Thursday, December 15, 2005

Another defeat for al Qaeda!

Yet another defeat has been handed to al Qaeda to add to the growing list. Today Iraqis went to the polls in droves. Al Qaeda tried as hard as they could for going on three years to prevent this day from coming, and they failed.

Al Qaeda is failing across the globe. They are failing to attract significant numbers of the Muslim population to join their gruesome mission. Public opinion in the Muslim world is turning against them. Their networks are being ripped up, their financiers uncovered, their funds frozen or taken away. At an increasing rate the leadership is being found and brought to justice or killed. There are signs that they are beginning to turn on each other as more governments infiltrate their ranks and distrust among them begins to spread.

They can not succeed. They have twisted the word of God and used it for the devil's work. They kill without concern for who absorbs the impact of their deeds. They kill children, they kill innocent civilians, they kill anyone and anything that happens to exist near them, they are nothing more than agents of death and destruction. They kill other Muslims that don't agree with them, they will kill anyone of any religion that accepts the rule of secular law. They create their own courts with proceedings that mock their religion and meet out punishments that are appalling by any civilized standard. They behave like animals.

Where do they go from here? Defeated in Afghanistan, defeated in Iraq, crumbling in Saudi Arabia, dying every day in Pakistan, crushed in the Philippines, tracked down in Indonesia they are fewer in number and weaker every day that passes. What else should they expect?

A mission we have been working toward in Iraq is now accomplished. Over the next few months ballots will be counted, committees will form, offices will be appointed, and a new government will begin taking it's first steps into the future. Each month that passes produces a stronger army and a larger police force. The population tracks down and turns in the terrorists in their midst. A people begin to take back their country first from the chains of tyranny and then from the fog of chaos. A bright new future dawns with the sun today in Iraq and soon our sons, daughters, neighbors and coworkers can begin their journey home having handed the evil bastards of bin Laden yet another humiliating defeat.

And let me also add an open letter from an American Muslim to al Qaeda and a column entitled Blowback May Bite Al Qaeda .

Hey, Osama! You seem to have a hole in your doctrine. I am seeing a trail of lost hearts and minds behind you.

I don't drink the kool-aid

One problem I have in life is not conforming in lock-step with the political left or the right. While I generally consider myself more than a little right of center, I will take issue with people when they attempt to take things out of context or make something appear what it isn't. I see this done all the time on both sides in order to appear to create additional validation of their viewpoints. I saw it this morning when the first blog I visited had a thread concerning a speech by the former Malaysian president to an Islamic peace conference. His speech was "spun" in the blog as another example of Muslim extremism. I believe this is an improper understanding of the context of the speech. He wasn't defending or validating Syria or Iran. He was criticizing what he sees as a US policy of threatening military force as the largest threat to peace in the region. In other words, the speech should be taken in the "peacenik" context in which it was intended, not as a Muslim extremist defending Iran or Syria.

He was being critical of US policy in the region. I can understand why that might concern him. There is either combat or speculation of future combat with regards to three countries in the region today. Iraq where combat is currently underway as well as Iran and Syria where there has been speculation of future combat. All three of these instances involve the US. So in that context we could appear, as the former president says, a major threat to peace and one reason smaller countries feel a need to arm themselves, behave defensively toward us, and possibly even seek nukes.

I got to thinking about this and have been trying to get to the root of it. What exactly causes us to feel a need to take military action to solve problems of this sort? I believe the answer has something to do with speed. We as a country are unprepared to build programs that might take 10 or 20 or 50 years to bear fruit. We aren't prepared to work for regime change in Iran in ways that might take 25 years to succeed. Our approach seems to be either full engagement or nothing, we ignore you. Cuba is an example. We could have gotten rid of Castro long ago if we had been working slowly, quietly, in the background, undercover. Instead we took a policy of complete disengagement. It hasn't worked.

The reason we seem unable to embark on programs that take 10 years or more might be the nature of our politics. Our government can't commit to anything that long because there is no guarantee who will be in power 5 years from now, let alone 20 years. And part of our politics is for one party to always criticize and destroy whatever the other party wants to do so if such a program were started by one party, it would be dismantled or so changed by the other party as to need to start over again. In other words, we use military force because the effect is immediate. We can't "afford" to take a 10 year approach to regime change in Iran or Syria because we can't guarantee the programs will ever run beyond the current administration or congress. This is just another symptom of what makes us appear to be unreliable to people in other countries. You just never know what the US is going to do after the next election. But whatever we decide to do, we are going to be determined to do it with guns blazing if required, or at least the threat of guns blazing, or maybe not taking the option of guns blazing off the table, or something like that.

