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Current Topic: War on Terrorism

Bin Laden Is Dead
Topic: War on Terrorism 6:19 am EDT, May  2, 2011

Rebecca Brock, in 2004:

People say to me, "Whatever it takes." I tell them, It's going to take everything.

Decius, in 2006:

Al Qaeda is not an organization. It is a scene.

David Kilcillen, in 2006:

People don't get pushed into rebellion by their ideology. They get pulled in by their social networks.

Benjamin Wallace-Wells, in 2006:

The best way to fight terrorists is to go at it not like G-men, with two-year assignments and query letters to the staff attorneys, but the way the terrorists do, with fury and the conviction that history will turn on the decisions you make -- as an obsession and as a life style.

One frustrated counterterrorism official, in 2006:

There's nobody in the United States government whose job it is to find Osama bin Laden! Nobody!

Malcom Gladwell, in 2007:

Osama bin Laden's whereabouts are a puzzle. We can't find him because we don't have enough information. The key to the puzzle will probably come from someone close to bin Laden, and until we can find that source bin Laden will remain at large.

Thomas W. Gillespie, John A. Agnew, Erika Mariano, Scott Mossler, Nolan Jones, Matt Braughton, and Jorge Gonzalez, in 2009:

One of the most important political questions of our time is: Where is Osama bin Laden?

Peter Baker, Helene Cooper, and Mark Mazzetti, today:

Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of the most devastating attack on American soil in modern times and the most hunted man in the world, was killed in a firefight with United States forces in Pakistan on Sunday, President Obama announced.

Lauren Clark:

It's good to have a plan, but if something extraordinary comes your way, you should go for it.

Let the what-does-it-all-mean metareporting begin.

Bin Laden Is Dead

A Swelling Reconciliation
Topic: War on Terrorism 7:38 am EST, Nov 27, 2010

Wil S. Hylton:

On the campaign trail, Obama had blasted torture as illegal, but as president he had little incentive to prosecute the crime, which would be distracting and politically costly.

Just a few years earlier, the Bush team had ignited a national scandal when political operatives tried to influence U.S. attorneys, yet the Obama administration had gone a step further, allowing operatives to apply political pressure on the attorney general himself. What's more, the pressure would continue for months.

In the months since Holder lost custody of the KSM trial, his place in the administration has only become more conflicted. On national security, in case after case, he seems to have reconciled himself to policies that he would have once condemned.

Of the fifty-seven habeas hearings that have taken place at Guantanamo, some thirty-eight prisoners have been set free by a judge. Yet the Holder Justice Department is denying habeas hearings to the prisoners at every other US facility, including more than 600 detainees at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan. Despite clearly promising to grant habeas to enemy combatants, Holder and Obama now insist that they never intended to do any such thing. Only the prisoners who happen to be housed in Guantanamo, they say, have a right to court. Prisoners who were shipped anywhere else have an entirely different set of legal rights -- which is to say, none at all.

Jerry Weinberger:

So convenient a thing it is to be a reasonable creature, since it enables one to find a reason for every thing one has a mind to do.

Ira Glass:

Is it a camp full of terrorists, or a camp full of our mistakes?

Judith Hertog, in Exquisite Corpse:

I find other people's errors very reassuring. It makes me feel better about my own deficiencies. I'm always on the lookout for mistakes, and when someone who's supposed to know better slips up, my heart does a little victory jiggle.

Frank Sandoval:

My heart swells in my chest and while I laugh,
I feel fear, smell a faint stench of insanity.

Jon Lee Anderson:

The air stinks heavily of raw sewage, but no one seems to notice.

Trial of CIA, Italian agents provides rare look at intelligence work
Topic: War on Terrorism 11:07 am EDT, May 23, 2009

Sebastian Rotella:

The accused abductors left a sloppy trail of phone activity, credit card charges and photo IDs that allowed Milan authorities to prosecute 26 Americans (in absentia), including the now-retired Lady, and seven Italian officials.

The brazen nature of the alleged rendition has gotten much attention. But the trial has also revealed how the Bush administration's drastic tactics shook up the secret world of U.S. intelligence work overseas. Testimony has featured remarkable allegations about feuds and rogue conduct. The case apparently made and crushed careers and spread betrayal and suspicion among U.S. and Italian anti-terrorism officials.

