Posts tagged ‘Al Qaeda’

Abandoning Principle to Protect Their Guy

Scott Lemieux, via Kevin Drum, argues that people are getting way too worked up about the targeted killing memo.  Everything's fine"

Much of the coverage of the memo, including Isikoff's story, focuses on the justifications offered by the Obama administration for killing American citizens, including Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan (two alleged Al Qaeda operatives killed by a 2011 airstrike in Yemen.) In some respects, this focus is misplaced. If military action is truly justified, then it can be exercised against American citizens (an American fighting for the Nazis on the battlefield would not have been entitled to due process.) Conversely, if military action is not justified, extrajudicial killings of non-Americans should hardly be less disturbing than the extrajudicial killing of an American citizen. The crucial question is whether the safeguards that determine when military action is justified are adequate

As I wrote in his comments section to this:

There is an immense chasm of difference between killing an American on the battlefield dressed in a Luftwaffe uniform in the Battle of the Bulge and authorizing assassination of American civilians without any sort of due process (Please don't tell me that presidential conferences and an excel spreadsheet constitute due process).  The donning of an enemy uniform is a sort of admission of guilt, to which there is no parallel here.  A better comparison would be:  Would it have been right for FDR to have, say, Charles Lindberg killed for supporting the nazis and nazi-style eugenics?  How about having a Congressman killed who refused to fund the war on terror - after all, there are plenty of people who would argue that person is abetting terrorism and appeasing Al Qaeda by not voting for the funds.

Before the election, when asked to post possible reasons to vote for Romney, the best one I could think of was that at least under a President Romney, the natural opponents on the Left of targeted killing and drone strikes and warrant-less wiretapping and prosecuting whistle-blowers under treason laws would find their voice, rather than remaining on the sidelines in fear of hurting "their guy" in the White House.

By the way, I know this puts me out of the mainstream, but Presidential targeted killing and drone strikes on civilian targets bothers me whether or not Americans are targeted.  I don't accept the implicit notion that "foreigners" have fewer due process rights than Americans vis a vis our government.  I believe the flaw goes all the way back to the AUMF that was directed against a multinational civilian organization rather against a country and its uniformed military.  I don't believe this is even a valid definition of war, but even if it were, there is no way the traditional rules of war can apply to such a conflict.  But here we are, still trying to apply the old rules of war, and it is amazing to me to see denizens of the Left leading us down this slippery slope.

Update:  As usual, Glenn Greenwald seems to have the definitive editorial on the targeted killing memo.  It is outstanding, top to bottom.  Read it, particularly if you are on the fence about this.

Katrina Flashback

It is December, 2005.  The Gulf Coast had just been pounded, in succession, by Katrina, Rita, and Wilma.  Everyone was talking about how global warming seemed to be intensifying hurricanes.  In a speech just after Katrina, Al Gore said

 When the corpses of American citizens are floating in toxic floodwaters five days after a hurricane strikes, it is time not only to respond directly to the victims of the catastrophe but to hold the processes of our nation accountable, and the leaders of our nation accountable, for the failures that have taken place....

There are scientific warnings now of another onrushing catastrophe. We were warned of an imminent attack by Al Qaeda; we didn't respond. We were warned the levees would break in New Orleans; we didn't respond. Now, the scientific community is warning us that the average hurricane will continue to get stronger because of global warming. A scientist at MIT has published a study well before this tragedy showing that since the 1970s, hurricanes in both the Atlantic and the Pacific have increased in duration, and in intensity, by about 50 percent....

Two thousand scientists, in 100 countries, engaged in the most elaborate, well-organized scientific collaboration in the history of humankind, have produced long-since a consensus that we will face a string of terrible catastrophes unless we act to prepare ourselves and deal with the underlying causes of global warming....

At about the same time, the IPCC was in the process of preparing its fourth report, later released in 2007.  It said, in part:

Several peer-reviewed studies show a clear global trend toward increased intensity of the strongest hurricanes over the past two or three decades. The strongest trends are in the North Atlantic Ocean and the Indian Ocean. According to the 2007 Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC-AR4), it is “more likely than not” (better than even odds) that there is a human contribution to the observed trend of hurricane intensification since the 1970s. In the future, “it is likely [better than 2 to 1 odds] that future tropical cyclones (typhoons and hurricanes) will become more intense, with larger peak wind speeds and more heavy precipitation associated with ongoing increases of tropical [sea surface temperatures].”

So what happened?  Since Wilma in 2005, we have gone 6 full years without a category 3+ hurricane making landfall in the US, the longest span since 1900 without such an event.  And the clock is still counting.  When alarmists of all stripes were breathlessly predicting hurricane after hurricane in late 2005, the reality is that we wouldn't see another in the US for  over six years.

