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June 30, 2007

The Latest Iraq Surge
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 10:12 AM * 74 comments

Have y’all noticed that over the last two weeks the word from everyone (Bush, at the Naval War College for example, where everyone in the audience already knew better) is that we’re fighting Al Qaeda in Iraq. Everyone who’s resisting is Al Qaeda. Everyone who’s fighting is Al Qaeda. Everyone who’s killed is Al Qaeda.

What’s with that? They aren’t insurgents any more. Or Sunni fighters, or Shiite militias. Or even Baathist dead-enders. All the bad guys are Al Qaeda.

Kinda reminds me of Vietnam:

“How do you know he’s Viet Cong?”

“He’s dead, isn’t he?”

Six years after 9/11 this is the only card left in Bush’s hand.

If he’s so hot on Al Qaeda isn’t it time to find Osama bin Forgotten? Y’know, the guy who actually attacked us?

Comments on The Latest Iraq Surge:
#1 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2007, 10:41 AM:

That, and Bush saying that with more troops there, we're starting to fight.

That gets my 'WTF?' reaction, as in 'WTF have they been doing the last four years? Warm-up exercises?'

(BTW, Talking Points Memo and Atrios have the latest CBS poll numbers.)

#2 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2007, 10:43 AM:

If he runs, he's Al Qaeda.
If he doesn't run, he's disciplined Al Qaeda.

#3 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2007, 11:15 AM:

They were throwing around "Al Qaeda" in the reporting of the attempted car bombs in London.

They also seemed to be exaggerating just how big a kaboom they would have had. What they had would have been a pretty fireball, and would have been nasty for those close by on a crowded street, but not what the media were making out.

And, even if they'd managed to set off a fuel-air explosion, I don't think they would have had the shrapnel from the bags of nails in the car. Although too many people were on the wrong side of plate-glass windows.

Oh, and we have a new Prime Minister. Good timing, that.

#4 ::: Keith ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2007, 11:33 AM:

But Osama lives in Wizristan, a region that is out of bounds. We can't just go in there and get him, that'd b cheating. We have to wait for the light to turn green, then when he starts running we ask, "Mother May I?" and wait for Simon to say it's OK.

Don't you understand how the War on Terror works?

#5 ::: Chris Gerrib ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2007, 11:52 AM:

Again, no fan of Bush, but I will take issue with your statement that "everybody at the Naval War College knows better" about Al-Queda in Iraq. This article in the Small Wars Journal by Australian LTCOL David Kilcullen suggests the opposite.

I doubt we'll be able to "succeed" in Iraq (for whatever value of "success"). Articles like the one in the link are why - four years in and we're finally applying Counterinsurgency 101.

#6 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2007, 01:36 PM:

I weep for the term "insurgents," abandoned before its time.

These clowns are still trying to sell the product, long after most of the customers have left the lot.

#7 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2007, 01:44 PM:

If the enemy in Iraq is Al-Qaeda, we might well want to ask how it got there, given that Osama bin Hidin' and his Merry Men couldn't establish themselves in Iraq under Saddam Hussein. Saddam having zero patience with people who didn't like his secularism.

The Bush Maladministration, of course, cannot admit the truth: since March 2003 Iraq's been in a constant state of civil war with a multiplicity of factions shooting at each other, blowing each other up, and using the mayhem as a means of entrenching themselves in power locally; and this civil conflict is facilitated by the very big, very heavy feet of the Bush Maladministration.

#8 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2007, 01:58 PM:

If I may mix my metaphors... Is this crap still getting any traction with the People?

#9 ::: Cath ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2007, 02:03 PM:

Kinda makes me wonder what they'll do if they ever actually find him. Because that would mean the war was over, wouldn't it?

#10 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2007, 02:04 PM:

Lessee: Al Qaeda in Iraq is not affiliated with Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda.

It is one of many insurgent/opposition groups who are against the situtation as it is now (some just want us out, some want other things, which also require us to be out).

