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Sunday, February 15, 2004

Score One for the Iraqi Police

The new Iraqi police force have captured their first important fugitive, the Four of Spades in the US deck of cards:

Mohammed Zimam Abdul-Razaq -- the four of spades in the military's "deck of cards" of 55 most-wanted Iraqis -- was arrested at one of his homes in western Baghdad, Deputy Interior Minister Ahmed Kadhum Ibrahim told journalists. Abdul-Razaq sat next to the Iraqi official wearing a traditional black robe. Ibrahim said he did not resist arrest. ...

While presenting Abdul-Razaq to reporters, Ibrahim appealed to the top Iraqi fugitive, Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, to surrender, promising he would be treated with dignity. Al-Douri is the former vice chairman of the ruling Revolutionary Command Council.

This couldn't come at a better time, as the Iraqi police have weathered a series of attacks, culiminating in yesterday's daring raid on an Iraqi police jail that freed dozens of insurgents and killed over 20 policemen. While the Iraqis maintain that the raid was staged by foreign-based insurgents, American analysts are convinced that the tactics used indicate former Iraqi military involvement.

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Thursday, February 12, 2004

Osama's Navy?

The British believe that al-Qaeda has up to 15 ships that they will use for terror attacks, possibly against Parliament, just off the Thames in London (via Drudge):

A private memo sent to police chiefs by the Met's marine unit is headlined: Next Terror Attack Waterborne?

Ship insurer Lloyd's of London is said to be helping MI6 and the CIA trace vessels bought by al-Qaeda from a Greek shipping magnate with links to bin Laden. The memo states shipping agents have been asked to help in the search.

The report by the Met - which says it obtained its intelligence from maritime agencies - states: "Al-Qaeda has reportedly taken possession of 15 ships, forming what could be described as the first terrorist navy. The ships fly the flags of Yemen and Somalia where they are registered - and are capable of carrying lethal cargoes of chemicals or a dirty bomb."

The ships are believed to be in the Indian and/or Pacific Oceans, but with over 120,000 ships sailing in those waters, it will be difficult to identify al-Qaeda rogues. I suspect that US satellite surveillance is already being used in this regard. Naval vessels have figured significantly into al-Qaeda operations in the past, and not only in the attack on the USS Cole in Yemen that killed 17 American sailors. US intelligence believes that the bombs used in the two embassy bombings in Africa in 1998 were delivered by sea, as well as the explosives for the Bali nightclub bombing in 2002. American intelligence also has the al-Qaeda "admiral" Abdulrahim Mohammed Abda Al-Nasheri in custody, who according to the article had been planning suicide attacks on Coalition warships in the Gibraltar area when he was arrested.

This points out a central al-Qaeda strategy: attacking or exploiting transportation services in order to terrorize nations into paralysis -- at least that is their hope. Al-Qaeda knows that our perception of liberty centers on our ability to freely travel, within our own border and outside of them as well. They believe that by attacking us in this manner that we will shortly lose our will to fight back, leading us to withdraw from our global responsibilities and hide behind our shores. Some here believe we should do just that; at least two of them are running for President. In November, we will have the chance to demonstrate our response to such tactics. Hopefully, the electorate will provide a resounding answer.

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Powell: "You Don't Know What You're Talking About"

The normally even-tempered Secretary of State, Colin Powell, became angry at a Congressional hearing and scolded a Congressman and a staffer:

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, a retired four-star general known for his even temperament, paused yesterday during a congressional hearing to berate a Hill staffer for shaking his head as Powell offered a defense of his prewar statements on Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction.

The public scolding came after Powell had already endured a number of attacks by Democrats on the administration's Iraq policy during an appearance before the House International Relations Committee. He had just snapped at a member of Congress who had casually declared President Bush "AWOL" from the Vietnam War.

The staffer, who sat behind the panel members, was shaking his head at Powell's testimony, a rude gesture by any stretch of the imagination, and after grinding his teeth throughout the angry and accusatory interrogation from the panel's Democrats, Powell wasn't about to sit there and have some staffer mocking him from behind the skirts of the Congressment at the hearing.

Powell was recalling for the panel his review of the prewar intelligence. "I went and lived at the CIA for about four days to make sure that nothing was," he began, when he paused and glared at a staffer seated behind the members of Congress.

