does it really matter if they are genuine AQ or wanna-be’s or just sympathetic?

Now, a group that calls itself Al Qaeda in Iraq is the greatest short-term threat to Iraq's security, U.S. military spokesman Brig. Gen. Kevin Bergner said Wednesday.

Am I "(at best) factually inaccurate or (at worst) consciously dishonest"?

I think the point, OCS, is that by killing those 4,000, neither AQI nor AQ is even the tiniest step closer to taking power in Iraq. It can kill people, and is going to continue to kill people, until the Iraqi government roots it out. In my view, our presence there is a substantial hindrance of that effort. Coupled with the ongoing civil war between larger factions who really are fighting for dominance of society, oil revenue, etc.

CC: I understand your point, even if I don’t entirely agree with it. My issue is with labeling some of these things “egregious factual errors” and labeling those who give them some credence as willing dupes or intentionally dishonest.

Constantly downplaying these threats really does not help burnish Democrat’s credentials on security.

For the editors, sakthi's 4:32 AM post is very clever spam.

OCS, the problem is that the way the threat from AQI is portrayed by the war's supporters is consistently at odds with the level of threat they actually pose to Iraq, let alone to us. They refer to Iraq "falling" to AQI, or similar allusions to conquest, when no such thing is even remotely possible. There is no scenario short of the complete extinction of the Iraqi people wherein they would permit a foreign organization with a ideology inimical to theirs to control their country. And while many Iraqis do share with AQI a loathing for the American occupation, that's pretty much where the similarities end--subtract us, and any enemy-of-my-enemy tolerance the insurgency may have for AQI will evaporate in a heartbeat. I would not want to be a foreign terrorist in Iraq when the last American soldier leaves the country.

Similarly, the notion that withdrawing from Iraq would place the United States at greater risk of AQ attack is utter nonsense if you stop and think it through. First of all, AQI is a completely different organization from the AQ that attacked us. The reason why it is significant to point this out is because AQI is solely concerned with and capable of causing instability and death in Iraq. There is not one shred of intelligence that suggests they have any overseas infrastructure--if there were, you can be certain the Bush admin would trumpet it as loudly as possible as justification for their policies. They are a highly localized and largely fragmented group whose only real power is to cause noisy explosions in Iraq.

Finally, even if you were to grant the mistaken assumption that AQ and AQI are organizationally linked, it still does not justify this kind of fearmongering. AQ is capable of walking and chewing gum at the same time. Having a presence in Iraq does not do anything to prevent the international elements of AQ from going forward with their own plans. The best that can be said is that it would force AQ to waste money and resources in Iraq that they could apply elsewhere--you know, kind of like we're doing in Iraq right now.

Those who raise the specter of this kind of conquest, or who try to scare us with vague threats of AQI following us home are, to put it simply, either ignorant of these facts or being willfully dishonest about them. At this point, vague and baseless fear-mongering is all they've got left.

We downplay these "threats", OCS, because they deserve to be downplayed. That's not weakness on national security, it's being capable of rationally assessing threat levels instead of setting the threat level to orange every time some bored Saudi college student decides to go to Iraq and call himself Al Qaeda. If anything, half the reason why the GOP and Iraq War supporters are losing /their/ credibility on national security is because they've cried wolf way far many times, and demonstrated that they don't really have a good grasp of what's a real threat to our security and what isn't.

yeah, what Catsy said

I believe it may be wise to note that al Qaeda is much more a central hub for a network of similarly minded individuals than a terrorist cell akin to Dr. Evil's secret lair. AQI, as Catsy notes, is more a franchise of the AQ moniker than an active extension of AQ. There are some linkages; because like are of similar minds, they do consult and AQ famously (apologies for the lack of linkage) send al Zarqawi a note chastising him for his killing of Sunni civilians because he was (and did) undermine AQI's cause in Iraq (thus the Anbar uprising). But Zarqawi was not bound to listen to that note, nor was AQ capable of withdrawing the AQ name from his organization.

This tends to illustrate the biggest problem the Coalition faces in Iraq. They are not facing 'an insurgency,' they are facing a combination of multiple insurgencies, criminals, and government infighting all going on at the same time. The Coalition focus on AQI is probably operationally wise, since AQI is seen as a foreign movement and therefore few Iraqis are fond of it, but even if/when the Coalition is able to push AQI out of Iraq, there will still be many other insurgencies that must be addressed or suppressed until such time as the GoI can gain sufficient legitimacy to hold power without Coalition support.

OCSteve: What's so threatening? Even in hard-hit societies like Israel, you're more likely to die in a car wreck than in a terrorist attack. I'm not attempting to minimize the tragedy of terrorism, but in the scheme of things, it's a manageable risk of living in the modern world, not some kind of potential civilization-ender. Whatever OBL believes, Al Qaeda will not "bring their terrible rule to lands the world over".

The above statement does not apply, of course, to nuclear terrorism. But surely we can agree that the Iraq war is not keeping us safer from that risk in any way?

Ah, Bizarro World living up to its name:

John McCain is the most ardent and eloquent defender of the mission of freedom, democracy, and security in Iraq - and not just in the Senate, but anywhere. John McCain was indeed the "Man Addressing the Boys" tonight in the Senate, as John Hinderacker put it.

Constantly downplaying these threats really does not help burnish Democrat’s credentials on security.

Are you equally concerned about the Republicans who overhype threats? I doubt you really believe that if we leave Iraq, "the terrorists will follow us home," but that's the line the GOP has been selling for quite some time.

It's one thing to say that if we leave Iraq, there may be more instability in Iraq, etc. It's quite another thing to try and scare people by claiming that if we leave Iraq, we're increasing the risk of another 9/11 at home. That's just silly. While there are probably many reasons why we haven't been attacked again since 9/11, one of them is not that we kept "the terrorists" busy in Iraq. Osama bin Laden has not been refraining from plotting more attacks on the US because he's busy plotting the next suicide bombing in Baghdad.

But I wonder if overhyping the terrorist threat is the sort of thing that leads one to be taken less seriously on national security. It seems to me that most people feel it does, since the Democrats have long since evened the gap on the national security issue in opinion polls. But I wonder if you feel the same way.

To me, one important role of a leader is to make you feel safe. I want someone like FDR, who will publicly proclaim "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself" but privately, do all he can to ensure that the country stays safe. I think that's what most people want - leaders who worry so that they don't have to. But instead, we have a professional class of fearmongerers, people whose job security apparently depends on persuading voters that terrorists lurk around every corner, ready to set off dirty bombs at a moment's notice if you dare to elect a Democrat. Given that one of a terrorist's primary goals is, in fact, to spread terror, shouldn't we be a little more concerned about doing their job for them?

as John Hinderacker put it.

Sorry, a bit of a spelling flame, but that made me laugh.

Catsy: The reason why it is significant to point this out is because AQI is solely concerned with and capable of causing instability and death in Iraq.

I wasn’t actually referring to “them following us home” or posing a direct threat to the US (at least AQI). The suicide bombings in Iraq, the attempts to create or maintain a civil war, the killing of 4,000 Iraqis are all significant problems themselves. AQI poses a threat to our troops and their mission in Iraq and an even larger threat to the citizens of Iraq. I’m not worried about getting blown up when I go for pizza; I’m worried about the continued destabilization of Iraq.

The downplaying here is the meme that it’s only happening in Iraq, not here; its only 135 foreign terrorists (that number obviously doesn’t count the ones who successfully blew themselves up) – why isn’t this to be considered a serious threat?

On the larger point of fear mongering I agree with you (and publius, and other commenters) – but there has to be a way of making that point without completely minimizing the threat. Until a withdrawal actually happens, these terrorists and their ilk pose a threat to our troops every single day, if not through direct attacks then through the overall instability they create.

OCSteve,

"Until a withdrawal actually happens, these terrorists and their ilk pose a threat to our troops every single day, if not through direct attacks then through the overall instability they create."

True. Unfortunately, the presence of these terrorists is used as a reason for our troops to stay, when removing them would diminish the threat to our troops.

Until a withdrawal actually happens, these terrorists and their ilk pose a threat to our troops every single day, if not through direct attacks then through the overall instability they create.

Of course they do. I don't think anyone is arguing that our troops shouldn't attempt to capture or kill anyone who seeks to do them harm. But the question on the table is whether our troops should stay in Iraq at all, and it's not much of an argument to say that there are people who want to kill our troops, ergo the troops need to stay to fight those people. We could invade any country on earth and voila, there would be people trying to kill our troops.

There's no question that AQI poses a threat to the Iraqi people, which will continue even if we depart. But I don't see any evidence that AQI will ever be able to seize any territory in Iraq and establish a safe base of operations, or that they have the power to overthrow the existing government of Iraq. This isn't Vietnam where there will be thousands of enemy troops waiting to sack the capital if we leave. So the case for our military staying in order to protect the Iraqi people from terrorism is no stronger than the case for using our military to protect the people of any other nation from terrorism.

I wasn't really an opponent of the war from day one, but I truly couldn't understand how invading Iraq could be priority #1 in the war on terror. Similarly, I wonder how we ever got in the position of saying that our foremost goal as a nation - requiring the commitment of thousands of troops and billions of dollars of your tax money - is enforcing a particular division of power between the Sunnis and Shiites in Iraq, or trying to protect the Iraqi people from domestic terrorists who have only the flimsiest of connections to the people that attacked us on 9/11. Withdrawing is a radical idea - albeit a radical idea with majority support - but we've gotten way off on a tangent in the fight against al-Qaeda, and only by divorcing ourselves from the toxic Iraq situation will we ever manage to refocus on the things that matter.

ocsteve - i think we're agreeing more than we're disagreeing. for instance, i agree that aqi is dangerous, and a threat. i'm not trying to downplay that at all. the question is what to do about it. my thinking is that our presence, in addition to creating them, "educates" them every day, gives them experience, expands their ranks, etc. but we could r-ably disagree about what to do.

as pointed out abvoe, my point was just that aqi is a relatively small group that is in no way THE TYPE of threat that Bush, et al are presenting it to be. it's not taking over iraq -- it's not going to control territory and march across the middle east. and i think everyonen knows that. yet bush/mccain keeps saying this b/c it stirs up 9/11 emotions that they have calculated are domestically helpful. in doing so, they create this larger "blue/grey" "victory/defeat" idea, and so on.

