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Jay Currie

One Damn Thing After Another

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Let's hope they got'em

"LONDON (Reuters) - British police said Friday they had arrested four more people in a major crackdown on terror suspects sparked by fears of an al Qaeda attack.

Police said the quartet were arrested west of London directly under the flight path into Heathrow airport. They are being held under the country's anti-terrorism legislation."

In case anyone was wondering about how seriously the English take the threat...


Mercury News | 02/13/2003 | Anxiety, fear rising with risk of terror

"Some are developing exit strategies. One Capitol Hill aide said he and his wife had agreed to meet at a remote house in rural Virginia in case of an attack.

``Boom! Get the kid and go,'' the aide said."

That must have been some briefing....

Dead as Heaven on a Saturday Night

Listening to Leonard Cohen at four in the morning. Closing Time.

I spend my days being afraid, angry and surprised. War, whether smart bombs to Baghdad or radiologicals next door seems in tune with what Cohen has been singing about for years.

Of course Cohen can console himself with the years on Hydra with Marianne. The spirit of the age suspended in a haze of retsina and pot and poetry. We should be so lucky.

My friend Bob wants there to be no war. So do I. But at what price? Bob and I have been known to have a few beers...bin Laden's tape specifically inveighs against alcohol. Neither of us wants to stone homosexuals to death or practice honour killing. At the same time we are not fans of the suspension of civil rights or the idea that if you are not behind the President you are not patriotic. Too many memories of the fights and the abuses of the 60's and the 70's.

Is George Richard Nixon? No. Or at least not yet. Nor does he have to be. All he needs to do is follow his own best instincts about what is best for the West and for America. Without spin and without larding in religion.

Andrew Sullivan talks about "eagles". Libertarian hawks? Something like that. Mainly they are Americans who want a strong, idealistic nation which stays the hell out of the private business of its citizens.

The idea of an Eagle in Canada seems almost bizarre. Imagine a Canada with a pro-Western foreign policy and a culture of letting people live their own lives. Far too scary. And where would the votes be? There are votes in keeping our distance from America, none that matter by supporting our oldest friend and greatest partner.

Well, with luck, later in the week, Bob and I will hoist several un-Islamic beers in celebration of a surprise cheque from a federal government giveaway program. I expect we will disagree. It is unlikely either of us will declare a fatwa on the other for being a blasphemous infidel - we might suggest a few things about our respective parentage - war mongering bastard has been bandied about. We will be surprised and more than a little pissed off if any governmental or religious leader decides to intervene.

Weirdly that is what is called liberty. Not much of it about. Not this time of year.

Osama bin Laden (?) At Tora Bora

"And our centers were targeted from the first hour of the American strike on (inaudible) 20th, the year 1422 Hegira, or corresponding to October 7th, 2001. We were subjected to intense strikes and then it continued intermittently until the middle of Ramadan, and after that, on the morning of the 12 in Ramadan, intensive air strikes began after the American leader was certain that Al Qaida elements were in Tora Bora, including this humble servant, and that rebel fighter Dr. Aminizara (ph). And the flights were around the clock, so not a second passed without military planes flying over our heads day and night.

Wherein in the Pentagon, command center, devoted with all its allied forces, was determined with all its allied forces to blow up this tiny spot and annihilate it. So the airplanes poured fire over us, especially after they ended their mission in Afghanistan. The American airplanes hit us with smart bombs and heavy bombs, and string (ph) bombs, and also used bombs that penetrated caves and also bombers like B-52. The circuits were two hours over our heads, and each time fired 20 to 30 bombs. And the C-130 airplanes bombed us with carpet bombs and other murderous bombs.

Despite this tremendous bombing, which was coupled with the outrageous media campaign, that was unprecedented on this time (inaudible), not to mention the hypocritical (ph) forces used to fight us for two continuous months, we managed to confront all their daily attacks, thanks be to Allah, and we forced them back each time defeated, carrying their dead and injured.

Despite all that, the American forces did not dare to invade our location. So what clearer proof is there to their cowardice and fear and lies and their alleged (inaudible) surrounding their forces?

The conclusion of the battle was the great and miserable failure of the forces of evil over a small group of mujahideen, a group of 300 in the trenches inside one square mile, at a temperature that was 10 degrees below 0. The result of the battle was the death of a few of us, 6 percent approximately. We prayed that Allah will accept them as martyrs. And as for our injuries in the trenches, it was at the rate of 2 percent, thanks be to Allah.

