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August 19, 2007

Who You Callin’ “Terrorist”?
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 01:15 PM * 124 comments

With the recent designation of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps as a “terrorist” organization, the first time ever that a military unit owned and operated by a national government has been so designated, it’s official: the word “terrorist” doesn’t mean anything.

Most remarkably, the designation is being seen as a victory for the forces of moderation led by Condoleezza Rice, as opposed to the group that wants to just bomb Iran (led by Dick “Pump Head” Cheney).

WASHINGTON — As President Bush escalates the United States’ confrontation with Iran across a broad front, U.S. allies in Europe and the Middle East are growing worried that the steps will achieve little, but will undercut diplomacy and increase the chances of war.

In the latest step, Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice are considering designating Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the elite military force that serves as the guardian of Iran’s Islamic state, as a foreign terrorist organization.

News of the decision was leaked to newspapers in what a senior State Department official and Washington-based diplomats said was a sign of an intensifying internal struggle within the U.S. government between proponents of military action and opponents, led by Rice.

State Department officials and foreign diplomats see Rice’s push for the declaration against the Revolutionary Guards as an effort to blunt arguments by Vice President Dick Cheney and his allies for air strikes on Iran. By making the declaration, they feel, Rice can strike out at a key Iranian institution without resorting to military action while still pushing for sanctions in the United Nations.

Bush and his pals want a war in the worst way … and that’s what they’re going to get. No one needs a crystal ball to see how this one will play out.

The designation of the Islamic Guards as “terrorists” raises the question of who couldn’t be declared “terrorists” by someone. We’ve already seen Greenpeace described as a “terrorist” organization. What stops the Nicaraguans from declaring the US Marine Corps to be a terrorist organization?

We’re well into “Boy Who Cried Wolf” territory now. The word “terrorist” is the last one Bush has, perhaps because if he called the Iranians “illegal immigrants” even the one-percenters would laugh in his face.

Comments on Who You Callin' "Terrorist"?:
#1 ::: Dena Shunra ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2007, 01:55 PM:

Alas, you are wrong. The declared terrorist suffers specific penalties under U.S. law.

These penalties have to do with ability to enter on a visitor's visa, the ability to conduct trade with U.S. corporations, the legality of holding a U.S. bank account (among others).

Such a declaration also has implications with regard to freedom of speech. Anyone who has made a public statement favoring that particular unit is in danger of being Padilla-ed. Anyone who has made a private statement favoring that particular unit that was picked up by the sweeping wiretaps risks the same. Talk about a chilling effect on free speech...

I have absolutely no knowledge about the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps. They may be terrorists, for all I know, under some definition of "terrorist". Or not. I have no idea. But with that particular legal definition slapped onto them, they become taboo.

I don't think that's where the First Amendment was heading.

#2 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2007, 01:56 PM:

I've even seen the inhabitants of the blogosphere called terrorists.

#3 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2007, 02:03 PM:

Norman Podhoretz, who is often seen as one of the prime intellectual movers and shakers behind the Iraq war, neocon extraordinaire, has been recently quoted all over the blogosphere regarding his firm belief that George Bush will bomb Iran before he leaves office.

What does Norman know that the rest of us do not?

#4 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2007, 02:10 PM:

Lizzy L @ 3

Nothing ... but he's also Giuliani's brain, and pushing very very hard for war with Iran, with no apparent thought for the consequences of such a war.

I'd like some other country (preferably one of our nominal allies) to declare the Marines (or the Air Force, which might be more to the point) a 'terrorist organization', and then follow through on it.

#5 ::: lee ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2007, 02:15 PM:

Well it is "furrin" and it is organized--and 2 out of 3 is far better than average for this adminstration, so, logically, it is terrorist.

#6 ::: Michelle ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2007, 02:19 PM:

Would you be guilty of aiding the organization in question if you claimed that it was not really a terrorist organization?

#7 ::: Dena Shunra ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2007, 02:22 PM:

Michelle @6,

I believe that you would be. No action is required - merely offering such an organization "comfort" and "support" - including moral support.

Of course, I may be wrong. It is possible that the government would just abduct, torture and charge you and then a jury would acquit you. Only, who'd risk it?

#8 ::: Michelle ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2007, 02:48 PM:

Dena Shunra @ 7,

That's what I was thinking, too. Wonderful way to shut down the debate, huh?

Next stop, thought crimes.

#9 ::: Ariel ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2007, 02:48 PM:

Michelle @6: Yes, at least to some extent, as several Islamic charities have recently been discovering. There are apparently religious requirements in Islam to give to charity, and the convenient charities in much of the middle east are organizations that have both a humanitarian wing and a militant wing. It doesn't matter that you're channelling money to Hamas or Hezbollah because they're the ones building schools and repairing roads; they're terrorist organizations, and the US government will freeze your charity's funds if you keep channelling them money.

I know that at least for a while there were threats of prosecution hanging over the leaders of some of those charities, but I'm not sure what's happened to those cases.

#10 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2007, 02:55 PM:

Ariel @ 9

I think one of those cases was the source of the case before the 9th Circuit Court this week, the one that the judges felt had taken them down the rabbit hole.

#11 ::: Dena Shunra ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2007, 02:55 PM:

Ariel @9, it's actually worse than that.

The charities are being accused of supporting the various organizations by giving money to the widows and orphans of persons incapacitated (detained or maimed or killed) in the course of actions defined (administratively) as terrorism.

The thinking appears to be that if a man knows his family would starve if he were killed, he would not engage in opposing occupation. Thus, the goal is to prevent ANY aid reaching widows and children of such persons - to starve the children and widows - in order to discourage insurgency.

I have a good word for such thinking: "wrong". And another: "diabolical".

#12 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2007, 03:09 PM:

as I'd asked in The thread on On Iran Basic, where I'd put together some data...

Don't they know any Iranian Americans? Have the talked to them recently? Talked to them about how well that last interference (with the political campaign) went for helping Iran and Iranians move away from hardliners?

Because with 40k total Iraqis in the US (since the war, what 40K +700 new?) I can see how they might never have met Iraqis other than that lying 'Curveball' source.

But Iranians and Iranian-Americans? The hardliners in the US have to be actively avoiding I&I-A's to have not been asking about how this might go.

#13 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2007, 03:36 PM:

"Nothing ... but he's also Giuliani's brain,"

funny, I'd always expected a much more antiquated and decrepit man.

#14 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2007, 03:53 PM:

Lizzy L.

All I need to know about the next US Middle East incursion I read in the papers. Bush said something in a news conference last week to the effect of "If Hamid Karzai thinks that Iranians can be dealt with diplomatically, I'll disabuse him of that idea quickly." If diplomacy is ab initio unacceptable, what's left but military action, if not all-out war? The only real secrets now are when and how hard.

#15 ::: Dave Hutchinson ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2007, 04:04 PM:

SpeakerToManagers@14 - nice to know Bush values the opinion of the President of Afghanistan so highly...

#16 ::: John Stanning ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2007, 04:19 PM:

Dena #1 : Surely Iran in general is taboo already - sanctions include a ban on almost all trade and financial transactions with Iran except, oddly, import of Iranian food and carpets.

"Financial transactions with Iran" includes any trade where the US dollar is the currency: if an Italian company (say) buys oil from Iran, if the oil is priced in dollars the transaction requires a book entry by a US bank, which if the Treasury spots it, can get the Italian company labelled a "denied party" and banned from trading with the US, under pain of jail for any US persons involved. Because of this, the Iranians a while ago tried to set up an oil market priced in euros, but AFAIR it didn't get off the ground.

Maybe the designation of "terrist" means that when Bush and Cheney bomb Iran, they can reuse the spiel that they recite about Iraq: "we're fighting them there so that we don't have to fight them at home".

#17 ::: Michelle ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2007, 04:21 PM:

Ariel @9,

Sorry, I think you misunderstood me.

I'm not talking about giving aid and then claiming it's okay because they are not terrorists.