But hey, look over there (maybe they have some WMD), 9/11, 9/11.

Don't think Iraq had anything to do with 9/11? Well dontcha read the news, we're fighting Al Qaeda over there (which means we ain't fighting 'em over here), so we have to stay, we can't cut and run, when we have them just where we want them!

Or maybe not so much

Cynical much? Not me. I'm not bitter, disappointed or pissed off either.

Don't even get me going on the, "now that we are carrying the fight to them," shit. I tend to get loud, and end up spluttering.

#11 ::: Stephen Frug ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2007, 02:18 PM:

Just in case people don't know, Glenn Greenwald has been all over this -- first post, second post -- particularly on the issue of the media's mindless repetition of Bush's lies. Essential reading for those interested in this.

#12 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2007, 03:01 PM:

I'm more disappointed (but unsurprised) that the media has been lapping up the al Qaeda story line with complete credulity. Any respect I had left for NPR, except as a source of entertainment, is now completely gone.

#13 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2007, 04:39 PM:

According to the new CBS poll, Bush's approval rating is at 27%. That's good, isn't it? So how come these numbers don't seem to translate to anything in the real world? Guantanamo is still open, our troops are still in Iraq, the Bush administration is still lying to us, the Military Commissions Act is still the law of the land, and the Senate can't do diddly squat.

/rant -- sorry.

If we keep killing just local folks in Iraq and labeling them Al Qaeda, if they aren't sympathetic to Al Qaeda now, they soon will be.

#14 ::: David Dvorkin ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2007, 04:45 PM:

How do we know that bin Laden attacked us? Because the Bush Maladministration assures us it's so? Because bin Laden praised the 9/11 attacks but didn't take credit for them?

That he attacked us gets repeated often, but I have yet to see an explanation for assuming he was behind 9/11.

#15 ::: Bob Oldendorf ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2007, 05:19 PM:

Last week, the Pentagon announced that they had killed a bunch of "Al-Qaeda fighters".

The survivors are rather bitter about it all, because they were actually on our side:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/6239896.stm

It's not even that they were innocent victims: they were our allies, and we announced their deaths as "Al Qaeda".

#16 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2007, 05:44 PM:

Lizzy L @ 13

Well, at least one reason is, Bush is so sure he's the Good Guy that he's going to keep on doing it his way until he wins, because people who oppose him are Evil.

Yep, it's insane, by my definition of insanity.

(I went out last weekend and bought a pitchfork (it's a manure fork, for the technically inclined), because you shouldn't have to storm the hardware store before you storm the palace.)

#17 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2007, 06:07 PM:

David at 14: I liked the comparison chart (David Dvorkin vs. George W. Bush) on your web page...

#18 ::: David Dvorkin ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2007, 06:57 PM:

Lizzy at 17: Thanks. I used to keep thinking of new things to add to it, but I haven't for a while. I think it's finally complete and authoritative. :)

#19 ::: Steve Buchheit ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2007, 06:59 PM:

This is all because we have to fight them there so we don't fight them here. Like not having to break up homegrown cells plotting to attack military and civilian targets or planting car bombs in our home countries (no matter how inept those plans may have been). I'm so glad that this is happening. 'Cause it would be worse if *that* was a lie. Plus, this is the administration that three years after 9-11 had top officials that didn't know al Qaeda was Sunni. I mean, forget the vivisections of Sunni, they couldn't even say which of the two major divisions of Islam they were. You'd think they would have had meetings about that.

So I wonder when we start engaging the Mahdi Army, if they'll also be labeled al Qaeda?

#20 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2007, 07:15 PM:

Now, how can you guys not believe the Administration's unbiased, factual explanation of how things are going in Iraq? You must be a bunch of blame-America-first liberals. Why, they told us we'd be greeted with candy and flowers, and that turned out right. And Jessica Lynch was a hero who fought till she ran out of ammo. And any torture happening in the war on terror was done by a few bad apples. All *that* turned out to be true, right? And they told you that the key to peace in the Middle East was democracy, and damn, but that worked out well for the Gaza strip. How can you doubt these guys, when their record is so good?

