Posted tagged ‘al qaeda’

Feinstein’s Last Hurrah

December 9, 2014

Senator Diane Feinstein, Chair Person of the Senate Intelligence Committee, is set to release a committee report on alleged CIA abuses committed in the years following 9/11. The report is said to contain incidents involving water boarding as well as other “enhanced interrogation” methods. Hmmm.

Evidence obtained by these methods is considered suspect by most interrogators and is inadmissible in both the Military Commissions and US civilian courts. Hmmm.

Why release the report and why now?

Who knows what Feinstein’s real reasons are. Pragmatically, her term as committee chair ends with this Congress in December. Since the GOP is dead against the report’s release, it is now or never.

There will be certainly nothing in the report that has not been practiced by hundreds of nations before. For some it might be comforting to know that these enhanced interrogation methods will put the US in the same company as the Catholic Church’s inquisitions, Hitler’s Gestapo, and North Korea’s brain washing techniques. Of course no one will acknowledge that association. Instead we will hear about being a patriot and protecting our country.

If the world was fair, there would have been human rights and/or war crime trials following the revelation of these enhanced interrogation methods. The buck stopped with former President George W Bush but the coterie that promulgated the ideas of ends justify means was Vice President Dick Cheney and his circle of neoconservatives. While this group always spoke of protecting America, there were in fact undermining the Constitution and the many treaties adopted over the years aimed at curbing inhumane actions by governments.

In all probability, had the Bush Administration followed the Army Code of Conduct, the Iraq invasion and occupation probably would not have taken place. Once, however, an Administration sees itself as above the Constitution, existing treaties, or simple human decency, the Government ceases to operate within the traditional checks and balances. Bad things can and usually do happen.

It is very questionable whether anything new will be revealed today. Leaks have already outlined the scope of past CIA transgressions. The inability to bring to trial the likes of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed speaks volumes about the short sightedness of the policy. Bringing it back to the public’s attention in a partisan manner may not serve the higher purpose the information could have brought.

The Bush era “neoconservative crowd” remains hidden in the shadows even today. These righteous Americans see the needs of the country from a personal best interest perspective. They are bright and intelligent, and very driven people.

The cleverly imperfect American system of government, however, allows for the change of leadership every four years and limits the President to a maximum of 8 years. Bush and Cheney were done in 2008. America is still cleaning up their mess and unfortunately will for years to come.

I am not sure whether this report will help but it is difficult to see how it will hurt.

The Case For Afghanistan

November 24, 2014

President Obama has announced the complete withdrawal of US combat troops from Afghanistan by 2016. Unfortunately it appears that one of the phased withdrawal steps due by January 2015 will not be met. The President has agreed to allow US troops to conduct further operations in coordination with Afghan forces. Hmmm.

The decision to withdraw completely almost assuredly will set up an analogous situation in Afghan as we have just seen in Iraq. The Taliban will gain ground and continually threaten major Afghan cities. If the US has withdrawn, its capability to confront Taliban forces will severely strained.

A bigger risk, however, will not be on the battle field but at home in the political world of the 2016 Presidential election. Once again, the GOP will label Democrats as soft on defense and ineffective as leaders. Hmmm.

Afghanistan represents a difficult piece of culture and geography. From the days of Alexander the Great, each successive invader has had difficulty deciding when to leave.  What’s in it for the US to remain?

One advantage, some say, if the US keeps a sustainable Afghan force, is this presence would require an overall military size helpful in responding to flare ups other places in the world. The support infrastructure to maintain an Army in Afghanistan could also support a more rapid deployment of US troops to other locations in Asia or the Middle East, for example. And with a growing Chinese presence and a rejuvenated Russia, maintaining US military strength is a strong argument.

We must be careful, however, if any of our political or military leaders suggests that staying in Afghanistan is necessary to complete the Afghan transition to democracy. While Afghanistan does not present the Middle East “Sunni-Shiite conflict”, Afghanistan presents its own set of obstacles.

Afghanistan is a relatively recent State which has been cobbled together from dozens of ethnically different groups. The idea that modern Afghanistan can be anything other than a loose confederation of tribes for the foreseeable future is just dreaming. Poverty, corruption, and tribal jealousies will rule the day. The reason to remain in Afghanistan does not include helping to birth a democracy.

The rub in the “being ready for other contingencies” argument is an statement the US cannot make publicly.  More to the point, it will not sell well on the Sunday talk shows.

