Joseph Loconte: A Deliberate Failure of Imagination

Joseph
Loconte, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and
commentator for National Public Radio, is the editor of The End of
Illusions: Religious Leaders Confront Hitler’s Gathering Storm.

U.S. authorities announced last weekend that they had prevented a
suspected Muslim terrorist cell from launching a "chilling" plot to
destroy John F. Kennedy International Airport—a scheme to kill
thousands of civilians and create economic chaos by blowing up a jet
fuel artery that runs through densely populated neighborhoods. “Had the
plot been carried out,” warned U.S. Attorney Roslynn Mauskopf, “it
could have resulted in unfathomable damage, deaths, and destruction.”

Yet just 24 hours later, Democratic presidential hopefuls debated
America’s war on terrorism as if the airport terror plot were a
fraternity prank run amok. The CNN-sponsored debate—which included
Senator Joseph Biden, Senator Hilary Clinton, Senator Christopher Dodd,
John Edwards, Mike Gravel, Rep. Dennis Kuscinich, Senator Barack Obama
and Governor William Richardson—showcased the debilitating failure of
political leaders to think deeply about the threat of radical Islam.

Sen. Obama was asked if the Bush administration’s strategy to thwart
terror at home has been a success, since the United States has not
suffered any terrorist attacks on U.S. soil since 9/11. Without
hesitating, Mr. Obama delivered his studied judgment of the matter:
“No.”

Obama conceded that “there are some things that the Bush Administration
has done well,” but failed to name them. The Patriot Act, electronic
surveillance techniques, aggressive interrogation of terror suspects,
the killing and capture of scores of al Qaeda leaders and
operatives—none of these unpleasant features of America’s war on terror
received any credit.

The ever-eccentric Rep. Kucinich, in fact, dismissed the Patriot Act as
“unconstitutional” and then seemed to drift into a Zen-like trance:
“Americans need to reconnect with our deeper sense of self here,” he
said. “And I want to have what I call the 9-10 Forum to recreate—to
help us reconnect with a deeper sense of who we are as Americans.”

Meanwhile, John Edwards repeated his charge that the “war on terror” is
merely a bogus slogan—“the global war on terror bumper sticker” —to
justify  Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, torture, and all the rest of it. The
hacks at al-Jazeera television, who watch CNN closely, probably broke
into applause at that moment of high statesmanship.

As the subject turned to Iraq, the exchange became even more surreal.
Senator Dodd declared that “there is no military solution” to the
conflict—as if al Qaeda cells and Sunni extremists could be wooed into
a political solution with flowers and candy. Governor Richardson called
for a resolution to “deauthorize” the war and “move forward with a
timetable” to withdraw American troops.

CNN host Wolf Blitzer, to his credit, injected a painful shot of reality.

MR. BLITZER: But what about genocide? What about the possibility of genocide?

GOV. RICHARDSON: No residual forces…Obviously genocide is something—in
Darfur—you know I have been involved in that issue. I believe what we
need to do there is stop this genocide.

MR. BLITZER: But what about Iraq, if it were, God forbid, to happen?

GOV. RICHARDSON: Well, obviously I would keep troops in Kuwait, where
they are wanted. I would move them to Afghanistan to fight al Qaeda…

And on it went. Not a single candidate contemplated the consequences of
failure in Iraq—what the triumph of al Qaeda and Islamic radicalism,
with access to immense oil reserves, might mean for America’s national
security. No one paused to talk seriously about the horrific potential
of the foiled airport plot. (As a native of Brooklyn and a Long
Islander who has logged many miles on the Long Island Expressway, I can
tell you that the attack easily could have crippled the entire New York
region.) No one admitted that the failed plot confirms the judgment of
the 9/11 Commission Report, a judgment repeatedly endorsed by the Bush
Administration: that Islamic radicals are in a war to destroy the
United States, that they are planning another massive assault on U.S.
soil, that they will use the most destructive weapons imaginable
against civilian populations to accomplish their goal.

While on the campaign trail last weekend, former New York Mayor Rudolph
Giuliani was asked about the airport terror scheme. He insisted that
the United States must remain on the offensive. “The reality is that
there are people in America who don’t realize now how serious this
threat is.”

Yes, there are many in America who steadfastly refuse to realize the
existential threat of radical Islam. The real tragedy, though, is that
some of them are running for president.

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43 Responses to Joseph Loconte: A Deliberate Failure of Imagination

  1. Ash Faulkner says:

    A “9-10 Forum” is the absolute perfect summary of all the left is about on this issue: ignoring the facts, unwilling to face the truth, noncommital and short sighted. Let’s just do things how they were done before, because *that* worked.

    What they fail to realise is that the world didn’t change on 9/11 – we just opened our eyes to what it was really like. Sadly, many people closed their eyes a few months later…and we don’t need a blind man (or woman) in the White House.

  2. James says:

    Most educated analysts would conclude – as Ron Paul has – that getting further entangled in Middle Eastern wars will only encourage further acts of terrorism against the U.S. and Britain. Put it at its most basic: if France stationed large military bases on the soil of southern England would the English resent it? If Mexico (in some bizarre parallel universe) had the wealth and military capability to harbour a large military presence in America, what would Americans think?

    Read bin Laden. His numero uno reason for jihad against America was the garrisoning of ‘infidel’ American troops on holy Saudi soil. To more secular societies this would be a provocation; add the Islamic element and you’ve got a recipe for major hostility towards America ever since that fateful decision of George H. W. Bush’s back in 1990.

    Some wars – such as Afghanistan – are neccesary. Others – such as Iraq – aren’t. Both will increase Islamic terrorist activity against the West. It’s just a shame that on occasions (Iraq) we choose willfully to increase the threat against ourselves for no good reason.