Damned liberals. Next, you'll probably all start doubting that Iran is poised, like Nazi Germany in 1936, to take over the world.

#21 ::: JC ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2007, 07:23 PM:

#13: I keep wondering who those 27% are. No matter how badly things go for Bush, there always seems to be about a quarter of those polled who seem to think he's doing a heck of a job. (I'm merely amazed about how consistent it is.)

I worry about how thing will go in the waning months of his presidency now that he seems actively concerned about leaving a legacy. (I mean, as if what he's leaving now isn't enough...)

#22 ::: jmmcdermott ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2007, 07:46 PM:

i am fascinated how paris hilton's release from prison is more newsworthy than another round of subpony-ness in the bush white house on cnn.

the illegal activities have become so common that they don't even qualify as cable news anymore.

#23 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2007, 08:19 PM:

I was thinking just this afternoon that you can tell immediately that the current London and Glasgow bomber wannabes were not affiliated with Al Qaeda in any way.

It's pretty simple: their bombs didn't even go off, and from what's been reported so far, didn't have a hope of being effective if they had gone off. Al Qaeda, on the other hand, knows how to build working and extremely effective bombs. Clearly they were not involved even to the extent of providing an adviser or consultant.

The Glasgow airport attempt sounds virtually ludicrous - the attackers drenched the car, and themselves, in gasoline and set themselves on fire. Perhaps they had seen too many Hollywood movies in which a burning car explodes into a gigantic fireball.

These were people who are not even competent to look for and understand instructions for making bombs on the Internet, or in "underground" books from a used bookstore.

#24 ::: Jen Roth ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2007, 11:29 PM:

JC:

I keep wondering who those 27% are.

Kung Fu Monkey explains it all.

#25 ::: anonymous ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2007, 03:01 AM:

The problem is that the longer we are in Iraq, the more severe the attack will be in the United States. The first attack on 9/11 used box-cutters for a technology. We SOLVED that issue with secured cockpit doors and new instructions to pilots.

Now every day we are in Iraq is a day the terrorists get to train against US technology. There was a wired story not long ago where the report was that IEDs are increasingly sophisticated as they learn how to defeat our technology. We need to get out NOW. Every day Bush and the neo-cons keep our troops in this terrorist training zone makes the next attack in the US more deadly and dangerous.

#26 ::: bad Jim ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2007, 03:42 AM:

The worst thing about this is that the armed forces, or at least their public relations side, are the ones promulgating this nonsense. We are doing far worse things with our military, extending stays and shortening leaves and getting more of them killed and wounded than before, and perhaps only commanders who could countenance the latter could swallow the former.

At this point we have not only given up honor, we seem to have lost our shame to boot.

#27 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2007, 03:45 AM:

Our Dear Leader asks,
"WHY BANANA TASTE FUNY???"
Halliburton wins.

#28 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2007, 10:25 AM:

Larry 12: NPR's On The Media is discussing that very issue right now, and quite incisively. You might want to listen to the podcast; it might increase your respect for them.

#29 ::: Robert L ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2007, 01:52 PM:

Eurasia is the enemy. We have always been at war with Eurasia. I love Big Brother.

#30 ::: A.R.Yngve ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2007, 03:38 PM:

Speaking of which: I just had a dream. A very bad dream...

#31 ::: deadmuse ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2007, 04:31 PM:

I just figured out where the Bush Administration is getting all its foreign policy ideas.

Steve Martin = George Bush and El Guapo = Al Qaeda...

"Steve Martin: In a way, each of us has an El Guapo to face. For some, shyness might be their El Guapo. For others, a lack of education might be their El Guapo. For us, El Guapo is a big, dangerous man who wants to kill us. But as sure as my name is Lucky Day, the people of Santa Poco can conquer their own personal El Guapo, who also happens to be *the actual* El Guapo!"

