What Does It
Take to Get Us to Expend Adequate Funds on Airline Security?
October 31, 2001
After Pan Am Flight 103
exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland on December 21st, 1988, you would have
thought that any nation that could afford it would spare no expense in
ensuring that such an event could never occur again.
If any nation could afford
anything, it's the United States.
Yet as has come to light in
the aftermath of September 11, thirteen years after Lockerbie, checked
baggage was still not being adequately screened for explosives in the United
Nor, apparently, were the
airlines making sure that there was a passenger on board to account for each
piece of checked luggage. (Of course, a suicide bomber could check his
baggage and board the plane, but such a procedure would still eliminate the
risk from the presumably much larger number of people who would like to blow
up a plane but wouldn't want to go down with it.)
mind-boggling? Think of all the ridiculous things the government
spends money on. Think of all the ridiculous things each of us
spends money on.
If after Lockerbie the
airlines couldn't afford this extra screening, why didn't all the airlines
-- or the government by fiat -- take the total cost, divide by the number of
passengers, and impose a surcharge? Who in their right mind would have
said "I don't want to pay these extra few dollars to ensure I don't get
blown up in mid-air?"
Even beyond my amazement that
such steps weren't taken after Lockerbie, how could these procedures not
have been implemented immediately after the World Trade Center attack?
Emergency legislation could have imposed a temporary ticket surcharge, and
federal troops could have been utilized at the beginning to screen all the
baggage and ensure a positive passenger-luggage matchup.
I hear talk that machines
able to detect plastic explosives which x-rays miss are "very"
expensive. So what?!! Buy the damn things and use them.
And of course, how expensive
could it be to match luggage to boarded passengers?
In the last weeks, Congress
has been squabbling over the airline security bill, primarily over
Republican opposition to making government employees of 28,000 baggage
screeners. A vote
is expected tomorrow in the House, and it's unclear whether that body will
pass its own version, or adopt the bill the Senate has already passed.
Hopefully some bill will be
passed, signed into law and implemented with all due haste.
Unfortunately, in light of
our past disinclination to invest anywhere near an adequate amount of our
vast wealth on airline security, I'm just wondering what kinds of additional
security measures we could be taking, but still won't be, because they may cost
Attacks Sandinista Ortega, Threatens Nicaragua in Full-Page Ad
Even Worse, the Ad in the Nicaraguan
Newspaper La Prensa Is Designed to Make It Appear to Be From George
October 30, 2001
In a full-page ad October 29
in the Nicaraguan national newspaper La Prensa, Governor Jeb Bush of
Florida harshly attacked Sandinista candidate Daniel Ortega, endorsed his
main opponent Enrique Bolaņos, and made thinly veiled threats against
Nicaragua should Ortega win.
According to the latest
polls, Ortega and Bolaņos are in a statistical dead heat, with the election
less than a week away.
Here are some of the choice
parts of the ad:
As I look at Latin America
today, I'm reminded of the motto which is written above the entrance to
the US National Archives: "The Past Is Prologue." The past is
without doubt the key indicator of the future...
The past and present of
Daniel Ortega clearly indicate that he neither understands nor accepts the
basic principles of freedom, democracy and the free market...
Daniel Ortega is an enemy
of everything the United States represents. Further, he is a friend of our
enemies. Ortega has a relationship of more than 30 years with states and
individuals who shelter and condone international terrorism.
By contrast Enrique
Bolaņos is a man whose past promises a future of freedom...
Latin America needs leaders
like Enrique Bolaņos, people whose history shows a commitment to the
construction of prosperous economies and solid democracies which are the
necessary base for reinforcing bonds of brotherhood with Florida, just as
with the whole United States of America. [more of the text]
The layout of the ad is as
devious as the words. Small blue letters above the headline read
"The Brother of the President of the United States." The
massive headline, in blaring read, is "GEORGE W. BUSH SUPPORTS ENRIQUE
BOLAŅOS." All of this appears on a white background, and the
whole page is bordered in red, white and blue. The effect is to give
the impression that the ad is an endorsement of Ortega's opponent by George
Of course, even if seen as
coming from the President's brother, that the warning is really from the
U.S. government would by now be quite clear to Nicaraguan voters, given the repeated
instances of U.S. interference in the Nicaraguan presidential election
process. Such an ad, coming from a country which organized, financed
and directed a terrorist contra army against Nicaragua in the late 1980's,
is designed to -- and may well indeed -- instill fear in Nicaraguan voters
that if they elect Ortega, the United States will again attack Nicaragua, or
at least make things very difficult for it.
Remember when the Washington establishment went ballistic because the
Chinese government made political contributions in our presidential
election? What would have happened had the brother of the Chinese
president taken out a full page ad in The New York Times and stated
that one candidate is an enemy of everything China represents, and then made
not-so-subtle threats of dire consequences should that candidate be elected!
That the Bush administration
would place this anti-Ortega, threatening ad shows the incredibly
paternalistic -- indeed, downright racist -- attitude it has toward Latin
America. To the Bush administration, the countries "down
there" are still seen as a bunch of banana republics "in our
backyard" that need to be kept totally under U.S. control.
