Posts Tagged al-Qaeda

Boston Bombings: looks like Tamerlan and Dzhokhar were homegrown terrorists

Turns out the spurious-sounding rumours that I reported earlier were, in fact, incorrect – meaning that Alan Jones was wrong. Who saw that one coming?

The bombers were not actually radical leftists. It turns out to have been Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tzarnaev – two Muslim brothers from Chechnya.

As of writing, Tamerlan has been shot and Dzokhar is apparently holed-up in a house, surrounded by police and National Guard. There is not a huge amount of information out there about them, but it is coming in drips and drabs – and everything that I have seen so far points to homegrown terrorists.

One of the quickly cobbled-together reports comes from Foreign Policy‘s David Kenner (my bold):

Who is Tamerlan Tzarnaev? | FP Passport.

Tamerlan was apparently a boxer who hoped to gain citizenship by being selected for the U.S. Olympic team: “Unless his native Chechnya becomes independent, Tamerlan says he would rather compete for the United States than for Russia,” Hirn wrote.

Other captions paint Tamerlan as a devoted Muslim. “I’m very religious,” he says at one point, noting that he does not smoke or drink alchol. “There are no values anymore,” he says, worrying that “people can’t control themselves.”

Tamerlan also appears isolated and bewildered by American life. “I don’t have a single American friend,” he laments, despite living in the United States for five years. “I don’t understand them.”

At the time the photos were taken [2009], Tamerlan’s life did not seem all bad: Hirn writes that he was competing as a boxer, enrolled in Bunker Hill Community College and pursuing a career as an engineer, and had a half-Portuguese, half-Italian girlfriend that converted to Islam for him. “She’s beautiful, man!” he said.

At some point, though, it all went wrong. In 2009, Tamerlan was arrested for domestic assault and battery after assaulting his girlfriend.

Dzhokhar, meanwhile, was a second-year medical student.

I don’t have a link for this, but I just listened to an interview of their uncle and I picked up a couple of other facts. Their uncle claimed that it is likely that Tamerlan had been influencing Dzhokhar, and that Dzhokhar was a sweet boy but Tamerlan had problems. He also said that their parents worked extremely hard and were only concerned with putting food on the table, although they both returned to Russia a year ago.

Also of interest is Tamerlan’s social media page. There are not many posts, but one includes a video entitled “Chechnyan accents”, and another has this joke:

Inside a car sit a Dagestani, a Chechen and Ingush. Who is driving?

The police.

According to this photo by photojournalist Johannes Hirn – who did a series on Tamerlan – Tamerlan was not doing too badly for himself. At least according to the designer clothing and the Mercedes he was driving:

Tamerlan by Johannes Hirn

Finally (and most significantly), according to Adam Serwer at Mother Jones, Tamerlan had been consuming and distributing Islamist propaganda.

Putting this all together, we can build a profile of the two boys (well, more so for Tamerlan):

  • Second generation immigrants (they both went to high school in the US, so more or less second).
  • Relatively affluent.
  • Devout Muslims with an Islamist bent.
  • Well educated.
  • Socially isolated – had trouble integrating into America and did not really feel as though they belonged.
  • Viewed Western culture as amoral.

What you have right there is the textbook profile for homegrown terrorists. They tend to be young second or third generation Muslim immigrants feel like the don’t belong anywhere – they can’t relate to their new adopted country, but have grown up there, so don’t fit in back in their old country. They feel lonely and isolated, so begin searching for meaning – and find it in extreme Islamism. This requires that they are affluent/educated enough to read and understand the jihadi propaganda, and to navigate the complex online network that jihadi groups operate in.

The truth remains to be seen, but from what we do know, my bet is that this is more or less the story of the Brothers Tzarnaev.

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Ivory Tower Watch: it’s all your Foucault

Before I start, let me apologise for the absence of posts recently. I’ve been very busy and have not really had time for this blog. Hopefully it will pick up again towards the end of the month.

Anyway, today’s ITW features an article by one Susanne Krasmann from the University of Hamburg, entitled ‘Targeted Killing and Its Law: On a Mutually Constitutive Relationship’. Krasmann is a follower of the ‘Foucauldian’ school of philosophy. We have encountered this school before on ITW here and here, but Krasmann is different, because she actually makes some very good perceptions.

