Tuesday, October 30, 2007
Critics and commentators were having so much fun that almost no one noticed that no immunity from prosecution had, in fact, been granted. See the New York Times story here: "A Justice Department spokesman, Dean Boyd, said in a statement that Blackwater employees could be prosecuted despite the immunity deals, which were not authorized by federal prosecutors. He said that neither the Justice Department nor the F.B.I. could discuss the case, but said "any suggestion that the Blackwater employees in question have been given immunity from federal criminal prosecution is inaccurate."
What the Blackwater operators received from Diplomatic Security officials in Baghdad was a so-called "Garrity" statement, a common practice in internal police or security investigations when an employee is mandated to make a statement in connection with an on-the-job incident. Since the employee is compelled to make the statement on pain of being fired, it can't be used against him later without violating his Constitutional right against self incrimination, as recognized in the Garrity vs. New Jersey court decision, among others.
The "Garrity" statement doesn't prevent the employee from being prosecuted, however, the prosecutor can't use the statement or anything resulting from it. Here's an example of a Garrity statement, courtesy of a local Virginia police organization:
"On ___________(date) ___________(time) at _____________(place) I was ordered to submit this report (give this statement) by _____________________(name & rank). I submit this report (give this statement) at his order as a condition of my employment. In view of possible job forfeiture, I have no alternative but to abide by this order."
"It is my belief and understanding that the department requires this report (statement) solely and exclusively for internal purposes and will not release it to any other agency. It is my further belief that this report (statement) will not and cannot be used against me in any subsequent proceedings. I authorize release of this report to my attorney or designated union representative."
"I retain the right to amend or change this statement upon reflection to correct any unintended mistake without subjecting myself to a charge of untruthfulness."
"For any and all other purposes, I hereby reserve my constitutional right to remain silent under the FIFTH and FOURTEENTH AMENDMENTS to the UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION and any other rights PRESCRIBED by law. Further, I rely specifically upon the protection afforded me under the doctrines set forth in Garrity v. New Jersey, 385 U.S. 493 (1967), and Spevack v. Klien, 385 U.S. 551 (1956), should this report (statement) be used for any other purpose of whatsoever kind or description."
My guess is that prosecution will not be possible, but that will be due to a lack of evidence, principally a lack of witnesses who can be brought to the U.S. and cross-examined in court. The "Garrity" statements will have nothing to do with it. Nonetheless, State and Diplomatic Security will get a certain amount of unfair blame.
Friday, October 26, 2007
Naturally, HAMAS reacted by firing five more rockets at the town of Sderot today. So far, the Israeli authorities haven't cut the juice to the jihadis.
Here's my summary of significant past events for this week. They include the assassination of Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, and the very nearly successful attempt to assassinate U.S. President Harry Truman.
But the event that I find most intriguing was the 1972 hostage-taking operation by Black September - meaning, in reality, by Al-Fatah and Yassir Arafat - that coerced the West German government into releasing the three surviving Black September terrorists who had committed the Munich Olympic Massacre just eight weeks earlier. Germany released the prisoners to Libya, where they were welcomed as heroes and held a press conference (photo above, from the documentary film One Day in September).
That rank capitulation by the Federal Republic of Germany seemed to prove that nation-states, at least the democratic ones, could not stand up to terrorism. If that was true, it would challenge the foundation of nation-state sovereignty that is the basis of world order.
Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir, who up to that point had been reluctant to take unilateral action, now agreed to launch Operation Wrath of God, a covert effort to kill those responsible for the Munich Massacre and to conduct other retaliatory and pre-emptive attacks on terrorist groups.
In 1977, West Germany finally cowboyed-up and created it's own hardline 'no concessions' antiterrorism policy after the German Autumn.
2002 (Jordan) - Lawrence Foley, age 62, the Executive Director of the U.S. Agency for International Development in Jordan, was assassinated as he left his home in Amman en route to his office at the U.S. Embassy. In December 2002, the Jordanian authorities arrested several suspects with ties to al-Qaeda who confessed to the attack. According to a December 15th story in the Jordan Times that quoted the Jordanian Information Minster, the suspects monitored several potential targets before singling out Foley after they noted he had regular home-to-office departure times and would be an easy target. One of the suspects hid behind Foley's car, armed with a silenced pistol and wearing a bulletproof vest, and shot him several times as he was unlocking the driver’s door. Foley's wife discovered his body.
In October, 2003, five men accused in the plot to kill Foley repudiated their confessions, and claimed that security officials had tortured them. In April, 2003, all of the accused were convicted, some in absentia.
1972 (West Germany) – Three Black September Organization terrorists hijacked a Lufthansa airliner and demanded the release of three other BSO members imprisoned in Germany for the Munich Olympics massacre, which had occurred two months earlier. The German government complied and released the prisoners to Libya. That capitulation to terrorism convinced Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir to launch a unilateral campaign of retaliatory and pre-emptive attacks on Palestinian terrorist groups. The three freed terrorists (Adnan Al Gashey, Jamal Al Gashey and Mohammed Safedy) went into hiding.
2005 (India) – Three simultaneous bombings in New Delhi killed 55 persons and wounded almost 200, in the second deadliest terrorist attack in Indian history. The bombings came two days before the festival of Diwali, which is celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs, and Jains. The bombs were placed inside vehicles in high-traffic venues – two markets in central and south Delhi – and inside a bus. The Islamic Inquilab Mahaz, also known as the Islamic Revolutionary Front, claimed responsibility on an Islamic website. The bombs consisted of RDX plastic explosive and were detonated by timers. Many of the victims were Hindus and Sikhs shopping before the Diwali festival.
2000 (Spain) – A judge and two aides were killed and more than 30 person wounded in an ETA carbomb attack in Madrid.
1971 (United Kingdom) – A bomb exploded in the Post Office Tower in London, causing extensive damage but no injuries. The blast occurred in the public viewing galleries on the 33rd floor, shortly after police received a warning call that claimed that the "Kilburn Battalion" of the IRA was behind the attack. The Post Office Tower is a historic site that was used for restaurants and retail shops. It was closed to the public after the bombing. The attack was one of the Provisional IRA's earliest on UK targets.
