Think separatist violence in Europe is a thing of the past? Think again.
Europol, the police arm of the European Union, today released its first Terrorism Situation and Trend Report. It makes for interesting reading. The 44-page report reviews and analyzes terrorist attacks and terrorism-related arrests in 2006 within EU member states. Nearly 500 attacks took place in the EU in 2006, most of them small incidents with limited damage. Of these, the vast majority—424 attacks—were carried out by Basque and Corsican separatist movements in France and Spain. Another 55 attacks were pulled off by left-wing and anarchist terrorists, whose focus was Greece, Italy, Spain, and Germany.
As the report observes, however, it's Islamist terror that really scares the authorities due to its focus on mass casualties. Only one Islamist attack was attempted in Europe last year, the so-called suitcase bomb plot that failed to blow up two German commuter trains in July. But that doesn't mean the threat isn't real: 257 of the 706 terrorism-related arrests in the 15 member states that provided data were of Islamists, most of them North Africans. UK officials did not fork over their data, but the report notes that public information would put the UK right up there with France, which arrested 139 Islamist terrorist suspects in 2006.
What I want to know is: What explains the differences in strategy between the separatists—"whose attacks resulted only in material damage and were not intended to kill," according to the report—and the Islamists, whose aim is clearly to kill as many civilians as possible? Is it due to the inherent differences in the causes themselves? Differences in ideology? The particular evolution of the various groups involved? Why haven't Basque and Corsican separatists decided that mass murder is the way to go? Or would the Islamists garner more sympathy by focusing on small, mostly symbolic attacks?
Mark Bowden, who we interviewed for last week's Seven Questions, has a fascinating cover story (sub req'd) in the latest Atlantic Monthly giving the inside story of how the U.S. military caught al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, as told by the interrogators of a dedicated unit set up by Special Operations Command in 2005.
The title of Bowden's article, "The Ploy," refers to the gambit used by interrogator "Doc," to get Abu Haydr, a high-ranking al Qaeda affiliate captured in April 2006, to give up information that eventually led to Zarqawi's whereabouts:
We both know what I want,” Doc said. “You have information you could trade. It is your only source of leverage right now. You don’t want to go to Abu Ghraib, and I can help you, but you have to give me something in trade. A guy as smart as you—you are the type of Sunni we can use to shape the future of Iraq.” If Abu Haydr would betray his organization, Doc implied, the Americans would make him a very big man indeed.
By playing on Abu Haydr's vanity and creating the impression that he, too, was secretly eager to help save Iraq from Shiite depredations, Doc got his captive to spill the beans, bit by bit. By June, Abu Haydr was singing like a canary:
He explained that Rahman, a figure well-known to the Task Force, met regularly with Zarqawi. He said that whenever they met, Rahman observed a security ritual that involved changing cars a number of times. Only when he got into a small blue car, Abu Haydr said, would he be taken directly to Zarqawi.
And that was the key piece of information that led to the U.S. air strikes that killed the al Qaeda leader on June 7, 2006. It's clear from the article that the U.S. military is eager to show that it now has clean hands; no torture, quasi torture, or abuse was used to get Zarqawi (just the threat of sending prisoners to Abu Ghraib!). Also clear: Icing Zarqawi didn't ultimately change much in Iraq.
The students gathered each Friday night at someone's apartment and at the end of the meal they put on a show called "Friday Night Live," a takeoff on "Saturday Night Live." Mohammed, Ali said, was often in charge of putting together the comedy routines.
"Here is this man who used to be very spiritual. The only unique thing about him was that he had a sense of humor," said Ali. "He was the star. He created plays, the Islamic way. And people would laugh for hours all night. All of the students loved him."
-Babi Ali, president of Muslims for a Better North Carolina and a college friend of al Qaeda mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Chicago Tribune, April 3, 2007
After Google recently updated its satellite images of parts of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, much of the region still looked blotchy — the kind of low resolution that persists in coverage of, say, upstate New York. But several small squares (they stand out as off-color patches from 680 miles up) suddenly became as detailed as the images of Manhattan. These sectors happen to be precisely where the US government has been hunting for bin Laden and his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri.
