Posts from September 2001

Middle-East sites of note: Al-Ahram,

Middle-East sites of note: Al-Ahram, published in Cairo (with analysis of the American military, perspective on Afhanistan, and commentary by Edward Said); Gulf News from the UAE; Turkish Daily News;; all in English, of varying quality. On the other hand, there are some frightening sites, such as Net Iran and the Syria Times,

with a story arguing that the Israeli Mossad had a hand in the WTC attack. Click carefully.

A Time survey says 60 percent of Americans say life in their communities has returned to normal (the other 40 percent live around New York and Washington). Newsweek says that 85 percent believe there’s a likelihood of an attack with biochemical weapons. Some normalcy.

Bob Dole and Bill Clinton

Bob Dole and Bill Clinton are chairing the charity I’ve been waiting for: a scholarship fund for the children and spouses of all the victims of Sept. 11. Read the news story here (or permalink). The Familes of Freedom Scholarship Fund’s home page is here. Just click and donate!

From the Jerusalem Post, experienced Israeli advice on how we should fight this war; and a report that New Yorkers are starting a counterterrorism group.

Meanwhile, the Washington Post reports on what’s happening to reshape the armed forces to defend the homeland.

The Jerusalem Post’s Top 10 List for us:

1. Avoid panic. While some emotions are properly strong in the aftermath of the attack, others are less appropriate. The terrorists are being handed an additional, if perhaps temporary, victory by the irrational fear of immediate repetitions. The economy is suffering seriously while the airline and travel-related industries are particularly hard-hit.

Shouldn’t someone tell the American people every few hours that if the terrorists needed three to four years to plan this last attack, another one is unlikely to occur soon? A terrible thing has happened, but this doesn’t mean that it is going to take place every week. Osama bin Laden’s forces last struck effectively against US embassies in Africa more than three years ago. His operatives are now heading for cover and it will take them some time to regroup.

2. Focus resources. America is a big, powerful country used to having all the resources needed to meet any goal. But security resources are inevitably limited. Don’t waste assets trying to protect everything or spreading your forces to thin. To cross the ocean and hit America, terrorists are not going to focus on a shopping mall in Muncie, Indiana.

Priority must be put and kept on high-profile targets, especially in New York, Washington DC, and Los Angeles, along with specific buildings in other key cities.

3. Don’t fight the last war. America is now gearing up to protect itself from a group of terrorists who hijack aircraft using knives and fly them into buildings. Much of the American security strategy seems keyed to preventing precisely the same attacks as those occurring on September 11.

But terrorists, too, read newspapers and know this is happening. Moreover, the whole point of terrorism tactically is an ability to change targets and methods. The next attack could involve anything ranging from renting private planes to chemical warfare, or an Oklahoma-type attack using a car bomb, to just shooting at people. Counterterrorist planners need to have some imagination – but not too much (see point 2, above) – in figuring out the more likely threat and not just a rote repetition of the previous assault.

4. Basic defenses are the most effective ones. With all the attention focused on security failures, a simple but obvious point is being neglected. If the X-ray machines and metal detectors had been run properly, the terrorists probably would not have succeeded.

Rather than invent all sorts of new technology and defensive forces, it would make more sense to ensure that the existing ones perform properly. At a recent congressional hearing, a senator recounted how he had gone through an airport – after the September 11 attack – and those staffing the X-ray machines had been engaged in horse-play rather than paying attention. You don’t need air marshals or armed pilots if you do proper inspections on the ground and keep the cockpit door locked. Most of Israel’s airport security systems have been in use since the 1960s with relatively little change.

5. High-quality people. There is no substitute. In Israel, the best people go into security and intelligence work. At airports, security relations with passengers are handled by bright young people who know the importance of what they’re doing and are especially conscientious because this is their first job. In America, with exceptions of course, those doing this work are there simply because they cannot get other employment.

There was a warning about 15 years ago that the airport security people were paid less than those working at fast-food restaurants. No matter how much you spend on technology or what clever plans you develop, these are only as good as the people implementing them.

Precisely because attacks are so rare, Americans have a very hard time taking security seriously. Given the high levels of crime, though, this is a luxury that cannot be afforded. I visited a famous journalist friend who lives in a community where residents pay thousands of dollars a year for protection. A few days after the attack and practically within sight of the World Trade Center, the guard waved me through when I mentioned my host’s name. It became quickly apparent that he thought I lived there without checking anything. In America, the job title “security guard” is a joke, and it is not unknown that the “guards” may have criminal records themselves.

