Agent Storm: My Life Inside al Qaeda and the CIA is a worthy read; if it was fiction it might be called “a good yarn.” The book is instead straight-up non-fiction, making it all the more interesting as a window into the world of modern espionage.
An Enthusiastic Muslim
The book is the “as told to” autobiography of Morten Storm. Storm grew up on the dark side of Denmark, a tough, a brawler, a street gang member who always looked for a fight and usually found one. He did some jail time, and lived on the outskirts of society, surviving well enough off Denmark’s generous social welfare system. Socially and spiritually adrift, he was a quick convert to Islam, driven into his new faith by a chance encounter with a library book on the life of The Prophet. The descriptions of the built-in camaraderie of the mosques shows their appeal to disenfranchised youth.
Storm quickly found a way to combine his street smarts with his new faith, gravitating into the growing European jihadi underground. He soon moved to the UK, taking up life in “Londonistan,” the slang term for England’s dark underbelly of Muslim immigrants. Like them, Storm felt marginalized, left out, looked down on and began moving in ever-more radical circles. Despite his over six foot height and bright red hair, he found himself well-accepted. An encounter with a fellow Muslim, who died almost in his arms, propelled Storm to Yemen in search of meaning for his own life. His devotion to Islamic studies and his tough attitude saw him befriended not just by his classmates, but soon by Anwar al-Awlaki himself. Storm takes on all sorts of courier missions for the cleric and becomes a member of his trusted inner circle.
Another chance event suddenly has Storm again reverse course. He falls in with Danish intelligence and Britain’s MI5/MI6 and becomes a double-agent. His second conversion is marked by a bacon sandwich and a beer with his new intel friends to seal the deal. He begins accepting money and taskings from both the British and the Danes.
Storm quickly becomes invaluable, exploiting his connections with al-Awlaki and apparently nearly every significant jihadi in Europe to the advantage of his handlers. He finally attracts the attention of the CIA, which dispatches case officers to work with him toward one goal: pinpoint the location of al-Awlaki so the Americans can assassinate him. Storm agrees and over a series of events, the American citizen cleric is indeed assassinated by an American drone (along with his 16 year old son, also a U.S. citizen.) The CIA, however, double-crosses Storm, denies him the $250,000 payment promised for his work and eventually drives the big Dane in from the cold. His last conversion is to go to the media with his tale, and leave the world of espionage behind.
Without a doubt the very best parts of the book expose a bit of intelligence tradecraft. Unlike what one sees in movies and reads in (fictional) spy books, “spying” is 90 percent working patiently with people, with just a little high-tech thrown in. The book portrays this accurately, showing the best spies are more like skilled psychiatrists than hardened killers. A few details of the recruitment process appear to have been left out, perhaps for security reasons, perhaps because of the unusual three-way sharing of Storm. In real life, case officers of the CIA (the KGB, the Danish security services, MI5/MI6…) spend a lot of time seeking out people (“agents”) who can be convinced to betray their organization or nation. Motives vary, and a smart case officer will pay close attention to what his/her agent really wants– money, adventure, sex, etc. We watch as Storm is cleverly manipulated with both money and the lure of adrenaline rushes, and as his failed fervor for Islam and desire to provide for his family is worked against him.
Of equal interest are the contrasts drawn among the three services involved in handling Storm. The Danes are friendly, clubby, out for a good time even as they subtly draw Storm in and play him off against the Brits and the Yanks. The British impress with their professionalism and appeal to Storm’s sense of adventure, setting him up for sessions in arctic survival with an ex-Royal Marine and shooting lessons with an SAS man.
Then there is the CIA. Storm saves the Americans for his most unflattering portrayal, painting them as impatient, and ready to hand over obscene amounts of money when needed, only then to double-cross their “man” inside al Qaeda when needed. The CIA has another agent, secretly, alongside Storm and never even feigns to trust either of them. The CIA’s simplistic and crude handling is one of the main drivers behind Storm’s break with the intel world.