[Click here for information on how to
protest this outrage]
Incompetence: U.S. Bombs the Same Clearly-Marked Red Cross Warehouse A
October 29, 2001
You may have heard something
about this incident, but the details are what make it really outrageous.
About two weeks ago, U.S.
a Red Cross warehouse in Kabul, despite the fact that the warehouse roof was
painted with a big red cross inside a white circle.
After expressing the
customary hollow "regrets" for U.S. bombs going astray, officials
said they hadn't known the buildings were used to store food and relief
To avoid a similar
occurrence, the Red Cross met
with the Pentagon to give them details concerning where that organization
has facilities in Afghanistan.
So what happens?
Shortly thereafter, two Navy
fighter bombers and two B-52's drop
eight 2,000-pound, laser-guided bombs onto that same Red Cross installation.
Thankfully there were no
casualties, but for 55,000 disabled Afghans in Kabul, it was a disaster:
this was the Red Cross's sole facility for their food and blankets, and
these supplies were all but destroyed.
Heads should roll for this
unbelievable level of incompetence. The official U.S. excuse is that
there was "a human error in the targeting process," that somewhere
in the decision chain, someone forgot to take the Red Cross warehouse off
the target list.
forgot?" This isn't an error where a food item is left off a
banquet table. This is a life-and-death type of decision.
Lest anyone try to make the
"heated conditions of combat" excuse, such is decidedly not the
case here: an officer at an air operations center in Saudi Arabia, and then
officials at Central Command in Tampa, Florida are the ones involved in
drawing up the target lists.
Haven't these military
personnel ever heard of double-checking things? Especially after the
warehouse was hit the first time, you would think that those involved in the
"targeting process" would be triple- and quadruple-checking to
make sure no more Red Cross targets are hit. And no one entering the
coordinates for the laser-guided bombs noticed they were the same numbers as
were in error before?
But wait, it gets better.
On one of the first days of
bombing, U.S. warplanes mistakenly hit
a UN-associated mine-clearing organization, killing four people. It
turns that out that late last week, another U.N. office for removing
land mines was hit, destroying two vehicles there.
Why do our bombs keep
"accidentally" hitting U.N. facilities?
Finally, the topper: even
when the military royally screwed up by targeting that Red Cross warehouse a
second time, they couldn't even screw up accurately: some of the bombs
missed the Red Cross installation and hit a residential neighborhood
Is this Keystone Kops type
stuff, or what?
But I shouldn't be
flippant. Targeting errors and errant bombs have killed -- at the
least -- dozens of innocent civilians, possibly many times that.
What's really almost too
horrible to contemplate is what must be happening all the rest of the time
when the military is not even trying as "hard" to be accurate as
they supposedly were when they bombed the Red Cross warehouse a second time.
A good indication is provided
by this Reuters
report of a bombing atrocity yesterday:
A U.S. bomb flattened a
flimsy mud-brick home in Kabul Sunday blowing apart seven children as they
ate breakfast with their father
The blast shattered a
neighbor's house killing another two children in one of the most gruesome
scenes of Washington's three-week-old bombing of the Afghan capital.
Why doesn't our military concentrate on attacking Taliban troops in the
field, so this war can be more rapidly concluded?
Or are they just trying to
drag things out in order to squeeze in some more "live-fire,"
The Abdul Haq
Fiasco: The Story Gets Worse
U.S. Continues Its History of Not
Supporting Those It Encourages to Revolt
October 28, 2001
As most followers of the
increasingly benighted U.S. war effort in Afghanistan now know, Abdul Haq, a
former guerrilla commander who was seen by some American officials as the
potential leader of an anti-Taliban uprising, was just caught
by the Taliban inside Afghanistan and executed.
At first it was reported that
the only assistance Haq had received from the United States was a satellite
phone. That's pathetic. The guy is trying to foment a revolt
against the Taliban from inside Afghanistan, and all we give him is a
Well, that would mean that at
least if he were in danger, he could call supporting aircraft and our forces
would rescue him, right?
When Haq realized he was
surrounded by Taliban troops, he apparently called Robert McFarlane, Ronald
Reagan's national security advisor, who in turn called the CIA, which passed
on Haq's coordinates to the military.
Stories have differed as to
whether any U.S. warplanes attempted a rescue. The latest account,
in The Washington Post, is that an unmanned CIA drone aircraft armed
with antitank missiles attempted to prevent Haq's capture by the Taliban.
Why didn't Haq have direct
link to a manned aircraft that could have rescued him? He had
to play the game of telephone while his life was in danger? Fomenting
an anti-Taliban revolt is not worth allocating some live Special Ops support
What makes the story even
more galling is that now Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld confirms
that Haq did receive some additional kind of U.S. intelligence
assistance. So even in an assisted operation, this is how we protect
The topper is Rumsfeld's
unfortunately, was from the air, and he was on the ground.
And regrettably, he was
A statement of more
incoherent banality would be hard to imagine.
The Abdul Haq fiasco fits in
with past U.S. instances of failing to help those we encourage to revolt.