On the witness stand in October, Stefano D'Ambrosio summed it up: "We were between the tragic and the ridiculous."

Michael Scheuer:

Senior White House officials, in consultation with President Bill Clinton, set America's Al Qaeda policy from 1993 to 2001. They told the CIA what to do, and decided how it should pursue, capture and detain terrorists. They approved renditions to Egypt and elsewhere. Having failed to find a legal means to keep all the detainees in American custody, they preferred to let other countries do our dirty work.

Douglas Jehl:

The officials said the captive, Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, provided his most specific and elaborate accounts about ties between Iraq and Al Qaeda only after he was secretly handed over to Egypt by the United States in January 2002, in a process known as rendition.


Getting tortured by a foreign government is a bit more serious than getting your phone tapped.

Trial of CIA, Italian agents provides rare look at intelligence work

As Mexico Battles Cartels, The Army Becomes the Law
Topic: War on Terrorism 8:43 am EDT, Apr  8, 2009

Another front beckons.

U.S. and Mexican officials describe the drug cartels as a widening narco-insurgency. The four major drug states average a total of 12 murders a day, characterized by ambushes, gun battles, executions and decapitated bodies left by the side of the road. In the villages and cities where the traffickers hold sway, daily life now takes place against a martial backdrop of round-the-clock patrols, pre-dawn raids and roadblocks manned by masked young soldiers.


"It can be traumatic to have the army in control of public security, but I am convinced that we don't have a better alternative."


"I always think it's better knowing that they are out there protecting us, that they are watching over us, when there is nobody else to do it."

As Mexico Battles Cartels, The Army Becomes the Law

AIG Was Responsible For The Banks' January & February Profitability
Topic: War on Terrorism 7:54 am EDT, Mar 30, 2009

A Zero Hedge exclusive:

And the conspiracy thickens.

During Jan/Feb AIG would call up and just ask for complete unwind prices from the credit desk in the relevant jurisdiction. These were not single deal unwinds as are typically more price transparent - these were whole portfolio unwinds. The size of these unwinds were enormous, the quotes I have heard were "we have never done as big or as profitable trades - ever".

AIG, knowing it would need to ask for much more capital from the Treasury imminently, decided to throw in the towel, and gifted major bank counter-parties with trades which were egregiously profitable to the banks, and even more egregiously money losing to the U.S. taxpayers, who had to dump more and more cash into AIG, without having the U.S. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner disclose the real extent of this, for lack of a better word, fraudulent scam.

What this all means is that the statements by major banks, i.e. JPM, Citi, and BofA, regarding abnormal profitability in January and February were true, however these profits were a) one-time in nature due to wholesale unwinds of AIG portfolios, b) entirely at the expense of AIG, and thus taxpayers, c) executed with Tim Geithner's (and thus the administration's) full knowledge and intent, d) were basically a transfer of money from taxpayers to banks (in yet another form) using AIG as an intermediary.

For banks to proclaim their profitability in January and February is about as close to criminal hypocrisy as is possible. And again, the taxpayers fund this "one time profit", which causes a market rally, thus allowing the banks to promptly turn around and start selling more expensive equity (soon coming to a prospectus near you), also funded by taxpayers' money flows into the market. If the administration is truly aware of all these events (and if Zero Hedge knows about it, it is safe to say Tim Geithner also got the memo), then the potential fallout would be staggering once this information makes the light of day.

This wholesale manipulation of markets, investors and taxpayers has gone on long enough.

AIG Was Responsible For The Banks' January & February Profitability

Finding Osama bin Laden
Topic: War on Terrorism 7:16 am EST, Feb 18, 2009

It won't be long now, with Science on his trail ...

One of the most important political questions of our time is: Where is Osama bin Laden?

We use biogeographic theories associated with the distribution of life and extinction (distance-decay theory, island biogeography theory, and life history characteristics) and remote sensing data (Landsat ETM+, Shuttle Radar Topography Mission, Defense Meteorological Satellite, QuickBird) over three spatial scales (global, regional, local) to identify where bin Laden is most probably currently located.

We believe that our work involves the first scientific approach to establishing his current location. The methods are repeatable and can be updated with new information obtained from the US intelligence community.

The authors are from the same department as Jared Diamond. Last September, we discussed their work on Iraq. Decius wrote:

This raises a number of questions that are likely to be promptly ignored.

