World View: A weblog, 2002-2007, by
Gordon L. Bowen, Ph.D.
Professor of Political Science and International Relations
Mary Baldwin College, Staunton VA 24401
visit WarLinks, Prof. Bowen's guide to sources about the war on terrorism
Prof. Bowen's Terrorism Weblog: May 30, 2007
Another busy school year has ended and in the hub-bub of it all, I have turned into a bit of a slacker in maintaining this blog. Those who know my college know that the chief constraint has been our May Term, a grueling three hour daily course in April-May that comes atop grading final exams and term papers from our Spring semester. There just has not been time to comment here on events in the world. But during this absence I have not been entirely unengaged: three Op-Eds by me have appeared. Topics have ranged from my latest take on Iraq (partition it!), to a eulogy for Boris Yeltsin, and today, I weighed in on the meaning of Memorial Day in this time of war. Links to each of these editorial pieces are supplied below:
Prof. Bowen's Terrorism Weblog: March 18, 2007
Before the military tribunal the manipulation of U.S. public opinion continues by the mass murderers of Al Qaeda. We heard recently from Khalid Sheikh Muhammad, mastermind of the 9/11 attacks. The Department of Defense released the unclassified transcript of his appearance before the Tribunal on March 10. He essentially wants us to think he doesn't believe in killing babies and children, even though he and his Al Qaeda colleagues continue to do just that. My response was published yesterday, read it here (or here, where the scan of my editorial forms a permanent link).
And its not just Muhammed who is confessing. Newly released Guantanamo Testimony (thanks to BBC) by the mastermind of the operation in October 2000 against the U.S.S. Cole, Walid bin 'Attash, includes this admission at page 8, about his role in the bombings in 1998 in Nairobi and dar es Salaam, where 213 perished (including 12 Americans) and 4500 were injured: "I was the link between Usama bin Laden and his deputy Sheikh Abu Hafs al Masri and the cell chief in Nairobi..." So much for the oft heard claim that innocent men fill the cells at Guantanamo. To read more, follow the link.
Prof. Bowen's Terrorism Weblog: February 13, 2007
Osama's minions or a loose movement of like-minded, independent terrorists? Most attacks on Western interests in recent years have stemmed not from direct acts by Al Qaeda but from deeds undertaken by those inspired to violence by its example. In fact, the organization always has been difficult to separate from the broader movement of anti-Western jihadists who sympathize with either its immediate objectives or its ultimate aims. Indeed, many of the 9/11 hijackers had sworn allegiance to Osama bin Laden only a short time before undertaking the attacks on the U.S. An article in today's Washington Post examines these issues as it details the role Al Qaeda played in four bombings that rocked Istanbul in November 2003. Directed at Jewish and British sites, the Istanbul bombers' loose relationship with Osama bin Laden effectively is detailed in the long and revealing article: "Al Qaeda's Hand in Istanbul Plot." Reflecting broader changes since 9/11 in the threat the West still confronts from jihadist terrorism, author Karl Vick describes the attack in the following terms: "The attacks, which killed 58 people and wounded 750, may have been the last terrorist strikes specifically authorized by bin Laden." Even this may overstate the degree of control exercised by the bearded one of Tora Bora. To better understand the evolution of Al Qaeda from a murderous organization to the inspirational star that guides through the night emerging groups of self-starters --volunteer terrorists unconnected to Osama-- evidence from cases such as the Istanbul bombings can enlarge our grasp of the loose edges of that organization even in its heyday. I recommend the article.
Prof. Bowen's Terrorism Weblog: January 22, 2007
Inter-religious understanding and the obligations of leadership. Congressmen assume special responsibilities when attempting to lead our community, and recently more than a few have failed the test. In particular, the recent divisive comments from U.S. Representative Virgil Goode, from the 5th District of Virginia, deserve all of our condemnation. Today, in my newspaper column of the same name as this weblog, "World View," I published a brief 19th century history lesson that Mr. Goode and others who would divide America on the basis of religion ought to have learned, had they not been so consumed with a misplaced sense of the American way.
Prof. Bowen's Terrorism Weblog: January 7, 2007
American exceptionalism. The extent of change underway in U.S. politics is being defined by our new Congressional leaders in recent days. But some of the old guard, e.g. Virgil Goode (R-VA), have taken to expressing their sour grapes to their constituents, our neighbors in Charlottesville, by casting aspersions on both Muslim Americans and other immigrants. This sort of hate mongering may play well in Western Europe, where Muslim minorities are poorly integrated into their larger societies. But here Muslim-baiting has not worked politically... yet. So far, the newly ascendant Democratic Party has not taken the bait, and its leaders have not thrown raw meat to the Virgil Goode's of this world. California Senator Barbara Boxer even went to some lengths last week to disassociate her Party from a real wolf in sheep's clothing, the Council for American Islamic Relations (C.A.I.R.). For their part, average American Muslims also have proven largely resistant to recruitment by extremist organizations (e.g., Hamas, Hezbollah, Al Qaeda), nor has broad support been given to apologists for some of the extremists, such as C.A.I.R.. Unlike the problem with domestic terrorism in the British Muslim community (e.g., see my March 2, 2006 entry), American Muslims have not identified with international terrorism, or with acts of terror in the U.S. in any significant numbers. All Americans, especially Democratic or Republican Party supporters, should resist any move to coarsen discussion about the loyalty of American minorities, of all faiths.
On related issues: Last April (2006) I was moved by the martyrdom of Daniel Wultz of Florida, an American teenager killed by a suicide bomber in Tel Aviv in Spring 2006, and late May, I wrote an editorial about it. (The bombing took place in April, Daniel hung on until May before he died, thus my imprecision on the date). I visited the site in Tel Aviv where he and a dozen of Israelis perished, and was struck by the absence of commemorative flowers, or even a sign. The restaurant that had been bombed was under reconstruction, the workers unfazed by my snapping photos. Israelis don't normalize these increasingly infrequent bombings, and they don't become paralyzed by them, either. Their courage, which continues to impress me, must not also crowd out our ability to see the courage of victims like Daniel, who fought on trying to live. Though he lost that battle, he is remembered. A commemorative video about him on YouTube has appeared, and I invite you to think about the meaning of Daniel Cantor Wultz's short life by viewing it.
Prof. Bowen's Terrorism Weblog: October 23, 2006
Commemorating Sacrifice. Twenty-three years ago today, in Beirut, Lebanon, a truck bombing took the lives ultimately of 241 U.S. military personnel, largely U.S. Marines. That act of terror never has been appropriately recognized, either by Americans' commemorative calendars, or by actions to punish the perpetrators. Radical anti-American Muslims long have celebrated the attack as a victory; Osama himself has stated that our retreat from Lebanon after the bombing encouraged him. Like the killing later in that wretched city of U.S. Navy diver Robert Stethem on June 15, 1985, a day of reckoning awaits the perpetrators of these acts. Until then and thereafter, Americans need to appreciate these earlier victims of the global war on the United States which we joined, Sept. 11, 2001, and refer to as the Global War on Terrorism. Their service can never be forgotten.
A complete list of the U.S. soldiers killed by Muslim extremists in Lebanon in the 1980s and 1990s is linked here.
The list includes 11 soldiers, sailors, and Marines whose home was listed as a town in Virginia.
Prof. Bowen's Terrorism Weblog: October 16, 2006
Lack of Willpower. Some years back, the New Republic ran an article by Lawrence Kaplan entitled "Willpower," in which it was argued that the American people after 9/11 had the stomach to endure casualties in order to defeat our enemies in the Global War on Terror, but that our elites did not have similar fortitude. It was an interesting thesis, supported by poll after poll at that time. The author predicted that public support would evaporate once 10,000 combat deaths occurred, but he interpreted that finding to mean that public support would not flag in the course of swift victories such as the one already then in view in Afghanistan, and one looming in Iraq. (This was a 2002 article).
How times change. As we near the 3000th combat death in Iraq, public clamoring for a fast exit from that wretched place is reaching a near crescendo. Kaplan's prophecy has proven off key: the public, it turns out, also has little stomach for the heavy lifting involved in defeating terrorism by defeating anti-U.S. insurgencies. To some extent, the mass public has begun to follow elite opinion leaders. And it's not just the rabid anti-Bush voices of "Move On" they are listening to: credible insiders such as Democrat Senator Joe Biden, Republican Senator John Warner, and former Secretary of State James Baker recently have begun speaking of a planned withdrawal.
This trend must be resisted not simply because our adversaries are not going away. It must be resisted because high costs of withdrawal in defeat in Iraq will spill over to the success of the overall Global War on Terrorism. Losing the larger war cannot be but hastened by defeat in Iraq.
After the dust settles on this Fall’s U.S. general election campaign, tough choices still will face policy makers regarding how best to proceed in the Global War on Terrorism. Nationwide, an apparently clear choice has been framed for voters: choose between the Republicans’ “stay-the-course” strategy, or the Democrats’ “set a deadline to withdraw from Iraq” alternative. For the first time since 9/11, recent polls have begun to show a partisan advantage on “security issues” to be breaking in favor of the Democrats’ position. War weariness among Americans clearly has set in; yet the real war is far from over.
Fresh and ample evidence shows that Al Qaeda continues to be determined to attack U.S. interests around the globe. A London-based plot to blow up U.S.-bound airliners was foiled in August, revealing a web of ties between terrorist groups in Britain, Muslim charities, and earthquake aid sent earlier to Pakistan. The Jordanian-born leader of “Al Qaeda in Iraq,” Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, was killed by U.S. forces in June. But his successor, Abu Hamza al-Muhajer, declared in late September that since 2003, four thousand foreign fighters (i.e.: non-Iraqis) affiliated with his cause have died waging their terror campaign against Iraqi civilians, as well as against U.S. and coalition armed forces in Iraq. Violence directed toward officials of the U.S.-allied Karzai government in Afghanistan, and against N.A.T.O. troops assisting there, has been greater in 2006 than at any time since 2001. Much support for these insurgents comes from Pakistani tribal areas, regions from which Pakistan’s armed forces agreed in early September to pull out this year after its U.S.-allied (?) government announced a most unhelpful “truce.” In Thailand and in the Philippines, jihadist Muslim extremist groups allied with Al Qaeda continue brutal insurgencies that have de-stabilized both pro-U.S. governments. In short, from the eastern Middle East to Southeast Asia, terrorist-led insurgencies and outright wars directed against allies of the U.S. are far from defeated.
Nor is the problem posed by international Muslim jihadists getting smaller even in Iraq. Recently, U.S. Major General William Caldwell, chief military spokesman for our forces in Iraq, stated that between 50 and 70 new non-Iraqi fighters have entered Iraq each month, and that U.S. and coalition troops have captured 630 of these guys just this year. One such infiltrator was Omar al-Farouq, an Al Qaeda terrorist who had escaped from a prison cell at the Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan in July 2005. Mr. al-Farouq was a Kuwaiti, but he had been detained in 2002 in Indonesia for plotting attacks across Southeast Asia, and had been transferred to U.S. custody in Afghanistan. DNA tests now show conclusively that he died September 25 near Basra, Iraq, killed by British commandos. Almost certainly, Mr. al-Farouq entered Iraq after traveling across Iran, yet the same people who want us quickly to exit Iraq also oppose us doing anything effective to stop The Islamic Republic of Iran from acquiring nuclear capabilities that it may share with its terrorist friends.
The international infiltrators we don’t catch or kill often become the terrorists who commit the worst attacks on innocent Iraqi civilians whose death toll has been staggering. Clearly, global jihadists who made bloodbaths of each earlier pre-election period in Iraq have not slackened in their will to further undermine democratization in Iraq during our election season. Iraqi democracy is in a free-fall both from this terror and from vicious sectarian violence among fellow Iraqis. Only in Kurdish areas of the country does a strong majority favor the continued presence of U.S. troops. Morale also is slipping within the coalition, as was illustrated by the October 12 public declaration by Gen. Richard Dannatt, the British commander of their 7000 troops, who stated that we should “get ourselves out.” The 119 dead British troops in the Iraq war, 2003-2006, apparently have been too high a price to pay. Yet, if they withdraw, will Iraqi Armed Forces be up to the task of stopping more terrorists from slipping unmolested across Iran and into Iraq?
This is the context in which we must evaluate the simple and sincere desire to bring the troops home. Home to what will they come? Some would have it be to a victory parade. That actually was the gist of a September 2006 James Fallows article in the respected Atlantic Monthly: we should “declare victory,” then “redeploy” to Fortress America. Fallows was serious. But with Osama bin Laden and his minions still on the loose, and with their Afghan ally, the Taliban, resurgent, it is hard to imagine an America that will take such suggestions seriously. For as surely as a Taliban-run Afghanistan was the safe-haven from which Osama organized the 9/11 attacks on America, we just as surely will come to regret allowing either Iraq or Afghanistan to become safe-havens for terrorists now.
And yet, retreat in defeat may have its day. Even the U.S. Congress recently took steps toward getting on part of this bandwagon. It authorized funds to build 700 more miles of fencing to guard the Mexican border, … leaving nearly 1300 other miles there, and the entire Canadian-U.S. border virtually wide open. Apparently, even our Republican Congress believes more in thrift than in comprehensive steps toward a more secure homeland.
Will anyone be surprised if calls for a negotiated end to the entire Global War on Terrorism soon follow November’s verdict from the voters? Future generations will not judge kindly our inability to persist to achieve a difficult, but necessary, victory.
4000 dead internationalist “martyrs” claimed by Al Qaeda in Iraq: Associated Press, ““Zarqawi Successor Exhorts Scientists; Tape Urges Experts to Join Fight in Iraq,” Washington Post (Sept. 29, 2006).
Jihadists entering and being captured in Iraq in 2006: Peter Grier, “Iraq War Draws Foreign Jihadists, But Not in Droves,” Christian Science Monitor, (October 3, 2006).
Omar al-Farouq story: “DNA Shows Dead Man Was al-Qaida Militant,” Forbes online (October 10, 2006): http://www.forbes.com/business/commerce/feeds/ap/2006/10/10/ap3080474.html
British general’s comment: Washington Post (Oct. 13, 2006): http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/10/13/AR2006101300102.htmlJames Fallows’ article: http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/prem/200609/fallows_victory
Prof. Bowen's Terrorism Weblog: September 25, 2006
Over the line: probing officials' religious "identity" poisons American community. Am I the only one sick to death of the news media's attempts to justify any personal question to a candidate for public office simply by making of a claim that the answer could be newsworthy? The U.S. Senate race here in Virginia has gotten especially ugly in this regard, as I argue in a new editorial published today. I don't care, and I hope voters don't care, what faith tradition guided our grandparents, godparents, or anyone else in our lives. What matters in elections are the burning issues of public concern about which elected officials must take positions as they do the public's business.
Read the vacuous justifications for prying, personal questions offered by the news reporter I refer to in the editorial by following this link (scroll down to subhead: "The Jewish Question").
Prof. Bowen's Terrorism Weblog: September 18, 2006
Secret prison camps and state secrets. Pres. Bush's revelation on Sept. 15th that the U.S. has in fact operated secret prisons in which terrorism detainees have been held is certain to stir controversy. Without sound information about terrorists' plans, the U.S. is more vulnerable to future attack, Bush argued. From these sound motives a less flattering edifice of policy has been erected, one which our critics will exploit. In this vein, Tom Malinowski, the director of Human Rights Watch, argued today in the Washington Post that the U.S. has been employing techniques of sleep deprivation that were refined by the Soviet regime of Josef Stalin.
That characterization, along with requisite quotations from respected conservative authors Robert Conquest and Alexandr Solzhenitsyn --who also was a victim--, must be met head on. While it is true that the Soviets employed sleep deprivation during interrogations, they did so within a menu of far more grisly tortures. Detainees in the Soviet "gulag" understood that, if confessions did not spill forth from them under all night interrogations, then bones might be broken, or freezing regimes employed, to wring confessions from them. The Soviet state valued little the actual content of a confession: it was the fact that the will of the detainee could be broken that was sought. Jailing in Stalin's U.S.S.R. never required truthful evidence, or justifiable verdicts. The entire process of torturing, in other words, served entirely different purposes than the measured steps of discomfort that seem to have been employed by the U.S. at secret facilities.
Worse, however, may have been done with prisoners in the current war on terrorism who were handed over to allies for questioning, under the policy of "extraordinary rendition." But we must be honest about all of it, both the part done by U.S. employees, and by our allies. It is refreshing in that sense that U.S. officials finally are making parts of this sordid story clear. It is troubling to read that any of these approaches to acquiring intelligence may have been used by the U.S. in the Global War on Terrorism. A full accounting of what has been done, and what standard practices continue, is needed in order to put perspective onto the sensational revelations we have heard thus far. If in truth basic American standards widely and repeatedly have been forsaken, our people will find a way to say that is unacceptable.
In this spirit, I call attention to the recent book by Fawaz A. Gerges, The Far Enemy (Cambridge University Press, 2005). Gerges' main focus is to convey the complex divisions that exist within the community of Muslims who have taken up violence against the West and against local pro-Western rulers. In conveying his story, a dizzying array of groups and movements are surveyed. Somewhat annoyingly, Gerges also peppers nearly every page with barrages of questions, most of which get answered only eventually. But the book has value: among the other insights he tenders is the view that the intelligence the U.S. has wrung from high value Al Qaeda detainees (e.g., Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Ramzi Binalshibh) often presented a self-serving and substantially inaccurate picture. Unclear or false impressions of the Al Qaeda organization from such defendants cannot guide us to a better strategy in the Global War on Terrorism. If what Gerges argues is true of most of the recently acknowledged "secret prisoners," then the debate Americans now are undertaking regarding interrogation techniques, secrecy, secret evidence in trials, and the rest of it may be overdone. If what rough questioning produces is unreliable, then we pragmatists do not need to give a qualified embrace to it "in some circumstances." Useful evidence is not the same as just anything the guy said so we would let him get some sleep. Over bogus leads the U.S. should not squander its reputation. Sometimes the more strident among us have the more sound point: the Geneva Conventions evolved not just to protect enemies. They evolved to protect all of us.
Bush explanation of U.S. policy: Rose Garden speech of Sept. 15: http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2006/09/20060915-2.html
Commentaries on this controversy made by the Editorial boards of the Washington Post, New York Times, and Los Angeles Times are presented at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/linkset/2005/04/11/LI2005041100879.html
Tom Malinowski, Director of Human Rights Watch, "Call Cruelty What it Is," Washington Post (Sept. 18, 2006): A17.
Prof. Bowen's Terrorism Weblog: September 12, 2006
Knowing our enemy. At war five years, we remain. In a new editorial today, I assess the ledger of pluses and minuses. Read it online at the News Leader or read this scan of the editorial from the print version of that Gannett paper.
Prof. Bowen's Terrorism Weblog: September 7, 2006
Five years. Americans are impatient, and at times a confused, people it seems. One poll after another recently has shown ill ease in the public about our three year war in Iraq. Growing numbers doubt the bona fides even of the threat alerts about terrorism released by the Government. More than a third of all Americans subscribe to the view that our government had a hand in 9/11. This trend is heading in a direction that is, to put it bluntly, nuts. At a time when key allies Britain and Israel remain under evident terrorist siege, I find this mood among Americans more than odd. But the polls speak for themselves. What do they mean? To answer that, we will all have to wrestle with some unsettling sides of our political culture. Two recent polls to consult:
Time Magazine Poll on screwball conspiracies Americans believe: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1531304,00.html
Prof. Bowen's Terrorism Weblog: August 30, 2006
Red Cross and media shenanigans. Neutrals in war zones are supposed to be just that: neutral. Aiding the injured, or reporting events, these are not supposed to be moments of advocacy... unless, apparently, one works for the Red Crescent, the Lebanon affiliate of the International Committee of Red Cross (ICRC). The recent war in Lebanon has provided the latest evidence of active advocacy by Red Crescent. By staging news that presents only a partial picture of the actual situation, this organization echoes the worst side of the behavior of its parent, the international NGO known worldwide as the ICRC. Despite its pristine reputation, the ICRC also has some skeletons in its closet. For more than a half century, the ICRC barred Israel's equivalent, the Magen David Adom organization, from membership. In June 2006, the ICRC finally admitted Magen David Adom into the ICRC, after a long campaign of advocacy on behalf of Magen David Adom's case that was made by the American Red Cross and the U.S. Government. Muslim and Arab states, the centers of resistance to treating the humanitarians from the Jewish state differently, led the votes against inclusion for decades, but they finally lost this year. But not that much has changed on the ground: bias against Israel still guides a partisan Red Crescent and ICRC representatives on the ground in Lebanon. Yesterday, Carolyn Glick of the Jerusalem Post demonstrated, in "Terrorist Theater Tricks," how a clever media strategy by Hezbollah, in combination with anti-Israel bias among aid workers and reporters, worked to create a substantially false impressions of humanitarian conditions on the ground in Lebanon during the recent conflict there. Fortunately, watchdog bloggers are out there keeping track of the ICRC's and the media's (e.g., Reuters') shenanigans. But a largely clueless international press continues to fail to report on the ways terrorists, and partisan NGOs, are manipulating the news the world sees from this corner of the Global War on Terrorism.
Read about the long struggle to admit Mogen David Adom to the ICRC by following this link to this piece in the August 31, 2006 Washington Post.
Read the relevant U.N. Resolution on the 2006 fighting in Lebanon:
1701 (August 11, 2006): http://daccessdds.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/N06/465/03/PDF/N0646503.pdf?OpenElement
Prof. Bowen's Terrorism Weblog: August 28, 2006
War tactics weigh on allies and Americans. With the Fall election debate increasingly turning into a bidding contest in which candidates attempt to top one another by promising how quickly our troops can be withdrawn from Iraq, those of us who support carrying on the war against Islamist extremism until the mission is complete at times find ourselves in an awkward predicament. We favor fighting the Islamist terrorists abroad rather than in the streets here, an idea that should engender more support than it sometimes does. At the same time, supporters of the war need to take care in conveying to skeptics the extent to which we believe killing the bad guys to be an effective overall strategy. In June, the successful targeted killing of terrorist mastermind Abu Musab al-Zarqawi presented both a public relations coup and an opportunity for us to explain better why targeting terrorist leaders makes good sense. For a variety of reasons, the public did not get that message.
No decent person is untroubled by killings; even in war we coarsen who we are by acting as if this is untrue. Indeed, an important measure of a nation can be taken by the content of deliberations that surrounds these wartime decisions to kill. Often, it is only in statesmen's memoirs that we learn, decades later, just how divided those who authorize acts by states are. Thus, I call to readers' attention an excellent article yesterday by Laura Blumenfeld ("In Israel, a Divisive Struggle Over Targeted Killing," Washington Post, August 27, 2006): 1, 12-13). It probed the decision making processes in Israel that surrounded the decision to authorize the killing of Sheikh Yassin, a topic I have discussed several times in this weblog, but about which I now have greater information, thanks to Blumenfeld, information that reinforces my support in 2004 for the targeted killing of that man.
Prof. Bowen's Terrorism Weblog: August 24, 2006
The argument within Islam. While our adversaries would like to present themselves as the voice of one billion Muslims worldwide, a fierce debate is underway inside the tent. Voices of Muslim women have been raised against the Islamists about the whole basis for their confrontation with the West. They join courageous Muslim men who also will not abandon secularism, scientific inquiry, and other human advancements simply because they happen to have developed most (and in many cases originated) in the West. Two accessible resources illustrate arguments that will need to become more broadly influential if the emerging clash of civilizations is to be arrested:
A video debate featuring an Arab American, Los Angeles psychologist Wafa Sultan, on Al Jazeera television. (In Arabic with subtitles, originally distributed courtesy of the Middle East Media Research Institute); and
A new book by one of my colleagues on my recent trip to the Middle East with the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies: Kim Ezra Shienbaum and Jamal Hasan, Beyond Jihad: Critical Voices from Inside Islam (Bethesda MD: Academica Press, 2006). Shienbaum teaches at Rutgers University.
Prof. Bowen's Terrorism Weblog: August 13, 2006
Friends of the Terrorists. Most supporters of Militant Islamist terrorism usually hide in the shadows but, as the London plotters caught this week revealed, there are more of them than we think. Part of our inattention to this 5th column inside Western democracies grows from our public's preoccupation with finding the source of our troubles not in the murderous actions of our real enemies but in the miss-steps of our leaders. Britain's Tony Blair and our George Bush seem to arouse special antipathy among those inclined to the false belief that the terrorists' siege is caused by our actions. What the anti-war crowd ignores is that Al Qaeda and the rest of Militant Islamism were openly waging war on the West years before Bush and Blair responded in 2001 by declaring a Global War on Terrorism. For those who have forgotten, I provide a reminder: a 1983 photo (below) of the site of the murder of 241 U.S. military personnel, chiefly U.S. Marines, by a Hezbollah truck bomber.
Those dead heroes should not be forgotten, and their sacrifice never should be insulted, on American soil at least.
Today, in a published editorial (lined here), I take aim at the dangers posed in U.S. politics by the rising influence of the anti-war Left, both the apparently benign wing that outpolled Sen. Joe Lieberman in Connecticut this week, and their difficult ally, the openly malign wing: the friends of terrorism who are parading this weekend at the White House. Yesterday, they were chanting "Rah, rah, Hezbollah." Does the Democratic Party leadership have to hear cheers for Al Qaeda before they come to their senses and realize that support from this crowd is toxic and will drive voters away in droves?
Published in the News Leader, it can be accessed directly, at: /faculty/gbowen/Bowen2006g.htm
Prof. Bowen's Terrorism Weblog: June 11, 2006
Revenge. This morning I published an OpEd discussing the killing of Zarqawi and the somewhat different approach used by Israel when terrorists can be captured. Readers here could have read this piece on the eighth (below), but the published version now can be read at my news outlet, the News Leader. (If you prefer to read scans of the original, go here).
The column discusses an Israeli victim of terrorism, Yoel Tzur, of the Bet El settlement up on the West Bank. Tzur was kind to invite the Fellowship for the Defense of Democracies fellows (of which I was one) into his home, where he spoke to us about many things, including the December 11, 1996 incident described in my column today. Here is a picture I took of Yoel as he spoke to us six days ago, on June 5, 2006:
News items about my trip to Israel and the West Bank appeared shortly after I returned (i.e., they ran on June 14, 2006), and can be reached through the following links:
Prof. Bowen's Terrorism Weblog: June 8, 2006
Death of Zarqawi. I returned from my trip to Israel and the West Bank to the good news that Abu Musab al Zarqawi, leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq, was killed overnight near Baghdad. My thoughts on this topic are shaped by some of what I learned while in the Middle East since late May. They soon will appear in my published column, but readers here can get the gist now:
How great was the news from Iraq this week: a U.S. air strike has been confirmed to have killed Abu Musab al Zarqawi? Al Qaeda’s leader in Iraq, Zarqawi organized the worst elements of the insurgency U.S. forces have confronted there. Personally, he is widely believed to have beheaded U.S. civilian businessman Nicholas Berg. To a great extent, the sectarian animosity between Iraqi Sunni Muslims and Iraqi Shi’ite Muslims is the result of Zarqawi’s choice to foment such hatred through suicide bombing after suicide bombing.
Post-Saddam Iraq hardly needed these services from this Jordanian terrorist who became the public face most seen as Al Qaeda’s top leaders have faded into their distant hiding places. Zarqawi, a man of action, posed with weapons and peppered the world’s media with his taunts; his grisly crimes dominated the uncensored, sensation-seeking internet. A Bush Administration that has struggled to present good news about its Iraq policy finally had some to present: under two U.S. five hundred pound bombs, on June 8 came his fitting end, or so it would seem.
But before the cheering gets too enthusiastic, we should consider what was lost in turning this truly bad guy into toast. While it satisfies a visceral craving for revenge, the most sound U.S. policy may not always, or even often, be made by feeding this urge. Consider what facts a captured and interrogated Zarqawi might have revealed: how many others might have been stopped from doing evil?
A friend of mine is among the inner circle of the Berg family, and through him I have learned that after the gruesome May 2004 beheading, the relentless airing of video of Nicholas Berg’s last moments greatly pained them. Now that Zarqawi is dead, where do you think all the media turned up? CNN and the other dogs of the news again were yipping at this family, scraping open again wounds no private American should have to bandage so repeatedly in public. Michael Berg, when set upon by this pack, was widely reported to have volunteered this view: "I think the news of the loss of any human being is a tragedy. I think al-Zarqawi's death is a double tragedy. His death will incite a new wave of revenge."
The senior Berg is a pacifist, and U.S. policy in a time of war is not always wisely guided by such sentiments. But sound policy also is not always best informed by the urge to smack the bad guys with a bomb. On June 5th, I sat in the living room of another victim of terror, Yoel Tzur, at his home in Bet El, a community of Jews living on the largely Arab-inhabited West Bank that still is under Israel’s occupation. Tzur spoke of the December 1996 night when 49 bullets crashed through the metal of his car as he drove home, disabling it and killing his wife, Etta, and his 12 year old son, Ephraim. He told of the aftermath, of the pointlessness he felt in dwelling on revenge, and of the importance he placed on creating as normal a life as possible for his remaining children, all of whom had been wounded and traumatized in the same attack, even though "each day I felt half dead." The men who ambushed the Tzur family once were arrested, sentenced to life terms, but inexplicably had been released by the corrupt entity the late Yasser Arafat once led, the Palestinian Authority. Did these two guys, Ibrahim Alikam and Ibrahim Hani, occupy space in his mind, Tzur was asked? Calmly, directly, this powerfully built middle-aged man answered in a single word: "No."
I left Israel a day or two later, and the morning that the news blared of Zarqawi’s killing a small additional item crossed my eye. The same day we killed our nemesis in Iraq, Israel finally captured the killers of Yoel Tzur’s family. Certainly, there will now be a real trial, and a real sentence for those two gunmen tardily will be imposed. But the sentences available when they do meet justice will not include Zarqawi’s: the laws of Israel do not permit a court to issue a death sentence.
Between now and that day, one can be certain that the same skills that enabled the capture of these two Ibrahims will be enlisted to learn just exactly how they evaded arrest for ten years, who helped them, and how. Through such knowledge I am willing to bet other terrorists will be captured, interrogated, and further cells of bad guys will be broken up. Perhaps one of the Ibrahims will cut a deal to shorten his jail time in this process, and in some narrow reckoning, that might be seen as a miscarriage of justice.
"An eye for an eye" clearly comes from texts basic to both Israeli and American identity. After engaging in serious conversations with Israeli security experts in the region this May and June, it is my conclusion that our partners in the war on terrorism– and from where I sit that appears to include few other than Israel – seem to have transcended that temptation. In a war on terrorism, winning the war may require some finesse, a quality undeveloped if we feed first our urge for revenge.
The Tzur story appeared June 8 in the Jerusalem Post online, a newspaper where links go dead quickly. Read it soon at: http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull&cid=1149572637895
Prof. Bowen's Terrorism Weblog: June 7, 2006
I returned from Israel today and it was an eyeopener at many levels. Some of these are contained in my May 27 editorial. Beyond that, among the interesting things that I did were:
Far from being on vacation, I have just had unusual access to very unusual things, some of which are never to be forgotten. The Israelis are the most open, vibrant, positive, and pro-American people I ever have encountered. Their country is beautiful, a testament to the power of individuals to work together to create a state worthy of the rich history and traditions of their faith and the area.
I also squeezed in some tourism, visiting Roman coastal ruins and a city revered by three religions, Jerusalem. It is the most awe inspiring city and the Western Wall of the Temple is powerful. Tel Aviv, where I stayed on the beach, is awesome in a more modern way. Together, they represent a people with one foot firmly linking this people to the place, and the other foot lifted as in a stride to the future. It is a must place to visit for Americans tired of the hostile way we sometimes are regarded abroad. Israelis have genuine affection for Americans, and after visiting it is my hope that you will have similar feelings for Israel.
Prof. Bowen's Terrorism Weblog: May 27, 2006
Fact finding. Today I leave on a ten day trip to Israel to study that nation's responses to terrorism. My trip is sponsored by the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, a Washington D.C. based think tank with whom I will be affiliated as an Academic Fellow for the next year. I will try to keep readers posted regarding what I observe and learn, but internet access to do so may be elusive. Once I return to the U.S., I will share my views with readers of this weblog and my newspaper column. In the interim, readers interested in my current thoughts on the topic of militant Islamist terrorism can reflect on arguments made in this article, which is a longer version of one scheduled to appear in the Fall issue of the Southeast Review of Asian Studies.
Prof. Bowen's Terrorism Weblog: May 22, 2006
Terror strategist emerges from the shadows. In recent years, "self starter" cells of international jihadists, rather than operatives sent by Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda, have been responsible for the most deadly attacks on Western sites in London, Madrid, and other places. This evolution in the enemy has made success more difficult for a U.S. counter-terrorist strategy focused on capturing or killing the leadership of that organization. Today, Craig Whitlock of the Washington Post has brought to public attention the leading theoretician of this post-Al Qaeda evolution of international jihadism: Mustafa Setmarian Nasar, a Syrian-Spanish theoretician captured in Quetta, Pakistan in October 2005. Nasar, a veteran of the 1980s uprising against Baathist Syria, authored under the pseudonym Abu Musab al-Suri an internet guide for self-starter terrorists called "The Call for a Global Islamic Resistance." I have not yet located a translated copy of this document, but Whitlock's article gives new depth to this important evolution in the nature of the enemy confronting the West. I recommend it.