So if all the international forces of evil could not achieve its goals over one square mile and a small number of mujahideen with very humble capabilities, how can these evil forces achieve victory over the Islamic world? This is impossible, Allah willing, if the people held fast to their religion and insisted on fighting for his sake."

It will be interesting to see in fifty years if Tora Bora marked the first step in the defeat of the West or the moment when the West decided to take itself and this war seriously.

Brilliant as airpower is, it does not actually win wars. The smartest bombs in the world will miss. Digging trenches is remarkably effective. Which the Americans know.

To win in Iraq, and the Americans and their allies must win if they go in at all, will mean serious fighting at a street level unless a coup can be engineered. If that fighting takes place there will be a lot of casualties, American, British, Australian, Canadian. Which we have to be prepared for.

A perfect solution is a billion dollar bullet smack between Uncle Cuddly's eyes. Less perfect is a room with a view in Tripoli; but the fact is these are happy, happy outcomes.

Only because the issues are so serious should war be contemplated. But bin Laden armed with even a little anthrax is very serious indeed.

Amnesty International - Library - Iraq: Systematic torture of political prisoneres

Nice to read what the French, Germans and gallant little Belgium are fighting so hard to defend:


Women too have been tortured, ill-treated and in some cases extrajudicially executed in Iraq. Su'ad Jihad Shams al-Din, a 61-year-old medical doctor, was arrested at her clinic in Baghdad on 29 June 1999 on suspicion that she had contacts with Shi'a Islamist groups. She was detained without charge or trial and was released on 25 July 1999. She was initially held in Baghdad Security Directorate and then was transferred to al-Ambar Security Directorate (also in Baghdad) on 5 July. Su'ad Jihad Shams al-Din was tortured frequently during interrogation by security men. Methods of torture included mostly beatings on the sole (falaqa) with a cable.

Some women have been raped in custody. They were detained and tortured because they were relatives of well known Iraqi opposition activists living abroad. The security authorities use this method to put pressure on Iraqi nationals abroad to cease their activities. For example, on 7 June 2000 Najib al-Salihi, a former army general who fled Iraq in 1995 and joined the Iraqi opposition, was sent a videotape showing the rape of a female relative. Shortly afterwards he reportedly received a telephone call from the Iraqi intelligence service, asking him whether he had received the ''gift'' and informing him that his relative was in their custody.

In October 2000 dozens of women suspected of prostitution were beheaded without any judicial process in Baghdad and other cities after they had been arrested and ill-treated. Men suspected of procurement were also beheaded. The killings were reportedly carried out in the presence of representatives of the Ba'ath Party and the Iraqi Women's General Union. Members of Feda'iyye Saddam, a militia created in 1994 by 'Uday Saddam Hussain, used swords to execute the victims in front of their homes. Some victims were reportedly killed in this manner for political reasons.

Najat Mohammad Haydar, an obstetrician in Baghdad, was beheaded in October 2000 apparently on suspicion of prostitution. However, she was reportedly arrested before the introduction of the policy to behead prostitutes and was said to have been critical of corruption within the health services.

A woman known as ''Um Haydar'' was beheaded reportedly without charge or trial at the end of December 2000. She was 25 years' old and married with three children. Her husband was sought by the security authorities reportedly because of his involvement in Islamist armed activities against the state. He managed to flee the country. Men belonging to Feda'iyye Saddam came to the house in al-Karrada district and found his wife, children and his mother. Um Haydar was taken to the street and two men held her by the arms and a third pulled her head from behind and beheaded her in front of the residents. The beheading was also witnessed by members of the Ba'ath Party in the area. The security men took the body and the head in a plastic bag, and took away the children and the mother-in-law. The body of Um Haydar was later buried in al-Najaf. The fate of the children and the mother-in-law remains unknown."

Amnesty International

It's the end of the World as we know it, and I feel fine

Code Yellow. Run on duct tape. Not at Ken Layne's house. Here is the survival kit. I hope I get invited over.

