Poli-spam: Today\’s harvest: War and Sense Choice links to clear

September 27, 2001 at 12:49 pm
Contributed by:

Hey folks…my friend Mike put this page together to compile the best of
information about “America’s New War” or “Project Infinite Justice” (or
whatever they’re calling it now that they realized that project name incites
Muslims). He’s keeping it up to date with the best stuff I’ve come across
too, so you might want to bookmark it.

http://www.nthwave.net:81/warAndSense/index.html

At the top of that page be sure to read the Chomsky article. Typical
Chomsky, but I think it raises a lot of valid points, and is appropriate
reading on this Day of Atonement (or At-one-ment).

And here’s the link o’ the day:

Nobel Peace Laureates speak out . . . very interesting reading
http://www.thecommunity.com/crisis/

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Peace,
Chris

OPEN LETTER FROM ACADEMIC ADVISOR AT USAF ACADEMY

September 24, 2001 at 11:20 pm
Contributed by:

Hello all,
Here’s an interesting perspective for ya.
I haven’t heard much else (worth repeating), but will keep forwarding
anything else that is.
–C
Recently, I was asked to look at the recent events through the lens of
military history. I have joined the cast of thousands who have written
an “open letter to Americans.” Please share it if you feel so moved.
Dear friends and fellow Americans 14 September, 2001
Like everyone else in this great country, I am reeling from last week’s
attack on our sovereignty. But unlike some, I am not reeling from
surprise. As a career soldier and a student and teacher of military
history, I have a different perspective and I think you should hear it.
This war will be won or lost by the American citizens, not diplomats,
politicians or soldiers.
Let me briefly explain.
In spite of what the media, and even our own government is telling us,
this act was not committed by a group of mentally deranged fanatics. To
dismiss them as such would be among the gravest of mistakes. This
attack was committed by a ferocious, intelligent and dedicated
adversary. Don’t take this the wrong way. I don’t admire these men and
I deplore their tactics, but I respect their capabilities. The many
parallels that have been made with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor
are apropos. Not only because it was a brilliant sneak attack against a
complacent America, but also because we may well be pulling our new
adversaries out of caves 30 years after we think this war is over, just
like my father’s generation had to do with the formidable Japanese in
the years following WW II.
These men hate the United States with all of their being, and we must
not underestimate the power of their moral commitment. Napoleon,
perhaps the world’s greatest combination of soldier and statesman,
stated “the moral is to the physical as three is to one.” Patton
thought the Frenchman underestimated its importance and said moral
conviction was five times more important in battle than physical
strength. Our enemies are willing – better said anxious — to give
their lives for their cause. How committed are we America? And for how
long?
In addition to demonstrating great moral conviction, the recent attack
demonstrated a mastery of some of the basic fundamentals of warfare
taught to most military officers worldwide, namely simplicity, security
and surprise. When I first heard rumors that some of these men may have
been trained at our own Air War College, it made perfect sense to me.
This was not a random act of violence, and we can expect the same sort
of military competence to be displayed in the battle to come. This war
will escalate, with a good portion of it happening right here in the
good ol’ U.S. of A. These men will not go easily into the night. They
do not fear us. We must not fear them.
In spite of our overwhelming conventional strength as the world’s only
“superpower” (a truly silly term), we are the underdog in this fight.
As you listen to the carefully scripted rhetoric designed to prepare us
for the march for war, please realize that America is not equipped or
seriously trained for the battle ahead. To be certain, our soldiers are
much better than the enemy, and we have some excellent “counter-
terrorist” organizations, but they are mostly trained for hostage
rescues, airfield seizures, or the occasional “body snatch,” (which may
come in handy). We will be fighting a war of annihilation, because if
their early efforts are any indication, our enemy is ready and willing
to die to the last man. Eradicating the enemy will be costly and time
consuming. They have already deployed their forces in as many as 20
countries, and are likely living the lives of everyday citizens. Simply
put, our soldiers will be tasked with a search and destroy mission on
multiple foreign landscapes, and the public must be patient and
supportive until the strategy and tactics can be worked out.
For the most part, our military is still in the process of redefining
itself and presided over by men and women who grew up with – and were
promoted because they excelled in – Cold War doctrine, strategy and
tactics. This will not be linear warfare, there will be no
clear “centers of gravity” to strike with high technology weapons. Our
vast technological edge will certainly be helpful, but it will not be
decisive. Perhaps the perfect metaphor for the coming battle was
introduced by the terrorists themselves aboard the hijacked aircraft —
this will be a knife fight, and it will be won or lost by the ingenuity
and will of citizens and soldiers, not by software or smart bombs. We
must also be patient with our military leaders.
Unlike Americans who are eager to put this messy time behind us, our
adversaries have time on their side, and they will use it. They plan to
fight a battle of attrition, hoping to drag the battle out until the
American public loses its will to fight. This might be difficult to
believe in this euphoric time of flag waving and patriotism, but it is
generally acknowledged that America lacks the stomach for a long fight.
We need only look as far back as Vietnam, when North Vietnamese General
Vo Nguyen Giap(also a military history teacher) defeated the United
States of America without ever winning a major tactical battle.
American soldiers who marched to war cheered on by flag waving
Americans in 1965 were reviled and spat upon less than three years
later when they returned. Although we hope that Usama Bin Laden is no
Giap, he is certain to understand and employ the concept. We can expect
not only large doses of pain like the recent attacks, but also less
audacious “sand in the gears” tactics, ranging from livestock
infestations to attacks at water supplies and power distribution
facilities.
These attacks are designed to hit us in our “comfort zone” forcing the
average American to “pay more and play less” and eventually eroding our
resolve. But it can only work if we let it. It is clear to me that the
will of the American citizenry – you and I – is
the center of gravity the enemy has targeted. It will be the fulcrum
upon which victory or defeat will turn. He believes us to be soft,
impatient, and self-centered. He may be right, but if so, we must
change. The Prussian general Carl von Clausewitz, (the most often
quoted and least read military theorist in history), says that there is
a “remarkable trinity of war” that is composed of the (1) will of the
people, (2) the political leadership of the government, and (3) the
chance and probability that plays out on the field of battle, in that
order. Every American citizen was in the crosshairs of last Tuesday’s
attack, not just those that were unfortunate enough to be in the World
Trade Center or Pentagon. The will of the American people will decide
this war. If we are to win, it will be because we have what it takes
to persevere through a few more hits, learn from our mistakes,
improvise, and adapt. If we can do that, we will eventually prevail.
Everyone I’ve talked to In the past few days has shared a common
frustration, saying in one form or another “I just wish I could do
something!” You are already doing it. Just keep faith in America, and
continue to support your President and military, and the outcome is
certain. If we fail to do so, the outcome is equally certain.
God Bless America
Dr. Tony Kern, Lt Col, USAF (Ret)
Former Director of Military History, USAF Academy