The trick employed by the Foucauldian school was explained by Martha Nussbaum in a critique of leading Foucauldian Judith Butler:

obscurity creates an aura of importance. It also serves another related purpose. It bullies the reader into granting that, since one cannot figure out what is going on, there must be something significant going on, some complexity of thought, where in reality there are often familiar or even shopworn notions, addressed too simply and too casually to add any new dimension of understanding. … When Butler’s notions are stated clearly and succinctly, one sees that, without a lot more distinctions and arguments, they don’t go far, and they are not especially new. Thus obscurity fills the void left by an absence of a real complexity of thought and argument.

In even plainer terms than that, what Butler, Krasmann and our favourite Frenchie Michel Foucault like to do is write disgustingly dense an indecipherable passages about nothing very interesting. They do not have much to say, so they take as long as they can to say it, using the most obscure language possible, so that the average reader just assumes that, because they can’t understand what the hell the writer is talking about, whatever it is saying must be intelligent. All too often, it’s completely the opposite.

Which brings us back to Ms Krasmann. Here is the particular passage that sparked this post:

When targeted killing surfaced on the political stage, appropriate laws appeared to be already at hand. ‘There are more than enough rules for governing drone warfare’, reads the conclusion of a legal reasoning on targeted killing. Yet, accommodating the practice in legal terms means that international law itself is undergoing a transformation. The notion of dispositifs is useful in analysing such processes of transformation. It enables us to grasp the minute displacements of established legal concepts that, while undergoing a transformation, at the same time prove to be faithful to their previous readings. The displacement of some core features of the traditional conception of the modern state reframes the reading of existing law. Hence, to give just one example for such a rereading of international law: legal scholars raised the argument that neither the characterization of an international armed conflict holds – ‘since al Qaeda is not a state and has no government and is therefore incapable of fighting as a party to an inter-state conflict’ – nor that of an internal conflict. Instead, the notion of dealing with a non-international conflict, which, in view of its global nature, purportedly ‘closely resembles’ an international armed conflict, serves to provide ‘a fuller and more comprehensive set of rules’. Established norms and rules of international law are preserved formally, but filled with a radically different meaning so as to eventually integrate the figure of a terrorist network into its conventional understanding. Legal requirements are thus meant to hold for a drone programme that is accomplished both by military agencies in war zones and by military and intelligence agencies targeting terror suspects beyond these zones, since the addressed is no longer a state, but a terrorist network.

However, to conceive of law as a practice does not imply that law would be susceptible to any form of knowledge. Not only is its reading itself based on a genealogy of practices established over a longer period. Most notably, the respective forms of knowledge are also embedded in varying procedures and strategic configurations. If law is subject to an endless deference of meaning, this is not the case in the sense of arbitrary but historically contingent practices, but in the sense of historically contingent practices. Knowledge, then, is not merely an interpretive scheme of law. Rather than merely on meaning, focus is on practices that, while materializing and producing attendant truth effects, shape the distinctions we make between legal and illegal measures. What is more, as regards anticipatory techniques to prevent future harm, this perspective allows for our scrutinizing the division made between what is presumably known and what is yet to be known, and between what is presumably unknown and has yet to be rendered intelligible. This prospect, as will be seen in the following, is crucial for a rereading of existing law. It was the identification of a new order of threat since the terror attacks of 9/11 that brought about a turning point in the reading of international law. The identification of threats in general provides a space for transforming the unknowable into new forms of knowledge. The indeterminateness itself of legal norms proves to be a tool for introducing a new reading of law.

The first paragraph is not that hard to follow, primarily because she is citing the work of international legal scholars and not going off on her own wank (I couldn’t think of a better word to use). Here’s what that second paragraph reads like when translated from the academese:

While the law is shaped by the way that it is enforced, the way that it is enforced is itself shaped by the different historical interpretations of the law. The process of putting the law into practice changes the way that we look at what is or is not legal. Thinking about law this way helps us to understand the problem presented by law enforcement aimed at anticipating and preventing future crimes instead of punishing past ones. The law is incapable of dealing with ‘unknown unknowns’ — ie things that we not only do not understand, but cannot see coming. Actually identifying potential threats allows us to then begin developing tools to incorporate them into our legal system.