"Are you shaking your head for something, young man, back there?" Powell asked. "Are you part of these proceedings?"

Earlier, when Rep. Sherrod Brown contended that President Bush had been AWOL during the Vietnam War -- apparently, Brown drinks Terry McAuliffe's Kool-Aid on a regular basis -- Powell snapped and berated the Congressman:

First of all, Mr. Brown, I won't dignify your comments about the president because you don't know what you are talking about," Powell snapped.

"I'm sorry, I don't know what you mean, Mr. Secretary," Brown replied.

"You made reference to the president," Powell said.

"I say he may have been AWOL," Brown repeated.

"Mr. Brown, let's not go there," Powell retorted. "Let's not go there in this hearing. If you want to have a political fight on this matter, that is very controversial, and I think is being dealt with by the White House, fine. But let's not go there."

Good for Powell, and shame on Sherrod Brown for dragging this vile trope into a hearing on international relations, for crying out loud. If the Democrats want to make all Congressional hearings into International ANSWER and forums, they'd better start getting used to being brought up short by the adults in the administration.

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Tuesday, February 10, 2004

We're Winning, Part 178a

The "resistance" in Afghanistan is running out of steam, according to the commander of NATO forces in the country:

The armed resistance against U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan is dwindling despite claims by the al-Qaida terror network that it has launched a renewed campaign in the country, NATO's military commander said. U.S. Marine Gen. James L. Jones said there are fewer than 1,000 fighters of the ousted Taliban regime and their al-Qaida allies in Afghanistan.

"The level of the threat ... is quite a bit lower than I had thought," Jones said late Monday as he returned from a one-day visit to Afghanistan. ... Coalition commanders believe "the opposition is running out of energy," Jones said.

This is despite the winter snows that hamper Coalition patrols. The approval of the new Afghani constitution has created a new political situation in Afghanistan, one that will exclude the Taliban as more and more Afghanis buy into the protections and freedoms that the new government will protect. Even if the new document doesn't provide the levels of protection that is seen in the West, it establishes a quantum-level improvement for their citizens over what they've historically experienced.

Only by eliminating the brutal oppressive regimes in the Middle East will we overcome the nihilistic bands of lunatics that want to impose Islamofascist regimes around the world, and we will accomplish it by showing the Middle East the benefits of self-government and liberty. Afghanistan was first only because the Taliban remained stupid enough to give refuge to the worst of the terrorists. Iraq was second because we needed to end the 12-year quagmire of the failing containment of Saddam Hussein in order to secure our strategic and tactical flank. Once we establish relatively free and open societies in both countries, the people in the region will have an opportunity to turn from hopelessness and powerlessness and demand the same for themselves. Will they take it? The choice, if we remain on course, will be that or continued military action on their soil, not ours. 9/11 woke us up, hopefully permanently.

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Monday, February 09, 2004

Best Damn War Analogy, Period

I have to hand it to Jon at QandO. In response to Joseph Wilson's tired assertion that Bush opened up an "unnecessary second front" on the war on terror by invading Iraq, Jon uses this analogy:

You know, I once bought pesticide to deal with the fleas that had found my dog. I had two choices.

1: I could spray the entire can at the dog.
2: I could spray the dog...and other areas in which the fleas lived.

I guess I should have chosen the first. Instead I opened an "unnecessary second front" on the fleas. Worked, too, but I'm sure that's just a coincidence. Joseph Wilson kills every last flea on his dog, every time he sprays him down.

......which is about once every two weeks, since all the fleas just go elsewhere for a while.

Perhaps there's a parallel there, but let's not think about it too much.

Yeah. What he said.

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The Arab League Discovers Humor

The Arab League, of all things, issued a report this morning critical of the US-led coalition's administration of Iraq -- on human-rights grounds:

Violations of human rights and international law by U.S.-led forces in Iraq have embittered the populace, an Arab League report obtained Monday said. ... "It (the treatment of Iraqis) is not in conformity with relevant international legal rules or with human rights documents in general," said the report obtained by Reuters.

The report quoted some Iraqis who were critical of Arab indifference toward their plight under the brutal rule of former President Saddam Hussein and said a change in methods by U.S.-led occupation forces could ease tensions.

