(an early articulation of what would be better argued by Kilcullen as the ‘Accidental Guerilla effect’ as well as some good-for-the-time forecast on what would, or wouldn’t happen, over time with Iraq, be sure to check out Q&A Discussion below post ed. 11-5-2023)
This is why I’m glad we check grandma’s getting on airplanes (see photo on memoryhole site for a pic of one of the suspects). Being part of a terrorist cell has nothing to do with nationality, skin color, gender, or age.
What I’m confused about is why breaking up a domestic terror cell in the heart of the US, and confiscating at least one confirmed WMD cyanide gas cloud bomb, 500,000 rounds of ammunition, 100 other bombs, machine guns, and advanced plans for terrorism is receiving little to no press attention, and not even a comment or official statement from Ashcroft or ” mission accomplished” from Bush or even a nod by national media.
Oh yeah, they’re white folks from Texas.
This is not to say the FBI and ATF aren’t doing a good job, after all, they got a tip from a concerned citizen and broke up the ring before anything happened. Had similar practices been followed between the FBI and the CIA prior we might have had a different result on 9/11 (no there was no smoking gun, but I do believe there were screwups in interagency communication). Not to get on a rant here…
But this lack of media and federal airplay just highlights the gap in common perception, in my opinion, people have about improving our “apparent” security (what makes us feel safer) versus actual acts of improving “real” security, that does make us safer. I’m all for improving real security, I think spending efforts on improving apparent security is a distraction at best and a dangerous misdirection from real threats at worst. Patriot Act does nothing to improve our real security, it’s all smoke and mirrors to make us feel we’re “getting tough” on terrorism. Profiling known legal immigrant Arabs is also an illusion of security, it doesn’t really make us safer, it spends an incredible manpower effort and breeds suspicion in the very population group that we must potentially rely on for tips within their communities. Profiling and tailing known terrorists in the country? That’s a “real” security measure. Invading Afghanistan? Again real. Same with aiding the Phillipenees in weeding out the terrorist camps in their islands.
If you’re a gun rights advocate you can’t argue with this philosophy. Legislation to limit the rights of law-abiding gun owners does nothing to decrease the criminal misuse of a gun; however, pursuing the criminals does. The same theory applies in the war on terrorism. Don’t target a race, target the terrorists.
Invading Iraq for the “war on terror”? Apparent security only, we feel better but have accomplished nothing as far as limiting terrorism is concerned. Count the bombings worldwide linked to AQ in the year after we invaded Afghanistan, count them again in 2003. They’ve tripled in number. AQ terrorists aren’t going into Iraq to fight the US, mujahadeen are; which are two different but equally dangerous groups. This last weekend I saw people interviewed on TV say they feel better now that Saddam is captured, that we’re safer. However, it does nothing to improve our “real” security vis a vis threats of terrorism. Saudia Arabia still sends out billions in unregulated aid to groups worldwide, much of which ends up in the hands of militants looking for an ax to grind with the US.
Only an idiot would say that capturing Saddam does not make America safer at all (sorry Dean). His arrest has led to further arrests which will hamper one aspect of the insurgency and anything we can do to ease the occupation of Iraq improves American safety (not to mention protect soldiers’ lives) because it means our exposure decreases over time rather than increases in that particular country. But I would also challenge that domestically, the capture of William Karr makes America safer than the capture of Saddam, and AQ is more of a threat now than before Iraq.
For example, the charged terrorist of the recent Turkey bombings was able to meet with Osama in 2002 (during our runup to Iraq)to plan the attack (where Osama allegedly okayed a military base attack) AND receive communication from the AQ leader in the three weeks between the attacks and his capture that Osama was pissed Muslims had been killed. That’s two communications, one in person and one via a relay in just a few weeks, to a relatively low-level cell leader by Osama himself that speaks to a highly functional communication network and certainly a decent infrastructure. Rumsfield’s famous snowflake memo asks the same question…”how do we really know we’re winning”.
I believe the historical perspective on the entire Iraq war was that it ended up being a distraction from the actual war on terror, and the only viable pretext for invasion in the end was a moral one (i.e. Saddam was a bad guy who did bad things to people). America for 200 years has never entered a war based on a morality argument, though we like them in hindsight. We have always entered wars based on provocation, political ideology, attack, and power politics based on national security interests. Had WMD shown up or the Saddam-AQ link been proven those would have constituted national security interests worthy of the invasion. I hate to break it to the bleeding heart conservatives but people getting tortured does not rise to such a level, and it never has. I’m sorry I sound callous, but at least I can claim consistency of message over the last ten years.