  3. mamapajamas says:

    James: re: “Read bin Laden. His numero uno reason for jihad against America was the garrisoning of ‘infidel’ American troops on holy Saudi soil.”

    Read a little MORE bin Laden. In order to establish peace with Al Qaeda, all we have to do is kill all of our elected officials (not just Federal, but also local), establish Sha’aria Law, and convert to his twisted version of Islam.

    Do you think it’s worth it to establish peace?

    That’s all. And that’s been his plan all along.

    That’s what he said in a letter to The Guardian a couple of years back, mixed in with boring, flowery, nonsense prose. This is about re-establishing the Ottoman Empire, with himself in charge.

    That’s also what Saddam was about… re-establishing the Ottoman Empire with himself in charge. That’s the REAL reason Saddam was invading his neighbors, despite excuses given by the news media. He SAID SO in numerous speeches. I heard him. I was working midnight shifts during the buildup to the Gulf War, and got home in time to listen to every one of those long-winded speeches he gave. The news media recaps of “what Saddam said” failed to mention the reunification theme that ran through ALL of his speeches.

    My reaction to Saddam’s speeches was, “OMG… that man thinks he’s Saladin!”

  4. James says:

    mamapajamas,

    I don’t really care whether you were working midnight shifts in the run up to the Gulf War. Do you really think that Saddam was in a position circa 2003 to go about establishing a second Ottoman Empire? With all those WMDs of his and that fantastic military?! We should all be glad that the first Gulf War was such a cake-walk for us, for it robbed him once and for all of any pretensions to a latter day Saladin. Hence the reason he was no global threat twelve years later.

    As for bin Laden, well, I don’t dispute that he and many other jihadists would still hate Western values and society even if every American troop in the region withdrew tommorrow leaving nothing more than a two buck tip. But the basis of his regrettable success past, present, and future is his ability to incite other Muslims to join his cause. Without a sizeable American military presence in the Middle East a large chunk of his appeal would evaporate overnight. I’m also curious why bin Laden and the mujahideen didn’t follow the Russians home following their withdrawal from Afghanistan; presumable his desire to impose his values on the rest of the world was just as strong then as it is now.

    Do you think it a coincidence that fifteen of the nineteen 9/11 hijackers were Saudis? A resented occupation breeds suicide bombers.

  5. mamapajamas says:

    James, I suggest to you that you have forgotten what the news media was saying before the Gulf War, about how the Coalition was going to be destroyed by Saddam’s “battle-hardened” troops.

    I don’t care what your personal view is of Saddam’s intentions… I am simply reporting what he actually SAID.

    15 of the 19 9/11 hijackers were Saudis, but they were NOT in any way associated with the government of SA. Bin Laden tried to foment a revolution in SA, and the US troops there were putting a cramp in his style. The fact that there are Saudis in Al Qaeda is no surprise to anyone… these fascist nuts have been trying to take over the ME for decades.

  6. James says:

    And we know now that the news media was talking bullshit in relation to Saddam’s “battle-hardened” troops. They couldn’t even win a war against Iran – a country racked by instability and turmoil when Saddam decided to invoke his ‘Saladin’ role and invade in 1980. Quite how he could have dominated the Middle East is anyones guess. So what if he threatened to rule the world? Neither he – nor bin Laden, or any other trumped up Middle Eastern bogeyman – currently has anything like the capability to threaten Britain or America’s national existence, or our freedoms.

    My point about the Saudi hijackers has nothing to do with any link to the Saudi government. I was merely pointing out that they are an example of a product of occupation – anger against the perceived occupier (in this case, America.)

    You’ve got it the wrong way round: American troops didn’t arrive in the Arabian peninsula until 1990; certainly not with the mission of quelling a jihadist uprising. Bin Laden only started ranting against the U.S. and the Saudi royal family in the mid-nineties, AFTER the U.S. military had established itself there.

    This isn’t to justify any of his horrific actions; but to try an explain why America is a target, and how this can end.

  7. webstar says:

    Hey things could be worse…this could be happening in the USA…Thank God its not.
    http://timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/article1890354.ece

  8. Steevo says:

    “My point about the Saudi hijackers has nothing to do with any link to the Saudi government. I was merely pointing out that they are an example of a product of occupation – anger against the perceived occupier (in this case, America.)”

    Just about all militant websites in the recent past and present advocate jihad in non-Western frontiers as well as the West. Chechnya, the Philippines island of Mindanao, Bosnia, Kashmir, Thailand, Suddan, Pakistan, Malaysia and… where else? Where is the counter-argument to the insanity of jihadic rhetoric here? One cannot escape the history of violence of radical Islam with the politics of denial and scapegoatism. They certainly can’t blame America or the Jew.

    Our blame-America-crowd needs to wake up that Islam does indeed need reform and finds a way to do it internally because the modern world (basically, the West) is under a grave threat to its continued existence as free and democratic societies. Until that happens this will be war, whether we take it outside our borders or they take it inside.

  9. JF says:

    James,

    You’ve got it the wrong way round: American troops didn’t arrive in the Arabian peninsula until 1990; certainly not with the mission of quelling a jihadist uprising. Bin Laden only started ranting against the U.S. and the Saudi royal family in the mid-nineties, AFTER the U.S. military had established itself there.

    Why does the anti-American camp always reverse history? Saddam invaded Kuwait and then SA asked us to protect it, so we used it as a staging area for the Iraq invasion and stayed afterwards to protect against further aggression from Saddam. Bin Laden and al Qaeda attacked us as a result of our willingness to protect SA. To be clear: al Qaeda attacked us first, and then we invaded Afghanistan and Iraq (for the second time).