A Few Criticisms
A few criticisms mark an otherwise decent read. Storm is not shy about his own accomplishments, taking personal credit for a number of significant intelligence successes during the years he worked as a double-agent. One does wonder how accurate such an accounting is, suggesting as it does that the combined European and U.S. spy agencies had very few other people on the inside. Storm is also quite casual, almost dismissive, about how easy it was for him to gain the complete trust of hardened terrorists, despite his very recent infidel past and quick conversion to Islam. The bad guys never really put his allegiance to the test absent a few word games, leaving the question of if al Qaeda’s operational security is really so lame why the intel agencies did not have hundreds of inside men and women. Apparently one need only send the average red-haired European Viking into Yemen claiming he is a recent Muslim convert and bam! you have infiltrated the world of terror.
Storm’s own blustery self-image and the bit of unrealness noted aside, Agent Storm: My Life Inside al Qaeda and the CIA is a decent read for anyone watching the world of intelligence who also appreciates a good story.
Copyright © 2014. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity. Follow me on Twitter!
Local slacker and sophomore guy from down the hall in your dorm is now a member of al Qaeda, all because he did not read through the software license on some stuff he downloaded and just clicked “Accept.”
“So my bud told me about this sick game and after being distracted for like seventeen hours surfing through porn sites I decided to download it and check it out. Like always as I did the install, that stupid licensing agreement box came up, you know, the one with all that annoying tiny print. That always cranks me off, because like what, they expect you to plow through a hundred pages of legal junk just to check out a new game? Yeah right. If I wanted to read things I’d study for my history test on Thursday, LOL.”
“So I just clicked ‘Accept.’ Now I guess I’m in al Qaeda.”
Speaking on behalf of the global terrorist organization responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of innocents, spokesperson Mohammed “Tommy” bin Mohammed explaining what happened.
“Like any organization, we have to adapt to the times. Our usual recruitment methods of offering the chance to live in the dirt, or that 72 virgins thingie, just were not as effective as we’d like in America. Numbers were down and we were under heavy pressure from the home office. So, we bought into a few software companies and simply inserted our jihadi contract right into their standard licensing agreements.”
The slacker went on: “So when I clicked accept that meant I signed up. I kinda thought it was a joke or something, but my roommate’s dad is a lawyer or an accountant or one of those jobs that you have to wear a tie for, and my roommate says this is all legal. I’m kinda screwed. But I guess a deal is a deal.”
“We used to require a blood oath,” continued the al Qaeda spokesperson. “Would-be recruits had to travel to Pakistan, go overland to this one backup cave we had, then cut their hand and mingle their blood with a true soldier of Islam’s blood. It was expensive, messy, and of course not very healthy. This new thing is great.”
“Anyway, looks like I’m gonna miss some classes while I do jihad,” said the slacker, “but I hardly went anyway and my bros’ are gonna take notes if they attend. I’m even thinking of buying the textbook and taking that with me so I can catch up when I get back.”
“This slacker will of course never come back,” said the al Qaeda spokesperson. “Seriously, what else can we do with him but straight into the suicide bomber squad? The guy is a bonehead. Three years of college at a fine university, all paid for by his infidel parents, and he ends up passed out drunk in a wading pool on a frat house lawn every weekend.”
“So yeah, there’s some downside,” mumbled the slacker as he packed for the one-way trip to Hell. “These dudes don’t drink, I’ll spend Spring Break in Afghanistan, and I’ll have to blow myself up most likely. But on the plus side it means no finals, and no hassling with my folks over my grades like usual. I also hear they have some sweet, sweet hashish out that way.”
“Plus there’s this deal with the 72 virgins I’m hearing about. That is wicked. Man, I haven’t gotten any in a while.”
Copyright © 2014. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity. Follow me on Twitter!
Journalist Liz Sly reports a rejuvenated al Qaeda asserted control over the Iraqi city of Fallujah, raising its flag over government buildings and declaring an Islamic state in one of the most crucial areas that U.S. troops fought to pacify during our nine year War and Occupation.
Sly goes on to say that the capture of Fallujah came amid an explosion of violence across the western desert province of Anbar in which local tribes, Iraqi security forces and al Qaeda have been fighting one another for days in a confusingly chaotic three-way war.