I will grant Saddam is a bad guy, and his regime a bad thing, and had we had UN backing I’d have no problem with invading Iraq, even without the WMD. But invading and occupying Iraq is not promoting “real” security, just “apparent” security. We’re invading someone, we must be safer, right?
Wrong. Saudia Arabia, Indonesia, Pakistan, Afghanistan outside of Kabul, Paktansi Gorge in Chechnya…these are areas of real terrorism threats to the US. I consider myself an international moderate and pragmatic for the most part, but I am beginning to think Saudia Arabia needs a lot more squeezing applied oil be damned. I want to know what the hell is in those 21 pages. We soft-peddle Saudia Arabia and send our political and military retirees to work there while invading Iraq. I can tell you which country has had a more direct impact in terms of the cost of US lives, attacks on US interests, and threats to US security over the last two decades and just for a hint, it’s south of Kuwait.
So how does this get back to William Karr? Next time someone thinks it’s ridiculous to search a grandmother getting on the plane and only brown-skinned folks should be searched, keep in mind terrorism is a military tactic and can be used by any gender, race, or cultural upbringing. McVeigh used it. The anti-abortionist extreme uses it. The radical liberals of the 70’s used it. And on 9/11 it was demonstrated to be a very cost-effective efficient method of striking at an institution more capable than yourself. The law of war means that all groups in similar situations will begin to use it: foreign terrorists, home-bred militia terrorists, nut-case lunatic homicidal terrorists. Real security in the war on terror isn’t targeting Arabs, it’s targeting terrorists, no matter what color skin the wolves wear.
But is it news that there are violent nutters in Texas? That’s not exactly a revelation.
I draw a line between violent nutters and violent nutters with a cyanide poison bomb and a plan to use it.
I do think that, in the long run, the war in Iraq has made us safer for the same reason that the war in Afghanistan did; removing access to the protections and resources of a sovereign state from terrorists.
I have to disagree. Right now Iraq is one of the best places to be if you’re a terrorist especially if you’re not attacking US troops actively. Weak security, a population in flux about what organizations are tasked with what duties (intelligence, domestic law enforcement), ready access to criminal or common cause groups, and permeable borders. If you attack US troops you’ll get on the radar, but if you’re using Iraq as a base to operate from you probably won’t draw as much attention as the roadside bomber the troops are looking for.
Previous to the invasion Saddam paid very small amounts to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers and had one confirmed terrorist of about a decade ago living in his country (Achilli Lauro notoriety). Al-Inswar was in the “no-fly” zone and outside of Saddam’s control and the recent AQ link proved to be another forged document. Compared to Saudia Arabia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Indonesia Saddam was a small fry in terms of states (explicitly, implicitly, or for lack of ability to exert control) that enabled terrorism to work. I mean, Germany had a bigger terrorist network in Hamburg than Iraq did and New Jersey isn’t ranking far behind.
We’re certainly not safe in any absolute way, but we’re better off than we were before.
Time will tell, I’m praying the exclamation point of this rant doesn’t come in another attack re: today’s security level raising.
Could there be benefits by consolidating security agencies and departments?
That’s not a half-bad idea. Somewhere between Homeland Security, FBI, INS, ATF, US Marshalls, and US Treasury Dept. you have basically different yet overlapping functions of law enforcement. I think the line between internal law enforcement and foreign intelligence needs to be maintained. But I think the CIA/DoD/NSA/NSC etc. could survive a similar reform.
Do you see Iraq becoming a top oil producer and being exploited by Washington insiders?
Long term? Perhaps. I don’t see Iraq as a top oil producer on an OPEC level before 5 years at the earliest, maybe 7 before they significantly challenge Saudi dominance. I think it’s much more likely that Russia will emerge as the safety valve to OPEC (reducing Saudi dominance) before Iraq does. Either way short term Saudi has enough money, and enough money coming in both from US and non-US oil sales to be swimming in cash.
It goes deeper than just oil dependence, however. There’s a pretty scary/worrisome relationship between former Pentagon & White House officials (from many administrations) working in Saudi as business consultants. I think we need to wean that connection before we can really apply pressure to the Saudis in a meaningful way. There was a good article on it I can’t find right now, I’ll dig it up.