Showing posts with label terrorism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label terrorism. Show all posts

29 March 2018

March Miscellany


by Eve Fisher

Ah, March is almost over, and with it March Madness.  Look, I'll be honest, I'm not a basketball fan to begin with, plus, on PBS, it's also "Festival!", which really cuts a hole into some of my favorite viewing.  But - note to all ultra-conservatives who wonder why a GOP Congress never quite manages to cut all Corporation for Public Broadcasting funding?  Because out here in fly-over country, what station runs ALL the high-school and college basketball games, morning, noon and night, on all 3 PBS channels, for as long as they last?  Not to mention high-school track & field, and football playoffs?  PBS, not Fox News, CNN, or even ESPN.  You think people want to give that up?  No, they do not.  They want to see their kids, grandkids, and themselves on television.  The most conservative among them can easily ignore the PBS NewsHour in exchange for that, quilting, cooking, and travel shows, "Call the Midwife", "Father Brown Mysteries", "Nova" and Daniel O'Donnell specials ad infinitum.  Oh, and "Antiques Roadshow."

Meanwhile, we had volunteer refresher training at the pen this month.  This year we learned a lot about prison gangs and their tattoos.  We have a variety of gangs in the South Dakota Prison System, but they're not what they are on the east / west coasts.

Image result for gangster disciple tattoos
    Image result for white supremacist tattoos 88 boots
  • Up here the Gangster Disciples are mostly Native American.  Tattoos include Joker/Devil/Clown, 7-4, 612 (in Minneapolis), Devil with "C" handsign, upright pitchfork, Knight on a horse, and a few others.  
  • The Boyz / Wild Boyz / and Red Brotherhood are all also Native American, and rivals to the Gangster Disciples.  While they tattoo, they also do [bad] burns on the shoulder in a bearclaw pattern.  
  • There's the East River Skins, Native Americans, whose favorite tattoos are "ERS" and "Skins"
  • The Mexican Mafia, a/k/a Surenos use SUR 13, and others.  
  • And, of course, we have a wide variety and large number of White Supremacists.  Tattoos include:  Iron crosses, swastikas, German phrases, 88 (for "Heil Hitler"), Blood and Honor, SS lightening bolts, White Devil, crossed hammers with or without Confederate flag, 100% (for 100% white), White Fist, etc., etc., etc. 
Image result for gangster disciple tattoos
Hand signs made into
tattoos - many gangs use
the same hand signs

It's a whole language.

Speaking of language, I loved this "correction" of the New York Times tweet about the Austin bomber:

No automatic alt text available.  Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling, text


I totally agree.  White boys/men who shoot up theaters, schools, or musical venues are all crazy, or quietly challenged, and/or from a broken home, and/or a good family, and therefore, there's nothing to be done except make all the white boys/men around us feel really good all the time so they won't shoot us.  (Or rape us - I'm still pissed off about Brock Turner getting probation because he was such a good swimmer with his whole life ahead of him.)  I call BS on that.  Simply put, anyone who's going around bombing random (or was it random?) American citizens, setting trip wires, etc., is a terrorist.  Period.  I don't care how "troubled" or "challenged" their life is.

Back in October, 2016, then candidate Donald Trump said “These are radical Islamic terrorists.  To solve a problem, you have to be able to state what the problem is, or at least say the name.”  Well, the Anti-Defamation League did a study and found that white supremacists killed twice as many as Islamic terrorists in America in 2017.  And that the numbers of white supremacist attacks are increasing around the country.  (ADL Report)   So, everyone, say it with me:  "Radical white supremacist terrorism."  Like 150+ years of the KKK.  (I can't believe that in this day and age I still have to say that the KKK and the Nazis are bad.)

BTW, ironically, as a Boston Globe article points out, being white doesn't protect you from white supremacist terrorism:  "The victims of white supremacist terrorism are often white....  the carnage of white supremacist terrorism should have been understood after the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, where Timothy McVeigh killed 168 people of all colors. Fueled in significant degree by racial hatred, McVeigh was a devotee of The Turner Diaries, a white supremacist novel that imagined an American race war so grotesque that white women were hung for marrying African-Americans and Jews.  The carnage should have been understood after the 1999 Columbine High School massacre in Colorado, carried out by Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris. The two teens adored Adolf Hitler and were reported to have routinely used racial epithets. Yet most of their 13 victims were white."