Reality: About a third of all American deaths and wounds in the Iraq War and Occupation took place in Fallujah and nearby Anbar Province. In 2003, before the American Invasion, there was no al Qaeda in Iraq, and now there is.
Many who lost loved ones there, and many survivors, are now asking What Did They Fight For, What Did They Die For?
With great respect for everyone’s losses and sacrifices, the time to ask those questions is not just now, but when the U.S. government begins beating the drums ahead of the next war. Please don’t be fooled again.
So maybe it is time to admit what many Americans think happened in Iraq is a myth– the reality is playing out daily there. The near-complete destruction of civil society in 2003 was a hole that could not be climbed out of. The U.S. never addressed the fundamentals in Iraq and, when the war grew tiresome, just left. The endless backslapping over the “Anbar Awakening” and COIN now is clearly hollow. History will judge said the Iraq War apologists, and now it has.
Anyone offended by the image above can kiss my ass. That’s what war does and you should not turn away from it. It is America’s decisions to fight pointless wars that does that to our fathers, brothers and sons. If you won’t save them, at least look at them and know what your bloodlust for more war did to them.
Copyright © 2014. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity. Follow me on Twitter!
UPDATE: The al Qaeda “conference call” that prompted US Embassy closures a week ago in the Middle East was a lie.
(This article originally appeared on Huffington Post)
What do you call it when you follow the same strategy for twelve years not only without success, but with negative results? What if time shows that that strategy actually helps the enemy you seek to defeat?
Failing to Learn
America’s global war of terror can this week be declared officially a failure, total and complete. After twelve years of invasions, drones, torture, spying and gulags, the U.S. closed its embassies and consulates across (only) the Muslim world. Not for a day, but in most cases heading toward a week, with terror warnings on file lasting through the month. The U.S. evacuated all non-essential diplomatic and military personnel from Yemen; dependents are already gone from most other MidEast posts. Only our fortress embassies in Kabul and Baghdad ironically were considered safe enough to reopen a day or two ago.
The cause of all this? Apparently a message from al Qaeda leader Ayman al Zawahiri to his second in command in Yemen telling him to “do something.”
U.S. government sources (one hopes for a robust investigation) later revealed concerns over a vast al Qaeda plot to capture Yemen’s oil supply infrastructure, vene taking over cities and ports, while simultaneously bombarding Western embassies with a string of suicide blasts. The BBC reported that all appeared to be part of a “complex and audacious” plot designed to enact revenge after a series of U.S. drone strikes.
“Senior U.S. officials” (one hopes for a robust investigation) also revealed al Qaeda in Yemen has devised a new kind of liquid explosive that can be embedded in clothing, and which is not detectable by current security measures. That is of course an odd thing to say, revealing to the enemy that we can’t stop them– “It’s ingenious,” one of the officials said. Those same government officials also revived the now-crusty fear meme of the “Frankenbombers,” suicide bombers who carry explosives sewn into their body cavities.
Failure to Understand
All this might be read in one of three ways:
– The simplest explanation is that the threat is indeed real. Twelves years of war has simply pushed the terror threat around, spilled mercury-like, from country to country. A Whack-a-Mole war.
– U.S. officials, perhaps still reeling from Edward Snowden’s NSA disclosures, chose to exaggerate a threat, in essence creating a strawman that could then be defeated. In favor of this argument are the many “leaks” noted above, essentially disclosing raw intel, specific conversations that would clearly reveal to the al Qaeda people concerned how and when they were monitored. Usually try to avoid that in the spy biz. The Frankenbomber stuff is pure 2001 scare tactic recycled. The idea that al Qaeda sought to seize infrastructure is a certain falsehood , as the whole point of guerrilla war is never to seize things, which would create a concentrated, open, stationary target that plays right into the Big Hardware advantage the U.S. holds. Just does not make sense, and supports the idea that this is all made-up for some U.S. domestic purpose.
– However, the third way of looking at this is that the U.S. has failed to walk away from the climate of fear and paranoia that has distorted foreign and domestic policy since 9/12, Chicken Littles if you will. What if the U.S. really believed that al Qaeda was planning to take over Yemen this week in spite of the odd inconsistencies? What if “chatter” was enough to provoke the last Superpower into a super-sized public cower?