There is more to it than that, but I don’t feel that any of it needed to be there. This is actually a pretty strong argument and does have an impact on the way that the law treats targeted killings. I just wish that I hadn’t had to read that paragraph over several times to figure out what it was actually saying.

 

 

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Ivory tower watch: collective responsibility and saying ‘yes’ to racism

A lot of people were very upset when evidence emerged of American war crimes in Iraq. The particular images that will always stand out are the photos taken of torture at Abu Ghraib, but there were several other incidents of massacres and, generally, soldiers not behaving as they are supposed to.

But what if these crimes were not only the fault of the people who committed them, or even the commanders who may have been negligent in not preventing them? What if every single competent adult American was in some way responsible for the massacre in Fallujah?

If that sounds familiar, or kind of like something you may have heard from violent Islamists, you would be right. Al-Qaeda, Hamas and other terrorist groups often talk about the ‘Zio-Crusader alliance’ that they are fighting — which essentially means that every single Western person is attacking Islam and therefore they are all legitimate targets for retaliation. It is that attitude which led to the recent riots in Sydney — the idea that any Australian authority figure can be held responsible for acts committed by the American army overseas, because they are part of the same ‘people’ — or something.

Well, it is not only al-Qaeda that prescribes to this kind of thinking — apparently it is shared by the odd Ivy League professor. In ‘Citizen Responsibility and the Reactive Attitudes‘, Amy J Sepinwall from the University of Pennsylvania sets out to show that all Americans share some blame for war crimes in Iraq (although she does distinguish herself from Islamists by saying that it’s a matter of degree. I’m convinced…).

Her basic argument relies on the idea of citizen’s responsibility. She illustrates this through the following analogies (my bold):

Consider the marital union, for example. Individuals in a marriage must act with a certain regard for their union. While exit is a real option, each nonetheless bears an obligation to the other to put the possibility of exit out of his or her mind, at least while less disruptive options exist. And, each is obligated to the other to present a united front to the world, for maligning one’s spouse to others would degrade the union and violate marital trust.

Similarly, individuals in a joint business partnership must each also operate with a certain regard for the joint venture, and commit themselves to working out the kinks of the operation before contemplating dissolution. And, where one partner is empowered to, say, manage the partnership’s business, the other partner may not publicly disparage the result, and disavow responsibility for it. To do so would be to make a fool of the producing partner, and to exhibit a reproachable lack of loyalty.

… some amount of fidelity follows from membership in the nation-state, as well. Thus, with appropriate adjustments for strength of commitment to the nationstate, we may transpose the foregoing observations to the context of the   citizen’s responsibility for American atrocities committed in the course of the war in Iraq. The citizen harbors a commitment to the nation-state and that commitment obligates him in special ways to his fellow citizens. Most relevant here, his commitment entails that he may not step outside the nation-state to point a finger in righteous indignation at his state’s transgressions; instead, he must stand in judgment with his fellow citizens, in recognition that the nation-state is his as well as theirs. To do otherwise is to denigrate the shared venture; it is to demonstrate a solipsism incompatible with citizenship.

Do you see the problem there?

To me, the most obvious one is that, in a liberal democracy, a citizen canin fact, ‘step outside the nation-state to point a finger in righteous indignation at his state’s transgressions’. I do it all the time.

That is not the only flaw in her logic. There is also the fact that business partners, spouses and citizens are not necessarily responsible for everything that their fellow partners, spouses, or citizens, do; and this applies especially when we are talking abut breaking the law.

If one partner embezzles money without the other knowing, the other is not responsible. If a wife is dealing drugs without her husband’s knowledge, he is not responsible. If a soldier breaks the law while on a tour of duty, the citizens of that country are not responsible. Responsibility can only come with some form of acquiescence — it only applies to people on whose behalf the person who committed the act was acting.

