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Winning or losing the War on Terror?

A recent article in the Economist asks are we winning or losing the “global war on terror:

Nearly seven years into America’s “global war on terror”, the result remains inconclusive. Al-Qaeda lost a safe haven in Afghanistan, but is rebuilding another one in Pakistan; Mr bin Laden is at large, but Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who masterminded September 11th, has gone on trial in Guantánamo Bay; many leaders have been captured or killed, but others have taken their place; al-Qaeda faces an ideological backlash, but young Muslims still volunteer to blow themselves up.

This month we have seen some changes in the “war on terror”, with the hint of a troop withdrawal in Iraq. However, an escalation of violence in Afghanistan has led the US general in charge to ask for a least a doubling of the troops required to conduct operations:

Yesterday, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs acknowledged publicly what has been said quietly for a long time – our focus on Iraq is hurting our efforts in Afghanistan. Admiral Mullen said "I don't have troops I can reach for, brigades I can reach to send into Afghanistan until I have a reduced requirement in Iraq." This admission, taken with Admiral Mullen’s past comment that "In Afghanistan, we do what we can…In Iraq, we do what we must," is a clear sign that the Bush administration has failed to prioritize the war in Afghanistan and has pushed our military to its limits. Urgent action is required that returns Afghanistan, as well as Pakistan, to the center of our counterterrorism policy and provides the troops and resources that the mission requires.

While Iraq has been the main focus of the so-called “war on terror” Al-Qaeda has been regrouping in Pakistan and with renewed strength is putting enormous pressure on the US troops in Afghanistan. At the same time Israel and the US still threaten military action against Iran. With the US struggling in Afghanistan how would they support expanded military operations into Iran and Pakistan?

It is hard to imagine a victory of any sort for the US in either Iraq or Afghanistan. As long as the troops remain in Iraq or Afghanistan the threat of the war expanding into Iran or Pakistan is enormous. The Iraq and Afghanistan civilian populations are paying a bloody price, with civilian casualties being reported nearly everyday. While war rages it is impossible to build the necessary infrastructure such as hospitals and schools. More young Muslims are being led to join the ranks of Al-Qaeda as a result of the suffering.

Deepak Tripathi, a former BBC correspondent in Kabul, has been following events unfolding in Afghanistan since the communist takeover in 1978. He has been a reporter in India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Syria. He has written extensively on Afghanistan and South Asia in various international publications, including The Economist and The Daily Telegraph, London. In a recent study conducted for the Observer Research Foundation, Dialectics of the Afghanistan conflict: How the country became a terrorist haven, former BBC correspondent Tripathi writes:

The American-led invasion of Iraq overthrew the regime of Saddam Hussein, but it also dismantled the entire state structure of the country.

The break-up of Iraqi national institutions – the armed forces, the police and the administrative system – was violent and sudden and alternatives were tentative and slow to emerge. The dialectic started by the US-led invasion created stubborn resistance to the occupation forces, polarised Iraqi society and created a culture in which Iraqis found themselves in conflict with fellow Iraqis and militant Islamic groups were drawn to Iraq to fight the occupation forces.

Parallels can be seen in Palestine, in Lebanon and other places, where social and institutional frailties, combined with outside intervention, fuel a dialectic of violence which, in time, becomes part of the culture. Violent players and their victims become used to coercion, their thinking and behaviour driven by the perceived justification for, or expectation of, use of force to resolve matters. Players and victims may be different in each place. What triggers a cycle of violence is unique and where events will lead to may be unknown. Still, where the appropriate agents are present, a violent dialectic and terror are close companions.

The presence of foreign troops provides an excuse for violence. The sooner the troops are withdrawn the faster the chance of some kind of peace being returned.

Even if that peace comes by the leadership of a strongman lacking in democratic principles, it is still better than constant war.

The best way the democratic world can help is through the provision of aid and the constant pushing of human rights through trade and the UN.

The only way to win the “war on terror” is to be less willing ourselves to use terror to win a political victory. The war on terror will be won when all terrorists – including those financed by democratic governments – are brought to justice in the International Criminal Court.


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Five more children killed.

A statement says soldiers in the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) were attacked and retaliated with artillery fire.

The first shell landed too close to a civilian compound and troops called a halt to the attack, but a second shell had already been fired.

NATO soldiers found the bodies of three children in the compound. Seven people were wounded.

In a statement, NATO expressed deep regret and said the incident was being investigated.

On Friday Afghan and German troops killed two children and a woman when the cars they were in failed to stop at a checkpoint.

The incidents are the latest in a string of civilian casualties caused by foreign soldiers.

Killing children is no way to win the hearts and minds of the Afghanistani people. The use of artillery or aerial bombardment is too blunt a weapon in a guerrilla war. The price the civil population has to pay is too expensive. Would we accept the cost if was Australian kids being killed?

The US is in a huge foreign policy muddle

The United States is in a huge foreign policy muddle in the Middle East. It wants to dominate and control Iran but requires the support of the world community to accomplish its aims. Diplomacy and sanctions require only a low level of support. On the other hand, to launch a military attack or green-light one by Israel, the United States needs far more backing.  

This support does not appear to exist, and recent U.S. foreign policy actions are eroding that support even further. The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported on August 13 that the United States refused to give the go-ahead to Israeli attacks on Iran's nuclear facilities in talks between Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak. Could it be that the Bush administration finally knows when it is licked?

Israel is desperate to bomb Iran but the US can't get the necessary support from the rest of the world. US foreign policy is in a mess not only in the Middle East but also in Europe. Let's hope the new President of the United States is more of a diplomat than an armchair general.

Yes, we do owe the Afghans

When they came to us for help from the Taliban we locked them up and threw away the key, turned them into the sea or sent them to Nauru.

Then we bombed their country to bits and re-installed the poppy mafia, the murdering war lords of the mujihadeen and pretended we cared. So far the amount of aid to the people of Afghanistan is about $125 million over 7 years compared to about $1.5 billion to lock them up and about $2.5 billion to bomb them to bits and destroy their entire land.

Ditto for Iraq.

We invaded Afghanistan; it is up to us to feed the people.