For further reading I also recommend:
Nasar's capture and his thinking have been analyzed earlier by the excellent counter-terrorism website Counterterrorismblog. Their counterterrorism library is an especially valuable resource for studying jihadist terrorism and how to fight it.
The jihadist actions to which Nasar seems to have been the intellectual guru led to cogent earlier analyses by several Western experts, including:
International Institute for Strategic Studies, "The Jihad: Change and Continuation," Strategic Comments 11, 7 (London: International Institute for Strategic Studies, September 2005): http://www.iiss.org and
Peter Chalk, Bruce Hoffman, et. al. "Trends in Terrorism: Threats to the U.S. and the Future of the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act," Rand Corporation publication No. MG-393-CTRMP (Santa Monica CA: Rand Corporation, 2005); and
Russell D. Howard (Brig. Gen., U.S. Army - retired), "Understanding Al Qaeda's Application of the New Terrorism -- The Key to Victory in the Current Campaign," in Russell Howard and Reid L. Sawyer, eds., Terrorism and Counterterrorism second edition (Dubuque, IA: McGraw-Hill, 2006): 91-106.
The earliest publication I have found to have had its finger on the pulse of this important change, "The Brotherhood of Global Jihad," was written by Israeli counter-terrorism expert Reuven Paz in 2001.
Prof. Bowen's Terrorism Weblog: May 7, 2006
Democracy, terrorism, and U.S. interests. Can democracy promotion reinforce U.S. security policy in the Middle East? Doubts are growing after the Palestinian elections in January. In a new editorial published this morning in Gannett's News Leader, I assess the trends.
To access all my editorials, follow this link.
Prof. Bowen's Terrorism Weblog: April 8, 2006
Iran: learn from mistakes with Iraq. In a new editorial published this morning in Gannett's News Leader, I argue that the recent unanimous condemnation of Iran's nuclear ambitions by the U.N. Security Council should be seen as a helpful step, but not the only needed step, if protection of U.S. security interests is to be achieved. Read it at the News Leader website, or read a scan of the actual newspaper editorial here.
Prof. Bowen's Terrorism Weblog: April 7, 2006
Rice on Hamas: no aid until it recognizes Israel, and renounces terror. Yesterday, I wrote here of some of the reasons why the U.S. should end its aid to the Palestinian Authority (P.A.), a topic I will continue to focus on in coming weeks. Today, in Washington, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice stated that this is exactly what U.S. policy now will be. After stating that U.S. humanitarian aid and aid to civil society groups will continue, she cut the P.A. off cold:
"... Because the new Hamas-led Palestinian government has failed to accept the Quartet principles of non-violence, recognition of Israel and respect for previous agreements between the parties, the United States is suspending assistance to the Palestinian government’s cabinet and ministries.
The new Palestinian government must take responsibility for the consequences of its policies. ..."
Neither the U.S. government, nor I, want to see the Palestinian people needlessly suffering. That is why the U.S. will continue this year to provide $245 million in humanitarian aid (up 57 percent over last year), distributed through U.N. agencies, and will support non-P.A. civil society projects to the tune of $42 million. But all supporters of a just peace in the Middle East should be pleased to see that the U.S. intends to continue to build a foundation for its policies in support of the principles agreed upon in the existing peace agreements entered into by the parties in 1993. Terror must not be rewarded 13 years after the Palestinian leaders agreed to terms for peace. Every U.S. taxpayer should be delighted that U.S. funds no longer will go to the P.A., until the Hamas-led parliament renounces violence and accepts the obligations undertaken when the P.A. signed the 1993 Oslo Accords. Until a more reasonable set of leaders are chosen to speak for the Palestinians, the Palestinian side in the often touted "peace process" will have to raise its lunch money elsewhere.
Follow this link to read Secretary Rice's statement in its entirety.
Prof. Bowen's Terrorism Weblog: April 6, 2006
Democracy and U.S. security. How should we react to the January 2006 election of the Palestinian militant movement Hamas to lead the legislature of the Palestinian Authority? Until recently, this sort of possibility was so hard to imagine that few contemplated such contingencies. Democracies are supposed to emerge from the good sense of voters. A Jeffersonian belief in the wisdom of the common man long has guided Americans to be confident in the moderation of persons able to persuade a majority of their peers to give them their votes. Academics have imagined world peace to naturally coincide with broadening of democratic processes, for as one historian memorably put it democracies are "Never At War" (Spencer Weart).
Until now. Since its election, Hamas officials have refused categorically to end their opposition to the 1993 peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, and have refused to consider amending their founding Charter, which calls for the complete destruction of Israel. Despite this, some believe that the Bush Administration is wrong to have demanded Hamas renounce violence and accept the 1993 agreements as minimum starting points for progress to be made. Absent this, the U.S. has stated that it will terminate all USAID aid to the Palestinian territories, aid which has amounted to over $1.3 billion since 1975 (i.e., as documented at page 16 of linked CRS study).
Is this warranted simply because Hamas is a deadly enemy of our friend, Israel? No. It is warranted because no U.S. Government can long enjoy public confidence if it aids a terrorist organization that targets Americans. Hamas has a long record of killing Americans, of being involved in support activities of others who kill Americans, and in other ways is a proven enemy of the U.S. No matter what Hamas leaders say, it is what Hamas members have done, that defines current U.S. reluctance to engage with them. They are the Palestinian section of the international networks of militant Islam. Consider these facts:
1. Hamas backs terrorists who have attacked the U.S. as early as 1993: In 1996, at an Islamic convention about Palestine in Illinois, Abdurahman Muhammad Alamoudi, a U.S. naturalized U.S. citizen and fundraiser for Hamas, called for the release of Blind Sheikh Omar Abdul Rahman. Rahman had been convicted of plotting to bomb the Lincoln and Holland Tunnels in New York City, and he was implicated in the first bombing of the World Trade Center. Not coincidentally, there are further common roots, in the Muslim Brotherhood: Rahman was a member before founding his still more radical offshoot, as were most of Hamas original leadership.
2. In October 2000, at a rally in Washington DC, Alamoudi in a speech on behalf of Hamas --i.e. after six years of suicide/homicide bombings by the group-- declared “we are all Hamas” to a cheering crowd of supporters. Alamoudi, was subsequently convicted and sentenced to 23 years in federal prison for his involvement as a Libyan agent in a plot to kill a key politician in a U.S. ally, the Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. Detained after being caught in London trying to take $360,000 onto a flight to Syria, Alamoudi ultimately admitted to involvement in the crimes.
Sources on two items above:
Free Republic: http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1250622/posts
U.S. District Court documents: http://files.findlaw.com/news.findlaw.com/hdocs/docs/terrorism/usalamoudi93003cmp.pdf
3. On Dec. 17, 2001, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) released a joint manifesto declaring that "Americans are the enemies of the Palestinian people [and] a target for future attacks." The following day, Hamas leaders issued a statement declaring that "Americans [are] now considered legitimate targets as well as Israelis."
Source: National Post (Canada: Oct. 18, 2003): 17.
4. In March 2003, Sheikh Yassin, spiritual head of Hamas in Gaza, openly called on all Muslims to go to war against the U.S.: “if Iraq is conquered, Jihad will be the personal obligation of every Muslim man and woman, and there will be no alternative to Muslims threatening the interests of the hostile Americans and Westerners and striking at them everywhere." In that same communiqué, he urged American Muslims to resist U.S. policy in Iraq.
Source: Middle East Media Research Institute http://memri.org/bin/articles.cgi?Page=archives&Area=sd&ID=SP47903
5. Abigail Litle (photo below), an American of 14 years of age who lived in Haifa, Israel, was riding in a bus. She and 16 others, including eight other school children, died on March 5, 2003 at the hands of a Hamas bomber near Sderot Moriah. Fifty-three others were injured. Litle was a devout Baptist.
Sources: Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs: http://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA/Terrorism-+Obstacle+to+Peace/Memorial/2003/Abigail+Litle.htm
Litle family commemorative website: http://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA/Terrorism-+Obstacle+to+Peace/Memorial/2003/Abigail+Litle.htm
6. At Kiryet Aba (near Hebron) U.S. citizen Dina Wolf Horowitz was murdered on Friday March 7, 2003. Horowitz, age 49, and her husband, U.S. citizen Eliahu, were shot dead by a Hamas gunman while observing Shabbat at home. The gunmen were killed later by Israeli forces. Dina Horowitz's death should be especially of interest here at Mary Baldwin College (an all women's institution): Dina Horowitz was a teacher at an all girls’ school.
Sources: Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs: http://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA/Terrorism-+Obstacle+to+Peace/Memorial/2003/Dina+Horowitz.htm and
IMRA (Israel): http://www.imra.org.il/story.php3?id=16082
7. On April 30, 2003, Asif Mohammed Hanif, a British citizen turned into a suicide-bomber adjacent to the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv, Israel on April 30, 2003. He later appeared on a Hamas videotape explaining why he was going to that area to kill young Israelis. The bomb and his training were openly acknowledged to have come from Hamas. One of the persons he killed was a French national, Dominique Hass, 29. Israelis Ran Baron, 23, and Yanai Weiss, 46, also perished; over 50 were wounded. Hanif was stopped by Israeli security guard Avi Tabib before he could enter the “Mike’s Place” nightclub (his target), where many Americans and Israelis (and others) were dancing. Tabib was among those seriously wounded. Hamas officially took responsibility for this attack, claiming it was in retaliation for the Israeli assassination of Hamas official Ibrahim al-Makadme a few days earlier. This bombing and its impact on those who witnessed it are chronicled in the film “Blues by the Beach.” (Follow this link to a video summarizing this event).
Source: Haaretz, August 3, 2004 and other sources.
8. October 15, 2003: 3 American private security personnel working for DynCorp and employed by the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv who were accompanying U.S. diplomats were killed in Gaza when a bomb was set off as their armored motorcade of Chevrolet Suburbans passed by. The convoy was on its way to interview Palestinian applicants for Fulbright scholarships in the U.S. Hamas denied involvement on the day of the killings, and a splinter group called “Popular Resistance Committees” stepped forward to claim the act. But suspicions linger as Hamas was and is the strongest militant organization in the area where the bombing occurred. This bomb was planted and set off deliberately: it was not a land mine that any vehicle could have triggered. Only Americans used Suburbans at the time, so it is likely that the attack was deliberate. Though the U.S. offered a $5 million reward for information on the killers, no one has yet collected it. Such is the solidarity of Palestinians when the issue is protecting the murderers of Americans.
Source: various press reports from that and subsequent days.
9. Four Palestinians connected to a local cell of the “Popular Resistance Committees” (PRC) subsequently were arrested by the P.A. in regard to the October 2003 attack on U.S. personnel, though the U.S. expressed doubt that the men were the actual bombers. The “Popular Resistance Committees' ” membership is difficult to pin down, but many were earlier members of Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and other factions in Gaza. In March 2004, a Palestinian court ruled there was insufficient evidence to prosecute them; but they remained jailed. On April 14, 2004, a group of Palestinian militants broke into the jail where they were held and freed three of the four. The case remains unresolved, as do all the others.
Source: Associated Press (April 23, 2004).
10. Thus, in March 2004, when an Israeli missile killed Sheikh Yassin, leader of Hamas, the U.S. understood. On March 26, 2004, the U.S. in the U.N. Security Council vetoed a Resolution to condemn this Israeli action, the 79th veto cast by the U.S. (Britain, Germany, and Romania abstained; all others voted yes).Of course, Hamas primarily has killed Israelis. In March 2004, the source Debka from Israel reported that 40% of all Israeli deaths caused by Palestinians during the current Intifada were committed by Hamas operatives, accounting for 407 deaths in the Second Intifada (i.e., after Sept. 2000). But Hamas also has killed Americans. Much as no aid to Hezbollah can feasibly be billed to a U.S. Congress still filled with those who remember the deaths of 241 American Marines at Beirut in 1983, so should proposals to aid Hamas now be viewed. Politically, aid to Hamas is dead in the water. Congress will not need to be convinced to support Bush's Palestinian policy: cutting aid to the Palestinian Authority is the only decent thing to do.
Source: Associated Press (March 26, 2004).
Prof. Bowen's Terrorism Weblog: March 21, 2006
Some valuable resources. From time to time I come across valuable archives, analyses based on captured documents of our enemies, and other resources the give us a clearer picture of the war we are engaged in. Here are several that should get wider attention:
An excellent article by Stephen Hayes (Weekly Standard, March 27, 2006 issue), that details the pre-war relationship between Iraq and the Al Qaeda-tied group Abu Sayyaf in the Philippines.
An archive of documents captured in the war in Iraq, detailing various matters about the operations of the Saddam dictatorship, its ties to global terrorist groups, and its own terrorist operations. Operated by the U.S. Department of Defense, Foreign Military Studies Office.
An archive of documents on Al Qaeda (e.g., their "Constitutional Charter") captured at various times, provided by the Combating Terrorism Center at the U.S. Army military academy at West Point.
A chart with footnotes linked to nearly all its sources, detailing the declining financial costs to Al Qaeda of terrorist bombings from 9.11, to Turkey (Nov. 2003), to Spain (March 2004), to London (July 2005). This document was created by me to illustrate a point in a current lecture/draft article.
An editorial by Rita Katz (Boston Globe, March 13, 2006) on the meaning of the sudden disappearance of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq.
Prof. Bowen's Terrorism Weblog: March 2, 2006
Ties among the terrorists: connecting some dots. Each time a new terrorist incident happens, a search begins to find the perpetrators of what seems to be a unique crime. Yet, looked at more broadly, each time a new terrorist incident happens, more evidence mounts that the real enemy we confront is not a tight knit organization that commits crimes -- as the name "al Qaeda" would have it-- but a looser association of individuals, clandestine groups, above-ground political parties, an assortment of social leaders, and a disturbingly large number of on-again, off-again followers who commit acts of war. There is a common denominator, though: Militant Islam is what joins the parts together, and in fact is the real enemy, as I argue in this linked essay. Prima facie, the troubling evidence keeps growing. Here are some tie-ins, some obvious, and some that ought to be more obvious:
Court records clearly have established that Ramzi Yousef and the "blind sheik" Omar Abdel Rahman plotted and executed the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center. No court yet has confirmed to the same level of certainty that it was Yousef's uncle, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who was the mastermind of the 9.11.01 attacks on the same building. But as the Report of the 9/11 Commission (2004) has shown, Ramzi's uncle Khalid did plan Act II, and whether it was for the movement or for the family is somewhat beside the point. Only the latter attack is widely perceived as an "al Qaeda" attack, but both are a symptoms of the "new terrorism" that flows from militant Islamism. Longstanding membership cards weren't required to attack the Twin Towers either time: Yousef et.al. acted without the name brand "al Qaeda" association; the captain of the 9.11 hijackers, Mohammed Atta, only pledged allegiance to Al Qaeda's leader Osama bin Laden a short time before undertaking the operation.
The attacks on London's subways and buses in July 2005 shocked the Brits almost as much as 9/11 shocked Americans, principally because the perpetrators, while of Pakistani heritage, were raised in the U.K. Nothing more disturbs Western publics than evidence that there is both an internal threat in the West and that it now is homegrown. But, while the London bombers had traveled to Pakistan apparently to learn more advanced arts of terror, they learned who to hate through their study of Militant Islamist ideology of terror in merry old England.
Terrorism seems to be following a several step, two way flow. First, tolerant Britain's openness is taken advantage of by Militant Islamist extremists to spread hate. The jihadists they lure into the movement then move on along the network, travelling to lawless areas in the Muslim world (e.g., Pakistan, Gaza, and the battlegrounds of Chechnya and Iraq) for further training and sometimes to engage in terrorist acts. Now, the human costs these killers exact are starting to land, east and west. Consider Asif Mohammed Hanif, the middle class Briton from from Hounslow, west London, who abruptly turned into a suicide-bomber near the U.S. consulate in Tel Aviv, Israel on April 30, 2003. Three died when he blew himself up outside the "Mike's Place" nightclub there. But, where did the "vacationing" Hanif come up with his sophisticated explosives, for his bomb differed from those typically employed by the Palestinian group, Hamas? Often, the trail points to established groups. On several occasions Hezbollah, the Iran-backed, Lebanon-based Shi'a militia has used foreign passport holders, or forged passports of Western states, to conduct international bombings. This common thread led one expert about religious terror groups, Magnus Ranstorp, initially to describe the "Mike's Place" attack as having "a Hizballah [i.e., the Iran-backed, Lebanon-based political party and terrorist group] modus operandi." It seems he was at most half right: Hanif and his friend, Omar Khan Sharif, of Derby (U.K.) later turned up on a Hamas-produced "martyr's video" to explain the act of murder they were about to commit. Had Hezbollah, the Shi'ite extremists, begun working with Hamas, the Sunni extremists? Follow this link for a brief, 5 minute excerpt from "Cult of the Suicide Bombers" about the heroic Israeli, Avi Tabib, who prevented a worse outcome at Mike's that night, and about the bombers.
Abu Hamza al-Masri's Finsbury Park mosque in North London guided shoe bomber Richard Reid along with many of these other British Islamists. It was there that many of the members of another U.K. based 2003 terrorist ring said their prayers. In Manchester, U.K., Kamel Bourgass --who conspired with several others to produce the deadly poison ricin in a London apartment-- later was convicted and received a 17 year sentence for that offense. But Bourgass most is remembered as the murderer of police detective Stephan Oake, one of the first British public safety officials to die in the War on Terrorism. Oake was stabbed eight times while trying to serve a search warrant on the ring's Manchester flat; three other police officers also were knifed that day, but survived. Of the other eight conspirators with Bourgass, all eight had charges dropped or were acquitted by jaded juries. (Follow this link for the other ricin ring members names and profiles; or this one to learn more about the further attempts of one member to, you guessed it, stay in the U.K.).
So, in a very patterned way, it is fitting that Hanif and his accomplice, Omar Khan Sharif, both attended lectures on Islamic sharia law at Finsbury Park mosque while studying at university. When Sharif, a married father of two, returned to his wealthy home in Derby (England) after studying at London University, he had taken to wearing Middle Eastern clothes and required his wife to wear a burqa. His siblings were busy establishing a Muslims-only day care facility there at the time of his disappearance. Were these changes in a formerly secular group of Pakistani immigrants from Kashmir part of Omar's engineering curriculum? No. Lessons learned somewhere else in London -- Finsbury Park?-- guided this part of his journey, as well as its next stop at "paradise" via a short blast with his friend Hanif at "Mike's Place." Though Sharif backed out of setting off his own bomb, his body turned up just as dead anyway.
All just isolated incidents, traces in the sand? So, it probably is only a coincidence that Mohammed Sadique Khan, the ringleader of the July 2005 London suicide bombings, was reported to have visited Isreal just prior to Sharif and Hanif's act of murder. And since no court has proven it, it is probably just speculation to note that Khan traveled to Pakistan for a three month stay, November-February 2005, then returned to play a part in killing over 50 Britons just five months later. How gullible we must be to assume that Hanif and his accomplice Sharif studied only the peaceful verses in Islam when booking it at one of the madrassas in Damascus just before visiting Gaza, then "Mike's Place." The gullible see only an entirely innocent tourist junket in Khan's oddly lengthy "vacation" in Pakistan. But dots are emerging that look enough like a pattern to some: Finsbury Park no longer is led by the spiritual guidance of Mr. Hamza: a jury gave him a long jail sentence for inciting murder last month.
While the law takes one slow step forward, how many steps are our stealthy enemies taking?
Debka (June 3, 2003)
Time (European edition, April 2003)
ABC News (July 18, 2005)
BBC (Sept. 15, 2005; Sept 19, 2005; May 1, 2003).
9/11 Commission Report (2004), p. 73
I recommend to all an excellent new article on Hezbollah entitled "Terrorists at the Gates" by Michael I. Krauss & Peter J. Pham. It appeared in late January 2006 at the National Review online. It can be read at the website of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.
Prof. Bowen's Terrorism Weblog: February 21, 2006
Cartoon Wars, part 2. In a new editorial published this morning, I take sharp aim at the political antics behind the smoke screen of protests over cartoon images of the Prophet Mohammad. Read a copy of the original editorial here, or see the enlarged and illustrated version of that editorial, in the Bowen Weblog for Feb. 8, 2006 (or just scroll down from today's entry).
The News Leader (where it was published) seems to have left my byline off the online version of the editorial. I guess that means I now speak for the paper!
Prof. Bowen's Terrorism Weblog: February 8, 2006
Cartoon Wars. Across the Muslim world, demonstrators recently have protested cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad they find offensive. While most of the American press has declined to publish copies of the blasphemous Danish originals, U.S. flags have burned alongside the consulates and products of our European allies. Was Pres. Bush deluding himself when his 2006 “State of the Union” address described radical Islamic men who manipulate such a “rage” into terrorism as “the perversion by a few of a noble faith”?
Searching the internet to view the toxic drawings won’t lead to an answer. But some clear thinking about recent chapters in the growing global “clash of civilizations” might. This is not the first time a raging anger has spilled broadly, from Moroccan streets, to crowds of Muslims in London, from Gaza to Djakarta. Scandalous photos of prisoner abuse at the Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad brought out similar mobs in 2004. Then, last year, reports of desecration of the Koran by interrogators at the U.S. facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, stirred up another frenzy. Now, cartoons mocking the central figure of Islam, the prophet Mohammad, have served as the spark for a third wave of widespread anger, this time directed against symbols of both America and Europe.
We may usefully ask: who benefits from each of these waves of indignation? It is important to emphasize that not all who have been offended, or who have protested, in each instance supported Islamist extremists and their program of anti-Western terrorism. But it is also true that each wave has broadened the appeal of Islamist militant groups who join these moments of indignation to an action strategy for defeat of the West. It is no accident that one London cartoon protester, Omar Khayam (pictured below), donned a bogus suicide bomb belt to show his true colors. Khayam, a convicted heroin dealer out on parole, has since been returned to prison.
In the 1960s and 1970s, leftist radicals called this sort of thing “agit. prop.,” shorthand for agitation propaganda. A July 2005 letter from al Qaeda’s second in command, Ayman al Zawahiri, to the leader of al Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Musab al Zarqawi, stated: “we are in a battle, and that more than half of this battle is taking place in the battlefield of the media. And that we are in a media battle in a race for the hearts and minds of our Umma” (i.e., all Muslims). Thus, waves of contemporary agitation propaganda appear intended to unsettle us, even while each wave ignites feelings of solidarity among potential recruits for terror.
This is why we need to keep our eye on the whole conflict, not just the contrived theater of the streets. Two less noted recent events cast different light on the apparently disconnected relationship between angered masses, calming religious institutions, and the bad guys in the hills plotting terror. First, in London on Feb. 7, Abu Hamza Masri, the religious leader of the Finsbury Park mosque, was convicted of inciting murder. This gentleman is well known to regular readers of the Bowen Weblog: Finsbury Park was first discussed here on January 23, 2003; and the mosque was discussed again on January 30, 2003. Finsbury Park is the mosque where "shoe bomber" Richard Reid learned his Islam, and it is there that two British Muslims, Asif Muhammad and Omar Sharif, worshipped prior to embarking on their personal jihad, a trip that led to Gaza (for training by Hamas) and then to Tel Aviv, Israel, where they blew themselves up outside the Mike’s Place night spot in 2003. Three Israelis died and sixty were injured in that attack. In short, whatever its religious dimension, Finsbury Park mosque under Hamza's direction was a notorious nest of terrorism. Among the items of evidence found in that mosque that persuaded the London court of Hamza’s guilt were a stun gun, gas masks, blank passports, and a 10 volume Encyclopedia of Jihad guiding readers to blow up the Statue of Liberty, the Eiffel Tower, London’s Big Ben, and other Western monuments. Peter Clarke, head of Scotland Yard’s terrorism office, commented “"What place do these things have in a place of worship?"
This takes us to the second mosque-related event that has been lost amid Western anguish about how best to show contrition over offensive cartoons. A mosque in Sanaa, Yemen was used to dig a tunnel as part of a successful al Qaeda jail break there. On February 3, the convicted mastermind of the October 2000 attack on the U.S.S. Cole, Jamal al-Badawi, and at least 12 other al Qaeda fighters escaped by way of a 180 yard long tunnel connecting their prison to the women’s section of a nearby mosque. Seventeen American sailors died in the attack on the Cole; one of the other escapees, Fawaz Yahya al-Rabeei, had a part in the 2002 bombing of the French oil tanker Limburg, in which one of our Bulgarian allies perished. Over several weeks, many truckloads of dirt had to be removed in order to dig such tunnel: if al Qaeda is not being assisted in an organized way by institutions of Islam, what place did such an excavation have in a mosque?As Europe and America struggle to find an effective, common strategy in the war on terrorism, crude stereotypes in political cartoons do not help. But a false confidence about the pacific nature of some Islamic religious institutions can also dangerously mislead us.
Bush “State of the Union, 2006”: http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2006/01/20060131-10.html
London "suicide bomb vest" protester story and picture: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/4687996.stm
Zawahiri letter to Zarqawi, courtesy of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, John Negroponte: http://www.dni.gov/letter_in_english.pdf
Hamza story: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/02/07/AR2006020701623.html
U.S.S. Cole mastermind was Jamal al-Badawi: Report of the 9/11 Commission, page 434
Yemen jail break:http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/02/07/AR2006020700748.html
Prof. Bowen's Terrorism Weblog: February 1, 2006
Presbyterians and terrorists, part 2. Back in Fall 2004, in a published editorial and in this weblog (Nov. 15, 2004, Nov. 17, 2004, Feb. 24, 2005), I drew attention to activities of the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A., in the Middle East. By meeting then with the terrorist organization Hezbollah, and by permitting their official Church delegation to be used in Hezbollah television broadcasts from Lebanon, the Presbyterian Church associated its name and reputation with known enemies of the United States. All of this has been portrayed by the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A. as a component of their fruitless search for Middle East peace. Though some local Presbyterian preachers and others attempted (unconvincingly) to defend the actions of their national organization, by and large the tone of local discourse about the national Church organization's blasé associations with terrorists, and their increasingly anti-Israel actions, has been civil. It was brought out, for example, that the leader of the 2004 Presbyterian mission to Hezbollah subsequently was relieved from further employment at the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A. national headquarters. One step forward.
Meanwhile, the national organization of the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A. has continued publicly to oppose Israel's right to live behind a secure border maintained by a series of barriers impenetrable by suicide bombers, and it has continued to advocate other actions (e.g., divestment in Israel) that are openly hostile to the survival of the Jewish state. I respect the right of this organization to take whatever position it wants on such matters, but again wish publicly to state that I find these positions of the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A. to be deplorable.
Being exposed associating with terrorists also seems to have produced no shame. It has come to my attention that, far from learning from the embarrassment caused by their ill-conceived 2004 junket, the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A. has done it again. On November 23, 2005, the Middle East Media Research Institute reported that "on October 20, 2005, the Lebanese press reported that a delegation from the Presbyterian Church USA, headed by Father Nihad Tu'meh and with Robert Worley as its spokesman, visited southern Lebanon at the invitation of Hizbullah, and met there with the terrorist organization's commander in southern Lebanon, Nabil Qawuq." At that meeting, which again was used to advance Hezbollah's propaganda agenda, Presbyterian spokesperson Worley was quoted as contributing the following insight:
"We do not wish to defend the U.S. administration. We all elected the Democratic Party against the Republican Party. Rest assured that we will return to the U.S. in order to continue our activity for peace, and we want to hear about the charity activities and the cultural and social activities organized by Hizbullah in south [Lebanon]. The Americans hear in the Western media that Hizbullah is a terrorist organization, and they do not hear any other opinion. They know nothing about the party's concern for the people of the south. We have suffered much pressure on the part of Jewish organizations in the U.S. because [of our help in] divesting corporations working with Israel. We want Jerusalem to be a united city, just as we encouraged the Palestinians and the Jews to work for peace, and we demanded that our administration adheres to this position."
If Mr. Worley thinks, and if his fellow Presbyterians think, that the question of Hezbollah's involvement in terrorism is a merely matter of "opinion," I have two suggestions. First, he should read up about Hezbollah's record. One place to start might be with Brig. Gen. (ret.) Russell Howard's 2005 essay, "Understanding Al Qaeda's Application of the New Terrorism," page 96, which says: "Perhaps most troubling is recent evidence that al Qaeda --a Sunni organization-- is now cooperating with Hezbollah, a Shiite group considered by many to be the most sophisticated terrorist organization in the world;" or the Appendix of the book (below) in which that essay appears, pp. 538-539, where the U.S. Department of State describes Hezbollah as being "Known or suspected to have been involved in numerous anti- U.S. terrorist attacks...". Alternatively, the actual story of one dead American can sometimes awaken an open mind, and it is with this hope I direct my misguided Presbyterian neighbors to the Robert Dean Stethem case, which I discuss immediately below this entry. Or perhaps more pragmatic Presbyterians should simply consult the current official list (issued Oct. 11, 2005) of foreign terrorist organizations (or even the 2004 list: Hezbollah is on both!), since it is there that the United States (and not just as Mr. Worley snottily puts it "the U.S. administration") identifies exactly who are the terrorist enemies of the United States as defined by the laws of this country: it is unlawful to provide funds or other material support to any organization on that list. If Mr. Worley gave so much as one dime to his Hezbollah hosts, it is my hope that he gets the opportunity to answer charges pursuant to that law.
Perhaps before joining Mr. Worley in "demanding" anything, some of my Presbyterian neighbors can clarify just exactly what service is rendered to the cause of peace by the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A. repeatedly giving comfort to the terrorist enemies of the United States?
Brig. Gen. (Ret.) Russell Howard, "Understanding Al Qaeda's Application of the New Terrorism -- The Key to Victory in the Current Campaign," in Terrorism and Counterterrorism , editors: Russell Howard and Reid Sawyer, second edition (Dubuque, IA: McGraw-Hill, 2006): 91-106.
Prof. Bowen's Terrorism Weblog: January 22, 2006
Hamadi case. The U.S. Navy has a ship named the U.S.S. Robert Dean Stethem for a good reason as I make clear in my newspaper column "World View" today. U.S. Navy diver Stethem was murdered by terrorists in 1985, one of the early casualties in the war of radical Islamists on the United States. His killer, Mohammed Ali Hamadi, was released from a German jail last month, over U.S. objections.
Read here (below) the original version of my argument on the day of Hamadi's release, Dec. 20, 2005 . An updated version published today is being distributed to a wider audience: read it at the Newsleader online, or at this permanent link.
The struggle for justice in this case is ongoing. The best brief online source about Stethem's life and death, the origins of the U.S.S. Stethem, and the continuing struggle for justice in his case is the Arlington National Cemetary website on this matter. It is factual, up to date, and includes this comment made by a State Department official after Hamadi's release in December 2005: "At this point, I think what I can assure anybody who's listening, including Mr. Hamadi, is that we will track him down," McCormack said. "We will find him, and we will bring him to justice in the United States for what he's done."
The Stethem family's views on this matter, with which I agree wholeheartedly, are to be found at the New York Sun, Jan. 11, 2006.
Prof. Bowen's Terrorism Weblog: December 20, 2005
Germany lets an enemy of America slip away. I have a long memory, and more Americans should cultivate one. Some things that affect the safety of us all should never be forgotten, lest horrors repeat themselves for every generation. One such event happened in Beirut twenty years ago, when an American Navy diver from Waldorf, Maryland, Robert Dean Stethem, was kidnapped along with several dozen other Americans. Stethem was hijacked, beaten, and murdered by Middle Eastern terrorists simply because he was an American serviceman. In late December, his murderer – who was thought to be serving a life sentence – quietly was released from a German prison, and over U.S. objections, was flown back to safety in Lebanon.
Stethem was a genuine hero: this bittersweet chapter of his story must not be the last. It all started on June 14, 1985. That morning a seventeen day hijacking of TWA Flight 847 began. Flight 847 had taken off from the lightly policed Athens airport on a planned flight to Rome when two Lebanese gunmen claiming to be from the Islamic Jihad organization, Hazzan Izz-al-Din and Mohammed Ali Hamadi, seized control of the plane. Both men had received their training in terrorism from Imad Mugniyah. Mugniyah was then chief bodyguard to Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah, “spiritual leader” of Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shi’ite terrorist group. Immediately after seizing the plane, a group of U.S. Navy divers were discovered on it, and they were singled out for special harassment from the start.
The terrorists demanded all Moslems still held by Israel from the 1982 Lebanon invasion be released. As the world watched for more than two weeks, 40 Americans and Jews originally on the plane were flown to Algiers, then back to Beirut. After the plane returned to Beirut, Mugniyah himself was permitted to board the plane. Shortly thereafter, U.S. Navy sailor Stethem, aged 23, was killed and dumped onto the tarmac. The five surviving U.S. sailors (Kurt Carlson, Stuart Dahl, and three others) then were handed over to another Shi'ite militia, Amal, and kept hostage in basements hidden around Beirut for some further days. According to Carlson, Mugniyah was among their interrogators.