For a nation-state, that means that the state had to have been acting — ie the soldiers who committed war crimes must have done so on behalf of the state and, by proxy, its people. That was not the case at all in Iraq. The soldiers that committed war CRIMES were breaking the law — and that is American law, not just international law. Where it could be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, they were tried and punished. Certainly the public officials involved were sanctioned — they lost their jobs, had their names disgraced and faced public scorn and derision. How exactly can we then hold all Americans responsible?

Well, there’s the fact that Americans have no right to decide their own guilt when there’s another ‘rational’ explanation. Using the example of a person who was opposed to the war (‘the dissident’), Sepinwall explains that, really, it’s all a matter of perspective (my bold):

The dissident believes that her resistance cancels out whatever responsibility she should come to bear in virtue of her commitment to the United States as a whole. She has  arrived at this self-judgment because she has synthesized the dimension of her identity that flows from her citizenship and the dimension of her identity that flows from her dissidence and arrived at a coherent conception of herself in which her dissidence is much more definitive of who she is. But though each of us is empowered to perform this synthesis and arrive at a self-understanding that makes sense of the disparate and sometimes conflicting strands of our identity, none of us is entitled to have others conceive of us as we conceive of ourselves. In particular, the dissident cannot legitimately expect that her self-understanding will govern the Iraqi’s conception of her; he is entitled to believe that citizenship looms larger as a constituent element of an American’s (or anyone’s) identity than do acts opposing the policies or practices of one’s government. And, so long as he does hold this belief, he will harbor resentment toward the American citizen, no matter how valiant her efforts at resistance.

To inhabit the dissident’s perspective on America and herself, the Iraqi must abandon a stance of righteous anger through which he might seek to vindicate the worth of his lost loved one, or the Iraqi people as a whole. He must instead contend with the notion that he cannot find an outlet in blame for his loss and injury that corresponds sufficiently to their (perceived) magnitude. He would then incur not just the pain of his tragedy but the profound burden of self-restraint in stifling his own sense of the injury and deferring to that of one of his (apparent) injurers. Should we really reproach him for spurning this path? Given the additional pain of forbearance, is he not entitled to presume the legitimacy of his own perspective, and proceed with resentment?

No, he is not entitled to do that. Know why? Well, let’s apply the same theory, just to a slightly different scenario.

Say, for instance, a group of Lebanese Muslims were to viscously gang-rape a white Australian woman while making remarks like ‘how does it feel to do it Leb-style?’ and otherwise making it clear that they are identifying with the community of Lebanese Muslims in Australia and claim to be acting on behalf of that community. Would a relative of the victim not be entitled to feel a little resentment against Lebanese Muslims and not just the individual perpetrators? Isn’t there some degree of shared responsibility by the Lebanese Muslim community?

Say that a little while later, a group of Lebanese Muslims then attacked some lifeguards — the embodiment of Aussie pride. Are white Australians not entitled to a little resentment?

Well, you see, that happened. The ‘white’ community did feel resentment towards Lebanese Muslims as a result, and then that lead to the whole Cronulla Riots incident in 2005. I would be willing to bet that Ms Sepinwall would not see that as justified, but perhaps it is just a matter of degree. Perhaps indignation and resentment would have been justified, without going on a race-riot.

Like, say, the indignation and resentment that many victims of crime committed by Aboriginal Australians feel towards Aboriginals as a whole. The kind of indignation and resentment that results in this disadvantaged group being shut-out from jobs, routinely harassed by police, and far more likely than any other group to be imprisoned. Sounds justifiable, no?

Or perhaps Ms Sepinwall did not really think through the consequences of allowing a victim to hold not only the perpetrator responsible, but the entire nation to which the perpetrator belongs. That kind of collectivism is what leads to racism and terrorism. It is not OK.

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Toulouse shootings are Islamist after all

So much for that neo-Nazi theory… French police raid house in school killings case – FRANCE 24.

