Sanity Injection

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

Posts Tagged ‘terrorists’

Two Rant Tuesday

Posted by sanityinjection on March 9, 2010

Following up on last week’s TRT in which I complained about Americans’ increasingly poor driving…Today I got to witness someone trying to back out of their driveway into a busy state highway. At first this appeared to me to be merely annoying rather than idiotic, until I drove past and realized that the driveway in question was big enough to land the space shuttle on. In other words, this driver could easily have turned his or her car around in their own driveway before trying to pull out into the highway, but was too lazy to do that. Instead, they insisted on backing out, creating a hazard to themselves and everyone else and also causing a backup of cars.

Something tells me this jackass was not the only such offender in my area this morning. I would put this in the same category as people who realize at the last second that they’re going to miss their exit. Instead of accepting the consequences of their mistake by going to the next exit and turning around, they swerve across multiple lanes of traffic, heedless of the danger to themselves and others. They would rather risk their lives and the lives of others around them than be even slightly inconvenienced by their own actions. Stop making everyone else cope with the consequences of your own failures! The only person who should be inconvenienced by your laziness on the road is YOU.

…and in a totally unrelated development, the family of American Rachel Corrie is suing the Israeli government for $324,000 in damages for Corrie’s alleged wrongful death in the Gaza Strip in 2003. Ms. Corrie was inside a militant as it was being bulldozed by the Israeli army, and died when a concrete slab fell on her. Corrie’s family claims the Israelis must have seen her. Of course, Corrie was there for the specific purpose of protesting Israel. She apparently ignored the tear gas and stun grenades that the Israelis had fired to clear the area of idiots like her. How are you supposed to spare the life of someone who is doing their best to get killed?

While I can of course sympathize with parents who lose their daughter – no matter how stupid she may have been – this is a ridiculous lawsuit. If your daughter is in the Gaza strip hanging out with terrorists and getting in the way of army operations to take them out, you’re a damn fool to be surprised if she gets killed. Corrie was 23 when she died, so her parents may not have been able to legally prevent her actions, but how much do you want to bet she was doing it all with Mommy and Daddy’s money? (Not too many people who work for a living have time to protest in war zones.) Call me harsh, but if Corrie had lived, she would most likely have fallen in love with some dashing Hamas terrorist, eventually becoming disillusioned, but not before breeding one or more future terrorists. It’s sad that Corrie didn’t have time to realize the error of her ways, but the fault is entirely her own.

Posted in Foreign Affairs, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Tug of war between privacy and security continues

Posted by sanityinjection on February 17, 2010

Of the many controversial topics in politics, one of the perennial favorites is the continuum between public safety and individual privacy. In other words, how do we protect an individual’s reasonable personal privacy while at the same time giving the government the tools it needs to keep us safe and protect us from criminals and terrorists?

The Founding Fathers considered this question very seriously. They came up with features such as search and seizure restrictions, due process, and the right to bear arms as ways of limiting the government’s power to intrude into citizens’ lives. With the passage of time, technology has vastly changed the landscape of the issue, offering new abilities to criminals, law abiding citizens, and law enforcement alike.

I try to keep an open mind and avoid a rigid ideology when it comes to these questions. For example, consider the recent decision by the TSA to begin randomly swabbing some air passengers’ hands to check for explosive residue. Even the ACLU is saying that if done properly, this is a reasonable security measure that does not constitute an excessive violation of travelers’ privacy; and I am inclined to agree.

But some questions are a bit more complicated, such as the issue of law enforcement’s access to cell phone location data. Many of us may not be consciously aware that whenever we use our cell phones, we are establishing a record of where we are located at that moment which is preserved by our phone service provider. There are good reasons why this should be possible – for example, emergency responders need to be able to locate someone making a 911 call if they cannot give their location. And law enforcement authorities can gain access to this information with a properly executed search warrant.

However, the courts are now being asked to consider whether law enforcement should allowed to access cell phone location information (though not the content of any transmissions) without a warrant. The Obama Administration is arguing that people using cell phones do not have a “reasonable expectation of privacy” regarding their location when using a cell phone, and therefore no warrant should be necessary. Complicating the issue is the distinction between historical location information, and prospective or real-time location as seen on many television shows such as “24”.