6. The security issue that dare not speak its name. America is not under attack by tribes from the Amazon river, Eskimos, Polynesians, or Zulus.

Everyone knows this fact, but even to mention it is to invite the most vicious personal attacks and name-calling. But let’s say it for the record: the terrorist attacks on the United States are being planned and implemented by Muslims from the Middle East, primarily Arabs. Therefore, it may be politically correct but it is also politically insane to pretend otherwise.

The great majority of Muslims and Arabs in America (or in the Middle East for that matter) are not involved in such terrorism. The civil liberties of all Americans should be respected. Nevertheless, if intelligence and security resources aren’t focused on this area, then how can anything be effective? Everyone is at great pains to stress that prejudice is wrong and innocent people should not be harassed.

Yet almost no one has pointed out – except for Daniel Pipes – the extremely important point that key Muslim groups, including those invited to meet with President George W. Bush, are controlled by radicals who support terrorism. If the lives of thousands of people are at risk, the importance of being politically correct or not hurting someone’s feelings may seem less significant.

Ethnic profiling does make sense. Anyone who believes this has never stood on line behind a Colombian citizen at an American customs’ station. Surveillance of Islamic and Arab groups in the United States does make sense. There is a valid reason for national and ethnic profiling.

Sorry, but that’s the truth. Ignore it if you want to do so, but understand that this puts lives at risk.

7. Avoid questionable allies: If Iran, Syria, Yemen, and Lebanon are invited into an anti-terrorist coalition, can one expect success? Whatever grudge some of these leaders have against the Taliban or desire to get some reward for fooling the United States, are these regimes really going to help fight terrorism?

Let’s face it: When and if the current crisis cools off, bin Laden may be a respected consulting terrorist living in Teheran, Damascus, or Baghdad. These countries are going to sabotage any US military strike or pressures, because they know that similar methods could be used against them some day. They don’t want to turn in the names of terrorists, because they might be hiring them in a few months. Already the US government has been whitewashing such countries as Saudi Arabia and Yemen, which it was castigating only weeks ago for their refusal to cooperate in solving previous terrorist attacks against Americans in their countries.

8. Tell the American people the truth about what’s being said in the Arab world and Iran: Most of the statements cited in the American media are formal expressions of regret from Middle Eastern leaders. Yet the support and sympathy for anti-American terrorism is sharply understated.

Here is one example from MEMRI, one of the groups (Palestinian Media Watch should also be mentioned) doing a remarkable job of making this material available. The chairman of the state-sponsored Syrian Arab Writers Association, Ali Uqleh Ursan, wrote in the group’s “intellectual” organ that, on hearing about the attacks, “I felt like someone delivered from the grave; my lungs filled with air and I breathed in relief, as I’d never breathed before.”

And incidentally, he cited American attacks on Korea, Vietnam, and Libya (in addition to support for Israel) as reasons for taking revenge. I have compiled about 300 pages of this material from a wide range of sources since September 11, including many expressions of joy on non-public Islamist chat groups.

9. If you don’t deter today you will pay tomorrow. In 1998, hundreds of people were killed in attacks on US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

Most of them were black Africans and a number were surely Muslims, though the terrorists didn’t care about that. The American response was a joke: an hour-long bombing attack on Sudan and in Afghanistan. And even this was criticized as excessive by many observers, who questioned whether there was full evidence for hitting the site in Sudan.

If punishments are so limited, why shouldn’t states sponsor terrorists, including bin Laden, and individuals become terrorists? Why aren’t American leaders and opinion makers saying every day: The failure to hit back hard after previous terrorist attacks is one of the main reason why 5,000 people are dead in New York? Such a conclusion certainly suggests the importance of tough – and violent – action today.

10. Listen to those who have been right all along. Instant experts are proliferating everywhere: people who a month ago couldn’t have told you the difference between a Sunni and a Shia Muslim are now expounding on the details of Islamic doctrine and radical Middle East politics.

American and British troops have

American and British troops have entered Afghanistan.

The White House gets testy with the media.

From Salon:

On the same day last week that “NBC Nightly News” anchor Tom Brokaw sat down to interview former President Clinton, executives for the program received unexpected phone calls from senior communications staffers at the White House, expressing disappointment about the decision to spotlight Bush’s predecessor.

While not asking the network to refrain from running the interview, they expressed the feeling that the Sept. 18 interview with Clinton would not be helpful to the current war on terrorism. Neither NBC nor the White House would comment on the phone calls, but sources familiar with the calls confirmed that they happened.