For example, at the last
minute, President John F. Kennedy withdrew air support from the Cuban exiles
in the Bay of Pigs invasion, and they were slaughtered. More recently,
the U.S. encouraged the Kurds to revolt against Saddam Hussein, and then
abandoned the Kurds to Hussein's revenge.
How easy is it going to be
now for the U.S. to convince any Afghan that our support will be there if
they undertake anti-Taliban action?
One final note: even though
he was strongly anti-Taliban, Abdul Haq opposed
the U.S. bombing campaign in Afghanistan:
He said that the bombing
was a terrible mistake, that it was rallying Afghans around the besieged
Could it be that Haq wasn't a
compliant enough anti-Taliban leader for the Bush administration, that the
U.S. deliberately let Haq be killed in order to silence a potentially
powerful voice against the U.S. bombing?
Afghans Can't Unite, Let Them Form Separate Nations
October 27, 2001
Much has been made in the
past few days of the difficulties involved in putting together a broad-based
coalition to govern post-Taliban Afghanistan.
Some observers feel that the
inability so far to create this governing scheme has led the United States
to delay seriously attacking Taliban forces defending Kabul, because the
U.S. wants to first have the new rulers chosen before toppling the Taliban.
Perhaps creating a viable
coalition to rule all of Afghanistan is not, at least in the short term, a
The boundaries of modern
Afghanistan were set
in the late 19th century by British-ruled India and czarist Russia.
Unlike the thirteen American colonies, the ancestors of the inhabitants of
present-day Afghanistan never at one point got together and decided to form
a discrete political entity.
Just as in many other
colonized areas of the world, boundaries created by colonial powers cut
across and through ethnic regions. The result is a crazy-quilt of
tribes and ethic groups, each of which are dispersed among different
nations. Each individual nation contains a mixture of two or more
tribes or ethnic groups who often have very little use for each other.
Indeed, as we know, vicious
infighting in Afghanistan among the various ethnic groups, after the
withdrawal of the Soviet Union in the late 1980's, destroyed much of the
country that hadn't already been destroyed by the Russians, and led to the
rise of the Taliban, whom the people of Afghanistan at the time actually
welcomed as being the only force able to restore order to their country.
The U.S. delay in prosecuting
the war has led to an increasing rate of civilian
casualties, and imperils
millions with starvation this winter. Accordingly, this war must
be vigorously prosecuted and ended as soon as possible.
So why not let the Pashtuns
rule the southern area where they predominate, and each of the other major
ethnic groups individually, or together as the Northern Alliance, in their
areas? This can be a temporary arrangement, if the parties wish,
pending further negotiations after the war to unify the country once again.
Waiting to vigorously
prosecute the war for an arrangement that may be virtually impossible to
achieve can only lead to disaster.
Toppling the Taliban and
bringing this war to a more rapid conclusion can only be a good thing for
the beleaguered people of Afghanistan.
UPDATE DECEMBER 4:
Here's a link
to a New York Times article along similar lines.
Strategy Is Ass Backwards: Heavy Near Civilians, Light Against Taliban
Result: Afghan Civilians' Anger at
U.S. Rises, Taliban Morale Goes Up
October 26, 2001
Three days ago I criticized U.S. military policy for improperly focusing
our bombing more on buildings near civilians than on Taliban troops in the
Exactly what you might expect
from such misguided efforts is coming to pass.
Civilian casualties from
U.S. bombs and missiles are angering the population and causing them to
rally to the Taliban.
According to one report,
signs that the duration and
the sharpness of the American bombing campaign was beginning to shore up
support for the Taliban inside Afghanistan, where their popularity was
clearly on the wane before Sept. 11.
Repeated reports by the
Taliban of American bombs' killing civilians appear to have intensified
the feeling among Afghans that the United States has attacked Afghanistan,
not just its rulers.
A similar analysis was made
Abdul Haq, a former
guerrilla commander who was seen by some American officials as the
potential leader of an anti-Taliban uprising.
...after Oct. 7, the day
air attacks on Afghanistan began, his confidence seemed to erode. He said
that the bombing was a terrible mistake, that it was rallying Afghans
around the besieged Taliban.
You may have read that Haq
was just caught by the Taliban inside Afghanistan and executed.
Yet another account
of changing Afghan sentiment:
The heavy bombing over
Herat, which resulted in deaths of civilians at a home for the elderly and
in a nearby village, angered ordinary people but appeared to embolden the
This leads to the related
Light U.S. airstrikes
directly on Taliban troops are actually increasing their morale.
Heavy airstrikes that focus
on structures and supplies mean that
"After two or three
days, the Taliban get used to it and their morale gets better and
better," a visitor from Herat said.
And when the bombing is directed
at Taliban troops, it's so light as to also be counterproductive.
Under the headline
"Anti-Taliban Forces Say Light U.S. Strikes Lift Foes' Morale,"
the New York Times, in a story worth quoting at some length, reports
The American plane roared
overhead at 1:30 p.m. today, and Shir Muhammad and his soldiers in the
Northern Alliance paid little attention.
Four days ago, the sound of
jet engines sent these men scrambling to the roof of their command post to
watch American planes bomb front-line Taliban positions here, some 35
miles north of Kabul, for the first time.
Today, however, Mr.