  10. Dennis says:

    Webstar- what’s your point?
    Muslims naming their children after their prophet.
    Whats so radical about that and what are you insinuating by offering that link?
    I suppose your answer would be to compel British Muslim families to give their offspring Christian names or even better stop them having children at all through forced steralisations!!!!

    Regarding the Islamic radicals desire for a wider Muslim caliphate.
    I think even the most deluded of muslims would acknowledge that it is simply a ‘pipe dream’.

    I do not profess to be an expert on the views of Al-Qaeda or Bin-Laden, however even the most obtuse of analysts should recogonise and acknowledge that his motivation & mass appeal within the Muslim world was greatly increased by the siting of US troops in close proximity to Islam’s holiest shrine.

  11. JF says:

    Dennis,

    Why should we arrogantly imagine that we can base troops in Muslim countries and have no reaction from the radical elements in the Middle East?
    As you rightly point out, if any foreign power was to attempt to occupy either of our mainlands we would fight tooth and nail to regain our freedom and independence.

    We were invited into SA. If SA wants us to leave, it can ask us to leave and we will surely comply. Should we refuse to sell the JSF to the UK for fear of the possible reaction from the terrorists in Londonistan? Of course not. We deal with the sovereign government of our allies, not the local insurgents. Just so, if our elected government invited a foreign power to station itself on our mainland (constitutionally impossible in any case), why would we then fight that foreign power?

    I feel immense pain everytime we lose a single soldier, however I also understand that the people who are taking the lives of our troops have the right to have freedom from us.

    Typical terrorist propaganda. If the Iraqi government wants us to leave, it should ask us to leave. So far, they have asked us to stay. How are we denying them freedom, after having provided them the freedom of democracy?

    Why may I ask does the US require the vast 104 acre embassy compound currently under construction in Baghdad? [snip]
    However the reality is that the Embassy will act as a de facto government pulling the strings of the puppet government we installed and protect from their own populace.

    We need a heavily fortified compound because, you may not realize, Baghdad is one of the most dangerous cities in the world today. I know that in Muslim countries, death is celebrated, but we in the US prefer to preserve the lives of our diplomats. And if you believe we are pulling the strings of the Iraqi government, why haven’t we replaced al Maliki, who by all accounts is in bed with Muqtada al Sadr? It’s clear you’ve been watching too much al Jazeera; you have unquestioningly swallowed the Arab propaganda whole.

    Iraq is an occupied country and shall remain so until we withdraw. Occupied people have a right to fight their occupiers.

    Do you deny that Iraq has a democratically elected government? We are occupiers in Iraq no more than we are occupiers in Germany. If we are asked to leave by the government, we will leave. You realize, of course, that only two groups are calling for the US to leave: the terrorists, and leftists like you. That makes you an enabler and sympathizer of terrorists, congratulations.

    In concliusion, violence in the Middle East shall reign supreme until we stop using military campaigns as a means to achieve our goals.

    Kids, stay in school. The consequences of not graduating have been clearly demonstrated by Dennis.

  12. Steevo says:

    “Iraq is an occupied country and shall remain so until we withdraw. Occupied people have a right to fight their occupiers.”

    Dennis you don’t care what the majority of Iraqis at present, who desire peace and some form of democracy to succeed, want. You don’t care to know the growing sentiment toward US troops, as opposed to al-Queda. You, like a small percentage of terrorists and thugs there keep calling us “occupiers” as if we are the problem. You want it perceived just like al-Queda does giving them cause.

    We are the ones fighting to establish freedom, not the terrorists as you’ve claimed. You would unquestionably reap mass horror upon the good Iraqis by demanding our troops leave. You don’t speak for the Kurds up north, the growing majority of both Shia and Sunni throughout central Iraq and the majority of Shia in the south. You can’t claim any sense of humaneness toward the people of Iraq. You hate American power and presence, on the opposite side of the world at that and at the expense of genocide. Again do you want me to post what you’ve already stated in past posting?

    “Nope, they certainly can’t blame America, but the examples you cite are local disputes over the role of Islam in societies and land.” James, this is going well beyond tribal conflict or “local dispute”. It is increasingly a world-wide phenomena seeking to impose some form of Sharia rule. Muslim fanatics, intolerant with a religious racist hatred.

    Anything will give them cause. From cartoons to threatening French leadership for allowing Jews status. Bin Laden’s gripes began when he was younger than 14 and didn’t like how his mother lived with Western influence. Everything about the West was contrary to this wannabe-shiek, ‘god-fearing’ mass murderer and perpetual liar. Like Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak said, he never mentioned Israel until it began to serve his ultimate goal of gathering followers.

    You think they will stop if we get out. I think if we do it will be exploited in their sick pride, and in their racist utterly intolerant hatred of the non-Muslim decadent West they’ll be doing all they can to inflict mass horror and destruction here.

  13. Simon Newman says:

    “Not a single candidate contemplated the consequences of failure in Iraq—what the triumph of al Qaeda and Islamic radicalism, with access to immense oil reserves, might mean for America’s national security”

    The best person to defeat Al Qaeda in Iraq is Al Sadr & his Mahdi Army! Second best are the non-Qaeda Sunni insurgent forces (and to its credit the US military has begun some coorperation with them.

    Of course this US administration has never shown any real interest in defeating Al Qaeda, and if that were a priority they wouldn’t have invaded Iraq in the first place.

  14. Simon Newman says:

    “Not a single candidate contemplated the consequences of failure in Iraq—what the triumph of al Qaeda and Islamic radicalism, with access to immense oil reserves, might mean for America’s national security”

    The best person to defeat Al Qaeda in Iraq is Al Sadr & his Mahdi Army! Second best are the non-Qaeda Sunni insurgent forces (and to its credit the US military has begun some coorperation with them.

