Posts Tagged ‘War on Terror’

Obama (or his advisors) are too scared to visit the Taj Mahal?

January 24, 2015

Unlike during Bill Clinton’s visit to Agra and the Taj Mahal in 1997, when Agra was turned into a ghost town, this time the Indian government has declined to have the entire city vacated of people and animals just so that Barack and Michelle Obama can visit. It would seem that the security team of the “most powerful person in the world” relies so heavily on only allowing Obama to move into empty spaces that his visit to the Taj Mahal, planned for Tuesday 27th January, has been reportedly cancelled! The US President is not up to making a visit that is made by around 12,000 visitors every day (on average), by around 4 million every year and by up to 300,000 during a long holiday weekend.

It occurs to me that every new security measure introduced – whether for the “ordinary man” or for Barack Obama – is a victory for the terrorists. The bottom line is that if Barack Obama does not visit the Taj Mahal on Tuesday it will be because he (and/or his advisors) were too scared to do so. You could say that they have been well and truly “terrorised”Airport security is primarily driven by the lobby for the manufacturers of security and scanning equipment. They have enjoyed a bonanza since 9/11. It is fairly obvious that the supposed benefits for passengers (which can never be demonstrated) are dwarfed by the benefits to the manufacturers.

The Hindu:

U.S. President Barack Obama is believed to have cancelled the Agra leg of his India visit. The President, who will be the chief guest at the Republic Day celebrations, was scheduled to visit the Taj Mahal with his wife, Michelle, on January 27.

Official confirmation of the cancellation of the Agra leg of his tour is still awaited. “It’s possible that he might leave India earlier,” a government source said, adding that no reason had been given for the cancellation of the Agra visit.

Obama’s security team and the Indian government have been at odds over his 3 day visit.

FirstPostAs the date of the United States President Barack Obama’s India visit nears, disagreement between the security agencies of US and India is getting sharper. ..

…… a number of special requests made by the US secret service to the Indian security agencies and the Indian government have been turned down. Sources in the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Ministry of External Affairs in India confirmed that some of the demands made by the secret service are rather unrealistic.

Here are five areas that the US agencies are disappointed with the Indian security arrangements:

  1. Extended outdoor time

The American president has never been on an outdoor event for more than 45 minutes. However, the Republic Day celebrations in Delhi last for almost two hours. The secret service had requested Indian agencies to either cut short the event or ensure that Obama will not be attending the event for more than 45 minutes.

But the Indian government has refused to oblige, according to a source in the Home ministry. To make things worse between the agencies, the number of tableaux participating in the parade could be increased from 20 to 25. It means that the event may end up extending the function further, beyond the usual two hours. This has not gone down well with the US Secret Service, but the Indian government too is not willing to budge.

  1. No Fly zone over NDMC area

The US security agencies had earlier asked the Indian government to clear airspace over Delhi on January 25 and 26, according to sources in the MHA. In this case too Indian agencies refused to oblige. Following this, it was decided that commercial planes will be kept clear of the airspace over the New Delhi Municipal Corporation area during the event.

However, the US Secret Service had more recently asked the government for a five-kilometre radius no-fly zone (both commercial and the Indian Air Force) imposed around Rajpath during the event. That has also been turned down by the government as it is tradition for the Indian Air Force to do a flypast on Republic Day.

  1. Airspace security over Yamuna Expressway

The Americans are also unhappy about the fact that while the airspace over the 165-kilometre long Yamuna Expressway to Agra, has not been declared a no-fly zone for commercial aircraft while the US President’s convoy is travelling on it. We have restricted the highway from public use for as long as the US President’s convoy is travelling through it. They have two F-35 raptors doing surveillance of the sky and will be flying on top of the President’s convoy. In addition to that, there are a number of security measures taken to ensure that any threat is detected beforehand. I don’t see why they should be upset,” an official at the Ministry of Home Affairs said.

  1. Indian anti-terrorist squad unsatisfactory

Sources also revealed that the US secret service officials said that the Indian commandoes gave unsatisfactory results in the aptitude test on security along with surprise checks conducted by the agency. As a result, the Central Intelligence Agency is bringing their Concealed Anti-Terrorists (CAT) squads to the national capital.

