Sanity Injection

Injecting a dose of sanity into your day’s news and current events.

Posts Tagged ‘Terrorism’

Middle East Update – Qatar, Iran and terrorism

Posted by sanityinjection on June 9, 2017

I find that it’s rather difficult for those of us in the US to find quality, up-to-date analysis of what is going on in the Middle East. As it has for thousands of years, what happens in this region disproportionately affects the rest of the world. So I’m going to try to post periodic updates summarizing what you need to know with my own analysis.

SAUDI – QATAR SPAT: Perhaps the biggest story this week was the intra-Arab diplomatic spat between the small but wealthy Persian Gulf state of Qatar and a group of countries including Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt. These countries not only have suspended diplomatic relations with Qatar but have cut off land and air travel access and ordered Qataris to leave their territory. This creates a serious problem for Qatar since they import most of their food from these countries and will now have to rely on Iran and Turkey for help. The seriousness of the Saudi-led group’s intentions can be understood from the fact that the Saudis will also suffer from the diplomatic break: Qatar supplies natural gas for the Saudis and other countries in the region, and the Qataris have been kicked out of the coalition military forces fighting the Houthis in Yemen. That war is not going well for the Saudis, so you can tell they are pretty pissed if they are willing to weaken their forces there over this dispute. So what is really going on?

Basically, Saudi Arabia and the other states believe that Qatar is not only too soft on Iran, but too cozy with Islamist groups like Hamas, Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, and Shiite groups in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. The Qatari media outlet Al-Jazeera has been a long time thorn in the side of the other Arab monarchies. But the last straw came recently when Qatar paid ransom money to both Iran and al-Qaeda, which of course will be used to fund more terrorism in the region.

Ultimately, the dispute amounts to an inconvenience for the US, whose military Central Command is based in Qatar. But if the Arabs are successful in pressuring Qatar to move away from it support for Iran and other groups, that could be a positive development from the US perspective. There are reports that a minor exodus of Hamas operatives leaving Qatar has already begun.

TERROR ATTACKS IN IRAN: Also this week, the Iranian capital of Tehran became the latest victim of terrorist attacks. The timing is somewhat suspicious, coming in the wake of the Saudi media campaign linking Iran with Islamic terrorism. What better way to prove that Iran is not in bed with Sunni groups like IS and al-Qaeda than for it to be attacked by them? I’m not going so far as to claim that Iran staged the attacks as a false flag operation on their own people, but I wouldn’t put it past the terrorists to have expedited plans to attack Shiite Iran (whom they view as heretics, in many ways worse than infidels) as a way of trying to counter the Saudi propaganda effort. It’s worth noting that these attacks are the first major terrorist attacks in Iran in over 25 years.

BATTLE OF RAQQA: In Syria, US-backed coalition forces have begun their assault on the IS capital of Raqqa, even as progress continues to be made in driving them out of their other stronghold of Mosul in Iraq. Most analysts expect these campaigns to be successful in essentially ending IS as a “caliphate” or territorial power in Syria and Iraq. However, IS-affiliated groups continue to operate freely in places like Libya, Yemen, and Somalia, so the threat of terrorist attacks is far from over.

PALESTINIANS CARE MORE ABOUT JOBS AND DEMOCRACY THAN FIGHTING ISRAEL: A poll conducted last month of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza produced surprising results suggesting that public opinion among Palestinians may be more open to compromises for peace than the Palestinian leadership would like to admit. Basically, the results showed that Palestinians are more interested in being able to find good jobs and having an honest, responsible government than about issues like whether the US moves its embassy to Jerusalem. From Israel, Palestinians most want freedom of movement and more job opportunities from Israeli companies more than they care about Jewish settlements in the West Bank. Perhaps most astonishingly, 62% of Palestinians in Gaza agreed that Hamas should quit calling for Israel’s destruction and accept the idea of a two-state solution based on the 1967 borders.

These poll results may provide some ammunition for US efforts to broker a new agreement, by calling into serious question the claims of the Palestinian Authority and Hamas that they would face a popular backlash if they compromised with Israel on their positions.

For more info on these and other Middle East developments, I recommend the Washington-based Al Monitor website. You can find there up-to-date reports from each of the regions within the Middle East as well as some of the most insightful and objective analysis to better understand what is really going on underneath the spin.

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Charleston church shooting is a hate crime. Should that matter?

