Stop Making Sense
June 7, 2004 5:26 PM   Subscribe

Rumsfeld fears U.S. losing long-term fight against terror. The troubling unknown, he said, is whether the extremists -- whom he termed "zealots and despots" bent on destroying the global system of nation-states -- are turning out newly trained terrorists faster than the United States can capture or kill them. "It's quite clear to me that we do not have a coherent approach to this," Rumsfeld said at an international security conference. Who are you and what have you done with Rumsfeld? And Can you do it some more? via the illustrious oliver willis.
posted by jonmc (60 comments total)

 
I'm not sure whethet to be glad he's admitted certain realities or worried that he's saying he has no plan, but this is definitely something new we're hearing here.
posted by jonmc at 5:28 PM on June 7, 2004


man, if rumsfeld is so worried about the pace new terrorists are being trained, he should stop bloody well doing things that swell their ranks. one of the biggest results of the 'war on terror', as far as i'm concerned, is that a huge number of young people are being convinced that the us *is* evil and needs to be destroyed. how many of the insurgents in iraq were blowing things up before we went in there? (note: before you jump all over the yeah but look how bad things were for everybody in iraq before we went in angle, ask yourself how much better things are now and if it was worth generating that number of new terrorists).

if we want to stop terrorism, we must stop doing things that create terrorists. bombing the hell out of their countries is a step in exactly the wrong direction.
posted by christy at 5:38 PM on June 7, 2004


What christy said--What is he doing to stop the growth? What is his role in all this?

It's terribly tragic that he's worried, but his job is being Secretary of Defense...What defensive or offensive steps are being taken?
posted by amberglow at 5:41 PM on June 7, 2004


(rant)There is no new surprises here, just another serving of FEAR from our government spoon fed in our regular dosage in case we forgot what we are supposed to be panicked about and shelling out all of our budget towards in the endless war.(/rant)
posted by wuakeen at 5:53 PM on June 7, 2004


(rant)There is no new surprises here, just another serving of FEAR from our government spoon fed in our regular dosage in case we forgot what we are supposed to be panicked about and shelling out all of our budget towards in the endless war.(/rant)

Or perhaps a golden opportunity for someone to come up with a real plan and make it public?
posted by jonmc at 5:57 PM on June 7, 2004


Or perhaps a golden opportunity for someone to come up with a real plan and make it public?

Like a new Sec. of Defense? I've heard a lot of people talking about replacing him, and doing it rather publicly.
posted by Ufez Jones at 6:00 PM on June 7, 2004


Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal, via the equally illustrious Billmon (whose commentary I quote below), drops a bit of a bomb:
The nub of it is that in March of 2003, on the eve of the Iraq invasion, Rumsfeld asked for, and received, a 100-page legal memorandum that specificially sought to establish a legal basis for use of what the Red Cross now calls "practices tantamount to torture":
The report outlined U.S. laws and international treaties forbidding torture, and why those restrictions might be overcome by national-security considerations or legal technicalities. In a March 6, 2003, draft of the report reviewed by The Wall Street Journal, passages were deleted as was an attachment listing specific interrogation techniques and whether Mr. Rumsfeld himself or other officials must grant permission before they could be used. The complete draft document was classified "secret" by Mr. Rumsfeld and scheduled for declassification in 2013.
The draft report ... deals with a range of legal issues related to interrogations, offering definitions of the degree of pain or psychological manipulation that could be considered lawfull. But at its core is an exceptional argument that because nothing is more important than "obtaining intelligence vital to the protection of untold thousands of American citizens," normal strictures on torture might not apply.
It's not clear from the article what relationship this report - which was drafted by a team of military, intelligence agency and DOJ lawyers - bears to the various legal memos already uncovered by Newsweek. Perhaps it's the finished product, so to speak - a U.S. government licence to torture, with the legal i's dotted and the t's crossed. That, at least, is what the deleted attachment suggests.

