daily archive: 01/05/2005
A New Sheriff's In Town, Wagdi
When John Ashcroft resigned,
I found this passage in a CBS News look back at his legacy interesting:
perhaps the single greatest legacy of the Ashcroft Justice Department is its change in emphasis away from punishing people who commit crimes to preventing people from committing them in the first place. This sea change in thinking isn't exclusive to the Justice Department; it's occurring, with varying degrees of success, at the FBI and in virtually every other law enforcement and intelligence gathering organization. It has altered the way federal prosecutors do business; the way they handle cases; the words they use when they argue in front of a judge.
SoCalJustice pointed out an LA Times story
that reminded me of that:
The government alleges that Ghoneim, who came to the U.S. in 2001 from Egypt, participated in fundraising activities around the country that could have helped terrorist organizations, said Bill Odencrantz, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement director of field legal operations.
Ghoneim has not been charged with terrorist activity, however. Instead, he was arrested at his Anaheim home Nov. 4 on suspicion of overstaying his religious-worker visa. He was charged with the immigration violation, Odencrantz said, "because it was the easiest charge to prove."
"Frankly, our task is not to sit around and wait for people to blow up buildings," Odencrantz said. "Our task is to look at situations and circumstances and take action against people."
A marked (and appropriate) shift in emphasis, I think.
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Bye, Wagdi. Don't Come Back!
Imam Wagdi Ghoneim has left the United States, thankfully.
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- An Orange County mosque leader from Egypt who had allegedly given speeches that could be considered to support terrorist organizations has left the United States, authorities said.
Wagdy Ghoneim, who was the imam at the Islamic Institute of Orange County, reached an agreement with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to depart voluntarily, avoiding deportation in exchange for admitting he was in the country in violation of his immigration status, said agency spokeswoman Virginia Kice.
Ghoneim departed from Los Angeles International Airport early Monday and transferred in New York onto a flight bound for Qatar.
``Many people are extremely sad and disappointed in the system,'' said Valerie Curtis-Diop, Ghoneim's attorney. ``They're apprehensive because, if this can happen to a spiritual leader, they wonder who will be the next target.''
By giving up his two-month immigration fight voluntarily, Ghoneim is eligible to reapply for entry into the country.
Don't call us, we'll call you.
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I spent a couple of minutes this morning coordinating my wardrobe. Gotta make sure that the belt matches the color of my shoes. Gotta make sure that I coordinate my routine with my wife, who knows that coordination of our routines makes for an easier commute and peace of mind as we travel to and from the big city. Besides, with only one bathroom in the apartment, we cannot get out of the house on time unless we manage to coordinate our activities down to the minute. Every minute counts when you're rushing for the 7:53 train to the city. I just hope that as I get to the train station that the trains are just as coordinated as I am every morning, and that the subways are similarly coordinated.
Indeed, everything we do during the day is coordinated. I coordinate my work activities with my boss, who in turn, coordinates with her boss, and alternatively with my coworkers who have to deal with the same workflow. Coordination is a great thing when some folks may not be on the same page and not know what they're going to be doing. Of course, coordination often mimics routine as the two are related. If you set up a routine process, people will naturally coordinate their activities and workflow proceeds naturally and effectively.
Coordination all the way around. But with all this coordination comes a downside. If you spend all your time coordinating and not enough time doing actual work, what is actually done?
Well, I've spent the last day coordinating my thoughts on the subject considering that the UN is spending all of its time on coordinating its own efforts, despite the fact that coordination isn't in its job description. Providing aid and comfort to victims of the Asian tsunami is, or at least should be, in its job description.
The UN has set up Civil-Military Coordination Office, to go along with the United Nations Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator and the Secretary-General's Special Coordinator for Humanitarian Assistance in Tsunami-affected countries. While they're at it, this coordination extends to assessment teams. A United Nations Joint Assessment Team was dispatched so that it can coordinate with other teams.
