Even while respecting civil liberties we need to do more than just put potential terrorists on a list…

December 22, 2016

Still wondering how effective so-called terrorist watch lists are. Certainly I think we need them, but why is it that most of these terrorists who commit murder and mayhem are said to have been on the watch lists?

The 9/11 attackers were on a watch list and yet let onto the airliners. And in the latest terrorism in Germany, well the suspect, on the loose as I write this, was on the German authorities’ watch list. They even had reason to believe he was actively planning something.

But in Western democracies we prize freedom of movement and rightfully so. Police cannot legally detain a person or take someone into custody on a mere suspicion not backed up by some kind of clear evidence. If we were to allow otherwise think of what might happen. Over-zealous authorities or ones on a personal or political vendetta could grab and detain people on trumped-up (excuse the expression) charges.

But we know that the predominant source of this spate of terror that is being inflicted on the world is from groups who identify themselves as Islamic — therefore we usually refer to them as Islamic terrorists, even though it is felt or hoped that these people do not represent all of or even any of true Islam, at best, or perhaps better put, worst, they represent an extreme sect of the religion, with a distorted view, although some charge it is not really distorted at all.

(Christians were fairly extreme in the Middle Ages.)

With the attack in Germany at a Christmas market, President-elect Donald Trump is basically saying I told you so, in reference to his campaign position in favor of banning the entry of Muslims into the U.S. It has been said that he has modified his position to a ban on those coming from terrorism hotbeds, and I think he has sometimes used the phrase a temporary ban, as until we can get a handle on the situation. Actually, as much as I detest Trump, I have a hard time arguing with that proposition, which seems, dare I say it? common sense.

Even in cases where the suspects or perpetrators were not on a watch list, they had contacts with people who were. This is especially true in the case of so-called “home-grown” terrorists who are “radicalized”, as they say.

I know the authorities often have their hands tied in situations where they have seemingly convincing or obvious information but cannot act because of civil liberties restrictions. I would in no way propose sacrificing our civil liberties in the name of fighting terror. However, people coming into the U.S., or say, coming into Germany, don’t have the rights of citizens of the respective countries (and some legal expert might argue with me on this — and win I guess). And non-citizens it would seem would be subject to deportation (or should be) if there is a reasonable concern they are up to no good. And it would seem the standard for deportation in such cases would be lower than that of detention for a citizen.

And when it comes to home-grown terrorists or those from abroad but under the radar — I guess if you see (or hear) something, say something. I mean stockpiling weapons might be a clue. It’s amazing and scary how often we read that there were clues, such as terrorists telegraphing their plans by public statements or stockpiling weapons in their apartments.

And of course not all terrorists wear the Islamic label. Just wanted to be fair, clear, and accurate about this.

And I don’t want to fall prey to inadvertently spreading fake news, but I know in some of my reading it has been charged that the outgoing Obama administration scrubbed some names from watch lists in the interests I think of not making anyone and everyone who is somehow connected to Islam a suspect — and that is my own interpretation.

In these troubled times we have to be fair and true to our values but we also have to be prudent and not ignore the obvious.

If I say suspicious things or act in a suspicious manner at an airport, I will almost surely be detained by the TSA or other police or authorities. While we cannot or should not broaden that to everywhere, neither can we walk around blind to the threat.

Authorities need some latitude, but latitude that is held in check, as it is supposed to be now.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Urgency and leadership lacking in Obama

December 6, 2015

Just watched President Obama’s special address to the nation after the San Bernardino terrorist rampage.

I think he is in a state of denial or he is in control and just cool as a cucumber. But I fear it is the former.

How is it that ISIS can actually physically control the second largest city in Iraq, much of Syria, and parts of Libya? And it appears ISIS is using the comfort of its bastion that includes urban environments to demonstrate its ability and power to act as a governing body and to both direct and inspire terrorist attacks on the West, including the USA.

While the one thing we don’t need is mindless and dangerous and gutless bluster of Trump, we do need reassurance and leadership.

I’m not seeing that leadership or sense of urgency from the president.

He does not want us to get sucked or suckered into another protracted and costly and ultimately futile ground war.

Neither do I, but we need to be willing to use our expensive military to its fullest and most efficient extent.

