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Category: Terrorism (page 1 of 3)

Shooting at National Holocaust Museum (Update)

I have no idea what this gunman’s (James W. von Brunn) problem was, but he was on the radar of the Southern Poverty Law Center for a long time. It appears that he has ties with white supremacist groups and also neo-Nazi groups. (Is there a difference?) He reportedly has a website (now not available) with lots of ramblings about Jews and Negroes.
It seems as if the election of President Barack Obama has allowed Pandora’s box to open and all the crazies have fallen out of the box. There was the cop shooting in Pittsburgh. The shooter had some bizarre conspiracy theory. We had the shooting of Dr. Tiller in Kansas by an anti-abortion terrorist. We had some guy in Utah threaten the President in front of a bank teller. There may be a pattern here.
I am extremely saddened that somebody had to die before we could stop this hatemonger. Many news outlets are reporting that the security guard, 39-year-old Stephen Tyronne Johns, was killed. Johns had worked at the Holocaust Memorial Museum for over six years. DK has a nice post saluting Mr. Johns.

From the Southern Poverty Law Center:

Von Brunn is the author of the 1999 book, “Kill the Best Gentiles,â€? a racist and anti-Semitic tome that argues that whites are seeing “today on the world stage a tragedy of enormous proportions: the calculated destruction of the White Race and the incomparable culture it represents. Europe, former fortress of the West, is now over-run by hordes of non-Whites and mongrels.â€? A raging anti-Semite, von Brunn blames “The Jewsâ€? for the destruction of the West. The book is dedicated to prominent neo-Nazis and racists including Revilo Oliver and Wilmot Robertson.
In 2003, AP reported that von Brunn had painted a portrait of Rear Adm. John Crommelin, a raging anti-Semite who was a close associate of neo-Nazi William Pierce, whose book The Turner Diaries inspired Timothy McVeigh’s bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building.
On his website, von Brunn also claims that in 1981, while wearing a “London Fog raincoat to conceal his weapons,â€? he attempted to put the whole Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve under “legal, non-violent citizens-arrest.â€? He wanted “to bind their hands and persuade them to appear on television.â€? The website says he was sentenced to 11 years for his actions. (more…)

Update from Political Animal:
Fox News spent much of April hyperventilating about a report from the Department of Homeland Security, warning of possible threats posed by violent radicals, specifically from anti-abortion and anti-Semitic extremists.
The DHS report, which Republicans spent weeks trying to exploit for partisan gain, looks considerably different now. On Fox News this afternoon, while the story at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum was still unfolding, Shep Smith referenced the memo, saying he remembered the report “warning, ‘look out for crazy extremists out there, about to do weirdness,’ and here we are.”
Catherine Herridge, a domestic security correspondent for the Fox News, said this is “an excellent point to bring up.” She added, “[W]e have to now see those two intelligence assessments that were released by Homeland Security earlier this year — one dealt with left-wing extremists, the other dealt with right-wing extremists — you have to see them in a somewhat different light.”
Greg Sargent added, “If this gunman proves to be an anti-government zealot and white supremacist, there will be tons of cable chatter and mea culpa-ing to the effect that the DHS was doing exactly what it was supposed to be doing in issuing that report. Right?”
We’ll see.
Shep Smith added that the DHS report “was a warning to us all, and it appears now they were right.”

My reflections on September 11

September 11 — I do not want to be misunderstood. I think that having a moment of silence and introspection and reflection is always good. It is as on September 10th as it is on September 11th. Memorial celebrations and remembrances are also good. But should there be more? Should we do more to honor the lives of those lost on September 11th?
Here are a few things that I thought we should do or think about to honor those who died in a senseless act of violence.
Rebuild something on the World Trade Center site. I have no idea what kind of building needs to be built. I know it should be some sort skyscraper. It has now been seven years and all we have is a large hole in the ground. Both Republicans and Democrats talk about leadership. This would be one area we could use a president to stand up and say stop the bickering and let’s build something we can all be proud of.