Language matters.  How something is said influences more than we know.

I read on Facebook a story about a guy who asked a girl out on a date at high school.  The girl said "No, thanks" and walked away.  The guy grabbed her by the arm and said, "Come back here -" so she turned around and punched him in the nose.  Well, everyone came running after that.  The principal wanted her to apologize and he was going to suspend her.  The girl told everyone there, "Look, my mother taught me to never put up with someone laying hands on me when I don't want them to.  That I have the right to say no.  And now you're telling me that this jackass can grab me to make me change my mind?  Fine, suspend me.  But what you're doing is tell girls that we don't have the right to say 'no'."   

I'm with the girl all the way.  Because, when you follow that logic - that the girl should have been nicer to the man who grabbed her without her permission - what can happen is this:

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, ocean, text and water  Link to story

"Lovesick teen" a/k/a "heartbroken homecoming prince" - kind of perpetuates the idea that a girl can't say no, doesn't it?  That a girl shouldn't say no, because... she might make him so angry that he shoots her in the head?  And somehow she's in the wrong, because he's "lovesick"?  That somehow he has the right to kill what he can't have because of his emotions?  Jaelynn Willy was 16 years old when this possessive bastard shot her in the head.  She died three days later.  (See Jezebel for a much less "romantic" telling of this story.)

Meanwhile, 55% of female murder victims are killed by their domestic partner.

Up to 75% of abused women who are murdered are killed after they leave their partners.

The majority of the victims were under the age of 40, and 15 percent were pregnant. About 54 percent were gun deaths.

Strangers perpetrated just 16 percent of all female homicides, fewer than acquaintances and just slightly more than parents.

“State statutes limiting access to firearms for persons under a domestic violence restraining order can serve as another preventive measure associated with reduced risk for intimate partner homicide and firearm intimate partner homicide.” An abuser’s possession of a gun greatly increases the risk of female homicide.

Still, loopholes in gun laws mean that abusive spouses and partners often can keep their guns, even if they can’t buy new ones. And the consequences of those loopholes, for women, can be deadly.

Especially in the hands of a "heartbroken homecoming prince."











18 August 2016

Cyberspace, Cyberpunks, Cyberwar


by Eve Fisher

Leigh Lundin has, for some time now, been scaring the pants off of us with regard to all the hazards of cyberspace, like RansomWare - (Thanks, big guy!  And tell Velda to pour me another drink...)  And God knows that cybercriminals and hackers are out there, doing all kinds of nasty things.  (Go, right now, and change all your passwords to something elaborate and unbreakable, preferably in Mongolian.)

NOTE:  A big shout-out to our local university, Dakota State University (http://dsu.edu/), which trains people in "ethical hacking", cybersecurity, cyber operations, etc.  Training the good guys (I hope) to tackle future cybercriminals around the world!
But there's another problem with cyberspace, and that is that it's an open platform for anyone at any time.

Look, we are having our hearts broken, over and over again, by terrorist acts.  Bastille Day saw the terrorist act in Nice, France, a beautiful city that I remember with especial fondness because it was the highlight of my last European trip.

Nice, France - Michaelphillipr, Wikimedia
Anyway, a true rat bastard got into a rented refrigerator truck, plowed into a crowd on Bastille Day, killing 84 people and injuring at least 50 others.  He died in a gunfight with the police.  While he had a history of petty theft, "he is completely unknown by intelligence services, both at the national and local levels,” Paris Prosecutor Molins said. “He has never been in any database or been flagged for radicalization.”  Now here's the nub of it:  "Although neither the Islamic State or Al Qaeda asserted any role, online accounts associated with the groups welcomed the massacre."  Source:  (NYT)


Vladimir Putin,
the day after the attack
I'll bet they did.  Why not?  Made them feel important, like they'd nabbed another one for their cause, whether they did or not, and it helped add to the general sense of terror and frustration.  And every time ISIS or Al Qaeda claim credit for something, politicians worldwide scream for action, action, action, NOW!