OPEN LETTER FROM ACADEMIC ADVISOR AT USAF ACADEMY

September 24, 2001 at 2:38 pm
Contributed by:

Hello
all,

Here’s
an interesting perspective for ya.

I
haven’t heard much else (worth repeating), but will keep forwarding anything
else that is.

–C

 

———————-

OPEN LETTER FROM ACADEMIC ADVISOR AT
USAF ACADEMY


Dr. Tony Kern, Lt Col, USAF (Ret)
Former Director of Military
History, USAF Academy
 

Recently, I was asked to look at the
recent events through the lens of
military history. I have joined the cast of
thousands who have written
an “open letter to Americans.” Please share it if
you feel so moved.

Dear friends and fellow Americans 14 September,
2001

Like everyone else in this great country, I am reeling from last
week’s
attack on our sovereignty. But unlike some, I am not reeling
from
surprise. As a career soldier and a student and teacher of
military
history, I have a different perspective and I think you should hear
it.
This war will be won or lost by the American citizens, not
diplomats,
politicians or soldiers.
Let me briefly explain.
In spite of
what the media, and even our own government is telling us,
this act was not
committed by a group of mentally deranged fanatics. To
dismiss them as such
would be among the gravest of mistakes. This
attack was committed by a
ferocious, intelligent and dedicated
adversary. Don’t take this the wrong
way. I don’t admire these men and
I deplore their tactics, but I respect
their capabilities. The many
parallels that have been made with the Japanese
attack on Pearl Harbor
are apropos. Not only because it was a brilliant sneak
attack against a
complacent America, but also because we may well be pulling
our new
adversaries out of caves 30 years after we think this war is over,
just
like my father’s generation had to do with the formidable Japanese
in
the years following WW II.
These men hate the United States with all of
their being, and we must
not underestimate the power of their moral
commitment. Napoleon,
perhaps the world’s greatest combination of soldier and
statesman,
stated “the moral is to the physical as three is to one.”
Patton
thought the Frenchman underestimated its importance and said
moral
conviction was five times more important in battle than
physical
strength. Our enemies are willing – better said anxious — to
give
their lives for their cause. How committed are we America? And for
how
long?
In addition to demonstrating great moral conviction, the recent
attack
demonstrated a mastery of some of the basic fundamentals of
warfare
taught to most military officers worldwide, namely simplicity,
security
and surprise. When I first heard rumors that some of these men may
have
been trained at our own Air War College, it made perfect sense to
me.
This was not a random act of violence, and we can expect the same
sort
of military competence to be displayed in the battle to come. This
war
will escalate, with a good portion of it happening right here in
the
good ol’ U.S. of A. These men will not go easily into the night.
They
do not fear us. We must not fear them.
In spite of our overwhelming
conventional strength as the world’s only
“superpower” (a truly silly term),
we are the underdog in this fight.
As you listen to the carefully scripted
rhetoric designed to prepare us
for the march for war, please realize that
America is not equipped or
seriously trained for the battle ahead. To be
certain, our soldiers are
much better than the enemy, and we have some
excellent “counter-
terrorist” organizations, but they are mostly trained for
hostage
rescues, airfield seizures, or the occasional “body snatch,” (which
may
come in handy). We will be fighting a war of annihilation, because
if
their early efforts are any indication, our enemy is ready and
willing
to die to the last man. Eradicating the enemy will be costly and
time
consuming. They have already deployed their forces in as many as
20
countries, and are likely living the lives of everyday citizens.
Simply
put, our soldiers will be tasked with a search and destroy mission
on
multiple foreign landscapes, and the public must be patient
and
supportive until the strategy and tactics can be worked out.
For the
most part, our military is still in the process of redefining
itself and
presided over by men and women who grew up with – and were
promoted because
they excelled in – Cold War doctrine, strategy and
tactics. This will not be
linear warfare, there will be no
clear “centers of gravity” to strike with
high technology weapons. Our
vast technological edge will certainly be
helpful, but it will not be
decisive. Perhaps the perfect metaphor for the
coming battle was
introduced by the terrorists themselves aboard the hijacked
aircraft —
this will be a knife fight, and it will be won or lost by the
ingenuity
and will of citizens and soldiers, not by software or smart bombs.
We
must also be patient with our military leaders.
Unlike Americans who
are eager to put this messy time behind us, our
adversaries have time on
their side, and they will use it. They plan to
fight a battle of attrition,
hoping to drag the battle out until the
American public loses its will to
fight. This might be difficult to
believe in this euphoric time of flag
waving and patriotism, but it is
generally acknowledged that America lacks
the stomach for a long fight.
We need only look as far back as Vietnam, when
North Vietnamese General
Vo Nguyen Giap(also a military history teacher)
defeated the United
States of America without ever winning a major tactical
battle.
American soldiers who marched to war cheered on by flag
waving
Americans in 1965 were reviled and spat upon less than three
years
later when they returned. Although we hope that Usama Bin Laden is
no
Giap, he is certain to understand and employ the concept. We can
expect
not only large doses of pain like the recent attacks, but also
less
audacious “sand in the gears” tactics, ranging from
livestock
infestations to attacks at water supplies and power
distribution
facilities.
These attacks are designed to hit us in our
“comfort zone” forcing the
average American to “pay more and play less” and
eventually eroding our
resolve. But it can only work if we let it. It is
clear to me that the
will of the American citizenry – you and I – is
the
center of gravity the enemy has targeted. It will be the fulcrum
upon which
victory or defeat will turn. He believes us to be soft,
impatient, and
self-centered. He may be right, but if so, we must
change. The Prussian
general Carl von Clausewitz, (the most often
quoted and least read military
theorist in history), says that there is
a “remarkable trinity of war” that
is composed of the (1) will of the
people, (2) the political leadership of
the government, and (3) the
chance and probability that plays out on the
field of battle, in that
order. Every American citizen was in the crosshairs
of last Tuesday’s
attack, not just those that were unfortunate enough to be
in the World
Trade Center or Pentagon. The will of the American people will
decide
this war. If we are to win, it will be because we have what it
takes
to persevere through a few more hits, learn from our
mistakes,
improvise, and adapt. If we can do that, we will eventually
prevail.
Everyone I’ve talked to In the past few days has shared a
common
frustration, saying in one form or another “I just wish I could
do
something!” You are already doing it. Just keep faith in America,
and
continue to support your President and military, and the outcome
is
certain. If we fail to do so, the outcome is equally certain.
God Bless
America
Dr. Tony Kern, Lt Col, USAF (Ret)
Former Director of Military
History, USAF Academy