Time is running out to avert a humanitarian crisis, the British-based group said, urging governments to respond to an emergency humanitarian appeal launched in July.

"Up to five million Afghans face severe food shortages, yet the appeal for Afghanistan has a huge funding shortfall, with less than a fifth of the $US404 million needed to respond," Oxfam said in a statement.

"Large parts of Afghanistan are facing crisis as a result of the cumulative effect of factors including the harsh winter, high food prices, drought and increasing and spreading insecurity."

One of the hardest-hit provinces is central Daikundi, where an Oxfam assessment shows people may be facing the worst conditions in more than 20 years.

"As it is almost impossible to deliver aid to rural areas during the harsh Afghan winter, concerted action is needed now to avert the crisis," it said.

"This is a race against time, the international community needs to respond quickly before winter when conditions deteriorate," said Oxfam's head of policy in Kabul, Matt Waldman.

I hope we are as quick to get aid to the people of Afghanistan as we were to invade. We are the invaders, we have contributed to the insecurity, and now we are responsible for these 5 million people.

In case you've forgotten we are still at war

President Bush’s defining legacies: an affirmation that the United States is still at war with Al Qaeda.

Seven years after the Sept. 11 attacks, Mr. Bush’s advisers assert that many Americans may have forgotten that. So they want Congress to say so and “acknowledge again and explicitly that this nation remains engaged in an armed conflict with Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and associated organizations, who have already proclaimed themselves at war with us and who are dedicated to the slaughter of Americans.”

I bet the families of those that are still serving in Iraq and Afghanistan have not forotten that we are still at war.

For Bush critics like Bruce Fein, a Justice Department official in the Reagan administration, the answer is simple: do not give the administration the wartime language it seeks.

“I do not believe that we are in a state of war whatsoever,” Mr. Fein said. “We have an odious opponent that the criminal justice system is able to identify and indict and convict. They’re not a goliath. Don’t treat them that way.”

Bruce Fein is right. The opponents in this "war" are criminals and should be brought to justice by the criminal justice system. Instead innocent people are being killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, thousands of US soldiers are dead and wounded. Australian soldiers have also been killed and wounded and many are still at risk. The price of this so called war has been borne by the servicemen and their families. Many may have forgotten that these wars are still being fought, but the families of all those involved will never forget.

Tim Osman the CIA name for Bin Laden

The other man, dressed in Docker's clothing, was not a native Afghan any more than Olberg was. He was a 27-year-old Saudi. Tim Osman (Ossman) has recently become better known as Osama Bin Laden. "Tim Osman" was the name assigned to him by the CIA for his tour of the U.S. and U.S. military bases, in search of political support and armaments.

Once a CIA agent always a CIA agent, I say.

Tora Bora

I think you will find that the Tora Bora cave structure was built during the Russian occupation which is when Bin Laden was signed up by the CIA to head the mujihadeen to throw Russia out of Afghanistan.

Ian, you need to read more. The caves themselves are centuries old and carried a very sophisticated irrigation system that the US blew up.


Tora Bora

Marilyn, Bin Laden was storing dyhydrogen monoxide in the Tora Bora cave structure. That's why we had to stop him.

Iran and DHMO

Alan, Iran has been stockpiling dihydrogen monoxide for decades. The Shahid Abbaspour site has maintained stocks for more than thirty years. Who can blame them, though: the US and Europe have been doing the same.


Dylan, I wonder if Penny Wong knows about DHMO?

DHMO in Australia

Alan: "I wonder if Penny Wong knows about DHMO?"

I hope so. In 2006/07 the inhalation of DHMO has been implicated (in part or full) for the deaths of hundreds of Australians including 21 children under the age of 14. As well, Indigenous Australians are four times more likely to be killed by inhalation of DHMO.

Sadder still, those who become dependent on DHMO and use it regularly (sometimes dozens of times per day) usually die within days if their supply is cut off. Certainly a health issue - Nicola Roxon might be the 'go to' minister in that regard.

9/11 conspiracy theory

John Pratt, it seems to me in that link you are in breach of WD policy re 9/11.

Editors might like to read the following extract from the link. It does not bother me, as I just don't buy such nonsense, but policy is policy is it not?

The same is true with respect to the recent plane bombings of the WTC. It wasn't an intelligence "failure". The terrorist acts were deliberately allowed to happen. The actors may have been foreign. But the stage directors appear to have been all along here in the U.S. Cui bono?

A good chance to practise my punctuation should not be missed.

Ian M (Ed): Noted.


Bill Avent, your quick response to Jenny Hume's questions has saved me at least five minutes' work. Given the number of items on today's "to do" list, I too give you my thanks.

I agree with your summary, although I am inclined to dispute your usage of the semicolon. Since I am not marking your essay, however, I shall let the matter pass.


Fiona Reynolds, we could debate the use of semicolons some time, if you want to. As long as I am not to be proven wrong in general on some instance of being not quite right. Remember, I'm slightly drunk a lot of the time.

Those three sentences could be written as one, with semicolons in place of the stops, without the result being technically wrong.  Punctuation serves a higher purpose than mere technicality. Options remain open to us, even in this day and age.

GB Shaw, I think, would not dispute my use of semicolons. TE Lawrence was somewhat bemused at his insertion of so many into his manuscript, when he edited it.

Then why don't the FBI want him for it?


The reality is that Bin Laden is a CIA agent, always was and always will be. If they wanted him for the attack on the US why not say so on the FBI website?

I suppose the truth must come out eventually

Marilyn: "The reality is that Bin Laden is a CIA agent, always was and always will be. If they wanted him for the attack on the US why not say so on the FBI website?"

Now you say: "I think you will find that the Tora Bora cave structure was built during the Russian occupation which is when Bin Laden was signed up by the CIA to head the mujihadeen to throw Russia out of Afghanistan."

Anything could have been jury-rigged by the Americans during the Russian war in Afghanistan. But to say that the man in the top spot on the FBI's wanted list is actually right now also a CIA agent, "always was and always will be" only creates further difficulties; like (just for starters) how come some Daniel Ellsberg in either organisation has not taken the whole thing public? Both the CIA and the FBI on this view would not just have to be 100% watertight, airtight, soundtight and leak proof; they would also have to be 100% internally unanimous.