The problem with our form of government is that it was designed when the average lifespan was much shorter. 8 years was a much more significant slice of time in the world in the 1700's than it is today.

An alternative would be to increase by 50% all political terms in this country. President would be 6 years, Senate 9 years, House 3 years. This would give a party a chance to hold power for 12 years rather than 8. The President would still face the possibility of Congress changing under him. He would still be limited to two terms, but it would make it more likely that we could embark on projects that might take longer to bear fruit.

The reason we are so impatient in the world and appear so arrogant and bullying is because a President only has 4 years (they might get 8, but doesn't know that going in to the first term) to make their mark on the world. If a President runs on a platform of democratizing the Middle East, for example, he has 4 years to do that. Any method short of military intervention isn't likely to provide results in that short a timespan. You aren't going to change another country's government in one election cycle through political means, it takes a generation ... or two. If a President begins a policy that is more peaceful but likely to take longer than his term, the next administration is likely to either kill it, or reconfigure it into something completely different.

So until we get some long term vision in our politics, I am afraid we are going to be doomed to running around the planet telling people to straighten up now or risk being bombed. That isn't likely to instill a lot of trust in us from small, weak countries and we will see them continuing to strive for "the bomb" so they have some way of holding us at bay.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

I don't buy the Islamophobia

Osama bin Laden had a goal to create an army of 12,000 hardcore radical Islamic militants to serve as a cadre in a larger struggle for global jihad. He failed. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in his direct confrontation of US forces in Iraq had called for Muslims from all over the globe to come join him in his struggle to defeat democracy. He failed.

Imagine for a moment. bin Laden had a modest goal. 12,000 core troops. Out of an estimated one billion Muslims, he needed only 1/100 of 1% of them and he couldn't muster even that. Zarqawi managed even less. There is no great rush of Muslims to jihad against democracy. Muslims like people everywhere want to have a say in their future. I know people can pick pieces of Koranic scripture and "prove" that Muslims are inherently evil, I just don't buy it.

It doesn't take a lot of people to pull off a suicide bombing. 9/11 was done with less than 50 people including planning and logistics support. The actions of less than 50 people do not reflect the values of the community they come from. To draw that conclusion would be to say that all white people in the US supported the KKK. There are estimated to be 5 to 8 million Muslims living in the United States. There has not been a single act of terrorism committed against the United States by an American Muslim since 9/11 that I am aware of. If there has been, it has been a very isolated incident. If Islam were such a radical murderous religion, I would think we would have had many serious incidents by now. As Timothy McVeigh demonstrated, all it takes is two or three people to create serious havoc. Nothing of the sort has happened. Why?

What we are witnessing are acts by a very small number of, quite frankly, idiots. They are fanatics. The KKK doesn't represent white people, though they would tell you that they do. al Qaeda doesn't represent Islam though they would tell you that they do.

There are a BILLION Muslims in this world. I see some arrests ... 5 people here. 10 people there. Maybe a roundup of 20 or 30 sometimes. But out of millions of people in a country, rounding up a dozen or two does NOT constitute a statistically significant portion of the population. We round up groups of organized crime members in numbers like that. Does that mean everyone from New Jersey is an organized crime member? Does that mean that every citizen of France traffics in child pornography? Does that mean that all people in California are members of a drug ring? No.

I have known Muslims in my life. I served with a Muslim in the military. I interact with Muslims on a daily basis at work and in general commerce in my community. My mechanic is Muslim. I have never heard a mean word leave their mouth. They have always treated me fairly and with respect.

Americans that believe that Islam is by nature a murderous religion and needs to be destroyed have taken the bait of the fanatics hook, like, and sinker. They have bought in to the notion that the fanatics represent Islam. These people that would even kill other Muslims whose traditions they disagree with have managed to convince some non-Muslims that their interpretation of Islam is correct. That is part of the game and they have been led by the nose right into it. The fanatics NEED for non-Muslims to have fear and to lash out in order to use that to gain more recruits. They can use the words of hate, the statements of people who would want Islam destroyed, to recruit more Muslims to their perverted cause. They can say that Americans want to destroy Islam so Muslims must come and join jihad.