  1. Agra visit

Former US President Bill Clinton called Agra a ‘ghost town’ after his visit to the city on March 20, 2000. But that’s because city was cleared of people for his security. The US Secret Service wanted the same measure extended to President Obama, but the Indian agencies have denied that request as well.

Obama, during his earlier trip had reportedly skipped visiting the Taj due to the fact that the city did not pass the security scanner. “This time around we had issued directions for security arrangements to the state government way in advance,” a senior administrative official at the Ministry of External Affairs said. “But, we want to avoid clearing the city completely. It is an inconvenience for the general public and we wish to maintain an ‘organic’ look of the city rather than it feeling like a deserted town,” he added.

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Measuring the success of the War on Terror

November 18, 2014

How should we judge the success of the War on Terror?

Going by the numbers, terrorism has a high success rate and is increasingly being used as a political tool. George Bush may have unwittingly done more than anybody else – by declaring a War on Terror – to legitimise the use of terror as a tool of effecting political change. He only elevated and enshrined “Terror” as an object worthy of State warfare. My working theory is that giving Terror this elevated status only increases its attractiveness as a legitimate tool for any group which perceives itself to be oppressed or wishes to foment rebellion.

The 2014 Global Terrorism Index has just been released with data upto 2013.

KEY FACTS:

  • 17,958 people were killed in terrorist attacks last year, that’s 61% more than the previous year.
  • 82% of all deaths from terrorist attack occur in just 5 countries: Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nigeria and Syria.
  • Last year terrorism was dominated by four groups: the Taliban, Boko Haram, ISIL, and al Qa’ida.
  • More than 90% of all terrorist attacks occur in countries that have gross human rights violations.
  • 40 times more people are killed by homicides than terrorist attacks.

Why not declare a War on Murder since murder kills 40 times more people than terror?

In 2000 deaths from terrorism were 3,361.

The report is here and I have extracted just two telling diagrams. The number of terror deaths have increased dramatically and the “success rate” of terrorist actions remains high at about 90%.

Terrorism Deaths

Terrorism Deaths

Terror success rates

Terror success rates

 

Tony Blair is still trying to justify his Iraq idiocy

April 24, 2014

The Iraq war, where Tony Blair played poodle to George Bush, was prosecuted on a lie. They didn’t like Saddam Hussain and so they got rid of him. They sexed up their dossiers about Weapons of Mass Destruction. They sold the lie to the United Nations. They managed to establish the principle that any state may get involved in regime-change in any other state – whenever it has the desire and the might to do so. Their idiot-behaviour has led to the growth of subsequent terrorism and of large numbers of  radicalised, Muslim, idiot-youth.

The view history takes of Tony Blair will not be pretty. He will – I think – be seen as an opportunistic, money-grubbing, dishonest politician who took advantage of his former high position for obscene personal gain. The growth of radicalised Muslim youth in Europe with their juvenile antics in search of jihad are a direct consequence of the Iraq War and the War on Terror. But Tony Blair is getting worried about his legacy and his place in history and he is at it again. He would like the world to believe that radical Islam – which he helped to create – must be confronted in a new Crusade.

Tony Blair’s speech seeking to rally global support for a confrontation with Islamic extremism generated a storm of reaction, most of it negative and much of it focusing on the messenger rather than the message.

The director of the Council for Arab-British Understanding, Chris Doyle, said the former prime minister had been right to underline the importance of the subject in his Bloomberg speech but was sharply critical of the way he went about tackling it.

Doyle said: “Blair is largely right to highlight the issue. Islamic extremism is not on the wane. It is flourishing in many areas of the world. Nobody should be complacent. “It is his solutions that are very problematic – particularly the idea that people in the Middle East have to choose between dictatorship and Islamic extremism, and in criticising the Muslim Brotherhood he has endorsed the military leadership in Egypt. But the choice the people of the region need is not between dictatorship and extremism but between those systems and pluralist democratic rule. In fact, dictatorships have often been a significant cause of frustration and anger, and a driving force behind the rise of al-Qaida.”