Another damaging aspect will be the budgetary considerations. How can the US support a continued war while cutting domestic spending?

Former President Johnson once said he would not be the first US President to lose a war when referring to a Vietnam withdrawal. President Obama may see that same writing on his history wall.  While leaving Afghanistan is inevitable since connecting it to US national interests any longer is too much of a stretch, President Obama may be thinking, “not on my watch”.

The case for Afghanistan is for the Afghanis to decide. We went there in hot pursuit of al Qaeda and removed the Taliban government because they tolerated al Qaeda presence. It is not our position to tell the Afghan people what type of leaders they should have. If religious conservatives like the Taliban, so be it.

The risk, of course, will remain that ISIS or al Qaeda or some other look alike will return. But frankly, a residual force of 14,000 will not be much of a deterrent anyways.

What say Chuck Hagel?

A Dim View

December 29, 2013

It must have been a dark and dreary day yesterday at the Washington Post.  Otherwise, why would they published an article predicting a dim future for Afghanistan?  Why would they hare written that much of the allied gains will be subject to reversals in the months ahead?  What will we ever tell the veterans of over ten years of Afghan conflict?

Most of us have been raised with visions of victory whenever the US fights on the side of what’s just.  The most powerful country in the world must prevail if it sends its troops into action.  Hmmm.

The ugly truth is that military force is transient, here today, gone tomorrow.  Soon US forces will be reduced to much lower levels, allegedly by the end of 2014.  This could be akin to former President Nixon’s secret plan to get out of Vietnam… simply declare victory and leave even though the enemy (North Vietnam) would take over the day we left. The most important aspect of Nixon’s “plan” involved leaving NO military behind.

Washington-types (military, think tankers, and many politicians) want to leave a residual force (maybe as high as 30,000) for training and rapid response purposes.  A “status of forces” agreement has been negotiated but as yet not ratified by the Afghans.  Justifications run a wide gamut… from interrupting drug trafficking to training to keeping an eye on the region.

Those opposed question the cost, the potential for further US deaths, and the futility of working with a largely illiterate, corrupt tribal population.  Hmmm.

So to write a headline that casts a dim light and predicts that geographic gains might be reversed once troop levels are decreased borders on sophomoric.  On what basis should anyone expect that lasting gains would have been made?

Our military and our DC politicians, of course, have a vested interest in describing our 10+ years Afghan odyssey as heroic and just.  Hmmm.  How about misguided and sad?

What will we tell our service men and women who sacrificed and accepted deployment and imminent danger in Afghanistan?  How can we tell thousands of relatives that the loss of their loved one was a mistake or at least done without hope of sustained gain, for either the US or the Afghans?

Rooting out the Taliban government in 2001 for having operating as a failed State and harboring al Qaeta is relatively easy to understand and justify.  Staying beyond the time necessary to oust the Taliban, and allowing mission creep to keep our troops there amongst rampant Afghan Government graft and corruption can only be seen as foolish at best and malfeasant at the worst.  In any case, there is scant justification to remain.

A rewrite of the Post story might better carry the headline, “Ray of Sunlight as Afghan War Ends”.  A sub headline would read, “Afghans Will Sort Out Their Future”.

Massive Coverup

February 19, 2013

Senator John McWho gave an interviewer a catchy sound bite over the weekend.  There is a massive coverup underway, McWho said.  He was referring to the Obama Administration’s official position following the Benghazi attack.  Was it a spontaneous demonstration or a planned terrorist action?  McWho said he knew the answer.

McWho believes President Obama kept the cause of the Consulate attack a mystery so that he could continue his campaign statements that al-Qaeda had been smashed.  How could something be so broken, yet still be so lethal, McWho reasoned.

As with Iraq and US withdrawal, McWho is consistent.  He said “if US withdraws, al Qaeda will follow us home and we will be fighting them in the US”.  Hmmm.

McWho has missed a couple of important points.  Terrorism and terrorists are like bacteria.  There are many different types.  They are everywhere and what you do in one spot will have little or no impact elsewhere.  The 9/11 al Qaeda (what’s left of them) reside in Pakistan/Afghanistan, not Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Mali, or Libya.

McWho also has not studied the Presidential election results very well.  President Obama won the election for reasons unrelated to foreign policy.  Mitt Romney lost the election for reasons unrelated to foreign policy.