We can’t be helpless against attacks on our own soil.

 

P.s.

Due to technical problems, I am limited to a few words. Just as well, and maybe better.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Coming full circle in the Middle East, go effective or not at all…

November 17, 2015

Should I say I have come full circle or should I say I am going around in circles? I am referring to my position or feelings on what the USA should do in the Middle East or more specifically in the war on terror.

While in general I would prefer we do not meddle in the affairs of other nations, at least not any more than we have to, when they can’t keep their own affairs straight and it impacts us, well then…

I mean because of the instability in the Middle East the terrorist groups formed. The terrorist groups were not only against the existing governments but outside forces they felt caused or at least they could blame for the problems in their respective nations. So they struck out against those other nations, to include the U.S., with the most notable attack on 9/11.

And now to make matters worse, things are so bad in this war-torn part of the world, the Middle East, Syria in particular at this time, that millions of refugees have flooded Europe and and want to enter the US. too. But along with the flood of the desperate, it appears some terrorists entered, using the wave of humanity for cover. Certainly that had to be expected. And the wave of millions of refugees is taxing the resources of the people whose nations they wind up in.

Well, as to the argument that the West, the U.S. in particular, has been the major factor in causing the instability, it does have some truth to it, but that argument can only go so far. I mean international trade is what makes the world go around. From the beginning this nation (the U.S.) has depended upon trade. Our founding fathers I believe wanted us to mind our own business but we soon found out that we had to get involved somewhat overseas just to protect our trade. We sent the Marines after the Barbary Coast pirates of North Africa in the early part of the 19th Century.

And I’m not going to go further and try to cite a bunch of U.S. history, but the facts of life are that in this modern world (and even in the old) we are interdependent upon each other. But when you have nations that are wracked by instability, often or always due to an unfair distribution of resources, the whole world economic system and world security itself is threatened.

And now it appears that the terrorist group ISIS has demonstrated a capability and willingness to commit savage mass murders against Western targets, going after France primarily at the moment, but even threatening to strike Washington D.C. (and I suppose other parts of America too). The group is suspected to have brought down a Russian jet liner, as well.

So, what to do.

Well I certainly don’t know, but I doubt pin prick attacks the U.S. has carried out so far are effective enough. At the same time, it is a sad fact that a horrendous attack like that in Paris last week where more than a 100 people were slaughtered and as many or more injured could conceivably happen no matter how hard we attacked the terrorists because when you have people crazy enough to commit suicide and you have freedom of movement in a free society it can and apparently will happen. France was actually on stepped-up security due to attacks earlier in the year.

However, I am not one to simply be content with the throwing up of hands and saying “well there is nothing we can do”.

It seems apparent that we must do something. And while I would never ever, ever, want to see Donald Trump as president or in any position of public authority, even he gets things right or close to it sometimes:

He was saying something about going after the oil fields that the terrorists use to help fund their activities. He also questioned why the French (and I suppose the U.S. too) waits until after the latest terrorist strike to go after ISIS training camps.

Well I do not know who has done what and when, but if we have any military activity at all against ISIS one has to wonder why we might be holding back. One person suggested to me it may be because we are concerned about civilian casualties, so-called collateral damage.

While that always has to be a top concern in civilized society, war by definition is not civilized. Remember? We fire-bombed Tokyo and Dresden and dropped a couple of nukes on Japan, and of course engaged in collateral damage all over the place as well.

And that general way back when said: “war is hell”. But having to live under the threat of terrorism is not all that nice either. And the real nightmare is that ISIS or anyone else might get a hold of some of the stray nuclear bomb material that is said to have been floating around since the fall of the Soviet empire. Not only would the detonation of so-called dirty nukes inflict immediate but possibly limited physical damage, it would likely set off a panic that would be nearly impossible to control.

Maybe we can’t just send in the troops like it was D-Day. And remember, we didn’t get to D-Day for four years.

And sending in the troops like we did in Vietnam and Iraq and Afghanistan, for example, did not get us the result we intended.

Even so, we may need to send in the troops in some form and namby-pamby only gets troops killed. It would be wiser to skip the whole thing than to fight with one hand tied behind our backs.

