Sunday, October 01, 2006

A unified theory of stupidity on terrorism

I'm beginning to think that it's possible to discern so many similarities between really stupid opinions on terrorism that we can call it a theory. Specifically, if you're talking about state sponsorship, you're probably wrong, unless overwhelming evidence contradicts this. As far as I can tell, the modern version of this theory originated in the late 1970s or early 1980s. It had been about - Shakespeare has Bolingbroke in Richard II allege that "all the treasons for these eighteen years/complotted and contrived in this land/have in false Mowbray their first head and spring" - but the strong form seems to have originated then.

Key features are that 1) terrorist or guerrilla activity is never the work of the people who appear to carry it out, 2) instead it is the work of a Sponsor, 3) that only action against the Sponsor will be effective, 4) even if there is no obvious sign of the Sponsor's hand, this only demonstrates their malign skill, and 5) there is evidence, but it is too secret to produce. In the strong form, it is argued that all nonconventional military activity is the work of the same Sponsor.

Reasons for its popularity: 1) it suits existing 2nd/3rd generation military-bureaucratic structures, intelligence collection and analysis processes, and presents targets to traditional weapons systems, 2) it removes agency from the terrorists, 3) because of 2, efforts to engage with the population from which the terrorists come are delegitimised, 4) it postulates a centralised enemy and hence enhances the power of the central government.

Intellectual archaeology: US response to 1979 Iranian revolution/South African military's "total onslaught concept" of same period/Israeli (specifically Likud) efforts not to engage with the PLO/USSR's belief in global capitalist conspiracy/1950s McCarthyism/Rollback doctrines.

Warning signs: States that espouse this theory are often in a position where they have to deal with guerrillas/terrorists in day-to-day practice, whilst political considerations incline official discourse towards Dr Evil theories. This entails a divide between the military/intelligence professionals and the government, or else a horizontal division between those lower on the rank scale who actually deal with the problem and the senior panjandrums. The end effect, and screaming red-flasher warning sign, is a deprofessionalisation of analysis.

Consider Dick Cheney, trying to talk Schwartzkopf into dropping the 82nd Airborne in the desert of western Iraq and then march to Baghdad, on the basis of the US Civil War documentaries he'd been watching. (At least Churchill got his crazy military ideas from books.) Consider Dick again, dragging the Iraq Survey Group inspectors out of bed with suggested WMD locations in the Beka'a Valley. The cultural role of the Beka'a in all this is nontrivial. It's the state sponsorship fiend's happy hunting ground, a zone onto which any kind of political fantasy can be projected. This began when it was hard to reach during the Lebanese civil war, but those days are 15 years gone now, and press men regularly drive over from Beirut to find...nothing.

A key point is fictionalised difficulty. Consider this tale, via Gilliard's. JSOC was so convinced that Lebanon was so wildly dangerous to deliver a radio there, a night-time HALO jump from outside Lebanese airspace, sideslipping in towards the beach, and swimming in with wetsuits would be necessary. And they were desperately pissed off when it was suggested that it just be put in the diplomatic bag and driven over the border (through the Beka'a - did they realise that?) Michael Ledeen continues his career as an "Iran expert" despite the handicap of never having visited the place, as if it was North Korea or Cambodia under Pol Pot. Mike, the cellphones work and you can catch a flight via Heathrow.

Now, as an exercise, let's have a read of this. Apparently the new RPG-29 rocket has reached Iraq. Not good news. But look at this:
"The first time we saw it was not in Iraq. We saw it in Lebanon. So to me it indicates, number one, an Iranian connection," he told defense reporters here. "It's hard to say in our part of the world that we operate in as to whether or not people have given us a hint about things to come," he said.

He said only a single RPG-29 has turned up in Iraq so far, and it was unclear how it was smuggled into the country. But he said it was the latest in a number of new and more sophisticated weapons that appear to be moving onto the region's battlefields from Iran.

