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July 24, 2004
Bits and Pieces

Bush's re-election hopes hang on Al Qaeda's ingenuity

So in this looking-glass world of backhanded ironies, Republicans are covertly supporting their most extreme opponent, Ralph Nader, because he will take votes from John Kerry, and Al Qaeda terrorists will be backing Bush, because he's their best recruiter. But can they do anything to affect the outcome of an American presidential election? Of course they can. A major terrorist attack on the American homeland a few days before November 2 would almost certainly not have the effect that the Madrid pre-election bombing had, sending swing voters to the anti-war opposition.

But that's not true. There is no "anti-war opposition." Kerry is being very, very careful not to be the anti-war opposition.

In any case I think that if Bush keeps trumpeting about how much "safer" he's made us, and then terrorists attack on our soil again, I think people can add 2 + 2 and figure out that Bush has not, in fact, done anything to keep us safe.

In fact, I'm hoping like heck they do believe that, and that Kerry or someone in his campaign at least has the sense to mention the possibility.

From the 9/11 Commission Report (which I have no intention of trying to find time to read) in the Denver Post:

Thomas H. Kean, the panel's chairman and the former Republican governor of New Jersey, said at a news conference that "an attack of even greater magnitude is now possible and even probable - we do not have the luxury of time."

The people in the Middle East mostly want us out of their countries, out of their region, and out of their lives. As long as we persist in demanding we have some "right" to interfere in their business, "they" are going to continue to hate us. That's why we're still in 'danger' at this point.

I feel a bit better about Colin Powell after reading this and seeing the paragraph below.

It was revealed in late April/early May 2003, that US Secretary of State Colin Powell had written a letter to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld complaining of the indefinite detention and lack of progress on the determination of the status of detainees there. It was also revealed that the detainees included also "one 13-year-old, one 14-year-old, two 15-year-olds, one 16-year-old, an 88-year-old, and a 98-year-old".

Not that I should care. He said he'd be loyal until it killed him and he's paying the price for having that kind of loyalty to a bunch of nuts, but maybe he doesn't really care.

Also, in the moneymoneymoney department, remember how I was pondering, in an earlier post, over the military funding for "construction" projects that wasn't for base or soldier housing, and wondering what the DoD was constructing?

According to a May 2, 2004 report in the Washington Post ("Guantanamo -- A Holding Cell In War On Terror" by Scott Higham, Joe Stephens and Margot Williams), about $118 million was being spent per year to run the prison facilities and other related operations. Additionnally[sic] contracts worth $110 million and $14.5 million had respectively been awarded to KBR, a subsidiary of Halliburton Co. and Dick Corp.; the latter for the construction of a criminal investigation task force headquarters facility.

I'd forgotten about that. The DoD isn't "constructing" anything, not themselves. It's money for Halliburton contractors to construct things. Or...something. This article doesn't actually say what Halliburton's subsidiary, KBR, is getting $110 million for.

Okay, aside from me cherry-picking a couple of quotes to suit my own purposes, the linked article is not anti-war or anti-military or anti-anything, not really. It's actually a very interesting, balanced look at Camp Delta and well worth reading.

And how about the CIA? Well, there's this:

To understand why the Central Intelligence Agency’s Directorate of Intelligence – or DI – failed so miserably to analyze the evidence on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, one has to look back almost a quarter century to when ideological conservatives decided to deconstruct the DI’s tradition of objective analysis.

In the heady days after Ronald Reagan’s victory in 1980, conservatives took dead aim at the CIA’s analytical division for not agreeing with the Right’s preferred assessment that the Soviet Union was a rising superpower with both the capability and intent to overwhelm the United States militarily. The incoming Reagan administration wanted an alarmist assessment of the Soviet Union to justify a major arms buildup.

The problem is that there's a lot of disagreement on why the fall of the Soviet Union wasn't foreseen by the CIA. CIA critics usually say it was because the CIA had too much invested (like...it's entire existence) in a strong and dangerous Communist enemy. The CIA was created specifically as a counter-communist force.*

This article takes the opposite tack - that the CIA was being sensible but Reagan's Administration didn't want to hear about it. I doubt that's true, okay? The CIA got most of its information from the inside of the Soviet Union from former Nazi regime members who made a deal after Germany fell. They'd spy on the USSR and provide "intelligence" to the UsofA in return for their lives and freedom. They were the ones with a strong motivation for portraying the decaying Soviet Union as a vital and dangerous foe that the UsofA needed to pay them to keep an eye on.