Muhammad became one of several alliance commanders in the slice of the
territory they control who are complaining about the pace and scale of
American airstrikes. In their current form, he said, the strikes are doing
more to bolster Taliban morale than to erode it...
On open radio channels,
Taliban forces are mocking the American attacks, according to troops from
the Northern Alliance. "They make a lot of jokes," Mr. Muhammad
said. "They say, `The American bombs do nothing.' "
Mr. Muhammad said the light
initial bombing has set back negotiations with potential Taliban
defectors..."They were very afraid and had low morale," he said,
referring to the period before the bombing. "After a few attacks,
their morale was better."
I actually had to re-read
this story several times in order to believe that such a devastating
indictment of U.S. military policy was really being reported in the
mainstream U.S. press.
Several thousand elite
Taliban troops are defending Kabul, dug in on a flat plain north of that
city. Since we long ago achieved total air superiority, we should have
been carpet bombing the Taliban forces with B-2's and B-52's, following up
with AC-130 gunships, and then advancing on Kabul under cover of helicopter
are we may have started that process just today, but even if so, why
the interminable delay?
What on earth is the Bush
administration thinking with their bombing policy?
Unfortunately, given the
horrific fumbling by Bush administration officials with the anthrax attack inside our own country, it's
hard to imagine that they would know more about what they're doing in far
Against all odds, I sure hope
Bill Maher Fails
His History Test
October 25, 2001
Bill Maher of Politically Incorrect has been making some statements
lately that show he needs to study his history a bit more carefully.
Here's one assertion
Bill: The Persians,
the Iranians had a secular Western government. They overthrew it for
the Ayatollah Khomeini.
Huh? The Iranians last
had a "secular Western government," a freely elected democracy, in
1954, which the CIA overthrew. The U.S. then installed in power
Maher calls the Shah's
government "a secular Western government." The Shah
was a monarch and the government was a dictatorship, notable for its
corruption and cruelty. It was the Shah whom the Iranians overthrew
for the Ayatollah.
Then there are Maher's
On the one hand, Maher
remarks favorably on our role in overthrowing many governments:
Bill: I think we
need the CIA to get back into business. I think we need Muslim-Americans
to join the CIA in big numbers, become spies and foment revolutions in
That's how we used to do
it, and it worked pretty well before we got scared of doing it that way.
On the other hand, Maher denies
we ever did so:
Bill: You know what?
We are hardly an oppressive, imperialist force.
Beyond his inconsistent
assertions, is the sheer lunacy of Maher's claim that "it worked pretty
well" when we fomented revolutions in other countries in the Middle
- Syria, 1948 - The
U.S. overthrows the regime; Syria turns anti-U.S.
- Iran, 1954 - The
U.S. overthrows nationalist Mossadegh, puts the Shah in power. Result:
Ayatollah Khomeini's 1979 Islamic revolution.
- Egypt, 1955 - The
U.S. tried to kill nationalist Gamal Abdel Nasser. He turns to the
- Iraq, 1958 - The
U.S. puts Col. Kassem in power. He turns into an anti-American lunatic.
- Indonesia, 1967 -
The U.S. overthrows Sukarno. The army and mobs then kill 500,000 Sukarno
- Libya, 1969 - The
U.S. helps a young officer, Moammar Khadafy, seize power in Libya, then
tries to kill him in 1986.
- Iraq, 1975 - The
U.S. helps young Saddam Hussein seize power. In 1979, the U.S.
encourages Saddam to invade Iran in an effort to crush Iran's Islamic
revolution. Some 700,000 die in the war.
- Lebanon, 1983 -
U.S. forces intervene in the civil war to prop up the Christian
government, 240 U.S. Marines die.
If that's working
"pretty well," I'd hate to see what failure is like.
Bill Maher has admirable
positions on many issues, but he really should learn a bit more about Middle
Eastern history so as to avoid putting his foot in his mouth again and
misleading his many viewers.
[more on Bill Maher]
Vanished Story: The Plastic Explosives in the Philadelphia Bus Terminal
October 24, 2001
In case you missed the story,
five days ago police in Philadelphia found about 1/2 pound of C-4 plastic
military explosive in an unclaimed suitcase which had been removed from a
downtown bus terminal baggage locker.
The police said there was
enough explosive to destroy that building. There was also 1000 feet of
blasting cord in the suitcase, but no detonator.
C-4 explosive was used by
Osama bin Laden's organization al Qaeda to blow up the USS Cole on October
12, 2000 in the port city of Aden, Yemen, killing 17 sailors.
The Philadelphia suitcase had
been placed in the locker on September 29, about two weeks after the attack
on the World Trade Center. Officials said they were going to review
the terminal's security tapes to try to identify who put the suitcase in the
Well, what happened?
It's five days later. Not a word in the national media have I seen.
I searched the Philadelphia
Inquirer web site and the only more recent information
they reported was that the plastic explosive in the suitcase was a type made
exclusively for the military, and that it was not of recent manufacture.
The investigating authorities
must by now know more than they are letting on, especially if they possess
video surveillance tapes of whoever put the suitcase in the locker.