Turns out, Google gets its images from many of the same satellite companies — DigitalGlobe, TerraMetrics, and others-that provide reconnaissance to US intelligence agencies. And when the CIA requests close-ups of the area around Peshawar in Pakistan's North-West Frontier Province, Google Earth reaps the benefits (although usually six to 18 months later).
Of course, any shots of an emaciated, 6'6" man dressed in white and sporting a long beard will be long out of date. But it's fun to look around one of the wildest places on Earth nonetheless.
I don't know how many of you are die-hard fans of HBO's popular television drama The Wire, but since joining FP in December I've become an addict. The Wire is a gritty, realism-drenched look at the interplay of drugs, crime, police, and politics in Baltimore, one of the most troubled cities in the United States.
Being a Wire freak, the first thing that popped into my head when I read Khalid Sheikh Mohammed's confession was: This guy is full of it.
Why? In Season One of The Wire, Roland "Wee-Bay" Brice, a top hitman for the Barksdale drug organization, gets fingered for shooting a police officer. He then cops to multiple murders, including several that he didn't commit, in order to protect the gang.
Might Mohammed be doing the same thing? I don't doubt that he was deeply involved in numerous al Qaeda operations, including 9/11, of course. The man is a mass murderer. But it's deeply suspicious that he's confessing to so many plots—at least 31. Today's Times story offers the following tantalizing clue:
But Mr. Mohammed interrupted his representative to clarify that he was not solely responsible for a 1995 attempt on the life of Pope John Paul II during a visit to the Philippines.
"I was not responsible," Mr. Mohammed said, "but share."
But with whom? The obvious guess is Ramzi Youssef, Mohammed's nephew. He's currently serving a life sentence for his role in planning the first World Trade Center attack in 1993. But I can't help but think that Mohammed is trying to protect others here, either from among his fellow detainees or al Qaeda operatives yet to be discovered. Who are they?
UPDATE: It looks like I'm hardly alone in making this connection.
It seems like a stupid question, doesn't it?
Of course al Qaeda has a strategy, right? Al Qaeda masterminds have published long tracts spelling out the latest master plan for the glorious victory of the jihad. The best known of these is al Qaeda #2 Ayman al-Zawahiri's rambling Knights Under the Prophet's Banner, which urges the global jihad to shift its focus from the "near enemy" (Arab regimes) to the "far enemy" (America). Zawahiri's goal was to get jihadists from Morocco to Indonesia to push the Great Satan out of the Islamic world so that the region's governments would lose their main protector. Other jihadi theorists may have since become more influential, but the basic "far enemy first" approach remains unchallenged, according to experts.
Beyond that, however, there's actually very little consensus on the details of al Qaeda's strategy in counterterrorism circles, just as there is no widespread agreement as to what motivates terrorists, or even what they might attack next. A recent RAND study tried to get at this last problem:
Each year, the federal, state, local, and tribal governments spend billions of dollars protecting the United States and U.S. property against acts of terrorism, with human, military,and capital resources allocated in ways that reflect the value and vulnerability of each venue to be protected. Yet those buildings, institutions,and icons perceived as being of utmost value to the United States may not be perceived as such to its potential attackers; the country, in other words, may be protecting its buffalo when really it is the goats that are at risk.
(This is an optimistic reading of how Homeland Security dollars are really allocated, but DHS is the client and you don't bite the hand that feeds ya.) The authors then go on to surmise that since al Qaeda is "a goal-driven organization," we should be able to divine its likely points of attack.