1984 (India) – The Prime Minister of India, Indira Gandhi, was assassinated by Sikh militants. Gandhi had offended the Sikhs when she authorized the army to storm their holiest temple, the Golden Temple, in an attempt to suppress a Punjab religious leader and his separatist political movement. In retaliation for the desecration of their shrine, two of Gandhi's Sikh guards, Satwant Singh and Beant Singh, shot her to death in the garden of the Prime Minister's Residence as she walked through the gate they were guarding. When her death was announced anti-Sikh violence spread across the country, killing thousands.
1950 (United States) – Two members of the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party attempted to assassinate President Harry Truman, invading his temporary residence at Blair House and shooting two Secret Service agents and one White House Policeman before they were stopped. The attack was intended to draw attention to the Nationalist armed uprising that was then occurring in Puerto Rico, which included an attempt on the life of the island’s governor.
In the brief gunfight at Blair House, Oscar Collazo fired the first shot but was quickly wounded by two nearby Secret Service agents and collapsed. Griselio Torresola took advantage of the distraction Collazo caused, and came close to entering the residence, firing eight rounds that hit White House Policeman Leslie Coffelt and two Secret Service agents. He was reloading his pistol outside the residence entrance when President Truman stuck his head out of a window, presenting Torresola a clear target at a range of 31 feet. Before Torresola finished reloading, Coffelt, although mortally wounded, stood up, carefully aimed his revolver, and fired one round that hit Torresola two inches above the ear, killing him instantly and ending the gunfight. Cofflet died four hours later.
Oscar Collazo was convicted of attempted murder and sentenced to death, later commuted by President Truman to life imprisonment. Pardoned by President Carter in 1979, he returned to Puerto Rico where he died in 1994.
1986 (Lebanon) – A U.S. citizen held hostage in Beirut by the Islamic Jihad Organization for 17 months was released. David Jacobsen's release was the third such success publically credited to the efforts of the British Archbishop of Canterbury's special envoy, Terry Waite. However, it later became known that all of these hostage releases were really the product of secret bartering between White House National Security Council staffers, including Oliver North, and the Iranian regime that sponsored Islamic Jihad in Lebanon. Terry Waite served as the public front for four U.S. hostage releases before Islamic Jihad lost confidence in him and held him hostage from 1987 to 1991.
All the Democrats are predictably appalled and aghast over the idea of torturing anybody, but who are they kidding? Am I the only one who's noticed the eerie resemblance between Hillary and Nurse Ratched??? She's the last person I'd want to see coming at me with hot pokers.
The Bush administration is adjusting its legal guidelines on torture, and the new Attorney General nominee was put on the rack himself, metaphorically speaking, on the second day of his Senate confirmation hearing. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse went medieval on Judge Michael Mukassey and demanded he crack and talk about whether waterboarding is constitutional.
According to CNN, Mukasey responded "I don't know what's involved in the techniques. If waterboarding is torture, torture is not constitutional."
Whitehouse continued, "'If it's torture.' That's a massive hedge, I mean it either is or it isn't. Do you have an opinion whether waterboarding -- which is the practice of putting someone in a reclining position, strapping them down, putting cloth over their faces and pouring water over the cloth to simulate the feeling of drowning -- is that constitutional?"
"If that amounts to torture, it is not constitutional," Mukasey said.
"I'm very disappointed in that answer," Whitehouse said.
The most sensible policy on torture that I've ever heard comes from that great movie Lawrence of Arabia. I refer to the scene wherein the old Arab chieftain King Feisal, played by Alec Guinness (photo above), is interviewed by the American newspaperman Jackson Bentley and they discuss Turkish barbarities and the treatment of prisoners of war:
(King Feisal) Our own prisoners are taken care of until the British can relieve us of them, according to the Code. I should like you to notice that.
(Bentley) Yes, sir. Is that the influence of Major Lawrence?
(Feisal) Why should you suppose so?
(Bentley) It's just that I heard in Cairo that Major Lawrence has a horror of bloodshed.
(Feisal) That is exactly so. With Major Lawrence, mercy is a passion. With me, it is merely good manners. You may judge which motive is the more reliable.
I take his point. If I were the one on the waterboard, I'd prefer an interrogator who felt constrained by mere good manners.
Thursday, October 25, 2007
It must be a first, a convict on death row who has a note from his doctor saying he's too sick to be executed. The Federal Appeals Court in Mobile, Alabama, has granted him a stay.
This is the money quote:
"Siebert's attorney submitted a letter from an oncologist, Dr. Jimmie Harvey of Birmingham, that says "complications could arise" from the drug combinations [that would be used to execute him]."
Here's the whole story: Contra Costa Times
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
See today's Washington Times story, in which Blackwater points the finger of blame at State for turning down it's proposal to install dashboard cameras on convoy vehicles back in 2005: Here
Blackwater's CEO has recently expressed his resentment about the lack of any public support from the State Department for Blackwater. Evidently he is now starting a media campaign of his own, complete with leaks of e-mails. The e-mail leak, and the naming of two of my fellow bureaucrats in the above story, suggest to me that Mr. Prince must see the writing on the wall about the renewal of his contract with State (which I believe is due in May, 2008). Evidently he's cutting loose from State, and trying to salvage his company's reputation for future clients.
Part of that defensive media campaign is this Blog, Blackwater Facts.
The Blog was created in September, 2007, purportedly by "friends of Blackwater," but it's pretty obviously a corporate front. Today's Washington Times story was discussed in a post Blackblawg published yesterday, before today's Times edition came out.
This new twist might just make for Washington's latest pair of strange bedfellows. Is Blackwater's CEO passing tidbits of insider info to Rep. Waxman for him to use against the State Department and the administration? I've noted Waxman's occasional asides to State Department witnesses before his committee to the effect that he gets better cooperation from Blackwater than from State. I'd thought it an odd thing for him to say, but maybe there was more truth to those remarks than I'd supposed.