There are many creepy things about the Journal's description of the report - things that leave me with the distinct impression the drafters could have graduated with honors from the University of Berlin's law school, circa 1942. For example:
Civilian or military personnel accused of torture or other war crimes have several potential defenses, including the "necessity" of using such methods to extract information to head off an attack, or "superior orders," sometimes known as the Nuremberg defense: namely that the accused was acting pursuant to an order and, as the Nuremberg tribunal put it, no moral choice was in fact possible." (emphasis added.)
Now I have to admit: The idea of using the Nuremberg trial as a field guide for committing war crimes and getting away with it has never occurred to me before. But then, I'm not a Bush administration legal appointee. It's probably worth remembering, though, that the Nuremberg Tribunal wasn't particularly impressed by the "I was only following orders" routine: 12 defendents hanged, 3 sentenced to life, 4 given long prison sentences, only 3 acquitted. If I were Donald Rumsfeld, I don't think I'd like those odds.
Oh dear. Josh Marshall has more.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:01 PM on June 7, 2004


Like a new Sec. of Defense? I've heard a lot of people talking about replacing him, and doing it rather publicly.

Well, in the midst of rising casualty figures and other bad news on the war, a statement like this in the middle of an election campaign can't be good for the Republican's chances. It's a chance for the Dems to grab the ball and run with it, if you ask me.
posted by jonmc at 6:08 PM on June 7, 2004


Rove: Scare them, we're going to lose the fucking election.

Bushco: Ok.
posted by skallas at 6:09 PM on June 7, 2004


skallas: maybe that was the plan but it seems like it could be made to backfire on them pretty easily. Far as I'm concerned, it's a nice chink in the armor for Kerry to aim at.
posted by jonmc at 6:12 PM on June 7, 2004


Well, in the midst of rising casualty figures and other bad news on the war, a statement like this in the middle of an election campaign can't be good for the Republican's chances.

Fallguy. Spin the new way of doing things, axe the "man behind the plan". It's all about winning those 2% of people that haven't made up their mind, yet. Cut and shoot, brother. It may happen.
posted by Ufez Jones at 6:17 PM on June 7, 2004


Maybe that's the plan, ufez, but I imagine the thought process of someone watching this would be something like this:

Rummy; I'm publicly admitting that I don't know what I'm doing.

Viewer: Then why the hell should I vote for you guys?

Ideally then Kerry walks in and says "These mooks don't even have a plan and they've said so, here's mine...."

Now's the time. I say this can be turned to the Democrats' advantage and we should seize the opportunity.
posted by jonmc at 6:21 PM on June 7, 2004


Stavros I was wondering if someone was going to fpp that. My favorite bit:

To protect subordinates should they be charged with torture, the memo advised that Mr. Bush issue a "presidential directive or other writing" that could serve as evidence, since authority to set aside the laws is "inherent in the president."

News to me.
posted by beth at 6:24 PM on June 7, 2004


Didn't you hear, Stav?

If the President does it, it can't be illegal.
posted by Yelling At Nothing at 6:37 PM on June 7, 2004


Rummy; I'm publicly admitting that I don't know what I'm doing.

Viewer: Then why the hell should I vote for you guys?

Ideally then Kerry walks in and says "These mooks don't even have a plan and they've said so, here's mine...."


or, alternatively:

Rummy; I'm publicly admitting that I don't know what I'm doing.

Viewer: Then why the hell should I vote for you guys?

BushInc: He's gone. Here's our new plan, and the new guy that will carry it out.

I agree with you that Kerry should jump on this, jon, but don't be surprised if you see Rummy jettisoned erstwhile.
posted by Ufez Jones at 6:50 PM on June 7, 2004


I agree with you that Kerry should jump on this, jon, but don't be surprised if you see Rummy jettisoned erstwhile.

Just picture the ad:

[video clip of rumsfeld]

"we do not have a coherent approach..."

[clip of dead GI's, clip of Abu Ghraib]

voice over: sleep well...

[graphic: Kerry in '04]

Beat 'em at their own fucking game, says I.
posted by jonmc at 7:00 PM on June 7, 2004


Al Qaeda has more than 18,000 militants ready to strike and the U.S.-led occupation of Iraq has accelerated recruitment to the ranks of Osama bin Laden's network, a leading London think-tank says.
posted by homunculus at 7:13 PM on June 7, 2004


Beat 'em at their own fucking game, says I.

And that would work, but what would get more press, Rummy resigning/being laid off, or a Kerry commercial shown in 8-10 States?

I completely fall in line with those that one of Kerry's best moves right now would be to come up with a concise plan for what to do with Iraq. In fact, I'd call it essential. That said, he's not the only person that can play off of Rummy's statements. He has more to gain, sure, but if he doesn't act, he may have more to lose too.
posted by Ufez Jones at 7:23 PM on June 7, 2004


Geez - could you people quit smacking your lips so loudly. Relax a bit. Rumsfeld is not admitting defeat, or saying that Bush=Hitler, or anything like that.