As I was reading the study, I was reminded of a famous quote from a Lou Reed song, "Some Kinda Love": "Between thought and expression there lies a lifetime." That is to say, just because al Qaeda has a written plan of action doesn't mean they're able to operationalize it. The real world is much more complicated than a piece of paper, and sometimes you just have to take the opportunities that come your way. So, in looking for patterns in the 14 terrorist attacks it studied, RAND may be prescribing a level of rationality where there is none. By the end, the authors have come to the same basic conclusion:
Thus, while a study such as this might shed light on what the adversary may be thinking, and the consequences of such thoughts, it cannot be used to rule out an attack of one form or another. The next attack may well take place in Ohio even if there are reasons to believe that Ohio (or most of the other 50 states) is not particularly favored for an attack.
Isn't that comforting?
The EastWest Institute's annual Worldwide Security Conference in Brussels this week concluded pessimistically, with the overwhelming majority of security professionals from numerous countries in attendance agreeing that the international terrorist threat is increasing. More recruits are becoming radicalized, despite the fact that intelligence agencies are getting better at thwarting terrorist plots.
A couple of highlights:
These results echo the recent FP/Center for American Progress Terrorism Index, for which over 100 security experts in the United States were surveyed. The resounding conclusion: The United States is not winning the war on terror and the world is becoming more dangerous—in places that policy makers are not even focusing on.
Speaking of Osama Bin Laden—children, avert your eyes. Here's Haaretz relaying a passage from Uri Dan's new biography of Ariel Sharon:
Speaking of George Bush, with whom Sharon developed a very close relationship, Uri Dan recalls that Sharon's delicacy made him reluctant to repeat what the president had told him when they discussed Osama bin Laden. Finally he relented. And here is what the leader of the Western world, valiant warrior in the battle of cultures, promised to do to bin Laden if he caught him: "I will screw him in the a**!"
Where exactly is Bin Laden? No one seems to know! Set in exotic locations around the world the readers' mission in this book is to find Bin Laden in each setting, as well as his accomplices, CIA agents, weapons of (not) mass destruction and many other local characters and things specific to each location. In this tongue-in-cheek picture book there are hours of fun scouring the delightful colour illustrations to find all of the various characters and objects, checking them off as you find them. Good luck with your mission should you accept it.
Their servers appear to have crashed, so I'll just point out this item that appears to conflict with the overall finding that Iranians are "very concerned about the danger of terrorism, reject attacks against civilians overwhelmingly and share strongly negative views of Osama bin Laden":
It is important to note, however, that slim majorities of Iranians feel that some Palestinian attacks on Israeli civilians are justified and view Hamas and Hezbollah favorably.
Pakistan's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Tasnim Aslam responded to charges that al Qaeda and Taliban leaders are holing up in its frontier areas by retorting:
In fact the only country that has been instrumental in breaking the back of al Qaeda is Pakistan."
Meanwhile, the bodies of 25 militants killed in battle in Afghanistan were repatriated to their villages in Pakistan today. Hmmm … what does that say about the existence of cross-border attacks?
GAZA CITY, GAZA - JANUARY 10: Palestinian shopkeeper Tareq Abu Dayea stands next to George W. Bush and Osama bin Laden action figures in his store. The figures come complete with nylon hair and various scale weapons.
These aren't the first action figures of their type to go on the market, but at least they're more tasteful than the Saddam hanging doll on sale in Connecticut.
Jendayi Frazer, the U.S. assistant secretary of state responsible for Africa, said today what most of us already know: that a peacekeeping force is desperately needed in Somalia. With the roots of a deadly insurgency beginning to take shape and the Ethiopian military set to withdraw within two weeks, Frazier said there's a window of opportunity "to not have Somalia be a safe haven for terrorism."
But that will require cash and troops. The United States has already pledged some $40.5 million for reconstruction and peacekeeping efforts in Somalia. But don't expect to see U.S. boots on the ground. U.S. Army Gen. William Ward, deputy commander of U.S. European Command, said today that he doesn't expect U.S. troops to go into Somalia:
Situations change but I do not see it now, and there's nothing that I've heard that implies that at all," Ward said.
It's probably best that way. As a bleak Financial Times editorial stressed yesterday, any peacekeeping force should bear an international stamp:
If the Ethiopians stay they risk uniting much of Somalia against them. If they go, as they say they soon will, they will leave a political vacuum, with Somalia's well-armed clans scrabbling over the carcass of the country. Eventually, it will almost certainly be the more disciplined but now radicalised Islamists that end up holding the ring. [...]
