Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
February 28, 2012

Sarkozy, Bouvier And Responsible Behaviour

A bad day for Sarkozy is a good day for the rest of the world.

Today is such a day.

The French Constitutional Council judged a recent law punishing negation of the Armenian genocide to be unconstitutional:

The Council said it wished "not to enter into the realm of responsibility that belongs to historians."

Sarkozy had pressed for the law to snap up more votes from the Armenian and the pro-Israel constituency in the upcoming presidential election.

A second defeat for Sarkozy came when he had to retract his earlier announcement today that the French journalist Edith Bouviers had been smuggled from Syria to Lebanon. We have looked into the somewhat murky circumstances of the allegedly wounded Edith Bouviers.

While Bouviers' current location is unknown one of the journalist who was with her, the British photographer Paul Conroy, was confirmed to have been smuggled to Lebanon.

Bouvier as well as Conroy had twice rejected to be evacuated by the Syrian Red Crescent which people took the risk to drive into the combat zone to rescue them as well as others.

Conroy and the Syrian opposition claim that several people were killed when the group smuggling him out came under fire.

I wonder what Conroy's conscience will tell him about putting them to this risk. By irresponsibly rejection the proven ability of the Syrian Red Crescent to get him out it is he who is responsible for their death.

As for Sarkozy we hope that he will, as looks increasingly likely, lose the presidential election. The world will be, in my view, better off without this farce of a would-be Napoleon.

Posted by b on February 28, 2012 at 18:24 UTC | Permalink

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Posted by: Walter Wit Man | Feb 29 2012 22:11 utc | 101

Ummm....NATO didn't beat around the bush in the Libya campaign. They telegraphed it and then sought UN approval. Why would they bother doing that with Libya and yet skip that "official" process with Syria? I would think it would be the other way around. Syria has more clout on the world stage than Libya, so if an attack is forthcoming, or imminent, NATO would be telegraphing and going through the "proper" channels. That's not to say that as somebody points out, there isn't some clandestine maneuvering going on by certain outside parties with certain inside parties, but that doesn't mean NATO per se, so stop conflating it.

Posted by: Morocco Bama | Feb 29 2012 22:17 utc | 102


would be really interested if you could access more articles on french soldiers in syria

& quite seperately information on the jordanian doctor double agent who wiped out essentially the entire cia station in bagram & himself - forgotten his name

Posted by: rememererringgiap | Feb 29 2012 22:17 utc | 103

Okay. Let's drop NATO and just say the "West" (U.S., Britain, France, Israel) and their junior partners (Saudi Arabia and other Gulf States, Al Jazeera, and the entire Western MSM).

And the West did indeed beat around the bush on Libya. Just like now with Syria they lied and hid their true intentions the entire time. They intended and did attack Libya, just as they are attacking Syria.

Anyway, I'm tiring of the constant deflection on your part. Your entire world view is upside down: you are giving the people who are quite obviously the aggressors the benefit of the doubt, while you are sowing seeds of doubt about the victims of this aggression. Syria and Libya were attacked by the West. But for the West, it never would have happened. You're just throwing dust in the air. There are always a percentage of the people that oppose the ruling faction. Hell, it would be like arming and funding the 20% dead enders on the right. If the strongest power in the world armed and supported them would you say they reflect the will of the people?

Posted by: Walter Wit Man | Feb 29 2012 22:28 utc | 104

rgiap@ 103: "would be really interested if you could access more articles on french soldiers in syria."

I'll second that request. Anything would be much appreciated.

Posted by: ben | Feb 29 2012 22:29 utc | 105

"... do you think it might be possible that there are activists, protesters, armed resistance, sectarian trouble makers, terrorists, foreign secret service operators in Syria at the same time?"

I don't doubt it.
Nor do I doubt that there were entirely legitimate protestors in Libya. In much the same way as there are plenty of Iranians with very legitimate grievances against their government. And lots of Iraqis hated Saddam Hussein for very good reasons.

All of which is irrelevant when the question before us is whether to support imperialist attacks anywhere. We should never lend support to imperialism, we should never give the tiniest comfort to those attempting to assert domination over the entire planet. Imperialism is the enemy: its victims include every starving child, every landless peasant and every unemployed worker on earth. In Syria those dying on every side are sacrifices on the altar of the Empire, victims of the lust for money which is its motor force.

Posted by: bevin | Feb 29 2012 22:40 utc | 106

Thanks @104. Do you hear that OWSers. Pack it up and go home. You're not representative of the population at large and therefore are witting, or unwitting, dupes of outside forces....perhaps China, Russia, Iran and Syria...or all of them. Uncle, please look that possibility up on Nexus Lexus. I have to laugh when people will quote Russia Today, Asia Times and Press TV as the Gospel yet dispute anything the Western MSM puts out. Come on, have some objectivity. News organizations lie. All of them, including this blog, have a bias and/or agenda, some more blatant than others.

you are giving the people who are quite obviously the aggressors the benefit of the doubt

I'm doing no such thing, but you are playing into their hands if you consistently conflate everything and overstate the case without considering distinctions. You end up having no credibility and ultimately no clothes.

Posted by: Morocco Bama | Feb 29 2012 22:53 utc | 107

So now Edith Bouvier refuses to leave :-))

Posted by: somebody | Feb 29 2012 22:56 utc | 108

bevin, merci - exact

Posted by: rememererringgiap | Feb 29 2012 23:03 utc | 109

Walter Wit Man @ 85 -- I found one video of Dr. Mahmoud in a comment in the "What Is Edith Bouvier's Role In Sarkozy's "Humanitarian Corridors" Plans?

Did you list this one too? It has subtitles and shows the two Bab Amro TV stars.

Posted by: Mina | Feb 26, 2012 1:40:49 PM | 2

Thank you, Mina, for that link.

Posted by: jawbone | Mar 1 2012 0:25 utc | 110

Imperialism is the enemy

No, Authoritarianism is the enemy, and Imperialism is a possible permutation of it. You must first renounce Authoritarianism in all its manifestations, or else you will never put an end to Imperialism. That's why I find no favor with Western Imperialism and Syrian, Libyan, Iranian Authoritarianism. Defeating the United States won't put an end to any of this, because Authoritarianism doesn't have its eggs in just that basket. Yes, it's the largest basket of Authoritarian eggs out there, but unless Authoritarianism is the focus, in the wake of a defeated United States, it will rise again unvanquished until "we the people" collectively, around the world, concomitantly vanquish it once and for all and put in its place a system that precludes its possibility.

Posted by: Morocco Bama | Mar 1 2012 1:07 utc | 111

"Imperialism is the enemy: its victims include every starving child, every landless peasant and every unemployed worker on earth. In Syria those dying on every side are sacrifices on the altar of the Empire, victims of the lust for money which is its motor force."

Yes bevin, thanks for that, very well said.

MB@111: Semantics? Right now, it's the US/West led push to dominate oil rich regions of the globe that is an axis of evil. Not the only evil in the world to be sure, but the most pressing at the moment.

Posted by: ben | Mar 1 2012 1:28 utc | 112

BYLINE: Lawrence D. Freedman.

Book Information: The Rise and Fall of Al-Qaeda. By Fawaz A. Gerges. Oxford University Press, 2011, 272 pp. $24.95. The Triple Agent: The al-Qaeda Mole Who Infiltrated the CIA. By Joby Warrick. Doubleday, 2011, 272 pp. $26.95.

SECTION: Pg. 1 Vol. 90 No. 6

LENGTH: 298 words

Gerges, one of the most astute chroniclers of Islamist radicalism, begins this book with a masterly and trenchant account of the origins of al Qaeda and its decline after 9/11. As he moves into more recent years, the book loses focus, becoming more assertive and less analytic -- a victim, perhaps, of recent developments whose impact on global jihadism is difficult to predict, namely, the Arab Spring and the killing of Osama bin Laden. Gerges' main goal is to refute the mainstream "terrorism narrative" that has shaped U.S. policy since 9/11. An exaggerated threat of terrorism has led the United States to engage in disproportionate and inappropriate responses, a tendency Gerges sees continuing with President Barack Obama. The al Qaeda threat undoubtedly lends itself to overblown rhetoric in Washington.

But Gerges' core thesis, that the group is in decline, is closer to the mainstream view than he acknowledges. Analyses of high-level counterterrorism strategy sometimes lose sight of the fact that the "war on terror" comprises a series of individual operations. Warrick, a reporter for The Washington Post, narrates an extraordinary story of intrigue and betrayal behind one such effort. Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi, a Jordanian doctor, started out as an "Internet jihadist" whose contribution to holy war was limited to spewing vitriol online. After his arrest by the Jordanians in 2009, he was recruited as a CIA informant. But later that year, Balawi revealed his true loyalty, killing seven CIA officers and his Jordanian handler by blowing himself up as the team welcomed him at a base in Khost, Afghanistan. Warrick shows how the pressure for results led the CIA to take shortcuts when it came to handling an agent who some feared, correctly, was too good to be true.

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CQ Congressional Testimony, May 24, 2011 Tuesday, CAPITOL HILL HEARING TESTIMONY, 7278 words

CQ Congressional Testimony

May 24, 2011 Tuesday



LENGTH: 7278 words



Statement of Peter Bergen Director of the National Security Studies Program New America Foundation

Committee on Senate Foreign Relations

May 24, 2011

Senator Kerry, Senator Lugar and other members of the committee, thank you for the opportunity to testify today.

My testimony will attempt to answer nine questions:

1. Why should the United States continue to fight against the Taliban in Afghanistan almost a decade after 9/11 and now that Osama bin Laden is dead?

2. Is progress being made in Afghanistan, both generally and against the Taliban?

3. What effect might the killing of bin Laden have on near- and long-term U.S. global security interests, and on core al-Qaeda's goals and capabilities?

4. What is the relationship between the Taliban and al-Qaeda?

5. How might that relationship be changed by the death of bin Laden?

6. What are the impediments to "reconciliation" with the Taliban leadership?

7. Given those impediments, why try and negotiate with the Taliban and are there reasons to think those negotiations might eventually work?

8. Might the Haqqani or Hezb-e-Islami (Gulbuddin Hekmatyar) factions of the Taliban be willing to consider a settlement?

9. There is an agglomeration of extremist groups operating in the lawless region near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, including the Pakistani Taliban, al-Qaeda, and other affiliated and sectarian groups. How should policymakers prioritize which of these to work against? *

1. Why should the United States continue to fight against the Taliban in Afghanistan almost a decade after 9/11 and now that Osama bin Laden is dead?

President Obama has publicly defined the task in Afghanistan rather narrowly, as preventing the return of al-Qaeda to the country; in short, a counter-sanctuary strategy.1 Part of the reason for this relatively narrow public description of the Afghan strategy is, of course, political: there aren't many Americans who would countenance the return of al-Qaeda in Afghanistan.

But there are other reasons the United States remains in Afghanistan even if they don't have the political heft that invoking the threat from al-Qaeda does. First, conceding the return of the Taliban to power in part or the whole of Afghanistan would be a foreign policy reversal for the United States. Second, when the United States overthrows a government it has a moral obligation not to exit without setting the conditions for a slightly more stable and prosperous country. Third, when the Taliban were in power in Afghanistan they played host not just to al-Qaeda, but also to many other Islamist terrorist and insurgent groups from around the globe. Fourth, some kind of regional settlement in South Asia that encompasses Afghanistan will likely lower the risks of war between the nuclear-armed states of Pakistan and India. Fifth, and this is hard for many foreign policy "realists" to grasp: the Taliban are the Taliban. When they were in power in Afghanistan, their regime was characterized by its large-scale massacres of the Shia,2 its incarceration of half the population in their homes, and a country that became the world capital of jihadist terrorism.

Evidence for what the Taliban are likely to do should they return to power in Afghanistan in some shape or form is provided by a controlled experiment on this question that has gone on over the past several years in Pakistan. In the onetime Pakistani tourist destination of Swat between 2008 and 2009 the Taliban imposed a reign of terror, beheading policemen whose bodies were left to rot in public, burning down girls' schools, and administering public lashings to women for supposed infractions such as adultery.3 It was a formula that they had already followed for several years in the tribal areas of Pakistan, the home base of the Pakistani branch of the Taliban.

And the Taliban haven't changed their spots in Afghanistan either. According to a United Nation report released in March, of the some 2,800 civilian casualties of the war in 2010, three- quarters were caused by the Taliban.4 The massacre at the Kabul Bank branch in the eastern city of Jalalabad earlier this year was emblematic of this trend. Footage of the February 19 attack was captured by the bank's security cameras and shows a Taliban fighter ordering Afghan civilians to enter a room and then firing on them. At least 40 people, mostly civilians, were killed in the assault.5 And for those who think that the Taliban have lightened up on one of their signature policies--preventing girls from being educated--consider that a concerted campaign of chemical weapon attacks has taken place against around a dozen girls schools across Afghanistan since the spring of 2009. Afghan girls have been poisoned with organophosphates, a nerve agent used in insecticides, in schools in Balkh and Kunduz in the north, and in Kabul, Ghazni, Kapisa, and Parwan in central Afghanistan. Those attacks have sickened and hospitalized hundreds.6

The recent evidence from Pakistan and Afghanistan shows that the notion that should the Taliban come back to power in parts of Afghanistan that they will suddenly morph into some kind of Pashtun version of the Rotary Club is a delusion. Despite this, earlier this year, George W. Bush's ambassador to India, Robert Blackwill, writing in Foreign Affairs, made the argument that a modus vivendi could and should be reached with the Taliban: "Washington should accept that the Taliban will inevitably control most of the Pashtun south and east" and therefore the U.S. should accept that the de facto partition of Afghanistan is "the best alternative to strategic defeat."7 It's strange that a diplomat who had spent years in South Asia was advocating partition in a part of the world where it is well known that the 1947 partition of India and Pakistan caused one million civilian deaths.8 And not even the Taliban are calling for the partition of Afghanistan, which is an older nation than the United States. (The first Afghan state was founded in 1747).

