Tag Archives: Pakistan

Osama and the use of “bin” as a homophone of “been”

2 May

Lucky for me I’m jet-lagged, so it’s not too off-putting getting up at 1:30 in the morning to hear the news that international bogeyman – our generation’s Carlos the Jackal – Osama bin Laden, has been eliminated in Abbottabad, Pakistan. One can only wish there was a Costellobad nearby.

Bin Laden has for some years been a largely ceremonial head of just about any grouping of disaffected Islamic youth who decide that extremist jihadism is a great way to rebel against society or their parents. His elimination is a day of celebration and remembrance, and I’m grateful not for what some commentators are referring to as “closure”, but instead for the sheer revenge factor. With bin Laden’s elimination, almost all of the people who planned the 9/11 attacks are either in custody or dead. That’s a fundamentally good thing, with credit going to both the Obama and Bush administrations.

Qaedatards pledge an oath of personal allegiance to bin Laden, and there’s really no one with his stature or charisma to replace him in that terrorist social network. Could al Qaeda be finished?

Since that fateful day in 2001, the United States has been fighting what has been termed a “war on terror”, but that’s an impossible war to wage. Terror is a feeling, not an army. Terrorism is something that has existed since time immemorial, whereby people or groups wage irregular attacks against military and civilian targets alike in order primarily to make people afraid, and secondarily to make some oft-facile point. Terrorism as a tactic is something that cannot be “defeated” in the traditional sense of fighting wars. It is something that needs to be monitored, infiltrated, prevented when possible, and punished when not. The best way to combat terror is to keep calm and carry on, and to remain vigilant against it.

In retrospect, I think, the biggest shock from 9/11 was how ineffective and sieve-like our security apparati were. We Americans have a short attention span, which means we tolerate window dressing (color-coded threat levels) over real effective change. We consolidated many agencies under the “homeland security” umbrella, and they’re supposed to be working together and sharing information.

I think bin Laden’s elimination, and the upcoming 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks should lead to some “closure” of a real sort. The money, effort, and attention we pay to fight three separate and distinct wars in Asia and Africa could be so much better spent on solving longstanding issues here at home. Reforming the tax code to make it more fair and simpler, ensuring that Americans have access to quality health care that doesn’t bankrupt them, and otherwise saving or redirecting trillions of dollars spent now on multiple quagmires.

What I’m trying to say in a roundabout way is that Osama’s death won’t end terrorism. No act or omission by our government or military can ever end terrorism, any more than a war on drugs will end drug use. It’s a largely symbolic milestone.

But what a symbolic milestone it is. The killing of a mass murderer is a great thing to celebrate. The upcoming days will reveal more details about this operation and we’ll consume them with glee and awe. But since we’re the last superpower, we’re a huge target – both collectively and individually. Extremists and murderers will continue to want to become infamous by killing us.

Live your life. Be happy. Do things. Travel. Read. Write. Draw. Paint. Buy. Make. Invent. Love. Discover. The best way to defeat terror is to be. And to not be afraid.

(Image courtesy of Marquil at EmpireWire.com)

Woe is Mo: #Hassan Trial Day 9

1 Feb

Poor Mo.

When Mo beat Aasiya, she called the cops or child protective services. She’d get restraining orders. He said she used this as “intimidation tools” to get her way. She would yell at him, and he’d become “like a turtle”, and retreat into his “shell”.

Poor Mo.

When Aasiya tried to escape with the kids to the airport, the babysitter driving them testified that Mo tried to run them off the road. The babysitter has no reason to lie. Mo says he was just innocently chasing after them in his car and never left his lane. He got a ticket.

Poor Mo.

Aasiya went to the hospital in 2007 to seek treatment for injuries resulting from one of Mo’s beatings. He introduced evidence to prove that he was in Dubai at the time of her hospital visit. He even wanted to show some snapshots to the jury. The medical record showed that Aasiya told the hospital that she had suffered the beatings “20 to 25 days ago”. Mo didn’t have an answer for that.

Poor Mo.

Mo went abroad for a month. He went to Mecca to pray to God for guidance in how to deal with his battered wife’s anger. He went to Pakistan and bought lots of gifts. What a good dad! What a good husband! Yet when he returned to the US, he was “greeted” with a new restraining order. He tried to commit suicide, but it didn’t work. He felt humiliated during his supervised visits with his kids.

Poor Mo.

It cost him $20,000 to “clean up that mess” – meaning the restraining order, not the blood from when he stabbed and beheaded his wife.