The future looks bleak unless an understanding is reached between the Islamists and the transitional government, with Ethiopian troops replaced by some stabilising force. That probably has to come from the United Nations, in conjunction with the African Union. Neither organisation has covered itself in glory recently, in Sudan or Somalia, and both are overstretched. But the price of failure in the Horn of Africa will be high indeed.
As if we needed another reminder of just how critical the situation in Somalia has become, Al-Qaeda No. 2 Ayman al-Zawahiri will reportedly release a statement calling on Muslims to fight for victory there. The statement is expected shortly, according to ABC News.
Zawahiri's statement, combined with recent comments by Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi that his troops plan to be out of Somalia within a matter of weeks, underscores the urgent need for an international peacekeeping force in the beleageured country.
Dear Representative Reyes:
Congratulations on your new position as chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. With the sorry state of our intelligence community and the continued specter of transnational terrorism (not to mention organized crime, narco-trafficking and nuclear proliferation), yours is an important position and I’m sure you’re enthusiastic about the job. However, I couldn’t help but be more than a little concerned this weekend when I read that you, like so many other U.S. officials involved in counterterrorism, do not know the religious layout of the greater Middle East. Knowing the difference between Sunnis, Shiites and Arab nationalists will not simply make your job easier, it will make it possible. Because I’m sure you’re busy, I took the liberty of writing up a primer for you:
Following the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, terrorism expert Loretta Napoleoni filed a compelling ForeignPolicy.com exclusive disputing the contention by U.S. intelligence that his successor as leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq was Abu Hamza al-Muhajir (aka Abu Ayyub al Masri and at right). She wrote,
... Zarqawi's death has given rise to a new round of propaganda, this time over his successor. U.S. military leaders, under pressure to demonstrate both that they know the identity of Zarqawi's heir and that the link between the insurgency and al Qaeda remains strong, are once again skillfully spinning the facts.
Whoever Muhajir may be, he has reportedly released a message today celebrating the defeat of Republicans in the U.S. elections. The CIA is currently verifying the authenticity of the tape, which taunts the beleaguered administration,
We call on the lame duck [Bush] not to hurry his escape the way the defense secretary did... we haven't had enough of your blood yet... We will not rest from our Jihad until we are under the olive trees of Rumieh and we have blown up the filthiest house — which is called the White House.
President Bush says that if Democrats take over one or both houses of Congress on Nov. 7, "the terrorists win and America loses." In other words, if the Democrats win, they will pull out of Iraq and Al Qaeda will declare victory. But would Al Qaeda really consider it a victory if the U.S. withdrew its forces from Iraq? Or is the Al Qaeda cause better served by keeping U.S. forces tied down in a deadly guerilla war in the heart of the Middle East?
If the Democrats win, they will have to live up to their campaign promises and increase the pressure to withdraw. Even if the Republicans win, the pressure from the American street towards withdrawal is strong on them as well.
This poses a problem for al-Qaeda, since keeping America in Iraq has been so central to its strategy. If al-Qaeda believes that this stage has accomplished its goals, then the author thinks that it will permit the withdrawal and then reap its gains. But the author says that in his personal opinion, the time for the next stage has not yet arrived, and it would be better to keep the stage of America's being stuck in Iraq extended as long as possible. Even if America has suffered many losses, he argues, it remains very powerful and would only take a couple of years to recover from Iraq and return to the field of play. The author fears that al-Qaeda's leaders will fall prey to the temptation to move on to the next stage too early, and not intervene to keep the Republicans in power and the Americans in Iraq.
Therefore, while the author does not know what al-Qaeda wil do, he thinks that al-Qaeda should seek to delay the American withdrawal as long as possible by working to ensure that Bush and the Republican Party win the coming elections."