This is a challenging post to respond to but I'm going to make my best attempt.

First let me attempt to clarify my understanding of AQ as an organization.

First of all, AQI is a completely different organization from the AQ that attacked us.

I don't think this is true at all. AQ is defined by an ideology not an organizational structure. Any person who subscribes to the ideology is a member. The ideology is a commitment to fighting against an eternal and apocalyptic siege against Islam.

They see the attack coming from liberalism mostly (Judaism is thrown in for old and historical reasons). The primary liberal idea that they reject is the separation of church and state. The idea that in order to create a functional community you must abandon laws from faith (Sharia or Messianic Law) and form a human code. To them this is an outright rejection of the supremacy of God in all things. To be honest is an argument that the west only finished 1648 with the Peace of Westphalia after 30 years of war in Europe.

In this light AQI is not just fighting for territory in Iraq (although they would very much enjoy controlling the country), they are fighting for their souls. Struggle is a method of purification and proof of your belief. Because it is an apocalyptic struggle that extends from the present to the end of days and final judgment no act in the defense of God is to great. Additionally because salvation and paradise is assured to those who fight on the side of Right in this battle no person who fights it has anything to loose. On the flip side any person who is not struggling with you is an enemy of God, deserving of no quarter. Only when you apply this level of devotion to the utmost does suicide bombing become possible.

When your realize this you can see that AQI is dangerous because they will inflict death wherever they go. If we leave Iraq they will continue to destroy people there. If they are rooted out of Iraq they will go elsewhere. They are battle hardened and pathological. Death is what they seek and they will find it somewhere.

Now finally to my point on organization. AQ is a leaderless organization. Never at any time does a member need permission to do anything. So long as they keep themselves within the ideological boundaries discussed above, you are a member.

That is not to say that there are not men of influence in AQ. People who through their credibility, experience and resources are able to give direction to others. But that is not so different then the way that protestant churches organize themselves in America.

All of this considered leaving Iraq is a defeat in some senses of the word. Ultimately they will claim victory, not because they destroyed us but because we failed to destroy them. They will hold the experience up and draw followers to them saying "Surely we must be the chosen ones. We survived the assault by the Russians in Afghanistan, and now the Americans in Iraq. The complete failure of America must not be far off."

Now this doesn't mean that I support staying in Iraq without end. I think AQ will claim the victory anyway. No amount of American Military might is going to drive them to death. It is like playing whack-a-mole, they simply show up elsewhere. But withdrawing from Iraq is most likely a good idea.

The military can be better used. Afghanistan could use more support. Although simply moving the troops to Afghanistan will most likely provoke the same fight we have now in Iraq in Afghanistan.

Ultimately it would be good because it would give us the opportunity to clear the air and start taking Islamists seriously. Sit them down and talk to them, challenge their idea and force them to compete with liberty on freedom with more than fear and a love of death.

It would take a major change in American policy. Mainly we would have to make our policy consistant with our ideals, but its not beyond us.

We can't destroy them but if we do it right we can take the wind from their sales.

The best that can be said is that it would force AQ to waste money and resources in Iraq that they could apply elsewhere--you know, kind of like we're doing in Iraq right now.

Actually, Iraq has been a source of money for AQ in Pakistan/Afghanistan. Recent reports have indicated that money raised through illicit activities in Iraq (smuggling, extortion, theft, etc) has been flowing into AQ central and providing much needed resources.

AQ is a leaderless organization. Never at any time does a member need permission to do anything. So long as they keep themselves within the ideological boundaries discussed above, you are a member.

I'm not so sure. Zawahiri and bin Laden tried to instruct Zarqawi at several turns. Not that Zarq was always a compliant vassal. But if Zarqawi had openly defied and challenged bin Laden and Zawahiri (or if they assessed his lack of discipline as too costly), and the latter two stripped him of his "authorization" it would be hard to make the case that Zarq was still al-Qaeda. Even if he claimed it.

Which brings me to this:

I don't think this is true at all. AQ is defined by an ideology not an organizational structure. Any person who subscribes to the ideology is a member. The ideology is a commitment to fighting against an eternal and apocalyptic siege against Islam.

I like Peter Bergen's explanation of al-Qaeda: think of it like the particle and wave descriptives for light. It is both a discrete organization, and an ideological movement.

As for the ideology itself, I think yours is a good description, but I would have sprinkled in a bit more Salafism.

"When your realize this you can see that AQI is dangerous because they will inflict death wherever they go. If we leave Iraq they will continue to destroy people there. If they are rooted out of Iraq they will go elsewhere. They are battle hardened and pathological. Death is what they seek and they will find it somewhere."

I think, in all seriousness, that using the word "dangerous" gives them too much credit. I'm in basic agreement about their ideology, the need to withdraw from Iraq, etc.--but to use the word "dangerous" elevates AQ/AQI to a level of importance they don't deserve. Our society would be better off if we saw terrorism the same way we see violent crime or natural disasters or similar things--bad things, that you take precautions against, but nothing worth flipping out over. That's what's most disturbing to me--the attempt to elevate the low level of threat from conventional terrorism into some kind of uber-boogeyman that can justify things like the Iraq War.

my point was just that aqi is a relatively small group that is in no way THE TYPE of threat that Bush, et al are presenting it to be

We definitely agree on that. I’ll also agree with you that Iraq has become the largest “live fire” terrorist training camp that ever existed.

but we could r-ably disagree about what to do

Maybe not – as I just don’t have a clue. Staying is bad, leaving is bad.

Dan said:

"General Michael Rose of Britain said the following recently:

It is hardly an overstatement to say that had Britain not ended the American War of Independence when it did, it could never have been in a position to defeat Napoleon. ..."

I think this is one of the most underdiscussed and underappreciated aspects of the debate. No matter what else anyone believes about Iraq and our priorities there, the fact is that the ongoing occupation is militarily and financially unsustainable. The U.S. military is getting eroded down to ever-lower levels of readiness, for any function. If China invaded Taiwan next year, or North Korea invaded South Korea, or Canada invaded Vermont, we'd be a lot more hard-pressed to do anything about it than we should be.

As for finances, we are spending something like half a billion dollars a day, of money that we don't have and are borrowing, piling up more debts to China and Saudi Arabia and putting further downward pressure on the now long-dwindling U.S. dollar.

The longer we stay in Iraq, the more we erode our capability to deal with any actual threats to national security down the road. Maybe that is part of why the joint chiefs of staff unanimously opposed Bush's "surge" plan. Anyone in Congress or the administration who considers herself a "hawk" and an exponent of strong national security should be clamoring to get out of Iraq.

Here's a really excellent statement by Sen. Webb from last night's debate.

Sun Tzu:
If ignorant both of your enemy and yourself, you are certain to be in peril.

Not sure how useful this is, but I saw it linked elsewhere yesterday and found it an interesting read in light of this post. Excerpt:

When U.S. forces talk about al Qaeda, they talk about large training camps that move thousands of trainees through them. Those are not the people we talk about when we discuss al Qaeda. The people who go through the camps generally are relatively uneducated young men being trained as paramilitaries. They learn to shoot. They learn to devise simple explosives. They learn infantry tactics. They are called al Qaeda but they are more like Taliban fighters. They are not trained in the covert arts of moving to the United States, surviving without detection while being trained in flying airliners, and then carrying out complex missions effectively. They are al Qaeda in name and, inside Afghanistan or Pakistan, they might be able to do well in a firefight, but they are nothing like the men who struck on 9/11, nor are they trained to be. When the U.S. government speaks about thousands of al Qaeda fighters, the vision is that the camps are filled with these thousands of men with the skill level of the 9/11 attackers. It is a scary vision, which the administration has pushed since 9/11, but it isn't true. These guys are local troops for the endless wars of the region.

When we think of al Qaeda, we think of the tiny group of skilled operatives who gathered around Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri and Mohammed Atef in the 1990s. That group was capable of planning attacks across continents, moving money and men around the world -- and doing so without being detected. Those people have been the target of U.S. intelligence. The goal has been to capture, kill or bottle up those men in inaccessible places in order to prevent another attack like 9/11 or worse . . .

If the NIE report is true, then the NIE is saying al Qaeda not only has been recruiting members into the core group, but also that it has been doing so for some time. If that is true then there have been excellent opportunities to penetrate and destroy what is left of it. But we don't think that is true, because al-Zawahiri and others, possibly bin Laden, are still on the loose. Therefore, we think the NIE is saying that the broad paramilitaries are active again and are now located in Pakistan.

Strange Week in Washington

Alternatively, the NIE is saying that a parallel covert group has been created in Pakistan, is using al Qaeda's name and is mounting new attacks. The attacks in the United Kingdom might have been part of its efforts, though they are an example of why we have always argued that terrorism is technically much more difficult to carry out than it might seem. Those attacks were botched from beginning to end. Unlike strikes by al Qaeda prime -- the core group -- these attacks, if they represent an effort by a new al Qaeda, should be a comfort. It was the gang that couldn't shoot straight operating globally. If Chertoff's gut is speaking about a secondary group in Pakistan carrying out attacks similar to those in the United Kingdom, then certainly there is cause for concern, but nothing like the concern that should be felt if al Qaeda prime is active again. But then we don't think it can be, unless it has recruited new members. And if it has been recruiting new members and U.S. intelligence hasn't slipped someone inside during the process, then that would be not only a shame but also the admission of a major intelligence fiasco. We don't think that is what the NIE is discussing. It is a warning that a group calling itself al Qaeda is operating in Pakistan. That can be called a revived al Qaeda, but only if one is careless with terminology

So:

In other words, by dressing Iraq up as "us vs. al Qaeda," do we unwittingly empower al Qaeda when we eventually do leave?