My take on it: he understands that the military option - alone - will not end international terrorism. He is the SecDef. He does not have authority over State, USIA, the media, and other "tools" in the US arsenal. He controls only the most visible and physicall lethal portion of the U.S. capability. The other tools have not yet been refined/understood/employed/deployed in the same manner as the military. Hence, there is no single, overarching "coherent" strategy.

That is a far cry from saying that the U.S. is wrong, or weak, or other such nonsense.
posted by davidmsc at 7:35 PM on June 7, 2004


(rant)There is no new surprises here, just another serving of FEAR from our government spoon fed in our regular dosage in case we forgot what we are supposed to be panicked about and shelling out all of our budget towards in the endless war.(/rant)

Under the Banner of the 'War' on Terror
posted by homunculus at 7:41 PM on June 7, 2004


I've heard a bunch of people saying that Kerry's best strategy is to show dead soldiers. I haven't seen any Kerry ads (I'm in CA where he's pretty much a lock), but I just can't imagine that working.

Wouldn't it be seen as callous to ride in on the coffins of dead soldiers? Even if it is Bush's fault, it seems like it taints Kerry to mention it. Better to let the news do it or others and let the public draw their own connections.

Similarly, coming forward with a plan can only hurt him as it give opposition something to attack. Really, the less said the better. In Gore's speech, he painted the course -- something has to be done, but Bush has been mucking it up so bad that it's impossible to know what it will be like come January. I will get us out of this. Part of that means a a more active United Nations, but beyond that I don't want to make any promises that may prove futile after Bush's continuing influence over the next several months. I can tell you that the guy that drove us into a ditch is not the best choice to drive us out.
posted by willnot at 7:43 PM on June 7, 2004


Hence, there is no single, overarching "coherent" strategy.

That is a far cry from saying that the U.S. is wrong, or weak, or other such nonsense.

The fact that there is no single overarching "coherent" strategy means that people in power aren't doing what they're supposed to be--i'd call that very wrong, and weak (at least in appearance to the outside world). It says there's no master plan--just lurching from one crisis containment to the next.
posted by amberglow at 7:48 PM on June 7, 2004


Since stav dragged in that Josh Marshall entry about the WSJ piece - and yes, it is somewhat related - I have a bone to pick here, where Josh follows the quote beth picked out, "...since authority to set aside the laws is 'inherent in the president,'" with his comment: "So the right to set aside law is 'inherent in the president.'"

This is an unfortunate equivocation from someone who's usually so cautious and lucid about what's being said. There's a great deal of potential difference between "set aside the laws" (when certain wartime laws have just been talked about) and "set aside law." This is a good reminder that, as davidmsc intimated, we should be careful about taking every stumble or ominous rumble that comes out of this administration and amplifying it to the nth degree imaginable. I'm not defending the concept of Bush setting aside any given laws, but flattening that to "setting aside law" is a bit of a scare tactic in itself. If we're gonna play that same game, we should at least do it consciously and intentionally.
posted by soyjoy at 7:52 PM on June 7, 2004


I guess Rumsfeld full statements on the topic can be found in this page.

Question; [omissis] In particular, are you satisfied that the coalition’s political warfare operations have gained sufficient traction to prevent new recruits from signing up to the terrorist cause?

Rumsfeld:I’m certain we have not been successful. As the Prime Minister, I forgot whether he mentioned it in his remarks or at the dinner table, but clearly, if the schools that are teaching young folks are teaching them terrorism and suicide bombing and hatred instead of mathematics or science or language or things that can help them become productive members of the society, we’ve got a problem. The world has a problem. And it’s quite clear to me that we do not have a coherent approach to this. I think it’s very difficult for people who are not part of that religion to provide the leadership because what you have is a civil war, a struggle in that religion where a small minority of people are trying to hijack it and to focus it in a way that is hostile to civil society. Not the majority, by any means, but we as free people have not developed the skills to counter that. We’re not focusing on it. We’re focusing on law enforcement, we’re focusing on terrorist networks, we’re focusing on trying to defend against terrorist attacks, but terrorism is simply a technique being used by extremists. It is not the problem in and of itself, it’s a weapon that’s being used.

I guess that when he says "We" he's not referring to the U.S. , rather to the coalition.