…….  The Palestinian editor of the Rai al-Youm news website, Abdel Bari Atwan, said: “Blair is implying that extremist Islam is a danger for the whole world. But the target is the Muslim Brotherhood. He is a very good friend of Mr Sisi in Egypt and he does a lot of consultancy work in the region so it’s not surprising that he’s speaking out. He had spent years as peace envoy but what kind of peace has he achieved? We have to differentiate between radical Islam and moderate Islam. If you criminalise Islamists like the Muslim Brotherhood then you are pushing them into extremism.”

Much of the commentary focused on Blair’s own credibility on the subject as much as the subject itself, particularly his role in leading Britain into the war in Iraq alongside the former US president George W Bush.

Doyle said: “Before 2003, there wasn’t an issue of al-Qaida in Iraq. There is now. Intervention is highly risky and almost always leads to situations where extremists flourish. They profit from instability, civil war and the inability of states to manage their territories.”

A columnist for the Saudi-owned al-Hayat daily, Jihad al-Khazen, said: “Blair and George W Bush are as responsible for radical Islam as any of its leaders. The war in Iraq caused the death of almost a million Muslims. It gave a reason for every radical in the Middle East to go to war against the west. “I don’t think Blair will absolve himself of responsibility by making this speech. He talks about how the Middle East matters but he says nothing about Israel’s continuing occupation. He is definitely not the right person to be lecturing on this subject – or to be a peace envoy. That’s an oxymoron.”

….. Meanwhile, a columnist on the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, Anshel Pfeffer, tweeted:

“The fascinating thing about Blair’s speech today is that it could have been a Netanyahu speech, word-for-word, they share the same outlook.”

Blair continues to be one of the most successful recruiters for radical Islam.

Perhaps at the root of all of this is the suspicion that those who will welcome Blair’s speech most will be the radical Islamists right across the region and beyond. One aim of the 9/11 attacks was to incite a vigorous military response that that could be represented as a war not just against radical Islamists but against Islam itself. A “clash of civilisations” may be too strong a phrase for Blair’s speech but a clash of beliefs is not too strong a term to use, to which an Islamist response might well be – “bring it on”.

The War on Terror is a crusade gone wrong. Certainly radical Islam is barbaric and uncivilised. But being barbaric and uncivilised against radical Islam, as Blair is and would like others to be, only legitimises and perpetuates the barbarism. Iraq has been followed by Afghanistan, by Libya, by Egypt and now by the fiasco in Syria. Much blood has been shed but all these irresponsible adventures have been spectacular failures in the War on Terror. Abu Ghraib and unmanned drones and State Terrorism and collateral damage have only legitimised the use of terror as a tactic of war. Boko Haram have learned the lesson.

Perhaps Tony Blair needs to be compared with Bernard, Abbot of Clairvaux and his role in the disastrous Second Crusade of 1145:

…. the Second Crusade, launched in 1145, is generally regarded as a disaster for the Christian West. Even those who took part in the Crusade saw it as a failure. According to William of Tyre:   Thus a company of kings and princes such as we have not read of through all the ages had gathered and, for our sins, had been forced to return, covered with shame and disgrace, with their mission unfulfilled…. henceforth those who undertook the pilgrimages were fewer and less fervent. 

…. Brundage claims that the failure of the Crusade to achieve any victories whatever in the east emboldened Muslim military leaders, destroyed the myth of western prowess in arms, and was to be responsible, at least in part, for causing the Muslim states of the east to draw closer together, to unite for further attacks upon the Latin states. He says that the end of the Second Crusade saw the Muslims preparing to unite, for the first time, against the Latin intruders in their midst, while the Latins, for their part, were divided sharply against one another.

Bernard was the Pope’s poodle as Blair was Bush’s.

