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Osama bin Elvis
March 27, 2009 12:45 PM   Subscribe

What is the logical consequence of noting the fact that the terrorist groups that make a difference on planet Earth—such as Hamas and Hezbollah, the PLO, Colombia's FARC—are extensions of, respectively, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, and Venezuela? It is the negation of the U.S. government's favorite axiom. It means that when George W. Bush spoke, and when Barack Obama speaks, of America being "at war" against "extremism" or "extremists" they are either being stupid or acting stupid to avoid dealing with the nasty fact that many governments wage indirect warfare.
International relations professor Angelo M. Codevilla argues that Osama bin Laden is not quite influential, not quite relevant, and probably dead. (multipage version)
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane (33 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
Next you'll be telling us that Emmanuel Goldstein didn't write The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism.
posted by Joe Beese at 12:50 PM on March 27, 2009 [5 favorites]


The attacks were almost a decade ago now. Osama isn't immortal, he's going to die sometime if he hasn't already. I get the sense a lot of people in the U.S. will feel his eventual demise to be some kind of victory, but I can't really see why. It's not as though extremism dies with bin Laden.
posted by stinkycheese at 12:53 PM on March 27, 2009


I've heard the point he's making before, and it has some degree of merit, but many of his claims

The latter-day Taliban are fielding forces better paid and armed than any in the region except America's. Does anyone suggest seriously that Osama or al-Zawahiri are providing the equipment, the money, or the moral incentives? Such amounts of money can come only from the super wealthy of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf.

really feel like they need backing up with something. Its one thing to say that our enemies aren't as stateless as we make them out to be, its another to claim there are no independent operators.
posted by cimbrog at 12:55 PM on March 27, 2009


FWIW, it seems odd that the quote you've lifted is a bit of polemic about how states use terror groups to fight proxy wars, and actually has no bearing whatsoever on the question of OBL.

My own educated guess is that, in all probability, certain right-wing elements within the clandestine complex know full well OBL is dead for many years now, and have been manufacturing the audio tapes of his messages for purposes of political fear mongering.

Now that we have a new president, these same folks have decided it's too risky to keep OBL "alive," and have thus decided to declare him dead. They've chosen a right-wing publication to get that spin-cycle going.
posted by ornate insect at 12:57 PM on March 27, 2009


I have never understood why that tape supposedly showing Osama having a meal and laughing about the Sept.11 attacks was taken at face value. How did the US get it? Why was it just casually sitting around to be scooped up? Who made the tape?

My Pakistani neighbors swore at the time that it was fake; since they think the Jews are behind everything, I dismissed their opinions. But the CIA perhaps? It was remarkable to me that it entered the mainstream discussion as fact yet was never challenged publicly as far as I could see.
posted by etaoin at 12:59 PM on March 27, 2009


the nasty fact that many governments wage indirect warfare.

I don't think this should come as a surprise to the U.S.
posted by tiny crocodile at 1:01 PM on March 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


Well as I understood it as an undergrad poli sci student years ago, the logical consequence was waging war against state actors for the actions of non-state actors (terrorists). Which looked fallacious even to 2nd year undergrads with respect to Iraq, but makes plenty of sense when you realize that even non-state actors must operate within state boundaries. What strikes me most about this is that it’s a conversation academics have been having for 7 years already—why now?
posted by Hoopo at 1:04 PM on March 27, 2009


It seems pretty simplistic to call the FARC guerillas "an extension of Venezuela", notwithstanding Hugo Chavez' sympathy for them, given that Chavez was elected in 1998 and the FARC have been around since the 1960s through several Venzuelan governments of all stripes.
posted by msalt at 1:13 PM on March 27, 2009 [3 favorites]


Mildly eponysterical.
posted by kldickson at 1:15 PM on March 27, 2009


FWIW, it seems odd that the quote you've lifted is a bit of polemic about how states use terror groups to fight proxy wars, and actually has no bearing whatsoever on the question of OBL.

Apparently our brains work very differently. I saw the questions about OBL as being secondary to an article about the (proposed here) true nature of the War On Terror.
posted by cimbrog at 1:15 PM on March 27, 2009


why now?

B/c a lot of well-connected hawks are still secretly gunning for a reason to bomb Iran, and the most likely casus belli for such an action remains state-sponsored terrorism.
posted by ornate insect at 1:18 PM on March 27, 2009


The "Chortling Osama wearing a Golden Ring" video *is* suspect... and there've been rumors that OBL is dead flying for years .

What's interesting, of course, is that the "no terrorism without state backers" meme was one of the underpinnings of the neocon, pre-emptive approach... and therefore of the invasion of Iraq.

As far as the Taliban goes, sure, they've got money coming from elsewhere, but it does seem like the author is downplaying just how profitable those poppy fields are... and, consequently, how effectively the Taliban can sustain itself, independently of state actors.
posted by darth_tedious at 1:18 PM on March 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


Oh, the concluding paragraph is so, so good.