* Two cases of Chianti Classico. And a bottle each of Glenfiddich, Kettel One, Cuervo Gold and some other booze. Don't forget the mixers.
* Jumbo bottle of aspirin.
* Carton of Camel Lights. Hell, better make that two cartons, because all the non-smokers are suddenly going to want to light up.
* Case of San Pellegrino mineral water. I'm sure as hell not going to drink Arrowhead when the world's ending.
* Corkscrews, lighters, wine and shot glasses, and other such tools.
* 500 lbs of ice. That should last a few days.
* 200 fresh oysters, beneath the ice. And a shucking gizmo.
* Condiments: lemons, Tabasco, horseradish, Tapatio, olive oil, etc.
* 100 fresh tamales, various flavors (beef, elote, chicken, cheese & green chile). These keep for days -- and if you pack 'em in an ice chest, they'll stay warm.
* Guns. Lots of guns. Maybe we need 'em to fight the invaders. Maybe we need 'em for target practice.
* Steaks. Aged beef won't be harmed by a few days in the garage. Also, mesquite for the BBQ.
* A bank of car batteries hooked up to the teevee, radio, stereo and DVD player. And lots of DVDs & CDs, for when the news channels go dark.
* Several guitars. Everybody can be all melodramatic and such. I foresee lots of Johnny Cash songs. And some Bob Dylan songs.
* Manual typewriter, index cards and a wind-up clock. Blogging will be impossible if it gets really

Coffee, the bugger forgot coffee...What if the "event" happens before ten in the morning??


A double for Bing

I think I have a new personal hero.Stephen Bing. First he boffs Elizabeth Hurley and then he screws Sean Penn.

Bravo Bing!

Something is up

"Legislators and their staff have been issued gas masks and are undergoing training on how to use them.

Staffers in the Capitol hallways traded tips on what to do to prepare for a possible attack, including keeping $1,000 in cash in their homes and stocking up on water and duct tape. "It's always worse after the people with [security] clearance get briefed," said one Democratic House aide."

OK. Heathrow is covered in the British Army. Securitiy cleared folks are heading to Home Depot.

What would be interesting and, frankly, in the public interest to know is what the security cleared are being told that we are not.

Red Ken's dilemma

If ever there was an instinctively anti-American, anti-war, English socialist it is Ken Livingstone now the mayor of London. Even now he is trying to soft-soap the rather horrific threat level which is apparently present in London.

"Any terrorist attack on the capital will probably involve "a small device", London Mayor Ken Livingstone said today.

He urged Londoners to remain alert but described the move by the US government to tell Americans to stockpile food and buy tape to help seal their homes against possible chemical attack as "over the top".

Saying that it was like a throw back to the US war preparations of the 1950s and 1960s, Mr Livingstone told a press conference: "We are not advising that in London.

"There is always the danger of a catastrophic attack by al–Qa'ida, we think something less than September 11 considering the battering his (Osama bin Laden) organisation has had.

"Much more likely in London it would be a small device like we saw for 30 years in the IRA campaigns."

Well let's hope he is right!


bin Laden (?) on War

The tape could be a hoax. Or propaganda. But in itself it is instructive. bin Laden wants to believe that the Americans are vunerable at the level of fighting through cities. As we have not seen the Americans really engaged in close warfare we simply don't know if this is true.

What we do know, if the tape is actually bin Laden, is that he has both the collapse of Afghanistan and the retreat from Tora Bora to his credit. The former is about the politics of war, the later about the tactics.

Iraq could be Afghanistan II if the population is as disaffected with Saddam as the propaganda would suggest. But it could be Tora Bora if the core Saddam supporters manage to hole up in a section of Baghdad or hide out in the various hills and even mountains of Iraq.

I would not give bin Laden much as a political man; but tactically he managed to retreat in the face of staggering odds.

Empires, beginning with Rome, have always had huge trouble with guerillas. The word comes from the name the Romans gave the generations of proto-Spaniards who made their occupation of Spain a living hell.

I very much want the Americans to get on with the necessary job of removing Saddam; but they need to carefully consider how best to combine that with a steady, effective and likely non-military war agains the situation which has allowed bin Laden to give military advice.


I know I just pointed to another Josef Joffe piece below but this from the Telegraph is just too good a precis of how the Germans have completely missed the boat on Iraq.

"Germany as the odd man out? This must be the nightmare now wafting through the chancellor's office. Can it be banished? Yes, if coldly calculated interest prevails. It whispers ever so loudly: "Don't mess with Mr Big unless the stronger battalions are on your side." Belgium is not enough."

Isolated UK rubbishes French plan

The wonders of Euro politics never cease to amuse. Admitedly this is from the Guardian:

The foreign secretary, Jack Straw, will underline Britain's isolation in Europe today by rejecting a joint call by France, Russia and Germany to avoid war by sending more weapons inspectors to Iraq.

"Mr Straw, in a speech in London, will dismiss the plan, formalised in a declaration in Paris last night. France wants to treble the number of inspectors, but the foreign secretary will deride the idea by saying that even a thousandfold increase would fail to guarantee Iraqi disarmament."