I'm talking about doing exactly one thing: publicly stating that Organization X, which has been designated a terrorist organization by the government, is *not* a terrorist organization. Nothing else, just that single statement.

#18 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2007, 04:38 PM:

I've been expecting war with Iran for the past couple of years. Fortunately, so far it has not happened, but I get the feeling that George and Dick want a war. I can't, for the life of me, see why.

#19 ::: Steven Brust ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2007, 04:50 PM:

It seems to me that the original use of "Terrorism" to was reference official government policy (first Revolutionary France, than the Soviet Union during the Civil War), which means that to make the jump from a government to a particular unit of that government isn't actually that great.

Or, to put it another way: in which way are the actions of the U.S. Marines in Iraq not the actions of terrorists?

#20 ::: Michael I ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2007, 05:05 PM:


1) If I recall correctly, Seymour Hersh reported some months ago that the neocon faction in the Administration believes that bombing Iran would cause a revolt against the mullahs. In other words, they've convinced themselves that this is going to end WELL.

(Not saying that Hersh's report was necessarily accurate, but it does seem to fit in with how that faction tends to think.)

2) Josh Marshall pointed out some months ago (at that Bush's interests are currently seriously in conflict with the interests of the U.S. His argument was that Bush's presidency is basically a failure and the only thing that can salvage it in the public view is some dramatic success. A "Hail Mary" war that has a low probability of leading to anything good and a high probability of leading to a disaster is a very bad gamble for the country, but is a worthwhile gamble for Bush personally because he's already considered a failure and the small probability of success is more than avoiding the war gets him.

(A more hopeful assessment is that it doesn't look to me like Bush has laid enough of the groundwork for a war even among Republicans and may not have even made the decision to try to do so. And even if he does make such a decision, he doesn't have much time left.)

#21 ::: Gar Lipow ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2007, 05:23 PM:

Steven Brust (comment 19)

>Or, to put it another way: in which way are the actions of the U.S. Marines in Iraq not the actions of terrorists?

But the Marines work for the U.S. government. By definition anything the U.S. government does cannot be terrorist; the Executive branch of the U.S. decides what terrorism is and who is and is not a terorist.

#22 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2007, 05:27 PM:

I suppose this is a rhetorical question asked in this venue, but maybe someone has an inkling of an answer. What makes the neobarbs think their analysis of the probably course of military action in Iran is any more likely to come true than their analysis of Iraq did? In particular, it sounds like they're making exactly the same mistake again: thinking that a grass-roots wave of democratic fervor will sweep aside a dictatorial and corrupt government and usher in a new era of peace and freedom. Or is the probably outcome within Iran completely irrelevant to the outcome that the neobarbs are looking for: committment of the US so deeply to adventurism in the Middle East that we can't back out?

#23 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2007, 05:35 PM:

Michael I @ 20

My guess is that Bush doesn't need to get any backing for his Iran plans, because he doesn't intend to commit any ground troops at all. If all he does is bomb as much of the military and industrial capability of Iran as he can, on the pretext of destroying their nuclear capability, it'll all be over before anyone else gets to say anything aside from "yes, sir".

He may believe that if he destroys a significant fraction of the Iranian industrial base they well be dependent on trade with the rest of the world to keep their economy afloat, and he can control that with the sanctions. Of course, that can't possibly work; whatever the Russians may want, and I think they're badly conflicted on their Iranian policy, the Chinese can and will use their Security Council veto from preventing the sanctions to be used effectively; they want Iranian oil, and they won't let a little thing like Bush's foreign policy stand in their way.

#24 ::: Robert Glaub ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2007, 05:37 PM:

Short answer: The IRGC IS engaged in terrorist acitivity. Unfortunately, I cannot go into details because that would violate the law. Even Bush and Cheney occasionally do something write. Those who have known me for a while and know where I work know that I would not say this without justification...

#25 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2007, 05:39 PM:

Michael I #20: I'm no Iran expert, and I know that invading Iran producing a revolution against the mullahs is slightly less likely than my becoming Pope.

If Bush seriously thinks that ending his presidency by landing the US in a third quagmire is going to get him ranked up there with FDR, TR, Lincoln and Washington, then the 25th Amendment needs to be invoked.

#26 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2007, 05:52 PM:

Fragano @ 25

Invoke it on Dick; he's the elected official who really seems to want this war. And he's quite possible insane by most definitions.

#27 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2007, 05:53 PM:

As far as I can work it out, the Revolutionary Guards bear the same relationship to the Iranian government and its military forces that the Waffen SS bore to the Third Reich. Separate chain of command, separate loyalty, the whole works.

Does this make them illegitimate? Well, no: not obviously.

Bruce, re #22: AIUI, Iran has a long history of democratic movements. It also has a long history of, er, history: unlike Iraq, an artificial state cobbled together by Mr Sykes and Mr Picot circa WW1, Iran has a solid sense of national identity going back millennia, and patriotism to match. Bomb them and the most likely response is exactly what you'd get if you bombed the United States -- a wave of patriotic fervour and backing for the Maximum Leader, however unpopular he might have been prior to the attack.

Oh, and it bears repeating: President Ahmedinejad is not the wielder of executive power that his title would suggest in a non-Iranian context. He's basically an elected sock-puppet, and his public effusions on foreign affairs have about as much influence as those of, say, the Mayor of Denver.

#28 ::: Dave Hutchinson ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2007, 06:03 PM:

SpeakerToManagers@22 - I'm not completely convinced that Bush et al really mean to embark on military action in Iran. They must realise that Iran is a completely different proposition to Iraq, surely. And if they did attack Iran, they'd do it alone, and they have to realise that, too.
My best guess is that, in its dying days, the government is trying to look tough by engaging in brinkmanship. Labelling the Republican Guard a `terrorist' organistion doesn't cost anything but it makes a good soundbite
I guess I'm still hanging on to the forlorn hope that there are rational human beings left in the Bush administration.

#29 ::: Dave Hutchinson ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2007, 06:09 PM:

I was writing my last post before Charlie's came up, but, yes, what he said. Plus Iran hasn't been damaged by years of sanctions, no-fly-zones and the predations of a ruling group of ruthless sadistic maniacs.

#30 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2007, 06:26 PM:

Charlie in #27. The mayor of Denver actually has some real authority, at least in Denver. The canonical example in the US of a powerless sock-puppet politician is the governor of Texas. But you already knew that, and were probably just trying to spare us.

#31 ::: Leva Cygnet ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2007, 06:29 PM:

Y'know, the cynic in me almost wonders if the Republicans might be planning on picking a fight with Iran just to make life a little more difficult for the Democrats when they take over after 2008.

#32 ::: Gar Lipow ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2007, 06:42 PM:

Leva Cygnet (post 31)

>Y'know, the cynic in me almost wonders if the Republicans might be planning on picking a fight with Iran just to make life a little more difficult for the Democrats when they take over after 2008.

Hmm - this assumes:

1) the bombing does not help them win the election (which I don't see - but U.S. citizens have a really weird "rally round the flag" reflex sometimes)

2)Also assuming a bombing would hurt them electorally, then a bombing for the purpose you give assumes the Republicans have no hope of taking the White House or at least a house of Congress.

In other words, you probably are not being cynical enough.

#33 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2007, 07:32 PM:

P J Evans #26: Unfortunately, the 25th Amendment applies only to the president. Dick would have to be impeached.

#34 ::: NelC ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2007, 08:05 PM:

Robert @24: Everyone is ignoring you because you've said nothing, but they're too polite to say so. Evidence you're not allowed to show anyone is not evidence. If it can't be examined, then it's worthless. Arguing that you've a reputation for honesty is also an ad hominim argument, and we all know how much they are worth.

Or they may be ignoring you as an obvious troll, and I've committed an enormous blunder by acknowledging you. Eh, well....

#35 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2007, 08:28 PM:

Dave Hutchinson @ 28

I'd believe that it's just brinksmanship and posing for posterior, er, posterity, except that it's almost a year and a half before Bush leaves office. There aren't many politicians who can look that far ahead, and I see no evidence of them in the Bush Administration.*

And if the quote Jim MacD put into the original post on this thread is anywhere near accurate, at least part of the Administration believes they're serious about it. By this time, I expect Rice is about as convinced of Cheney's lunacy as we are, so she may simply not be sure that he's not crazy enough to throw bombs.

