Archive for the ‘Terrorism’ Category

ISIS vs. Iran: which side should we be on?

June 7, 2017

The ISIS attack on Iran shows the alignment of alliances in the Middle East.

On one side, there are Saudi Arabia, the Gulf emirates, Al Qaeda, the Islamic State and also Israel.

On the other, Iran, Syria, Hezbollah and Hamas.

If the U.S. aim is to crush Al Qaeda and the Islamic State, why does the U.S. side with Saudi Arabia against Iran?

If you think Iran is the problem, ask yourself:

When was the last time that Iranian-backed terrorists attacked people in Europe or North America?

When was the last time that terrorists backed by Al Qaeda or ISIS attacked people in Israel?

(more…)

Russia as the jihadists’ “far enemy”

January 5, 2017

isis-610417-putin

When Al Qaeda jihadist terrorists attacked the U.S. World Trade Center and the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001, it was part Osama bin Laden regarded the USA as the “far enemy” who propped up all the “near enemies” in the Arab world.

But for many of the jihadists fighting in Syria and Iraq, the “far enemy” is Vladimir Putin’s Russia, not the USA.   A large number are Chechens, a Muslim nationality living mostly within the Russian Federalion, or Uzbeks, Tajiks, Kazakhs or others living under regimes in Central Asia that are propped up by Russia.

One of Putin’s first actions when he came to power was to ruthlessly crush the independence movement in Chechnia.   The justification was a series of terrorist attacks that were very likely a false flag attack by the Russian FSB.

Since then many Chechen fighters have been driven out of Russia, and are now fighting the Russian-backed Assad government of Syria, along with Uzbeks and other nationalities from the former Soviet republics.

Some analysts think that the export of jihadists is a conscious Russian strategy.  The best outcome, from the Russian point of view, is that they die fighting in Syria.   But even if they survive, they have made themselves known to Russian intelligence services.

Saudi Arabia does the same thing with its jihadist rebels—suppresses them at home and encourages them to go wage war in other countries.

(more…)

Where ISIS gets its money

October 16, 2016

We finally know what Hillary Clinton knew all along — US allies Saudi Arabia and Qatar are funding Isis by Patrick Cockburn for The Independent.

Vladimir Putin’s 9/11

September 26, 2016

In September, 1999, Russia was wracked by a series of explosions that President Vladimir Putin blamed on Chechen terrorists.

It solidified Putin’s power and popularity, and enable him to launch his own “war on terror” against the breakaway province of Chechnya.

But unlike with the 9/11 attacks on the United States two years later, there is strong circumstantial evidence that the explosions were a false flag carried out by Russian intelligence services.

russiancaucasus6c12bc2184e7943ba065218a5bfb947bDavid Satter, a former foreign correspondent in Moscow, summed up the evidence in a recent article in National Review.

The Chechens are a fierce Muslim warrior people whose homeland is in the Caucasus.   They were conquered by the Russian Empire in 1859 and declared independence in 1991 when the Soviet Union broke up.  The Russian Federation tried and failed to reconquer them in 1994-1996.

At the time of the explosions, Vladimir Putin, formerly head of the Russian Federal Security Services (FSB), had just become prime minister of Russia.   He used the explosions as a justification for starting a new war, in which Chechnya was defeated and reincorporated into Russia.

There were four apartment bombings in all, in which a total of 300 people were killed.   One was in an apartment building in Buinaksk in Dagestan in the Caucasus, two  in apartment buildings in Moscow (9/9 and 9/13) and one in Volgodonsk in Rostov province to the south (9/16).   All the explosions involved hundreds of pounds of an explosive called RDX.

Suspicious characters with traces of RDX on their persons were arrested in an apartment building in the southern Russian city of Ryazan.   They turned out to be FSB agents.    The FSB said they were conducting a training exercise.

(more…)

The passing scene: Deplorables, debt and Osama

September 21, 2016

Donald Trump Doesn’t Understand White People by Jason Johnson for The Root.

Progressives Are Targets of Hillary’s ‘Basket of Deplorables’ Speech by John V. Wash for Counterpunch.

Donald Trump tries to reassure supporters they’re not really racist.   Hillary Clinton tries to reassure supporters it’s okay to be elitist.