Posted by sanityinjection on June 19, 2015

The recent shooting of innocent people at the Emanuel AME church in Charleston, South Carolina is a tragedy and an abomination. There can never be any rationale or justification for such an act. The shooter – presumably one Dylan Roof – deserves the death penalty in my opinion. Roof may be tried on federal charges if the Justice Department determines that the shooting constitutes a “hate crime”.

In fact, this incident is pretty much the textbook example of a hate crime – a crime in which the primary motive for the act is hatred toward a particular ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation or other protected class. Roof apparently chose his target specifically in order to attack black people in hopes of starting a race war.

Now, just for a moment, let’s imagine that was not the case. Let’s imagine that Roof shot those people for some other reason – he was angry with one of them, or just angry at the world in general and taking it out on innocent people. Absent his racial animosity, this would not be a hate crime. But I ask you, would that make it somehow less heinous? Would that make it less awful for the people who have to figure out how to go on living without their loved ones?

The only difference between a hate crime and any other crime is the ideological motivation of the criminal. But think about what that means: Hate crime legislation criminalizes not the criminal act itself, but the opinions held by the criminal. That is a direct violation of one of the fundamental freedoms guaranteed by our Constitituion: the freedom of conscience, or the freedom to think and hold whatever opinions we choose – no matter how offensive they are to the majority. In fact, it has been argued that you cannot have freedom of speech without first having freedom of conscience.

Should Dylan Roof – assuming he is found guilty of this terrible crime – be subject to additional prosecution on the basis of his racist beliefs? Specifically, the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 mandates higher penalties for hate crimes. Should it really matter what he was thinking – or speaking – when he pulled the trigger?

I find racism abhorrent, but I think Roof or any other American has the right to hold such abhorrent beliefs. What he doesn’t have the right to do is shoot people, regardless of whether he dislikes them because they’re black or because their shoelaces are tied a certain way. Trying him for a hate crime is not going to somehow convince other racists to see the error of their ways. In fact, the opposite could be true – by making Roof’s racism the crime, he might become a martyr for white supremacist groups.

I believe South Carolina already allows the death penalty for murder. Let Roof be tried under that statute. Or, if the Feds have to be involved, let them try him for domestic terrorism, which trying to start a race war by murdering innocent people arguably is. But any prosecution under a hate crimes statute – of Roof or any other bigot – is itself an attack on the liberty of all Americans to hold unpopular opinions. When the government can tell us what we are allowed to think, then we are already living in a totalitarian state worse than anything Hitler or Stalin could have imagined in their wildest dreams.

Posted in Domestic News, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Obama’s Middle East policy encourages America’s enemies

Posted by sanityinjection on March 8, 2010

Great column up by Barry Rubin explaining how the Obama Administration’s limp-wristed pursuit of “more sanctions” against Iran has convinced America’s enemies in the Middle East that we are weak:

I wish that the President would wake up and realize that Russia and China have no real interest in supporting sanctions against Iran, Hezbollah, or any other violent Islamic groups. On the contrary, to them Islamic terrorism within their own borders is a perfect excuse to repress their own people.

The US has had multiple levels of sanctions in place against Iran for 30 years. Sanctions only work if the majority of the world’s economic powers observe them.

How about we get serious? Declare Iran and Syria to be “state sponsors of terrorism” and get all NATO countries to agree to revoke diplomatic immunity so that any Iranian or Syrian diplomat can be arrested on charges of supporting terrorism. Then arrest the entire Iranian and Syrian delegations, put them in jail, then deport them – by slow cargo freighter.

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Spanish judge exposes hypocrisy of Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez

Posted by sanityinjection on March 1, 2010

Honestly, sometimes I think I could write a whole blog just about Venezuela’s strutting thug of a caudillo, Hugo Chavez. I’m sure others have done just that. Whether it’s trying to rule Honduras through one of his bullyboy stooges or declaring that the United States somehow deliberately engineered the Haiti earthquake as a pretext to take over that country, Chavez is a headline news writer’s dream – always good for some copy.

 For now, let me just comment on one aspect of Chavez’ foreign policy. As even the most casual follower of international issues knows, Chavez casts himself as the chief opponent of the United States in the Western Hemisphere. Everything in Latin America is the fault of US imperialism, according to Chavez. Chavez reserves particular spite for neighboring US ally Colombia. Relations between Venezuela and Colombia have deteriorated drastically since Chavez gained power. Chavez frequently accuses the US of planning to invade Venezuela with Colombian help to overthrow him, while at the same time denying accusations that Chavez’ Venezuelan military and intelligence services have provided aid to the FARC rebels in Colombia.