Continuing Education on the Mid East, Islam, etc.

September 20, 2001 at 11:29 pm
Contributed by:

Heya folks…here’s today’s harvest, for your continuing education…

A look at the history of Islam:
http://ap.tbo.com/ap/breaking/MGANZQEYURC.html

One personal (edited) thread:

anytime. and the modern history of the conflict is the Palestinians took
up
arms with 5 Arab nations when Israel declared independence in 1948. When
it
became clear the Israeli’s would win that war, many/most Palestinians
fled,
fearing they would be slaughtered by the Israeli army since, if they had
won, that’s what they would have done to the Jews (my interpretation).

Thus started the Palestinian "refugee" problem. Jordan was the only Arab
nation to take in any of the Palestinians but then kicked them out in the
late 1960s (I believe) because the Jordanian King feared Arafat would stir
up trouble in the kingdom. Then Arafat and crew set up shop in Lebanon in
the 1970s where they engaged in terrorist activities, including the
killing
of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympics in Munich.

Israel invaded Lebanon in 1980 (or thereabouts) in order to oust the PLO
from its borders, which it did. But that was the first
offensive/preemptive
strike by Israel’s army after repelling numerous invasion attempts by Arab
armies. The Israel’s stayed in Southern Lebanon until just last year. Many
observers point to the Lebanon invasion as when Israel started looking far
less sympathetic in the eyes of the world, and the army (and its Christian
allies) did engage in some Vietnam-like killing of Arab civillians.

As I said before, Israel is not innocent. I just think people forget who
it
is they’re dealing with. It ain’t the boy scouts.

– AT

PS: of course, one man’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter and I
don’t claim to be an expert on the subject, but that’s how I see it.

——-
I really dig Ted Rail’s stuff but can’t disagree more than his take on
Israel. While the Israeli govt is far from faultless, those who "defend"
the Palestinians seem to convienently forget that they have NEVER recanted
their call for the destruction of the state of Israel. And yet, Israel has
tried to negotiate peace with them in good faith. And to what end? Barak
offered Arafat 99.9% of what he said he wanted at the Wylie conference and
Arafat said "no".

Oh, and PS: Israel is the ONLY nation in the middle east that holds
democratic elections. It seems to me the govts of other Arab nations —
which have done almost NOTHING to help their Palestinian brothers — have
it in their best interest to keep the Palestinians in poverty b/c that
situation gives the "Arab street" something to rail about rather than the
lack of freedoms and oppty in the Arab world.

Don’t mean to vent at you but I think the attacks last week show what
Israel has been dealing with throughout it’s history and yet still gets
roundly criticized. Again, I know the Israelis are far from perfect, but I
just don’t get it….

