Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: You know what ...

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  • glennd, in reply to Graeme Edgeler,

    Since 2001? Much earlier than that! Clinton put out the original US "capture or kill" on bin Laden and missed him a couple of times. Others have been after him for longer as well...

    Since Mar 2011 • 45 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    Perhaps now the leader of a terrorist group with zero capability to mount attacks in the West (or no desire to – given that single nutters with no money manage to engage in murder and mayhem, it must be one or the other) is dead, the US can stop searching for imaginary terrerists and leave the Muslim world to sort out its own development.

    Actually the last entry on Wikipedia’s timeline of al Qaeda attacks is really quite recent:

    2010 cargo plane bomb plot

    On October 29, 2010, two packages, each containing a bomb consisting of 300 to 400 grams (11–14 oz) of plastic explosives and a detonating mechanism, were found on separate cargo planes. The bombs were discovered as a result of intelligence received from Saudi Arabia’s security chief. They were bound from Yemen to the United States, and were discovered at en route stop-overs, in England and in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.

    One week later, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) took responsibility for the plot. U.S. and British authorities had believed that AQAP, and specifically Anwar al-Awlaki, were behind the bombing attempts. They also believed the bombs were most likely constructed by AQAP’s main explosives expert, Ibrahim Hassan al-Asiri.

    Al Qaeda is also thought to be connected with the 2004 Madrid train bombings (191 dead), and claimed responsibility for the 2005 London Tube bombings (56 dead), as well as several attacks in non-Western countries. Clearly, actions carried out by cells, or by people radicalised by bin Laden, like the 2007 Glasgow Airport attackers, aren’t the same thing as actions directed by the lately deceased, but it’s not exactly “imaginary terrorism” either.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18725 posts Report Reply

  • glennd, in reply to Russell Brown,

    And don't forget the numerous killings before 2001 (the embassy bombings for a start). It did not start on 9/11 but at least a decade before, 9/11 was merely halfway along Osama's career with al Qaeda although clearly the spectacular crowning achievement of his life. And, in the analysis, do not forget the numerous and regular reports of deaths of various "number 2" and other highly placed men in al Qaeda in Afghanistan over the years. The story isn't over, but that al Qaeda has not been able to significantly orchestrate a far more bloody series of killings is due in great part to having been forced into a more conventional war in Afghanistan and lost many of its best practical men and leaders.

    Since Mar 2011 • 45 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz, in reply to Russell Brown,

    During the 1990's, the IRA (who had maybe 400 active fighters) conducted several attacks each week, with 2 or 3 a year outside Northern Ireland.

    Lone right-wing nutter David Copeland killed three and injured 160 over the course of two weeks in 1999.

    If "Al Qaeda" had the resources attributed to them, one would expect a similar level of activity. That they have not has to raise questions.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 4424 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to webweaver,

    Killing isn’t murder when they are wanted for mass murder and are shooting back at you.

    I would agree with half of that. I accept that when you're in the middle of a firefight you don't have much choice about shooting back. Doesn't stop me wishing it had turned out differently though.

    However, I completely disagree with your statement that "Killing isn’t murder when they are wanted for mass murder".

    You're trying to turn an AND into an OR.

    I assume (and he can correct me if I'm mistaken) that John was saying someone with a history of illegal killing AND who is currently shooting at you is a justified target for lethal force.

    The first clause speaks to the person's ethics and willingness to take lives. That seems relevant if you're assessing risk. The second clause says the context counts.

    Making out that they are two separate statements misrepresents the argument, which doesn't seem fair to me.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16503 posts Report Reply

  • John Holley, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    Not really. Al-Qaeda operates in a much different manner to the IRA. There is not the centralised command and control (and logistics) that the IRA had.

    What we also ignore is the 100s/1000s of deaths Al-Qaeda has some responsibility for via aligned jihadi groups through the Middle East e.g. Gaza and Iraq, Africa and Asia. Al-Qeada is a trans-national terrorist organisation fundamentally different in it's organisation and influence compared to the IRA.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 120 posts Report Reply

  • Hilary Stace,

    John Campbell had an interesting but too short interview with Jon Stevenson (who is becoming a bit like our local Robert Fisk) who likened OBL to the head of a franchise like McDonalds, and that the franchises still remain, and also mentioned that being dead isn't necessarily a bad thing for his reputation.