Of course, US landfall is in fact a terrible indicator of hurricane activity.  Its relevant to us, but it is a pretty random metric.  I said this when there were a lot of landfalls and I say it again since there have been so few.

A better metric is accumulated cyclonic energy, a sort of time integral of all large cyclonic storms worldwide.  Here is the most recent ACE figures:

As it turns out, the total strength of hurricane and hurricane-like storms has been falling almost since the exact day of Al Gore's speech in 2005 (another Gore effect!)  In fact, of late, it has hit numbers close to all-time lows.

Of course this chart will go back up some day, and then back down, and then up ... because hurricane activity has always been cyclical over decadal time scales.

The media loves to trumpet end-of-the-world predictions from folks like Al Gore and Paul Ehrlich, but they never go back five years later and back-check their predictions.  And despite their horrendous record for accuracy, the media eagerly publishes the next one.  Here is a proposed editorial rule for the MSM -- no breathless publication of anyone's next prediction without first revisiting the last one.

Worst Law That I Can Remember

This is simply an awful law.  If you had asked me ten years ago if we would see the President (a Democrat yet) claiming the right to assasinate Americans and the Congress threatening to pass a bill requiring the indefinite detention, without trial, of people within our borders, I would never have believed it.  At first I was excited to see that Obama was threatening a veto, but then I read that he was not upset about indefinite detention, but only that Congress was threatening to tie his hands and proscribe certain options.  Obama wants to have the choice of whether to offer certain individuals due process or indefinite decision.

For more, see Rand Paul v. John McCain

Postscript:  As usual, I am left flat by the debate over whether certain injustices, like indefinite detention, apply to all humanity or just foreigners.  I have yet to parse anything in our founder's national rights arguments behind the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution that justify why folks born outside our borders have fewer rights than those born inside them.

Update:  More here, including a lot from the ACLU.  We are supposed to feel better because John McCain says that this only applied to Al Qaeda.  But how in the hell do we know with any confidence that the folks the President locks up are Al Qaeda?  Its bad enough to declare a whole new crime, that of being a member of a certain organization.  The US, through its history, has been much better than most nations in avoiding banning certain parties and organizations.  But even if we accept this law, doesn't there need to be some due process?

I suppose I understand that if I captured a guy in an SS uniform in WWII who 10 seconds ago was shooting at me, locking him up as a POW might not require a ton of due process.  Last I checked, the AQ folks didn't have a uniform or anything.  And most of them are not routinely shooting at us.

We didn't even pass this kind of horrible law at the height of Cold War anti-communist hysteria.  Can you see Johnson or Nixon (or Hoover) being able to indefinitely detain anyone they thought was a member of the Communist Party?

Why That Separation of Powers Thingie Makes Some Sense

The NY Times reports, via Hit and Run, that judicial review of Gitmo detainees, which the Administration has steadfastly resisted, may be quite justified:

In the first case to review the government's secret
evidence for holding a detainee at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, a federal
appeals court found that accusations against a Muslim from western
China held for more than six years were based on bare and unverifiable
claims. The unclassified parts of the decision were released on Monday.

With some derision for the Bush administration's arguments, a
three-judge panel said the government contended that its accusations
against the detainee should be accepted as true because they had been
repeated in at least three secret documents.

The court compared
that to the absurd declaration of a character in the Lewis Carroll poem
"The Hunting of the Snark": "I have said it thrice: What I tell you
three times is true."

"This comes perilously close to suggesting
that whatever the government says must be treated as true," said the
panel of the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

The
unanimous panel overturned as invalid a Pentagon determination that the
detainee, Huzaifa Parhat, a member of the ethnic Uighur Muslim minority
in western China, was properly held as an enemy combatant.

The panel included one of the court's most conservative members, the chief judge, David B. Sentelle....

Pentagon officials have claimed that the Uighurs at Guantánamo were
"affiliated" with a Uighur resistance group, the East Turkestan Islamic
Movement, and that it, in turn, was "associated" with Al Qaeda and the Taliban.

Next up, the detainee whose mother's gynecologist's dog's veterinarian's great uncle once was friends with a Muslim guy.

The Administration now complains that there is nowhere that this man can be sent back to, and somehow this is supposed to validate his detainment?  He wouldn't have had to be sent back anywhere if he hadn't been snatched up in the first place.  I am willing to believe that this guy may be a bad buy, but we let lots of people we are pretty sure are bad guys walk the street, because for good and valid reasons we rank false detainment of the innocent as a greater harm than non-detainment of the guilty.  Anyone seen OJ lately?

