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Archive for September, 2001

Some issues I’m wondering about

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 30th September 2001

* If we can’t use Saudi air bases for this fight, why not pull out of them? I realize they may serve as bases against Iraqi aggression, but if that happens, we could just fly back in, assuming the Saudis don’t crumble immediately. In the meantime, it looks like a win-win-win move: we have one less thing for Bin Laden to be mad about, the Saudis have one less thing for Bin Laden to be mad about, and Bin Laden has one less thing he feels he should be mad about (in what I hope is the very short lifespan remaining to him).

* I wonder about the Iraq grievance expressed by many in the Left. My impression is that the embargo explicitly allows for sufficient food and medicine to be imported by Iraq, and Hussein is simply starving his own people for political gain.

* Why not a moon-shot type of push for development and distribution of vaccines against germ-warfare microbes like anthrax, smallpox, etcetera? We could share the project with Europe, Japan, Russia, China, and whoever else wants in, but limit the number of laboratories involved to a highly secure few, and set up on-demand monitoring protocols by anyone including Saddam Hussein, so that trust in the project becomes possible. Make open, unannounced-inspection-participation in this the only legitimate reason for having stocks of these microbes/viruses, and the only way to get the vaccines. Make discovery of illegitimate stocks cause for an immediate state of war with the offending nation or party by all signatories.

I’m a lot more worried about this than an accidental missile launch, the only halfway reasonable reason to support missile defense. I’m also aware of the U.S.’s fairly shameful recent record on the diplomatic front regarding biological warfare. We must do better now.

* What are sensible reactions to the September 11 attacks in terms of privacy? I would support, or at least consider, measures like these:

1) make it either a criminal offense, or at least automatic probable cause for search warrants and/or surveillance, to use encryptions without keys known to US/world law enforcement agencies. Install “Carnivore”-like systems to monitor and randomly test e-mails and file transfers and TCP/IP communications in general for compliance with this international convention, as a condition of participation of an Internet server in the Internet, or at least of access to key international and United States “fat pipes”. I am admittedly unclear on the technology of this, but am not willing to cede the discussion to “slash-dot” types who seem to see an inalienable right in every new technology or communications protocol that comes along. Thus, ditto for unapproved and/or unmonitorable file-sharing software such as Gnutella, and for steganography (concealing messages in graphics).

A general “pro” argument is: these means of communications exist at the discretion of the public, for the benefit of the public. Abuses of them for criminal ends should be prevented; if there are no feasible means for this other than sampling Internet traffic, so be it. People can always write a letter, make a phone call, or visit in person and attempt to evade surveillance while doing so. Broadly, the question is: should anyone have access to “unsurveillable” means of communication? Is this truly some kind of inalienable right?

2) lower standards of privacy for non US citizens, at least for future entrants to the U.S.: fingerprints of all foreign visitors to be collected and stored on entry to the US; prison terms for people using a different name than the one connected with their fingerprint-passport. Of course, we would expect similar treatment from other countries.

I feel bad about even considering some of these things, particularly (2), but I would at least like to see some sane discussion of them. The test can’t simply be “this (would/would not) have stopped Atta et al,” although some of it would have at least appreciably slowed them down, and would now help with establishing the “proofs” many want to see. Some kind of heightened “defense” may reduce the need for military/special forces-type “offense” in the long term: the goals of privacy and peace are to some degree at odds, particularly in this struggle, conflict, war, or whatever one chooses to call it.

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Bin Laden is right: the Saudis are worthless

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 30th September 2001

U.S. Warns of New Attacks; Taliban Hides Bin Laden Back and forth they go: But Saudi Arabia — a key U.S. ally and the guardian of Islam’s holiest shrines — said on Sunday it would not allow foreign forces to launch attacks against Muslim Afghanistan from its territory.

“This is out of the question,” Interior Minister Prince Nayef told a news conference, although he did not rule out the possibility that Riyadh might allow America to use its airspace or territorial waters for some other purpose.

Let’s pull out of there. If we can’t use these bases for a purpose like this, why should the Saudis benefit from them either?

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First prisoners?

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 29th September 2001

TICKER – Afghanistan: Drei US-Soldaten in Haft? Arab news network “A_l J._.s.i.r.a”, +/- the “Arab CNN”, is reporting that 3 US soldiers have been taken prisoner. No word of this yet in American news.

