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Miscellaneous thoughts and ramblings
Monday, September 26, 2005
Rolling Up Al Qaeda Worldwide
Lest you believe the gloom and doom anti-war protestors, let me bring you two bits of good news about the global war on Islamofascism that you may have missed.

U.S Special Forces Kill Abu Azzam who was Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's head honcho in Iraq. That's gotta be making al-Zarqawi sweat. I'm going out on a limb and predicting that al-Zarqawi will be dead or captured by year's end.

Bin Laden is isolated geographically and in terms of communication.

If the next presidential election cycle starts with Iraq a more-or-less functioning capitalist democracy, Saddam Hussein having been tried and executed, and Bin Laden's head on a spit in the White House rose garden, what do you suppose the Democrat's chances will be?
You have got to be kidding. Even if Bin Laden and Zarqawi are caught, there are thousands ready, willing, and able to take their places.

Of course, before the wars against Islam, few would had sympathy for Bin Laden outside of Palestine. We essentially created thousands of Bin Ladens.

Note that there was never a single car bombing in Iraq before the US entered and only less than 10 % of the insurgents are foreigners. It follows that the rest are simply pissed that we raped their country. killed their relatives, and handed power over to their enemies. Of course, any self-respecting individual would be an insurgent ("terrorist") under these circumstances.

Reality check #2 is that there have been far more terrorist incidents ever since the "war on terrorism" began, showing the counter-productive nature of the war, which is itself an act of barbaric terrorism against innocent civilians.
What stunning ignorance you display, coward. Go spread your foolishness elsewhere, here we're bright enough to know it for the peacenick stupidity it is.
Anonymous: Welcome. I'm really glad you commented. If you pick a nickname then I'll know if/when you comment again, but you can stay anonymous if you like.

I'm not kidding. You can usually tell when we're kidding here at the Coffeehouse. You perfectly state the mainstream media view of the war. I don't want to put words in your mouth, so tell me if this summary is unfair. This view is essentially that:

* The supply of those willing to fight and die for the sake of fighting America is practically infinite and increases with perceived American aggression.
* Iraq is a distraction from the war on Islamofascism, because Saddam was secular, had nothing to do with al-Qaeda, and had no WMD.
* Our involvement destabilized it and made it a hotbed of terrorism.

Again, I'm trying to portray your position fairly, so please let me know if I have not done so.

These claims are all false. The number of available "insurgents" is finite. They are paid to attack American forces, and increasingly, Iraqi civilian targets. Thus, there is a marketplace of terror which allows our side to keep an eye on how readily men will give their lives to fight: the price. If your claim of "thousands of bin Ladens" were true the price to hire a goon to drive a car bomb into a police station would be flat or falling. It is going up. And the suicide bombers are increasingly men of limited options, mentally handicapped, addicts… They're scraping the bottom of the barrel, not enjoying the limitless supply of anti-Americanism that is constantly invoked.

I don't know whether or not the 10% figure is true or not. According to Michael Yon (scroll down to the section "Enemy Forces") the Iraqi insurgency is broken down roughly into two groups. The first is Former Regime Elements. They're just previous Iraqi army and gov't leaders who'd love to be back in power. The other group is the Islamic extremists. They have been filtering in from Iran and Syria to destabilize the new Iraqi gov't and establish an Islamic state like Iran.

Popular opinion in Iraq is becoming more pro-American all the time. Three quarters or so of the country is quiet, rebuilt, and productive. The insurgency has only taken hold in the "Suni triangle". Unlike the MSM portrayal, Arab public opinion is quite easy to predict: they like strength and have contempt for weakness. American aggression only fuels anti-American sentiment if it fails. Where's all the see of anti-Americanism in Afghanistan?

That "there have been far more terrorist incidents ever since the 'war on terrorism' began" I don't accept for a second and you have no clue whether or not that's true. Islamofascist attacks were happening regularly worldwide before the war without much media attention. I agree that the number in Iraq were increased, but before the war there were attacks in the Phillipines, in Bali, in Australia, in Israel, and against American embassies everywhere. I don't know that the numbers have increased. I think they've shifted to Iraq where our forces can find and kill the enemy.

