I mulling something over, and I may have something to say later.
Or, it won't pan out, and that'll be that.
But either way, I'm mulling right now.
While all losses in war are painful, few are more heartbreaking than those caused by friendly fire. So we should take a moment and acknowledge the sacrifices of our Canadian allies in Afghanistan over the last few days, and in particular the death of one soldier in an accidental strafing incident.
That said, the Canadians have so aggressively conceptualized their military as peacekeeping specialists over the years that they have had real difficulty in getting their public to accept what is clearly a combat mission, with the risks and losses of combat, and public support for their participation is sinking steadily. This is, to be frank, a disappointment. Whatever the disagreements over Iraq, everyone claimed to understand and support the importance of the mission in Afghanistan, and the Canadian military is one of the best -- we need those guys.
If four Canadian soldiers were killed in fighting, then something went on besides NATO dropping bombs on Taliban "hiding" in orchards, which almost makes it sound as if the poor bastards were just innocently sitting there when NATO hunted them down and exterminated them.
It's hard to overstate how important the Grand Ayatollah Sistani is to Iraq.
Here we have one article that has him sending a personal emissary to the US to suss out precisely what our intentions are, and here we have another article suggesting that he's so disappointed that his followers have been ignoring his pleas for moderation and joining the militias that he's giving up altogether.
I don't think both can be entirely true. I'm sure he's bitterly disappointed. Perhaps he threatened to give up? Perhaps at one point he even said, that's it, I've had it, you people are on your own? But has he really abandoned his people just as things are at their worst -- and most delicate?
I believe I've mentioned to you before that the second plane hitting the second tower is most likely the most photographed historical event in history.
The fact that events of historic interest (not planned events, like, say an inauguration, but those events that happen randomly, without anyone's having advance knowledge that they will happen) are photographed at all is, of course, a function of technology. For well, pretty much forever, what we had was photographic evidence of the aftermath of history -- the plane's debris field on the ground, for example, but not of the plane crashing. It is that intuitive knowledge that makes the Zapruder film of the Kennedy assassination so eerie, so unique. Far more typical is the famous photograph taken after Bobby Kennedy was shot -- and that photograph was taken so quickly after the event that it, too, is quite unique.
Things changed with the video of Rodney King being beaten. Here was newsworthy material produced by an average citizen with his home videocamera. Suddenly people realized that they, too, could use their -- now portable -- cameras to photograph events that happened in front of them, and that realization combined with ever more portable cameras has changed things.
But 9/11 was truly unique. Because New York City is such a media-heavy place, the first plane hitting drew photographers, still and moving, in droves. They were all there, and all looking up. (I believe, in fact, that there was some big annual meeting of Reuters' photogs in the city that day. I mean there were a lot of cameras down there.)
And after that second plane hit, of course, we all realized that the country was under attack. We might have known from whom, or how bad it was going to be, but we knew this was clearly intentional.
This was, certainly that first day, a story driven by visual images. And for many days after the images were powerfully important.
So I read this review and just knew I had to get this book, although the writer (of the review) devolves into silly arguments about images used to gin up patriotism while not telling the story of the failures that led to the attack. Whatever, dude.
One way or the other, it's a topic that has needed serious attention. So far the only books I've seen have been hagiographies of the newspeople who "ran towards danger." That's fine: those stories needed to be told just as the stories of the first responders needed to be told, but I'm eager to read a more serious treatment. (Presumably the author of the book has a deeper understanding of images that Mr. Keillor.)
Another tape from al Queda, and this time he appears side by side with their big propaganda catch: the American al Queda.
I'm all in favor of not over-hyping the terrorist threat, but really: four paragraphs on page A-22?
Shouldn't we be at least getting complete coverage and analysis of these tapes? After all, journalists do speak about the importance of "understanding the enemy." These tapes seems like a fine opportunity for them to engage in that educational role they like to talk about.
Maybe we should all email in and tell the press we're pretty sure this Gadahn kid killed JonBenet.
Something important to note here: it is believed this man is responsible for the attack on the mosque in Samarra which I think most people agree really kicked off the sectarian blood-letting. This matters because there was (and as far as I know, is) agreement that this was a terrorist plot intended specifically to produce sectarian fighting.
Now, you can say that it just doesn't matter at this point, that however we got here, we're here.
I disagree. This fighting resulted from a calculated strategy designed to spark-off a sectarian civil war, and the fact that it has been wildly successful in sparking off such fighting, to the point that many are deeply concerned about the risk of all-out civil war, does not make the origin of the fighting any less important. This has been their goal for quite some time. Knowing that this is happening by design, does, I think, provide very important contextualizing information: it did not "just happen," it is not the case that left to their own devices these communities were unable to live together, they were actively provoked into the cycle of violence that now holds sway.
It also matters because catching someone that high-up, with his boys, would have meant an intelligence bonanza. Notice that no public announcement was made for several days: presumably that was to permit American and Iraqi forces to do everything possible to exploit any intelligence gained when the men were captured. They might never say a word, but doubtless with them came at least their cell phones, if not a computer or two.
Here's the problem with using the criminal justice system as a tool against terrorists: by design and intent, it is a system that deals with events that have already occured. Yet in dealing with terrorism, the whole point is to stop events from happening.