Charlie @ 27

Right. #22 was what I believe the Bushings are thinking just now (or at least one possible view of their thoughts). I'm not crazy enough myself to believe that anything like that could work, or in fact that it would do anything other than the opposite of what they think it would. I've worked with enough Iranians over the years to have some idea of how they see their country. Even the ones who have little chance of going back alive believe that it's their country, and they'd be willing to fight for it.

* Looking far sidewise in time into alternate realities is another thing entirely. That, they're good at.

#36 ::: Don Fitch ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2007, 10:24 PM:

P J Evans : #4 : "... I'd like some other country (preferably one of our nominal allies) to declare the Marines (or the Air Force, which might be more to the point) a 'terrorist organization', and then follow through on it."

The CIA might be a better target -- there seems to be reasonably solid evidence that they have engaged in clandestine indisputably-terrorist activity in many parts of the world.

I find the timing of this proclamation especially interesting -- just a week or so after the Presidential Order authorizing the Secretary of the Treasury to freeze the funds of (IIR) anyone dealing with or supporting any "Terrorist Organization". Assuming the Elite Revolutionary Guard is an Iranian Governmental Organization, this could include, for starters, those Iranian-Americans who send money to their relatives back home, and any charity or business that has any contacts with Iran. Except, I suppose, businesses owned or controlled by Republicans -- the application of this is left entirely to the discretion of the politically-appointed Secretary of the Treasury, with no provisions for Appeal.

#37 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2007, 10:34 PM:

Don @ 36

Yeah, that would make ... I'd say it would make perfect sense, except that I'm not at all sure that 'sense' is the correct word here. The government would absolutely do that to people sending money home.

#38 ::: Don Fitch ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2007, 10:41 PM:

NelC : #34:
"[...] Or they may be ignoring you as an obvious troll, and I've committed an enormous blunder by acknowledging you. Eh, well...."

Or maybe the not-so-enormous blunder of not noticing tongue-in-cheek. (Granted, I had to check back on Glaub's previous postings to be reasonably confident.)

#39 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2007, 11:13 PM:

Don 38: The fact that Glaub has previous postings would make him an atypical troll in this environment. He's been commenting here since 2004. I'm not sure that was tongue-in-cheek, though.

#40 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2007, 11:20 PM:

I know who Robert is and what he does. I've known him for a lot longer (including FTF) than since 2004, too.

His word's good here.

#41 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2007, 11:24 PM:

So, not tongue in cheek, then, and certainly not a troll.

#42 ::: Magenta Griffith ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2007, 11:43 PM:

One thing that sort of puzzles me, well, no, it infuriates me, is that "terrorist" is usually defined by nationality, color, religion, rather than actions. There are a number of organizations within the U.S. that perform acts that could only be discribed as terrorism by an outsider: threatening or killing people involved with a legal medical procedure, for example. Or organizations which harass people of certain racial or ethnic backgrounds, and have a history of murder. I'm refering, of course, to several violent anti-abortion organizations as well as the Ku Klux Klan. These should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Instead, members of these are sometimes in positions of influence in local governments, even state governments, and certainly within the Republican party.

So, if you are white and "Christian"*, you can get away with behaviors that you can't if you are dark and non-Christian.

This has got to stop.

*I put Christian in quotes here our of deference to my in-laws, who are what Christians should be.

#43 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2007, 11:56 PM:

Leva Cygnet #31: Oh, certainly. It's a family tradition, after all, from the days when the elder Bush dumped Somalia on Clinton's lap; although, I've got to admit, the elder Bush did noticeably improve his karma through the efforts he and Clinton made in publicizing Tsunami Relief.

#44 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2007, 11:59 PM:

By the way, is PETA on the official terrorist organization list yet?

#45 ::: Dena Shunra ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2007, 12:34 AM:

Jim McDonald @40,

you say that you know who Robert is and what he does, and that "His word's good here."

As a participant in the conversation, of course his word is good.

However, on the merits of this particular discussion, how good is it, though? Is it good enough to obviate free speech? Is it good enough to make it a crime to associate with (support) the organization that has been declared to be a terrorist organization?

Clearly, Robert Glaub is not a troll. A glance at his homepage and the record of his comments here are as respectable as can be. I hope I am as worthy to participate in this convesration.

Just as clearly, the statement "I know what I know and you'd better believe me, but you can't have the information" matches his professional affiliation. Mr. Glaub obviously cannot disclose what his employer or clients wish to keep under cover. He bears no fault here.

But while *he* can say so, our government should not say so. That's not how things work in a democratic society. Saying: "legal person X is a terrorist" has implications that make it necessary for a soberly rational, informed populace to have the facts about.

His employer or clients, though, make a mockery of the system we live under.

I have absolutely no knowledge about the Iranian unit being thus designated. But if it is a crime to arm insanity in the Middle East, I rather think that our Congress has done worse that anything ascribed or ascribable to Iran.

#46 ::: Dena Shunra ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2007, 12:35 AM:

Macdonald. Macdonald. Macdonald. Macdonald.

I apologize for the misspelling, above.

#47 ::: Wakboth ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2007, 03:55 AM:

#28: To realise something, you have to inhabit the reality. AFAICT, the Bush admin has long ago left reality for Fantasyland, and is fast approaching the borders of Insanity.

#48 ::: John Stanning ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2007, 06:23 AM:

Robert #24 : The IRGC IS engaged in terrorist acitivity. Unfortunately, I cannot go into details because that would violate the law.

I accept Jim's word that you know what you're talking about and that what you say is likely true. But in a democracy it's just not acceptable for the government to say "X is a Bad Guy and we're going to punish him for it, and we don't have to tell anybody why." That's the Guantanamo mentality. That's what dictatorships do. That's what the Soviet Union did, which we rightly condemned them for. The fact that the IRGC are foreigners and Muslims (two strikes already) is no justification.

#49 ::: John L ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2007, 07:22 AM:

Of course, if the US names the Iranian IRGC as terrorists, then if we catch some of them we don't have to treat them like POW's. They can just...disappear.

#50 ::: Anthony VanWagner ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2007, 10:08 AM:

The Israeli Armed Forces have been wrongly designated by various parties from the extreme left and right for a long time now, not to mention by various countries in the regions of Islamic world.

#51 ::: Keith ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2007, 02:27 PM:

The Te word has undergone semantic degradation ever since I was called one for simply being a card carrying member of the American Library Association. That's right, I'm the evil SOB who thinks even terrorists should be able to read books. Not that any do (they probably wouldn't be terrorists then but that's a subject for another post entirely).

I have no idea how Tom Tomorrow or the Daily Show writers manage to do good satire these days, what with the Republicans being three steps ahead of every crazy idea out there.

#52 ::: Richard Brandt ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2007, 02:50 PM:

The Daily Show is satire?

#53 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2007, 03:35 PM:

Jim Macdonald writes: "Most remarkably, the designation is being seen as a victory for the forces of moderation led by Condoleezza Rice, as opposed to the group that wants to just bomb Iran (led by Dick “Pump Head” Cheney)."

Since no one else has remarked upon this remarkable point, I'll stand up and do it.

The real comedy here is that the designation puts the IRGC officially in the game specified in the 2002 AUMF for Iraq. Remember all that ferfuffle earlier in the year about repealing the AUMF (not done because it's too anti-war) or explicitly limiting its scope to exclude Iran (node done because it's too anti-zionist)? The idea back then was to keep the crazies from having any legal justification for unilaterally bombing targets in Iran.

The big victory for moderation here is that the crazies were forced into abiding by the AUMF.

#54 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2007, 04:25 PM:

Mossad has a tradition of getting American intelligence agents killed through the simple expedient of withholding critical information. Does that make them "terrorists", or are they "freedom fighters" because they're American allies?