So why exactly is John McCain continually harping on the Benghazi tragedy?  Does the former Presidential candidate harbor bad feelings about his defeat?

Or, is he like old soldiers (they never die, they just fade away).  I wonder whether McCain even realize he is becoming McWho?

Do You Hear The Drum Beat? What Does It Mean?

February 4, 2012

News reports this past week in both the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal have reported ominous news about Iran.  One report said Iran “operatives” might strike American interests overseas and even within the US boarders.  Another report described the recent disaster at an Iranian missile development site.  According to Israeli sources this week, the site was developing missile which would have had an effective range of 6000 miles.  That would be enough to reach the US mainland.  What’s behind these reports?

A few weeks back reports indicated that Israel felt the time was now to strike preemptively.  Their targets would be suspected Iranian nuclear development sites.  This week’s headlines read, “Iran authorizes help for al Qaeda” reporting that Iran had released a number of senior al Qaeda leaders.  The report suggested Iran had given assistance (money and weapons) to these radicals and implied pointed them in the US’s direction.  What are we to make of this?

For sure these reports could be simply what they literally say.  They are just reports.  They are speculation regardless of their sources. Or, could there be more?

Iranian Government officials, of course, read US newspapers.  Could it be these are articles planted for Iranian consumption?  Could the US be thinking that sanctions coupled with this “we know what you are doing” message just like in the run up to invading Iraq, that Iran would modify its behavior?

More frighteningly, could these drum beats be the real warm up for a new invasion?  Could the Obama Administration be willing to play with fire?  Spreading the word about Iran’s threat and using it to build fear within Americans?  Fear is perfect for asking for war powers.  It has also been a useful tool to reelect a President.  Hmmm.

Personally, I am reluctant to believe President Obama would stoop to fear mongering tactics to get reelected.  Who knows?

We do know Iran is a bad actor in the Middle East neighborhood.  A nuclear Iran with 6000 miles rockets represents a threat to a lot more than just the US.  This type of threat provides only the faintest of rational reasons for the US to be stoking the fires of war.  For Israel, however, the danger is much closer and potentially far more deadly.  These recent reports do have the touch of Israel’s hidden hand.

Actively taking steps for an Iranian invasion is not the answer.  Events could push US actions over the edge.

The President’s stated position that the US will protect Israel if it is attacked is one that previous Administrations have held.  It seems reasonable and justified.  A missile or worse, a nuclear attack on Israel will bring a quick end to Iran and they know it.

The wisest US set of tactics are the ones now in play.  Push for world consensus.  Strangle Iran with financial sanctions until its policies change.  As with the cold war, no bullets need to be spent.  Running out of money will ultimately change the mind of a country with no natural enemies remaining.  Running out of money will speak louder than Allah.

Ten Years Later

September 11, 2011

It has been 10 years since the tragedy of September 11, 2001.  Since that day, innocent people around the world have also suffered as well.  The actions of 19 misguided men has resulted in huge additional costs and vast numbers of deaths.  The aftermath of 9/11 may hold as much information as the events that lead up to it.

There is no suitable excuse for hijacking 4 planes nor is there any for flying two into the Twin Towers or one into the Pentagon.  Understanding these men’s motives, however, might lead to better clarity on how to detect future radicals and their insane plots.

The real insights and lessons, however, will flow from understand the equally incomprehensible response that has occurred.  How could civilized men and women have allowed their governments to spend so much on gaining so little in the name of security?

Retaliating against the Taliban and al Qaeda itself was clearly called for.  Disrupting the training camps and bringing about regime change in Afghanistan happened relatively quickly, at a low cost, and with minimum loss of life.  But that was not the end of it.

The US government decided to “rebuild” Afghanistan and put in power a “democratic” government.  Nation building was the unmentioned new objective.  Why?  Certainly sane men would realize that the al Qaeda movement was borderless and would flow like water into some other regions in the backward Muslim world.

I guess not.

The Afghan mistake was just the beginning.  The US decided, with scant objection from the media or Congress, that Iraq was somehow involved.  Soon the US had opened a real can of worms.  Iraq has resulted in almost $1 trillion in spending, over 4400 in military lives, over 30,000 wounded, and an un-estimated number of long term PTSD survivors.

The Iraq rewards do not stop there.  The toppling of Saddam Hussein unleashed 1500 years of irrational religious hatred.  There was no way to put the genie back in that bottle.  The number of Iraqi civilians who died at the hands of sectarian violence dwarfs the number of American dead.  Their blood is on our hands too.