This news comes on the heels of revelations that President Bush and Air Force One were not, contrary to earlier White House claims, targets of the terrorists who attacked the Pentagon and the World Trade Center Sept. 11. The White House is now saying that those claims, which it used to explain why the president didn’t return to Washington immediately that day, were a result of staffers “misunderstanding” security information.

On Wednesday, tensions between the White House and its media critics, real or imagined, threatened to rise even higher. White House spokesman Ari Fleischer took a slap at “Politically Incorrect” host Bill Maher, who called U.S. military strikes on faraway targets “cowardly.” Fleischer blasted Maher, claiming it was “a terrible thing to say,” and didn’t stop there, noting “There are reminders to all Americans that they need to watch what they say, watch what they do, and this is not a time for remarks like that; there never is.”

Boonies look better: The NY Post reported yesterday that New Yorkers are heading to the ‘burbs to look for houses. Today, the Washington Post reports that richer New Yorkers are just moving to their summer homes; school attendance in the Hamptons is up.

From the Washington Post:

This is a diaspora of the rich and upper-middle class, a well-funded flight from the city’s death and destruction.

In the weeks since the World Trade Center towers disintegrated, a small but rising number of people who can afford to escape Manhattan are doing so. A quick count finds that about four dozen New York City families have suddenly enrolled their children in private and public schools in the Hamptons, along the gilded southern shore of Long Island.

A property caretaker in Montauk reports that 35 of his clients have moved back into their summer homes full time. Many other families — the numbers are difficult to pin down and change from day to day — have retreated to vacation homes in Upstate New York and the Jersey shore.

These New Yorkers have handsomely appointed second homes and incomes large enough to ease the dislocation. They talk of their move as a chance to soothe their nerves and calm their children.

But some emigrants prefer not to look back. They are moving permanently to the wealthier suburbs, enclaves 10 and 15 miles from New York. In Alpine, N.J., real estate agent Dennis McCormack said clients from New York City have signed $40 million worth of home contracts since the Sept. 11 attacks.

“I’ve experienced a crazy buying frenzy these past two weeks,” said McCormack, president of Prominent Properties. “All are from Manhattan, most live on the Upper East Side and have children.

Is it too soon for

Is it too soon for humor? Yes, unless it’s at the expense of our enemies. So it was risky — perhaps even incredibly stupid — for humor site The Onion to take on terror. But, amazingly, they mange it. Among the headlines:

– Rest Of Country Temporarily Feels Deep Affection For New York

– God Angrily Clarifies ‘Don’t Kill’ Rule

– President Urges Calm, Restraint Among Nation’s Ballad Singers

– Even the TV listings are funny.

Thanks. we needed that.

Call Bill Maher incredibly stupid — he deserves that and oh, so more after saying on Politically Incorrect that America is “cowardly” for lobbing missiles from 2,000 miles away while the terrorists who stayed in the jets were “not cowardly.” Incredibly stupid, insensitive, arrogant, idiotic, offensive… words fail in the face of such brainlessness. Network executives, sponsors, an army of columnists, and even the White House are attacking him and he deserves every slap. But I stop short of wanting to see his show canceled just because he said something offensive. We’ve gotten carried away with the power of offense in recent years: Anytime anyone says anything offensive, it’s the highest sin demanding the highest punishment. That’s not what we’re really about. We’re all smart out here in the audience; we can tell an idiot when we see one and we all know Maher is an idiot. We don’t need anyone to protect us from that; we can turn the channel ourselves. So maybe we won’t watch. Maybe his show will die of its own weight. Fine. But let’s not do anything to damage our right to free speech. That’s what we’re fighting for.

It wasn’t just Muslims who

It wasn’t just Muslims who were offended by the choice of Operation Infinite Justice as our military moniker for this war; my sister the Christian theologian found it offensive as well; many say it’s God who has the final, infinite justice. Even Pravda complained (mocking it as Operation Infinite Arrogance, Operation Infinite Hubris, Operation Unlimited Chutzpah). So now we have a new name: Enduring Freedom. Or you can pick your own.

Thanks to Jim Romenesko for the link to The NY Observer and the link (isn’t the Web grand) to an incredible Israeli site on terrorism and intelligence: Debka.

Never did like Starbucks anyway. The bozos charged rescue workers for frigging bottled water to treat shock victims.

From The Guardian: “A branch of the coffee chain Starbucks charged New York rescue workers for water to treat victims of the suicide attack on the World Trade Centre, it emerged today.Ambulance workers were forced to scramble in their pockets for money to pay a $130 (£88) bill for three cases of water used to treat victims for shock after the twin towers collapsed.”

I’m hoping this is the end not only of the age of irony but also of the age of coffee.