Failure to Not Act
The why in this case may not matter, when the what is so controlling. As I hit “submit” on this article, no embassies have been attacked; the only killings in Yemen we know of are a string of U.S. drone strikes coupled with public plans to deploy (additional?) special forces on the ground. That sadly predictable resort to violence by the U.S. shows that we have fundamentally failed to understand that in a guerrilla war one cannot shoot one’s way out. You win by offering a better idea to people than the other side, while at the same time luring the other side into acts of violence and political repression that make them lose the support of those same people. This is asymmetrical warfare 101 stuff.
So the U.S. embassy closures, the ramped up drone strikes, the threat of special forces, may be seen as failure in this light:
–al Qaeda blowing up an empty embassy would still make spectacular headlines and score their political points, the goal of terror. Even an empty embassy in smoldering ruins will drive home the weakness of the U.S. to defend itself, and provoke a significant and violent response that plays into al Qaeda’s long-game goals. The closures accomplish little strategically, though of course may still be necessary to protect lives. Nobody wants to be the last man to die for a mistake, reminded now-Secretary of State John Kerry during the Vietnam War.
–How long will the embassies remain shuttered this time? What about next week, next month, and so on? Media across the world are showing images of closed U.S facilities, a powerful propaganda image.
–In the populations al Qaeda seeks to influence, claiming they “humbled and scared” the US twelve years after 9/11 simply by ramping up their chatter seems an effective al Qaeda strategy. That the U.S. response is again to unleash violence in the Muslim world, especially significant this week as the Eid holidays begin, drives home al Qaeda’s point that America is at war with Islam– see, they may say, words alone are enough to unleash the beast against you.
Of Mice and Men: Historical Failure
My office is home to a few mice that have been here longer than I have. I feel they are cowards because they will not stand and fight, though I outweigh them by 200 pounds. They burrowed into my coworker’s desk and ate his Twizzlers. My colleague set traps. He comes from Ohio, where he has a nice lake house free of mice. It is better to fight them here than at home he says, but fight we must. Some have argued we can’t kill our way out of this dilemma. Leaving aside the issue of whether we should have moved uninvited into the mouse house in the first place, and leaving aside how the mice did not see themselves as liberated even after we got rid of the stray cats around here, they breed like rabbits. We can kill a few mice each day, but they just make more. We can’t kill all of them. Right now it is technology versus ideology. I hope the mice never learn to build car bombs or we are real trouble. God is with the patient, says an Arab proverb. We have the watch, but they have the time, says an American joke.
Analogies only go so far of course. What is clear is that al Qaeda’s strategy is as old as history, and the U.S. reaction both equally historic and predictable. As with the British thrashing about as their empire collapsed, the world’s greatest military defeated by natives with old rifles, so now goes the U.S., by its own hand.
Indeed, as a more eloquent commentator has said, “We continue to pay in blood because we can’t learn how to do something besides fight.”
But what better way to celebrate than ordering the killing of some mo’ suspected terrorists?
Bright and early Wednesday, only hours after the polls closed, a U.S. drone in Yemen blew up an alleged al-Qaeda operative and four others, who, by virtue of being assassinated by the United States, were obviously terrorists.
In case you care, the attack killed an alleged al-Qaeda figure named Adnan al-Qadhi, said U.S. officials, who described him as a little-known but important operational figure in the terrorist network’s Yemen branch. The strike was the 38th known one this year in Yemen alone.
Ah, now that smells like Victory! Cheers!
Never mind the high-fives at the DNC, Kelley Vlahos depresses us all with a piece reviewing the gains al Qaeda has made in Iraq as a result of the failed US invasion, alongside the geopolitical wins for Iran in Iraq as a result of the failed US invasion.
Al Qaeda, based out of Iraq and taking advantage of the Sponge Bobian porous border, continues to play a role in the Syrian civil war.
Neither presidential candidate has made a single mention of Iraq. They behave like those 4,486 dead Americans, the 100,000 or more dead Iraqis, the $44 billion in reconstruction funds wasted, the $3 trillion cost of the war that crippled our economy, never… even… happened.