I would think we have to identify where the terrorists hang out and take the fight to them. In some instances it might take no more than drones or fighter jets, in some instances much more. And again, we can’t be afraid to do much more.

We also need to go after their sources of supply – and whoops, we will likely find that is it our own arms suppliers (money is money) – and their source of finance (whoops again to some extent probably). But one source I have read is Middle East oil fields, either through direct control or theft.

So we can’t secure the oil fields or secure shipments? What’s up with that?

Now if we go over there big time we are going to hurt some peoples’ feelings. Sorry, but we don’t need to apologize for fighting to protect ourselves.

Sadly, I am not sure the American electorate as a whole is willing to sacrifice – not yet anyway – but our survival may well depend upon it.

(Implicit in all of this is the help of our allies, and maybe even some new allies, but we can’t depend upon them and we must take a leadership role, or what kind of superpower are we?)

In summary, I am not saying go to all-out war, WW-II style. I mean I don’t have the information or the expertise. But it seems the powers that be think we have to use military action. But I think it needs to be done on a larger scale to be effective and both the government and the people need to be prepared to fight to win.

The French president has already proclaimed war.

Oh, and why is it we went to war in the Middle East in the first place because oil was so important and then we failed to secure the oil? And please don’t give me that poppycock that oil had nothing, or little to do with it – I do know better than that.

P.s.

And I always forget something. News to me, but today I heard that our own Silicon Valley markets encryption devices that terrorists are using, but the devices are so good that once sold even the producers can’t decode them. First Amendment and other rights notwithstanding, especially in a national security/war situation, we are going to have to get some cooperation from the high-tech people. Their own way of life depends upon it just as much as ours does.


Is ISIS realy all that sophisticated? Maybe, but we’ve been here before and survived…

November 15, 2015

In my last post, although I opined that if ISIS indeed is a threat to the USA, then we need to act on our own and do what we can to defeat it (with any help welcome, of course). But I also wondered just how sophisticated the terrorists have to be to do the things they are doing.

Then I ran across this, which I have lifted from the site The Daily Kos:

By Mark Sumner

On June 2, eight large bombs detonated simultaneously in eight US cities. The bombs contained sizable amounts of high explosives and were jacketed with shrapnel intended to increase the number of victims. The bombs were accompanied by flyers that said “There will have to be murder: we will kill, because it is necessary; there will have to be destruction; we will destroy to rid the world of your tyrannical institutions.” Just a month earlier, 36 bombs were sent by mail to congressmen, judges, members of the cabinet, and state officials.  A year later, a large bomb went off outside a Wall Street bank, killing 38 and wounding over 140.

How can these things have happened without dominating our headlines? They happened in 1919 and 1920.

The culprits in the US bombing were “Galleanists,” a small group of anarchists—perhaps no more than a few dozen in total, perhaps even less—who followed Italian activist, Luigi Galleani. How could a small group, with extremely limited funding, launch simultaneous attacks on multiple targets in different cities? Answer: they had watches.

Attacks like those that happened in 1919—or this week in Paris—don’t require extensive planning, deep pockets, or a dark genius worthy of a James Bond film. They just require a small number of pissed off young men who want to hurt people. Even the watches are optional.

Am I saying “don’t bomb ISIS?” Nope. They’re awful people doing awful things. Bomb away. Just don’t get it in your head that it either takes some massive organization to plan this sort of assault, or that going after guys who control a few towns along a stretch of road on the border of Syria and Iraq, will resolve a problem among disaffected and unemployed young men half a world away.

—————

And back to my own words: I in no way underestimate the threat of ISIS and other associated or like groups, and I do believe we have to step up to the plate now and do whatever needs to be done and quit drawing lines in the sand and then stepping back, but at the same time, the material from the Daily Kos is food for thought.

It will take cooler heads and people with a stronger reasoning power than the bellicose Donald Trump, who by the by, was not available when his country called for military service. The Chicken hawks strike again.

p.s.