Now, some of you might wonder why I'm cracking on the UN so badly for wanting to coordinate matters of such urgency and emergency? Simple. All the UN is doing is coordinating. It isn't actually doing anything. The UN has a couple of officials holed up in some hotel somewhere and busy writing about coordinating activities and how the US, Australia, Singapore, and a couple other nations are busy 'undermining' the UN because they're not 'coordinating' things with the UN.
The things that those aforementioned nations aren't coordinating? Simple. It's called relief on a massive scale. You've got the US military coordinating air drops and helicopter flights of food, medicine, and aid into remote areas with the Aussies, who are busy doing the same. These same nations are coordinating with the local governments to make sure that aid gets where it is needed. There's no need to coordinate with the UN because the UN isn't actually bringing anything to the table except demands on the US to do more coordinating with the UN and show greater deference to the UN which continues to rely on the US for actions whenever actions are demanded.
Well, even that isn't entirely accurate as the UN is searching out for the finest culinary take out and 5-star hotels for its officials while they deal with this latest blip on their cocktail party circuit.
Alas, while the UN officials are worried about coordinating the 24-hour a day room service at the hotel, US Navy cooks are busy prepping hundreds of loaves of bread a day for distribution to victims, sailors aboard the USS Abe Lincoln are limiting their water usage so that the carrier's 400,000 gallon per day capacity to produce drinking water goes to those in need, and the 6,000 sailors and Marines on board are partaking in dozens of humanitarian missions into affected areas per day.
Now, that's what I call coordination.
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Irrationality, Prejudice and Hysteria
Melanie Phillips at the Limmud conference:
I’d like to start with three short anecdotes.
A friend went into Blackwells university bookshop in Oxford and asked the counter clerk: 'Do you have a copy of Alan Dershowitz's The Case for Israel?' 'There is no case for Israel', the counter clerk replied.
A distinguished and influential military figure confided to me that Rupert Murdoch had given a personal order that articles in the Times against the Iraq war should be drastically limited — and that he had done so ‘on the instruction of the Jewish lobby in America’. Furthermore, George Bush had invaded Iraq because ‘he had Ariel Sharon’s hand up his back’.
At a recording of the BBC radio panel show Any Questions, in the solid Conservative heartland of Wokingham in Berkshire, an overwhelmingly conservative audience applauded and cheered the veteran far left activist Tariq Ali when he said that that America was the fount of world terror, that George Bush was more of a danger to the world than Saddam Hussein, and that if any country was a menace to world peace through its weapons of mass destruction it was not Iraq but Israel.
This is a must read, here's a link to the summary of the talk
and here's a link to the complete talk in PDF format
. (Yes, I know. I hate PDF too, but this is totally worth it.)
(Many thanks to Frank IBC)
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Progress in Iraq
The continuing violence in Iraq, including the recent suicide attack in the mess hall at Mosul, has produced a new wave of gloom regarding the efficacy of U.S. policy toward Iraq and the future of that country. The naysayers are wrong: 2005 will be a good year in Iraq for President Bush. By asserting this I recognize that in most of Washington I am a white rhino on the Savanna, as I reject the views, among others, of the professional pessimists within parts of the U.S. intelligence community.
Having spent several months in Iraq in the past year, I can attest to its complexity. Most analytically important, what are the metrics by which one assesses the course and pace of Iraq's critical trend lines? How do we decide how we are doing? The news programs, with their repetitive pictures of violence and mayhem, deeply mislead in this regard. To paraphrase James Joyce and contrary to the television news readers' mantra (boom, I said boom, I will boom), surely the number of suicide bombings or coalition and Iraqi casualties per week is not the most effective means to gauge progress or failure. How many troops did the U.S. lose in the Battle of the Bulge in 1944-45 or in the Wilderness Campaign in 1864? We are, after all, at war. The enemy is desperate to derail the movement toward a free, stable and peaceful Iraq. The more Iraq makes important steps toward democracy, the more we should expect the bombers to escalate their deadly attacks.
So if the boom factor is not an accurate way to understand the direction of developments, what metrics should we use instead? Here are mine, which indicate fundamental advances for Iraq and for the administration in 2005.
Read the rest after the jump.