That's why we can never, ever leave. This is a feature, not a bug.

A lot of people will in good faith read people like Glenn Reynolds and become enraged at the "stab in the back" liberals who stole defeat from the jaws of victory. So not only will our artificial dichotomies create monsters abroad, they could very well create monsters here at home, particularly if there's another major terrorist attack.

As Hartmut has noted, this is also a feature, not a bug.

There's comment spam in sakthi's post of 4:32 a.m. about "car insurance comparison."

Now, a group that calls itself Al Qaeda in Iraq is the greatest short-term threat to Iraq's security, U.S. military spokesman Brig. Gen. Kevin Bergner said Wednesday.

Am I "(at best) factually inaccurate or (at worst) consciously dishonest"?

No, but you might be being naive and gullible, if you don't consider the possibility that military spokespeople emphasize and say what they're told by their bosses, who are ultimately political.

If you like authority, mine outranks yours, though:

"No single narrative is sufficient to explain all the violence we see in Iraq today," Gen. Michael V. Hayden, the CIA director, told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Wednesday.

Attempting to describe the enemy, Lt. Gen. Michael D. Maples, the DIA director, listed "Iraqi nationalists, ex-Baathists, former military, angry Sunni, Jihadists, foreign fighters and al-Qaeda," who create an "overlapping, complex and multi-polar Sunni insurgent and terrorist environment." He added that "Shia militias and Shia militants, some Kurdish pesh merga, and extensive criminal activity further contribute to violence, instability and insecurity."

[...]

Although the Bush administration continues to emphasize the role of al-Qaeda in Iraq, Maples described the current situation as "mostly an intra-Arab struggle to determine how power and authority will be distributed," with or without the U.S. presence. Al-Qaeda and foreign terrorist numbers were put at roughly 1,300, while Hayden, pressed by senators, estimated the number of insurgents in the "low tens of thousands." Maples estimated the number of Iraqi insurgents, including militias, at 20,000 to 30,000, and said there are many more who supply support.

[...]

"Sectarian violence now presents the greatest immediate threat to Iraq's stability and future," he [Hayden] said.

Woodward:
He compared the Iraq situation to the prolonged warfare in the Balkans. "In Bosnia, the parties fought themselves to exhaustion," Hayden said, suggesting that the same scenario could play out in Iraq. "They might just have to fight this out to exhaustion."

Hayden catalogued what he saw as the main sources of violence in this order: the insurgency, sectarian strife, criminality, general anarchy and, lastly, al-Qaeda. Though Hayden had listed al-Qaeda as the fifth most pressing threat in Iraq, Bush regularly lists al-Qaeda first.

Call? Raise? :-)

Seriously, I don't know how familiar you are with the Vietnam War, but does the turn "Saigon Follies" mean anything to you? Given the record of U.S. military spokespeople in U.S. wars counter-insurgency wars, what reason would there be to find them particularly credible? Do you expect them to be simply honestly reporting bad news when it occurs? Are they objective, reliable reporters, given the record? Was that the case in Vietnam? Has the Rumsfeld DoD shown that it's bravely different in boldly speaking truth despite pressure from above? What do you, think, OCSteve?

Bonus quote!

[...] But the government itself was responsible for some of that violence, the CIA official said. "The Ministry of Interior is uniformed death squads, overseers of jails and torture facilities," he said. "Their funds are constantly misappropriated."

In his testimony, Hayden said that the United States had fundamental disagreements with Maliki's Shiite-dominated government on some of the most basic issues facing Iraq.

"We and the Iraqi government do not agree on who the enemy is," Hayden said, according to the written record. "For all the senior leaders of the Iraqi government, Baathists are the source of evil. There is a Baathist behind every bush."

Several participants in the interview described Hayden as dismayed by the startling level of violence in the country but skeptical of the ability of Iraqi forces -- either the military or the police -- to do anything about it.

"It's a legitimate question whether strengthening the Iraqi security forces helps or hurts when they are viewed as a predatory element," he said. "Strengthening Iraqi security forces is not unalloyed good. Without qualification, this judgment applies to the police."

This is, indicentally, why stats about how many Iraqi units are trained are beyond irrelevant: if you're training soldiers/police when there's no coherent government, but instead there's a deadlocked government split in sectarian warfare, all you're doing is making for a bigger and better civil war. There could be one billion trained Iraqi divisions standing on their own, and this would not help. Because they'd be killing each other.

Please see comment I posted in the wrong thread here, with 1973 nostalgia, if you'll be so kind as to click.

Also:

[...] Some terrorism analysts say Bush has used inflated rhetoric to depict al-Qaeda in Iraq as part of the same group of extremists that attacked the United States on Sept. 11 -- noting that the group did not exist until after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. These analysts say Bush also has overlooked the contribution that U.S. actions have made to the growth of al-Qaeda in Iraq, which has been described as kind of a franchise of the main al-Qaeda network headed by bin Laden.

Paul R. Pillar, a former CIA analyst who has been involved in previous intelligence estimates, said that the administration has correctly identified the danger posed by al-Qaeda in Iraq and that there are indeed links between the Iraq group and the larger international terrorist network. But he said the White House is drawing the wrong conclusion, and argued instead that it is the U.S. presence in Iraq that is fueling the terrorists' cause.

"Iraq matters because it has become a cause celebre and because groups like al-Qaeda in Iraq and al-Qaeda central exploit the image of the United States being out to occupy Muslim lands," Pillar said.

Referring to al-Qaeda in Iraq, Clinton administration official Daniel S. Benjamin, who has written books and articles on international terrorism, said: "These are bad guys. These are jihadists." He added: "That doesn't mean we [should] stay in Iraq the way we have been, because we are not making the situation any better. We're creating terrorists in Iraq, we are creating terrorists outside of Iraq who are inspired by what's going on in Iraq. . . . The longer we stay, the more terrorists we create."

The "deep well of criticism and animosity" that I feel toward our Iraq policy is based only partly on the policy itself. Rather, my anger is founded in the literally innumerable accusations by supporters of the war that anyone who questioned the wisdom of going to war, or disputed whether the occupation was succeeding, was (take your pick) a "traitor," a "supporter of Saddam Hussein," or otherwise a person who was not to be taken seriously.

Regarding the "stabbed in the back" theme that is taking shape, I wonder if anyone has considered that the media in the Soviet Union had no role in undermining the success of the Red Army in Afghanistan in the 1980s.

Very interesting stuff. The media really have to take a lot of blame for this as they persistently refuse to call dishonest politicians on obvious factual inaccuracies.

I don't think this is true at all. AQ is defined by an ideology not an organizational structure.

This is a mostly true statement, but ideology alone isn't a useful metric for evaluating the threat that AQI poses to the security of the United States of America vis a vis AQ proper. They certainly share an ideology, but you have to consider whether or not they have the /means/ to accomplish those goals. Some random Palestinian on a street corner in Gaza chanting "death to America" clearly wishes great harm upon us, but even if he we inclined to take up arms himself he has no meaningful ability to inflict that harm on us as a nation, except by killing random Americans who happen to be in Israel. Likewise, the only ability AQI has to harm our national security is by killing our troops and destroying our equipment--an ability we are giving them by staying in Iraq.

Apologies, but I've skipped the bulk of your descriptions of jihad and AQ's ideology because while insightful and mostly correct, it has no real bearing on the core point I was discussing: whether or not they're a threat to us.

When your realize this you can see that AQI is dangerous because they will inflict death wherever they go.

True, but it also has no bearing on their threat to the United States. While they will, as you put it, "inflict death wherever they go", they have to get out of Iraq, gain passage to the United States, get into the country somehow, and whilst amassing destructive materials maintain enough operational security to not get caught before they carry out whatever plans they have. And if they managed somehow, in some flight of fantasy, to successfully carry out another 9/11-style operation, they will still have accomplished nothing of substance. They will have killed some people and caused a temporary disruption to business, but will still have no more ability to conquer or meaningfully harm the United States than I do. Considerably less, actually, since I'm a natural-born citizen who can move about freely and vote.

So yes, they're dangerous. The important question is: to whom?

If we leave Iraq they will continue to destroy people there. If they are rooted out of Iraq they will go elsewhere.

No, if we leave Iraq they will be dead within weeks. They will not be rooted out of Iraq, they will be exterminated by a population no longer restrained or motivated by the American military occupation.

Now finally to my point on organization. AQ is a leaderless organization. Never at any time does a member need permission to do anything. So long as they keep themselves within the ideological boundaries discussed above, you are a member.

We seem intent on proving the truth of bin Laden's assertion that all someone has to do is raise the banner of al Qaeda in some remote corner of the world to bring the US military running.

Now this doesn't mean that I support staying in Iraq without end. I think AQ will claim the victory anyway. No amount of American Military might is going to drive them to death. It is like playing whack-a-mole, they simply show up elsewhere. But withdrawing from Iraq is most likely a good idea.

On these points we agree wholly. :)

I'm not so sure. Zawahiri and bin Laden tried to instruct Zarqawi at several turns. Not that Zarq was always a compliant vassal. But if Zarqawi had openly defied and challenged bin Laden and Zawahiri (or if they assessed his lack of discipline as too costly), and the latter two stripped him of his "authorization" it would be hard to make the case that Zarq was still al-Qaeda. Even if he claimed it.