Historical Revisionism

I think regular readers know that I am not one to see Islamic terrorists hiding under every rock.  In fact, I am not sure I have written a single post on the current state of Islam or ties to terrorism.  I don't see the world primarily in terms of some great culture war with Islam.  Certainly a number of fundamentalist Islamic states suck in terms of human rights, and some of that is probably due to ties with Islam, but many other states suck nearly as much without any Muslim help.

That being said, I must say as someone interested in history that this argument from Dr. Mahmoud Mustafa Ayoub of Berkeley, as reported from the Canadian human rights tribunal by Andrew Coyne, strains credulity:

What is jihad? Article equates it with Al Qaeda: fighting,
suicide bombing etc. But word actually means, originally, "to strive,
to do one's best." Koranic sense is that religious struggle we must all
engage in within our souls against evil tendencies. There is also
"social jihad," the obligation to change things that are wrong. This does not mean violence. The Koran is not a book of violence.

The notion of armed struggle, or violent jihad, is
mentioned in the Koran. "Permission has been given to those who have
been wronged only because they say God is our lord that they fight in
self-defence." (Sura 22.) So jihad is not limited to fighting "” it's just one type of jihad,
and should only be done in self-defence. The extremist, violent types
are an anomaly. "They are more a problem for us than for the west."

I have no problem with modern folks interpreting the Koran in this way for themselves.  But this is absurd from a historical context.  This portrayal of jihad as a sort of peaceful civil rights movement may be how moderate Muslims want to make the Koran relevant to their modern life, but it is outrageous in the historic context of if the 7th century.  People of all faiths in this era didn't have sit-ins to correct social wrongs -- they gathered up their friends and some swords and went out to try to chop up the folks who did them wrong.  Muhammad was a brilliant military leader, uniting disparate Arab tribes out of nowhere to carve out a huge part of the western world as their empire.  His (and his successors') achievement is roughly equivalent to an unknown set of tribes suddenly bursting out of the Amazon and taking over modern North America.

The concept of jihad as originally applied in the 7th and 8th centuries was bloody and militaristic -- and effective.  So much so that the Catholics copied many of the key parts for their crusades.  The 7th century was a totally different world in its outlook and assumptions.  Here is one example:  We have heard many times of the slave revolts in Rome, and most of us have seen Spartacus.  But not a single person in the 1000 years of the Roman empire, slave or not, is recorded to have ever advocated the elimination of slavery.  They may have wanted to be free themselves, or treated better, but everyone accepted the institution of slavery even while trying not to be a slave themselves.  We, with our 19th century anti-slavery movement, see the slave revolts of Rome as something they simply were not.  I believe a similar revisionism is at work here on jihad.

All that being said, I have no opinion on whether or not the militaristic concept of jihad animates any substantial number of modern Muslims or not.  I simply am not well enough informed, and currently find it hard to find any text discussing this issue that is trustworthy on either side.

Postscript:  It is true that the Muslims showed special respect in their lands to Jews and Christians  - in part for religious reasons and in part for practical reasons related to special taxes.  The Spain of three religions under Muslim rule was certainly more dynamic and tolerant than the counter-reformation Catholic Spain.  But this fact does not obviate the militaristic origins of jihad.  Islam respected Christians and Jews .... in the lands where the Muslims had taken over and ruled. Where Muslims did not yet rule but wanted to, all bets were off.

Soloman Ammendment Upheld

I must say I was not at all surprised that the Solomon amendment (requiring private universities that accept federal funds to also accept military recruiters) was upheld by the Supreme Court.  I predicted months ago that the left had made its bed on this issue with its strong support of Title IX.

Various law school faculties argued in the case that the Solomon Amendment unconstitutionally violated their rights to freedom of association (by taking away their choice of who can and cannot recruit on campus) and of speech (by forcing the university to support speech, such as military recruiting pitches, that it does not agree with).  I must say that I am both sympathetic and unsympathetic to their argument.  Sympathetic, because there are in fact free speech and association issues here.  The majority opinion notwithstanding, its impossible to make a razor-sharp distinction between prohibitions on "conduct" and prohibitions on expression.  I can't accept Robert's blanket statement that "unlike a parade organizer's choice of parade contingents, a law
school's decision to allow recruiters on campus is not inherently
expressive."  What if, say, Al Qaeda wants to set up a booth?  My accepting their booth would sure as hell be a form of expression, one that I am sure the Right would blast me for. 

