Homicide Bombers

You may or may not know that FOXNews refuses to use the term "suicide bomber," presumably on grounds that it puts the focus on the terrorist rather than on his victims. Several Volokh conspirators have posts up explaining the difficulties of this practice (here, here), but I wanted to add a clear example of just how presposterous this ends up being, especially when it seems like someone just went through and replaced the word "suicide" with "homicide":

New evidence suggests four bombers blew themselves up on the London transportation system last week, killing at least 52 in what could be the first homicide attacks in Western Europe, officials said Tuesday.

Here is similar language from the original AP story:

Police raided six homes in Leeds searching for explosives and computer files that would shed more light on what were believed to be the first suicide bombings in Western Europe.

It is one thing to call the individuals "homicide bombers," though this is problematic for all the reasons pointed out by the Volokh conspirators.

But it obliterates any reasonable use of the English language to call the bombings the "first homicide attacks in Western Europe." There have been homicide attacks in Western Europe before. Terrorist bombings. Murders. War.

Say Again?

The good news:

President Bush said Monday he is asking Congress to create the position of a national intelligence director, to serve as the president's principal intelligence adviser.

The terrible, mind-numbing, unbelievable news:

The national director of intelligence will report to the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, Bush said.

I mean... what? How is that in any way an improvement? This person will have absolutely no authority whatsoever, AND will be subordinate to an already entrenched political appointee. Mind. Numbing.

UPDATE: Hmm, the Washington Post has a more detailed story, which suggests CNN may have oversimplified:

Bush said that under the proposed reorganization, the national intelligence director "will assume the broader responsibility of leading the intelligence community across our government," while the CIA would be managed by a separate director. He said creating the new position would require "a substantial revision of the 1947 National Security Act" and that he looks forward to working with Congress on that reform.

Bush said the new counterterrorism center would prepare a daily terrorism threat report for the president and senior officials, with the center's director reporting to the new national intelligence director once that position is created. Until then, he said, "the center will report to the director of the CIA."

That sounds much different from the CNN quote above. I guess we'll have to wait and see. Of course, budget authority is the real key, and there still don't seem to be any details about that.

Orange

Since I'm in DC for another couple weeks, this breaking news is of particular concern:

Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge to raise terror threat level in Washington to high (orange), official tells CNN.

Nonetheless, after all these years my first reaction is still: what the hell does that mean? I hate this stupidity. The colors have to go. Immediately.

Tinfoil Hats

Like Kevin, I tend to be pretty skeptical of the many tinfoil hat theories that seem particularly contagious in the blogosphere. And I still don't know what to make of this claim that the Pakistani government was pressured to make and publicize a high profile terrorism arrest during the Democratic National Convention.

But if the story is true (which would, by the way, confirm my worst possible fears about this administration), it certainly hasn't gone according to plan. Already this morning, the news of the capture is off the front page of CNN and MSNBC, and barely registers even at FOXNews. Either the media has decided that this election is too important to let it be bumped by less-than-Osama arrests, or they for once have seen through blatant politicization of an important national security task, and are refusing to take part.

Terrorist Dry Run

Hard to know what to make of this anecdotal story about a possible terrorist dry run on a flight a couple weeks ago. At the least, it is not the sort of the thing to read 10 hours before you are scheduled to fly out of Washington National.

9/11 Screenshot Archive

My Google wandering has led me to an amazing and sobering digital resource: an archive of screenshots of online news sites from September 11 and 12, 2001, sorted by site, country, and hour of the day. It is worth a look when you think you are ready.

Preparing For the Worst

I do not really think it helps all that much to be aware of such terrible possibilities, but for those who can steel themselves for such horrors, here is a potential next step in the crimes of Iraq-based terrorists:

Terrorists in the Abu Musab Zarqawi network in Iraq are specifically trying to kidnap an American female service member to further horrify the US public, senior defence officials were on Thursday quoted as saying.

The word is being passed within the network on the importance of taking one or more women hostages, The Washington Times reported quoting two senior US defence officers.

"We have heard through intelligence channels that several extremist organisations are attempting to capture coalition servicemen and women. We have instituted additional force protection methods to thwart these attempts," a senior military officer in Iraq told the paper.

Another defence source said there is an "edict, either on paper or as an order," within terrorist networks to capture an American female service member."

Let's hope this story is the last we hear of this.