Steve Martin = George Bush, Mexico = Iraq, and Jefe = any Iraqi...

"Steve Martin: I have three demands. One: That you stop harassing the people of Santa Poco. Two: That the land of Mexico be redistributed equally among the people and a proportional system of government be established consisting of three separate, but equal, branches the legislative, the executive and the judicial. And three: That the girl Carmen be returned to me unharmed.

Jefe: Amigo, why you come here? You don't belong. Now we have to kill you."

-The Three Amigos

#32 ::: NelC ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2007, 05:11 PM:

Al Qaeeda aren't insurgents, because if they were, the US would have to use counterinsurgency strategy against them. Which they don't want to do, for some reason.

Halfway through Thomas E. Ricks' Fiasco....

#33 ::: NelC ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2007, 05:29 PM:

By "they" in my previous comment, I mean the Bushistas, of course. The Army knows how to fight a counterinsurgency campaign – elements of it do, anyway – but the Maladministration seems to be obsessed with the evil magic of overwhelming firepower.

#34 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2007, 05:55 PM:

But you now, Xopher, that's one broadcast that's only on a minority of stations. The propaganda broadcasts take several hours a day, every day of the week, with news of a sort on the hour.

#35 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2007, 05:55 PM:

But you know, Xopher, that's one broadcast that's only on a minority of stations. The propaganda broadcasts take several hours a day, every day of the week, with news of a sort on the hour.

#36 ::: Don Fitch ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2007, 10:03 PM:

The Problem, of course, is that those Al Qa'edans breed so fast (like all non-white people who speak funny languages). A few years ago there were only maybe a thousand of them, at most. Now, there are hundreds of thousands of them. They're much more dangerous, so now we need to give Our Leader much more Power and Money to keep them from coming over here and destroying our cherished American Ideals. It's all quite simple when you think about it the right way.

#37 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2007, 10:05 PM:

Chris #5:

Again, no fan of Bush, but I will take issue with your statement that "everybody at the Naval War College knows better" about Al-Queda in Iraq. This article in the Small Wars Journal by Australian LTCOL David Kilcullen suggests the opposite.

That's a remarkably content-free article, and its forward-looking statements still rely on then a miracle happens planning, but even so the author notes that the opposition is "terrorists, extremist militias, and insurgents". That's a far cry from identifying everyone who opposes US actions in Iraq as Al Qaeda.

#38 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2007, 10:43 PM:

If I didn't have two (relatively new) kittens, I'd be totally in despair.

I so wish we didn't have the dumbest president ever(tm).

I wish our foreign policy could make sense but because of the previous statement it can't.

sigh.

#39 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2007, 10:49 PM:

Paula, go up to post 24 and click on the link to Kung-Fu Monkey. It won't make GWB any smarter but it will at least make you laugh.

#40 ::: ginmar ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2007, 11:29 PM:

You know, if I were an Iraqi, I'd kill to have insurgents like the guys who tried to hit London and Glasgow. No casualties except one of the bombers. Just the difference in casualty ratio ought to tell you something. I'm far more worried about Muqtada Sadr than I am AQ. I think AQ's shot its wad for at least another five years, but Sadr is a wild card and unstable. He's going to get more and more ambitious the more power he gets.

In 2004, we were seeing platter charges that wiped out whole vehicles of soldiers: they weren't reported in the media till 2005, at the earliest. The only thing preventing the transplanting of IEDs and VBIEDs to the West is the lack of fields of arms, left unguarded and easily-available.

The guys in London and Glasgow didn't have access to the training and the discarded ordnance that's producing skilled bombmakers right now in Iraq. Nor did they have access to anything but gasoline and nails. They went to their local gas station and the hardware store, and they couldn't even wire the cellphone detonator correctly. (That's been standard technology in Iraq since late 2004, at least.) What next? Attacking the JFK fuel pipeline with a blowtorch?