The biography of Mugniyah, a Lebanese Shi'ite from Tir Dibba, near Tyre, shows the error in the way Westerners tend to over-compartmentalize the region's terrorists. In the early 1980s, Mugniyah had been a bodyguard for Yasser Arafat's personal security force, Force 17, until the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) was driven from Lebanon by the Israelis in 1982. After the PLO left for Tunisia, Mugniyah moved easily into the center of security operations for another group, the then emerging Shi'ite political movement, Hezbollah. Along with present day Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, Mugniyah then orchestrated a string of kidnappings and bombings focused on Western interests in Lebanon. Throughout the mid-1980s, he used the front name "Islamic Jihad Organization" to conceal the growing involvement of Hezbollah with the Iranian Government and with its campaign of planned terrorism against the West.
After seventeen days of terror, all of the other American captives were released –except, of course, Stethem: he was dead. Subsequently, Israel released 300 detainees, in what smelled then to be a quid-pro-quo to save the lives of the American captives.
But some small measure of justice ultimately was accomplished. In January 1987, one of the two perpetrators of this hijacking, Mohammed Ali Hamadi, was arrested in Frankfurt, Germany while carrying explosives onto yet another commercial airplane. The U.S. immediately requested his extradition to the U.S. for trial for murder. Germany, faced with new abductions of its nationals in Lebanon, chose to try Hamadai in Germany, instead. He received a life sentence in 1989. Hasan Izz al-Din never has been arrested, and a multi-million dollar U.S. reward for his arrest and conviction remains active.
The pattern established is clear: terrorism to advance the Palestinian cause was used by Hezbollah to advance its influence in Lebanon. Taking American lives was perceived as a low-risk option, and rightly so: even allied West Germany refused to turn Hamadi over to an American court, thwarting Americans’ demands for justice. Then as now, far from being the isolated actions of crazed individuals or disparate groups, international terrorists in the 1980s appear to have worked in close cooperation with one another. Their strategy was carefully calibrated: to maximize pressure on the West, occasional conciliatory steps were needed. Thus, in order to reinforce the message that the West needed to cooperate with terrorists, a few months later, on September 14, 1985, the Rev. Benjamin Weir, an American hostage held 1984-85 in Lebanon, was freed.
Similar dynamics appear to be in play with Hamadi’s recent release. Terrorists in Iraq seized German national Susanne Osthoff in November 2005, threatening to kill her and other hostages unless various demands were met. Apparently miraculously, Ms. Osthoff now has been released. The German Government has insisted that Hamadi’s release from his life sentence within days of Osthoff’s safe re-appearance is unrelated, coincidental. This claim is not credible.
Far from demonstrating growing resolve to improve German-American relations, Hamadi’s release widens the cracks in the Western alliance. Even as terrorists in Iraq build further bridges to their allies around the Middle East, Europeans’ deals for hostages make all Westerners more vulnerable. Who will be next? The German Government should never have released Hamadi without giving an American court an opportunity to judge his crime against Robert Dean Stethem. It is as if the Germans seek to leave us only one path to justice: the one depicted in Stephen Spielberg’s new movie, Munich.
Prof. Bowen's Terrorism Weblog: November 14, 2005
Hate crime in America. The F.B.I. recently released its annual report on Crime in the United States 2004, which includes a section on Hate Crime. The findings are revealing, and the report documents that it is a problem that is found even in Virginia, where 307 incidents occurred that year. The report is well worth reading in its entirety. Overall, there were three times as many race-based hate crimes last year (4042 incidents) as there were religion based hate crimes (1374 incidents), for example. Despite a great deal of media attention that has focused on gender-orientation based hate crimes, there were fewer such incidents (1197) than there were either race-based or religion-based hate crimes.
The U.S. frequently is accused of not doing enough to protect all minorities from these acts of hateful individuals, with anti-American voices in the Middle East most often making the charge. But, as the F.B.I. report carefully documents, hate crimes directed against Muslims in the U.S. are relatively rare. Only 156 such incidents --less than one every other day, in a country of nearly 300,000,000 people-- were reported to have occurred in 2004. Anti-Muslim hate crimes still are a problem even when they occur so occasionally, but the problem needs also to be kept in perspective. Yes, there were about three times as many hate crimes directed at Muslims in America as were directed against Catholics (57 incidents). But there also were about three times as many hate crime incidents directed at Hispanics (475 incidents) as there were incidents directed at Muslims (156 incidents).
The larger hate crime problem has little to do with profound violence (only 5 murders, only 4 rapes), and these low figures should dispel the impression that some wave of hate menaces the nation. Given this, the focus given by mass media when the problem victimizes Muslims or gays begins to seem all the more peculiar. Rather than be a plague directed at these "newer" victims, American hate crime in 2004 remained primarily directed at the social groups who across the course of American history have been most likely to be targeted: African Americans (2731 incidents), and Jews (954 incidents). The frequency of particularly negative experiences of these minorities with individuals and groups inclined to do them harm may have declined in recent decades. But racism toward blacks and anti-Semitism toward Jews far more frequently manifests as hate crimes than do anti-Muslim or anti-gay attitudes. Why it is that this sobering fact so rarely penetrates our field of attention tells us a great deal more about the agenda of those who assemble the news than it tells us about the actual pattern in hate crime in America.
read it yourself: Federal Bureau of Investigation, Crime in the United States 2004: hate crime.
Prof. Bowen's Terrorism Weblog: November 13, 2005
Germany and America. This week Angela Merkel will be sworn in as the new Chancellor of Germany and Americans have good reason to applaud. Merkel is unburdened by her predecessor's anti-Americanism, and has a program of policies designed to put Germany back on the road to leadership in Europe. As I argue in an editorial published today, things may be looking up for U.S.-European relations.
Prof. Bowen's Terrorism Weblog: September 26, 2005
North Korea: Axis of Evil, or misunderstood backwater? One week ago on September 19, the U.S. and North Korea announced agreement yet again on a set of understandings that were suggested to defuse the dangerous stalemate over North Korea's nuclear weapons program. Within hours, the agreement seemed to fall apart. In an editorial published Sept. 22, I looked skeptically at these events, and I encourage readers to weigh in on whether the agreement truly advances U.S. security interests. This was the same basic argument that readers here found months ago, in my Weblog entry for February 14, 2005. Yesterday, the Washington Post published two interesting pieces to help readers through this foggy thicket. The first is diplomatic reporter Glenn Kesler's attempt at deciphering the code words and phrases found in the agreement. A second set of insights is provided by Tong Kim, a former interpreter for the U.S. in its dealings with North Korea, who argues we often talk past one another when dealing with North Korea.
Dr. Gordo believes in supplying source materials to back up his positions. In addition to the linked material above, several other resources of value can be found on my website, including:
a copy of the 1994 "Agreed Framework" agreement, in which North Korea promised not to build the very weapons that form the focus of the new agreement announced on Sept. 19, 2005.
a bibliography of source materials about the nuclear standoff with North Korea.
Maps of the location of key sites used in North Korea's nuclear weapons program.
a timeline prepared by me about U.S. - North Korean negotiations about nuclear issues.
Prof. Bowen's Terrorism Weblog: September 20, 2005
Every death is a tragedy but some hit close to our hearts. From Egypt today came the sad news that yesterday Air Force officer Sarah Small died in a traffic accident while participating in a military exercise in northern Egypt. The exercise was part of a joint U.S. and allied operation involving 16,000 participants, half of whom were American soldiers. Sarah was a 2002 graduate of Mary Baldwin College (MBC), a member of the Virginia Women's Institute for Leadership or VWIL (i.e., the military program at MBC), and a political science major in this department. Her senior thesis, entitled “Women in Congress: Do They Influence the Legislative Agenda?”, supervised by Prof. Laura van Asssendelft, focused on a theme central to the concerns and mission of this College. I remember Sarah as an especially energetic member of my course on Comparative Politics and as a solid student in other classes. Sarah is the first member of VWIL to die while on active duty abroad. Her tragic death serves to remind us all that the freedom we enjoy comes at a price we ask few to pay. Sarah volunteered to serve us all, and went willingly into harm's way on all of our behalf. In this hour of grieving, the heaviest portion of it falls on, and unfairly must be borne by, her family. It is my hope that that difficult task is made slightly more bearable by knowing that Sarah was respected, and remains fondly remembered, by many of us in her former department, VWIL program, and College.
Prof. Bowen's Terrorism Weblog: September 19, 2005
Voters prove politics an art, not a science. Final political implications to be drawn from Germany's general election won't be clear for some time, but it is now evident that the image of stability associated with modern German democracy was the one clear loser in Sunday's election. Despite many polls predicting victory for the moderate conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) and their coalition partners, the Free Democrats, opposition to CDU standard bearer Angela Merkel proved larger in the voting booth than it had been when pollsters rang up households earlier in the month. It is now obvious that millions of voters who once told pollsters that the CDU was their choice lied. In the quiet privacy of the voting booth millions simply could not bring themselves to vote for Mrs. Merkel and her party. Sorting out whether it was because she was a woman, or because her party favors real changes to reduce welfare for the un-needy will take some time. But Merkel's implosion is a historic collapse that begs further analysis; at this point I see her only to have led the CDU unsuccessfully, and to its lowest percentage of support in forty years.
That her party nonetheless finished first is vivid testimony of how divided the German electorate now is. A current glimpse at provisional results shows German voters to be of several minds:
Merkel's Christian Democrats and their Bavarian allies (the Christian Social Union) won 35.2 percent of the popular vote and, apparently, 225 seats in the Bundestag, the lower house of the national legislature. This represents a drop of 3.3 percent from the 38.5 percent the party won in 2002.
Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's Social Democrats (SPD) won 34.3 percent of the popular vote and, apparently, 222 seats in the Bundestag. This represents a four point drop from 2002.
The Green Party, currently in coalition with the SPD, won 8.1 percent, and 51 seats. The Greens' party base was fairly solid: they won 8.6 percent three years ago.
The Free Democrats, who announced they would only back a CDU-led Cabinet, won 9.8 percent and 61 seats. The FDP had polled 7.4 percent in 2002, making them one of the few parties to be rewarded by yesterday's voters.
The spoiler in all this, and the big winner yesterday, was the new Left Party composed of former East German Communists (PDS) and a breakaway faction of the SPD. It has announced it intends to be a spoiler and that it would support neither leading party in the Bundestag. The Left Party seems to have polled 8.7 percent, and will likely be awarded 54 seats. The precursor to the Left Party, the PDS, held only two seats in the Bundestag elected in 2002.
No easy equation puts a majority of Bundestag members in support of a coalition led by either large party. The only precedent for this situation occurred in 1966, when the CDU and the SPD ultimately joined together in a Grand Coalition, one that ruled only three years.
Elections under the German Basic Law (i.e., constitution) weren't supposed to be able to occur as this one did, nor to produce a stalemate like this one has. But the Constitutional Court in August interpreted the Basic Law to permit Schroeder to call an election a year prior to the one scheduled, and just such an irregular election was held yesterday. Rather than vote in greatest numbers for one of the larger parties (i.e., SPD or CDU) as most German voters have since the 1950s, the share won by the two fell to its lowest level in decades. Voters seem to be saying "a pox on all their houses": compared to the last election in 2002, support for both partners in the current ruling coalition fell, as did support for the opposition CDU. Only the FDP and the leftists have gained numbers in the new Bundestag. (Follow this link to see a comparison of the 2002 and 2005 German Election results).
It is too early to see in this the seeds of another round of fragmented German politics, rudderless and leaderless, as was the case in the 1920s Weimar Republic. No mass movement against the parliamentary system menaces in the streets, unlike the use of parliamentary impasses by the Nazis of another age. But other signs do show some parallels: the German stock market did take a stiff nose dive today on the election news, falling more than two percent. Such a drop is peanuts compared to 1929, to be sure, but the markets hardly are sending an encouraging sign, either. If German party leaders cannot hatch a durable coalition from this rotten egg by October 18, new elections will have to be called. If that occurs, it will be harder not to smell the whiff of Weimar in Mr. Schroeder's reckless choice to call early elections.
Prof. Bowen's Terrorism Weblog: September 16, 2005
Winds of Change are blowing on the European continent as conservatives are positioned to win Sunday’s balloting in Germany, Europe’s largest economy. In many ways the likely victory by Angela Merkel, leader of the Christian Democrats (or CDU), represents a change that should bring improvement to U.S. – European relations.
Merkel herself is a major part of this change. Not only will she be the first woman, and first East German, to lead unified Germany. She also will be the first CDU leader genuinely committed to economic reforms that are necessary if Germany again is to become an engine of growth that can pull all Europe forward. From 1949 until very recently, whether German governments were led by the left-leaning current rulers, the Social Democrats (SPD), or by the CDU, social and economic policy heavily taxed Germans so to finance lavish benefits on Europe’s best paid workforce. Bipartisan support for this “cuddle capitalism” created the impression of an “economic miracle,” a mirage that neither party would acknowledge the country could not afford.
The chickens, however, came home to roost once prosperous West Germany had to absorb the formerly-communist East, in 1990. The high taxes with which to pay for government-guaranteed long vacations, short work weeks, guaranteed health care (including prescriptions for spa visits!), etc. already were straining the system. When costs of rebuilding four decades of Stalinist environmental degradation and retraining of the virtually unemployed Eastern work force were thrown in, the German "miracle" cracked. Unemployment now hovers over 11 percent of the workforce, and has been in this range for several years.
Mrs. Merkel, who was raised outside the reach of “miracles” in an East German backwater called Templin, played the communist system as best one could, and eventually become a research scientist. Learning to discern truth from falsehood, she had known failure by the “workers’ paradise” government first hand. And while she quickly took off her lab coat to become a minion of Germany’s then Chancellor Helmut Kohl, she also was not one of the “old boys” of the CDU, men who had risen to influence by silencing their own doubts about West German’s welfare capitalism. Thus, when Merkel’s mentor lost office to the anti-American SPD leader Gerhard Schroder in 1998 after ruling for 16 years, Merkel was among the first to distance herself from scandalous party finance revelations that now have tarnished Kohl’s once soaring place in history.
Should her party win a clear victory on Sunday, Merkel could prove to be almost the ideal German leader from American perspectives. She favors improved ties with the U.S. and will give greater support to U.S. initiatives in most areas. But she also may not prove to be Mr. Bush’s European Poodle. There will be no German boots joining our soldiers in Iraq: the war there is simply too unpopular for any German to touch that hot button. Earlier in her career as Kohl’s Environment Minister, Merkel also favored global environmental agreements and helped negotiate Germany’s positive stance on the Kyoto protocols, an agreement the Bush team rejected early in its first term. Finally, as the U.S. attempts to repair the damage done to U.S. relations with Turkey over the 2003 Iraq invasion fiasco when Turkey barred U.S. troops there from invading Northern Iraq, Mrs. Merkel will be of little help. The Bush team has been pushing the German-led European Union to admit Turkey as a full member, but Mrs. Merkel’s campaign openly has opposed this position.
for further reading:
Jane Kramer, "The Rise of Angela Merkel," The New Yorker (Sept. 19, 2005): 48-55.
Craig Whitlock, "No-Frills Candidate Aims for Germany's Top Spot," Washington Post (Sept 14, 2005): 1.
Prof. Bowen's Terrorism Weblog: September 11, 2005
Four years after: is the American war effort coming apart at the seams?
Our friends from Europe certainly have long so thought. Recently, the German Ambassador to Washington, Wolfgang Ischinger, stated “Germans… have never defined the fight against terrorism as a ‘war’…[The] strategy against international terrorism …we agree [with] in the case of Afghanistan, but not in the case of Iraq.” Picking and choosing how little to help, and where, our allies sometimes seem to have as their goal to pick American policy to death.
Four years on, managing the Global War on Terrorism also has taken a toll within the U.S. Gone are counselors seasoned in Vietnam’s battle trenches: no more does Gen. Colin Powell sit in George W. Bush’s War Cabinet. Gone, too, are visionaries inclined in Bush’s first term to paint our purpose in grand, sweeping terms: the Pentagon’s Paul Wolfowitz has put out to green pastures. He now is a banker. At Bush’s side we are left with the relentless optimism of Donald Rumsfeld, and its slightly more dour rendition in the person of Vice President Dick Cheney.
The public’s mood also has slipped, and now is sliding toward a jaundiced view that Iraq is a cesspool. The war’s immediacy, its democratizing purpose, these seem but memories of the heady days of 2003. What a difference two years can make. The Fall of Baghdad, Saddam’s capture, these victories now appear too remote to many Americans when set beside the now nearly 1900 dead American soldiers and their families’ grief. In their wake, our once clear purposes in creating a democratic Iraq, free of dangerous weapons, and no longer a haven for terrorists, have faded. Before the narrower cries of a grieving mother outside the president’s Crawford, Texas, ranch these important but difficult goals have lost luster.
Yet, war it remains and it is the difficult obligation of leaders to explain our continued course. It is a tall order, but facts readily in evidence this summer remind us that a convincing case can be made. The threat remains real: murderous attacks by Al Qaeda felled dozens of our British allies this summer, incinerated on subway cars and buses. But the burning public concern on this side of the Atlantic seems not to be how better to achieve victory over these thugs, but how better to pay for a fill-up of our SUVs at the gas station. The threat remains targeted on Americans, anywhere: missile attacks on U.S. warships were launched in Jordan by “Al Qaeda in Iraq” terrorists. Terrorism’s global aspirations remain as fresh as on 9.11, only its capability has been diminished. If we cannot confine the current insurgency to the Middle Eastern region, who doubts we will again have to face terrorists here? But the public mood in the summer of 2005 is weary. Too many hear an anti-war slogan --that Iraq was the wrong war, at the wrong time—and think hoping it is true will somehow reduce the threat.
Locally, however, our flag still flies high, and the stronger wind remains in support of the war effort: four times more supporters than opponents of the war turned up at rallies last month at Staunton’s Augusta County Court House. With pride Valley residents still look to the sacrifices being made by local soldiers, such as U.S. Army Colonel Peter Menk. Enduring the Baghdad heat this summer to assist in establishing a constitution and a lawful government there, Menk’s example shows us it is not enough to coyly claim to “support the troops” while undermining their mission. It is for the success of the mission on which our troops work eighteen hour days. The mission to establish a constitutional government responsible to the people of Iraq most requires our support. Seven days a week, their work this summer has been difficult, and not just due to a climate resembling Hades or insurgents whose ugly tactics confirm that resemblance.
Our soldiers’ job is made more difficult when they see public opinion polls, such as the AP poll from early summer (i.e., June 24) that showed a sample disapproving of the Bush approach in Iraq by 56 percent to 41 percent. Our mood on the homefront matters, making easier or more difficult the heavy lifting being done by our soldiers and intelligence operatives, not just in Iraq but across the many venue of the Global War on Terrorism.
About half-hearted allies (i.e., the Germans) we can do little, other than to pointedly praise the better actions of our true friends (i.e., the British). But about the slide in public support that lends encouragement to our deadly enemies, each of us can do much. On Patriot Day, September 11, in 2005, and throughout the years ahead, let us rededicate ourselves to winning the Global War on Terrorism, especially since the mission has become so difficult.
Prof. Bowen's Terrorism Weblog: August 31, 2005
The blame-game. Americans are in an unsettled mood, if recent public opinion polls come even close to measuring attitudes accurately. The findings of two recent surveys, one by ABC/Washington Post and the other by Public Affairs (a Ford Foundation-backed think tank), reveal a society increasingly built around blaming others.
Attitudes about President George W. Bush, and about his critics, show leaders to be central targets of an ever more polarized people. Bush’s popularity now has fallen to his all time low: only 45 percent approve (and 53 percent disapprove) of the job he is doing overall. While gas prices, illegal immigration, Social Security and a host of other domestic issues contribute to his low marks, it is the war in Iraq that most has dimmed his luster: only 42 percent approve (and 57 percent disapprove) of Bush’s handling of the war in Iraq. Cindy Sheehan, the grieving mother leading anti-war protests outside Bush’s Crawford, Texas, ranch most of the summer, outpolled Bush: 53 percent support her protests (42 percent oppose them). While a majority want the President to talk to her, nearly six in ten (59 percent) do not want Bush to follow her demand to set a date for the U.S. military to withdraw from Iraq. Despite nearly 1900 combat deaths there, only 13 percent favor immediate withdrawal.
Neither political party can take much encouragement from the current public distemper. Hitting an eight year low in the eyes of the public as a whole, less than four in ten (37 percent) now believe the Republican-controlled Congress is doing its job. But nearly eight in ten self-identified Democrats (77 percent) also are fed up, and believe their Democratic Party leaders in Congress to have been too timid in opposing the Iraq war. The blame game also is sharpening the tone of American life: nearly a majority of Democrats (46 percent) profess to be “angry” at Bush over the war.
Casualties from the fighting in Iraq seem most to have riled this public. Public Agenda found Americans to regard Iraq as the nation’s Number One problem, and the difficulties encountered there coincide with a rising need to find someone to blame. Eighty-two percent worry “a lot” (56 percent) or “somewhat” (26 percent) about “too many casualties” in Iraq. Nearly as many (77 percent) worry about the high costs incurred in Iraq are diverting money that needs to be spent elsewhere in defeating terrorism. Topping the list of those concerns, nearly nine in ten of us (88 percent) worry about terrorists acquiring and using chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons in a future attack on the U.S. and 79 percent worry that the next terrorist attack will come in the “near future.”
Since autumn 2001, avoiding such an attack has been the paramount goal of American foreign policy. No such attack has come. But mass casualty terrorism against allies in Madrid (March 11, 2004; killing 191) and London (this summer; killing 56) seems to have been enough to keep Americans as nervous as if one had come. Thus, in the eyes of a frustrated public, our other war, the under-reported but promising project of establishing a democracy in Afghanistan while searching for Osama, is viewed as scarcely more successful than Iraq. When asked to give it a grade of “A” or “B”, Public Affairs found a statistical tie with Iraq: 40 percent think we are so succeeding in Afghanistan; 39 percent think we are so succeeding in Iraq.
Americans in 2005 judge harshly even those projects that are going relatively well. Emergency disaster relief, for example, got 83 percent “A”s and “B”s in the Public Affairs survey. That, too, may soon fall into disfavor with a public that apparently views the public good solely through the too-narrow lens of how matters impact them personally. Cleaning up the mess left by Hurricane Katrina is bound to outlive the patience of this public. Months before Katrina, 81 percent of us worried that “problems abroad” might “hurt our supply of oil and raise prices for American consumers.” Now, a natural disaster unmatched in U.S. history has knocked oil rigs and pipelines out of commission. Almost certainly, gas and oil prices will remain at levels Americans already regarded as stratospheric, despite the fact that most Europeans long have paid prices double those in the U.S.
Given these recent trends in public blame-casting, it shouldn’t be more than a few weeks before half of us blame Bush for Iraq’s terrorists, our gasoline woes, electric rate increases, and the tree that fell across Aunt Emma’s trailer. And the other half of us will blame the Democrats in Congress. Am I the only one who thinks we could all use a bit more patience with finding Osama, establishing democracy in Iraq, and cleaning up the mess that is New Orleans?
ABC/Washington Post poll (August 31, 2005): http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/08/30/AR2005083000302.html
Public Agenda poll (August 1, 2005): Ana Maria Arumi, Scott Bittle with Steve Farkas and Jean Johnson, Public Agenda Confidence in U.S. Foreign Policy Index: A Report from Public Agenda with support from Ford Foundation (New York: Council on Foreign Relations, August 1, 2005) http://www.foreignaffairs.org/public_agenda/report
Prof. Bowen's Terrorism Weblog: June 3, 2005
Sweet thoughts. An important piece of trade legislation is stalled and in need of authorizing action by Congress: the Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA). Signed last year by Pres. Bush, CAFTA will make more complete the security relationship we long have enjoyed with the CAFTA signatories: Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, and Nicaragua (with whom relations briefly --in the 1980s-- turned sour). Mired in the poverty that shapes the lives of fully half the census in these lands, real security will forever prove elusive until the day that prosperity is enjoyed throughout these countries. Without economic development, they remain susceptible to the appeals made by populist radicals (e.g., Nicaragua's Sandinistas) known in the past, and likely in the future, to give comfort to America's enemies. Thus improving Central Americans' lives is important to America's national security interests.
Yet, some special interests oppose opening U.S. markets to products produced by our neighbors to the south. In an editorial ("Trade agreement a 'win-win' for U.S., Central America") published this weekend I identify the sugar lobby as a chief obstacle to freer trade in the Americas. Put simply, American sugar interest groups don't want American sugar farmers to compete on a level playing field; they want the special advantage of keeping Central American and Caribbean sugar out of U.S. markets in order to pad their incomes. To this point, the sugar lobby and a coalition of others (e.g., labor interests; environmental cassandras) have convinced Congressional leaders to avoid bringing CAFTA to a vote. This is a clear case of narrow special interests blocking action that not only is in the interest of American consumers (i.e., sugar and candy will be cheaper if CAFTA passes), but is also in the interest of most American farmers, who will gain new export markets for beef, wheat, corn and other commodities that the U.S. efficiently produces.
Our representative here in Virginia's 6th District, Bob Goodlatte, can have influence on this matter: he chairs the House Agriculture Committee. Sugar is hardly grown in Virginia. The protection of those two percent of Louisiana farmers who do grow it isn't in the interest of Virginia farmers or Virginia consumers. But even if it was, isn't it about time that we put first our national interest in securing a more prosperous set of neighbors to the south?
Regular readers know that Dr. Gordo gives his sources to let readers decide for themselves about the truthfulness of the content provided in editorials and on this weblog. Sources used to guide my editorial this week included:
The U.S. Dept. of Agriculture's Fact Sheets on the impact of CAFTA on various farming groups.
USDA's analysis of the impact of CAFTA on Virginia farmers.
The U.S.-Mexico Chamber of Commerce's figures on the impact of NAFTA, CAFTA's predecessor, on U.S. trade with Mexico, 1993-2003.
Statistics from the U.S. Dept. of Commerce's Office of NAFTA and Inter-American Affairs.
Prof. Bowen's Terrorism Weblog: May 20, 2005
Newsweek is not alone in recent press blundering about foreign policy. Riots in Jalalabad aren't the only dangerous side effect of misinformation published recently about American foreign policy and the war effort. Newsweek has retracted its mistaken report that the Koran had been desecrated by interrogators at Guantanamo Bay. But closer to home, pundits like King Features' Charley Reese (e.g., he published "Blame Israel" this week) continue to spew forth erroneous and inflammatory untruths about U.S. foreign policy. As I make plain in a new editorial published today, both kinds of falsehoods undermine the war effort. Unfortunately, as long as it makes them money, businesses that syndicate opinion columnists such as King Features seem to get a free pass to keep spreading Reese's venomous and hateful writings. Indeed, King Features showcases on its website a 2001 piece by Reese in his fully most repulsive, anti-Semitic form as King's sample to inspect in order to attract new outlets for its product ! At least Newsweek tries to act contrite when its lies are exposed. King Features and Charley Reese know no such shame.
Prof. Bowen's Terrorism Weblog: May 9, 2005
Britain retains a U.S. ally. Results of last week's general election in Britain are complete, and voters there have once again returned a true friend of the United States, Tony Blair, to lead the Government. Blair's Labour Party has won 356 of the 646 seats in the House of Commons, a majority sufficient to remain in power clear through 2010. Despite a great deal of press attention to the noisy impact of anti-war sentiment on British public opinion, the opinions that actually count in British democracy were the ones that were expressed at the ballot box. When voters cast their ballots, Blair's Government was returned to office.
Some may be troubled by the fact that barely 35 percent of voters in the U.K. cast their ballots for Blair's Labour Party. This was less than three percent more than cast ballots for the Conservatives, who incidentally also support the U.S. war effort in Iraq and Afghanistan. But Members of Parliament supporting Blair's Government nevertheless won in a majority of districts. It was not a landslide, just a sufficient number to win a sufficient number of seats in Parliament.
On a separate webpage at this website, I explain why it is that so small a portion of a nation's voters can determine the outcome of a fairly conducted democratic election. For readers who want to examine the British vote, district-by-district results can be found by going to the helpful interactive map at the BBC.
Prof. Bowen's Terrorism Weblog: April 12, 2005
Iran should receive more attention than it does, and not just for its WMD potential. In an editorial published this last weekend, I argued that Iran's support for international terrorism, and its terrible record of human rights abuses within Iran, impede reconciliation with the United States at least as much as does its potential threat from building weapons of mass destruction. Especially alarming lately to our neighbors to the north have been recent revelations concerning the 2003 murder of Canadian citizen Zahra Kazemi while in the custody of security officials directly supervised by Iran's religious authorities. In the first four days after new evidence of torture and rape of Kazemi was revealed on April 8, more than one hundred separate editorials appeared in Canadian newspapers. I have not read them all, though I have read many of them, thanks to Lexis/Nexis. Not one that I have read has leaned toward new accommodation with the religious thugs who run Iran.
The Kazemi case highlights a perceptual gap between Europeans (on the one hand) and North Americans (i.e., Canadians AND U.S. citizens) regarding the need to "engage" Iran in a further minuet of appeasement. The French, German, and British Governments seem to have endless patience with the Iranian regime, and will not come around to agreeing with the American position which is that the problem created by Iran's nuclear weapons development needs to be referred to the U.N. Security Council for action. American and now Canadian patience with the Iranians has worn thin, and not just because of the WMD problem. As my editorial highlights, Americans have new evidence of Iranian involvement in the killing of Americans; Canadians have fresh evidence that one of their own died under Iranian torture just months ago. These outrages are part of a pattern of Iranian brutality and aid to international acts of terrorism that is decades long. Just this January, the "Supreme Leader" of Iran reiterated his support for the murder of British resident Salman Rushdie; in other words, Iran continues to openly solicit the murder of non-Iranians.
Three years ago, President Bush labeled this group of Islamic thugs part of an "axis of evil." Nothing that has happened since then alters that assessment one iota. The real question is: what are we going to do about it?
I not only believe in calling things as I see them. Iprovide reliable documentation of the charges I make. Among the sources that informed the editorial I published on Sunday April 10 were the following:
The Presidential Commission Report: http://www.wmd.gov/report/
The Duelfer Report: http://www.cia.gov/cia/reports/iraq_wmd_2004/index.html
"Supreme Leader" Khamenei's statement on Salman Rushdie: MEMRI Institute: http://memri.org/bin/articles.cgi?Page=countries&Area=iran&ID=SP85405
Iranian Revolutionary Guard defector Hamid Reza Zakiri statements linking Iran to Hezbollah bombing of Marines’ Barracks, Al Qaeda, etc.: http://memri.org/bin/articles.cgi?Page=archives&Area=sd&ID=SP47303
The Zahra Kazemi case has been widely reported. The recent news that has roiled Canada was confirmation by medical doctor Shahram Azam that she was tortured and raped. That comes from Washington Post, April 1, 2005: A24: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A17394-2005Mar31_2.html I also discuss the details of the Kazemi case in three timeline entries at:
Prof. Bowen's Terrorism Weblog: February 28, 2005
Syria "captures" Saddam's brother-in-law or so say various news agencies today. Time to look cooperative in Damascus, I guess.
Interesting, isn't it, that Syria suddenly "found" these guys right at the moment the world is looking in a new light at Syria's destructive role in Lebanon. (See this weblog, Feb. 24). Since the killing of former Prime Minister Hariri two weeks ago, street demonstrations in Beirut finally have openly expressed the words that could not publicly be said there over the last 29 years: Syria is a threat to Lebanese sovereignty. The U.S. government long has denounced the Syrian regime for its role in Lebanon, and more: for its ties to international terrorism, for its role as a harbor for fugitive elements of the defunct Saddam regime, and for its inability to stop the flow through its territories of jihadists entering Iraq to oppose U.S. forces there. Yet on Lebanon, terrorism, Iraqi-bound insurgents, and on arresting/deporting Saddam-era Iraqis, Syria has remained uncooperative until today.
Most of these matters remain problematic to improving Syrian-U.S. relations. Its troops remain in Lebanon; jihadists and their monies move freely into Iraq, and Syria remains a center of international terrorism. This latter reality took sharp shape this last weekend: credit was taken by a Syria-based Palestinian group for a bombing outside a nightclub in Tel Aviv, the first such act since November. This act of terror surely must have been designed to undermine the fragile but promising ceasefire between elected Palestinians and the Israeli Government.
Syria remains a problem, an obstacle to self government in Lebanon, peace among Israelis and Palestinians, and security for Iraqis under their own elected government. Syria is an authoritarian tyranny out of step with the changing Middle East. Since the fall of Baghdad to American armed forces in April 2003, this has not been a good place to be. What sort of status the "capture" of Saddam's brother-in-law today buys may be a measure of how much further the Bush Administration intends to go with the whole project of transforming the Middle East.
Prof. Bowen's Terrorism Weblog: February 24, 2005
From Lebanon, once again comes the chant: "death to America." Last Fall, readers here (Nov. 15, Nov. 17) and of my column in Staunton's News Leader learned of a series of odd meetings between representatives of the Presbyterian Church, USA, and various terrorist spokesmen in Lebanon and in the country that sponsors much of the terror remaining in the Middle East, Syria.