Finally "which is itself an act of barbaric terrorism against innocent civilians". That's where your train derails and the anti-war crowd loses the American voter. Do you mean all war, or just this one? Assuming you mean just this one, read any of a dozen bloggers that are writing from the war. (Michael Yon is a good start.) We go to extraordinary means to minimize the likelihood of civilian deaths, frequently endangering our own forces in the process. The American political middle, who frequently have family or friends in the military know this and will instinctively turn off at your baseless slander. It's true that many innocent Iraqis have died. Most of them are being targeted intentionally by the Islamofascists that wish to undermine the only path to Arab democracy. Many more were murdered by Sadam.

I'm not at all facetious when I reiterate that I'm glad you commented. I hope we can learn something from each other and that readers will enjoy our exchange.
Og: Nice to see you. We cross posted. Be nice to Anonymous lest he think that we're all armed right-wing warmongers. Which of course we are, but that'll never convince him, or the readers who may be on the fence.
LOL! bean: you can't convince a screamer. All you can do is ban them. You will learn this soon. It is utterly impossible to deflect someone from their chosen path of stupidity once they have made that turn, and the harder you try, the worse they get.

Still, as you've found, they are fun to fisk sometimes.
Iraq is a distraction from the war on Islamofascism, because Saddam was secular, had nothing to do with al-Qaeda, and had no WMD.

That's the point I am most in agreement with. Except "distraction" isn't nearly strong enough a word. The USA has invested vast sums of money, tied up its armed forces in that messy situation for the foreseeable future, and damaged international good will that was given to America after 9/11.

I thought al-Qaeda was the priority after 9/11, and I don't understand why Iraq and Saddam became the priority. It was a colossal blunder.

I make no attempt to defend the other points, the ones put forward by anonymous.
iraq, saddam, et al are all part and parcel of the war on islamofascism. Do the reasearch and find it out. Saddam was a huge money launderer for the islamofascists as well as other criminal groups. Including AlQuaeda.
Anonymous -

From your user name, I can only assume you are an alcoholic. Just kidding - that's what I assume based on your comment. Or that at least you were drunk while typing. Since you are up-to-date on world terror organizations and activities, surely you are aware that "Palestine" was never on B.L.'s radar until very, very late in the game, when he decided to opportunistically throw in a few references just for good measure (and shore up support from the Western divest-from-Israel crowd and the rest of the Terrorati).

You'll notice that Bean is the nice one here. I'm the one who says "Get bent."

Get bent.

Q - I like your new avatar/icon/whats-it-called. Much better than the photo where you looked like you were wearing a veil. I must respectfully disagree with you on your take of the war on terror and Iraq's role in it. Take a look at The Connection by Hayes and his subsequent articles in The Weekly Standard.

This is not to say that Saddam picked up the red bat phone on Sept 10th and called Binny to say "Are we good for tomorrow?" But his regime surely had ties to al Qaeda, and his support for particular terrorists and general terrorism is well-documented. How bout the $25,000 for the families of Arab suicide bombers? And while he had no money to feed and medicate his people (and if you believe that, I have a nice bridge for you in a lovely area of New York).

On this note, I should probably point out that I've never really agreed with the term Islamofacism in that it is too limiting. At least if it refers to religiosity as opposed to, say, ethnicity (to a degree). Secular muslim terrorism (read: Arab) and religious muslim terrorism have always co-existed. The vast majority of Palestinian terrorism and totalitarianism, like Iraq's version of the same, was nationalistic/fascistic/Stalinesque, and not religious in nature. Hamas/Jihad/Hezbollah just managed to kick it up a notch (with a nod to their godfather, the Muslim Brotherhood).