Estimates suggest that the US has spent almost $1 trillion in homeland security measures (both government and private) over and above a similar amount for military operations.  Try flying and see how sane the response has been.

Mourning the loss of over 3000 9/11 lives is a sign of respect for who were really innocent victims.  Raising our voice against the misguided actions of our Government in response to 9/11 also pays tribute and respect to the 9/11 victims.

If our Country does not learn the foolishness of the last 10 years, we may become bankrupt and not survive long enough as a democratic country to learn from history again.

Get Ready For New Exams

July 7, 2011

This post is not about the “Race to the Top”.  It is about education but an entirely different kind.

Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has just announced a new threat to every flying man, woman, and child.  It is another set of threats posed by the elusive but persistent al Qaeda brand.

Reliable sources (never identified) have reported that al Qaeda is planning, or thinking about, or wishing they could, hide explosives inside the bodies of suicide volunteers.  Presumably these warriors would pass through security and somehow detonate these explosives once in the air.  Although not confirmed, these despicable fanatics would be immediately welcomed into Paradise and receive their just rewards.

If the TSA follows past practices, we might expect air travelers to receive rectal and vaginal exams at airport check points (during high alerts) and full hand body squeezes (breasts, thighs, and buttocks) during normal periods.  Your TSA will be hard at work.

While details of how TSA will combat this new threat have not been released, past TSA responses give these predictions some credibility.

The TSA was born during the Bush years when fear was a great political friend.  Since then, the TSA has gotten a life of its own.  All of the TSA behaviors have been based upon the false assumption that it is possible to “inspect out” anyone intent upon destroying an airplane.

The issue they face is that as inspections get more thorough, the inconvenience to the innocent public gets worse, and more insidiously, like viruses, the real terrorists mutate and use new methods.

Step back and think about this new treat.  If it were possible to hide explosives in ones body and then detonate them on command, why wouldn’t a terrorist select a less protected target… like a sporting event, a train or bus, or Grand Central Station?

This should be a wake up call (after we all have badly over slept).  We certainly want our government to protect us.  There simply should be commonsense used.  America loses more than 30,000 lives a year with automobile accidents and over 5 million from smoking related causes.  These are self inflicted and preventable.

Are we focused correctly?

Three Blind Mice or Three Clever Foxes?

July 5, 2011

Headline!  “Three US Senators warn against troop pull out in Afghanistan”.  Sounds pretty serious.  You might even think this was the tip of a wave of opposition to President Obama’s decision to withdraw 30,000 troops from Afghanistan by 2103.  Guess again.

The most important clue comes from just who are these Senators.

The three amigos are together again.  This time they are trying an encore to their well known “three blind mice” skit.  They are, of course, John McCain, Lindsey Graham, and Joe Lieberman.

It is difficult to ascribe motive to their joint decree.  There are well known associations which suggest possible reasons.  We can not be sure, however.

McCain who championed the invasion and occupation of Iraq as well as “doubling down” with the Iraq surge, has always argued that without US intervention, al Qaeda was heading to our cities and streets.  McCain, also, seems overly committed to maintaining military footprints.

Graham is facing a potential tough reelection and has moved to the right.  From this position, he has ditto-ed McCain every step of the way.

Lieberman while an independently strong supporter of Iraq and Afghanistan war efforts, has an even bigger dog in the fight with unconditional support for Israel.

And last but not least, since the 2008 Presidential campaign, these three have been inseparable. Sort of like three “right wing Don Quixotes”.  I guess this is what friends do.

But what if their only motive was a true belief that the US must remain in Afghanistan to protect American interests?

While honorable, their statements are just as striking when one steps back and considers what these three are actually proposing in the context of the world around us.

Afghanistan is not the source of al Qaeda funding.  Afghanistan does not hold a lock on terrorist training either. In addition, there are hot spots in Bahrain, Yemen, Libya, and Somalia.  Where will the resource come from to protect American interests in these spots?

And let’s not forget that the entire continent of Africa seems to be at war.  Much of these areas are in desperate need of humanitarian aid and offer the potential as lawless homes for terrorists and terrorist training camps.

Oh, and lest we not forget, at home we have a deficit and debt crisis.  Defense Department spending is a big contributor, and probably represents a $200 billion per year reduction target.

So, I wonder whether these three’s position is really about Afghanistan or whether it is really an early defense against Defense Department cuts?