My quick check on the web indicated that Mr. Trump avoided the Vietnam draft by both college deferments and possibly a medical condition at one point. That would not necessarily make him a draft dodger (if all was on the up and up). I myself served in the U.S. Army, active duty, 1968 to 1971, but I went to Germany not Vietnam. And I have no beef with people just because they avoided Vietnam (a foreign policy and human disaster for the U.S.). My beef is with those who did not serve but are quick to flex military muscle and let others do the job. Prior military service of course is not a prerequisite to be president, nor should it be, and the framers of the Constitution wisely provided that the military be under civilian control. Even, so, I’m just saying…


World War III may already be in progress…

November 13, 2015

I don’t want to overstate the case, but when I was advised to check my computer for the news that as many as a 100 or more people were killed in a terrorist attack in Paris I thought really this is the beginning of World War III. Actually we may already be in it. It does seem to be the extremists in the Middle East vs. Western civilization.

—————-

UPDATE, 11-14- 15, Saturday morning: And now the day after, the death toll is put at 128, at the time of this writing, and more than that wounded, some gravely, in six attacks across Paris, the heaviest toll being at a concert hall.

With ISIS claiming responsibility for the Paris atrocities, and with it also claiming responsibility for downing a Russian airliner, and what with China coming out against the terrorists, and Great Britain promising solidarity with France and others targeted by ISIS, and of course the USA pledging continued support in the ongoing war on ISIS, could this be a coalition of both the East and West against ISIS?

————–

Don’t have much time to type here; I have an appointment to have my laptop checked out, for something minor I hope.

We really have not had any major terrorist attacks — well there was Ft. Hood, and am I forgetting any? — here in the U.S. since the biggie, 9/11. Strangely our mass murders have been inflicted by our home-grown crazies and are not political.

There may be something geographical — distance from Middle Eastern staging grounds — that makes Europe more vulnerable but I feel certain it is only a matter of time until it comes here or returns here.

So for what it is worth, no matter what your feelings about war, we are really already in a war.

And for at least the second time in this space, I ponder, was George W. right about the war on terrrrr, or however he pronounced it? If so, he did not seem to conduct it well, but then again he had poor advisors and no real military experience himself. Bush declared the war and suggested it had no end. I would say he did not need to actually declare it, it just is……….

More later, perhaps, I have to go to the computer store. Wish me luck please, I’ll need it….

And now back from the computer store. The good news is that I have a warranty but the not as good news is that I’ll have to leave the laptop with them for maybe two weeks (they have to send it out). My h key sticks. I’m getting a new keyboard. I have not turned it in yet but will soon. I’ll have to find another way to post or hold off for a while, we’ll see.

But of course my problem is minor. The terrorist problem threatens our very existence as a civilization.

A new president of the United States cannot solve it but must be up to dealing with it. The person will have to be someone who understands world affairs. But we actually have people in the race who have no clue. Strange, and somewhat terrifying in and of itself.

And to think this morning I paused like I always do when I notice it is Friday the 13th. And then thought of how many I have been through and nothing happened.

 

 


Terror: we are reaping the whirlwind…

October 23, 2014

In regards to the Canadian terror attack which saw a Canadian military ceremonial guard at the nation’s war memorial gunned down and others injured and in regard to another military member murdered a day or so previously, it seems to me we have a number of things working here:

We have terrorism, whether officially coordinated or not, we have the modern desire for instant fame among nutcases of the world, utilizing our instant and constant mass communication in the internet age, and then we have alienated youth — I say the last in regards to reports of both Canadian and American youths (and others from the Western World) joining the ranks of Islamic terrorists.

I don’t always catch whether these youths have Middle Eastern backgrounds or whether they are just your ordinary mix of European and other blood youth yearning for something meaningful in life or some sense of belonging or something to believe in, no matter how misguided.

Whatever, this all plays into the hands of Islamic terrorists. Our society has been weakened over the past many decades by a mixture of greed for money and material things, a welfare state that encourages sloth, and a sexual revolution that while delivering freedom to the so-called “weaker sex” also has all but done away with societal mores that did something besides take the fun out of things.

A sense of family, responsibility, and a sense of belonging to a society is missing.

We are reaping the whirlwind.

We need to look inward and get our act together in order that we may fight back against those who would impose their own selfish will upon us.

And poor peaceful Canada. Welcome to the world Canada.


Was George W. Bush right after all with his war on terror?