Of course, the situation
could be innocuous: perhaps a construction worker delivering some supplies
forget about his errand and the suitcase? Well, no... Such a scenario
would be about as believable as the authorities'
initial assurances that the first Florida anthrax case had just
coincidentally come on the heels of September 11, and was most likely a case
of "naturally occurring" anthrax.
To speculate a bit, the
military origin of the explosive might point toward U.S. right-wing fanatics
who were in the military and could have had the opportunity to pilfer such
explosives. A more high-tech Timothy McVeigh?
On the other hand, we have
the example of Ali Mohamed, a former U.S. army sergeant who was a "high-ranking
follower" of Osama bin Laden, and pleaded
guilty to conspiring "to kill Americans abroad and to destroy U.S.
government buildings and military installations," including the 1998
bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. Among other
things, Mohamed helped "secretly move bin Laden from Pakistan to
Sudan," and trained bin Laden's bodyguards and other high-ranking al
Mohamed did his dirty work
after he left the Army, but while there he could have stolen C-4
explosives. More frightening is the possibility that there are right
now other al Qaeda members in the U.S. military, who could have stolen the
C-4 found in Philadelphia. And who knows what other weaponry such
undercover agents could steal.
In any event, the silence of
the authorities on this story is highly suspicious. Keep tuned.
Deliberately Stalling in Afghan War and Unnecessarily Causing Increased
Civilian Casualties: Because of Pakistani Double-cross?
October 23, 2001
There are 35 miles of open plain between Northern Alliance forces and
Kabul. Thousands of Taliban and al Qaeda fighters are dug into this
land mass north of Kabul, awaiting a Northern Alliance assault.
Haven't you been wondering since Day 1 of the bombing campaign why on earth
we weren't bombing the enemy forces on that plain?
Our Deal with Pakistan
The reason is, Pakistan, our
new best friend in the region, is an enemy of the Northern Alliance, and
doesn't want the Northern Alliance to run Afghanistan. The U.S. told
Pakistan okay, you gather all the other Afghan opposition leaders and,
together with the Northern Alliance, come up with a power-sharing
arrangement. Until then, the U.S. agreed not to bomb those troops
defending Kabul. And as part of the deal, the U.S. instructed the
Northern Alliance not to mount a full-scale offensive until Pakistan was
done creating a viable government which could take over after the Taliban
power-sharing talks have bogged down, and officials suspect that is because
Pakistan is trying to ensure that Taliban elements of the coalition
government will remain in control.
The U.S., growing impatient,
has in the last few days started bombing the Taliban/al Qaeda forces north
of Kabul. But jet fighters are being used. If we were serious,
we would be carpet-bombing with B-52's and otherwise conducting a much more
intensive bombing campaign focusing on those troops.
The Delay is Killing Innocent
This delay in our prosecution
of the war is having a deadly, adverse effect on our efforts to avoid
At the beginning of the war,
military specialists lamented that there were not enough fixed targets in
Afghanistan to last more than a few days. As the war unnecessarily
drags on, we want to seem busy, so we're continuing to bomb fixed targets
that were apparently not deemed important enough to hit in the first two
weeks of bombing.
In the first days of bombing,
there were barely any civilian casualties. But in the last few days,
the number of civilians killed and injured has soared,
with the U.S. acknowledging
two "mistakes" over the weekend: a 1000 lb. bomb hit what has been
described as either a home for the elderly or a military hospital, and
two 500 lb. bombs were dropped on a residential area northwest of Kabul.
The initial airstrikes hit
military targets with a precision that refugees said today was somehow
reassuring. A steady flow of people continued to seek refuge by slipping
into Pakistan through the routes used by smugglers, but the numbers...
In recent days, however,
the number of people seeking safety has soared again amid reports of
widespread civilian casualties...
"So many people have
been killed, and the others are coming out," said Major Aftab, the
commander of the border post. "Previously the bombing was targeted,
but now people are being killed."
My guess is that the
increased civilian casualties are occurring because these recent fixed
targets are closer to civilians and otherwise more difficult to destroy
without "collateral damage," which is why these targets were not
hit in the early days.
If we weren't being held up
by the Pakistan-created political deadlock, we wouldn't be having to hit
these second-level-type fixed targets, and would instead be using all our
airpower to hit the Taliban/al Qaeda troops outside Kabul, as well as
providing air cover for advancing Northern Alliance forces.
The more we have to
unnaturally drag out this war, the more civilian casualties there will be,
and at an accelerating rate, as more secondary, and even third-rate targets
are hit to give the appearance of conducting a war.
Is Pakistan, which after all
prior to September 11 was the Taliban's main sponsor, double-crossing
us? Perhaps Pakistan believes that if it can stall until the Muslim
holy month of Ramadan, we will stop bombing with the Taliban still in power
in Kabul, after that the winter snows will make any further ground war
untenable, and then by spring, we will have lost our stomach to rev up the
war machine again.
On the other hand, it is not
in Pakistan's interest for there to be increasing numbers of civilian
casualties in Afghanistan, because that will stir up the Muslim
fundamentalists in Pakistan and could pose a real risk to the stability of
the present Pakistani military dictatorship.