But what kind of action?  Do something violent to take out ISIS and the threat of radical Islamic terrorism - like pave Syria?  Ban all Muslims from here or there or anywhere?  Patrol Muslim neighborhoods at home and abroad?  Etc.  Now we could do all these things.  And more.  But it won't stop the problem.

Because the real problem is that jihad (like every other kind of extremism) is now on the internet. From Facebook to Twitter to the Dark Web, there are all sorts of slick, persuasive sites proselytizing (among other things) jihad.  And these sites are telling people - mostly young men - all across the globe that they can make a difference, that they can save the world, that they can make everyone honor and respect them and kiss their feet and fannies.  And they can have revenge upon a world that has never given them the respect or money or women or lifestyle they think they deserve.  All they need is a gun, a truck, a car, a bomb, a lot of guns, some cohorts, any combination - just go out there and kill a lot of people for the cause.  And, if they die in the process, they go to heaven and the 72 virgins while, back on earth, their deeds and their names will be splashed all across the international news media, and everyone will be terrified and horror struck and wounded by what they did, because they are so powerful and important.  At last.

That's what we're really up against.  Not some 40,000 "fighters" trying to hang on to their caliphate of bloody sand in Syria.  If that was all there was to it, the solution would be relatively simple.  But we're up against an idea, metastasizing across the internet, and gobbling up people's minds and lives in cyberspace.  And what do you do about that?

NOTE:  The average person now spends 8 hours and 41 minutes per day online.  (See here.) 

Visualization of Internet routing paths
Visualization of Internet Routing Paths
by the Opte Project, Wikipedia
Let's face facts, the internet is the current Tower of Babel - we have created a virtual world that allows constant extremist views to be spread and taught worldwide, without any central supervision, rules, or policing.  From jihad to neo-Nazis and everything in between and beyond, there are sites for it, multiple sites, that are all free of charge and available 24/7 to any lonely person who doesn't have anything better to do.  Nobody's in charge of the internet.  Nobody's policing the internet - or not enough.  There are no rules on the internet. You can say anything on the internet and get away with it.  (Everyone who's been flamed, raise your hand!  Don't worry, they can't see you - which is the exact logic of the flamer...) You can show anything on the internet and get away with it.  You can promote anything - from suicide to to bullying to treason to beheading - on the internet and get away with it.  And everyone is so locked away in their own virtual world of sites, friends and likes that they don't have any idea that there are all these other sites, spreading and spewing all these other views, and people are just as dedicated to "theirs" as "we" are to "ours."

NOTE:  The average person now spends 8 hours and 41 minutes per day online.  (See here.) 

The most harmless one
I could find for an example
- by Dimboukas, Wikipedia
Consider the sites you use.  The ones you go to because what they say "makes sense", or "they tell the truth".  Who's writing them?  Who's making all the memes that we are all trading around on-line?  Do you have any idea?  Is there any way to find out?  Do you care, as long as they're telling you what you want to hear?  Not to mention the implication that, by sharing their meme, YOU'RE an American Thinker, a FreeThinker, a TruthTeller, an Everlasting GOP Stopper, an American Voice of Reason, etc.  Except, when all we do is share the content someone else provides, we're just copycats, not thinking at all.  Clicking like, endlessly.  Agreeing, endlessly...

So what are we to do with all the sites - and the people behind them - who are using the internet to brainwash the world?  Ourselves included?  Who are fomenting hatred and bigotry, jihad and racism, murder and violence, death and war, war, war, all in the name of truth, whether religious or political? How do we stop this?  how do we change this? Because the war is in cyberspace, not on the ground. We want to stop "soft" terrorism?  Lone wolves, brothers, friends - influenced, radicalized, persuaded, perhaps even instructed in the privacy of their own bedrooms?

We're going to have to tackle cyberspace. BECAUSE THAT'S WHERE THE TERRORISTS (of all kinds) ARE BEING CREATED.
NOTE:  Don't even start about how parents need to keep an eye on what their kids are doing.  Remember your own childhood, even if it was cyber-free.  Parents have always been trying to keep an eye on their kids and failing miserably, because teenagers will not be led, driven, watched, or followed, and will do anything under the sun to keep their parents having any idea of what is going on in their locked world.  
(Re the Nice perpetrator, he is apparently no longer a "lone wolf", according to prosecutor Molins, who recently arrested 2 men for giving the perpetrator "logistical support", and said that the perpetrator had plotted the attack for months with "support and accomplices".  BUT, so far, all that support was done on line - via cell phones, computers, etc.)