#41 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2007, 11:53 PM:

Clifton #23:

I think some of the confusion here is that people visualize Al Qaida as being like the CIA or Mossad or KGB--with serious competence and expertise and budget, and with the property that if the CIA knows how to make a certain kind of bomb, say, its agents can use that kind of bomb anywhere. I think AQ's attackers in the UK are more like abortion clinic bombers in the US--they're inspired by some rhetoric, and maybe bankrolled by some shadowy conspiracy, but they're mostly on their own for technical competence and experience. The local terrorist may want to blow up a clinic, but he still has to figure out on his own, from whatever he can find on the internet, how to wire up a detonator, build a bomb, etc., preferably without blowing himself up or drawing the attention of the police.

Further, the recruiting probably works better on people who aren't all that competent or bright, and the obviously dangerous guys (say, someone working in a nuclear plant or someone with weapons design experience) are likely watched by the police.

#42 ::: paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2007, 12:09 AM:

Yes Lizzy it did. I need things that cheer me up from the outside (having a pair of kittens from the same litter is a very good internal/house bound cheer up, they keep inventng ways to make new havoc in ways that we haven't imagined ... until they do).

But they're also very well-human-oriented and give sweet kitten kisses and loves when they want to be cuddled. So it's well worth it. (especially after having several years of geriatric cats in a state that made it impossible aquire a kitten because one would be a burden/torment on the ancient cats....).

#43 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2007, 07:31 AM:

We can recycle all the old IRA jokes.

"You've heard about the Al Qaida terrorist who tried to blow up a train? He burnt his lips on the exhaust stack."

#44 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2007, 12:20 PM:

Dave Bell @ 3: They also seemed to be exaggerating just how big a kaboom they would have had. What they had would have been a pretty fireball, and would have been nasty for those close by on a crowded street, but not what the media were making out.

I've seen this sort of thing several times recently. There was the business about terrorists going to blow up the aviation-fuel pipeline running to JFK, with the media reporting that it would have destroyed the airport, devastated the city, killed thousands of people, etc. Am I missing something, or is that nonsense?

I suppose it's good that Teh Terrists seem to think that fuel is explosive rather than merely combustible; it limits the potential consequences of a "successful" attack. But I don't care for the scare-mongering.

#45 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2007, 12:31 PM:

There are reports that 2 of the people involved in the London attack (one Iraqi, one Palestinian) are doctors.

That totally creeps me out.

#46 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2007, 12:59 PM:

BREAKING NEWS: Scooter Libby's appeal to stay out of prision denied by DC Court.

#47 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2007, 01:23 PM:

Lori @ 46: They didn't mince any words, either, did they?

For those who haven't seen it, the full decision:
“Upon consideration of the motion for release pending appeal, the opposition thereto, and the reply, it is

ORDERED that the motion for release pending appeal be denied. Appellant has not shown that the appeal raises a substantial question under 18 USC Sec. 3143(b)(1)(B). See United States v. Perholtz, 836 F.2d 554, 555 (D.C.Cir. 1987) (per curiam) (substantial question is one that is “close” or that “could very well be decided the other way”).

#48 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2007, 01:37 PM:

P J Evans: I would say that is one of the briefest decisions I have seen in my life.

I used to work as a legal clerk for the Social Security Administration, and I have never had the pleasure of typing a decision that was less than five pages!

I don't think they were impressed with Libby's attorneys' efforts. Didn't they bring a new one on board just for the appeal phase?

#49 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2007, 01:45 PM:

Lori, they did. He doesn't seem to have done them much good. (Four million dollars for lawyers, and all they get is this? Bwahahahaha!)

#50 ::: PurpleGirl ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2007, 02:02 PM:

Sort of off topic (re WAPO article about Bush talking to historians, etc. about his legacy), but does anyone remember the the season/episode in which Londo Mollari is wondering about his legacy and a Mage (IIRC) tells him that billions of being will curse his name?