The Blackwill plan was the most extreme expression of a now- common sentiment amongst the American foreign policy establishment: Let's just get it over with in Afghanistan, which is predicated on the belief (hope, really) that the Taliban are jus' sum' plain' ol' country folks who may not have the best manners in Central Asia, but nonetheless are men we can and should do business with because they represent our best exit strategy from the Afghan morass.

American liberals, who were vocal in their opposition to Taliban when they imposed a theocratic reign of terror on Afghanistan before 9/11, have been strikingly silent on the issue of what a return to power of the Taliban in some shape or form in Afghanistan would mean for the rights of women and ethnic minorities. For those who say that Afghanistan is a conservative Islamic country and that therefore the Taliban's social policies just aren't that unusual, it's helpful to note that when the Taliban were in power there were one million kids in school and almost none of them were girls, while today there are 7 million kids in school and 37 percent are females.9

2. Is progress being made in Afghanistan, both generally and against the Taliban?

In addition to the seven-fold increase in the number of kids in school, positive developments in Afghanistan over the past several years have included the following: GDP growth was a robust 22 percent between 2009 and 2010;10 access to some form of basic healthcare was available to around nine percent of the population a decade ago and is now accessible to 85 percent;11 the phone system barely existed before the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan, now one in three Afghans has a cell phone;12 the Taliban had banned almost all forms of media other than their own Voice of Sharia radio network, while there are now "scores of radio stations, dozens of TV stations and some 100 active press titles," according to the BBC;13 around six million Afghan refugees have returned home since the fall of the Taliban; and so crowded with cars and people has Kabul become that the city's epic pollution is now killing more Afghans than are dying in the war.14

Because of all the tangible ways that their lives are getting better 59 percent of Afghans say their country is going in the right direction.15 By comparison, that metric is exactly reversed in the U.S. In a New York Times poll released in April, 70 percent of Americans said their country is going in the wrong direction.16 The positive feelings a majority of Afghans have about the way things are going help account for the surprisingly high marks that they continue to give the U.S. military after nearly a decade of occupation, which scored a 68 percent favorable rating among Afghans in a BBC/ABC poll released in December.17 (In Iraq at the height of the war in 2007 BBC/ABC found that only 22 percent of Iraqis voiced support for the U.S. military presence in their country.)18

Afghans' faith in their future can be explained by the fact that they know that, despite all the problems that they face today-- the corruption of the central government and the police and the resurgence of the Taliban--their lives are far better now than during the brutal Soviet occupation of the 1980s, the devastating civil war of the early 1990s, and the theocratic rule of the Taliban that followed.

This past fall U.S. military officials publicly asserted that many Taliban safe havens in Helmand and in Kandahar had been eliminated.19 This is not only the assessment of the Pentagon, but the judgment of the International Council on Security and Development (ICOS), a think tank that has done field work in southern Afghanistan for many years and has long been critical of Western policies there. ICOS issued a report in February observing, "NATO and Afghan forces now control a greater number of districts in Helmand and Kandahar than before," including key Taliban strongholds such as Marjah in Helmand and Arghandab in Kandahar.20

General David Petraeus told the Senate Armed Services Committee in March that in one recent three-month period 360 insurgent leaders were killed or captured.21 According to a wide range of observers, as a result the average age of Taliban commanders has dropped from 35 to 25 in the past year.22 Some U.S. military officials believe this is a good thing, as the younger commanders are "less ideological," while Thomas Ruttig, one of the world's leading authorities on the Taliban, says that the reverse is the case: the younger Taliban are more rigid ideologically.23

The sharply stepped up military campaign against the Taliban has caused some handwringing that Petraeus isn't following counterinsurgency precepts, which have been grossly caricatured as winning "hearts and minds" (see Three Cups of Tea), as if counterinsurgency is some kind of advertising campaign to win loyalties. In reality, counterinsurgency is a set of commonsense precepts about how to avoid the kind of hamhanded tactics and repressive measures that will turn the bulk of the population against you, while simultaneously also applying well-calibrated doses of violence to defeat insurgents.

Another common critique of the stepped-up campaign against Taliban commanders is that the U.S. should not be killing those commanders at the same time it is saying that we should talk with them. This critique bears little relation to the history of the last two decades of Afghan warfare, in which all sides have constantly fought and talked with each other simultaneously. Indeed, the Karzai government has had substantive contacts with elements of the Taliban since as early as 2003, according to a former Afghan national security official familiar with those discussions.

An additional approach putting pressure on the Taliban are what the U.S. military terms Village Stability Operations, in which small teams of American Special Forces live permanently "among the population" in remote areas of provinces such as Uruzgan and Zabul where the insurgents once had unfettered freedom of movement. There the U.S. Special Forces are helping to train local community militiamen known as Afghan Local Police (ALP). The government of Afghanistan has technically authorized 10,000 of them, but American officers believe that the numbers will rise to something more like 24,000.24 One says, "ALP is the development that the Taliban most fear, we see it in the intelligence."

When Petraeus first arrived as the commander in Afghanistan last summer setting up the ALP was his first big fight with Karzai, who was concerned quite reasonably that arming tribal militias might replicate some of the warlordism that has plagued Afghanistan since the early 1990s. Karzai agreed to the program in July, and there are a number of measures in place that make it avoid some of the obvious pitfalls of setting up even more armed Afghan groups.25 The program is not administered by the U.S. military but the Afghan Ministry of Interior, which keeps tabs on it through district police chiefs who are responsible for issuing guns to the community policemen. Candidates for the local police are selected by the local village shura (council), while everyone admitted to the program has to submit to biometric scans.

3. What effect will the killing of Osama bin Laden have on near- and long-term U.S. global security interests, and on core al- Qaeda's goals and capabilities?

After the fall of the Taliban, bin Laden didn't, of course, continue to exert day-to-day control over al-Qaeda, but statements from him have always been the most reliable guide to the future actions of jihadist movements around the world, and this remained the case even while he was on the run. In the past decade bin Laden issued more than thirty videoand audiotapes.26 Those messages reached untold millions worldwide via television, the Internet and newspapers.

The tapes not only instructed al-Qaeda's followers to continue to kill Westerners and Jews; some also carried specific instructions that militant cells then acted on. In 2003, bin Laden called for attacks against members of the coalition in Iraq; subsequently terrorists bombed commuters on their way to work in Madrid and London. Bin Laden also called for attacks on the Pakistani state in 2007, which is one of the reasons that Pakistan had more than fifty suicide attacks that year. 27 In March 2008 bin Laden denounced the publication of cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed in a Danish newspaper, which he said would soon be avenged. Three months later, an al-Qaeda suicide attacker bombed the Danish Embassy in Islamabad, killing six.

Materials recovered from the Abbottabad compound in northern Pakistan where bin Laden was killed paint a picture of a leader deeply involved in tactical, operational and strategic planning for al-Qaeda, and in communication with other leaders of the group and even the organization's affiliates overseas.28 Bin Laden exercised near-total control over al-Qaeda, whose members had to swear a religious oath personally to bin Laden, so ensuring blind loyalty to him. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the operational commander of the 9/11 attacks, outlined the dictatorial powers that bin Laden exercised over his organization: "If the Shura council at al-Qaeda, the highest authority in the organization, had a majority of 98 percent on a resolution and it is opposed by bin Laden, he has the right to cancel the resolution."29 Bin Laden's son Omar recalls that the men who worked for al-Qaeda had a habit of requesting permission before they spoke with their leader, saying, "Dear prince: May I speak?".30

The death of bin Laden eliminates the founder of al-Qaeda, which has only enjoyed one leader since its founding in 1988, and it also eliminates the one man who provided broad, unquestioned strategic goals to the wider jihadist movement. Around the world, those who joined al-Qaeda in the past two decades have sworn baya, a religious oath of allegiance to bin Laden, rather than to the organization itself, in the same way that Nazi party members swore an oath of fealty to Hitler, rather than to Nazism. That baya must now be transferred to whoever the new leader of al- Qaeda is going to be. Of course, even as the al-Qaeda organization withers there are pretenders to bin Laden's throne. The first is the dour Egyptian surgeon, Ayman al-Zawahiri, who is the deputy leader of al-Qaeda, and therefore technically bin Laden's successor. But Zawahiri is not regarded as a natural leader. and even among his fellow Egyptian militants Zawahiri is seen as a divisive force and so he is unlikely to be able to step into the role of the paramount leader of al-Qaeda and of the global jihadist movement that was occupied by bin Laden.31 There is scant evidence that Zawahiri has the charisma of bin Laden, nor that he commands the respect bordering on love that was accorded to bin Laden by members of al-Qaeda.

Another possible leader of al-Qaeda is Saif al-Adel, also an Egyptian, who has played a role as a military commander of the terrorist group, and since 9/11 has spent many years living in Iran under some form of house arrest. Adel has been appointed the "caretaker" leader of the terrorist organization, according to Noman Benotman, a former leader of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, a militant organization that was once aligned with al- Qaeda, but in recent years has renounced al-Qaeda's ideology.32

Benotman, who has known the leaders of al-Qaeda for more than two decades and has long been a reliable source of information about the inner workings of the terrorist group, says that based on his personal communications with militants and discussions on jihadist forums, Adel has emerged as the interim leader of al- Qaeda as it reels from the death of its founder and eventually transitions, presumably, to the uncharismatic Zawahiri. A wild card is that one of bin Laden's dozen or so sons-- endowed with an iconic family name--could eventually rise to take over the terrorist group. Already Saad bin Laden, one of the oldest sons, has played a middle management role in al-Qaeda.33 One of the key issues that any future leader of al-Qaeda has to reckon with now is dealing with the fallout from the large quantities of sensitive information that were recovered by U.S. forces at the compound in Abbottabad where bin Laden was killed. That information is likely to prove damaging to al-Qaeda operations. Jihadist terrorism will not, of course, disappear because of the death of bin Laden.

Indeed, the Pakistan Taliban have already mounted attacks in Pakistan that they said were revenge for bin Laden's death,34 but it is hard to imagine two more final endings to the "War on Terror" than the popular revolts against the authoritarian regimes in the Middle East and the death of bin Laden. No one in the streets of Cairo or Benghazi carried placards of bin Laden's face, and very few demanded the imposition of Taliban-like rule, al-Qaeda's preferred end state for the countries in the region. If the Arab Spring was a large nail in the coffin of al-Qaeda's ideology, the death of bin Laden was an equally large nail in the coffin of al-Qaeda the organization.

4. What is the relationship between the Taliban and al-Qaeda?

There is plenty of evidence for the continuing cozy relationship between al-Qaeda and important factions of the Taliban: For much of the past decade al-Qaeda has been harbored largely by the Haqqani network, the ferocious Taliban militia based in Pakistan's tribal regions. According to a July 2009 WikiLeaks cable from the U.S. consulate in Peshawar, which abuts the Pakistani tribal regions, Jalaluddin Haqqani, the veteran jihadi commander who has been the longtime head of the Haqqani network, is "considered to have a close relationship" with Mullah Omar.Haqqani's relationship with bin Laden stretches back to the mid-1980s, according to the Palestinian journalist Jamal Ismail who worked with bin Laden doing this time period. Another Palestinian journalist, Abdel Bari Atwan, who spent days interviewing bin Laden in 1996, points out that bin Laden did Mullah Omar a big favor when he introduced the Taliban leader to his old buddy Jalaluddin Haqqani, who later rose to become arguably the Taliban's most feared military commander.35

Cooperation between the Taliban and al-Qaeda can be seen in the suicide bombing that killed seven CIA officers and contractors in the American base at Khost in eastern Afghanistan on December 30, 2009. The suicide bomber, Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al- Balawi, was a Jordanian doctor recruited by al-Qaeda.36 Two months after Balawi's suicide attack al-Qaeda's video production arm released an interview with him videotaped some time before he died in which he laid out how he planned to attack the group of Agency officials using a bomb made from C-4.37 In another prerecorded video, the chief of the Pakistani Taliban, Hakimullah Mehsud, appeared alongside Balawi saying the attack was revenge for U.S. drone strikes directed at the Taliban.38 The Taliban began to re- emerge as a serious threat in Afghanistan in 2006, launching a serious campaign of suicide bombers and IED attacks. Sami Yousafzai, a leading reporter on the Taliban, has documented that they were taught these techniques by Arab jihadists. That same year Taliban commander Mullah Dadullah explained his links to al- Qaeda. "Osama bin Laden, thank God, is alive and in good health," he told CBS. "We are in contact with his top aides and sharing plans and operations with each other."39 Three years later, Mustafa Abu Al-Yazid, one of al-Qaeda's founders, described his group's rapport with the Taliban during an interview, "We are on a good and strong relationship with them," he said, "and we frequently meet them."