One of Bernard’s most influential acts, for better or worse, was his preaching of the Second Crusade. The First Crusade had given the Christian forces control of a few areas in Palestine, including the city of Edessa. When Moslem forces captured Edessa (37:08 N 38:46 E, now called Urfa and located in eastern Turkey) in 1144, King Louis VII of France (not to be confused with St. Louis IX, also a Crusader, but more than a century later) was eager to launch a crusade to retake Edessa and prevent a Moslem recapture of Jerusalem (31:47 N 35:13 E). He asked Bernard for help, and Bernard refused. He then asked the Pope to order Bernard to preach a Crusade. The pope gave the order, and Bernard preached, with spectacular results. Whole villages were emptied of able-bodied males as Bernard preached and his listeners vowed on the spot to head for Palestine and defend the Sacred Shrines with their lives.

…. As for the Crusade, things went wrong from the start. The various rulers leading the movement were distrustful of one another and not disposed to work together. Of the soldiers who set out (contemporary estimates vary from 100,000 to 1,500,000), most died of disease and starvation before reaching their goal, and most of the remainder were killed or captured soon after their arrival. The impact on Bernard was devastating, and so was the impact on Europe.

 I don’t much care for Tony Blair.

Internet chatter leads to US diplomatic lockdown

August 5, 2013

Following my post a few days ago, it would seem that others also question the US Global Terror Alert.  I discern a faint whiff of alarmism and a strong smell of “CYA”.

Reblogged from Bloomberg

Warning to Americans: Be Afraid, Very Afraid

By Jeffrey Goldberg Aug 5, 2013 2:40 AM GMT+0200

Jeffrey Goldberg is a Bloomberg View columnist. He is the author of “Prisoners: A Story of Friendship and Terror” 

It seems as if al-Qaeda, or its Arabian Peninsula branch, has succeeded in terrorizing the United States of America again, but this time without – as of this writing – detonating an ounce of C4. It doesn’t strike me as a wise idea to preemptively shutter 21 different American embassies across the Middle East and North Africa in response to NSA-collected terrorist chatter. What message does this post-Benghazi, “don’t say we didn’t tell you” move send to the citizens of the Middle East, who, it is our hope, understand the United States to be a powerful and fearless country dedicated to openness and to the defeat of fanaticism? We have already muddied any message of fearlessness by turning our embassies into bunkers. Now, we are admitting that these bunkers aren’t safe. What next? Virtual embassies on Facebook? Ambassadors who never leave Washington?

The Administration tells us that the heightened threat of al-Qaeda terror extends through the end of the month. Is the State Department going to keep its diplomatic fortresses closed through September 1? Late this afternoon, State announced that 19 diplomatic posts are going to stay closed until August 10; others, including those in Baghdad, and Kabul, of all places, are scheduled to reopen Monday. It is unclear if these closings will be extended, or if the reopening embassies and consulates will again be closed. It could be that many of our diplomats — who, by the way, are still living in the target countries, just in less secure locations, generally, than embassy compounds – will not be at work for awhile. 

It is plausible that the intelligence community is fearful of this weekend in particular, because, as Bloomberg’s Nicole Gaouette and David Lerman have noted, Sunday is the Muslim holiday known as the Night of Power, and al-Qaeda-type extremists sometimes mark important holidays on the Muslim calendar by trying to kill people. So after the holiday passes, things could return to normal. It will be interesting to watch how the State Department manages this crisis – and, this time, it is being managed directly out of Washington. Usually, diplomatic posts are allowed to make their own judgments about security, independent of State Department headquarters. Not any more.

It will also be interesting to watch whether State clarifies its travelers’ alert to the American public. A couple of days ago, the department issued a warning to American travelers that was notable both for its implied dread and its maddening vagueness: “Terrorists may elect to use a variety of means and weapons and target both official and private interests,’ the warning reads. “U.S. citizens are reminded of the potential for terrorists to attack public transportation systems and other tourist infrastructure. Terrorists have targeted and attacked subway and rail systems, as well as aviation and maritime services. U.S. citizens should take every precaution to be aware of their surroundings and to adopt appropriate safety measures to protect themselves when traveling.”