AFP – A French police special forces unit hunting an anti-Semitic serial killer launched a pre-dawn raid Wednesday on a house where a man claiming al-Qaeda ties was holed up, a police source said. Two police were slightly wounded as the operation got underway, led by officers investigating three attacks by a lone gunman in which three off-duty soldiers, three Jewish school children and a rabbi were killed, he said. A source close to the inquiry told AFP that the suspect had exchanged words with the RAID team and had declared himself to be a member of al-Qaeda, the armed Islamist group founded by late Saudi extremist Osama bin Laden.

**UPDATE**

Reports are coming out on Twitter that the suspect is claiming that he was “avenging Palestinian children”. This goes to show yet again that our enemies do not distinguish between “Jews”, “Zionists” and “Israelis” at all (or, for that matter, between “civilians” and “combatants”, or “adults” and “children”…).

Meanwhile, there may be a reason why everyone was so gleefully jumping on the idea that it may not have been Islamists. Again linking into the third-worldist dynamic, a number of Jews (and other members of the Western intelligencia) seem want to do everything they can to deny that Muslims may sometimes be antisemitic. Jonathan Tobin made this point: Neo-Nazis Versus Jihadists? « Commentary Magazine.

However, if we are discussing what Jews and other civilized persons should be worrying most about today, the idea that there is any comparison between the danger posed by the scattered bands of neo-Nazi extremists and that of Islamism is not a serious proposition. The neo-Nazis are a nasty bunch and capable of violence. But Islamist terror has at its command, terrorist armies, control of sovereign territories (Gaza, Lebanon and a major state such as Iran) as well as the resources to finance a nuclear weapons project. While the persistence of Nazism, even in its current truncated form is upsetting and makes us wonder whether Western civilization really is in trouble, Islamism is a real threat, not a symbolic one. While we may dismiss this argument as the sort of thing that is … for people with nothing better to do, the fact is, a lot of liberal Jews really are more scared of the dangers that existed in the past than they are of their people’s current foes. For many liberal Jews … raising the question of Islamist hate for Jews — something that is the source of the rising tide of anti-Semitic agitation around the globe — is somehow in bad taste if not evidence of the dread charge of Islamophobia. They are so conditioned to believe that Muslim distaste for Israel’s actions is the reason for enmity that they ignore the vicious stream of Jew-hatred coming out of the Middle East and prefer to worry about an altogether mythical post 9/11 backlash against Muslims. Instead, they prefer to dwell on the far less potent danger posed by the tiny groups of Hitler-lovers who are generally too weak and isolated to do anything more than disturb the peace. While such groups are despicable and deserve the attention of law enforcement, to focus on them is to re-fight the last war.

Matthew Ackerman makes a similar point, but stresses the need for Jews to stop making the claim that Israel is the source of antisemitism – recognising that Israel was originally envisioned as the answer to antisemitism. The take-away point: antisemitism existed before Israel and it still exists today, but Israel is a source of pride and strength for the Jewish people that allows us to face this evil in a way that we were not able to before. ; Toulouse a Reminder of the Need to Refute Jewish Cowardice « Commentary Magazine.

There is one Zionist truth that Judt and his ilk pin their hat on, which is that the goal of the Jewish state is indeed and always has been, since Leo Pinsker put pen to paper, to change the way the world looks at Jews. For Pinsker, it was the unique quality of Jewish statelessness that prevented “a certain equality in rank” between Jews and non-Jews, a condition that fostered Jew-hatred and led to the terrible violence of Russian pogroms. For Theodor Herzl, his far more famous successor in Zionist pamphleteering, it was simply the presence of Jews that enraged the masses. He wrote, “We are naturally drawn into those places where we are not persecuted, and our appearance there gives rise to persecution.” The thing Pinsker, Herzl, and their followers got sadly wrong was the idea that Jews could be saved from Jew-hatred by creating a state of their own, either by “normalizing” the Jewish condition or by providing completely for their physical security. No state, though, can provide for the complete safety of all its citizens, let alone its ethnic kin abroad. And hatred of Jews, as should be beyond plain by now, clearly draws from deeper waters than the Jewish political condition, whatever it may be. We should call the fantasy that Jews would be able to live in peace if only they gave up their claim to independence cowardice because that is the term we reserve for those who willingly give up what is theirs in the hope that by so doing that may be freed of physical danger. The Jewish state may not be able to resolve the non-Jewish problem of hatred of Jews, but it can – as has been the case these last ten years in an Israel that has woken up to the truth that many of its enemies can be appeased only by its death – cure the Jews of their fascination with weakness. That is, if we have the courage to stand united against the irrational attacks launched against us and our children.