As for the US’ desire for a new war in the Middle East, whether intervening in Syria or striking Iran, please do remember that every time you repeat a mistake of history, the price goes up.
Finally, a challenge: I challenge any journalist covering either campaign to ask Barack or Mitt a single question about Iraq sometime between now and November.
If you placed every article on the US’ war of terror end-to-end, it would be a very long string of bullshit. So, it is important when somebody– a Yemeni named Ibrahim Mothana in this case– just shows up and tells you the whole story in a few words. Mothana wrote in the New York Times:
Dear Obama, when a US drone missile kills a child in Yemen, the father will go to war with you, guaranteed. Nothing to do with Al Qaeda… Drone strikes are causing more and more Yemenis to hate America and join radical militants; they are not driven by ideology but rather by a sense of revenge and despair.
Anti-Americanism is far less prevalent in Yemen than in Pakistan. But rather than winning the hearts and minds of Yemeni civilians, America is alienating them by killing their relatives and friends. Indeed, the drone program is leading to the Talibanization of vast tribal areas and the radicalization of people who could otherwise be America’s allies in the fight against terrorism in Yemen.
Certainly, there may be short-term military gains from killing militant leaders in these strikes, but they are minuscule compared with the long-term damage the drone program is causing. A new generation of leaders is spontaneously emerging in furious retaliation to attacks on their territories and tribes.
This is why al Qaeda is much stronger in Yemen today than it was a few years ago.
Only a long-term approach based on building relations with local communities, dealing with the economic and social drivers of extremism, and cooperating with tribes and Yemen’s army will eradicate the threat of Islamic radicalism.
Best to read the entire article now online.
Michele Obama, if you are reading this, please clip out the article above and leave it on Barack’s pillow, thanks.
Secretary of State Hillary said that “experts” at her State Department swapped al Qaeda ads on Yemeni websites bragging about killing Americans with ones showing the deadly impact of al Qaeda tactics on Yemenis themselves. “Our team plastered the same sites with altered versions of the ads that showed the toll al-Qaida attacks have taken on the Yemeni people,” Clinton said. “Extremists are publicly venting their frustration and asking supporters not to believe everything they read on the Internet.”
Rather than hacking the sites covertly, the State Department specialists challenge the extremists in open forums. “We parody and poke holes in what they do,” a State Department official explained, in a cyber “cat and mouse game.”
According to the AP, last week, AQ launched a new series of banner attack ads focusing on them fighting the Americans, with U.S.-flag-draped coffins. The State Department team countered the attack by buying space on the same site with new ads, featuring the coffins of Yemeni civilians.
A Few Things Worth Noting
It was only last week that Clinton said “Each time a reporter is silenced or an activist is threatened it doesnt strengthen government, it weakens a nation… We have to continue making the case for respect, tolerance, openness, which are at the root of sustainable democracy.” I guess her idea of respect, tolerance and openness extends only to ideas she agrees with.
And of course the State Department coughed up this on Twitter today:
But wait a minute– we’re now trying to win the war on terror by buying banner ads? Won’t this keen strategy just stop working when the web site owners stop selling us the ads, which they will do now that Clinton has bragged about it?
If the US is paying for banner ads on pro- al Qaeda websites, aren’t we sort of materially supporting pro- al Qaeda websites? Should DOJ now arrest the State Department for material support?
Believe it or not, Clinton’s going commando about this silliness was part of her effort to show that diplomats can stand as equals alongside Special Forces operators.
Anybody think any SpecOps guys are now convinced? Anybody think any SpecOps guys wet themselves laughing?
Whose credit card did State use to buy the ads?
Pretty much everyone already knows not to believe everything they read on the Internet.
Does this count as cyber-bullying?
How many cyber exploits does it take to erase the memory of each US drone killing?
Seriously, our tax dollars are spent on crap like this and people who think this stuff up?
Does anyone anywhere really click on banner ads anymore?