Talk about the pot calling the kettle black! Perhaps our response should be, "When you can announce these reports filled with your concern over human-rights abuses from the door of synagogues and Christian churches, then we will listen to your complaints." These are the same governments who rule by decree and torture and execute their citizens on the whim of their presidents-for-life. Even those closest to the West diplomatically, such as Egypt and Jordan, do not allow dissent or freedom of religious expression. Egypt has been under "emergency" suspension of even the pretense of democratic rule for decades now. They openly support the deliberate targeting and murder of Israeli citizens by suicide bombers. Lastly, the Arab League never lifted a finger to help Iraqis when they were brutally oppressed by Saddam Hussein under far, far worse conditions. Their concern fails to move me.

If we can soften our approach without endandgering our security and the security of the large majority of Iraqis who work with us to build a free and democratic Iraq, then we should by all means do so. But the Arab League would do better to focus on themselves if they want anyone to take their concerns about human rights seriously.

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Saturday, February 07, 2004

America's "Victim" Enjoyed Guantanamo

The Telegraph will disappoint many America-haters in the UK and around the world tomorrow by publishing the account of a teenager who spent 14 months at the controversial detention center in Guantanamo, where critics accuse the US of cruel treatment of its inmates:

An Afghan boy whose 14-month detention by US authorities as a terrorist suspect in Cuba prompted an outcry from human rights campaigners said yesterday that he enjoyed his time in the camp. Mohammed Ismail Agha, 15, who until last week was held at the US military base in Guantanamo Bay, said that he was treated very well and particularly enjoyed learning to speak English.

Oh, the horror! But if your fragile psyche can handle it, Agha details the tortures he survived at Camp Delta:

"At first I was unhappy . . . For two or three days [after I arrived in Cuba] I was confused but later the Americans were so nice to me. They gave me good food with fruit and water for ablutions and prayer." ... He said that the American soldiers taught him and his fellow child captives - aged 15 and 13 - to write and speak a little English. They supplied them with books in their native Pashto language. When the three boys left last week for Afghanistan, the soldiers looking after them gave them a send-off dinner and urged them to continue their studies.

"They even took photographs of us all together before we left," he said. Mohammed, however, said he would have to disappoint his captors by not returning to his studies. "I am too poor for that. I will have to look for work," he said.

Photographs! Aha! A Geneva Convention violation! And what about teaching Agha English -- is that typical American imperialism, or what? Teaching him to read and encouraging him to continue his education has to be cruel, raising his hopes and making him believe that his life has value and his future could hold almost unlimited opportunity to be free and happy. How dare we interfere with his normal development into a starving lackey for warlords and Islamofascist terrorists. Perhaps the wise people from International ANSWER will convince us yet that our soldiers are brutish thugs and Guantanamo differs little from medieval dungeons; I'm sure they'll want to spread Agha's story as crucial evidence of their charges.

I'll just sit here and hold my breath ...

UPDATE: The Minnesota Star-Tribune carried this story. Their headline? "Released from Guantanamo, boy says he was falsely accused". Well, that's certainly a shocker -- detainees so rarely claim that they are falsely accused. It isn't until the penultimate paragraph that the AP story mentions anything about Agha's complimentary description of his life at Camp Delta. Typical.

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Friday, February 06, 2004

Walk Right In, Sit Right Down

In the middle of a winter punctuated with flight cancellations and delays due to heightened fears of terrorist attacks, the LAX security detail allowed a known felon to stroll past security and lodge himself onto an airplane without a ticket:

Airport cameras captured it all: On a busy morning at Los Angeles International Airport last month, a convicted felon wearing a sweatshirt, sunglasses and gloves strolled unnoticed past two security checkpoints in Terminal 5 and walked onto a jumbo jet without a ticket.

Kareem Thomas, a 19-year-old Decatur, Ga., resident on probation for burglary, was discovered hiding in an airplane restroom by passengers and was apprehended by police before takeoff.

Thomas was unarmed and passed through the airport's metal detectors along with other travelers. But the ease with which he boarded the Jan. 15 Delta Airlines Flight 1972 to Atlanta — particularly at a time of heightened security at the state's No. 1 terrorist target — alarmed passengers on the flight and triggered investigations by two federal agencies and the airline.