Potential Terrorist Attack

It is hard to not be nervous about stories like this:

Attorney General John Ashcroft and FBI Director Robert Mueller will hold a news conference Wednesday amid intelligence that has increased concern over the possibility of a major terrorist attack on U.S. soil.

For weeks, security officials have expressed concern about several upcoming high-profile events, including Saturday's dedication of the National World War II Memorial on the National Mall in Washington.

Other potential targets include the G8 economic summit on Sea Island, Georgia, Fourth of July celebrations, the Democratic convention in Boston, the Republican convention in New York, and the Olympics in Greece.

I am not going to say that the potential for terrorist attacks has played a huge part in my life decisions, but it certainly has some power at the margins. I was never much interested in attending law school in New York City, but after 9/11 I did not even consider it. Likewise, I hate big crowds and keep unusually early hours, so I probably would not ride the Metro during rush hour anyway. But the slightest fear that rush hour subways make for a great target makes it even more certain that I will stick to my unusual schedule. It was not enough to keep me out of Washington completely, and my office is mere blocks from the White House. But it does weigh on my mind from time to time, and I cannot help but feel that there has been insufficient effort to help us all learn to deal with this. Too much denial, too much bluster, too much machismo, and not enough straight talk and positive efforts to actually make us be and feel safer.

Bernstein is Right

David Bernstein and I have had our differences, usually over silly complaints on my part, but I think he clearly has the better of Mark Kleiman in their latest disagreement. It started with Bernstein's post appluading the death of Hamas leader Abdel Aziz:

Rantisi is brought to justice: "We will all die one day. Nothing will change. If by Apache or by cardiac arrest, I prefer Apache," he said. It's nice when cosmic justice and individual preferences can both be satisfied.

Kleiman responded (in a tone so rude and condescending that I think Bernstein should get credit for even taking it seriously):

Since there's no such thing as an ineducable student -- only an insufficiently skilled or diligent teacher -- I must attribute to some deficiency in my earlier exposition of the matter David Bernstein's failure to get the message that using military force to kill someone who might instead have been tried for criminal acts is not the same as bringing that person to justice.

Since my post failed to point out that it is bad manners to dance on the graves of one's recently slain enemies, I must also take responsibility for what I take to be Mr. Bernstein's appalling lapse in taste in making a joke about the death of Abdel Aziz Rantisi.

Now his first point is perhaps correct, but so marginal that it can't be the driving force behind such a pedantic post. It seems he objects not to the idea that "justice" was served, but that Rantisi was not "brought to justice," because there was no arrest and trial. Fine, maybe Bernstein should have said "justice is done" or something along those lines. Who cares?

The second point is, as Pejman has said, bizarre. In Pejman's comments section, Kleiman added this (alongside a strange reference to corpse desecration):

There's a big difference between, on the one hand, expressing the sober view that a particular person was a threat and that his removal is something to be pleased about, and, on the other, making him less than human by treating his demise as a matter for jest.

That's quite right. There is a difference. But Kleiman went farther than that in his original post, asserting that to make a joke about the death of one's sworn enemy, even when that enemy is an unrepentant murderer of civilians, is an "appalling lapse in taste."

I'm certainly not going to say that anyone should revel in any death. I myself am more likely to react in the way that Kleiman himself prefers, with a "sober view." But I'm also not prepared to say that those who react to such occasions with mild humor or other less sober forms of expression are doing something wrong. There has to be room for each of us to react to these situations differently. We each grieve and celebrate on our own terms, and I think it unjustifiedly self-righteous for someone to call another's harmless celebration "appalling."

Who is really the greater threat, after all: the man accused of hubris, or the man accusing everyone else of hubris and telling them how they should act instead?

UPDATE: Kleiman has posted an update, of which I think the last sentence adds the most to the dialogue:

One difference, I would have thought, between civilized adults one one hand and adolsecents and barbarians on the other is that civilized adults, having confronted the fact of their own mortality, don't take the deaths of others -- even necessary deaths -- lightly.

I think that is a good point, and I think it would have more force here if I thought that Bernstein was actually taking the death of Rantisi lightly. If we were discussing gleeful mockery on the part of someone who thought matters of life and death were just a game, I can see where the humor would seem distasteful. Not distasteful per se, but because it reflected a lack of seriousness, a lack of perspective concerning the matter.