US officials such as CIA director Leon Panetta have publicly said that there are only a few dozen members of al-Qaeda in Afghanistan.40 In addition, U.S. officials point to other "foreign fighters" operating in Afghanistan in particular in the east and to some degree in the north of the county; for instance, Uzbeks affiliated with the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, which is deemed a terrorist group by the U.S. government.41 A briefing slide prepared by the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), which leaked out in January 2010, showed a map of insurgent groups operating in Afghanistan in which the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan was shown to have a presence in five provinces in northern and southern Afghanistan. The leaked DIA briefing asserts that al- Qaeda "provides facilitation, training and some funding" to the Taliban in Afghanistan, while the Taliban also maintain a "mutually supportive relationship" with Chechen and Central Asian fighters.42

On April 26 NATO officials announced that the Saudi al-Qaeda leader, Abu Hafs al- Najdi, had been killed in an airstrike in Kunar province in northeastern Afghanistan. The NATO announcement noted that Najdi was one of 25 al-Qaeda leaders and fighters who had been killed in the past month.43 This suggests that there are still a small but not insignificant number of al-Qaeda militants as well as other foreign fighters who continue to operate in Afghanistan.

A nuanced account of the Taliban-al-Qaeda relationship is provided by Anne Stenersen, a research fellow at the Norwegian Defense Research Establishment. In a paper for the New America Foundation last year she pointed out that al-Qaeda functions mostly in the east of Afghanistan because of its longstanding ties to the Taliban Haqqani Network that is prevalent in this region, while al-Qaeda and the Quetta Shura in southern Afghanistan have diverged strategically in the past decade.44 Some of this is an accident of geography; when al-Qaeda leaders fled Tora Bora in eastern Afghanistan after the fall from power of the Taliban during the winter of 2001 they moved into the adjoining tribal regions of Pakistan, many hundreds of miles from the Quetta Shura's base in southwestern Pakistan, and into the welcoming arms of the Haqqani network. In short, al-Qaeda is embedded with the Haqqani Taliban, but not with the Mullah Omar Taliban.

5. How might the relationship between the Taliban and al-Qaeda be changed by the death of bin Laden?

Now that bin Laden is dead, there is a real opportunity for the Taliban to disassociate itself from al-Qaeda, as it was bin Laden who, sometime before the 9/11 attacks, swore an oath of allegiance to Taliban leader Mullah Omar as the Amir al-Mu'minin, "The Commander of the Faithful," a rarely invoked religious title that dates from around the time of the Prophet Mohammed. Mullah Omar could now communicate to his followers that the new leader of al-Qaeda does not need to swear an oath of allegiance to him as "The Commander of the Faithful." This would be an important step for the Taliban to satisfy a key condition of peace talks with the U.S. and Afghan governments; that they reject al-Qaeda, something that hitherto the Taliban has not done. If Mullah Omar does not take advantage of this opening in the near future, it is hard to imagine that he ever will.

6. What are the impediments to "reconciliation" with the Taliban's leadership?

There are nine significant problems. First, who is there exactly to negotiate with in the Taliban? It's been a decade since their fall from power and the "moderate" Taliban who wanted to reconcile with the Afghan government have already done so. They are the same group of Taliban who are constantly trotted out in any discussion of a putative Taliban deal: Mullah Zaeef, their former ambassador to Pakistan; Wakil Ahmed Muttawakil, their foreign minister; and Abdul Hakim Mujahid, who was the Taliban representative in the United States before 9/11. This group was generally opposed to bin Laden well before he attacked the United States. Bin Laden told intimates that his biggest enemies in the world were the United States and the Taliban Foreign Ministry, which was trying to put the kibosh on his anti- Western antics in Afghanistan. And today the "moderate" already-reconciled Taliban don't represent the Taliban on the battlefield because they haven't been part of the movement for the past decade.

The key Taliban figure is still their leader, Mullah Omar, a.k.a., "The Commander of the Faithful." The title indicates that Mullah Omar is not just the leader of the Taliban, but also of all Muslims, suggesting that Mullah Omar is not only a religious fanatic, but also a fanatic with significant delusions of grandeur. 45 Negotiations with religious fanatics who have delusions of grandeur generally do not go well. Almost every country in the world -- including the Taliban leader's quasi- patron, Pakistan -- pleaded with Mullah Omar in the spring of 2001 not to blow up the giant Buddhas of Bamiyan, Afghanistan's greatest cultural patrimony. But he did so anyway. After 9/11, Mullah Omar was prepared to lose his entire regime on the point of principle that he would not give up bin Laden to the U.S. following the attacks on Manhattan and the Pentagon. And he did. Since his regime fell, Mullah Omar has also shown no appetite for negotiation or compromise. He is joined in this attitude by some senior members of his movement, such as Maulavi Abdul Kabir, a Taliban leader in eastern Afghanistan, who said in January, "neither has there been any peace talk nor has any of the Islamic Emirate (the Taliban) shown any inclination towards it."46

Second, the Taliban has had ten years to reject bin Laden and all his works, and they haven't done so. For this reason, Saudi Arabia, which has hosted "talks about talks" in Mecca between Afghan government officials and some Taliban representatives,47 has soured on the process. For the Saudi government, which is squarely in al-Qaeda's gun sights, a public repudiation of al- Qaeda by the Taliban is a non-negotiable demand. And it hasn't happened.

Third, "the Taliban" is really many Talibans, and so a deal with one insurgent group doesn't mean the end of the insurgency writ large. It's not clear that even Mullah Omar can deliver all of the Taliban that he nominally controls in southern Afghanistan, because they are often fissured into purely local groups, many of whom are a long way from Taliban headquarters across the border in Quetta, Pakistan. As Ambassador Richard Holbrooke commented three months before he died, "There's no Ho Chi Minh. There's no Slobodan Milosevic. There's no Palestinian Authority."48 Instead, there are several leaders of the various wings of the insurgency, from the Quetta Shura in southern Afghanistan, to the Haqqani Network in the east, as well as smaller insurgent groups, such as Gulbuddin Hekmatyar's Hezb-e- Islami in the northeast.

Fourth, the history of "peace" deals with the Taliban in Pakistan shows that the groups can't be trusted. Deals between the Pakistani government and the Taliban in Waziristan in 2005 and 2006 and in Swat in 2009 were merely preludes to the Taliban establishing their brutal "emirates," regrouping and then moving into adjoining areas to seize more territory.49

Fifth, the arrest in Pakistan last year of Mullah Baradar, the Taliban number two who had been negotiating directly with Karzai, shows that the Pakistani military and government wants to retain a veto over any significant negotiations going forward.50 That isn't necessarily a bad thing, as certainly Pakistan's legitimate interests in the post-American Afghanistan must be recognized, but it also demonstrates that negotiations with the Taliban will not be as straightforward as just having the Afghan government and the insurgents at the negotiating table.

Sixth, another key player in any negotiations with the Taliban are the former leaders of the largely Tajik and Uzbek Northern Alliance who fought a bitter several-years war with the Taliban and who now occupy prominent positions in Afghanistan, for instance, the Minister of the Interior, Bismullah Khan, and Dr. Abdullah, Karzai's main rival for the presidency in 2009, who is -- at least for now -- the most likely candidate to succeed Karzai in the 2014 presidential elections. These leaders are not going to allow all they fought for to be reversed by a deal with the Taliban that gives them significant concessions on territory or principle.

Dr. Abdullah is withering in his assessment of Karzai's olive branches to the Taliban who Karzai has described as his "brothers," saying to me that this simply confuses "our own soldiers which are fighting" the Taliban.

Seventh, the several meetings over the past three years between Afghan officials and Taliban representatives to discuss "reconciliation" in Mecca and in the Maldives have hitherto produced a big zero. A senior U.S. military officer dismissed these talks as "reconciliation tourism," while an Afghan official joked with me that in landlocked Afghanistan, "Everybody wanted to go to the Maldives for a meeting."

Eighth, the debacle involving Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour last year shows how much of a fog surrounds the whole reconciliation process.51 Mullah Mansour was portrayed as one of the most senior of the Taliban leaders who was allegedly in direct negotiations with the Karzai government in the fall of 2010. Except it then turned out he wasn't Mullah Mansour at all, but a Quetta shopkeeper who had spun a good yarn about his Taliban credentials so he could pick up what a British government report characterizes as "significant sums."

Finally, and most importantly: what do the Taliban really want? It's relatively easy to discern what they don't want: international forces in Afghanistan. But other than their blanket demand for the rule of sharia law, the Taliban have not articulated their vision for the future of Afghanistan. Do they envision a democratic state with elections? Do they see a role for women outside the home? What about education for girls? What about ethnic minorities?

Richard Barrett, a British diplomat who heads the United Nations' group that monitors al- Qaeda and the Taliban, pointed out at a conference at the New America Foundation last year that "it's difficult to deal with an insurgent group, which doesn't actually put forward any real policy." A similar point was made by Mohammad Stanikhzai, the point person in the Afghan government dealing with the Taliban, when I met with him in December, who explained, "For the governance, I don't think they [the Taliban] have a clear plan."

7. Given these problems, why try and negotiate with the Taliban, and are there reasons to think those negotiations might eventually work?

Reaching an accommodation with the Taliban is going to be quite difficult, but that doesn't, of course, mean that it isn't worth trying. Even if peace talks are not successful immediately, they can have other helpful effects, such as splitting the facade of Taliban unity. Even simple discussions about the future shape of negotiations can help sow dissension in the Taliban ranks, while if such discussions do move forward in even incremental steps more intelligence can be garnered about what exactly is going on inside the shadowy Taliban movement. Also, getting the Taliban to enter into any negotiations means that they will no longer get to occupy the moral high ground of fighting a supposed holy war, but are instead getting their hands dirty in more conventional political back-room deals.

Audrey Cronin of the National Defense University has systematically examined how and why terrorist/insurgent groups come to some kind of peace deal and has laid out some general principles about what that usually takes, which are worth considering in the context of Afghanistan. First, there must recognition on both sides that a military stalemate has been reached. (In the early 1980s the American academic William Zartman coined the term a "mutually hurting stalemate" to describe the moment when combatants will start considering a peace settlement.) That recognition may now exist to some degree, given that over the past six months or so the Taliban have taken heavy losses in their heartlands of Kandahar, while the U.S. public has increasingly turned against what is already America's longest war. In March, 64 percent of Americans said the war was "not worth fighting," up from 41 percent in 2007.

An important shift in the Obama administration's stance on Taliban negotiations was recently signaled by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. While giving the Richard Holbrooke memorial lecture at the Asia Society in New York on February 18, Clinton said that previous American conditions for talks with the Taliban -- that they lay down their arms, reject al-Qaeda, and embrace the Afghan constitution -- were no longer preconditions that the Taliban had to meet before negotiations could begin, but were "necessary outcomes" of the final peace process. Judging by the lack of media attention in the States at the time to this shift, this subtle but important distinction was probably also not well grasped by the Taliban, but it does represent a somewhat more flexible American position about dealing with the Taliban. Indeed, U.S. officials are already in some kind of talks with Taliban representatives, according to reports in the New Yorker and Washington Post.

Similarly the Afghan government has now adopted "reconciliation" as its official policy, setting up a "High Peace Council" in the fall to help facilitate those negotiations, a body that is made up, in part, of a number of leaders from the former Northern Alliance who are less likely to act as spoilers of a peace process if they feel they are a part of it. Successful negotiations often require a capable and trusted third party sponsor. This condition seems also to be lacking right now: the Saudis are, at best, lukewarm about facilitating talks with the Taliban; the Pakistanis are not really trusted by any of the parties in the conflict, even by much of the Taliban, and while the United Nations may have some role to play in negotiations, Taliban attacks on U.N. personnel in Afghanistan last year don't suggest this avenue has much immediate promise. (Murmurings about a role for Turkey in facilitating a deal may have some potential given that Turkey has an Islamist government and is also a key member of NATO.)

A peace deal also generally requires strong leadership on both the government and insurgent sides to force a settlement. Neither Hamid Karzai nor Mullah Omar fit this particular bill. Finally, Cronin explains that the overall political context must be favorable to negotiations for a deal to succeed. Here there is some real hope: While fewer then one in ten Afghans have a favorable view of the Taliban, a large majority is in favor of negotiating with them. Nationally, around three-quarters of Afghans favor talks, while in Kandahar the number goes up to a stratospheric 94 percent.

All that said, the bottom line on the Taliban reconciliation process is that nothing of any real note is currently happening. According to a Western official familiar with the record of discussions with the Taliban, the chances of a deal with the Taliban similar to the Dayton Accords that ended the Balkans war in the mid-1990s or the Good Friday Agreement that ended the IRA campaign against the British government are "negligible" for the foreseeable future. The official says that Mullah Omar needs his council of ulema (religious scholars) to sign off on a peace deal and there is "no sign of this right now." Senior U.S. military officials tell me that it is their view that Mullah Omar is living at least some of the time in the southern Pakistani megacity of Karachi.

8. Might the Haqqani or Hezb-e-Islami (Gulbuddin Hekmatyar) factions of the Taliban be willing to consider a settlement?

This is relatively plausible given that Hezb-e-Islami (Party of Islam) has long shown a far greater inclination to engage in conventional politics than the other insurgent groups. Hezb-e- Islami has a more nuanced take than other insurgent groups about what its preconditions are for talks with the Afghan government; while much of the Taliban want foreign forces out before real talks can begin, Hezb-e-Islami has indicated that talks can begin in parallel with a timetable for withdrawal being agreed upon. For the moment, the Haqqanis are probably irreconcilable as they are too close to al-Qaeda.