The Coming European Debt Wars by Michael Hudson for Defend Democracy Press.

The European Union is in crisis because it insists on repayment of debts that are too great to ever be repaid.

An Anniversary of Shame by Michael Hirsch for POLITICO.

Some in the CIA say the “war on terror” could have been won in six months if the U.S. government had not given “regime change” priority over capturing or killing Osama bin Laden.

9/11: the path not taken

September 11, 2016
Photo by National Park Service

Photo by National Park Service

After the 9/11 attacks, the whole world, including the Muslim world, sympathized with the United States.

The whole world, including the Muslim world, condemned the terrorist attacks that killed more than 3,000 innocent civilians.

The U.S. government had an opportunity to unite the world in bringing the Al Qaeda terrorists to justice.   This could have been a step to unite the international community behind a rule of law.

Instead the Bush administration chose to implement pre-existing plans to invade Iraq, whose leaders had nothing to do with the terrorist attacks.  The Obama administration has done likewise with Libya, Syria and other countries.

The result has been militarization of American life, eclipse of civil liberties and the deaths of many more innocent civilians in majority-Muslim countries than ever were killed in jihadist attacks on Americans and Europeans.

Even worse, a generation of Americans has grown up in which all these things are normal.

And jihadist terrorism, partly and maybe mainly as a result of U.S. policies, is stronger than ever before.

(more…)

Islam Karimov: death of a dictator

September 3, 2016

Islam Karimov of Uzbekistan, who died a few days ago, was a ruthless dictator comparable to the Saddam Hussein of Iraq.

uzbekistan-C-Asia-MAPA holdover from the Soviet era (appointed by Mikhail Gorbachev, no less), Karimov was known for his repression of the Muslim religion and of dissent of all kinds, and for forced child labor in cotton fields, his country’s chief export industry.

Craig Murray, the former UK ambassador to Uzbekistan, said growing a beard or being seen praying five times a day could be enough to get you thrown in jail or to “disappear” mysteriously.

Yet Karimov was courted by Russia, China and the USA as an ally against radical Islamic terrorism.   Uzbekistan was an important transit point for supplies going to U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

What should US policy have been?  Should our government be like China’s, which scrupulously refrains from interfering in the internal affairs of other countries, no matter how odious their governments?

Or should the US have armed Karimov’s opponents, as was done in Libya and Syria, to being about a change in the regime?

(more…)

Is Russia a worse threat than terrorism?

August 12, 2016

The justification of the whole military buildup of the past 15 years has been the need to protect Americans against the threat of radical Islamic terrorism.

Ashton Carter

Ashton Carter

Yet Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter, in recent testimony (actually several months ago, but I’m just catching up with it) ranks ranks terrorism as a lesser threat to the United States than Russia, China, Iran and North Korea.

The governments of Russia, China and Iran are in fact enemies of the so-called Islamic State (ISIS) and the successors of Osama bin Laden’s Al Qaeda.  Targeting them indirectly strengthens terrorism.

What do Russia, China and Iran threaten?  They do not threaten American citizens.  They do not threaten the American homeland.

What they threaten is U.S. military superiority in eastern Europe, eastern Asia and the Middle East.  Protecting Americans from terrorism takes a back seat to what the Pentagon calls full spectrum dominance.

Risking war with any country without a good reason is both stupid and morally wrong.   But of all the countries in the world, Russia and China are the worst ones to pick as enemies.

Russia is the world’s second-largest nuclear power.  It is the only country in the world with the military capability to literally destroy the United States as a nation.

China is the world’s second-largest or maybe largest economic power.  It has the power to ruin the United States financially by ceasing to lend money and by cutting off supplies of essential U.S. imports.

The leaders of Russia and China, being rational, would not do this because they would ruin their own countries in the process.  The only ways this would happen would be if they were backed into a corner where they thought they had nothing to lose or—in the case of Russia—they found themselves in a situation in which nuclear war could be touched off accidentally.

The United States has by far the world’s most expensive military.  We Americans spend more on our armed forces than the next 10 countries put together.  But that doesn’t mean we have the world’s most effective military, especially when fighting far from home.