P.S. - As I was posting this, I heard the news that Ambassador Griffin, State's Assistant Secretary for Diplomatic Security, has decided to resign. No reason has been given but, of course, the whole Blackwater issue and State's lack of adequate supervision of its protective details in Baghdad are the cause.
Sunday, October 21, 2007
That minor incident, in which no one died, illustrates much about the ruthlessness of terrorists and the vulnerability of civil infrastructure. More importantly, it illustrates the hopelessness of Western liberal expectations that Arab Islamist extremists who just happen to live in Western liberal societies will absorb Western liberal values and become just like us only swarthier. But the truth is that people don't change their core civilizational values easily, if at all. The attacker in that case was being manipulated by the Syrian government, but his willingness to kill a few hundred airline passengers bound for Israel was something that arose from his inner being.
Nizar Nawwaf aI-Mansur al-Hindawi became eligible for parole in 2001, but successive British Home Secretaries have barred the Parole Board from considering his case. A Home Secretary statement in 2003 noted that reports on Hindawi's behavior in prison did not demonstrate that he had "victim empathy, insight into the causes of his offense, or strategies to prevent further offending." Imagine that: the man who sent his clueless pregnant girlfriend off with a bomb in her suitcase lacks "victim empathy!" I suspect it would be more accurate to say that Hidawi only selectively lacks empathy, that is, he reserves his empathy for his coreligionists and withholds it from Jews and infidels.
2002 (Israel) – Fourteen people were killed and some 50 wounded when a car bomb containing about 100 kilograms of explosives was detonated alongside a bus at the Karkur junction. The bus had pulled over at a bus stop when the suicide bomber drove up from behind and exploded. The military wing of Islamic Jihad, the Al-Quds Brigades, claimed responsibility for the blast, saying that it was carried out by Ashraf al-Asama, age 18, and Mohammed al-Hasnin, age 19, both from Jenin.
1974 (United Kingdom) - A 5-pound bomb exploded inside Brooks Club, London, injuring three employees. Prime Minister Edward Heath was dining nearby, but was probably not the target since he had decided to dine at the club only a few minutes earlier. The bombing was one in a series of attacks on British clubs with military or establishment connections. The Provisional IRA was suspected. PM Heath had been the direct target of an IRA bomb attack earlier in 1974, and he was the target of a third bomb, at his home, before the year was over.
2002 (Russia) - Chechen terrorists seized the Palace of Culture theater in Moscow during a crowded performance, taking 850 persons hostage and demanding the withdrawal of Russian forces from Chechnya. After a siege of two and a half days, Russian Anny troops raided the building after inserting an aerosol anesthetic, evidently an opium-based compound, into the theater to overcome the hostage-takers. All of the 42 terrorists were killed, but 128 hostages died as well, almost all of them from the effects of the gas used to end the siege.
1983 (Lebanon) - Simultaneous truck bombs exploded at the US. Marine Battalion Landing Team barracks at Beirut airport and at a French Foreign Legion barracks four kilometer away, killing 246 Marines and 56 French troops.
The bomb used at the U.S. Marine target was the largest improvised explosive device charge on record, approximately equivalent to 12,000 pounds of TNT. It was loaded in a Mercedes-Benz delivery truck that drove up an access road toward the 1stBattalion, 8thMarines, headquarters, crashed through a fence around a parking lot, passed between two sentry posts, crashed through a gate and drove into the lobby of the Marine headquarters building. The building collapsed, crushing most of those inside. About 20 seconds later, an identical attack occurred against the barracks of the French Third Company of the Sixth Parachute Infantry Regiment, where another suicide bomber drove his truck down a ramp into that building's underground parking garage and detonated his bomb, leveling the headquarters.
The two suicide bombers were later identified as Abu Mazen, age 26, and Abu Sijaan, age 24, both members of the Free Islamic Revolutionary Movement, a group of Lebanese Shia Muslims and part of an extremist faction of the Amal militia that was then based in Syrian-occupied eastern Lebanon.
2001 (Ireland) -The Provisional IRA began decommissioning their weapons in accordance with the Northern Ireland peace process. In a statement the PIRA said: "In order to save the peace process we have implemented the scheme agreed with the IICD [Independent International Commission on Decommissioning] in August 2001." General John de Chastelain, head of the IICD, confirmed that a quantity of arms and explosives had been put "completely beyond use."
1986 (United Kingdom) -Nizar Nawwaf aI-Mansur al-Hindawi, a Jordanian with ties to Syria, was convicted of conspiracy to place a bomb aboard an Israeli EI Al flight from London to Tel Aviv in April, 1986. He was sentenced to 45 years imprisonment, the longest sentence ever given in British history. After the verdict was announced the British government broke diplomatic relations with Syria, the U.S. and Canada recalled their ambassadors from Damascus, and the EU imposed minor sanctions.
Hindawi was a resident of the UK in 1985 when he was recruited into the plot by officials of the Syrian Air Force intelligence organization. They provided him with explosives concealed in a suitcase, and Hindawi persuaded his pregnant British fiancee, Anne Mary Murphy, to unwittingly take the rigged suitcase with her to Tel Aviv, where she believed she was to meet her future in-laws. The bomb, which consisted of 3 pounds of Semtex plastic explosives and a detonator concealed in a pocket calculator, reportedly made it through two X-ray machines undetected and was only found by a hand search.
1995 (Malta) -The founder and leader of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad movement, Dr. Fathi al-Shaqaqi, was assassinated outside the Diplomat Hotel in Sliema, Malta. He had stopped in Malta on his way to Libya to visit Muammar al-Qaddafi, who had promised to finance the PIJ. Israel is suspected of sponsoring the attack in retaliation for a wave of PIJ suicide bombings in Israel during 1995.
The assassination was carried out professionally. As al-Shaqaqi was returning to his hotel, a gunman shot him five times with a silenced handgun that had been equipped with a device to catch ejected brass, then escaped on a waiting motorcycle driven by a second man. Since al-Shaqaqi was traveling under a false Lebanese passport, Maltese police didn't identify the victim until three days later.