This actually falls to my point about leaderless organizations having people of great influence (Bin Laden, Zawahiri). They have the influence to influence other people in the organization, stop supplying him with funding or advice. At that point the situation becomes almost a textbook case of natural selection. Zarqawi could change and stay in the fold or loose the power and influence associated with Bin Laden's support. Either way he was going to continue with the same fight, it is more a question of resource allocation then membership (if you follow my line of thought on AQ as an ideology more than an organization).

On a side note I highly recommend the book "The Starfish and the Spider" if you want to understand how AQ is organized.

***
but to use the word "dangerous" elevates AQ/AQI to a level of importance they don't deserve.

I really don't see what is not dangerous about a pathological mass movement, bent on death and suicide.

They are intent on cleansing the world back to the purity of Islam at Mecca and Medina. And they will use the same methods that Hitler used to cleanse the world to a pure master race, and Stalin used to break the USSR of "capitalist ideas". The only way to do it is kill everyone who doesn't voluntarily subscribe.

Unless the argument is that they don't have the capacity to do serious damage. In which case I think your argument is unfounded based on the following:

9/11
American Embassy Bombings
USS Cole
Spanish Train bombing
London transit bombings
Uncounted violence in Iraq and Afghanistan

Treating this as a law enforcement problem belittles the weight of the ideological argument at stake. These aren't rational people professing rational arguments for conflict. AQ and company are out to bring salvation by the sword. If you don't believe me, think of a rational reason to kill your self. Not just die in the defense of something good. But to kill yourself because it was a good thing for all the world.

Unless the argument is that they don't have the capacity to do serious damage. In which case I think your argument is unfounded based on the following:

You didn't just compare the German military to a bunch of guys with boxcutters, did you?

Of course terrorists have the capability to cause death and destruction. But they won't be conquering territory or establishing a caliphate. It's just silly to think they have a chance of accomplishing any of these things in the long view.

Zarqawi could change and stay in the fold or loose the power and influence associated with Bin Laden's support. Either way he was going to continue with the same fight, it is more a question of resource allocation then membership (if you follow my line of thought on AQ as an ideology more than an organization).

Yes, but it is both. An ideology and an organization. Zarq still would have been a menace, but he wouldn't have been al-Qaeda. Resource allocation matters. Branding matters. Having Zawahiri/bin Laden's blessing matters in terms of prestige which is an advantage in many areas in addition to those listed.

Given the record of U.S. military spokespeople in U.S. wars counter-insurgency wars, what reason would there be to find them particularly credible?

And to go back to the lies or mistakes that this post began with, given the record of Adminstration spokespeople, in and out of uniform, what reason would there be to find them particularly credible?

MrWizard: "The primary liberal idea that they reject is the separation of church and state. The idea that in order to create a functional community you must abandon laws from faith (Sharia or Messianic Law) and form a human code. To them this is an outright rejection of the supremacy of God in all things."

This idea is rejected by a lot of Islam, most of whom have no interest in or desire to commit the mayhem you refer to.

Again MrWizard: "They are intent on cleansing the world back to the purity of Islam at Mecca and Medina."

I am getting really tired of people talking about the intent of AQ and other radical Islamic groups as justification for our actions. Intent only means something if there is also capability. AQ doesn't have that capability, and would have even less of a chance if we approached the situation correctly. AS pointed out repeatedly above (with no one really contradicting it) if we left AQI would disappear in a very short time, and few members would get out of Iraq with their lives intact.

MrWizard: "Treating this as a law enforcement problem belittles the weight of the ideological argument at stake. These aren't rational people professing rational arguments for conflict."

No belittling at all. However, it is interesting that almost all arrests and spoiling of plans have been done through law enforcement, not military action. Rationality is irrelevant, as many criminals and criminal organizations don't profess rational arguments, at least as perceived by the rest of the world. And remember, for AQ, their arguments are totally rational.

"The primary liberal idea that they reject is the separation of church and state. The idea that in order to create a functional community you must abandon laws from faith (Sharia or Messianic Law) and form a human code. To them this is an outright rejection of the supremacy of God in all things."

You thought they'd be friendly with America then, considering how many Americans (including Bush) agree with these sentiments. Surely they'd be attacking Scandinavia, or something.

As noted repeatedly, it's utterly counter factual to deride treating terrorism as a "law enforcement" issue, when that very approach--along with alert citizens and incompetent terrorists--have provided practically every single crisis-averted success story of the last six years.

If good law enforcement is so terrible at preventing international terrorism that we have to rely on military action, why has the former been so consistently effective, and the latter so overwhelmingly less so?

This is what I get for posting my second response in a hurry.

I by no means mean to belittle the work of law enforcement everywhere in preventing further terrorist attacks. When I said that treating the problem with AQ as a law enforcement problem is inappropriate what I should have said is "treating it only as a law enforcement problem is inappropriate."

Law enforcement is something that can be done within the bounds of lawful society. Therefore it has great capacity to stop terrorism from happening in the modern Western World.

If we want to defeat terrorism we will need a much more serious ideological engagement with AQ. As silly as their ideas seem to us they more people buy into the idea all the time.

But they won't be conquering territory or establishing a caliphate. It's just silly to think they have a chance of accomplishing any of these things in the long view.

When you think of it, capturing territory isn't that insane. Pakistan is uncomfortably close to major problems with Islamists. There are significant areas on the border that are essentially under their control. I know Hezbollah is not AQ but they control Gaza.

You didn't just compare the German military to a bunch of guys with boxcutters, did you?

No I did not intend to compare the German military to AQ but I will gladly compare this:


HARRIS WHITBECK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Wednesday afternoon at Kabul's national stadium, a soccer match between the top two local teams well under way, and drawing quite a crowd. The crowd and the players seem pleased to be here and pleased to be at a game they know won't be interrupted for the administration of Taliban justice.

"No, no, I couldn't bear to watch it," says Saidul Jum (ph), a football player who on at least three occasions had to stand by as Taliban police led convicted thieves to the field, then surgically amputated their hands or feet.

(on camera): A routine, friendly football match like this one, interrupted and turned into one of the grisliest expressions of the Taliban's interpretation of Islam.

(voice-over): Stadium officials say dozens were executed and hundreds more punished on the soccer field by the Taliban. Doing it in public was a way of warning the population of the price of breaking the law.

So was leaving the evidence in sight.

Football coach Zaid Mahsiam Masari showed me the exact spot where the punishments took place -- center field, where everyone could see.

"One morning I came out here, and there was a big barrel on the field," he says. "It was filled with amputated hands and feet. The teenage players out for morning practice were so upset they could not continue playing."

How, then, to erase the grisly memories from a place built for sportsmanship? "We have to get support for a sports program," he says, "have resources to train our players and to send our young people abroad to see how other sportsmen in the world play, because for five years," he says, "my players were in darkness." The new sports authorities have begun by erasing the official name of the Taliban regime from the stadium wall. Erasing the memory of what happened inside will likely take much longer.

To Auschwitz.

So I'm proposing that fighting AQ is a serious threat. The idea is the same idea with different rhetoric that animated German National Socialism and Communism. Everyone said in the beginning that those people couldn't possibly be dangerous. Lets not make the same mistake.

I don't honestly know what would happen to AQI if we left. I will agree that most of them will probably get killed off or just go away. But the smart ones escape and they will cause trouble somewhere, and I wouldn't put it past them to do it here. They do have connections to the larger AQ group which means they have at their disposal plenty of money to fund what they want.

Terrorist operations are difficult and treacherous but this is a smart and patient enemy. I wouldn't put anything past them.

So if we want to defeat them it will have to be a combination of police work at home, honest and consistent policy of promoting liberty abroad*, and the willingness to use military force on occasion to dispose of people when they can be found. Lastly and most importantly we need to have serious, scholarly and frank debates with the scholars of Islamism and see how they hold up because this battle will be won on the plain of ideals.

For caviates to that statement. When I say promoting liberty abroad I don't mean broad casting audio into Iran, I mean consistently supporting actual democratic leaning people even when it means biting the bullet and disagreeing with a national interest (oil for instance).

On the topic of military action. I don't think that the way that we have done things in the past several years has been good (although I think that if the methods being put into play now were used 4 years ago we would be in much better shape than we are now). I think we need to sit back and get our military back together. But we need to be willing to go out and get the bad guys when we can.

"When you think of it, capturing territory isn't that insane. Pakistan is uncomfortably close to major problems with Islamists."

Not all that much. In the Northwest, specifically in the North-West Frontier Province, the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, Northern Areas, yes. But in the major population areas, including the Islamabad Capital Territory, and the country overall, not really. Except in those extreme frontier regions, there's no sign of major Islamist restiveness to the degree that it threatens the government. What threatens the government most at present is the democratic opposition, and the lawyer's protests. The recent attack on the Red Mosque by the government brought no significant protests.

It's always been in Musharraf's interest, ever since 9/11, to scare the hell out of the U.S. about the Islamic Threat In Pakistan to his government, precisely for identical reasons why right-wing dictators around the world who were allied with the U.S. during the Cold War would constantly clang the alarm bells, and inflate the crap out of The Communist Threat In Their Country, Which Threatens The Entire Region!: to get as much aid as possible to Fight The Communist Threat! and support their government, which is in danger of falling to the communists!

Now it's Islamists: same game.