In fact, the big U.S. military budgets may be counter-productive.  Decision-makers may think the U.S. is so rich and powerful that individual instances of waste and ineffectiveness don’t matter.  Or that it is not necessary to set priorities.

(more…)

Hillary Clinton backed wars that aided terrorism

May 20, 2016

In the past 25 years, the United States has waged war openly against five nations.

  • Serbia
  • Iraq
  • Afghanistan
  • Syria
  • Libya

The U.S. has waged economic and covert war against two other nations:

  • Iran
  • Russia

Hillary Clinton supported all of them.

hillaryclinton.lowryinterpreter.image.axd

What’s noteworthy about this list is that the governments of all of these countries, except Afghanistan, was or is threatened by Al Qaeda and other Islamic jihadist groups.  The U.S. war effort is directed more against the terrorists’ enemies than the terrorists.

In every case except Afghanistan, the U.S. actually supported jihadist groups against the incumbent government, just as it did against the pre-Taliban Russian-backed regime in Afghanistan.

I believe that the reason for this strange policy is the American Deep State—the parts of government not affected by elections—is more concerned about maintaining global corporate economic supremacy and U.S. military supremacy than it is about protecting American citizens from possible terrorist attacks.

Among the political candidates, Hillary Clinton is the most highly committed war hawk.  She has supported every war on this list, and also favors military confrontation with China.  I don’t think the Iran sanctions deal would have been negotiated if she had remained as Secretary of State.

Bernie Sanders supports existing U.S. policies with reservations.

In many ways, I agree with Donald Trump more than I do Clinton.  He wants to stop the cold war against Putin’s Russia, and he recognizes how counterproductive the attacks on Syria and Libya have been.

But I don’t take him seriously because of his bloodthirsty and thoughtless rhetoric and because he is advised by war hawks.

(more…)

Malik Jalal tries to get off Obama’s Kill List

April 15, 2016

Malik Jalal has traveled from Pakistan’s Waziristan border region to Britain so as to plead with President Obama to stop trying to kill him.

Malik Jalal

Malik Jalal

Malik is an honorary title that means “village leader”.  He is a member of the North Waziristan Peace Committee, whose mission is to negotiate with the Pakistan Taliban to reduce violence in the region.  The committee’s work is sanctioned by the government of Pakistan.

He has survived four attacks by Hellfire missiles and now sleeps out in the woods with his six-year-old son.  He wrote in The Independent that he has information that the U.S. military wants to stop the work of the Peace Committee because they think peace would give the Taliban a secure sanctuary.

Jalal wrote that the first attack came in 2010, when his nephew took his vehicle to a service  station  to get an oil change and to have the tires checked.   A Hellfire missile hit Jalal’s vehicle and another vehicle parked just beside it.  The nephew was injured and four innocent bystanders were killed.

The next time he was driving to a peace conference, with another vehicle on the road behind, which happened to be the same shade of red as Jalal’s.  A Hellfire missile destroyed the trailing vehicle and all four occupants, all innocent bystanders, were killed.

Jalal became sure that he was the target after the next attack.  He accepted a dinner invitation by cell phone and, while he was on the way, a Hellfire missile struck, killing three innocent people, including a father of three and a mentally retarded man.

The fourth attack came early in 2011, when the Hellfire missile struck a meeting of community leaders, killing 40 people, none of whom, according to Jalal were engaged in acts of violence.

Since then he has taken to sleeping out of doors on a mountainside far from his house and always parking his vehicle a long distance from any destination.  Recently, he said, his six-year-old son has joined him on the mountainside.  The little boy said it was unrealistic to think that the U.S. military would refrain from killing Jalal’s family just because he wasn’t at home.

(more…)

It’s obvious that Putin ordered assassination

April 8, 2016
Alexander Litvenenko

Alexander Litvinenko

Revised and updated.

An official British inquiry has concluded that Vladimir Putin probably ordered the murder of Alexander Litvinenko, an FSB defector and whistleblower, in late 2006.

I think it was obvious from the beginning that Putin not only ordered the killing, but wanted it to be known that he ordered the killing.

How else could the killers have obtained the deadly radioactive isotope, Polonium 210, which was used to poison Litvinenko?  Why else would they have used such a method unless they wanted to signal that this is what happens to defectors?