That's not the case here, however. If there is one thing David Bernstein should certainly not be accused of, it would be making light of the violence in Israel. I think he has demonstrated repeatedly how seriously he takes the issue (sometimes too seriously, in my opinion), and as such I don't think making a joke about Rantisi's death raises any doubts about his recognition that these are serious matters. In fact, I thought it was a nice touch for him to offer brief humor rather than, as one might expect from him, a more serious and extended discussion of the implications of the event. He just seemed to be saying: a bad man is dead. That is good. Smile.

Bombings in Madrid

I'm sure everyone has seen the horrible news out of Madrid today, with multiple bomb blasts in train stations killing almost 200. There is a lot of confusion about where responsibility might lie. ETA, the Basque separatist terrorist group, is the usual suspect any time a bomb goes off in Spain, and rightly so. Initial tests suggest the explosives involved "were a type of dynamite that the ETA normally uses."

Yet my hazy memory has ETA as employing more targeted attacks, car bombs and assassinations, rather than the mass murder of civilians seen here. There are some incidents that go against this trend (the FOX story cites a 1987 supermarket explosion in Barcelona). But if that is generally correct (and I'm not sure it is), then I think there are three likely explanations:

1) This was not an ETA attack. The most likely alternative would be al-Qaeda or a similar Islamist terrorist group. A spokesman connected to ETA denied responsibility for the attack and pointed the finger at Arabs:

"The modus operandi, the high number of victims and the way it was carried out make me think, and I have a hypothesis in mind, that yes it may have been an operative cell from the Arab resistance," Otegi said.

Not entirely clear how credible this guy is, but it is at least one indication that ETA might not have been involved.

2) ETA was involved, but coordinated with another group that encouraged and assisted in this attack. The possibility here is that ETA leaders and/or operatives have been networking with (most likely) al-Qaeda, either executing a plan designed by the Islamists or finally implementing their grandest designs with the newfound assistance of the well-funded and well-connected Arab group.

3) ETA planned and executed the attack alone. In this possibility, I think the change in tactics might easily be credited to the bar that has been set by al-Qaeda in its various Saudi bombings, and of course 9/11. ETA is no longer satisfied by the publicity and response to their traditionally smaller terrorist acts, and planned a larger, more deadly, and more random attack on civilians in the style of the Islamists.

It is hard to say which of these possibilities is the most worrisome. Scenario 1 raises the specter of a still active al-Qaeda, able to plan, organize, and execute a highly deadly attack in yet another Western nation. Scenario 2 involves synergistic cooperation between terrorist groups with little in common other than their violence and their enemies. Scenario 3 suggests that al-Qaeda is no longer the only group able and willing to engage in mass terrorism against civilians, and that the response to al-Qaeda has not discouraged those who would copy their tactics. None of these explanations are particularly reassuring.

War on Terror, War on Drugs

poppy.gifWe've been seeing comparisons between the War on Terror and the War on Drugs from opponents of the administration since the first weeks after 9/11. It'll invade our civil liberties, it'll create more problems than it will solve, it's an unwinnable war against uncertain foes with no endgame, etc. Particularly amusing to many were the "Drugs & Terrorism" ads that were cancelled after providing much humor but little anti-drug effect. Yet even those most critical of the administration's drug policy admit that "There is a real link between drugs and terrorism." And from today's Christian Science Monitor comes a story detailing the convergence between U.S. anti-narcotic and anti-terrorism operations:

The stepped-up military efforts come as US officials warn that Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and Hizb-i Islami militants are financing terrorist attacks with profits reaped from Afghanistan's estimated $2 billion annual drug trade. As the world's biggest opium supplier, Afghanistan saw production spread rampantly across the country last year, doubling to 2,865 metric tons. Tackling "narcoterrorism" in Afghanistan is urgent to prevent nascent links between drug-trafficking and terrorist groups from "tightening and hardening," as they have in countries such as Colombia, says Robert Charles, Assistant Secretary of State for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement.

Once again the focus is on Afghanistan. One natural reaction, of course, is to wonder whether the thousands of soldiers and billions of soldiers spent in Iraq might have been better offer really finishing the job in Afghanistan after all. Particularly in light of the failure to find WMD in Iraq, an ex post look at the dangers posed by each country might suggest Aghanistan did and does pose the greater threat. Of course, some critics of the administration have an entirely different solution:

[I]t is the drug war itself that creates the drug-terror link, not visa-versa. Just as liquor bootleggers waged deadly turf battles during alcohol prohibition, drug gangs wage deadly turf battles under today's drug prohibition. Afghanistan�s Taliban profited from the opium trade because of drug prohibition, not in spite of it. Prohibition forces drugs into an underground, unregulated market which creates a highly lucrative source of funding and personnel in the armed and violent actions against civilians and governments around the world.