The force of the CIA's judgments, its authority, has always come from the congruence between its prejudices and those of America's ruling class. When you tell people what they want to hear, you don't have to be too careful about premises, facts, and conclusions.

The whole world, and especially the United States, would be so much better off if the CIA were dismantled immediately and its buildings burnt to the ground, "intelligence" and all.
posted by mr_roboto at 1:21 PM on March 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


That bastard's been dead since 2005 if not earlier.
posted by Burhanistan at 1:25 PM on March 27, 2009


if the CIA were dismantled...

That will never happen, but spooks will continue to die mysterious deaths.
posted by ornate insect at 1:25 PM on March 27, 2009


the terrorist groups that make a difference on planet Earth—such as Hamas and Hezbollah, the PLO, Colombia's FARC—are extensions of, respectively, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, and Venezuela?

If this is his analysis of current trends in political terrorism, I'm even more likely to be skeptical about his speculations with respect to bin Laden. Hamas was originally founded as an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, an Egyptian organization. In fact, in the early years, before Hamas turned to suicide bombing, Israel funded them as a secular counterweight to the PLO. As for Hezbollah, they represent Lebanon's Shiite Muslims, which makes it unlikely that Sunni-dominated Saudi Arabia would be their primary source of funding. The PLO has largely been rendered an irrelevancy because of Hamas. Last but not least, Colombia's FARC long predated the establishment of the leftist Chavez regime in Venezuela. FARC has been active since 1964, when Hugo Chavez was only ten years old.
posted by jonp72 at 1:27 PM on March 27, 2009 [6 favorites]


Hez is funded by Iran, not Saudi Arabia. Hamas began as noted but is not now what it once was. though I did not support the Bush plan to take out Saddam, in fact that guy gave 10 thousand dollars to the families of every suicide bomber that struck against Israel. Hamas, it is now said, has been elected. That is true. Hitler was elected too, with big win.
There are terror groups out there, funded by "legitimate" nations--Pakistan, for example sends a lot of arms into Afghanistan. They do sub-rosa what their handlers can not do without going to full scale war; in return, we pretend they are not nice but we an no do anything about them.

In sum: new style of war(s) being waged. Iran would not be in the strong position it now has had we not invaded Iraq and got ride of the one counterveiling force holding Iran in check.
posted by Postroad at 1:39 PM on March 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


...spooks will continue to die mysterious deaths.

Are you kidding? Read your own link, man... deeper down in the article, it's persuasively explained that this was just a guy who'd fallen behind on his magazine subscription.

Sometimes, when you stop paying your dues to Langley Alum Quarterly, white paneled vans come to straighten you out.
posted by darth_tedious at 1:42 PM on March 27, 2009


Be very skeptical of anything Mr. Codevilla says. He has been a cheerleader for many irredentist right-wing causes since the Reagan days, most notably for "Star Wars" missile defense. He is both an alarmist and a master of the grand rhetorical overstatement: traits amply in evidence in the material linked by this FPP.
posted by rdone at 1:48 PM on March 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


More important, focusing on Osama and al Qaeda distorts our understanding of what is happening in Afghanistan. The latter-day Taliban are fielding forces better paid and armed than any in the region except America's.

Really? Better armed and paid than the forces sent by the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Canada, Italy, the Netherlands, Australia, Spain, Denmark, Turkey, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Croatia, Norway, Belgium, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Albania, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Finland, Macedonia, Ireland, Serbia, Sweden, Ukraine, Australia, New Zealand, and the United Arab Emirates?

I bring this up because I think it's untrue that ISAF members are fixated on Bin Laden or al-Zawahiri. Is it possible that some US personnel are? Sure. But the discourse, here in Canada at least, is focused around providing a security and humanitarian environment that gives the Afghans time to set up a basically functional government. I'd be thrilled if our guys happened to catch Bin Laden, but that's not the point. It's the OMLTs and PRTs that are doing the key work.

So yeah, broad brush and all that.
posted by Clandestine Outlawry at 1:49 PM on March 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


Isn't this Angelo M. Codevilla pretty much a renowned rightwing kook?

[Saddam] gave 10 thousand dollars to the families of every suicide bomber that struck against Israel.

In fact? Really? No Saddam said, and it has been repeated to death by the outrage machine, that he was gonna give $10K to the families of suicide bombers. But honestly. Do you really think he gave 10 grand to every suicide bomber since the DOP in 1993? How many bomber was that around 250 or so?

Supposedly he gave a sum total of 35 million dollars in 2000. But the record is sketchy and we are relying on the natural hyperbolic facilities of the PALF for those numbers. The family of only one confirmed suicide bomber actually showed up to collect their "checks" during that little PR stunt in Gaza City in March of 2003. The rest were 21 other militants engaged in fighting the IDF. To which he also gave money.