(with many thanks to jim russell)
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Al Qaeda's Big Plans
Asia Times Online has an interesting analysis of Al Qaeda's strategy.
Their read of the situation amounts to this: Al Qaeda does not intend to defeat the United States on the battlefield by itself. Instead, their goal is to keep the United States engaged in Iraq and stoke the propaganda fires so that when they strike America on a 9/11 scale again, they imagine it will cause the Muslim masses to rise up as one.
Prior to September 11, al-Qaeda was widely viewed in intelligence circles as a group of mercenaries or mafia, not as a sophisticated organization capable of orchestrating such large attacks as those on the United States.
Yet even with the new awareness of al-Qaeda's capabilities, its true nature - and intentions - remain much of a mystery. Intensive investigations carried out by Asia Times Online over many months, including discussions with people ranging from intelligence officials to sources directly or indirectly related to al-Qaeda, reveal that neither Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan nor any other place but the United States is the single obsession of al-Qaeda. And in this regard, al-Qaeda has big plans.
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Arab Christendom Dwindling Amid Marginalization, Attacks
By the numbers, you'd think Arab Christianity was thriving-at least 21 million Arab Christians live in the Arab world. But this soul-searching editorial in Gulf News shows that the Arab Christian community is imperiled.
For Arab Christians, this Christmas may have been a time for introspection, but for Arab Muslims it was time for some serious thinking. This holiday season more than any other in recent memory witnessed events of inclusion and exclusion, both sad and dramatic, symbolically.
On Christmas Day in Palestine, Mahmoud Abbas, the senior Palestinian leader, participated in a midnight mass at the Church of the Nativity. He did not send a "representative" as some Arab leaders do. He was there himself, sitting in the front row, the leader of all Palestinians, Muslims and Christians.
It would be nice if he'd attend the services of Palestinian Jews too but apparently that part's not in the cards....
Sadly, on that same night, in Iraq, churches reported they were nearly empty as worshippers stayed away out of fear they would once again be targeted by fanatics. Churches in Iraq have burned for a year. Scores of Christians have been killed. Two hundred thousand left for Syria and as many left the region altogether. Distressingly, not a single Iraqi leader went anywhere near an Iraqi church, even though Iraq's two million Christians constitute 8 per cent of the population and are part and parcel of the country's civilisation.
Christian minorities in the Arab world make up between 7 and 10 per cent of the total population, which translates to somewhere between 21 and 30 million. Even the minimum figures are important numbers, showing they are neither marginal nor alien. Alas, these numbers are shrinking. In the Gulf region, where millions of expatriates live and work more or less permanently, they raise the ratio of Christians even higher. Several wise UAE rulers have gone out of their way to accommodate them by allowing churches to be built, indeed sometimes donating the land and money. But the UAE is a rare exception, not the rule.
This leaves Arabs with a fundamental question to address. Over the past 40 years, Arab Christians have become an extinct species, shunned, ignored and sometimes, as in Iraq, violently encouraged to leave. This is deliberate benign neglect, which amounts to a huge loss for the silent majority of Arab Muslims practising it. Christians among us are not guests. They are citizens. Some of them, as with Egyptian Copts, Syrian and Iraqi Christians, were there long before Islam. Arab Christians fought against Crusaders in the 12th century to defend the Holy Land. Arab Christians are poets, writers, philosophers, very innovative business and political leaders. They have contributed immensely to Arab culture over the centuries. Most are indistinguishable from their Muslim brothers expect when they enter their churches. What we need are more Arab leaders and heads of state, from Algeria to Saudi Arabia, openly engaging the Christians in their midst, be they citizens or visitors, demonstrating respect for their religious values and rights, showing up at every religious occasion to affirm, by example and deed, these values of partnership.
There are a few hopeful signs, it's not all gloom. The publication of this article is one of them. It would be a nice start, if Arab leaders started publicly showing respect to Christian communities. The part about them being pretty much the same except that they go to church really struck me, because it's true. I'm always mildly surprised when I meet an Arab Christian in the USA who has the exact same attitudes as Arab Muslims in the Middle East do. For instance, that the women in their family shouldn't date. I guess I shouldn't be.
