Buying poppies from Afghanis

Interesting to see that the idea is not being entirely discounted. I posted on it a few months back.

Vague said analysts had suggested that the United States buy Afghanistan’s illicit drug crops as a way of easing tensions. He says that’s no crazier than the way the United States paid tens of thousands of insurgents – “our former Sunni antagonists” – to stop shootings in Iraq.

“This all seems absurd in the context of our current economic crisis,” Vague added. He hopes spring reinforcements will be the last troops we’ll need to send.

Nir Rosen and the Taliban

Nir Rosen, veteran of reporting from Fallujah at the height of the insurgency in Iraq, writes in the latest issue of Rolling Stone about the Taliban. Or rather, he writes about his time spent with the Taliban in Afghanistan.

By the time we reach the town of Salar, only 50 miles south of Kabul, we have already passed five tractor-trailers from military convoys that have been destroyed by the Taliban. The highway, newly rebuilt courtesy of $250 million, most of it from U.S. taxpayers, is pocked by immense craters, most of them caused by roadside bombs planted by Taliban fighters.

As they say, read the whole (rather lengthy) thing.

Hitchens is waterboarded

Believe me, it’s torture, says Hitchens.

Which returns us to my starting point, about the distinction between training for something and training to resist it. One used to be told—and surely with truth—that the lethal fanatics of al-Qaeda were schooled to lie, and instructed to claim that they had been tortured and maltreated whether they had been tortured and maltreated or not. Did we notice what a frontier we had crossed when we admitted and even proclaimed that their stories might in fact be true? I had only a very slight encounter on that frontier, but I still wish that my experience were the only way in which the words “waterboard” and “American” could be mentioned in the same (gasping and sobbing) breath.

You may find this video distressing.

Deterring terrorists

Shmuel Bar, who is director of studies at the Institute for Policy and Strategy at the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC), Herzliya, writes in the latest edition of Policy Review. The subject of his essay is what Israel has learned about deterring terrorists. It’s a good read, and he even manages to quote one Gerry Adams.

While it is true that the individual suicide bomber cannot be deterred, the main conclusion of this article is that deterrence towards terrorist organizations is possible. Israel has achieved temporary and fragile deterrence vis- à-vis Hezbollah and the Palestinians over the years. There is no doubt that some periods of relative quiet have derived from a desire not to provoke an Israeli reaction to a terrorist attack that would neutralize any benefit from such an attack. This occasional tactical deterrence has been achieved not by the threat of force or by an image of Israel ’s capability (after all, the terrorist organization is, by definition, struggling against a much stronger adversary), but by actual application of force and by inducing the fear that the force would be reapplied and even increased.

Deterrence of this type is difficult to distinguish from disruption or from operational considerations that dictate when and where to perform acts of terrorism — as opposed to deterrence that deals with whether or not to do it. Deterrence in such cases does not take effect immediately after force has been applied, but after a period of situation estimate, and after some time its effects begin to wear off. One may say that effective deterrence has an element of dramaturgy; a gun that fires in the first act is no longer relevant for dramatic purposes in the last act. The “audience” gets used to the shots and the deterrence is eroded. Hence, it is necessary from time to time to refresh the awareness of the terrorist leadership that the state will indeed employ force. To paraphrase a well-known expression of classic deterrence, the state that attempts to deter terrorism must “ speak loudly and periodically use a big stick.

Triple suicide at Guantanamo camp

I have to say I am somewhat dismayed by the reaction of the US authorities to the suicide of three Guantanamo inmates:

Rear Adm Harris said he did not believe the men had killed themselves out of despair.

“They are smart. They are creative, they are committed,” he said, quoted by Reuters.

“They have no regard for life, either ours or their own. I believe this was not an act of desperation, but an act of asymmetrical warfare waged against us.”

It’s very smart and creative alright. They really do have no regard for their lives? It was an act of asymmetrical warfare?

It actually reads like something from the Daily Show. Even if these guys were cold-blooded murderers, would they still commit suicide as a method of ‘asymmetrical warfare’? I could understand if they took some of the guards down with them, ala suicide bombing, but what purpose does it serve by simply taking your own life?

In fact, given that these men are incarcerated without trial, without due process, without recourse, and without the normal system open to murderers on US soil, why would they do such a thing.

I have to apply a form of Occam’s Razor (entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem)to this and ask, what is more likely the simplest reason? That they commited suicide as an act of war against the US, or that they were driven to it after 4 or 5 years of internment and extreme interrogation?

You decide.

Zarqawi Killed

CNN are showing a video of the airstrike that has apparently killed one of the most wanted men in the world, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

Whether or not his death will affect the overall insurgency remains to be seen. It could be just as likely that his successor will carry on as ever, though without the same propaganda effect Zarqawi had, having evaded capture for so long.

Incidentally, the notorious US ambassador to the UN, John Bolton, will be on Newsnight tonight, discussing the death of Zarqawi, and probably his recent run-ins over the comments of Mark Brown.

Passenger shot on Florida plane

London shooting take two?

A passenger claiming to have a bomb on board an American Airlines plane in Miami has been shot and wounded by a US federal officer, officials have said.

The passenger, who has been arrested, was challenged by the air marshal after he seemed to reach into a bag. He tried to flee and was shot.

The incident is said to have occurred on the jetway between the plane and the airport terminal.

The plane had just arrived from Colombia, and was headed to Orlando.

C.I.A. Asks Criminal Inquiry Over Secret-Prison Article

As John speculated in a comment on here last week, the CIA are seeking information about the leak.

Notes the NY Times:

The Central Intelligence Agency has asked the Justice Department to open a criminal investigation to determine the source of a Washington Post article that said the agency had set up a covert prison network in Eastern Europe and other countries to hold important terrorism suspects, government officials said on Tuesday.

The C.I.A.’s request, known as a crimes report or criminal referral, means that the Justice Department will undertake a preliminary review to determine if circumstances justify a criminal inquiry into whether any government official unlawfully provided information to the newspaper. The possibility of this new investigation follows by less than two weeks the perjury and obstruction indictment of I. Lewis Libby Jr., then Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, in a leak case involving other news reporting about a national security issue.