He said longer-range Chinese rockets that looked new also have been found in Iraq. Abizaid said he believed the Chinese rockets came from Iran although they may have been taken from the arms inventories of the former Iraqi regime and cleaned up.
So, because they were used in Lebanon first, the one in Iraq must come from Iran. Does he realise that the shortest route between Iran and Lebanon is through Iraq? Surely he does. Later, he mentions other possibilities - but dismisses them. You can almost hear the cognitive dissonance jarring away.

Update: Readers may wish to apply the principles of this post to this.

Update again: Ouch. Terrible mis-Shakespeare corrected.


Anonymous said...

I've been reading your blog off and on for a while, because I'm interested in politics, come from Yorkshire originally, and know nothing whatsoever of logistics. So you really shine a different kind of light on questions I worry about, which is great.

That said, seems to me you've really taken a step up here. These last few days of posts about Iraq and Iran are some of the best stuff I've read on it - and even getting literary as well with the Bolingbroke there. Thanks and keep up the good and important work.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of terrorism...

One thing that struck me as odd in the days after 9/11 was Bush saying "We will not tolerate conspiracy theories [regarding 9/11]". Sure enough there have been some wacky conspiracy theories surrounding the events of that day. The most far-fetched and patently ridiculous one that I've ever heard goes like this: Nineteen hijackers who claimed to be devout Muslims but yet were so un-Muslim as to be getting drunk all the time, doing cocaine and frequenting strip clubs decided to hijack four airliners and fly them into buildings in the northeastern U.S., the area of the country that is the most thick with fighter bases. After leaving a Koran on a barstool at a strip bar after getting shitfaced drunk on the night before, then writing a suicide note/inspirational letter that sounded like it was written by someone with next to no knowledge of Islam, they went to bed and got up the next morning hung over and carried out their devious plan. Nevermind the fact that of the four "pilots" among them there was not a one that could handle a Cessna or a Piper Cub let alone fly a jumbo jet, and the one assigned the most difficult task of all, Hani Hanjour, was so laughably incompetent that he was the worst fake "pilot" of the bunch. Nevermind the fact that they received very rudimentary flight training at Pensacola Naval Air Station, making them more likely to have been C.I.A. assets than Islamic fundamentalist terrorists. So on to the airports. These "hijackers" somehow managed to board all four airliners with their tickets, yet not even ONE got his name on any of the flight manifests. So they hijack all four airliners and at this time passengers on United 93 start making a bunch of cell phone calls from 35,000 feet in the air to tell people what was going on. Nevermind the fact that cell phones wouldn't work very well above 4,000 feet, and wouldn't work at ALL above 8,000 feet. But the conspiracy theorists won't let that fact get in the way of a good fantasy. That is one of the little things you "aren't supposed to think about". Nevermind that one of the callers called his mom and said his first and last name, more like he was reading from a list than calling his own mom. Anyway, when these airliners each deviated from their flight plan and didn't respond to ground control, NORAD would any other time have followed standard operating procedure (and did NOT have to be told by F.A.A. that there were hijackings because they were watching the same events unfold on their own radar) which means fighter jets would be scrambled from the nearest base where they were available on standby within a few minutes, just like every other time when airliners stray off course. But of course on 9/11 this didn't happen, not even close. Somehow these "hijackers" must have used magical powers to cause NORAD to stand down, as ridiculous as this sounds because total inaction from the most high-tech and professional Air Force in the world would be necessary to carry out their tasks. So on the most important day in its history the Air Force was totally worthless. Then they had to make one of the airliners look like a smaller plane, because unknown to them the Naudet brothers had a videocamera to capture the only known footage of the North Tower crash, and this footage shows something that is not at all like a jumbo jet, but didn't have to bother with the South Tower jet disguising itself because that was the one we were "supposed to see". Anyway, as for the Pentagon they had to have Hani Hanjour fly his airliner like it was a fighter plane, making a high G-force corkscrew turn that no real airliner can do, in making its descent to strike the Pentagon. But these "hijackers" wanted to make sure Rumsfeld survived so they went out of their way to hit the farthest point in the building from where Rumsfeld and the top brass