Tag Archives: terrorism

As we start a new war, have we learned from our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan?

Summary: As we start a new war, will we remember the lessons of our last wars? Most importantly, will we continue to run like hamsters on the wheel? We kill our foes, and nearby citizens. As infidel foreign invaders, the locals consider our actions illegitimate. The insurgents gain support and members. So we ratchet up our effort.  Oddly, we’ve known this for over a decade but repeat our actions.

Albert Einstein

He’s sad about our inability to learn from experience


“Insanity is repeating the same mistakes and expecting different results.”

— A warming from Albert Einstein.

By Alcoholics Anonymous, people who know about dysfunctionality.


(1)  Quotes from those who learned from our wars

These are but a few of the many warnings about our mad tactics. I suspect there are many more stamped SECRET in DoD’s files.

John Kerry, 2 August 2004. This reads differently a decade later, since the Obama administration has continued most of these policies:

“The policies of this administration, I believe and others believe very deeply, have resulted in an increase of animosity and anger focused on the United States of America. The people who are training terror are using our actions as a means of recruitment.”

Trends in Global Terrorism: Implications for the United States”, National Intelligence Estimate (NIE 2006-02R), April 2006

We assess that the Iraq jihad is shaping a new generation of terrorist leaders and operatives; perceived jihadist success there would inspire more fighters to continue the struggle elsewhere. The Iraq conflict has become the “cause celebre” for jihadists, breeding a deep resentment of US involvement in the Muslim world and cultivating supporters for the global jihadist movement.

… The jihadists replay images of Muslim civilians under attack by the West to justify their actions to Muslim audiences.

Guantanamo’s Shadow“, The Atlantic, 1 October 2007 — “The Atlantic recently asked a group of foreign policy authorities about the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba”

“The Guantanamo system has hurt the U.S. and our fight against Al Qaeda. We have abandoned the moral high ground and, through our actions, have become one of the principle recruiting agents for Islamic extremism.”

“Our strongest asset internationally was our reputation and credibility on human rights. We have squandered that.”

“Hurt, on balance, because it has severely damaged our moral case in the world, which we have to have in order to rally support for combating Al Qaeda.”

“Both in the obvious public relations way, worldwide, and quite directly, in showing Al Qaeda that we can very easily and quickly be seduced into wild overreactions. That is just what Osama Bin Laden hoped. Since it worked so well, he has an incentive to repeat.”

“It has done enormous damage to our reputation and soft power.”

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Israel learned from its patron the art of righteous theft and killing

Summary:  Just as the West’s endemic antisemitism has infected other nations in the Middle East (or exacerbated it), Israel acts out the West’s standard imperialist scripts on the Palestinians. Take the natives’ land, oppress them, and their violent reaction justifies repeating the cycle. In Israel today, as in the many previous times in Western history, it’s done with righteousness. and indiscriminate violence.

The trade of Bible for Land


The Most Dangerous Moment in Gaza“, Jeffrey Goldberg, The Atlantic, 1 August 2014 — “What happens if this conflict comes off the rails?” Excerpt:

There is near-unanimity in Israel already that Hamas represents an unbearable threat. Add in the perfidy of a raid conducted after a ceasefire went into effect and near-unanimity becomes total unanimity. The most interesting article I’ve read in the past 24 hours is an interview with the Israeli novelist Amos Oz, the father of his country’s peace-and-compromise movement, who opened the interview with Deutsche Welle in this manner:

Amoz Oz: I would like to begin the interview in a very unusual way: by presenting one or two questions to your readers and listeners. May I do that?

Deutsche Welle: Go ahead!

Question 1: What would you do if your neighbor across the street sits down on the balcony, puts his little boy on his lap and starts shooting machine gun fire into your nursery?

Question 2: What would you do if your neighbor across the street digs a tunnel from his nursery to your nursery in order to blow up your home or in order to kidnap your family?

With these two questions I pass the interview to you.

The point is, if Amos Oz, a severe critic of his country’s policies toward the Palestinians, sounds no different on the subject of the Hamas threat than the right-most ministers in Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing cabinet, then there will be a national consensus that it is not enough to manage the Hamas rocket-and-tunnel threat, but that it must be eliminated if at all possible.