The cyberworld is addictive and consuming enough even when it's harmless.  People can't get their eyes off their smartphone, even while "supervising" their children at the playground.  They fall off cliffs playing Pokemon Go.  They stay on Facebook even in their sleep.  They sleep with their smartphones.  And, in the process, they create their own cyberworlds.  And if you live in a cyberworld of hate and fear and menace, it really doesn't matter what the real life around you is.  You believe.  What's before your screen-stuck eyes.  And you act accordingly.

NOTE:  The average person now spends 8 hours and 41 minutes per day online.  (See here.) 

19 November 2015

The War on Anarchism


by Eve Fisher

Naturally I have been thinking about the Paris attacks, and my conclusions are that the terrorists' goals were:

(1) to inflict significant random casualties, causing as much terror and disruption as they can (terrorists always like to see people afraid).
(2) subvert the entire refugee process, hopefully ending it, so that all potential refugees will "know" that they can't escape, and will submit to them.
(3) make the name of Islam stink in the nostrils of the West (our own politicians and media are already helping spread the word that 'all Muslims are terrorists'), again to remove hope from all those in the Middle East who want them destroyed.
(4) to financially bankrupt the West as we attempt to destroy an idea militarily.
(5) to morally bankrupt the West as we subvert our own values in the name of freedom and the War On Terrorism.


First reaction: Damn them. Damn all anarchists /terrorists/ bombers/ fanatics, of every religion, of every creed, of every political persuasion, past, present and future, who always prefer to see frightened children, weeping families, and dead bodies than have anyone escape their cultish claws...

Second reaction:  Screw them.  Spit in their eye.  Get out and enjoy life.  "But terrorists may sneak into the United States!"  Sneak in?  We've got them, we've had them, and we can also grow them ourselves.  In 1901, anarchists killed United States President McKinley; there have been lynchings, murders, and church burnings perpetrated against blacks since before the Civil War, and sadly, it's still occurring; in 1995, Timothy McVeigh blew up the Murrah building; of course 9/11; and just in 2015, here at home, there have been 290 deaths from mass shootings by our own fellow citizens. Seriously, if we weren't afraid a week ago, there's no reason to be afraid now.

The problem with a war on terrorism is, of course, that it's actually a war on an idea, and ideas never die. But, when they become overwhelmingly popular and attractive, they can easily, rapidly lead to mass violence and murder. Now, before you go off and say, "see, I told you!"  The other side of ideas is that people can change their minds, and an idea that seemed absolutely universally true can become relegated to something abhorrent, or quaint, or completely unimportant.
Examples:  the divine right of kings, infant damnation, the geocentric solar system, the subjection of women, the general inferiority of other races (common in Europe, China,
and Japan), the mercantilist theory of economics, and the hugely popular notion that war is the normal condition between any two countries.  
Anarchism was one of those ideas.  The idea really caught on in the late 1700s, during the Enlightenment, when Jean Jacques Rousseau, my least favorite philosopher, wrote a number of works that, among other things, claimed that private property was the root of all evil, and that uncorrupted morals prevailed in the state of nature that [supposedly] existed before government came along. In his work The Social Contract, he said "The larger the state, the less liberty".  (Yes, Thomas Jefferson read Rousseau - EVERYONE read Rousseau, from Robespierre to Bolivar to Ho Chi Minh, which, imho, is part of the problem.) Small, city-states were ideal, in which [only] men exercised their freedom on election day. Now here's where Rousseau put an edge on the blade: he believed that the majority would always be right; and therefore the minority must be "forced to be free", i.e., obey the majority. And if they continue to rebel, kill them.

John D. Rockefeller 1885.jpg
John D. Rockefeller (1839-1937),
the richest man in America.  Ever.  
During the Gilded Age, and slightly after, (1870-early 1900s), anarchists in Europe and the United States took Rousseau and ran with it.  They believed that people were naturally good and virtuous; that government and property were all corrupt and corrupting, and that government and private property should be abolished, violently if necessary.  And there was a lot of private property and government around that certainly wasn't theirs.