The Palestinian Islamic Jihad movement often carries out attacks against Israeli targets on the anniversary of al-Shaqaqi's death. The PIJ, although composed of Sunni Muslims, follows the lead of the Iranian Shiite Revolution, and has a unique ideology that bridges the Sunni-Shiite divide. The PIJ claims the unity of the Islamic world is not a precondition for the liberation of Palestine; rather, the liberation of Palestine is the key to the unification of the Arab and Islamic world.
1998 (Paraguay) -Subhi Mahmoud Fayad, a Lebanese citizen and a major fund-raiser for Hizballah, was arrested by Paraguayan authorities after loitering on the street in front of the U.5. embassy in Asuncion. He is suspected of being a link between the Iranian embassy in Brasilia and Hizballah affiliates in the tri-border area near Ciudad del Este.
1982 (Northern Ireland) -Three Royal Ulster Constabulary officers who were patrolling near Belfast were killed by a roadside bomb that exploded under their armored car. The bomb was command-detonated via wire from a nearby hill. The explosive charge was large enough to throw the patrol car into a field and make a crater 60 feet wide and 25 feet deep. The IRA was presumed to be responsible. The attack coincided with the funeral of a Roman Catholic who was murdered in revenge for the abduction of a part-time Ulster Defense Regiment (Protestant, Loyalist) volunteer.
Monday, October 15, 2007
The December 2004 issue of the Foreign Service Journal carried a poem by William Roebuck, one of the diplomats who had been in the convoy and survived the attack. It was entitled “On the Road to Gaza.” Here's an excerpt:
Like so many trips before, some completed and reported on,
With this or that minister or snaggle-toothed PA security officer;
Many others aborted over obviously idle security concerns.
This one proceeded two miles into sunny Gaza,
Until we in the lead car were suddenly showered with dark dust
And strange debris and heard the explosion . . .
A temple of sorts had come tumbling down,
Crashing on our assumptions of safety and normality and
Our sense of importance that we were among friends, that we were spreading good will
And processing peace . . ."
Among friends, spreading good will and processing peace? I don't share the sentiments, but I believe that the phase accurately reflects the attitude of many U.S. Foreign Service Officers. If anything good can come of this attack, it will be the crashing down of those fuzzy assumptions.
1987 (Spain) – A small package bomb exploded near the front door of the U.S. Consulate in Barcelona, injuring eight Spanish nationals, including two Consulate employees. The Catalan Red Liberation Army (ERCA), a terrorist group with a fusion ideology based on Catalan territorial separatism and Marxist-Leninism, claimed responsibility. Unlike other Catalonian groups, ERCA has often attacked U.S. interests, including bombing the General Electric and Hewlett-Packard offices in Barcelona in May and June, respectively. It also killed a U.S. serviceman with a bomb in a bar in Barcelona.
2003 (Israel) – Palestinian militants attacked a U.S. diplomatic convoy as it entered the Gaza Strip at the Erez checkpoint, detonating a buried improvised explosive device that killed three Americans. The attack was the first to directly target U.S. interests in Israel, the West Bank, or Gaza. The Palestinian Authority (PA) had yet to identify the perpetrators.
The convoy was carrying a Public Diplomacy Officer to Gaza to interview an applicant for a Fulbright Scholarship. The three persons killed were Diplomatic Security high-threat protective detail contractors John Branchizio (age 36), John Linde (age 30), and Mark Parson (age 31).
1997 (Sri Lanka) – The Tamil Tigers (LTTE), apparently acting in response to a Sri Lankan crackdown on the rural Tamil insurrection, detonated a suicide truck bomb outside the 39-story World Trade Centre in Colombo, killing eighteen people and wounding 100. The WTC housed the Colombo Stock Exchange, the Central Bank and many foreign companies, and the attack was a strike at the Sri Lankan economy, which was just beginning to attract foreign investment.
2001 (Israel) – The Israeli right-wing politician, former General, and historian Rehavam Zeevi was assassinated by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). Zeevi was shot in the Hyatt hotel on Mount Scopus, Jerusalem, by four gunmen who intercepted him as he and his wife entered their hotel room. Zeevi was the only Israeli cabinet minister who did not have a personal protection detail.
PFLP acknowledged responsibility and stated that the action was in revenge for the assassination by Israel of Abu Ali Mustafa, PFLP Secretary-General, in August. The four PFLP members who killed Zeevi were captured five years later and put on trial in Israel in May, 2006.
2003 (Indonesia) – The Imam Samudra, convicted in the Bali bombing that killed over 100 persons, and in other terrorist attacks in Indonesia, was sentenced to death. Samudra taught at a religious school in the south of the Indonesia that was run by suspected leaders of the Jemaah Islamiah group and has been linked to al-Qaeda. According to prosecutors, Imam Samudra traveled to Afghanistan to learn bomb-making and to fight for the Taleban.
2000 Sri Lanka) – A suicide bomber attacked the town hall in Colombo just as President Chandrika Kumaratunga prepared to swear in a new Cabinet, wounding 23 persons. The Tamil Tigers (LTTE) were responsible.
1981 (Belgium) – A car bomb exploded outside the Antwerp Diamond Club opposite the Hoveniersstraat Synagogue, killing three persons. Responsibility was claimed by the Black September Organization, a PLO offshoot, although a local television station also claimed that the Belgian cell of Action Directe had also claimed responsibility. The attacker(s) were never identified.
Saturday, October 13, 2007
TSB spent the weekend at one of my favorite places, the Blackfriars Playhouse in Staunton, Virginia, watching a favorite play, The Winter's Tale. I'm always astounded by how familiar Shakespeare's characters seem. They twist language like born press spokesmen: Autolycus, the con-man and cut-purse, describes himself as "a collector of unconsidered trifles." Perfect spin!
As a bureaucrat, and someone with a passion for history, I just love Shakespeare. Most of his plays are about royal power struggles and court intrigues, things that are instantly recognizable as the Elizabethan form of inside-the-beltway politics. Before the creation of the nation-state, before modern administrative government with its Cabinet departments and civil servants, you had courts and courtiers. It was pretty much the same system we have today, only back then they wore fancier clothes.