As a public service, let me translate this warning for you: “Dear U.S. citizen: So, it turns out that al-Qaeda has not been defeated. In fact, its operatives want to kill you. Mainly, they want to kill you if you happen to be in one of the following 21 countries. Also, by the way, they want to kill you in the U.S., but right now let’s not talk about that, and focus on the immediate threat. We don’t know where, when or how al-Qaeda is going to try to kill you – probably August, if it makes you feel any better. In the past, al-Qaeda terrorists have targeted planes, trains, and automobiles, as well as large buildings, and small buildings. Also, boats. Our suggestion is that you not leave your hotel. And stay out of the lobby! Lobbies are dangerous. Actually, come to think of it, al-Qaeda has also targeted hotels in the past, so maybe you should just leave your hotel now, but through the kitchen, or the service entrance. But try to avoid people, and also places where there are people, once you have left your hotel. If you want to come home, please do so, but just be very careful at the airport. Thank you for your attention to this matter.”

In truth, the State Department is in a tough spot: If it doesn’t publicly issue warnings, and something dreadful, God forbid, does happen, the Obama Administration will be blamed by opportunists for not telling Americans they were in danger. But perhaps there is a way to issue these warnings in way that doesn’t fear-monger, and in a way that helps Americans make informed decisions. And perhaps there is a way to manage diplomatic security so as to avoid conveying to the world the idea that al-Qaeda can unhinge us quite so easily.

Iraq and Afghanistan wars have provided a $4 trillion stimulus package

June 30, 2011

The cost of wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan are estimated at 225,000 lives and up to $4 trillion in U.S. spending, in a new report  by scholars with the Eisenhower Research Project at Brown University’s Watson Institute for International Studies. 

Nearly 10 years after the declaration of the War on Terror, the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan have killed at least 225,000 people, including men and women in uniform, contractors, and civilians. The wars will cost Americans between $3.2 and $4 trillion, including medical care and disability for current and future war veterans, according to a new report by the Eisenhower Research Project based at Brown University’s Watson Institute for International Studies. If the wars continue, they are on track to require at least another $450 billion in Pentagon spending by 2020.

The group’s Costs of War project, which involved more than 20 economists, anthropologists, lawyers, humanitarian personnel, and political scientists, provides new estimates of the total war cost as well as other direct and indirect human and economic costs of the U.S. military response to the 9/11 attacks. The project is the first comprehensive analysis of all U.S., coalition, and civilian casualties, including U.S. contractors. It also assesses many of the wars’ hidden costs, such as interest on war-related debt and veterans’ benefits.

The Costs of War has released its findings online, at www.costsofwar.org, to spur public discussion about America at war.

But the institution of war is vital to a modern economy and massive spending of taxpayer’s money – in whatever form – is nothing more than a stimulus package for any economy. Infrastructure spending , sometimes on little needed infrastructure, is a commonly used vehicle for injecting a stimulus. The building industry for example has a vested interest in promoting bridges and roads to nowhere and the car industry supports public schemes for scrapping old cars. That the weapons industry has a vested interest in promoting wars is obvious. And war is also a commonly used vehicle for propping up or revitalising a flagging economy.

Industrial economies are intimately connected with the production of military technology and military capacity. Because of this, the elimination of war would prove economically devastating as large sectors of society, both in technology and manufacturing, would be wiped out.

After the first gulf war in 1991, the New York Times assessed the economic benefits of the conflict

As a result of the war in the Persian Gulf and its aftermath, the United States is likely to borrow far less from abroad this year than last. Many forecasters expect the deficit in the current account — the broadest gauge of the nation’s imports and exports of goods and services — to shrink sharply in 1991. 

According to a report released by the Department of Commerce yesterday, the United States’ current account deficit amounted to $99.3 billion in 1990, down from $110 billion in 1989. The $99.3 billion figure is the smallest gap since 1984.

Here is how the gulf war could narrow the gap even more: For starters, the invasion of Kuwait helped touch off the recession, cooling the nation’s appetite for imports. Then, the allied victory caused crude prices to plunge, slashing the bill for imported oil.

In addition, America’s allies are contributing about $51 billion to the United States’ war kitty, money that otherwise would have had to have been borrowed from private investors overseas. 

Finally, postwar rebuilding in the Middle East will increase business for American construction companies and equipment producers. United States arms makers are also expected to benefit as countries restock their arsenals.