After we have reflected, one question that always comes up in my mind is — are we safer? Are we safer today than we were on September 11, 2001? I think the answer is yes. I don’t think that airplanes are as easy a target to hijack as they were seven years ago. Cockpit doors had been reinforced. There is more thorough screening at airports. This is good. We should be proud that we have done something constructive that should make it harder to attack us the next time.

As a country, it seems like we should demand more. The security at seaports still remains porous like our enemies couldn’t ship themselves here in a cargo container. There is very little security on our railroads. Railroads carry a huge amount of hazardous chemicals. Trains with hazardous chemicals still roll through densely populated areas. Our borders with Canada and Mexico have yet to be fully seriously addressed. We have tens of thousands of miles of coastline which also need to be addressed. It would seem that after seven years, we would have at least a plan to secure these areas that I just mentioned. But as far as I know, there is no such plan.

Al Qaeda and the Taliban. Although our military routed the Taliban in late 2001 and early 2002, we did not kill or capture many of the masterminds of 9/11. Yes, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed is sitting in Guantánamo Bay. Yet, so many of the other high profile Al Qaeda agents and leaders are still on the loose. After seven years, this seems to be a glaring piece of unfinished business.

Finally, as I complete my reflection, I don’t think a free society will ever be invulnerable to terrorism. Once you lock down a society so tight that there never be a car bomb or any type of terrorist act, you have to trample all over civil liberties. So I don’t think it’s practical. We want to be able to freely move throughout our country. So we have to balance safety with freedom. Maybe this is what needs more public discussion. Maybe this (safety – freedom) is what we all should be thinking about on this September 11th and future September 11’s to come.

Another Bush administration failure

By now, it is hard to keep up with the vast amount of failures that the Bush administration has accumulated. Two of these failures have arrived in the lap of the American people at the same time. The first is the anthrax investigation. The second is the trial of Salim Hamdan (I’ll talk about this later).

After almost 7 years, an unknown number of man-hours and the huge cost of this investigation (must be in the tens of millions of dollars), the FBI concludes that Army scientist Bruce Ivins was the sole person responsible for the anthrax letters. Over the last several days, there’s been lots of speculation but yesterday, the FBI is basically closed the case. Unfortunately, this whole incident looks like an old Alfred Hitchcock TV show plot. “As the confused but brilliant scientist lays gasping for breath on the floor after taking an overdose, the camera pulls back to see a shadowy figure in the foreground with the queer smile on his lips. He walks out of sight as the credits roll.” This is crazy.
When all is said and done, there was a lot of compelling evidence that was presented by the FBI. The problem is in what is missing not in what was presented. Most of the letters were written in the handwriting of a very young child. How did Bruce Ivins do that? Although Bruce Ivins had access to the strain of anthrax that was used in the attacks, how did he turn the suspension of anthrax into the lethal powder form (technically very challenging)? Did he have the knowledge to do this? Did he have access to the equipment needed to convert the liquid form into the powder form? By the way, what was his motive? I’m not buying the flimsy excuse that the FBI tossed to reporters. (He was worried about losing grant funding for an anthrax vaccine so therefore he caused a whole nation to panic and killed five people.) I’m sorry, that just doesn’t make sense. I’ve dealt with a lot of crazy people of my life. People who were truly schizophrenic. They all had a particular logic that can be followed. Yes, the logic may be bizarre but it could be followed. This guy caused nationwide panic so that a grant could be funded? Finally, and what I believe is the biggest flaw in the government’s case is how was all of this accomplished without any help? Our government has tried on multiple occasions to get us to believe that some catastrophe was caused by one lone crazed madman. Whether it was the assassination of John F. Kennedy or the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City, the common thread is that the government is telling us that only one person did it. I find it hard to imagine that one man had all of this expertise. He might have been a brilliant genetic scientist but did he have the skills and the equipment to carry this out.
Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa has called for a congressional investigation. It will be interesting to see what happens in this investigation. Personally, I’m not sure that Congress is ready for a serious investigation into any wrongdoings. They haven’t seriously investigated anything in the last 7 years, why start now?
Glenn Greenwald and Marcy of Emptywheel have some thoughts. Marcy has put together a time-line.