are located. And this worked out rather well for the military personnel in the Pentagon, since the side that was hit was the part that was under renovation at the time with few military personnel present compared to construction workers. Still more fortuitous for the Pentagon, the side that was hit had just before 9/11 been structurally reinforced to prevent a large fire there from spreading elsewhere in the building. Awful nice of them to pick that part to hit, huh? Then the airliner vaporized itself into nothing but tiny unidentifiable pieces no bigger than a fist, unlike the crash of a real airliner when you will be able to see at least some identifiable parts, like crumpled wings, broken tail section etc. Why, Hani Hanjour the terrible pilot flew that airliner so good that even though he hit the Pentagon on the ground floor the engines didn't even drag the ground!! Imagine that!! Though the airliner vaporized itself on impact it only made a tiny 16 foot hole in the building. Amazing. Meanwhile, though the planes hitting the Twin Towers caused fires small enough for the firefighters to be heard on their radios saying "We just need 2 hoses and we can knock this fire down" attesting to the small size of it, somehow they must have used magical powers from beyond the grave to make this morph into a raging inferno capable of making the steel on all forty-seven main support columns (not to mention the over 100 smaller support columns) soften and buckle, then all fail at once. Hmmm. Then still more magic was used to make the building totally defy physics as well as common sense in having the uppermost floors pass through the remainder of the building as quickly, meaning as effortlessly, as falling through air, a feat that without magic could only be done with explosives. Then exactly 30 minutes later the North Tower collapses in precisely the same freefall physics-defying manner. Incredible. Not to mention the fact that both collapsed at a uniform rate too, not slowing down, which also defies physics because as the uppermost floors crash into and through each successive floor beneath them they would shed more and more energy each time, thus slowing itself down. Common sense tells you this is not possible without either the hijackers' magical powers or explosives. To emphasize their telekinetic prowess, later in the day they made a third building, WTC # 7, collapse also at freefall rate though no plane or any major debris hit it. Amazing guys these magical hijackers. But we know it had to be "Muslim hijackers" the conspiracy theorist will tell you because (now don't laugh) one of their passports was "found" a couple days later near Ground Zero, miraculously "surviving" the fire that we were told incinerated planes, passengers and black boxes, and also "survived" the collapse of the building it was in. When common sense tells you if that were true then they should start making buildings and airliners out of heavy paper and plastic so as to be "indestructable" like that magic passport. The hijackers even used their magical powers to bring at least seven of their number back to life, to appear at american embassies outraged at being blamed for 9/11!! BBC reported on that and it is still online. Nevertheless, they also used magical powers to make the american government look like it was covering something up in the aftermath of this, what with the hasty removal of the steel debris and having it driven to ports in trucks with GPS locators on them, to be shipped overseas to China and India to be melted down. When common sense again tells you that this is paradoxical in that if the steel was so unimportant that they didn't bother saving some for analysis but so important as to require GPS locators on the trucks with one driver losing his job because he stopped to get lunch. Hmmmm. Further making themselves look guilty, the Bush administration steadfastly refused for over a year to allow a commission to investigate 9/11 to even be formed, only agreeing to it on the conditions that they get to dictate its scope, meaning it was based on the false pretense of the "official story" being true with no other alternatives allowed to be considered, handpicked all its members making sure the ones picked had vested interests in the truth remaining buried, and with Bush and Cheney only "testifying" together, only for an hour, behind closed doors, with their attorneys present and with their "testimonies" not being recorded by tape or even written down in notes. Yes, this whole story smacks of the utmost idiocy and fantastic far-fetched lying, but it is amazingly enough what some people believe. Even now, five years later, the provably false fairy tale of the "nineteen hijackers" is heard repeated again and again, and is accepted without question by so many Americans. Which is itself a testament to the innate psychological cowardice of the American sheeple, i mean people, and their abject willingness to believe something, ANYTHING, no matter how ridiculous in order to avoid facing a scary uncomfortable truth. Time to wake up America.

kostenloser Counter