    Unfortunately, John Campbell didn't ask him for his reaction to John Key's attack on his (Stevenson's) credibility today at his press conference.

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 2030 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    I’m determined not to blog about the killing of Osama Bin Laden until I’ve formed a coherent view

    At the moment, my only coherent view is seeing mobs exulting in the deaths of human beings (even a vile shit-stain like Bin Laden) is no more endearing in the United States than it is down on the “Arab Street”.

    And the most stupid local statement I’ve seen (don’t have the heart to go looking) came from DPF who piped up, “Today is the equivalent of having the guy who killed your Mum or Dad sent to prison for life.”

    I can’t even begin to parse all the ways in which that analogy is horrifying wrong.

    BTW, could we stop trying to put Al Quaeda on a "my body count is bigger than yours" league table? Vile and callous.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 11877 posts Report Reply

  • John Holley, in reply to Craig Ranapia,

    Have to agree. We are just seeing the other side of the coin. You can understand the reaction of some in the US given the celebrations on the news through the last decades when successful terrorist attacks have occurred. Doesn't justify it but highlights something basic in humans best documented in "Lord of the Flies".

    I watched the news today and it took me back the almost 10 years since 9/11. Watching the Twin Towers attack was a sobering reminded where this really all started and the 1000s who have died. (Personally I remember getting up in the middle of the night in time to watch the second plane attack - we were getting ready to deploy to East Timor and within hours the world had changed as we knew it - and we were about to deploy across the border from the largest Muslim nation in the world!)

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 120 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Semmens,

    When assessing how I feel about the death of Bin Laden, I note that Osama Bin Laden would have happily killed me and anyone on this forum by cutting our heads off with a stanley knife, if given half a chance. Therefore on the news of his death, I returned the cheery favour by cracking open a celebratory beer and toasting the US Navy SEALS who did him in. He was a dangerous, violent and downright bad man who has met an appropriately Wagnerian end at the hands of his sworn enemies.

    In terms of being a large scale threat, Al Qaeda was finished years ago. The ability of fundamentalist terror networks to orgainse large scale atrocities has long been smashed, and they are reduced to random acts by localised lone wolves. These lone wolves might perhaps be capable of murderous outrages that kill a handful of people at most, or maybe bringing down an airliner once in a decade if really, really lucky, but that is all. With the death of Bin Laden, the material defeat of Al Qaeda has been now accompanied by a total psychological defeat as well.

    As a candidate, during the 2008 election campaign Obama repeatedly vowed: “We will kill Osama bin Laden.” And so it has come to pass. Palin and the Tea Party critics of the “Kenyan Muslim traitor” can suck dick now. Obama will be returned as president in 2012, because by fufilling his campaign promise of killing Bin Laden – even if it meant violating the sovereignty of another country, which he has done – he has shut up every right wing attack meme. Forever. No wonder he was having such a jolly old time eviscerating Trump at the press club dinner, knowing what he knew.

    From a practical point of view, hopefully this final crushing of Al Qaeda, along with the Arab spring and it’s explicit rejection of Islamist values and embracing of Western values of freedom, free speech, and democratic reforms, will mark the end of the era of “big terror” and a rolling back in the western powers of the state surveillance powers introduced under the umbrella excuse of the “war on terror”.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1776 posts Report Reply

  • Tinshed,

    My favourite response so far as been "rm -rf /bin/laden".

    As usual Metafilter has a good range of opinions. Most seem glad the OBL has gone, especially as it will only help Obama. Most don't like some of the gloating that has gone on since the announcement. However, for many Americans, in a very atavistic manner, this is a very good thing.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Jul 2008 • 12 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Tom Semmens,

    Successive Al Jazeera commentators have argued quite convincingly today that the "Arab awakening" has marginalised al Qaeda in the Middle East. Its vision of a caliphate was irrelevant to the times.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18725 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Hilary Stace,

    Unfortunately, John Campbell didn’t ask him for his reaction to John Key’s attack on his (Stevenson’s) credibility today at his press conference.