Until I see more than a very, very tiny portion of the Muslim population buying that drivel, I am not going to buy it.

If one were to read the Bible and take it literally, they would be commanded to destroy the sons of Ammon. Those words were of a different time and are preserved only to serve as an example today and to give hope in times of extreme hardship. They are not designed to be taken literally in the current context. The same is true with the Koran. Much of what is says that would seem brutal was concerning a particular circumstance in the past and wasn't expected to be an ongoing command through history. It was preserved to serve as example. To be taken in an abstract not a literal sense. Yes, the Koran is the word of God to the Muslims, but those were words pertaining to a specific circumstance at a particular time.

Taken out of context, I can probably find scripture to justify anything I might want to do. Murders have been committed more than once based on someone's twisted interpretation of scripture. We are talking about such a tiny number of people. Please, don't allow it to go to your head. I am very disappointed in what I have been reading on many blogs these days. Yes, in this day a small number of people can cause a great number of casualties but the fact remains, it is a small number of people. Let us try to keep our perspective.

And good luck to the Iraqi people in their voting today. I wish you good health and prosperity and that you deserve it!

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

An idea for the Arabs

An idea came to be while composing a post on another blog concerning the stipends paid by the Palestinian Authority to the families of suicide bombers that take part in operations against Israel and after a little refinement, I post it here and hereby give the idea to the world as a suggestion to improve the situation in the Middle East.

Imagine a Palestinian family with five children. Say two are boys and three are girls. The father and older brother are unemployed. The family is in poverty. The youngest boy has no hope for his future. He looks at his father and older brother and in his minds eye sees what he will become. He loves his family and dreams of somehow improving their situation but it seems he has no doors open to him. Then one day when he is particularly depressed about their condition, he make a decision. He will go to one of the radical groups and volunteer to be a suicide bomber so that their family will receive a monthly stipend and improve their condition. The stipend is more than he could hope to bring in from legitimate activity. So he finds a group engaged in this activity. He follows their instructions, poses for pictures, says the things he is taught to say on a video and goes about his grim task.

It doesn't have to be that way. I believe I have a better idea. An idea that could produce hope, improve the lot of the Palestinians and allow others to be part of the solution and not part of the problem.

First of all, within the Islamic world in general and in the Arab world in particular there are a good number of quality universities. What if these countries (and maybe other countries around the world that desired to participate too) got together and created a program. This program would provide a stipend to families that have NEVER had a suicide bomber in their family and provide a college education at no cost to one child in that family. Should a family member participate in a terrorist operation while enrolled in the program, their participation stops.

In other words, hope is provided. The family's situation is improved and hope for the future of a child is brightened. The family has incentive to take a constructive road rather than a destructive one. It also allows countries in the region to participate in building a better Palestinian nation. They also become a part of a constructive solution. It allows the ember of hope to grow in the hearts of both the recipient and the giver.

It would not prevent people from participating in such operations if that is where their heart truly takes them, but it eliminates the ones undertaking such operations for economic reasons out of love for their family that is exploited by those who would never engage in such operations themselves. If one did, however, engage in such operations while their family was enrolled in the program, the stipend from the program would be ended and the promise of education would be withdrawn. More people would have a stake in a constructive and peaceful future than in a destructive path.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Why Murtha? Why now?

I sat pondering for a long time why Rep. Murtha of Pennsylvania would come out so strongly against our mission in Iraq. Some things didn't make a lot of sense. It took a while but the pieces have started to come together.

The bells first started going off when I started seeing more stories like this one from the Investor's Business Daily:

Ashdown and his nonpartisan watchdog group criticized Murtha for using the $417 billion fiscal 2005 Pentagon spending bill to give business to his lobbyist brother. The Los Angeles Times in June reported that Murtha funneled nearly $21 million to 10 or more corporate clients of KSA Consulting, where Robert "Kit" Murtha is a senior partner. Carmen Scialabba, a Murtha congressional aide for 27 years, is also a high-ranking official at KSA.

In one case, a small Arkansas manufacturer of military vehicles who was a KSA client was awarded $1.7 million — triple its total sales for 2004. One defense contractor based in Murtha's home state of Pennsylvania even told the Times he hired KSA on the recommendation of a top Murtha aide.