What's more, Shakespeare became something of a bureaucrat himself after he received King James's royal commission and started turning out sublime propaganda for his new patron. He even re-named his theatrical company "The King's Men." Check out Shakespeare, the King's Playwright (Theater in the Stuart Court, 1603-1613) by Alvin Kernan for some insight into how the Bard's history plays did the King's bidding.
Shakespeare also wrote the book - well, the play - on politically motivated violence, AKA terrorism. MacBeth is only ostensibly a play about the murder of a Scottish king, it is really a dramatization of King James's clever spin on the Gunpowder Plot (which was an attempt to murder a Scottish king - King James himself). See Faith and Treason, by Antonia Fraser, for the story of the Plot. Among its many modern resonances, the Plot included the first-ever attempt to blow up a government office building - and by religious extremists, no less. You can't get much more modern than that!
If you ever find yourself near the Shenandoah Valley, I highly recommend a stop at the Blackfriars, the only place today where you can experience Shakespeare EXACTLY as it was staged in the original theater. Accept no substitutes: you can see Shakespeare any place, but anywhere else is really second-rate.
Tuesday, October 9, 2007
Here's my summary of significant past events for this week. It includes a mostly forgotten episode in Canadian history - the "October Crisis" of 1970 - when the leftist Prime Minister, Pierre Trudeau, astounded many by cracking down big-time on a separatist movement that had taken to terrorism (he even suspended habeas corpus). Trudeau then went on national TV and radio and delivered the most exemplary statement I have ever heard on the obligation democratic societies have to defend themselves against political violence.
If that was the high point of the week, the low point was equally striking and memorable. The photo above is of a Palestinian woman, the sole survivor of a terrorist crew that had skyjacked an airliner, flashing the "V for Victory" sign as she was carried away on a stretcher drenched in blood, her own and that of others. Something about that photo sums up for me the nature of terrorism as the terrorist sees it: 'Because I've made a horrifying bloody spectacle, I have won.' She believes she has won a victory not in spite of the slaughter she committed, but because of it.
1985 (Mediterranean Sea) – Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) members hijacked an Italian cruise liner, the Achille Lauro, shortly after the Naples-based ship left the port of Alexandria in Egypt on its way to Port Said. The hijackers demanded the release of 50 Palestinian prisoners held in Israel. When refused permission to dock at Tartus, the hijackers killed a 69-year old wheelchair-bound U.S. tourist. They eventually surrendered to Egyptian authorities.
Egyptian authorities gave the hijackers free passage out of the country, putting them on a chartered Egypt Air 737. The aircraft was intercepted over the Mediterranean by U.S. Navy warplanes that forced it to land at U.S. Naval Air Station Sigonella, a NATO airbase in Sicily, where the hijackers were arrested by Italian authorities after a runway stand-off with a U.S. Army Delta Force detachment that had intended to take the hijackers to the U.S. Four hijackers were kept in custody, but their leader, Abu Abbas, who was holding a diplomatic passport, was allowed to leave, despite protests by the United States. Those kept in custody were eventually released on parole and disappeared.
Abu Abbas, whose real name was Muhammad Zaidan (1948 – 2004), was the founder of a PLO faction called the Palestinian Liberation Front. After he was released by Italian authorities in 1985 Abbas found refuge in Iraq, and he was captured there when U.S. forces seized Baghdad in 2003. He died of heart failure before he could be brought to trial.
1967 (Bolivia) – The Bolivian Army captured Che Guevara during an encounter with guerrillas in Higuera near the city of Vallegrande. After verifying his identity, they executed him. Guevara had left Cuba in 1965 and attempted to foment revolutions first in the Congo and then in Bolivia. After his death, Guevara became an icon for socialist revolutionary movements worldwide. The famous photo of Che by Alberto Korda was one of the 20th century’s most recognizable images and also, ironically, one of its most commercialized, having appeared on countless posters and t-shirts.
1934 (France) – King Alexander I of Yugoslavia was assassinated while on a state visit to Marseille, France. The action was carried out by the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (IMRO), a revolutionary movement that operated in the Macedonian and Trace regions of the former Ottoman Empire, in Bulgaria, and in the Macedonian regions of Greece and Yugoslavia. Ideologically and tactically, IMRO was a forerunner of modern nationalist-revolutionary terrorist groups such as the IRA, the Red Brigades, and the ETA.
King Alexander went to Marseille on a diplomatic visit aimed at strengthening his defensive alliance with the French Third Republic against Nazi Germany. While being driven through the streets along with French Foreign Minister Louis Bartou, the assassin, a Bulgarian named Vlado Georgieff who was an aide to IMRO leader Ivan Mihailov, stepped from the street and shot the King, the Minister and their chauffeur. It was the first political assassination to be captured on film, with the shooting and its aftermath occurring directly in front of a newsreel cameraman at a distance of less than ten feet. A French mounted policeman cut the assassin down with a saber, and he was then beaten to death by the crowd.
1983 (Burma / Myanmar) – The president of South Korea, Chun Doo Hwan, narrowly avoided being killed in an ambush while on a state visit to Burma (now known as Myanmar) and preparing to lay a wreath at the Martyrs Mausoleum, the monument that commemorates Aung San, founder of independent Burma. As some of the President’s staff began assembling at the Mausoleum, one of three bombs concealed in the roof exploded, killing 21 people and wounding 46 in the crowd below. Among the dead were the Korean foreign minister, the economic planning minister, the deputy prime minister, the minister for commerce and industry, and various South Korean presidential advisers, journalists, and security officials. President Chun was saved because his car had been delayed in traffic. The North Korean regime was suspected of sponsoring the attack, but no direct evidence has emerged to implicate it.
The person who detonated the bomb most likely saw the South Korean ambassador’s limo pull up and heard presidential-sounding music playing, and triggered the bomb early.
1993 (Peru) – The Sendero Luminoso (SL), or Shining Path, a Maoist revolutionary group, fired mortars at the U.S. Ambassador’s residence, causing no casualties and only slight damage. It was one of 13 SL attacks on foreign interests in Peru that year, part of a wide-spread urban campaign against the government of President Fujimori.