—————————————————

Another edited personal thread, courtesy of my cousin:

Hi Chris. Wow. Thanks for the discourse. I have to admit that I am behind
the times a bit. I do not have a tv, I only listen to NPR a few minutes in
the car on the weay to work, and by the time I get back from yoga, npr
programming is over. I do have some thoughts though. I would have to agree
with your last comments that it is all about our way of life which is
capitalism guised in vacuous patriotic terminology like "freedom." It is
only minorly about oil – when it suits us. It’s about support to Israel
because of the Jewish lobby (read: politics and money); it’s about needing
a scapegoat because we are too scared and too self-promoting to have
honest reflection. Finally on npr they have started to interview some
journalists from English speaking newspapers from predominantly Muslim
countires. Before they shunned discourse, hurrying off callers that wanted
us to examine our foreign policy. I don’t judge those that need the
patriotoc sentiment, that need t! he human-interest stories to grieve, but
there should be parallel introspection. (look at Maureen Dowd’s column in
the NYT today).

I think we will go into Afghanistan, if only because we are at a total
loss of what else to do. Not many, if any, Afghans are even involved int
his very loose network of terrorists. We have never committed the kinds of
resources into intelligence that we needed to, anyone going in now would
be buggered. We should be learning from the Israeli’s, from the Egyptians.
We are about to cause civil war in Pakistan. We just have no clue how to
infiltrate these cultures. For Somali we sent General Aideed’s son as the
translator. Now he is head of his father’s militia in Somalia. Just plain
stubborn, uninformed decisions. Right now half of Afghanistan is living on
the borders, desperate to get out after numerous years of drought and
famine. Pakistan closed its borders some time ago. Friends of mine went
into Afghanistan during the Mujahadin war against Russia – they went
through the Khyber pass on donkeys to bring medical relief to the people
living in the mou! ntains. American soldiers have not been trained for
that terrain – how many times do we have to live the lessons of Viet Nam,
of Somalia, before the men in charge with WWII complxes change their
stratefy? Forget minimum impact on civilians, they are looking for minimal
impact on American soldiers. They may be ready to fight a ground war now,
but clearly they are not ready for it. And a ground war against one man?
With thousands under him trained and linked by cells? Hmmm…It’s clearly
hard to know what to do, but it first has to come with serious
introspection and examination of why it happened – get out there and
listen to people – and then in consultation with countries that have
knowledge of theis kind of terrorism. Not warfare. This is not a war.
Israel has been living with this for decades (as have the Palestinians)
and it is not war, it is terrorism. It’s time we recognized that we are in
the game like everyone else. And it is not religious! . Murder and suicide
are against the Koran. Muslim fundamentalists? You have to work within the
rules of religion in order to be a fundamentalist.

I don’t know. It exhausts me to think about all this. We will go about it
wrong. We always do. It makes me think about when I was living in the
Somali refugee camps in Kenya. The embassy was bombed in Nairobi. I went
to a movie with Bruce Willis as an FBI agent. When he donned his FBI
jacket, the row a couple down from me in the theatre started to cheer –
all clean-cut American FBI agents coming to root evil out of Kenya – an
evil put there expressedly for us – the Kenyans were at a total loss, and
outr patriotic rhetoric did not help that country deal or grieve one bit.
The FBI ended up telling the Kenyan govt to expel five Islamic NGO’s – one
of which was doing really good work up in the village where I lived – a
village living next to refugee camps where refugees were getting all kinds
of things (though it wasn’t easy) – like food and medical care, and the
villagers – poor Kenyan Somalis, got nothing. So they were kicked out, the
village suffered, they knew I ! was AAmerican, I giot death threats, was
under virtual house arrest. The point is there is no reflection on cause,
no reflection on consequence. We just charge ahead, chest puffed out. Now
we have Superman as a president battling Lex Luthor. It’s too depressing.

Worthwhile reading on the conflict and bin Laden

September 18, 2001 at 2:01 am
Contributed by:

I thought the Lisa Beyer (Time Magazine Jerusalem Bureau Chief
http://www.time.com/time/bios/lisabeyer.html) article at the bottom here was
especially useful in understanding the background of bin Laden et. al. Here
are links to some other thought-provoking articles as well. I think and hope
that this conflict will be a lot different from those of the past, in that
average Americans may educate themselves a lot more on the details and the
background material, and perhaps be able to see through the spin control of
the major media a little, and perceive the real culprits (and the innocents)
a little better.
-Chris

Petition to avoid war as a response to the terrorist attacks against the
World Trade Center
http://home.uchicago.edu/~dhpicker/petition

And some choice links to clear headed thinking:
They Can’t See Why They Are Hated
http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,3604,551036,00.html

How to defeat bin Laden
http://www.salon.com/news/feature/2001/09/13/justice/index.html

When will we learn? by Harry Browne, the 2000 Libertarian presidential
candidate. http://www.wnd.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=24444

An Eye for An Eye? http://commondreams.org/views01/0914-03.htm

The Weak at War with the Strong
http://www.nytimes.com/2001/09/14/opinion/14STEE.html
The Most Wanted Man in the World
He lives a life fired by fury and faith. Why terror1s $250 million man
loathes the U.S.
BY LISA BEYER

Things might have turned out differently for Osama bin Laden-and for the
denizens of southern Manhattan-if the tall, thin, soft-spoken 44-year-old
hadn’t been born rich, or if he’d been born rich but not a second-rank
Saudi. It might have been another story if, while studying engineering in
college, the young man had drawn a different teacher for Islamic Studies
rather than a charismatic Palestinian lecturer who fired his religious
fervor. Things might have been different if the Soviet Union hadn’t invaded
Afghanistan, if Saddam Hussein hadn’t stolen Kuwait, or if U.S. forces
hadn’t retreated so hastily after a beating in Somalia, giving bin Laden the
idea that Americans are cowards who can be defeated easily.