New Yorker cover – Not Funny

I like to laugh as much or more than the next guy. I can laugh at myself and my candidate. Unfortunately, I think that the New Yorker has gone too far. Barack Obama and his supporters have fought hard to inform the American public that he is a Christian American. It shouldn’t matter what religion that Obama is but it does. That’s the reality of 2008. Racism and religion are touchy subjects and New Yorker’s satire isn’t funny. It is insulting.
Update: I didn’t even notice the American flag burning in the fire place. This is all kinds of wrong.
Update II: 13% of Americans still believe that Barack Obama is a Muslim.
C&L has an excellent summary of progressive blogs.

What’s Worse? Taking Money from Osama, or Giving It to Him?

The ABC News blog “The Blotter” drops a leak against Musharraf’s rival Nawas Sharif:

The former prime minister of Pakistan … once received a million-dollar payoff from Osama Bin Laden as a thanks for not cracking down on the militant tribal areas in Pakistan’s northwest border province, according to a former member of bin Laden’s inner circle.

When in power, Sharif aggravated the United States by detonating Pakistan’s first nuclear weapon and turning a blind eye to the Taliban in Afghanistan. Now a former member of bin Laden’s inner circle is saying that Sharif was handsomely rewarded by bin Laden for his policies.
Ali Mohamed served as a special projects coordinator for bin Laden and his deputy Ayman al Zawahri in the mid-1990s. Mohamed, who is now in a U.S. prison for his role in the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings in Africa, has been cooperating with the FBI and providing them with a wealth of information on the inner workings of al Qaeda.

This could well be true, though the source strikes me as dubious.
Regardless, it’s interesting that the feds leaked this to ABC, since they didn’t care in 2005 when Musharraf gave Al Qaeda $540,000.
The Bushies have never prioritized apprehending bin Laden. It has never been the driver of their Pakistan polic, and neither is democracy.
This leak is just the latest dollop of foreign policy hypocrisy. If Sharif is no good for Pakistan, then that’s for the Pakistanis to decide.

The Importance of Pakistan

I always felt that my foreign policy chapter in “Wait! Don’t Move To Canada!” was the most important of the book. I also sensed it would be the chapter that would gain the least traction.
Arguing, as I do, that a liberal foreign policy vision should be largely based on supporting credible democracy abroad surely seems counter-intuitive in the shambles of the Bush Era.
Bush rhetorically based his foreign policy on promoting democracy, and it’s been a total disaster. The nation’s reactive mood seems more partial to realpolitik than anything with a whiff of idealism.
But the point of the chapter was that Bush in fact was not promoting democracy of any sort, but was practicing realpolitik of the worst kind:

The argument is not that Bush shouldn’t be promoting democracy. The argument is that Bush and his fellow conservatives are totally insincere about promoting democracy. Their game is the same ol’ shortsighted, reckless unilateralism — aggressively exerting dominance over far-flung regions of the world, particularly those regions with strategically important natural resources. Never mind if such a strategy leaves, to quote Bush again, “whole regions of the world [to] simmer in resentment and tyranny — prone to ideologies that feed hatred and excuse murder.”