Poor Mo.

Mo started keeping a journal in 2006. He began keeping it “to get in touch with [his] own reality as to what was happening to [him],” and to “help Aasiya break through her denial of the abuse”. He likened Aasiya to a “dragon” who lashes out in private while maintaining a cool public persona. He also tried to introduce into evidence a cumulative & redundant list of everything he had testified to over the past several days. He drew a diagram of a pendulum to illustrate Aasiya’s moods swinging. The “evil dragon” was Mo’s second zoological analogy of the day.

Poor Mo.

After the jury was excused, Judge Franczyk ruled on several of Hassan’s requests for subpoenas, and will allow several fact witnesses and one psychiatrist who examined Hassan. A request to re-call Hassan’s kids was taken under advisement.

Poor Mo.

The trial that has devolved into an episode of Dr. Phil, right down to the psychobabble, continues today. On Friday, Hassan had briefly called a witness to testify on his behalf. She was called as a character witness, having known Hassan while they attended college in Rochester together. Basically, he asked her to confirm for the jury that Hassan wasn’t a homicidal, controlling, spouse-battering maniac back in college. The problem for Hassan is that the prosecution cannot introduce character evidence as part of their case-in-chief, but a defendant can. Once the defendant does so, it opens the door for the prosecution to introduce their own evidence of Hassan’s bad character and reputation.

And don’t forget – the prosecution gets to cross-examine Hassan once he’s done telling Oprah the jury how badly he felt when Aasiya was angry at him.

A lot of people have made the supposition that all of this is cultural, pointing mainly to the act of beheading as proof of this theory.  The problem is that traditionally, Muslim societies like Pakistan are largely patriarchal.  Are we meant to believe that a Pakistani male would justify his supposed “honor killing” by whining about how badly he felt when his wife was mean to him?  Would he turn his trial for his “honor killing” into an episode of Dr. Oz or Dr. Phil or Dr. Drew or Oprah?  No, his testimony has served to underscore the fact that the murder of Aasiya Zubair was the act of an enraged maniac who was angry that he was losing his Svengali-like hold over his battered wife.  This wasn’t a Pakistani honor killing, it was a murder based on rage.  The text messages entered into evidence last week revealed that Hassan didn’t just wait patiently and calmly in a darkened studio to murder his wife, but that  he lured her back into the studio so he could commit the act.  His last text message to her was basically, “you made me do it, bitch!”

Cold-blooded, pre-meditated murder.  The battered spouse syndrome defense is a legal expansion of the self-defense justification for homicide; the battered spouse is so psychologically helpless and wounded that she feels constantly threatened with systematic and severe physical violence, so she pre-emptively kills her habitual attacker to save her own life.  Hassan’s supposed justification?  His wife raised her voice at him sometimes. So he cut off her head.

As a domestic violence expert told YNN,

Sisti believes Hassan may be making the claim simply to manipulate the jury into believing he was justified in killing his wife — a claim that doesn’t hold much water with Sisti.

“That’s classic sociopath,” Sisti said. “Someone else is causing me to do this I will not take responsibility for my own behavior. If he’s experiencing the relationship as he’s describing it, why not leave the relationship? Why kill someone?”

Again – if he felt so victimized in this relationship, he had the perfect way out;  Aasiya had filed for divorce.

(Story culled from the Buffalo News live blog and the #Hassan Twitter hashtag, which also explains the title of this post. I have included the hashtag in the title of the post so that people following the trial on Twitter can see this post. Please don’t complain to me about it.)

Radicalizing a Generation

26 Oct

Earlier this month, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, noting the 10th anniversary of the fall of Slobodan Milosevic and the 15th anniversary of the Dayton Peace Accords, meeting with Serb President Boris Tadic, and holding a townhall meeting with Bosnian students in Sarajevo. Clinton wanted to send a message of openness and outreach, pushing Bosnia to join the EU and NATO, and further meld with Europe. The message she got in return, however, was different. Bosnian students fear for the fractured nature of their state, as the new head of Republika Srpska (the Serbian piece of Bosnia) calls his larger state “absurd,” and ethnic tensions, never eradicated, are growing again. Meanwhile, a generation is growing up in Serbia removed from the larger world, and resenting it more with each year. The impetus for the next war is sown in the treatment of the losing side in the previous. A pariah nation for over fifteen years, young Serbians know no other world than an isolated one. Mein Kampf was written in such circumstances, and in Europe, the West is (should be) working hard to avoid that fate a second time.

