Tag Archives: usama bin laden

Death celebrates 9-11. Can we stop and think before we walk further along the road of terror?

Summary:  The news from Libya has produce the usual flood of American hysteria, and the natural (by now, habitual) but foolish desire to strike back. It should instead force us to stop and think. As should the attacks by our Afghanistan allies. Something has gone terribly wrong with the War on Terror brewed in cold calculation during the dark days after 9-11.  How appropriate that this occurs on its anniversary. Today to find a useful perspective we go to the fringes of “respectable” political thought in America, and find some golden insights we can use.  At the end are links to a wealth of additional useful articles.

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)

Although ignored by senior leaders of the US government before, after 9-11 the name Al Qaeda became a totem for the American people. The stop button on our brains, it’s mention the equivalent of waving the bloody shirt. 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), and for most Americans it remains unanswered. Here are some answers, confirming what we’ve said here so many times.

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The Uses of al-Qaida

by Richard Seymour
London Review of Books, 13 September 2012
Reposted with their generous permission

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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.

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, 5 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 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 Republic has died. Let’s decide how to commemorate those responsible. Post your ideas!

Summary:  Here we discuss the hidden history of our generation (hidden to us, obvious to future generations). At the end we announce a contest.  What kind of monument best commemorates the two men responsible for killing the Constitution?


The Constitution has died.

It lived only in our hearts.  At first government officials moved beyond the Law in secret (organizations such as the CIA were explicitly setup to do this).  Then they leaked their deeds, testing for acceptance.  Now they boast, rewarded by our applause (enthusiastic acceptance).

The Presidential campaign provides its wake, as candidates boast how they’ll take us into the post-Republic era.  Obama has an advantage, as he can boast what he’s done to destroy the Constitution.  About killing by drones, about the execution of bin Laden. As we see in yesterday’s advertisement pretending to be news in the New York Times: ”Secret ‘Kill List’ Proves a Test of Obama’s Principles and Will“.

We’ll see the movie later this year of a heavily-armed special operations team executing a old man.

The November election will provide a plebiscite ratifying the death of the Founders’ dream, as we passively choose between two candidates each devoted to building the post-Constitutional America.

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A look in the mirror at America

Summary:  Again we attempt to recalibrate our vision of America, adjusting for its incredible rate of decline.  People watching its power and money will find the probable future crash a surprise.  Not so those watching the decay of its vision, heart, and mind.

The future of the American dream (by Maverick Zack)

The secondary goal of the FM website is to help readers better understand our world, especially current trends and likely futures. A look at the Past Predictions (right ones) and Smackdowns (wrong ones) pages shows three things about the FM website.

(1)  We provide a stream of accurate predictions about the near future, on a wide range of subjects, such as correctly forecasting the outcome of our wars, peak oil (2005 was not the peak, but the cornucopians were also wrong), the debate about climate science (much bad analysis and failure to follow norms of scientific procedure).

(2)  We gave early attention to subjects now receiving wide attention, such as the increasing success of women over men, the college bubble, and rising inequality in America.

(3)  Unfortunately we’ve gotten the big issues about America mostly wrong, being far too optimistic. We’ve re-calibrated (eg, here and here), but inadequately.  Today we’ll try again.

America here and now

Waging war requires the State to mobilize resources, the most important resource being the people.  Since every action creates a reaction, the process of war shapes the people and the nation, its effects lasting far after the war ends.  Now, almost 11 years after 9-11, we can see several effects of our long war.  It’s exacerbated existing ailments in US society.  As a result we’re rotting, becoming a danger to ourselves and the world. It’s happening faster than I imagined possible.

So far the process has continued with few reactions from our enemies and friends.  Even in the Internet age people change their opinions only slowly.  Our actions carve away the image of America built during the 20th century, leaving a much darker remnant.  We see ourselves as the benign global hegemon, so the coming loss of both leadership and respect will hit us hard.

Rising bloodlust

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The vital things to know about 9-11, painful and so seldom mentioned today

Summary:  A look back at 9-11.  What have we learned?  What were the important responses to 9-11?  How should we see this event in the context of America’s history?  At the end are links to other useful articles about 9-11 and al Qaeda.

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America is flooded today with emotional  commemoratives about 9-11.  For that I recommend reading “Let’s Cancel 9/11 – Bury the War State’s Blank Check at Sea” by Tom Engelhardt — as usual for Engelhardt, it’s brilliant and well-written.  But the FM website provides something different:  a cold focus on the facts necessary for survival.   In that light there are two essential things to know about 9-11:

  • It was the one of the (perhaps the) most effective single military operation in the history of the world.
  • It was exploited by both western governments and jihadists, operating in an almost symbiotic manner.

Both of these have been described extensively since 9-11, both on the FM website and elsewhere.  This post gives a summary.

Contents

  1. 9/11 was the most effective single military operation, ever
  2. About our lost civil liberties
  3. About al Qaeda and our jihadist foes

(1)  9/11 was the most effective single military operation, ever

This was posed as a question here on 11 June 2008.  Three years later the answer is clear, as the Obama Administration has institutionalized the course changes made by Bush Jr in the evolution of America:  militarization of foreign policy, cancerous growth of the US internal security, intelligence, and miliary apparatus.  Massive erosion of civil liberties.  They are now bipartisan policies.  In our system that makes them almost impossible to change.

With a single strike al Qaeda changed the course of the world’s hegemon, by many measures the most powerful nation (relative to its time) that the world has ever seen. Al Qaeda did this at a negligible cost in money and manpower.   As RJH said in the comments:  “The purpose of an action is the reaction.”