Indeed if the schools teach terrorism and sucide bombing, the outcome will be that of more terrorist and more suicide bombers. I found it interesting that western schools, which definitely teached math and science and literature and not starting from yesterday, didn't manage to stop interal extremism and terrorist from developing in western countries, and I'm thinking about Columbine, KKK, The Red Brigades, the IRA the Nazi sympathizers, the Anti-Abortion terrorists and other expressions of extremism and violence.

Maybe after all math, science and literature don't work too well without tolerance, understanding, factual respect from others freedoms and expecially needs. I also suspect abject poverty plays a role.
posted by elpapacito at 8:03 PM on June 7, 2004


I'm not defending the concept of Bush setting aside any given laws, but flattening that to "setting aside law" is a bit of a scare tactic in itself.

Huh? Who decides which laws he gets to "set aside" then?
posted by Armitage Shanks at 8:06 PM on June 7, 2004


now here's a Plan
posted by amberglow at 8:06 PM on June 7, 2004


Mideast conflict fuelling Islamic terror in SE Asia
posted by homunculus at 8:16 PM on June 7, 2004


Armitage - There could be a legal framework by which the president could set aside given laws in a given situation; this is scary, yes, but simply not equivalent to the sweeping term "setting aside law," which means that the entire framework just mentioned is kaput. That's all I'm saying.
posted by soyjoy at 8:30 PM on June 7, 2004


I'd like to see a Department of Creating Less Enemies.
posted by cell divide at 8:32 PM on June 7, 2004


"Rumsfeld scratches head, wrings hands, warns of more bad stuff to come."
posted by troutfishing at 8:53 PM on June 7, 2004


They'll find some proxy Ollie North and be done with it. No one high up is going to resign or be fired. The Bush administration is incapable of apologizing or taking falls.
posted by interrobang at 12:47 AM on June 8, 2004


I'm glad that Rumsfeld at least acknowleges that current policies are creating more terrorists. Unfortunately, I don't believe that he understands what needs to be done to change this state of affairs. In the minds of the neo-cons, all that needs to be done is to persuade the more radical Islamic nations to be less radical. What he doesn't understand is what America (and to a lesser extent, the West) did to antagonise these people in the first place.

Terrorism and extremeism doesn't appear from nowhere. You have to understand the root causes and address them before you can get anywhere. The analogy of using a stick on a beehive is a good one.
posted by salmacis at 1:28 AM on June 8, 2004


There is a saying on this side of the Pond, "Oppositions don't win elections, Governments lose them"

Kerry needs to shut up as long as BushCo keep shooting themselves in the foot.
posted by fullerine at 2:20 AM on June 8, 2004


Kerry needs to shut up as long as BushCo keep shooting themselves in the foot.
He's doing that--and when he talks, they're not covering it anyway. Watching and reporting on the crumbling administration is much better fodder for the media.
posted by amberglow at 6:02 AM on June 8, 2004


Ok, let me ask you guys something...

Do you really think that if we just left the mid-east alone, there would be no more terrorism? That everyone would just become 'good'?

I am as anti-Bush as anyone, but for god's sake, at least admit that there are very bad people out there who hate a lot of us for things that are just the way they are.

Rumsfeld may be right. There may be a time in the future where basically the entire western world will have to fight for its own survival against these extremists. And it will have nothing to do with who wins the next election here.
posted by eas98 at 6:25 AM on June 8, 2004


It's not in Kerry's interest to articulate a plan for Iraq.

He knows that, absent another major terrorist attack, the election will be decided by the economy: if the current up trends continue, Bush is very likely to be re-elected, if a conspicuous reversal, Bush is somewhat likely not to be re-elected.

In order to maximize whatever advantage the economy may give him, Kerry needs to keep the left wing firmly in line. Right now, the left is pretending that Kerry didn't support the Iraq War Resolution and hoping, whether or not reasonably, that Kerry's inner peacenik will take over after Election Day and he'll order a complete withdrawal of troops once inaugurated. Kerry gains nothing by disabusing them of this notion, and has much to lose by doing so.

Electoral politics aside, a hell of a lot could happen between now and Election Day, and between Election Day and Inauguration Day, and Kerry rightfully fears tying his hands.
posted by MattD at 6:37 AM on June 8, 2004


Rumsfeld may be right. There may be a time in the future where basically the entire western world will have to fight for its own survival against these extremists.