Sorry. Organisations never are.

On my visits to Islamic cities, I have always enjoyed the ethereal, plaintive sound of the muezzin atop the minaret calling the faithful to prayer. Unfortunately such experiences have been all too infrequent. To my ear, the sound of the muezzin bears an eerie similarity to this

This no longer surprises me, for reality is far more rational, or as Hamlet said: "there are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy."

The King did not die in 1977 at the age of 42. He actually went incognito to Afghanistan, stepped into a Tora Bora phone box and reemerged in the guise of his Arab doppelganger, Osama bin Laden. He had previously persuaded some friends at the CIA to set the caves up there as a studio complex, where, even as we blog, he is laying down the definitive tracks of his entire career. (Not bad at age 72.) It was the only way he could get time free from frenzied female fans, teeny boppers, Graceland tourists and the minions of Colonel Sanders, I mean Tom Parker. When he is finished, and only then, the whole thing will be revealed and the full story told.

You are privileged to have this sneak preview, but I've probably said too much already.

To make him think they have forgotten

"If they wanted him for the attack on the US why not say so on the FBI website?"

Ah, but you see, they are trying to lull him into a false sense of security. Then they will nab him the moment he shows his face at a Taco Bell.

You've got it wrong: he never died

Marilyn: "The reality is that Bin Laden is a CIA agent, always was and always will be."

No. I seriously dispute that.

Look at his photo again. There can be no doubt.

Elvis never died. He lives on, with a long beard, and built up shoes. Probably blue suede ones under those funny clothes.

CIA agent! What a load of garbage!

Sifting through garbage

Thank you, Bill.  I've always struggled with that.

Ian: "CIA agent! What a load of garbage!"   I'll have to do some rereading, but I was under the impression that the Kosovo Liberation Front was funded to create an "internal" resistance that the western forces could be helping.  I've also wondered, given who created the Tora Bora Caves infrastructure, whether the last occupant was a tenant or a squatter.

Marilyn's far from alone on engaging in such trains of thought.

That's the bloody problem

Richard: "Marilyn's far from alone on engaging in such trains of thought."

Of course she's not alone. The world is full of them. I blame it on the hole in the ozone layer or overdoses of CO2 or whatever. Global warming is the least of it.

The war on participles (past and present)

"And there is no war on 'terror' as you cannot wage war on a noun."

They are making a damn good job of it Marilyn; at least the terror bit. Best not think what they might do to an adjective an adverb, or the humble and hard-working participle (past and present).

These morally illiterate morons would wage war on a fucking full-stop in there was a quid in it.

Fiona: Now you have me worried, Justin. Over the past week I've been engaged in a minor skirmish with certain serial offenders against Webdiary's (minimal) style rules. Should I have been charging? Let me assure you that I'd be delighted to augment my current pittance, so how much would you advise for a comma versus a colon?

A what full stop, Justin?

Justin Obodie: "These morally illiterate morons would wage war on a f...ing (not sic) full- stop in (sic) there was a quid in it".

See Fiona, I am trying to be good.

Now the full-stop does cause me some problems but not of that kind, Justin. So could the punctuation pedants here tell me when you make a quote and the sentence ends with the quote, does the little dot go before or after the inverted commas?  Now I am right there am I not, no full-stop after the "?". I see Justin has put it before the " in his quote, and I have instinctively put it after in quoting him back.. 

Similarly does a sentence ending in a question marked quote have its quotation mark before or after the ?.  Eg.  Malcolm B Duncan asked: "Who taught you Shakespeare"? -  or should that be "Shakespeare?" and then I feel I want to drop in the old stop as well on the last one.

The published books I have on the desk here show most authors don't know which way to go so they do a bit of both.

And don't those book publishers go mad with your text when they see those commas in your draft. They sweep most of them off the page and most of the capitals as well. 

As for the poor old semi-colon no one seems to know here where he should reside. It is not the full-stop that is playing loose around here Justin me lad.  

See what you have done to my day? I am probably going to have to repunctuate fifteen chapters of the bloody book.

Easy on the bloody, if you don't mind

Jenny Hume, your editor should be able to sort out your punctuation. Any reputable publisher should be willing to supply a style sheet setting out his/her/its preferences, and most will require that you present your manuscript in accordance with the rules set out in the style sheet. These things are freely available on request.

Convention, these days, is what rules. So I will avoid "correct" and "incorrect". Conventions, though, are there to be broken; and may sometimes be broken by writers intent on creating a particular effect. Inconsistency and deviation from convention can detract from readability though; and so should not be indulged in indiscriminately.

Certainly put no (.) after (?) or any other punctuation mark.

Malcolm B Duncan's placement of (?) as you quote it may be conventional or unconventional, depending on context. As presented, it looks unconventional to me, but it may not be. For example, if it were something like: Is your understanding based on the misunderstanding of the one "who taught you Shakespeare", then the question mark may properly be placed outside of the closing quotation mark. The quotation marks would be there to imply that the teacher was inadequate, or that the person under interrogation was not taught Shakespeare at all. Still, the sentence would be better if the quotation marks were placed between you and Shakespeare, or between taught and you. If he were simply enquiring as to the identity of the teacher, as seems on the face of it to be the case, then the question mark should be within the quotation marks, together with the question itself.

You are on safe ground placing full stops, commas, question marks and exclamation marks within the quotation marks when reporting dialogue. Your text will look decidedly peculiar if you do otherwise. A quotation should not end with a colon or a semicolon. The conventional function of those things prohibits it. When not writing dialogue but quoting someone else's words, they may appear outside of the quotation marks, thus becoming punctuation as part of your overall text.

In quoting words or phrases, directly or indirectly as I have above in my "correct" and "incorrect", it is generally acceptable to punctuate as I have, placing the stop, and in this instance comma, outside of the quotation. This, I understand, (don't quote me, as I may have it round the wrong way) is the American convention, and has lately gained pretty close to universal acceptance in British English writing. Some still disagree with it; especially, in my experience, a few who assess academic writing.