In recent weeks, eyes again have turned to Lebanon. The world has been shocked by a resumption of use of the dramatic tactic of political assassination in Lebanon, most strikingly by the killing of former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri. Hariri recently had resigned from his position to join in supporting those Lebanese who long have demanded that Syria withdraw its troops. (Syrian armed forces first occupied Lebanon in 1976 and were to be withdrawn under the terms of the 1989 Ta'if Agreement ending the Lebanese Civil War.) Syrian security services widely are suspected of having had a hand in the despicable act of murdering Hariri and ten others on February 14, 2005. Our government justifiably has withdrawn our ambassador from Damascus, and new pressures including tough sanctions against Syria were among the topics about which Pres. Bush and France's Pres. Chirac agreed in recent days. On Feb. 21, at a joint press conference with Bush in Brussels, Chirac said: "we have the same approach to the situation which is prevailing in Lebanon, especially following the murder of former Prime Minister Hariri, who, of course, was a man who enshrined the ideals of democracy, independence and liberty of that country."
Through all this, little has been heard from those who last Fall fawningly appeased these terrorists and their Syrian sponsors. The website of the Presbyterian Church USA posted only a single statement on Hariri's killing describing it as a "tragedy" aimed against the "whole nation" of Lebanon, a nation entitled to "full sovereignty." This is a pretty opaque criticism of Syria, and those words were from a news release by the World Council of Churches in Geneva, Switzerland, not from the Presbyterian leadership in Louisville, Kentucky. The last statement about Lebanon made by the Presbyterian national headquarters was on December 4. In it Hezbollah was described alternatively as "linked to" terrorist acts in the 1980s, even while the group's denials of such ties were credulously reported. In the December 2004 words of the Presbyterian Church USA, the Hezbollah group today --a group officially designated for many years as a terrorist organization by the U.S. Government-- was referred to not as terrorists but as a "a fundamentalist guerrilla group" and as "now a full-fledged political entity with members in Lebanon’s Parliament." These carefully misleading phrasings make a reasonable person question the bias behind claims of objectivity made by the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. national staff. Closer to home, since bristling in November about my exposure of the national Presbyterian Church U.S.A.'s meetings with Hezbollah terrorists and their Syrian sponsors, local Presbyterian apologists have been entirely silent on things Lebanese.
Should we be quiet about these matters? Just this week, on February 19, Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah said the following over Hezbollah's Al-Manar television airwaves:
""The American administration ... we consider the current administration an enemy of our [Islamic] nation and of the peoples of our nation, because it has always taken a position of aggression, of occupation, and of supporting Israel with weapons, airplanes, tanks, money, as well as political support, and unlimited protection.
"We consider it to be an enemy because it wants to humiliate our governments, our regimes, and our peoples. Because it is the greatest plunderer our treasures, our oil, and our resources, while millions in our nation suffer unemployment, poverty, hunger, unmarriagability (sic), ignorance, darkness, and so on. America… This American administration is an enemy. Our motto, which we are not afraid to repeat year after year, is: 'Death to America.'"
The crowd to whom he was speaking then joined in to repeatedly chant along with their leader "Death to America."
In light of such continuing incitement, the Presbyterian "peace mission" of October 2004 clearly had no positive effect. This central fact must be recognized as we evaluate further the behavior of those who remain reluctant to condemn these terrorist organizations (i.e., Hezbollah) and terror-sponsoring countries (i.e., Syria).
Source: Quote of Nasrallah courtesy of MEMRI Institute (February 22, 2005).
Prof. Bowen's Terrorism Weblog: February 21, 2005
Daniel Pipes is perceptive once again. Some time back, the nomination of analyst of Middle Eastern affairs Daniel Pipes to the Board of Directors of the U.S. Institute of Peace generated a firestorm of criticism. Pipes calls things as he sees them, and simply has for three decades refused to mouth the reigning pieties favored in American universities and colleges. For this central sin, and for the openly pro-Israel position taken in his many editorials, speeches, and columns, he has been ostracized, been shouted down when appearing on campuses, and has been in other ways vilified. Nonetheless, President Bush succeeded in appointing him to serve at the Institute of Peace. But even that was too much for a certain breed of academics, people who in other circumstances are quick to claim they value diversity of views, freedom of expression, and the rest of the list of ostensible liberal values of a free society whenever the offensive expressions of leftists --e.g., the risible Ward Churchill of University of Colorado-- are challenged.
Pipes' term at the Institute of Peace has come to an end, and he continues to present reasoned analyses that guide well. I call to the attention of readers of this weblog his February 15, 2005 editorial in the New York Sun. There Pipes advances points similar to those made by me in my public lecture of November 2004: anti-Semitism is alive and well in the 21st century, and is most menacing in the Arab World and in Europe. Pipes is particularly insightful in his reading of the broad trends in recent years: the growth of leftist anti-Semitism (and the corresponding decline of Jew hatred among publics on the right in the West); the secularization of anti-Semitism (transforming what once was a religion-based hatred into the fetish of sophisticates without faith); and most importantly, the association of anti-Semitism and anti-Americanism. This latter point also was central to my lecture last Fall; indeed, it was its concluding point.
At a time when President Bush is reaching out to European leaders by traveling there to explain U.S. positions, it is well to bear in mind that European leaders have serious work to do, too. Among European publics, rising anti-Americanism in Europe is one element that contributes to declining U.S.-European alliance relations. Two major polls showed the depths of this strain in 2004, one by the German Marshall Fund and a second by Pew Research. But a corrosion broader than merely a disagreement about Iraq policy is afoot. Along with anti-Americanism, anti-Semitism is rising in nearly every European nation, as the Anti-Defamation League survey showed in April 2004. Pipes is worth listening to: he has his finger on the real pulse of our times.
visit WarLinks, Prof. Bowen's guide to sources about the war on terrorism
Prof. Bowen's Terrorism Weblog: February 14, 2005
Deja Vu: eyes on the 'axis of evil' in East Asia. North Korea is drawing the world's attention, again. The archaic Stalinist outpost is remembered by seasoned observers as the communist state that once swore never to build nuclear weapons, when it signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty in 1985. Later, it was the state that reiterated her commitment never to build the bomb by signing a 1994 bilateral agreement with the United States known as the "Agreed Framework." Last Thursday, North Korea's government confirmed that all these commitments have been lies when the Foreign Ministry issued a release that stated, in part: "We ...have manufactured nukes."
A cursory review of the record of North Korea's deceptions makes clear that only the gullible will now seek yet another promise from the North Koreans, this time one designed to get them to promise to dismantle their nuclear weapons. The pundits of appeasement, nonetheless can be expected soon to make that case. Much of the time, the Bush team has had a stiffer spine. Statements by the current U.S. Administration for years have seemed to recognize the futility of relying on North Korean promises. In his "State of the Union" speech of January 29, 2002, President Bush stated: "North Korea is a regime arming with missiles and weapons of mass destruction, while starving its citizens... " After mentioning Iran and Iraq, he then turned the phrase that has caused tyrants (and their fellow travelers worldwide) to toss and turn many a sleepless night: "States like these, and their terrorist allies, constitute an axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world. By seeking weapons of mass destruction, these regimes pose a grave and growing danger."
Since then, Bush consistently has regarded North Korea as a pariah; since the fall of Baghdad (April 2003), it is one half of the remaining "axis of evil." Yet, separate from tough statements, the American policy toward Korea's dangerous leaders has been unusually quiet. American initiatives have been largely focused on re-opening a diplomatic process involving neighboring China and Russia, Japan and South Korea, too. Despite recent revelations of North Korea's ties to Pakistan's nuclear program, ties that have quickened worries of these terrible weapons slipping into the hands of terrorists, quiet diplomacy has been the preferred instrument of policy. While the Chinese have apparently raised the topic with the North Koreans on several occasions, more talk is not likely to disarm the weapons mentioned in North Koreans' bold declaration. Yet, the Bush team seems content to stand on the diplomatic high ground and wait for a future time to talk about the "grave and growing danger."
Part of this disconnect is a reflection of the fact that American armed forces are stretched thin by two ongoing military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, and by associated commitments of resources worldwide to wage the Global War on Terrorism. Another factor is that the sensibilities of our genuine East Asian allies, South Korea and Japan, must be taken into account as U.S. security policy is formed in the region. Only today, South Korea's Unification Minister Chung Dong-young, stated that the absence of a North Korean test of its weapons means that The North may not actually have the weapons they openly claim to possess. Dong-young actually cited ten recent statements by North Korean officials, all professing that the North has nuclear bombs, as evidence to sustain his skepticism!
This ostrich-like attitude may play well with South Korean voters and its public, but such sentiments alone cannot protect South Korean security, or U.S. interests on the peninsula. In the face of North Korea's long refusal to admit inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency, there is simply no way to prove that South Korea's Unification Minister Chung Dong-youn is correct. Beside this reality are the North's increasingly truculent statements and demands.
Americans must recognize the danger posed by a nuclear armed North Korean communist state. This is a regime that has acknowledged kidnapping Japanese off Japanese beaches, that has worked with Libya and Pakistan to share nuclear weapons technologies, and which may have sold nuclear designs, or weapons, to terrorist organizations. This same ruling group lobbed a missile over the top of Japan just a few years back. The message that missile sent is underlined by the open declaration made last week by the North Korean Foreign Ministry: "we... have... nukes." Japan already is menaced by such provocations, and Japanese security is a vital interest of the United States. Do we need to wait until North Korea develops a missile with a range long enough to menace the continental United States before we develop policies as stern as our rhetoric? If we recognize the danger posed to be real, another few years of stillborn negotiations and perhaps a further round of North Korean promises, can hardly be expected to enhance U.S. security.
One day, time for talk with North Korea will run out. Knowing what we know now, it would have been better for that fact to have been recognized in 1994. But the Clinton team had other priorities, and with boundless optimism about the power of paper promises, it dithered. Given the dangerous developments since Pres. Bush blew the whistle on this foul state of affairs, it would appear that less, rather than more, time is available to dither again now.
Prof. Bowen's Terrorism Weblog: December 1, 2004...
updated: February 13, 2005
Reforming the U.N. My commentary on the U.N., penned more than two months ago (below), has now appeared in Gannett's News Leader. Follow this link to read the published and updated version. Readers of this weblog also are invited to read my comments on the Israel-Palestinian cease fire, which appeared in a page one news article in that same source on Feb. 12.
A panel appointed by U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan has presented its report to the Security Council of that organization. Unsurprisingly, it echoes Annan's opinion, expressed Sept. 15, 2004 to the BBC, that the U.S. war in Iraq was illegal: "Yes, if you wish... I have indicated that it was not in conformity with the UN Charter from our point of view, and from the Charter point of view it was illegal." The panel on U.N. reform yesterday broadened Annan's point, saying that preventative war in general is unacceptable: "in a world full of perceived potential threats, the risk of the global order . . . is simply too great for the legality of unilateral preventive action . . . to be accepted."
"Accepted" by the U.N. or not, the U.S. doctrine justifying pre-emptive war against states that endanger U.S. interests remains a key element guiding U.S. policy since its adoption in September 2002. Under the Constitution of the U.S. and its laws, the ongoing wars in Iraq (i.e., Oct. 10, 2002) and the War on Terrorism (i.e., Sept. 14, 2001) are fully authorized. These initiatives connect to the popular will of Americans as validated in the Election of Nov. 2, 2004. As Pres. Bush said in Canada on November 30, "We just had a poll in our country where people decided that the foreign policy of the Bush administration ought to stay in place for four more years..."
Beyond criticizing the U.S., the U.N. report had much to say: over 100 specific recommendations pepper the report. Some of these recommendations are reasonable, and a few run parallel to themes I have raised in this weblog, newspaper Op-Eds and (now published) public speeches. The panel, for example, quite appropriately took the U.N. Commission on Human Rights to the woodshed for failing ever to condemn those gross human rights violators who remain popular with the Third World-dominated majority on that Commission. This is the flip side of the excessive focus on Israel in the work of the Commission, a form of institutionalized anti-Semitism the Annan-appointed panel tactfully sidestepped. Nonetheless, it is refreshing to read that a U.N. panel has concluded that the odd priorities pursued by the U.N. Commission on Human Rights have created "a legitimacy deficit that casts doubts on the overall reputation of the United Nations."
Of course, that reputation most has been undermined by the repeated failure of the organization to act in the face of genocide in Rwanda and elsewhere; and by the current scandal over payoffs to corporations and government officials in many nations by Saddam's abuses of the U.N.'s "Oil for Food" program in the late 1990s and early 2000s. It reliably has been alleged, for example, that Benon Sevan, who headed the "Oil for Food" fiasco, personally received vouchers from Iraq worth millions of dollars.
But Annan's own son also has been implicated in that corruption probe, a scandal of such proportions that many in Congress are now calling for the U.S. to withhold its dues to the organization until such time as complete audits are turned over to Congressional investigators.
In this souring atmosphere, what could be more timely than for Annan to change the subject? Thus, expect plenty of attention in coming weeks to be given to the recommendations now made to change the composition of the Security Council. This non-starter of an idea is sure to excite Japanese, Germans, Indians, and Brazilians who covet a permanent seat at that apparently prestigious table.
The Japanese do have a right to expect American support for proposals that reflect their interest. After all, their government has supported us when the less costly course would have been to throw in with the anti-American crowd now ascendant on the Continent of Short Memories (i.e., Europe). In September 2004, when Annan was playing to the galleries by publicly declaring the U.S. war in Iraq "illegal," Japanese Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi said (September 17, 2004) "The Japanese government doesn't think it (the Iraq war) was illegal. It conformed to the U.N. Charter." Moreover, the Japanese have hung tough despite the murder of some Japanese nationals in Iraq.
But any serious observer of recent events will have little reason to wonder why this American administration will nip in the bud a proposal that joins a seat for the Japanese to new seats for Mr. Schroeder's Germans or Mr. Lula's Brazilians. Each has been too anti-American on recent decisions effecting U.S. national security (Germany) or trade negotiations (Brazil) to expect more than the back of the U.S. hand at the holiday ball at the U.N.
Of course, Mr. Schroeder could always ask the French to give him their seat. Replacing one has-been second tier power on the Security Council with another has-been second tier power would be a fitting legacy for the Annan era, an age of dithering indifference while New York burned.
Prof. Bowen's Terrorism Weblog: Nov. 23, 2004
Anti-Semitism and the U.N. The Washington Post reported today that for the first time ever, the U.N. General Assembly yesterday passed a resolution denouncing anti-Semitism. "Better late than never," some might say.
This is a topic about which I have been particularly sharp in criticizing the U.N.'s slowness to act. In a February (2004) public lecture now published, I reviewed the long history of U.N. inaction on this matter, and found that base political motives were behind the failure of that body to recognize discrimination against Jews. At a time of rising anti-Semitism in both Europe and in the Arab/Islamic worlds --as I have identified in this weblog in January, and as I reiterated in another public lecture last week-- it would appear that the U.N. finally is getting out in front of an issue about which it should have been leading for fifty plus years.
But not so fast should we see the 177-0 vote yesterday as completely one of unanimous progress. Before the resolution passed, the Arab states of the Middle East, along with allied states in the Organization of the Islamic Conference, attempted to amend the U.N. resolution yesterday. (The Organization of the Islamic Conference is the body at which the Malaysian Prime Minister delivered an anti-Semitic diatribe to the cheers of the audience in Fall 2003). The goal of the Muslim bloc's proposed amendment yesterday at the U.N. was to delete all mention of discrimination against Jews, and on this despicable position 45 states supported them (85 opposed; 29 abstained). It is in the Arab and Islamic worlds that virulent anti-Semitism remains largely unchecked by governments or by social leaders; indeed, Arab governments often sponsor anti-Semitic programs and publications. While these same Arab governments ultimately voted yesterday for passage of the U.N. resolution decrying religious intolerance, it remains to be seen if this gesture amounts to more than the typical rhetorical grandstanding that goes on at that body.
Real action to end incitement against Jews still is needed across the Arab and Islamic worlds.
For further reading:
For an excellent global overview of the rising tide of anti-Semitism, see Gerald Schoenfeld's new book, The Return of Anti-Semitism from Encounter Books.
For an April 2004 survey of attitudes toward Jews in European countries, read the latest study from the Anti-Defamation League.
For an example of how anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial remain themes in Arab media, please read the linked transcript of this August 24, 2004 television show from Egypt. As one commentator put it "We were educated from childhood that the Holocaust is a big lie."
To see the consequences of such indoctrination, read the transcript or view the tape of this Sept. 26, 2004 Saudi Arabian use of "man in the street" interviews on the topic of Jews.
Prof. Bowen's Terrorism Weblog: Nov. 18, 2004
Israel under the microscope. From the Egyptian-Gaza border today comes news that last evening three Egyptian border policemen were shot dead by Israeli armed forces who mistook them for Palestinian arms smugglers. Israel formally has apologized for the incident.
This highlights the dangers that surround the hostile frontiers around the Jewish state, and the thin level of genuine peace that exists between Israel and Egypt despite having signed a peace treaty over 25 years ago. More than a hollow paper agreement should have evolved in this time; genuine peace is more than just the absence of the imminent threat of war. As today's incident illustrates, little more than a mistake can return these neighbors to a level of suspicion that could endanger the region.
Something more substantial than this treaty will have to be on the horizon if the perennially sought, but never found, "peace process" with the Palestinians is to move ahead. Unlike the case with Egypt, Palestinian areas lie close to main Jewish population centers in Israel. Real risk to the Jews of Israel could result from an insecure border with a (future) independent Palestine.
Thus, the topic of my public talk this evening: "Israel Is Necessary." I intend to deliver a firm affirmation when speaking to the United Nations Association, Blue Ridge Chapter, who will meet at the Staunton VA Public Library.
Prof. Bowen's Terrorism Weblog: Nov. 17, 2004
Local Presbyterians Twist and turn. My recent public critique of the October 2004 Middle East peace mission by a committee of the Presbyterian Church USA has generated some interesting reactions. In my published editorial of November 15, I have drawn attention to recent meetings between the Presbyterian group and Hezbollah, the Lebanon-based, Iran-sponsored terrorist organization. Here in this weblog I have pointed to other positions of the Presbyterian Church USA that are unhelpful to the cause of stopping terrorism in the region.
The Rev. Will Heyward, of Smyrna Presbyterian in Waynesboro, in a local newspaper has claimed that "the church did not support this visit."
Similarly, Thomas Hay, General Presbter of Shenandoah Presbytery in Harrisonburg, also publicly has claimed that "the October visit by members of the Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy with Hezbollah leadership in Lebanon was not an 'official delegation' of the Presbyterian Church."
Hay also has attempted to distance the Presbyterian Church USA from the affair by pointing out that two "staff members involved in the meeting have been dismissed."
Let us examine each of these points.
1. Were officials of the Presbyterian Church USA involved in scandalous praising of Hezbollah, or not? In my editorial, I argued that when Presbyterian Rev. Peter Sulyok met with Hezbollah in October, he spoke as an official of the Presbyterian Church USA. According to a news release of November 11, 2004, posted at the official website of the Presbyterian Church USA, Sulyok first was hired by the organization in February 1993, and that "Sulyok has headed the PC(USA)’s social policy development since" that date. A web search of their website found 87 separate documents referring to Sulyok, including a final one reporting that his employment had ended, on November 11, 2004.
It is clear that, unlike the implication drawn by the local Presbyterians cited above, the Presbyterian Church USA regarded Sulyok as an employee until his employment ended, November 11, 2004. This means that he was working for the Presbyterian Church USA when he visited Lebanon in October 2004. Twenty plus others accompanied him; some, but not all, appear to have been employees of the Presbyterian Church USA as well.
2. Did Presbyterian Church USA disassociate itself from the pro-Hezbollah comments of the traveling group by firing their employees who had made the pro-Hezbollah remarks? On this matter, the record is hazier. Local Presbyterian Hay has suggested that "staff members who were involved in the meeting have been dismissed." But that is not how Presbyterian Church USA General Assembly Council (GAC) Executive Director John Detterick put it. This week, the Church's Office of Communication also issued a statement to the effect that Sulyok had been "apparently fired." But Executive Director Detterick's actual statement was far more equivocal. Even as Sulyok departed, top Presbyterian officials praised him: "I am also sorry to tell you that Peter Sulyok is leaving the GAC. Peter... has contributed much, especially to the work of ACSWP... I know these decisions raise many questions for staff, but please realize that all staff have the right to confidentiality regarding their employment. Therefore, this is all I can say. I am keeping ... Peter in my prayers and hope you will also.”
This sounds substantially short of a ringing rebuke of Sulyok to me.
3. Has the Church officially distanced itself from the substance of what Sulyok said? The Rev. Heyward has pointed to an October 21, 2004 letter by Detterick and others, addressed to Jewish leaders. In it, officials of the Presbyterian Church USA call the trip "misguided," "reprehensible," and say "we in no way condone the terrorism of groups such as Hezbollah." These statements seem substantial. However, the statement by Detterick was issued only after the American Jewish Committee on October 20, 2004, had demanded immediate repudiation of the Hezbollah visit. Detterick and the other leaders of the Presbyterian Church USA had made no public condemnation of their traveling group prior to this.
4. Was the twenty person traveling group an "official delegation" of the Presbyterian Church USA? Associated Press, on October 20, 2004 cited a spokesman for the Presbyterian Church USA who had told them that "the two-week fact-finding trip [was] paid for by the church." The Washington Post, October 23, 2004, page B9, reported that planning for the Presbyterian trip to the Middle East began two years ago, and that funding for the trip was authorized by the church's General Assembly Council in 2003.
It is clear from this review that the facts reported in my original editorial were correct, and that my critics are twisting clear evidence to deny that which has embarrassed them.
Moreover, the Presbyterian Church USA continues to oppose steps underway to make U.S. allies safe from terrorism. The main website of the Presbyterian Church USA even today prominently draws attention to the anti-Israel policies adopted by the Church in July. As long as the Presbyterian Church USA urges disinvestment in corporations involved in supplying Israel materials with which to build a security barrier between its citizens and Palestinian terrorists, the Presbyterian Church USA is going to have difficulty with opponents of terrorism.
Prof. Bowen's Terrorism Weblog: Nov. 15, 2004
Presbyterians and Terrorists. Today, in Gannett's News Leader I report on the tawdry October 2004 solicitation by the Presbyterian Church, U.S., of a known terrorist organization, Hezbollah, or "the Party of God" as it so immodestly calls itself. This Shi'ite Muslim militia has murdered nearly 300 Americans over the last twenty-one years, most memorably 241 U.S. Marines it killed by suicide bombing at Beirut, Lebanon in October 1983. At a time when U.S. Marines are doing battle with other Muslim terrorists in Iraq, the Presbyterians' "peace mission" to meet with terrorists in Lebanon and with terrorists' sponsors in Syria was not merely poorly timed.
The Presbyterians' recent Middle Eastern peace mission is out of step with the mood of Americans, and its timing appears to have been designed to undermine Americans' support both for fully lawful U.S. war policies and for the pro-Israel policy of George W. Bush. Both wars in which U.S. armed forces currently are engaged are legally authorized under U.S. laws (i.e., Iraq; war on terrorism). Moreover, Pres. Bush openly and repeatedly has stood with Israel against the terrorists it confronts. The U.S. public recently reaffirmed its support for these policies when it re-elected Pres. George W. Bush and re-affirmed Republican Party control of both houses of the U.S. Congress.
The Presbyterians' approaches to Lebanese terrorists and to the Syrian Government form part of their wider program designed to pressure U.S. companies into stopping doing business with Israel. Just this week, the Church announced new standards by which it will attempt to bring pressure onto U.S. firms that, among other things, assist in supplying materials used to build the security barrier that blocks suicide bombers from easy entry into Israel. (Washington Post, Nov. 13, 2004, page B8.)
The Presbyterian Church, U.S., wants to use its influence to oppose a barrier that has contributed to a reduced number of attacks on Israelis, and that has reduced the number of Jews killed by terrorists. In 2002, before Israel began building the border barrier, 61 suicide attacks by Palestinians killed 451 Israelis that year. In 2003, despite an increase in Palestinians' attempts to carry out suicide bombings, a reduced number got through: 44 suicide attacks that year killed 212 Israelis. This year (through Sept. 30, 2004), only 10 such suicide bomb attacks have succeeded, killing 90 (Washington Post, Oct. 5, p. A22). Since the barrier clearly is saving Israeli lives, why does the Presbyterian Church, U.S. oppose its construction and its completion?
The Church has claimed (Washington Post, Oct. 23, 2004, B9) that the visit to Lebanon by its "Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy" was long planned, and has stated that its October faux pas was unrelated to its separate anti-Israel policies, which formally were enacted in July 2004. This explanation, while technically true to the history of the policies, is unpersuasive. Both are official acts of the Presbyterian Church, U.S. When the pattern is looked at a coherent whole emerges: the Presbyterian Church's policies on the Middle East do not amount to the "peace" initiative that its advocates claim. They amount to giving comfort to enemies of the U.S. and attempting to weaken the security of the only true ally the U.S. has in the region, Israel.
Follow this link to read a set of news stories on this controversy, including the news items referred to in Prof. Bowen's published editorial.
Update: see this weblog, February 2006, for updates on the further fawning of terrorists by the Presbyterian Church, USA.
Prof. Bowen's Terrorism Weblog: Nov. 11, 2004
Today is Veterans' Day and aside from a few more flags flying than usual, little notice seems to be being taken of this U.S. national holiday. We should not be so quick to move beyond official commemorations, nor should we be indifferent to the role played by our armed forces in creating and protecting our democratic freedoms.
American soldiers remain in harm's way. I received today the letter (below) from my son-in-law, whose first cousin is married to its author:
From: Capt. Randy Turner USMC, near Fallujah, Iraq
Subject: Captain's Log - 10 November 2004
Date: Thu, 11 Nov 2004 00:46:07 +0300
Hello again everyone,
I'd like to begin this update by letting everyone know that today (Nov. 10) is the
229th birthday of your United States Marine Corps. To Marines, this day is
as special as any other holiday. It is often more easily remembered - and
more wildly celebrated - than our own birthday. My unit celebrated it a
couple days ago by having a ceremony where we read the Commandant's Birthday
message and the oldest and youngest Marines present shared cake. I made it
a point to fly the Marine Corps colors as well as a US flag on some make
shift flag poles we have in the battalion area. Years from now, I will run
these flags up a real flag pole and remember that I was a small part of
history in the making. The day is even more special in that Marines are
currently serving in harm's way and doing the things they train long and
hard to do; needless to say, they are performing exceptionally. I am sure
you are all watching the news and hear that we have cleared the majority of
the city well ahead of schedule and with minimal casualties. While each
casualty and death is a tragedy, it certainly could be much worse. As I
have said in all of my previous messages, my safety should not be a concern
of yours. I am doing well. So well in fact, that at times I feel guilty.
There are young men in Fallujah currently facing challenges that many men of
their age could never fathom. The humbling part about it is they do it
willingly and without reservation.
To illustrate, I heard a story this morning that I feel must be shared.
Four Iraqi soldiers were brought to our Battalion Aid Station (BAS) last
night for treatment of wounds received in action. To hear the Corpsmen tell
it, the Iraqi were scared at first but one of the Marines in our unit speaks
Arabic and was brought to the BAS to assuage their concerns. After calming
them down, the Marine was able to get the story of their wounds. I am sure
you are all aware that there are Iraqi soldiers working side by side with
the Marines to rid the city of the insurgents. While this sounds like a
potentially tenuous relationship, it is necessary in order to demonstrate
that the Iraqis have the same goals as the Americans. Well, while on patrol
in Fallujah, the Iraqis were walking along one side of the road and the
Marines were on the other. The building around them started to rumble and
the Marines realized the buildings were rigged for destruction. Shortly
thereafter, grenades started to drop from the rooftops, the Marines and
soldiers were forced to the center of the road, making them more vulnerable
to enemy fire. As if on cue, insurgents at the end of the road armed with
machine guns and rocket propelled grenades (RPG) knelt down and took aim.
An RPG was fired and was heading directly into the group of warriors. A
Marine, acting on pure instinct, pushed the Iraqi soldier next to him out of
the way and absorbed the brunt of the blast killing him instantly. The
Iraqi soldier told the Corpsman that the Marine died saving his life. He
repeated over and over again that "he should not have done that" and that he
was prepared to die.
This is one instance but I am sure there are other stories just like it.
This Marine epitomized the First Marine Division's motto of "No better
friend, no worse enemy." There is a quote, popular among Marines, from
Shakespeare's Henry V that reads "We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
for he today that sheds his blood with me shall be my brother." I can only
imagine what was racing through this Marine's mind as he chose to sacrifice
his life for the man fighting at his side. A man whom he met that day and I
am certain did not speak the same language. But there they were, fighting
together, for a common goal and that made them brothers. It is my sincere
hope that the surviving Iraqi soldier shares this story with his countrymen
and they come to realize the genuine concern the Marines and the US have for
them and their nation. At least that would make that one Marine's death
much more bearable.
Before signing off, I'd like to update all of you on a couple items. First,
I want to thank those of you that have and are continuing to contribute to
the Bravo Company library. We have received a number of books already and
the list is still growing. Thanks again.
Second, I am including a photo (above) of a reenlistment ceremony I talked about in
a previous email. I have to mention again how proud I am of this young man
and his wife for making the decision to continue to sacrifice their time for
Lastly, I'd like to mention that there are a number of Marines out here
whose spouses have had to undergo minor surgical procedures or have given
birth while we are out here. I don't bring this up seeking pity for them
since this is the life we choose and we expect to miss certain events.
Unfortunately, knowing this does not make it any easier when a loved one at
home needs you or your child walks for the first time. I bring this up to
offer a reminder of what service members sacrifice by joining the military.
It's not just life or limb, but often the things we may take for granted.
Please take some time this weekend to recognize what the veterans of our
great nation have sacrificed so that you do not have to.
Thanks again for all of your continued support and prayers.
Prof. Bowen's Terrorism Weblog: Nov. 3, 2004
Election epitaph. To explain yesterday's U.S. Presidential Election will require readers to set aside their hopes and fears as we take a clear-headed look at the facts.
First, as predicted here prior to the election, Pres. Bush won the national popular vote. Unlike the razor thin pluralities that won the White House for John Kennedy in 1960, Richard Nixon in 1968, and Jimmy Carter in 1976, Bush voters outnumbered Kerry voters nationwide by several million. While final national numbers remain preliminary, it appears Bush won not just a plurality but is the first president since 1988 to actually win a majority of votes, garnering 51 percent to Kerry's 48.
Second, the public opinion polling industry failed abysmally. All day yesterday prior to the tallying of the first actual vote, television viewers were offered tidbits of exit polls that later proved to be substantially incorrect. Viewers who took inferences from downcast expressions on (pro-Bush) Fox News anchors' and commentators' faces correctly assumed that the full exit polls had told them of bad news for Bush. We now know that the same bad news had been conveyed to the President, and that it had a negative impact on the mood at the White House... until the actual returns began to deviate from the exit polls' predictions by mid-evening.
Why the exit polls wrongly forecast Kerry victories in all of the battleground states warrants further analysis. My current suspicion is that, as was the case in the election some years ago of Douglas Wilder as governor of Virginia, a significant percentage of voters either lied about the vote they had cast when talking to exit poll interviewers; or these voters simply refused to talk to exit poll interviewers at all. What is abundantly clear is that the exit polls that gave a substantial lead to Kerry in Ohio were flatly wrong. Bush seems to have carried Ohio by over 130,000 votes.
Third, some of the pre-election polls also were quite wide of the mark. Zogby, for example, on the day before the election forecast a race in Pennsylvania too close to call (but Kerry actually won it fairly handily) and even told of Virginia being up for grabs (but Bush carried the state by eight percent, a typically wide Republican win in a solidly Republican state). On his "final poll" released at 5 pm of election day, Zogby got the ultimate winner wrong in Colorado, wrong in Ohio, and wrong in Iowa. On these matters readers will have to take my word: today Zogby's website pulled down the embarrassingly inaccurate state-by-state prediction pages from Nov. 1 and Nov. 2.
Fourth, common sense forecasting --my method of simply talking to people, looking at the historic record, and taking educated guesses-- predicted every one of Kerry's states correctly. I also errantly predicted Kerry would take Ohio, but unlike playing horseshoes or throwing grenades, being close (i.e., 20 of 21 predictions correct) wins no prizes in Presidential Election forecasting.
This brings us to the really big story in yesterday's re-election of George W. Bush and the Republican majorities in each house of Congress: the strong turnout in support of the President by Christian evangelicals. Pre-election mass media attention to this subgroup in the electorate had focused on questions of legality (e.g., is it consistent with a church's tax exempt status for its leaders to openly campaign for a candidate?) and on apparent differences of opinion on Iraq that had surfaced in the final weeks of the campaign separating celebrity evangelist Pat Robertson from the President. Underplayed was the possibility that large numbers of new voters, and a large turnout among existing voters, would be vehicles used to advance Christian evangelicals' ideals. High turnout, in the received wisdom of political science, was supposed to help Democrats; ergo, stories about turnout efforts became vehicles for a new chapter in the long, unfulfilled drama about the youth vote and forgotten minorities. Even late into the evening, turnout among Native Americans was being said to be Tom Daschle's ace in the hole; the Hispanic surge was spun to be the salvation of Democrats in New Mexico; etc. While further analysis of vote results --NOT exit polling-- may confirm some of this, excessive reliance on the wisdom of the past (i.e., turnout helps Democrats) seems to have contributed to disbelief in the possibility of the opposite.