Let's see, Russia is not a European country, not a member of the EU and just as likely to line up with the Americans depending on Blix's report.

France and Germany - aka "Old Europe" and Axis of Weasels - are nicely balanced by Spain and Italy. Oh, and if you are picking sides, Turkey, also not a Euro but a member of NATO, seems to have landed in the lonely camp of the English. And did we mention Eastern Europe? No, well there you are.

In fact, as this article from suggests, Germany itself is divided over the Ssssocial Democrats use of the NATO veto to lock Turkey out of the basic defence provisions of the NATO treaty.

Isolated? Well, no doubt Our Lady Peace in Ottawa is trying to be out when Jack Straw calls to enquire after Canada's position - after all we are NATO members too. But I'm sure Straw will get over that.

It's not the Oil

The "no blood for oil" folks, demonstrating that rhetoric rather than economics is what they are really good at, miss one of the critical facts about the current world: America does not need Iraq's oil now or in the future.

Jim Hoagland makes the point:

"That brings me to oil. Ali, this is not Big Oil's war. Big Oil is interested in price and supply stability. War is bad for both. Yes, Bush and Cheney come from oil backgrounds. But I think that inclines them to want a Goldilocks world: oil prices that are neither too high nor too low but just right, in the range of $25 to $28 a barrel, which suits OPEC, Russia and Texas. You don't go to war in oil fields to achieve that result, or to improve your economy or your approval ratings. The downside risks in all those cases are too high."

Even a simple cost benefit analysis makes nonsense of the blood for oil argument. The rough cost of taking on Saddam, assuming a quick war, has been estimated at between 30 and 50 billion dollars. For that sort of money you could build twenty oil sands recovery projects in the rather friendlier climate of Alberta and supply the complete needs of every SUV in America for the next thirty years.

There are excellent reasons for invading Iraq - oil is not one of them.



The Australian: Greg Sheridan: Despising America [February 06, 2003]

Replace Australia with Canada and Sheridan's article gets the anti-American madness exactly right.

"Anti-Americanism should be studied as a serious psychological affliction, a pathological condition which paralyses the mind's analytical capacity. Contemporary anti-Americanism has many sources. Let me offer you just a few."

So go read the article.

What we have here is a fundamental misunderstanding

"The principal problem is not the number of inspectors but rather the active co-operation of the Iraqi side, as we have said many times," Mr Blix said in Athens, after his 11th-hour visit to Baghdad this weekend."

As the French, Germans and now Russians scurry around trying to find a way to avoid the Americans rolling up Saddam, Blix makes the point that more inspectors are not in issue.

If the Iraqis do not actually point the inspectors in the direction of their weapons and destroy those weapons where the inspectors can verify that destruction they are not complying with 1441.

By the same token, the apparently conditional acceptance of U2 flights - the condition being a cessation of American and English flights in the no-fly zones - is meaningless without active co-operation.

Putin heads for key(???) Paris talks

The CBC is a beacon of objectivity compared to the BBC:

"Russia and France - two of the most powerful players in the Iraq crisis - are set to begin key talks on the way forward."

Why? Do they have troops on the ground? Do they have a UN resolution backing them? Do either have modern armies?

Would either France or Russia actually say to the United States "We will fight to protect Saddam? I thought not. So why are they players, much less powerful ones? If they veto they will be ignored and sidelined. Putin knows this, Chirac knows this - so why the bluster?

DEBKAfile - Al Qaeda’s Opening Shot in Iraq War

"The wiping out the PUK high command in Suleimaniyeh has alerted Western counter-terror agencies to the possibility of its being the precursor for another massive al Qaeda strike against the United States or its allies. Al Qaeda has taken advantage of the presence of its operatives in a given territory to hit pro-American military leaders present in the same place. One such operative is Abu Musaab al Zarqawi, who is in charge of terrorist activity in Europe and the Middle East, as well as the worldwide distribution of the network’s stock of chemical, biological and radioactive weapons. It is therefore possible that the murder of the Kurdish commanders signals the next major al Qaeda outrage."

Usual Debkafiles cavet, believe about 50%. But the pattern is there.

Rember the Marine general who fought the Pentagon to a standstill in an Iraq invasion simulation. This is the sort of clever and deadly attack he used to do it.

At Little Green Footballs there was the rather macabre discussion of where al Qaeda might strike. Even Canada got a mention.

The more genral point is the one made in a number of comments - al Qaeda is in the business of creating war between Islam and the West and between moderate and fundamentalist Muslims.