Of course, Osama bin Laden wouldn’t buy any of that. For him, life is
preordained, written in advance by God, who in bin Laden’s view must have
delighted in the deaths of all those infidels in Manhattan last week. Still,
those are among the seminal details that shaped the man U.S. officials
believe to be not only capable but also guilty of one of the worst single
massacres of civilians since Hitler’s camps were shut down. How does any one
man, and an intelligent man, come to be so angry? And so callous? Bin Laden
has considered himself at war with the U.S. for years, even if the U.S. is
getting there only now. Still, how does one man come to be so comfortably
certain in the face of responsibility for so many devoured lives?

Last week’s deadly operation took planning, patience, money, cool, stealth
and extraordinarily committed operatives. It was a measure of the
sophistication of the complex network of devout, high-spirited Islamic
militants whom bin Laden has been assemblin g for almost 20 years. The big
challenge here was will. Whence did the will grow to do something so
atrocious?

In many ways, bin Laden’s story is like that of many other Muslim
extremists. There’s the fanatical religiosity and the intemperate
interpretation of Islam; the outrage over the dominance, particularly in the
Arab world, of a secular, decadent U.S.; the indignation over U.S. support
for Israel; the sense of grievance over the perceived humiliations of the
Arab people at the hands of the West.

But bin Laden brings some particular, and collectively potent, elements to
this equation. As a volunteer in the war that the Islamic rebels of
Afghanistan fought against the Soviets in the 1980s, bin Laden had a
front-row seat at an astonishing and empowe ring development: the defeat of
a superpower by a gaggle of makeshift militias. Though the U.S., with
billions of dollars in aid, helped the militias in their triumph, bin Laden
soon turned on their benefactor. When U.S. troops in 1990 arrived in his
sacred Saudi homeland to fight Saddam Hussein, bin Laden considered their
infidel presence a desecration of the Prophet Muhammad’s birthplace. He was
inspired to take on a second superpower, and he was funded to do so: by a
fortune inherited from his contractor father, by an empire of business
enterprises, by the hubris that comes from being a rich kid whose commands
had always been obeyed by nannies, butlers and maids.

Though bin Laden grew up wealthy, he wasn’t entirely within the charmed
circle in Saudi Arabia. As the son of immigrants, he didn’t have quite the
right credentials. His mother came from Syria by some reports, Palestine by
others. His father moved to Saudi Arabia from neighboring Yemen, a
desperately poor country looked down on by Saudis. If bin Laden felt any
alienation or resentment about his status, it was good preparation for the
break he would ultimately make with the privileged and bourgeois life that
was laid out for him a t birth.

The family’s wealth came from the Saudi bin Laden Group, built by Osama’s
father Mohamed, who had four wives and 52 children. Mohamed had had the good
luck of befriending the country’s founder, Abdel Aziz al Saud. That
relationship led to important govern ment contracts such as refurbishing the
shrines at Mecca and Medina, Islam’s holiest places, projects that moved
young Osama deeply. Today the company, with 35,000 employees worldwide, is
worth $5 billion. Osama got his share at 13 when his father died, leaving
him $80 million, a fortune the son subsequently expanded to an estimated
$250 million. At the King Abdel Aziz University in Jidda, bin Laden,
according to associates, was greatly influenced by one of his teachers,
Abdullah Azzam, a Palestinian who was a major figure in the Muslim
Brotherhood, a group that has played a large role in the resurgence of
Islamic religiosity. Bin Laden, who like most Saudis is a member of the
puritanical Wahhabi sect of Sunni Islam, had been pious from childhood, but
his encounter with Azzam seemed to deepen his faith. What’s more, through
Azzam he became steeped not in the then popular ideology of pan-Arabism,
which stresses the unity of all Arabs, but in a more ambitious
pan-Islamicism, which reaches out to all the world’s 1 billion Muslims. And
so bin Laden at age 22 was quick to sign up to help fellow Muslims in
Afghanistan fight the godless invading Soviets in 1979. For hard-liners like
bin Laden, a non-Muslim infringement on Islamic territory goes beyond the
political sin of oppression; it is an offense to God that must be corrected
at all costs.

At first, bin Laden mainly raised money, especially among rich Gulf Arabs,
for the Afghan rebels, the mujahedin. He also brought in some of the family
bulldozers and was once famously using one to dig a trench when a Soviet
helicopter strafed him but missed. In the early 1980s, Abdullah Azzam
founded the Maktab al Khidmat, which later morphed into an organization
called al-Qaeda (the base). It provided logistical help and channeled
foreign assistance to the mujahedin. Bin Laden joined his old teacher and
became the group’s chief financier and a major recruiter of the so-called
Arab Afghans, the legions of young Arabs who left their homes in places like
Egypt, Algeria and Saudi Arabia to join the mujahedin. He was instrumental
in building the training camps that prepared them to fight. Bin Laden saw
combat too; how much is in dispute.

During the same years, the CIA, intent on seeing a Soviet defeat in
Afghanistan, was also funneling money and arms to the mujahedin. Milton
Bearden, who ran the covert program during its peak years-1986 to 1989-says
the CIA had no direct dealings with bin Laden. But U.S. officials
acknowledge that some of the aid probably ended up with bin Laden’s group
anyway.