    Of course this US administration has never shown any real interest in defeating Al Qaeda, and if that were a priority they wouldn’t have invaded Iraq in the first place.

  15. Steevo says:

    James, in your response to JF you’re talking about a fraction in society of fanatical racist murderers. You’re giving their hatred legitimate voice?

  16. Steevo says:

    James, in your response to JF you’re talking about a fraction in society of fanatical racist murderers. You’re giving their hatred legitimate voice?

  17. Dennis says:

    Do you deny that Iraq has a democratically elected government? We are occupiers in Iraq no more than we are occupiers in Germany.

    You talk about democracy without the faintest irony considering Iraq is under military occupation..
    The distinction between Germany and Iraq could not be clearer.
    Adolf Hitler instigated a war of aggression & occupation against the countries bordering Germany, a global alliance was fomed to fight his well trained & well armed army, following their defeat after nearly 6 years of war Germany was occupied.
    In Iraq our leaders connived to attack a country on it’s knees after 12 years of sanctions, boasting a sub-standard army, no Airforce & occupied it under a completely false pretext.
    Can you see any distinction or are you blinded by your zeal?

    JF – If the Iraqi government wants us to leave, it should ask us to leave. So far,
    they have asked us to stay.

    They have asked us to stay precisely because they are our puppets and know their citizens would lynch them as collaborators the moment we left.

    JF – How are we denying them freedom, after having provided them the freedom of democracy

    You contradict yourself all the time. how can you say we have provided them freedom yet in the same piece of writing state that
    ‘…you may not realize, Baghdad is one of the most dangerous cities in the world today.’
    If what is going on in Iraq today is your idea of freedom & democracy then I think the Iraqi’s would rather we left them alive under a dictatorship.

    May I add that if the University you attended imbued you with the zealous, insular idiocy you regularly spout then I would recommend that you and your fellow alumni take up a class action lawsuit.

  18. JF says:

    James,

    So what if America was invited to Saudi Arabia?

    You might say that oh well, we have an interest in being there, in which case fair enough.

    It is as you said, we have an interest there. We are SA’s ally, and SA is our ally. Leaving aside whether or not this is a good alliance, the United States takes these responsibilities seriously, as does the UK (in contrast to the fools in Europe). The continental Europeans do not take these responsibilities seriously, which is the reason why we are speculating now not about the future of Europe, but rather whether it is the Muslims or Russia which will dominate Europe, and when. As the saying goes, a friend in need is a friend indeed, and Europe has not shown itself to be a friend. SA has proven itself in its own way, believe it or not, by supplying cheap oil to us. Yes, the majority of September 11 hijackers were Saudi. Shall we also hold Britain on the whole as an enemy because of the terrorists you spawned in Londonistan?

    Just don’t go around spouting the usual cant about them hating us for our “freedom” our “democracy” and us allowing a woman the right to choose. (I’d love to see Giuliani use that line at a GOP convention.)

    Show me where I have done this; otherwise, you are wasting everyone’s time in setting up this strawman. I don’t believe they hate us for our freedom and our democracy. I believe they hate us because they are subhumans who believe in a degenerate creed which embraces death, and we embrace life. They hate us; I hate them. It’s as simple as that, and we can never be reconciled and will fight until one of us is defeated.

    You say why would Americans fight a foreign power who were hypothetically stationed on U.S. soil.

    Nice try, but that’s not what I said. What you think you read and what I actually wrote are not the same thing. I said, “Just so, if our elected government invited a foreign power to station itself on our mainland (constitutionally impossible in any case), why would we then fight that foreign power?” That is a wholly different matter. If we invite a power to install itself in our homeland, why would we then fight that power? We wouldn’t, as logic would dictate.

    Isn’t that a violation of sovereignty – the basis of nationhood?

    James, what are you playing at? You didn’t even pretend to read what I wrote. Let me show you again:

    if our elected government invited a foreign power to station itself on our mainland (constitutionally impossible in any case)

    No power in the United States can legally allow a foreign military power to station itself in our homeland. I clearly stated that, yet you are still trying to pick a fight. Please, do try harder.

  19. Simon Newman says:

    Steevo:
    “You have no clue. Where do you get your info?”

    The most reliable info comes from inside the US military.

    Defense & the National Interest is good:

    See:
    http://d-n-i.net/

    Bill Lind, one of the greatest military theoreticians in the USA, has many useful insights:
    http://www.d-n-i.net/lind/lind_archive.htm

    This recent article on Sadr is interesting:
    http://www.d-n-i.net/lind/lind_6_01_07.htm

    I suspect you’re not interested in facts getting in the way of opinion, though.

  20. JF says:

    Dennis,

    You talk about democracy without the faintest irony considering Iraq is under military occupation..

    Iraq held elections. The government was formed based on those elections. The government chose a prime minister independent of the US. Indeed, they chose a figure that is inimical to our interests there, a figure who has allied himself with Shia terrorists and has exempted them from our policing work. There is no irony in this–that is the price of democracy. You seem to believe that Paul Bremer is still the proconsul in Baghdad, which is not the case. Open your eyes.

    Adolf Hitler instigated a war of aggression & occupation against the countries bordering Germany…

    In Iraq our leaders connived to attack a country on it’s knees after 12 years of sanctions…

    Can you see any distinction or are you blinded by your zeal?

    Shock! You mean Nazi Germany and Baathist Iraq were different? I had no idea!

    In all seriousness, of course they are different. Bosnia wasn’t Nazi Germany, either, but we intervened there for the good of the Bosnians. Korea wasn’t Nazi Germany, but we intervened there for the good of the Koreans. And hopefully I don’t have to remind you, but the UK wasn’t Nazi Germany, but we intervened in WWII for the good of the people there, even though our conflict was technically only with the Japanese. You act as though you were born yesterday and had no knowledge of past benevolent military interventions by the US.