This isn't to say, of course, that Pakistan isn't incredibly problematic -- it is -- or that they don't have plenty of violently-inclined Islamists, or al Qaeda and/or Taliban sympathizers and supporters and members, around the country -- they do, but the degree of support varies a lot geographically -- or that Musharaff isn't shaky, and so on. But the government shows little sign of being in danger of being taken over by Islamists: that's purely a regional threat. Most of Pakistan is in an economic boom. See here:

[...] The country’s economic recovery has been perhaps the most remarkable achievement of Musharraf’s government. Under Shaukat Aziz, a former vice-president of Citibank and now the Prime Minister, Pakistan is enjoying a construction and consumer boom, with annual economic growth of around seven per cent and one of Asia’s best-performing stock markets (some of this prosperity has been generated by the lifting of trade restrictions and by substantial debt relief from the United States and other countries after September 11th). The effects can be seen everywhere: in new shopping centers and restaurant complexes, in building sites, in advertisements for the latest laptops and iPods. In 2003, there were fewer than three million cell-phone users in Pakistan; today there are nearly fifty million.

Despite elections in 2002 that were denounced by journalists and civil-rights groups as having been openly rigged, liberals have remained largely supportive of Musharraf, or at least quiescent, while most of the country’s mullahs, normally stridently outspoken, have been relatively subdued.

As we say, read the whole thing.
There are significant areas on the border that are essentially under their control. I know Hezbollah is not AQ but they control Gaza."
Obviously you mean "Hamas," not "Hezbollah." And the two are pretty darn far apart, with completely different goals. Al Qaeda is almost as much of a threat to Hamas as it is to us. Al Qaeda, or groups that support them, threatens to drain some support from Hamas politically, if Hamas seems insufficiently radical. But Hamas is, despite some bloodthirsty rhetoric now and again, all about Palestine: they're not about the caliphate, or issues outside of Palestine; al Qaeda lectures Hamas on their impure and fallen ways, and for forming a government, etc., etc. I'm hardly a fan of Hamas, but conflating them with al Qaeda is quite groundless, and would be misleading if anyone engaged in that.

"When I say promoting liberty abroad I don't mean broad casting audio into Iran, I mean consistently supporting actual democratic leaning people even when it means biting the bullet and disagreeing with a national interest (oil for instance)."

That's the best possible way to severely damage the Iranian democratic movement, of course: by tainting everyone we help with evidence that they're taking money/help from The American Enemy. Remember how Americans felt about people who worked for the Soviet Union, and were found to be secretly, or publically taking money from the Soviets? How popular were they? How popular was Gus Hall? Why do you believe Iranians are in a different position?

May I kindly invite you to read this and the links therein, perhaps?

Moreover, have you paused to consider the history of America in Iran as viewed by Iranians? Do you know how 1954 and Operation Ajax look to them? Do you have any notion of how anything that reminds them of that, and of the Shah and SAVAK, strikes a lot of Iranians, no matter how much they may otherwise dislike the present regime, or like the idea of democracy, or like other things about America? The first step in effective psywar is to know the enemy, and, you know, "we're from the American government and we're here to help" isn't exactly without complications or drawbacks in Iran, both popularly, and in terms of what it does for democrats who want us to stay the hell away.

"The idea is the same idea with different rhetoric that animated German National Socialism and Communism. Everyone said in the beginning that those people couldn't possibly be dangerous."

Not in our actual history, but setting that aside, before they took control of their respective governments -- by "Communism," I take you to mean "in Russia" -- they were only threats to their own governments. The situation now is entirely different, as the threat remains one of network warfare/asymmetric warfare against small stateless groups. Such groups are capable of mass killing, but not of toppling governments or taking over countries or holding vast territories, and conflating them with the threat of massive dictatorships like Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union is entirely nuts. It's like saying a mosquito might cause Hiroshima. Working from such a premise is not a path to wise strategic analysis.

"Lets not make the same mistake."

The mistake not to make is to conflate entirely different categories and orders of magnitudes of threats.

The book "The Secret History of al Qaeda" by Abdel Bari Atwan is fairly good on much of these topics.

There aren't, despite the title, that many secrets in the book but the perspective is more focused on who AQ is, what they want and how they plan on getting it.

The plan is fairly simple.

Draw America into an agressive war on Islamic soil with terrorist attacks. Paint them as occupiers. Raise the anger of the umma. Steer this anger towards a justified defensive jihad. Force America to return home. Turn the guns on the apostate regimes of the middle east. Establish Caliphate.

The target of the whole shebang, the point of 9/11, and all the other attacks, is to get rid of the crappy governments in Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Jordan, Egypt, UAE etc. Many Americans focus on themselves and imagine that Bin Laden wants to destroy America. But AQ didn't take the war to Russia when the Soviets left Afghanistan did he?

This strategy for the establishment of the caliphate is what defines AQ. Swearing allegiance to Bin Laden means accepting this strategy and very little more.

When the Americans leave Iraq I would expect their next move to be attacks on the governments of one or more of the Arab regimes, at a guess, Jordan. Should the US get involved, rinse and repeat for the next thirty years. You'll either get sick of it or go bankrupt eventually.

I have no idea what an American counter strategy to this would look like, but playing into their hands is dumb. Which is the biggest tragedy of Bush/Cheney.

Aside from all the torture and dead people, obviously.

Gary,

I concede on the first point, I shouldn't write at 1:30 in the morning.

On the second I think I'm just not explaining myself well. I think that most of the democracy promotion (i.e. giving money away) that we have done since WWII excepting the Marshal Plan have really stunk.

I understand that money from us can be a sever taint and hindrance to real democracy. It obviously hasn't helped in Iran or Cuba.

The way it should work, I think, is at least, is that America should force it to play by its own best ideals. Stop giving money to people doing bad things (I look at Egypt with a skeptical eye), use international agreements rather than than the bully pulpit. If we want human rights around the world we need to stop the suspension of habeas in America, and so on. That is what I have in mind.

On another note I would highly recommend reading "Terror and Liberalism" by Paul Berman. He makes many of the points that I have tried to assert, much more elegantly and at length.

They are intent on cleansing the world back to the purity of Islam at Mecca and Medina. And they will use the same methods that Hitler used to cleanse the world to a pure master race, and Stalin used to break the USSR of "capitalist ideas". The only way to do it is kill everyone who doesn't voluntarily subscribe.

Unless the argument is that they don't have the capacity to do serious damage. In which case I think your argument is unfounded based on the following:

You seem to be making the argument that Islamic/Arabic people will somehow naturally trend towards authoratative governments if we are taken out of the picture.

I'm not 100% on the history, and I don't have any links, but weren't most of those regimes (like the Taliban in Afghanistan) deliberately propped up by higher powers (like America) in the past? Everyone was so scared of Teh Commies that they put in/supported these brutal regimes (because the Tabilan was definitely not Commie, but still brutal enough on their population to effectively suppress any Communist movement from starting). I'm not saying Communism wasn't a threat, just that the preventative actions taken were sometimes extreme.

I guess my point is - the last time international affairs went all hysterical about some political movement, there were overreactions and now, some years down the track, we are dealing with the consequences.

Isn't a bit rich to use examples like Taliban in Afighanistan to make a point about what may happen if we leave while completely ignoring the outside influences and history that led there?

Phil

Some excellent comments by Gary in this thread.

MrWizard54,


You recently proposed ending American support for the Egyptian government. Given that these payments amount to bribing Egypt to play nice with Israel, do you really think that the Israeli government and Israeli lobbey in the US will tolerate that?


Also, if we stop supporting Mubarak, the probability that his regime gets overthrown by an islamist coup increases. Are you aware of that? Are you aware that an islamist government in Cairo might decide to start eliminating members of Egypt's Christian minority?

Victory and defeat both not possible? I'd agree on the victory part, but...

Leaving Iraq would not be defeat, but staying and being driven out would be. Think we can't be driven out? We can be.

Catsy: As noted repeatedly, it's utterly counter factual to deride treating terrorism as a "law enforcement" issue, when that very approach--along with alert citizens and incompetent terrorists--have provided practically every single crisis-averted success story of the last six years.

I’m not sure where I stand on that, but I have to ask on the “alert citizens” angle, what the heck the Democrats are doing today:

Democrats are trying to pull a provision from a homeland security bill that will protect the public from being sued for reporting suspicious behavior that may lead to a terrorist attack, according to House Republican leadership aides.

I’d have a little more faith in that approach if they didn’t pull stuff like this…

I’m not sure where I stand on that, but I have to ask on the “alert citizens” angle, what the heck the Democrats are doing today:

Trying to avoid stupid crap like this from happening?

(OCSteve's link references the incident where a bunch of Islamophobes had half a dozen imams kicked off a flight for praying in public.)

Jes: I think we’ve had this conversation before. ;)

Sorry but I find it hard to reconcile these two concepts:

Law enforcement, along with alert citizens, is the appropriate way to fight terrorism.

AND:

“Democrats are trying to pull a provision from a homeland security bill that will protect the public from being sued for reporting suspicious behavior that may lead to a terrorist attack”

“Democrats are trying to pull a provision from a homeland security bill that will protect the public from being sued for reporting suspicious behavior that may lead to a terrorist attack”

Are they? I thought they were trying to pull a provision from a homeland security bill that would protect Islamophobes who get Muslims hounded off planes from being sued for harassing people because they were praying in public and talking in Arabic.

Quite sensible, really. If you actually want people to take seriously reports of suspicious behavior, bigots need to be warned off regarding all Muslims and speakers of Arabic as inherently suspicious and likely to be terrorists.

Law enforcement, along with alert citizens, is the appropriate way to fight terrorism.

So it is. "Law enforcement", however, includes protecting people from harassment because their religion isn't Christian and their first language isn't English. Don't you think?

And if you want alert citizens who feel they can report possible signs of terrorism, you do not want a state in which innocent citizens are routinely assumed to be terrorists because they pray in public or speak Arabic to each other. That won't encourage those citizens to be alert for terrorism threats and report them to the police, now will it?

OCSteve - do you have a link to the text of the proposed bill? I'm happy to read it if you can fined one but I'm guessing it is wildly overbroad and would amount to, in effect, the legalization of discrimination against muslims.