And there may be a time in the future when we have to fend off an invasion from pissed off dolphins as well. To quote Albert Einstein: "Striving for peace and preparing for war are incompatable with each other". The only way Western Civilization will end up in a desperate fight to defend itself its very existence against the ravening hoards of extremists and thier followers is if we make Western Civilization so odious and frightening to those people that they are willing to band together for our destruction. Acts of terrorism do not equal a war ... until we make it one.
posted by Wulfgar! at 6:43 AM on June 8, 2004


Right now, the left is pretending that Kerry didn't support the Iraq War Resolution and hoping, whether or not reasonably, that Kerry's inner peacenik will take over after Election Day and he'll order a complete withdrawal of troops once inaugurated. Kerry gains nothing by disabusing them of this notion, and has much to lose by doing so.

The "peacenik" vote alone wont get him elected, he needs to reach the constituency which is becoming disillusioned with Bush's policies and Iraq but wants a clear plan on dealing with the very real terrorist threat.

I'd like to see a Department of Creating Less Enemies.

I really liked "Strong Enough," Sheryl, but your next album was inconsistent.
posted by jonmc at 6:46 AM on June 8, 2004


Do you really think that if we just left the mid-east alone, there would be no more terrorism? That everyone would just become 'good'?

I think most of us here supported going after Osama/Al Qaeda--the broader world understood too, that you go after the guys that attacked you...it's the invasion/occupation/abuse in Iraq thing that's made terrorism much more attractive as a career option for so many.
posted by amberglow at 6:49 AM on June 8, 2004


it's the invasion/occupation/abuse in Iraq thing that's made terrorism much more attractive as a career option for so many.

I don't doubt that for a moment. We've definitely aggravated the situation, but it's not like the Middle East was an oasis of peace and harmony before America came along.
posted by jonmc at 7:14 AM on June 8, 2004


When did America come along?
posted by goneill at 8:12 AM on June 8, 2004


*rolls eyes*

You know what I'm trying to say, goneill. There's been bitter conflicts in that reigon for years, and while we've definitely aggravated the situation, not all the blame can be pinned on the US, as emotionally satisfying as it might be to some people.

People are always saying "We brought this on ourselves by antagonizing these people." Maybe we did antagonized "these people" but they don't live in a Skinner box, they're responsible for how they react, too, am I right?
posted by jonmc at 8:41 AM on June 8, 2004


Rumsfeld may be right. There may be a time in the future where basically the entire western world will have to fight for its own survival against these extremists.

I think you overestimate the capabilities of the extremists. They are surely a threat to the lives of a large number of innocent people, and for that alone they are a threat, but they are hardly a force that will bring down Western Civilization As We Know It™ (cue Grand Moff Tarkin here, but I'm serious). Certainly they may be able to get their hands on a nuclear device or three and kill several million people, but that will not do the trick.

Terrorism is a tactic of the disempowered. The only way they can affect things is by making people think they are scarier and more dangerous than they really are. IMHO, groups like Al Qaeda are the #1 law enforcement and quasi-military threat in the world right now, but that's only because we have other means to handle the other threats we face (i.e., deterrance and engagement).
posted by moonbiter at 9:33 AM on June 8, 2004


To quote Albert Einstein: "Striving for peace and preparing for war are incompatable with each other."

Huh?
posted by davidmsc at 9:47 AM on June 8, 2004


Yeah, with all due respect to Einstein, just because a brilliant man said it dosen't make it true.
posted by jonmc at 10:23 AM on June 8, 2004


we have other means to handle the other threats we face (i.e., deterrance and engagement).

That's the worst thing about all of this--we have other means to draw people away from ideologies like Al Qaeda too--economic and investment--for one. We're unfortunately not doing them. There are things more attractive than dying as a suicide bomber, whether it's a job, training, or something else. The majority of people going into that "line of work" wouldn't be if there were more options and stuff--not all of them are rabid fundamentalists. Even in Iraq, we see normal people being radicalized by what we're doing, not by their ideologies. (the current Vanity Fair has a great article on that, but it's not online i don't think)
posted by amberglow at 10:34 AM on June 8, 2004


There are things more attractive than dying as a suicide bomber, whether it's a job, training, or something else. The majority of people going into that "line of work" wouldn't be if there were more options and stuff--not all of them are rabid fundamentalists.

