Posted tagged ‘terrorism’

Lucky?

May 8, 2010

They’re back. Yes, the spokesmen of doom have stepped forward once again to remind America of how good things once were. Not!!!

Representative John Boehner spoke yesterday about how lucky the Country has been that the Christmas day “underpants” bomber and the recent NYC “SUV” bombers had failed to succeed in their plans. Boehner then reminded us of the Fort Hood killings and a time when we were not so lucky. What was he trying to say?

The bottom line, of course, was that Democrats are soft on terrorists and Republicans are not. Besides forgetting that 9/11 took place on their watch, Boehner simply overlooks a lot more. Single acts of terrorism take place everyday except we do not call it terrorism. Instead we call it “predator missile attacks”.

Terrorism on US soil is genuine concern. This is, however, a complex, situation and no amount of rhetoric will make it go away. Everyday drug smuggling and all the other types of underworld crimes take place in our cities, and are accompanied with senseless murders which far outnumber the consequences of foreign inspired terrorists. In addition, computer experts tell us that foreign “hackers” can wreak untold damage to America if they tried.

As the House minority leader, John Boehner has a responsibility to speak. This responsibility carries with it an even greater requirement to speak responsibly. Pandering for votes by stirring up fear is a disservice to all Americans. It makes no one any safer and arguably causes Americans to expect something that is undeliverable.

We should remember that in pursuit of an “undeliverable” goal of protecting all Americans from terrorists, the path to that goal passes right through the loss of Constitutionally protected freedoms we currently possess.

Political Miscarriage

March 7, 2010

The Obama Administration has begun to “leak” a shift in strategy on trying Guantanamo detainees. Earlier this year, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed would be tried in New York City in a civilian court. Now the signals are that the Administration will back track and revert to Military Commissions. This is a sad miscarriage of trust voters placed in Barack Obama in November of 2008.

KSM by all accounts seems to be a real “bad guy”. He has been linked to a number of terrorist activities with the most prominent being the 9/11 attacks. Destruction of the twin towers and the murder of over 3000 innocent people seems to me to be criminal behavior and subject to the US criminal justice system. What is wrong with a trial in a civilian court?

Some would have us believe US courts are too liberal or are the right of only US citizens. They add that the US is at war and under those conditions, military commissions are more appropriate. A little history might be useful here. Guantanamo was almost full of prisoners before the US put forth the rules the Military Commissions would use.

These Military Commission allow the court to use “hearsay” evidence, can hide from the accused evidence that will be used against them, and in the unlikely event of “not guilt” still hold the detainee indefinitely. The rest of the world see these proceedings as those of a cheap third world power.

Stranger still, and probably even more concerning, is why not to use the civil courts?

Could it be the civil protections we expect in any criminal proceeding are practices the conservative right wing of this country do not think we should have? Could it be that the right to a speedy trial, right to see ones accuser, and a fair trial by ones peers are protections the right wing feels unnecessary? Could it be that the path Greece’s first democracy, Athens, followed, slowly but steadily surrendering its liberties to their appointed “tyrant” is the slippery path we are unknowingly setting down?

Mr President, move the trial if you must but keep it in a civilian setting for the sake of real justice and freedom for the rest of us.

Selling US Short (us too)

February 17, 2010

The Obama Administration is said to be reconsidering its trail of and not holding it in New York City. While there is something to be said about a trial costing an estimated $1 billion due to heavy security costs associated with downtown Manhattan, cooler heads need to keep control of this process. Move it maybe, but don’t move it back to military commissions.

Senator Lindsay Graham, a former Judge Advocate officer (a military lawyer), has added his pint of fuel to the political blaze on handling terrorists. Lindsay wants President Obama’s counter terrorism advisor to be fired. The reason most recently cited is the decision to try the Detroit “underwear bomber” in civil court rather than by a military commission. Surely Senator Graham has better uses of his time.

Anti-American values music is growing in volume and the tune is simply shameful. The tune says President Obama is soft on terrorism, or at least poorly advised, harsh interrogation is good, and indefinite confinement is wise. What are these people really thinking when they propose tactics that would make the founding fathers blanch in disgust?

The intended message, however, is different. They mean to say that Republicans are tough on terrorists and only they will protect Americans. The obvious question they present, “which do you want”?

Once again Republicans are selling both us and the US short. This is a false choice. America can retains its values and protect itself from terrorists.

With military commissions, Republicans are tearing down the judicial system (one of the three co-equal branches of government) implying that it can not render justice. With the already high distrust of Congress, Americans are now being told that the Judicial system is faulty and can not be trusted. What are they thinking?

The embedded “fear message” is easier to understand. Scare the hell out of Americans and reap the benefits at the polls. The question I ask is how many times can they cry wolf?

Military commissions have not tried any significant detainee. Far worse, these commissions would be able to use “hearsay evidence” and allow judges to prevent the detainee from seeing evidence marked confidential that would be used against them. Think about both of these. Who is a sane mind will consider any guilty judgement a fair judgement? (If you have trouble with this notion, substitute “american tourist” arrested in Russia or China, denied counsel, and sentence to hard labor based upon information kept secret.)

I do not know whether John Brennan is a good advisor or not. What I do know is that the decision on his advisors is solely President Obama. I also know, form experience, that Senator Graham has offered some pretty poor advice during the “W” years.

President Obama needs to stand firm and support the long term view of American justice. Habeas corpus, the right to know your accuser, a speedy trial by ones peers, and safety from cruel and unusual treatment are tenets of our civil and criminal law. As Americans, we need to see through the Republican fear mongering political tactics and support justice the American way.