In fact, it is Chavez, and not the United States or Colombia, who is actively engaged in attacking other nations by funding and training rebels and terrorists. Support for this comes from a judge in faraway Spain, whose recent indictment accuses Chavez’ government of not only harboring terrorists from Spain’s ETA and Colombia’s FARC, but actually presiding over explosives training involving both groups.

Of course, allegations of this type have been coming from the US and Colombia for a while now, but this comes from an essentially neutral source (personal friction between the Spanish King and Chavez notwithstanding.) It will be much harder for Chavez to brush this off as US propaganda, though it is unlikely to have any direct consequences.

Meanwhile, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, which has members from Argentina, Brazil, and Chile as well as the US, has issued this 150-page report detailing the systematic way in which Chavez has undermined democracy, freedom, and human rights in his country. Again, not new information, but when you put it all together in one place it’s a staggering condemnation. The Commission, of course, like its parent group the Organization of American States, is toothless, but in Chavez’ world, sometimes propaganda counts for a lot. It is getting harder and harder for Chavez to present himself and his government as victims when the evidence is mounting that they are the victimizers.

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Germany backs words with actions

Posted by sanityinjection on February 26, 2010

If you follow foreign policy, you know the drill when it comes to NATO missions in places like Iraq and Afghanistan – places where actual fighting takes place. America’s NATO allies (with notable exceptions such as the UK) usually make big promises about sending troops, but once the bleeding starts they have a tendency to cut and run.

With this in mind, I salute the German Parliament, which today overwhelmingly approved the government’s plan to send 850 more German soldiers to Afghanistan. Granted, many of these will be focused on training Afghan soldiers and won’t be serving on the front lines, but that is in fact the type of assistance that is needed at the moment. The increase represents a 19% increase in the size of the German force currently in Afghanistan.

Obviously no country likes to send its young men and women into harm’s way. But clearly Germany is committed to doing its part in the shared fight against Islamic terrorism. I hope other NATO countries will follow the German example and send their additional troops where their mouths have been.

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Hezbollah caught red-handed when terrorist blows up his own garage

Posted by sanityinjection on October 13, 2009

After the 2006 war between Israel and the Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah, one of the conditions of the UN resolution that ended the conflict was that Hezbollah would disarm and turn over their weapons and control of the areas in southern Lebanon they controlled to the Lebanese Army.

Needless to say, they turned over some weapons (knowing they could smuggle in more as soon as the UN stopped paying attention), but still retain control of southern Lebanon. The Lebanese government and army has only as much authority in the south as Hezbollah chooses to give them.

Israeli intelligence has repeatedly complained that Hezbollah was re-arming, but the terrorists predictably denied it. That is, until yesterday, when a Hezbollah militant’s garage was blown up by an exploding artillery shell. I don’t know about you, but I don’t know too many people with artillery shells in their garages. Even Lebanese officials initially admitted that it was likely the garage was being used to store illegal weapons.

Now, can we finally dispense with the ridiculous idea that you can negotiate with terrorists and trust them to keep agreements?

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Carpe diem on Iran?

Posted by sanityinjection on August 6, 2009

This column by a former CIA spy in Iran identified only by the pseudonym Reza Kahlili paints a chilling picture of domestic and foreign terrorism in Iran and suggests that there will never be a better moment than right now to challenge what he calls the “thugocracy” – the Revolutionary Guards who really run Iran and who are avowed enemies of Western civilization.

Unfortunately, the Obama Administration is so terrified of being viewed as Western meddlers that they prefer to watch from the sidelines while the regime crushes opposition, consolidates it spower, and moves full steam ahead with its plans to arm nuclear missiles and aim them at US and European targets – not to mention Israel. As “Kahlili” asks: Is it better to confront Iran before or after they have an active nuclear option?

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Irony, thy name is Al-Qaeda in Iraq

Posted by sanityinjection on June 22, 2009

Al Qaeda and other Sunni extremist groups in Iraq have said all along that they are fighting to end the American occupation of Iraq. This is the excuse they use to justify their barbaric terrorist attacks not only on US soldiers but on Iraqis themselves (the lives of the innocent are equally to be sacrificed for their glorious cause.)