9. There is an agglomeration of extremist groups operating in the lawless region near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, including the Pakistani Taliban, al-Qaeda, and other affiliated and other sectarian groups. How should policymakers prioritize which of these to work against?

Policymakers should prioritize those South Asian groups that now threaten the West. One of bin Laden's most toxic legacies is that even terrorist groups that don't call themselves "al-Qaeda" have adopted his ideology. According to Spanish prosecutors, the late leader of the Pakistani Taliban, Baitullah Mehsud, sent a team of would-be suicide bombers to Barcelona to attack the subway system there in January 2008. A Pakistani Taliban spokesman confirmed this in a videotaped interview in which he said that those suicide bombers "were under pledge to Baitullah Mehsud" and were sent because of the Spanish military presence in Afghanistan.

In 2009 the Pakistani Taliban trained an American recruit for an attack in New York. Faisal Shahzad, who had once worked as a financial analyst in the accounting department at the Elizabeth Arden cosmetics company in Stamford, Connecticut, travelled to Pakistan where he received five days of bomb-making training from the Taliban in the tribal region of Waziristan. Armed with this training and $12,000 in cash, Shahzad returned to Connecticut where he purchased a Nissan Pathfinder. He placed a bomb in the SUV and detonated it in Times Square on May 1, 2010 around 6 p.m. when the sidewalks were thick with tourists and theatergoers. The bomb, which was designed to act as a fuelair explosive, luckily was a dud and Shahzad was arrested two days later as he tried to leave JFK airport for Dubai.

Also based in the Pakistani tribal regions are a number of other jihadist groups allied to both the Taliban and al-Qaeda, such as the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and the Islamic Jihad Union that have trained dozens of Germans for attacks in Europe. Two Germans and a Turkish resident in Germany, for instance, trained in the tribal regions and then planned to bomb the massive US Ramstein airbase in Germany in 2007. Before their arrests, the men had obtained 1,600 pounds of industrial strength hydrogen peroxide, enough to make a number of large bombs.

The Mumbai attacks of 2008 showed that bin Laden's ideas about attacking Western and Jewish targets had also spread to Pakistani militant groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), which had previously focused only on Indian targets. Over a three-day period in late November 2008 LeT carried out multiple attacks in Mumbai targeting five-star hotels housing Westerners and a Jewish- American community center. The Pakistani- American David Headley played a key role in LeT's massacre in Mumbai, traveling to the Indian financial capital on five extended trips in the two years before the attacks. There Headley made videotapes of the key locations later attacked by the ten LeT gunmen.61

Sometime in 2008, Headley hatched a plan to attack the Danish newspaper Jyllands- Posten, which three years earlier had published cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed that were deemed to be offensive by many Muslims. In January 2009 Headley traveled to Copenhagen, where he reconnoitered the Jyllands-Posten newspaper on the pretext that he ran an immigration business that was looking to place some advertising in the paper.

Following his trip to Denmark, Headley met with Ilyas Kashmiri in the Pakistani tribal regions to brief him on his findings. Kashmiri ran a terrorist organization, Harakat-ul- Jihad Islami, closely tied to al-Qaeda. Headley returned to Chicago in mid-June 2009 and was arrested there three months later as he was preparing to leave for Pakistan again. He told investigators that he was planning to kill the Jyllands-Posten's cultural editor who had first commissioned the cartoons, as well as the cartoonist Kurt Westergaard who had drawn the cartoon he found most offensive; the Prophet Mohammed with a bomb concealed in his turban.

One of the more predictable foreign policy challenges of the next years is a "Mumbai II": a large-scale attack on a major Indian city by a Pakistani militant group that kills hundreds. The Indian government showed considerable restraint in its reaction to the provocation of the Mumbai attacks in 2008. Another such attack, however, would likely produce considerable political pressure on the Indian government to "do something."

That something would likely involve incursions over the border to eliminate the training camps of Pakistani militant groups with histories of attacking India. That could lead in turn to a full- blown war for the fourth time since 1947 between India and Pakistan. Such a war would involve the possibility of a nuclear exchange and the certainty that Pakistan would move substantial resources to its eastern border and away from fighting the Taliban on its western border, relieving pressure on all the militant groups based there, including al-Qaeda.

The Pakistani Taliban, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Harakat-ul-Jihad Islami, the Islamic Jihad Union and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan are all based or have a significant presence in Pakistan's tribal regions and have track records of trying to attack Western and/or American targets and should therefore all be considered threats to American interests.

CQ Congressional Testimony, September 15, 2010 Wednesday, CAPITOL HILL HEARING TESTIMONY, 8709 words

CQ Congressional Testimony

September 15, 2010 Wednesday



LENGTH: 8709 words



Statement of Peter Bergen Senior Fellow New America Foundation

Committee on House Homeland Security

September 15, 2010

My testimony will consider four broad questions: A. What kind of the threat does al-Qaeda and its allies now pose to the United States? B. Who are the American recruits to these groups over the past couple of years? C. What kinds of targets are these groups likely to attack in the future, and what kinds of new tactics might they use? D. What factors are helping or hindering these groups?

A. What is the threat? 1. Al-Qaeda and allied groups and those inspired by its ideas continue to pose a real but not catastrophic threat to the United States. Such groups might successfully carry out bombings against symbolic targets that would kill dozens, such as against subways in Manhattan, as was the plan in September 2009 of Najibullah Zazi, an Afghan- American al-Qaeda recruit, or they might blow up an American passenger jet, as was the intention three months later of the Nigerian Umar Farouq Abdulmutallab, who had been recruited by "Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula." Had that bombing attempt succeeded, it would have killed hundreds. This level of threat is likely to persist for years to come, however, al-Qaeda no longer poses a national security threat to the American homeland of the type that could launch a mass-casualty attack sufficiently deadly in scope to reorient completely the country's foreign policy, as the 9/11 attacks did.

2. Al-Qaeda and likeminded groups have had minimal success in manufacturing, buying, stealing or being given viable chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear (CBRN) weapons. Despite al- Qaeda's long interest in acquiring chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) weapons, on the infrequent occasions that such groups have tried to deploy crude versions of these weapons their efforts have fizzled, as was evident in the largely ineffectual campaign of chlorine bomb attacks by "Al- Qaeda in Iraq" in 2007. Militant jihadist groups will only be able to deploy crude CBRN weapons for the foreseeable future and these will not be true "weapons of mass destruction," but rather weapons of mass disruption, whose principal effect will be panic but few deaths. Indeed, a survey of the 172 individuals indicted or convicted in Islamist terrorism cases in the United States since 9/11 by the Maxwell School at Syracuse University and the New America Foundation found that none of the cases involved the use of CBRN. (In the one case where a radiological plot was initially alleged--that of the Hispanic-American al- Qaeda recruit, Jose Padilla---that allegation was dropped when the case went to trial).1

B. Who are the recent American recruits? 1. A key shift in the threat to the homeland since around the time that Obama took office is the increasing Americanization of the leadership of al- Qaeda and aligned groups, and the larger numbers of Americans attaching themselves to these groups. Anwar al-Awlaki, a Yemeni- American cleric who grew up in New Mexico, is today playing an important operational role in Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula,2 while Adnan Shukrijumah, a Saudi-American who grew up in Brooklyn and Florida, is now al- Qaeda's director of external operations. In 2009 Shukrijumah tasked Zazi and two other American residents to attack targets in the United States. Omar Hammami, a Baptist convert to Islam from Alabama, is both a key propagandist and a military commander for Al Shabab, the Somali al-Qaeda affiliate, while Chicagoan David Headley played a central role in scoping the targets for the Lashkar-e-Taiba attacks on Mumbai in late 2008 that killed more than 160. There is little precedent for the high-level operational roles that Americans are currently playing in al- Qaeda and affiliated groups, other than the case of Ali Mohamed, an Egyptian-American former U.S. army sergeant, who was a key military trainer for al-Qaeda during the 1990s, until his arrest after the bombings of the two American embassies in Africa in 1998.

Al-Qaeda and likeminded groups have also successfully attracted into their ranks dozens of American citizens and residents as foot soldiers since January 2009. Most prominent among them are Zazi and the Pakistani-American Faizal Shahzad who was trained by the Taliban in Waziristan and then unsuccessfully attempted to detonate a car bomb in Times Square on May 1, 2010. According to a count by Andrew Lebovich of the New America Foundation, in 2009 43 American citizens or residents aligned with Sunni militant groups or their ideology were charged with terrorism crimes in the U.S. or elsewhere, the highest number in any year since 9/11. So far in 2010 20 have been similarly charged or convicted.

2. It used to be that the United States was largely the target of Sunni militant terrorists, but now the country is also increasingly exporting American Sunni militants to do jihad overseas. Not only was David Headley responsible for much of the surveillance of the targets for the 2008 Mumbai attacks, he also traveled to the Danish capital Copenhagen in 2009 where he reconnoitered the Jyllands-Posten newspaper for an attack. A year earlier Osama bin Laden had denounced the publication of cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed in the Jyllands-Posten as a "catastrophe," for which retribution would soon be meted out. Following his trip to Denmark, Headley travelled to Pakistan to meet with Ilyas Kashmiri who runs Harakat-ul-Jihad Islami, a terrorist organization tied to al-Qaeda. Headley was arrested in Chicago in October 2009 as he was preparing to travel to Pakistan again. He told investigators that he was planning to kill the Jyllands-Posten's editor who had commissioned the cartoons, as well as the cartoonist Kurt Westergaard, who had drawn the cartoon he found most offensive; the Prophet Mohammed with a bomb concealed in his turban. Similarly, Coleen R. Larose, a Caucasian- American 46-year-old high school dropout known in jihadist circles by her Internet handle "JihadJane," traveled to Europe in the summer of 2009 to scope out an alleged attack on Lars Vilks, a Swedish artist who had drawn a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed's head on the body of a dog.

By the end of 2009 fourteen American citizens and residents (all but one of Somali descent) had been indicted for recruiting at least twenty others to fight in Somalia, or for fundraising for Al Shabab. In addition to Zazi and Shahzad, five Muslim-Americans from northern Virginia volunteered for jihad in the Afghanistan/Pakistan theatre in 2009. They are now in custody in Pakistan charged with planning terrorist attacks. Similarly, a group of seven American citizens and residents of the town of Willow Creek, North Carolina led by Daniel Boyd, a convert to Islam who had fought in the jihad in Afghanistan against the Soviets, conceived of themselves as potential participants in overseas holy wars from Israel to Pakistan, and some traveled abroad to scope out opportunities to do jihad, according to federal prosecutors. Boyd also purchased eight rifles and a revolver and members of his group did paramilitary training on two occasions in the summer of 2009.

3. Another development in the past couple of years is the increasing diversification of the types of US-based jihadist militants, and the groups with which they have affiliated. Militants engaged in jihadist terrorism in the past two years have ranged from pure "lone wolves" like Major Nidal Hasan who killed thirteen at Fort Hood, Texas in 2009 and Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad (aka Carlos Bledsoe) who killed a soldier the same year at a Little Rock recruiting station, to homegrown militants opting to fight in an overseas jihad with an al-Qaeda affiliate such as the twenty or so American recruits to Al Shabab, to militants like David Headley, who have played an instrumental role in planning for Lashkar-e-Taiba, to those with no previous militant affiliations such as the group of five friends from northern Virginia who travelled to Pakistan in 2009 in a quixotic quest to join the Taliban, and finally those American citizens such as Najibullah Zazi and Bryant Neal Vinas, who managed to plug directly into al-Qaeda Central in Pakistan's tribal regions, or train with the Pakistani Taliban, as Faizal Shahzad did.

4 These jihadists do not fit any particular ethnic profile. According to a count by the New America Foundation and the Maxwell School at Syracuse University, of the 57 Americans indicted or convicted of Islamist terrorism crimes since January 2009, 21% (12) are Caucasian- Americans, 18% (10) are Arab- Americans, 14% (8) are South Asian-Americans, 9% (5) are African Americans, 4% (2) are Hispanic-Americans and 2% (1) are Caribbean- American. The single largest bloc are Somali-Americans at 31%, (19) a number that reflects the recent crackdown by the feds on support networks for Americans travelling to Somalia to fight with the al-Qaeda affiliate Al Shabab.3

C. What kinds of future targets or tactics might jihadist groups attack or use? 1.Attacking commercial aviation-the central nervous system of the global economy---continues to preoccupy al- Qaeda. A cell of British Pakistanis, for instance, trained by al- Qaeda plotted to bring down seven passenger jets flying to the United States and Canada from Britain during the summer of 2006. During the trial of the men accused in the "planes plot" the prosecution argued that some 1,500 passengers would have died if all seven of the targeted planes had been brought down and most of the victims of the attacks would have been Americans, Britons and Canadians.4 The UK-based planes plot did not stand alone: four years earlier an al-Qaeda affiliate in Kenya had almost succeeded in bringing down an Israeli passenger jet with a surfaceto- air missile,5 while in 2003 a plane belonging to the DHL courier service was struck by a missile as it took off from Baghdad airport.6 The same year militants cased Riyadh airport and were planning to attack British Airways flights flying into Saudi Arabia.7 In 2007 two British doctors with possible ties to Al-Qaeda in Iraq tried unsuccessfully to ignite a car bomb at Glasgow Airport. And if the Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab had brought down the Northwest Airlines flight over Detroit on Christmas Day of 2009, it would have been al-Qaeda's most successful attack on an American target since it had destroyed the World Trade Center towers and a wing of the Pentagon. According to several counterterrorism officials, the skilled Yemeni-based bomb-maker who built Abdulmutallab's bomb is likely still at large. He is likely to try to bring down another commercial jet with a concealed bomb that is not detectable by metal detectors. And al-Qaeda or an affiliate could also bring down a jet with a surface-to-air missile as was attempted in Kenya in 2002.