They Will Follow Us Home

December 30, 2009

When former President George W Bush was considering whether to take on the “surge” strategy in the Iraq mess that existed at that time, Senator John McCain was telling anyone who would listen, “if we withdraw now, the terrorists will follow us home!”

This was an absurd statement then, and in the after glow of the Detroit suicide bomber event, McCain’s words appear even more out of touch with reality. Sadaam Hussein was not the type of person you would want your daughter dating but under his rule, Iraq was contained and fully limited in its international influence. Al Qaeda were persona non gratis in this country. While one can debate whether Iraq will become stable and self sufficient any time soon, one can not debate the point that Iraq continues to play no role in the international terrorist world.

The Detroit bomber, Umar Fariuk Abdulmutallab, who is from Nigeria and has ties to Yemen, has no connection with Iraq (or Afghanistan). The US has been spending boat loads of money and loosing brave Americans to the hazards of war, and nome of it has been helpful in deterring or preventing a religious extremist from purchasing a airplane ticket (for cash) and getting on the plane (with no baggage), and then trying to blow up the plane on its landing approach.

Senior officials in private companies or in Government Agencies or Policy making groups are suppose to get the big decisions correct. The Bush Administration majored in getting things wrong. The Obama Administration is now up to bat and we are all watching. These religious extremists are delusional and act like “nut cases”. They need to be dealt with by “special operatives” and not the regular Army.  That approach will cost far less and could act far more surgically than 150,000 armed forces. It is time to recognize we must think differently because “they will not follow us home” unless we let them through airport security.

Understanding the Un-understandable

December 28, 2009

On Christmas Day, a religiously consumed 23 year old tried to blow up an intercontinental flight headed for Detroit. The alleged terrorist came from a privileged background and had received a reasonably decent education through a British International School. So why would someone with his life in front of him choose to end it (and over 250 others)? What point was this poor soul trying to make? Who were the even sicker religious people who filled this young mind with senseless thoughts?

Anyone who has traveled in the last couple of years knows that you can not just walk up to the gate and get on an airplane. All passengers are screened when they get their boarding passes (is their name on a “no-fly” list?). All passengers then pass through a personal identification step (matching boarding pass name to some form of picture ID). And finally, all passengers pass through metal detectors (and some are selected for further closer inspection). How did this 23 year old get through?

The authorities (I assume the Transportation Security Agency) issued immediate precautions that increased dramatically the time for international passengers to clear check in and metal detection. Thinking this was not enough, they ask that passengers not be allowed to get up (leave their seats) or have anything (even a computer) in their laps for the last one hour of flight.

Just as in the case of 9/11, the increased security measures have nothing to do with the event that just took place. In 9/11, the terrorists carried box cutters which are metal through security and onto the planes. In the Detroit case, the 23 year old carried no baggage and paid cash for his ticket!!! Well, hello, is there anyone home?

I cannot explain the motives that drive anyone to do anything in the name of any religion. These people are pure suckers since they take the heat and their instigators live to enjoy another day. Just as difficult to explain is why security services suddenly impose new measures (which add unneeded burden to the public, thereby assuring that the terrorists have achieved some margin of victory), and not to be overlooked is that these measures could not have prevented the incident that triggered their implementation?

Worrying Signs

August 1, 2009

General Stanley McChrystal has completed his assessment of what it will take to achieve US goals in Afghanistan. He is calling for a “change in strategy” and an increase in US troop strength to 400,000. Sound like Vietnam?

This news which is breaking on a weekend at the beginning of August is not what the doctor ordered. If President Obama thinks he has problems with health care or restarting the economy, he hasn’t seen anything yet. Stationing 400,000 troops in Afghanistan is not what those who voted for Obama in 2008 had in mind as “change”.

If the US considered itself an Empire (even a benevolent one), 400,000 troops would be understandable (although probably not enough) given the conditions on the ground in Afghanistan. But we are not an Empire, and unless you have been asleep for the past 9 months, we are a nation heading towards bankruptcy. But there are more reasons why.

The biggest one is that there is no way to make Afghanistan safe from Taliban influence until the Afghans themselves decide to reject this brand of Islam, and that is not going to happen. Afghanistan is a terribly broken country, poverty stricken, graft and bribe infested, and unfortunately lacking in any particular natural resource. On top of this, the situation in Afghanistan is prime territory for any religious group but the franchise in Afghanistan is Islam. Modernity is not going to happen.

The US entered Afghanistan shortly after 9/11 in order to root out the Taliban who were allowing al Qaeda a free hand in organizing global terrorist activities. This was necessary and initially achieved its objectives. It is now 7 years later and many dollars and lives have been spent. More than doubling the troop number will not change these basic conditions no matter how much we want to think so, or how hard we try.

The nature of Islamic global terrorism, like all other cross boarder efforts, is that it requires financing. In Afghanistan, the Taliban gets its funding from Poppy harvests and from Middle East sources. If the money dries up, the Taliban (or any other future group) will dry up to.

If the US is looking for a new strategy, try this. Withdraw our troops from Afghanistan, blockade the coast line, and stop buying Middle East oil. This situation spotlights two huge weaknesses, the US’s ability to successfully curtail drug use and trade, and our insatiable apatite for oil. Fighting both of these with “new strategies” will lead to more fruitful results than sending 400, 000 more soldiers and untold gobs of money into a rat hole.