While I agree with your basic sentiment -- that we should be engaging in economic and investment strategies in the Third World that benefit the local populations (and not just exploit them for the benefit of shareholders in the U.S.) -- there is some suggestion that lack of jobs, training, and opportunity are not necessarily things that motivate all would-be terrorists. Osama bin Laudin is a case in point -- he came from a rich family, and probably wanted for very little.

Instead, it seems that some terrorist groups come about in ways similar to religious cults: A charismatic leader sees something wrong with the world, gets some ideas in his head on how to fix it, and passes these ideas on to his followers. Since some people seem to be fantasy prone and susceptible to manipulation like this regardless of education or financial wellbeing, there seems to be little we can do to prevent such groups from appearing.

Don't get me wrong: I think that economic engagement is worth a try, if only for it's other merits (it's just a good thing to empower people to a higher standard of living). I would hold no illusions about "defeating terrorism" this way though. The best we can do is minimize it, and pursue those who practice it.
posted by moonbiter at 11:29 AM on June 8, 2004


Besides which, a "war on terrorism" makes no sense because, as other luminaries have pointed out, terrorism is a tactic and a strategy, not a thing. It is something people em, ont a foe in and of itself. Declaring a "war on terrorism" is like declaring a "war on blitzkrieg" or a "war on flanking manuevers."

Anyone who thinks they can declare and win a war against a tactic, as opposed to a group, are not thinking the matter through clearly.
posted by moonbiter at 11:38 AM on June 8, 2004


Oops, screwed an html tag up in the above post. Should read "It is something people do, not a foe in and of itself."
posted by moonbiter at 11:41 AM on June 8, 2004


Certainly they may be able to get their hands on a nuclear device or three and kill several million people, but that will not do the trick.

On the off chance that that was not sarcasm:

If you think that an event such as the one you outlined would not drastically change the way the free world lives, then you are an optimist on a scale I've never seen.

It wouldn't put us in the stone age or anything, but everything, and I mean everything would change regarding society, economics, and government. So, when I say that the western world would be fighting for its survival, I don't mean individual survival of life, but rather survival of a way of life.
posted by eas98 at 11:49 AM on June 8, 2004


As regards the quote from Einstein, gentlemen, please keep in mind the significant difference between preparing for defense and preparing for war. As has been pointed out in this thread, going after Osama bin Laden is strikingly different than attacking Iraq. Taking out an aggressor who attacked you might generate enemies, but taking out someone who might cause you a problem later, so that you can put yourself in a position to take out other people who might cause you a problem later ... yeah, I think that's gonna make you pretty unpopular pretty damn quick.

Put another way, nobody is going to believe you want peace if they hear you say it while they watch you drawing your sword.
posted by Wulfgar! at 12:05 PM on June 8, 2004


If you think that an event such as the one you outlined would not drastically change the way the free world lives, then you are an optimist on a scale I've never seen.

It wouldn't put us in the stone age or anything, but everything, and I mean everything would change regarding society, economics, and government. So, when I say that the western world would be fighting for its survival, I don't mean individual survival of life, but rather survival of a way of life.


Heh, I am probably one of the least optimistic people you might encounter. Still, I am interested to know what aspects of "society, economics, and government" you think would so drastically change that we would not recognize them as Western?

I think the disagreement here is one of definition, what you mean when you write "the way the free world lives."

In any event, we will see. As a non-optimist, I am pretty sure I will see at least one major population center nuked by "asymmetrical combatants" in my lifetime.
posted by moonbiter at 12:15 PM on June 8, 2004


Still, I am interested to know what aspects of "society, economics, and government" you think would so drastically change that we would not recognize them as Western?


immediate martial law, suspension of most if not all rights, dissent punished, expulsion of many foreigners, imprisonment of many (for a variety of reasons as no one would be able to stop any of it from happening), riots over food and housing and medical help, vast areas (and large numbers of people) quarantined...

I'm an optimist, and i'm sure of it happening too.
posted by amberglow at 2:08 PM on June 8, 2004


Forgive my wishy-washy centrism, but I'm not all that convinced of a nuclear terrorist attack being successful ... at least not in this country (The USofA). And even if it does happen, I don't see our way of life changing much more significantly than it would after a major hurricane. We'll deal, because that's what our economic is set up to do. Our economy isn't geared towards national socialism or martial ideology; to do that takes many years. BushCo is trying to attempt that right now, and just witness the resistance they're getting.