The point about religious fanatics is they hate heretics even more than they hate pagans. The Saudis have had several incidents of what the old Soviets would have called hooliganism. A full scale riot in, if I recall, Riyhad about six months ago. The House of Saud is expressly mentioned in the original al Qaeda shitlist for allowing Infidel Americans to be stationed on its soil.

Trying to figure out where the fickle finger of al Queda will point next is pretty futile - what we have to hope is that brilliant police work and 800 so-called fighters in cages in Cuba will have had some effect.

Saddam is a little easier to bet on - if he decides to take the Masada option and has biologicals then I'd run the target list - Saudi, Israel, Kuwait and Iran. After all, the reason why the Americans are in Saudi in the first place is to protect the House of Saud from Saddam.

My prayer is that there are some very quiet eyes with some very hard core weaponry sitting in the Western Desert watching Saddam's chemistry and biology. With a little luck, about a day after the Axis of Weasels is finally told "Thank you very much but Iraq is not actually going to allow little men in blue caps to legally invade." The hard men in the desert take out the munitions and an hour later Baghdad's command and control infrastructure absorbs several thousand smart bombs.

France and Germany Pushing for Extended Iraq Inspections

"France confirms there is no secret Franco-German plan on Iraqi disarmament," a French Foreign Ministry spokesman, Bernard Valero, said today. In Germany, Chancellor Gerhard Schröder also said there was no secret plan."

None at all...not even a hint of one...rather like chemical and bioogical weapons in Iraq.

Just how smart is Tony Blair

While the American press and Secretary of State are having fun at the Axis of Weasel's expense, Josef Joffe makes the key long term point.

"This French-German attempt to gang up on Mr. Big seems to have backfired — undermined by the inconvenient fact that there still are at least 18 other European countries determined to have a voice. Yet the other major players will break ranks again unless the greatest power since Rome learns to respect a simple maxim: To lead is to heed. This is not the counsel of wimpishness, but of wisdom."

Which, and I hope Our Lady Peace is reading, makes Tony Blair look like a genius. There he has been at Bush's side with more basic influence that most of Bush's cabinet. Lambasted as a poodle, Blair turns out to have been a sly dog. He managed to put the UN into the mix, he has managed to keep the friendship of the United States; most of all he had put himself in a position where he actually has a veto. If France exercises its veto it will be ignored. If Blair suggests the ides of March might make a better date for the kickoff, Bush will listen.

England is no less a has been power than France; the difference is that Cool Britania may just re-invent herself as the one check on America. If she does it will be Tony Blair's vision which will have placed her there.


Vive Poor Little Belguim

"But Belgium's Foreign Minister Louis Michel said Sunday his country would protest before the Monday deadline.

"We are now busy with France and I think also with Germany to write this letter to again fully use this veto. We are going to block it between now and Monday -- it is settled."

It would be hard to blame Rumy if he simply said the hell with Nato and left it and the United Nations as toothless talking shops...But he soldiers on.

"The debate that's going on at NATO could be damaging if it goes on much longer," he was quoted by The Associated Press as saying. "I hope there will be flexibility to prevent a robust debate turning into a fairly substantial disaster."

Blix, with more discernment than his inspectors have so far shown in either detecting weapons or deception, has detected "The beginning of a change of heart."

At some point, likely when Saddam has made fools of the French, Germans and poor little Belguim, the world will proceed with all deliberate speed to marshal its troops on the borders of Iraq...By which point the Americans and their coalition of the willing will have been in command of Baghdad for several months.

But the French are such easy targets

"US Secretary of State Colin Powell immediately told US television that the European proposal dealt with the "wrong issues" and would serve only as a "diversion".

"The issue is ... not for inspectors to play detectives or Inspector Clouseaus running all over Iraq looking for this material," he said, in a snide jab at France."

Piling On

"Mr. de Villepin also suggested that Saddam's government pass "legislation to prohibit the manufacture of weapons of mass destruction." (I am not making this up.) That proposal alone is a reminder of why, if America didn't exist and Europe had to rely on France, most Europeans today would be speaking either German or Russian."

Thomas Friedman gets the point about "Old Europe". Meanwhile, England continues to fight above her weight. Andrew Sullivan outlines the shape of the Anglosphere here .

I think Friedman could be right about replacing France with India, but it would also make some sense to add Brazil, an African nation and that weird polyglot known as Egypt. There is no magic in having five members of the security council, nor is there any great requirement that a member have nuclear weapons. These days any nation with a few biotech folks can build weapons as devastating as the atomic bomb which were around when the UN was founded.