As for the WMD, I mean no disrespect (as I did with Li'l Anony), but this is getting a little tiresome. Everyone believed the President, Vice President, and Sec of State when they said Iraq had WMD and must be stopped. And I'm talking about Clinton, Gore and Albright. Nobody seriously believed that Iraq did not have a stockpile and/or serious plan to create and deploy or at least distribute them. And we can disagree over whether they worldwide, in-consensus intelligence was right or wrong (I'll give you a hint - it was 100% right), but once you're in there, it's kind of irrelevant. Can't just say Oops and pack it in.
Thanks for the substantive response, Ralphie. I'm always open to new information, and I will look at the references you provided.
Q -

Please stop being so reasonable. How can I continue to rant when you are being reasonable?
Most of the mainstream (liberal) media portray Iraq as an ever-deepening mess. Although we know Fox News is sympathetic to the war, I've perceived that some of their enthusiasm has diminished. Even the conservative Economist portrays a dismal current view of the war. Anonymous is wrong, but what credible sources are putting a positive spin on Iraq these days?
Q: The only thing I’d add to what Ralphie has already said is that obviously the enemy isn’t just the former regimes in Afghanistan and Iraq. They’re also Syria, Iran, elements of the regime in Saudi Arabia, Egypt and very likely others (Sudan?). Iraq isn’t a distraction. It’s just a start. It’s a country over which we already had air supremacy and regular air overflight, with a military that was already degraded. It gives us bases in two countries bordering Iran, and makes us neighbors with Syria. Believe me that Iran and Syria deeply understand our choice and are very worried about our next move. My wife said it best when she said that the order we topple these countries doesn’t really matter. She suggested alphabetical, starting with Afghanistan and ending with Yemen. Iraq was simply the target we could hit most reliably and with the greatest chance of forming a lasting democracy. The hope is that by example or coercion other nations will follow without us having to resort to force in kind-of a democratic domino theory. Otherwise, we’ll have to flush out the Jihadis one country at a time. You must admit the benefits in Beirut and Libya would not have happened without our actions in Iraq. They are clearly acting like our actions are successful. The only ones who think we’re losing are westerners.

Og: I know you got my back. The point isn’t just to convince the other side, though. It’s also to show readers who are not strongly on either side (I think we have a few of them here) that there is a solid argument to be made for the war.

Ralphie: You crack me up, man. You’re craaaaaazy. But of course you’re right. Except for the ad hominem stuff.

Oven: GREAT question! Where do you get pro-war stuff nowadays? The answer is the web. Keep your eye on Michael Yon’s blog (link above), Little Green Footballs, and National Review Online (links to both in our right sidebar). They’ll give you the straight dope from people on the ground and it’s much better news than you’re hearing anywhere else. The anti-war crowd will say we’re losing long after we’ve already won.
Ad hominem? I just met 'em!

Also, while it's true that the anti-war crowd will say we're losing long after we've won, they will then say that we indeed have won, and that they were anti-terror-warriors all along.
I found Case Closed online, and I admit it presents an impressive argument.

Dr. Bean:
If you are describing the real agenda of the Bush administration, then Mr. Bush is not presenting his real agenda to the public — certainly not in such bald-faced terms.

I understand it would hard to sell such a policy to Americans. That's a real challenge in a democracy — it's very difficult to do what is necessary unless what is necessary also happens to be palatable to the electorate.

You know I'm left-leaning, and I hope your grand vision of geo-politics is entirely wrong. But I'm also enough of a realist to acknowledge that the measures you describe may, in fact, prove necessary.