These are hard questions that lack easy answers. The Drug Policy Alliance's Alternatives to Prohibition are embarassingly vague and amount to little more than further criticisms of the current legal enforcement regime. Yet much of that criticism rings true. And with the war on terror and war on narcotics becoming more intertwined, it is unclear that the traditional methods of prohibition and police/military enforcement will be sufficient to solve an increasingly critical problem.

The Lessons of History. But Which History?

Sebastian Holsclaw has a post reminding us that the "War on Terrorism" has really been going on for 25 years, at least since the US Embassy in Iran was captured. Sebastian uses the timeline as evidence that:

[O]ur half-hearted response to all of these attacks is precisely what gave Islamic fundamentalist extremists the impression that murdering Americans was a good method for getting America to do we they wanted.

That is a plausible claim and I have no intention of trying to refute it. What I'd like to discuss briefly is the duel difficulty of 1) making sure to remember the lessons of history and 2) knowing which lessons are applicable. A good portion of people will never even get to part one. They deal with the present time as is, without recognizing either its causes in the recent past or similar episodes in more distant history. Sometimes this is willful ignorance, but more often I think it is simply a necessity caused by the average person's ignorance of history.

Continue reading The Lessons of History. But Which History?.

Gitmo

Let me make one thing clear: I have little sympathy for the detainees. If they were to sit in Gitmo for 50 years I wouldn't feel bad for them. I don't think they "deserve" the rights provided by our Constitution, and some of them probably really do not fall under the Geneva Convention rubric.

It's the lack of process which bothers me. Process implicates the captor as much, if not more than, the captive. It speaks to our morals, our capacity for seeing a fair trial given to those we hate the most. I don't think they have a right to it, but I think we should give it to them anyway. We are better than them, and we are better than the alternative which they represent.

I'm willing to cut the administration a lot of slack, but I'd like to see two things in particular in return: more transparency of the process (expected timelines, or like PG suggests, at least a metric) and aggressive forward movement on the tribunal front.

UPDATE: Thank God for Phil Carter. I'm not ready to endorse his conclusions, but at least he shares some insights and actually defines and uses the term metric along the way.

More on Hizballah/Hezbollah

Adam Kushner has a great article up on The Columbia Political Review, pointing out important distinctions between Hezbollah and other violent Arab groups. In particular, he notes the role Hezbollah wants to play in Lebanon, an issue somewhat distinct from our traditional view of ant-Israeli terrorism.

It's worth a read.

Hizballah on America

I don't normally look too deeply into the proclamations of terrorist spokesmen, but this struck me as interesting:

"I rule out that the road map is an acceptable solution for the Palestinian people," said Hussein Al-Khalil, Hizballah's political officer. He added he's not optimistic about Powell's visit to the region. "The U.S. State Department - America's foreign policy - works on behalf of Israel. It's not a State Department for the American people." (emphasis added)

It seems Mr. Al-Khalil is drawing a distinction between the American public and the Bush Administration. I wonder if this can be seen as evidence of some actual recognition of pluralist thought in America (as opposed to monolithic imperialism), or if it's just a creative way of attacking Bush/Powell.

The House of Saud

This month's Atlantic Monthly is full of stellar articles and well worth picking up. I'm going to blog about at least a couple of those stories today, and perhaps a couple more tomorrow.

The cover story, already mentioned briefly by Matthew Yglesias, is an investigation into the House of Saud, its influence in American politics, and the likeliness of a not-so-far-off collapse.

The early pages of the text (culled from author Robert Baer's upcoming "Sleeping With the Devil") focus on the vulnerability of the Saudi oil industry and thus the world which relies on it:

The most vulnerable point and the most spectacular target in the Saudi oil system is the Abqaiq complex... For the first two months after a moderate to severe attack on Abqaiq, production there would slow from an average of 6.8 million barrels a day to one million barrels, a loss equivalent to one third of America's daily consumption of crude oil.