2. Smaller-scale attacks. As one counterterrorism official put it, "Abdulmutallab is not a very high barrier for terrorist groups to surmount. His attack demonstrated to other terrorists that you don't have to be [9/11 operational commander] Khalid Sheikh Muhammad to carry out an attack" Another counterterrorism official said terrorist groups now see the US as more "gettable" because of the failed plots on Christmas Day 2009 and Times Square in 2010.

3. Armed with the belief that they can bleed Western economies, Al-Qaeda and affiliated terrorist groups also target companies with distinctive Western brand names, in particular American hotel chains. Since the 9/11 attacks, al-Qaeda and its affiliated groups have increasingly attacked economic and business targets. The shift in tactics is in part a response to the fact that the traditional pre-9/11 targets, such as American embassies, war ships, and military bases, are now better defended, while so- called "soft" economic targets are both ubiquitous and easier to hit. In 2002 a group of a dozen French defense contractors were killed as they left a Sheraton hotel in Karachi, which was heavily damaged. In 2003, suicide attackers bombed the J.W. Marriott hotel in Jakarta and attacked it again six years later, simultaneously also attacking the Ritz Carlton hotel in the Indonesian capital. In October 2004, in Taba, Egyptian jihadists attacked a Hilton hotel. In Amman, Jordan in November 2005, al- Qaeda attacked three hotels with well-known American names-- the Grand Hyatt, Radisson, and Days Inn.8 And five-star hotels that cater to Westerners in the Muslim world are a perennial target for jihadists: in 2008 the Taj and Oberoi in Mumbai; the Serena in Kabul and the Marriott in Islamabad, and in 2009 the Pearl Continental in Peshawar. Such attacks will continue as hotels are in the hospitality business and can not turn themselves into fortresses.

4. Attacking Israeli/Jewish targets. This is an al-Qaeda strategy that has only emerged strongly post- 9/11. Despite bin Laden's declaration in February 1998 that he was creating the "World Islamic Front against the Crusaders and the Jews," al-Qaeda only started attacking Israeli or Jewish targets in early 2002. Since then, al-Qaeda and its affiliated groups have directed an intense campaign against Israeli and Jewish targets, killing journalist Daniel Pearl in Karachi, bombing synagogues and Jewish centers in Tunisia, Morocco and Turkey, and attacking an Israeli-owned hotel in Mombasa, Kenya, which killed thirteen. Al-Qaeda's North African affiliates attacked the Israeli embassy in Mauritania in 2008.

5. The fact that American citizens have engaged in suicide operations in Somalia raises the possibility that suicide operations could start taking place in the United States itself. To discount this possibility would be to ignore the lessons of the British experience. On April 30, 2003, two Britons of Pakistani descent launched a suicide attack in Tel Aviv, while the first British suicide bomber, Birmingham-born Mohammed Bilal, blew himself up outside an army barracks in Indian-held Kashmir in December 2000.9 Despite those suicide attacks the British security services had concluded after 9/11 that suicide bombings would not be much of a concern in the United Kingdom itself.10 Then came the four suicide attackers in London on July 7, 2005, which ended that complacent attitude.Major Nidal Malik Hasan, a Palestinian-American medical officer and a rigidly observant Muslim who made no secret to his fellow officers of his opposition to America's wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, went on a shooting spree at the giant army base at Fort Hood, Texas, on November 5, 2009, killing thirteen and wounding many more. This attack seems to have been an attempted suicide operation in which Hasan planned a jihadist "death-by-cop." In the year before his killing spree, Major Hasan had made Web postings about suicide operations and the theological justification for the deaths of innocents and had sent more than a dozen emails to Anwar al Awlaki an American-born cleric living in Yemen who is a wellknown al-Qaeda apologist.11 Awlaki said he first received an email from Major Hasan on Dec. 17, 2008, and in that initial communication he "was asking for an edict regarding the [possibility] of a Muslim soldier [killing] colleagues who serve with him in the American army."12

6. For Americans fired up by jihadist ideology, American soldiers fighting wars in two Muslim countries are particularly inviting targets. A few months before Hasan's murderous spree, Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad, an African-American convert to Islam, had shot up a U.S. military recruiting station in Little Rock, Arkansas, killing a soldier and wounding another. Despite the fact that the FBI had had him under surveillance following a mysterious trip that he had recently taken to Yemen, Muhammad was still able to acquire guns and attack the recruiting station in broad daylight. When Muhammad was arrested in his vehicle, police found a rifle with a laser sight, a revolver, ammunition, and the makings of Molotov cocktails.13 (The middle name that Muhammad had assumed after his conversion to Islam, Mujahid, or "holy warrior," should have been a red flag, as this is far from a common name among Muslims.) Daniel Boyd, the alleged leader of the jihadist cell in North Carolina, obtained maps of Quantico Marine Base in Virginia, which he cased for a possible attack on June 12, 2009. He also allegedly possessed armor-piercing ammunition, saying it was "to attack Americans," and said that one of his weapons would be used "for the base," an apparent reference to the Quantico facility.14

7. Assassinations of key political leaders, US officials and those who are perceived as insulting Islam. Because we rightly think of al-Qaeda and allied group as preoccupied by inflicting mass casualty attacks we tend to ignore their long history of assassinating or attempting to assassinate key leaders and American officials. Two days before 9/11 al-Qaeda assassinated the storied Afghan military commander Ahmad Shah Massoud; two years later they tried to kill Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf on two occasions; in 2009 the top Saudi counterterrorism official Mohamed bin Nayef narrowly escaped being killed by an al-Qaeda assassin bearing a concealed bomb; Hamid Karzai has been the subject of multiple Taliban assai nation attempts, the leading Pakistani politician Benazir Button succumbed to a Taliban suicide bomber in 2007; in 2002 American diplomat Leonard Foley was murdered in Amman, Jordan by Al-Qaeda in Iraq, and six years later the Taliban killed American aid worker Stephen Vance in Peshawar who was working on a project funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development. It is worth noting here that since 9/11 the US consulate in Karachi has been the subject of three serious attacks; the U.S. consulate in Jeddah the subject of one large-scale attack and the U.S. embassy in Sana, Yemen the subject of two such attacks. As we have seen, Scandinavian cartoonist and artists who have drawn cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed are now frequently targeted by jihadists. For al-Qaeda and allied groups the Danish cartoon controversy has assumed some of the same importance that Salman Rushdie's fictional writings about the Prophet did for Khomeini's Iran two decades earlier.

8. "Fedayeen" attacks. The "success" of Lashkar-e-Taiba's 60- hour assault on Mumbai in late November 2008 that involved ten gunmen all willing to die in the assault is already producing other similar copycat operations. The long drawn out attacks in Mumbai produced round the clock coverage around the globe, something other terrorist groups want to emulate. Known as "Fedayeen" (self-sacrificer) attacks we have already seen in Afghanistan similar Fedayeen attacks on Afghan government buildings and in Pakistan a similar attack in October 2009 against GHQ, the Pakistani military headquarters.

9. A frequent question after the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon was why didn't al-Qaeda mount an attack on a mall in some Midwestern town, thus showing the American public its ability to attack in Anywheresville, USA? For the Muslims around the globe whom al-Qaeda is trying to influence an attack on an obscure, unknown town in the Midwest would have little impact, which explains al-Qaeda's continuing fixation on attacks on cities and targets well- known in the Islamic world. That explains Zazi's travel to Manhattan from Colorado and al-Qaeda's many attempts to bring down American passenger jets in the past decade. That is not, of course, to say that someone influenced by bin Laden's ideas-- but not part of al-Qaeda or one of its affiliates-- might not attempt an attack in the future in some obscure American town, but the terrorist organization and its affiliates remains fixated on symbolic targets.

D. There are four factors helping jihadist militant groups. 1. Al- Qaeda's ideological influence on other jihadist groups is on the rise in South Asia. One of the key leaders of the Taliban as it surged in strength several years after 9/11 was Mullah Dadullah, a thuggish but effective commander who like his counterpart in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, thrived on killing Shia, beheading his hostages, and media celebrity.15 In interviews in 2006, Dadullah conceded what was obvious as the violence dramatically expanded in Afghanistan between 2005 and 2006: that the Taliban had increasingly morphed together tactically and ideologically with al-Qaeda. "Osama bin Laden, thank God, is alive and in good health. We are in contact with his top aides and sharing plans and operations with each other."16 The Taliban also adopted the playbook of Al-Qaeda in Iraq wholesale from 2005 forward, embracing suicide bombers and IED attacks on U.S. and NATO convoys. The Taliban only began deploying suicide attackers in large numbers after the success of such operations in Iraq had become obvious to all. Where once the Taliban had banned television, now they boast an active video propaganda operation named Umar, which posts regular updates to the Web mimicking al- Qaeda's production arm, Al Sahab.

In 2008 for the first time the Taliban began planning seriously to attack targets in the West. According to Spanish prosecutors, the late leader of the Pakistani Taliban, Baitullah Mehsud sent a team of would-be suicide bombers to Barcelona in January 2008. Pakistani Taliban spokesman Maulvi Omar confirmed this in a later videotaped interview in which he said that those suicide bombers "were under pledge to Baitullah Mehsud" and were sent because of the Spanish military presence in Afghanistan. In March 2009 Baitullah Mehsud threatened an attack in America telling the Associated Press by phone, "Soon we will launch an attack in Washington that will amaze everyone in the world." At the time this was largely discounted as bloviating, but by the end of the year the Pakistan Taliban was training an American recruit for just such an attack. Faisal Shahzad, who had once worked as a financial analyst in the accounting department at the Elizabeth Arden cosmetics company in Stamford, Connecticut, travelled to Pakistan in the winter of 2009 where he received five days of bomb-making training from the Taliban in the tribal region of Waziristan. Shahzad, also met with the Pakistani Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud, and a video of the meeting shows the two shaking hands and hugging.

Armed with his training by the Taliban Shahzad returned to Connecticut where he purchased a Nissan Pathfinder. He then built a bomb, which he placed in the SUV and detonated in Times Square on May 1, 2010 around 6 p.m. when the sidewalks were thick with tourists and theatergoers. The bomb, which was designed to act as a fuel-air explosive, luckily was a dud and Shahzad was arrested two days later as he tried to leave JFK Airport for Pakistan.17 Media accounts largely painted Shahzad as a feckless terrorist. In fact Shahzad did a number of things indicating that he had received some at least rudimentary counter-surveillance techniques; he eliminated one of the Vehicle Identification Numbers on his SUV, he purchased the type of fertilizer which would not trigger suspicions that he was building a bomb, and he avoided building a hydrogen peroxide-based bomb of the kind that al-Qaeda recruit Najibullah Zazi was attempting the pervious year as large scale purchases of hydrogen peroxide that don't appear to have legitimate purposes are now likely to draw law enforcement attention.

The extent of the cooperation between the Pakistani Taliban and al-Qaeda could be seen in the suicide bombing that killed seven CIA officers and contractors in the American base at Khost in eastern Afghanistan on December 30, 2009. The suicide bomber, Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al- Balawi, a Jordanian doctor, was a double agent: information he had earlier provided to the CIA was used to target militants in Pakistan.18 Two months after Balawi's suicide attack al-Qaeda's video production arm released a lengthy interview with him videotaped some time before he died in which he laid out how he planned to attack the group of Agency officials using a bomb made from C-4.19 Mustafa Abu al-Yazid, the number three in al-Qaeda, praised the suicide attack targeting the CIA officers saying, it was "to avenge our good martyrs" and listing several militant leaders felled by U.S. drone strikes,20 while the chief of the Pakistani Taliban, Hakimullah Mehsud, appeared alongside Balawi in a prerecorded video saying the attack was revenge for the drone strike that had killed Hakimullah's predecessor, Baitullah Mehsud, six months earlier.21

The Mumbai attacks of 2008 also showed that al-Qaeda's ideas about attacking Western and Jewish targets had also spread to other Pakistani militant groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), which had previously focused only on Indian targets. Over a three-day period in late November 2008 LeT carried out multiple attacks in Mumbai targeting five-star hotels housing Westerners and a Jewish- American community center. One of the more predictable foreign policy challenges of the next years is a "Mumbai II": a large- scale attack on a major Indian city by a Pakistani militant group that kills hundreds. The Indian government showed considerable restraint in its reaction to the provocation of the Mumbai attacks in 2008. Another such attack, however, would likely produce considerable political pressure on the Indian government to "do something." That something would likely involve incursions over the border to eliminate the training camps of Pakistani militant groups with histories of attacking India. That could lead in turn to a full-blown war for the fourth time since 1947 between India and Pakistan. Such a war involves the possibility of a nuclear exchange and the certainty that Pakistan would move substantial resources to its eastern border and away from fighting the Taliban on its western border, so relieving pressure on all the militant groups based there, including al- Qaeda.