This is the typical madness of imperialism. Let’s look at from different perspectives.

First, consider Oz’s question. If I shoot my neighbor it is simple self-defense. But that’s not an analogy with Gaza, which require that I use heavy weapons to destroy his entire apartment building — or the entire city block. By Oz’s analogy, I’d be guilty of mass murder. How odd that neither Oz or Goldberg see this.

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Well-funded organizations inciting us to hate & fear, again. How gullible are we?

Summary: Today we examine yet another example of agitprop by well-funded organizations inciting hatred of Muslims in America.  Will we fall for this, again? A divided and fearful people are an easily led flock, a gift to their rulers. Please push back against this propaganda, and those that believe it. Being sheep is a choice.

Islam = terror

” διαίρει καὶ βασίλευ”
— Greek for “divide and rule”

“I have in my hand 57 cases of individuals who….”
— Speeches given by Senator McCarthy on 9 February 1950. He never released the names.

“Mr. President, if that’s what you want there is only one way to get it.  That is to make a personal appearance before Congress and scare the hell out of the country.”

— Senator Arthur Vandenberg’s advice to Truman about starting the Cold War.  On 12 March 1947 Truman did so.  From Put yourself in Marshall’s place, James P. Warburg (1948); in 1941 Warburg helped develop our wartime propaganda programs.

(1)  A case study of our Failure to Learn

A cardinal sign of Failure to Learn is repeatedly falling for the same con. It’s a common weakness. Grifters exchange sucker lists, because falling for a con makes one a good prospect for another con.

How sad is for an entire nation to do this?  The consequences of the 1950’s red baiting were horrific for America (including damage to the State Department, which unbalanced our national security establishment, contributing to the Vietnam War).  How stupid must we be to fall again for fear-mongering to divide and control us?

On the other hand, our leaders have seen and exploited this weakness. As have right-wing agitators. This shows that pockets of insight and political skill remain in America.

Today’s example of our folly, a story that’s been ricocheting all year around right-wing circles (including communities of military, security, and intelligence personnel): “Muslim Brotherhood Infiltrates Obama Administration“, Investors.com (blog of Investors Business Daily), 5 December 2013

The radical Muslim Brotherhood is often dismissed in the media as a distant threat. In fact, this sworn U.S. enemy isn’t just overseas. It’s inside the gates of the White House.

At least six American Islamist activists who work closely with the Obama administration are Muslim Brotherhood operatives who enjoy strong influence over U.S. policy, according to the Investigative Project on Terrorism {IPT} and the Center for Security Policy {CSP}  in Washington.

… Also know that, despite media dismissals of the Brotherhood as a “benign” group, it is in fact the parent group of al-Qaida and played a role in the 9/11 plot. The hijackers got support from several Muslim Brotherhood mosques across the country and were handled by a key Brotherhood leader in America — the CIA-droned cleric Anwar Awlaki, now thought to be the U.S. field commander of the operation.

Let’s start with Mohamed Elibiary, a member of the Homeland Security Advisory Council who has met with national security staff inside the White House. He raises perhaps the most alarms.

Most of this is exaggerated or questionable, at best. Let’s examine the key points.

(a)  The flimsy basis of the story

This is classic agitprop. A flimsy story in a third world magazine. Repeated by a US advocacy group. Others cite their report, ignoring the dubious source. See “Report: Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood Infiltrated Obama Admin“,  Elad Benari and Arutz Sheva, Investigative Project on Terrorism, 9 January 2013 — Excerpt:

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We cannot defeat al Qaeda unless we understand it. And since we’re told mostly exaggerations and lies…

Summary: Forged by our intervention into Afghanistan against the USSR, senior US government officials ignored al Qaida until 9-11. Then its name became a totem for the American people, the hated other. To mention it was waving the bloody shirt, hitting the stop button to our minds. Any thought about our strategy must start with questions about the myth and reality of al Qaeda. These were asked here in 2005 (and countless times since), yet for most Americans these questions remain not just unanswered but unasked. Today’s post by Richard Seymour provides some answers, confirming what we’ve said here so many times.