That approach didn’t have immediate resonance with the scarred American public, many liberals included. And so, you haven’t heard many presidential hopefuls making it.
But now there’s Pakistan.
Bush’s Pakistan policy was nothing but realpolitik, reversing the Clinton Administration policy of sanctioning Musharraf for his coup, and instead, becoming best pals. It was either our friendly dictator or Osama controlling a nuclear arsenal.
Now it is clear that the realpolitik choice was not based in reality.
Those leading the democracy movement and suffering from Musharraf’s crackdown are secular liberal attorneys and judges — not terrorists and not religious extremists.
Further. propping up Musharraf with our tax dollars didn’t do anything to get Bin Laden. His government — with Bush’s approval no less — has played footsie with tribal militants the last six years.
The fact is that conservative foreign policy has been primarily concerned with propping up leaders it likes, and taking down those it doesn’t. Supporting democracy and fighting terrorism have always taken a backseat, or more accurately, been kicked to the curb.
That reality is all the more glaring when lawyers take to the streets to get their country back, and Bush leaves them hanging.
Just as his father told the Iraqis to rise up only to sit quietly while Saddam cracked down, Dubya told the world “When you stand for your liberty, we will stand with you,” yet has done nothing for Pakistanis risking their lives for their freedom.
This is not an exception to Bush’s conservative foreign policy. This is conservative foreign policy. And it is a failure.
Yet we liberals have not put forth, in a coordinated way, what are the core principles behind the liberal foreign policy alternative.
If we had, even when our true principles might not have immediately resonated, we’d be better prepared in the wake of crisis like in Pakistan, to explain how we would do things differently and build more trust in our ability to take America and the globe in a more secure and prosperous direction.
That if we had a foreign policy that engaged all parties in any country, in power and out, regardless of ideology, we would show the world’s people that we were not trying to pick the leaders of their countries, and show dictators they could not expect blind support from us to stay in power illegitimately.
That would go a long way to removing the fear of Western domination in the Arab/Muslim region that helps terrorist organizations recruit.
Pakistan is simply a major event that speaks volumes about foreign policy.
The individual protesters in Burma deserve just as much as support as the protesters in Pakistan.
But unlike Burma, Pakistan crystallizes the failure of conservative foreign policy
That’s why it is critical for us to talk about Pakistan in broader terms, and explain how a liberal foreign policy would have made a difference, and still can in the future.

How Did That Safe Haven Get There?

With the latest National Intelligence Estimate finding that Al Qaeda “has protected or regenerated key elements of its Homeland attack capability,” the White House took to the Sunday shows to fight the obvious conclusion that Dubya’s neocon foreign policy has utterly failed.
Their talking point? Pakistan screwed up and let Al Qaeda establish a “safe haven.”
Here’s White House Homeland Security Adviser Fran Townsend on Fox News Sunday:

They’ve been able to take advantage of the agreement between President Musharraf and the tribal elders in the federally administrated tribal area to find safe haven, to train, to recruit.

And here’s Director of National Intelligene Mike McConnell on Meet The Press, responding to a question how could last year’s intelligence estimate say Al Qaeda was “seriously damaged”:

…what happened? What’s different? What changed?
In Pakistan, where they’re enjoying a safe haven, the government of Pakistan chose to try a political solution. The political solution meant a peace treaty with a region that’s never been governed — not governed from the outside, not governed by Pakistan.
The opposite occurred. Instead of pushing al-Qaeda out, the people who live in these federally- administered tribal areas, rather than pushing al-Qaeda out, they made a safe haven for training and recruiting. And so, in that period of time, al-Qaeda has been able to regain some of its momentum.

Who would be stupid enough to get behind a peace agreement with militants tied to Al Qaeda?
George W. Bush, of course.
Townsend and McConnell somehow forgot to mention that peace agreement was “encouraged” by the White House, and publicly endorsed by Dubya — as noted by LiberalOasis recently.
(And Fox News Sunday and Meet The Press neglected to bring it up as well.)
The Bush Administration did not prioritize going after the actual terrorist threat, instead choosing to pursue a permanent occupation of Iraq as a policy goal, whihc has created more terrorists.
While the Bush Administration is trying to use this safe haven to shift blame to Pakistan, the fact is the safe haven is the direct result of a policy that the Bush Administration is directly complict in crafting.
Once again, the failure is their own.

The Sorry History of Bush’s Pakistan Policy

Following Sunday’s NY Times report that “A secret military operation in early 2005 to capture senior members of Al Qaeda in Pakistan’s tribal areas was aborted at the last minute after top Bush administration officials decided it was too risky and could jeopardize relations with Pakistan,” it seemed appropriate to recap the history of the White House’s relationship with Pakistan.
December 2004: LiberalOasis flags that the Bush Administration has given Pakistan a veto over our national security, when the NY Times reported:

Pakistan does not permit American military and intelligence forces in Afghanistan to cross the border to go after militants…
…As a result of the restrictions, American military and intelligence personnel in Afghanistan are no longer really hunting for Mr. bin Laden, an intelligence official said.