Not so in other parts of the world. When, as part of my paying job, I teach Counter-Insurgency Theory to the US Army as a government contractor, I like to find the youngest member of the class and ask them what they were doing on 9/11. A typical response: sitting in math class in fifth grade. Meanwhile, another eleven year old may have been starving in Kabul due to food shortages in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. Or attending a madrassa in Pakistan where the only reading they were allowed to do was from the Koran. Or running AK-47 magazines to their older cousin, fighting the Northern Alliance near Mazar-i-Sharif. Whatever the history, now those two people will meet, in the Hindu Kush: the fifth grader in math class in Dallas, Texas and the Koran student from Pakistan. And while the American has been spending his time playing XBox, sneaking beers behind the high school football stadium and worrying about the senior prom, that Afghani or Pakistani eleven year old has endured nothing but war for nine years. 

Image courtesy The Boston Globe

A generation can not grow up under constant threat, or isolated from and punished by the larger world, and not become radicalized, ideologically and/or violently. The only way to do the least long term damage to a country’s people is to minimize the amount of time killing, and maximize the amount of time healing and rebuilding. Note the failure of three successive administrations to do that in Afghanistan.

Eastern Afghanistan has been the subject of American attacks since August 1998. Very soon after the ground invasion in October of 2001, the American government and military prided itself on having learned the lessons of the Soviet experience: small footprint, pinpointed attacks, small amount of collateral damage. 90% of any success we had in that war we had in the first 90 days, with the Taliban routed and Al Qaeda demoralized and ostracized as “camels” by the Afghan people. Since the Spring of 2002, however, we have steadily undone that success with each subsequent action we take to consolidate gains. Now we look at Afghanistan through an intellectual fun house mirror: success will be measured by adding additional troops, for a specific (longer) period of time, to accomplish an undetermined goal. At that point, in 2011 or 2012, prior to the American Presidential election and after a longer occupation than the Soviets implemented in the 1980’s, we will leave the same way our Russian counterparts did: after a declaration of victory, in our wake will remain an unpopular, feckless, puppet government, a radicalized generation, and the seeds for the next conflict. The mythos is complete; substitute Predators and Reapers as our Hind helicopters, and IEDs from Iran and Iraq for our Stinger missiles.

President Obama is fighting for the midterm elections, fighting to reintroduce his healthcare legislation, and fighting Republicans on income taxes, but he is not fighting the Afghan War with any regularity, public interest, or discernable strategic end state in mind. A new report on war is not positive, to put it mildly. If I may be so bold, the President has taken his eye off the ball.

Warned of the threat of Al Qaeda, and in an effort to distract from the Monica Lewinski scandal, President Clinton thought a couple cruise missiles would fix both his Afghanistan problem and political troubles. Representing an angry nation, President Bush came closest to a reasonably short and decisive end state, but frittered it away in a Wall Street Bank-esque attempt to leverage his gains. President Obama won an election on opposition to one war, but with few plans for this one, he spent his political capital elsewhere. President Obama is now down to a strategy of drones and timelines, and is relying on voter apathy for ultimate political success. Obama’s policy is as ineffectual as Clinton’s, but the constant harassment is fertilizing the seed of retaliatory violence in an already radicalized generation.

The differences between Afghanistan and Bosnia are a matter of scale, not of type. What lesson is Bosnia and Serbia reteaching? You can’t marginalize and isolate the youth of a nation for the sum of its upbringing. The consequences of President Clinton’s decisions are still echoing in Bosnia and Afghanistan, and History, that elusive author, is not done writing the story of his interventions. Serbia now has a lost generation, and we’re still dropping bombs in Afghanistan and Pakistan, 13 years later.

Obama is Soft on Trrr

2 Feb

From Andrew Sullivan:

In a matter of months, both leaders of the Qaeda-allied Taliban in Pakistan have been targeted and killed by US drone attacks. The latest was in retaliation for the murder of CIA officials in a suicide attack by a double agent who turned on the US. If you add this record – and there are many examples of similar surgical strikes decapitating Qaeda figures in the last year – to the ramp-up of forces in Afghanistan and overhaul of strategy there, I think you can make a very solid case that in the war on Jihadist terrorism, Obama is proving far more effective – in both soft and hard power – than the Bush administration ever was.

The Republicans will not concede this, because their war is not really at this point on al Qaeda. It’s on Obama.

Remember that next time some Bush deadender tries to tell you that Obama is soft on terrorism.

Hi, Karl! Hi, Dick!