They were not only eliminating an enemy.  They were sending a message.

This is not the only death of a Russian dissident on British soil under suspicious circumstances.  In 2012, a Russian whistle-blower named Alexander Perepilichnyy, who was due to testify against a Russian company in a $200 million fraud case, was poisoned in Britain with an extract from rare plant known as “heartbreak grass” and found in the mountains of Asia.

In 2013, Boris Berezovsky, a Russian opposition figure in exile, was found dead by hanging.   The coroner’s verdict was suicide, but years before Scotland Yard foiled an apparent assassin who’d traveled to Britain from Russia.

(more…)

Should Apple decrypt the i-Phone for the FBI?

March 3, 2016

The FBI demands Apple Computer to figure out a way to read encrypted files on an i-Phone owned by an alleged terrorist.  Apple Computer’s management says there is no way to do this without opening up all i-Phone files to the FBI.  The case is likely to go all the way to the Supreme Court.

Suppose the FBI wins its case.  Suppose a year later the national police in Russia, China or Iran, arrest an elleged terrrorist and demand that Appple create a similar tool for them?  Do the Russian, Chinese or Iranian security services automatically get access to all i-Phones?

(more…)

Flawed algorithms mark people for death

February 18, 2016

The National Security Administration’s Skynet system marks people for death based on algorithms and metadata—the same technology that Amazon uses to guess what books you’ll probably like.

I find that chilling.  I find the precedent it sets even more chilling.

Now an expert has come along who says the Skynet program is inherently flawed and has likely resulted in the deaths of thousands of innocent people.

TravelPatternsDocuments leaked to The Intercept indicate that the Skynet program collects data on people in Pakistan by monitoring their phone calls.  Supposedly terrorists can be identified within a certain margin of error by characteristics that, on average, differentiate them from non-terrorists.

Patrick Ball, director of research for the Human Rights Data Analysis Group and a frequent expert witness before human rights tribunals, told Ars Technica that the problem with this is that the terrorist sample is based on a very small number—seven individuals—and the innocent sample is based on a random sample of 100,000 people.

Since there is usually no independent way of verifying that the victim really was a terrorist, that means that there is no “learning” process, as would be the case with a commercial algorithm, such as Amazon’s, which is based on commercial responses.

One of the variables in setting the algorithms is that the fewer false negative (real terrorists who are not detected by the system), the more false positives there will be (innocent people who are marked as terrorists).

Bell said that if the algorithm is set at 50 percent false negatives, that means thousands of innocent people will be killed for every real terrorist who dies.

[Added later]  Martin Robbins wrote in The Guardian that Skynet is used to identify likely Al Qaeda couriers, who are not killed but tracked so as to reveal the locations of Al Qaeda camps and safe houses.   It is a fact that computer algorithms are used to target people for killing, but Skynet isn’t as clear an example as I originally thought.

(more…)

72 DHS employees are on the terrorist watch list

February 10, 2016

At least 72 employees at the Department of Homeland Security are listed on the U.S. terrorist watch list, according to a Democratic lawmaker.

Rep. Stephen Lynch (D., Mass.) disclosed that a congressional investigation recently found that at least 72 people working at DHS also “were on the terrorist watch list.”

“Back in August, we did an investigation—the inspector general did—of the Department of Homeland Security, and they had 72 individuals that were on the terrorist watch list that were actually working at the Department of Homeland Security,” Lynch told Boston Public Radio.

Source: Washington Free Beacon

As Peter Van Buren remarked, this means that either the terrorist watch list is bogus, or Homeland Security has a bad internal security problem, or possibly both.

This isn’t the only problem with Homeland Security.  In a recent covert security check, attempts to smuggle firearms on board airplanes were 95 percent successful.

I think that part of the problem is the enormous and thoughtless expansion of Homeland Security right after the 9/11 attacks and since.

In counter-terrorism, as in any other field, there is a limited number of people who know that they’re doing.  This is not necessarily a problem, as long as the loyal, hard-working, mediocre people are guided by the real experts.

But employment in Homeland Security was ramped up just on general principles before anybody had a clear idea what these employees were to be used for.  I think experienced counter-terrorism specialists were swamped.