A coordinated nuclear attack by another nation might kill millions, and that's what it would take for our country to feel the burn on anything other than a regional basis deeply enough for us to sacrifice our Constitution. Call me an optimist if you wish, but I have faith in the American people ... far more than I have in BushCo neocons and their ability to drive us into authoritarianism. I don't believe that one dirty bomb will turn us into Nazi Germany, anymore than I believe that we've become that due to 19 assholes on guided airliner missiles.

The real question isn't whether we've pissed off a small number of criminals, but whether or not we're going to piss off 1.2 billion muslims enough to want to crush our way of life. I know what path I would follow, as surely as I know (and Rumsfeld is beginning to see) the path chosen by the current administration. Let's worry about getting them out of office BEFORE we quiver in fear about might happen in the future, please?
posted by Wulfgar! at 2:34 PM on June 8, 2004


immediate martial law, suspension of most if not all rights, dissent punished, expulsion of many foreigners, imprisonment of many (for a variety of reasons as no one would be able to stop any of it from happening), riots over food and housing and medical help, vast areas (and large numbers of people) quarantined...

So are we talking about western civilization as a whole, but one particular country? I have a hard time seeing all of the First World collapse into a bunch of xenophobic, police-state dictatorships because of a successful nuclear attack or three by a terrorist group. Even if those attacks killed millions (which, on reflection, seems a bit high -- I doubt any terrorist group will get it's hands on a multi-megaton strategic warhead).

Maybe a single nation, but all of the western civilization?

Even if we are talking about one nation here (the U.S.) I, like Wulfgar!, simply think that our government and society is robust enough to survive an attack on this scale. The "British way of life" survived the Blitz. The "French way of life" survived occupation by real facists. I somehow think that the "American way of life" can survive the worst thrown at us by terrorist groups. That is, if we as a people want it to.

The real question isn't whether we've pissed off a small number of criminals, but whether or not we're going to piss off 1.2 billion muslims enough to want to crush our way of life.

It doesn't seem to me that all those muslims "want to crush our way of life." I seem to remember it being mentioned in several polls that people the world over like the values that America et al are supposed to represent. It's that part about our governing class ignoring those values when it comes to them (or when it is convienent when it comes to our own citizens) that they hate.

While I think the current administration's approach is wrong and incompetently handled, I don't think it will result in a mass uprising of all the muslims in the world against the West. Rather, I see it as simply adding to the manpower and capabilities of criminal groups who want to strike at our people and institutions. So yes, we shouldn't be pissing all over the Third World because they might give aid and comfort to the radical criminal element that is determined to attack our citizens and institutions (not to mention the fact that it is just morally wrong).

That we are on the brink of a great Clash of Civilizations, I think, is another fallacy that terrorist groups like Al Qaeda want to promote. It does us little good to abet them in this kind of thinking.
posted by moonbiter at 5:18 PM on June 8, 2004


i'd narrow it down to this country, with this administration, although it's been planned for since at least Reagan (that whole Rex84 thing).
posted by amberglow at 6:29 PM on June 8, 2004


on a related note: take the october surprise poll.
posted by amberglow at 7:06 PM on June 8, 2004


I actually think the US is less likely to collapse into authoritarianism after a cataclysmic terror attack than pretty much anywhere else. Europe, for example, could do it quite easily.

In part it's because authoritarian government is within living memory of most European countries, in part of because of a xenophobia and chauvinism far more profound than anything Americans can dream of ... but mostly because the institutions of European government lack any kind of check and balance.

Parliamentary constitutionalism is very different from American-style constitutionalism. A stern speech from the Prime Minister and a voice vote in Parliament would suffice to impose martial law and suspension of rights in most, if not all, European countries.

By contrast, there's very little basis in the U.S. Constitution for martial law. Federal emergency powers exist, but the writ runs very narrowly. President Bush and Congress could declare Armageddon to be in progress, and that still wouldn't give the Administration the right to tell the Chief of Police in your town not to ticket people for double parking, to say the least of assuming more momentous state powers.
posted by MattD at 7:38 PM on June 8, 2004


MattD : I feel differently, alas:



Google search : National emergency, presidential powers



Bush could merely declare a state of national emergency. That gives him king-like powers. It works like this - presidents can appoint themselves dictators if they REALLY want to do so, and they have the final say in the matter :



"An American President, should he need them, possesses awesome powers. Those powers potentially include what political scientists have described as the powers of a "constitutional dictatorship."