Not his example

Bill Avent, that was not Malcom B Duncan's punctuation in the example, it was mine so the sentence should have started with "if". I made the question up from the thing most on my mind, that is the latter's valiant attempt to encourage me toward a better attitude toward Willie Shakespeare. I thought I had better fix that before we both ended up in the Punctuation Court.

Fiona: Not to mention the Court of Pie Powder...  

Well thank you for that

Bill Avent, well thank you for that and I will digest over lunch. I am sure I have been totally inconsistent in the manuscript so have quite a job in fixing that. I tend to write and think I will go and fix all that up later, so fifteen chapters on, it will now be one hell of a job. Unless of course I can extend my computing skills to global fixes but that is another deficiency I own. 

Now I hope you read my bit on mulesing and am convinced that my policy is one of total opposition to that barbaric practice in line with the organizations I support or belong to. There is nothing nice about a fly struck sheep but there has to be a better way than that. We used to crutch our sheep when we had sheep decades ago. I think we will win over the next couple of years on that issue, and many farmers have alread turned to other methods anyway.

Now before the off thread sergeant arrives I better quit this place.

Help wanted - students need apply

Justin Obodie now seems to have gone past pluperfect.  Dr Reynolds has colon caution.  Where the gerund, whither the hanging participle, the elusive elision or, imperative though it may be, still my beating heart?  Where, oh where, the vocative, goddess mine personified?

No exclamation marks cited.

Taliban had nothing to do with anything

For god's sake after all these years why do people still try and conflate this nonsense in Afghanistan?

It was about an oil pipeline and was planned in July 2001 with the plans tabled on 10 September 2001.

Meanwhile the Afghans did not have anything to do with anything. The Taliban were the government of the day started by Bill Clinton and Benazir Bhutto to counter the current mob of murderers whom we call the bloody government.

Now give over. Not only that but the Taliban offered Bin Laden to the UN on 14 October 2001 if they could provide evidence that he was involved. As we have known for years they had none and have never found any.

The UN have just confirmed the murder of 60 children and 30 women in that latest attack by the US who insist on dropping bombs from 30,000 feet like the cowards that they are without bothering to find out what is really going on.

As for the Iraqis - they certainly had nothing to do with anything.

And there is no war on 'terror' as you cannot wage war on a noun.

So grow up boys and get over it.

Fair crack of the whip...

Marilyn, bin Laden has claimed responsibility for 9/11.

I think the US would have been pushing it uphill to provide evidence satisfactory to the Taliban on this. I can just imagine the games that lot would have played. So I can understand why the US adopted a somewhat briefer debating style.

Has the invasion of Iraq really changed anything?

Ian, when you read this you begin to think Iraq under the US is not so different than Iraq under Hussein:

In March or April 2007, three noncommissioned United States Army officers, including a first sergeant, a platoon sergeant and a senior medic, killed four Iraqi prisoners with pistol shots to the head as the men stood handcuffed and blindfolded beside a Baghdad canal, two of the soldiers said in sworn statements.

Like I say, thousands dead and wounded and nothing to show for it.

Life was very different under Saddam Hussein

John, it is patently absurd to equate the present situation in Iraq with that under Saddam Hussein, when Sunnis did most of the killing and Shias did most of the dying; and a hell of a lot of it as well. The Saddam regime was all about retaining the power of his gangster regime and a minority (ie his Sunni power base) over the majority. The US has attempted to set up representative government in the face of an ongoing sectarian civil war between the various Islamic factions.

The Americans cop the blame for a lot, but putting the Muslim on Muslim violence on them is stretching it just a bit too far.

Nobody seriously suggests that the occupation of Iraq should continue against the wishes of the majority of Iraqis, and if at the end of the day Iraq falls into the Iranian sphere then one can only say that the chickens of 1953 have finally come home to roost.

 As I and many others have been saying for a long time, if the US Government wants to get anywhere with the people of Iraq (an essential if their objectives are to be achieved) it must put the inevitable minority who are suspected of atrocities and war crimes on trial. Justice is indivisible, and must be seen to be done.

That having been said, it must also be noted that there is a profound reluctance in certain quarters (notably the anti-American left) to recognise good news when it comes out of Iraq.


The function and logic of conspiracy theories

Ian MacDougall: "John, so then are you saying that the US should not have gone after those responsible for 9/11?"

Well, as you know, it was an "inside job" and therefore they coudn't justifiably go after anyone.

In fact, perhaps the whole thing was faked on a Hollywood back lot? Prove that it wasn't.

War on terror pushes the US to economic breaking point

Australians, like people in most countries, have a hugely exaggerated impression of the likelihood of terrorist attacks. Second, we have an exaggerated impression of governments' ability to prevent them.

That is partly because rare events may be more dramatic and tend to stick in our minds. It is hard to forget the events of September 11, 2001, in which nearly 3000 people were killed, and the Bali bombings of October 2002, in which more than 200 people were killed, including 88 Australians.

But for a significant terrorist act on Australian soil you have to go back to the Hilton bombing in Sydney in February 1978, in which three people died.

Transnational terrorism across the world leads to an average of 420 deaths a year. Within a global population of 6.6 billion, that's not a big risk. The chance of being killed in a road crash is very much higher. Australia's annual road toll is four times that global figure. And in the US, 10 times as many people are killed on the roads each year as were killed in the events of September 11, 2001.

Are we getting value for our dollar? Or has Osama forced us to overreact?

The total cost of the war on terror, including Iraq and Afghanistan, could be anywhere from $1 trillion to $1.45 trillion by 2017.

If the US won the cold war by forcing Russia to overspend on its military?

George Will and Irving Kristol argued that SDI, Reagan's military buildup and the ideological crusade against Communism had delivered the knockout punch to a system that had been on the ropes since the early 1980s. A parade of former Reagan administration officials, including Weinberger and Richard Perle, came forward to assert that Reagan had known all the time that the Soviet Union was on its last legs and had aggressively foreclosed Soviet military options while pushing the Soviet economy to the breaking point. According to conservatives, the combination of military and ideological pressures gave the Soviet Union little choice but to abandon expansionism abroad and repression at home, and SDI was the key to this winning strategy. The Star Wars initiative had put the Soviets on notice that the next arms race would be waged in areas where the U.S. had a decisive technological advantage.