News reports this morning that the Pakistani military had leveled a madrassa without the help of U.S. forces seemed suspect. For starters, why go after such a politically sensitive target as a madrassa if no "high profile targets" were inside, as Pakistani officials insisted there were not.
Now it turns out there may have been good reason to be suspicious. Over at The Blotter, Alexis Debat is reporting that the madrassa raid was not only carried out by a U.S. Predator drone, but that Ayman al-Zawahiri was the target.
Maybe taking out Al Qaeda's Number Two was supposed to be the October surprise? Debat reports that Pakistani intelligence sources say they have Zawahiri "boxed" in a 40-square-mile area in Afghanistan, and he should be dead or captured in the next "few months."
Is al-Qaeda on the march in Somalia? According to Somali interim PM Ali Mohamed Ghendi, it is. After Islamic militias captured the southern town of Kismayo, on Sunday, Ghendi cried out for international help:
I would appeal to the governments of the region to join our efforts and protect the region from the expansion of this al-Qaeda network, these terrorists."
What makes this characterization completely disingenuous is that Ghendi was among those who celebrated the take over of Mogadishu by the Islamists a few months back. This is Prime Minister Ghendi in a June interview with Radio France Internationale:
It was an excellent step forward... because [the previous secular warlord leaders] were not ready for a government, they were not ready for peace."
So, why the flip-flop? As it turns out, Mr. Ghendi fears that the Islamists may be positioning themselves for an attack on Baidoa, the seat of his transitional government. The al-Qaeda allegation is meant to provide justification for the involvement of Ethiopian troops that are reportedly inside the country. Gregory H. Winger, in a recent Christian Science Monitor op-ed, points out that part of the reason why Ethiopians are eager to defend the transitional government against the Islamists is to gain international aid - because they'll be seen as partners in the war on terror. It's just more evidence that anytime someone wants to get the United States' attention, you'll hear the al-Qaeda connection invoked.
John Robb over at Global Guerillas has an interesting theory: The power outage across much of Pakistan over the weekend is an obvious sign that Musharraf's grasp on power is slipping. Why? Because these kind of infrastructure attacks are tactics straight out of the global guerilla playbook - strike at basic needs and work up. According to Robb, Musharraf is in "survival mode" and no doubt believes that his life is in danger (there have been a number of assassination attempts in recent years), but he has far more to fear from these infrastructure attacks - the ones that "fragment Pakistan's society and economy" - because it's these that will drive him from power. They're the same tactics that insurgents have used in Iraq. If this wasn't worrisome enough, here are a few of Musharraf's recent decisions that are putting U.S. strategy in the region at risk:
- Autonomy to rebels. After the loss of a reported 3,000 troops, Pakistan has ceded the tribal areas of Waziristan (population: 800,000) to pro-Taliban local rule. Weapons will be returned, outposts will be abandoned, and compensation will be paid.
- Safe haven for the Taliban. Pakistan has cut a ceasefire with the Taliban's Mullah Omar. Pakistani troops will no longer hunt down the Taliban (and likely al Qaeda) in Pakistan. This ceasefire also prevents US/NATO troops from crossing the border to pursue Taliban forces.
- Exporting guerrillas to gain good-will. 2,500 Taliban and al Qaeda militants have been released from Pakistani jails (under the stipulation that they will leave Pakistan).
In case you missed the Clinton interview with Fox's Chris Wallace this weekend, here's an excerpt. Bill got fired up, particularly when he discussed ABC's The Path to 9/11 (here's FP's interview with the docudrama's screenwriter) and accusations that he didn't do enough to kill bin Laden when he had the chance.
The editorial pages of global news outfits weighed in yesterday on the anniversary of 9/11, and they didn't have very positive things to say about U.S. foreign policy.
China's English People's Daily Online says U.S. foreign policy, "highjacked" by neo-conservatives, has increased the threat of terrorism worldwide by transforming Iraq into a "hotbed of training ground of terrorist activities." (sic) Their recommendation: evaluate the United States' "double-standard policy in the Middle East," which is "the major source of the increasing anti-US sentiment and terrorist activities."