For me, this is a much tougher question. The value of allowing law enforcement to access such information is fairly obvious. But the “expectation of privacy” question is a difficult one once you take the content of the conversation out of the equation. It would be easy to stand on principle and argue that the government has no right to know where a citizen is at any given time unless there is a presumption that laws have broken. But consider: The government knows where you are every time you get on a train or airplane, or make a phone call from a land line. Why should cell phone use be qualitatively different? If the government is actively chasing a terrorist, do we want them to have to get a signed search warrant before they can use cell phone location to find and apprehend him?

I admit to being torn, but I find myself leaning toward the Administration’s position on this. The potential for abuse seems minimal compared to the likely benefits in terms of public safety. But I’m open to being convinced the other way. What do *you* think?

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

How to make enemies and influence people

Posted by sanityinjection on November 5, 2009

Today Taliban-type Islamic terrorists blew up a school for girls in northwest Pakistan. It’s the second such bombing this week and one of hundreds of similar acts of destruction committed by the terrorists over the past couple of years.

While every such attack is a tragedy, in the wider perspective of the struggle for the hearts and minds of the people of Pakistan, these school attacks are a boon because they make it clear that the terrorists are their enemies. For rural villages in this part of the world, having a school of any kind – for girls or otherwise – is a mark of prestige and great pride for the villagers. To have their school blown up is to lose the village’s most valuable possession. Regardless of whether villagers may share the terrorists’ extreme brand of Islam, these acts drive those villagers squarely into the camp of the Pakistani government and by extension, the West. (Many of the schools were in fact built by Western aid organizations which the villagers also remember.) The Taliban’s destruction of over 200 schools in Swat was arguably the key factor in swinging public opinion and local leaders behind the government’s anti-Taliban offensive there.

Ironically, the attacks may also have the effect of convincing more traditionalist families to allow their daughters to be educated. After all, there’s nothing like being told (violently) you can’t do something to make people want to do it.

One also wonders what effect these attacks have on Taliban recruiting.  The young men who fight for the Taliban want to see themselves as brave fighters for Islam. I’m not sure that blowing up little girls meshes too well with their ideas of heroism.

Posted in Foreign Affairs | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

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?

Posted in Foreign Affairs | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Latest Al Qaeda video not intimidating, just embarrassing

Posted by sanityinjection on September 23, 2009

It was only a few years ago that the release of a propaganda video from Al Qaeda would have been an event of significant concern around the world. In addition to the frenzied speculation over whether it was Osama bin Laden in the video and if he was alive and healthy, nations would increase security in the assumption that the video presaged a significant new attack was imminent.

How things have changed – and it shows the progress that has been made in the war on terror. The video released by Al Qaeda today will probably go little remarked upon and excite little distress in Western capitals. In fact, several aspects of the video may prove embarassing to the terrorists.

First of all, the video is intended to commemorate the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks – yet they couldn’t mange to get it online until today.  If posting a video on the Internet (something 11 year olds are proficient at) is a challenge that requires two weeks to accomplish, that doesn’t fill one with respect for Al Qaeda’s ability to coordinate a new terrorist attack.

The video is full of the usual denunciations, but this time they have cast a wide net. Al Qaeda apparently is unhappy with George Bush, Barack Obama, the Saudi royal family, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas,  the Fatah Palestinian faction, other Arab leaders, and Israel (of course). One wonders who is left in the Middle East that they *do* like, other than themselves.

Then there’s the terrorists’ attempt to take credit for the world financial crisis by attributing it to the results of 9/11 and the war on terror. Although the cost of the war on terror certainly was one factor among many that placed strain on the US economy, I think one would be hard pressed to find an economist (Paul Krugman does not count) who would back up this claim.

The funniest part is when they complain of torture committed by US troops in Afghanistan. Seriously?? The guys who behead journalists and blow up civilian women and children are outraged by military interrogation techniques? If their warped notion of jihad tells them they can do pretty much whatever is necessary to nonbelievers in the course of their struggle, by what possible rationale would they expect us to abide by a higher standard? (The fact that we hold ourselves to a higher standard is not the point. The firebombing of Dresden during WWII by the Allies may have been a violation of the rules of war protecting civilians, but if the person complaining was Adolf Hitler, sympathy was unlikely to be forthcoming.)

It is a truism that propaganda tends to get more shrill when the people who produce it feel they are losing. The wider Al Qaeda casts their net of condemnation and the more brazen their complaints against the US, the more it indicates that the terrorists are on the defensive. Which is good news for everybody else.