In June CIA director Leon Panetta told ABC News that al-Qaeda's presence in Afghanistan is now "relatively small. . .I think at most, we're looking at maybe 50 to 100." The following month Mike Leiter, the head of the National Counterterrorism Center, told an audience in Aspen that there were probably 300 al-Qaeda leaders and fighters in Pakistan. For some, these small numbers suggested that the war against al-Qaeda was already won (lets maybe cite one or two examples here). But this was to overlook three key points: First, al-Qaeda has always been a small elite organization. There were only two hundred sworn members of al- Qaeda at the time of the 9/11 attacks and al-Qaeda's role has always been as an ideological and military vanguard seeking to influence and train other jihadist groups. In Afghanistan and Pakistan, for instance, in the past several years small numbers of al-Qaeda instructors embedded with larger Taliban units have functioned something like U.S. Special Forces do--as trainers and force multipliers.22 The second point is that, as we have seen in the preceding paragraphs, al-Qaeda's ideology and tactics have spread to a wide rage of large militant groups in South Asia all of which are relatively large the Taliban in Afghanistan alone is estimated to number 25,000 men, while Lashkar-e-Taiba has thousands of fighting men in its ranks. Finally, al-Qaeda Central has seeded a number of franchises around the Middle East and North Africa that now are acting in an al- Qaeda-like manner with little or no contact with al-Qaeda Central itself; a phenomenon we will examine next.

2. Al-Qaeda Central's influence has extended to jihadist groups beyond South Asia. In September 2009, the Somali Islamist insurgent group Al Shabab formally pledged allegiance to bin Laden23 following a two-year period in which it had recruited Somali-Americans and other U.S. Muslims to fight in the war in Somalia. Six months earlier bin Laden had given his own imprimatur to the Somali jihad in an audiotape released titled "Fight On, Champions of Somalia."24 After it announced its fealty to bin Laden, Shabab was able to recruit larger numbers of foreign fighters, by one estimate up to 1,200 were working with the group by 2010.25 Today, Shabab controls about half of Somalia's territory.

Al Shabab managed to plant al-Qaeda-like ideas into the heads of even its American recruits. Shirwa Ahmed, an ethnic Somali, graduated from high school in Minneapolis in 2003, and then worked pushing passengers in wheelchairs at Minneapolis Airport. During this period Ahmed was radicalized; the exact mechanisms of that radicalization are still murky but in late 2007 Ahmed he traveled to Somalia. A year later, on October 29, 2008, Ahmed drove a truck loaded with explosives towards a government compound in Puntland, northern Somalia, blowing himself up and killing about twenty people. The FBI matched Ahmed's finger, recovered at the scene of the bombing, to fingerprints already on file for him.26 Ahmed was the first American suicide attacker anywhere. It's possible that eighteen-year-old Omar Mohamud of Seattle was the second. On September 17, 2009, two stolen United Nations vehicles loaded with bombs blew up at Mogadishu airport, killing more than a dozen peacekeepers of the African Union. The FBI suspected that Mohamud was one of the bombers.27

The chances of getting killed in Somalia were quite high for the couple of dozen or so Americans who volunteered to fight there; in addition to the two men who conducted suicide operations, six other Somali-Americans between eighteen and thirty-years-old were killed in Somalia between 2007 and 2009 as well as Ruben Shumpert, an African-American convert to Islam from Seattle.28 Given the high death rate of the Americans fighting in Somalia, as well as the considerable attention this group received from the FBI, it was unlikely that American veterans of the Somali war posed much of a threat to the United States itself. It was, however, plausible now that Al Shabab had declared itself to be an al-Qaeda affiliate, that U.S. citizens in the group might be recruited to engage in anti-American operations overseas. Al Shabab has shown that it is capable of carrying out operations outside of Somalia, bombing two groups of fans watching the World Cup in Uganda on July 11, 2010, attacks which killed more than seventy. Eight months earlier a 28-year-old Somali man had forced himself into the home of Kurt Westergaard--the Danish cartoonist David Headley was planning to kill--and armed with a knife and an ax tried, unsuccessfully, to break into the panic room where the Danish cartoonist was hiding. Danish intelligence officials say the suspect has links with al-Shabab and al-Qaeda leaders in eastern Africa.

In September 2006 the Algerian Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat's leader Abu Musab Abdul Wadud, explained that al-Qaeda "is the only organization qualified to gather together the mujahideen." Subsequently taking the name "Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb" (AQIM) the group, which had traditionally focused only on Algerian targets, conducted a range of operations; bombing the United Nations building in Algiers; attacking the Israeli embassy in Mauritania, and murdering French and British hostages.29 AQIM has hitherto not been able to carry out attacks in the West and is one of the weakest of al-Qaeda's affiliates, only having the capacity for infrequent attacks in North Africa.

In 2008 there was a sense that Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) was on the verge of defeat. The American ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker said, "You are not going to hear me say that al-Qaeda is defeated, but they've never been closer to defeat than they are now." Certainly al-AQI has lost the ability to control large swaths of the country and a good chunk of the Sunni population as it did in 2006, but the group has proven surprisingly resilient as demonstrated by the that it pulled off large-scale bombings in central Baghdad in 2009 and 2010. AQI can also play the nationalist card quite effectively in the north, especially over the disputed city of Kirkuk, which is claimed by both Iraq's Arabs and Kurd, and Iraqi officials believe that AQI is entering into new marriages of convenience with Sunni nationalist groups that only three years ago it was at war with. It is worth noting that in the first three months of 2010 the National Counterterrorism Center found that there were more terrorist attacks in Iraq 566 than any other country in the world; attacks that killed 667 people.

Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) was the group responsible for Umar Farouq Abdulmutallab's botched attempt to explode a bomb on Northwest flight 253 over Detroit on Christmas Day 2009. Abdulmutallab boarded the flight in Amsterdam, which was bound for Detroit with some three hundred passengers and crew on board. Secreted in his underwear was a bomb made with eighty grams of PETN, a plastic explosive that was not detected at airport security in Amsterdam or the Nigerian capital, Lagos, from where he had originally flown. He also carried a syringe with a chemical initiator that would set off the bomb.30 As the plane neared Detroit the young man tried to initiate his bomb with the chemical, setting himself on fire and suffering severe burns. Some combination of his own ineptitude, faulty bomb construction, and the quick actions of the passengers and crew who subdued him and extinguished the fire prevented an explosion that might have brought down the plane, which would have crashed near Detroit killing all on board and also likely killing additional Americans on the ground.

Immediately after he was arrested Abdulmutallab told investigators that the explosive device "was acquired in Yemen along with instructions as to when it should be used."31 The Northwest Airlines plot had been presaged in virtually every detail a few months earlier several thousand miles to the east of Detroit. On August 28, 2009 the Saudi Arabian deputy minister of interior, Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, survived a bombing attack launched by AQAP. Because he leads Saudi Arabia's counterterrorism efforts against al-Qaeda, the prince is a key target for the terrorist group. Prince Nayef was responsible for overseeing the kingdom's terrorist rehabilitation program, and some two dozen important members of al-Qaeda had previously surrendered to him in person. Abdullah Hassan al-Asiri, the would- be assassin, a Saudi who had fled to Yemen, posed as a militant willing to surrender personally to Prince Nayef. 32 During the month of Ramadan, traditionally a time of repentance in the Muslim world, Asiri gained an audience with the prince at his private residence in Jeddah, presenting himself as someone who could also persuade other militants to surrender. Pretending that he was reaching out to those militants, Asiri briefly called some members of al-Qaeda to tell them that he was standing by Prince Nayef.

After he finished the call, the bomb blew up, killing Asiri but only slightly injuring the prince, who was a few feet away from his would-be assassin. A Saudi government official characterized the prince's narrow escape as a "miracle."33 According to the official Saudi investigation, Asiri concealed the bomb in his underwear, which was made of PETN, the same plastic explosive that would be used in the Detroit case, and he exploded the hundred-gram device using a detonator with a chemical fuse, as Abdulmutallab would attempt to do on the Northwest flight. Prince Nayef's assassin also had had to pass through metal detectors before he was able to secure an audience with the prince. Shortly after both the failed attacks on Prince Nayef and the Northwest passenger jet, AQAP took credit for the operations and released photographs of the two bombers taken while they were in Yemen.

If Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab had succeeded in bringing down Northwest Airlines flight 253, the bombing not only would have killed hundreds but would also have had a large effect on the U.S. economy already reeling from the effect of the worst recession since the Great Depression, and would have devastated the critical aviation and tourism businesses. And if the attack had succeeded it would also have likely dealt a crippling blow to Obama's presidency. According to the White House's own review of the Christmas Day plot, there was sufficient information known to the U.S. government to determine that Abdulmutallab was likely working for al- Qaeda's affiliate in Yemen and that the group was looking to expand its terrorist attacks beyond the Arabian Peninsula.34 Yet the intelligence community "did not increase analytic resources working" on that threat, while information about the possible use of a PETN bomb by the Yemeni group was well-known within the national security establishment, including to John Brennan, Obama's top counterterrorism adviser who was personally briefed by Prince Nayef about the assassination attempt against him.35As Obama admitted in a meeting of his national security team a couple of weeks after the Christmas Day plot, "We dodged a bullet."36

3. Preservation of al-Qaeda's top leaders. The two key leaders of the organization, bin Laden and his deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri, are still at liberty. Why does this matter? First, there is the matter of justice for the almost 3,000 people who died in the September 11 attacks and for the thousands of other victims of al- Qaeda's attacks around the world. Second, every day that bin Laden remains at liberty is a propaganda victory for al-Qaeda. Third, although bin Laden and his deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri aren't managing al-Qaeda's operations on a daily basis, they guide the overall direction of the jihadist movement around the world, even while they are in hiding through videotapes and audiotapes that they continue to release on a regular basis. Those messages from al-Qaeda's leaders have reached untold millions worldwide via television, the Internet and newspapers. The tapes have not only instructed al-Qaeda's followers to continue to kill Westerners and Jews, but some also carried specific instructions that militant cells then acted on. In March 2008, for instance, bin Laden denounced the publication of cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed in the Danish newspaper, which he said would soon be avenged. Three months later, an al-Qaeda suicide attacker bombed the Danish Embassy in Islamabad, killing six.

4. Our overreactions can play into the hands of the jihadist groups. When al-Qaeda and affiliated groups can provoke a massive amount of overwrought media coverage based on attacks that don't even succeed--such as the near-miss on Christmas Day 2009--we are doing their work for them. The person who seems to best understand the benefits of American overreaction is bin Laden himself, who in 2004 said on a tape that aired on al Jazeera: "All that we have to do is to send two mujahedeen to the furthest point east to raise a piece of cloth on which is written al- Qaeda, in order to make generals race there to cause America to suffer human, economic and political losses without their achieving anything of note other than some benefits for their private corporations. American officials and the wider public should realize that by the law of averages al- Qaeda or an affiliate will succeed in getting some kind of attack through in the next years, and the best response to that would be to demonstrate that we as a society are resilient and are not be intimidated by such actions.

There are five negative factors for al-Qaeda and allied groups: 1. Drone attacks. In 2007, there were three drone strikes in Pakistan; in 2008, there were 34; and, by the date of this hearing on September 15, 2010, the Obama administration has already authorized 114. Since the summer of 2008 U.S. drones have killed scores of lower-ranking militants and at least a dozen mid- and upper-level leaders within al-Qaeda or the Taliban in Pakistan's tribal regions. One of them was Abu Laith Al-Libi, who orchestrated a 2007 suicide attack targeting Vice President Dick Cheney while he was visiting Bagram air base in Afghanistan. Libi was then described as the numberthree man in the al-Qaeda hierarchy, perhaps the most dangerous job in the world, given that the half-dozen or so men who have occupied that position since 9/11 have ended up dead or in prison. Other leading militants killed in the drone strikes include Abu Haris, al- Qaeda's chief in Pakistan; Khalid Habib, Abu Zubair Al-Masri, and Abdullah Azzam Al-Saudi, all of whom were senior members of Al- Qaeda; Abu Jihad Al-Masri, al-Qaeda's propaganda chief; and Tahir Yuldashev, the leader of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, an insurgent group with long ties to al-Qaeda, and Baitullah Mehsud, the commander of the Pakistani Taliban. None of the strikes, however, have targeted bin Laden.

Officials in both the Bush and Obama administrations have been leery of discussing the highly classified drone program on the record, but a window into their thinking was provided by the remarks of then-CIA director Michael Hayden on November 13, 2008, as the drone program was in full swing. "By making a safe haven feel less safe, we keep al-Qaeda guessing. We make them doubt their allies; question their methods, their plans, even their priorities." This strategy seems to have worked, at least up to a point. Since the summer of 2008 when the drone program was ramped up, law enforcement authorities have uncovered only two plots against American targets traceable back to Pakistan's tribal regions (the Zazi and Shahzad cases mentioned above). However, Western militants have continued to travel to the tribal regions where, by one estimate, as many as 150 Westerners have sought training in recent years, including 30 or so German citizens or residents. The drone program has certainly put additional pressure on al-Qaeda's propaganda arm and its top leaders. Al-Qaeda takes its propaganda operations seriously; bin Laden has observed that 90 percent of his battle is waged in the media, and Zawahiri has made similar comments. In 2007, al- Qaeda's video production arm As-Sahab had a banner year, releasing almost 100 tapes. But the year the drone program was expanded the number of releases dropped by half in 2008, indicating that the group's leaders were more concerned with survival than public relations. According to IntelCenter, a Washington-based group that tracks jihadist propaganda in 2010 Layman al Zawahiri released the fewest number of tapes in seven years only two audiotapes as opposed to nine audiotapes and one video in 2009--while other al-Qaeda leaders like bin Laden and Abu Yaha al-Libi similarly have fallen relatively silent this year. According to a counterterrorism official the fact that bin Laden and Zawahiri are saying so little is causing some criticism of the leaders of al-Qaeda within the organization itself. These critics say that it is worrisome that their leaders are saying so little and are not managing the organization. Some have gone so far as to say "it would be helpful if the boss gave a damn," according to this counterterrorism official.