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These excerpts from a book about a female CIA agent's experiences in Macedonia
are pretty funny.
When I finally "broke cover," A.'s respect for me, even though I was a woman, increased exponentially. We were sitting in his Mercedes next to what appeared to be a city dump near Skopje, Macedonia's capital. Blowing My Cover
"I love C.I.A.!" he exclaimed loudly. A., a jovial and dapper businessman I had been developing for the autumn months of 2000, was an Albanian well connected to a number of significant Kosovars. The agency was interested in Kosovo, the contentious region bordering Macedonia to the north, and so far, A. had given me solid information.
Weeks earlier, I cautioned A. that it was too risky to meet publicly.
"We can use my friend's apartment!" he suggested.
"Your car will do," I replied. "How would you like to work for the C.I.A., too?" I had written up a careful "pitch proposal" and sent it back to headquarters, outlining how I thought the recruitment meeting would play out.
"C/O Hadley anticipates little risk of blowback in executing the pitch," I'd written, referring to myself by my alias in the third person as is characteristic of C.I.A. case officers and also, I often considered, insane people. "C/O Hadley doubts that Subject ever would report the pitch or C/O's true affiliation to the local police or security services."
After a nanosecond of consideration about the implications of committing espionage, A. shrugged and said, "O.K."
The C.I.A. never said recruiting an agent could be this easy.
"You cannot tell anyone," I told him. "Not even your wife."
"I never tell my wife anything," he answered with a wink.
"And if anyone catches us together, or asks how you know me..." I braced myself. "Tell them we're having an affair."
A. was nearly beside himself with enthusiasm. "If we must do it, then we will make sex."
"We don't actually have an affair," I told him. "That's only our cover story -- for if we get caught. I give you money, and you give me information. Just like you've been doing."
"No holding hands?" he asked.
"It's business. Serious business, O.K.? Because if you get caught, you could go to jail."
"Bah!" A. waved his hand. "We will not get caught. I will tell everyone we are making sex."
I pictured A. bragging about his young American concubine to a rapt audience at the Albanian pizzeria. "Don't tell anyone anything," I said.
"O.K., O.K." A. rolled his eyes as if I were a huge bore.
I pulled out a secrecy agreement for A. to sign, as well as 10 crisp $100 bills. I sensed that he couldn't pass up this chance to prove to himself that he wasn't a small fry. While he had been relatively easy to recruit, he continued to be difficult to handle.
"Why can we not have relations?" A. again pleaded, as we drove along a mountainous southern Macedonian thoroughfare. I don't get paid nearly enough to deal with this, I thought. He looked beseechingly at me from behind the steering wheel. "Keep your eyes on the road," I said. "Do I have to remind you? You're married."
"Ach!" he groaned. "Here, it is normal to be married and have some other girlfriends too." I was less concerned about his amorous intentions than I was about his getting caught. He didn't pay much attention to the security measures in which I had diligently trained him.
"Never call me on the phone," I had said countless times. "We'll just meet at the time and place we agreed upon, and if one of us doesn't show up, we go to Plan B."
"Of course!" He appeared offended that I reminded him.
Inevitably, I was on the way to one of our prearranged meeting sites when my mobile phone would ring. From the caller ID, I could see that A. was not even using a pay phone, as I had instructed him to do in an emergency. Often, I just let it ring. But occasionally, anxious that something had happened to A., I would answer, hoping that my voice conveyed my exasperation.
"Lisssaaaaa!" he would shout, no matter how many times I had instructed him not to use my name, even though it was an alias. "I am on my way to . . . the place . . . now."
Sometimes I arrived at the designated meeting spot, where he was supposed to be skulking imperceptibly among the shadows, to find him in the middle of the road, chatting on his mobile phone. Once he even had a bouquet of vibrant flowers that he used to flag me down, like an aircraft router guiding a plane to its gate. I always worried for A., but in the end he remained blinded by the allure of the C.I.A. What never got easier for me was having to feed his ego while making it clear that I'd never sleep with him.
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