The Washington Post ran a series of articles in 2010 on Top Secret America that showed that secret surveillance and intelligence agencies were proliferating at such a rate that nobody had a handle on how many there were or what their missions were.   I’ve read nothing to indicate that things have changed since then.

Comparison of wars

January 18, 2016

tumblr_nw0jagRPTt1ssb95mo1_500

Hat tip to Tiffany’s Non-Blog.

Two other similarities:

  • The war on terror is also a war at home; the war on drugs is also a war abroad.
  • U.S. forces keep eliminating “kingpins,” but never get any closer to victory.

Terrorism from the air is still terrorism

December 22, 2015

My friend Hal and I were in a coffee shop the other day.  Hal remarked that if somebody set off a car bomb in the parking lot and blew us all to smithereens, that would be an act of terrorism.

But, he went on to say, if somebody dropped a bomb from 15,000 feet into the parking lot and blew us all to smithereens, that also would be an act of terrorism.

And it would be an act of terrorism even if we were foreigners with brown skins and Arabic names.

This is so obviously true that I am continually amazed at how many people I know, including self-described liberals, that are unable to see this.

If killing civilian bystanders is terrorism when Muslims do it at ground level, it is terrorism when Americans and Europeans do it from the air.

LINK

An Idiot’s Guide to Why They Hate Us by Paul Street for Counterpunch.

Terrorism: Sayed Ali Khamenei’s Letter to Youth in Western Countries [added 12/23/2015]

Now Russia is drawn into the Sunni-Shiite conflict

December 15, 2015

ISIS, al Qaeda and the other violent jihadist fighters are not from any one country.  They are part of an international movement, so there are Arabs fighting in Afghanistan and Chechens fighting in Syria.  In a sinister way, they resemble the international brigades that fought in the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s.

ISIS, al Qaeda and their supporters are inspired by teachings of the Wahhabis (or Salafis), an extremely harsh theocratic sect with roots in Saudi Arabia and a strong following in Pakistan.

But a report by Christoph Reuter of Spiegel Online indicates there is a parallel movement among the Shiite Muslims, whose strength is in Iran:

151007165249-putin-assad-syria-large-169Assad’s army isn’t just vulnerable, it also isn’t strictly a Syrian force anymore. For the last two years, the forces on his side have increasingly been made up of foreigners, including Revolutionary Guards from Iran, members of Iraqi militias and Hezbollah units from Lebanon.

They are joined at the front by Shiite Afghans from the Hazara people, up to 2 million of whom live in Iran, mostly as illegal immigrants. They are forcibly conscripted in Iranian prisons and sent to Syria — according to internal Iranian estimates, there are between 10,000 and 20,000 of them fighting in the country.

The situation leads to absurd scenes: In the southern Syrian town of Daraa, rebels began desperately searching for Persian interpreters after an offensive of 2,500 Afghans suddenly began approaching.

It is the first international Shiite jihad in history, one which has been compensating for the demographic inferiority of Assad’s troops since 2012. The alliance has prevented Assad’s defeat, but it hasn’t been enough for victory either.

Furthermore, the orders are no longer coming exclusively from the Syrian officer corps.  Iranian officers control their own troops in addition to the Afghan units, and they plan offensives that also involve Syrian soldiers. Hezbollah commanders coordinate small elite units under their control.  Iraqis give orders to Iraqi and Pakistani militia groups.  And the Russians don’t let anyone tell them what to do.

Source: SPIEGEL ONLINE

There is no inherent reason why Sunnis and Shiites should be at war.  They have lived side by side in peace for more centuries than they have been in conflict.

The main reason they are in conflict now is that it is in the interest of governments such as Saudi Arabia, Iran and Turkey to use armed religious militias to advance their own political and economic objectives.  Another reason is the destruction of civil order as a result of U.S. invasions, so that the religious militias are the only source of protection.

There is a great danger to the world if the USA and Russia allow themselves to be drawn further into this conflict, the USA on the side of Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the Sunni fighters and Russia on the side of Iran, Syria and the Shiite fighters.

A confrontation between the world’s two main nuclear powers would mean that the killing and destruction now going on in the Middle East could spread over the whole world.

(more…)

Who will fight for the U.S. against ISIS?