When Faisal Shahzad travelled to Pakistan to link up with the Taliban in the winter of 2009 he spent a total of forty days in the Taliban heartland of Waziristan but he only spent five days actually being trained, which likely accounts for his lack of skills as a bomb-maker. This abbreviated training schedule may have been the result of the pressure that the drone program is putting on militants in Pakistan's tribal regions, including Waziristan. The well-known fact that the drones have killed hundreds of militants in Pakistan's border regions is also having an effect on where western militants-- including from the United States-- are seeking training, some increasingly opting to go to Somalia and Yemen, according to a counterterrorism official.

2. Increasingly negative Pakistani attitudes and actions against the militants based on their territory. If there is a silver lining to the militant atrocities that have plagued Pakistan in the past several years it is the fact that the Pakistani public, government and military are increasingly seeing the jihadist militants on their territory in a hostile light. The Taliban's assassination of Benazir Bhutto, the country's most popular politician; al-Qaeda's bombing of the Marriott hotel in Islamabad; the attack on the visiting Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore; the widely circulated video images of the Taliban flogging a 17-year-old girl-- each of these has provoked real revulsion among the Pakistani public, which is, in the main, utterly opposed to the militants. In fact, historians will likely record the Taliban's decision to move earlier this year from the Swat Valley into Buner District, only 60 miles from Islamabad, as the tipping point that finally galvanized the sclerotic Pakistani state to confront the fact that the jihadist monster it had helped to spawn was now trying to swallow its creator.

The subsequent military operation to evict the Taliban from Buner and Swat was not seen by the Pakistani public as the army acting on behalf of the United States as was often the case in previous such operations, but something that was in their own national interest. Support for Pakistani army operations against the Taliban in Swat increased from 28% two years ago to 69% today. Support for suicide bombing has dropped from 33% to 8% in Pakistan over the past several years and the number of Pakistanis who feel that the Taliban and al-Qaeda operating in Pakistan are a "serious problem" has risen from 57% to 86% since 2007. After having suffered three defeats in the tribal region of South Waziristan over the course of the previous five years, the Pakistani army went in there again in October 2009, this time with a force of at least thirty thousand troops, following several months of bombing of Taliban positions.37 These operations were done with the support of at least half of the Pakistani public, which did not view them as being done solely for the benefit of the United States, as previous military operations against the Taliban had generally been seen.38 The changing attitudes of the Pakistani public, military and government constitutes arguably the most significant strategic shift against al-Qaeda and its allies in the past several years as it will have a direct impact on the terrorist organization and allied groups that are headquartered in Pakistan. However, changing attitudes in Pakistan do not mean, for the moment, that the Pakistani military will do much to move against the Taliban groups on their territory that are attacking US and other NATO forces in Afghanistan such as Mullah Omar's Quetta shura, the Haqqani network and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar's Hezbi-Islami.

3. Increasingly hostile attitudes towards al-Qaeda and allied groups in the Muslim world in general. Hostility to militant jihadist groups is growing sharply in much of the Muslim world today. This is because most of the victims of these groups are Muslim civilians. This has created a dawning recognition among Muslims that the ideological virus that unleashed September 11 and the terrorist attacks in London and Madrid is the same virus now wreaking havoc in the Muslim world in countries like Pakistan and Iraq. It is human nature to be concerned mostly with threats that directly affect one's own interests and so as jihadi terrorists started to target the governments and civilians of Muslim countries this led to a hardening of attitudes against them. Until the terrorist attacks of May 2003 in Riyadh, for instance, the Saudi government was largely in denial about its large scale al-Qaeda problem. There have been some twenty terrorist attacks since then in the Kingdom and as a result the Saudi government has taken aggressive steps-- arresting thousands of suspected terrorists, killing more than a hundred, implementing an expansive public information campaign against them, and arresting preachers deemed to be encouraging militancy. A similar process has happened in Indonesia, the most populous Muslim country in the world, where Jemaah Islamiyah, the al-Qaeda affiliate there, is more or less out of business; its leaders in jail or dead, and its popular legitimacy close to zero. Polling around the Muslim world shows also sharp drops in support for Osama bin Laden personally and for suicide bombings in general. Support for suicide bombings has dropped in Indonesia, for instance, from 26% to 15% in the past eight years and in Jordan from 43% to 20%.

4. Jihadist ideologues and erstwhile militant allies have now also turned against al-Qaeda. It's not just Muslim publics who have turned against al-Qaeda; it is also some of the religious scholars and militants whom the organization has relied upon in the past for various kinds of support. Around the sixth anniversary of September 11, Sheikh Salman Al Awdah, a leading Saudi religious scholar, addressed al-Qaeda's leader on MBC, a widely watched Middle East TV network: "My brother Osama, how much blood has been spilt? How many innocent people, children, elderly, and women have been killed ... in the name of Al-Qaeda? Will you be happy to meet God Almighty carrying the burden of these hundreds of thousands or millions [of victims] on your back?" What was noteworthy about Al Awdah's statement was that it was not simply a condemnation of terrorism, or even of September 11, but that it was a personal rebuke, which clerics in the Muslim world have shied away from. Al Awdah's rebuke was also significant because he is considered one of the fathers of the Sahwa, the fundamentalist awakening movement that swept through Saudi Arabia in the 1980s. Similarly, leaders of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, which was once loosely aligned with al- Qaeda, in 2009 officially turned against the groups' ideology of global jihad and made a peace deal with the Libyan government.

5. Al-Qaeda's four key strategic problems. Encoded in the DNA of apocalyptic jihadist groups like al-Qaeda are the seeds of their own long-term destruction: Their victims are often Muslim civilians; they don't offer a positive vision of the future (but rather the prospect of Taliban-style regimes from Morocco to Indonesia); they keep expanding their list of enemies, including any Muslim who doesn't precisely share their world view; and they seem incapable of becoming politically successful movements because their ideology prevents them from making the realworld compromises that would allow them to engage in genuine politics.

a. Al-Qaeda keeps killing Muslims civilians. This is a double whammy for al-Qaeda as the Koran forbids killing civilians and fellow Muslims.

b. Al-Qaeda has not created a genuine mass political movement. While bin Laden enjoys some personal popularity in the Muslim world that does not translate into mass support for al-Qaeda in the manner that Hezbollah enjoys such support in Lebanon. That is not surprising -- there are no al-Qaeda social welfare services, schools, hospitals or clinics.

c. Al-Qaeda's leaders have constantly expanded their list of enemies. Al- Qaeda has said at various times that it is opposed to all Middle Eastern regimes; Muslims who don't share their views; the Shia; most Western countries; Jews and Christians; the governments of India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Russia; most news organizations; the United Nations; and international NGOs. It's very hard to think of a category of person, institution, or government that al-Qaeda does not oppose. Making a world of enemies is never a winning strategy.

d. Al- Qaeda has no positive vision. We know what bin Laden is against, but what's he really for? If you asked him, he would say the restoration of the caliphate. In practice that means Taliban- style theocracies stretching from Indonesia to Morocco. A silent majority of Muslims don't want that. Al-Qaeda is, in short, losing the war of ideas in the Islamic world, although as Bruce Hoffman has pointed out, even terrorist groups with little popular support or legitimacy such as the Baader-Meinhof gang in 1970s Germany can continue to carry out frequent terror attacks.

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Date/Time February 29 2012 20:28:14

Posted by: Uncle $cam | Mar 1 2012 1:39 utc | 113

MB, Imperialism is something concrete which makes sense, politically, to fight; Authoritarianism is something you'll find in any kind of relation, between states, at the workplace, in the family, you'll sure find it in your new society, where you'll in vain put in place your secret "system" that should "preclude its possibility".

And even if what you said made sense, it would be like waiting to put off the fires in the town until all our world will be made of fire-resistant materials.

Posted by: claudio | Mar 1 2012 1:39 utc | 114

Morocco, authoritarianism is a concept, an abstraction. The Empire has been a concrete reality, chewing up the world, since about 1493. We know where it lives, who it employs and what it does for a living, and you want us to ignore it while we consider the possible psycholigical or philosophical commonalities behind sexism, racism, patterns of anti-social behaviour and class rule.

That is what the European social democrats are doing. As the working class across the continent is hoisted onto a cross by international finance, the social democrats are indignant about the treatment that Murdoch and Le Figaro's agents are getting in Syria. Unemployment is 50% for youth and 25% over all and rising and these people are howling about Libya or Syria, not because they give a damn (they were remarkably silent while Lebanon was being bombed and defenceless Gaza cut to pieces)but because it enables them to sidle up to the ruling class like a whore rubbing against a cop.

Sorry mate, that is what got us here: the struggle against imperialism, uniting the dispossessed, is the form that the struggle against all oppression, every form of authoritarianism takes. And anyone who tells us that the Empire isn't the enemy is an accessory to every drone attack and every torturer lying his trade for evil tonight.

Posted by: bevin | Mar 1 2012 1:41 utc | 115

1. Iranian press highlights 21 Oct 10
BBC Monitoring Middle East - Political Supplied by BBC Worldwide Monitoring, October 21, 2010 Thursday, 3525 words
2. CIA lists failings over 'defector' in Afghan blast
The Guardian (London) - Final Edition, October 21, 2010 Thursday, GUARDIAN INTERNATIONAL PAGES; Pg. 21, 274 words, Adam Gabbatt and agencies
3. 'Systemic' CIA failures blamed for deadly attack on Afghan base
The Independent (London), October 21, 2010 Thursday, WORLD; Pg. 22, 463 words, Rupert Cornwell in Washington
4. C.I.A. ignored a warning on operative who killed 7; Investigation by agency finds security lapses let bomber into Afghan base
The International Herald Tribune, October 21, 2010 Thursday, NEWS; Pg. 4, 625 words, BY MARK MAZZETTI
The Mirror, October 21, 2010 Thursday, NEWS; Pg. 8, 51 words
6. afghanistan
The Nation (Thailand), October 21, 2010 Thursday, 744 words, The Nation
7. CIA officer warned of suicide bomber
The Daily Telegraph (London), October 20, 2010 Wednesday, NEWS; Pg. 21, 339 words, Jon Swaine
8. Officer Failed To Warn C.I.A. Before Attack
The New York Times, October 20, 2010 Wednesday, Section A; Column 0; Foreign Desk; Pg. 1, 1156 words, By MARK MAZZETTI
Sunday Mercury, October 3, 2010, NEWS; Pg. 15, 568 words, BEN GOLDBY
10. Maghreb branch of Al-Qa'idah said planning suicide attacks in Spain
BBC Monitoring Europe - Political Supplied by BBC Worldwide Monitoring, September 16, 2010 Thursday, 659 words
11. U.S. charges Pakistani Taliban leader in CIA attack
The Washington Post, September 15, 2010 Wednesday, 1394 words
12. More Dangerous Than Ever; Why the Pakistan threat is rising.
Newsweek, September 13, 2010, INTERNATIONAL EDITION; Pg. 0, 782 words, By Ron Moreau
13. Inside Al Qaeda; Nine years after 9/11, Osama bin Laden's network remains a shadowy, little-understood enemy. The truth, as revealed by one of its fighters, is both more and less troubling than we think.
Newsweek, September 13, 2010, COVER STORY; Pg. 30, 3462 words, By Sami Yousafzai and Ron Moreau
14. U.S. charges Pakistani Taliban leader in CIA attack
The Washington Post, September 2, 2010 Thursday, A-SECTION; Pg. A10, 1394 words, Spencer S. Hsu;and Greg Miller
15. Taliban leader seeks to prevent offensive; Forces target N. Waziristan
The Washington Times, June 9, 2010 Wednesday, A, PAGE ONE; Pg. 1, 1774 words, By Raza Khan SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES
16. Anatomy of a secret life: CIA officer's Afghan death
The New Zealand Herald, June 6, 2010 Sunday, NEWS; World, 1091 words
17. No. 3 leader of Al Qaeda believed killed by missile
The International Herald Tribune, June 2, 2010 Wednesday, NEWS; Pg. 3, 723 words, BY ERIC SCHMITT
18. No. 3 leader of Al Qaeda believed killed by missile
The International Herald Tribune, June 2, 2010 Wednesday, NEWS; Pg. 3, 724 words, BY ERIC SCHMITT
19. A top leader of Qaeda is dead, militants say; Egyptian killed by drone in Pakistan was No. 3 in group, U.S. officials say
The International Herald Tribune, June 2, 2010 Wednesday, NEWS; Pg. 8, 698 words, BY ERIC SCHMITT
20. Top Militant Killed by U.S. In Pakistan, Qaeda Says
The New York Times, June 1, 2010 Tuesday, Section A; Column 0; Foreign Desk; Pg. 12, 469 words, By ERIC SCHMITT
21. Pakistan TV show discusses New York plot suspect
BBC Monitoring South Asia - Political Supplied by BBC Worldwide Monitoring, May 18, 2010 Tuesday, 2220 words
22. A shadow warrior falls; Political player loses when his gamble costs lives
The Washington Times, April 19, 2010 Monday, B, COMMENTARY; Pg. 4, 873 words, By Kenneth R. Timmerman SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES
23. Reports of threat to Jordanian ambassador in Pakistan "baseless" - paper
BBC Monitoring Middle East - Political Supplied by BBC Worldwide Monitoring, March 24, 2010 Wednesday, 394 words
24. Pakistan officials "unable to confirm" Al-Qa'idah leader's death in drone attack
BBC Monitoring South Asia - Political Supplied by BBC Worldwide Monitoring, March 19, 2010 Friday, 342 words
25. U.S. airstrike said to have killed Qaeda commander
The International Herald Tribune, March 19, 2010 Friday, NEWS; Pg. 4, 516 words, David E. Sanger

pick one you'd like to read and I'll find it...

here's #5

The Mirror, October 21, 2010 Thursday, NEWS; Pg. 8, 51 words

Posted by: Uncle $cam | Mar 1 2012 1:59 utc | 116

hey, bevin, it seems there a are a couple of things we agree upon ...