    They have asked us to stay precisely because they are our puppets and know their citizens would lynch them as collaborators the moment we left.

    So what is your point? Should we stay, since we are the secret overlords there and have responsibility for our puppets? Or should we leave and let the genocide happen, because allowing a genocide will, per your prescription, stop the hatred of the West? Sure, that makes sense.

    If what is going on in Iraq today is your idea of freedom & democracy then I think the Iraqi’s would rather we left them alive under a dictatorship.

    Who cares what you think? I’m trying to tell you that it only matters what the Iraqis think.

    May I add that if the University you attended imbued you with the zealous, insular idiocy you regularly spout then I would recommend that you and your fellow alumni take up a class action lawsuit.

    I’m a true neoconservative. I went to one of the most left-wing universities in existence, and my eyes were opened by the events that unfolded since the turn of the millennium. As for you, Dennis… It’s unclear if you even attended a university, however, given the unbelievably weak and contradictory arguments you have put forward. The world is not a nice place. There are people out there who want to kill us simply because we don’t share their religious beliefs, no matter where we may be located in the world. If you listened to them, isntead of presuming to speak for them, you would realize this. It’s time you embraced reality instead of the fantasy you’ve been living in.

  21. James says:

    JF,

    “No power in the United States can legally allow a foreign military power to station itself in our homeland. I clearly stated that, yet you are still trying to pick a fight. Please, do try harder.”

    Well, I’m game. My point is that if this scenario DID happen, even via an elected government (even if it is constitutionally illegal) Americans would resent it, possibly resorting to violence. Hell, the likes of Tim McVeigh resorted to violence against their own government; I doubt his type would sit back and passively accept foreign troops on U.S. soil. He would resent it just as Islamic fundamentalists in Saudi Arabia resent the U.S. presence there. Why is this so difficult to understand?

    No you didn’t specifically say they hate us for our freedom, but to act like they target America for wholly irrational reasons is crap. They target America because we base troops on Holy soil and support Israel. If they hated the West for our progressive nature then Sweden would be under constant bombardment – something bin Laden himself actually stated.

    “SA has proven itself in its own way, believe it or not, by supplying cheap oil to us.”

    Good though this is, why do we need troops there for them to sell us oil? They need to sell as much as we need to buy; withdrawing troops from there would hardly change this economic dynamic. A better assessment of U.S. foreign policy interests would have concluded that the costs outweighed the rewards on this issue.

    No we shouldn’t treat the Saudis or their government as enemies; read what I say. Our presence their furnishes Al Qaeda and other such groups with numerous recruits – the fifteen of the nineteen 9/11 hijackers an example of this phenomenon. This isn’t the same as saying we should as a result, treat the whole country as an enemy. It’s about understanding the dynamics that underpin Islamic terror, and where possible, making better foreign policy choices in the future. I don’t doubt that bin Laden and other hard core Islamists might fight us regardless of whether we supported Israel, or stationed troops on Islamic Holy soil. But Al Qaeda is only as potent as the number of followers it can muster; and in this respect we only add to our woes by getting involved in unneccesary Middle Eastern wars and occupations which only add to the ranks of jihadists.

  22. Steevo says:

    Simon,

    As far as what’s happening in Iraq I’m talking about on-the-ground witness and reporting . Facts every single day. Not theorists, philosophers and book writers.

    Here’s a brief for June 5:

    > Today’s raids against al Qaeda in Iraq operatives in Taji, Mosul, and Fallujah resulted in the capture of 18 terrorists. The Taji raid led to the capture of a “key leader in the Rusafa [Baghdad] vehicle-borne improvised explosive device network.” Monday’s raids in Mosul and Karma resulted in the capture of 14 operatives, including the “senior terrorist leader in Mosul connected to the al-Qaeda in Iraq network” and “12 suspected terrorists tied to the al-Qaeda in Iraq senior leader network in Karmah

    Every single day al Qaeda is being hunted, killed and captured.

    There are a number a sites with first and second hand accounts. Go here http://billroggio.com/ and start reading the “Daily Iraq Report.”

    Your statement: “Of course this US administration has never shown any real interest in defeating Al Qaeda, and if that were a priority they wouldn’t have invaded Iraq in the first place.” is totally contrary to what we ARE doing, in Iraq itself and the front line for al-Qaeda’s war.

    In March 2007:

    > All the while, the U..S has refused to label the Mahdi Army as a whole and enemy organization. Instead, it called the killed and capture Mahdi fighters ‘rogue elements,’ ‘criminals,’ ‘thugs’ and ‘gangs.’ By taking this tact, the Coalition attacked the worst elements of the Mahdi Army and targeted his key lieutenants, while giving the other members of the group the opportunity to break away from Sadr when the timing was right.

    > The current negotiations are the culmination of the yearlong strategy to dismantle Sadr’s militia. Multinational Force Iraq admitted at the end of February that serious negotiations are underway with elements of the Mahdi Army.

    > These negotiations represent a serious threat to his power. Sadr is clearly worried about these negotiations.

    >The signs that Sadr’s Mahdi Army and Sadr himself continue to be targeted. Sadr’s network in Basra took another blow. A “leading figure” in Sadr’s Mahdi Army (or Jaysh al Mahdi) in Basra was murdered in a drive by shooting, according to Voices of Iraq.

    > The U.S. and Iraqi government are maintaining the pressure on the Mahdi Army while attempting to woo elements to cooperate with the security plan. Carrots and sticks. Keeping Sadr out of Iraq will be vital in making this work.