Inside sources at the State Department have leaked that future cyber efforts will include unfriending al Qaeda on Facebook, releasing a fake al Qaeda sex tape and photoshopping lots of al Qaeda pictures from prom to make them look fatter. State will also bombard known al Qaeda email addresses with fake Viagra ads and offers for low cost government-backed mortgages (those are real). The State Department also plans to start a rumor during fifth period lunch that “no one likes al Qaeda anymore and no one should invite them to any more parties.”
Also, the US drone strikes killing Yemenis will continue.
America’s superhero Ambassador in Afghanistan, Ryan Crocker (pictured left with his senior adviser) just keeps the hits coming. After manfully mocking the Taliban for pulling off coordinated attacks all over the country, including just outside his own office windows, Crocker now turns his insightful gaze toward the future of terrorism.
But first, a very brief history of our war in Afghanistan. 9/11 happened, with almost all of the terrorists being Saudi, using money from Saudi Arabia and having obtained their visas in Saudi Arabia courtesy of the US Department of State (not their fault, they did not have social media then). Following the Saudi-led horrors of that day, the US attacked a different country, Afghanistan, because the Saudi citizen behind some of 9/11 moved there (many other Saudi plotters went to Pakistan, which we did not attack). The stated purpose of invading Afghanistan was to find Osama bin Laden and deny al Qaeda a homey place to live and train. You can look that up on Wikipedia or something.
So it is, well, curious, to read this quote from Crocker:
Al-Qaeda is still present in Afghanistan. If the West decides that 10 years in Afghanistan is too long then they will be back, and the next time it will not be New York or Washington, it will be another big Western city. Al-Qaeda remains a potent threat despite suffering setbacks. We have killed all the slow and stupid ones. But that means the ones that are left are totally dedicated.
Yeah, like, totally.
The good news from Crocker is that he somehow knows that New York and DC will be safe next time. The bad news is that after almost eleven years of war, 100,000 troops deployed, some 2,000 dead Americans, trillions of dollars plus who knows how many dead Afghans, as well as the fact that the war has spread into Pakistan, the US has not accomplished much at all. We are in fact, Crock says, pretty much where we started and all that effort and all those American lives did nothing but lop off the slow and stupid bad guys.
Afghans (Heart) Crocker
Crocker also seems to have hit the executive minibar one too many times. When told by a reporter that “Some Afghans even argue that the US presence has done more harm than good in Afghanistan,” Crocker parried:
The greatest concern that Afghans with whom we have regular contact express about the US military presence isn’t that we’re here but that we may be leaving. So it’s simply not the case that Afghans would rather have US forces gone. It’s quite the contrary.
Of course the mind spins, wondering if the masses of Afghans upset over the US burning Quarans, peeing on their dead and of course turning wedding parties in red mush with “unfortunate” drone attacks really would love the Americans to stay– please– just a little bit longer. Maybe Crocker could put his theory to the test with a series of homestays in the homes of typical Afghans, asking each if they would like him in the particular to stay around longer? Everyone knows that foreigners want nothing more than an American Occupying Army to sit on them.
Turks (Heart) Crocker
In that same interview, just for laffs, Crocker also fired off a threat to the Iranians, saying mirthfully that:
The Iranians would be making a terrible mistake to push Turkey too hard. Turkey definitely knows how to push back very, very effectively, and I think the Iranians are smart enough to understand that they had better stay within some pretty careful limits or they will pay a price they won’t like, shall we say.
Yes, them Turks are bad asses, shall we say. Problem is in between Turkey and Iran lies Crocker’s out vacation home in Iraq, which would need to be overflown by the Turks when they go off huntin’ Iranian butt. Yeah, it’ll be cool. Crock’s got your back.
Crocker, it is a bad idea to taunt people with weapons, especially when it is other people who will bear the burden of defending your taunts against the inevitable response.
Maliki (Hearts) Crocker
Lastly, Crocker wows his audience with a completely wrong retelling of reality, speaking now about Iraqi autocrat Maliki:
Turkey knows better than anyone the deep divisions between Iraq and Iran in the aftermath of that awful eight-year ground war. Again, you understand that, as many in my country do not, that simply because the government is now led by a Shiite prime minister does not mean that he takes his direction from Tehran — quite the opposite. He is a very proud Arab and a proud Iraqi nationalist.