October 11, 2014

I almost choke while asking this question but: could George W. Bush have been right all along to declare a war on terror? With the threat of what seems like the most diabolical enemy ever, at least in modern times, that is ISIS, with its beheadings and mass killings, it seems we need to confront this and do it now. I’m beginning to miss the good old days of the Cold War when it seemed there was less violence.

But then again, there was Korea and Vietnam and other hot wars. There is always war. But the Cold War with the two super powers did seem to keep some things in check.

Mostly it was just two super powers, the U.S. and the now defunct Soviet Union, threatening to annihilate each other with nuclear missiles, meanwhile each controlling or having hegemony over their respective halves of the world.

But America has grown soft in its wealth and luxury (financial crises notwithstanding).

Presidents cannot even think of asking or urging Americans to really sacrifice.

In a previous post I said something to the effect that there is no value in shedding any more American blood in Iraq, or did I say the whole Middle East? No difference. I don’t think there is, either way, especially since this nation quit fighting wars to win after World War II.

Well actually I would consider Korea a sort of win in that we did push the communist forces back across the 38th parallel.

I don’t believe in the concept of “limited war”. I don’t think you can limit war. You either fight to win or you end up losing. But fighting to win can be a major investment and a major risk. Victory is not guaranteed. So you have to pick your battles.

Right now the forces of ISIS do indeed seem to pose a threat to the whole world. So it would seem that it would be worth it to go at it with them head on. But President Obama is fighting back only reluctantly and in a limited fashion for now.

He has committed air power in Iraq and finally into Syria, after initially backing down from his promise to not let the Assad regime cross a red line — and actually that is separate from the current threat by ISIS, except related in that all of it has to do with an ongoing civil war in that nation that pits disparate forces against Syrian strong man Assad and each other — all very complicated.  Meanwhile ISIS takes advantage of the power vacuum and confusion in Syria, and of the weakness and internal struggles in Iraq. ISIS (a split-off from the more familiar Al Qaeda) is the real threat now (and I guess there are other similar factions, but let’s not get into that). This group of thugs appears to want to take over the Middle East and then maybe the whole world. And with modern transportation and technology this is a serious threat.

Obama seems to think that only our air power alone in some limited fashion is the best way to go, and let indigenous forces, on our side (do they even exist?), do the ground work. We tried letting the South Vietnamese ground forces do the dirty work once upon a time, but they wisely decided that it was better to live and let the other guys die (that is Americans). And I apologize to the families of any South Vietnamese soldiers who did give up their lives. I’m just talking the big picture. But we soon found out we had to commit our own forces in Vietnam, for it was really our war (we had chosen to make it our war already).

I doubt the American public, although spooked no doubt by the beheadings and massacres inflicted by ISIS, is in the mood to commit large numbers of troops in the fight at this time. And the public is never asked outright to pay for war, it is all but hidden in special appropriations. I think it must be hard to wage a successful war when you have to almost secretly fund it.

Enemies of the free Western world have only to look to the history of the past few decades to see that America has lost its resolve to fight battles and win.  An example. In the first Iraq War we did not defeat Saddam Hussein in that we did not go all the way to Baghdad and arrest and hang him then and there. In the second war with that nation, we finally just left without actually finishing the whole job (although the Iraqis themselves did hang Hussein), only to have problems flare up all over again.

And, according to Wikipedia, we lost almost 5,000 American troops between 2003 and 2014 in Iraq, and of course thousands were severely maimed or wounded. And still we left without finishing the job it seems. It could well be argued that we should not have gone in there in the first place, but the fact is we did and we put a major investment into the job. Talking dollars and cents, what is the figure? More than a trillion dollars spent on the project over the past decade.

I think it is a crime to commit any forces, be they air or ground or both, if you do not have the resolve to do what is necessary to win. I think that is more of a crime than choosing to go to war for questionable reasons. The justification of wars can always be debated. But there is no justification for asking or forcing people to die or be maimed for life for no reason.

We need to confront the threat of ISIS (and other such groups). Military strikes might not be the answer or only part of the answer. We need to go after the economies or economic entities or people who support our enemies.

But again, as to military action, we need to have the resolve to fight to win. If we can get by with a limited response, well good. But we have to be willing and able to be in for the long haul.

P.s.

And whatever action we take it should be in our own interest. I mean we lead the free world, but we always have to look out for ourselves first.