In 1989, the exhausted Soviets finally quit Afghanistan. With his mentor
Azzam dead at the hands of an assassin and his job seemingly done, bin Laden
went home to Jidda. The war had stiffened him. He became increasingly
indignant over the corruption of th e Saudi regime and what he considered
its insufficient piety. His outrage boiled over in 1990. When Saddam Hussein
invaded Kuwait and threatened Saudi Arabia, bin Laden informed the royal
family that he and his Arab Afghans were prepared to defend the kingdom.
The offer was spurned. Instead, the Saudis invited in U.S. troops for the
first time ever. Like many other Muslims, bin Laden was offended by the
Army’s presence, with its Christian and Jewish soldiers, its rock music, its
women who drove and wore pants. Saudi Arabia has a singular place among
Islamic countries as the cradle of Islam and as home to Mecca and Medina,
which are barred to non-Muslims.

When bin Laden began to write treatises against the Saudi regime, King Fahd
had him confined to Jidda. So bin Laden fled the country, winding up in
Sudan. That country was by then under the control of radical Muslims headed
by Hassan al-Turabi, a cleric bin Laden had met in Afghanistan who had
impressed him with the need to overthrow the secular regimes in the Arab
world and install purely Islamic governments. Bin Laden would go on to marry
al-Turabi’s niece. Eventually the Saudis, troubled by bin Laden’s growing
extremism, revoked his citizenship. His family renounced him as well. After
relatives visited him in Sudan to exhort him to stop agitating against
Fahd’s regime, he told a reporter, he apologized to them because he knew
they’d been forced to do it. In Sudan, bin Laden established a variety of
businesses, building a major road, producing sunflower seeds, exporting
goatskins. But he was seething. He was also gathering around him many of the
old Arab Afghans who, like him, returning home after the war, faced
suspicion from, if not detention by, their governments.

In 1993, 18 U.S. soldiers, part of a contingent sent on a humanitarian
mission to famine-struck Somalia, were murdered by street fighters in
Mogadishu. Bin Laden later claimed that some of the Arab Afghans were
involved. The main thing to bin Laden, howev er, was the horrified American
reaction to the deaths. Within six months, the U.S. had withdrawn from
Somalia. In interviews, bin Laden has said that his forces expected the
Americans to be tough like the Soviets but instead found that they were
"paper tigers" who "after a few blows ran in defeat."

Bin Laden began to think big. U.S. officials suspect he may have had a
financial role in the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center by a group of
Egyptian radicals. This may have been bin Laden’s first strike back at the
entity he believed to be the sourc e of so much of his own and his people’s
trouble. That same year, U.S. officials now believe, bin Laden began
shopping for a nuclear weapon, hoping to buy one on the Russian black
market. When that failed, they say, he started experimenting with chemical
warfare, perhaps even testing a device. Then, in 1995, a truck bombing of a
military base in Riyadh killed five Americans and two Indians. Linking bin
Laden to the attack, the U.S.-along with the Saudis-pressured the Sudanese
to expel him. To his dismay, they did.

With his supporters, his three wives (he is rumored to have since added a
fourth) and some 10 children, bin Laden moved again to Afghanistan. There he
returned full time to jihad. This time, instead of importing holy warriors,
he began to export them. He turned al-Qaeda into what some have called "a
Ford Foundation" for Islamic terror organizations, building ties of varying
strength to groups in at least a few dozen places. He brought their
adherents to his camps in Afghanistan for training, then sent the m back to
Egypt, Algeria, the Palestinian territories, Kashmir, the Philippines,
Eritrea, Libya and Jordan. U.S. intelligence officials believe that bin
Laden’s camps have trained tens of thousands of fighters. Sometimes bin
Laden sent his trainers out to , for instance, Tajikistan, Bosnia, Chechnya,
Somalia, Sudan and Yemen, according to the State Department. As a result,
U.S. officials believe bin Laden’s group controls or influences about 3,000
to 5,000 guerrilla fighters or terrorists in a very loose organization
around the world.

Ahmed Ressam, an Algerian who was arrested entering the U.S. from Canada in
December 1999 with a carful of explosives, has told interrogators that his
al-Qaeda curriculum included lessons in sabotage, urban warfare and
explosives. He was trained to attack power grids, airports, railroads,
hotels and military installations. Visitors to al-Qaeda camps say that
students receive instruction not only in using intricate maps of U.S. cities
and targeted venues but also in employing scale models of potential site s
for strikes. A 180-page al-Qaeda manual offers advice to "sleepers" (agents
sent overseas to await missions) on how to be inconspicuous: shave your
beard, wear cologne, move to newly developed neighborhoods where residents
don’t know one another.

Bin Laden’s far-flung business dealings have been a tremendous asset to his
network. U.S. officials believe he has interests in agricultural companies,
banking and investment firms, construction companies and import-export firms
around the globe. Says a U.S. official: "This empire is useful for moving
people, money, materials, providing cover." Though American authorities did
break up two al-Qaeda fund-raising operations in the past year, they have
been mostly unsuccessful in finding and freezing bin Laden’s assets.