Whatever the reason, we are
prolonging the war unnecessarily, bombing targets in a manner increasingly
deadly to innocent civilians, and eroding our moral high ground but not
doing what we need to do and finishing it.
We need to give Pakistan an
ultimatum: come up with a governing formula within 48 hours, or we and the
Northern Alliance will take Kabul on our own.
The U.S. Should
Offer Far Higher Rewards in the Anthrax and Osama bin Laden Cases: How
About $1 Billion for bin Laden?
October 22, 2001
The reward for information leading to the capture of whoever is spreading
anthrax through the U.S. mail system is $1 million. The reward for
information leading to the capture of Al Qaeda head Osama bin Laden is $5
million. But a million dollars -- or even five million dollars --
"ain't what it used to be," as the saying goes.
Basically, if we want an
insider to turn in the anthrax terrorists, I don't think a million dollars
is enough of an inducement. I suggest a figure of $100 million, PLUS
U.S. citizenships for the person claiming the reward and up to 20 of his or
her family members, PLUS guaranteed participation in the U.S. government's
witness protection program for all these individuals, including plastic
surgery if desired.
Anyone turning in the anthrax
terrorists will know they and their immediate family and even their extended
family will be marked for death. So in addition to the need to assure
them that they and all their relatives will receive the complete protection
of the U.S. government, the financial inducement has to be
overwhelming. A million dollars is a lot of money, to be sure, but for
many people that amount would not be enough to risk themselves and large
numbers of their loved ones being killed.
Moreover, if the potential
turncoat is steeped in the ideology of the terrorists, the financial reward
must be so mind-blowing as to override his or her religious/ideological
All of the foregoing applies
exponentially to anyone who would turn in Osama bin Laden. In
addition, more than one individual would probably have to be involved to
snare bin Laden in a trap. Hence for bin Laden I would suggest a total
reward of $1 billion, plus the other benefits -- U.S. citizenship, witness
protection program, plastic surgery -- for an even larger circle of
relatives, given how deep and far al Qaeda's vengeance will seek to reach
against anyone who betrays bin Laden.
Remember, anyone who would be
able to lead the authorities to bin Laden is probably fairly close to him
and thus strongly committed to bin Laden's cause, so the reward must be completely
irresistible to be effective.
Some might worry that with
such huge rewards, the terrorists themselves, especially in the anthrax
case, could designate a few of them to be caught, and then turn these
individuals in, with the goal of using the reward money to foment further
terrorist activities. This eventuality could be avoided by making the
reward money available solely for consumer purchases, and not in the form of
cash or any other liquid asset.
Compared to the costs of
contending with the present anthrax scare, or of continuing to wage
war in Afghanistan -- let alone recovering from a future terrorist act
involving weapons of mass destruction -- $100 million and even $1 billion
should be viewed as bargains.
Since we don't pay either
reward until we have the anthrax terrorists or bin Laden in custody, the
money's not at risk until the deed is done. Again, how could achieving
either result not be worth the suggested rewards?
"out-of-the-box" thinking -- such as my unprecedented reward
levels -- may well be necessary to be successful against bin Laden and his
cohorts. Why not give it a shot?
Rejection of Request for Pause in Bombing Cause 7.5 Million Afghans to
Starve to Death?
October 21, 2001
estimates are that up to 7.5 million -- yes, that's right, seven and
one-half million -- Afghans could starve to death this winter unless
truck convoys of food are able to resume deliveries to Afghanistan.
U.S. bombing has effectively
halted these deliveries. Current U.S. airdrops of food would meet less
than 1% of the need, even if the supplies were assured of getting to the
people who need them, which is unlikely.
Already, the British charity
Christian Aid says that 600 people have died in northern Afghanistan from
starvation, malnutrition and related diseases.
There are other reports of
deaths in refugee camps around the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif.
While there was an earlier story
that "the Pentagon and British Defense Ministry have agreed to
coordinate the air strikes so that they will not hit relief convoys,"
such does not appear to be the case.
Given this backdrop, the
United Nations itself apparently plans
to make an unprecedented appeal for the bombing to at least temporarily stop
so that a huge aid operation can be undertaken.
Such an appeal has already
by Raymond C. Offenheiser, president of Oxfam America, who explained:
We've run out of food, the
borders are closed, we can't reach our staffs and time is running out.
American officials rejected
the request for a bombing halt, asserting that the Taliban, not American
air raids, were blocking food distribution.
While there have been reports
of Taliban troops levying "taxes" on food convoys, the American
response is disingenuous at best, since without the food entering the
country in the first place, there is absolutely no hope to feed the starving
The winter snows have already
come to part of Afghanistan. Once the winter fully settles in, getting
food to remote villages will be near impossible.
The war can be resumed after
a short period of time, but once the opportunity passes to deliver the food
before the winter, that will be an irrevocable death sentence for millions
of men, women and children.
What a humanitarian disaster
it would be, and what a geopolitical nightmare, if a continued U.S. refusal
to temporarily halt the bombing were to cause millions of Afghans to starve
The media silence on this
impending disaster is scandalous. The New York Times, for
example, buried the Oxfam call for a bombing halt, and the U.S. rejection of
that request, way down in an inside story that was focused on the crew of
one of the planes making the U.S. airdrops.