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Why Paul McGeough was keeping Geddafi and Mubarak in power and supporting Bin Laden

As usual, Paul McGeough’s weekend missive left me seething for about 30 minutes on an otherwise beautiful Sydney Saturday. It actually wasn’t so bad for a few paragraphs, until, naturally, he started blaming America for everything that went wrong in the Middle East

The Middle East: A region reborn after the dictators

But Gaddafi had oil – lots of it. From time to time, leaders in the West would pay lip service to gross human rights violations in the region, but as long as Gaddafi and his ilk kept the oil flowing and were willing to act as Western proxies in fighting extremism, they could do as they pleased.

The West would buy their oil and arm them, asking for little more than a darkened room out the back, where ”enhanced interrogation” techniques that are frowned upon in the civilised salons of the West could be carried out on the QT.

He even figured that Council on Foreign Relations director Leslie Gelb “entirely ignored the nature of the revolutions” because he observed that the new Arab leadership will probably need to be more anti-Western in order to cater to various groups in their constituencies. McGeough’s quarrel with Gelb is that Gelb “missed the price that the Arab rank and file has been paying under Washington’s and the West’s deal with the dictators”.

That man’s ability to attribute every evil to the “puppet masters” sitting in the White House never ceases to amaze me; neither do the facts that he is still employed and people keep reading his work. He ends his “analysis” by condescendingly dismissing everyone who has doubts that Egypt and Libya are about to turn into Sweden, quoting analyst Fouad Ajami, saying:

”Grant the Egyptian people their right to swat away these warnings,” he writes. ”From afar, the ‘realists’ tell the Arabs that they are playing with fire, that beyond the prison walls there is danger and chaos. Luckily for them, the Arabs pay no heed to these ‘realists,’ and can recognise the ‘soft bigotry of low expectations’ that animates them.”

So apparently expecting that after thousands of years of dictator after dictator, a series of protests is not going to create a democratic haven overnight, is “soft bigotry”, but then expecting them to hate the rest of the democratic world is just common sense. After all, think of the “past crimes”. Luckily, not everyone shares this opinion. Israeli diplomat Dore Gold has pointed out that these revolutions may actually moderate the Arab world.

Protests Across Middle East Leave Israel Shaken – NYTimes.com.

“For years, Arab leaders who thought they had legitimacy problems because they were not elected played several chords to the populace — Arab unity, Islamic solidarity, and most important, the struggle against Israel. So if you have regimes legitimized by democratic elections and accountable governance, then they will depend less on the conflict for their own internal standing.”

You see, most Arab dictators tended to use Israel and the West as distractions when their people began questioning why exactly these rulers were stealing all of their money. This policy has been very successful, creating a strong anti-Israel and anti-Western sentiment that is perpetuated hugely in the Western Left, meaning that a certain Sydney Morning Herald journalist and his ilk were ultimately helping to prop-up Arab dictators by re-enforcing the idea that it was really the US and Israel causing all of their problems and not the evil asshole sitting in the palace up the road.

In fact, this was the ideology that initially separated Al-Qaeda from the rest of the Islamist extremists, particularly the Muslim Brotherhood. The Brotherhood has always been focussed on overthrowing the “un-Islamic” regimes in Muslim countries and introducing Islamist regimes instead. Bin Laden, on the other hand, had the bright idea that the problems of the Muslim world were really a “Zio-Crusader” conspiracy, so attacking the Jews and the Christians wherever they were was the real way to “liberate” the Muslims. This is the ideology that eventually led to the terrorist threat that we in the West face.

So to sum-up, through his decades of embellishing the myth that the problems of the Arab world are solely caused by the US foreign policy and Israel’s undue influence on it, Paul McGeough has kept Arab dictators in power and supported terrorism. Good going McGeough…

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