The Gilded Age was Grover Nordquist's wet dream: no income tax, no unions, no minimum wage, no regulations on industry, and government's only role was to collect foreign tariffs and defend our borders.  It was a time of huge economic inequality. From 1860 to 1900, the wealthiest 2% of American households owned more than a third of the nation's wealth, and the top 10% owned 75% of it.  There wasn't much left for the rest.  And the most popular philosophies among the upper classes said that was the way it should be:  Herbert Spencer's Social Darwinism applied survival of the fittest to people and nations, making the poor simply lazy and unfit, while William Graham Sumner's push for a totally laissez-faire economy (What Social Classes Owe to Each Other, 1884) assured everyone that assistance to the poor only weakens their ability to survive in society.

Jacob Riis,
Five Cents Lodging, Bayard Street
Meanwhile, it was a bad time to be one of the 90%.  The urban tenements in the north were horrendous (Read Jacob Riis' 1890 How the Other Half Lives:  Studies Among the Tenements of New York) and the mines and sharecropping in the south barely kept the workers alive.  Blacks in the South were stripped of the political power and voting rights they'd [briefly] had during Reconstruction, and were barely able to get any job.  The attempts to form labor unions - which fought for 8 hour days, safety regulations (the United States had one of the highest accident rates in the world, with no compensation for the injured/dead), abolition of child labor, etc. - were fought savagely by the owners of railroads, mines, factories, who hired police and private protection to stop them by any means necessary.  At least twice, under Hayes and Cleveland, the President sent in the U. S. Army to break up strikes.

Now the anarchists weren't the only ones challenging the status quo, but they got the most press because they were the most violent.  They didn't just talk about destroying the state.  Thanks to the invention of dynamite, they worked at physically destroying it.  They bombed public places, killing innocent civilians.  They assassinated some very important figures.  Some of the more notorious examples are:
  • November 8, 1893, the Barcelona Opera House was bombed during a performance of "William Tell", leaving 72 dead or seriously injured.
  • December 9, 1893 - Anarchist Auguste Vaillant bombed the Paris Chamber of Deputies, injuring 20.
  • Februrary 12, 1894 - Emile Henry bombed the Cafe Terminus in Paris, killing one and injurying 20.
  • June 7, 1896 - an unknown anarchist dropped a bomb on the traditional procession of the Sacred Host (it was Corpus Christi) in Barcelona, killing 23 people.  
  • May 31, 1906 - a bomb was set off at the wedding of Spanish King Alfonso XIII and his bride Victoria Eugenie “Ena” of Battenberg.  The royal couple survived, but 25 people were killed and 130 were injured. 
  • April, 1919 - at least 36 booby-trapped, dynamite-filled bombs were mailed to a variety of politicians, appointees, and businessmen, including John D. Rockefeller.  
  • June 2, 1919 - coordinated bombs were set off, almost simultaneously, in New York, Boston, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Patterson, New Jersey, Washington D.C., and Philadelphia. The intended targets included a mayor, a state legislator, three judges, two businessmen, a cop, and a Catholic priest. No intended victim was hurt, but it terrorized the American public.
  • September 16, 1920 - a wagon full of explosives and shrapnel was set off in front of the Wall Street offices of J.P. Morgan & Co., killing 39 and injuring hundreds more.
(There were many more.  Please note that all of these were done before cell phones, twitter, or any other form of social media.)