If such a disaster does, God
forbid, occur, I can already see the solemn front-page stories in the New
York Times and other U.S. publications, as well as the editorials
lamenting that not enough was done to prevent such a tragedy, that a bombing
halt should have been undertaken.
The New York Times
will not, of course, explain that its own failure to adequately report on
the disaster-in-the-making when there was still time to prevent it was one
of the causes of its occurring.
and Other Strange Echoes of the Past in the War Against Terrorism
October 20, 2001
During the Vietnam War, President Nixon instituted the policy of
Vietnamization, which turned the fighting over to South Vietnamese troops,
allowing U.S. military forces to withdraw. This policy came to mind as
I began to read about our current military operations in Afghanistan.
U.S. Special Operations
troops just completed a mission inside Afghanistan and quickly left.
U.S. officials are openly speaking about providing arms and air cover to the
Northern Alliance and other Afghan troops fighting the Taliban, so that
these opposition forces can advance on the ground. U.S. bombing
Will this be a lasting
pattern: aid the indigenous forces on the ground, provide air cover, and
execute quick in-and-out operations by U.S. forces? In other words, no
masses of U.S. troops fighting a ground war, no triumphant U.S. soldiers
entering Kabul or any other Afghan city?
It would seem that the U.S.
is intent on avoiding the necessity for a later
"Afghanistanization" of the war, by keeping the war against
the Taliban a mostly Afghan affair from the beginning.
Vietnamization didn't work
because the South Vietnamese government was not supported by the people of
that country, and the South Vietnamese soldiers didn't want to fight.
The U.S. policy now of
avoiding the need for later Afghanistanization, however, may very well work.
Indeed, in a strange echo of
the past, the Taliban can be seen as a latter day South Vietnamese regime,
ruling by brutality and not supported by anywhere near a majority of the
population. A large part of their enforcement mechanism is in the form
of foreign troops imported into the country by Osama bin Laden.
The Northern Alliance can be
likened to the Vietcong, fighting to rid their country of a foreign presence
-- bin Laden's Al Qaeda organization -- and the government it helps prop up
-- the Taliban.
And the United States plays
the role of the former Soviet Union, supporting the Northern Alliance and
other rebels, albeit far more actively than the Soviet Union supported the
Vietcong. The Soviet Union didn't conduct a massive bombing campaign
against South Vietnam, nor strike inside that country with commandos.
But in neither case would the outside power be utilizing large number of its
own ground troops to win the war on the ground.
So while the historical
reverse analogy is not totally congruent, it's applicable enough to give
pause for thought.
Especially so in the
unfamiliarly pleasant fact that, unlike in Vietnam and a host of other
countries in the Third World since World War II, in Afghanistan the United
States is on the "right" side.
of FBI/CIA Bumbling Prior to September 11 Attacks
October 19, 2001
It gets more and more unbelievable.
to German authorities investigating the September 11 attack on the World
Trade Center, a suspect arrested in the United States in mid-August who had
apparently intended to be the 20th hijacker, on Flight 93, received $15,000
in mysterious money transfers from Germany shortly before his arrest.
The money was transferred
through Western Union. Why didn't the FBI/CIA uncover this in August
when the suspect was arrested?
This transfer was probably
made by a known terrorist cell in Germany which has been linked to the
September 11 attack.
In case you're not familiar
with the amazing bumbling of the FBI/CIA in connection with Zacarias
Moussaoui, of which this failure to discover the money transfer is just a
part, here is a brief summary:
Mr. Moussaoui was arrested
on Aug. 17 on immigration charges after a Minnesota flight school
contacted the F.B.I. to report that he had been acting suspiciously.
Instructors were especially alarmed by his request to learn how to fly
large jet aircraft but not how to take off or land.
American law enforcement
officials say they suspect that the man, Zacarias Moussaoui, a French
citizen of Moroccan descent, was meant to be the 20th hijacker in the
wonder whether a closer look at Mr. Moussaoui before Sept. 11 might have
prevented the attacks.
For more details of the
FBI/CIA failure to discover the September 11 plot when they very well could
have, see my timeline summary.
Oppression of Women Might the U.S. Be Obligated to Support in Post-war
October 18, 2001
Commenting on Colin Powell's visit to Pakistan, a New York Times
reporter dryly noted
The high praise heaped on
Pakistan provided a curious sight: an American secretary [of] state
standing next to a general in uniform who seized power in a military coup,
and lauding his achievements.
You sometimes can't choose
your allies in a war, and must hold your nose until the fighting's over.
But what about after the
hostilities end? I'm particularly thinking about women's rights in
I'm sure women could not be
worse off in any post-Taliban regime than they were under the Taliban.
The question is, how much better off will they be, and will their status be
such that the U.S. could stomach aiding the government establishing those
If a new government says
okay, women, you can now go out of your homes without a male escort, but you
still cannot drive a car, nor vote, nor hold any professional position other
than a teacher, would that be acceptable? By acceptable, I mean a
situation where the U.S. would be willing to be a key player in establishing
such a regime and providing it with critical financial and other support in
the early going.