Osama bin Laden

Osama bin Laden

“He [VP Cheney] would have worked through the whole lot, Iraq, Syria, Iran, dealing with all their surrogates in the course of it – Hezbollah, Hamas, etc. In other words, he thought the whole world had to be made anew, and that after September 11, it had to be done by force and with urgency. So he was for hard, hard power. … We’re coming after you, so change or be changed.”
— UK PM Tony Blair in his memoir A Journey: My Political Life

He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. And when you gaze long into an abyss the abyss also gazes into you.
— Aphorism 146 in Nietzsche’s Beyond Good and Evil (1886)

Today’s reading

The Uses of al-Qaida

By Richard Seymour, London Review of Books, 13 September 2012
Published with the generous permission of Richard Seymour and the LRB.

President Obama has waged war on al-Qaida by drone and by ‘kill list’. Vladimir Putin has hunted al-Qaida in the North Caucasus. The late Colonel Gaddafi, and now Bashar al-Assad, have summoned alliances against it.

The alarming ubiquity of al-Qaida, its mitosis and metastasis seemingly outpacing the destruction of its cells, is attested by the multiplication of enemies on the US State Department’s list of ‘foreign terrorist organisations’. In 2002, al-Qaida appeared as a single entry; now there are four officially recognised organisations with the same root brand: al-Qaida (AQ), al-Qaida in Iraq (AQI), al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). The list also includes the Abdallah Azzam Brigades, usually described as an ‘affiliate’ of al-Qaida in Iraq.

About the greater al Qaida

The taxonomic determinacy of this list is deceptive.

Consider al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, the group held responsible for organising the attempt in 2009 by the ‘underwear bomber’, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, to blow up a plane en route from Amsterdam to Detroit.

  • AQAP was one of the most alarming new franchises identified in a briefing given to Congress by the Federation of American Scientists in 2005, one of a rash of new ‘presences’ and ‘affiliates’ of al-Qaida emerging from Bali to Mombasa. It was said to be responsible for an attack on the US consulate in Jeddah in 2004 and, the FAS claimed, was attempting to overthrow the Saudi royal family.
  • Yet, five years later, a Carnegie Endowment analysis paper traced the origins of a group called al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula to the emergence of a small number of jihadis who had escaped from prison in Sanaa in February 2006.
  • And the Center for Strategic and International Studies reported {in July 2011} that ‘al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) emerged in January 2009 from the union of two pre-existing militant groups: al-Qaida in Yemen (AQY) and al-Qaida in Saudi Arabia.’

Can these various expert analyses all have been discussing the same organisation?

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The US government is competent, as proven by the results of the latest terror alert

Summary: Since 9-11 Homeland Security has declared 15 alerts (8 Red and 7 Yellow) with no terror strikes. Now we have another, this time overseas. Again, nothing has happened. These alerts are successes on a historic scale, as the government has maintained a climate of fear and built support for the vast and growing security state. But the US government must share the credit. They could not have done it without us, and our gullibility. Our inability to learn might prove more destructive to America than any likely terror strike. Will we change?

Doveryai, no proveryai (Trust but verify)
— Russian proverb

Charlie Brown & the football

The definition of gullibility


  1. The latest warning
  2. The threat is serious
  3. Criticism of the story
  4. The classic plays that work
  5. Other posts in this series
  6. For More Information

(1) The latest warning

We what appears to be yet another in the US government’s long series of successful information operations waged against us. Bomber gap, missile gap, Tonkin Gulf incident, Saddam’s WMDs, etc. Post-WW2 history has been shaped by our gullibility.

For a description of the latest terror alert we turn to that source of right-wing fear-mongering propaganda, The Washington Times: “Congressional leaders agree on drastic response to al Qaeda terrorist threat” 4 August 2013 — Excerpt:

Key Democratic and Republican members of Congress said Sunday that the terrorism threat reportedly triggered by an intercepted message between senior al Qaeda operatives is the most serious threat in years, with some warning that the threat is an indication the terrorist group responsible for the 9/11 attacks still poses a significant danger to the U.S.

The threat forced the closings of more than 20 U.S. embassies and consulates this weekend. A travel alert was issued for Americans planning to travel overseas, particularly in the Middle East, and will remain in effect for the rest of August. The closures of the embassies and consulates and the travel alert were triggered by an intercepted message between senior al Qaeda operatives, CNN reported Sunday.