Sometime between January 2005 and March 2005: According to the July 8, 2007 NY Times story, this is when the Bush Administration “aborted” an operation to “capture senior members of Al Qaeda in Pakistan’s tribal areas” at a “meeting of Qaeda leaders” where “intelligence officials had unusually high confidence that [Osama bin Laden’s top deputy Ayman al] Zawahri was there.”
Why? In large part because then-Defense Secretary Don Rumsfeld was “concerned that it could cause a rift with Pakistan, an often reluctant ally that has barred the American military from operating in its tribal areas.”
February 2005: LiberalOasis cites reports that Pakistan is literally giving money to Al Qaeda via payments to tribal militants, as part of a “peace deal” — just a few weeks after Dubya praises Pakistan’s counter-terrorism efforts.
March 2005: The Washington Post reports:

President Bush rewarded a key ally in the war on terrorism Friday by authorizing the sale of F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan, a move that reversed 15 years of policy begun under his father and that India warned would destabilize the volatile region…
…”This is just a disastrous thing,” said [former Sen. Larry] Pressler, who now sits on the board of an Indian technology company. “It raises Pakistan, a country that doesn’t stand for anything we stand for, to the level of India,” the world’s largest democracy. “It has nothing to do with fighting terrorism.” Instead, he said, “it gives Pakistan a delivery vehicle for its nuclear weapons.”…
…[Secretary of State Condi] Rice also pushed [Pakistan President] Musharraf, an army general who took power in a bloodless coup in 1999, to commit to holding elections in 2007, and administration officials cited his assurance in announcing the F-16 sale Friday.

September 2006: LiberalOasis highlights that Pakistan signed another “peace deal” with tribal militants that “fight alongside Taliban and al-Qaida fighters” — a deal that was struck, according to McClatchy Newspapers, “with the Bush administration’s encouragement.”
A week later, Dubya says that sending a large number of special forces to “hunt” down Osama was “not a top priority use of American resources.” A week after that, Bush publicly endorses the “tribal deal.”
July 9, 2007: Karl Rove, responding to a question by NBC’s Andrea Mitchell at an event in Aspen about the aborted 2005 operation, says (via MSNBC’s Countdown):

The United States has concerns about taking unilateral action in a sovereign nation without their approval, and uh, so this has always been the difficulty we have with, uh — unless, of course it’s Saddam Hussein.

The audience reacted in laughter.
The point of recapping all of these sorry shennanigans is that to criticize the Bush Administration for failing to pull the trigger in 2005 is not a matter of second-guessing inherently tough intelligence calls — the way conservatives have done with the Clinton Administration’s counterterrorism record.
This is a case of a deeply flawed conservative foreign policy.
This conserative foreign policy prioritizes misguided geopolitical goals ahead of actual threats to national security.
The Bush Administration gives Pakistan a veto over our national security, sends Pakistan goodies,while literally encouraging Pakistan to appease Al Qaeda. Meanwhile, it embarks on a permanent occupation of Iraq that has created additional terrorists.
Also, this conservative foreign policy does not actually promote democracy
The Bush Administration has continually propped up the Pakistan dictatorship and done nothing to push for democratic reforms.
As noted above, We gave them F-16s two years ago presumably for free elections this year. Instead, Pakistan is in political turmoil because Musharraf has been trying to consolidate his dictatorial power, with nary a peep from the White House.
This aborted Pakistan operation in 2005 is no isolated incident. It’s a crystallization of an utterly immoral and impratical conservative foreign policy, which has only brought more terrorists and more instability.

“We Have To Fight Them Over There, So We Don’t Have To Over Here”

An argument you will never hear in Great Britian.

Quote of the Day

Soon-to-be former Prime Minister Tony Blair:

…removing Saddam and his sons from power, as with removing the Taliban, was over with relative ease. But the blowback since, with global terrorism and those elements that support it, has been fierce and unrelenting and costly. And for many it simply isn’t and can’t be worth it. For me, I think we must see it through.

Blair can’t dare make the empty argument, “we must fight them over there so we don’t have to fight them over here,” since England has been hit during the occupation of Iraq. He has no choice but to acknowledge the “blowback.”

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