Meaning - you enjoy your "rights" under our current "democracy" merely at the tolerance of presidents who - should they chose - could dispense with all of that, under the rubric of "national emergency", and stick all the troublemakers, dissenters, and internet scribblers in the extensive national FEMA civilian labor camp system that awaits such a contingency :



"In a revealing admission in June, 1997, the Director of Resource Management for the U.S. Army confirmed the validity of a memorandum relating to the establishment of a civilian inmate labor program under development by the Department of the Army. The document states, "Enclosed for your review and comment is the draft Army regulation on civilian inmate labor utilization" and the procedure to "establish civilian prison camps on installations."



Amid widespread rumors, Congressman Henry Gonzales clarified the question of the existence of civilian detention camps. In an interview, Gonzalez stated, "The

truth is yes--you do have these stand by provisions, and the plans are here . . . whereby you could, in the name of stopping terrorism . . . evoke the military and

arrest Americans and put them in detention camps.""




I'm not sure whether this program predated the Reagan-Era "Rex-84" program or not. But "Rex 84" was real.



"In 1982, Reagan issued National Security Directive 58, setting the stage for the next act of the play. FEMA can now take over the nation when the President declares an emergency, a power he now holds. REX adds additional dictatorial powers. Military exercises have rehearsed the quelling and interning of 400,000 civilians. Small wonder reports of 100 alleged prison camps started rolling in. Here are some of the powers now in the hands of our President:





STATE OF EMERGENCY

Under "REX" the President could declare a state of emergency, empowering the head of FEMA to take control of the internal infrastructure of the United States and suspend the constitution. The President could invoke executive orders 11000 through 11004 which would:



1. Draft all citizens into work forces under government supervision.

2. Empower the postmaster to register all men, women and children.

3. Seize all airports and aircraft.

4. Seize all housing and establish forced relocation of citizens."



Unfortunately - due to the extensive nature of the Pentagon's "Black Budget" programs - the extent to which the infrastructure for "Rex" has been implemented is not fully known, although some claim that the internment facilities are fully complete.



But it was - and is - quite real, this PD/NSC 58 :



"The Miami Herald story set The Spotlight story in a larger context, revealing that:



Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North and the Federal Emergency Management Agency ... had drafted a contingency plan providing for the suspension of the Constitution, the imposition of martial law, and the appointment of military commanders to head state and local governments and to detain dissidents and Central American refugees in the event of a national crisis."




Here's

the Christic Institute on this, summarizing :



"The Spotlight for instance carried the first exclusive story on "Rex 84" by writer James Harrer. "Rex 84" was one of a long series of readiness exercises for government military, security and police forces. "Rex 84" --Readiness Exercise, 1984--was a drill which postulated a scenario of massive civil unrest and the need to round up and detain large numbers of demonstrators and dissidents. While creating scenarios and carrying out mock exercises is common, the potential for Constitutional abuses under the contingency plans drawn up for "Rex 84" was, and is, very real. The legislative authorization and Executive agency capacity for such a round-up of dissidents remains operational.



The April 23, 1984 Spotlight article ran with a banner headline "Reagan Orders Concentration Camps." The article, true to form, took a problematic swipe at the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith along with reporting the facts of the story. The Harrer article was based primarily on two unnamed government sources, and follow-up confirmations. Mainstream reporters pursued the allegations through interviews and Freedom of Information Act requests, and ultimately the Harrer Spotlight article proved to be a substantially accurate account of the readiness exercise, although Spotlight did underplay the fact that this was a scenario and drill, not an actual order to round up dissidents.



Many people believe that Christic was the first group to reveal the "Rex 84" story. According to the 1986 Sheehan "Affidavit" revised in 1987:





During the second week of April of 1984, I was informed by Source #4 that President Ronald Reagan had, on April 6, 1984, issued National Security Decision Directive #52 authorizing the Federal Emergency Management Agency director Louis O. Giuffrida and his Deputy Frank Salcedo to undertake a secret nation-wide, `readiness exercise' code-named `Rex 84....' "





This writeup has a lot of detailed information.

posted by troutfishing at 7:35 AM PST
on June 8



posted by troutfishing at 8:05 PM on June 9, 2004


what trout said.
posted by amberglow at 8:10 PM on June 9, 2004


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