December 15, 2015

The Syrian situation reminds me of a remark by Adam Smith in (I think) The Wealth of Nations — about how masterminds who think of themselves as master chess players, using other people like pieces on a chessboard, will find the people they think they are manipulating are actually playing their own game.

image-931841-panoV9free-whwk-931841The aims of the U.S. government in the Middle East are, in no particular order, to overthrow the regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria, to counter the growing power of Iran and to destroy the Islamic State (aka ISIS, ISIL or Da’esh).

The bitter experience of the Afghanistan and Iraq invasions means that the American people will not tolerate a large-scale intervention with ground troops, so American leaders, including the principal Democratic and Republican presidential candidates, look for pawns to carry out U.S. purposes.

Here is a rundown on these pawns and the games they are playing.

  • Saudi Arabia and the Gulf emirate governments, all predominantly Sunni Arab nations, fear the rise of Shiite Iran and Shiite power in Iraq much more than they do Sunni Arab ISIS or al Qaeda.   To the extent they fear ISIS and al Qaeda, it is more as an internal threat, and they are happy to see their local rebels go off to fight and maybe die for ISIS.   The Saudi government doesn’t crack down on individuals who contribute to ISIS because they reflect the beliefs of Wahabism (aks Salafism), the harsh version of Sunni Islam that rules Saudi Arabia.
  • The Kurds in northern Syria and Iraq are fighting ISIS effectively, but they are fighting to defend themselves and their goal of an independent Kurdistan, to be carved out of the existing territory of Syria, Iraq, Turkey and Iran, not as part of any overall “war on terror”.  They aren’t going to give up that goal just because it is inconvenient to the USA.
  • The Turkish government desires the overthrow of the Assad government in Syria and the suppression of Kurdish nationalism more than suppression of ISIS.  Oil from ISIS-controlled territory enters Turkey, and money and arms go from Turkey to ISIS.  Turkish politicians talk of the glories of the Ottoman Empire and of the unity of ethnic Turks across Asia.
  • The Iraqi government desires to prevent breakaway movements, whether ISIS, other Sunni Arab fighters or Kurds.
  • CQfwkI2WwAALwwnThe Sunni Arab militias and tribal leaders in Iraq blame the United States for overthrowing Saddam Hussein and setting up an Iraqi government dominated by Shiite Arabs, so they’re not willing to be U.S. proxies in a campaign against ISIS.
  • The Shiite Arab militias in Iraq hate ISIS, but their leaders distrust the United States and won’t work with Americans.
  • The “moderate Arab” rebels in Syria primarily desire to get rid of Bashar al-Assad and talk about fighting ISIS primarily to obtain U.S. weapons – many of which wind up in the hands of ISIS, al-Nusra and like groups.
  • The Iranian government desires to support Shiite Muslims against all enemies, including Saudi Arabia, Turkey or ISIS, and to defend Syria and also Hezbollah, which represents the Shiite Muslims in Lebanon.
  • The Syrian government is an enemy of ISIS because ISIS is an existential threat to its existence.  But the Assad regime regards the other Syrian rebels and the Kurdish separatists as equally threatening

This leaves Vladimir Putin’s Russia.  Putin justifiably fears the influence of ISIS and other jihadist terrorists on the large Muslim population in the Caucasus and other regions of the Russian Federation.  He also wants to defend Russia’s Syrian ally and keep Russia’s naval station in Syria.  But for him, the war against ISIS is a war of self-defense, not merely a means of extending Russian influence.

If fighting ISIS is the top U.S. priority, then the U.S. government should find a way to cooperate with Russia against ISIS.  If the U.S. government is unwilling to cooperate with Russia against ISIS, then fighting ISIS is not the top U.S. priority.

(more…)

What is Russia’s real objective in Syria?

December 14, 2015

1.Russia-False-Narrative-in-Syria_13.Russian Airstrikes 30 NOV-02 DEC-01

Is Vladimir Putin’s objective in Syria to destroy ISIS or to prop up the regime of Bashar al-Assad?  It seems to me that the answer is “yes”.

I’ve read articles criticizing Putin for concentrating Russian airstrikes on rebels other than ISIS.  Some of these articles hint that Putin or maybe even Assad are secretly supporting ISIS.