The newspaper Roll Call reported that there might be a House ethics committee investigation of Murtha's apparent improprieties. But is that possible now that Murtha has become the media's "hawk with a conscience?" Come to think of it, could Murtha have been thinking about a possible ethics investigation when he decided to throw himself into the public limelight last week?

So Murtha has been under scrutiny since before June (assuming that people were looking into the situation before the LA Times reported on it in June) for funneling defense money to his brother's consulting firm and customers. There is also some talk about Pelosi herself might have had a crucial hand in getting some of this money spread around. So then the question becomes "How do I effectively block an investigation without making it look like I am blocking an investigation". The answer is to wait until the administration was getting hammered by ethics problems (Plame Game, DeLay's issues, etc) and then come out as a flaming critic of the administration's policy. The idea is to not only disagree, but to propose a dramatic reversal. Immediate withdrawal would do it. That shines a VERY bright spotlight on Murtha and gives him a certain amount of Teflon. Should there be an ethics investigation launched now, it would appear to be retaliation.

The reason you wait until the President's approval numbers are low is because coming out so forcefully for such a cowardly policy change risks boosting the President's approval numbers (as actually happened). So you wait until the numbers are low so any boost is minimized. Had Murtha waited until after the Iraqi elections and if those elections go well, he would look foolish. As it was, he let loose with this smokescreen just as US forces were embarking on the most critical mission yet: sweeping the towns in western al Anbar province. This would result in higher allied casualties. What better time to announce such a thing than just as US casualties would be expected to spike because of combat operations in the core of the militant areas? Had he waited till after the elections he also risked coming out with his withdrawal demand just as we would be announcing troop draw-downs anyway. In other words, if he waited until after the Christmas recess, he could have looked very stupid making the speech he made in November.

So here we have it. Timed to create maximum criticism, draw maximum attention, propose a plan that not even the Democrats would support (and didn't in a House vote) in order to make any ethics investigation of him and his brother look like political revenge. Brilliant. And one more reason to add to the pile why I really don't care much for post politicians in general and Democrats in particular.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

So much has happened lately and I have spent more time writing on other blogs than my own. Probably because I find the discourse there stimulating.

I realized last night that creating a Federal Iraq was a stroke of brilliance. After the central government elections next week, things will turn to the regional governments that actually hold most of the power concerning daily life. The Shiites are going to lose a significant piece of their control in the central legislature and the Sunnis will take their rightful place as all indications show lively support for the election process.

There had been some worry on my part that the Shiite majority would dominate the Kurd and Sunni regions until I read an article somewhere (sorry, don't remember exactly where) pointing out that it is the regional governments that will actually hold power and named several people who had decided not to stand in elections to the central government because they considered their job of having participated in the writing of a constitution complete and were now going to where the real power is, in the regional government.

The Kurds have been busy building a quite peaceful community relative to the rest of Iraq. They now have two airlines (really charters of other planes that they put their names on, but it's a start and they are proud of it) and business people are arriving from all around the world. Factories and homes are being built. The economy is growing.

The Sunni areas actually stand to gain the most. They have been afraid of Shiite domination and a significant influence from Iran. The Federal system should help to control any undue Shiite influence over the rest of Iraq and serve to protect the Sunnis and Kurds from Iranian meddling. The "rejectionists" that have been the core of the militants stand to gain considerably in this round of voting. For every seat they take in the legislature, a Shiite seat is vacated. Also, the coming of a more peaceful community live will allow reconstruction to begin on a much larger scale. The Sunni areas have not had the degree of reconstruction and rebuilding of infrastructure that the other areas have had due to security issues. As these issues dissipate, dramatic improvements can take place and the economy of the Sunni region will blossom as it has in the other areas.

There is the potential for a sweeping change to occur in Iraq over the next few weeks. I am optimistic that this will take place and things will move toward peace and prosperity for all Iraqis. We have already seen a start of this taking shape as elections draw near. Iraqis are turning in terrorists, providing tips on weapons caches, and taking their security in their own hands to a degree we have not seen in the past. In many cases we see Iraqi civilians turning in these criminals to Iraqi forces and they are then detained, tried, and convicted by Iraqi courts. This is as it should be and a great indication of progress.