It could be argued that Osama Bin Laden has caused the US to overreact and is pushing the US economy to breaking point.

Gittins is wrong

John, I have a great deal of respect for Ross Gittins, and have a file on my hard drive of his SMH articles going way back. I also filed his article of this morning The Terrifying Cost of Feeling Safer, under the filemname 080826 The Gittins Fallacy, with a note that says: "To have done nothing about 9/11 (the most cost-effective approach) would have made the probability of a repeat considerably greater, until terrorism was eating into the national budget in a big way (the least cost-effective approach.)"

There is no shortage of people who argue that the US should never have got into Afghanistan, Iraq, or anywhere else for that matter; just as there were many after 9/11 who argued that the US could really do nothing about it; just as there is no shortage of virile but frustrated young Muslim men willing to blow themselves up in order to secure an eternity in Paradise, each with his own private harem of 72 virgins.

Your quote from Gittins re road fatalities is one that I would use too. Except that we take measures to minimise the chances of being killed in road accidents, both as a society and as individuals. The cost of airport security etc is always measured against the number so far killed by airline terrorism - on the scale of things, not a great number - while the number of deaths prevented is inherently unknowable. I can drive defensively: I always do. But I can't travel as an airline passenger defensively. Only the airline can do that.

I put it to you that a world in which governments had not responded to 9/11 by ramping up airport security would be a world of frequent airline outrages, and thus one in which the only airline left would probably be this one.

Likewise, it would be a world in which Saddam Hussein was still rampant, and possessed of a free hand; likewise the Taliban.

I do not think that would be a secure, or a cheap, world to live in.

Hundreds of thousands killed and wounded for what?

Ian, I think the Taliban are still rampant:

The Taliban have mounted their most serious attacks in six years of fighting in Afghanistan this week, including a co-ordinated assault by at least 10 suicide bombers against one of the largest American military bases in the country, launched just before midnight on Monday.

That attack, on Camp Salerno in the eastern province of Khost, wounded three American soldiers and six members of the Afghan Special Forces.

It followed a suicide car bombing at the outer entrance to the same base on Monday morning, which killed 12 Afghan workers lining up to enter the base, and another attempted bombing that was thwarted later.

The attack on the French, which took place at Sarobi, 50 kilometres east of Kabul, added to the sense of siege around the capital and was the deadliest single loss for foreign troops in a ground battle since the US-led invasion chased the Taliban from power in 2001.

The WOT has not so far been able to slow them down. Instead it could be argued that they have increased their acts of terrorism. We have other threats such as climate change, disease, poverty where the money may have made us more secure and not made bigger targets of ourselves.

I believe you catch more bees with honey than vinegar.

We may have replaced Saddam Hussein but I believe when the US troops pull out of Iraq another leader, probably chosen by Iran, and just as powerful and probably more threatening than Hussein, will take his place.

In the meanwhile we have killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqi and Afghanistan people, destroyed their economies and created millions of refugees. Not to mention the allied dead and wounded. Talk about a bull in a china shop.

I don't have a problem with airport security, but why have we ignored train security? Just as many could be killed if someone wanted to blow up a rail bridge. The reason is the cost is too great. We will always be vulnerable to terrorists and madmen. Extra security at airports is just window dressing.

Response to 9/11?

John, so then are you saying that the US should not have gone after those responsible for 9/11?

The Taliban and al-Quaeda are not vulnerable diplomatically.

However strong they are now, they would have been stronger in the absence of a US response. Muslim triumphalism over getting away with it would have substituted just as well for Muslim outrage over the so-called "War on Terror"' in terms of egging terrorists on.

The other world that would have resulted is unknowable. But the bulk of the casualties in Iraq are the result of Muslim-on-Muslim violence, and have a lot of ground to catch up before drawing level with Saddam. Left alone, he could  have easily been far worse.

Why kill thousands of innocent people to get a few thugs?

Ian, I believe the US should have used diplomatic pressure and the International Criminal Court to prosecute the criminals who were responsible for 9/11, the same way the criminals that were involved with the Lockerby bombing were brought to justice. Invading and killing innocent people for the work of a few radicals was way over the top. I am not sure the Taliban or al-Quaeda could not have been controlled by the proper use of diplomatic influence and the judicial system. The WOT is battle for the hearts and minds of people killing them and destroying their countries is not way to win a guerrilla war. I believe more people have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan than would have been under Hussein.

Who is winning the propaganda war?

Authorities are trying to stop an anti-Semitic satellite TV station broadcasting into Australia from Indonesia — which has already rejected US efforts to take the channel off the air.

It is the third time Australia has acted against al-Manar, a channel owned by Hezbollah, the militant Shiite Muslim Lebanese political party. The United States lists it as a banned terrorist organisation. Australia lists only its armed wing, the External Security Organisation...

According to the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, al-Manar, launched in 1991, transmits 24 hours a day worldwide and is bankrolled by the Iranian Government. The station regularly broadcasts speeches by Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah and fatwas (Muslim legal rulings) endorsing suicide bombing as legitimate.

Greg Barton, Monash University professor for the study of Indonesia, said the West had little prospect of getting Indonesian co-operation. "It highlights the diminution of soft power for the West in general and America in particular as a direct result of Iraq," he said.

Professor Barton, an adviser to Abdurrahman Wahid when he was Indonesian president, said: "I can't see President Yudhoyono listening to the Americans on this one."

It looks like Indonesia is going to ignore demands to close this station down.

Soft power is losing  influence as a result of the war in Iraq.

Anyway, aren't we fighting for freedom, including a free press?

Not a good day in the War on Terror

First a major Taliban attack on a US base:

Taliban suicide bombers, backed by gunmen, have attempted to breach the defences of the main US base for south-eastern Afghanistan, Afghan and NATO officials said.

NATO troops were still fighting the remaining Taliban insurgents after they were driven back to some houses in a nearby village, the provincial governor said.

The Afghan Defence Ministry said 13 suicide bombers were killed.

A suicide bomber killed 10 Afghan civilians and wounded 13 more outside the same base on Monday (local time).