"The Morality Issue" -- code for the agenda of the evangelical Christians-- seems to have been more central to more voters' decisions than terrorism, Iraq, the economy, or any other issue. Of course, about this we can't be certain: exit polls are the source of this insight, too.
Prof. Bowen's Terrorism Weblog: Nov. 2, 2004
Why the Polls (and pundits) may be wrong about the election. Today's U.S. Presidential Election is awash in superlatives. Phrases such as "the most expensive ever," "the most important in a generation," etc. greet us every time we open a newspaper, turn on the television, or listen to radio talk shows. Without doubt, another superlative fits: this certainly is the most extensively polled electorate ever. But I have doubt that all this glitter contains much gold.
Perhaps we need a better measure. More yard signs touting presidential candidates are on display this Fall than in any of the five previous such contests I have witnessed in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. Though the national news media continue to speak of “battleground states” far from here (Ohio, Florida, Iowa, Wisconsin, etc.), a local battle for Virginians’ votes also is strongly in evidence –on our lawns, at least. Much like the hawk counters atop Afton Mountain (on the Blue Ridge Mountains), do we really know how many birds are in the air, or how many votes our candidate will garner, by counting these visible things?
Most of us rely on public opinion polls, instead. Catering to this appetite are television, radio, and newspaper summaries of the latest polls; nearly every day we can feast on their numbers. The tale of the year has been defined by them: polls confirmed Bush’s early lead, polls measured Kerry’s post-convention “bounce,” then more polls marked his slide in August. And what has told us that we are in a close new horserace after strong debate performances in September and October? You guessed it: the polls… and the pundits who tell us about them. Without the polls to tell us the meaning of what we just saw on television, many of us would feel lost, apparently. Candidates rely on polls, too. About a month ago, the Kerry campaign was reported to have pulled its national staff from Virginia: polls showed them that the state was beyond reach.
Political scientists form the core of this seasonal industry, and while other chapters in this club have moved on to develop complex economic models to predict election outcomes, the bread and butter of this scientific alchemy is opinion polling. We would be wise to be cautious about the predictions of either. Twenty plus separate research papers presented at the September 2000 meeting of the American Political Science Association meeting confidently forecast the victory of Al Gore. That tidy little consensus was absent this year, but you get my point: the dirty little secret is that experts can get it wrong.
Those of a certain age will remember the great confidence the public had in forecasts of elections by the magazine Literary Digest. In 1928 and 1932, it called the winner based on huge samples of what it called opinion polls. In 1936, Literary Digest confidently predicted a landslide victory for Republican Al Landon; but Franklin Roosevelt won the actual landslide that year. Literary Digest had compiled its list of who to survey from motor vehicle registrations and from phone books. But during the Great Depression (as now), those without phones or cars were numerous and still could vote, even if Literary Digest wouldn’t poll them.
The problem lies in developing a model that can predict who in the public is likely to vote and sampling them, not a random sample of everyone. Today we encounter a problem in this regard that resembles 1936. Millions of new registrants have signed up to cast a ballot for the first time this Fall: will these people turn out to vote at a rate similar to, greater than, or less than habitual voters? No one knows, so the pollsters simply guess at an answer in building their model of the likely electorate.
Many of the new registrants seem to be younger people, a group that as a whole traditionally has voted at lower rates than all other groups. Such a pattern in the past has led pollsters today to have confidence in keeping small the number of young people in their corrected sample models. But what if 2004 is different, what if young people break from patterns and large numbers of them vote? The smug among us will respond that polls of young people’s intended votes now show a pattern that resembles that of the rest of the population, so it won’t likely make much difference.
Here the fundamental lesson in the Literary Digest fiasco pertains. Pollsters still ring up their samples on the phone. But, while nearly all adult households have wired telephones, among young people a new trend toward exclusive reliance on cell phones as their sole phone has evolved. Between five and fifteen percent of persons aged 18-25 fall in this category, depending on region of the country. These new potential voters aren’t in the phone book, and won’t be called by pollsters. So long as “cell phone, only” young voters intend to vote in largely the same pattern as other young voters, this presents no problem to the accuracy of the polls. But if these young people do differ from their peers, either in party orientation or in likelihood to turn out, it means that the actual election results may differ substantially from the polls’ predictions.
Counting yard signs to conclude that a close election lies ahead may not be a scientific prediction. But I have at least an educated hunch that the polls this year also are missing something important.
My predictions. Having traveled for eight weeks this year to 16 of our 50 states doesn't really qualify me to have a better finger on the pulse of the nation than anyone else. Nonetheless, from the conversations along those roads, to the dialogue I maintain with readers of this weblog and other correspondents, I have formed an educated guess about what voters will decide today. Here are my predictions:
John Kerry will win 272 Electoral votes, two more than the majority of the votes needed to prevail in the Electoral College (i.e., 270); George W. Bush will narrowly outpoll Kerry in the national popular vote. Thus, for the second straight time, the popular majority winner will not become President. Kerry will be inaugurated as U.S. President in January 2005.
Kerry will outpoll Bush in the following states, (winning number of Electoral votes):
Much has been made of the possibility that Maine will split its electoral votes, awarding one to Bush. Even if this happens, according to my calculations (above), Kerry wins with 271.
Kerry could win several states beyond these, including two where the final public opinion polls from Zogby have him leading: NM (5), Iowa (7); and -- here I go WAY OUT ON A LIMB-- VA (13). Never discount the importance of yard signs! If those all were to be added to Kerry's total, he would have 297 Electoral votes, to Bush's 241.
Ultimately, the election comes down to how Ohio votes. If Ohio does not go for Kerry, I do not see how he wins the election. Some others, e.g. pollster James Zogby, today have put together formulae through which Kerry wins the election without Ohio. But this relies on the unlikely outcome of Kerry winning Colorado (9), NM (5) and Iowa (7); my predictions (in the list, above) concede each of these states to Bush. Zogby, incidentally, puts PA in the same category as VA: too close to call.
Prof. Bowen's Terrorism Weblog: Nov. 1, 2004
Allies' importance is underappreciated. On Tuesday Nov. 2, Americans will choose a new president. At stake may be the repair of U.S. relations with key allies.
The Global War on Terrorism has produced a mixed harvest for those who have steered America’s response to 911 into Afghanistan, Iraq, and dozens of other less noticed lands. As my recent editorial pointed out, a sharp increase in anti-Americanism can be measured across the Middle East. But, after the last dusty American truck pulls out of Iraq –whenever that might be—the largest legacy may be found not there but in soured U.S. relations with Europe.
Cordial European-American relations and the NATO military alliance have stabilized the globe for more than a half century. Rivals now in an economic competition of the post-industrial age, the once tight bonds of Atlantic partnership are fraying. Across European societies, in the last three years the U.S. and George Bush’s approach to world affairs increasingly have come to be viewed as a threat.
Read together with two earlier year’s findings, a large new public opinion survey from the German Marshall Fund documents “a basic shift in the transatlantic relationship...events of the past two years may have fundamentally altered the nature of the alliance.” Overall, a majority of Europeans now favor a course independent of the U.S. in world affairs; only one in three want closer ties with the U.S. Among the major European states’ publics, only in Britain do a majority favor keeping ties as they are or improving them; elsewhere, clear majorities in France, Germany, and Italy want ties to the U.S. loosened. Since 2002, in every one of these major European states there has been a decline in support for U.S. global leadership. In 2004, only the British still muster a majority (54 percent) backing the U.S., down from 72 percent in 2002. Support has declined most precipitously in Germany, falling from 68 percent pro-U.S. in 2002 to 37 percent this year; Italy from 63 percent (2002) to 41 percent (2004); France from 49 percent to 24 percent in the same period.
Why has the slide in support for the U.S. occurred? In a nutshell: George W. Bush. In 2002, Europeans were closely divided on the Bush approach to international affairs. Then came (to Europeans) a series of alienating U.S. choices: an unpopular waltz away from the U.N., an invasion, then an occupation of Iraq in which no major caches of weapons of mass destruction turned up. Unsure what will stop a string of further terrorist attacks by Islamists across the Continent, broad publics seem ready to blame old friends for their predicament. By 2004, three fourths of Europeans, 76 percent, disapproved of the Bush Administration’s handling of international affairs. The gulf between peoples also has widened: more than eight in ten Americans believe that war, at times, is necessary in order to obtain justice; barely four in ten Europeans concur. Both publics rank international terrorism (76 percent in the U.S., 71 percent in Europe) as the top problem, and both publics view Islamic fundamentalism (51 percent in the U.S., 54 percent in Europe) as a related and difficult international problem. We just disagree about how to respond to these issues.
What are the implications of this trend? Is a divorce on the horizon? Majorities today in every single European state polled, including Britain, now agree that it would be desirable for Europe to develop military power capable of acting separately from the U.S.; and one in three Europeans approve developing “superpower” status in order to directly compete more effectively with the U.S. However, only one in five Europeans (22 percent) favor increasing their nation’s defense spending to achieve those goals.
There are still signs that support for the alliance can be resuscitated. Apart from growing antipathy toward Bush, there has been no statistically significant increase in the number of Europeans who think the two peoples are growing apart. And while the Iraq campaign is unpopular, European publics whose armed forces have joined in patrolling post-Taliban Afghanistan still support the Afghanistan deployments. When asked about future Iraq-type invasions, eight in ten Europeans believe such U.S. projects could go forward if approved by European allies or by NATO (72 percent). Interestingly, majorities of Americans also would so condition support for future invasions.
The War on Terrorism is not likely to be over during the next U.S. administration no matter who wins tomorrow's balloting. In a long campaign, the support of allies will continue to be an important adjunct to American power. What the German Marshall Fund study shows is that there have been consequences for America in the go-it-alone, my-way-or-the-highway approach of George W. Bush. If renewing the European-American alliance is vital interest of the U.S., voters need to think through which candidate most is capable of reversing these trends.
Prof. Bowen's Terrorism Weblog: October 25, 2004
Consorting with the enemy. The war on terrorism continues, despite the election campaign, but some Americans seem to think it is up to them to decide which terrorists really ought to be ostracized by the U.S. One week ago, on October 18, 2004, an official delegation from the Presbyterian Church, U.S. met in Lebanon with Sheikh Nabil Kaouk, a commander of Hezbollah.
Such meetings amount to consorting with the enemy. For more than seven years, Hezbollah has been designated a terrorist organization that poses a threat to U.S. national security. On Oct. 19, 2004, the State Department again listed Hezbollah as one of 37 terrorist organizations officially designated by the U.S. Government. This is justifiably the case: Hezbollah is responsible for the murder of nearly 300 Americans.
Twenty-one years ago, on April 18, 1983, a pickup truck packed with explosives brought down the U.S. Embassy in Beirut; 63 died, including seventeen Americans. Hezbollah and their sponsors in the Iranian Government organized this act of anti-U.S. terrorism.
Hezbollah also murdered 241 Americans in the bombing of our Marines at Beirut, October 23, 1983.
Hezbollah killed 24 more in a bombing on the U.S. Embassy Annex, September 20, 1984.
There is little doubt regarding who was responsible, as famous author Bob Woodward showed in the 1987 book Veil (page 379): "American intelligence concluded that Hizbollah --The Party of God-- and Sheikh Fadlallah were behind this [i.e., Sept. 1984] attack, just as they had been behind the 1983 bombings at the embassy and the Marine Barracks."
Many of the Western hostages taken and abused by tormentors in Lebanon during that decade were tormented and abused under the direction of Hezbollah.
My forthcoming editorial (i.e., on November 15) will detail the folly of the Presbyterian mission to Hezbollah: consorting with the enemy in a time of war deserves condemnation, regardless what the motives of those who consort are.
Update: Hezbollah remained on the official list of terrorist organizations known to the U.S. Government issued October 11, 2005.
Prof. Bowen's Terrorism Weblog: October 8, 2004
Of W.M.D. and candor. Charles A. Duelfer, U.S. weapons inspector and intelligence analyst, presented to the Director of Central Intelligence recently his final "Comprehensive Report" on the matter of Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD). It is now a public document. Like a blunt two by four, this one thousand plus page document hits the head of those who advocated war with Iraq so to end the threat of their dangerous weapons. I am still plowing through its extensive documentation, but some large points already are clear. Other than a few decade-old shells, Iraq did not have WMD in 2003 (i.e., when we invaded), and most of its WMD programs ended in 1991; those that didn't, ended by 1995-1996.
This author was an advocate for war with Iraq from 1998 to 2003. Candor requires me now to acknowledge that a main basis for that advocacy has been undermined. To the extent that I sold the case for war with Iraq on the basis of their WMD, I was wrong. Or as Duelfer put it in his testimony yesterday to Congress, "we were almost all wrong" about Iraq's WMD.
Does this report, or does this admission by me, mean that the war with Iraq was wrong, illegitimate, a mistake, as many have charged? No. The war was legitimate because Congress authorized it. The war was not mistaken because several other reasons justified the overthrow of the Saddam Government:
it had failed to fulfill other obligations from the 1991 war (e.g., it never fully compensated all the victims of its aggression, not in Kuwait, not in Saudi Arabia, and certainly not in Israel);
it aided international terrorism by paying large sums to families of suicide bombers in Israel in 2000 to 2003; and
it gave sanctuary to Abu al-Zarqawi, a key leader in the current insurgency but a man with a long track record of involvement with anti-American terrorism, and with ties to Al Qaeda.
The war was also not "wrong" from an ethical standpoint: it removed a dangerous tyrant who repeatedly had used banned poisoned gas against Iranian soldiers and his own Kurds in the 1980s. It brought an end to the depraved abuse of Iraqi citizens by his two sick sons, and more generally, brought an end to a tyranny that grossly violated the human rights of many hundreds of thousands of Iraqis.
Nevertheless, the facts now certified in the Duelfer Report certainly complicate the diplomatic position of our government in our attempt to generate further support for future operations against states that harbor or assist terrorists, or which endanger America with programs of WMD. If it had built its doctrine of pre-emption solely around ending genuine terrorist harbors, the Bush Doctrine would have had no problem justifying our routing of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan and the Saddam regime in Iraq.
But, after 9.11, the danger of terrorists is not simply that they will commit acts of terror with which we are familiar: kidnappings, hijackings, bombings, assassination. The danger to the U.S. in the modern world of terrorism lies at the nexus of terrorist organizations inclined to do terrible deeds and anti-American states that possess the WMD that could be given to them. The Bush team understood this; even if many of its opponents deny that the threat is real, their fuzzy thinking does nothing to protect us from Osama's quest for WMD to use against us.
It was not fuzzy thinking that led the Bush team to focus on Iraq: in 2002, Iraq appeared to be the poster child for this danger. Its decade of non-cooperation with U.N. inspectors seeking to destroy WMD raised legitimate suspicions that Iraq was hiding the deadly weapons. Far from being mistaken, the Bush team understood that prudence required certain action to insure that Saddam's hand did not arm Osama's. Bush was not alone in seeing that possibility to be a "gathering threat": Duelfer confirms that most of Saddam's senior military and political officials also believed that Iraq had such weapons.
Hindsight, it often is said, is 20/20, while foresight is always a fog. In retrospect, yes, it would have been better to have sold the campaign against Iraq as necessary in order to sweep up a den of terrorists, to end a brutal tyranny, to compel Iraq to live up to its compensation promises made in 1991, reasons for which strong cases remain irrefutable. But it would not have been better to have had no campaign against Iraq.
The enemies of America continue to declare their intent to use WMD against us. Rogue states with WMD programs and ties to terrorists are still too numerous. None of this goes away because President Bush, or this weblog, emphasized dangers in Iraq more narrowly than was wise.
Whoever is Commander-in-Chief after the November 2 election will have to reconcile the legacy of the Iraq war as he fashions policies with this continuing danger clearly in mind.
Prof. Bowen's Terrorism Weblog: September 24, 2004
Anti-American democracy? As Americans prepare for elections here, important ballotings also are to take place soon in Afghanistan and Iraq. But are electoral processes likely to yield pro-U.S. leaders in these battle scarred lands? A Wilsonian belief in the natural affinity of free peoples guides us to an affirmative answer, but such faith alone will not guide us to a winning strategy in the War on Terrorism. Recent evidence from the region is not necessarily so encouraging about the disposition of mass publics in the Islamic Middle East. In a new editorial published today, I argue that the Bush strategy for democratization of the Middle East may be built on false hopes. In one key U.S. ally in the region, Osama bin Laden has outpolled the U.S.
Prof. Bowen's Terrorism Weblog: September 15, 2004
A coming divorce? Are Europe and the U.S. drifting apart so substantially that the alliance is in jeopardy? A large new German Marshall Fund study of public opinion in the major (and some minor) European countries addresses the issues related. Not only are our policies in Iraq and toward the U.N. driving a wedge between the U.S. and the Europeans, so is the style of Pres. George W. Bush.
The decline is large. Since 2002, in every one of the major European states there has been a decline in support for U.S. global leadership. In 2004, only the British still muster a majority (54 percent) backing the U.S., down from 72 percent in 2002. Support has declined most precipitously in Germany, falling from 68 percent pro-U.S. in 2002 to 37 percent this year; Italy from 63 percent (2002) to 41 percent (2004); France from 49 percent to 24 percent in the same period.
The German Marshall Fund study is not all gloom and doom. While Americans believe that European-American relations among the peoples of the nations also are declining, Europeans who feel similarly have not grown in number in the last year, and still amount to less that one in three there. And on both sides of the Atlantic, publics strongly believe that international terrorism is the Number One problem in the field of international affairs.
The study charts trends about war and peace, use of the United Nations, Iraq, Afghanistan, and many other issues. It is worth reading in its entirety: follow this link.
Prof. Bowen's Terrorism Weblog: September 14, 2004
London hate-fest cancelled. Efforts by Islamist leader Omar Bakri to commemorate the 19 murderers of Sept. 11, 2001 by holding a conference honoring them failed. (For more on Bakri and his plans, see Bowen Weblog, Sept. 9, 2004). The London meeting planned for last Saturday was cancelled after the owner of the building rented for such purpose, the Quakers/Friends, rescinded use of the hall. Zealots made to call off 9/11 ‘celebration’," London Times, Sept. 12, 2004) reported that the original rental contract had been made by an innocuous sounding group, "the Birmingham Youth Forum, and Friends House only discovered the real identity of the meeting’s organisers after approaching the police for help." Score one for the good sense of the British Friends.
Prof. Bowen's Terrorism Weblog: September 9, 2004
In London this weekend the limits of free speech and free assembly are again to be tested: the Middle East Media Research Institute reports, a commemoration in honor of the attackers on September 11, 2001 will occur. The organizer of the event, Omar Bakri (a Syrian residing in London), told the London-based newspaper Al-Sharq Al-Awsat that: "We want the world to remember this operation … that lifted the head of the [Muslim] nation."
above: Omar Bakri Mohammed
The planners of the day-long event intend to show Al Qaeda videos, news on "the latest" operations in Chechnya, and to host various radical Islamist speakers. All this openly is scheduled as part of the efforts by the extremist Al-Muhajiroun organization to advance its cause within the U.K.
Such forums test the limits of patient toleration of free publics at war. Under various legal instruments long in place, e.g. The Public Order Act of 1936, British authorities easily could stop the event from happening, or delay it to a less inflammatory date. Thus far, i have seen no report of official intervention to stop Al-Muhajiroun's defamation of memory from occurring. The Blair Government's unusual patience with rabidly anti-American elements within the Labour Party he leads is well known. Will the Blair Government elect not to use legal powers readily available to it to stop this assembly on Saturday, Sept. 11? Stay tuned.
Contrasting with this attempt by radical Islamists to seize the date Sept. 11 for use to their own advantage is the numbed silence of Western publics as we approach the third anniversary of the worst attack on American civilians in U.S. history. Not that much truly was done in 2002 or 2003 to honor our nation by remembering our thousands of fallen victims, but at least minor public ceremonies were noted here on this college campus. Alas, it is Sept. 11th's misfortune to fall on a "football Saturday" this year. Perhaps the halftime shows will include "Taps."
Sometime soon, a more appropriate way to commemorate September 11th is going to need to emerge. We all might ponder what that commemoration might be. I, for one, will be flying the flag, and hope that tradition never stops.
Prof. Bowen's Terrorism Weblog: June 8, 2004
Is Iraq becoming a 'Vietnam'? I ask this in a new editorial appearing last weekend in Gannett's News Leader, June 5. Follow the link to read the full editorial argument. Briefly, I argue that the situations differ substantially between 1968 and the present, but that there are parallels that engage us ever more in a media-dominated, war-watching culture. The key to victory in each instance was, and is, retaining the national will to win.
Prof. Bowen's Terrorism Weblog: May 6, 2004
When it rains, it pours. As if the prisoner scandal in Iraq has not tarnished the U.S. reputation enough, yet another abuse scandal has surfaced, today involving NATO troops in Kosovo. A jarring BBC story today, "Kosovo U.N. Troops 'fuel sex trade'," presents a sensational summary of a longer Amnesty International report (also released today).
It is a grim account, conveying the exploitation of women and girls in brothels all across the province that has been administered by NATO's KFOR troops since the 1999 war drove Serbia from Kosovo. Since Kosovo's liberation, KFOR has been responsible for security in the province; thousands of U.S. troops are among the KFOR units, along with Italians, Germans, British, French and many others. Owing to the poor economic conditions in Southeastern Europe, there are legions of poor, unemployed, and often abused girls and women looking for work. Many are tricked into signing work contracts to be "waitresses" and "dancers" in Italy by middlemen who recruit all across Moldova, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Romania, Albania, and Serbia. Others travel freely to the region, hoping to find a job. Very few move to Kosovo seeking to become prostitutes, but according to Amnesty International, thousands are enslaved and forced into prostitution in the province.
In the the original Amnesty report, transgressions by KFOR and UN personnel form only a tiny part of this very large problem, one that affects girls as young as 12 to 14. In their lengthy, legalistic chronicle, the international human rights group carefully protects the identities of individual victims so to reveal the larger pattern of violence against, and exploitation of, women. But in the BBC story, Amnesty's focus on the diverse sources of exploitation of migrant women in Kosovo is lost. A handful of references to a German KFOR group visiting a brothel, or a KFOR soldier getting a lap dance, are used by BBC to extract a substantially different story, one in which Western peacekeepers are a central factor driving the problem. It even is alleged by both Amnesty International and BBC that some 20 to 30 U.S. soldiers are implicated, but no evidence that clearly corroborates that is found in the near 100 page Amnesty document.
Read either as a story of depravity and exploitation in the Balkans, or as a story about NATO failing to fulfill its responsibilities, it is undeniable that a harrowing situation for thousands of women has developed in Kosovo. That it is occurring in a province of Serbia where NATO fought in 1999 in order to take charge means that the scandal is our business, whether our soldiers are central or peripheral actors.
Another seedy scandal about the perils of post-conflict peacekeeping is hardly what the reputation of the West needs. Given the actual scandal that Amnesty International so ably has exposed, it makes one wonder what BBC's real agenda is when it tries to depict this as primarily a crime being committed by our soldiers.
To read the Amnesty documents follow these links to:
My published editorial of May 9th on this subject is available by following the link here.
Prof. Bowen's Terrorism Weblog: May 5, 2004
Biological threats. The failure to discover weapons of mass destruction in post-Saddam Iraq has led many to conclude that the general threat posed to us by deadly weapons has been exaggerated. This perception is misplaced.
As readers here first learned in January 2003, Al Qaeda has made considerable efforts to master the production of biological weapons and to use them against Western targets. Today in the Washington Post, Joby Warrick details the role of Menad Benchellali in this ugly effort. Operating out of his apartment in Lyon, France, Benchellali produced jar after jar of deadly ricin. "Simple and practical" (in the words of French terrorism expert Roland Jacquard), ricin is among the most deadly of biological agents: less than one fourth of one milligram will kill a 175 lb. man.
A son of an Algerian immigrant to France, Benchellali trained in Al Qaeda camps in Afghanistan and in the Pankisi Gorge of George before setting up shop at his parents' home in France's second largest city. His instructors included U.S. trained scientist Yazid Sufaat (now in custody in Malaysia) and Pakistani weapons experts. Arrested in a plot to bomb the Russian embassy in Paris, he has been held by French authorities since December 2002. One of his brothers is in U.S. detention at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba; his parents are in French custody. The chemist appears to have assisted other Islamic terrorists who have been detained in bio-weapons plots in Britain and Spain.
The Benchellali case shows the broad links Al Qaeda has cultivated, spanning from Chechnya and the Caucusus, to Southeast Asia, Pakistan, and all across Europe. The thread connecting these cells is development of biological weapons. The glue that sticks them together: a fanatic jihad in which the use of these terrible weapons is intended. All Western societies are their targets.
Small comfort can be taken by the arrests of these terrorists and others associated with Benchellali: no one knows how many jars of the white poison he produced, where those deadly weapons now are located, or who possesses them.
To read more, consult: Joby Warrick, "An Al Qaeda 'Chemist' and the Quest for Ricin," Washington Post (May 5, 2004): 1, 22-23.
See also Roland Jacquard, In the name of Osama bin Laden (Duke UP, 2002): 89, which quotes Osama saying "we do not think it a crime to try to obtain nuclear, chemical and biological weapons;" and the forthcoming book also by Roland Jacquard, "The Third Generation of Al Qaeda."
Prof. Bowen's Terrorism Weblog: March 29, 2004
The Philosophy Department of my college will host a speech tonight by Edward LeRoy Long, Jr., a noted theologist. His recent book, Facing Terrorism: Responding as Christians (Louisville KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2004), forms the background to the talk, "Terrorism: A Moral Response."
The book reads like an extended lament by a liberal Christian thinker who is bemoaning at length the fact that religious opposition to Bush Administration policies has been “largely ignored.” In a mere 112 pages, Long's essay provides an extensive argument illustrating why this remains the case. The book ultimately finds a spirit generous enough to blame the United States, not Al Qaeda’s continuing campaign of terrorism, for the deterioration of the human condition since September 2001.
In the book, Long makes an argument that starts with a fast run past definitional issues so to move on by constructing a falsified history of the U.S. in Southwest Asia, one in which aid to the Taliban is attributed to our government (21). In fact, U.S. aid to anti-Soviet rebels in Afghanistan ended several years prior to the rise of the Taliban, but that fact is inconvenient to Long's argument, so he simply ropes that misstatement to another which also is of questionable veracity: “at one point the United States actually supported both Saddam Hussein and the Taliban because it saw them as effective allies in the effort to restrain Soviet power” (21). But it was Iranian, not Soviet, power that occasioned the tilt toward Saddam in the 1980s, and it involved no direct military aid to Saddam by the United States in any event.
The twisting of facts to suit his argument continues elsewhere in the book. Israel is presented as itself being the cause of the relentless attacks it has endured from terrorists (24), as if the Palestinians somehow were barred from emulating Gandhi in their choice of role models: “terrorism may be less a means of obtaining a different ordering of the political situation than a way of expressing bitter discontent with the present state of affairs.” Thus, to Long, suicide bombs become a form of free speech.
In truth, Long is not trying to write history; he most is concerned to marginalize and condemn what he calls the “crusader model” which he associates with contemporary U.S. policy. “Moreover, a major shift in thinking was made by the administration for guiding defense policy. The idea of deterrence was repudiated and replaced with the idea of the preemptive strike. The idea of cooperative membership in the community of nations was compromised by the embrace of the idea of full spectrum dominance – the idea that America’s military power must be overpowering in every part of the world. Although this shift has not been without its critics, it clearly illustrates how deeply the model of the crusade has taken over as the controlling paradigm since the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon” (89-90).
This formulation also does not derive from close study of policy itself. If policy was at the core of this analysis, it would have to deal with the fact that the Clinton Administration also pursued a strategy that pointed to American global primacy. Long's critique of the Bush approach most is based on Long's philosophic preferences, in this case his supposition that war can solve nothing: “The United States, a powerful nation feeling the warrant for exercising its power unilaterally if necessary, might even come to act in ways that actually conform to the image its detractors have of it. Moreover, the United States will bear the onus for the violence of retaliatory actions taken… One does not have to be a pacifist to realize that the circle of violence is not brought to an end by the achievement of a superior level of violence by any one party. Although weak groups may be temporarily scared into ceasing to employ violence to achieve their objectives, they will nurse resentments and try again in the future to gain their way by threats” (49). Oh, really? Is this theory of an unending “circle of violence” able to explain the last 59 years of behavior engaged in after the utter defeat of Germany and Japan in 1945? In order to be a creative generator of theories, Long appears indifferent to inconvenient facts that repudiate them.
This does not preclude Long from making sharp condemnations of specific contemporary policies he does not favor. Especially, the doctrine of preemption arouses his ire: “Crusade thinking assumes there is an inescapable difference between the civil order within sovereign states and the relationships between them. Relationships between nations are ultimately based on power, not order. Only from such an assumption does the ideas of preemption make sense. … the common law does not require turning the other cheek , but it does rule out taking initiatives in starting violence”(90).
Predictably, the book continues through a dark reading of growing violations of civil liberties in over-reaction to the terrorist threat, neatly omitting mention of any of the many terrorist cells broken up within the U.S., 2001-2004. It concludes with a call for “forgiveness,” asserting that if we had just been more clever, the whole War on Terrorism would have been unnecessary; we should have sought the “rehabilitation of the wrongdoer” (106), rather than the course of war which has been chosen. Faulting most the campaign in Iraq, Long’s trump card is to charge that the course chosen is one with “all the functional features of imperial domination” (109), as if a short drive on that threadbare retread of 1960s leftists’ insults automatically consigned legally authorized U.S. war policies to the dustbin of history. Long clearly is at ill-ease when viewing “the new face of dominion (110)”, which should be replaced with “the stance of servanthood” (111) he would prefer.
Of what would this consist? The outlines Long offers are sketchy, but seem to involve the resurrection of humanitarian intervention and lots of foreign aid. “To be faithful in the face of terrorism does not consist of having a strategic blueprint for particular actions. Rather it means embracing a perspective in which patience and confidence enable differences to be reconciled into a diverse whole. While this precludes giving a single strategy total dominance, it does not preclude taking actions that seek to alleviate antagonisms. While this precludes seeking a total destruction of evildoers, it does not preclude trying to hold evildoing at bay and to minimize its consequences. While this precludes assuming that the world must be clobbered into conformity, it does not preclude seeking to unite diverse efforts to improve the human condition” (95-96). However, no support is heard anywhere in this book for actually increasing border security, sea port screenings of container cargo, or enhanced spending on internal surveillance of suspected terrorists as we “hold evildoing at bay.”
Indeed, Long is far more concerned that we already have acted too strongly. “If we curtail freedoms in the process of defending freedom, what is the benefit? We need a positive resurgence of our noble convictions rather than the embrace of strategies that merely mirror the stances of those we seek to oppose”(96)… Threats are frequently just as dangerous for the measures people take to eliminate them as for the damages they may directly cause”(98). Dramatic as that statement is, this reader found offensive the claim that in fighting the war on terrorism, the U.S. has “mirrored” the mass killing of civilians done by our enemies on September 11, 2001. Even hyperbole must pass a common sense measure: where, Mr. Long, are those deliberately murdered innocents?
The absence of any evidence of widespread war crimes as the state policy of the United States doesn't trouble Long’s analysis. This is because with Long’s methodology it is sufficient evidence to find any parallel at all in order to stretch argument to a most damning parallel: “To the extent that terrorism expresses dismay over the development of a diverse and complex world, and stems for a religious perspective that seeks to reestablish a simplistic unity of commitment and purpose, terrorism bears a close kinship to the effort of the Christian right in our own country to see that convictional and moral unity is regained” (99-100).
While this book thus may be the latest rendition on the “blame America first” theme common for two decades in academia, that tradition reaches a new pinnacle in this statement: “When the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were attacked, nothing could have been further from the public mind than to forgive the action and confound the terrorists by doing so. Such a response might have done much to create the image of a United States totally different from what the terrorists contend it to be. The empathy of other nations that originally recognized the horror of those attacks and treated the United States as a victim deserving of sympathetic support might have continued. By reacting as the United States did, it has lost much of that support and even come to be viewed with increasing suspicion and concern, not merely by her enemies but by some of her friends. What the truculent would regard as wimpish might have been a source of strength” (106).
But Americans crave safety, not empathy, and it is just this craving that Long believes – but provides no evidence to establish as true – is impossible: “The other consequence of seeking to be overly secure is to employ excessive violence against those who are judged to be threats. It is one thing to deter threats; another to seek the elimination of all danger. Terrorism by its very nature will never be entirely destroyed.” … “guard against taking actions that are self-defeating” (98)… “Utopian agendas often lead to demonic excesses” (99). It is quite clear in these passages that Long was referring not to the demonstrably excessive actions of Al Qaeda but to unidentified (indeed, unidentifiable) things done by the United States.
These are outrageous exaggerations. Such hyperbole might have seemed reasonable if published shortly after the U.S. firebombing of Dresden, or after the revelations first had surfaced about the Vietnam era's “Operation Phoenix.” But to what, specifically, does Long refer to find us on the cusp of “demonic” behavior today? Nothing, not one thing presented in this volume sustains such shrillness, other than the ample hubris of its author. Long strains to convince us that it is the war policy of the U.S. that brings closer the day that nuclear, or biological, attack on an American city will occur. This pose is sure to convince those who already believe in Long’s assumptions, and few others.