While reading the WAPO article, I saw Bush as Mollari... (Am I insulting Mollari by saying that?)

#51 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2007, 02:10 PM:

Too bad Libby wasn't given immunity from prosecution in exchange for impeachment testimony further up the food chain.

#52 ::: Chris Gerrib ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2007, 04:22 PM:

James # #37 - I'm not defending the article or current US plans. I am pointing out that there is a disconnect between various people about what's going on in Iraq. And no, I don't claim to be an expert about the current situation in Iraq.

#53 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2007, 04:27 PM:

PurpleGirl #50: Yes, you are insulting Londo Mollari; unlike the Shrub, he demonstrated that he had a moral sense.

#54 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2007, 04:29 PM:

Lori Coulson #46: Our local NPR afternoon host announced that Libby had lost his appeal in the 'CIA lease cake'.

#55 ::: PurpleGirl ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2007, 04:45 PM:

Fragano: I liked Mollari. I didn't mean to insult him. But I see billions of people cursing Bush.

#56 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2007, 04:57 PM:

PurpleGirl #55: That seems about right.

#57 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2007, 05:04 PM:

Fragano @54:

That's an interesting turn of phrase. Was it deliberate, or a flub on the newsreader's part?

#58 ::: Rick Owens ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2007, 05:06 PM:

PurpleGirl @ 50: Yes -- Londo was A) smarter than Shrub from the start, B) capable of understanding that the consequences of his actions were terrible, C) manipulated by ancient beings with generations of experience in causing strife, and D) willing to do penance, namely working his rear off to try to repair some of the damage he had done. Dubya has yet to show such wit, regrets, or efforts at undoing harm. (Questions about external influences, roving or otherwise, are beyond the scope of this reply.)

#59 ::: Alan Braggins ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2007, 05:12 PM:

#44: seem to think that fuel is explosive rather than merely combustible

If you do it right it is, not that there seems much danger of the reported attack plans managing that.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thermobaric_weapon

#60 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2007, 05:20 PM:

Lori Coulson #57: A flub.

#61 ::: Alan Braggins ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2007, 05:22 PM:

Via comments on Bruce Schneier's blog, "BLEVE" (boiling liquid expanding vapour explosion) seems to be what the "propane tank in burning car" was trying for. See e.g. http://www.aristatek.com/explosions.aspx

#62 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2007, 06:15 PM:

So much for the "terror threat" (from this WNBC story):

Police say the men never got their hands on explosives or funding and lacked the technical expertise to attack JFK airport's fuel tanks and underground pipeline. However according to the criminal complaint, they were trying to recruit a radical Muslim organization based in Trinidad, Jamaat al Muslimeen (JAM), the group behind a bloody 1990 coup attempt in Trinidad that killed 24 people. In six days of rioting, JAM members failed to take over the country in 1990 but had stormed the Parliament building and took the prime minister and cabinet hostage. Suspects Hadir and Nur were also longtime associates of JAM, said the complaint.
So, as far as I can make out, this "plot" could be the scheme solely of the informant, admittedly a convicted drug dealer, who could have offered to the FBI some aquaintances of his who claimed one night over coffe that they had once met someone who claimed to be from a terrorist group. The FBI acknowledges that this was never a credible threat, and was willing to just keep track of them for a year.

The reason I could not take this story seriously is that this bunch of sad sack terrorists were targeting jet fuel. If these were gasoline lines I could understand it. Jet B/JP-4 would make some sense as well, as it has enough naptha to cause problems. Well at least until someone shut off the pumps to the pipeline.

But the Air Force stopped using JP-4 over a decade ago, and the Navy never used it on carriers, just for that reason. Commercial users preferred not to use Jet B unless they needed to because it was more expensive. These days it is all Jet A/JP-8 (JP-5 if you happen to be on a carrier) which is much safer. There are a lot of pipelines that would be higher priority targets, if you just did a little research. Out here in the west, in this drought year, you might do better hitting water pipelines.