And then:

A suicide bomber blew himself up at a hospital in a north-western Pakistani town that has been plagued by sectarian violence, killing at least 23 people, police said.

The explosion happened as Shiite Muslims gathered to protest over the death of a man in a suspected sectarian attack in the troubled town of Dera Ismail Khan, provincial police chief Malik Naveed Khan said.

"There are 23 confirmed dead and up to 20 wounded. We have found the legs of the suspected suicide bomber," Mr Khan told local television, adding that tensions were high in the area after the blast.

And now:

Ten French paratroopers were killed and at least 21 wounded in heavy fighting between NATO troops and insurgents in the Kabul region on Thursday

Does the West have any idea what it is doing? As the death toll rises we seem to be slipping deeper into the quagmire.

It all looks the Tet offensive in Vietnam.

During the second half of 1967 the administration had become alarmed by criticism, both inside and outside the government, and by reports of declining public support for its Vietnam policies. According to public opinion polls, the percentage of Americans who believed that the U.S. had made a mistake by sending troops to Vietnam had risen from 25 percent in 1965 to 45 percent by December 1967. This trend was fueled not by a belief that the struggle was not worthwhile, but by mounting casualty figures, rising taxes, and the feeling that there was no end to the war in sight.

We lost - and the worst is yet to come

Winning or losing the WOT?

If we're not careful we could lose the bloody LOT.

The short answer to the opening question would have to be we have lost. After careful consideration the long answer would have to be we have lost, absolutely.

By "we" I mean you and me, the punters, the ordinary people of America, Iraq, Australia, Afghanistan, UK and so on.

Qui Bono

Not the punters; you won't find too many ordinary folk who have benefited from the deluded idealism of George W Bush's puppet masters. Neoconservative galoots who have successfully stuffed up US foreign policy in the way only galoots could do; not to mention the blood and tears.

But these galoots could not give a shit; qui bono – do your own homework; they laugh all the way to the bank. When you make shit loads of cash for death and destruction why stop?

How many punters are laughing?

The total futility and hypocrisy of the Neoconservative agenda has been exposed in a rather brutal (but probably necessary manner) by Russia. Putin draws the line and McCain and Bush waffle a load of crap.

Georgia (with the nod and assistance of the US) got walloped for murdering innocent men women and children in Ossetia; they behaved worse than terrorist when they had no reason to do so. Just like the current US government.

No good has come from the WOT (PANAC?), no one likes a bully and the US (government), like a bully, picks on the weak (can't beat em), for the financial interest of the very few, while being totally impotent in the face of its equals.

China will be very upset that Bush and his Georgian mate timed (planned) their stupidity when they did. China will not forget; just one more reason to disconnect when the time is right; the consequences may be unfortunate.

Most punters (sans those at the pointy end) may think they have not lost much from the WOT, but what lies ahead could see (many of) them losing the LOT.

The WOT, the dysfunctional and dishonest US (global) banking system, K Street along with related (global) corporate and client corruption will see to that.

We are living in interesting times, indeed – things are going to get worse.


Justin, much, much worse! It hasn't even started yet.

Bush says bullying and intimidation are not acceptable

But US President George W Bush said Moscow's decision to send in troops had hurt its credibility overseas.

"Bullying and intimidation are not acceptable ways to conduct foreign policy in the 21st century," he said in Washington before departing for a holiday in Texas.

Bush, an expert on how to hurt overseas credibility, lectures Moscow for copying the US. 

Ask Cuba if they think the US uses bullying and intimidation.

More front than Russia I & II

Bush, an expert on how to hurt overseas credibility, lectures Moscow for copying the US

Well John Pratt, if you're going to be lectured it may as well be by one who knows well that of which he speaks.

It has been ironic in the extreme to watch the Bush administration's admonitions. They evidently have more front than Russia. That, coupled with a selective memory, is apt to produce such delightful irony.

The only thing that has near bettered it has been the spectacle of News Limited journalists - led by the hyperbolic Paul Kent - haranguing their readership with holier-than-though sermons about the greedy "what's in it for me" generation of NRL players and "cashed up predatory French union clubs" and how they are trashing sanctity of their contracts.

Spare me.

This is the same organisation that over twelve years ago took Supreme and Federal Court actions to dissolve all the then ARL contracts so its master could buy an entire league. A league now led by that Superleague cold warrior Gallop who should well remember. More front than Russia.

That it has fallen on Canterbury, the club that was near incontinent in its rush to be first to "defect" to Superleague, is priceless.

Father Park

Telling people what to do

John, so others notice it too! The total disconnect in what Bush and his thugs, but including other members of the ‘coalition of the willing’, say.

Whatever the world is that they inhabit, it has less than no connection with reality.

Reminds me of when we were kids and had driven our parents to distraction, they would occasionally burst out with ‘you do as I say, not as I do!’

Come the think of it the way these bods attempt to lecture the rest of the world upon how they ought to behave reminds me of nothing so much as bad parenting!

Michael, your observations are spot on!

The ‘you work for us or you don’t work at all’ clearly illustrates the morality of the NRL generally. This in fact was the theme of the thugs who ran the girls around the Cross before heroin arrived and a sick system became even more so.

What puzzles me is Sonny Bill worked for the Bulldogs for, according to speculation, approximately one quarter of his market value. Contracts, I believe, can be declared unconscionable by the courts. Surely Sonny Bill has a case for having the contract declared so, and suing on the grounds of gross underpayment for his services?


400,000 troops needed to "win" the war in Afghanistan.

Destroying the Taliban regime after 9/11 was just and rational. And it was done in an effective and proportionate manner: over just six weeks in late 2001, with several hundred American special operatives on the ground, American air support and our allies in the Northern Alliance.

Since then, however, the mission has grown. Today there are 71,000 NATO troops in Afghanistan, yet things are getting ever worse. There were 10 times as many armed attacks on international troops and civilian contractors in 2007 as there were in 2004. Every other measure of violence, from roadside bombs to suicide bombers, is also up dramatically. Our principal ally at the beginning of the war, the Northern Alliance, controlled more of the country at the end of 2001 than President Hamid Karzai, our current principal ally, effectively controls today...............

