Friday, April 29, 2005

 

Osama.... Dead? ..... No

There's no confirmation on this, but an al-Qa`ida linked website is apparently reporting that Osama bin Laden is dead. I guess we'll have to wait and see what comes of this. Of course, I'm sure the Bush administration is already planning the press conference to celebrate their victory in the war on terror.

Update: 11:18 am
Well, according to Reuters, there is no evidence that Osama is dead.
The posting on a Web site often used by Islamists began by saying there was news bin Laden had died but then went on to say that the fugitive militant could die at any time and Muslims should be prepared.

The unidentified author appeared to be trying to attract readers to his posting with the headline reporting bin Laden's death. There was no evidence bin Laden had died.
Hmm... just trying to attract readers to his posting, eh? It seems that bloggers are the same everywhere. Color me duped.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

 

State Dept., Counterterrorism Center release reports

Due to pressure from various sources (the press, segments of the public, segments of the government and certain elected officials), the National Counterterrorism Center published its chronology and aggregate statistics on terrorist attacks in 2004 (available here in a large pdf file). In fact, Philip Zelikow admitted as much today:
"If we didn't put out these numbers today, you'd say we're withholding data. That's why we're putting them out," said Philip D. Zelikow, counselor to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
Awww, thanks Phil. Of course, the statistics don't show good things. In fact, they show "a sharp surge in significant terrorist acts from 175 incidents that killed 625 in 2003 to 651 such attacks that killed 1,907 in 2004." Oh, but that's not because we aren't winning the war on terror. No, no, no, it's a matter of methodology and statistics and some stuff that you stupid people won't understand, says the State Department. Everything's fine, go about your business as if nothing happened at all.

The State Department also released its Country Reports on Terrorism (formerly "Patterns of Global Terrorism" -- but that was back when it had statistics in it, I guess). It's a pretty hefty document, but there was one thing that stood out in my cursory read of the intro to the Middle East and North Africa section:
There was an increase in terrorist groups affiliating themselves with al-Qa’ida or expressing support for al-Qa’ida’s ideology.
Hmmm... that doesn't seem like a good thing to me. In fact, that's exactly what our "global war on terror" was hoping to combat, was it not? If dear president was doing such a good job of forwarding democracy in the Middle East and smashing the terrorists, then why is there an increase of people and groups clamoring to hop on the al-Qa`ida bus? Hmmm... the math just doesn't add up for me. Also, one more sentence that stuck out for me (in the section on Iraq):
Iraq remains the central battleground in the global war on terrorism.
Remains? Well, remains since the U.S. invasion. Because it certainly wasn't the central battleground before. In fact, if we go back to the section on Iraq in the 2001 State Department report, we learn that Iraq's threat was the big trifecta:
(a) supporting some of the smaller Palestinian factions, such as Abu Nidal's Organization and the Palestine Liberation Front. Iraq is hardly alone in the Arab world in this regard, nor was it deeply involved with the larger Palestinian factions.
(b) threatening Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty workers in the Czech Republic.
(c) refusing to extradite to Riyadh two Saudis who hijacked a flight to Baghdad.
Also in the 2001 there is a text box that coincidentally is right by the section on Iraq (how did that get there? what a coincidence!!) about chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons a.k.a. WMD. I don't think we really need to go into that again, do we? In any case, it seems that the State Department is implying in the 2004 report, by saying that Iraq "remains the central battleground in the global war on terrorism," that it has been this way for some time, that this is what brought the U.S. to invade Iraq in the first place, and that it is not a function of U.S. involvement. But that's simply not the case.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

 

Yeah, so how's that war going?

Which war, you ask? The global war on terrorism or it's subsidiary part, the war in Iraq? The answer, I'm afraid, is the same for both, and it's not a ringing success. Let's start with Iraq. The Guardian reports today that General Richard Myers believes the Iraqi insurgents to be at approximately the same capabilities as in 2004 (which saw a marked increase in attacks from 2003, by the way). So that's hardly progress (and some might contend, continued failure) on the part of the U.S. and the U.S.-backed government in Iraq. And while Myers and Rumself pointed to a functioning political process as being the key to ending the insurgency, it seems for the time being that the insurgency has the upper hand (as most Iraqis are not seeing tangible immediate effects of the January elections). Attacks in Iraq are pretty much daily.

On the broader level, the so-called "global war on terror," things don't look so peachy either. As reported in that same Guardian story, and developed further in this Washington Post story, U.S.-gathered statistics show a marked increase in world-wide terrorism in 2004 as compared to 2003. It includes statistics from Kashmir, Chechnya, Israel/Palestine, and the train bombing in Madrid (which the U.S. can sidestep, despite George W. Bush's insistence that the U.S. is engaged in a world-wide war on terrorism) but it also has some remarkable numbers regarding two countries under direct U.S. military supervision.
Terrorist incidents in Iraq also dramatically increased, from 22 attacks to 198, or nine times the previous year's total -- a sensitive subset of the tally, given the Bush administration's assertion that the situation there had stabilized significantly after the U.S. handover of political authority to an interim Iraqi government last summer....

The data provided to the congressional aides also showed terrorist attacks doubling over the previous year in Afghanistan...
Hmmm... could this perhaps indicate that the Bush administration doesn't exactly have an effective strategy when it comes to eliminating terrorism? Of course, Bush defenders will jump up and down and point to long-term security resulting from the spread of democracy and on and on. I don't buy that, but even if I did I'd be concerned about the immediate increase of terrorism posing a very serious threat to nascent democratic movements. And given this, you'd have to think that some strategic reevaluation would be in order, so as to make sure that the investment in "democracy" is worthwhile -- that there is an environment that allows democratic movements to survive. Of course, the administration's reaction doesn't seem to indicate this. Instead, the administration has decided to do it's best to keep these statistics out of the public's hands.
The State Department announced last week that it was breaking with tradition in withholding the statistics on terrorist attacks from its congressionally mandated annual report. Critics said the move was designed to shield the government from questions about the success of its effort to combat terrorism by eliminating what amounted to the only year-to-year benchmark of progress.

Although the State Department said the data would still be made public by the new National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC), which prepares the information, officials at the center said no decision to publish the statistics has been made.
Because what you don't know can't hurt you, right?

Monday, April 25, 2005

 

Locusts

If you didn't watch the made-for-TV movie "Locusts" last night, you missed a chance to hear the words "The Department of Homeland Security has issued a locust advisory" read in a film that was (supposedly) not a comedy. I didn't watch it from the start, but I wish I had (the Homeland Security parts were the best... especially with the head of the dept. of agriculture being played by the police officer from The Big Lebowski who gives the Dude his car back -- "Leads!"). For more information go here.

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