Prof. Bowen's Terrorism Weblog: March 22, 2004
The killing of Hamas leader Sheik Yassin in Gaza overnight has ignited a firestorm of criticism of Israel and the U.S., in Europe as well as in the Middle East. In an editorial to appear March 23 in Gannett's News Leader, I will make the same case about Yassin that readers here have been able to read for some months.
Yassin was a man who had authorized more than 400 attacks on Israelis in just the period since September 2000.(1) By no stretch of the imagination was he a man of peace, any more than is Ayman al Zawahiri a "man of peace." Zawahiri seems to have escaped the siege he may have been under in Pakistan last week. But had he been trapped, and had attempts at his capture ended in his death, would America have been wrong to have killed him? Few Americans, I believe, would lament the passing of Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden's chief military strategist and the sworn enemy of the United States, just as few would lament Osama's violent death.
Israel, however, is apparently not supposed to take action against leaders of organizations that are its sworn enemies, at least in the view of British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw. It is these sorts of double standards that divide the alliance against terrorism, encouraging publics to believe there is a safe alternative to war policies to defeat terrorism, and ultimately leading to acts of appeasement such as offered up by Spain's voters on March 14.
Two months ago in this weblog I explained my reasoning that would justify Israel killing Yassin, ... reasoning that applies with equal force to future U.S. decisions to kill Zawahiri, or Osama. If Mr. Straw, or the other critics of Israel's actions believe in principle that commanders are immune from attack during a war, why didn't they speak up to that effect when the U.S. twice sought to decapitate Saddam during the 2003 War in Iraq? And if it is not opposition in principle that guides Mr. Straw, but rather some narrow calculation based on the negative effect perceived to accompany an act that enraged Palestinian (and other) supporters of Hamas, then those holding that view need to read again the Pew Poll from last week.
Yes, thousands of Palestinians have supported Hamas, whose leader, Sheik Yassin, organized legions of suicide bombers to kill Israeli civilians. Now, most Palestinians are enraged by the violent death of this terror master. But a popular terrorist is still a terrorist.
Americans know we are targeted, too, and that is why our Armed Forces are diligently searching the Afghanistan-Pakistan border area: to find terrorists, whether or not they are popular. The Pew Poll showed 65 percent of Pakistanis have a favorable attitude toward the organizer of suicide bombers against America, Osama bin Laden, and nearly half of them believe suicide bombings against the U.S. in Iraq are justified right now. Would this broad support be a reason not to kill Zawahiri or Osama while they hide out in Pakistan if we had a chance? Of course not.
In the war against terrorism worldwide, to hold Israel to a standard to which we do not hold ourselves --as Mr. Straw and the British are seeming to-- isn't just inconsistent. It is the next stage of the "Spanish flu," the latest form of European appeasement of terrorism.
Follow up, August 2006: An excellent article by Laura Blumenfeld ("In Israel, a Divisive Struggle Over Targeted Killing," Washington Post, August 27, 2006): 1, 12-13) probed the decision making processes in Israel that surrounded the decision to authorize the killing of Sheikh Yassin.
1. The source Debka from Israel reported today that 40% of all Israeli deaths caused by Palestinians during the current Intifada were committed by Hamas operatives, accounting for 407 deaths.
For a thorough background essay on Hamas and on Yassin, go to the International Policy Institute for Counter-Terrorism; then click on their button at the left entitled "Databases;" and once the menu opens, click on "Terrorist Organizations" and then on "Hamas."
Prof. Bowen's Terrorism Weblog: March 17, 2004
In the battle for Muslim public opinion, the U.S. is losing ground, even among publics in states allied with the U.S.. A March 16, 2004 poll released by Pew Center for Research reports that "Osama bin Laden, ... is viewed favorably by large percentages in Pakistan (65%), Jordan (55%) and Morocco (45%). Even in Turkey, where bin Laden is highly unpopular, as many as 31% say that suicide attacks against Americans and other Westerners in Iraq are justifiable." This new poll of U.S. allies' views is startling additional evidence of the broad problem we confront in the War on Terrorism. It is not just a matter of identifying and finding adequate policies to address small numbers of fanatical terrorists, though that surely must also be done. The social seedbeds from which new terrorists could be recruited are fertile.
In Jordan, 86% of the group surveyed believed suicide bombings against Israelis and 70% believed suicide bombings against Americans/Westerners in Iraq are justifiable.
In Morocco, 74% believed suicide bombings against Israelis and 66% believed suicide bombings against Americans/Westerners in Iraq are justifiable.
In Pakistan, 47% believed suicide bombings against Israelis and 46% believed suicide bombings against Americans/Westerners in Iraq are justifiable.
In Turkey, 24% believed suicide bombings against Israelis and 31% believed suicide bombings against Americans/Westerners in Iraq are justifiable.
These findings indicate some erosion in support for the U.S. over the last year. Support for suicide bombing, for example, only reached these levels in one country, Lebanon, as reported in the December 2002 Pew Poll.
Osama bin Laden's personal stature is high, and the Pew Poll reports ratings for him that either are holding steady, or going up. In early June 2003, Pew reported that 55 percent of Jordanians thought well of Osama, the same figure as today. Among 45 percent of Pakistanis, Osama was viewed as a leader "likely to do the right thing" in mid 2003; by early 2004, his positive ratings had climbed twenty points, to a 65 percent favorable rating. Thus, the U.S. problem in Pakistan is misperceived when it is reported solely as one of unruly "tribal areas" near the Afghanistan border. Similarly, even after terrible Al Qaeda bomb attacks in Morocco last year, Osama's numbers have gone up four points in this same time period, from 45 to 49 percent favorable.
Prof. Bowen's Terrorism Weblog: February 20, 2004
Zarqawi Letter advocates "sectarian war" against Iraq's Shi'ites. Too little notice has been paid to the long Al Qaeda letter found in mid-January 2004. Its author is believed to be none other than Al Qaeda's man in Iraq Abu al-Zarqawi. Translated by the U.S. Defense Department (DoD) and jointly released by the DoD in the U.S. and in Iraq by the Coalition Provisional Authority on February 12, it reveals much about the insurgency in Iraq. Ultimately, the letter outlines a plan for civil war in Iraq, but the reasons given for Al Qaeda electing such a strategy suggest a real crisis among the anti-U.S. forces.
Predictably, the U.S. is viewed as the "arch enemy," but that is no surprise. What is surprising is the downcast, even depressed way the anti-American rebellion is described. Anti-U.S. Iraqi mujahidin fighters are criticized as unwilling to smell "the perfume of fragrant blood spilled on behalf of God," and of being generally inept fighters. Internationalist volunteers who have come to aid the Iraqi resistance fare little better, and are described as a burden that "makes training the green newcomers like wearing bonds and shackles..."
Surprising, too, is Zarqawi's grudging respect for the resolve to finish the mission that unites the U.S. occupation force: "America did not come to leave, and it will not leave no matter how numerous its wounds become." Throughout, Al Qaeda's man in Iraq suggests that time is running out for the insurgency: "There is no doubt that the space in which we can move has begun to shrink and that the grip around the throats of the mujahidin has begun to tighten." What Al Qaeda most fears is that the U.S. will stabilize Iraq to a degree sufficient to pull back into protected forts, so better to be able to rely on U.S.-trained Iraqi police and military until final withdrawal can be done: "With the deployment of [Iraqi] soldiers and police, the future has become frightening... The [Iraqi] army and police have begun to deploy in those areas [i.e., Sunni Triangle] and are growing stronger day by day."
In such a context, Zarqawi urges Al Qaeda to give increased support to new tactics. Among them:
Kidnapping U.S. personnel.
Avoiding conflict with the Kurds, except for attacks on their leaders.
Targeting of Iraqis, especially the U.S.-trained, pro-occupation soldiers and police. This particular point seems to have forecast recent attacks on Iraqi police and military trainees, especially Shi'ites.
Indeed, the most striking element of Al Qaeda's plan is the unabashed, openly stated goal for "The Shi'a... dragging them into the arena of sectarian war... [which] will... awaken the inattentive Sunnis." More than just a tactical move to delay U.S. transfer of power in summer 2004, Zarqawi's letter reflects an attitude of deep hostility toward Islam's largest minority (i.e., the Shi'a or Shi'ites):
The Iraqi Shi'ites are blamed not just for today's problems in Iraq, but for the defeat of Islam in the wars against Europe five hundred years ago. Thus,
The Shi'ites are referred to in terms that suggest that they are not even real Muslims: "Shi'ism is a religion that has nothing in common with Islam..."
The letter expresses itself often in highly inflammatory language, referring to Shi'ites as "snake," "scorpion", "more cunning than their Crusader masters," "covers itself with hypocrisy," as possessing "rabies."
At a time when much of the American media seem to have taken a page from their Vietnam playbook so to dwell on a storyline in which hopeless quagmire is ensnaring the U.S., the Zarqawi letter suggests that disarray is indeed present. It is unfortunate that the nay-sayers on this side of the Atlantic fail to grasp that it is the enemy that is getting bogged down.
Prof. Bowen's Terrorism Weblog: February 3, 2004
Ricin Redux. A new biological weapons attack on the U.S. took place yesterday, February 2, 2004, when the deadly poison ricin was found in mail at the U.S. Senate’s postal facility. Capitol Hill offices have been shut down. For the first time since the deadly anthrax attacks of Fall 2001, the institutions of our democracy again are under the terrorists’ direct siege.
Ironically, this real attack comes on the heels of rising public unease about whether the Iraq War of 2003, a war undertaken in large part to disarm Saddam of his biological weapons, was warranted. Everyone from former Chief Inspector David Kay to Secretary of State Colin Powell has been heard equivocating about their earlier belief in extensive Iraqi biological weapons. But, as even Dr. Kay recently conceded, Iraq was working to make ricin into weapons right down to the start of the March 2003 war. After the war ended, stored bacteria for another biological weapon, botulinum, was found in a refrigerator at the private home of an Iraqi biological weapons scientist. It is evident that large quantities of weapons employing these dangerous materials have not been found; what this means is another matter.
When Secretary Powell testified in February 2003 to the U.N. about Iraq’s weapons programs, his argument hinged on the danger to America posed by deadly weapons passing into terrorists’ hands. Powell identified Al Qaida’s local operative Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi as the man most likely to make these dangerous ties menacing through his organization Ansar al-Islam. Despite a $5 million U.S. Government reward for help in his capture, Al-Zarqawi remains at large and is believed to be coordinating Al Qaida’s part in the increasingly dangerous terror campaign in Iraq. Promisingly, his chief lieutenant, Husam al-Yemeni, was captured by U.S. Special Forces near Fallujah in mid-January 2004. But applying the fruits of his interrogation to make both Iraq and the U.S. more secure lies in the future.
Ansar al-Islam remains a clear, present threat. On Feb. 3, 2004, a series of bombings attributed to the group targeted Kurdish allies of the U.S.: at least 67 were killed and nearly 250 more were wounded in the northern Iraqi city of Erbil. This was the deadliest act of terrorism in Iraq since the conflict began March 19, 2003.
Much as the Zarqawi cell has aided Al Qaida in repeated attacks on U.S. troops and our Iraqi allies throughout the Middle East, so has Al Qaida used other cells elsewhere. In London in January 2003, ricin was found in an apartment linked to Al Qaida’s Algerian ally, the G.I.A. In the course of breaking that plot against our British ally, further arrests at London’s Finsbury Park Mosque uncovered chemical warfare suits and solid evidence of the Algerians’ terrorist ties. One British policeman, Stephen Oake, was stabbed to death January 15, 2003, in the course of arresting another terrorist in this cell. Other cells linked to these terrorists were broken in Spain, Italy and France in the year since.
What the pattern indicates is that Al Qaida remains a deadly threat, one that operates through a loose-knit group of fellow Islamist radicals who share its agenda: worldwide war on the U.S. and its allies. DNA analysis of the ricin found this week on Capitol Hill may help establish if ties to ricin found in Iraq exist. But Al Qaida terrorism “cookbooks” seized in Afghanistan and elsewhere make clear that the group has sought to train many thousands in the processes needed to fabricate such poisons independently. In other words, the “smoking gun” that ties the white powder in D.C. to Iraq, or to Al Qaida, may not be at hand.But just like Iraq’s missing weapons of mass destruction, there are explanations other than to blame American intelligence agencies for crying wolf too loudly. Much as Iraq’s arsenal continues to be reliably reported to have been hidden in Syria on the eve of last years’ war, so must we remain open to uncomfortable evidence that may take years to emerge about the latest ricin attack. What is certain is that someone has attacked the citadel of our democracy, the U.S. Congress, for the second time in three years. The choice to use ricin in the attack points reasonable suspicions toward Al Qaida and our enemies in Iraq.
1. The New York Times (February 1, 2004): 1, which stated "In regard to chemical and biological weapons, Dr. Kay told the committee, 'We have got evidence that they certainly could have produced small amounts, but we have not discovered evidence of the stockpiles.' He has reported finding evidence that Iraqi scientists were working until the eve of the invasion to produce weapons using the poison ricin and that Mr. Hussein maintained a 'clandestine network of laboratories' that could conceivably have been used to produce lethal biological agents."
2. Regarding the vial in the Iraqi scientist's fridge, in October 2003, U.S. State Department spokesperson Richard Boucher stated: " 'You kill people with botuli. They have no other use.' The vial contained live bacteria that make botulinum toxin -- a toxin that can be used as a biological weapon. But experts say there are many, complicated steps between possessing a vial of bacteria and producing enough of the toxin to create a weapon. That would require relatively sophisticated equipment and processing." Associated Press story in the Leader-Post (Regina, Saskatchewan: October 4, 2003): D15.
3. Will Dunham, "U.S. captures guerrilla leader in Iraq: Close ties to al-Qaeda," National Post (Toronto, Canada: January 24, 2004): 13.
4. Jeffrey Gettleman and Edward Wong, "The Struggle for Iraq," New York Times (February 3, 2004): A8.
5. Regarding the London ricin case and related developments, see my weblog entries below: Jan. 14, 2003; Jan. 19, 2003; Jan. 23, 2003; Jan. 24, 2003; Jan. 30, 2003; Feb. 5, 2003; and Feb. 7, 2003.
Prof. Bowen's Terrorism Weblog: January 21, 2004
Modern anti-Semitism. Gabriel Schoenfeld, a writer of an article assigned in my current Terrorism and Counter-terrorism course here, has penned an arresting new book to which today I call your attention: The Return of Anti-Semitism (Encounter Books). Moving beyond a focus on the almost routine calls to kill Jews that spew forth from radical Islamists and Al Qaeda, Schoenfeld's analysis locates a growing branch of the problem inside Europe and the U.S. As he documents, two disturbing manifestations are (1) the virtual indifference to the problem displayed by large sections of mainstream Western culture; and (2) the appearance of open and strongly anti-Semitic teaching and speech on American college and university campuses.
With regard to the first issue, Schoenfeld reminds us that complacence has a long history: "In 1924, Louis Marshall, a distinguished leader of the American Jewish Committee, confidently proclaimed that there was 'not the slightest likelihood that the Nazis’ plan will ever be carried out to the slightest extent.' In 1924, that seemed like an entirely reasonable prediction. It turned out to be entirely wrong." This attitude lives on. I recall the shootings at the El Al terminal of Los Angeles International Airport on July 4, 2002, an event that virtually the entire local press there rushed to define as an isolated act of a disturbed individual -- even before any information about the motives of the killer (an Egyptian limousine driver living in affluent Irvine, CA) were known. Ultimately, the FBI classified the murders as an act of terrorism, but only after months of delay drained the story of its essence (i.e., there are among us those whose beliefs center on a paranoid philosophy in which the killing of Jews plays a central role.) I was in the Los Angeles region at the time of the shootings, and spent some time during the weeks after with professionals from Irvine. Their chief reaction was one of embarrassment about their town's reputation. Little interest was expressed when I suggested that someone ought investigate how widespread anti-Semitic attitudes were there.
Once we have a strong belief about the way things are, new information contrary to that impression rarely penetrates, apparently. If residents of a well-to-do suburb believe that their diverse community --and Irvine is quite diverse, with a large Asian minority-- is harmonic, then new information of disharmony simply bounces off the shield created by the belief. Later that summer, a gruesome assault and rape of two couples at a lovers' lane canyon nearby, for example, drew sensational attention, but was explained away as caused by riff-raff from nearby Santa Ana (i.e., a predominantly Mexican city). Irvine, home to a University of California campus of good repute, merrily went about its happy life -- a life not all too different from that depicted on the Fox Network's "The O.C." each Wednesday evening. Divorces, drug abuse, corrupt businessmen; yes, these social problems are visible. But anti-Semitism? The consensus that year was that the shooter at LAX was one isolated malcontent; what his beliefs were did not merit attention.
This brings us to the second point I extracted from my reading Schoenfeld: the new neighborhoods of anti-Semitism are not the working class beer gardens of 1920s Munich, nor the bankrupt and desperate farm communities which in the U.S. in the 1980s were the seedbeds of domestic hate groups like the "Aryan Nations" and "The Order." Today's anti-Semitism is nourished most where it least might be expected: "today, the most vicious ideas about Jews are voiced primarily not by downtrodden and disenfranchised fringe elements of society but by its most successful, educated, and 'progressive' members. This is true in the Islamic world, and it is even truer in the West. One is less likely to find anti-Semites today in beer halls and trailer parks than on college campuses and among the opinion makers of the media elite."
The evidence assembled by Schoenfeld is varied and richly detailed. It features recent stories of outrageous accommodation to purveyors of hate by university administrations at state schools and private universities; the famed and the mundane. Some stories are well known (e.g., faculty fundraising for the defense of a University of South Florida professor, a man now under federal indictment for having raised money for Palestinian suicide bombers), but many others are not. The pattern is clear: if the objects of this hate campaign were different, I have no doubt that firm action on campuses would mobilize to oppose those advocating a revival of, say, lynching.
Schoenfeld's book is one of those rare gems that not only describe the past but predict the future. It speaks volumes that next to no notice was paid when an art exhibit honoring Jew killers was displayed at Yale University's Sterling Memorial Library or when Rutgers' campus Jewish organization, Hillel, and an historically Jewish fraternity there (Alpha Epsilon Pi) were defaced by swastika graffiti on the Jewish sabbath (September 20, 2003). Like the shooter at LAX, it seems so much easier to regard it all as isolated acts by unstable individuals.
Prof. Bowen's Terrorism Weblog: January 18, 2004
The real deal. Americans remain divided about the full nature of our war in Iraq. But we should not be disunited in praise of those who are carrying the burdens associated with winning the larger and ongoing War on Terrorism. Today, in an editorial for Gannett's News Leader, I bring attention to one MBC graduate who has done her part to protect the U.S.: Captain Sheri Sharpe of the U.S. Army, a helicopter pilot who will visit Staunton's MBC campus on Thursday Jan. 22.
Prof. Bowen's Terrorism Weblog: January 16, 2004
Targeted assassination. An intelligent correspondent has written me today, disturbed by a news story that appeared in the New York Times, a story that reported that sources close to the Government of Israel have suggested that the Cabinet there is weighing, and may authorize, the assassination of Hamas' leader Sheik Yassin. She writes: "Is it me, or is there something inherently wrong about a government publicly announcing that they are going to identify and assassinate leaders who they think might have something to do with suicide bombers? I understand that Israeli leaders are tired of having their people murdered, but hasn't anyone realized that 'an eye for an eye' is not going to work?"
This is a serious issue and it requires a serious reply. The issue raised is similar to the anxiety some Americans felt when twice in the war on Iraq last year we dropped bombs with the stated intention of killing Saddam Hussein.
What seems extreme in each case stems from the attempt to fit the morality that applies within one society in a time of peace to a very different situation, an openly declared war. Over the centuries, customary international law evolved which is known as the "laws of war," and some large elements of it were codified in a set of understandings known as the Geneva Conventions in last century. Each state also imposes under its own domestic laws limitations it feels appropriately to apply to its own soldiers. The U.S. (and Israel) have elaborate codes in these areas, and when soldiers or officers exceed them, there are processes to investigate, try, and if guilty, punish perpetrators of war crimes.
One of the key issues involved in the definition of war crimes is: "what is a legitimate target?" Soldiers in uniform in a declared international conflict, and by extension, their commanders, under both customary international law and under the Geneva Conventions are legitimate targets.
When approaching the question of the applicability of these distinctions to terrorist campaigns, a second issue arises. Terrorists, by concealing their combatant status, and by mingling their combatants with protected classes of non-combatants (e.g., hospitals, medical personnel, ambulances, children, schools), are committing a war crime. When terrorist organizations adopt a strategy of targeting civilian non-combatants, they are committing a war crime. In my opinion, when terrorists target civilian non-combatants in the context of those non-combatants' religious ceremonies and celebrations, they are committing an especially heinous war crime. All of these things, Sheik Yassin openly has embraced and taken credit for doing; or rather, has taken credit for ordering be done.
The report today from Israel that sources close to the cabinet of their Government have said that a decision soon will be made to order the killing of Sheik Yassin needs to be assessed in this context. If the Cabinet does proceed to act as these reports suggest, Israel will have taken military action in a declared war against a legitimate target in war. (Mr. Yassin's disability --he is confined to a wheel chair-- is not a magic shield in this regard).
War is ugly. It occasions distasteful things. But despite our temptation to judge wartime actions within the moral universe of civil relations among citizens in one state at peace, the practice of targeted assassination is consistent with the lawful conduct of a state in an international war. On the other hand, when Mr. Yassin's minions blew up a bus on which the girl Abigail Litle, an American of 14 years of age, was riding, and killed her (and 15 others, including eight other school children), on March 5, 2003, that was a war crime.
I understand why one might recoil from the spiral of killing and reprisal killing that weighs so heavily on the peoples of the Middle East. But sympathy for a man like Sheik Yassin, in my opinion, is misplaced. His violent death, if it comes in the future will be no war crime; and it will be richly deserved.
Whether such an action will advance or retard the search for an end to all this is a separate question. Indeed, Pres. Clinton found it within his pragmatic heart to dine and woo Mr. Yasser Arafat, an individual personally culpable in the torture-murder of a U.S. diplomat -- the highest ranking African American in the U.S. diplomatic corps at the time it happened, I might add. Mr. Arafat had, in the years between the two events, at least declared that he was a man of peace and had signed an agreement with Israel, the 1993 Oslo Accords, to that effect. Mr. Yassin, on the other hand, rejected that peace from the start, and has done nothing but attempt to undermine it in the decade since.
I can appreciate a principled position of opposition to all killing, whether the death penalty or complete pacifism about the violence of wars, when the position is taken consistently and applied to its logical conclusions. But selective application of moral outrage to condemn the actions of one nation only, or to the effect that would tie the hands of one nation alone, seems to me to be not just inconsistent but something more sinister.
I might add that the story today about Israel attempting to kill Yassin is just that: a story. He still knows the breath of fresh air; Abigail Litle does not.
For further reading:
- In October 2001, the Washington Post reported about the U.S. Government position on targeted assassination in light of the onset of the War on Terrorism as a legally authorized military conflict.
- A scholarly analysis of this problem, one that comes to a somewhat different conclusion than I have drawn, appears in the January/February 2004 issue of Foreign Affairs. Kenneth Roth's "The Law of War in the War on Terror" faults the U.S. use of rules of war to detain enemy combatants, and splits hairs so to criticize the November 3, 2002 U.S. killing in Yemen of Al Qaeda's key operative there Qaed Salim Sinan al-Harethi. A Hellfire missile fired by the CIA from a Predator drone apparently was the weapon used to stop Salim and his five companions, including one U.S. citizen: Lackawanna, New York resident Kamal Derwish. Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge confirmed these facts in an interview with PBS in 2003.
- For more on the Al Qaeda cell in Lackawanna, their ties to Al Qaeda, and Derwish's life and death, visit PBS Frontline on this topic, which stated in part: "FBI officials say they were told by the CIA that Derwish was in direct contact with one of Usama bin Laden's sons, as well as one of the al Qaeda planners of the [U.S.S.] Cole bombing." The Cole had been bombed in Yemen in October 2000; 17 U.S. sailors died.
Prof. Bowen's Terrorism Weblog: December 14, 2003
Capture of Saddam. Is this the beginning of the end to the organized resistance to the U.S. occupation of Iraq? That certainly can be hoped in the wake of the arrest of former dictator Saddam Hussein near Tikrit today.
This is spectacular news. Saddam was found cowering in a hole without any security around the area. He had but a pistol to protect himself, and that remained holstered as he was captured. This inglorious end underlines that his regime not only was removed from power in April 2003, but is permanently finished.
- The capture of Hussein will help the war effort. First, it will break morale among the Ba'ath Party remnants who are one element in the resistance. Other elements may continue to resist U.S. armed forces, but they will do so with reduced access to coordinated funding from Hussein and the Ba'ath.
- Second, his future trial will help educate the public regarding why his regime was a criminal gang.
- Third, the trial itself will help legitimize new legal and judicial institutions associated with the emerging democratic Iraq. In all these ways, his arrest will undermine those who oppose the occupation of Iraq by the U.S. and its allies.
Prof. Bowen's Terrorism Weblog: November 7, 2003
Iran and America. On Sunday November 9, an editorial by me will appear that will point to the deepening rift that is developing between Iran and America's allies in the war on terrorism. As the New York Times reported today (page 9), testimony in a Buenos Aires courtroom on Wednesday (Nov. 5) by former Iranian intelligence agent Abdolghassem Mesbahi linked top Iranian leaders to a 1994 terror bombing of a Jewish center there. Eighty-five persons perished in that act, the worst case of anti-Semitic violence in the entire world in the era since World War II. Mesbahi's testimony ties no less a figure than top Islamic cleric Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to the committee that authorized this act of murder. Most informed observers list Khamenei as the actual ruler of Iran, not its elected (but powerless) president.
Americans long have known Iran to be an enemy: 24 years ago this week, our Embassy in Teheran was seized by "students". Our diplomats (and others) were held hostage more than a year. One of the leaders of those "students" was Hadi Soleimanpour. He was rewarded for his crime by being made an Iranian diplomat, and later was posted as Ambassador to Argentina. Lately, he has again been posing as a "student," studying in of all places England. But since August 2003, Argentina has been seeking his extradition from Britain, where he currently is out on bond while the British Government determines what to do with him. Mesbahi's testimony this week pinned on Soleimanpour the role of coordinating the July 18, 1994 bomb attack.
In the news of late much has been made of Iran's promise to cooperate with U.N. arms inspectors so better to demonstrate its claim that it has no program to build nuclear weapons. But, as the evidence from this trial in Argentina shows, Iran remains knee deep in terrorism, and in sheltering terrorists. No wonder we can't track down Al Qaeda: Iran is a virtual duty free zone for them. Indeed, the country is run by terrorists.
So more than cant ritual was involved on Tuesday (Nov. 4) when the traditional mobs marched in the streets of Tehran chanting "Death to America," "Death to Britain," and "Death to the Zionists." Sure, they were commemorating the takeover of our Embassy there 24 years ago. But they also were making a statement of another kind, one which should give pause to those who think the war against terrorism began on September 11, 2001, or ended when Baghdad fell.
Prof. Bowen's Terrorism Weblog: October 2, 2003
Are Arab "moderate states" truly so? One of the central strategic decisions made in the U.S. war on terrorism has been to attempt to divide moderate Arab states from those which support Al Qaeda and terrorism more generally. In marketing the impression that the U.S. is a friend to the Arab and Islamic worlds, not a great deal of success has occurred: broad masses of their publics simply are not buying in to the U.S. position. But small comfort has come from the visible effort by some regional leaders to aid us in the war on terrorism. Notably, Pakistan's Pervez Musharraf comes to mind.
Another pivotal center of regional leadership is Egypt, where Pres. Hosni Mubarak has received very substantial U.S. economic and military aid for two decades. About the Mubarak Government I will have more to say later, but some attention to the mood of other Egyptian opinion leaders ought be paid. In Egypt, the most influential voices outside of Government are in religious and university settings. Among them, the most coveted position is the Mufti, or the head of the Sunni Islamic community and institutions. Earlier this year Sheikh Dr. 'Ali Gum'a was appointed Mufti, replacing Sheikh Dr. Ahmad Al-Tayyeb who now heads Al Azhar University.
The views of Egypt's Mufti Sheikh Dr. 'Ali Gum'a are influential and broadly disseminated in the Arab world. He has spoken on many matters of interest to Americans, and what he has to say ought to worry us. Six days after the 2001 attacks on the U.S., he called for U.S. Muslims in the U.S. Armed Forces to refuse to fight against other Muslims. After his elevation to Mufti in July 2003, and in a reversal of his predecessor's position, he openly advocated the use of suicide bombings against Israeli civilians and military alike; and the assassination of Israelis living abroad, even diplomats. This latter position, of course, is advocacy of violation of one of the most basic elements of international law: the respect for diplomatic immunity. These are extreme views, and appear in no substantial way to differ from those of Osama bin Laden. Yet, unlike Osama's diatribes, they spew forth not from some isolated tent but from respected and august offices. More disturbingly, they are being distributed by the highest religious authorities in the Arab state that over the last 20 years has received the greatest amount of U.S. aid in the region.
Listen to his words closely:
Question: "And what is the ruling regarding the martyrdom [i.e. suicide] operations? Unfortunately, there have been those who have condemned them or demanded that they be stopped [i.e. the sheikh of Al-Azhar, Tantawi]."
Sheikh Gum'a: "The one who carries out Fedaii [martyrdom] operations against the Zionists and blows himself up is, without a doubt, a Shahid because he is defending his homeland against the occupying enemy who is supported by superpowers such as the U.S. and Britain."
Question: "Do you distinguish between Fedaii operations against military personnel and those carried out against so-called civilians among the Zionists?"
Sheikh Gum'a: " The Zionists themselves do not differentiate between civilian and military personnel. They have set the entire people to military service. The civilian settler who occupies land in a state of war is a Harbi [that is, a non-Muslim living in an area regarded as 'Dar Al-harb,' the 'domain of war,' in which Islam does not dominate and must therefore be fought until Islam dominates it]. Besides, everyone in Israel, civilians and military personnel, bear arms. That is, they are 'Ahl Al-Qital'[that is, those who deserve to be fought]."
Some small comfort might be taken from other of his remarks to the effect that Americans with visas working in the region ought not to be killed. But the larger impression is that the problem with extremism in the region no longer is one which divides terror groups from moderate publics, or problem states from pro-U.S. ones.
To read the statements made by Sheikh Gum'a in their entirety, go to the MEMRI Institute, which translated and circulated the facts on which this weblog entry is based.
Prof. Bowen's Terrorism Weblog: September 14, 2003
Saudi Arabia on My Mind. In an editorial published today in the News Leader (Staunton VA), I argue that the removal of the last significant U.S. armed force from the Kingdom (August 26) may prove to be a mistake. Saudi Arabia remains not only the symbolic center of the war on terrorism. As Gerald Posner charges in his new book "Why America Slept" (NY: Random House, 2003), elements of its Government may indeed be one of the principal centers of finance for the world terrorist movement known as Al Qaeda. (For a Sept. 8, 2003 Time Magazine article on this read that issue, or go here).
Prof. Bowen's Terrorism Weblog: September 11, 2003
Saudi Arabian Religious Police target Barbie Dolls. As we commemorate and worry about more attacks, from today's Jerusalem Post comes this "revealing" story about what is riling our Arabian friends these days:
"Saudi Arabia's religious police have declared Barbie dolls a threat to morality, complaining that the revealing clothes of the "Jewish" toy - already banned in the kingdom - are offensive to Islam.
The Committee for the Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, as the religious police are officially known, lists the dolls on a section of its Web site devoted to items deemed offensive to the conservative Saudi interpretation of Islam.
"Jewish Barbie dolls, with their revealing clothes and shameful postures, accessories and tools are a symbol of decadence to the perverted West. Let us beware of her dangers and be careful," said a message posted on the site.
A spokesman for the Committee said the campaign against Barbie - banned for more than 10 years - coincides with the start of the school year to remind children and their parents of the doll's negative qualities.
Speaking to The Associated Press by telephone from the holy city of Medina, he claimed that Barbie was modeled after a real-life Jewish woman.
Although illegal, Barbies are found on the black market, where a contraband doll could cost $27 or more.
In May, the watchdog group Middle East Media Research Institute wrote that the religious police Web site showed a photo of several Barbie dolls.
The group, which translates Arabic media, also translated this text from the Web site:
"The enemies of Islam want to invade us with all possible means, and therefore they have circulated among us this doll, which spreads deterioration of values and moral degeneracy among our girls."
With the photo of Barbie, under the heading "The Jewish Doll," was a story titled "The Strange Request."
The story reads: "One girl said to her mother: 'Mother, I want jeans and a shirt open at the top, like Barbie's!!' The dolls of the Jewish Barbie in her naked garb [sic], their disgraceful appearance, and their various accessories are a symbol of the dissolution of values in the West. We must fully comprehend the danger in them."
Barbie owner Mattel Inc. declined comment.