I think this criticism mistakes the nature of air power.  Command of the air can be devastatingly effective when used in combined operations with ground troops.  But bombing alone, in and of itself, seldom defeats a determined enemy.

What these maps show is that Putin’s air strikes are concentrated on “rebels” not part of ISIS and not part of the al-Nusra front (formerly known as al Qaeda).

There is, however, no clear distinction between ISIS, al-Nusra and generic “rebels”.  Individuals and small bands change affiliations according to the situation, and U.S. weapons given to “rebels” are often acquired by ISIS through capture, gift or sale.

Christoph Reuter of Spiegel Online suggested that Assad wants to defeat the U.S.-backed rebels first and ISIS last, because, so long as ISIS is in the field, he can present himself as the only alternative.  I suppose this is possible, but the simpler explanation is that Russia is concentrating on bombing the troops that are actually fighting the Syrians.

(more…)

Why so few terrorist attacks on the USA?

December 11, 2015

A blogger named Fred Reed, pointing out how potentially vulnerable the United States is, wonders why there have been so few successful terrorist attacks on the United States.

IRAQI-AMERICAN MUSLIMS CELEBRATE IN DEARBORN OUSTER OF HUSSEINMy guess is that the reason is that Muslim citizens and residents appreciate the religious freedom and acceptance they enjoy in the United States.

There is ignorant prejudice against Muslims in the United States, which I have criticized, but I believe that overall Muslims in the United States enjoy greater freedom than they do in Russia, China, India or even many majority-Muslim countries.

I am proud of the American heritage of religious freedom, and I would hate to see anything diminish it.

Fear itself is the greatest danger

December 11, 2015

Suppose you are an ISIS terrorist determined to wreak havoc on the United States.   So you infiltrate a Syrian refugee camp hoping to be admitted to the United States.

refugeecamps1371059561224.cachedWhat would be your chances of succeeding?  Let’s do some arithmetic.  There are about 4 million refugees in camps surrounding Syria.  President Barack Obama has announced he will admit 15,000 refugees (up from his original 10,000).  So the odds of any particular person being selected for the program are about one in 27,000.

Of course you would have to come up with a convincing story about how you came to be a refugee and find a U.S. sponsor.  What are the chances of that?   Yet there are governors of American states who fear to admit even one refugee.

Then there’s Donald Trump, who wants to keep out all foreign Muslims.   How would these Muslims be identified?  Simple, Trump explained.  Airline representatives, customs officials and border guards would simply ask, “Are you Muslim?”   Evidently he doesn’t consider the possibility that a terrorist would lie.   Maybe it would be simpler just to ask incoming visitors if they’re agents of ISIS.

gallup.poll.terrorismWhy do people think so irrationally?  It is because we’re scaredFrightened people don’t think.  They only react.

The fact is that so long as the U.S. government wages war in the Greater Middle East, there is going to be blowback against Americans, and there is little we can do to prevent it.

We can choose to end these wars, which is what I advocate.  We can accept a certain amount of danger as the price of waging war for important national objectives.  Or we can do things out of fear that make us feel safer, even though they don’t.

How the USA helps ISIS, AQ and the Taliban

December 7, 2015

syrianrebels

The U.S. government provides arms to ISIS, al Qaeda and the Taliban.  It sometimes does this directly, as in Afghanistan in the 1970s and 1980s and Bosnia during the 1990s.  Other times it arms ineffective and corrupt governments, warlords or insurgents who then give the arms of ISIS, al Qaeda and the Taliban.

The U.S. government is an enemy of the nations fighting ISIS, al Qaeda and the Taiban.   These include Syria, Iran and Russia and, in the past, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.  I’m not praising these nations’ governments.  I’m just pointing out they are the enemies of the terrorists the U.S. government supposedly is making war on.

The U.S. government declines to confront nations from which ISIS, al Qaeda and the Taliban draw support.   I’m thinking of Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf emirates and Turkey.   Oil flows out and money and arms flow in.

U.S. military intervention creates the kind of environment in which ISIS, al Qaeda and the Taliban flourish.   When the structure of civil government and civil society are smashed, as happened in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, only criminal, religious or military groups can flourish, or criminal religious warlords such as ISIS, al Qaeda or the Taliban.