(edited to avoid frequent search hits for Al J. on 03/24/2003, again 9/22/2004)

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Problem solved

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 29th September 2001

That should do the trick: U.N. to Require Members to Act Against Terror: “The United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted an American- sponsored resolution this evening that would oblige all 189 member states to crack down on the financing, training and movement of terrorists, and to cooperate in any campaign against them, including one that involves the use of force.”

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The Iraqi Connection?

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 29th September 2001

Osama, Saddam, and the Bombs by David Plotz, in Slate, provides a quick summary of the main points supporting and not supporting the idea that the 1993 World Trade Center bombing was masterminded by Saddam Hussein. The author of this theory, Laura Mylroie (Study of Revenge: Saddam Hussein’s Unfinished War Against America), now argues this and other evidence (Mohammed Atta’s movements allegedly included meetings with Iraqi officials) strongly suggests that Saddam was also involved in the 9/11 massacre.

Plotz concludes that “before the world will enlist against Hussein, American officials will need to prove that he was behind Sept. 11. To do that, they must find stronger evidence than Mylroie … and others have presented so far.” But what if that evidence is found?

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Although maybe shutting up altogether would do

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 29th September 2001

Struck warnt die Grünen: The leader of the SPD in the Bundestag has warned the Green party that failing to agree to military support for the US in the war against terrorism could result in the end of the “red-green” coalition. Later on, he apparently softened that warning, but echoed a thought of my own when he said that (quoting the report) [...die Grünen müssten sich aber klar machen, dass sich die Solidarität mit den USA nicht in Gedenkminuten erschöpfe.]: “…the Greens must make clear to themselves that solidarity with the USA can not be limited to a few minutes of silence.”

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Just another American hero

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 28th September 2001

Eulogy in Honor of Mark Bingham Delivered by Senator John McCain

By way of well known background: Mark Bingham was one of the passengers on Flight 93 who reported he was going to help rush the cockpit; the terrorists’ goals for this plane were evidently not accomplished.

He was also gay: the clearest evidence ever that term also encompasses “hero,” “brave,” and “decent” (just as it can encompass all the other good and bad attributes of humanity). It was all the more sickening to remember Falwell and Robertson interpreting the attacks as the wrath of God for our nation’s tolerance of homosexuals (among others). Somehow you get the impression neither of them would have waddled up that aisle to save a nation so deserving of punishment.

McCain only referred to this indirectly (“Pay no heed to the voices of the poor, misguided souls, in this country and overseas, who claim that America brought these atrocities on herself. They are deluded, and their hearts are cramped by hatred and fear.) But he clearly knew who he was eulogizing, and I appreciate his decent, aware, and strong words for this man’s life and death: “To all of you who loved Mark, and were loved by him, he will never be so far from you that you cannot feel his love. As our faith informs us, you will see him again, when our loving God reunites us all with the loved ones who preceded us. Take care of each other until then, as he would want you to. May God bless Mark. And may God bless us all.”

I work about three blocks from the White House. I may well owe Bingham and his comrades my life. I will always remember them.

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In memoriam

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 28th September 2001

The World Trade Center: Before, During, and After is a picture portfolio published by the New Yorker. (You’ll need Acrobat). I don’t care what architects thought: the Trade Center was beautiful. I hope they rebuild something like it there, or something else that is brave and large and grand.

The other thing: those pictures of the missing. There’s a place in the Holocaust Museum where there is a wall full of pictures of people from (one town?) that was wiped out in the Holocaust. A memorial, when one is built, might make some kind of copy of each of those missing posters, and attach it to that sail-like remnant of the Trade Center that was hauled off intact for a purpose like this.

Another use might be as “signature propaganda,” not that all of the families involved might approve: make postage stamp size versions of each missing person photo, and include all 7,000 pictures in payloads dropped with every bomb in Afghanistan.

I suppose the first idea was better. But the second one is how I feel.

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Recommended

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 28th September 2001

Matt Welch’s “war blog” is a “blog” I’ve been following since early this week; he has the time and talent to do a much better job of following developments than I do. Put him more or less in the Christopher Hitchens camp on the war against bin Laden. His site has been where I first picked up a number of the links cited below, eg, the “Open letter to the peace movement.”

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Under attack

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 28th September 2001

AN OPEN LETTER TO THE PEACE MOVEMENT, by Charles Deemer, published in Willamette Week Online: Long-time peace movement adherent says goodbye for now: “…Over the years, however, I’ve expressed the view that, if the U.S. were under attack, I would support a military response. And I believe that is the case now, which is why I am leaving your ranks…”

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