    This is just some of the early info. There has been much more since. You know nothing at all about Sadre’s significance and the role of his army as coalition forces continue on planned strategy.

    And your “interesting” article on bin Laden has nothing to do with the facts I stated.

  23. JF says:

    James, you seem well versed on the “blowback” hypothesis. I understand what you’re saying, but let me cut to the heart of the matter: why does it matter whether or not we understand why they hate us? Let’s say it’s because we support Israel. Does that mean you are calling for the United States to join the Muslims in calling for Israel’s destruction, with the justification that such a move would cause the terrorists to leave them alone?

    That is, are you calling for appeasement? Because that’s the only outcome of trying to understand why they hate us. It sounds like you’re saying, Oh, they hate us because of X? We had better stop doing X, then.

    I disagree. History has shown us that appeasement is a failure as a policy. Strength is a far more effective policy. However, if we absolutely must employ appeasement, then I propose that they appease us, not the other way around. When they appease us, we can see what happens (personally, I predict we’ll have peace). But we already know what will happen when we appease them, so there’s no reason to go down that path.

  24. Steevo says:

    That is exactly right JF. It is the heart of this matter. There is a moral right and wrong here.

  25. James says:

    It’s interesting that you use the Israeli example and suggest that I think we should end our support for Israel on appeasement grounds. If you read one of my earlier posts, I say that’s not a price worth paying – I’m a supporter of Israel. What I do say is that some of our actions – such as garrisoning troops in Saudi Arabia and invading Iraq – were/are unneccesary, and needlessly add to the ranks of our jihadist enemy. I’m not suggesting appeasement, merely non-engagement as a preferential option as far as the whole of the Middle East is concerned.

    As for your contention that we could ever reach a stage where the likes of bin Laden would appease us, well, if we nuked vast areas of Middle East and generally acted like pityless savages than I don’t doubt that some of his ilk might cower before us. But then an awful lot of innocent people would die in the process, and possibly even more would end up hating us and signing up for suicide bombing oppurtunities on western targets. The types who willfully give their lives for religious causes aren’t the appeasing types.

  26. JF says:

    James, glad to hear we’re generally on the same side of this. I agree that we probably should have left SA some time ago, but with Iraq in chaos, now is not the time. When Iraq is pacified, I’m sure we can redeploy to Kuwait and Qatar and wait for the next extremist to start screaming about how we’re corrupting their “holy lands” there.

    Isolationism (or disengagement, as you artfully put it) is a dead school of thought here in the United States. I doubt the US will ever disengage from the rest of the world, or at least not as long as we perceive ourselves to be a superpower. Indeed, the current trend is to intervene ever more. Everyone seems to want to pile into Africa these days, and I think that’s just the beginning.

    My suggestion that our enemies should employ appeasement as a strategy was meant to be a bit sarcastic. I’m aware that their fanatical nature would never allow this, which is why I’m such a strong advocate of fighting them to the death; they will accept nothing less, so I propose we give it to them.

    As far as future conflicts are concerned, the United States has never acted against its own interests (or at least, what it perceived to be its own interests). When we engage in future conflicts, it will be to advance our national interests, and the “international community” won’t do anything about it (as it doesn’t do anything about genocide, or tyrants, or madmen developing nuclear weapons), so it doesn’t factor into our calculations. From an academic standpoint, it is interesting to know why others oppose us, but I doubt it will change the way we pursue foreign policy in the future.

  27. Dennis says:

    JF – I’m aware that their fanatical nature would never allow this, which is why I’m such a strong advocate of fighting them to the death; they will accept nothing less, so I propose we give it to them.

    Translate the above statement to Arabic and it could have easily been written/spoken by one of Bin-Laden’s ardent followers.
    You & the terrorists share the same zealous trait that is ‘the historical basis of all moral decay’ & the perpetual excuse for ‘murder by opinion’.
    You propose ‘WE’ give it to them, I seriously doubt ‘YOU’ shall be involved in any of the street to street fighting.!!!

  28. JF says:

    Dennis, your left-wing “chicken-hawk” argument is insipid. If I’m not an accountant, should I not be allowed to express an opinion on our tax system? If I’m not an unemployed poor person, should I not be allowed to express an opinion on welfare? If everyone who supported the war on terror had to serve in the armed forces, who would run the economy? Who would pay the taxes that would pay for the war?

    By the same token of your flawed logic, anyone who wishes to express an opinion on the use of force must first serve in the military. Have you served?

    Alternatively, before you have the moral standing to demand that we surrender to the terrorists, you must first surrender yourself. Are you willing to do that, or are you too cowardly to even surrender to your Islamic friends?

    As far as translating my statement into Arabic, I will have to depend on dhimmis like you to do it for me. The difference between us is that I am proud of my country and my culture and wish to see it preserved. You are ashamed of your country and your culture and wish to see it destroyed. Again, I would encourage you to go over to Iraq and surrender to your Muslim friends in person. If you come back alive, then I promise you, I will concede defeat.

  29. Simon Newman says:

    Steevo:

    “Every single day al Qaeda is being hunted, killed and captured.”

    *sigh*

    Look, there are 3 sorts of Al Qaeda:

    1. The Special Forces under Bin Laden and Zawahiri. These are the guys who conduct terrorism in the West, like 9/11 and 7/7. They are now based in Pakistan. This is the heart of Al Qaeda, the only bit that matters in terms of threatening the West. The USA has shown no real determination to destroy them (though there have been a few successful attacks on them, mostly CIA led) and they have operated largely unhindered since evacuating Tora Bora ahead of US arrival in 2001.