And then there were the assassinations:
  • June 24, 1894 - French President Sadi Carnot was stabbed to death in Lyon, France.
  • March 13, 1881 - Russian Tsar Alexander II was killed by one of three bombs that were set off, killing him and at least two others, as well as wounding a number of people in the crowd.
  • Assassination of Alexander II
  • July 29, 1900 - King Umberto I of Italy was shot to death.
  • September 6, 1901 - US President William McKinley was shot to death.
  • February 1, 1908 - King Carlos I of Portugal, along with his heir Luis Filipe, were shot to death.
  • September 10, 1908 - Austrian Empress Elizabeth (wife of Emperor Franz Joseph I) was stabbed to death.  
  • And, of course, on June 28, 1914, the Austrian heir to the throne, Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife, Sophie, were shot by Gavril Princip, sparking World War I.
So, what was the reaction to these 30 years of terror, bombings, and assassinations?  The following is patched together from Johann Hari's excellent article  "Blood Rage and History" in the September 22, 2011 Independent:   Terror, a crackdown on immigration, a "bonfire of civil liberties" - in 1920, after the Wall Street Bombing, Congress declared anarchism "un-American", and said anybody preaching it would be held responsible for "aiding" the attacks.  (This was the first time that an idea had ever been declared un-American.)  A wave of arrests and convictions of people who actually hadn't done anything but talk quickly followed.  (There were some protests, but not a lot.)  But Spain, Italy, and other countries were worse, "and the countries that had the harshest crackdowns ended up with the largest anarchist movements of all, while those that reacted calmly and kept their freedoms open saw the movements implode much faster."  
"From the 1920s on, the anarchist attacks began to dwindle, and by the late 1930s they were over. Why? What happened? Nobody is entirely sure – but most historians suggest a few factors. After the initial wave of state repression, civil liberties slowly advanced – undermining the anarchist claims. The indiscriminate attacks on ordinary civilians discredited anarchism in the eyes of the wider public: after a young man blew himself up in Greenwich Park in 1892, his coffin was stoned and attacked by working class people in the East End. The anarchists' own cruelty and excess slowly deprived them of recruits. 
"But, just as importantly, many of the anarchist grievances were addressed by steady reforms. Trade unions were finally legalised, and many of their demands were achieved one by one: an eight-hour working day, greater safety protections, compensation for the injured. Work was no longer so barbaric – so the violent rejection of it faded away. The changes were nowhere near as radical as those demanded by the anarchists, but it stripped them of followers step-by-step."  Ibid, Hari.  
Can this be applied today?  The simple answer is, yes.  Changes can be made that would address some of the Islamic extremist grievances - two suggestions Hari gives are to abolish torture (even if everyone else is doing it), get free of our oil addiction so we no longer have to be the hired guns for anyone with oil, starting with the house of Saud, which has been and is supporting, harboring, and financing Wahabism, Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and other extremist groups for years.  (See Charles Pierce's Esquire piece, There Is Only One Way to Defeat Isis , in which he says "As long as people are dying in Paris, nobody important is dying in Doha or Riyadh.")  

Even more, though, we should address the fact that most jihadists are unemployed young men, both those who are home-grown Arabs and those who are recruited from Western cities around the world. Let's face facts: young men who are not employed and/or married and (for whatever reason) cannot become employed and/or married are dangerous.  They are restless, discontent, and prone to go off after anyone who will promise them what they want.
Two Notes:  (1) this holds true for our own home-grown malcontents, who are responsible for the majority of those 290 deaths in mass shootings and counting in the USA in 2015.  (2) The Middle East, China and India, have the highest levels of men to women sex ratios in the world, due to in utero sex selection, one-child policies, preference for boys, and (in the Middle East) guest workers.  Right now we're worried about Middle East men.  Some day, someone's going to have to deal with the 30 million [each] of Chinese and Indian men who will not only never be married, but never even be able to get a date.  [Yes, there's a reason for the horrific rise of gang-rapes in India.] Unless someone figures out a peaceful solution, we will be dealing with new terrorist groups, under new names, but will be as horrific as the others.  But more on that another time.
Sex ratio by country for total population. Blue represents more women,
red 
more men than the world average of 1.01 males/female.
DBachmann, Wikipedia
These young men have to be given hope, yes, but not just a vision of it (the extremists give them that), but actual practical things, like a job and a home and a family.  Seriously, this is the way terrorism has always been sparked and how it has always been quenched, from Roman times (read up on the Zealots some time) to the Anarchists.
"Instead of spending astronomical sums on arms, let us spend instead on roads, hospitals, schools, houses, businesses, to create jobs and so on. Instead of financing war, let us purchase peace." Girardian Jean Michel-Oughourlian, Psychopolitics, p. 23
Look it up.  And then go have a good dinner.