Hawkish environmentalists like myself (am I the only one?) have been noting for some time how thoroughly undermined our national security is by our reliance on Saudi oil. There are direct vulnerabilities, as shown by this article, but there are obviously indirect ones as well. Much, if not all, of our continued support for the corrupt Saudi regime clearly stems from our oil interests, and it is that support which has really tipped the scales of public opinion against us (there can be no overestimating the Palestinian issue, but I think the average Saudi has been pushed over the edge by the situation in his own country). Why should the Iraqi people be so happy to see us, when all they have to do is look across the border to see what kinds of governments America supports?

Per capita income in Saudi Arabia fell from $28,600 in 1981 to $6,800 in 2001. The country's birth rate has soared, becoming one of the highest in the world. Its police force is corrupt, and the rule of law is a sham. Saudi Arabia almost certainly leads the world in public beheadings, the venue for which is often a Riyadh plaza popularly known as Chop-Chop Square

None of this is new information, but it raises some timely questions. Why oh why would we go after Syria or Iran but let Saudi Arabia continue as is? This is a country not officially lost to fundamentalists, but well on its way. I think the Saudi question truly undermines the so-called "grand strategy" of the neocons.

There's also one piece of information in the story which I found truly shocking, perhaps simply because I've been equally blind to the Saudi infestation of our country:

Just to make sure that no one upsets the workings of this system, perhaps by meddling in internal Saudi affairs, Saudi Arabia now keeps possibly as much as a trillion dollars on deposit in U.S. banks - an agreement worked out in the early eighties by the Reagan Administration, in an effort to get the Saudis to offset U.S. government budget deficits. The Saudis hold anotehr trillion dollars or so in the U.S. stock market. This gives them a remarkable degree of leverage in Washington. If they were suddenly to withdraw all their holdings in this country, the effect, though perhaps not as catastrophic as having a major source of oil shut down, would still be devastating.

What comes to my mind is the fuss raised over possible Chinese infiltration of our government and the Democratic party because of fund-raising and satellite scandals. Can there be any doubt now that the Saudi infiltration is more deep, more entrenched, and more dangerous? This is a country largely responsible for the financing and human personnel of anti-American terrorism. It is also responsible for the financial well-being of a disturbing number of former (and now current) state and defense officials. On top of that, it's cash and oil have become foundational parts of our economy. And this article makes it rather clear that those in the upper echelons of the Republican party (with a few 'entrepeneurial' Democrats thrown in) have allowed this with willful ignorance.

We need to find a way out of this situation. My appeals to obvious solutions:

1) Reduced reliance on gas/oil - I don't care if the environmentalists are wrong about global warming, etc. (I don't think they are), our national security is severely undermined by reliance on corrupt oil regimes.

2) Withdrawal of active support for Saudi regime, including vocal condemnation of the corruption of the Saudi regime and their support for terrorism. No more hypocritical rants against Syria or Iran without including Saudi Arabia in the fold (and toning down all such rants... they serve no purpose but to antagonize potential enemies whom we are not prepared to fight).

3) Renewed engagement in Israel/Palestine. Stop the settlements. If we're going to lose the Saudi's (and we will), we need to work towards ending the first source of anti-Americanism in the region. Siding with Israel is one thing, disengagement another. The latter is unacceptable and will only continue to undermine everything else we do in the region.

UPDATE: Roger Bigod's comment suggested Daniel Yergin's The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money & Power, which I note won the Pulitzer in 1992. It's officially on my reading list.

Let's Get Him

FOXNews says that the raid in which Mustafa Ahmed al-Hawsawi and Khalid Shaikh Mohammed were captured netted some major intel:

Officials said that the arrests produced many computer disks that detail major financial backers of Al Qaeda around the globe, including some in the United States.

The information contained on the disks include bank account numbers and names of individuals and organizations that have supplied money to Al Qaeda. Senior officials said based on that data more terror arrests are expected and many terror cells will soon be exposed.

Intelligence sources said Mohammed was talking to interrogators to "some degree" and had provided information suggesting Usama bin Laden may be in the Baluchistan province of Pakistan, which is on the border of Iran and Afghanistan. The area is known for tough terrain and tribal chiefs who, it is believed, have protected bin Laden in the past."

Echoing other bloggers, I sure wish our military and intelligence efforts could be fully devoted to this effort. I say send in the cavalry!