Afghanistan’s Future

June 20, 2011

Washington DC’s question of the week is should the US begin its troop pull out and if so, how many and how fast?

In an ideal world, the President would put forth a foreign policy which defined clearly America’s national interest and then proposed how actions in Afghanistan fit that policy.  Congress could debate the policy but the President’s actions would be the prerogative of the executive branch.  When Congress was adamantly opposed to the policy (not the specific implementation), it could take the steps of cutting off funding.

We, of course, do not live in a perfect world.  Congress often does not seek to know the policy and when it does, it objects simply because the policy was proposed by someone of the other party.  In addition, Congress likes to object to the specific actions employed by the executive regardless of its position on the policy.  It is mighty tough being the chief executive.

Afghanistan represents a somewhat similar, yet quite different story.  Can you quickly state what the US policy is?  Can you outline how US national interests are being served with about 100,000 troops risking their lives?  Can you imagine a peaceful, democratic Afghanistan nestled in between Iran, Pakistan, and all the “Stans” to its north?  Why should we expect this country to suddenly follow a rule of law and end its dependance on growing poppies and producing heroin?

Our politicians speak of denying al Qaeda a safe place to plan and train for worldwide terrorism.  But casual inspection tells anyone that Afghanistan is not the only place for terrorists to train.  Logic tells us that the US cannot police every suspect country in the world even if we had the money to do so.

Recently our military has been saying “we are close to winning”.  Winning what?  In a country where most all military recruits are illiterate, you must be kidding to say Afghanistan is ready for democratic rule.

This weekend the great Washington DC discussion was will President Obama announce a small, token withdrawal of say 5,000 troops, or will he announce something significant like 15,000?  Should I kiss you on this cheek or the other one?

“Winning” the military describes reflects the absence of overt Taliban presence.  The military wants to keep the Taliban out while secret peace talks are conducted.  One can only assume that the military sees the possibility of a Afghan-Taliban coalition emerging.    If the Palestinian-Israeli talks are any indication, this could be a long time.

This presents President Obama with a quandary.  A coalition stable government sounds like a real win.  Why not wait a little longer?  On the other hand, our experience to date with the present Afghan government and our memory of the Taliban crowd, does not present a good picture for the future.

For sure it is the President’s call.  He can rest assured that whatever his call, Republicans (and many Democrats) will disagree.

My advice would be to announce a full withdrawal to be completed in three years subject to further discussions with the Afghan government.

With Pakistan on one side and Iran on the other, the presence of a small strategic base (maybe 20,000 soldiers/airmen) might make sense to US national interests.  It would take an Afghan government decision to affirm that this presence was in their best interest too.  Lacking this confirmation, no amount of winning will change anything and full withdrawal makes the most sense.

Free Hand

May 2, 2011

With the announcement that Osama ben-Laden has been killed, President Obama has gotten a reprieve from the death grip President Bush had generously left him.  We can now chart a course towards an exit Afghanistan with honor and speed.

Pay back has been achieved.  Nation building, however, is simply not in the cards.  Any further attempts at it will reveal a badly misguided Administration.  But don’t be surprised to hear the ring of more warfare over the next weeks and months.

You won’t hear mothers and fathers cheering for more military action in Afghanistan.  You will hear those who either directly or representationally will benefit from the US war machine continuing to grind out the bullets and bombs.

Afghanistan and Iraq combined could represent an easy $100 billion a year savings in defense costs.  Savings in government spending, however, means someone will earn less profit.

President Obama knows all that.  He will most likely maneuver carefully so as to not hand Republicans any election year ammunition.  With the deficit and debt albatross hanging there, President Obama might be able to get Republicans (and Tea Partyers) on board.

Forgetting for a moment the politics, the right thing is to withdraw all US military as soon as practical.  Democratic nationhood is as far off for Afghanistan today as it was in 2001 when we first invaded.

If there is any hope for this “religion strangled” region, it will more likely look like what is going on in the Middle East right now.  Social networks will inform the young what life could be.  Then, in fits and starts, uprising and put down, slowly the role of government and religion will change.

Just remember, the issue with the Islamic world is not the religion itself.  Rather it is the use of religion by a small group to scrape out a living.  Like ALL religions, those who preach do so in order to earn money and power.  With power, they can earn more money.  Afghanistan is a desperately poor land.  Money and power go together.

It is time to take our sail out of the Islamic wind.