Of course Crocker wouldn’t know that Maliki spent most of the eight years of the Iraq-Iran war in exile in Iran, and that Maliki owes his Prime Minister job to the Iranian-brokered deal with the Sadrists that concluded the March 2010 sham elections nine months after the voting ended. Crocker’s version of Iraq-Iran history also ends in 1990 and omits two US invasions of Iraq that followed.
So, once again, Ryan Crocker, would you please just shut up?
(Thanks to Ryan Crocker fan blogger Random Thoughts for the story idea)
Iraq has been free for about two months now. As idiots debate whether or not “it was worth it,” the Agency France Press (AFP) cuts to the money shot with a terse summary of the deadliest attacks in Iraq since only January:
January 5: Attacks against Shiite Muslims in Baghdad and south Iraq kill 68 people and wound more than 100.
January 14: A suicide bomber kills 53 people and wounds 137 in an attack on Shiite pilgrims on the outskirts of the southern port city of Basra.
January 27: A suicide bomber detonates an explosives-packed car at a funeral procession outside a Baghdad hospital, killing 31 people and wounding 60 others.
February 19: A suicide bomber detonates a car bomb in front of a Baghdad police academy, killing 15 people and wounding 21.
February 23: A wave of attacks nationwide, blamed on al Qaeda, kill 42 people and leave more than 250 wounded.
March 5: Suspected al Qaeda gunmen, some wearing police uniforms, and rage through the western city of Haditha in a pre-dawn shooting spree that leaves 27 policemen dead.
Even as the AFP posted this macabre list, violence in Iraq continued.
A recent wave of violence in Iraq has resulted in the kidnapping, torture, and killing of about 40 people perceived to be gay or lesbian, with the murder weapon sometimes being a concrete block to the head. The killings began in early February after an unidentified group put up posters with death threats against “adulterous individuals” in largely Shiite neighborhoods of Baghdad and Basra, reports the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission. The threats listed the targets’ names and ages, and gave them four days to change their behavior or face divine retribution.
On March 7 a car bomb attack in the Mansour neighborhood of Baghdad left three dead as the capital prepared for the Arab League summit. The same day, a suicide blast killed 14 in the predominantly Shia Turkmen city of Tal Afar. Al Jazeera summed up the continuing violence in a photo essay.
Top national security lawyers in the Obama administration say U.S. citizens are legitimate military targets when they take up arms with al-Qaida.
The lawyers were asked at a national security conference Thursday about the CIA killing of Anwar al-Alwaki, a U.S. citizen and leading al-Qaida figure. He died in a Sept. 30 U.S. drone strike in the mountains of Yemen.
The government lawyers — CIA counsel Stephen Preston and Pentagon counsel Jeh Johnson — did not directly address the al-Alwaki case. But they said U.S. citizens don’t have immunity when they’re at war with the United States. Johnson said only the executive branch, not the courts, is equipped to make decisions about who qualifies as an enemy.
Oh, yes and this: On Tuesday 60 members of the United States Senate voted to preserve a provision in the National Defense Authorization Act—that would be the bill that funds the Pentagon—allowing the U.S. military to pick up and detain, without charges or trial, anyone suspected of terrorism, including American citizens.
1) al-Alwaki was a propagandist and organizer for al-Qaeda. He was not a shooter or bomber. The US killed him anyway. The US also killed his teenage son because, well, just because.
2) No organization or nation has a declared war with the US at present. The only wars we have are those the US has announced. The US has not made a formal declaration of war since December 8, 1941.
3) The US killing its own citizens violates just about everything in the Bill of Rights and Obama knows that and is doing it anyway, because, well, killing is easier than thinking.
4) Killing is amazingly a nicer word, a euphemism, for extra-judicial government executions.
5) The lawyers carefully made no distinction between killing Americans abroad versus killing them in the US. Important government lawyers choose their words carefully. This is not an accident.
6) America, we are so screwed. Our country has gone completely fucking crazy. Bat-shit whacko. We had a decent run for some 220 years, but it’s all over now baby blue.