And it's kind of reactionary to propose national legislation over, AFAICT, a single lawsuit that hasn't actually named any individual defendants yet, don't you think?

Jes: We had a long long discussion on this. It came down to me believing their actions were provocative, and you not seeing any provocation in their actions at all.

My preference is that the public err on the side of caution and actually report things they find suspicious, and not question their first gut instinct and fail to report their suspicions for fear of a lawsuit.

If Democrats prefer that fighting terrorism be a law enforcement endeavor I may be on board with that, but not if they are at the same time fighting legislation that would protect citizens from lawsuits when they report their suspicions to law enforcement.

Law enforcement has always relied on citizens reporting their suspicions – the police do not go door to door looking for crimes. If I have reason to believe that my neighbor would file a ruinous lawsuit against me for reporting my suspicion to the police that he was beating his wife, guess what? If my suspicions turn out to be true she may face many more years of abuse or worse – because I won’t be reporting it to the police.

Ugh: do you have a link to the text of the proposed bill

It looks like H.R.2291 in the house and S.1369 in the Senate.

It appears to be pretty specific in regards to transportation systems, not a general blanket immunity from lawsuits.

"I’d have a little more faith in that approach if they didn’t pull stuff like this…"

So it's fine if I call the FBI right now, give them you name and address, and also give them a ton of false documents I've compliled, which look terrifically authentic, enough to pass scrutiny for a day or so, though not more, elaborating your having bought large amounts of chemicals to make a chlorine-laden bomb, and your links to an Islamic terrorist group. And you won't spend more than a week or two in jail before you're released, after you've been on the front page of every newspaper and in every tv report in America, as a suspected terrorist.

So you'll have no problems living with that, right? Because you want to make it illegal for you to sue. So there will be nothing you can do about that little non-event.

And let's let everyone do this as much as they want! Because in America, people should be able to bear false witness against their neighbor without penalty! It's the American way! Now.

Just one more brick of freedom removed: why do Republicans hate freedom?

Gary: At the risk of sounding like, well, Gary ;), - did you click through and read the bill?

(b) False Disclosures- Subsection (a) shall not apply to any statement or disclosure that the person making the statement or disclosure knows to be false at the time it is made.

The bill would require that the report be made in good faith, Gary. So he could still sue you as long as he alleges that your false report wasn't made in good faith, which it sounds like it wasn't, you false reporter of false things, you.

Also, let's pass a law to reward children who call the authorities to report any parents or adults they suspect of Islamist sympathies. It will make us more secure!

Who could object? Not Democrats, because they'd be demonstrating how weak they are!

Better yet, let's set up a system of block captains on every block, to look out for suspicious Muslim terrorists. They could be little old ladies, retired, who have little else to do, and they could site outside every apartment building, keeping track of all comings and goings, demanding info from everyone entering and leaving, writing it down, and reporting it all to Homeland Security. It will make us safer!

And we should set up security cameras on all public streets, as well. And while we're at in, inside all public areas in all public buildings. And we should set up a system to collect tips from all citizens in a pro-active way, so that they're required to pass on info each weak to a Homeland Security phone number. those who don't cooperate are obviously suspicious.

Oh, let's cut to the chase: let's just adopt the most proven systems to keep us secure we know of! Anyone who doesn't want to do this obviously is sympathetic to terrorism, and wants our children blown up! I say we institute a combination of East Germany's systems, Mao's, and Stalin's: thos Muslim terrorists won't stand a chance!

And if any Republicans or Democrats object, that obviously demonstrates that they're unreliable on security, and I, for one, couldn't consider voting for such softness!

Damn terrorsymp weaklings. We're just surrounded by them: if the entire Republican leadership doesn't come out for my plan tomorrow, I can't vote for them!

Problem is, they likely all would vote in favor.Ha ha ha: joke's on me. And all of us.

"The bill would require that the report be made in good faith, Gary."

Mind-reading required, you mean. What's wrong with our current justice system, OCSteve? Why don't you have faith in America? Why does it all fly out the window, and laws all need to be cut down, to get at... hallucinations by crazy Americans, whose hallucinations must be unrestrained and unleashed by current law!?

And when you've finished cutting down all the laws that protect us, in your need to protect us from Islamic terrorists, where then will you turn for protection, all the laws having been cut down?

For Wales, Richard? For Wales?

Thanks OCSteve.

Some questions I would have about the law and the motivations of its backers (not necessarily for you):

1. Does the activity have to be objectively suspicious, or only suspicious to the person reporting the activity?

2. What, exactly, is a "transportation system"? Does UPS/FedEx count? My car?

3. Just what is "reasonable action to mitigate a suspicious action"? If someone reports to me that the guy over there is acting suspiciously can I shoot him? That might not sound reasonable but what if it involves blowing up a jetliner?

4. If this is such a good idea, why limit it to transportation systems? Al Qaeda has blown up buildings too, haven't they?

5. Will this lead to many more false positives such that people don't take any complaint seriously (or, to take a particular example, any of the "awful, horrible, terrorist plots" the administration claims they've disrupted that later turn out to be a bunch of people who have trouble putting on their pants in the morning)?

Mind-reading required, you mean. What's wrong with our current justice system, OCSteve?

Lots of statutes provide a safe harbor provided you act in good faith. It's an ordinary sort of legal requirement, and yeah, it does ultimately require a judge or jury to assess your state of mind. In fact, the bill is pretty much toothless because you can still be sued as long as the plaintiff includes an allegation of bad faith.

Also, I'm a different Steve.

I'm going to take matters into my own hands by living out the rest of my days in a lead-lined, underground box. That'll keep the terrorists from taking away my freedom.

"Law enforcement has always relied on citizens reporting their suspicions – the police do not go door to door looking for crimes. If I have reason to believe that my neighbor would file a ruinous lawsuit against me for reporting my suspicion to the police that he was beating his wife, guess what?"

Steve, why are you unsatisfied with the state of law on this as it exists now? Are there lots of cases of actual terrorists not having been reported, due to fear of lawsuit? No?

Then why the need -- the apparent passion -- to take away another liberty of Americans? Why?

I'm sorry, but I want to see a clear need before I agree to strip another American liberty. YMMV.

Reading the text of the proposed HR 2291, we see:

Any person who is named as a defendant in a civil lawsuit for making a voluntary disclosure described in section 1 or for taking an action described in section 2, and is found to be immune from civil liability under this Act, shall be entitled to recover from the plaintiff all reasonable costs and attorney fees allowed by the court in which the lawsuit was decided.
Want a chilling effect? This punishes anyone who was tossed into custody and held for questioning, or whatever the results, and not only strips them of their right to sue, unless they can prove bad faith, but chills them from even trying, for fear of having to pay not just their own court costs, which would be considerable, but that of the person who mucked up their life.

Gary,

You gave it your absolute best effort, over a long long period of time, to go after our troops in Haditha. Acting in good faith, sure, ok.

Can you admit that you might have been wrong? Why all these paranoid scenarios about the US govt, when you may have been wrong? Has John Murtha made statements that the Bush administration has been setting up block captains and all that? Is that your source?

You condemned our guys as being guilty, when you did not know that as a fact. You hammered this Haditha thing over and over and over. Nobody is suing you.

So just think about that, before giving OCSteve the once-over.

And, I'm not even sure under what legal theory the plaintiff's are going to recover from some random passengers saying they were acting suspiciously to a flight attendant. Defamation was the closest thing I could come up with.

You gave it your absolute best effort, over a long long period of time, to go after our troops in Haditha. Acting in good faith, sure, ok.

Can you admit that you might have been wrong? Why all these paranoid scenarios about the US govt, when you may have been wrong?

The latest.

One of the Marines charged with murdering civilians in Haditha, Iraq, in 2005 knew that only women and children were huddled in a back bedroom in a house there, but he opened the door and shot them anyway, a squadmate testified Tuesday.

"I told him, there's women and kids in that room," Lance Cpl. Humberto M. Mendoza said of Lance Cpl. Stephen B. Tatum. Tatum's response was, "Well, shoot them," Mendoza said.

The statements came in an Article 32 investigation to determine whether Tatum will face a court-martial. It was a day of damaging testimony by his Marine comrades, who portrayed Tatum as eager to kill innocent bystanders.

Did some right-wing blog tell you that Haditha was the new Duke lacrosse case, DaveC? Did they try and tell you that it was all unraveling? Did you let them snooker you again?

"You gave it your absolute best effort, over a long long period of time, to go after our troops in Haditha."

This is a complete untruth.

"You condemned our guys as being guilty, when you did not know that as a fact."

This is a lie: want me to sue you for libel?

For those of you who don't follow my blog religiously, when the Haditha story broke, I made a number of long and fairly comprehensive posts in the early stages, with links to all the relevant news stories I found, and presenting quotes from them, for people to judge for themselves.

And that's all. At no time did I ever draw any conclusions whatsoever about anyone's guilt or innocence. I never even came close in any way. Dave's statements otherwise are utter falsehoods.

Anyone interested is more than welcome to read these posts for yourselves. Dig in. Knock yourselves out. Find me my unfair remarks in which I "condemned our guys as being guilty." Have fun.

Dave: as in many times before, you owe me a public apology and repudiation of your false statements about me. I can't speak to what what the ratio is in your mind between delusion and malice, but you owe me the action of a repudiation and apology. Again.

It came down to me believing their actions were provocative, and you not seeing any provocation in their actions at all.

Yes. I found it impossible to see provocation in Muslims praying together in public, in people speaking Arabic to each other in public, in overweight guys asking for seatbelt extenders, and I failed to understand entirely the arcane provocation in where people sit on planes. (After all, one must sit somewhere, right?) You apparently found all of these highly suspicious, which frankly seemed absurd at the time and still seems absurd now.