1970 (Canada) – The “October Crisis” began in Canada when both the Minister and the Vice Minister of Labor in Quebec, Chenier Cell and Pierre Laporte, respectively, were kidnapped by members of the Front de Liberation du Quebec (FLQ). Laporte was later killed. Five days earlier, the FLQ had kidnapped the British Trade Commissioner, James Richard Cross. The FLQ was a French-Canadian separatist group that carried out a campaign of terrorism between 1963 and 1970, climaxing in these kidnappings which resulted in the invocation of Canada’s War Powers Act to restore order.
On October 13, Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau justified his strong repressive measures during an interview with the CBC, saying in part: “I think the society must take every means at its disposal to defend itself against the emergence of a parallel power which defies the elected power in this country … so long as there is a power in here which is challenging the elected representative of the people I think that power must be stopped."
Prime Minister Trudeau further remarked about criticism of the heavy military presence in city streets: “There are a lot of bleeding hearts around who just don't like to see people with helmets and guns. All I can say is, go on and bleed, but it is more important to keep law and order in the society than to be worried about weak-kneed people.”
From 1963 to 1970, the FLQ committed over 200 violent political actions, including bombings, bank hold-ups and at least three killings. Targets included English-owned businesses, banks, McGill University, Loyola College, the Montreal Stock Exchange, and the homes of prominent English speakers. Although it was broken in 1970 by the use of the War Powers Act – which allowed the suspension of habeas corpus – FLQ remnants continued to be active on a lesser scale, and to carry out attacks centering on language-based French nationalism. In 2001, an FLQ member was convicted of the attempted firebombing of three Second Cup coffee shops in Montreal, because of the company's use of its incorporated English name, "Second Cup." The bombings frightened away customers, and the company changed their signs in Quebec to Les Cafés Second Cup.
1998 (Democratic Republic of Congo) – A Congo Airlines 727 was shot down over Kindu by Tutsi rebels using an SA-7 missile, killing all 40 persons aboard.
2000 (Yeman) – Suicide bombers in an inflatable dinghy attacked the USS Cole while it was moored in the Yemeni port of Eden, killing 17 sailors. The explosion left a gash up to 40 feet long in the left side of the destroyer, which came close to being lost before the crew brought the damage under control. Al-Qaeda was responsible. The attack on the USS Cole was the worst on a U.S. interest target since the bombings of embassies in Kenya and Tanzania two years earlier.
1977 (West Germany) – A Lufthansa flight en route to Frankfurt from Majorca, Spain, was hijacked by four members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestinian (PFLP) who were acting on behalf of the German Red Army Faction (RAF). After being denied landing rights in Oman and Eden, the aircraft ended up on the ground in Mogadishu, Somalia, where the 89 passengers were held hostage to press RAF demands on the German government. The German Border Police unit GSG-9 stormed the plane there, freeing all remaining hostages (the hijackers had killed the pilot earlier) and killing three of the four hijackers.
After the crisis was resolved, the German government stated that it would never again negotiate with terrorists.
The surviving hijacker, Souhaila Sami Andrawes Sayeh, born in Palestine in 1953, served a short prison sentence in Somalia and was released. In 1991, she moved to Oslo, Norway, with her husband and a daughter until she was discovered there by German police and extradited to Germany in 1995. She was sentenced to ten years in prison but was released after only five due to ill health.
Friday, October 5, 2007
2001 (Colombia) – The dead body of Consuelo Araújonoguera, a popular former minister of Culture, was found. She had been kidnapped by the FARC September 24 on the outskirts of Valledupar, and was killed in a crossfire when the Colombian Army attempted a rescue. Araújonoguera was a politician, writer and journalist who had created of one of the most important cultural and musical events in Colombia, the Vallenato Legend Festival.
2005 (Indonesia) – Three suicide bomb attacks in two tourist areas on the Indonesian resort island of Bali killed at least 19 people as well as the three bombers and wounded more than 50. Local news media reported that police had found a number of other unexploded devices. Indonesia’s counter-terrorism chief, Major General Ansyaad Mbai, named two leaders of the Islamic extremist group Jemaah Islamiah (JI) as suspects. JI had conducted similar bomb attacks in 2002. The targets of the attack were restaurants, two in the Jimbaran beach resort, and the third in Kuta. Medical x-rays showed pellets and ball bearings in many victims' bodies.
1985 (Tunis) – As retaliation for an attack on Israeli civilians by the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) unit “Force 17,” the Israeli Defense Force launched an air raid on PLO headquarters in Tunis. Ten IDF fighter/bombers dropped precision-guided bombs on the seaside headquarters compound, with no opposition from the Tunisian Air Force or any air defenses. Israel claimed that some 60 PLO members had been killed, including leaders of Force 17. The UN Security Council denounced the attack 14-0, with the U.S. abstaining.
PLO Chairman Yassir Arafat (1929 – 2004) was not at his HQ at the time. Arafat, undoubtedly the premier survivor of modern times, had narrowly escaped from a number of earlier attacks, and he went on to survive a 1992 air crash in the Libyan dessert that killed his pilot and other passengers. He eventually died of natural causes, something I regard as a monumental injustice; even when he was lying unconscious on his deathbed in a Paris hospital, someone should have busted a cap in his ass simply on general principles.
1968 (Mexico) – The ‘Tlatelolco Massacre’ took place on the afternoon and night of October 2, in the Plaza de las Tres Culturas of Mexico City, ten days before the opening of the 1968 Summer Olympics, targeting political dissidents who sought to exploit the attention focused on Mexico City for the Olympics. Estimates of the death toll vary from a low of 200 to 300, to high estimates running in the thousands. (Official sources reported only 4 dead.) The number arrested is also uncertain. The incident qualifies as ‘state-terrorism’ in that extra-judicial violence was used by a regime to suppress a class of political opponents.
The International Olympics Committee chose not to cancel the games. Lord Exeter, British vice-president of the IOC told the press: "the riots have nothing to do with the Olympic Games. The students are not protesting against the games but against the Mexican government." That's right sports fans, let’s put first things first.