#55 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2007, 04:57 PM:

Earl Cooley III: "Does that make them "terrorists", or are they "freedom fighters" because they're American allies?"

The standard answer to the sophomoric quip about George Washington having been a terrorist was always something to the effect that he was the commander of the Continental Army of a "newly independent" nation chartered by the Second Continental Congress. Terrorists are non-state actors, the argument has always gone, so: no, George Washington was no terrorist. He was a patriot!

Now, we have an improved reformulation of our definition of terrorism, and it would appear that we can no longer smack the sophomores around with this gambit. It would appear that the Continental Army really was a terrorist organization. Doh!

Oh, wait. What am I saying!? It's never terrorism when we do it. Or any of our close allies, for that matter.

#56 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2007, 02:03 AM:

Yeah, that's basically what happened in Afghanistan: when the current bad guys were fighting the Soviets, they were Freedom Fighters blessed with an American bounty of hot and cold running shoulder-fire missiles. And Rambo III is no longer the record holder for most acts of violence in a single movie, either....

#57 ::: Dave Hutchinson ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2007, 11:41 AM:

SpeakerToManagers@35 - *despairs*

#58 ::: Robert Glaub ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2007, 04:21 PM:

Thanks, Jim...

My apologies for not coming back sooner, real life keeps me busy.

I'm trying to be as careful as I can in posting because I do not want to inadvertently violate the law. Because of that, it may be a while before I post on this subject again. Plus I want to make sure that I am as truthful and accurate as possible...

#59 ::: FungiFromYuggoth ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2007, 06:50 PM:

The problem is that declaring the Revolutionary Guards a terrorist organization comes while the US is making claims about Iran that don't make sense.

It's pretty clear that Iran is supporting a faction in Iraq - it just happens to be the same faction the US helped put into power (death squads and all).

IMO, the context also demands a mention of US support for the MEK and the Iraqi National Accord's history of car bombing. It's hard for me to accept that this administration is taking steps that will result in anything improving.

#61 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 22, 2007, 12:59 AM:

Guys, one thing to remember when you're reading things written by intelligence professionals: you have to read what was said very exactly. And you have to understand what wasn't said.

#62 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: August 22, 2007, 01:53 AM:

"And you have to understand what wasn't said."

Ah, yes— we must be experienced in the esoterica of the intelligence community, lest our efforts to tease any semantic content from their cryptic public messages will be as frustrating as factoring the products of very large prime numbers in our heads, or guessing the favorite colors of an army of sphynxes sporting microwave spectrum analyzers for eyes.

I'm so glad we have our Top People on the problems at hand. These occasional Delphic emissions, to those of us who spend all our days squabbling in ignorance, are soothing and beneficent. They are not at all frustrating or insulting.

I hope Mr. Glaub will pass my sincere thanks along to all the other analysts in his group. I don't know how I would ever live without their tireless, selfless efforts to provide the policy makers in our government with the high-quality, actionable intelligence upon which so many grave and pressing decisions routinely depend.

#63 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: August 22, 2007, 02:39 AM:

j h woodyatt @ 62

Jeez, we have to have something for all those unemployed Kremlinologists to do. If it wasn't for the cryptic oracles of the intelligence community, those poor guys who used to descry Soviet foreign policy by examining the order of presentation at the annual Party Congress would probably be reduced to rooting around in chicken guts.

#64 ::: Barry ::: (view all by) ::: August 22, 2007, 10:33 PM:

#61 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 22, 2007, 12:59 AM:

"Guys, one thing to remember when you're reading things written by intelligence professionals: you have to read what was said very exactly. And you have to understand what wasn't said."

Or, as a friend keeps reminding me, intelligence organizations aren't there to inform us, but to gather intelligence. Anytime that they say *anything*, it's not to be trusted.

Adding on to that, one characteristic of the run-up to the Iraq war was the administration claiming that they Knew Stuff. It turned out that they were lying.

At this point, anybody who claims to Know Stuff which supports a possible war plan of the administration is running under several levels of burden of proof.

#65 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2007, 04:37 AM:

Barry #64:

Doesn't that require that you tune out some kinds of evidence, because it supports some policy of the Bush administration? How could that make sense?

#66 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2007, 09:50 AM:

albatross @ 65

Not necessarily. I'd take it that some evidence from sources with credibility problems has a higher burden of proof. Wouldn't you agree that Stuart Pivar would be in that category? Based on the lies I know he's already told, Bush is certainly in that category for me.

#67 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2007, 01:15 PM:

The only information we have on the reliability of the source is a respected person vouching for him. The specific part of Barry's comment that struck me was:

"At this point, anybody who claims to Know Stuff which supports a possible war plan of the administration is running under several levels of burden of proof."

The way I take this is that evidence in favor of an administration war plan should face different plausibility requirements that other evidence. That seems to me to be more-or-less blinding yourself--saying "evidence leading to outcomes I don't want to believe will be discarded if possible." The Bush Administration pretty clearly did some of that in the ramp up to the Iraq invasion, but that's not a good reason for us to do the same thing now.

#68 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2007, 04:23 PM:

Barry: While I appreciate your skepticiism, the way in which you paint the general (organisational behavior) onto the specific (the comments of Robert Glaub, or myself) as, prima facie, wrong; absent more evidence is insulting.

Personally, I think the comment above is probelematic; precisely because he can't provide more than just his assertion of, reliable, knowledge.

But, as an intelligence professional, being called a, de facto, shill/liar is offensive. It may not be what you meant, but it's how it read.

Personally, I try to avoid that sort of appeal to authority; but I have had to talk about/around, things which were/are classified. It's a tough road to walk. Which is when the bona fides of the speaker come into play.

If we accept that Robert Glaub is an honest person, then we can accept that he feels the information is 1: solid, and 2: relevant.

Since he has a track record (and some vouchsafing) I am willing to make those suppostions.

#69 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2007, 04:43 PM:

I've known Robert Glaub for a long time. He's not a troll, and I've never known him to be dishonest. The same goes for Terry Karney, except I haven't known him for quite as many years. I value their presence here.

#70 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 06:21 PM:


Is there no one here who both knows how to unpack that initial comment, and is allowed to do so?

#71 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 07:14 PM:

Terry, Robert,

At one point in my life I signed a paper that would send me to jail for the rest of my life if I were to unpack the simple statement.

As I'm sure you're aware.

It isn't about supporting Bush. Bush was still a dissolute wastrel when I signed it.

But still.

Those who run may read. (And I've not given nor received a classified briefing in these twenty years past.)

Unpack my statements here in the same way.

For all: We are coming as close to the edge as I dare. Read closely. Many things have been said.

#72 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 07:18 PM:

Nothing that has been said here supports an Administration war plan.


Hall of mirrors....

#73 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 08:06 PM:

Teresa Nielsen Hayden laments: "Is there no one here who both knows how to unpack that initial comment, and is allowed to do so?"

I'm certainly allowed to do so, but I can't claim to be experienced in the esoterica of professional intelligence analysts. Before I begin, I should note that I think there is a fundamental problem here with interpreting the comment: anyone attempting to unpack it is either (a) unqualified, (b) prohibited and/or (c) compromised. (I don't claim to be qualified. You can believe whether I'm prohibited or compromised on your own time.)

Here's a reprint of Mr. Glaub's initial comment so you have it

Short answer: The IRGC IS engaged in terrorist acitivity. Unfortunately, I cannot go into details because that would violate the law. Even Bush and Cheney occasionally do something write. Those who have known me for a while and know where I work know that I would not say this without justification...

There are four assertions here:

p1) The [Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps] (not the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission) is engaged in terrorist activity.

p2) Mr. Glaub would be violating the law if he went into any further detail [about the previous assertion, one assumes].

p3) Even Bush and Cheney occasionally [do the right thing].

p4) People who know Mr. Glaub and know where he works will vouch for his having some justification to make these assertions.