UPDATE: CNN reports that Mohammed's interrogation has produced mixed results:

A spokesman for Pakistan's president, General Pervez Musharraf, told CNN that before he was handed to U.S. authorities the self-confessed head of al Qaeda's military committee said in separate interrogations that bin Laden was alive and that he was dead.

This may be the Pakistanis trying to cover their own asses, but only time will tell.

UPDATE: Even if the Bin Laden info is fuzzy, AP is reporting that:

The recent arrest of a top al-Qaida operative has confirmed for U.S. law enforcement the identities of about a dozen suspected terrorists in this country, a government official said Thursday.

If by 'this countrty' the official means America (and the dateline says Washington), I really expect some arrests, and soon.

Torturing Mohammed

Here's a horrible editorial from Jack Wheeler in the Washington Times describing suggested methods of torturing Khalid Shaikh Mohammed.

The most offensive line:

The ethics of torturing KSM should not be an issue.

How can they not be an issue? This is an absurd statement and simply masks the author's assumption that a utilitarian weighing of consequences favors his position. Two problems: 1) that's quite an assumption, and 2) it is an assumption about ethics. Thus he is in fact relying on ethics, he just doesn't want to explain them or ground them in fact.

Particularly galling is the idea that we can break one of the most fundamental rules of domestic and international law and custom without concerning ourselves deeply with the ethical consequences of that action. It is not as if the author suggests the question is better answered elsewhere, or he has already answered it. Instead he assumes it away.

I don't have much sympathy for Mohammed, but what some forget is the great impact torture often has on the torturer (and the system that supports it). If we ever do use torture, we ought to do it with regret and with heavy hearts at the measures the war on terrorism has required. We ought to feel restrained at each turn by the ethics that fuel our government and our way of life.

By jettisoning a discussion of ethics from the equation, Wheeler loses all sense of restraint. His idea: place Mohammed under an MRI brain scanner, put him on a mechanical respirator, and give him an injection that paralyses the muscles needed for breathing:

If he lies, the respirator is turned off. Few experiences are more terrifying than that of suffocation. After a sufficiently terrifying period of suffocation, the respirator is turned back on, the question is asked again, and the process repeated until he tells the truth.

Perhaps some level of ethical justification could be found for this method of torture, but the very next paragraph exposes the depths of disconnect Wheeler has with any sense of ethics:

After all useful information has been extracted from his brain, KSM should be informed that he will now be killed after his body is smeared with pig fat, that his dead body will be handled by women, and all other actions taken that prevent a Muslim from entering heaven upon death so that he dies believing he will never get the heavenly wine and virgins, but will burn in Hell instead. Upon his execution, there should be no physical remains. The body should be cremated and the ashes scattered to the winds.

I don't understand what kind of country Wheeler wants to live in. I'm all for winning the war on terrorism, but I'd like to preserve some level of decent ethical behavior on the part of our country. Consequentalist ethics can only get you so far before you are living in a country completely unlike the one you intended to save. Since Wheeler doesn't even restrain himself with those ethics, his ideas symbolize the obscenities that come when ethics are ignored.

More Good News

CNN reports that:

The names of possible al Qaeda operatives, including some believed to be in Washington and other U.S. cities, were found among a "treasure-trove" of material recovered during Saturday's capture of al Qaeda operations chief Khalid Shaikh Mohammed in Pakistan, sources said Monday.

I look forward to hearing about the numerous arrests.

al Qaeda's Future

The Washington Times reports that al Qaeda may be targeting Pearl Harbor for a future attack. If our intelligence is this good now, let's see what steps the government takes to protect the harbor. Whether our focus on Iraq is justified or not, I do regret that American and international attention has shifted so much. Even if Hussein does pose the larger long-term threat (and I'm not sure he does), there's obviously no question that the imminent threat comes from al Qaeda.

UPDATE: via Instapundit, here's a NY Post editorial that makes the point that we have made significant progress in the war on terrorism while putting pressure on Iraq. I'm still skeptical. (also check out Matthew Yglesias' response to Andrew Sullivan). Let's take a look:

True, many U.S. allies, from France to Egypt, are skeptical about the invasion of Iraq. But it does not follow that they will cease to cooperate with the U.S. war against al Qaeda. They're not offering this cooperation as a favor to Washington: It is in their own self-interest to hunt down murderous fanatics who bear a deep hatred of the West and its allies in the Mideast.