    2. The insurgency forces under Al Qaeda’s military commanders, reporting to Bin Laden. These are essentially light infantry troops who engaged the US at Tora Bora and successfully withdrew to Pakistan. They are now assisting the Taleban in Afghanistan in an ongoing offensive aimed at recapturing the country. We are fighting them in Afghanistan but cannot defeat them since they are based in Pakistan and Pakistan’s government will not take much action against them.

    3. The franchises. Any group of Sunni Muslim terrorists can declare itself to be an Al Qaeda franchise, and many have done so, from the Philippines to Morocco. These are operationally entirely separate from the Al Qaeda core in Pakistan/Afghanistan. “Al Qaeda in Iraq” is one of these franchises – basically the (now deceased) Jordanian terrorist’s Zarqawi’s organisation. You are correct that the US is actively fighting and killing this Al Qaeda franchise, and in fact Al Qaeda in Iraq is losing ground as its extremism has made it very unpopular with most Sunnis, including most insurgent groups. But this franchise only exists in the first place because of the US invasion of Iraq, fighting and destroying it does *nothing* to weaken the real Al Qaeda terrorist threat to the West.

  30. davod says:

    My earlier post was incomplete (Must be the British web site.)

    Simon:

    Prior to 9/11 an estimated 25,000 people went through the Al Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan. Most went back to their home countries and waited for the call.

    I do not want to know what the US is doing to get at the Al Qaeda hierarchy in Pakistan. I imagine, given the politics, that any action will be covert. I would much rather see or read the results in the media.

    Al Qaeda was assisting terrorist groups around the world for years before 9/11. The Philippines is a good example. That our intelligence services either were ignorant of the links or have seen fit not to publish what they know is besides the point.

    That any Tom, Dick, or Harry (Mustafa, Mohamed, or Sadaam) wants to cross into Iraq to kill the infidel is a given. To suggest that killing these foot soldiers does nothing to hinder Al Qaeda proper is simplistic. Al Qaeda relies upon good pr to keep its movement afloat. What it doesn’t need is constant media releases proclaiming another leader killed or captured. In Iraq, this is increasingly the case.

    Al Qaeda has been just as bad on Muslims as non-Muslims. We rarely hear about the attrocities perpetrated by Al Qaeda when they control an area.

    It is a pity that our media is not zealously reporting this side of the conflict.

  31. Simon Newman says:

    davod:
    “Prior to 9/11 an estimated 25,000 people went through the Al Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan. Most went back to their home countries and waited for the call.”

    Sure – I expect Al Qaeda recruitment and training was seriously hampered by the loss of Afghanistan, and they’re keen to reconquer the country. My complaint is not that the USA has done nothing against core-Al Qaeda; they have, my complaint is that they turned away from that goal after core-Al Qaeda escaped into Pakistan and then embarked on a lunatic invasion of Iraq which in itself greatly assisted Al Qaeda’s recruitment and development. A better approach would have been to insist on military access to Pakistan’s NW frontier tribal areas in order to keep up the offensive against AQ.

  32. Simon Newman says:

    davod:
    “Prior to 9/11 an estimated 25,000 people went through the Al Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan. Most went back to their home countries and waited for the call.”

    Sure – I expect Al Qaeda recruitment and training was seriously hampered by the loss of Afghanistan, and they’re keen to reconquer the country. My complaint is not that the USA has done nothing against core-Al Qaeda; they have, my complaint is that they turned away from that goal after core-Al Qaeda escaped into Pakistan and then embarked on a lunatic invasion of Iraq which in itself greatly assisted Al Qaeda’s recruitment and development. A better approach would have been to insist on military access to Pakistan’s NW frontier tribal areas in order to keep up the offensive against AQ.

  33. Kevin Sampson says:

    The US withdrew all combat forces from Saudi Arabia four years ago:

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/2984547.stm

    The only US military presence still in the kingdom is a training contingent which has been there at least since 1981.

  34. Kevin Sampson says:

    The US withdrew all combat forces from Saudi Arabia four years ago:

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/2984547.stm

    The only US military presence still in the kingdom is a training contingent which has been there at least since 1981.

  35. tired and emotional says:

    James, does your desire to see the US dis-engage from the Middle East extend to the Israeli/Palestinian question?

  36. Steevo says:

    Simon,

    First off, you have shown you do not know what is going on. This is your statement:

    “The best person to defeat Al Qaeda in Iraq is Al Sadr & his Mahdi Army! Second best are the non-Qaeda Sunni insurgent forces (and to its credit the US military has begun some cooperation with them.” I refuted that in my previous post and there is much more which can be said. Al Sadr is a rogue, only intent on his power at the expense of any hope of peace, proven responsible for gross murders in the hope of causing civil war. And if the ‘real’ al-Queda is not in Iraq then you are not very good at defining yourself.

    “Of course this US administration has never shown any real interest in defeating Al Qaeda, and if that were a priority they wouldn’t have invaded Iraq in the first place.” Nonsense. We obliterated them where many said we would fail because the Soviets failed; in Afghanistan and their base of power with the Talaban. We hunted them into the border Tora mountains and caves.

    “The insurgency forces under Al Qaeda’s military commanders, reporting to Bin Laden. These are essentially light infantry troops who engaged the US at Tora Bora and successfully withdrew to Pakistan. They are now assisting the Taleban in Afghanistan in an ongoing offensive aimed at recapturing the country. We are fighting them in Afghanistan but cannot defeat them since they are based in Pakistan and Pakistan’s government will not take much action against them.” Yes this is a growing serious problem. They have been recuperating (largely in 06) because of the Pakistani government’s flawed efforts to deal with them. But, even in their ‘major spring offensive’ this year into Afghanistan they are being decimated by US, Brit and NATO troops. When they mount major efforts they take tremendous loses. Really, they get slaughtered. I’m not undermining their threat but pointing out a little more of what you haven’t.