Let's evaluate these four assertions for what they don't say, shall we? I'll make some dumb-ass ignorant guesses about what it means that he didn't say what wasn't said.

q1) The IRGC is conducting terrorist operations. Yeah, I saw that report on CNN, too. This assertion has been made on the record by the President of the United States. I'm not sure what repeating it here is supposed to add to the body of knowledge already available. Maybe, this is Mr. Glaub offering his personal opinion that the CNN report is not a complete tissue of lies. It's tough to know that, because he doesn't actually say that.

q2) Mr. Glaub is required by law to be careful not to disclose further details. This is probably a strong hint that his previous assertion is informed by knowledge gained at his place of employment, which he describes on his home page as an agency of the U.S. government that employs intelligence analysts. There are several such agencies. Some of them are even allowed to exist in public. However, it's also possible that Mr. Glaub has acquired the knowledge in some other fashion, and he is still prohibited from disclosing further details. One assumes that's because nothing further he might say is certain not to be subject to his non-disclosure agreement.

q3) Even Bush and Cheney occasionally fail to fuck everything up totally. Mr. Glaub opts not to say anything about what Bush and Cheney may have failed to fuck up, but the plausibly deniable implication here is clearly that the President and the Vice President have apparently accepted as true the claim that the IRGC is engaging in terrorist activity. One wonders if that's an exception to assertion (p2), i.e. that it's something he's been explicitly permitted to say, but if so, well— he isn't saying. So, we don't know. He might not be allowed to deny it either.

q4) Mr. Glaub has friends who will vouch for him. I, on the other hand, don't. So, who you gonna believe? The guy who has famous friends, including our dear hosts, or some random jack-ass who's waiting for his world to finish compiling? Fortunately, you don't have to choose. Nobody's calling Mr. Glaub a liar, or even asserting that any of the things he did say above are untrue.

About the only assertion above with any real substance to it is the assertion that the IRGC is engaging in terrorist activity. All the rest are basically persuasive in intent. You can believe this principle assertion Mr. Glaub makes, he seems to be saying, because he is a trustworthy authority, unlike CNN, and the President and Vice President, who all have less credibility than him.

Okay. I want to believe.

What am I being asked to believe? "The IRGC is engaged in terrorist activities." Granted, this assertion is easier to parse than "the British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa," but— and this ought to be important— but the latter assertion appeared in the President's State of the Union speech, which is supposed to be a lot more rigorously fact-checked and vetted by experts than the average user comment at Making Light.

Should the assertion be credible to someone who doesn't know Mr. Glaub and hasn't personally learned whether he's a trustworthy authority on such matters? At this point, we are descending into matters of epistemology. How do we know what we know? How do we choose authorities on subject matter in which we do not ourselves have mastery? Did Jesus really rise up physically after his death on the third day, or is that just a metaphor for an abstract spiritual concept in a narrative we tell each other to hold our moral philosophies together? Teh Mysterees are 3verywhere!

So, Professor Derrida came over with a huge book in his hands and he started reading out of it, and he talked for forty-five minutes and nobody understood a word that he said, but we had fun filling out the forms and playing with the pencils on the bench there... and there, there on the other side, in the middle of the other side, away from everything else on the other side, in parentheses, capital letters, quotated, read the following words:

On that note, I think I'm done.

#74 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 08:24 PM:

I neglected to mention in my ridiculously long disquisition above that the one curious aspect of Mr. Glaub's comment for me is the bizarre predicate at the beginning of his set of assertions.

He says, "Short answer:" and launches into the body of his comments. Short answer to what question? Go ahead and search the initial post and the preceding comments for the question mark character... let me know if you find the question to which his comment should be read as an answer. I feel like I could easily become trapped in a maze of twisty little conundrums if I went very much further into that line of questioning.

#75 ::: Clark E. Myers ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 08:25 PM:

Well yes but what does follow? Given a name how can something be properly distinguished by acts?

- Wing Commander Forest Frederick Edward Yeo-Thomas, G.C., MC & Bar, Croix de Guerre (with palms), Insignia of the Commandeur of the Légion d'Honneur aka The White Rabbit is on the record rather loudly that his own activities and those of Otto Skorzeny were much the same.

The Jedburgh teams spent a lot of time (but not necessarily all of it, rather necessarily not all of it) in uniform - so nacht und nebel - Hitlers Befehl über die Vernichtung von Kommandotrupps und Fallschirmspringern - he didn't say terrorist - clearly is a war crime applied to Jeds.

On October 7,[1942] Hitler personally penned a note in the Wehrmacht daily communiqué:Wikipedia again

In future, all terror and sabotage troops of the British and their accomplices, who do not act like soldiers but rather like bandits, will be treated as such by the German troops and will be ruthlessly eliminated in battle, wherever they appear. Your translation may vary.

Between The White Rabbit - one of my childhood heroes - and the Jeds some line might be drawn or perhaps no distinction is possible.

If no distinction is possible then I suppose Wal-Mart might sell goods from the Chinese Army (or any one of the many armies which play a large role in their respective country's economy - notice especially in Cuba today) in their capacity as economic agents without let or hindrance? Is to assert the Chinese Army employs child labor to say the USMC toys for tots is or ought to be an illegal act touching on child labor?

the first time ever that a military unit owned and operated by a national government has been so designated, it’s official: the word “terrorist” doesn’t mean anything. emphasis added

Francs-tireurs were and were not a military unit owned and operated by a national government operating under orders from generals in the field might mean operated by a national government and perhaps not?

In the end, for myself, I find the terrorist designation for the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps appropriate as facilitating monitoring especially funds movements in connection with the current activities of the Revolutionary Guards. I would find the terrorist designation repugnant if used to justify enhanced punishment for a Revolutionary Guard in a hypothetical military situation.

But then I have no trouble supporting Tommy Makem and the Clancy Brothers in their onetime efforts to raise money for Northern Aid - go figure.

#76 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 08:43 PM:

p3) Even Bush and Cheney occasionally [do the right thing].

Don't make assumptions.

#77 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 08:46 PM:

j h woodyatt #73: The [Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps] (not the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission) is engaged in terrorist activity.

Does that mean that the Swiss-funded International Risk Governance Council is OK as well?

#78 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 08:47 PM:


j h woodyhat (73): (O) Not a bad job, but (and no insult intended) as you say, you aren't versed in the odd shorthands of this art/discipline.

(O )As Jim said, what was said, what wasn't said and how it was said are all relevant. He, and I, have unpacked things from it. I will wager they are, in general, not too different, one from the other.

(O) What has Robert Glaub said? That the IGRC has engaged in terrorist acts. The the present administration can function as a stopped clock.

(O) What has he not said? That the terrorist acts of the IGRC constitute a threat to the US. That any such threat they might pose rises to the level of casus belli. That the correctness of the administration is on anything but the quality of the actions the IGRC has taken (i.e. the content of the subsequent allegations stemming from the conjunctive arrangement of the things they have said are implicit because of the nature of the actions of the IGRC). He has not said they are a terrorist organization; only that some of the things they do can be called terrorist acts.

(N) I don't know him, and can't vouch for him (other than to point out that people whom I trust to make such vouchshafements have tendered them, and I am willing to accept/repeat them; with caveats).

(D) What has Jim said? The part that's relevant is that he doesn't want to speculate because to do so walks into the gray area of what might be classified, and (this is the important bit) which he knows to be classified.

(N) The esoterica of the law, as it related to classified material and people who have clearances is that things which are open source, and which John Q. Citizen can talk about, can become verboten to those who have clearances.

(O) That happens because somewhere the information has been classfied (maybe because in aggregate it reveals practices, or modes of thought).

(D) The nature of classification is that the whole is classified, but the individual "packets" of data are also classified.

(N) By now I am sure you are wondering about the stuff in parentheses (O,D,N). They are fake classification symbols, which I inserted to illustrate the way paragraphs, in classified documents, are coded.

(D) Each of the paragraphs is either O,D,N. Each of those represents, in ascending order, a level of restriction. The overall classification of a document is the highest level of any paragraph/diagram/photograh in it. So this document would be classified "N", and only people who have an N clearance; and a need to know, are allowed to see it.