1981 (Ireland) – IRA hunger strikes at Belfast’s Maze Prison came to an end. The strike was begun by prisoner Bobbie Sands in March, who threatened to fast to death unless terrorist inmates won concessions to wear their own clothes, to refrain from prison work, to associate freely with other Republican prisoners, to receive weekly visits and parcels, and to have lost remission on sentences restored. [Regarding that last point, if 50% of remission on sentences lost by the republican prisoners for protesting had been restored, up to 140 Maze protesters could have been freed immediately.] These concessions would have restored the political-prisoner status which the British Government withdrew in 1976 under a new policy of ‘Ulsterization and criminalization’ of the Irish conflict; the previous policy had given special status to paramilitary prisoners under which they had been treated much like prisoners of war.
Sands died on 5 May, and ten other IRA prisoners in the H-Block of Maze Prison subsequently starved themselves to death during the next seven months. The hunger strike was a seminal event that radicalized Irish nationalist politics and prompted Sinn Fein to transition to a political campaign, and thereby it indirectly paved the way for the Good Friday Agreement that ended the conflict many years later.
The political point of the hunger strike was summarized nicely by the chorus of a song written by a Sinn Fein member and played at Sands’s funeral: "So I'll wear no convict's uniform, nor meekly serve my time, that Britain might brand Ireland's fight eight hundred years of crime." The British authorities badly mishandled the hunger strike when it insisted on treating politically-motivated violence (terrorism) and nationalist politics as simple crime. As stated by Prime Minister Thatcher: “crime is crime is crime. It is not political.” She was wrong, and, ultimately, that policy was not sustainable.
2003 (Israel) – A Palestinian suicide bomber killed 21 people and wounded 60 in a restaurant in Haifa. Palestinian Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the attack. The bomber, Hanadi Jaradat, a 29-year-old woman and lawyer from Jenin, managed to get past a security guard before blowing herself up inside the restaurant. In response to the attack, which Israel claimed was planned in the Damascus headquarters of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad organization, a terrorist training camp in Ein-Saheb, Syria, was bombed by Israeli aircraft.
Hanadi Jaradat (1974 – 2003) said, in part, in her video-taped martyrdom statement: ”I decided, after reliance on God, to make the death that they surround us with surround them also, and to make their mothers cry tears and blood.”
1974 (United Kingdom) – Two IRA bombs exploded in pubs in Guildford, southern England, killing five persons and wounding 65. The pubs were packed with Saturday night customers, many of whom were British Army troops back from duty in Northern Ireland. It is believed that the bombs were placed by an IRA active service unit in London known as “the Balcombe Street Boys,” however, three innocent Irish men and one woman (“the Guildford Four”) were wrongly convicted and spent 14 years in prison before their convictions were overturned and declared a gross miscarriage of justice by the Court of Appeals.
The pubs were targeted because they were frequented by 6,000 soldiers garrisoned in Guildford. The movie In the Name of the Father is based on the Guildford Four case.
2001 (United States) – The first victim of the anthrax attacks that began on September 18, 2001, died. Robert Stevens worked at a tabloid newspaper owned by American Media, Inc., in Boca Raton, Florida, which received one of the first anthrax letters. Letters containing anthrax bacteria were mailed to several news media offices and two U.S. Senators, eventually causing five deaths and sickening seventeen other persons. No one took responsibility for the anthrax attacks, and no one was ever arrested in the case.
The letters sent to Senators Tom Daschle and Patrick Leahy contained about one gram of highly refined dried anthrax spoors that were more potent than those in other letters. The Leahy letter had been misdirected to the State Department mail annex due to a misread Zip Code, and a postal worker there contracted inhalation anthrax.
1976 (Barbados) – Cubana Airlines Flight 455 was sabotaged by anti-Castro Cuban exiles who placed two time-bombs in the DC-8, killing all 73 people aboard. Among the victims were four officials of the Cuban government, and all 24 members of the 1975 Cuban national Fencing team, many of them teenagers, who had just won all the gold medals in the Central American and Caribbean Championship. It was the most deadly commercial airliner attack in the Western hemisphere until the June 23, 1985 bombing of Air India Flight 182 in 1985.
1981 (Egypt) – Egypt's President Sadat assassinated as he reviewed a military parade on the occasion of the eight anniversary of the Yom Kippur war with Israel. A number of other dignitaries including foreign diplomats were killed or seriously wounded with Sadat. The attack was carried out by Army officers in collaboration with Egyptian Islamic Jihad who opposed Sadat's peace negotiations with Israel, among other grievances. A Fatwa approving the assassination had been obtained from Omar Abdel-Rahman, a radical cleric later convicted in the U.S. for his role in the 1993 World trade Center bombing. Reportedly, the army officers in charge of ammunition seizure during the parade – a security precaution - were on Haj in Mecca at the time, creating the opportunity exploited by the plotters.
The leader of the attacks was Egyptian Army Lieutenant Khalid Islambouli, who by chance replaced another officer who had been excused from the October parade. When his section of the parade approached the President's reviewing stand, Islambouli and three other soldiers leapt from their truck and ran towards the stand throwing grenades, and Islambouli emptied his assault rifle into Sadat's body. Islambouli and twenty-three co-conspirators were tried, and he and five others were executed in April 1982. One of his co-defendants was the future Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, who was released from prison in 1984, then traveled to Afghanistan and became a close associate of Osama Bin Laden.
2002 (Yeman) – A French oil tanker, the Limburg, while loading crude oil from Yeman in the Gulf of Aden, was attacked off-shore with an explosives-laden dingy that rammed the starboard side of the tanker and detonated. Al-Qaeda claimed responsibility for the attack on the Jehad.net website (since shut down), and it is possible that Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, who had planned the USS Cole bombing, was responsible for this attack as well. Another Al-Qaeda member, Fawaz Yahya al-Rabe’ie, was sentenced to death for his part in the operation, but on February 3, 2006, he escaped from prison along with 22 others suspected or convicted Al-Qaeda members, 13 of who had been convicted for the Cole or Limburg bombings. Al-Rabe’ie and another escapee were killed by Yemeni security forces in October, 2006.