For those who remain unconvinced that anything short of ambitiously remaking Afghanistan would imperil America’s basic interests, here’s the big question: What sort of commitment are you willing to make? Dan McNeil, the American general who was NATO’s top commander in Afghanistan until he left in June, said shortly before concluding his tour that according to current American counterinsurgency doctrine, a successful occupation of Afghanistan, which is larger, more complex, more populous and very much less governable than Iraq, would require 400,000 troops.

This is an extract of a piece in the New York Times by Bartle Breese Bull, the foreign editor of Prospect magazine, who is writing a history of Iraq.

It is obvious from reading this piece that the war in Afghanistan is not going to be won unless the US is prepared to increase troop numbers to at least 400,000. I don't think the US could do this even if it wanted to. So the question remains: what are we doing in Afghanistan? We do not have the will or the capability to win the war.

Against all political flags

G'day John,

I agree wholeheartedly with your comment.

With the American (still suspect) 9/11 came the chance for the US Military/Corporate to commit many crimes against humanity on a wave of universal pity. The birth of "terrorism" and the death of democracy.

The first of these was to blame the government of a sovereign country - namely the Taliban in Afghanistan - for harbouring a previous US comrade named Osama bin Laden who, they said was behind 9/11.

This, even though Osama had vigorously denied masterminding 9/11 and; the Taliban had offered to turn him over provided that he could have a trial by an independent court, and; the UN was forced into agreeing to an invasion to "catch the culprits". But - didn't they all come from Bush's wonderful financial friend, Saudi Arabia?

Naturally, the ex-patriot American John Howard gleefully jumped in to send our forces to serve under the US-led invasion and, because it was authorised by the United Nations, the Rudd Labor government feels obligated to continue in that endless struggle.

IMHO John, the media's propaganda of "terrorists under every bed" has been very successful and just happened to be a prelude to the invasion of Iraq, even though another ex-US comrade, Saddam Hussein, actually despised Osama!

Could this have been the long range plan to have the Iraqi oil and a pipeline through Afghanistan?

It was often claimed by the Arab nations that America's total support for the state of Israel (even during cruel terrorist activities) was planned by the US to destabilise the oil rich Middle East. Whether that was intended or not, they have certainly succeeded in so doing.

The entire world should realise that the US has not heeded the warnings of ex-Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy NOT to allow the Military/Corporate to be in control of their foreign policy.

The US was the only country involved in WW 2 which did not suffer any homeland attacks; destruction of infrastructure or loss of financial stability.

In fact - they have made zillions from war - and continue to do so, paid by taxpayers - and the world is suffering the "whirlwind" of the unrestricted arrogance of the US Military/Corporate.

So Geoff, after the stalemate of Korea; the debacle of Rwanda; the defeat in Vietnam; the stalemate in Afghanistan and the morass of Iraq, WHY does the US continue to threaten countries (including Russia) who do not comply with their directions?

The empires of the past have always needed slaves to succeed and, the patriotism of those slaves has always eventually overthrown them.

The financial empire of the US is already beginning to cough and, when it does, the world gets pneumonia.

Looking for the next best thing...

So the question remains: what are we doing in Afghanistan? We do not have the will or the capability to win the war.

Indeed John Pratt: we lost both to the incontinent rush, propelled by imminent mushroom clouds and faked intelligence, to participate in the misadventure in Mesopotamia.

As ever, looking for the next best thing...

Father Park

(Problems with) news from Baghdad

A  commentator whose views are always germane to any discussion of the so-called "so-called 'War on Terror' ", even if... well, never mind: Christopher Hitchens' latest piece entitled Why do we have such a hard time hearing good news from Baghdad?

Stand by to repel boarders!

Without comment

In Baghdad, power supply may worsen
Updated 4/27/2008 9:55 PM |
By Andrea Stone, USA TODAY
BAGHDAD — Mohammed Abbas stares into a cooler case in his small grocery store and says the electricity to run it eats up half his profits. He expects to pay $150 a month this summer to keep the meat and cheese from spoiling.

That means his wife and four children must sweat out another summer with a ceiling fan. There isn't enough power or money to run an air conditioner. Everyone gets heat rashes, headaches and mosquito bites from windows left open to catch a breeze, he says.

Getting electricity — especially when summer temperatures soar into triple digits — may be the most important issue for Iraqis after security. Last year's increase in U.S. troops, or "surge," helped reduce violence, allowing many shops in the capital to reopen.

So electricity demand, which has been growing 7% to 9% each year, "could be greater" this year because of the rise in economic activity, says Charles Ries, the State Department's coordinator for economic transition in Iraq. In the summer, demand can spike about 20% as Iraqis power up their air conditioners, he says.

"There is no chance we will be able to meet demand in the summer," Ries says, even though new power plants are coming on line.

Iraq War Results & Statistics at July 16, 2008
4,122 US Soldiers Killed, 30,409 Seriously Wounded
By Deborah White, About.com

Iraqis Displaced Inside Iraq, by Iraq War, as of May 2007 - 2,255,000

Iraqi Refugees in Syria & Jordan - 2.1 million to 2.25 million

Iraqi Unemployment Rate - 27 to 60%, where curfew not in effect

Consumer Price Inflation in 2006 - 50%

Iraqi Children Suffering from Chronic Malnutrition - 28% in June 2007 (Per CNN.com, July 30, 2007)

Percent of professionals who have left Iraq since 2003 - 40%

Iraqi Physicians Before 2003 Invasion - 34,000

Iraqi Physicians Who Have Left Iraq Since 2005 Invasion - 12,000

Iraqi Physicians Murdered Since 2003 Invasion - 2,000

Average Daily Hours Iraqi Homes Have Electricity - 1 to 2 hours, per Ryan Crocker, U.S. Ambassador to Iraq (Per Los Angeles Times, July 27, 2007)

Average Daily Hours Iraqi Homes Have Electricity - 10.9 in May 2007

Average Daily Hours Baghdad Homes Have Electricity - 5.6 in May 2007

Pre-War Daily Hours Baghdad Homes Have Electricity - 16 to 24

Number of Iraqi Homes Connected to Sewer Systems - 37%

Iraqis without access to adequate water supplies - 70% (Per CNN.com, July 30, 2007)

Water Treatment Plants Rehabilitated - 22%

RESULTS OF POLL Taken in Iraq in August 2005 by the British Ministry of Defense (Source: Brookings Institute)

Iraqis "strongly opposed to presence of coalition troops - 82%

Iraqis who believe Coalition forces are responsible for any improvement in security - less than 1%

Iraqis who feel less ecure because of the occupation - 67%

Iraqis who do not have confidence in multi-national forces - 72%


Baghdad Officials Fear Outbreaks From Dirty Water
by Corey Flintoff

Weekend Edition Sunday,
July 13, 2008 · In Baghdad these days, many Iraqis have been finding text messages on their cell phones from the Ministry of Health warning them not to drink untreated tap water.