In fact, if the allies anted up the bulk of their share of war costs right away, analysts said, the United States could become a net foreign lender, at least for a month or two, for the first time in a decade.

 

But whether the economic, social and political benefits of the $4 trillion and 225,000 lives spent on the War on Terror have been worthwhile is a question that will not be properly answered except in the light of historical perspective. 

Paradigm shift: Proof is only needed if Osama is alive – his death no longer does

May 5, 2011

The ground has shifted.

The default position has changed to be that Osama is dead. No further evidence is necessary  or can actually contribute further to that default position. The decision not to release any photographs for now makes sense. The additional benefit it can provide is marginal. No doubt the conspiracy theorists and many others will screech and wail about this lack of evidence and how it may be that Osama was not killed.

They miss the point. The “Kill Osama” game is over.

The common perception and consciousness is  that he is now dead.  It is no longer politically tenable to demand that “something be done about Osama” or to criticise the US administration for not having done enough to achieve justice for 9/11. The burden of proof is no longer on the US Administration to show that Osama is dead but is on those who wish to show that he is alive.

Perception is reality.

President Obama can no longer be criticised for any sins of omission regarding the hunt for Osama bin Laden. A partial closure of events of 9/11 and the “War on Terror” has been achieved.  US foreign policy has been a hostage to the events of 9/11 for almost a decade. Some of the constraints are now removed. It frees Obama’s possibilities for actions which were unthinkable as long as the common perception was that Osama was still alive and 9/11 was an open wound. The wound has not healed yet but it now begins to close. A withdrawal or partial withdrawal from Afghanistan now becomes politically possible. US policy can now begin to look beyond what was possible with the shackles of 9/11.

Whether all this was intentional or just a happy coincidence will never be known.

Perception is reality and the perception now – with or without any further evidence –  is that Osama is dead. From the view point of foreign policy development this is not just a shifting of ground – it is a magnitude 9 earthquake. It can allow a freedom of thought in US domestic and foreign policy which has not been possible for this decade of the “War on Terror”.

This represents a fundamental paradigm shift.

Osama bin Laden dead – but he changed our world

May 2, 2011

All the deaths in the US, in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Pakistan and in bomb attacks in many European, African and Middle-East countries can be linked to the events of September 11th 2001 and to Osama bin Laden. Whatever the subsequent duplicity and stupidity of Bush and Blair and Howard, they were merely reacting to what bin Laden had set in motion. Bush’s thirst for revenge in Iraq was enabled therefore by bin Laden.

Bin Laden’s body will no doubt be displayed as evidence buried at sea with DNA collected and there will be much celebration and jubilation in some quarters. There will be dismay and – hopefully – some despair and fatigue among those who use mindless violence for their political aims. The response to the events of 9/11 itself has perpetuated the cycle of violence and has even legitimised the use of terrorism as a political tool. Collateral damage has become acceptable. All manner of “means” have become justifiable and acceptable where the purpose has been the “War on Terror”. Fundamental values have been subject to new limitations and constraints. Using violence to effect regime change in other countries  is no longer taboo. Mass arrests, torture, pre-emptive strikes across country borders and the assassination of  political enemies have become legitimate actions for even “democratic” nations.  All that had been achieved in terms of civil liberties, human rights, freedom to travel and freedom to work since the end of the World War II suffered a massive setback after 9/11.

Ten years on his death is of course a milestone of great symbolic importance. But his death will not provide any simple closure to the  “War on Terror”. All the different political movements around the world which now use mindless violence and suicide bombers in public places will not cease their actions. The Al Quaida networks will not suddenly dissolve. The extremists will not disappear. But perhaps the long-term futility of using such mindless violence will become more obvious to them.

The developments in Tunisia and Egypt were not precisely what bin Laden wanted. He would have preferred a religious uprising. But the rise of the “democratic” yearnings in North Africa and the Middle East could also not have happened before 9/11. Even if the regime in Saudi Arabia is still in place and any democratic movement there is still a long way off, the popular expression of the fundamental yearnings of people  is irreversible and will not be denied.

Osama bin Laden will live in infamy far longer than Bush or Blair. The world after 9/11 is not the same as it was before bin Laden struck. 


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