Anyway. How much money do you think we've given terrorists around this globe over the years? Billions? Hundreds of billions. Saddam Hussein handing out PR trinkets to psychopaths and criminals doesn't get me all that outraged in comparison.
posted by tkchrist at 2:14 PM on March 27, 2009


this article is spinning alright. It's trying to set up the argument that bin Laden doesn't matter. And that's why Bush failed to get him. See. Bush was a genius. That it was awesome we went into Iraq instead. And that crazy Obama is wasting your hard earned tax dollars going after this irrelevant and possible dead cave hermit when we should be using that money to be nuking the evil Iranians and putting the Palestinians in concentration camps like that noble castle of freedom Guantanamo.

It's a big head fake argument to preemptively head off:

a) if it turns out Bin Laden is dead and Obama gets the credit.

b) we start seeing the situation in Afghanistan turn around and Obama gets the credit.
posted by tkchrist at 2:20 PM on March 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


I have been wondering for years how a group of ragtag religious zealots can be well armed enough to hold off NATO and the combined forces of the United States for most of this decade.

Homemade bombs are one thing, but how come no one has run out of rocket propelled grenades yet or Kalishnikov ammo? Or gas, for that matter?

It just strikes me that there is much more going on than meets the eye. Someones' getting rich and various states' interests are advancing.
posted by salishsea at 2:36 PM on March 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


> Someones' getting rich and various states' interests are advancing.

That's pretty much the history of human civilization summed up in nine words.
posted by The Card Cheat at 2:47 PM on March 27, 2009


Hamas, it is now said, has been elected. That is true. Hitler was elected too, with big win.

Assuming that the last sentence quoted here was true, which it isn't, what would it prove? That Hitler was an "extension" of Iran, too? Hamas' electoral history prove that it is an extremely popular Palestinian national political party.

This article is a clear restatement of the Bush doctrine that anti-terror campaigns require allow attacks on states with similar ideological (or racial) backgrounds. As such, it's not surprising that the section quoted in the main link is total bullshit. We know where Hugo Chavez's terrorist time machine is: it's in the area around Caracas and Maracaibo and east, west, south, and north somewhat.
posted by stammer at 2:49 PM on March 27, 2009


Apparently our brains work very differently. I saw the questions about OBL as being secondary to an article about the (proposed here) true nature of the War On Terror.

Indeed, and yet how many comments have focused specifically on OBL? Why? Cuz probably no one RTFL and it's easy to lob conspiracy shit about OBL.
posted by spicynuts at 2:56 PM on March 27, 2009


That bastard's been dead since 2005 if not earlier.

A little more information on this score would be welcome.
posted by Wolof at 3:05 PM on March 27, 2009


This is Anwar Al Alwaki. He is a preacher. He preaches violent jihad. He has a website, and it is very popular.

It always baffles me as to how the so-called 'War on Terror' seems to be fighting shadows. Of course there is money involved. Of course the money will be linked to other states, including the United States. Unless you halt the flow of globalization and global capitalism, you can't prevent US money from falling into the hands of several people with radical ideas, and radical means of carrying things out. It doesn't matter if OBL is alive or dead.

Meanwhile, extremist preachers and figureheads go online and meet with journalists in the open. Were I pro-Jihadi in sentiment, I would be laughing at all of you and saying that Allah has blinded you all.
posted by Karcy at 6:04 PM on March 27, 2009


Egypt? That one's out of left field. I mean, maybe that whole border squabble with Hamas is just a show that they put on, but I doubt it. I'm sure that this guy's some kinda expert, and what do I know, but baldly asserting that Egypt bankrolls Hamas doesn't exactly make me wanna trust him.
posted by goingonit at 6:33 PM on March 27, 2009


A little more information on this score would be welcome.

My apologies, I have no information on that other than I looked it up in my gut. I just used to read the transcripts of OBL's purported latest tape and they just got nuttier and nutter from about 2004 on. I should go do an amateur analysis of those.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:28 PM on March 27, 2009


baldly asserting that Egypt bankrolls Hamas doesn't exactly make me wanna trust him.

I think a couple of you guys are misreading that sentence on the various terrorist groups. He intends it to read: Hamas and Hezbollah are sponsored by Iran, the PLO was sponsored by Saudi Arabia and Egypt, and Colombia's FARC is sponsored by Venezuela.

The sentence he actually wrote is a bit of a mess. And it's weird that he's pulling out the PLO as an example. There hasn't been a PLO for nearly 20 years, has there? The Palestinian Authority, which the PLO became (kind of), is sponsored by all sorts of respectable modern liberal democracies.

Anyway, so he leaves in the PLO, but leaves out the LTTE, Jamaah Islamiya, the Abu Sayyaf group, the Thai groups like PULO, BRN and GMIP, and a whole shitload of others. It strikes me that he's making a just-so argument.
posted by mr_roboto at 8:30 PM on March 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


the nasty fact that many governments wage indirect warfare.
I don't think this should come as a surprise to the U.S.

The Contras, for example.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 2:38 AM on March 28, 2009


Okay, I didn't read the link or any of the comments really but this is what I'm imagining: a movie, modeled on a combination of Weekend at Bernie's and The Cannonball Run, where several different ex-Al-Quaeda-guys-turned-bounty-hunters independently chase after OBL, accidently end up killing him, then keep stealing the body from each other on the way to claim the bounty.

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