I do understand that there is money involved, and the fatuous answer is that "well, they can just turn down federal funds."  Bullshit.  Like it or not (and I don't) the feds have made themselves so ubiquitous, particularly in certain research areas where they have crowded out all private funding, that it is unrealistic to tell them to take a hike.  Though I must say that it is interesting to see the left, which built this huge federal machine, hoist on their own petard.  Besides, the majority opinion said that the funding tie-in was not necessary to pass constitutional muster -- that the government had the power to just straight out compel private universities to accept military recruiters.

However, mostly I am unsympathetic.  Why?  Because these very same ivy league and faculty intellectuals have felt free in the past to step all over the free speech and association rights of the rest of us in similar ways.  As George Will asked in recent column, it would be fascinating to see what percentage of these same people who brought this suit in turn vehemently support, say, McCain-Feingold?  Or, public funding of election campaigns. 

As a business person, this ship sailed years ago.  Freedom of association no longer applies to business people.  The reason?  Well, freedom of association implies the reverse right of not associating with anyone you choose.  But there are phone-book-sized bodies of legislation today with detailed regulations telling me all the people and circumstances in which I cannot choose whom I associate with, or don't associate with (via employment decisions, for example).  For example, my business employs RV'ers who live full-time on the road and form a large transient labor force.  I have tons of applications every year from Canadian and Mexican citizens who would like to work for me, but I cannot hire them.  On the other side of the coin, I have had to actually go to court from time to time to justify why I chose not to hire or to fire someone who is a woman, or older, or handicapped.

And forced speech with which I don't agree?  My company has to, by law, maintain bulletin boards full of posters, messages, statements, etc. that I don't necessarily agree with but are legally required to post on my property as communication to workers.  And these bulletin boards have to be made a bit larger every year.  I don't have to accept any federal money to be absolutely required, at the penalty of heavy fines, to post these communications.

I would be a bit more enthusiastic in my support for these law faculty if I didn't suspect that they have been the very people out in the forefront of trashing my first amendment rights as a business person.

Postscript: By the way, is this even a problem anyway?  At Harvard Business School, the largest recruiters eschewed campus altogether, and conducted all their interviews at offsite hotels.  I would think the military could pretty easily work around these law schools prohibitions. 

Demographics of Terrorism

I thought this demographic and psychological study by the Foreign Policy Research Institute (caution:  I have not idea who these guys are) and linked via Little Green Footballs is pretty interesting.

Most people think that terrorism comes from poverty, broken families, ignorance, immaturity, lack of family or occupational responsibilities, weak minds susceptible to brainwashing - the sociopath, the criminals, the religious fanatic, or, in this country, some believe they're just plain evil.

Taking these perceived root causes in turn, three quarters of my sample came from the upper or middle class. The vast majority"”90 percent"”came from caring, intact families. Sixty-three percent had gone to college, as compared with the 5-6 percent that's usual for the third world. These are the best and brightest of their societies in many ways.

Al Qaeda's members are not the Palestinian fourteen-year- olds we see on the news, but join the jihad at the average age of 26. Three-quarters were professionals or semi- professionals. They are engineers, architects, and civil engineers, mostly scientists. Very few humanities are represented, and quite surprisingly very few had any background in religion. The natural sciences predominate. Bin Laden himself is a civil engineer, Zawahiri is a physician, Mohammed Atta was, of course, an architect; and a few members are military, such as Mohammed Ibrahim Makawi, who is supposedly the head of the military committee.

This is not particularly surprising to me.  The "terrorism comes from poverty" mantra has more to do with trying to make a political point (generally to excuse terrorism and totalitarianism and often to blame the US) rather than any particular facts on the subject.  In fact, the description above matches surprisingly well with US domestic terrorists and mass murderers.  Though there is a lot of argument nowadays about this stereotype, Phillip Simpson describes the FBI's serial killer profile (emphasis mine):

He is usually a white male between twenty-five and thirty-five years old, though of course there are teen-aged and elderly serial killers as well. Generally, the male serial killer is at the height of his physical powers, a fact which not only serves him in the practical matter of overpowering victims but also empowers him in the public arena: his strength and apparent potency (and of course, choice of innocent victims) render him an effective media monster. He is also likely to be an eldest son or an only child and of average or above-average intelligence. His childhood may have been marked by incidents of sexual or physical abuse, and his parents may be divorced or flagrantly unfaithful to one another. He usually possesses a strong belief that he is more intelligent and privileged than ordinary people (a belief that only grows stronger when confronted by evidence to the contrary) and thus exempted from the social restrictions that govern the masses. No safe predictions can be made about his economic origins, but as Leyton notes, serial murder in our era is more a crime of the middle classes than of the lower or upper ranges of the socioeconomic hierarchy.

The sexual material may or may not be parallel, though it is interesting to think about in terms of the anti-women male dominance of radical Islam.