The way the US government has attempted to adopt and adapt the system since 9/11 is to look for lesser charges that can be used to get people deemed a risk off the street -- find a reason, any reason, they can be arrested. (Hence, I believe, the reported disagreement with the Brits over when to step in and arrest the plotters there. It's a difference in philosophy -- the Americans just don't want to accept the risk entailed in letting plots play out further. They want to make arrests pretty much when there are chargeable offenses.) It's also why I believe the critique that there have been few terrorist-related successful trials is unfair as is the related charge that so many out-of-status foreigners who might not have been deported or arrested before are being dealt with according to the strict letter of the law. If being out-of-status was what they could grab someone deemed a risk on, so be it.
Today there's a Post article that is framed as area Muslims being worried that they're being targeted by law enforcement, but it's equally a story about this approach: men were viewed as legitimate risks, and the prosecutors found charges they could be arrested on. Without knowing any more than what's in the article (and we know how limited that is) it does sound as if the man who features centrally in the article may indeed have been caught up in something unintentionally, but I think the article makes clear -- yet again -- that the group that was prosecuted and found guilty on various terrorism related charges in the Northern Virginia area, the paintballers, really were a threat.
In order to decide that they weren't a threat, and shouldn't have been prosecuted, you pretty much need to decide that we shouldn't care if people are preparing to assist in terrorism against a democratic ally (India) in this country. Seems to me even if you believe a cell is only preparing to operate overseas, we still have a responsibility to act under those circumstances.
The article is also interesting because it makes the point that until a short while ago the majority of Muslims in the area (we're talking northern Va.) were primarily secular professionals.
What happened that inside a community of secular professionals was found a group plotting terrorism, or to assist in terrorism? Well, first, you ended up with a generation turning to religion in rebellion against their parents.
Second, once again, follow the money:
But in recent years, an ultra-orthodox Islamic movement blossomed, spurred by a global Saudi missionary campaign. By 2000, the Saudis had built Islamic colleges in Fairfax County and Alexandria and were sending free Korans and preachers to the area. Hundreds of young people were inspired by the movement -- among them, Chandia.
The article correctly identifies the Islamic movement calling for Muslims return to the "pure" Islam as practiced during the 7th century as Salafism, but never mentions the particular school, or sect, of Islam practiced as the state religion in Saudi -- Wahhabism. That's a mistake, because the Saudis ain't spendin' all that money for nothing. They've spent billions over the years, and their focus, keep in mind, is not so much preaching Islam to the uncoverted as it is ensuring that those who practice Islam practice the kind of Islam they want. So while you need to look at Salafism when you talk about jihadism, if you're talking about the influence of Saudi money, you need to talk about Wahhabism.
And what were people hearing down there?
His supporters at Dar al-Arqam bristle at prosecutors' assertions that he was spouting radical politics; his speeches, they say, focused on spiritual subjects. But they also reflected an alienation from his own culture.
In one of his taped lectures available on the Internet, Timimi warned Muslims not to become too friendly with non-Muslim "disbelievers" or even work for them if other jobs were available. "A Muslim should never allow the disbeliever to have the upper hand," he said.
And he echoed the widespread perception in the Muslim world that the West is an enemy in a clash of civilizations.
"The greatest power in the world inimical to Islam is the United States," he declared in a lecture cited by prosecutors.
Obviously you cannot and should not prosecute speech. But it does put subsequent behavior in a context, yes?
Five days after the Sept. 11, 2001, hijackings, Royer and several other young Muslims met Timimi at the Fairfax home of a Dar al-Arqam regular, 25-year-old Yong Ki Kwon, and anxiously asked the lecturer's opinion of the attacks.
Timimi urged the men to keep their conversation secret. He suggested that a global war between Muslims and non-Muslims was beginning, according to later testimony. He urged the men to "go be with the mujaheddin anywhere in the world," as Royer would recall. According to three men at the dinner, Timimi urged them to defend the Taliban against an imminent U.S. attack; Timimi and two others denied that.
Four of the men promptly set out for a Lashkar camp, using Royer's contacts. The men were hoping to get weapons training, Kwon later testified, to defend their "brothers and sisters in Afghanistan."
I can appreciate the concern this community feels for this man they feel did little more than mail some packages. But their concern needs to be tempered with an understanding that there is legitimate cause for concern, and real evidence of threat, on the part of the larger community regarding these other men.
Does the government's approach mean plots will always be broken up before we actually know how far they would have gone? Yes.
You know, as long as the charges are adjusted appropriately -- I'm okay with that.
The government has strenuously denied targeting Muslims based on their faith. But prosecutors agree that they are trying to send a message -- of zero tolerance for terrorism-related activities.
In the end, officials acknowledge that they will never know how dangerous the local men were.
"Did we break something up? Yeah, we think we did," said a law enforcement official involved in the case, speaking on condition of anonymity under Justice Department rules. "But we would not profess to say we had anything more than the potential for it."
Did I just miss it?
Abu Ghraib, which was just turned over to the Iraqis, was finally emptied of its last detainee two weeks ago.
Sorry, can't resist, this indictment of the media's performance in the recent JonBenet creep-fest -- from someone who performed in it -- is too good to pass up.