That is one possible read, and it is probably more true of the European allies. It seems less intuitive that the Arab and Muslim countries will react the same way. It would certainly not be in Pakistan's best interest if it meant Musharraf would lose control of the country. It might not be in Turkey's best interest to help America if an(other) influx of refugees pushed public opinion even further against the U.S. (can it go further?) The leaders of our 'allies' are just as interested in their political fortunes as Bush and Rove are (see Schroeder and Chirac). As we've already seen, if undermining the war on terrorism will help, they will do it (see Bush's tax cuts and susbequent failure to finance domestic preparations for terrorist attacks).

In addition, the editorial seems to take for granted that the war will go more or less as planned. That is a huge assumption, and it leaves aside many of the contingencies that pose the greatest risk:

The sort of people who are willing to become "martyrs" for the cause are pretty far gone already. An invasion might push a few over the edge, but it also might give others second thoughts.

What if we accidentally bomb a school with 200 children inside? How many civilians might die in an assault on Baghdad? What if Saddam gasses some of our troops and we use a nuclear device against him? Perhaps none of these are reasons not to go to war, but they will certainly provide new images of propaganda unlike anything the Islamists have now. Currently they rely on American support of Israel and channel images of Israeli 'atrocities' against Palestinians (their characterization, not mine). But in an invasion-gone-wrong, perhaps even one that goes right, powerful new images of American 'atrocities' may become available.

Another point to keep in mind, unmentioned in the NY Post editorial, is that one focus of al Qaeda's grievances and propaganda thus far was the stationing of U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia. Imagine the occupation of an entire Arab nation and tell me it won't anger many in the Arab street. Yes, if all goes well and a fully functioning self-sufficient democracy emerges, it will do more good than harm. But until then, the U.S. will be an occupation force, and occupation forces in the Middle East tend to make big targets.

There is also this rather incomplete analogy near the end:

[W]hen the United States finally took firm action, by invading Afghanistan, there was no rejoicing in the Arab street and no sign of increased recruiting for al Qaeda.

Several possible reasons for this: (1) Afghanistan is not an Arab country, (2) much of the war was fought by proxy, (3) the war was fast, efficient, and effective, with very few civilian casualties. These first two certainly aren't true with Iraq, and I'm pessimistic about the third.

Let me emphasize that this is a pessimistic view. It may all turn out much better than this, as the war in Afghanistan certainly did. I hope so. But it is dishonest to make that assumption when weighing the potential risks.

North Carolina: Hotbed of Islamic Terrorist Recruitment

Via Instapundit, this L.A. Times profile of Khalid Shaikh Modammed is a must read. Some surreal imagery to twist your mind around:

Mohammed's first extended encounter with the West occurred at Chowan College, a tiny Baptist school nestled among the cotton farms, tobacco patches and thick forests of eastern North Carolina, just south of the Virginia line.

In summer 1984, Mohammed enrolled as an engineering major at North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University in Greensboro, a historically black college on the Piedmont plain in the central part of the state.

Islamists at Greensboro and other U.S. universities made a point of seeking out newly arrived Arab students at airports. If they missed new arrivals at the airport, the bearded ones would seek them out on campus. Their advances were sometimes rejected but often welcomed among vulnerable newcomers who were homesick and out of place.

Is there any place that seems further in the world from Islamic terrorism than rural North Carolina? It is an image devoid of coherence for me.

Keep It Up

I hope this is a sign that we haven't lost focus on Al Qaeda. It'll be interesting to see what we do with Khalid Shaikh Mohammed now that we've got him.

Military Tribunal Details

TalkLeft links to a WP story regarding which crimes will be subject to military tribunal prosecution. She notes that:

Zacarias Moussaoui, now awaiting federal trial in Virginia, may become the first person to be tried in before a military tribunal if the Government loses its bid in the 4th Circuit to keep Moussaoui's lawyers from interviewing Ramzi Binalshibh, a witness who could provide exculpatory information for Moussaoui.

Whatever my feelings about military tribunals (and the possibility that in three years I will be taking part in them), it does seem like the government ought not have it both ways. Either the prisoner should be subject to a civilian criminal court or a military court. Once the civilian court process has begun, it should be allowed to continue. To submit cases to civilian courts but then remove prisoners from that process at the first adverse ruling could do far more to undermine the courts than the tribunal system standing alone.