Scottish terrorists are confined to more makeshift munitions because for some reason most governments greatly restrict access to military explosives such as RDX and HMX. This is in contrast to the US military policy in Iraq that allowed tons of the pure forms of these materials to remain in poorly secured warehouses, with little if any surveillance. Truckloads of the stuff could, and probably did, vanish in the night. One reason, among many, that our forces there now face devices much more deadly than propane tanks in cars.

#63 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2007, 06:21 PM:

Lori @ #46 wrote:

BREAKING NEWS: Scooter Libby's appeal to stay out of prision denied by DC Court.

Not that it did much good, since Bush just commuted Libby's sentence.

No need to put much effort into an appeal with that in your pocket...

#64 ::: Vian ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2007, 06:23 PM:

I'm somewhat comforted that the UK bombers couldn't figure out how to make an IED, even though two of them were doctors and therefore probably a)reasonably brainy, b)the beneficiaries of a scientific education.

I'm extremely comforted that the English, bless them, have gone "Oh, yeah? Well, we're going to go right on doing what we were doing, so there." which has ever been the correct response to such tactics.

#65 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2007, 06:45 PM:

Ursula @ #63,

Well, if there was any doubt that Bush thinks he and his minions are above the law...

#66 ::: moe99 ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2007, 06:48 PM:

Ursula @63:

And the "good" thing about only commuting a sentence, as opposed to a pardon, is that Scooter still can claim his 5th Amendment right against testifying.

#67 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2007, 07:13 PM:

The commutation of Libby's sentence is IOKIYAR taken to very nearly the highest possible level.

#68 ::: Madison Guy ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2007, 08:09 PM:

Certainly one way to push Iraq out of the headlines, I guess: Keeping Scooter quiet. “I respect the jury’s verdict,” George Bush said, speaking oxymoronically as he announced his soon-to-be-notorious Monday Night Massacre of justice. This is no misdemeanor, it's a high crime. It's time to move impeachment to the front burner and turn up the heat.

#69 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2007, 11:29 PM:

Is that presidential action something that could be reversed or overruled?

#70 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2007, 01:41 AM:

Joel, no. He gets to commute sentences for anybody, no recourse. In fact, presidents generally do commute sentences, particularly near the end of their term, and they do, even Democrats, occasionally commute or pardon people who are of benefit to them.

#71 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2007, 04:57 AM:

PurpleGirl@50: The episode was early in season two; the title was "The Geometry of Shadows".

"I see a hand, coming out of the stars. The hand is your hand. And I hear billions of voices, crying your name."
"My followers?"
"Your victims."

#72 ::: Jakob ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2007, 05:16 AM:

Alan Braggins #61: That was the conclusion of the petrochemical engineers here at my work. Thankfully, they also said it was unlikely to work given the amount of heat needed, especially as in London the fire brigade would be there in 10 minutes tops.

#73 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2007, 09:49 PM:

albatross @ 41:

Well, that's just it. From everything I read, Al Qaeda did operate exactly like that in its heyday - though not like the CIA or Mossad, so much as like a Venture Capital firm.

They would work with local groups of terrorists and they really did send consultants or advisors to countries around the world to make sure that the groups had a working plan, knew how to make their bombs detonate, etc. In some cases involving operations they considered particularly important they would provide funding or loaner staff for the operation itself, in other cases just advice and training.

Why don't you try reading up on the 1998 bombings of the US Embassies in Tanzania and Kenya, for instance, or the bombing of Philippine Airlines 434 as a trial run for a larger plan?

#74 ::: Alan Braggins ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2007, 07:00 AM:

#72: it was unlikely to work given the amount of heat needed

More on the subject at http://cernigsnewshog.blogspot.com/2007/07/cnn-inadvertently-reproduces-uk-terror.html
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