One motive for joining ISIS is to take revenge for killing of bystanders in U.S. military operations.
Drone operations, bombing campaigns and support for oppressive governments create more terrorists than they eliminate.

Many Americans support the claims of ISIS, al Qaeda and the Taliban to be true representatives of Islam.   Presidents Obama and George W. Bush distinguished between terrorists and mainstream Islam, but many American politicians and journalists seem to be intent on turning a struggle against a tiny group of terrorists into a crusade against the world’s more than 1 billion Muslims.

Ironically, many Iranians and Iraqis believe that Americans intentionally created ISIS.   I’m sure there was no such intention.  I just think that certain people in the U.S. government sought to use the war on terror as a screen to achieve other geopolitical objectives which they gave higher priority.

One of these objectives was to be the dominant military power in the Greater Middle East.  Another was to control oil, gas and pipeline routes.  A third was to back Israel, Saudi Arabia and other allies against their enemies and rivals.

They neither achieved these objectives (unless waging war is a goal in itself) nor effectively fought terrorism.

§§§

If we Americans are serious about waging a war on terror, we should stop doing things that make the terrorists stronger.

(more…)

Terrorism in perspective: some numbers

December 3, 2015
original

Double click to enlarge.

Terrorism is an outrage, but it isn’t a worse individual danger for Europeans or Americans than many other things.  Above all, it is not a reason to surrender to fear, or to let our fear override our judgment or our principles.

o-TERRORISM-570-1

Notice that the two countries which have suffered the most from terrorism are Iraq and Afghanistan, which the United States invaded supposedly to fight terror.

(more…)

The other terrorism in America: links 12/1/2015

December 1, 2015

The Growing Right-Wing Terror Threat by Charles Kurzman and David Schanzer for The New York Times.

The Planned Parenthood Attack, and How Homegrown Terrorism Gets Downplayed by Eric Boehlert for Media Matters.

40 Years of attacks on abortion clinics, mapped by Sarah Frostenson for Vox.

The New, Ugly Surge in Violence and Threats Against Abortion Providers by Nina Liss-Schultz for Mother Jones.

Black Lives Matter Activists Are Shot by George Joseph for The Nation.

Top Ten Differences Between White Terrorists and Others by Juan Cole for Informed Comment.  [added 12/3/2015]

Turkey, Syria and ISIS: links 11/30/2015

November 30, 2015

2300syria-ISIS-7-27-15

The Turkish government wants to establish a “safe zone” in Syria territory that supposedly will be a haven for refugees fleeing the so-called Islamic State (aka ISIS, ISIL or Da’esh).

But Tony Carlucci, in the article linked below, contends that its real purpose is to be a safe zone for ISIS oil tankers moving out of Syria, and arms and ammunition coming in.  And it also would keep apart Syrian Kurdish fighters, which the Turkish government opposes because of rebellious Kurds in Turkey itself.

The U.S. government is supposedly fighting a war against terrorists.  But in Syria, the U.S. and Turkish governments are more interested in toppling the government of Bashar al-Assad, even if it makes ISIS and other radical Islamist terrorist groups stronger.

LINKS

Why the West Won’t Hit ISIS Where It Hurts by Tony Carlucci for Near Eastern Outlook.  (Hat tip to Bill Harvey and his friend Frank Munley).  Unlike Carlucci, I don’t think the U.S. government is intentionally promoting ISIS.   I just think there are certain people in the government who have delusions about their ability to manipulate groups such as ISIS for their own purposes.  But the intention doesn’t matter – only the result.

Why Turkey Stabbed Russia in the Back by Pepe Escobar for World News Daily.  (Hat tip to Bill Harvey and Frank Munley)

Guess Why The U.S. Is Not Seriously Bombing ISIS’s Oil Business by Moon of Alabama.

Will Turkey Close or Erase Its Border With Syria? by Moon of Alabama.

Erdogan’s Dirty Dangerous ISIS Games by F. William Engdahl for Near Eastern Outlook.

7 Things I Learned Reading Every Issue of ISIS’s Magazine (7 – 4) by Robert Evans for Cracked.com.

7 Things I Learned Reading Every Issue of ISIS’s Magazine (3 – 1) by Robert Evans for Cracked.com.