Obviously, a million
different permutations and combinations can be hypothesized about the less
than equal gender relations that might exist under the
"broad-based" government that the U.S. government envisions being
established in Afghanistan.
The bottom line is, given our
commitment to equal rights for men and women, to what degree would we be
willing to violate that basic human rights standard in order to be able to
establish and foster a functioning, and friendly, government in Kabul?
Maybe we can just say
"The women are better off than under the Taliban, and that's good
enough," but somehow I don't feel quite right with that approach.
It seems to be a problem with
no easy solution.
Properly Invokes Geneva Convention in Condemning Terrorists, But Needs to
Apply It to His Own Ideas
October 17, 2001
No one can fault Bill O'Reilly, star of the Fox News talk show The
O'Reilly Factor, for his condemnation tonight of the recent assaults
against the United States:
civilians with germs and jetliners is against every civilized rule of
warfare ever designed. These terrorists have made a mockery out of
the Geneva Convention.
But doesn't O'Reilly realize
that one of his own proposals for fighting the terrorists also clearly
violates the Geneva Convention?
As discussed previously, back in
September O'Reilly advocated completely destroying the civilian
infrastructure of Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, as well as mining the harbors
of Tripoli, Libya.
Then, O'Reilly said, those
populations will have two choices: starve, or overthrow their
"Knock their food supply
out and their water supply out and those people will have to overthrow the
Taliban. It's either that or they die."
"The population must be
made to endure another round of intense pain" O'Reilly said of Iraqi
Regarding Libya, O'Reilly
says, "Let them eat sand."
Besides the appalling cruelty
of O'Reilly's proposal, which even a military counter-terrorism expert on
the show balked at endorsing, O'Reilly's proposal directly violates the
Geneva Convention, which provides:
Article 54: Protection of
Objects Indispensable to the Survival of the Civilian Population
1. Starvation of civilians
as a method of warfare is prohibited
2. It is prohibited to
attack, destroy, remove or render useless objects indispensable to the
survival of the civilian population, such as foodstuffs, agricultural
areas for the production of foodstuffs, crops, livestock, drinking water
installations and supplies and irrigation works, for the specific purpose
of denying them for their sustenance value to the civilian population or
to the adverse Party, whatever the motive, whether in order to starve out
civilians, to cause them to move away, or for any other motive.
[Protocol 1 Additional to the
So here we have yet one more
example of Bill O'Reilly making a fool of himself, this time by blithely
invoking against the terrorists the very international law he himself
elsewhere proposes violating.
If O'Reilly does this
consciously, he's a hypocrite. If he does it unawares, he's ignorant.
Either way, Bill O'Reilly's
foot is in his mouth once again.
Attacks: Does the Media Think We're Idiots?
October 16, 2001
When the first case of anthrax was discovered in Florida, pundits informed
us that it was likely just a coincidence that a short time after the World
Trade Center attacks, an American contracted this disease. Even though
this was the first anthrax case since the 1970's. And even though it
happened in an area where some of the September 11 hijackers lived.
The media explained to us
that the victim, who worked at a tabloid newspaper, had engaged in outdoor
activities where he could have contracted "natural" anthrax.
These denials of reality
sounded as ridiculous then as they do now.
When the second Florida
anthrax case was discovered, the media said that it was "unlikely"
two such cases would pop up "naturally" like that. Gee,
But, we were assured, these
were probably not terrorist attacks, but the work of
"criminals." Well of course, as we all know, criminals often
use anthrax in their endeavors, especially mailing it to people.
Seeking to bolster their
claims, the media told us that prior incidents of biological/chemical
attacks had also been "criminal" in nature, like the time in 1984
when food in an Oregon town was deliberately contaminated with salmonella,
and the instance in 1992 where sarin gas was let loose in the Tokyo subway.
But of course, those acts,
while being in violation of the law and therefore "criminal," were
also terroristic. The Japanese Aum Shinrikyo cult and the cult in
Oregon were trying to kill and terrorize the civilians in those areas for
political purposes, precisely the definition of terrorism.
When anthrax was discovered
in other locations -- the offices of NBC in New York and Senator Tom
Daschle's (D-SD) office in Washington, D.C. -- the media continued their
Alfred E. Neuman level of discourse by wondering out loud whether these and
the prior Florida instances were "related." No, there just
happen to be a bunch of unconnected individuals in all three areas who
possess anthrax and have personal grudges against the media and the U.S.
Finally, after all this,
government officials and the media seem to be acknowledging
these events for what they are: bioterrorism.
But their newest claim is to
have no direct evidence that Osama bin Laden and his Al Qaeda group were the
responsible terrorists. Yup, there's some previously unknown group of
terrorists with the financial wherewithal and scientific acumen to acquire,
develop and spread anthrax.
A friend suggested that
perhaps the media and government officials were trying to downplay the
terrorism angle and bin Laden connection from the very beginning to minimize
fear and panic. Perhaps.
But I'd personally feel a lot
more secure if the media and government didn't try to deny reality for our
sake, because it means they think we're stupid enough to buy their feeble
denials. And if they think we're that stupid, what other kind of
dissembling will they think they can get away with?