My preference is that the public err on the side of caution and actually report things they find suspicious, and not question their first gut instinct and fail to report their suspicions for fear of a lawsuit.

My preference is that if a member of the public is so lost to sanity that they find Muslims praying in public or people talking in Arabic to each other or someone asking for a seatbelt extender "suspicious", I would very much like that member of the public to be on some other flight than the one I'm on: but if that's not possible, I definitely want the flight attendants to realize that they should fear a lawsuit if they delay the plane by kicking the innocent Muslims off, rather than telling the idiot Islamophobe that if they want to change planes, they can, but they're paying their own fare. (With any luck, that would quiet the idiot down for the trip, and the only problem would be the creepy letters they'd write afterwards.)

"Erring on the side of caution" does not mean assuming that every Muslim who prays in public is a terrorist, OCSteve. And the fact that you think it does is deeply worrying.

Gary:Are there lots of cases of actual terrorists not having been reported, due to fear of lawsuit? No?

The bill is in response to the “Flying Imam” case as I’m sure you know. One of the same folks is responsible for bringing a similar lawsuit concerning 2 students who attempted to force the cockpit door. I find their actions provocative and the motives for the lawsuits suspect at best. I’m not going to rehash all that here. I did it once with Jes. (TiO archive I can’t link to sorry.)

But if Democrats want to sell me on law enforcement as the proper response to terrorism, then this weakens their case with me. That’s all.

Problem is, they likely all would vote in favor.Ha ha ha: joke's on me. And all of us.

Whenever I get involved in a similar discussion here it always devolves into the same thing: “OCSteve wants to live in a police state to be protected from the big bad terrorists.” Not once or twice or occasionally – every time. I just can’t have a reasonable discussion about some of these things. Fine – have it that way – I want to live in a police state.

OCSteve: Fine – have it that way – I want to live in a police state.

One where nobody prays in public, talks anything but English, copes with regular seat-belts on planes no matter what their waist size, and above all, obeys the arcane rules of unsuspicious plane-seating. (Which someone should explain to me sometime: apparently sitting at the front, the back, or the middle of the plane is suspicious.)

Jes: "Erring on the side of caution" does not mean assuming that every Muslim who prays in public is a terrorist, OCSteve. And the fact that you think it does is deeply worrying.

You know there was a lot more to it than that (in our previous discussion). It was the totality of all their actions, not “praying in public”. But again – I give up on this discussion.

I don't think you want to live in a police state OCSteve, I just think the law is a silly overeaction playing to people's fears that addresses a problem that likely doesn't exist.

Fine – have it that way – I want to live in a police state.

Just great OCSteve. Now you can't sue people for libel when they claim that you want to live in a police state.

Course, Gary can't sue me because he did actually write

This, obviously, is yet far more significant, because it's outside the original unit, whom might not be found to be acting entirely surprisingly in covering for their buddies; but this act by the exploitation team has to suggest Marines simply covering for fellow Marines because they're Marines. Again, not all that surprising, given the loyalty engendered in the Corps, and in the field, but still ultimately dishonorable, given the need to also do right, not wrong, by the Iraqis, even in a terrorist/insurgent/enemy-infested town where people are shooting at you day and night, brutally killing your buddies, and then speaking two-facedly to you immediately afterwards, and where you can't tell enemy from innocent (the sad but inevitable fact of counterinsurgency warfare).

which can clearly be construed as condemning our troops as being guilty.

It was once written

Regardless, that’s the merits of a free society, in which argument and opinions we don’t like, and the most inane and offensive opinions are inevitable. That’s what we used to call “the price of freedom,” and last I looked, it’s what we’re supposed to be fighting for, and it’s the cause that’s supposed to rally those around the world to us, and to see us as a shining city on a hill, and to inspire the world.

You may disagree and oppose freedom of speech, on the grounds that dumb opinions are harmful. I don’t know, but I’m for freedom of speech, myself, including for opinions that offend me, and for lies, and for the most utmost stupid statements.

but it seems to me best to keep mum hereabouts.

But if Democrats want to sell me on law enforcement as the proper response to terrorism, then this weakens their case with me. That’s all.

I simply don't understand what the one has to do with the other, at all. It's like you're saying that if we can't report suspicious activity on airplanes without fear of lawsuits, we have no choice but to keep invading more countries. I don't get it.

OCSteve: You know there was a lot more to it than that (in our previous discussion). It was the totality of all their actions, not “praying in public”.

Yeah. First, they prayed in public. Then, two of them spoke in Arabic to each other. Then, one or two of them asked for seat belt extenders. Then, the six of them sat at the front, the middle, and the back of the plane. Somehow, you added up three zeroes and one minus (because getting suspicious because of where they sat was a less than zero) to get "4! THEY MUST BE TERRORISTS" and refused to explain how this arithmancy worked. And are still refusing to explain how you manage to add up three innocent actions and one normal action to get "SUSPICIOUS BEHAVIOUR!"

(Not that I'm surprised. I'm amused. I have just had a glass of Zinfandel. This discussion would probably go much better if you'd had a glass of your choice and were giggling as much as I am.)

(The Zinfandel was too sweet, by the way: I'd never had that before. Would it be suspicious behaviour if I prayed to have it changed to Chardonnay?)

It's like you're saying that if we can't report suspicious activity on airplanes without fear of lawsuits, we have no choice but to keep invading more countries. I don't get it.

Makes perfect sense to me. The last time I was on a plane and didn't report any suspicious behavior, I invaded Belgium.

Of course, everyone invades Belgium sooner or later. So perhaps that doesn't count.

OCSteve, do you really, honestly, deep down in your bones feel that this single provision -- this one item, which appears to be one of those reactionary hard-cases-make-bad-law kind of things in response to a single incident -- literally makes or breaks the law enforcement response to terrorism? I mean, really, cross-your-heart-and-hope-to-die seriously? That without this lawsuit-protection thing, the law enforcement response to potential terrorism is simply a joke? I find that very, very hard to believe.

And, you know, these two bolded phrases here allow for a lot of weasely bullcrap:

Democrats are trying to pull a provision from a homeland security bill that will protect the public from being sued for reporting suspicious behavior that may lead to a terrorist attack, according to House Republican leadership aides.
The former because who is to say what may lead to a terrorist attack, and the latter because I have to assume that any person with that title is almost certainly lying these days.

And people claim it's the liberals that crave a Mommy state to protect them.

Blithering fear of "the terrorists" is really unbecoming, especially when someone's used it to lead you around by the nose for the past 6 years.

Trading freedom for security -- and in this case, the illusion of security -- is an idiocy.

Ugh: I don't think you want to live in a police state OCSteve, I just think the law is a silly overeaction playing to people's fears that addresses a problem that likely doesn't exist.

I should have noted that your questions/points were substantive and well worth discussion. I’m way open to improving the bill as it seems like it was slapped together over coffee and Danish. So tell me that Democrats want to defeat this version to improve on it and I put my gripes on hold.

DaveC: Just great OCSteve. Now you can't sue people for libel when they claim that you want to live in a police state.

Duh! I knew I hit post too quick.

Gary: I think on balance, DaveC is more right here. (Surprise!) There was a huge rush to judgment by a certain politician and most of the left-leaning blog-o-sphere. Now the case is unraveling in at least some aspects. It ain’t My Lai (note – I used your google suggestion to check spelling). Could it be one, even two whackos? Of course.

I await charges of military cover-up (not from you, unless you jump the gun).

Steve: I simply don't understand what the one has to do with the other, at all. It's like you're saying that if we can't report suspicious activity on airplanes without fear of lawsuits, we have no choice but to keep invading more countries. I don't get it.

I don’t want to invade anyone. I want to provide people who have reasonable suspicion of suspicious activity immunity from ruinous lawsuits for reporting their suspicions – end of story.


Jes: Then, the six of them sat at the front, the middle, and the back of the plane. Somehow, you added up three zeroes and one minus (because getting suspicious because of where they sat was a less than zero) to get "4! THEY MUST BE TERRORISTS" and refused to explain how this arithmancy worked. And are still refusing to explain how you manage to add up three innocent actions and one normal action to get "SUSPICIOUS BEHAVIOUR!"

Oh, you are good, or at least consistent. Did LJ give you access to the secret TiO archives (kidding LJ)? I swear those are almost your exact words from the last time. Water and oil Jes…

I invaded Belgium

Not much sport in that anymore. ;)


Phil: That without this lawsuit-protection thing, the law enforcement response to potential terrorism is simply a joke?

It does undermine how seriously I take it yes. A joke? No – but Democrats have to get more serious to get me up on that platform. If they come down on CAIR’s side in almost anything, that will be a problem for me.


Morat: Trading freedom for security -- and in this case, the illusion of security -- is an idiocy.

Noted – I’ll crawl back under my bed now until the police state rescues me.

"which can clearly be construed as condemning our troops as being guilty."

Yes, DaveC, "has to suggest" certainly is libelous. And that's a "condemnation" of them as "guilty as a fact." Sure.

You're claiming that "has to suggest" = "it is a fact they are legally guilty."

Think any libel lawyer will confirm that? Just ask one.

I'll certainly ask any and all actual lawyers on this blog if I, in fact, committed libel, by writing the long sentence DaveC quotes, in which I said -- somewhere, DaveC can't be bothered to tell us or link -- that some reported action "has to suggest" something. (Serious request, please.)

Oooh, I'm really scared of losing that libel case. Let's pass a law to prevent that! We all remember me demanding that, so obviously I'm a hypocrite.

Oh, wait.

Moreover, I wrote tens of thousands of words: 40 posts. You say I "gave it your absolute best effort, over a long long period of time, to go after our troops in Haditha" and that I "condemned our guys as being guilty, when you did not know that as a fact": after something over 50,000 words on Haditha, over 40 posts, the wordcount of a short novel, over more than a year, that's all you can find to back up your claim that Gary committed libel on our troops?