Posted by: claudio | Mar 1 2012 2:34 utc | 117

Well, I have to say, I'm glad we're having this conversation. It's becoming clearer by the moment. I can't hang with that, folks, so I will never stand beside anyone in any fight that has that attitude and that amount of pessimism. There's a reason it's been going on since 1493, or whatever date you wish to choose, and it's the reason I have stated. Authoritarianism continues to reassert itself. Hierarchies and centralization are its siblings. Decentralization, diversity and collaboration and empowerment of the individual with respect and consciousness of community are the antidote.

Posted by: Morocco Bama | Mar 1 2012 2:55 utc | 118

somebody said: "The whole setup is vile. And yes I mean Avaaz."

I naively signed up for Avaaz' emailed talking points after reading a story written by them sent to me by a friend. I almost immediately regretted it.

...and then came their repulsive propagandizing on Libya, which sickened me.

For insight into WHY Avaaz promotes the points of view they do, you need look no further than their list of donors and supporters. It is a list of the usual suspects, mostly drawn from our western civilizations' enemy camp.

I now firmly believe that if Avaaz is on board in support of any enterprise, then it is undoubtedly an illegitimate and probably illegal assault on the rights and freedoms of people who are hated by the Israeli government - a viper pit of a government filled to the brim with sociopathic, racist murderers all screeching their vile bile into the ears of every western politician they can buy or bully, which is almost all of them.

So much for Avaaz' human rights declarations. Despicable propagandists and liars, every one of them.

Posted by: arthurdecco | Mar 1 2012 4:11 utc | 119

I was looking at Penny's post about the photo of the recently deceased journalist Marie Colvin. In the photo she is standing in Tahir Square:

I now think both photos are photoshopped.

She appears to be floating unnaturally off the ground. By about five feet.

At first, I couldn't tell if she was standing on a ledge, or even a stool or something, and that would mean the men to the right of her are sitting on a ledge as well.

But after looking at this 360 photo of Tahir Square it doesn't look like there was a ledge in that spot.

You have to scan to the right about 90 degrees so you can see that peach building with the dome and then hit the zoom in button about 7 times until you are the right distance to the buildings. It is open square all around that area.

Also, if you look at the men sitting farthest away you can see they are sitting on the ground and the men right behind Colvin look to be sitting on the ground as well. All the men are sitting on the ground and she is floating above.

It doesn't make sense spatially.

Marie Colvin was totally photoshopped into Tahir Square. Either that, or she is standing on a 4 or 5 foot stool (which would be a weird thing to do in that scene).

Posted by: Walter Wit Man | Mar 1 2012 5:34 utc | 120

this story now also is also beginning to make sense and it comes down to utter irresponsible stupidity

"The Local Coordination Committees, a human rights monitoring group, said Bouvier refused to leave Baba Amr without the Syrians who were wounded by shelling while attempting to help her escape, and she has called on the French ambassador for help. The French Foreign Ministry demanded that the Syrian regime observe a cease-fire so Bouvier and Daniels could be evacuated."

Posted by: somebody | Mar 1 2012 9:51 utc | 121

By the way for a change I agree with Morocco Bama.

Imperialism, colonialism whatever is not in the interest of the 99%. But 5%, 10% whatever follow some father figure to murder the person next door. Some of them do it because they enjoy it, most of them don't.

If those kids that have been mercilessly used by all sides in this Syrian shit had been able to think for themselves, most of them would still be alive now.

Posted by: somebody | Mar 1 2012 10:01 utc | 122

If those kids that have been mercilessly used by all sides in this Syrian shit had been able to think for themselves, most of them would still be alive now.

Precisely. That's the key, somebody, and that is my goal for the second half of my life, if it's not cut short. Individuals must be given the opportunity to learn how to think for themselves. Unfortunately, that process is most crucial at a very early age, much earlier than is conventionally considered. If an individual is educated and indoctrinated into a society/culture of Authoritarianism, it is very difficult to overcome the stunting of the pathways that lead to critical though and truly free expression. It is precisely why this feels like such an uphill battle...a Sysiphean Predicament....because it is. I now realize that I will not see true and everlasting change in a positive direction in my lifetime, but I can help plant the seeds of that change by helping to free the next generations by engendering an environment where the individual is free to create themselves without the onus of Authoritarianism dictating their stunted shapelessness.

Posted by: Morocco Bama | Mar 1 2012 12:14 utc | 123

Want an example of a real journalist? Here it is.

Banker left speechless by Irish journalist

Juan Cole is a panty waist compared to this guy.

Posted by: Morocco Bama | Mar 1 2012 13:35 utc | 124

MoBam wants to help the children. so lovely. but why discuss your personal goals IRL when you threw a little tantrum over questions posed to you about what you do IRL?

and I'm curious what you are gonna tell the children, MoBam? are you gonna tell them how much better life will be once "the system" gets dismantled? what are you gonna tell them "the system" should be replaced with? how will you ensure the dreaded AUTHORITARIAN impulses will be effectively suppressed?

I also think it's hilarious an anti-authoritarian like yourself spends so much time telling other people what they should think. hilarious.

Posted by: lizard | Mar 1 2012 13:45 utc | 125

yep, it mostly involves seeing through news as presented in the West and most people here don't seem to want to do it

so, suddenly, now, it is possible to find peaceful solutions with the horrible Syrian army?

which was not possible before the Syrian army managed to stop the flow of weapons?

so maybe it would help a peaceful solution not to arm the rebels?

Posted by: somebody | Mar 1 2012 13:59 utc | 126

This episode of Lies&War on the Road to Damascus is over. The Mercenary Syrian Terrorists have made a 'tactical retreat' as finally the Syrian 'Slaughter' Army took over Bab Amro under full control.

Posted by: ThePaper | Mar 1 2012 14:04 utc | 127

I can agree that Sarkozy is bad for France and the rest of the world. My question is if there is anyone who would be good for France? In the US we never have a choice between good and better; or good and evil: it is always between evil and less evil.

Can France have any better luck that us?

Posted by: Mark Stoval | Mar 1 2012 14:17 utc | 128

@125, your response proves my point. You're poisoned and beyond repair. No solution could ever be found through you or with you. You are a product of your indoctrination and education and your acolytic sycophancy witnessed on this blog proves you are incapable of original and/or critical thought. You are a parrot. Even your poetry is mere melodic and rhythmic parroting.

Posted by: Morocco Bama | Mar 1 2012 14:23 utc | 129

The photo of Marie Colvin penny has up at her blog is 100% photoshopped. See for example the left hand of Colvin which is "cut" wrongly. Also size, position and cloth do not fit the context.

Posted by: b | Mar 1 2012 15:06 utc | 130

at what age do you need to get to the children before they are beyond reach? and how are you going to plant your seeds? do you want to be a teacher? no, that's the system. maybe you can just lurk around playgrounds, and whisper to the children about how terrible the authoritarian system is. but if you don't have anything constructive to offer as an alternative, then all you will be planting is the seeds of despair.

anyway, don't worry about answering anything I ask, MoBam. it's not like you had any credibility to begin with.

Posted by: lizard | Mar 1 2012 15:43 utc | 131

What constitutes the politics of genocide? …

These are: 1) constructive bloodbaths/genocides, carried out by the United States itself or serving its major interests; 2) benign bloodbaths, carried out by its clients; 3) nefarious bloodbaths, carried out by its enemies; these, on closer examination, may turn out to be 4) mythical bloodbaths that were not carried out by anyone.

Michael Munk, reviewing The Politics of Genocide, by Edward S. Herman and David Peterson, in Science & Society, January 2012

Posted by: Watson | Mar 1 2012 16:12 utc | 132

@131, you ask nothing. Those aren't questions, they're statements. You are disingenuous. You are stunted, and you can only respond in one manner....the manner prescribed for you. You once had potential, as we all did, but it was mitigated.....and what's even sadder is that not only can you not, and will never, see it, but you'll even go so far as to argue that you're not blind when you're bumping into everything around you and tripping over your own feet. March on you faithful soldier, march on...into the abyss.

Posted by: Morocco Bama | Mar 1 2012 16:49 utc | 133

that's very non-authoritarian of you, MoBam. have a nice day.

Posted by: lizard | Mar 1 2012 17:11 utc | 134

@120, I never noticed that before. Here's this strange blond woman with an eye patch standing on some sort of pedestal, and nobody seems to have noticed her.

Guess that means I'm thinking for myself, eh MoBam?

Posted by: yes_but | Mar 1 2012 21:59 utc | 135

The image penny called attention to has a header where it says "Photoshop 3.0" "Photograph: Ivor Prickett/AP"

Posted by: Alexander | Mar 2 2012 2:12 utc | 136

as this thread is probably dead, some light relief. about the french elections, mentioned in the top post.
The French sometimes like to muddle or bury things with a lot of philosophical discourse. Other times, they are maniacs for detail and exhaustingly thorough - Great if you’re building a nuclear plant, not so hot when elaborating a pre-school National program.

Rue 89 published reasons not to vote for the Sark.

They list ...600! It is well known fact that in the ‘reasons’ category, for the general public, you have to stop at 10. - Other lists, such as of sex acts or recipes for fish, can be very long, yet, a limit of 100 is usually imposed.

The 600 are all things he said that were lies. Each one is sourced.

Blatant lies. Not silly mistakes or mis-speaks, or half-truths, or insincerities, or forgivable inaccuracies, or clumsy hypocritical politeness. Though some do fall under a rubric of ‘grandiose opinions / statements’ that can’t be, strictly speaking, falsified.

A lot of ‘made up statistics’ category. Several are of the “I will not lie” type:

Authenticity can be read on my face, nobody has caught me sticking my finger into the jam jar of lies (it sounds good in F)

I always thought that Sarko was elected in part because he was excellent at presenting an image of a pol who not only manages (etc.) but is embedded in a mechanism of exchange with the ‘ppl.’ *Beyond* that of promises for unemployment pay, tax relief, free school lunch, whatever - or just saying what ppl want to hear (France is a Great Nation, etc.) A man who presents as involved, ready to bend, one of us.

A reflection or image of the ppl themselves, mirrored back at them. Obama laid down the same card, his ‘color’ helping him greatly - Bush not, his folksy stance was a purely personal thing, enhanced to appeal, not interactive, and Royal (Sark’s previous opponent) completely lacked such a quality.

Now Sark is facing Royal’s ex, and the election is all about who will vote against Sark and when

But democratic control is gone, if it ever existed. An illusion, I guess, of the 30 years of economic development after WWII...

Rue 89, in F

Posted by: Noirette | Mar 2 2012 15:12 utc | 137

The photo - probably ‘enhanced’ aka photoshopped of Colvin at Tahir Square is taken from the same spot as this one:

where she is a member of the crowd, say

and this one, where she writes in a notebook - the flag bearer has moved to the right.

(notebook and red fingernails were a trademark of hers)

She was most likely there, but just for a photo-op, as the presence of the husband would seem to show. Her employers of course want(ed) to enhance her status and fame, and Tahir Square is emblematic and one of the few, or only spots, associated to the Arab Spring, that is recognized and positively seen by Western readers/viewers.

Come on ppl, one enhanced picture does not a conspiracy make. It is just part of how the MSM operates.

Posted by: Noirette | Mar 2 2012 15:57 utc | 138

The photo - probably ‘enhanced’ aka photoshopped of Colvin at Tahir Square is taken from the same spot as this one:

where she is a member of the crowd, say

and this one, where she writes in a notebook - the flag bearer has moved to the right.

(notebook and red fingernails were a trademark of hers)

She was most likely there, but just for a photo-op, as the presence of the husband would seem to show. Her employers of course want(ed) to enhance her status and fame, and Tahir Square is emblematic and one of the few, or only spots, associated to the Arab Spring, that is recognized and positively seen by Western readers/viewers.

Come on ppl, one enhanced picture does not a conspiracy make. It is just part of how the MSM operates.

Posted by: Noirette | Mar 2 2012 15:57 utc | 139

@ 120

The wierd photo of Marie Colvin hovering over Tahrir Square is appearing on Al Jazeera these days. Obviously someone has run it through "Photoshop 3.0", as the header in the JPEG shows. I can't understand why someone has to blatantly fake here being in Egypt. Makes one wonder what the deal is with that reporter.

Posted by: Alexander | Mar 4 2012 0:29 utc | 140

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