So, with US troops on schedule to pull out of Iraqi urban areas by June 30 as part of the larger withdrawal plan, one might logically assume that the bombings and attacks would decrease with the removal of the provocative US presence. Indeed, this has been the essence of the anti-war argument offered by Western liberals: The US is to blame for terrorism because of its presence in the Middle East, and if we would just pull out and leave the region undefended, everyone would be happy and play nice. And Al Qaeda has echoed that line of thinking in their statements, since it works to their advantage.

In fact, though, we are more likely to see an increase in terrorist attacks in Iraq accompanying the US pullback. There are two reasons for this. One is that the removal of US forces simply makes it easier for the terrorists to carry out their attacks, and it’s only natural for them to take advantage of the opportunity. But the second, and more fundamental reason, is that in fact the last thing Al Qaeda in Iraq wants is for the US to leave – because it would remove their excuse for existing there. With the US gone, Iraqis will have little sympathy for Al Qaeda attacks on Iraqis. But in fact, Al Qaeda still wants to bring down the democratic government of Iraq and replace it with an Islamofascist theocracy.

The hope of Al Qaeda and their allies is that by increasing their attacks, they will force the US to reverse its pullback and keep our troops in Iraq, so they can continue to justify their existence and kill more of us and more Iraqis. Precisely the opposite of what they claim to want.

This is important for the Western defeatists to understand. Yes, the terrorists hate the US because of our presence in the Middle East, but not because it offends them. They hate us because we are the only force that has both the capability and the will to prevent them from establishing their Muslim caliphate. If we were to shrink back into our shell and leave the Middle East, the terrorists wouldn’t pack up and go home. They would renew their struggle with greater energy, knowing that the path to victory and the religious enslavement of the Middle East was now clear.

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“24”‘s prion based bioweapon – how realistic?

Posted by sanityinjection on April 8, 2009

If you’re among the many Americans who never miss an episode of the Fox TV drama “24”, you know that this season’s plot includes a bioweapon said to contain a deadly “prion” gas. I thought some readers might be interested to know more about prions and whether a prion-based bioweapon is actually a realistic possibility.

A “prion” is a simple protein which is folded up in a way that makes it unsually stable and strong. When a prion encounters normal molecules of the same type of protein, it causes them to fold up in the same way, effectively reporoducing itself by conversion. In the human body, prions can form an amyloid plaque which disrupts and destroys the central nervous system. Because of the unusual structure of the prions, this process has so far proven to be irreversible and inevitably fatal. So “24” is correct in suggesting that anyone infected with prions would almost certainly die. The best known prion disease is Creutzfeld-Jakob disease (CJD), as well as the animal disease bovine spongiform encephelopathy (“mad cow” disease).

However, prions actually do not make a good candidate for a bioweapon – especially for terrorists –  for a number of reasons. First of all, the only known method of prion transmission is through ingestion or direct introduction into the bloodstream. There is no such thing as a prion “gas” that you could inhale and become infected, the way Jack Bauer did. This also means that prions are not contagious from one person to another (which “24” got correct.)

Second, as deadly as prion disease is, it has a long incubation period. This means that it can be quite a while after infection before a person begins to show symptoms. That’s not good for a weapon where you’d prefer to see more immediate results. So even if someone were able to invent a prion gas as in the show, it probably would not be the weapon of choice for someone who wants to spread terror,  given the plethora of toxins that are easier to come by. Still, you have to give the writers credit for coming up with something fact-based that sounds sufficiently exotic to viewers.

Posted in Current Events | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 11 Comments »

Brief comments on Israel’s action in Gaza

Posted by sanityinjection on January 5, 2009

I have no doubt that there will be plenty of opportunities in 2009 to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian issue in depth, so I’m not going to do that now. But I did want to briefly comment on the current military action by Israel in Gaza against Hamas.

Consider this: If a terrorist group were firing rockets from foreign soil into the US and killing civilians indiscriminately, would we take seriously calls for “restraint” in retaliating against the perpetrators? It simply is not rational to expect Israel to sit by and do nothing while their people are murdered. Thus I feel the Gaza action is entirely justified.

That having been said, it would behoove the Israelis to be as surgical as possible in their strikes. I know that’s not easy because the terrorists deliberately use civilian areas and homes as a shield for their attacks. But it is nevertheless true that every time Israel blows up somebody’s house that wasn’t a terrorist, they create new terrorists. Over the past half-century we have seen the Palestinian population become increasingly radicalized by poverty and deprivation of civil rights (for which their fellow Arabs are largely to blame.) It will become impossible for Israel to negotiate peace if there is no one left to negotiate with.

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