    While the war against al-Qaeda is largely seen as a fight in Afghanistan supported by a police action in certain countries, there is a very hot war occurring in many countries. Al-Qaeda and its allies have initiated efforts in lesser known countries such as the Philippines, Chechnya, Somalia, and Algeria. Thailand is fighting a serious insurgency against ill-defined groups of Muslim insurgents which haven’t been definitively connected to al-Qaeda or the Southeast Asian powerhouse Jemaah Islamiyah, but it is not believed these are in coincidences.

    Iraq, which is often dissociated from the war, is a major theater for al-Qaeda, as both Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri have stated in numerous communications.

    After the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, command of Al-Qaeda in Iraq was passed to Abu Ayyub al-Masri, a protege of Ayman al-Zawahiri. Al-Qaeda was attempting to create a political front and put an Iraqi face on the insurgency. Under the leadership of Abu Omar al-Iraqi in 06, al-Qaeda was attempting to unite the fractious insurgent groups in the Sunni areas. They created an umbrella political organization called the Islamic State of Iraq with some smaller Sunni insurgent groups, along with some leaders of Iraqi tribes, rolled under the banner of the Islamic State of Iraq, along with al-Qaeda in Iraq’s Mujahideen Shura Council. But, this is continuing to fail as Iraqi tribes are increasingly turning against them and siding with the government and US troops. Iraqis are tired of being coerced and killed by al-Qaeda.

    “‘Every single day al Qaeda is being hunted, killed and captured’

    *sigh*”

    Yes, every single day. They are being hunted… killed… and captured whether Iraq or Afghanistan. They are losing men and in Iraq support and they know it. In Iraq their only real hope is to cause sensational attacks on innocents so the press will exploit the carnage and our politicians (largely Democrats) will pull our troops out.

  37. tired and emotional says:

    Britain has nothing to be proud of in its behaviour in the region, I agree.

    Ultimately I guess your argument that any US intervention creates more jihadis regardless of whether an action was requested by or carried out in defence of a Muslim state, like Kuwait (or even Kosovo) makes the question of Palestinianism irrelevant — by your token the US cannot help but create a rod for its own back even if peace should miraculously dawn.

    I don’t necessarily disagree with that analysis of Arab and Muslim mental pathology but I suppose I would argue that for the US just to leave the whole region alone would leave Israel to the tender mercies of a nuclear Iran, would have allowed Saddam to annex Kuwait and build up the nuclear capabilities he desired, would hasten nuclear-armed Pakistan’s slide into fundamentalism with serious consequences regarding India, China, Afghanistan etc, etc., would expose the US economy to vastly more serious petro-blackmail than it currently faces and would allow the petty strongmen and their proxy armies a free hand which would be used not only in the region but across the world, just like now only a hundred times more aggressively and effectively.

    It would also signal clearly to that rotting travesty the UN that anything goes.

  38. tired and emotional says:

    Britain has nothing to be proud of in its behaviour in the region, I agree.

    Ultimately I guess your argument that any US intervention creates more jihadis regardless of whether an action was requested by or carried out in defence of a Muslim state, like Kuwait (or even Kosovo) makes the question of Palestinianism irrelevant — by your token the US cannot help but create a rod for its own back even if peace should miraculously dawn.

    I don’t necessarily disagree with that analysis of Arab and Muslim mental pathology but I suppose I would argue that for the US just to leave the whole region alone would leave Israel to the tender mercies of a nuclear Iran, would have allowed Saddam to annex Kuwait and build up the nuclear capabilities he desired, would hasten nuclear-armed Pakistan’s slide into fundamentalism with serious consequences regarding India, China, Afghanistan etc, etc., would expose the US economy to vastly more serious petro-blackmail than it currently faces and would allow the petty strongmen and their proxy armies a free hand which would be used not only in the region but across the world, just like now only a hundred times more aggressively and effectively.

    It would also signal clearly to that rotting travesty the UN that anything goes.

  39. Dennis says:

    James – They have a vastly more powerful military than pretty much every other country in the region

    Whilst the jist of you argument is sound, I think the analysis of global power structures lacks depth & ignores recent & current military engagements.
    The U.S military has unarguably the most advanced, operational military capability of any nation on this globe, however despite their ‘Commander in Chief’s’ premature declaration of ‘mission accomplished’ they have still failed to effectively subdue resistance fighters relying on improvised devices to inflict damage on their well armed & well equipped opponents.
    Israel too failed in it’s attempt to subdue Hezbullah in last years conflict & suffered losses which while relatively low, in comparisson to the Lebanese civilian & Hezbullah losses still shook their populace.
    Israel’s failure to dislodge H’bullah and the resistance in Iraq despite the military industrial superiority on display crucially exposes an anomaly in the co-relation between military spending and operational success.

  40. Steevo says:

    Simon we not only have a different interpretation of facts – we have different facts. And the comparison with Vietnam is not common even among diehard anti-war/Bush Leftists here. There are very distinct differences.

    There is the bottom line here. The surge and progress way beyond the sensational death headlines is real. The only hope for the majority of Iraqi people wanting some freedom and peace. If we pull out, which seems to be the ONLY ANSWER with those in the West opposed, there will be genocide.

  41. Steevo says:

    Simon we not only have a different interpretation of facts – we have different facts. And the comparison with Vietnam is not common even among diehard anti-war/Bush Leftists here. There are very distinct differences.

    There is the bottom line here. The surge and progress way beyond the sensational death headlines is real. The only hope for the majority of Iraqi people wanting some freedom and peace. If we pull out, which seems to be the ONLY ANSWER with those in the West opposed, there will be genocide.

  42. Steevo says:

    Simon, forget it.

  43. Steevo says:

    Simon, forget it.

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