For now, I'm watching, thinking, and hoping.
What a love fest. So sorry that I came so late to the party.
Hey, what happened to Anonymous?
Q: we can't be entirely wrong, 9/11 proves that. I also figure that my credentials as a "cold warrior" make my arguments more credible. Those arguments are eloquently stated by my hubby. Now that the cold war is over, who was right? I only trust those people. Like me!
As I read these comments and posts and think about the war in Iraq I have been asking myself more and more if what we have gained there has justified the 2000 American lives lost thus far.
Perhaps I too show my liberal leanings when I point out that to date, the only tangible beneficiaries of the War there are are the Haliburtons and the Exxon-Mobils.
Sure we can talk about the latest Al Qaeda captures and so on. But I'm not sure that we're any safer from Islamofascist terrorists today than we were before the War, and neither are you (sure). Unfortunately, I fear that instead of installing a capitalist democracy in Iraq as Dr Bean hopes for, what is really evolving is an Islamofascist state of the Iranian model. Women in veils have appeared on the Iraqi street where they hadn't been before and the sectarian religious haggling over the Iraqi constitution is ominous.
It is time for the Right to stop declaring victories and explain to the American People what our exit strategy from Iraq should be. I hope that President Bush does not share the regional expansionist ideas espoused by Dr. Bean above, and that we can stop losing American lives to try and prop up regimes that do not make us any safer but sure do make Bush and his military-industrial complex buddies alot richer.
Well there are a lot of things that you can say but I am not sure that you can argue that Iraq was a better place under Hussein. We could try and govern the way that he did by slaughtering people indiscriminately and torturing those who disagree.
Q: For a few days after 9/11 the administration was openly talking about overthrowing regimes that supported terror. Then they started talking more modestly about only the next one or two steps. Even during the Iraq war, though, Bush has said that Iraq is only one battle in the war and that the war would take many years. The head (financially) of the octopus is Saudi Arabia. So far we've only been fighting the tentacles. I'm not sure anymore what Bush is planning, but it doesn't really matter since the war will go on much longer than his presidency.

Jack: You're never late to the party.

Irina: I'm afraid mean old Ralphie and Og scared him away.

ball-and-chain: You were a cold warrior back when I was a lefty going to nuclear disarmament peace marches. Some people don't learn. Some do.

Wanderer: The cost in American (and innocent Iraqi) lives is a very reasonable concern that we pro-war folks should not ignore. I've posted before how the casualties in the current war compare to previous wars and the benefits that these precious lives have purchased. (Tangentially, that first link is worth reading, because in the comments section Torontopearl tries to break up the Coffeehouse. Hilarity ensues.)

Exit strategy? There were those in the 1940s demanding exit strategies from Japan and Germany. Really. Even after the war was won. Our exit strategy in Iraq is much the same: we're going to have military bases there for decades. That's it. No one will complain about that once our men aren't getting killed which will happen after Syria is toppled and after Iran's nuclear weapons program is a smoldering crater. Anyone screaming about getting our boys back from Japan now?

As to the "Bush is doing it to make his friends rich" conspiracy theory, you're way too smart to believe that? What's in it for Bush? Are they going to pay him off? When Clinton said that Saddam was building WMD and that ultimately overthrowing him was the policy of his administration, was Clinton also doing it for Bush's friends?

Jack: Yup.
Dr. Bean & ball-and-chain:
The cold war analogy interests me. At no time did the USA ever go to war against the USSR. Yes, there were proxy wars in other nations. But primarily it was a contest of ideologies.

The analogy interests me because we're clearly in a similar position vis-à-vis "Islamo-fascism". It may be too simplistic to say we will win this war by toppling Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, then bombing Iran's nuclear facilities … and meanwhile there's still Yemen, Saudi Arabia and other Arab nations; and let's not forget North Korea (though they don't fit into the category of Islamo-fascism).

You're envisioning the Crusades here, even if the West isn't acting out of religious imperialism. It's a very big pill you're asking me to swallow.

I'm not sure we can make a direct correlation between the Islamo-fascist ideology and the various states just listed. Bin Laden, for one, was not the head of any government. And I return to the fact that the USA never went to war against the USSR. The cold war was won without focussing narrowly on military aggression.

Also, I think the cold war was used as a pretext for the USA to meddle in the affairs of other states in cases where it was neither justified nor constructive. I fear that 9/11 offers cover for the same sort of geo-political naughtiness now.

Thus, even if you are right in your diagnosis of the Islamo-fascist threat, I would not give American hawks a free hand to carry out the agenda you describe without some way of holding them accountable.
Q, I must respectfully disagree with your statement of cold war as a pretext for U.S. to meddle in the affairs of other states.