(O) If I had a page, with no "N" level information, then that page would be classified as either O, or D (depending) and I could show it to someone with a lower classification.

(O) It happens, amusingly, that people can generate information, which they can never see, because someone up the chain classifies it in such a way the originator no longer has the proper clearance, even if they have the need to know.


#79 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 08:56 PM:

One original statement was "Even Bush and Cheney occasionally do something write." Does this mean that the last word isn't actually misspelled, and is intentionally used to present a content-neutral statement that can easily be misinterpreted to mean something else?

#80 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 09:27 PM:

I made a mistake.

A stopped clock is correct twice a day. I am not willing to go on the record with such an assertion about the present administration's leadership.

#81 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 09:29 PM:

Also, I forgot to say that unpacking a statment like Robert Glaub's is affected by how well one knows the speaker.

If I knew him as well as Jim does, our reading of the meaning he packed into what he said would be more likely to be in accord.

#82 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2007, 02:03 AM:

Mssrs. Karney and Macdonald:

p1. I'm actually not entirely ignorant of the procedures for handling classified material. Thanks for posting the brief overview for the rest of our fellow travelers, though...

p2. There are a lot of things Mr. Glaub didn't say, but the open questions is: which of them did he make a point of not saying? Don't you feel a little strange choosing a set of things that weren't marked out and saying those are the "relevant" ones, i.e. the ones that were deliberately left unmarked?

p3. The principle assertion is a repeat of one we have seen made in open sources, i.e. the President has made the assertion in a public speech. The President and a lot of other officials have also made other assertions, ones we might charitably describe as not very credible... sort of like when Ronald Reagan announced that the bombing of the USSR would begin "in five minutes." (Don't laugh: I have a friend who claims to have been in the position of watching that event on live television and subsequently found himself following through on the standard protocols, doing what you'd expect would be done when a message like that isn't a stupid joke. The good news is that it happened during the category of readiness when sanity has a chance to prevail.)

So, what are we to make of Mr. Glaub's message? It purports to tell us something we've already heard from sources we know to be inveterate liars and charlatans. It comes with a claim of authority that we, who don't know him, have, at best, some trouble evaluating.

Are those here who have vouched for Mr. Glaub's honesty, integrity and professionalism asking us regard his report as more credible than if the same material were to appear in an official report, e.g. a White House press conference? If so, should our higher confidence in the accuracy of this report be based on any consideration other than the authority conferred on Mr. Glaub by his friends who have vouched for him? Specifically, is there a reason we shouldn't expect the credibility of his report to be limited because its release wasn't vetted or approved by his management chain? Or, was it?

I don't have a lot of trouble believing reports that the IRGC is engaging in terrorist activity. The IRGC has a cozy relationship the Badr Bridges, which is probably up to its eyeballs in dirty work. It's easy to imagine how there might be classified documents that detail their involvement in terrorist activity.

My problem is this: I didn't need Mr. Glaub to tell me this. What am I to make of the fact that he's come into the Making Light comment threads to make these assertions, seemingly to apply the personal authority that he enjoys with our dear hosts to confirm a very limited subset of what officials much higher than him in the government have said on national television in front of God and C-SPAN?

I could make a wild-ass stupid guess, but it would be impolite. I don't mean to offend anyone's sensibilities, but here is that guess: perhaps, Mr. Glaub believes that, once again, a pack of lies will be emanating from the lips of senior administration officials, and that bundled within them will be some small kernel of what Mr. Glaub feels confident is the Gods-honest truth, truth that he himself perhaps had a hand in supplying to them, i.e. that the IRGC is engaged in terrorist activity. When that pack of lies is eventually unpacked and exposed in the usual environment where nobody really cares if the lies are salted with a few truths here and there, he's worried that he and his comrades, who worked so diligently to provide quality analysis to those same senior administration officials, will be blamed for getting the intelligence all wrong. Again.

I suspect Mr. Glaub needn't worry. If anybody was actually disciplined for getting the WMD-in-Iraq story all wrong, then that fact was a national security matter. It certainly was never published that anybody in the intelligence community lost their job over it. In fact, I seem to recall reading unsourced reports that analysts were getting forced out for having been ProvedFuckingRight™. As we've seen, nobody outside the intelligence community really cares about what's really true and what's merely actionable. Certainly, not in the administration. Maybe a few nobodies out here on teh internets care, but it's not like what we care about makes any difference to the people who make policy.

#83 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2007, 02:13 AM:

Ack. Brigade, not Bridges. (My wife interrupted me with a question about Harry Bridges right when I was typing that. I missed it in the proofread.)

#84 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2007, 05:09 AM:

I am not permitted to call this a villanelle in unofficial communications.

(O) Those who say can't know. Those who know can't say.
(D) My speech and silence are by law contracted.
(O) I trust my stopped clock only twice a day.

(O) The confidential briefing is today:
(D) [redacted] says [redacted] did [redacted];
(O) Those who say can't know. Those who know can't say.

(D) The men in suits want answers, on display,
(N) The public must be led astray, distracted.
(O) I trust my stopped clock only twice a day.

(D) The nuances of evidence I weigh
(N) Have been (for clarity) all but extracted.
(O) Those who say can't know. Those who know can't say.

(O) So now the speechwriters can freely say
(N) That he did not what I know he, in fact, did.
(O) I trust my stopped clock only twice a day.

(D) I saw it on the news, and turned away.
(N) The shell was left, the essence was extracted.
(O) Those who say can't know. Those who know can't say.
(O) I trust my stopped clock only twice a day.

#85 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2007, 05:44 AM:

In prose, I am violently allergic to statements that come out to "I know something, I can't tell you why I know it, but trust me, it's true." Particularly when others then announce their membership in the Secret Cabal That I Am Not Part Of*, in ways unhelpful** to my understanding.

So though I sympathise with Robert Glaub's position (vide supra), and though the vouchings-for are persuasive, I'll class his statements as unsupportable information from possible experts†.

* Even though it's unintended, the "Neener" subtext is hard to escape.
** As opposed to Terry's comment, which was very helpful.
† Which still ranks them above most politicians' statements.

#86 ::: Dena Shunra ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2007, 10:26 AM:

Abi @85, while I agree completely, the part that is worrying me is not what Robert Glaub said.

It is that our government says: "due to situation X, discussion of the subject could constitute grounds for being Padillaed" - because by raising the question of whether it is indeed a terrorist organization, one could conceivably be deemed to be offering the (probably nefarious) organization support.

In other words, the factual veracity is not the problem - it is the consequences under U.S. law of discussing them that make my skin crawl.

This does not reflect on what Robert said or indeed about anything he *could* say about facts of any matter. The problem for me is not "does the designation rest in fact" but "are we being unjustly and unconstitutionally barred at the threat of arrest from the discussion of a political question?"

The current administration seeks to curb speech administratively. THAT is my problem.

#87 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2007, 11:16 AM:

Terry 81: I made a mistake.

A stopped clock is correct twice a day. I am not willing to go on the record with such an assertion about the present administration's leadership.

Terry, I assumed you were referring to stopped military clocks, which are right only once a day. Also, I would like to point out that a(n analog) clock running backwards is right four times a day. Being even wronger can increase your rightness percentage...I suspect by a process similar to stochastic resonance, though I have no data on that. People who reason soundly from false assumptions (a clock that runs correctly but has been set to the wrong initial time) are right only by coincidence, which is a shame.

Earl 79: One original statement was "Even Bush and Cheney occasionally do something write." Does this mean that the last word isn't actually misspelled, and is intentionally used to present a content-neutral statement that can easily be misinterpreted to mean something else?

Though functional illiterates do rule,
And at the holy realm of Science smirk;
Though they their governmental duties shirk,
And Bush himself is kindly called a fool,
Of their agenda courts are made a tool,
And "equal justice" laughed at as a quirk;
Ignoring Law is treated as a perk
Of office; all the Bushies from that pool
Do drink—still, yet, at intervals a page
Or two from White House workshops does emerge;
Though filled with evil, and with grammar slight,
Designed to stir the kindest heart to rage
(Frex ref the docs pertaining to the "Surge"),
From time to time do Bushies something write.