Tuesday, October 2, 2007
1983 (United Arab Emirates) – An Omani Gulf Aircraft was bombed, killing 111 persons.
2002 (India) – Islamic militants scaled a perimeter fence at the Hindu Akshardham temple in Gandhinagar and threw hand grenades into the crowd of about 600 worshippers, killing 31 and wounding almost 100. Lashkar-i-Tayyiba is suspected, although letters found on the attackers stated they belonged to Tehrik-a-Khasas (“Movement for Revenge”). The attack may have been in retaliation for the Gujarat riots that took place in Gujarat state, India, in February 2002, during which at least 793 Muslims and 253 Hindus died.
2002 (Pakistan) – Islamic militants killed six persons and wounded four others at the offices of the Institute for Peace and Justice (IPJ), a Christian charity organization in Karachi. The attackers escaped and were not identified, but the incident was one of a series on Christian institutions in Pakistan during 2001 and 2002 that left at least 30 people dead. The Lashkar-e-Jhangvi group claimed responsibility for an October 2001 massacre in a Christian church in revenge for Muslim deaths in Afghanistan, and the group Harakat ul-Mujahideen Al-Almi – which was responsible for suicide car bombings at the U.S. Consulate in Karachi and on a French embassy shuttle bus – was discovered by police in possession of building plans for Christian places of worship. The IPJ has operated in Karachi for 30 years, working with local human rights groups to obtain employment rights for municipal and textile workers.
2004 (Syria) – An explosion killed HAMAS leader Izz-al-Din Shaykh Khalil in Damascus while he was driving his car. Khalil was a senior member of the military wing of the Palestinian Islamist group HAMAS, and the third in a series of leaders to be targeted for killing, after the spiritual leader Shaikh Ahmed Yassin in late March, and the leader of the military wing leader, Abdul Aziz Al-Rantisi, a few weeks later. These targeted killings came after Israeli officials announced that there would be retaliation against HAMAS for two bus bombings that killed 16 civilians in the southern Israeli city of Beersheba on August 31, 2004. Khalil received a cell phone call seconds after he departed home and his car exploded immediately after he answered, leading to speculation the bomb was command-detonated.
2001 (France) – French police arrested seven suspected members of an Al-Qaeda network headed by Djamel Beghal for plotting to bomb the U.S. Embassy in Paris. Beghal once lived in London and attended the Finsbury Park mosque, along with “shoebomber” Richard Reid, the “13th hijacker” Zacarrias Moussaoui, and other Al-Qaeda members. Beghal was arrested at Dubai airport while en route from Pakistan to Paris, and he confessed to UAE authorities that he was conspiring to attack the U.S. embassy. After he was extradited to France, Beghal retracted part of his statement, claiming that it had been made under torture. Beghal and six others were eventually convicted of "criminal association in relation with a terrorist enterprise", a charge commonly used in terrorism cases in France, and sentenced to ten years, the maximum allowed for that charge.
1987 (Greece) – A U.S. military commissary in Athens was bombed by the November 17 movement, killing one person. The attack was one of many on U.S. interests in Greece by N17.
1973 (United States) – A bomb exploded in the Latin America section of the corporate headquarters of International Telephone and Telegraph (ITT) to protest the company’s purported involvement in the 1970 military coup d’etat against the Marxist government of Salvador Allende in Chile. ITT had owned a 70% interest in the Chilean telephone company (Chitelco) prior to the coup, and it funded El Mercurio, a Chilean newspaper friendly to the Allende opposition.
The bombing was carried out by the radical-left Weather Underground Organization (formerly known as the Weathermen), which conducted more than 20 bomb attacks on corporate and government targets between 1970 and 1975. Bill Ayers, now a Distinguished Professor of Education at the University of Illinois, was a WUO leader in the 1970s. He stated in a 9/11/2001 New York Times interview that he doesn't regret setting bombs against non-human targets, adding “I believe we didn't do enough." U.S. government documents declassified in 2000 suggest that ITT did indeed fund Chilean opposition elements.
2000 (Israel) – The Israeli opposition leader Ariel Sharon, with a Likud Pary delegation, visited Jerusalem’s Temple Mount and the compound of the Alaqsa Mosque on a Friday shortly after the evening prayer, triggering wide-spread riots that escalated into a conflict that was termed the “Alaqsa Intifada.” The violence quickly escalated into a wave of attacks on Jews through Israel and the West Bank, and Israel launched a series of retaliatory air strikes against the Palestinian Authority.
The most notorious incident of the Alaqsa Intifada occurred on October 12, when two Israeli Army reservists were arrested by Palestinian Authority police in Ramallah. A Palestinian mob stormed the police station, beat the soldiers to death and mutilated bodies their bodies, all in view of the public and the foreign news media and filmed by an Italian TV crew. Afterwards, one of the killers stood in the police station window waving his bloody hands to the crowd. The BBC noted "the brutal death of these men - in full glare of TV - will have a lasting impact on the Israeli population and abroad”
2000 (Philippines) – A leader of the Abu Sayyaf Group was killed and two members wounded during a military raid to free hostages held by the group.
2003 (Colombia) – A bomb set by the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) exploded in a crowded restaurant / bar district of Florencia, killing ten and wounding 54. The explosion took place at 4:00 a.m. in the Zona Rosa district, and the bomb was hidden inside a motorcycle parked outside a crowded disco. The bomb was timed to go off outside the disco at closing time, causing heavy casualties.
1998 (Sri Lanka) – An Antonov-24 aircraft operated by the Sri Lankan national airline, Lionair, went down in the Indian Ocean en route from Jeffna to Colombo, killing 55 passengers. The flight may have been shot down by the LTTE (Tamil Tigers), but the facts of the incident are in dispute. The U.S. National Counterterrorism Center lists this incident as a terrorist act, however, the Sri Lankan Civil Aviation Department has stated that the crash was due to flammable items carried in the aircraft and that there is no evidence to prove that the plane was shot down.