At least, that's what I read.

(* Actually, it's rather lucky for the CIA that the Middle East suddenly became a hotbed of anti-democratic forces, isn't it? They might have had trouble justifying their continued existence and their massive, although secret, budget.)

In any case, the next paragraph of the linked article talks about the CIA seeing a more "nuanced" situation in the USSR than Reagan's Administration wanted to hear about, which sounds familiar to us today.

It's an interesting article.

Posted by AnneZook at 05:28 PM


It's dangerous to predict here because we tend to look at things through our own lens of rationality - but I agree with you that an attack on the US of any seriousness would probably have the reverse intent if the terrorists were trying to get GWB defeated.

Additionally, it's not as if the other side is the pull out party (no pun intended there BC). What kind of pressure do you think a President-elect Kerry would be under if he's coming into office under the cloud of an attack - scrap any 100 day honeymoon- it would be produce a retaliatory campaign and do it quick...and no way would other ideas such as relooking the Patriot Act be open for discussion.

I suspect AQ and others have decided to pick off our fragile coalition partners - that makes the current President look weak and puts Kerry in a bind if he wins - are the coalition partners or UN coming to come back just because GWB is out? - nope, they'll only come back if the coast is clear. And Kerry will be under greater pressure because he's on record as saying he expect us to be out in 4 years and he can execute stability operations better..

but hatred has its own form of rationality.

I don't believe the hatred of the west is merely a factor of us "being there"..if you have been in that region for a little bit, you get the sense that (1) as long as Israel is around, there will always be resentment; and (2) there is resentment that the "non-believer" nations are doing better. An interesting article quoted in the Middle East Review Institute stated some folks were upset at AQ because they saw the struggle with the West from a longer time period and sought the "peaceful invasion without assimilation" model - very similar to what is going on in France..have Moslems attempt to become a significant block of voters and use the democratic process not to turn the nation into an Islamic state, but to ensure lack of support for Israel and non-interventionist foreign policy by the state..

Actually, it's rather lucky for the CIA that the Middle East suddenly became a hotbed of anti-democratic forces, isn't it? They might have had trouble justifying their continued existence and their massive, although secret, budget.)

Not really..a bipolar world meant yes, you probably had to play up your known threat, but you were still limited by the one major peer contender..What intelligence and defense organizations found was that there wasn't a strategic pause when Russia went down - but that all those ankle-biters pushed aside and the lesser peer competitors now meant you had to have more coverage - with more cultural, economic, political, unconventional, and catastrophic (there is not really the same mutually assured destruction paradigm if AQ tried to hit us with WMD) issues - It's a lot more dangerous being the sole superpower..especially when your "allies" realize they the shifting of the balance of power isn't exactly in their favor either..

Posted by: Col Steve at July 24, 2004 09:30 PM

"The people in the Middle East mostly want us out of their countries, out of their region, and out of their lives. As long as we persist in demanding we have some "right" to interfere in their business, "they" are going to continue to hate us. That's why we're still in 'danger' at this point."

Let's assume that's true. How is it possible? In this global age, how could we untangle ourselves from such a large region of the Earth? Do these nations still want to sell us their oil? Yes. Do they want our money? Yes. Do they want our consumer goods? Yes. Do they want our computers and software? Yes. Do we want their oil? Yes. Is trade, therefore, likely to continue? Yes. Are we therefore going to have American corporations doing business in these countries? Yes. Can we therefore untangle ourselves from these countries? It would be difficult.

I could continue with a slight variety of questions: Are there going to be female American executives visiting these countries from time to time, to do business? Yes. Will these American women wear a veil? Possibly not? Will the Islamic fundamentalists therefore be ticked off? Probably.

Also, no matter how you feel about Israel, or the Israeli right-wing, or Israeli's current policies, I'm sure you can agree that it would be a good thing if more of these Arab nations formally declared peace with Israel. They formally declared war in 1948, and most are still formally at war with Israel. You can argue that that is a mere technicality, but I think it affects everyone's psychology, and remains a block to peace in the region. After all, any nation that says it wants peace but remains formally at war with one of its neighbors is clearly being hypocritical.