The creator of Barbie was Ruth Handler, who with her husband Elliot, co-founded Mattel. Barbie was named after the Handler's daughter, Barbie. Handler was the daughter of Polish Jewish immigrants to the United States, and was brought up in a Yiddish-speaking household in Denver, Colorado.
According to the Web site characterproducts.com, Ruth Handler was inspired by three smutty "Lilli" dolls she picked up in Europe in 1957. The Lilli dolls were modeled after a character in a German comic strip. Lilli was not a baby doll like most other dolls on the market in the 1950s. Lilli had a well developed, curvaceous body, a tiny waistline, and wore skimpy, tight clothes.
After watching her daughter Barbie play with adult paper dolls, Ruth Handler decided to create a doll that would "project every little girl's dream of the future."
According to Mattel, more than 1 billion Barbie dolls (and family members) have been sold since 1959 in more than 140 countries. Barbie is the best-selling fashion doll in almost every global market, with worldwide annual sales of $1.5 billion."
Prof. Bowen's Terrorism Weblog: September 9, 2003
Saudi Arabia on Many Minds. With the second anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks near, Saudi Arabia remains near the center of many people's concerns. In a draft editorial to be published Sept. 14, I argue that the removal of the last significant U.S. armed force from the Kingdom (August 26) may prove to be a mistake. Saudi Arabia remains not only the symbolic center of the war on terrorism. As Gerald Posner charges in his new book "Why America Slept" (NY: Random House, 2003), elements of its Government may indeed be one of the principal centers of finance for the world terrorist movement known as Al Qaeda. (For a Sept. 8, 2003 Time Magazine article on this read that issue, or go here).
Know your enemy: Saudi Arabia also is the centerpiece of a newly released Al Qaeda statement about this war, a war it refers to as an "obligation" of all Muslims. Attacking not only the Saudi Arabian Government but many other regional regimes and leaders (e.g., Yasser Arafat, Pervez Musharraf), Al Qaeda on Sept. 9 explained why it had bombed Riyadh this past May. (The Middle East Media Research Institute translated and has made accessible this comunique from the terrorist organization).
Prof. Bowen's Terrorism Weblog: June 3, 2003
New editorial urges bipartisanship. In a sharp rebuke to West Virginia Senator Robert Byrd, my recent 'sour grapes' editorial urged Democrats to abandon opposition to the foreign policy of the United States that has been pursued by Pres. Bush. A tradition of bipartisanship in foreign policy not only is good for the nation; it is a sound strategy for winning elections.
The Bush campaign for re-election in 2004 will labor heavily to demonstrate that this administration has succeeded in improving the lives of average Americans. The election of 2004 could indeed turn on the issue of prosperity for working people.
But this will not happen if the Democratic Party identifies itself with political forces opposed to effective action against global terrorism. United with Republicans in support of winning the war on terrorism, Democrats can neutralize the national security issue which currently is Pres. Bush's strongest card.
That is why it is critical for the leadership of the Democratic Party to draw a sharp line between the party and forces that oppose the war on terrorism. No reach for victory is worth the cost of associating with the Green Party, Ralph Nader, or the street protestors who opposed the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. To stand before voters hugging these opponents of effective action to enhance national security will be the electoral kiss of death.
Prof. Bowen's Terrorism Weblog: April 27, 2003
Physical evidence links Al Qaeda and Iraq. It has long been known that the now deposed Iraq Government of Saddam Hussein trained terrorists. The U.S. capture of the Salman Pak terrorist training center on April 6th by the 3rd Battalion of the 7th Marines, under the command of Col. Steve Hummer, proved as much. (AP, April 6). But skeptics long have insisted that these camps do not link Iraq to Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda; they only link Saddam's regime to terrorism in its generic form.
Well informed experts long have scoffed at this distinction. Indeed, last year French journalist Roland Jacquard documented numerous meetings in 1997 and 1998 between Iraqi officials and Al Qaeda representatives. (see: Roland Jacquard, In the Name of Osama Bin Laden Durham NC: Duke University Press, 2002: pp. 111-113).
But these were just allegations, not proven evidence, even though Jacquard's book provided copious appendices in which Xeroxes of all his evidence regarding Al Qaeda was reproduced.
Jacquard's charges, however, were reinforced after the U.S. occupied the Iraqi capital earlier this Spring. Several documents found in the ruins of the Iraqi Intelligence headquarters provided stunning evidence that the secularists (Saddam's gang) and the Islamists (Bin Laden's thugs) worked together. According to the London Sunday Telegraph, April 27, 2003, the documents described senior Iraqi intelligence officials of the Mukhabarat agency saying that "the deputy director general bring the envoy to Iraq because we may find in this envoy a way to maintain contacts with bin Laden." Other documents further confirmed that a week of meetings in Baghdad subsequently took place in March 1998. Still other evidence came in the form of a three page memorandum describing the meetings, which Iraq's Government hosted. Bin Laden's minions traveled to Baghdad from Khartoum, Sudan and were put up at the al-Mansour Melia, a first class hotel, at Iraqi expense. These documents were discovered in the rubble of Iraq's Mukhabarat intelligence agency by Daily Telegraph reporters. Senior Iraqi officials and Al Qaeda representatives were described in the documents as making good progress toward mutual objectives regarding their common enemy: the U.S.
Thus, at least to a greater degree now than yesterday, the proof exists that the war on terrorism and the war on Iraq have been one and the same.
(The Sunday Telegraph has provided translated copies of the documents on their website)
Prof. Bowen's Terrorism Weblog: April 13, 2003
Tolerance and heroism. Today's "World View" editorial in the Staunton Leader notes the strong anger that remains toward the U.S., despite its battlefield victories in Iraq. I refer to events in Jenin first discussed here on April 3: Palestinians have shot themselves in the foot yet again by praising suicide bombers. In this case, an Iraqi man who killed 4 Americans (March 29) had a public square named after him. Ironically, most Iraqis seem little disposed to praise such actions. Across Iraq, Arab "volunteers" from elsewhere in the Middle East are being turned in by ordinary Iraqis, and U.S. authorities are detaining these would-be suicide bombers. Dozens of the bombers' belts have been uncovered in Baghdad. Yet anti-American anger persists throughout the region, at least in part due to denial of the obvious by many Arab news outlets. Understanding the sources of social support for the anger that fuels suicide bombers against America can prepare us for the further actions needed after a part of the peace is won in Iraq. Clearly, all Americans' assistance will be needed if we are fully to win the War on Terrorism.
Prof. Bowen's Terrorism Weblog: April 9, 2003
Liberation. Press accounts pouring over the wires today could hardly be more encouraging. Here are a few:
11:13 AM: "Saddam's regime collapses; Baghdad erupts in Jubilation." (AFP, the official French news agency)
11:30 AM: "Marines Find Alleged 'torture center' " (Reuters, Nassiriyah, Iraq)
12:20 PM: "Hussein's Baghdad Falls as U.S. Establishes Control; Jubilant Iraqis Take to Streets, Topple Baghdad Statue of Dictator" (Washington Post).
12:30 PM: "Iraqis Dance on Toppled Saddam Statue in Baghdad" (Reuters, Baghdad, Iraq)
It may not be too late for the skeptics, critics, and other doubters to recant. As I chided the anti-war movement on March 9: "later this Spring when Baghdad is liberated and its torture chambers are revealed, human freedom will have taken another step forward thanks to the United States. Want to take bets on who calls for rain on that parade?
" One month has passed since that invitation was issued. Any anti-war people wishing to retract their opposition to the liberation of Iraq should feel free to so communicate here. All such mea culpa will be presented, space permitting.
Prof. Bowen's Terrorism Weblog: April 8, 2003
Victory in Iraq: A vital national interest. According to a new Washington Post/ABC poll published today, support for the war in Iraq has risen to 77 percent. With more than three in four supporting the war, it is now the case that a bare 16 percent say they oppose it.
Nearly six years ago, the quintessential American realist, Samuel Huntington --notorious in some quarters for his 1993 "clash of civilizations" line about Islam having "bloody borders" (Foreign Affairs, 1993)-- defined vital national interests in the following way:
“A national interest is a public good of concern to all or most Americans; a vital interest is one which they are willing to expend blood and treasure to defend. National interests usually combine security and material concerns, on the one hand, and moral and ethical concerns on the other.”
S.P. Huntington, “The Erosion of American National Interests,” Foreign Affairs (Sept./Oct. 1997): 35.
Applying that definition to the poll data about our present moment, it is fair now to say that three in four Americans believe there is a vital national interest in winning the war in Iraq.
So much for the claim of the anti-war crowd that their position amounts to a mass movement, either against war or anything else.
Or, put another way:
Add to that list "ending Ba'athism."
Prof. Bowen's Terrorism Weblog: April 3, 2003
A revealing "honor." Associated Press (April 1) reported from Jenin, a refugee camp in the Occupied Territories controlled by Israel, that a part of the main square in the camp was renamed "Ali Joafar al-Noamani Square" on Tuesday April 1. Who is Ali Joafar al-Noamani? He is the Iraqi non-commissioned officer who on March 29 took the lives of four American servicemen by means of a suicide bomb hidden in the trunk of his vehicle. The incident occurred outside Najaf, Iraq.
This act of commemoration certainly seems to spit on the outstretched hand of friendship offered March 27 by Prime Minister Tony Blair and President George Bush, when at a joint press interview in Washington they spoke of the importance of postwar efforts to solve the Israel-Palestinian impasse.
Americans should be outraged both by the Iraqi tactic of hiding its soldiers in civilian garb, and by the honoring of such killers by the Palestinian authorities at Jenin. Why such acts of ill will toward Americans should pass under our radar escapes me.
No public square has been named for our fallen soldiers. But we should now honor them. Newsday (April 1, page 26) reported that the four were:
Army Sgt. Eugene Williams, 24, from Highland, New York (a small town an hour's drive south of Albany). Williams, with his wife, Brandy, had a
3-year-old daughter, and a second child is expected in June.
Army Pfc. Diego F. Rincon, 19, of
Cpl. Michael Curtin, 23, of Howell, New Jersey; and
Michael Weldon, 20,
of Palm Bay, Florida.
Curtin's parents released a statement that said, in part: "
He was fighting for our freedom, which we should never take for granted."
Prof. Bowen's Terrorism Weblog: March 29, 2003
Three in four support the War. According to a new Washington Post-ABC Poll released today, 74 percent of Americans support the U.S. having gone to war with Iraq, and 58 percent say they do so "strongly." This compares to 24 percent who oppose (16 percent "strongly"). Despite news reports focusing on the slow pace of progress in the war, 82 percent of Americans think the war is going well, and a full 30 percent want the U.S. to be more aggressive. Five percent -- one American in twenty-- think we have been too aggressive. Looks like the anti-war movement has not connected with the mass of Americans, doesn't it?
A small error: The Post Poll linked here mis-adds its numbers and lists 73 percent support, not the 74 percent that appears in the published edition of the paper, page 30, from which my reference above is taken.
Prof. Bowen's Terrorism Weblog: March 28, 2003
Rewarding opponents? Across the Middle Eastern region, indignation at the progress of the U.S.-British invasion of Iraq has been fierce. Since the outbreak of war, all members of the Arab League, with the sole exception of Kuwait, formally voted (March 24th) to condemn the coalition's actions. Parades in support of Saddam have mobilized thousands (though, interestingly, not millions) in Cairo and other capitals of the region. Echoing earlier recent calls by Iraqi clerics and (Palestinian) Hamas leaders, the chief Sunni cleric in Syria this week has called for the faithful to undertake attacks on the U.S. and British wherever it is possible:
"All Muslims have to use all possible means of defeating the enemy, including martyrdom operations against the invading warriors," Sheikh Ahmad Kiftaro said.
Volunteers reliably are reported to be following his advice and to be transiting to Iraq via Syria (Debka: March 28, 2003). Today, March 28 (as reported by the MEMRI Institute), one might expect to hear things like what was said by Sheik Abd Al-Ghafour Al-Qaysi at Abd Al-Qadr Al-Gaylani Mosque in Baghdad:
"We call on Muslims everywhere, and to Arabs. We say to them: this is the day of Jihad. The Jihad has become a personal [duty] of every Muslim. To refrain from Jihad today would constitute a violation of Allah's commands. It is a sin. Long live the Jihad !"
We would not, however, necessarily expect that Arab TV of Dubai would broadcast those views. They did, and viewers not only were able to enjoy the stirring visual delivery, they were able to enjoy the theatrics in which Sheik Al-Qaysi held a gun aloft the entire time he was preaching this incitement! Nor would we expect that in Saudi Arabia, clerics would proclaim much the same shrill things. But, in Medina, on today, March 28, Sheik Salah al-Budeir ended his fiery sermon with several invocations to God:
"Protect the weakness of our Muslim brothers in Iraq...Destroy their enemies, kill them (enemies) with their weapons, burn them with their fires...Allah, raise the banner of jihad."
These jarring sentiments resemble the language used by Osama bin Laden in his under-appreciated February 2003 sermon for the "Feast of the Sacrifice," but the views expressed clearly have penetrated widely throughout the leading voices of Islamic religion in the Middle East. And they been well received in Arab societies, especially in Palestinian areas where, in Gaza and the West Bank, a popular name for new babies this Spring is Saddam:
"At Rafidia Hospital, Hadia Awad, who registers the newborn babies, said Saddam was the most popular name in Nablus after the 1991 Gulf War, but after Sept. 11, 2001, it was eclipsed by Osama... If the hospital's register of births is any measure, Saddam Hussein only seems to be growing in popularity as the war in Iraq drags on." (Calgary Herald, March 27, page 7)
All this is but the front edge of a growing sandstorm of human anger in the region, focused on the U.S. military, Pres. Bush, Prime Minister Blair, and Americans and Britons in general.
Yet, how did President Bush and Prime Minister Blair regard the region in their joint statements at their summit here yesterday? Both pledged to resume efforts to restart a "peace process" between Israel and the Palestinians by promising to unveil soon a "road map" filled with timetables of concessions to be met primarily by Israel.
Why is it that those who actively undermine U.S. policy in the war on Iraq are being rewarded, while the only democratic state in the region that consistently has sided with us on both the War on Terrorism and the War on Iraq is put under new pressures? This curious situation stands in stark contrast to the strong suggestion heard from sources close to allied governments that France and Russia will have a price to pay for obstructing U.S. policy. Why is it that Arab States are rewarded for not supporting U.S. policy, while Israel is asked to "take steps for peace" with a Palestinian adversary who has neither forsaken violence nor supported any U.S. initiative toward the war on terrorism or Iraq?
One explanation is that the U.S. is only acting as if it has energy to put behind any postwar work on the "Middle East Peace Process." (Isn't it time that Orwellian phrase is retired? Its continued use illustrates the triumph of baseless hope over a clearheaded assessment of the facts in this region since September 11, 2001.) Blair apparently needs the fig leaf of concern for the Palestinians to hide from his own left wing in the Labour Party, and to repair damaged relations with "Europe," or so this line of reasoning goes. Perhaps. But a more worrisome explanation is that Pres. Bush has begun to listen to the advice of the consistently anti-Israel bureaucrats in the Department of State, even as more of the careerists in our diplomatic corps are resigning over disagreement with his Iraq policy.
If that explanation is correct, among the additional reasons to hope for a quick and successful conclusion to the War with Iraq must be to get the more realistic political appointees who head that Department back in a position to rein in their underlings. With focus of top leadership at State on the important matter of keeping U.S. diplomacy harmonic with the policy goals of the Administration, it will be easier for decision makers to work on the truly central problems for U.S. security in the region: waging the war on terrorism and establishing a stable, democratic (and disarmed) postwar Iraq. Without some genuine allies to assist us in the region, the postwar Middle East will remain as dangerous as the pre-war Middle East.
Prof. Bowen's Terrorism Weblog: March 20, 2003
War. At 10:16 last evening, Pres. Bush announced that the nation's armed forces had gone to war against Iraq. Affirmed as his prerogative by the actions of each house of Congress in October 2002, the days ahead may be perilous. In these dangerous times, some solace comes from knowledge that our British allies are at our side: the House of Commons on Tuesday March 18 authorized war as well by a vote of 412 to 149. The risks undertaken by our soldiers and sailors are on all of our behalf; I encourage vigorous and active expression of support for them, regardless of the position one takes on the matter of the war itself.
As readers of this weblog and my friends already know, I long have advocated going to war to disarm Iraq and publicly have said so repeatedly since the U.S.-Iraq mini crisis of February 1998. In terms of the current crisis, a reader is referred to my September 11, 2002 editorial which outlined substantially similar arguments to Pres. Bush would present the next day (Sept. 12, 2002) at the United Nations General Assembly. In part, I wrote:
"Acting alone should not be our first choice, but when the course suggested by the counsel of others magnifies a nation’s peril, it is in the interest of that nation to act alone. Our friends in Israel who long have lived under the terrorists’ siege understand this axiom; Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations authorizes acting in self-defense. Most Americans will rally around national leaders who understand the consequences of further delay. This Fall, Congress should authorize and the President should implement a military policy to pre-empt the most deadly potential form of attack on the U.S. by removing the current regime in Iraq."
I stand by those words, and am gratified that the nation has undertaken that course. This course contains risks. But the risks of inaction are far greater.
I appreciate hearing from those who share these views, and continue to enjoy spirited exchanges with those who do not agree with my early and consistent support of Pres. Bush on this important matter: firstname.lastname@example.org
Images from the war. Five pages of pictures direct from the 101st Airborne Division now are up for viewing. These photos come courtesy of Prof. van Assendelft of the MBC Political Science Department, and arrived today from her friend Savas who is fighting with the 101st. Check them out here.
Prof. Bowen's Terrorism Weblog: March 11, 2003
Do you believe this man, or do you believe your own eyes? Today's Staunton News Leader brought a response to my Sunday editorial, submitted by another Mary Baldwin professor. In his response, the writer essentially charges me with lying. Referring to my reference to a poster depicting Osama bin Laden that hangs on the exterior door of another faculty member's office at Mary Baldwin College, today's writer stated that: "I can assure you that nobody on this and any other location at our college has such a picture anywhere."
Oh really? And what, then, exactly is this?
If I write that a picture of Osama hangs facing a hallway on a faculty member's office door, as much as if I state that this or that official in Saudi Arabia denied any Saudi had involvement in the September 11th attacks, it is a fact. Can the same be said of claims publicly made by today's writer? Look at the picture above. Is that, or is that not, a flattering poster of Osama bin Laden?
As Winston Churchill once said of another opponent in another time, my critic is a "purveyor of terminological inexactitudes."
Prof. Bowen's Terrorism Weblog: March 10, 2003
Remembering Innocent American Victims. The War on Terrorism is not an abstract exercise or revenge for events long past. It is a response to an ongoing war being waged against Americans worldwide: innocent men, women and children. Our War on Terrorism is a response in part to this ongoing assault on Americans (and others) that is being conducted by adherents to a malignant philosophy. These killers believe they have received religious permission to kill us, anywhere, anytime. Once victory is won over Iraq later this Spring, much of this deeper problem will remain to be addressed. Until then, we can acknowledge the supreme sacrifice made by remembering recent American victims of terrorism.
- In Israel's Occupied Territories at Kiryet Aba (near Hebron) U.S. citizen Dina Wolf Horowitz was murdered on Friday March 7. Horowitz, age 49, and her husband, Eli, were shot dead by a Hamas gunman while observing Shabbat at home. The gunmen were killed later by Israeli forces. Dina Horowitz's death should be especially of interest here at Mary Baldwin College (an all women's institution): Dina Horowitz was a teacher at an all girls school.
- Two days earlier, on Wednesday March 5, Abigail Litle, age 14, died as a result of injuries suffered when a homicide bomb planted on a bus in Sderot Moriah, Israel killed 16, including nine schoolchildren. Abigail Litle came from a devout Baptist family, and had lived nearly all her life in Israel. At her funeral yesterday, her coffin was draped in both U.S. and Israeli flags. Hamas took credit for this multiple murder in which the Hamas bomber also died.
- One day earlier, on Tuesday March 4, the Rev. William P. Hyde perished in a bombing at Davao, Philippines. Hyde was joined by 20 Filipinos killed in this attack by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. Injured Americans included 33 year old missionary Barbara Stevens and her two children, Nathan (10 months) and Sarah (4 years old).
Prof. Bowen's Terrorism Weblog: March 9, 2003
New editorial critiques the anti-war movement. Today my published column takes sharp aim on the premature outrage, the misplaced affectations, and the amateur leadership of the anti-war movement. Published by Gannett's News Leader of Staunton VA, a printable version is here, or view a scan of the original here.
Prof. Bowen's Terrorism Weblog: March 7, 2003
President Bush's March 6 news conference focused on a fundamental truth. The problem of terrorism is acute because it threatens U.S. national security. Those concerns do not diminish simply because our former allies (the French, the Germans) choose to take lightly the risks posed to us by opposing American efforts in Iraq.
We all might like to return to normalcy, to a time when evil was located in a fading past. But now is not that time.
In this regard, I was asked by a friend if I was going to attend the film "The Pianist" this weekend. My reply might be of interest:
"I don't think we will see 'The Pianist.' I am sure it is a good film; I am weary of Holocaust films, however.
"With so much contemporary anti-Semitism, it seems to me that the focus on events 60 years ago is oddly having the spurious effect of legitimizing, rather than ostracizing, it. People say, 'well, it is not like that today,' then make use of the limited knowledge they get from such films to make outrageous comparisons (such as equating Israeli policies versus the Palestinians with Nazi practices in Poland) that have the curious effect of using the Holocaust to justify contemporary hatred of Jews.
"I personally think the attitudes found in mainstream Arab sources, and not merely in Bin Laden types, are fully as dangerous to the Jews as anything Hitler came up with. Hitler did not openly declare he intended to kill any and all Jews he could get his hands on; he just did that. Bin Laden goes further, and so do many 'moderates' in the Arab and Islamic worlds: they openly call it a religious duty for all Muslims to kill Jews, and pointedly emphasize that they do not just mean Israelis, or just people in the Israeli Armed Forces.
"This situation is vastly compounded by the legitimizing of actions to this end by mainstream political and Muslim religious authorities in the Middle East, a position never taken by most Christian preachers in regard to the historic Holocaust. (e.g., see: my June 2002 editorial on Saudi Arabia, or see this weblog, Nov. 25, 2002). Yet, -- and here my criticism is most pointed at voices on the left in Europe and in America-- the critics of U.S. and Israel ignore this entirely (at best) or (at its worst) seek to apologize for it, and sometimes even justify the hatred toward the Jews that is mainstream in the Middle East and in the non-Arab Islamic world (e.g., see this weblog, Jan. 27, 2003). Blame is cast on Israel for having provoked these genocidal attitudes by having tried to protect themselves by going after the bombers. I have seen more outrage... over Israel blowing up the homes of proven suicide bombers than I have seen over the killing of Jews by suicide bombings by these same men.
"It gets worse. In media like the New York Times, a double standard is fastidiously adhered to in which suicide bombers who kill Jews are carefully never called 'terrorists,' whereas everyone easily calls the Sept. 11 killers by that name. No, people who kill Jewish civilians in Israel --and this is true even when the victims are Jewish Americans-- are in the New York Times called 'militants.' The State Department, when issuing lists of Americans killed by terrorism, does not list American Jews killed by Palestinian terrorism inside Israel. And so forth.
"So, I am sure that 'the Pianist' will be a good film. I just cannot bring myself to view yet another waltz down a memory lane in which the threat is located among Europeans, and in the past. I think it is present among today's Europeans, and throughout the Arab and Islamic worlds.
"Do you realize a 100,000 T-shirts memorializing Osama bin Laden were sold last year in Indonesia, for example? A man who openly calls it a religious duty to kill Americans and Jews anywhere they can be killed is regarded so widely as a hero!!! Thus, my position is in strong support of President Bush and his war on terrorism policies. I was pleased to hear him refer several times to the fact that it is not just Al Qaeda but "other" terrorist groups we are coming after.
"The only way we will reverse this anti-American trend is by re-establishing the belief that to oppose us is to suffer terrible consequences. Giving aid and listening sympathetically has done us no good. As the Pew Center reported in December 2002, in Egypt for 25 years: five percent there support our war on terrorism; 95 percent oppose it. We cannot buy friends. What we can do is earn the respect of those who value having their lives develop without seeing their civilizations blown to dust. To do that, first Baghdad must fall.
"I have never said it then ends there. There are other addresses which will follow, and in establishing our nation and our friends are not to be trifled with, a good measure of pain is going to have to be administered. In this sense, I hope it is for PR purposes only that all this emphasis on 'preventing casualties' is being expressed about the next phase of the war. At the present time, Iraqis are signing up for martyrdom battalions, and to send the right message to Lebanon, Syria, Libya and others, we need to fulfill their aspirations, not coddle them.
"Peace was not won over the sick society Germany had become by the type of solution that was 1918. Germany only changed after the end of the road it was on was more clearly etched on the national psyche by the ruin that was 1945. Thus, today we confront the fruits of a foolish peace in 1991, and the attitudes it and other mistakes, e.g. pulling out of Lebanon in 1984, have spawned. As with Germany and Japan in 1945, so with the terrorist menace nourished by Islamic religious radicalism today. It must be cauterized."
Prof. Bowen's Terrorism Weblog: February 27, 2003
With War with Iraq on the horizon, is now the time to try to take further steps toward regional peace? Can meaningful change take place if solving the problem of Iraq occurs without solving the Israel - Palestinian problem? Many voices in the Middle East assert that the answer is NO. But should American policy be guided by this view? For an excellent contemporary analysis of the prospects for peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors, including analysis of each proposed scenario for peace (including the official U.S. "road map" proposal), please see Daniel Pipes in Commentary, February 2003.
Prof. Bowen's Terrorism Weblog: February 7, 2003
NY Times Sows Confusion from Small discrepancy. Yesterday's New York Times headlined the following concerning the issue of where is the terrorists' bioweapons camp in Iraq?: "THREATS AND RESPONSES: NORTHERN IRAQ; Kurds Puzzled by Report of Terror Camp."
The Times may be "puzzled," but there is a simple explanation.
As I first charged January 14, as I documented here Jan. 19, and as I published for the News Leader that same day, sources in Israel long have pointed to a terrorist bioweapons camp in Kurdish-controlled Iraq, at the village of Bayara. On Feb. 5 in his speech to the U.N Security Council, Secretary of State Powell zeroed in on this same camp, showing aerial photos and more; but he located it at Khurmal, Iraq.
The Times headline of yesterday (above) seems to suggest that something is fishy with Powell's charge.
But there is a ready explanation. Bayara ---sometimes transliterated Beyara--- lies a few miles outside Khurmal, but within the Khurmal "district." As the Times story (but not the headline) indicated: " 'We have some information about this lab from agents and from prisoners,' Kamal Fuad, the [Kurdish] Parliament speaker, said."
Moreover, the Kurds interviewed in the Times story did confirm that a bioweapons lab does exist in the district. " 'My sources say it is in Beyara,' one Kurdish official said. 'Not in Khurmal.' [The terrorist group] Ansar has a headquarters in Beyara, a village several miles from Khurmal."
Why the Times would seize on these tiny discrepancies to lead as it did, or to conclude as it did about Powell's charges ("All of it is not true") is almost more interesting than this hairsplitting by the "news" editors of the New York Times.
Prof. Bowen's Terrorism Weblog: February 6, 2003
Columbia Space Shuttle Disaster: Have you been wondering how America's recent space tragedy is playing in the Middle East? Here is a sampler:
Lebanon: Hizbullah Secretary-General Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah said: "What happened yesterday is a message for all humanity, and especially for Arab and Islamic peoples and the peoples of the Third World. This is a message to all those who in recent years thought that the U.S. was God... America the superpower, with its navy, its science, and its invasion of space threatens the Planet Earth with war... Yet, yesterday it stood stunned as the space shuttle exploded in the skies and fell to earth without anyone being able to do a thing. Whether it wanted to or not, the U.S. stood submissive to the will of Allah."
Source: AFP, cited by Al-Bayan (UAE), February 3, 2003; reproduced courtesy of MEMRI Institute.
United Arab Emirates: Hamed Salamin, a columnist for the UAE daily Al-Bayan, wrote: "Feelings of sadness and joy intermingle at the sight of the fragments of the American space shuttle Columbia scattering in the skies of Texas. These conflicting feelings make those feeling them probe the obscurity of their souls to seek out the reasons for the sadness and the joy... An atmosphere of sadness and shock overcame the Israelis two days ago when NASA announced [Ramon's] death... This is enough to arouse joy in every heart that beats Arabism and Islam... Perhaps the sight of the Columbia shuttle's crashing in the town of Palestine, Texas reminds the Israeli people of the daily tragedy of the Palestinians – of the sorrow, the blood, and the massacres that the army of the [Zionist] entity carries out on the occupied lands. But it would not appear that the vast majority of Israelis have feelings for others... The Columbia disaster is a loss to all, even though emotions are conflicting. Sincerest condolences to the American people and to the families of the six American astronauts, and Ramon should go to hell. There is no sorrow for him whatsoever."
Source: Al-Bayan (UAE), February 3, 2003; reproduced courtesy of MEMRI Institute.
Libya: Khaled Ghalam in the Libyan newspaper Al-Zahf Al-Akhdhar: "... The Americans, whose administration has set them at odds with the world due to its blind policy, found no one to comfort them, even in this bleak moment... What will Bush say to his people this time? Did bin Laden fly in a space shuttle like Columbia and crash into it...? Or perhaps Hamas used short-range Qassam rockets to explode it? Perhaps [the disaster was deliberate] so as to serve as a pretext for Blix and Al-Barad'i to explain the danger of nuclear warheads that cross the atmosphere and hit shuttles? ..."
"Our only condolences to the American people are for its administration... which has lost human feeling and genuine love in its attitude towards the world's governments and peoples."
Source: Al-Zahf Al-Akhdhar (Libya), February 3, 2003; reproduced courtesy of MEMRI Institute.
Prof. Bowen's Terrorism Weblog: February 5, 2003
Secretary of State Colin Powell today made a detailed and forceful case against Iraq in an address to the U.N. Security Council. The nearly two hour presentation of evidence --"facts, not assertions"-- included new information about Iraq's evasion of its responsibility to disarm under U.N. Security Council resolution 1441. Information from aerial photos, intercepted telephone transmissions, eye witnesses, and other sources built the case: Iraq continues to develop biological, chemical and nuclear weapons, and a variety of delivery systems for its banned weapons, in direct and continuing violation of pledges made to the U.N. dating from 1991.
Powell tied Iraq to Al Qaeda. Powell also documented links between Al Qaeda and Iraq extending back many years. He pointed to Iraqi assistance to bin Laden in the art of document forgery while the bearded one resided in Taliban-run Afghanistan; to meetings between bin Laden and Iraqi intelligence officials in Khartoum, Sudan (1996); and to the agreement reached at that time whereby bin Laden would cease aiding anti-Saddam forces in exchange for Iraq's assistance in the development of weapons. Powell spoke of deepened ties after bin Laden's attacks on U.S. embassies in East Africa (1998). Pertinent to the present threat, Powell pointed to the key role of one Al Qaeda operative, Baghdad resident Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi, in relation to assassination of U.S. personnel in Jordan, and in relation to cells of terrorists arrested in Paris (December 2002) and in London (January 2003), terrorists who were attempting biological weapons attacks on Western interests.
Without taking any credit for exposing matters which were apparently well known inside Western intelligence agencies for some time, it is fair here to say that these are the very linkages between Iraq, the ricin terror ring in London, and Al Qaeda which were discussed in my January 19 editorial and in this weblog throughout recent weeks (e.g., see my comments below on: Jan. 14, 2003; Jan. 19, 2003; Jan. 23, 2003; the third item covered on Jan. 24, 2003; and just six days ago, on Jan. 30, 2003). Mr. Al-Zarqawi, the key individual named by Powell to link Iraq and Al Qaeda in his speech today (February 5), I identified in the News Leader two and one half weeks ago.
Discrepancy in details: Powell located Al-Zarqawi's Al Qaeda bioweapons lab in Khurmal, a town in Kurdish Iraq northeast of Halabjah (site of the 1988 mass gassing of Kurds by the Saddam regime.) My source (DEBKA, January 4, 2003) had placed the bioweapons lab in Bayara, Iraq. For a map on which to locate such villages, go here.
Additionally, Powell scoffed at the notion that the relatively secular tyranny of Iraq could not cooperate with the theological terrorists of Al Qaeda. Not only did the pattern of cooperation he outlined belie this favored line of critics of the Administration, Powell pointed to the fact that the Islamist terror Hamas organization opened a Baghdad office in 1999, an office that continues to operate there, as does the Islamist terror organization Islami Jihad.
Reinforcing an argument made by me in January 2003, Powell stated that a senior Al Qaeda detainee now in custody has confirmed that from 1997 to 2000, Al Qaeda and Iraq had a series of meetings regarding joint development of weapons of mass destruction, and that since December 2000 such a site has been operated in Northern Iraq by an Al Qaeda linked Kurdish terrorist group. Powell even showed a picture of this site in Khurmal, Iraq.