Posted in Foreign Affairs | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

We have met the enemy, and this is them.

Posted by sanityinjection on August 3, 2009

Americans are tired of war and military intervention in foreign countries. Some no doubt cast their vote for President in 2008 in part with that frustration in mind. And the weariness is understandable. No one can be blase about young American soldiers coming home in body bags.

It’s understandable, then to question why we are fighting. After all, it’s been almost a decade now since America was attacked by terrorists. Is the threat really still that serious?

It’s important to remember the nature of the foe we are facing. Unlike Americans, the terrorists do not weary of the struggle, because they do not have Xboxes and swimming pools and American Idol to go back to. They are not concerned with whether their goals can be practically achieved, because to them dying in the course of struggle is preferable to not struggling at all.

With this in mind I offer this article on Boko Haram, a homegrown Nigerian al Qaeda that unleashed five days of terror on a northern province of that country until federal authorities intervened. Boko Haram means “Western education is sinful,” and this is a brief glimpse at their program for mankind:

“He was taken from his house by Boko Haram. They stabbed him and he was losing blood…They insisted he was to convert to a Muslim. He refused, so on that basis they killed him.”

This philosophy at least has the virtue of simplicity.  Groups like Boko Haram do not spend much time and energy agonizing over ethics or human rights, or arguing about when violence is justified the way we do. In fact, they must enjoy quite a serenity after being brainwashed: the eternal sunshine of the spotless mind, if you will.

Let’s recall that Nigeria is not a Middle Eastern country, and indeed is predominantly Muslim. This action had nothing to do with Israel or the Palestinians or US troops being in the Middle East. This was very simply a case of religious fanatics trying to violently impose their beliefs on fellow Muslims and non-Muslims alike in their own country. But it is in no way different from the Taliban, Al Qaeda, Hamas, Lashkar in Pakistan, or any of the assorted Islamic terrorist groups. Let the point be underscored: These people cannot be appeased. They cannot be bought off. They cannot be reasoned with, they cannot be negotiated with. America’s abandonment of its international responsibilities and national security interests would not pacify the Boko Harams of the world. On the contrary, it would embolden them and spur them on to greater violence, knowing that the one consistent champion of peace and freedom in the world is out of the fight.

So if you wonder why we must send our troops overseas to fight in strange lands, here is my answer: So that it will not be your father getting the knife in the side of the stomach.

Posted in Foreign Affairs | Tagged: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Canadian to Border Patrol: Manners cost nothing

Posted by sanityinjection on March 4, 2009

The Canadian National Post brings us the tale of Desiderio Fortunato, who was pepper-sprayed by US border patrol agents for refusing to obey their orders unless they said “Please”:

My first comment is that I see no reason why Border Patrol agents should not be polite and use words like “Please” and “Thank You”.  However, as some of the comments posted on that story stated, ultimately the Border Patrol is issuing orders, not requests. If you find fault with their manners, you can complain to their superiors, but you can’t refuse to do what they say.

Furthermore, I think America’s patience with folks like this self-admitted “stickler for courtesy and respect” has worn thin after terrorists rudely and discourteously murdered thousands of our citizens. Perhaps if Mr. Fortunato were a stickler for tough immigration controls in Canada itself, the US-Canadian border wouldn’t need to be as vigilantly guarded.

My final suggestion is that we make use of Mr. Fortunato’s expertise in the area of politeness and good manners by sending him on an all-expenses paid, one-way trip to Al Qaeda headquarters in Pakistan, so that he may educate the terrorists on how to more politely and respectfully blow sh*t up. But first, in order to prepare him for that, we should send him to French-speaking Canada so he can learn what real rudeness is like!

Posted in Foreign Affairs | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Terrorists are fasadis, not jihadis

Posted by sanityinjection on February 18, 2009

I learned an interesting tidbit today from a New York Times op-ed by Thomas Friedman on the lack of support for terrorism among Muslims in India. Friedman quotes an Indian Muslim journalist, M.J. Akbar:

“Terrorism has no place in Islamic doctrine. The Koranic term for the killing of innocents is ‘fasad.’ Terrorists are fasadis, not jihadis. In a beautiful verse, the Koran says that the killing of an innocent is akin to slaying the whole community.”