I thought journalists were supposed to think, but a piece by Tara McKelvey (photo), A Bigger Kill Than Bin Laden, is so sadly just stenography for the government that I hope she was paid off to jot it down instead of really being that stupid. She wrote about the US drone murder of the latest al Qaeda number 2 or 3 or 4.
Tara (may I call you Tara?) wrote:
Forget Osama bin Laden, the so-called terrorist mastermind. In real life, he was the guy watching videos of himself in a room in his Abbottabad compound; meanwhile, al-Rahman was making plans.
Ok, check, Bin Laden was no big deal, which is why we took ten years to find him and everyone hated on him more than the Hamburgler. Tara, Tara, the US has killed al Qaeda’s number 2 or number 3 man so many times there are jokes about it.
But wait, there is more from Tara. Here’s an objective paragraph that no doubt has her community college J-school prof in hiding:
Obama supporters say the killing of al-Rahman is the latest in a string of White House successes against the terrorist group and further proof that the laserlike approach, with its reliance on drone strikes, is the right one. In this way, CIA officers are thinning the ranks of al Qaeda and gradually making them obsolete: Or, as Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said last month, Americans are “within reach of strategically defeating al Qaeda.”
This is good news. With al Qaeda basically toast, we have repealed the Patriot Act, ended the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Libya, Somalia and can go back to wearing our shoes in the airport. Sweet. Thanks Tara!
Ok, OK, here’s one more:
Now that al-Rahman is gone, CIA officers in Langley, Va. and in stations around the world will double down on their efforts to pursue their other targets. These include al-Rahman’s boss, Ayman al-Zawahiri, (NOTE: He used to be al Qaeda NO. 2) who became bin Laden’s successor.
In the meantime, CIA officials have reason to celebrate, since by almost any account the death of al-Rahman is significant. “Al Qaeda has not signed a surrender, and nor will it,” says Sageman, “but their ability to launch operations is diminished.”
Now there’s the whole war of terror in a sentence. The goons celebrate some event as a major milestone (bin Laden dead, No. 2 killed) and then quickly add “but al Qaeda is still a threat” forever.
It is almost as if the people making a living off of the war of terror just don’t want it to ever end.
It started out as a quiet Sunday in Lake Wobegon. Most days are, sunny and warm, very much late spring. You can smell summer coming. The pool is open and the rhythms of the little place shift again. New people arriving, some others finishing up their year and heading out. Cycle of life stuff and all that.
Outside the Embassy, fifteen bombs exploded Sunday within hours of one another in Baghdad, killing at least 18 people and wounding 80. PM al Maliki said al Qaeda and other terrorists are behind the killings but also has blamed political movements and security guards. I heard he also blamed Santa Claus, the late Billy Mays and his mom. Everyone else blamed the Americans.
I heard from a colleague that it was otherwise a quiet Sunday at the Embassy. The USAID staff is moving in, closing down their own little compound in the Green Zone to make nice for a whole of government love festival. Also, it is considered off-message to call the area the “Green Zone” these days– the newspeak term is International Zone.
The big news at the Embassy was that dozens of new palm trees, all fully grown, are being planted on campus to provide some shade. We live in there with all the shade money can buy, the Iraqis live out there.
Speaking of American Citizen target al Awlaki, one of his alleged duties is to edit al Qaeda’s online magazine, Inspire. The magazine has been published on and off for the last two years, albeit to an audience mostly limited to US intelligence analysts.
If you’d like to have a look yourself, the current issue is available. Scroll down to the bottom of that same page to find links to a couple of back issues.
Interestingly, the mag sides with the US on wanting Gaddafi out of Libya, declaiming him as an apostate and criticizing his “rockstar” lifestyle. I’m guessing al Qaeda would prefer to see Gaddafi replaced by a different dude than the US, but for now, can’t we all just be friends?
A “What to Expect in Jihad” feature helpfully emphasizes the need to be in shape, suggesting would-be terrorists start jogging. You don’t need to be a Carl Lewis, it says, but you do need to be able to run well enough to storm an enemy position.
Actually, the mag is just boring. Needs some travel tips or recipes or more celebrity articles.
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