#88 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2007, 11:23 AM:

abi 84: OK, I caught the acrostic reference to The Dispossessed in your unofficial villanelle, and later the expression of dismay, I can't make out what 'DNO' or 'DNOO' stand for. "Do Not Open" and "Do Not Officially Open" maybe? Please reveal the secret!

Apologies if I should have rot-13'd the above, naq lrf, V'z xvqqvat.

#89 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2007, 12:09 PM:

Xopher @87
Sonnet! Duuude!

& @88:
I could tell you, but I would have to kill you. If you're serious, whfg erzrzore gung guvegl-guerr ecz vf abg gur fcrrq gb cynl guvf qvfx. I can't really say more than that; you'll have to go by what I haven't said.

#90 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2007, 12:22 PM:

j h woodyhatt, abi This is a hard topic (at least for me). Not so much because the material is off limits (I think I can make all sorts of inference, and speak them, without going to jail), but because, as has been said, the only thing Robert Glaub said was something I didn't need to have couched in the, "I've seen unspeakable things" mode.

j h woodyhat, forgive me if I extrapolated too much ignorance. It's a strange thing, the world governed by AR 380-10, and it's parallel strictures, and I assume (with all the perils thereto) someone doesn't know them, at all, unless they tell me so. To be honest, I was writing for more than just you.

abi, thank you for letting me know it was helpful (whichever comment it was, I think I know, and I am guilty, above that, of doing not much more than 1: announce that my back was up, and 2: announce, ot loud, my being a Knight who says, "neener".)

I appreciate, and agree, with the "Neener" subtext. It annoys me too. It always bothers me when I have to mention that I know things I can't share the details of. It really annoys me when 1: I don't have a need to know, and therefore can't look at the evidence directly, and the more when 2: I do have a need to know, can look at the evidence, and then can't share it.

Which is part of what gives me pause about what was said. I know what I am doing when I reach into that bag, and have to do the "trust me" shtick and it's because I feel the information I can share is crucial to the discussion. I then point out the limits of my ability to add detail; up front, so as to prevent a loss of credibility later when someone asks for follow-up I can't deliver. I have to accept the trade off of lessened credibility with the people I am trying to persuade (now) against a complete collapse of it (later).

But it grates (from both directions).

The thing which you can call a villanelle in official communications (to unpack the qualifying phrase) was wonderful. I may have to copy it out.

Xopher: Even using a 24-hour clock, I think once a day gives too steady a rate of correctness.

#91 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2007, 12:33 PM:

Terry @90:
Comment 78 was a good exposition of the methods of approach to Robert's statement. It's like having a dictionary or a grammar to prove that a sentence is, indeed, in a given language rather than being gobbledegook.

I'm glad you like the villanelle (that's the title up at the top being pointlessly restrictive and confusing). On consideration, I would rewrite the first line of the fifth stanza from

(O) So now the speechwriters can freely say


(O) And now the men on television say

It scans better.

#92 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2007, 12:37 PM:

"Liberty, shmiberty."
Big Brother W
Said to his loyal krewe,
"Rule by decree!"

"How dare they say that is
Liberal terrorists!
Hang on a tree!!"

(For a while, I was holding out to use "unconstitutional" for a double dactyl about Alberto Gonzales, but it works here, too.)

#93 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2007, 12:44 PM:

abi 89: Hey, I write sonnets! I just can't dash them off at a moment's notice like you and Fragano. Villanelles so far have defeated me, though. As for the sonnet, the phrase 'occasionally do something write' tickled my sonnet bone and wouldn't stop.

Actually, a similar phenomenon started my coven's tradition of writing a sonnet every year for Brigid's Day; a student of mine said that during Hurricane Gloria she went down to the water "to watch the angry ocean boil and boil," and I told her she should write a sonnet with that as the last line. She didn't, so I did, and I made everyone write sonnets after that.

And I understand your statement, and in addition that your villanelle is ibvq jurer cebuvovgrq, yvzvgrq, be gnkrq; pbybe naq pbafvfgrapl znl inel.

Terry 90: I concur, though it does seem to me that they might be asked questions like "what did you have for breakfast this morning," which even they might be able to answer correctly...the stopped clock is correct, but even its correctness is useless if you know it's stopped.

#94 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2007, 01:09 PM:

Xopher: my wife says Bush doesn't rate a sonnet. I referred her to the place in Glory Road where Scar says that the highest local art form is to address your enemy in some difficult poetic form (he suggests the sestina), "with every line dripping vitriol".

#95 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2007, 01:17 PM:

Xopher: A correct response to a non-policy question is immaterial to the matter at hand, as those are personal details, not official pronouncements.

abi Yeah, that'a s problem with learning a subset of a language. It looks like gibberish to those who don't speak the dialect. When one has soaked in the dialect, so that it is transparent (or as transparent as can be, in this context) there's a huge amount of processing which goes on.

I probably could have unpacked a lot more of what was/wasn't said, how it was presented and what I might want to infer from it, but the bona fides of the presenter mean a lot; and I just don't have much to go on, so I don't read more into it that what was said.

That's why things like "Curveball" are so bad. It's why torture doesn't work. It's why more than one source for information is needed to move it from the, "Boy I want this to be true" to "I can say it's good" to "This is rock solid."

Where problems come into play is when someone who has good credibility falls for something which is crap; but it gets play because of the reputation they enjoy.

Which is why (I think) they tried to discredit Joe Wilson. He had credibility with Congress, and his comments cast a pall on the farrago they'd built the case for war on.

#96 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2007, 01:22 PM:

Terry 95: I meant that their correctness is largely limited to irrelevant matters. In other words, I agree.

#97 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2007, 03:30 PM:

Xopher @93
Hey, I write sonnets! I just can't dash them off at a moment's notice like you and Fragano.

Confession: I actually did a (view all by) for you after you posted that, because I wondered if I'd somehow been missing a mother lode of Xopher sonnets. That did not read like a first sonnet; you know the tensions of the form.

Villanelles so far have defeated me, though.

It's not a form I'm comfortable with. The repetition doesn't sound natural enough to me*, and I like my verse** to sound like normal writing†.

As for the sonnet, the phrase 'occasionally do something write' tickled my sonnet bone and wouldn't stop.
And that is why I wrote the villanelle. It was two phrases, and they even rhymed, so what could I do?

(Wrenching this comment back on topic‡) I am interested to note how much like poetry intelligence seems to be. Jim's comment @61 ( have to read what was said very exactly. And you have to understand what wasn't said.) could stand unaltered in a manual on reading poetry.

Which leads to the possibility of Intelligence Poetry.

Bletchly's Oracle
Divines the enigmatic.
Change your code-books now.

* Except in the hands of a master.
** Lyric verse, anyway. Epic verse is another matter.
† To the point where I embedded a sonnet in my last test completion report for my previous employer. If you knew where to put the line breaks in, there it was. Otherwise, it was just a slightly laboured paragraph.
‡ Until the footnotes drag it in all directions again.

#98 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2007, 03:57 PM:

Xopher #87: Good show!

Abi #97: Bletchley.

I know the secrets and I may not tell
you what I know, for fear that alien eyes
connect the dots to fact from pure surmise.
The penalty for speaking is pure hell;
we must keep silence, enemies repel,
lest our great acts the multitude despise.
Facts are protected with a guard of lies;
I speak no truths, they have muffled my bell.
No one who speaks, I say, can truly know
all that we understand about those folk.
I speak with kindness, I could not be cruel
but nothing I can say could make things go
any better. The fear of foreign yoke
requires that on the fire we cast more fuel.

#99 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2007, 05:31 PM:

abi 97: Confession: I actually did a (view all by) for you after you posted that, because I wondered if I'd somehow been missing a mother lode of Xopher sonnets. That did not read like a first sonnet; you know the tensions of the form.

Thanks! It's probably the first topical sonnet I've written, and almost certainly the first time I've posted one on ML. But I wrote my first sonnet at 16, more than 30 years ago now, and have written them with some regularity since then.