It is in hindsight that we see USSR turned out to be a paper tiger, but during the cold war, it appeared to be a very real threat - recall all the meddling USSR did! (.took a course on U.S. foreign polict towards Middle East during the Cold War and can recommend you some books and articles supporting my point, if you want)

I think that one of the real questions here is based upon the premise of MAD, or as it was written mutually assured destruction. As you are probably aware the premise was that nations would probably not launch nukes upon other nations (Read US and USSR) because they would both suffer tremendous losses.

There is a concern that there are people who operate by different rules and are not concerned with this concept. In light of those who are willing to die so that they may murder others I have little reason to believe that they would not use WMDs if they were able to acquire them.

I agree that there is a certain crusader mentality here, although as a Jew I shudder to use such terms. Instead let's just say that there is a war of ideology taking place and there is a question of whether there should be rules of warefare applied to this.
While I don't agree with Q's assessment, I think that "Crusade" is the perfect term for him to use. While that was territorial/material aggression wrapped in the cloak of religious purpose, he seems to be arguing that the War on Terror is a territorial/material aggression cloaked in the wrap of defense/human rights-n-freedom-spreading.

(See how I switched the usage of "cloak" and "wrap"? I'm clever like that.)
Ralphie, I don't believe Dr. Bean is advocating territorial/material aggression for its own sake. I understand that he honestly believes it is necessary to protect the USA (and others) from murderous deeds perpetrated by Islamo-fascists.

I probably shouldn't have used the word "Crusade" — it obviously pushes a lot of buttons and likely distracts attention from what I wanted to say. I'm reacting to the agenda proposed: war in one country after another throughout the Middle East. And targetting nations primarily on the basis of Arab ethnicity and Islam as the state religion — which is where I arrived at the term, Crusade.

Are all the Kerckhoff Coffeehousers in agreement that the USA should bomb / invade all Arab nations? As I said, this is a big pill you're asking me to swallow.
Q: I guess it is kind of the same, the only question is how you see it. Bean and I see it as a global struggle of goodness against evil, both the cold war and the current one. Figuring out which are the good guys is really easy. During the cold war, it was simply the governments who allowed their citizens to travel freely. Currently, it is the civilization that allows freedom of religion. We can civilly discuss different plans for ensuring that our daughters aren't forced to wear burqas, as long as we agree who are the bad guys and who are the good guys. We may be in a crusade, but I don't hear the Poles complaining about democracy and I don't hear the East Germans complaining about not being shot when they try to enter West Germany. In order for us to be safe, long term, we must force an Islamic Reformation. That is the end goal of this entire thing.

Wanderer: You may be a terrific guy, but you have to believe that Bush is abjectly evil to sacrifice Americans to make a handful of people rich. I don't debate with people who believe that.
Q: No, just as many as it takes.
Q: All kidding aside, Bean and I believe that after just a few invasions and bombings, other Arab/Muslim countries will give up harboring terrorist and become a little more transparent and free(see Libya and Jordan-somewhat). We also believe that most humans yearn for freedom, so we are also in favor of destabilizing theocratic regimes from the inside-kind of like supporting the Solidarity movement.
I agree with most of what you've said here:

Bean and I see it as a global struggle of goodness against evil, both the cold war and the current one.

I think that kind of moral clarity is President Bush's greatest asset … though it can also be a liability if it isn't handled in a sophisticated manner.

Figuring out which are the good guys is really easy. … Currently, it is the civilization that allows freedom of religion.

That's an interesting observation. Again, I appreciate the clear line you've drawn in the sand.

In order for us to be safe, long term, we must force an Islamic Reformation.

I emphatically agree with the need for an Islamic Reformation. Whether it can be forced is another matter; there has to be some intrinsic impetus for it, or it will never succeed. "A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still" and all that.

We also believe that most humans yearn for freedom, so we are also in favor of destabilizing theocratic regimes from the inside.