From 2006:

The best way to fight terrorists is to go at it not like G-men, with two-year assignments and query letters to the staff attorneys, but the way the terrorists do, with fury and the conviction that history will turn on the decisions you make -- as an obsession and as a life style.

From 2008:

It didn’t take long to understand why so many soldiers were taking antidepressants.

Finding Osama bin Laden

The Coming Swarm
Topic: War on Terrorism 4:51 pm EST, Feb 15, 2009

John Arquilla:

It seems that a new "Mumbai model" of swarming, smaller-scale terrorist violence is emerging. But the fact is that Al Qaeda and its affiliates have been using these sorts of swarm tactics for several years.

Americans should brace for a coming swarm.

Yes, the swarm will be heading our way, too. We need to get smaller, closer and quicker. The sooner the better.

Arquilla from the archive:

We are trying to wage war as if it still mattered that our forces are comprised of ‘the few and the large' -- a few large heavy divisions, a few large aircraft carrier battle groups -- when in fact war is migrating into the hands of the many and the small -- little distributed units. We live in an era when technology has expanded the destructive power of a small group and the individual beyond our imaginations.

Another Arquilla, from right after 9/11:

To win the war against terrorism, we have to think like a street gang, swarm like a soccer team, and communicate like Wal-Mart.


In the long run, the "swarming" that really counts is the wide-scale mobilization of the global public.

The Coming Swarm

The Accidental Guerrilla: Fighting Small Wars in the Midst of a Big One
Topic: War on Terrorism 7:04 am EST, Feb  9, 2009

David Kilcullen has a new book. Fareed Zakaria calls it "required reading."

From the Publishers Weekly starred review:

Kilcullen's compelling argument merits wide attention.

Notice the Uncoupling on the book jacket:

David Kilcullen, one of the world's most influential experts on counterinsurgency and modern warfare, dramatically influenced America's decision to rethink its strategy in Iraq and implement "the surge."

Kilcullen sees today's conflicts as a complex pairing of contrasting trends: local social networks and worldwide movements; traditional and postmodern culture; local insurgencies seeking autonomy and a broader pan-Islamic campaign. He warns that America's actions in the war on terrorism have tended to conflate these trends, blurring the distinction between local and global struggles and thus enormously complicating our challenges.

Indeed, the US had done a poor job of applying different tactics to these very different situations, continually misidentifying insurgents with limited aims and legitimate grievances (whom he calls "accidental guerrillas") as part of a coordinated worldwide terror network. We must learn how to disentangle these strands, develop strategies that deal with global threats, avoid local conflicts where possible, and win them where necessary.

The Accidental Guerrilla will, quite simply, change the way we think about war.

On sale March 13.

The Accidental Guerrilla: Fighting Small Wars in the Midst of a Big One

Holbrooke Says Afghan War ‘Tougher Than Iraq’
Topic: War on Terrorism 7:04 am EST, Feb  9, 2009

Richard Holbrooke:

The war in Afghanistan will be much tougher than Iraq.

It’s going to be a long, difficult struggle.

Karzai endorses the Uncoupling:

Karzai called again for reconciliation with Taliban forces “who are not part of Al Qaeda, who are not part of terrorist networks, who want to return to their country.”

From the archive, Freeman Dyson:

The moral imperative at the end of every war is reconciliation. In order to make a lasting peace, we must learn to live with our enemies.

A snowflake once said:

"It is pretty clear that the coalition can win in Afghanistan and Iraq in one way or another, but it will be a long, hard slog."

Holbrooke Says Afghan War ‘Tougher Than Iraq’

Back on World Stage, a Larger-Than-Life Holbrooke
Topic: War on Terrorism 7:04 am EST, Feb  9, 2009

At a maximum-security prison north of Kabul, Richard Holbrooke fell into a long conversation with a senior Taliban operative, a mullah who patiently answered questions and then asked one of his own:

“When will you and the Americans be leaving?”

Holbrooke told him he did not know. “The more you think about it, the more it highlights the dilemma,” he said in the interview: the United States cannot say it is leaving, nor can it say it is staying forever.

From the archive, Nir Rosen, in Rolling Stone:

"You Westerners have your watches," the leader observed. "But we Taliban have time."

Back on World Stage, a Larger-Than-Life Holbrooke

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