    That was a cynical and unpleasant display by the Prime Minister and his Minister of Defence today. They dismissed Jon Stephenson's credibility without providing a skerrick of evidence for what they were saying. They basically dared people to call Jerry Mataparae a liar instead.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18725 posts Report Reply

  • John Holley, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Lets hope they are right for all our sake Russell.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 120 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    could we stop trying to put Al Quaeda on a “my body count is bigger than yours” league table? Vile and callous.

    How was I putting them on a league table? I was just pointing out facts and asking how, given their limited activity in the developed world, why they are considered a threat to the very integrity of the US and other states.

    The US reaction to Muslim terrorism has involved hundreds of thousands of dead brown people, random kids and even Taliban victims being incarcerated and tortured and over a trillion dollars of wasted cash.

    It's interesting to me at least how the US and its allies justify that response.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 4424 posts Report Reply

  • John Holley, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    Let's be clear here. This was a US reaction to a direct attack on their soil, killings 1000s of US citizens. Any student of US geo-politics/strategy will tell you this was just plain stupid and, when you finally piss off the really big kid on the block, his reaction will be severe.

    But let's be clear that there is no evidence that the US have killed hundreds of thousands of dead brown people. (One certainly can argue on wasted cash though)

    We all tend to forget what a brutal regime the Taliban were (and would like to be). We tend to forget that it has mainly been "brown people" killing "brown people". The US may have helped flame the fires, especially with the invasion of Iraq, but Al-Qaeda set the world on this path.

    Given Al-Qaeda's goals:

    1. Short term - removal of western influence in Islamic states
    2. Creation of a fundamentalist caliphate (Yeah, OBL had a god complex deep down)
    3. Islam expanding through the world and, possibly, removal of infidels

    I would tend to say the US reaction, especially to the Taliban regime, was entirely appropriate. Why should you let a regime harbour and support terrorists that have killed 1000s of your citizens?

    How the counter-insurgency has been fought is a different issue.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 120 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to Russell Brown,

    They basically dared people to call Jerry Mataparae a liar instead.

    Pick me – because I’m finding it increasingly difficult to escape the conclusion that if Jerry Mateparae wasn’t lying (either by commission or omission) he was promoted above his level of competence more than a decade back.

    And I think this allegation should be easy enough to substantiate, shouldn't it?

    Mr Key hit out at Mr Stephenson's credibility, saying the journalist had once impersonated TV broadcaster Duncan Garner to get Mr Key to call him.

    "I hung up on him because when people impersonate someone else I don't take them seriously," Mr Key said.

    "I just don't think he's credible. If you look at the assertions he's made in this article they're actually not supported by the investigation from the New Zealand Defence Force."

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 11877 posts Report Reply

  • webweaver, in reply to Sacha,

    You’re trying to turn an AND into an OR.

    I assume (and he can correct me if I’m mistaken) that John was saying someone with a history of illegal killing AND who is currently shooting at you is a justified target for lethal force.

    No, I'm not quite saying that. I'm saying that whether or not Bin Laden is a mass murderer should have no bearing on whether or not it's OK to kill him. If John had said:

    Killing isn’t murder when they are shooting back at you.

    I would have agreed with him (and I already noted that), because that's self-defence and if you want to live you probably have no choice but to return fire (or run away). But he didn't. He said:

    Killing isn’t murder when they are wanted for mass murder and are shooting back at you.

    ...and what I'm saying is that the "when they are wanted for mass murder" bit of that sentence is completely irrelevant to the argument. I think it's morally wrong to justify killing someone because they themselves are a killer, just as I believe the death penalty is morally wrong.

    To me it's completely illogical to say "we're punishing this person because they killed someone, and we believe killing another person is wrong. And so we're going to punish them by... killing them. Very Old Testament.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 329 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Craig Ranapia,

    And I think this allegation should be easy enough to substantiate, shouldn’t it?

    It did happen, sorta, a while ago. I gather it was more to do with Garner having the PM's number on his phone, Stephenson not believing him it was the number and someone dialing Key to prove it. Framing it as Stephenson trying to "impersonate" Garner seems quite calculated to smear Stephenson. And, of course, it has nothing to do with the substance of the story.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18725 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Craig Ranapia,

    Pick me – because I’m finding it increasingly difficult to escape the conclusion that if Jerry Mateparae wasn’t lying (either by commission or omission) he was promoted above his level of competence more than a decade back.