This is what I was fishing for, really; an expression of some strategy beside the use of bare force.

Culture is profoundly resistant to change. I hope and pray that Islam and the Muslim predilection for theocracy can be reformed. But I'm sure you'll agree that the goal won't be any easier to achieve than victory in the Cold War was. It's going to take every tool we in the West have in the tool chest to bring it about — and much perseverance even then.
B-and-C – No I don’t think Bush is abjectly evil nor do I think he took us to war in Iraq solely to make a few of his buddies rich. I hope I didn’t offend you and hope we can continue to debate. But to think of the war only as a manifestation of a global conflict between the good guys and the bad guys is a gross simplification (and I know you know this). It is an unfortunate fact of life that the U.S. economy is very dependent on war and war mongering in order to sustain its growth. (Look here for a nice independent discussion of this view vis a vis Iraq).

It’s really how we emerged from the Great Depression (not the New Deal). It has been the case since World War II, through Korea, Vietnam and the entire Cold War. The dot com era provided a nice shot of economic growth that sustained us through the late Eighties and Nineties following the end of the Cold War. Once that bubble burst, however, the economy began faltering and we therefore needed a new war. We also needed (and need) cheap oil. Indeed, recall then Secretary of State James Baker saying that Gulf War I was about "jobs, jobs, jobs" (and this even before the dot coms).

Following the 9-11 attacks the War on Terror was born, whether by choice or not. The War on Iraq jumped on that bandwagon through what we now see was some creative Bush Administration spin (Downing Street Memo). As much as we may hate to admit it, our political system involves a fair share of nepotism, and to the victors go the spoils of war which in the case of the Bush Administration the victors include his buddies at Haliburton and the oil companies. To focus on the moral imperatives of the war and ignore the economic facets tells only a fraction of the story. There are economic reasons why Islamofascism exists as well.

Sure Islamofascism is evil and sure they hate us and should be fought tooth and nail. Problem is, right now I see a lot of American boys (and girls) dying over there, victory is not in sight – the insurgency is becoming bloodier every day, and I don’t see a viable exit strategy emerging. (Invading Syria and Iran is not an exit strategy, Doctor Bean!). Comparing the number of American troops who died in Korea or Vietnam and then extrapolating this to Iraq is also not useful because it is based on the assumption that Korea and Vietnam served a useful purpose, which is certainly debatable (especially with regard to Vietnam). Contrary to the conservative mythos, the Soviet Union probably would have imploded anyway as a non-viable economic system.

Like I said in my first post, I’m just not sure that all the American lives being lost (not to mention the innocent Iraqi civilians) are worth what we’ve been getting in return up to now (Bali?). Maybe it’ll turn out that they will not have died in vain. I sure hope that turns out to be the case.
Wanderer: Absolutely no offence taken. We can continue to debate but I frankly don't see why we would. You and I read different pieces and have wildly different view of history and the current conflict. The fact that war is good for the economy is simply a silver lining to the clouds of armed conflict. Even I (and I dislike President Roosevelt) don't believe he went into the second world war to get the country out of the great depression. I really cannot understand why you don't give Bush the same benefit. Our Pearl Harbor occurred most visibly on September 11th. Bush is simply trying to do what needs to be done. Sure, it may good for the economy (of course the Democrats keep asserting that the economy is tanking, so I guess Bush can't even get that right), but he is fighting to try and keep America safe from Islamofascism. To me it really is as simple as a global fight of goodness against evil. This does not mean that every American is good and every Muslim is evil but I think you can appreciate that I understand the subtleties inherent in my over-arching statement.
Also, I read the links. I am familiar with their content and it does not impress me.
Q: It will not be easy. Compared to this the Cold War was a cake walk. The Russians were much more similar to us than the Islamofascists are. All I can do is hope and have faith in the President. Of course I know I can be wrong but I really have not been wrong before on major international affairs (not that anyone cares about my opinion). Just so you know, I am always willing to change my mind. Heck, I even read Daily Kos. I have never found a compelling reason to believe that my take is wrong.
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