Image result for stand with paris




27 May 2015

The Verdict


David Edgerley Gates

Awhile back, I wrote a story and submitted it to HITCHCOCK. Not long after, a bomb went off at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. It was one of those WTF moments, because it didn't make any sense. (Of course, you could say that terrorist acts, by definition, don't make any sense, and you wouldn't get an argument from me.) The weird thing was that inside of 48 hours, the suspects in the bombing were ID'd as Chechens. My story began with a hit on a guy in a car. The shooters were hired guns, contract killers. They were Chechen gangsters, brought in soft, for the one job.

Now, my story didn't have anything to do with terrorism. It was about money, and closing a loop. Eliminating loose ends. But the coincidence bothered me, and I dropped a note to Linda Landrigan at AHMM, and suggested it was kinda too close to home, as if I were exploiting a real-life event - that killed people - and better we revisited it, if and when she bought the story.  

Next up, I touched base with my pal Michael Parnell, who at the time was living in Tbilisi, Georgia. Michael's pretty much my go-to guy for crazy feudal stuff in the Caucasus, and I wanted his input. Michael came back at me and agreed it was an odd juxtaposition. He said, Chechens make great heavies, for sure, but you got a lot to choose from, this neck of the woods. For openers, there's your Armenian rug guy who gets his thumb cut off - why not make the baddies Azeris, for example? Armenians and Azeris hate each other. And he threw some other stones in the pool, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, the heroin traffic out of Afghanistan, the Moscow mafia moving in on the Georgian gangs. In the end, writers being jackdaws, attracted to shiny objects, I wound up writing a book called EXIT WOUNDS, and I'd happily credit Michael with giving me the background.

This is taking the long way around to the Tsarnaev verdict. Everybody's familiar with the essential narrative. An impressionable kid, led astray by his older brother, who'd been lured to the dark side of Islam. I have to comment that I have no patience at all with Fundamentalism, whether it's Born Again bible-thumpers, or extremist Orthodox Jews (like the guy who murdered Yitzhak Rabin), or ISIS thugs. My personal sympathy is that I'd like them out of the gene pool. Tsarnaev himself is sort of a poster boy, or at least that's the tack his defense took. There's something to this. The wars in Chechnya, for instance, drew in plenty of recruits from the disenchanted Soviet republics, border states along the southern perimeter, what the Russians like to call the Near Abroad, many of them with majority Moslem populations. Uzbeks, Kazakhs, Tajiks. All of them disaffected with native dictatorships, set up by Moscow. These are genuine grievances, and historic. Don't think people don't nurse old wounds.

This is, however, no alibi. You don't spray a crowd with shrapnel from pressure-cooker bombs. An eight-year-old kid died. What does he have to do with the Palestinians, or the invasion of Iraq? There's something truly screwy with making these things morally equivalent, or using them as an excuse. I don't get it. Terror tactics, the bombing of the King David hotel by the Irgun, say, or the IRA campaign in central London, in the 1990's, don't really work. They come back to haunt you. Prince Charles can shake hands with Gerry Adams, but it was the Irish, after all, who blew up Mountbatten.

I know inviting a conversation about the death penalty is asking for trouble. Abortion, capital punishment, and gun control seem like hot-button issues. (How gay marriage got sucked into this is beyond me.) But certain things seem obvious. The death penalty isn't a deterrent. It's unequally applied. Guys on Death Row turn out not to be guilty. DNA evidence, twenty years later. That's enough reason to get rid of it. Me, personally, I kind of like beheading, and hanging, and electrocution. They're all inhumane - you hang somebody, you have to stand on their shoulders, it doesn't break their neck, put some weight into it. This is, not to put too fine a point on it, society's revenge. You murder the social compact, you pay the price. And in this particular case, there's certain guilt. I'm sorry, but this isn't good enough. I might personally think Tsarnaev should be publicly disembowelled. That's not the issue.

Tsarnaev has no excuse, legally or morally. Like the old lawyer joke. Guy murders his parents, and then throws himself on the mercy of the court, because he's an orphan. I don't think so. You take responsibility. Diminished capacity doesn't work, not in this instance. There was a plan that required malice aforethought. They knew innocent people would die. They went ahead. Good lawyering can't explain this away. In fact, nobody even tried. We're left with the raw thing itself. The dead.