#100 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2007, 06:36 PM:

Search the raw data however you will,
hope for connections to help you decide.
Write a report that your seniors deride.
This is the path through the analyst's mill.
Grinding the facts small in hope that your skill
can produce a high likelihood tale to confide
to the ones who can use it in future to guide
their courses with actions their plans to fulfill.
After a failure your work was the cause,
after success, well, it merely inspired;
what hope do you have that it can work out right?
Take in as much as you can without pause.
Let out only as much as required.
See only what's visible from a great height.

#101 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2007, 06:40 PM:


I didn't see the acrostic, but I did see something in the first line of the final quatrain that I liked very much as a reminder of just how counterfactual this whole business is: the English Army has not just won the war.

#102 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2007, 06:48 PM:

Bruce @101
The "acrostic" is something Xopher saw in the line by line classifications. I had actually classified each line, and didn't think too much of the effect.

The reference in the last stanza is deliberate. I'm glad you like it.

I'm loving the sonnets in this thread!

#103 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2007, 06:57 PM:

Bruce 100: That's an interesting hybrid form. It has the rhymescheme of a sonnet (Italian), but it's dactyl instead of iambic.

#104 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2007, 07:40 PM:

Bruce #100: Interesting. For some reason, I kept thinking of pepper.

#105 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2007, 07:41 PM:

Xopher @ 103

The first two lines came out that way and just set the scansion up for the rest of the poem. It felt right for the meter to urge the lines on to fit the frustration and concern of the analyst I wanted to convey. I suppose I could have dumped the sonnet rhyme scheme when the dactyls worked out, but I'm not as good at rhyming as I want to be, so I keep to forms I know to force myself to practice.

#106 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2007, 07:50 PM:

There is one rule that we must here obey
to win the prize and let our spirits fly
above the common sort beneath our sky,
the ones on whom we the more lucky prey.
They are our food, we can't just let them stray
over the earth. We'd just be getting by
when we should be above them, soaring high
and clouding their most ordinary day.
Otherwise, from all fetters we are free
to lie like deviant angels while the sons
and daughters of the people merely weep
as on each solemn grave they plant a tree.
We are the noblest sort, for we're the ones
who fly in comfort while the many creep.

#107 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2007, 09:10 PM:

As we look up from our poor earth below,
we see the great ascending on the wind.
We know they hold us small, think we have sinned,
by not inheriting. Our blood boils slow,
but sure, more as our owners' greed doth grow.
They do not care a whit, for we are pinned
beneath their wings, our numbers thinned
where they wish to reside or just to go.
What message would I wish for them to hear
within their palaces of wealth and favor?
I'd wish for them to know just how it feels
to live a life so small, so ruled by fear
that all I have, and love, and savor
can disappear beneath their deals.

#108 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2007, 09:42 PM:

My life’s too small for them to care about,
But still I live, and I am worth as much
As they, though they’d with laughter at me shout.
My heart’s as full, my hands as gently touch
The ones I love, who are as small as I.
The pow’rs aloft need never miss a meal,
While we the earthbound fear to wonder why
Our children must so often beg or steal.
The wind that lifts them high above the rest
May quickly dash them down to earth,
And when the soaring greats have failed the test
Why then the small may point and laugh with mirth.
Though “TANJ” is true, and we the small cannot
The unjust tangle of the world unknot.

#109 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2007, 09:42 PM:

The poor don't count, we buy them at bulk rate
and they are grateful for a mouldy crust
dropped in the gutter, they're lower than dust
and should when we can do it be shipped freight.
It's not that we these humble beings hate
but that our swords unblooded sit and rust
and there's no outlet for our great bloodlust,
so we just slaughter them and call it fate.
Our enemy was a mere petty despot
who quaked whenever he heard our swift planes,
but it was easy on him to pin a crime.
So now poor folk are dying out in Mespot
in order that our glory never wanes
and we preserve our greatness for all time.

#110 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2007, 09:51 PM:

TexAnne #108: Nicely done. I knew you had it in you.

#111 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: August 30, 2007, 02:45 AM:

OK, here's how I see the situation:

President Bush has formally designated the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organisation, triggering all sorts of legal strictures on interactions with them made within reach of US law (which is currently damnably sweeping--consider the new extradition treaty between the US and UK as an example of how such things are going).

President Bush's credibility is somewhat threadbare. He has a history of making claims that turn out to contradict the evidence.

A statement has been made in this thread, by somebody who is known to some of our most trustworthy participants, to the effect that in this case the President is correct, but the detailed information needed to prove this is something he cannot talk about.

At this point we seem to hit a dead end, and let me make a brief analogy which might bring out the big problem.

There's a rapid series of gunshots out in the street. Everyone rushes out, and there is Jimmy Stewart standing over the corpse of a notorious local criminal, holding a smoking gun. The corpse is clutching a gun, which has been fired.

We definitely have a homicide here. Does it amount to murder. And just who was the man who shot Liberty Vallance?

President Bush isn't even one of the men who walked out onto the street. And we know nothing that can tell us whether or not, somewhere in the chain between what happens and what lands on his desk, we have the equivalent of that film's newspaper editor.

#112 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: August 30, 2007, 03:55 AM:

Fragano @ 104

Hmm ... I posted something that seems to have been eaten by the voidsucker somewhere along the line. Pardon my ignorance, but I don't get the allusion to pepper.

#113 ::: Mez ::: (view all by) ::: August 30, 2007, 05:33 AM:

Bruce (#112) I think Fragano's reference to pepper at 104 may come from this:

"the analyst's mill/Grinding the facts small"

Possibly unlike USians, my first 'pepper' connotation is to the Piper spp, not the Capsicum ones, which might help that connexion, and Fragano may have a similar background (condimentally, anyway).

#114 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: August 30, 2007, 09:41 AM:

Thank you, Mez, I am stupid again today. Both salt and pepper come from a mill most of the time around this house, it comes out fresher that way. So way didn't I get the connection? It may be because "mill" is overloaded in my head; years ago my family lived in rural Pennsylvania in a converted sawmill where the water wheel and most of the rest of the machinery had been left as curiosities. Whenever anyone asked where I lived I'd tell them, "In the Old Mill." which was much too big to grind pepper.

#115 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: August 30, 2007, 10:22 AM:

Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) #112: Pepper is ground in a mill, that was my thought.

#116 ::: Robert Glaub ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2007, 04:51 PM:

I apologize for my absence; I had a medical emergency that necessitated my being away from the board. I am willing to discuss matters if others are...

#118 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2007, 07:35 PM:

Earl Cooley III #117: Dammit, why does even good news leave a queasy feeling of unease and disgust?

Oh yeah, it's because it's all I know how to feel anymore.

That is good news indeed, though.

#119 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2007, 09:15 PM:

People use to say that a sharp increase in pizza deliveries to the Pentagon was a war warning. I wonder if that also correlates with Pepto-Bismol sales?

#120 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2007, 10:19 PM:

Old Plato had it, for the truth derides
Our sense. The cave does not exist. The light
Is never perfect, and our faulty sight
Can never see what is not there, or hides
Behind the light itself. And that's besides
The question of intent. Who says what's right
Where every mirror mazes? What abides
Among these images? And who decides
What is? And who will make it write?

The waves run hissing up the tidal beach.
The water's there, and then it's not. The same
Inconstancy is in all things. A flame.
A cloud. A child. So should we therefore preach
No sea nor fire, sky nor life? Or reach
Beyond, to find the truth that has no name?

#121 ::: FungiFromYuggoth ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2007, 01:58 PM:

For anyone keeping score: Iran labels CIA [and US Army] 'Terrorist Organization[s]'.

To me, this looks like international neenering more than a prelude to anything else.

#123 ::: Fragano Ledgister sees spam ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2012, 08:09 AM:

Idiotic canned meat being served.

#124 ::: Caroline sees spam ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2012, 11:02 PM:

Spam eggs bacon and spam.

(But I don't like spam!)

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