You can argue that we should end our alliance with Israel. You can argue that Israel is an international criminal state. But as long as America is formally an ally of Israel, we are obligated to take a stand against those nations that remain formally at war with Israel. And, because of that, is hard for America to comply with the sentence that you wrote, which I quote above, "As long as we persist in demanding we have some "right" to interfere in their business...". As long as we are formally an ally of a nation that some Arab countries are at war with, then we continue to have a legal obligation to interfere in the affairs of the region. It's not so much that we claim to have a "right" to do so (though some people obviously feel that way) but its more of a question of what else can we do? Seriously, let's brain storm for a few minutes, what can America do? Withdraw completely from the region? Sever all ties? Does that mean severing all trade ties? Even with Israel? Which countries do we sever all ties with, and on what basis are they chosen?

Also, considering the situation in the Sudan, wouldn't it be better to see the international community take something of an interventionist stance?

Posted by: Lawrence Krubner at July 25, 2004 12:34 PM

"I don't believe the hatred of the west is merely a factor of us "being there"."

I agree. Hitler also denounced "the West", which he argued did not include the true, primordial Germany that he was trying to ressurect (or so he claimed). He argued that "the West" was soft and weak, and that its liberal values had begun to contaminate Germany and weaken it. The rule of law, open debates, contested elections, tolerance of Jews, women wearing short skirts and driving cars and working outside the home, a tolerance of actors, theater, the arts, gays, plus valuing intellectuals as much, or more, than warriors - all these things Hitler associated with the West, and he set out to purify Germany of these so called poisons.

Christopher Hitchens may have a lot of personality flaws, but I think he was on to something when he argued that the terrorists are basically an expression of fascism in the Arab countries. One of the fundamental tactics of fascists is to blame the failings of a nation's ruling elite on outsiders. That is clearly what is happening throughout the MidEast. This is a region that has seen much less economic growth than Asia, despite having the advantage of abundant oil. Clearly, this is a region that has been badly mismanaged. The rulers of these countries have failed their own people, and they are trying to blame America for their failings, rather than take the blame themselves.

Mind you, you can believe that the terrorists are fascists, and still believe that George W. Bush is scum, and that John Ashcroft is quite similar to everything we are fighting against. Some people treat these as mutually exclusive propositions (either the terrorists are fascists, or John Ashcroft is a fascist) but I see no reason why you can't believe both things.

Posted by: Lawrence Krubner at July 25, 2004 12:46 PM

Col Steve: If there's another terrorist attack on US soil, no matter who is in the White House, they're going to be under some major pressure.

Lawrence: Once again I find I've been guilty of sloppy wording. What I meant to say is that the Middle East wants our troops and our military out of their countries and their lives. I make no claims for whether or not that's good for our interests. It was merely a statement of opinion. I think they "hate" us as a military force in the region.

I do not accept your argument that we're entitled to have troops in the Middle East in case a female wants to go over on business. You write as though the entire region is rigidly under extremist religious rule, which isn't at all the case.

There are dangers to travelling anywhere.

(I'm not addressing your remarks about the Sudan because I don't see the situations as similar.)

Posted by: Anne at July 26, 2004 08:41 AM

"I do not accept your argument that we're entitled to have troops in the Middle East in case a female wants to go over on business."

Oh, come on. That's not fair. I never made any such argument. I didn't realize your comments were restricted to our military involvement in the area. I thought you were saying America should have no involvement in the area, neither economic or military. And I was trying to point out how difficult it would be to end all economic ties to the region.

Posted by: Lawrence Krubner at July 26, 2004 01:53 PM

Of course, for as long as we have economic ties with the region, we will probably occassionally face diplomatic crises that may require a military response. American business people who get taken as hostages, for instance.

Posted by: Lawrence Krubner at July 26, 2004 01:56 PM

I seem to do nothing but apologize for my behavior today. :)

I was writing quickly, had only about ten minutes to check my blog before a meeting and I tried so hard to respond quickly and succinctly that all I managed was to be rude.

My apologies.

Posted by: Anne at July 26, 2004 04:21 PM

Happens to the best of us. Many times I've hurt someone's feelings by writing a reply to an email and hitting the "send" button a little too fast, without checking to see if what I wrote was what I wanted to write.

Posted by: Lawrence Krubner at July 26, 2004 08:51 PM