As he built his syndicate, bin Laden also became more open about what he was
up to. In 1996 he issued a "Declaration of Jihad." His stated goals were to
overthrow the Saudi regime and drive out U.S. forces. He expanded the target
with another declaration in early 1998 stating that Muslims should kill
Americans, civilians included, wherever they could find them. Later that
year, his operatives used car bombs against the U.S. embassies in Kenya and
Tanzania, killing 224, mostly Africans. Those blasts provoked a U.S.
cruise-missile attack on an al-Qaeda base in Afghanistan that missed bin
Laden and only burnished his image as an authentic hero to many Muslims.

Bin Laden has spoken out against Israel, which he, like many Muslims,
regards as an alien and aggressive presence on land belonging to Islam.
Lately, he has lauded the current Palestinian uprising against Israel’s
continued occupation of Palestinian territories. But his main fixation
remains the U.S. Officially, he is committed to preparing for a worldwide
Islamic state, but for now he focuses on eradicating infidels from Islamic
lands.

Bin Laden’s precise place in the terror franchise he’s associated with is
somewhat nebulous. Certainly, he is its public face. But Ressam has told
interrogators that bin Laden is only one of two or three chieftains in
al-Qaeda. Many bin Laden watchers and even ex-associates have observed that
bin Laden appears to be a simple fighter without a brilliant head for
tactics. His lieutenant, Ayman al Zawahiri, an Egyptian physician who heads
the Egyptian al Jihad, which took credit for the assassination of Egyptian
President Anwar Sadat in 1981, is often mentioned as the brains behind the
operations. U.S. federal prosecutors have asserted in court filings that al
Jihad "effectively merged" with al-Qaeda in 1998. Mohamed Atef, al-Qaeda’s
military commander, is a lso a powerful figure. He is said to be a former
Egyptian policeman who joined the Arab Afghans in 1983. His daughter
recently married bin Laden’s eldest son Mohamed. Speculation that bin Laden
is in poor health-he sometimes walks with a cane and is rumored to have
kidney problems-has focused succession discussions on these two men.

It’s not clear that any of the three key figures actually issues specific
attack orders to adherents. Ressam told investigators the al-Qaeda
operatives are rarely given detailed instructions. Rather, they are trained
and then sent out to almost autonomous cells to act on their own, to plan
attacks and raise their own funds, often using credit-card scams to load up
on money, despite the Islamic prohibition against theft. Bin Laden, whose
general practice is to praise terror attacks but disclaim any direct
connection to them, has said, "Our job is to instigate."

If his current hosts, the radical Islamic Taliban regime in Afghanistan, are
to be believed, that’s about the maximum bin Laden can personally do now.
Under heavy international pressure to give their guest up, the Taliban
claims to have denied him phone a nd fax capabilities. (He had already quit
using his satellite phone because its signal can be traced.) Bin Laden has
been forced to rely on human messengers. He leads a spartan life; he no
longer has a comfortable camp. U.S. officials believe he lives on the move,
in a sturdy Japanese pickup truck, changing sleeping locations nightly to
avoid attempts on his life.

He’s still able to get out his message, though, through interviews and
videotapes produced for his supporters. A tape of his son’s wedding last
January features bin Laden reading an ode he’d written to the bombing by his
supporters of the U.S.S. Cole in Yemen, an attack that killed 17 service
members. "The pieces of the bodies of the infidels were flying like dust
particles," he sang. "If you had seen it with your own eyes, your heart
would have been filled with joy." What would he say about the civilian men
and women, the moms and dads, the children who died in New YorK City on
Sept. 11? He might say, as he said to ABC News in 1998, "In today’s wars,
there are no morals. We believe the worst thieves in the world today and the
worst terrorists are the Americans. We do not have to differentiate between
military or civilian. As far as we are concerned, they are all targets."

With reporting by Hannah Bloch/Kabul, Massimo Calabresi/ Washington, Bruce
Crumley/Paris, Meenakshi Ganguly/New Delhi, Scott MacLeod/Cairo, Simon
Robinson/Nairobi, Douglas Waller/ Washington, Rebecca Winters/New York and
Rahimullah Yusufzai/Peshawar

What is the true cost of oil?

September 18, 2001 at 1:53 am
Contributed by:

Here is a letter to the editor I wrote to the NY Times, asking "What is the true cost of oil?" No, I never got a response, nor have I ever seen a good analysis of the question. I would love to have that information if anybody ever comes across it!
To the Editor, the Times:

As I have been educating myself during the last week about "America’s New
War," it appears to me that this conflict, the ‘war’ that seems imminent,
the Gulf War, and well, most of our engagements in the Middle East over the
last two decades or so, has ultimately been about one thing: oil. Our utter
dependence on it, our commitment to it, and the fact that our leadership
(now, and 10 years ago) mainly consists of people who have made millions off
it, and who have no interest in pursuing anything other than the
preservation of the existing oil industry.

I would like to challenge the Times to put less energy into the ‘human
interest’ stories about the terrorist attacks, and more into solid
journalism about how we got here. I would like to challenge any of the major
media organizations to produce a story that tallies the true cost of
oil–including the human cost of oil.

Consider the Gulf War, the war in Sudan, and the many other conflicts that
have taken millions of human lives in the pursuit of cheap oil. Contrast
that with Dick Cheney’s comments this summer that "Conservation may be a
sign of personal virtue, but it is not a sufficient basis for a sound,
comprehensive energy policy." Ask the questions that no journalistic
organization seems to have asked yet: why do we consider oil the cheapest
source of energy, when it has cost far more human lives than any other
source? Why is our national energy policy so completely committed to oil,
when it is clear that it is a diminishing, non-renewable resource, ever
fraught with conflict and aggression, and when so many alternatives exist
that are nearly free and do not involve our reliance on any other nation?
Why are so many renewable, environmentally sound fuel alternatives–like
soybean oil, hemp oil, used vegetable oil, and solar power–automatically
dismissed on political grounds, when there is virtually no political
opposition to invading other countries and killing civilians to ensure a
steady flow of fossil fuel?