This is in line with comments I’ve seen previously from moderate Muslims who argue that the main meaning of “jihad” is the spiritual struggle to live according to the will of Allah rather than a physical one against infidels.

Therefore, I’ve decided that Sanity Injection will henceforth refer to Islamic terrorists as fasadis rather than jihadis. Not to be politically correct, or to avoid offending Muslims, but because I suspect that al-Qaeda types would consider it a gross insult. It’s fitting to slap these monsters in the face with a term from the book they claim to revere. And “the killing of innocents” is about as good a definition of terrorism as anything.

So fasadis it shall be. You learn something new every day.

Posted in Foreign Affairs, Religion | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

European hypocrisy on Guantanamo knows no bounds

Posted by sanityinjection on January 26, 2009

I am sure my readers will recall the drumbeat of voices from our “friends” in Europe urging the US to close our prison complex at Guantanamo Bay. A truly enlightened society, they explained to us, would treat terrorists more humanely. Besides, they reminded us, we probably scooped up some innocent people by mistake who now can’t exonerate themselves because they don’t have access to the US judicial system.

President Bush’s standard answer to our European betters was to point to the giant smoking hole that now sits where the World Trade Center used to be and imply wordlessly that if terrorists had reduced the Eiffel Tower or Big Ben to ashes, there would almost certainly be grim interrogations quietly going on at Diego Garcia and Reunion. (OK, that’s poetic license. I’m sure Dubya doesn’t actually know where Reunion is.)

But now, since last week, we live in a kinder, gentler, Obamiffier America. The new President’s first act was to order that Guantanamo be closed within 1 year’s time, delighting our European allies. And, to be fair, Gitmo has become such a lightning rod for criticism, that he’s probably right to do so.

Of course, closing Gitmo creates a new problem: What do we do with the detainees? Our civilian jails are not secure enough, and our other military prisons not spacious enough to hold them. One solution is to repatriate them to the countries they came from. But some of those countries have pretty sorry human rights records themselves, and the detainees from those countries can legitimately claim that they could face real abuse if we send ’em back.

So the US said to our European “friends”: OK, if you think we are abusing our detainees, why don’t *you* take them in as refugees? At least the ones from 7 countries that can’t be repatriated.

Do you want to guess how Europe reacted? That’s right. They paid lip service to the idea, waited until Obama actually signed the order to close Gitmo, then started saying things like:

“Yes, of course this is risky. So we have to think about each case, and not to accept anything or anyone easily. It will be a long process. [France will take detainees] under extreme, precise conditions only. Legally this is difficult. Each of the 27 nations, they have different positions and different legal frameworks to accept or to refuse such people.” – Bernard Kouchner, French Foreign Minister

“Nobody is hot about it, that’s perfectly true.” – Czech Foreign Minister

Basically, what the European countries are now saying is that they will only take detainees that aren’t terrorists:

Oh good, yeah, ’cause we got so many of those. Thanks a heap. If they weren’t terrorists, we wouldn’t still be keeping them at Guantanamo! See how that works now?

It remains the sad truth that Europe’s habitual nature is to prefer sniping at US solutions to problems over contributing to better solutions. We’re not perfect over here in America, God knows, but at least we don’t stick our heads in the sand and hope that problems will resolve themselves if we just ignore them hard enough.Well, OK, when we listen to what our European friends say, we do. You want to know what happens when the US doesn’t “act unilaterally” and relies on European diplomacy to solve problems? Rwanda. Darfur. Somalia. Congo. Not a track record to be proud of.

I hope that Secretary of State Clinton is having the phrase “Put up or shut up” translated into French.

Posted in Foreign Affairs, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

How about some good news for a change?

Posted by sanityinjection on January 9, 2009

The Washington Post’s Joby Warrick reports that the CIA has made considerable progress in attacking Al-Qaeda in Pakistan, with 8 top leaders killed by US airstrikes since July:

Bruce Hoffman, a terrorism expert and Georgetown University professor, said the agency’s tactics appear to be cutting dramatically into al-Qaeda’s top ranks with strikes deep into a lawless border region that insurgents long regarded as a sanctuary.

“It is a stunning testament of the accuracy of intelligence that the United States is obtaining,” Hoffman said. “Either we have built up an impressive network of sources that facilitates such precision targeting, or the Pakistani authorities are cooperating big-time.”

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