In The Moscow Times, Alexei Bayer also criticizes the global war on terror (GWOT), writing: "George W. Bush's administration swallowed al-Qaida's bait hook, line and sinker." Instead, he argues, the United States would have been better off ignoring terrorist "provocation" and not treating the conflict as a war, considering the age of terrorism - in the vein of the British in Northern Ireland - a time of "troubles."
Hassan Nafaa in Egypt's Al-Ahram Weekly discusses how GWOT "became a war on Arabs and Muslims," saying that the United States conflated a war that should have been focused solely on al Qaeda.
Be sure to head over to ForeignPolicy.com today. We've devoted the homepage to some of FP's best analysis on the attacks of September 11 and the war on terror. Several of the articles come from our current issue, led by our cover story, "The Day Nothing Much Changed" by FP's managing editor, Will Dobson. Kim Cragin and Andrew Curiel of RAND chart the shocking rise in terror attacks around the world in our most recent Prime Numbers, and Juan Cole debunks myths about 9/11. We also have Anne Applebaum searching for America's admirers, Benjamin Friedman on why everything you know about homeland security is probably false, Kenneth Rogoff on whether the global economy can survive the costs of security, and Christine Fair and Hussain Haqqani on the popular misconceptions of what inspires Islamist terrorism. As we remember that day five years ago - where we were, what we saw, who we lost - it's crucial to challenge the easy conclusions about what it all meant and where we go from here. I think these pieces do just that. See for yourself.
"We're now approaching the five-year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks -- and the families of those murdered that day have waited patiently for justice. Some of the families are with us today -- they should have to wait no longer." So said George W. Bush at lunchtime today.
Of course, the man most responsible for 9/11 won't be tried since he's not been caught yet - and won't be anytime soon if Pakistani Major-General Shaukat Sultan's comments are anything to go by. He told ABC News yesterday that as long as Osama bin Laden "is staying like a peaceful citizen, one would not be taken into custody." The Pakistanis are now playing major damage control. But when you add this to the recent deal where Pakistani troops withdrew from sections of the border with Afghanistan, you begin to think that Musharraf may have outlived his usefulness.
As for bin Laden, he might not be in Pakistan after all. Lawrence Wright, author of the Looming Tower, speculated on the indispensable Chris Matthews show that he's actually in Yemen. But, then again, his argument turned on the fact that if you can't find something after five years of looking, it's probably not there. Sultan's comments suggest the Pakistanis might not have been looking too hard.
The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported on Sunday that Akron, Ohio, authorities have broken up a massive baby formula crime ring. One trafficker was able to unload $44 million worth of baby formula in a mere 15 months. Yes, you read that right. Baby formula. And it gets even better. The Feds are convinced that the black-market baby chow is not just packed with all the vitamins and minerals a growing baby needs, it's also being used to fund terrorist groups.
Since 9/11, federal officials from North Carolina to Texas have broken apart theft rings dealing in massive quantities of baby formula and health and beauty products such as diabetes test strips and contact lens solution.
Most of the theft ringleaders arrested have been of Middle Eastern descent. Federal officials have repeatedly said they worry the black-market profits may be funding terror, but none of the 11 baby-formula cases reviewed by The Plain Dealer involved terror-related charges.
In 2005, the Christian Science Monitor first reported on the murky connection between baby formula and terrorists:
The Federal Bureau of Investigation has traced money from these infant-formula traffickers back to nations where terrorist groups, such as Hamas and Hizbullah, are active, investigators say. Then, the trail usually goes cold. Once funds enter such countries, there's often no way to track them.
Of course, baby formula isn't the only black market item alledgedly being used to fund terrorist groups. Is it just me, or is there a pattern here?
Newsweek reports that among other crimes, smuggler Imad Hammoud is indicted in Michigan for trying to distribute 90,000 knock-off Viagra tablets, which he planned to sell as the real thing. Hammoud regularly wired a portion of his ill-gotten gains to Hizbullah.