"You hammered this Haditha thing over and over and over. Nobody is suing you," you say of my "libel." But that's your evidence?

I leave it to the jury. Verdict, anyone?

I take it you have no intention of withdrawing your lie about me, nor of apologizing for it.

OCSteve: "Whenever I get involved in a similar discussion here it always devolves into the same thing: 'OCSteve wants to live in a police state to be protected from the big bad terrorists.' Not once or twice or occasionally – every time. I just can’t have a reasonable discussion about some of these things. Fine – have it that way – I want to live in a police state."

I can't speak to your other conversations, but as regards this one, I never said anything of the kind. I never said you want to live in a police state. You are confusing general sarcasm with an imaginary comment about you that I did not make, with a sentiment I've never felt for a moment.

I enjoy conversing with you, OCSteve, because you're a nice guy, a thoughtful guy, an honest guy, and I like you. But I wish you would read a touch more carefully at times. And I wish I could do more to disabuse you of these misreadings. There's no cause for you to stop talking about these issues, because you misread what people are saying to you, and see attacks that aren't there.

Granted, in a better world, I wouldn't ever use sarcasm at times, I suppose, and I'm certainly responsible for whatever degree that contributes to this sort of misunderstanding, but I'm saying for the record that I didn't intend any such implication in any such way at any time whatsoever. So you have no grounds for believing that anyone said any such thing to you, and thus no grounds for concluding you should stop conversion. Please.

"So tell me that Democrats want to defeat this version to improve on it and I put my gripes on hold."

What "improvement" do you suggest? At present, I don't know how to "improve" it, because I don't see any need for us to take away another American liberty.

If I saw the country under threat by a profusion of lawsuits interfering with legitimate terrorism investigations, I'd certainly see a problem in need of a solution. I see no such problem whatever. I'm perfectly open to evidence of such a problem. Please present it, if it's available. That's all I ask, and I don't believe it's too much to ask. Do you disagree?

As to what DaveC said, your response is purely about generalities, which are irrelevant to his specific lie about me: I did not "condemn our guys as being guilty"; in point of fact, I linked to news stories in which they presented their side; I never ever even linked to a single editorial, or blogger, commenting on the case. I only linked to news stories. I never ever wrote a single editorial blog entry about the case. Not once over the past year and a half since November, 2005. Lots of blogs did those things: not me. So I'm pretty damn mad to be lied about. Wanna argue with blogs that editorialized? Go do it! Wanna lie about me? I'm not going to stand for it without protest.

DaveC accuses me of "going after" our troops: I won't stand for that. He claims I condemned them as guilty, and
"hammered them" as "guilty" and that I claimed it as a "fact," and that I did it "over and over and over again."

That's a huge effing lie. And from over 50,000 words, we've seen his total evidence. Big lie.

"If they come down on CAIR’s side in almost anything, that will be a problem for me."

This is your logic? Let's not bother with actual facts, they don't matter, but if group X says something, and Y agrees, Y must be wrong, and that's how you think decisions should be made?

Just the day before yesterday, I pointing out to someone who engage in similar rhetoric that conservatives probably are opposed to botulism in drinking water, but that hardly means liberals should therefore decide to become pro-botulism.

You've gotta know better than this.

I want to provide people who have reasonable suspicion of suspicious activity immunity from ruinous lawsuits for reporting their suspicions – end of story.

Right. And if someone opposes that, somehow that suggests that the law-enforcement approach to fighting terrorism is invalid?

I think you're falling for the standard GOP attempt to personalize every political issue. Rather than debate whether law enforcement is, in fact, the best approach to fighting terrorism, they want you to think that the law enforcement approach is supported by icky liberals like Howard Dean and Al Sharpton and whoever else pushes your buttons, and therefore it must be wrong.

I urge you to resist the temptation and focus instead on the empirical evidence. Since 9/11, it sure seems like law enforcement has foiled a lot of terror plots, in the US and UK as well as elsewhere. On the other hand, the military approach seems to have made a big muddle of things and it's quite unlikely that it's prevented much in the way of terrorism against our country; if anything it's helped out the jihadists' recruiting efforts.

You may not think Howard Dean is the best person to oversee the law enforcement approach, but that shouldn't stop you from agreeing that law enforcement is our preeminent tool in terms of protecting the nation from terrorism. And if someone derides the law enforcement approach and tries to demonize anyone who advocates it, THAT is the evidence of who isn't serious on national security.

I want to provide people who have reasonable suspicion of suspicious activity immunity from ruinous lawsuits for reporting their suspicions – end of story.

Is there any reason to believe that if I report suspicious activity (truly suspicious activity, not just belonging to CAIR), that I would be sued? Has this ever happened? Is it common enough that we need a new law (from our friends with the bathtub, no less)?

I have to say, when I saw "according to House Republican leadership aides", I immediately figured it was a lie. As you apparrently feel about CAIR, I feel about ANYTHING that comes from Republican leadership. See my post @ July 18, 2007 at 07:12 PM


OCSteve, Dave C is wrong in that he specifically accused Gary of something of which there is no evidence. And the quotes do not support his asse5rtion.

Yes, what you said is correct, but that is not what DaveC was asserting.

In terms of the provision, I almost (but not quite) agree with you. The right has for years claimed that we don't need new gun laws, or other types of laws, just enforce the laws we have. I think this applies in this regard, as bearing false witness is able to be dealt with.

Incidentally, and for the record, since DaveC didn't bother to identify which post of mine he was quoting, I had to google myself, to double-check my own context. It's here, and I invite anyone to read it in search of my "libel."

As it happens, as I strongly suspected when I read DaveC's quote, I wasn't even speaking of anyone charged with a crime. I was quoting a long Thomas Ricks story on the Bargwell report (and also quoting at length noted leftist troop hater Major Andrew Olmsted, U.S. Army -- damn me for giving space to such America-haters!), and in the passage DaveC quotes above, I was... well, here's the passage in more context; blockquoted material is from Thomas Ricks in the Washington Post:

Back to Bargewell:
[...] One of Bargewell's findings is that two failures occurred in reporting the Haditha incident up the Marine chain of command. The first is that Staff Sgt. Frank D. Wuterich, a squad leader alleged to have been centrally involved in the shootings, made a false statement to his superiors when he reported that 15 Iraqi civilians had been killed in the roadside bombing that killed a Marine and touched off the incident. (The other nine dead initially were reported by the Marines to have been insurgent fighters but are now believed to have been civilians.) That report was entered into an official database of "significant acts" maintained by the U.S. military in Iraq, the Pentagon official said.
So clearly this is suggestive of Sgt. Wuterich engaging in the earliest stages of the cover-up.
A second and more troubling failure occurred later in the day, this official said, when a Marine human exploitation team, which helped collect the dead, should have observed that the Iraqis were killed by gunshot, not by a bomb. The team's reporting chain lay outside that of the other Marines -- who were members of the 3rd Battalion of the 1st Marines -- and went up through military intelligence channels directly to the 1st Marine Division's intelligence director, he said. Had this second unit reported accurately what it witnessed, he indicated, that would have set off alarms and prodded commanders to investigate, he explained.
This, obviously, is yet far more significant, because it's outside the original unit, whom might not be found to be acting entirely surprisingly in covering for their buddies; but this act by the exploitation team has to suggest Marines simply covering for fellow Marines because they're Marines. Again, not all that surprising, given the loyalty engendered in the Corps, and in the field, but still ultimately dishonorable, given the need to also do right, not wrong, by the Iraqis, even in a terrorist/insurgent/enemy-infested town where people are shooting at you day and night, brutally killing your buddies, and then speaking two-facedly to you immediately afterwards, and where you can't tell enemy from innocent (the sad but inevitable fact of counterinsurgency warfare).
So I wasn't even referring to anyone who is charged, but I said that the act of the exploitation team "has to suggest Marines simply covering for fellow Marines."

It's not a statement about anyone who fired a shot at all, let alone a flat declaration of their guilt.

DaveC's lie is doubly untrue. You have to work hard to fit two lies into one.

What's facinating and revealing is that what I did when I was covering Haditha was strictly link to and quote news stories about the incident and investigation. News stories. Period. Not editorials. Not political analyses. Not blog posts, let alone opinion blog posts, let alone liberal or leftist blog posts.

I wrote no posts consisting of me drawing conclusions, or urging people what to think. It's incredibly rare for me to have written any observations at all, frankly, as is demonstrated by DaveC's inability to produce more than what he did out of more than 50,000 words over an entire year and a half's 40 posts.

But to DaveC, posting news stories is is me "[giving] it your absolute best effort, over a long long period of time, to go after our troops in Haditha."

Links to news stories means, to DaveC, that I need to respond to "Can you admit that you might have been wrong? Why all these paranoid scenarios about the US govt, when you may have been wrong?"

Linking solely to news stories means to DaveC that "You condemned our guys as being guilty, when you did not know that as a fact. You hammered this Haditha thing over and over and over."

And that "Nobody is suing you," though obviously DaveC thinks someone should, since I'm guilty of libel for my quoting news stories. *Solely!*

"So just think about that," DaveC tells me. And I have. I have.

Speaking of Andrew, I quoted him in that post as saying:

But I am unconvinced that any amount of additional training can really stop this kind of atrocity, because I am far from convinced that the Marines in question did not know at the time they acted that what they were doing was wrong.
If I'd written this, DaveC would accuse me of accusing our troops of an "atrocity," despite the fact that no trial had yet taken place on June 1st, 2006; I'd be guilty of "libel" and of "condemning our troops." Only an America-hating leftist says such things, but
DaveC wouldn't have any double-standard about this sort of thing at all, fortunately.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Blog powered by Typepad