I think we deserve satisfaction. Socially. I think we deserve an endgame. I think we want payback. I think we're entitled to it. The death penalty speaks to this. You fry 'em, or they roll on the gurney. Retribution. But. I can't answer my own question. Are there people who deserve to die? Yeah, there are. Who makes the decision? I guess we all do, collectively. Which means the burden is ours. We choose this. Have we repaired the damage to the social compact? There's certainly something final about it, that a blood price is paid, and we're complicit. I don't know. If you take innocence off the table - if we can say, beyond doubt, that Tsarnaev is guilty - is justice served? I'm not convinced.


www.DavidEdgerleyGates.com

04 November 2011

Something you might want to know...



by Dixon Hill

I had originally intended to write about something else, this week. However, my attention was caught by a New York Times article. And, I'd like to take a moment to share some information with you.

Not long before 11 September 2001, I spotted a brief note on a network evening news broadcast about a national security exercise known as Dark Winter. Dark Winter was essentially a Bio-Terror Attack Drill, and the news story covering it lasted barely fifteen to thirty seconds. I don't recall ever having seen any other coverage of it -- until now.

Though the story was small in terms of broadcast time, its implications were enormous -- particularly given the fact that every terrorism expert I'd seen or read lately (back in the summer/early fall of 2001) had commented that it was not a question of if there would be a mass-casualty terrorist attack on US soil in the relatively near future; it was a question of when there would be one.

I find it interesting that many media and political figures seem to indicate there was no prior indication that something like 9/11 could take place. To me, in the months leading up to 9/11, the indications were everywhere and ominous (though not specific). And, I wasn't an intel analyst at the time; I was just a civilian who'd been out of the army for a few years but still enjoyed being a bit of a news junkie. Nor do I think there was some sort of conspiracy or cover-up concerning 9/11.

Now please don't think I'm claiming that I knew what was going to happen on 9/11.

I didn't.

Nor did I have any inkling that September 11th, 2001 would be a day unlike any other. My sense of shock and surprise, when it actually took place, were probably about as strong as yours.

As I remarked to a friend, later that day: "Here I am: the big bad ex-Green Beret, and the first time I see thousands of people killed at once, I'm watching it on television -- with my six-year-old daughter in my lap!" (For a change, I'm wasn't joking around.)

What I did know, was that a mass-casualty terrorist strike was something we should all be expecting. But what amazed me after it happened (and still does to this day) is how many people kept asking how "something like this" could happen.

Frankly, it made me a little angry at the time. Not at the folks who asked that question, but rather at the media, because they didn't do a better job of broadcasting the warnings that were being put out. The truth is: I knew to be concerned because I had a tendency to look for stories concerning military or terrorist operations. But, you really had to look for them -- for the most part -- or you wouldn't see them. I suspect that most media gatekeepers (newspaper editors, for instance) really didn't believe foreign terrorists would strike on US soil, so they either "spiked" that type of story, or ran very abbreviated versions -- such as the short segment I had seen about the Dark Winter exercise on the evening news.

Unfortunately, ten years later, it looks as if many of them still feel that way. At any rate, in my opinion, their behavior indicates they feel there won't be a repeat of 9/11 -- or something even worse. But, I still have a tendency to watch for stories like these; it's just my nature. So, if you click on the link below (It may be in red, instead of blue but should still work.), you'll be taken to a New York Times story that is very good (IMHO) and has information you might find worth knowing.

The story is quite in-depth, and covers events that transpired over a number of years. In fact, the writer covers Dark Winter, the exercise I mentioned near the opening of this article. But, he also unearths real concerns about US preparedness for Bio-Terrorist actions, and explains that sophisticated biological weaponry is no longer beyond the reach of terrorist organizations.

I'm not trying to frighten anyone, or to railroad anyone into some political agenda. Frankly, getting the federal government to do its best to protect us from Bio-Terror is something I'd rather not see politicized -- though, according to the NYT article, it may have been.

I believe, however, that we might all benefit if the information contained in the story were known by a large percentage of the populous. So far, however, I haven't run across anyone who's seen it. And, that is why I put it here.

If anyone objects, let me know. And -- Just so you don't worry: I don't intend to do this often (if ever again).

And now, to quote the great Rod Serling (He was a terrific writer, in case you don't know!): "Submitted for your approval..."

NY Times BioTerror Story