Health officials say tap water all over the city is unsafe and that they fear an outbreak of typhoid or other water-borne diseases during the baking hot months of summer.

Those most at risk are people who live in the city slums, where few have cell phones or television to receive health

New Report Says Aid For Iraqi Refugees Lacking

Morning Edition, August 1, 2008 · Nearly 5 million Iraqi refugees have left their country. Some have headed to neighboring Syria, Jordan and Lebanon. A new report from the International Crisis Group, a nonpartisan research organization, charges that countries that are occupying Iraq, including the United States, must do more for the refugees.

Deborah Amos talks with Joost Hiltermann of the International Crisis Group.

Fixing Shoddy Cell Phone Service In Iraq
by Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson

Morning Edition, August 4, 2008 · Iraqis complain that they have shoddy cell phone service. Everyone seems to agree that service has deteriorated since the Iraqi government sold the rights to operate wireless phone services last August. A commission is investigating the problem and has set a deadline for the issues to be resolved by the end of the year.

Farming Is Latest Casualty In Drought-Stricken Iraq

by Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson

Morning Edition, August 6, 2008 · Across Iraq, farmers are struggling with the worst drought the country has faced in years. Some say it's the worst they've seen in their lifetime — and not just because of the lack of rain.   

Some Iraqi officials blame waste and regional politics, as well as the continuing war in some of Iraq's bread baskets — such as in Diyala, just northeast of Baghdad, where a joint U.S.-Iraqi operation is under way to oust al-Qaida in Iraq from safe havens.

Sunday, June 29, 2008
Failed States Index 2008
Really, no one can deny the great progress that was made in Iraq over the last year. I mean, in 2007 Iraq was ranked as second failed state after Sudan, but in 2008 we are the fifth most failed state in the world, beating Somalia, Sudan, Zimbabwe and Chad, though we are still behind countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo and Afghanistan:

The height of the U.S. military surge in Iraq was a key factor in this year’s analysis of that country. And though Iraq’s score improved slightly, the gains that one might hope for—those that reflect fundamental, long-term changes—did not occur.

The desperate predicament of nearly 4 million people driven from their homes, the abysmal state of public services, and the discord among sectarian factions have shown no real improvement. The incremental security and economic progress that has occurred are dependent on tenuous, short-term factors that could unravel at any time.

Eager to cobble together a fragile peace, the U.S. military has armed dozens of new Sunni militia groups that could later turn their guns on the Iraqi government, their Shiite rivals, or the Americans many still regard as occupiers.

Similarly, Iraq’s economy has improved only moderately, thanks largely to the spike in global oil prices, not Iraqi production. In short, progress in Iraq last year was negligible at best and deeply susceptible to reversal should the country suffer the kind of shock—a food shortage, a high-level assassination, an attack that unleashes ethnic hatreds—that has exposed so many states’ deep vulnerabilities in recent months.

Sunday, June 08, 2008
New Iraq almost most corrupt nation in the world

    During the five years the United States has occupied Iraq, the Bush administration has created a new state with a number of notable features: A venal, dysfunctional government. A terrorist haven and training ground. A nation so violent and dangerous that 10 percent of the population has fled.

    Add to that a new hallmark: Nearly the most corrupt nation on Earth.

    Only two states out of 180, Somalia and Burma, outrank Iraq in Transparency International's latest worldwide corruption index. They are tied for last place. But Iraq has plummeted through the rankings since 2004, when it was near the middle of the pack, and is now within a hair's width of crashing to the bottom.

Saturday, May 24, 2008
Only 4 per cent of Iraqis in Syria plan to return home
Only 4 per cent of Iraqi refugees currently plan to return to their own country, while almost all have fled their homeland because of direct threats or general insecurity, according to a report out today from the United Nations refugee agency.

 The report found that 65 per cent of refugees who do not wish to return said that they were under direct threat in Iraq. Some 30 per cent do not want to return because of the general insecurity in their home country and 8 per cent said their home in Iraq had been destroyed or was occupied by others.     

A total of 4.7 million Iraqis have been uprooted as a result of the crisis in their country. Of these over 2 million are living as refugees in neighbouring countries – mostly Syria and Jordan – while 2.7 million are internally displaced inside Iraq.

Richard:  Peter,  sorry for the delay with this, but at the end of a very long Webdiary day I was having trouble making sense of some of the formatting. Could you please indent quotes of other sources so I can be sure which is which?  As you can see by the number of comments at the moment, as much self-editing as can be done would be of great help.

Editing & posting times.

Richard, you never need apologise  for delays in posting. I expect your work commitments to override WD demands.

Indicate what you require and send it back.   I, at least,  am prepared to be expected to provide material 'post ready'.

Whether or not you post this, is entirely up to you!  

Richard:  Now that I have a wireless comp in the bar I can potter on the site regularly and am delighting in doing so.  Last night was a case of  pouring beers, mixing bands playing a few numbers and moderating Webdiary, not necessarily in that order.  Then I came home to do more comments and publish three pieces.  Twas a extraordinarily hectic day, but loved every minute! 

Peter, Webdiary has equal, truth to tell maybe more, priority  with anything I'm doing.   Let's just say that life isn't dull.  Anyyway I've put up that comment (still would've liked to tidy up a bit more and will.  Thanks for understanding.

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