Terrorist-linked smugglers buy cheap smokes in states with low tobacco taxes (Virginia, North Carolina) and unload them in states like New York or New Jersey, where taxes run $1.50 to $2.00 per pack.
From producing dirty diapers to funding dirty bombs. Investigators believe stolen formula is often sold back to the stores from which it was originally stolen.
They do say terrorism is a vicious cycle.
On Monday, for the first time ever, a U.S. federal court provided online access to nearly all the exhibits submitted in a recent criminal case. The case? United States v. Zacarias Moussaoui. Several of the exhibits are still classified and under seal (including one entitled "schizophrenia video" submitted by the defense), but there are nearly 1,200 other documents, videos, and photographs available - everything from Moussaoui's report cards from 1975, photographs of the inside of a flight simulator, and "1 box cutter". There's also the "substitution for testimony" from several terror detainees, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the principal architect of the 9/11 attacks. I'm guessing that releasing all of the exhibits is kosher despite Moussaoui's pending appeal of his life sentence, but it just makes every armchair attorney out there able to now render an opinion on whether he should be able to withdraw his guilty plea.
You have to hand it to the Supreme Court. Yes, the Hamdan decision this morning was a rebuke to the Bush administration, and Justice Breyer again invoked the lack of a "blank check" from congress after 9/11. And yes, the justices stated in no uncertain terms that treaties and statutes matter - and that they apply in the war on terror. That's not a small victory for people who believe that the Bush administration has usurped more power than is constitutionally authorized to the president. But what the court has NOT done is tell the president he can never have his military tribunals. He can simply go to congress and ask for more authority, and if congress agrees to alter the Uniform Code of Military Justice, those military tribunals are still a possibility. Jack Balkin calls it a democracy-forcing decision. The president can't decide on his own, and congress has always had the authority to regulate military justice - so the court is using the democratic process as a lever to enforce that power balance.
So, the big question: Would congress pass such an alteration to the UCMJ allowing military tribunals for enemy combatants? Will the administration even pursue such a change before the midterms? How ugly will those campaigns be if this is an election issue?
It's not often that U.S. policymakers get inside the brains of top terrorists, but the translation of an online book available on jihadist Web sites is providing just such an opportunity. The Management of Savagery, authored by an Al Qaeda insider, is a detailed look into the operational and strategic aspects of Al Qaeda's global jihad against the United States.
The Combating Terrorism Center at West Point released the first English translation of the text from Arabic this week. Comparing the strategies outlined in the book to current world events will yield few surprises. The book calls on jihadis to portray America as the invader by confronting the United States abroad (especially in Iraq) and infers that the invasion of Iraq was exactly what Al Qaeda wanted. The strategy does not include major attacks on U.S. soil in the near future because such attacks have the potential to alienate Al Qaeda's sympathizers and boost the moral position of the United States.
You would think that the intelligence failures in the run-up to the war in Iraq would have taught us a thing or two. Not so, says terrorism expert Loretta Napoleoni, in an exclusive article for ForeignPolicy.com. In naming a successor to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, U.S. intelligence is once again getting it wrong. But, this time, is it an honest mistake, or a deliberate manipulation of the facts?
From a June 12 report in Al-mada, an Arabic-language newspaper in Iraq:
The [Iraqi] Foreign Ministry summoned the Palestinian consul in Baghdad Mr. Daleel al-Qassos yesterday morning, informing him of their resentment and the Iraqi government's surprise by the statement issued by the Hamas defending al-Zarqawi as a martyr at a time when the world knows the crimes he perpetrated.
According to a statement by the [Iraqi] Foreign Ministry yesterday, Under-Secretary Lipid Obadi announced that he would ask for clarification of the Hamas position of this statement. Otherwise, the Iraqi government will consider carefully their positions towards the Palestinian government.
This action's real effect on Iraqi government policy toward Palestine might be minimal, but it could end up being another piece of ammunition in Mahmoud Abbas's attempt to reassert Fatah control of the PA. Here is a report on Hamas's controversial post-Zarqawi statement.
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