Why has no one added up the true cost of oil? Why is that not a part of the
current public debate? Are there any truly independent journalistic voices
in the major media, or are they all covering only the stories that won’t
disturb the status quo and most importantly, their advertisers and owners?

I am just a citizen, not a journalist, and I don’t have the resources or
knowledge to answer these question for myself. But I sure wish somebody
would.

Sincerely,
–C

Bomb the shit out of Afghanistan?

September 14, 2001 at 12:37 am
Contributed by:

Bomb the shit out of Afghanistan?Of all that I’ve seen and read so far, this one really had the ring of
truth. I think this is exactly the perspective I’ve been looking for. I
dearly hope that we will tread carefully in the coming months & years.
–C

For a different perspective on the events of last Tuesday…

Here’s what an Afghani thinks of the situation.

I’ve been hearing a lot of talk about "bombing Afghanistan back to the Stone
Age." Ron Owens, on KGO Talk Radio today, allowed that this would mean
killing
innocent people, people who had nothing to do with this atrocity, but "we’re
at
war, we have to accept collateral damage. What else can we do?" Minutes
later I
heard some TV pundit discussing whether we "have the belly to do what must
be
done." And I thought about the issues being raised especially hard because
I am
from Afghanistan, and even though I’ve lived here for 35 years I’ve never
lost
track of what’s going on there. So I want to tell anyone who will listen how
it
all looks from where I’m standing.

I speak as one who deeply hates the Taliban and Osama Bin Laden. My hatred
comes
from first-hand experience. There is no doubt in my mind that these people
were
responsible for the atrocity in New York. I agree that something must be
done
about those monsters.

But the Taliban and Ben Laden are not Afghanistan. They’re not even the
government of Afghanistan. The Taliban are a cult of ignorant psychotics
who
took over Afghanistan in 1997. Bin Laden is a political criminal with a
plan.
When you think Taliban, think Nazis. When you think Bin Laden, think Hitler.
And
when you think "the people of Afghanistan" think "the Jews in the
concentration
camps."

It’s not only that the Afghan people had nothing to do with this atrocity.
They
were the first victims of the perpetrators. They would exult if someone
would
come in there, take out the Taliban and clear out the rats nest of
international
thugs holed up in their country.

Some say, why don’t the Afghans rise up and overthrow the Taliban? The
answer
is, they’re starved, exhausted, hurt, incapacitated, suffering.

A few years ago, the United Nations estimated that there are 500,000
disabled
orphans in Afghanistan–a country with no economy, no food. There are
millions
of widows. And the Taliban has been burying these widows alive in mass
graves.
The soil is littered with land mines, the farms were all destroyed by the
Soviets. These are a few of the reasons why the Afghan people have not
overthrown the Taliban.

We come now to the question of "bombing Afghanistan back to the Stone Age".

Trouble is, that’s been done. The Soviets took care of it already. Make the
Afghans suffer? They’re already suffering. Level their houses? Done. Turn
their
schools into piles of rubble? Done. Eradicate their hospitals? Done.
Destroy
their infrastructure? Cut them off from medicine and health care? Too late.
Someone already did all that.

New bombs would only stir the rubble of earlier bombs. Would they at least
get
the Taliban? Not likely. In today’s Afghanistan, only the Taliban eat, only
they have the means to move around. They’d slip away and hide.

Maybe the bombs would get some of those disabled orphans, they don’t move
too
fast, they don’t even have wheelchairs. But flying over Kabul and dropping
bombs
would not really be a strike against the criminals who did this horrific
thing.
Actually it would only be making common cause with the Taliban–by raping
once
again the people they’ve been raping all this time.

So what else is there? What can be done, then? Let me now speak with true
fear
and trembling. The only way to get Bin Laden is to go in there with ground
troops. When people speak of "having the belly to do what needs to be done"
they’re thinking in terms of having the belly to kill as many as needed.
Having
the belly to overcome any moral qualms about killing innocent people. Let’s
pull
our heads out of the sand. What’s actually on the table is Americans dying.
And
not just because some Americans would die fighting their way through
Afghanistan
to Bin Laden’s hideout. It’s much bigger than that folks. Because to get
any
troops to Afghanistan, we’d have to go through Pakistan. Would they let us?
Not
likely. The conquest of Pakistan would have to be first. Will other Muslim
nations just stand by? You see where I’m going. We’re flirting with a world
war
between Islam and the West.

And guess what: that’s Bin Laden’s program. That’s exactly what he wants.
That’s why he did this. Read his speeches and statements. It’s all right
there.
He really believes Islam would beat the west. It might seem ridiculous, but
he
figures if he can polarize the world into Islam and the West, he’s got a
billion
soldiers. If the west wreaks a holocaust in those lands, that’s a billion
people
with nothing left to lose, that’s even better from Bin Laden’s point of
view.
He’s probably wrong, in the end the West would win, whatever that would
mean,
but the war would last for years and millions would die, not just theirs but
ours. Who has the belly for that?

Unfortunately, Bin Laden does. Anyone else?

In Peace,

Tamim Ansary


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