Like clockwork our leaders and national security gurus nod in agreement. Cue the fear-mongering…

(2) Our leaders tell us, as usual, that the threat is serious

(a) Rep. Michael T. McCaul (R-TX, chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence) on “Face the Nation“, CBS, 4 August 2013:

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A look at al Qaeda, the long war — and us

Summary: With the newest terror alert, it’s timely to review what we know about al Qaeda. What kind of organization is AQ? How are they fighting us? Here is a brief summary (quickly written), giving one perspective on these things. We are in war, a war of choice, a war we’re fighting in a mad fashion, a war that might have horrific effects (even more horrific effects) if we continue as we have since 9-11.

One of the 2 builders of 21st C America

One of the 2 leading builders of 21st C America



  1. Forms of al Qaeda
  2. What is al Qaeda?
  3. Fighting al Qaeda
  4. For More Information

This post is a summary of conclusions drawn in the dozen-plus posts about al Qaeda listed at the end. See those for the details of analysis and evidence. These are my guesses based on the available scraps of public information.

(1) Forms of al Qaeda

We are told of two versions of al Qaeda:

  • a powerful global organization like SPECTRE, THRUSH, & COBRA
  • a powerful system of a central unit plus national franchises

These are conflicting stories; neither has much supporting public evidence. The first is fiction, a useful creation of US propaganda after 9/11 to gain support for the Patriot Act and foreign wars. Based on the public information, AQ might no longer exist in any effective form. Just as a shattered remnant issuing PR materials — bolstered by the US government, for whom it’s a useful boogeyman.

The second version is equally questionable. There are effective national organizations using the AQ brand name (eg, AQ in Iraq). These have some things in common with other organizations using the AQ name and AQ “central” — belief in some form of jihadist theology, opposition to Western culture, etc. But they are not “franchises” in any meaningful fashion.

Franchises are licenses from a central organization to operate under its umbrella, usually with some degree of control by the center. Like McDonalds, perhaps the paradigmatic example. See this Bloomberg article about life as a McDonald’s franchisee, under the thumb of the parent. There is little evidence that’s how AQ operates, that the AQ HQ has such control over others using the AQ name, or that AQ “central” can provide meaningful support to the national AQs. AQ “central” does not even control the most basic element of a franchise: control over the name.

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Myth-busting about gun use in the Wild West

Summary:  America’s broken Observation-Orientation-Decision-Action becomes most visible during political debates. For both Left and Right,  fidelity to group dogma about “hot  button” issues defines the group, about which no heterodox thought is allowed. This gives US debates their Alice-visiting-Oz feel, with one of both sides uninterested in inconvenient facts.  Previously we looked at climate change to see this at work on the Left.  In this series we look at similar behavior on the Right: looking at guns in America.  This, chapter 7, looks at the history of guns in the wild west — myths, facts, and echos of our future.



When we think of guns in America, we often turn to the wild west for lessons. Such as how they handled widespread ownership of guns.  How violent was the West? Calculating murder rates for small populations is problematic, especially for societies very different than today’s.

Still, there are lessons.  Look at the famous Kansas cattle towns, where cowboys came to play: Abilene, Ellsworth, Wichita, Dodge City, and Caldwell — described in “Guns, Murder, and Plausibility“, Robert R. Dykstra (Prof History, State U of NY – Albany), Historical Methods, December 2010.

Violence in the Wild West was localized, as it is in today’s America, in certain districts.  And in most western towns it was at levels far lower than that shown in cowboy movies.

{western towns’} population consisted of relatively young males. They commit most murders.  … the middle-class respectables of Dodge City, male and female residents of the north side of town, faced {lower risk} of being murdered as the south-side whores, gamblers, and transient cowboys.  Of the dozen founding fathers of the town’s business community, a group that included Robert Wright, all except one who died of illness survived the entire cattle-trading era without a scratch.

… Dodge City, for example, was very well policed — headquartering over the 10 years it was a cowboy town a deputy US marshal, a county sheriff, an undersheriff, deputy sheriffs as needed, a city marshal, an assistant marshal, policemen as needed, and two township constables. … Five of its 17 adult killings — almost one third — were justifiable homicides by officers. The police meant business …

But there was violence, of a different kind than drunken cowboys shooting each other.  Political violence, aka terrorism.

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