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In modern America we protect ourselves from truth with a bodyguard of lies

Summary:  The assassination of bin Laden is rich in lessons for America.  Here are a few.  Everyday we learn a bit more about our world and how its changing.

Third in a series about bin Laden’s death.  Previous chapters:

The pattern remains consistent over the years.  The military gives us a story, bold and appealing — confirming their narratives.  The stenographers calling themselves journalists write headlines.  Minds are molded by these strong impressions because we want to believe.  Adding to the effect are hundreds of articles by our geopolitical experts and pundits, carefully rearranging the details fed to us by government officials.

Then come the corrections.  Step by step, eroding away the story.  In the cases of Pat Tillman and Jessica Lynch leaving almost nothing of the original left.

But we never learn.  We respond just the same when we’re fed the next story.  Like fish that take the bait each time.  Or Charlie Brown — each time he believes Lucy’s promise.

Perhaps we’ll learn, someday.  On that day the Republic will become much stronger.

Here ae some of my favorite articles debunking the stories about our assassination of  bin Laden.  At the end are links to more information.

  1. A classroom demonstration of finding terrorists by mathematics
  2. How are criminals often caught? Not always by detective work.
  3. Our Russian friends congratulate us, happy that we’ve joined them on the dark side
  4. One of our few real journalists is an attorney

(1)  A classroom demonstration of finding terrorists by mathematics

Here’s a powerful example of why propaganda works:  an appealing story gets widespread attention, while its retraction is buried.  “Geographers Had Predicted Osama’s Possible Whereabouts“, Science, 2 May 2011 — Excerpt:

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About the strategic significance of bin Laden’s execution, and the road not taken

Summary:  The capture and execution of bin Laden was a powerful act of grand strategy.  Did it advance or damage our national interests?  There was an alternative to his execution, another of the roads not taken by America since 9-11.  Bin Laden borrowed from the ending of Tom Clancy’s Debt of Honor. We could have borrowed the ending from “The Sum of All Fears”.  This is a follow-up to A brief note about the death of bin Laden.

Contents

  1. Was bin Laden a high priority goal?
  2. Why does it matter?  Because strategy trumps tactics.
  3. The missed opportunity
  4. For more information

(1)  Was bin Laden a high priority goal?

Did we seek to capture/kill bin Laden?  Or was he more useful as an excuse for invading Afghanistan and Iraq?  There is evidence that regime change in the Middle East was the objective — and justice for bin Laden was secondary.  That was and should be primarily a decision about strategy not (as Machiavelli explained) a moral choice.  We can debate its effects another day.  Here’s some of the evidence.

(a)  Bush’s response to 9-11

As explained by the 9-11 Commission. From page 332, Chapter 10 — Wartime:

The State Department proposed delivering an ultimatum to the Taliban: produce Bin Ladin and his deputies and shut down al Qaeda camps within 24 to 48 hours, or the United States will use all necessary means to destroy the terrorist infrastructure. The State Department did not expect the Taliban to comply. Therefore, State and Defense would plan to build an international coalition to go into Afghanistan.

Both departments would consult with NATO and other allies and request intelligence, basing, and other support from countries, according to their capabilities and resources. Finally, the plan detailed a public U.S. stance: America would use all its resources to eliminate terrorism as a threat, punish those responsible for the 9/11 attacks, hold states and other actors responsible for providing sanctuary to terrorists, work with a coalition to eliminate terrorist groups and networks, and avoid malice toward any people, religion, or culture. (State Department memo, “Gameplan for Polmil Strategy for Pakistan and Afghanistan,” 14 Sept 2001)

President Bush recalled that he quickly realized that the administration would have to invade Afghanistan with ground troops.

(b)  Bush’s response to the Taliban’s offers

From “Bush rejects Taliban offer to surrender bin Laden“, The Independent, 15 October 2001 — Excerpt:

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A brief note about the death of bin Laden

Summary:  It’s not a big event.  It might not even be good news for the US, from a long-term perspective.  Also see the follow-up post About the strategic significance of bin Laden’s execution, and the road not taken.

“… and into the aerial weaponry the Americans used to pull off arguably the most important military operation of the decade.””
— delusional nonsense by David Axe and Noah Shachtman, writing at Wired, 2 May 2011

“I’ve never been so excited to see the photo of a corpse with a gunshot wound through the head.”
Twitter by Emily Miller, Senior Editor of The Washington Times

Contents

  1. It’s not a big event
  2. Killing bin Laden might make al Qaeda more potent
  3. The weirdness of President Obama’s speech about the news
  4. Updates
  5. For more information

(1)  It’s not a big event

We don’t know if bin Laden (sick, hiding in the mountains) still exercised any meaningful control over al Qaeda.  We do not even know if al Qaeda still exists in any substantial form, or just as a global brand name.  The actual victory might be the de facto destruction of AQ by the police and intelligence services of the US and our allies.  The militarization of not just our foreign policy but also our thinking prevents us from seeing this accomplishment — an unrecognized great victory.  For more information see

(2)  Killing bin Laden might make al Qaeda more potent

“An official also said bin Laden’s death puts al Qaeda on a path of decline that will be difficult to reverse.” (source: Reuters)

Not necessarily.  It depends on who replaces him.  Bin Laden as a martyr and AQ now competently run = bad news for us.

Update:  if our uninvited incursion into Pakistan to kill bin Laden angers the Pakistan people — one border crossing too many — than this will have been a strategic mistake.  We’re not the only people with national pride.

(3)  The weirdness of President Obama’s speech about the news

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