Just Above Sunset
August 7, 2005 - The Tale of the Tape

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While blithely snapping aerial photographs over Los Angeles Harbor from a the front seat of the Goodyear blimp, "Spirit if America," much was happening in the other real world on Thursday, August 4.   Instead of the biweekly three-subways-cars-and-a bus bombings in London this third Thursday brought a videotaped message from Ayman al-Zawahiri, the bearded Egyptian-born fellow who is said to be second in command of al Qaeda - Osama's Dick Cheney as it were. The tape was broadcast on Qatar-based al-Jazeera television and it made worldwide news.

In it al-Zawahiri said more destruction was to come - "volcanoes of wrath" as he put it. It's Tony Blair's fault - "Blair's policies will bring more destruction to Britons after the London explosions, God willing."

As Mark Oliver reports in The Guardian (UK) here:


Downing Street refused to make any immediate comment on the tape… Tonight the US president, George Bush, said he would not be deterred by threats from Zawahiri, who warned that the US faced worse casualties in Iraq than in Vietnam.


In the immediate aftermath of the attacks, the prime minister denied the Iraq war was a factor. He said later, after the foreign policy thinktank Chatham House linked Iraq with the attacks, that the war was "an excuse", but argued that terrorists with an "evil ideology" would always find grievances to justify attacks.


Nope, the war had nothing to do with anything.

But al Qaeda differs. They made no claim they were responsible for the London attacks - they only offered approval of them - but their Number Two says: "You will not be safe until you withdraw from our land, stop stealing our oil and wealth and stop supporting the corrupt rulers."

In this new tape we get this: "As to the nations of the crusader alliance, we have offered you a truce if you leave the land of Islam. Hasn't Sheik Osama bin Laden told you that you will not dream of security before there is security in Palestine and before all the infidel armies withdraw from the land of Mohammed? Instead, you spilled blood like rivers in our countries, and we exploded the volcanoes of wrath in your countries."

And he warned the United States that that "tens of thousands" of its military personnel would die if they did not immediately withdraw from Iraq and that continuation of US aggression against Muslims would make "you forget the horrible things in Vietnam and Afghanistan."

Yeah, yeah - and I'd bet Bush's advisors are telling Bush that saying "Bring it on!" once again probably isn't wise, as much as he'd like to say it again.

The Guardian adds this detail:


Referring to the US president, George Bush, the secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, and the defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, he said: "The truth that has been kept from you by Bush, Rice and Rumsfeld is that there is no way out of Iraq without immediate withdrawal, and any delay on this means only more dead, more losses.

"If you don't leave today, certainly you will leave tomorrow, and after tens of thousands of dead, and double that figure in disabled and wounded."




It's probably not the most politic thing to say, but al-Qaeda ideologist Ayman al-Zawahiri seems right about this¿

"Tens of thousands of dead" is probably a huge overestimation. Thanks to improved battlefield medicine and armor, our troops are now extremely hard to kill (as opposed to merely injure) and it would take an extremely long time to reach that figure. Nevertheless, it's quite true that the current deployment in Iraq is unsustainable. You can see it in the polling numbers and you can see it even more clearly in the recruiting figures and the budget. We're going to have to leave Iraq sooner or later, and there's no real prospect of killing every jihadi in the vicinity before we do so.


And Eric Alterman adds this: "It's a hellova day when Evil Terrorist Masterminds appear more credible than the president of the United States, the vice-president of the United States, the secretary of state, the secretary of defense, et al, but don't blame us, we report, you decide."

But note this letter to al Qaeda posted at Wonkette


Dear Al Qaeda,

We read today that you blamed Tony Blair for the London bombings. Isn't this jihad thing supposed be our fault? You know, you hate our freedom and our fancy televisions and loose morals and whatnot? We thought terrorists were supposed be more loyal than that. We invade a whole country for you people and then suddenly Tony Blair is the new man in your life. We have country songs about going to war with you! We sell toilet paper with bin Laden's face on it! Do you think the country that invented repressed civility will ever take pictures of your leaders in their underpants? The British will frown at you sternly and refrain from sticking glow-sticks in your asses and never, ever, once say "Bring it on."

Come back to us when you can handle a real country.



Well, it is possible Bush resents Blair getting all this attention.

Of note - "Red Ken" Livingston, the left-wing mayor of London, wrote an op-ed that appeared in the Guardian on Thursday, some hours before the new videotape was released. Christopher Hitchens and Bill O'Reilly will hate it.

His idea? Treat the Muslim community with respect, both because it is right and to shrink the pools terrorists operate in - and have Britain withdraw from Iraq.

He thinks the British police need more information and claims "the quality of information the police get will be decisively affected by the degree to which communities are treated with respect." He doesn't see the necessity for torture that we see. He will be called foolish and an appeaser, and you can find it here.

His reasoning?


... The reason the US is not able to stabilise Iraq is related to the same critical issue that affects policing in Britain: information. Which is simply another way of saying the attitude of the population.

US forces are ineffective because the great bulk of the population will not give them intelligence voluntarily. Therefore elements within the US military are led to resort to ritual humiliation and torture. This does not yield remotely sufficient information. Therefore US forces are led to relatively blind strikes against those opposing them - inevitably killing innocent civilians. This, of course, has the effect of alienating the population further.

The Iraqi people see US policy in practice. Successive US administrations showed no interest in Iraqi democracy - so long as Saddam Hussein gassed Iranians, Kurds or other US opponents he was supplied with weapons and other support. Only when he struck a US ally was he opposed.

After the 2003 invasion, when US troops were deployed to protect the oil ministry while looting gripped Iraq, when key reconstruction contracts were awarded to US companies, Iraqis understood what was in store for them. US forces cannot win over Iraq's population because the formally stated democratic goals of the forces have nothing to do with the actual policy pursued.

That is also why al-Qaida, previously without a presence in Iraq, now has a strong base there - damaging the fight against international terrorism.

Nevertheless, I want to make the point to some opponents of the war. It is not a policy simply to explain to people: "You are dying because Britain is in Iraq." The bombers came to kill indiscriminately. As one Londoner put it to me: "I am a Muslim and scared - and my first fear is being blown up." I supported action against the Iraq war and I support measures to stop Londoners being bombed.

Right now, only the police can stop bombers. Anyone who tries to avoid this is not dealing with what are literally life and death matters. But the police can only be effective if they get community cooperation. Opponents of the war should continue to oppose it. But they also have to say to London's communities: "Cooperate with the police to catch terrorists" - and explain that the quality of information the police get will be decisively affected by the degree to which communities are treated with respect.

... The London bombings, demand clear thinking, not rhetoric. People's lives depend on the decisions made. These must be for every community to aid the police in preventing attacks; to treat Britain's Muslim community with respect, both because it is right and to shrink the pools terrorists operate in; and for Britain to withdraw from Iraq.


Dream on, Ken.  That's not the real world.

Those of you who follow such things will note Bush and Rumsfeld and most of the right have followed Blair here. It's not the war at all. It's not that we occupy their countries. It's not our support of Israel. It's not any policy we have, or ever had over there. They just hate us. It's completely irrational and don't listen to them.

It would seem knowing your enemy, and what motivates your enemy, so you can anticipate his moves and counter those moves, is not how this war will be waged. That's sissy-talk now.

Our leaders don't need intelligence, or analysis? Seems so.


Copyright © 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
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