More on Algerian terrorists and Al Qaeda in the U.K. In a separate development today, the legal case of two Algerians arrested in Leicester, UK in December 2002 on charges of plotting a terror attack network in Britain was brought forward to trial. The men are charged with doing their work with financing from and on behalf of Osama bin Laden. Brahim Benmerzouga, and Baghdad Meziane, both residents of Leicester in their 30s, have denied the charges, i.e.: "entering into a funding arrangement for the purpose of terrorism." Among the evidence against them are forged passports, fake credit cards, and videotapes --18 of them-- extolling Osama bin Laden. The prosecutor described these videos as "shocking." These terror cell members appear to have been "sleepers," i.e., men hiding for years awaiting orders to act. They had been in the U.K. for more than five years in one case (Meziane) and for nearly three years in the case of the other defendant (Benmerzouga). The men are additionally charged with recruiting others to go to terror training camps on behalf of the cause. According to BBC, in court one defendant described that cause: "They said Muslims had a duty to fight 'the Americans, their Christian allies and the Jews' and all governments that tolerated them."
Add another block to the wall of evidence which we ignore at our peril. The real aim of the terrorists becomes more clear by the day. They seek to ignite inter-civilization war between Islam and the West.
Update: Brahim Benmerzouga and Baghdad Meziane were convicted in April 2003 under the Terrorism Act for fundraising for terrorism, and were sentenced to eleven years in prison. Source: BBC (March 11, 2005).
Prof. Bowen's Terrorism Weblog: January 30, 2003
Religious institution or nest for terrorism? America's British allies must be asking themselves this question after the ricin biological weapons / terrorism story turned to the Finsbury Park mosque (detailed below), and landed in court, January 27. As BBC reported, 29 year old Samir Asli has been charged under the terrorism act with "possessing articles for terrorist purposes." Asli was one of several men detained inside the mosque when it was raided on January 20. Authorities have boarded up the place, and trustees of the mosque announced it will remain closed for three months, at least.
In a related development, two days after the raid on the mosque, Mouloud Bouhrama, 31, was charged with conspiracy to develop a chemical weapon in papers filed at Bow Street Magistrates' Court on January 29.
Thus, a widening ring of biological weapons terrorists has been cracked in Britain, and Islamic religious buildings appear to have been used in this conspiracy.
Prof. Bowen's Terrorism Weblog: January 27, 2003
Third axis of evil: Iran. Americans have gotten used to thinking of Iraq and North Korea as the most menacing of the "axis of evil" identified one year ago in Pres. George W. Bush's 2002 State of the Union speech. But in that speech he also zeroed in on Iran as a third evil state with whom America may have a day of reckoning. Have things actually improved to the point where our omission of concern about Iran lately is justified? Listen to this editorial, published there on January 21, 2003 (reproduced courtesy of MEMRI institute):
"[The] great majority of Muslim people, particularly the young ones in Islamic countries, wait impatiently for American military action, because the stupidity of Bush and his gang and the massacre of millions of innocent Muslims [in Iraq]… will spark the same reaction [as in Palestine] and encourage young Muslims in other countries to take revenge on the American military."
"…Today, hundreds of young Palestinians are seeking martyrdom. They have written their names on the long list of Jihad, and they await [their] turn. There will be great opportunities to take revenge upon the American military, [and] this will be easier than the revenge [sought by] the Palestinians. Why miss the opportunity?"
"In the event of an American attack, the Muslim masses will join this divine and holy war. Lebanon and Palestine are two clear examples of this."
"…Can America stand in the way of people seeking Shehada [martyrdom] in God's way? Will the seekers of martyrdom get their wish because of the American presence in the region?"
Hussain Shariatmadari in Kayhan Daily, (Iran), January 21, 2003.
Analysis: As the editorial above indicates, a broad range of forces, secular and religious, in the Arab World and in the non-Arab Islamic world, continues to menace the United States, its citizens and its military. The pending military campaign against Iraq --first advocated by me in public debate on this college campus in February 1998, and reiterated in print in September 2002-- is a necessary step in reversing this trend. But, even with that future victory, much more will be needed to fully win the war on terrorism.
Prof. Bowen's Terrorism Weblog: January 24, 2003
Who is the enemy? An editorial written by Daniel Pipes and appearing in today's New York Post focuses attention on this issue. It enumerates dozens of arrests of Muslim terrorists across America since September 11, 2001, and concludes that "[w]hile most Muslims are not Islamists and most Islamists are not terrorists, all Islamist terrorists are Muslims." Go here to read it.
Wheeler lives on. A famous book by Michael Wheeler was entitled "Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics" (NY: Dell, 1976). It took apart the public opinion polling industry and its methods. Wheeler argued that pretty much anything can be demonstrated by the "evidence" of public opinion poll results, so long as one is careful in how one words the questions which produce the results. In this tradition comes today a pithy critique of my editorial on Al Qaeda's ricin project, and its ties to Iraq. This reader opined that recent CNN polls show far less support for Pres. Bush's war plans with Iraq than my editorial reported, and he chided me for not quoting the exact language of the polls I used fully. Several points of rebuttal:
My editorial only tangentially was about public opinion, and it acknowledged directly that public division exists about going to war with Iraq.
Its main thesis was entirely different: circumstantial evidence indicates that the terrorists' preparations for use of the biological weapon ricin, found in London in an apartment tied to Al Qaeda, may have been assisted by Iraq. I introduced readers to facts related to ricin, Al Qaeda, and Iraq, including where in Iraq international terrorists have operated a biological weapons lab, and where in Iraq the Saddam regime has trained terrorists in their use. My critic, in the style of much of the anti-war movement, simply ignored my central argument so to pick at what were themes he preferred to attack.
The polls I cited were from the Gallup Poll, taken just prior to Christmas 2002, and released just after that holiday. The reader cited newer CNN polls. Both ordinarily are credible sources. However, the poll numbers I cited were in responses to "clean" questions, the type Wheeler and other legitimate researchers regard as valid measures of popular opinion. One simply asked do you or do you not support war with Iraq for the purpose of removing Hussein, and the second one inquired: do you or do you not support war with Iraq for the purpose of removing weapons of mass destruction.
The CNN poll was messier, and actually resembled a "push poll," i.e., the flawed type used by political campaigns to produce a desired result. Leading phrases (underlined below) were a key part of the questions CNN had asked: "Should the U.S. invade Iraq without U.N. approval?" and Should the U.S. invade Iraq if no weapons of mass destruction are found?" Much as in Wheeler's day, so it is today that with the right clauses, pretty much anything can be "proven" by carefully slanting the wording of poll questions to steer respondents to express a particular viewpoint. Unlike the careful comparison I made prior to writing the editorial -- a comparison involving more than a dozen polls-- in order to be sure that the Gallup ones I used were consistent with other sources, my critic ignores Gallup's findings and finds value only in the surveys with the questions that generate support for his point of view.
My polls were older than my critic's because the editorial actually was first written January 7; its publication on January 19 was a function of delay introduced at the News Leader, not by me.
Unlike my critic, I will engage his central point of argument. Let us stipulate that the American public doesn't want an Iraq war. (It is not true, but for the sake of argument, let us accept his point.) So what? We are a constitutional republic, not a direct democracy. Under the Constitution of the United States, it is the responsibility of the President (and not Ted Turner's minions) to faithfully implement the laws, and to serve as Commander in Chief of U.S. Armed Forces. Those laws include House Joint Resolution 114 "Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002" passed by U.S. House of Representatives (296-133) and the U.S. Senate (77-23), Oct. 10, 2002. The matter of whether this law is implemented is at the discretion of George W. Bush, not pollsters, and not mobs of cheering anti-war protestors. The election of November 2002 reinforces the point that the lawful will of the people lies in the hands of George W. Bush and the Congressional authority they further empowered. After all, the only poll that matters under our Constitution is the ballot box.
Ricin redux. BBC reported today that in Catalonia (northeastern Spain) a major terrorist cell was broken, 16 suspected Al Qaeda terrorists were arrested, and large drums of what initially was reported to be ricin were seized, along with explosives to spread the toxin.
The Spanish Prime Minister, Jose Maria Aznar, stated: "The dismantled network has connections with terrorists arrested recently in France and Britain who were preparing to carry out attacks, using explosives and chemical materials... I want to highlight once again that when we talk about the fight against terrorism and the circles around it and when we talk about ensuring the safety and the peace of all, we are not talking about fantasies."
The cell was linked by Spanish officials to the Algerian Islamist terrorist group G.I.A., known to be affiliated with Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda.
Prof. Bowen's Terrorism Weblog: January 23, 2003
New Ricin Arrests in London. BBC reported today that an additional North African man has been arrested overnight in connection with the biological terrorism plot first uncovered in a raid January 5, and discussed in my Jan. 19 editorial. The investigation continues rapidly to widen, appearing to confirm that a large conspiracy to stage attacks existed. In Manchester (U.K.) on January 15, British security officer Stephen Oake was murdered while detaining other suspects in this case.
On Monday Jan. 20, the Mosque in Finsbury Park (London) was raided in connection with the case, and seven additional North Africans were detained. The religious leader of this mosque, Sheikh Abu Hamza (pictured below) fled to the U.K. in 1988 after conviction on terrorism charges in Yemen. This also was the same mosque at which convicted "shoe bomber" Richard Reid had worshipped during his time in London.
Prof. Bowen's Terrorism Weblog: January 19, 2003
New Editorial Focuses on Threat of Biological weapons. Al Qaeda-Iraq ties, discussed in this Weblog on Jan. 14 (below), were the subject of a new editorial published today: "Trail of poisonous substance may lead back to Iraq." Let me provide here some of my sources for the points made in that editorial, sources that were not documented here on Jan. 14, 2003:
The 1997 discovery of the ricin component of Iraq's biological weapons program at Baghdad University: Tom Mangold and Jeff Goldberg, Plague Wars: The Terrifying Reality of Biological Warfare (New York: St. Martin's Griffin, 1999): 301-304.
The biological weapons lab Al Qaeda set up at Bayara, Iraq: DEBKA, an private Israeli source close to intelligence sources. DEBKA has proved to report reliable information in many other instances, e.g., the role of U.S. Special Forces in Yemen was reported there long before the Predator attack there November 3, 2002 proved their accuracy in the mainstream media. That attack killed six, including one who was a U.S. citizen, Kamal Derwish, an Al Qaeda member from Lackawanna, New York. (Use the key word "hellfire" to find those details within the transcript linked above to PBS Frontline.)
Update: Further commentary by Prof. Bowen on the legal issues surrounding a U.S. policy of targeted assassination in the War on Terrorism, and on the Derwish case, later appeared in this Weblog, January 16, 2004 ).
Prof. Bowen's Terrorism Weblog: January 14, 2003
Details have emerged that tie London ricin raid to Algerian exiles tied to Al Qaeda. Five Algerian nationals with links to Al Qaeda have been charged in Britain with crimes under the Terrorism Act (and other statutes). The cases filed yesterday arise from arrests made last week that grew out of a January 5, 2003 raid on an apartment in the Wood Green district of London. Traces of ricin, a deadly biological weapon, were found in the apartment. Two other North African men believed also to possess the ricin remain at large.
The tie to Al Qaeda is direct. According to a story in The Independent (London) on Jan. 12, one of the detainees trained at an Al Qaeda camp during the Taliban rule over Afghanistan. Traces of ricin were found by U.S. Special Forces in Al Qaeda caves in Afghanistan during the search there for Osama bin Laden. To sew panic and to demonstrate Al Qaeda's continuing capacity to attack, assassinations were plotted in the UK for which the ricin would have been used, it is believed by sources close to UK security officials cited by the Independent: "The evidence suggests an assassination plot in London, ...It is hard to see what else you would make and use ricin for."
All of the detainees are Algerians. Some are applicants for asylum, claiming fear of persecution in their homeland due to the civil war there that has killed 100,000 since 1992. According to the BBC, the men are: Samir Feddag, 26; his brother Mouloud Feddag, 18; Mustapha Taleb, 33; and a 17-year-old youth. All are charged with attempting to use ricin under the Terrorism Act 2000, and with additional charges under the Chemical Weapons Act 1996, i.e.: "being concerned in the development or production of chemical weapons". Mustapha Taleb was additionally was charged with terrorism crimes occuring before September 26, 2002. A fifth man, Nasreddine Fekhadji was charged with forgery.
The Independent reported that Algerian terrorist networks in Europe finance themselves through identity theft, and that 18 other Algerians have in the last four weeks been arrested on other terrorism related charges. Algerian cells were broken up in the U.K. cities of Leicester, Edinburgh and London during 2002.
The most notorious Algerian in British custody is Abu Doha, 37, an Al Qaeda leader awaiting extradition to the U.S. for trial related to an attempted attack on Los Angeles International Airport. He also lived in Wood Green.
Prof. Bowen's Terrorism Weblog: January 13, 2003
Divided Opinion on War with Iraq. Poll information about Americans' attitudes about potential war on Iraq reveal a divided public according to the Gallup Poll. In a poll conducted by telephone from December 19-22, 2002, with a sample size of 1007, significant opposition to war was found. The poll was released December 24, 2002. The survey found 53 percent to support war on Iraq to remove Saddam Hussein, and 38 percent to oppose that. It also found 58 percent to support war on Iraq to remove weapons of mass destruction, and 33 percent to oppose that. A Gallup Poll for CNN/USA today done earlier in December found largely the same distribution: 58 percent to favor removing Hussein by war, 35 percent to oppose such a war.
Prof. Bowen's Terrorism Weblog: December 15, 2002
The broad public support for suicide bombing among Middle Eastern publics, first noted here on December 6, was the subject of an OpEd I published today in the News Leader (Staunton VA). So long as we continue to view the threat of terrorism as one of arresting a few extremists we will underestimate the nature and extent of the challenge we confront.
Prof. Bowen's Terrorism Weblog: December 9, 2002
Echoes of the Past Menace our Future. Our area was visited earlier this Fall by 1972 Presidential candidate George McGovern, a lifelong champion of an international approach close enough to Woodrow Wilson’s that the Wilson Birthplace Foundation hosted the former South Dakota Senator’s speech. McGovern boldly linked the political tradition of liberalism to virtually every positive 20th century change in America. The basket of goodies he and his Democratic Party pals had distributed, he reminded a well-fed audience, ranged from rural electrification to guaranteed bank deposits, Social Security to civil rights. A further recap of his distinguished World War II record warmed up the audience for his real message: “What has Saddam Hussein really done to us? What American has been hurt in any way?”
McGovern left without taking replies, but made the same unchallenged points on the Sunday AM national news programs. The man whose enduring contribution has been to saddle his Party with the sentimental “Come Home, America” theme, has it available again. It is not the terrorists but Bush and Ashcroft Americans ought to fear, says McGovern: “if the aim of the terrorist is to spread terror, they are getting a lot of help from Washington.”
Some context may prove helpful. Three days after McGovern spoke, our local stadium hosted football teams from Northern Virginia, playing here to avoid genuine terror being sewn by a team of real snipers then on the loose there. The very day McGovern pooh-poohed worry about terrorism, the shooters picked off a victim in Ashland, VA; a city on Interstate 95 that is nearly as far south of the U.S. capital city as we are on Interstate 81. Local Army Reserves’ units from nearby Harrisonburg have been called up for active duty. But McGovern was sure that the threats are not real, but are contrived in the Bush Administration: “instead of sewing fear, our leaders should inspire,” he proclaimed, not through more war but with “safer and more dependable ways to settle disputes.”
Americans rightly believed after Desert Storm (1991), that a U.N.-backed agreement safely had "settled the dispute" with Iraq. In the formal terms of Iraq’s surrender to U.S.-led forces (U.N. Security Council Resolution 687), Iraq pledged many things. Thus, we turn today to U.S. Navy pilot Scott Speicher, shot down over Iraq January 17, 1991, and believed by the CIA to have been captured and held captive by Iraq ever since. In his speech here, McGovern made great emotional use of his recollection of “burning flesh” from fellow flyers’ crashes on the runways of Italy in the early 1940s. Let him now align his rhetoric (“what American has been hurt in any way?”) with a similar concern for Commander Speicher and his family.
McGovern believes it “safer” for the U.S. to rely on others’ promises to the U.N., rather than steady hand of our Armed Forces to protect America. “We have an opportunity to revive collective security… instead of this ‘go it alone’ approach… Pres. Bush has decided to be able to send troops into war even without Congress or the U.N. at a time when no major power is threatening us.” At least part of this statement was untrue when he made it: six days before McGovern uttered that remark, both houses of Congress had authorized military action against Iraq. But it is not just McGovern’s inattention to inconvenient facts that is troubling. It is his ardor for the U.N. that also ought give us pause, and not merely because it would delegate U.S. Constitutional responsibilities to a Security Council where our fate might hinge on the kind understandings of the butchers of Tienanmen Square (China) and a government led by a former KGB operative (Russia).
France is the real problem in persuading the U.N. to recognize Iraq’s defiance of its 1991 authority. Along with Britain and the U.S., China and Russia, France holds veto power over U.N. Security Council actions. Unlike the claim made by McGovern, and others, to the effect that the Bush Administration has been unwilling to work with others or to compromise, since September 12 our government has done little else. Early in November, we succeeded in persuading France, Russia, and China and the entire rest of the Security Council to give Iraq one last chance by passing Resolution 1441: Iraq will now disarm, or the Security Council will have to face the fact that merely demanding that will not be enough.
Inspections now are underway in Iraq, searching for the weapons Saddam swore to give up 11 years ago. Yesterday, Iraq formally met the deadline to declare all of its programs, delivering nearly 12,000 pages of documents, all professing that Iraq has no weapons of mass destruction. The Bush Administration in the coming weeks will again have to persuade the Security Council that Iraq is lying, and that Saddam's defiance is a threat to be met.
This will be difficult. But the difficulty has less to do with the real threat Iraq poses, and more to do with the jaundiced French view of the whole war on terrorism. As we have built a coalition against terrorism, and against Iraq, France has had another agenda. Where did we find French President Jacques Chirac October 18? He was hosting leaders of the French-speaking world in, of all places, Beirut, Lebanon. It is a sign how large the gap has grown between the U.S. and its oldest ally that Hassan Nasrallah, leader of the terrorist group Hezbollah, was among the invited guests. In keeping with the sensibilities of such a group, Chirac made no protest when a French reporter, Gideon Kutz, roughly was hauled out of the hall for the “crime” of having filed a report in Hebrew to Israel. When Chirac tells Americans, as he told that recent meeting in Beirut, that France favors war on terrorism “without mercy”, yet conducted “with respect for human rights and the rule of law”, we should understand him exactly. Hezbollah has held for two years four Israeli soldiers it kidnapped, and repeatedly has shot artillery and missiles into Northern Israel in recent days. As in the case of missing U.S. airman Scott Speicher, those four families also have no word of the fate of their loved ones.Lack of resolve divides Americans, and divides allies; and it all works against success in the war on terrorism. In this, George McGovern and Jacques Chirac are birds of a feather. To them, it is sufficient to try to score partisan points, to harp about “our arrogant foreign policy” (McGovern) and calmly to converse with terrorists (Chirac).
But here in Virginia we know that homicidal snipers, hijackers, and the states that harbor terrorists are real threats. Our elected representatives did not put trust in playing "let's make a deal" to end the threat of Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda. They authorized military action, instead; and they have done it twice in the last fifteen months, with Saddam receiving our second targeting just this Fall. Our Congress and our President understand that American security cannot be made contingent on the luck of U.N. inspectors now forced to play "hide and seek" all around Iraq. Later this winter, we can expect the McGoverns here, and the Chiracs abroad, to demand more and more evidence of the threat Iraq poses, as if the case was not proven by the British and American dossiers way back in September 2002. But American security is at risk, and it cannot depend on the whim of France or the United Nations.
Prof. Bowen's Terrorism Weblog: December 6, 2002
Wide Support for suicide bombing. A new poll released by the Pew Center for Research compares attitudes about life, satisfaction, views of the U.S., the pending war on Iraq, and much more. It is worthy of being read in its entirety; news accounts have stressed the decline in U.S. popularity which the poll also found.
More interesting in the report is the section concerning support for suicide bombing in the Middle East and other predominantly Muslim states affected by the war on terrorism. Support for use of the tactic when used in the defense of Islam ranges from a high of:
73 percent in Lebanon, to
43 percent in Jordan,
44 percent in Bengla Desh,
33 percent in Pakistan,
27 percent in Indonesia, and
13 percent in Turkey.
Disturbingly, all across Africa support also is high: Ivory Coast 56 percent, Nigeria 47 percent, Ghana 30 percent.
These figures indicate the depth of the problem facing us in the war on terrorism. Osama bin Laden's central tactic enjoys broad social support. These poll figures, of course, bear no relationship to the number of actual individuals willing to become kamikazes. But it is clear that social ostracism of bombing and bombers is not occurring; indeed, the opposite interpretation seems borne out by the Pew results. Social approval of violence in the name of Islam may be encouraging those who make that choice.
Full Pew Center Report
Pew Center's Summary (excellent overview)
Prof. Bowen's Terrorism Weblog: December 5, 2002
Al Qaeda warning. The Middle East Media Research Institute released today a disturbing transcript of an Al Qaeda warning issued December 1 and addressed to Americans. It takes credit for the recent bombing in Mombasa, Kenya, and it alludes to a similar attack today or tomorrow: "it is on its way." The full message can be read here. Let us hope this is a ruse, or if it is real, that our security forces succeed in stopping these men.
Prof. Bowen's Terrorism Weblog: December 4, 2002
Missing the Point.
Much commentary in the mainstream media recently has focused on what will constitute Iraqi compliance with U.N. Security Council Resolution 1441. That measure, passed on November 8, 2002, gave Iraq one final chance to fulfill its 1991 pledge to disarm and surrender all weapons of mass destruction, as then was required in U.N. Security Council Resolution 687. Since the passage of U.N. 1441, a gap has been emerging between U.S. expectations and those of others (e.g., U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, Russia's Vladimir Putin) about the course U.N. inspections must take regarding weapons the U.S. and Britain suspect Iraq has retained. A crucial moment will come this next weekend, when a December 8 deadline for Iraq's formal report to the U.N. Security Council on these matters will be due.
President Bush has been adamant in insisting that absolutely no deception or evasion will be tolerated, a point of view at odds with French, Russian and other positions that have emphasized the need for further action by the U.N. Security Council prior to any military action being undertaken.
It is useful at this moment, therefore, to listen to what the Iraqis themselves are saying. In the London-based Arabic language newspaper Al-Quds Al-Arabi on November 26, 2002, the following was reported (courtesy of MEMRI Institute):
"A senior Iraqi official who refused to reveal his name said that the Iraqi regime would defend its existence and its reputation. The Iraqi official said unequivocally: 'When the regime was under intense attack in Al-Fau and began to be under threat, it did not hesitate to use all the weapons of mass destruction in its possession. Similarly, when the people of Halabja, or some of them, became guides for the Iranian forces that tried to breach the northeast [front], the regime did not hesitate to use chemical weapons.' Therefore, 'do not expect us to stand idly by in the face of any aggression that seeks to destroy and banish us not only from the regime but also from life.'"
It is abundantly clear from this statement that Iraq does possess weapons of mass destruction. Quibbling now over whether those weapons have or have not been found by the U.N. inspectors is in a real sense beside the point. The weapons exist, and Iraq is threatening to use them. It is in this light we must read the soon-to-be-delivered Iraqi reply to the U.N., per the December 8 deadline the U.N. set for such a report. No doubt, the Iraqi letter this weekend will claim Iraq has no such weapons.
But that statement already has been contradicted by Iraqi officials themselves.
In an unrelated development, the Russian and Chinese Presidents yesterday issued a joint statement about world affairs that includes language which cannot but be read as advocating changes which would bring about a decline in the U.S. role in the world. Go here to read this disturbing, but apparently powerless, comunique.
Prof. Bowen's Terrorism Weblog: December 3, 2002
Continuing Saudi Arabian Denial of Responsibility for September 11, 2001
On November 29, 2002, an interview with the Saudi Minister of Interior, Prince Nayef Ibn Abd Al-Aziz, was published (and now is available in translation online, courtesy of MEMRI Institute). In it the official reiterated a widely held view in the Arab world: "I cannot still believe that 19 youths, including 15 Saudis, carried out the September 11 attacks with the support of bin Laden and his Al-Qa'ida organization. It's impossible. I will not believe that these people have the power to do so horrendous an attack."
This perspective is rampant in the press in the region, and reinforces the belief in a vast conspiracy to blame Arabs, beliefs that have proven immune to all evidence. Earlier, a CBS News special and other sources documented this denial of responsibility for the largest terrorist attack in history. But in those earlier reports non-officials were usually cited as the source of rumors which focus blame on non-Arabs, chiefly Israelis, for the attacks. Now, nearly 15 months after the attacks, we find a Saudi Government official insinuating much the same canard. According to the Kuwaiti newspaper Al Siyasa, which was the original source of the interview, "Prince Naif stressed that relations between the Saudi and U.S. governments are strong despite the Zionist-controlled media that manipulated the events of September 11 and turned the U.S. public opinion against Arabs and Islam. Prince Naif said, 'we put big question marks and ask who committed the events of September 11 and who benefited from them. Who benefited from events of 11/9? I think they [the Zionists] are behind these events.' "
Saudi officials have been quick to assign blame to others for their loss of standing in the eyes of Americans. But facts are facts: 15 Saudis played key roles in the murder of 3000 Americans on September 11, 2001, as has been clearly demonstrated since no later than November 2001 in extensive reports by the British Government and others. As investigations in 2002 by the Council on Foreign Relations and others have turned toward the financial network that funded the September 11 terrorists, a trail comes closer to the Saudi royal family with each revelation. Only in December 2002 has the Saudi Government begun to permit clear light to shine on the long hidden ties between Saudi charities and terrorist groups.
The Saudi Government's tactics of blame shifting and of denying any responsibility for the acts of its citizens are tactics which are fooling no one.
follow this link to read Prof. Bowen's June 2002 editorial which critiqued Saudi Arabia's performance as an ally of the U.S.
Prof. Bowen's Terrorism Weblog: November 25, 2002
A Follow up on the Bombing in Israel last Thursday (Nov. 21).
Editorials in Egypt over the weekend uniformly failed to condemn the bombing. Instead, Egyptian readers were told that the victims were the real terrorists.
Semi-official Al-Ahram saw an educational opportunity in this pre-meditated murder of 11 civilian non-combatants, headlining with "When will the Leaders of Israel Learn their Lesson?"
Two articles in Al-Gumhuriyya discussed the murders; both emphasized the same basic message as Al-Ahram: "It is amazing and even shocking that they in Israel don't learn. Whenever they have a few dozen victims, those who contend for the position of prime minister are quick to demand harsh violent revenge. We must again reiterate that Israel is the cause for all that is happening" (emphasis added).
The outrageous distortions behind this blame shifting reached their ugly pinnacle in the daily Al Akhbar, which turned clear facts on their head so to refer to the "operation in which eleven Israeli terrorists were killed and dozens were wounded..." (emphasis added).
It is important to emphasize that an eight year old child and his 68 year old grandmother were among those fatally injured in the attack. Not one of the victims was in any objective sense a "terrorist," yet rather than showing one ounce of remorse for any of the killing or injuring, each of these mainstream Egyptian newspapers chose the occasion as a moment to demand only Israel change its ways.
This pattern of deceitful incitement reinforces the analysis I have made here and elsewhere recently: the threat represented by Middle Eastern terrorism is considerably broader than commonly is appreciated.
As with the Egyptian positions about murdering Israeli civilians, so with the broadening scandal that links members of the Saudi Arabian royal family to the finances of some of the September 11, 2001 hijackers, and to international terrorist groups more generally. All these trends indicate that international terrorism continues to enjoy diverse and broad support across the region.
The logical inference to be drawn is that eradicating terrorism by use of a criminal justice strategy designed to arrest, try, and punish small numbers of armed terrorists will fail.
Egyptian weekend editorials translated courtesy of the Middle East Media Research Institute.
Prof. Bowen's Terrorism Weblog: November 24, 2002
In an editorial in the News Leader (Staunton, VA: November 24, 2002, page A9) today, I extended on the themes raised recently. "Make no mistake, U.S. is hated," argues that the temptation to underestimate our enemy in the war on terrorism has led us ignore clear signs of a broad challenge to Western interests and values.
(To read other Op-Eds by Prof. Bowen, go here.)
Prof. Bowen's Terrorism Weblog: November 22, 2002
Covering a Day of Terrorism: How the Washington Post distorted the meaning of the bus bombing in Israel on November 21, 2002
(this entry is a follow-up to November 21)
Coverage of the recent bus bombing in Jerusalem and related matters concerning Islam in the November 22, 2002 edition of the Washington Post borders on substituting an editorial position favored by the editors of the Post for clear facts.
The Post's preferred point of view shines through in a soft news item in the Style section, introducing to readers BBC’s new local anchor, Mishal Husain. Ms. Husain informed viewers that she has found "a lot of deeply disturbing things about Islam, a lot of misinformation and disinformation" in U.S. press coverage since she arrived here less than three months ago. Echoing an oft-repeated nostrum, the Post then quoted Husain to have said “there has been a real danger of confusing Islam and terrorism. That terrifies me. Islam is a religion of peace.”
Ms. Husain clearly is entitled to her viewpoint. But should the Post employ this viewpoint as a filter to exclude news information that contradicts its central premise? This would appear to be the case in a page one news story that same day, as the Post reported on a deadly homicide bombing in Jerusalem. All the essential facts –eleven dead, body parts strewn into trees, etc.—faithfully were reported… all except one: the degree to which the Muslim community shared and supported the killer’s motive. In the Post’s version, the killer’s father saw only “subtle hints” his son might become a terrorist: he had been reading more Koran than other family members, had let his beard grow, and had spoken of a desire to “marry an angel.” The impression the Post conveyed was one of a moderate family surprised by an out of character action of a son.
This portrait relied on omitting key facts. As reported November 21 (i.e., prior to the Post’s report) by the Jerusalem Post, Abu Hilayel, the father of the killer, when told of his son’s crime, said “Our religion says we are proud of him until the day of resurrection… This is a challenge to the Zionist enemies." That source enlarged on the killer’s religion-based motive the next day, again quoting the father who said: “I thanked God when I heard that my son had died in an operation for the sake of God and the homeland…We are all one people fighting against the common enemy the Jews." The mother of the bomber agreed: “…my son, may God be satisfied with him, carried out the operation. Of course I'm proud of him and all the martyrs."
At a time when murderers openly invoke religious sanctification to target entire ethnic groups, and on the same day on which a Christian missionary in nearby Lebanon was shot dead simply for being a Westerner there, the Post owes its readers the honesty to set aside its editors’ beliefs when the clear facts contradict them. Broad sections of the Muslim world for some time openly have declared that it is their religion that justifies murder of civilians of other religions. Pretending that is not the case does nothing to inform or to prepare our people to understand the nature of the enemy confronting us.
Prof. Bowen's Terrorism Weblog: November 21, 2002
One Day’s Toll of Terrorism: November 21, 2002
Shulamit Asharaf mourns her daughter
Thursday November 21, 2002 was a remarkable day for terrorists:
· In Kuwait, two U.S. servicemen were waved over to the side of the road on which they were driving, and shot. The men survived and have reported that they believed the shooter was wearing the uniform of a Kuwaiti policeman. The shooter fled into Saudi Arabia.
· In Sidon, Lebanon, an American nurse and Christian missionary there for eight years, Bonnie Witherall, was found shot dead in her home. Police blame anti-Americanism.
· And in Jerusalem, a public bus carrying children to school and others to their various destinations, was bombed. It was the deadliest bombing since June 18, 2002. Of the sixty plus casualties, eleven have already died. Physicians report extensive burns on the victims that may indicate new and sophisticated use of chemicals as part of the attack. Most of the injured were children. The victims who perished included:
o Hodaya Asraf, 13
o Marina Mezarsky, 46
o Sima Novack, 56
o Dikla Zino, 20
o Ella Sharshavsky, 44,
o Her son Michael Sharshavsky, 16
o Kira Perlman, 67
o Her grandson, Ilan Perlman, 8
o Yafit Revivo, 13
o Varga Mirsa, 25, from Romania
o Hadassah Ben David, 32
The bomber, Nael Azmi Abu Hilail, a 23 year old Palestinian from Bethlehem, also died. His father, when told of the event, said: "Our religion says we are proud of him until the day of resurrection…This is a challenge to the Zionist enemies." Hilail was a member of Islamic Jihad; Hamas also has claimed responsibility for this attack. Elsewhere in the region, Hezbollah (the Iranian-backed militia based in Southern Lebanon) fired anti-aircraft artillery shells into Northern Israel. No casualties were reported.
· And, at Harvard University (Cambridge MA), the Department of English reversed its earlier position and voted again to invite Irish poet Tom Paulin to speak at the university. Among his recent comments was the remark that Americans who move to Israel "should be shot dead." Harvard referred to his invitation as a matter of "free speech."
BBC supplied information on the shootings in Kuwait
Debka supplied list of Jerusalem victims' names: http://www.debka.com/;
Jerusalem Post supplied information on:
father of bomber quote
and Harvard invitation to Paulin
BBC also supplied facts on the American shot dead in Lebanon
This weblog was inaugurated Thursday November 21, 2002 as a chronicle of commentary on issues related to the War on Terrorism, and last was updated Wednesday, March 24, 2010
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