"Clearly this was a monumental security screw-up," said Santa Monica resident John Hall, who was a passenger on the flight. "Here I am, along with all the other passengers, taking off our shoes and waiting in endless lines to board a plane and this guy just strolls past the security net."

Even more disturbing than this incident was the response given by the TSA's security director at LAX, Larry Fetters:

"Of course it's worrisome that this happened and we need to make sure that it doesn't happen again," Fetters said. "But we also need to put it in perspective." At LAX, he said, "Millions of people have gone past screening checkpoints in the last year and only one person got through who shouldn't have been in there."

Perhaps Fetters would also like us to keep 9/11 in perspective. After all, in the first eight months of 2001, many millions of people passed through American airport security check points, perhaps even a billion. And only 19 managed to slip through, a failure rate of only 0.0000019%! That certainly makes me feel foolish for even thinking that we were unsafe on 9/11 or any time before or since.

Fetters clearly does not grasp the nature of his job if he expects the public to accept this "perspective" on security. As a retired security expert notes later in the same article, it only takes one person getting past security with bad intent to create a grave danger for travelers and people on the ground as well. The nature of the security breach is so blatant that clearly Fetters wants to distract from his group's embarrassing failure and direct focus to the thousands and more that suffered through the intrusive, but necessary, preflight security procedures. Unfortunately for Fetters, it is these same people who will resent the fact that TSA allowed someone without a ticket to pass through unnoticed because security agents were too busy watching them take off their shoes.

Fetters' response undermines public confidence in this TSA unit's focus on its mission, which is not to play numbers games but to make sure everyone goes through the screening process. If TSA supports Fetters' philosophy of playing the percentages instead of 100% compliance, then perhaps TSA isn't qualified to handle this job, either.

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Tuesday, February 03, 2004

Deadly Ricin Found: New Terrorist Attack

Just in case anyone thought that the war on terror had ended, reality intruded overnight as the deadly poison ricin was found in the Senate complex:

Following the discovery of the deadly toxin ricin in the mailroom of Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, much of the Senate complex will be shut down Tuesday, the Senate Web site said. "The Capitol will be open for essential personnel only. All tours will be canceled until further notice. Senate office buildings will be closed today. This includes the Hart, Dirksen, and Russell Senate Office Buildings," according to a statement on the Web page.

Tests on a white powdery substance found in the mailroom indicate the presence of ricin, U.S. Capitol Police Chief Terrance Gainer and Frist said late Monday. Frist said he considers the incident a "terrorist activity."

Of eight tests conducted throughout the day, six were positive for the toxin, with a ninth and final test due Tuesday. "From a scientific standpoint, this is ricin," Frist said. "It is in all likelihood sent with intent to harm."

I doubt that this event will be spectacular enough to remind some of the danger the US still faces from terrorists -- foreign and domestic -- but it will underscore for most the need for continued vigilance. Hopefully no one at the Senate complex got enough exposure to get sick from this attack. Ricin is twice as deadly as snake venom and can kill through inhalation or contact.

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Monday, February 02, 2004

Germany Repents?

Germany, whose Chancellor acted as though he was married to French President Jacques Chirac, now regrets its diplomatic breach with Britain and the US and will start distancing itself from French foreign policy:

Germany is seeking to distance itself from France's tight embrace and realign itself more closely to Britain and America, senior German officials signalled yesterday. They said the row with Washington over Iraq had been "catastrophic" for Berlin and Chancellor Gerhard Schröder had become "a prisoner" of President Jacques Chirac's campaign to oppose the war to topple Saddam Hussein last year.

After two years of standing so close to France that the two leaders literally stood in for one another at EU conferences, the Germans have belatedly discovered the world doesn't love the French. Now that the Chirac administration is buried in scandal and especially since Germany found out that French opposition to the war in Iraq had more to do with salaries than scruples, Germany wants to make nice with the Anglo-American alliance. They've even begun to entertain the possiblity of supporting the Coalition in Iraq, perhaps even with troops.

All of this is welcome, of course, but it had better be accompanied by some public statements of support for the efforts of Britain and the US to rid the world of a dangerous and unstable tyrant. Schroeder made enough reckless statements getting himself elected on the anti-Great Satan platform; until he renounces this publicly, he's not to be trusted and we should start building relationships with his political opponents instead.

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