    Thing is, they all know the substance of the story is correct, former Labour government ministers included. I am very confident of that.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18725 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to Russell Brown,

    And, of course, it has nothing to do with the substance of the story.

    No. And one could be a tad bitchy and note that the Prime Minister took retired prank caller 'Hone' Carter seriously enough to make him Civil Defence Minister. :)

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 11877 posts Report Reply

  • Simon Grigg, in reply to John Holley,

    What we also ignore is the 100s/1000s of deaths Al-Qaeda has some responsibility for via aligned jihadi groups through the Middle East e.g. Gaza and Iraq, Africa and Asia.

    Yes and no. Jemaah Islamiah, who bombed Bali twice, has only ever had a very loose operational affiliation with AQ despite Umar Patek being picked up in Pakistan a few weeks back.

    They are quite capable of operating on their own and have done so since the 1940s on and off. Their current regime of letter bombs and the recently raided training camps in Aceh and Java owe are domestically - or SEA - targeted it seems.

    That said creepy old Abu Bakar Bashir has already put his few cents in:

    In a statement released via his spokesman, Sonhadi, Bashir said that al-Qa'ida would not die despite the demise of bin Laden, killed in an operation by US special forces near the Pakistan capital of Islamabad.

    "We're still waiting for clarification from al-Qa'ida, whether it's true or not - that news of his death," Bashir said.

    "When it's true, then it will not put al-Qa'ida to death. Osama's death will not make al-Qa'ida dead."

    Words that probably carry some weight in parts of Indonesia.

    Was thinking of Java/Indonesia actually but will give that a year at least

    I think you're absolutely fine in the large urban areas - Jakarta / Semarang / Surabaya - I'd head there without any hesitation.

    And despite my earlier post, I'd imagine you'd be more at risk from the insane driving than the threat of terror most everywhere else. There will be a blowback - and it may be very bloody - from the FPI and the thugs who bomb churches and the like. When it does come it will be symbolic rather than targeted at individuals. Bali may be a target again and it remains a fairly easy one despite the past.

    I have to say that even at the peak of post-Iraq WOT anger I didn't once feel at all physically threatened in places like Central Java, where I spent a lot of time in the 2000s and where Bashir holds court.

    The viaduct in Auckland on Friday night is scarier.

    Just another klong... • Since Nov 2006 • 3203 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to webweaver,

    I think it's morally wrong to justify killing someone because they themselves are a killer

    It would be mad not to take previous behaviour into account. Us armchair generals can debate the morality 'til the cows come home but I reckon you'd be hard pressed to find many ethicists of military situations who would agree with your contention without any reservations. There are many situations where state-sanctioned killing is clearly dubious. This isn't one of them.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16503 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to John Holley,

    there is no evidence that the US have killed hundreds of thousands of dead brown people

    I don't have references to hand but I am confident that even just in Iraq you are dead wrong about that.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16503 posts Report Reply

  • Simon Grigg, in reply to John Holley,

    But let's be clear that there is no evidence that the US have killed hundreds of thousands of dead brown people.

    Actually I think there is voluminous evidence that far, far more people have died in the War on Terror than died in 9/11, many of who were innocents, and many of who have died as a direct result of US military action. When you add to that the people who died as a result of the gates of hell being opened in Iraq, then the hundreds of thousands figure has some substance.

    The US may have helped flame the fires, especially with the invasion of Iraq, but Al-Qaeda set the world on this path.

    Qualifying deaths that way does make me a little queasy.

    Al-Qaeda started this also seems to a gross simplification of the past thirty or forty years.

    In 2001, if you recall, as the world reeled from 9/11, there was also a sense - outside the US - that this was almost inevitable. It was when rather than if.

    The size of the strike astounded the world but not the fact that one happened. Unfortunately the question that United States most needed to ask in the aftermath- why? - still mostly remains unasked.

    Just another klong... • Since Nov 2006 • 3203 posts Report Reply

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